Rumsfeld: Out The Door

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(Defense chief Rumsfeld is stepping down).

President Bush announced Wednesday that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down from his post.

"The timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon," Bush said at the White House Wednesday afternoon. Rumsfeld has been heavily criticized for his policies in Iraq, and exit polls taken during Tuesday's midterm election showed strong voter dissatisfaction -- 57 percent -- with the Iraq war.

"I recognize that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made" in Iraq, Bush said. Bush said he has "a series of thoughtful conversations" with Rumsfeld about the defense secretary's resignation.

Former CIA chief Robert Gates, who headed that agency from 1991 until 1993, will be nominated to take over as defense secretary, Bush said Wednesday. Gates is now president of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Rumsfeld, 74, has served as defense secretary since January 20, 2001, the beginning of Bush's first term. He also served as defense secretary under President Ford from 1975 to 1977.

"Don Rumsfeld has been a superb leader during a time of change," Bush said Wednesday. "Yet he also appreciates the value of bringing in a fresh perspective during a critical period in this war." With the change, Bush pledged to stand by the people of Iraq. "Do not be fearful," Bush said in reference to Iraqis. "As you take the difficult steps toward democracy and peace, America's going to stand with you. We know you want a better way of life, and now is the time to seize it."

Bush also expressed support for U.S. military personnel. "Don't be doubtful. America will always support you," the president said. "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 our fellow citizens."

Rumsfeld has been under increasing pressure as U.S. casualties mount in Iraq. October was the fourth-deadliest month for U.S. troops since the 2003 invasion, with 105 Americans killed. Earlier this year, eight retired generals, including former NATO commander Wesley Clark and the former head of U.S. Central Command Anthony Zinni, called on Rumsfeld to resign.

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