While outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was being feted at the Pentagon on Dec. 8, White House press secretary Tony Snow was addressing a gathering of the Conservative Women’s Network at the Heritage Foundation and was asked about Mr. Rumsfeld’s imminent departure.
Mr. Rumsfeld, pilloried by critics forwhattheyconsiderabotchedwar plan in Iraq, was forced to resign the day after the Nov. 7 elections. He will leave office Dec. 18.
Given the sour mood of the electorate regarding the war, Mr. Snow was asked whether Republican House and Senate losses might have been lessened had Mr. Rumsfeld stepped aside six weeks before the election, rather than on Nov. 8.
“Idoubtit,”Mr.Snowtoldthegathering of about 135 — most of them women — on hand for the event, a monthly luncheon put on by the Herndon, Va.-based Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.
“I’mnotsureitwouldhave”made a difference, he said, adding that it was “fruitless” to speculate. He said the losses were probably more directly attributable to the large number of Republican incumbents with “ethical problems.”
Mr. Snow said that Mr. Rumsfeld “didamagnificentjobasdefensesecretary”underdifficultcircumstances.