Bush: Rumsfeld, Cheney Must Stay Til End
By TERENCE HUNT
President Bush said Wednesday he wants Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney to remain in his administration until the end of his presidency, extending a job guarantee to two of the most criticized members of his team.
Bush, in an interview, also said he was determined that sanctions imposed against North Korea must be applied even though Pyongyang has agreed to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.
And Bush said he did not foresee a change in the immediate future in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. "They've got what they can live with," Bush said.
The president spoke in the Oval Office, seated in a wing chair in front of a table with a bowl of roses. Six days before midterm elections, Bush steered questions away from politics beyond saying he was confident that Republicans would defy the odds and hold control of the House and Senate. He refused to even say whether he could work effectively with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid if Democrats won either the House or Senate, or both.
Bush took the opportunity to take another poke at Sen. John Kerry, in political hot water for a remark that has been criticized as a slam on U.S. troops in Iraq. Kerry has apologized and said it was a botched joke.
"It didn't sound like a joke to me," the president said. "More important, it didn't sound like a joke to the troops.
Democrats and Republicans alike have called for Rumsfeld's resignation, arguing he has mishandled the war in Iraq where more than 2,800 members of the U.S. military have died since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Cheney has faced sharp criticism for his hardline views and is viewed favorably by only about a third of Americans in polls. Bush said that "both men are doing fantastic jobs."
He said he valued Cheney's advice and judgment. "The good thing about Vice President Cheney's advice is, you don't read about it in the newspaper after he gives it," the president said.
Bush credited Rumsfeld with overseeing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while overhauling the military. "I'm pleased with the progress we're making," the president said. He replied in the affirmative if he wanted Rumsfeld and Cheney to stay with him until the end.
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