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Democrats Preparing to Take Control of House, Push New Agenda

Democrats counted the gains that returned them to power in Congress on the day after Tuesday's midterm elections. The NewsHour's Congressional Correspondent Kwame Holman reports on the Democrats' dominance as part of a special NewsHour series of election year reports - Choices '06.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Defense Secretary Rumsfeld resigned today, as Democrats celebrated sweeping victories in Congress. They recaptured the House — and possibly the Senate — riding a wave of discontent with the war in Iraq.

    Today, at a White House news conference, President Bush announced the change at the Pentagon.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: I have been talking with Don Rumsfeld over a period of time about fresh perspective. He likes to call it fresh eyes. He himself understands that Iraq is not working well enough, fast enough. He and I both agreed in our meeting yesterday that it was appropriate that I accept his resignation.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Mr. Bush chose Robert Gates, a former director of the CIA, to succeed Rumsfeld. The president said he had planned to make the move no matter what happened in the elections. Rumsfeld said his six years in the job had been "quite a time," and he acknowledged he faced intense criticism.

    DONALD RUMSFELD, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense: 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.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Gates has already served under six presidents. He led the CIA in the early 1990s under the first President Bush. He's currently president of Texas A&M University, and he's on a commission that's due to report soon on U.S. policy in Iraq. He spoke at a White House ceremony.

    ROBERT GATES, Secretary of Defense-Designate: 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.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    The Gates nomination is subject to Senate approval. Leading Democrats welcomed the announcement, but they said it has to be more than a new face on an old policy. Several top Republicans said they're optimistic the move will lead to a re-examination of strategy on Iraq.

    Across the country today, Democrats counted the gains that brought them back to power in Congress. The NewsHour's congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has the details.

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