Rumsfeld Praises Powell, Expects No Major Policy Shifts
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
QUITO, Ecuador, Nov. 15, 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today he has "thoroughly enjoyed" working with Secretary of State Colin Powell and "will miss not working closely with him" after Powell steps down from his post.
Powell was among four Cabinet members whose resignations the White House announced today.
Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him he was not aware that Powell planned to resign, but did say, "four years is a long time, and these are tough jobs."
The secretary said he has not pressed anyone else on the Cabinet about their intentions and declined comment about his future as secretary of defense. Rumsfeld said he has not discussed the issue with President Bush or expressed intent to leave the Defense Department "in writing or orally."
Rumsfeld said he and Powell have "covered a lot of miles together," particularly in their roles on the national-security team.
"He is an enormously talented individual. He has a broad background. He's very articulate in expressing the policies of the United States of America, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him," Rumsfeld said.
The secretary said he's been "amused" by press reports about friction within the administration. History shows, he said, that presidents "tend to like to have people who are not carbon copies of each other."
Rumsfeld said the balance on the national-security team and within the administration helps ensure "a strong degree of continuity in U.S. policy."
He said he doesn't expect any major changes in policy due to changes in the Cabinet because it's ultimately the president -- not his advisers -- who sets policy.
"The president is the commander in chief and the chairman of the National Security Council," Rumsfeld said. "And the policies we have seen over the last four years are not any one person's policies. They are the president's policies. They are the country's policies. They are the product of a range of advice that he receives, interaction with the Congress, interaction with other countries, and then judgments he makes and the direction that flows from those judgments."
Rumsfeld said these policies shaped Bush's first term in office as well as his successful re-election bid. "So one would expect to see a continuum, an approach that is appropriate to the times and to our country's circumstances," he said.
During his tenure as secretary of defense, Rumsfeld said, his priorities have remained consistent: "to win the global war on terror and continue the work in Iraq and Afghanistan that is a part of the war," and to continue moving the department's transformation forward for the 21st century.
"And we have a good team of people who have been working on that for a good many years and a lot of progress and feel good about it," he said.