WASHINGTON – President Bush gave Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld an unequivocal vote of confidence Wednesday, saying he would remain in the job until the end of Bush's presidency, a pointed response to Democrats — and Republicans — who have called for Rumsfeld's resignation.
Bush made the comment during an interview in which he also said Vice President Dick Cheney, whose name has been tossed about in the discussion of possible 2008 Republican presidential contenders, will remain on the job through the end of Bush's second four-year term in January 2009. Cheney has repeatedly said he will not be a candidate in 2008.
"Both men are doing fantastic in their jobs," Bush told reporters.
Many Democrats and some Republicans have called for Rumsfeld's resignation, arguing he has mishandled the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I'm pleased with the progress we're making," Bush said.
New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer disagreed with the president, and issued the following statement:
"With all due respect, the president just doesn't get it. We need a change in the Iraq strategy but with Rumsfeld running the show we'll never get it."
Bush's endorsement came a day after Rumsfeld endorsed a proposal to spend at least $1 billion to expand the size and accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces.
While the plan still must get final approval from the White House and the money would have to be approved by Congress, Rumsfeld's support underscores the Bush administration's effort to shift more of the burden of Iraq's security to that country's forces.
"I'm very comfortable with the increases they've proposed and the accelerations in achievement of some of their targets," Rumsfeld told reporters Tuesday.
"Now it's simply a matter of our pressing forward and getting our portion of the funding from the Congress and working to see that it's executed," Rumsfeld said. He did not say how much extra U.S. money would be required.
So far, the U.S. government has spent roughly $10 billion on developing the Iraqi security forces, according to the latest report released by the Pentagon special inspector general who audits U.S. work in Iraq. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the proposed extra money as more than $1 billion, but would not offer specifics.
Rumsfeld said the final decision on expanding the Iraqi security forces would be announced in Baghdad.