WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush, in a Nov. 8 news conference, said he hopes to launch a “new era of cooperation” with Democrats in Washington after they took control of the House of Representatives and, pending final totals from Election Day, perhaps the Senate.
The president also announced the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who has played a key role in the planning of the war in Iraq.
“I am obviously disappointed with the outcome of the election and as the head of the Republican Party, I share a large part of the responsibility,” Bush said. “I told my party’s leadership that it is now our duty to put the election behind us and work together with the Democrats and Independents on the great issues facing this country.”
Bush said he intends to achieve the kind of cooperation with Democrats he once had as governor of Texas and to avoid seeing the nation as “red and blue.”
He said his policy goals will include energy independence, strengthening education and meeting international obligations.
But that may be easier said than done in light of comments by Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is almost certain to be named Speaker of the House. In a rally following Tuesday’s election, Pelosi said the Bush administration’s Iraq policy is “catastrophic.” She has called for the redeployment of troops away from Iraq to Afghanistan. In a Nov. 8 news conference prior to the president’s, Pelosi said the war in Iraq had not made the United States safer, had not honored the troops involved, and had not made Iraq more stable. In the past, she called the president a “liar,” “dangerous” and the “emperor with no clothes.”
Bush dismissed those comments in his news conference. “I understand when campaigns end and I know when governing begins,” the president said. “And I’m going to work with people of both parties. People say unfortunate things at times, but if you hold grudges in this line of work you’ll never get anything done. My intention is to get some things done.”
Asked about his foreign policy, Bush agreed that many Americans had “registered their displeasure with the lack of progress” in Iraq via the election. But he said American troops, despite the call of some Democrat leaders, would not leave Iraq without a clear victory in the war on terror. “I’d like our troops to come home too, but I want them to come with victory,” Bush said.
Bush said Donald Rumsfeld’s departure was prompted by a series of “thoughtful conversations” between him and the defense secretary, after which the two agreed that “fresh eyes” needed to look at the Iraq problem. “Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that the timing was right for new leadership at the Pentagon,” the president said.
Pelosi earlier in the day had called for Rumsfeld’s departure, indicating that his removal would be an olive branch on the part of the administration toward the new Democrat-controlled Congress. But Bush said he and Rumsfeld had been discussing changes since before the election. Asked about the topic last week, Bush said that Rumsfeld would stay on through the end of his administration.
“I didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign” involving the war on terror, Bush said, describing it as the “most consequential war” in American history.
Bush has nominated Robert Gates, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and current president of Texas A&M, as the new defense secretary. Gates has more than 25 years of experience in the intelligence branch, Bush said, citing his service from an entry-level position to director. He also worked on the National Security Council and is a member of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Commission, which is expected to issue its recommendations on changes in the administration’s policy in January.
“He [Gates] is a steady solid leader who can make the necessary adjustments in our approach to meet our current challenges,” Bush said.
For all the talk of changes in strategy, however, and the potential loss of both houses to Democrats, Bush said terrorists should not be joyful about the current cycle of political life in the United States.
“To our enemies, do not be joyful,” the president said. “Do not confuse the workings of our democracy with a lack of will. Our nation is committed to bringing you to justice. Liberty and democracy are the source of American strength, and liberty and democracy will lift up the hopes and desires of those you are trying to destroy.
“To the people of Iraq, do not be fearful,” the president said. “As you take the difficult steps toward democracy and peace, America is going to stand with you. We know you want a better way of life and now is the time to seize it.
“To our brave men and women in uniform, don’t be doubtful. America will always support you. 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 their fellow citizens,” Bush said.
Bush noted that most of Nov. 7’s contests on an individual basis were close.
“If you look at it race by race, it was close,” Bush said. “The cumulative effect of it was not close. It was a thumpin’.”