By Robert Nathan
Killeen Daily Herald
The departure of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday brought out mixed feelings from leaders in Washington representing Texas.
President Bush on Wednesday announced Rumsfeld's resignation within hours of the Democrats' triumph in the congressional elections on Tuesday. Former CIA Director Robert Gates was selected as Rumsfeld's successor.
Sen. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, both Republican, praised Rumsfeld for his service during one of the most challenging periods of American history. The war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism were central issues of Rumsfeld's nearly six years in office. The public's disdain of the war was considered to be an element of voter dissatisfaction and the main impetus for his departure.
U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, who was the Fort Hood area's congressman before redistricting in 2003, said during a news conference that Rumsfeld's resignation was "for the good of the country."
"He did many good things for the military, but I think he had lost the confidence of the uniform leadership in this country and that's a vital relationship, particularly at a time when we are at war," Edwards said.
Cornyn said there will be those who will second guess and criticize the different decisions that were made under Rumsfeld. He said, however, the nation is safer and more secure because of his leadership.
"It is neither a coincidence nor an accident that we have not had an attack on our homeland since Sept. 11, 2001," Cornyn said.
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, shared similar feelings regarding Rumsfeld's service.
Edwards made clear that the American people want Congress to work together in a bipartisan fashion on the important issues like the war in Iraq.
Democrat Mary Beth Harrell – who focused much of her platform on America's position in the war in Iraq when challenging Carter in Tuesday's election – said Rumsfeld's resignation was "long overdue and shows the power of this election."
"I think it proves the point that I have been trying to make during the campaign and that was about the failed civilian leadership," Harrell said. "In particular, Rumsfeld has failed our country and failed our military."
Gates ran the CIA under former President George H.W. Bush during the first Gulf War. He retired from government in 1993. He has served as president of Texas A&M University since 2002.
Gov. Rick Perry, who is an alumnus of Texas A&M University, said "like tens of thousands of Aggies before him, Gates has answered the call to serve his country."
Cornyn, Hutchison and Edwards said they have had the opportunity to work with Gates during his tenure as president of Texas A&M University and believe he was a qualified candidate to help lead the troops and nation in the war on terror.
"While Aggies are sad to see him go, we are grateful for his service to our great university and understand that this call to serve fulfills a vital responsibility for our nation and our servicemen and women," Edwards said.
Based on Gates' vast experiences, Carter said it will give him unique insight as the nation's secretary of Defense.
"As the congressman for the largest military installation in the world, Fort Hood, I am particularly looking forward to working with Secretary-designee Gates to ensure the needs of our military are being met," Carter said. "I will remain committed to giving our troops everything they need to successfully complete their mission."
Contact Robert Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org