Wednesday, November 8


Wow. And just hours ago, WaPo was saying he wouldn't be forced out "just because he faces a tougher time from resurgent Democrats."

But voters' repudiation of the Iraq war might cause President George W. Bush to decide life would be easier without Rumsfeld around. Some insiders and analysts believe that could happen, despite Bush's declaration last week that he planned to keep Rumsfeld in the job.

Bush opened his press conference by saying he was obviously disappointed with the outcome of the election, but that he'd called Dem leaders and told them they can work together over the next two years. Bush said he told Nancy Pelosi he could share the names of some good interior decorators.

He said the message yesterday was clear, that voters want their leaders to put aside their partisan differences and work for common solutions to face the challenges of our time. But he insisted that he believes that most Americans understand that we can't accept defeat in Iraq. He said the election hasn't changed his fundamental responsibility, which is to protect America from attack.

Then he announced that he and Rummy have agreed that the time is right for a change of leadership in the Pentagon. He called Rummy a "superb leader." Bob Gates, former director of CIA and current president of Texas A&M, will replace Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

He had a message for "those on the front lines": To our enemies, don't be joyful, don't confuse the workings of democracy with weakness. We'll bring you to justice. To the people of Iraq: don't be afraid. We know you want a better life, and now is the time to seize it. To our brave men and women in uniform: Don't be doubtful. Our nation will always support you.

Then he started talking about how he'd wanted to "change the tone" when he came into the presidency, that he's made some progress but not as much as he wanted to. Said in Texas he worked with both sides, and if we put partisanship aside, that would be a good thing.

Plenty of warmed-over talking points and cliches in response to reporters' questions. Said he and Rummy want "fresh eyes" looking at Iraq. Said he and Rumsfeld made the decision yesterday.

What about his campaign rhetoric of "Terrorists win, America loses" if Dems win the midterms? He responded, What's changed today is the election's over and the Democrats won, and Democrats are going to have to make up their mind how they're going to conduct their affairs.

What do you mean in terms of course correction in Iraq? What did Cheney mean by "full speed ahead"? Is Bush going to listen to the voters? Well, he said, Iraq was on people's minds but there were different factors in different races. Most Americans want a victory in Iraq, "my point is" that while we've been adjusting, we'll continue to adjust. Somehow the idea worked into people's minds that I just wanted to "stay the course" when we're constantly adjusting. If we leave before the job is not complete in Iraq, Al Qaeda will have a safe haven from which to launch attacks. We're going to help this government [in Iraq] become one that can defend and sustain itself.

Said it's important that at a time of war it's important to be seen as not adjusting tactics because of political considerations.

Kept talking about finding "common ground" with Democrats without either side compromising their principles. Cheney still has Bush's complete confidence. Said the "elections were close, but the cumulative effect was a thumping." "One of the things" that "amazed" him about the election was that the economy is doing so fabulously. He figures it was trumped by "how hard" the fight in Iraq is. It's a tough fight, and we're going to win the fight. The only way we won't win it is if we leave before the job is done. It's very important the people understand the consequences of failure. I promised we'd win, and we will. If the goal is get out now, regardless, then it'll be hard to work with the Democrats. He wants to "institutionalize the steps" we need for future presidents to win the war on terror. The enemy looking at this election must think, "Well, America's going to leave," and the troops are wondering if they'll get the support they need. No, that's not what's going to happen.

UPDATE: A reporter asked the question, if Bush didn't know or expect the kind of results that were delivered yesterday, does that mean he's out of touch with the voting public? And as a followup, he asked, "Does the president think Nancy Pelosi looks much like Bob Bullock?" Good shot. As Molly Ivins famously said, "Bush was smart enough to do what Bob Bullock told him to for four years, and it worked fine."

UPDATE: Bush was asked about his last-week assertion to reporters that Rumsfeld and Cheney were doing "fantastic" jobs and would remain in place for the duration of his presidency. He answered that he had to answer the way he did in order to get the reporters to move on to another question. Everything is politics with this guy. He admitted he was already scouting for a replacement for Rummy. So, in other words, HE LIED AGAIN. He used the excuse that he hadn't yet talked to Gates, the replacement DefSec. That explains it? He clearly knew Rummy's days were numbered at the same time he was talking job security.

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