The first casualty of the election: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is resigning, effective immediately.
Less than a week ago, George W. Bush said that he hoped that Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney would serve in his administration through the end of his second term. "Both those men are doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them," Bush said in an interview.
Now the president says that he's had "a series of thoughtful conversations" with Rumsfeld, and that the two of them "agreed" that the "time is right for new leadership at the Pentagon." At a White House press conference going on now, Bush all but conceded that he misled reporters who asked him about Rumsfeld last week. "The reason was that I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of the campaign," he said. "The only way ... to get you on to another question was to give you that answer."
Subsequently, Bush insisted that he hadn't made his final decision about replacing Rumsfeld until after he told the reporters that the secretary of defense would be staying. Bush said that he hadn't had his "final conversation" with Rumsfeld then. Nor, he said, had he met with the man he's nominating as Rumsfeld's successor: former CIA Director Bob Gates.
If election results hold in Montana and Virginia, Bush's nominee likely will have to win confirmation from a Senate controlled by the Democratic Party. While Bush did not link the election results with his decision to replace Rumsfeld, he did acknowledge that "many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress" in Iraq.
Asked whether Rumsfeld's departure signals a change in course in Iraq, Bush said that it certainly represents a change in leadership at the Pentagon.