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Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Resigns, Bush Appoints Former CIA Director Successor

November 8, 2006 at 6:15 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: President Bush conceded Republicans took a thumping on Election Day, but he said today he wants to work with the Democrats. Here are excerpts from his White House news conference.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Say, why all the glum faces? Yesterday the people went to the polls, and they cast their vote for a new direction in the House of Representatives. And while the ballots are still being counted in the Senate, it is clear the Democrat Party had a good night last night. And I congratulate them on their victories.

I’m obviously disappointed with the outcome of the election. And as the head of the Republican Party, I share a large part of the responsibility.

I’ve told my party’s leaders that it is now our duty to put the elections behind us and work together with the Democrats and independents on the great issues facing this country.

This morning, I also spoke with the Democrats. I told Congresswoman Pelosi that I look forward to working with her and her colleagues to find common ground in the next two years.

The election has changed many things in Washington, but it has not changed my fundamental responsibility, and that is to protect the American people from attack. As the commander in chief, I take these responsibilities seriously, and so does the man who served this nation honorably for almost six years as our secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

Now, after a series of thoughtful conversations, Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that the timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon. I appreciate your interest. Now, I’ll answer some questions.


Iraq and the election results

TERENCE HUNT, Associated Press: Thank you, Mr. President. Does the departure of Don Rumsfeld signal a new direction in Iraq? A solid majority of Americans said yesterday that they wanted some American troops, if not all, withdrawn from Iraq. Did you hear that call? And will you heed it?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Terry, I'd like our troops to come home, too, but I want them to come home with victory, and that is a country that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. I mean, I can understand Americans saying, "Come home," but I don't know if they said, "Come home and leave behind an Iraq that could end up being a safe haven for al-Qaida." I don't believe they said that.

And so I'm committed to victory; I'm committed to helping this country so that we can come home.

STEVE HOLLAND, Reuters: Last week, you told us that Secretary Rumsfeld would be staying on. Why is the timing right now for this? And how much does it have to do with the election results?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Right. No, you and Hunt and Keil came into the Oval Office, and Hunt asked me the question and one week before the campaign. And, basically, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the vice president? And my answer was, no, they're going to stay on.

And the reason why is I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you onto another question was to give you that answer.

Working with the Democrats

DAVID GREGORY, NBC News: You acknowledge that this is a message election on the war in Iraq. And so the American public today, having voted, will want to know what you mean, in terms of course correction on Iraq, and particularly in light of this fact, that last week the vice president pointed out that you and he aren't running for anything anymore and that it's, quote, "full-speed ahead" on Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Somehow it seeped in their conscience that, you know, my attitude was just simply "stay the course." "Stay the course" means let's get the job done, but it doesn't mean, you know, staying stuck on a strategy or tactics that may not be working. So perhaps I need to do a better job of explaining that we're constantly adjusting.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN: With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi has called you incompetent, a liar, the emperor with no clothes, and as recently as yesterday "dangerous." How will you work with someone who has such little respect for your leadership and who is third in line to the presidency?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Suzanne, I've been around politics a long time. I understand when campaigns end, and I know when governing begins.

This is a close election. If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumpin'. But nevertheless, the people expect us to work together; that's what they expect.

Listen, thank you all very much for your time. I appreciate your interest.