Return to Transcripts main page
Rumsfeld Steps Down; Arizona Senator John McCain Speaks Out on Rumsfeld Resignation; Interview With California Congressman Duncan Hunter; Virginia Senate Race Still In Doubt
Aired November 08, 2006 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM today.
And you're looking at live pictures, Phoenix, Arizona Senator John McCain expected to hold a news conference soon, where he will comment on the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Obviously, there's reporters and producers there getting ready.
We will bring that to you live once it happens -- Kyra.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it was a bombshell announcement a day after bombshell elections -- Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepping down, a decision that President Bush insists was in the works before yesterday's Republican trouncing at the polls.
CNN's Kathleen Koch standing by at the White House with more.
Kathleen, surprised all of us.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It did surprise us, Kyra.
And, certainly, obviously, he knew it was in the works. Robert Gates, who he is now saying will be replacing Donald Rumsfeld, knew, but a complete surprise to most of us, because this has been a topic of conversation at the White House for almost a year.
I believe I was the first reporter to ask the president, at a press conference back in March, whether or not he would ask Donald Rumsfeld to resign. And the calls have been coming, not only from Democrats critical of the president's policy in Iraq, but from Republicans. Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial" also revealed that even onetime Chief of Staff Andy Card has suggested that Rumsfeld should resign.
But the president has stood by him so loyally all this time. And, again, today, we heard that dramatic announcement. And now he's reaching to -- back to his father's administration, asking a CIA director from '91 to '93, Robert Gates to take the post -- and the president, obviously, seeing the writing on the wall, that he had to do something to meet public demand for a new direction in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, there's certainly going to be new leadership at the Pentagon. And, as I mentioned in my comments, that Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that, sometimes, it's necessary to have a fresh perspective.
And Bob Gates will bring a fresh perspective. He will also bring great managerial experience.
And he is -- I had a good talk with him on Sunday in Crawford. I hadn't -- it took me a while to be able to sit down and visit with him. And I did. And I found him to be of like mind. He understands we're in a global war against these terrorists. He understands that defeat is not an option in Iraq.
And I believe it's important that there be a fresh perspective, and so does Secretary Rumsfeld.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOCH: President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, and Robert Gates will be meeting at 3:30 this afternoon in the White House. Reporters will be present. So, we will be bringing you sound from that as soon as it occurs.
The president very effusive in his praise of Donald Rumsfeld this afternoon, saying he was a superb leader during a time of change, a trusted adviser and friend, a patriot who served the country with honor and distinction -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Kathleen Koch, from the White House, thanks so much.
LEMON: You think Washington was buzzing over election results? Well, there's another bombshell today from the Pentagon.
Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, it was interesting.
Here at the Pentagon, few people knew what was in the works this morning, even as the word began to come from the White House that there would be a major announcement. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was apparently completely poker-faced in meetings he had with top aides this morning, as he discussed problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, gave no hint that the end of his tenure as the Pentagon chief was just hours away from being announced.
Rumsfeld is leaving the building at this hour to go over to the White House for that event in just a few moments. We are told that he will -- he is the secretary of defense. He will remain secretary of defense for a time to be determined, while they work out how they're going to transition to the tenure of -- of Robert Gates.
Rumsfeld is scheduled to give a speech tomorrow in Kansas City. He's planning to continue to do that. And he made it clear all along that he had no intention of stepping down voluntarily, that he served at the pleasure of the president, that he had offered his resignation in the past, and didn't intend to offer it again. But, as President Bush made clear, in the last week or so, the president decided that it was time for fresh leadership at the Pentagon. And the president said he made the decision to replace Rumsfeld, even before the results of yesterday's election, a results that he called basically a thumpin' -- his words -- for the Republicans, a clear victory clear for the Democrat, Democrats -- indicating that there needed to be a new direction and some new cooperation between the parties, as they look forward to what to do about the situation in Iraq, which President Bush, by the way, also admitted today was not progressing fast enough to his liking, or, for that matter, to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's liking as well -- Don.
LEMON: Jamie McIntyre, a lot of questions to ask you, but I guess they won't -- we won't know the answers until 3:30, this press conference with all three men.
Thank you so much for your report.
We also want to tell you that Arizona Senator John McCain is expected to hold a news conference, where he will comment on the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. We will bring that news to you live when it happens.
PHILLIPS: CNN congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel has been working the reaction from Capitol Hill, as we got the word that the secretary of defense resigned. Did it come to a surprise from your sources as well there on the Hill?
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think heads are spinning, Kyra.
One Democratic leadership aide said, it's a day late and a dollar short; nevertheless, it is a welcome change.
Democrats had been calling, as you know, for Secretary Rumsfeld to resign for months upon months, some of them for years. So, the fact that it happened this quickly certainly is a surprise. But, when you look at what the Democrats' message has been, out on the campaign trail, here on Capitol Hill, perhaps, it shouldn't be.
The Democrats have been saying that there would be, if they took over control, no more rubber-stamp Congress, in their words, that there would be hearings, that there would be subpoenas issued. No, nevertheless, perhaps, President Bush saw the writing on the wall and realized now, with Democrats in control of the House, and perhaps in control of the Senate, that he was going to be in for a very, very long couple of years.
Here's some reaction from the woman who is likely to be the next speaker of the House, and also from Harry Reid, who is currently the minority leader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Clearly, the eloquent voice of "The Army Times," "The Marine Times," "The Air Force Times," and "The Navy Times" was heard by the president, and perhaps by Mr. Rumsfeld.
So, I -- I welcome this change. I think it will give a fresh start to finding a solution to Iraq, rather than staying the course.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: If the vote of last night, from all over America, didn't accomplish anything but this, it was a good night. But we accomplished far more than this.
And I recognize that the country is going to be well served with a new secretary of defense. I look forward to working with that person. But, also, I look to working with the president to see if the new secretary of defense will help work to change course in Iraq. We have to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOPPEL: Now, former CIA Director Robert Gates still has to be confirmed by this Senate. It's unclear whether it would be done by the lame-duck Congress or whether it would be done by the new Congress next year.
Nevertheless, at this hour, you have some senior Democrats who are holding a phone teleconference, trying to discuss sort of what this means for Washington, for Iraq. They want change. They want more than just a new face at the Pentagon.
I should also tell you, Kyra, that we have heard also from a couple of GOP leadership sources and from the current speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, himself, that he is not going to run for minority leader. That is not a surprise. We have been expecting that -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: What happens next to Denny Hastert? What does he do? Where does he go? What's the next move?
KOPPEL: Well, he has been serving his constituents for a couple of -- a number of years, and he says he's going to continue to do that. He was reelected with over 60 percent last night.
PHILLIPS: Andrea, we want get straight to Arizona Senator John McCain, holding his news conference now.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: ... Donald Rumsfeld with former CIA Director Robert Gates.
While Secretary Rumsfeld and I have had our differences, he deserves America's respect and gratitude for his many years of public service. He has mine.
This important change offers the administration and Congress a fresh opportunity to examine all aspects of our strategy and tactics in Iraq, and make whatever changes are necessary to succeed there. I look forward to discussing with secretary-designate Gates his ideas for correcting the mistakes of the past, whether we are following the right strategy today, and whether we have sufficient troops in Iraq to provide the level of security that is indispensable to defeating the insurgency and achieving a political resolution of sectarian violent conflict there.
I also intend to discuss with Mr. Gates the urgent necessity of increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps to alleviate the terrible strain on our active-duty forces, Guard and Reserve, and meet the many challenges that confront us in this difficult time.
I believe this change today also provides an opportunity for greater bipartisan cooperation on Iraq policy, for Republicans and Democrats of goodwill to work together towards securing victory.
Victory is still attainable in Iraq. Our defeat there would have very dangerous consequences for the United States, our allies, and those Iraqis who have risked their lives to work with us.
It is difficult to imagine the United States escaping from the chaos that would ensue in Iraq and in the broader Middle East, without serious damage to our most vital interests, not to mention our standing in the world. We must prevail.
However weary Americans are of the war in Iraq, doing what we must do to win there will bring our troops home as quickly as we can with a victory that they have sacrificed so much to achieve.
I spoke to secretary-designate Gates on the phone shortly after the announcement, about an hour ago. And I pledged my desire to cooperate and work with him as efficiently and as early as possible.
QUESTION: Senator, could you talk a little bit about correcting those mistakes? In what ways would you hope that the secretary, the new secretary, handles the war in Iraq?
MCCAIN: Well, among other things, we need to increase our activities, particularly against the sectarian violence.
I believe al-Sadr has to be taken out. I believe that the Mahdi army continues to pose a threat. I think that it's very clear that we need to increase the size of the army and Marine Corps, because of the strain that's been put on the Guard and Reserve, including the Arizona Guard.
And I think that we, obviously, have to involve other nations in the region to try to help resolve the situation. And, of course, we need to seek as much bipartisan participation as we can in working on this issue.
And, finally, we all look forward to the Baker-Hamilton commission report.
QUESTION: Senator, do you...
QUESTION: Senator, how do you feel about the timing of the decision, the day after the elections?
MCCAIN: Well, I think that the president probably did the right thing by not making this announcement before, because, then, it would have been a political -- been viewed perhaps as a political move. So, I think the president probably did the right thing in waiting.
QUESTION: Do you think that this would have -- this announcement still would have come regardless of what the end results were from the election?
MCCAIN: I don't know. I don't know.
But there were many of us who had expressed a lack of confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld for a long period of time. I had. But I also respected the right of the president to choose his team.
QUESTION: What kind of difference can Gates' leadership mean to the Pentagon?
MCCAIN: Well, I hope that Mr. Gates will take a fresh look at the situation. I hope he will understand that the consequences of a premature withdrawal will lead to chaos, both in Iraq and in the region.
I hope that he will understand the need for increased size of Marine Corps and Army. But, so far, I have not had an opportunity, except to pledge my desire to cooperate and work with him.
As you know, there will be hearings, probably very soon after we return. And, at that time, we will be able to get a better idea of his views on the Iraqi situation. But have no doubt that Iraq is the dominant issue.
I would like to point out one thing about the elections that I think is an important point to make. There was a survey analysis done by the Republican National Committee. Of the 29 seats that Republicans lost for sure, 19 of those seats were lost because of the issue of corruption, not because of Iraq.
And, so, there was a number of factors, including corruption, including our spending practices, including these continued scandals, that, along with Iraq, contributed to our downfall. And, if it had just been Iraq, Joe Lieberman would have never been reelected in Connecticut, a liberal state, where he supported the president on the war.
QUESTION: Senator, were you surprised at all when you heard about the decision today?
MCCAIN: I don't know if I was surprised.
But I think it's the right move on the president's part. Again, there's many more people who had expressed a lack of confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld, in fact, some Republicans who had called for his resignation.
QUESTION: What do you think that the developments of yesterday and today do to your possible presidential aspirations?
MCCAIN: I don't know, because we haven't made the decision whether to run or not yet.
But I do believe that the lesson that we must learn is that Americans deserve a better and less -- effective and efficient, but also corruption-free and scandal-free government.
They believe that we came to Washington to change government, and government changed us. And that is the lesson that we Republicans should get out of this, if they expect us to return, as we did when we lost in 1976, to the optimism, the conservative principles that are the foundation of the Republican Party. And I am confident we will do that.
QUESTION: Senator Kyl talked about yesterday about reassessing how Republicans have approached government.
How do you win back those votes that swung Democrat yesterday?
MCCAIN: By returning to the basic core principles of the Republican Party, very careful stewardship of tax dollars, less government is best government, less regulation, lower taxes, strong national defense, community and family values.
And, clearly, on some of those issues, not the least of which spending, we departed, rather tragically, from our conservative principles. And, therefore, many of our conservative, fiscally conservative, base stayed home. They didn't vote Democrat, but they stayed home.
QUESTION: Were you surprised by the results yesterday?
MCCAIN: No, because I have been traveling around the country, and extensively.
And you can get a feel for the political climate. I was hoping it wouldn't happen. But it was clear to me that we were going to sustain losses in the election. And I still hope we can keep control of the Senate, although that's obviously up to the Virginia recount.
QUESTION: Senator, what would you like to say to local military families now, though?
MCCAIN: I and the president are committed to prevailing in Iraq.
We will not make their sacrifice be in vain. We need to give them more help, in the form of a bigger Army and a bigger Marine Corps. We need to relieve some of the strains on our Guard and Reserve, which has been tremendous. And we love them. And we will do everything we can to care for them, both while they're over there and upon their return.
QUESTION: What about those who make the comment that it's about time that this decision was made?
MCCAIN: I don't have any response to that, except to say that now we're embarked on a new path.
QUESTION: What do you make of today's announcement coming just a week after the president said that Mr. Rumsfeld was in for the long haul? Surely, he didn't change his mind in that (INAUDIBLE)
MCCAIN: Well, again, I think that the president probably wanted to avoid a decision which would have been viewed as political, if he had made that decision or announced that decision prior to yesterday's election.
So, by not announcing it or intimating it before, he probably kept it from being politicized.
QUESTION: Depending on how the Senate -- depending on how the Senate falls...
QUESTION: ... or stands...
MCCAIN: Yes, I have a little interest in it, the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee.
QUESTION: Exactly. That was my question.
QUESTION: Do you think that maybe your approach to the -- to the war (INAUDIBLE) out of step with some of the other people would be calling the shots? (INAUDIBLE) you have taken a different stance several times.
MCCAIN: No. I have worked with my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee, many of them, for 20 years. I'm very close to John Warner, and Carl Levin, who is the senior Democrat, and I have a very good relationship.
The Armed Services Committee is one of the less -- least partisan of the committees in the Senate. So, no, I think -- I have a good working relationship with all of them.
QUESTION: Senator, if you could tell us why you were displeased with Rumsfeld's performance.
MCCAIN: Pardon me?
QUESTION: If you could tell us why you were displeased with Rumsfeld's performance.
MCCAIN: Well, I lacked confidence in him, because the mistakes that were made and a failure to correct them. They have been well- chronicled in many books, "Fiasco," Cobra II," "State of Denial." I mean, they're well-chronicled, that we needed more troops there, that we needed to not have that looting take place, that we needed to do a far better job in securing the -- ensuring the security of the people of Iraq.
There's a long list of misjudgments and errors that were made that has cost us enormously in -- in American blood and treasure.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) You're happy, then, with the decision (INAUDIBLE).
MCCAIN: I think the president made the right decision today.
I appreciate Secretary Rumsfeld's service to the nation. And I join others in thanking him for it.
All right, gang, thanks very much. Thanks for coming over on short notice. I appreciate it.
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator.
QUESTION: Thanks (INAUDIBLE).
PHILLIPS: Senator John McCain, Republican, Arizona, says he wasn't surprised and thought it was the right move, that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned today.
He said there were too many mistakes in the past that have been made. Those need to be corrected. He wants to achieve a peaceful resolution in Iraq. He thinks one of the answers, increasing the Army and the Marines, to relieve the Guard and the Reserve forces. He says that victory is still attainable in Iraq. And he wants to bring the troops home soon.
He actually called Gates, Bob Gates, the man that the president would like to replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, called him to say -- to say he wanted to work with him, and that he will be anxious to talk to him about his ideas.
Something else that John McCain pointed out, he thinks that Muqtada al-Sadr, the Mahdi army -- head of the Mahdi army in Iraq -- should be taken out, that that needs to be dealt with, because the sectarian violence is contributing to so much of the chaos over there in Iraq.
Interesting new CNN poll asked -- residents asked their choice for president in 2008, 48 percent saying John McCain, 47 percent saying Hillary Clinton.
Let's get reaction from Baghdad now, John Roberts, embedded with the 172nd Stryker Brigade of the U.S. Army.
John, what kind of reaction there, as you talk to troops?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kyra. It really went through the space where I'm embedded like a hot knife through butter. People were very, very surprised about this, taken aback somewhat, because it was just a little more than a week ago that President Bush affirmed his support for Donald Rumsfeld and said that he planned on keeping him around for the rest of his term.
You know, it's closing in on midnight here. There's not a lot of people walking around. So, we went knocking on some doors, seeing some commanders that we know, talking to them about the whole idea.
And -- and, while they said that they were surprised by it, they didn't seem to think that it was a bad idea, by and large. They thought that Rumsfeld, because of all the fire that he has drawn on political front, and also from retired military leaders, has become a distraction in the overall effort of the war.
And -- and they said, you know, a fresh pair of eyes on the situation might not be such a bad thing. And they had praise for Robert Gates.
I talked to an S2, an intelligence officer, who appreciates his background at the CIA, also the fact that he's an academic, thinking that he might bring something new to the table, some new perspective on it that perhaps this war needs to kind of nudge it out of what some commanders have described as stasis, and getting it moving -- get it moving forward.
Not all commanders really shared that view, though, about Rumsfeld going. One other fellow that we contacted by e-mail said say, well, c'est la vie. The grass is always greener on the other side. Let's see if the new guy can do any better.
And one enlisted man -- and I will tell you, the enlisted soldiers here really are reluctant to talk about this, even on a background. But one enlisted soldier that I talked to thought that it was -- quote -- in his words, "B.S." that Rumsfeld was stepping down. He said, what ever happened to finishing the job? -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Donald Rumsfeld -- or not Donald Rumsfeld, but, of course, we heard John McCain saying that's exactly what he wants to do, is finish the job.
In addition, the president of the United States saying it is time for a shift in a new direction, and that that is exactly what he wants to do, is, he wants to still win in Iraq, and effectively help get troops home safely and soon.
LEMON: All right -- a lot still ahead here.
We expect a live statement, a live news conference from President Bush, from Donald Rumsfeld, also from Robert Gates, who is the man who is expected to take over for Donald Rumsfeld, the president said, if he's approved by the Senate.
That's at 3:30 Eastern time, live coverage in the CNN NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: The secretary of defense, just moments ago, arriving, getting ready for a live news conference with the president of the United States, Rumsfeld.
The president and also the man that the president has asked to take the defense secretary's position, Bob Gates, now president of Texas A&M University, we're expecting to hear from all three of them, a live news conference, 3:30. Eastern time.
We will take it live when it happens.
LEMON: Yes, just a few short minutes away, if it happens on time.
Democrats, of course, are applauding the Rumsfeld news. Some call it the spoils of victory at the polls.
And what about Republicans?
Congressman Duncan Hunter is a California Republican, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, an ardent Rumsfeld supporter. He joins me now from San Diego.
Not good news for you, sir, today?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, I just think the important thing for the country to remember is that we're in Iraq. We have a three-step process, one standing up a free government, which we have done, the second and most important and most difficult step is standing up an Iraqi military that is capable of protecting that free government. And, number three, we leave.
The second step is the toughest. And that's what we're embarked on. And changing secretaries doesn't make a difference in that second step. It's a long, tough road to stand up a military from scratch, which is what we're doing.
Don Rumsfeld has done a good job. He's managed a force of 2.5 million people, wars in two theaters, reformed the military, stood up our first incipient missile defense. So, he's had a broad array of challenges. He's handled those well.
I talked to him before the resignation announcement. And I think he's really doing it, because he sees now, with the Democrat leadership in Congress, it's going to be hard to get past what I see as personal animosities toward him, and get the job done. And I think he perceives that the same way...
HUNTER: ... that he thinks that is going to get in the way of doing a good job.
LEMON: And, Congressman... (CROSSTALK)
HUNTER: I talked to Mr. Gates. He is going to be, I think, an excellent secretary.
Now, Congressman Hayworth, despite all of that, and despite his resume, which you say is very impressive, there are...
HUNTER: Not a resume -- accomplishments.
LEMON: Well, his accomplishments are very impressive.
But he has gotten a whole lot of criticism from generals and from citizens at large, saying that what is happening in Iraq is not working, and people are not happy with the course of action in Iraq.
HUNTER: Well, first, if you do a good job, and if you're in this arena where you deal with lots of generals, retired and active, these guys aren't made out of cotton candy. They're tough people with good opinions. They have high intellects.
You will always have people who disagree with you. For example, I disagree with the idea that some of these generals advanced that we should have kept Saddam Hussein's army in place. That had 11,000 Sunni generals in it. And what do you do with an army with 11,000 Sunni generals? It would have been chaos right now.
So, Rumsfeld was right to start an army from scratch. So, everybody has a different opinion on how you fight this war.
LEMON: Do you agree, though...
HUNTER: But, in the end, you can't...
LEMON: Do you agree, though, that..
HUNTER: You can't get past just one, two, three.
LEMON: Do you agree that there needs to be some -- at least some new strategy for folks on the ground there, some new strategy in Iraq?
HUNTER: Well, the strategy is, simply, you have to stand up the Iraqi military, which we're doing right now. That's not really a strategy as much as a job, which is tough.
You have got to develop field leaders, generals that take orders from the Ministry of Defense. And you have to have a chain of command that goes down right to the squad level. There's no shortcut to that. There's no smooth road that you can take to get that done.
The one thing that I think we could do is to make sure we get all 114 Iraqi battalions presently trained and equipped into the fight. In some places in Iraq, there isn't much fighting going on. Let's saddle those people up, get them into the rotation, into the fight in Baghdad.
I have recommended that to the secretary and to the president. And I think that's -- we're going to have to continue that job. And it's a very tough and difficult job. And the day that Mr. Gates is sworn in, that job will not end, nor will it become easy.
LEMON: And we want to tell you that the president is stepping up to the podium now. Let's listen in.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Earlier today, I announced my intent to nominate Robert Gates to be the next secretary of the defense. And now I'm pleased to introduce him to the American people. I also am looking forward to paying tribute to the man he will succeed.
America remains a nation at war. We face brutal enemies who despise our freedom and want to destroy our way of life. These enemies attacked our country on September 11, 2001, they fight us in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they remain determined to attack our country again.
Against such enemies, there's only one way to protect the American people. We must stay on the offense and bring our enemies to justice before they hurt us again. In this time of war, the president relies on the secretary of defense to provide military advice and direct our nation's armed forces as they engage our enemies across the world.
The secretary of defense must be a man of vision who can see threats still over the horizon and prepare our nation to meet them. Bob Gates is the right man to meet both of these critical challenges. Bob is one of our nation's most accomplished public servants. He joined the CIA in 1966 and has nearly 27 years of national security experience serving six presidents of both political parties.
He spent nearly nine years serving on the National Security Council staff, and at the CIA he rose from an entry-level employee to become the director of the Central Intelligence. And his experience has prepared him well for this new assignment.
Bob understands the challenges we face in Afghanistan. As President Reagan's deputy director of central intelligence, he helped lead America's efforts to drive Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The success of these efforts weakened the Soviet regime and helped hasten freedom's victory in the Cold War.
Bob understands the challenges facing our nation in Iraq. He served as deputy national security adviser to the first President Bush during Operation Desert Storm as American troops repelled Iraqi aggression and drove Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait.
More recently, he served as a member of the Iraqi Study Group, a distinguished, independent panel of Republicans and Democrats led by former Secretary of State Jim Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. As part of his commission, he has traveled to Iraq and met with the country's leaders and our military commanders on the ground. He'll provide the department with a fresh perspective and new ideas on how America can achieve our goals in Iraq.
Bob understands how to lead large, complex institutions and transform them to meet new challenges. As director of central intelligence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was responsible for leading all the foreign intelligence agencies of the United States.
And he's brought that same leadership and abilities as his work as president of our nation's sixth largest university, Texas A&M. When the A&M board of regents interviewed him for the job, he described himself as an agent of change. As president, he delivered on that promise, initiating wide-ranging reforms to almost every aspect of campus life. He'll bring that same transformational spirit to his work in the Department of Defense.
Bob Gates is a patriot whose love for country was nurtured in the Kansas community where he was raised. He wore our nation's uniform. He's a strategic thinker who was educated as three of America's finest universities, receiving his Bachelor's degree from William & Mary, a Master's degree in history from Indiana University and a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown.
He's a leader in the business community who served on the boards of several major corporations. He's a man of integrity, candor and sound judgment. He knows that the challenge of protecting our country is larger than any political party and he has a record of working with leaders on both sides of the aisle to strengthen our national security.
He has my confidence and my trust, and he will be an outstanding secretary of defense. Bob follows in the footsteps of one of America's most skilled and capable national security leaders, Donald Rumsfeld. Don is the longest serving member of my cabinet, and next month he will reach another milestone when he becomes the longest serving secretary of defense in the history of our nation.
I appreciate his willing tons continue serving until his successor is in place, because In a time of war our nation cannot be without a strong and steady hand leading our Department of Defense.
Don has served in times of great consequence for our nation. Few will forget the image of Don Rumsfeld as he helped rescue workers carry the victims from the rubble of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. In the weeks that followed, he directed the effort to plan our nation's military response to an unprecedented attack on our soil.
Under his leadership, U.S. and coalition forces launched one of the most innovative military campaigns in the history of modern warfare, driving the Taliban and its al Qaeda allies from power in a matter of weeks.
In 2003 on my orders, he led the planning and execution of another historic military campaign, Operation Iraqi Freedom, that drove Saddam Hussein from power and helped the Iraqi people establish a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East.
History will record that on Don Rumsfeld's watch, the men and women of our military overthrew two terrorist regimes, liberated some 50 million people, brought justice to the terrorist Zarqawi and scores of senior al Qaeda operatives and helped stop new terrorist attacks on our people. America's safer and the world is more secure because of the service and the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld.
As he led the Pentagon in an unprecedented war, Don never took his eye off another vital responsibility: preparing America for the threats that await us as this new century unfolds. He developed a new defense strategy. He established a new Northern Command to protect the homeland, a new joint forces command to focus on transformation, a new strategic command to defend against long range attack and transformed the U.S. Special Operations Command for the war on terror.
He led our efforts to create a new NATO response force that allows NATO to deploy rapidly anywhere in the world. He undertook the most sweeping transformation of America's global force posture since the end of World War II. He revitalized America's efforts to develop and deploy ballistic defenses and led a comprehensive review of America's nuclear forces that has allowed us to undertake dramatic reductions in offensive nuclear weapons.
Don's work in these areas did not often make the headlines, but the reforms have set in motion -- that he has set in motion are historic and they will enhance the security of the American people for decades to come.
Over the past six years, I've relied on Don Rumsfeld's advice and counsel. I've come to know his character and his integrity. As a secretary of defense, he's been dedicated to his mission, loyal to his president and devoted to the courageous men and women of our armed forces. Don once famously said, "there are known knowns, there are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns."
Well, Mr. Secretary, here is a known known. Your service has made America stronger and made America a safer nation. You will be missed, and I wish you and Joyce all the best in the years to come.
Don Rumsfeld's a tough act to follow. That's why I picked a man of Bob Gates' caliber to succeed him. When confirmed by the Senate, Bob will bring talent, energy and innovation to the Department of Defense. He'll work every day to keep the American people safe and to make our nation more secure. And he'll do a superb job as America's next secretary of defense.
Bob, I appreciate you agreeing to serve our nation again, and congratulations.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: Thank you.
Mr. President, thank you for this high honor and for your confidence. And let me add my thanks to Secretary Rumsfeld for his service. I entered public service 40 years ago last August. President Bush will be the seventh president I have served. I had not anticipated returning to government service, and have never enjoyed any position more than being president of Texas A&M University.
However, the United States is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We're fighting against terrorism worldwide, and we face other serious challenges to peace and our security. I believe the outcome of these conflicts will shape our world for decades to come.
Because our long-term strategic interests and our national and homeland security are at risk, because so many of America's sons and daughters in our armed forces are in harm's way, I did not hesitate when the president asked me to return to duty.
If confirmed by the Senate, I will serve with all my heart and with gratitude to the president for giving me the opportunity to do so.
DON RUMSFELD, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Bob Gates, my congratulations to you on this nomination. My very best wishes. Look forward to working with you in the transition.
Mr. President, thank you for your kind words, and the wholly unexpected opportunity you provided me to serve in the Department of Defense again these past years -- six years. It's been quite a time.
It recalls to mind the statement by Winston Churchill something to the effect that, I have benefited greatly from criticism and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof.
The great respect that I have for your leadership, Mr. President, in this little understood, unfamiliar war, the first war of the 21st century -- it is not well known. It was not well understood. It is complex for people to comprehend.
And I know with certainty that over time, the contributions you've made will be recorded by history.
I must say that it's been the highest honor of my life to serve with the talented men and women of the Department of Defense, the amazing men and women -- young men and women in uniform. It's a privilege.
And their patriotism, their professionalism, their dedication is truly an inspiration. I -- they have my respect, they will remain in my prayers always.
BUSH: Mr. Secretary.
LEMON: All right. There you have it. As we welcome our international viewers, 3:42 Eastern time in the U.S., that was the president, the outgoing -- soon to be outgoing secretary of defense. The president said he will serve until January, at least until the Senate confirms him. He will be the longest serving when that happens -- be the longest serving secretary of defense in U.S. history.
And also speaking there was Robert Gates, who will be -- soon to be the new confirmed -- if that does happen -- secretary of defense. Said he had not anticipated becoming -- or at least, going back into public service.
He was very happy being the 22nd president of Texas A&M University. But he says because of risk to Americans and because of our men and women in uniform who are serving overseas, that he was happy to take on this role for the president.
Donald Rumsfeld also there saying that he has the respect of at least the men and women in uniform in Iraq and serving all over the world -- have his respect and he will keep them in his prayers.
Let's get some perspective on this from our Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who's been listening to this press conference.
You heard the president talk about the man who's coming in, and he also talked about the man who's going out, saying that both, in his estimation, are professionals and both are worthy of serving in that role.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, it was a very interesting moment there to watch Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who made it clear that he never intended to voluntarily walk away from the war in Iraq while it was still raging, in fact, while it was still on the course it is now.
But recognizing that he serves at the pleasure of the president, thanking the president for what he said was an unexpected opportunity to come back and serve a second term as defense secretary and oversee the transformation of the Pentagon.
And his departure, apparently equally somewhat unexpected, having developed just over the last week or so, as President Bush, who seemed to be turning a deaf ear to the critics of Rumsfeld, eventually came to the decision that Rumsfeld did need to go as part of a fresh start after the midterm elections.
Rumsfeld, of course, alluded to the heavy criticism himself, quoting Winston Churchill to the effect that, he benefited from criticism and never suffered from a lack thereof.
And he also indicated that perhaps he thought his tenure might be a little misunderstood, referring to the war in Iraq as a "little understood war, the first real war of the 21st century."
Donald Rumsfeld, 74, is a multimillionaire. He -- his plans at this point are unknown. The reason for the sort of lack of clarity about the exact time for his departure, is that they're still working out with the Senate a timetable for confirmation hearings for Bill Gates.
One of two possibilities: Rumsfeld could stay -- excuse me for Robert Gates -- one of two possibilities: Rumsfeld could stay until Gates is confirmed and takes over, or Rumsfeld could leave at some point before then, leaving the department in the able hands of the Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.
But that again needs to be worked out with negotiations with Capitol Hill -- Don.
MCINTYRE: And Jamie, the president also talked about the secretary of defense's accomplishments. He said that he weeded out the Taliban in Afghanistan. He talked about the war there.
And then he went on to talk about the war in Iraq, saying that he put measures into place that people didn't even know about. It didn't always make the press. And so he referred to this man as someone who made historic reforms when it comes to security for the United States and for the world.
MCINTYRE: Well, whatever you think about Donald Rumsfeld, he proved to be a very able manager, someone who was able to exert a degree of civilian control over the military, really that hadn't been seen since Robert McNamara served as defense secretary in the tenure -- in the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.
In fact, a lot of people compare his style to McNamara's style. Both of them were seen as extremely bright, both of them were seen as people who questioned the way things were going, and both of them oversaw what eventually became a very unpopular war.
So Rumsfeld will leave his legacy somewhat murky. He continues to believe that in the long view of history, 10, 20 30 years from now, people will look back on the Iraq policy as a time when the U.S. triumphed.
But he leaves at this point in sort of a low point in the war with a lot of people questioning whether the policy in Iraq doesn't in fact need a major course correction in the months ahead -- Don.
LEMON: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.
Thank you, Jamie.
PHILLIPS: Joining us now on the phone, former CIA Director Stansfield Turner. He was Bob Gates' boss. Gates was Turner's assistant way back when at the CIA.
As we look at live pictures right now of SecDef Don Rumsfeld leaving that news conference we just brought to you side by side by the president and Bob Gates.
The incoming SecDef is indeed confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Stansfield Turner, tell me about Bob Gates' character. STANSFIELD TURNER, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: Bob is a man of the highest integrity. I never saw him do anything that I would question the ethics of or the honesty of.
Beyond that, he has such experience in our government, such a broad background, that I think he's a very, very good choice for this job at this time.
PHILLIPS: Tell us a couple success stories, or maybe one main success story, that you witnessed as Bob Gates' boss there at the CIA.
TURNER: Well, we were going through some difficult times when I was working with Bob at the CIA. The CIA had come in for a great deal of criticism. Bob was able to go up on Capitol Hill and make the case for the CIA in very lucid terms, and I think did a great deal to help refurbish the image of the organization.
PHILLIPS: Does Bob Gates understand military mentality? Does he understand military strategy?
TURNER: If he doesn't, he's got to be pretty thick because he's been around us in the military a great deal, and he's very well informed on military matters. I think he's an excellent choice in that regard, in particular.
PHILLIPS: Biggest difference between Don Rumsfeld and Bob Gates?
TURNER: I think Bob Gates is a lower key fellow, you won't hear as much from. He'll just go about his job and do it a little more quietly than Don.
I'm not trying to criticize Don, who happens to be a close friend. But their styles are somewhat different, a little more restrained on Bob's part.
PHILLIPS: Former CIA Director Stansfield Turner.
Stansfield, thanks so much.
Live pictures there of Donald Rumsfeld actually shaking hands with his replacement, Bob Gates, if confirmed by the Senate.
LEMON: Counting on Virginia, Democrats need it to take control of the Senate. The cliff-hanger is ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
PHILLIPS: Still not over in Virginia. The Senate race there is so tight a recount is virtually certain. The Democratic challenger has declared victory, but the Republican incumbent is telling his supporters to sit tight. The outcome will decide which party controls the whole Senate scene. CNN's Brian Todd live in Richmond. Hey Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra. Yes, we're approaching on 24 hours since all this kind of came to a head last night. Right now it is still a razor thin margin. James Webb, the Democratic challenger, ahead by just about 7,000 votes, a little more than 7,000 votes. That is less than one-third of one percent of this vote -- that tells you how close it is and that is really what makes the Senate hanging in the balance right now.
We did just a short time ago, speak to the state secretary, the secretary of the state board of elections. Her name is Jean Jensen. What is on everybody's mind as we approach a possible recount -- we asked her flat out, is this going to be another Florida situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEAN JENSEN, VIRGINIA BOARD OF ELECTIONS SECRETARY: No. And I say that in a very definitive manner for a number of reasons. Number one, we don't have any problem with hanging chads. In our state, we use a combination of voting equipment. We don't have one size fits all. Each locality is able to make a decision of what type of voting equipment best serves their community's needs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And Miss Jensen told us that yesterday during the entire election process, she had attorneys from the GOP and Democratic Party in her office just about all day and night for transparency's sake and they observed very few anomalies. She doesn't believe that this is going to be another Florida because they don't have the hanging chads. Everything is done electronically. They believe that system is secure and accurate. It is a matter of canvassing now.
They've got to canvass the entire state. We're told as of a few hours ago, that there were only three precincts outstanding, where the votes have not been counted yet. Those might in fact be done right now. They have until the 14th to finish canvassing. Then the certification date is November 27th and at that point whoever is on the short end of this will likely ask for a recount, Kyra.
PHILLIPS: Brian, it has been a long couple of days. My guess is a long couple more days. We'll keep checking in, thanks.
LEMON: CNN projects Jon Tester is the winner in the crucial Montana Senate race. Republican incumbent Conrad Burns has not conceded. Democrats now are one seat closer to controlling the U.S. Senate. CNN's Dan Simon is standing by live in Billings for us -- Dan.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Don. Well, we are in the hotel ballroom where Senator Burns had his rally last night. But completely quiet today -- complete silence from the senator's camp despite the fact that CNN is calling this race for his opponent Jon Tester. Earlier today Mr. Tester declared victory and called on Senator Burns to concede. We don't know what Senator Burns is going to do. We understand that at some point today, he's going to put out a statement.
Now, in terms of whether or not there can be a recount in the state, here's the rule: The margin of victory has to be within one- half of one percent. That would equate to 2,000 votes. Right now, Jon Tester is ahead by 3,000 votes, so if those numbers stick, there cannot be a recount and Jon Tester will be the next senator from the state of Montana. Again, we are waiting to see what Senator Burns is going to do. As soon as we hear, we'll let you know. Back to you Don.
LEMON: All right, Dan Simon is in Billings. Thank you very much. The closing bell and a wrap of the action on Wall Street straight ahead.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com