Rumsfeld Doing "Really Fine Job" Leading DoD, Bush Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2004 President Bush praised Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's leadership today, acknowledging that managing the Defense Department is "a complex job" even during peacetime, but particularly during times of war.
The president said during his final press conference for 2004 that he "was really pleased" when Rumsfeld agreed to remain in his Cabinet and looks forward to working with him during his second term in office.
Rumsfeld is doing "a really fine job" leading the U.S. military as it fights two major battles in the war on terror, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and while it works to transform itself to function better and prepare for future operations, Bush said.
The president said Rumsfeld understands the workings of Capitol Hill and "will continue to reach out to members of the Hill" about defense issues and decisions. "And I believe that in a new term, members of the Senate and House will recognize what a good job he's doing," Bush said.
In addition to giving the defense secretary the thumbs up for his ability to get the job done, Bush said he's also convinced that the defense secretary is deeply committed to the welfare of the men and women in uniform.
The president told reporters that beneath what he acknowledges can appear to be a "rough, gruff, no-nonsense demeanor," Rumsfeld is a "good, decent human being who cares deeply about the military and deeply about the grief that war causes."
"I know Secretary Rumsfeld's heart. I know how much he cares for the troops," the president said. He noted that Rumsfeld and his wife Joyce regularly visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center to provide "comfort and solace" to troops wounded in the war on terror.
Asked by a reporter if he found it unacceptable that the secretary had not personally signed condolence letters to families of servicemembers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush responded by saying said he knows Rumsfeld's deep personal commitment to the troops.
"I'veheard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when he talks aboutthe danger in Iraq and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm's way," the president said. "He's a good, decent man. He's a caring fellow."
The president acknowledged that the United States has put a heavy burden on military members. "In Iraq and elsewhere, we've asked a great deal of the men and women of our armed forces," he said.
"Especially during this holiday season, those on duty far from home will be in our thoughts and our prayers," Bush said. "Our people in uniform and our military families are making many sacrifices for our country. They have the gratitude of our whole country."