The Corner

BUSH AND THE RUMSFELD DECISION

From the news conference:

Q: Thank you, Mr. President.  Last week you told us that Secretary Rumsfeld will be staying on.  Why is the timing right now for this, and how much does it have to do with the election results?

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.  No, you and [AP reporters] Hunt and Keil came in the Oval Office, and Hunt asked me the question one week before the campaign, and basically it was, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President?  And my answer was, they’re going to stay on.  And the reason why is I didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign.  And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.

The truth of the matter is, as well — I mean, that’s one reason I gave the answer, but the other reason why is I hadn’t had a chance to visit with Bob Gates yet, and I hadn’t had my final conversation with Don Rumsfeld yet at that point….

Q: Mr. President, thank you.  Can I just start by asking you to clarify, sir, if, in your meeting with Steve and Terry and Dick, did you know at that point –

THE PRESIDENT:  I did not.

Q: — you would be making a change on Secretary Rumsfeld?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I did not.  And the reason I didn’t know is because I hadn’t visited with his replacement — potential replacement.

Q: But you knew he would be leaving, just not who would replace him?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I didn’t know that at the time….The other thing I did know, as well, is that that kind of question, a wise question by a seasoned reporter, is the kind of thing that causes one to either inject major military decisions at the end of a campaign, or not.  And I have made the decision that I wasn’t going to be talking about hypothetical troop levels or changes in command structure coming down the stretch.