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Rumsfeld will resign in '06; rumors swirl about Lieberman
KRT Wire/Mercury News/New York Daily/Knight Ridder
New York Daily News
December 8, 2005

WASHINGTON - White House officials are telling associates they expect Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld to quit early next year, once a new government is formed in Iraq, sources said Wednesday.

Rumsfeld's deputy, Gordon England, is the inside contender to replace him, but there's also speculation that Sen. Joe Lieberman - a Democrat who ran against Bush-Cheney in the 2000 election - might become top official at the Pentagon.

That's not as farfetched as it might first appear.

The New York Daily News has learned that the White House considered Lieberman for the U.N. ambassador's job last year before it gave the post to John Bolton, a Bush adviser said.

"He thought about it for a week or so and finally said no," the adviser recalled.

A source close to the White House said Rumsfeld wanted out a year ago, after Bush's re-election, but neither he nor President Bush wanted his departure to appear to have been forced.

"They didn't want to give the critics the satisfaction that their piling on was what got rid of him," a Bush adviser said.

Bush has told friends that Rumsfeld is a political liability, but the president has a history of sticking with his personnel baggage until an opportune moment.

"Only Rumsfeld will make Rumsfeld leave," a White House source said.

Rumors that Lieberman, D-Conn., could replace Rumsfeld started flying early this week, and Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney fanned the flames by quoting the former Democratic vice presidential candidate's pro-war statements.

The mention of Lieberman's name prompted some Democrats to whisper that he is lobbying for the job.

"Lieberman seems to be coordinating his statements on the war with the White House," a Senate Democratic source said.

The source pointed to a news conference this week where Lieberman urged his party not to undermine Bush. The timing of Lieberman's pitch, also this week, to form a bipartisan "war cabinet" to aid Bush was cited as well.

But Lieberman and Team Bush dismissed the rumors.

"The U.S. Senate is where Sen. Lieberman wants to be, which is why he is actively campaigning for re-election to his fourth term," the senator's spokeswoman, Casey Aden-Wansbury, said.

Why anyone thought this man was qualified is beyond me.