Growing Unhappiness with Rumsfeld in US Republican Camp
Published on Friday, December 17, 2004 by Agence France-Presse
Growing Unhappiness with Rumsfeld in US Republican Camp

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is the target of increasing criticism from his own Republican camp, but the White House voiced its continued support for the Pentagon chief.

Several top Republicans have recently expressed discontent with Rumsfeld, who survived President George W. Bush's post-November election cabinet shake-up.

The defense chief has come under fire since last week over his answer to a US soldier in Kuwait who asked about the lack of armor for US military vehicles in Iraq.

In widely broadcast and published remarks, Rumsfeld responded: "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

Republican Senator Trent Lott, the Senate's former majority leader, said he hoped Rumsfeld would step down sometime next year, but he fell short of calling for his immediate resignation, saying Rumsfeld does not listen enough to his officers.

But the White House defended the 72-year-old veteran official, who was secretary of defense in the 1970s under president Gerald Ford.

"The president believes Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a great job, and that's why he asked him to continue serving during this time of war," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Asked whether Bush was aware that prominent Republicans were increasingly questioning Rumsfeld's fitness for office, McClellan replied: "We look at the news just like you do."

Republican Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to Rumsfeld that his answer to troops in Kuwait was "troubling."

Collins noted that she brought up her concerns about the shortage of body armor and fortified Humvees for troops in Iraq during a committee hearing in March with a top Pentagon official.

"I remain concerned that, more than eight months later, the Department of Defense still has been unable to ensure that our troops have the equipment they need to perform their mission as safely as possible," she wrote in a letter dated December 15.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a longtime Rumsfeld critic, said US troops "deserved a far better answer from their secretary of defense than a flippant comment."

And William Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, called for Rumsfeld's resignation in a Washington Post opinion piece titled "The Defense Secretary We Have."

"Surely Don Rumsfeld is not the defense secretary Bush should want to have for the remainder of his second term," wrote Kristol, a member of the neo-conservative movement that supported the Iraq war.

"Contrast the magnificent performance of our soldiers with the arrogant buck-passing of Rumsfeld," he wrote.

"All defense secretaries in wartime have, needless to say, made misjudgments. Some have stubbornly persisted in their misjudgments," Kristol wrote. "But have any so breezily dodged responsibility and so glibly passed the buck?"

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