| New US defence secretary Robert Gates
Washington, Nov. 8 (Reuters): President George W. Bush conceded today that his Iraq policy was “not working well enough, fast enough,” after announcing that defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was stepping down.
Bush, speaking at a news conference after the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives from his Republican Party, said he and Rumsfeld agreed that a “fresh perspective” was needed on Iraq.
Yesterday’s election outcome was widely seen as voters’ rebuke to the handling of the unpopular war.
But Bush said his party’s election defeat did not mean the US would withdraw prematurely. “The enemy is going to say: ‘Well, it must mean America is going to leave. And the answer is ‘no’,” Bush said.
Bush insisted he remained “committed to victory” in Iraq but acknowledged things were not going as well as he wanted.
Commenting on his discussions with Rumsfeld leading up to the resignation decision, Bush said: “He himself understands Iraq is not working well enough, fast enough.”
But Bush insisted that US troops would not leave before their mission was complete. “It’s a tough fight,” he said. “We’re going to win the fight.”
“I recognise that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made” in Iraq, the President said. “Yet I also believe most Americans — and leaders here in Washington from both political parties — understand we cannot accept defeat.”
Bush was asked whether, now that he is replacing Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, he still had full confidence in Dick Cheney and whether the vice-president would serve out the rest of his term. “Yes he does, yes he will,” Bush replied.
Bush expressed both disappointment and surprise over the election results and said he had called Democratic leaders to personally congratulate them. “Actually, I thought we were going to do fine yesterday,” Bush said. “Shows what I know.”
He quipped that he had given House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi the name of a Republican interior decorator to help her pick out drapes for her new meeting room — poking fun at the California Democrat’s pre-election remark about having her pick of Capitol suites.