In an article about President Bush's relationship with Sen. John McCain, The Washington Post reported that McCain "regularly reminds audiences that he also criticized Bush's management of the war and called for Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation as defense secretary." But when McCain was asked in 2006 whether Rumsfeld needed to step down, he replied: "Well, I've said for a long time that I had no confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld, but that's a decision to be made by the president."
A February 9 Washington Post article discussing the relationship between President Bush and Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (AZ) reported that McCain "regularly reminds audiences that he also criticized Bush's management of the war and called for Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation as defense secretary." However, the article failed to point out that although McCain expressed "no confidence" in Rumsfeld in 2004, the Associated Press reported at the time that McCain "said his comments were not a call for Rumsfeld's resignation." Further, when Fox News host Shepard Smith specifically asked McCain, "Does Donald Rumsfeld need to step down?" on November 8, 2006 -- hours before Bush announced Rumsfeld's resignation -- McCain responded that it was "a decision to be made by the president."
A February 7 Economist.com article similarly reported that McCain "called early and loudly for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation."
From Fox News' November 8, 2006, coverage of the midterm elections:
SMITH: The people have said that, in large part, coast to coast, state to state, district to district, this is about the war. What sort of changes are possible in the immediate hours and the days ahead? Does Donald Rumsfeld need to step down?
McCAIN: Well, I've said for a long time that I had no confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld, but that's a decision to be made by the president. I'd just like to remind you that [Sen.] Joe Lieberman was re-elected in Connecticut, a liberal state, who supports the war. I think the war was a major issue, but I think there's other issues, the ones that I just talked about before, particularly fiscal responsibility.
But on the subject of the war, we have to have the will to win. I believe we can win. I believe we can prevail. I think we can bring order out of chaos, and I think we need to do whatever is necessary. And if the Democrats would join us, we -- I think we could work out a strategy that would succeed. But I believe if we allow chaos to prevail there, that chaos will spread and we'll be paying a very heavy penalty.
In a December 2004 interview with the Associated Press, McCain also said that he had "no confidence" in Rumsfeld. When the AP asked whether Rumsfeld constituted a liability to the administration, McCain similarly responded, "The president can decide that, not me":
McCain, speaking to The Associated Press in an hour-long interview Monday, said his comments were not a call for Rumsfeld's resignation, explaining that President Bush "can have the team that he wants around him."
Asked about his confidence in the secretary's leadership, McCain recalled fielding a similar question a couple weeks ago. "I said no. My answer is still no. No confidence," McCain said.
He estimated that 80,000 more Army personnel and 20,000 to 30,000 more Marines would be needed to secure Iraq.
"I have strenuously argued for larger troop numbers in Iraq, including the right kind of troops -- linguists, special forces, civil affairs, etc.," McCain said. "There are very strong differences of opinion between myself and Secretary Rumsfeld on that issue."
Asked whether Rumsfeld was a liability to the Bush administration, McCain responded: "The president can decide that, not me."
In an April 2006 article on McCain's support for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Rumsfeld, The Hill reported that while McCain "went so far as to say publicly that he had no confidence in Rumsfeld," he "never asked for the resignation of the fellow former Navy pilot, saying that it is President's Bush prerogative to keep Rumsfeld."
On the campaign trail, McCain has repeatedly claimed that he called for Rumsfeld's resignation. In a November 19, 2007, speech, he said: "I made the Pentagon angry when I called for the resignation of Don Rumsfeld." Further, during the January 30 Republican presidential debate on CNN, McCain asserted: "I'm the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go."
From the February 9 Washington Post article:
McCain hopes to fend off the Bush-clone argument with his long-standing reputation as an independent-minded politician willing to fight his president and his party when he disagrees with them. While boasting of his support for the troop buildup in Iraq last year, the candidate regularly reminds audiences that he also criticized Bush's management of the war and called for Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation as defense secretary.
He is "running here to be his own man," said Charlie Black, a senior McCain strategist who has also been an informal adviser to the Bush White House over the years. "And politics is always about the future and not the past. I'm sure the Democrats will try from time to time to run against President Bush. That won't work."