Rumsfeld No Confidence Vote Falters

The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; 7:57 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democrat after Democrat took to the Senate floor on Wednesday calling for President Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, but Republicans gave a spirited defense and headed off a no-confidence vote.

Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., submitted the resolution, which was the latest Democratic attack on the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. "'Staying the course' is not a strategy for success," the measure said.

Republicans said the move was a political stunt and they stood by Rumsfeld. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, killed the resolution, which contained a nonbinding call for Rumsfeld's ouster. Stevens used a procedural move because the resolution was not germane to the pending Pentagon spending bill.

Reid said Rumsfeld was "a leading participant in the administration's cherry-picking and manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to war, exaggerating Iraq's connections to al-Qaida and the threat posed by its weapons of mass destruction.

"As a result of his and others actions, the nation was rushed to war based on a faulty case."

The Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said that "on issue after issue, Secretary Rumsfeld has made the wrong decisions."

Republicans counterpunched. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said Kerry sounded like a "Monday morning quarterback."

GOP lawmakers also portrayed Democrats as retreating on Iraq and the fight against terrorism.

"If my Democrat colleagues spent half the time helping us fight this war on terror as they do attacking the administration, we'd be a lot closer to winning this war," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. "They are united in the idea of retreat and defeatism."

Ahead of the fall elections that will determine control of Congress, Democrats are trying to mount a political offensive on the war, which remains unpopular with voters.

According to the resolution, the current policy on Iraq "has made America less secure, reduced the readiness of our troops, and burdened America's taxpayers with over $300 billion in additional debt. ... One indication of a change of course would be to replace the current secretary of defense."

Rumfeld won the backing of the Senate majority leader. "The American people want us to be safe and secure. They recognize it takes bold leadership," Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said on NBC's "Today" show. "I strongly support Don Rumsfeld."

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