WASHINGTON – Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday he hasn't considered resigning despite calls for him to do so by a half dozen retired generals, and that whether he should remain as secretary of defense is up to President Bush.
Asked at a Pentagon briefing whether he would consider resigning to ease political pressure on Bush and Republicans in Congress, Rumsfeld said, "No."
"The president knows, as I know, there are no indispensable men ... He knows that I serve at his pleasure, and that's that," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld spoke several hours after Bush reiterated his support for Rumsfeld. "I'm the decider and I decide what's best," Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden as he announced several White House staff changes. "And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."
Rumsfeld said he is proud of his five-year tenure of overseeing the Pentagon, through wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a major restructuring of the armed forces.
He suggested that many in the military were naturally resistant to changes.
"These are important issues that are involved. There's no question about that. Change is difficult. It also happens to be urgently necessary," Rumsfeld said.
Under his leadership, he said, the first Marine corps general — Peter Pace — has been promoted to the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Many expensive weapons systems have been canceled, like the Crusader mobile artillery system, and some U.S. forces have been brought home from Europe and South Korea.
"I look back on those decisions and I am proud of them. They caused a lot of ruffles," Rumsfeld said.
With the past month, six retired generals have called for Rumsfeld to resign, accusing him of mishandling the Iraq war, ignoring advice of military commanders and having an arrogant management style.
In what seemed to be a swipe at such critics, Rumsfeld said, "People who are often talking about what's taking place inside here don't know what's taking place inside here."
As to the recent criticism of him from one-time commanders, Rumsfeld said, "We should be reasonably tolerant with respect to things that get said."
Asked whether there was any validity to the criticism of him, Rumsfeld said, "Well, you know, I've been hearing all about all of this, and I would prefer to let a little time walk over it."
"I think that because of the importance of these matters that are being discussed, I'd like to reflect on them a bit," Rumsfeld said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said Tuesday that Democratic senators have discussed trying to force the Senate to take a symbolic vote testing the support Rumsfeld has when Congress returns next week from its spring recess.
Durbin has said Rumsfeld should step down.
"I think we need to have a vote of confidence on Secretary Rumsfeld. Let the Senate go on record," Durbin told reporters in Springfield, Ill.