It's not like there's a war going on or anything

Donald Rumsfeld's long goodbye.

Published November 27, 2006 6:22PM (EST)

When the president announced Donald Rumsfeld's departure on Nov. 8, he said that "the timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon." Senate Democrats seem to agree, clearing the way for Robert Gates to undergo confirmation hearings in December rather than trying to force a wait until they take over the Senate in January.

So why is the White House saying that Gates won't be sworn in as Rumsfeld's replacement until after the first of the year? A source close to the White House tells Newsweek that the delay is a "personal gesture" from Bush to Rumsfeld: By waiting until after Dec. 29 to send him packing, Bush gives Rummy the right to call himself America's longest-serving secretary of defense.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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