Bush replaces Rumsfeld to get 'fresh perspective'
"I believe the outcome of these conflicts will shape our world for decades to come," Gates said. Bush announced Rumsfeld's departure earlier Wednesday. "The timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon," Bush said in announcing the resignation. Bush said Rumsfeld "understands that Iraq is not working well enough, fast enough." Rumsfeld has been heavily criticized for his policies in Iraq, and exit polls taken during Tuesday's midterm election, seen by some as a referendum on Bush and his administration, showed strong voter dissatisfaction -- 57 percent -- with the Iraq war.
"I recognize that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made" in Iraq, Bush said. Gates headed the CIA from 1991 until 1993, part of 40 years of public service that Bush said prepares him well for the challenges he'll face at the Pentagon. Bush heralded Gates' time as deputy director of central intelligence in the Reagan administration, when "he helped lead America's efforts to drive Soviet forces from Afghanistan." Gates also served as deputy national security adviser to Bush's father during the Gulf War in 1991, something the younger Bush said Wednesday helped Gates understand what needs to be done in Iraq.
Gates is president of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, a position he said Wednesday was the best job he's had, despite serving in six presidential administrations. Rumsfeld, 74, has served as defense secretary since January 20, 2001, the beginning of Bush's first term, and is Bush's longest-serving Cabinet member. He also served as defense secretary under President Ford from 1975 to 1977. "Don Rumsfeld has been a superb leader during a time of change," Bush said Wednesday. "Yet he also appreciates the value of bringing in a fresh perspective during a critical period in this war."
With the change, Bush pledged to stand by the people of Iraq. "Do not be fearful," Bush said in reference to Iraqis. "As you take the difficult steps toward democracy and peace, America's going to stand with you. We know you want a better way of life, and now is the time to seize it."
Bush also expressed support for U.S. military personnel.
"Don't be doubtful. America will always support you," the president said. "Our nation is blessed to have men and women who volunteer to serve and are willing to risk their own lives for the safety of our fellow citizens." Bush said he wants to bring the troops home from Iraq. "but I want them to come home with victory."
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