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December 16, 2004
Eroding, Eroding

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took another political body blow yesterday as a key Republican Senator called for his removal in the coming months. Joining John McCain's no-confidence remark earlier this week, Trent Lott told a Biloxi Chamber of Commerce audience that he wants Rumsfeld out in 2005:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should be replaced sometime in the next year, Sen. Trent Lott says.

"I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld," Lott told the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. "I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers." ... Lott, speaking to the civic club Wednesday, said the United States needs more troops to help with the war and a plan to leave Iraq once elections take place in late January. The Mississippi Republican doesn't think Rumsfeld is the person to carry out that plan.

"I would like to see a change in that slot in the next year or so," Lott said. "I'm not calling for his resignation, but I think we do need a change at some point."

Pressure continues to build on Rumsfeld, surprising after the near sweep that the GOP engineered in this last election. Normally such a mandate would have embraced those cabinet members Bush chose to stay on for the second term. It appears that Rumsfeld has had significantly less support from Capitol Hill Republicans than previously thought. I suspect that many assumed Rumsfeld would have been replaced this term and are unhappy that Bush kept him aboard.

The primary issue appears to be the handling of post-war Iraq. Earlier the White House (or someone in the GOP) leaked that Colin Powell was the one who fought for an extended occupation rather than Rumsfeld, who purportedly wanted to turn the keys over to the Iraqi National Congress in May 2003. That dog apparently won't hunt on the Hill. Rumsfeld's brilliant campaign in the spring invasion has passed from memory, and whether he opposed it or not, he owns the debate over troop commitments for the occupation.

For my part, I think the criticisms have been unfair and more than a little hysterical -- but I also think that Rumsfeld's characteristic bluntness and stubbornness has contributed mightily to both his victories and his losses and probably inspired much of the hostility from the GOP. Bush's stubbornness can be legendary, too, but he also understands politics. If Rumsfeld has lost the confidence of the GOP leadership, Rumsfeld should go.

UPDATE: Senator Susan Collins, one of the GOP's liberal contingent and a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, adds her voice to the mix today:

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has joined other Republicans in criticizing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. ...

"I am very concerned that it appears the Pentagon failed to do everything in its power to increase production" of the vehicles, Collins wrote.

Collins stopped short of asking Rumsfeld to step down, but the long knives are out, and it's the GOP who's holding them. Having some knowledge about procurement issues, I find it difficult to believe that all of this is over armor for Humvees. I think Rumsfeld has generated an extraordinary amount of ill will amongst Republican lawmakers and they're using the armor issue as an excuse. At this point, the real truth about the armor is secondary to the political support that Rumsfeld has obviously lost. If Trent Lott was willing to go on record with John McCain, Chuck Hagel, and Susan Collins, then the Bush administration has a real problem on its hands.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 16, 2004 12:24 PM

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» Kristol On Rumsfeld from Powerpundit
Bill Kristol thinks that it is time for Donald Rumsfeld to depart. Keep in mind that Bill Kristol has been a supporter of John McCain. UPDATE: Captain's Quarters writes that whether or not Rumsfeld was in favor of the extended occupation of Iraq, it is... [Read More]

Tracked on December 16, 2004 9:04 PM

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