WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior Democrats sought to raise the heat on embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Sunday as Republicans and the Pentagon came together to defend him and the way he has conducted the war in Iraq.
The battle of words over Rumsfeld, his relations with military leaders and the Iraq war followed unusual public calls in the past week for his resignation from six retired generals, which prompted a rebuke from the Pentagon.
“My view is that the secretary should step aside,” New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “Besides the fact that the Iraq war has been mismanaged … we should listen to what these generals are saying.”
Those urging Rumsfeld to step down include Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, and Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, who led the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, and former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark.
“These are six distinguished military officers,” Richardson said. “They basically are saying that Secretary Rumsfeld, on issues relating to military strategy … didn’t listen to them. … This reaches a new level … of not being willing to admit mistakes, not being willing to change a course, policy that is just not working.”
Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said the United States had “wiped out a lot of the people who would do us harm” during Rumsfeld’s tenure.
“I think the important thing to remember here is that we haven’t been attacked again at home since September of 2001,” McConnell said.
Retired Brig Gen. James Marks, speaking on CNN’s “Late Edition,” said of Rumsfeld in the early days of the war: “I kind of had the impression that his mind and those around him had been made up in terms of what we were going to do and how we were going to go about doing it. … And there were requests for forces that were denied.”