One day after a sweeping Republican loss in the mid-term elections, President Bush announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
President Bush: "Over the past six years, I’ve relied on Don Rumsfeld’s advice and counsel. I’ve come to know his character and his integrity. As the Secretary of Defense, he has been dedicated to his mission, loyal to his President, and devoted to the courageous men and women of our Armed Forces."
President Bush has nominated former CIA director Robert Gates as Rumsfeld’s replacement. The President appeared with Gates and Rumsfeld at the White House.
President Bush: "Don Rumsfeld is a tough act to follow. That’s why I picked a man of Bob Gates’s caliber to succeed him. When confirmed by the Senate, Bob will bring talent, energy and innovation to the Department of Defense. He’ll work every day to keep the American people safe and to make our nation more secure. And he’ll do a superb job as America’s next Secretary of Defense."
Standing next to the President, Rumsfeld also made a brief comment to reporters.
Donald Rumsfeld: "I must say that it’s been the highest honor of my life to serve with the talented men and women of the Department of Defense, the amazing men and women — young men and women in uniform. It’s a privilege. And their patriotism, their professionalism, their dedication is truly an inspiration. They have my respect; they will remain in my prayers always."
Hours after Bush’s announcement, Democrats appeared to complete a sweep of Congress with a likely victory in Virginia’s Senate race. Challenger Jim Webb declared victory over incumbent Senator George Allen after tallies showed him leading by more than seven thousand votes. Allen is awaiting the results of a post-election canvass before conceding. But the Associated Press reports his deficit is insurmountable. A Democratic victory in Virginia would give them control of fifty-one Senate seats to the Republican’s forty-nine. Earlier in the day, the Democrats also took Montana with Jon Tester’s win over Republican Senator Conrad Burns.
Meanwhile in the House, Democrats won 230 seats and are currently ahead in two races. Speaker Dennis Hastert announced he will not seek the Republican House leadership when Congress re-convenes next year. Ten House races remain too close to call. In one closely-watched race, Republican Congressmember Heather Wilson is holding a 1300 vote lead over state Attorney General Patricia Madrid in New Mexico. Election officials say around 3,700 votes have yet to be counted.
Meanwhile, the Democratic sweep of Congress was matched by gains in state races across the nation. Democrats picked up more than 275 seats in state legislatures. Democrats also picked up six new governorships — giving them control of both chambers in fifteen states.
Meanwhile in Iraq, news of the Democratic victory was met with skepticism on the ground.
Munther Kadhim, a resident of Baghdad: "Whether the Democrats or the Republicans win, America has one policy. It always has imperialistic plans that take priority. So, there is no difference: Democrats or the Republicans, America has one policy."
In other Iraq news, the government has extended the country’s state of emergency for another month. The state of emergency has been renewed every month since first authorized in November 2004. The move comes as at least 66 Iraqis were killed in violence around the country Wednesday. The Pentagon announced the deaths of two US service members. At least 21 US troops have died over the first eight days of this month.
In the Occupied Territories, funerals are being held today for 18 Palestinian civilians killed by Israel’s attack on the Gaza town of Beit Hanun. The victims were sleeping early Wednesday when Israeli artillery shells slammed into their homes. 18 of the victims were members of the same family — most of them women or children. Across the Occupied Territories, thousands of Palestinians poured into the streets in protest. 4,000 turned out in the West Bank city of Hebron. Meanwhile in Israel, a group of demonstrators gathered outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office in Tel Aviv.
Unidentified protester: "I am suffering, suffering for the loss of lives, either Israeli or Palestinians . They are human being and they have the right to live. There are no any reason to kill innocent children in their beds while they are sleeping. There is no excuse not the excuse of we didn’t mean too like they say we are sorry. Its not a game its lives."
Around 350 Palestinians have been killed since Israel’s re-invasion of Gaza in June. Israel says it’s trying to stop Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns. Palestinian rocket fire has led to some injuries but has not caused any casualties inside Israel since June.
Back at the White House, President Bush also addressed the Republicans overwhelming electoral loss. In his first post-election comments, the President suggested enemies of the United States were pleased with a Democratic victory.
President Bush: "Amid this time of change, I have a message for those on the front lines. To our enemies: Do not be joyful. Do not confuse the workings of our democracy with a lack of will. Our nation is committed to bringing you to justice. Liberty and democracy are the source of America’s strength, and liberty and democracy will lift up the hopes and desires of those you are trying to destroy."
President Bush went on to say Republicans had suffered a "thumping" and vowed to work with the new Congress. He was questioned by CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux.
Suzanne Malveaux: "With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi has called you incompetent, a liar, the emperor with no clothes and, as recently as yesterday, dangerous. How will you work with someone who has such little respect for you leadership and who is third in line to the presidency?"
President Bush: "I’ve been around politics a long time. I understand when campaigns end and I know when governing begins. And I’m going to work with people of both parties. You know, look, people say unfortunate things at times. But if you hold grudges in this line of work, you’re never going to get anything done."
The President is expected to meet Pelosi later today. On Wednesday, Pelosi pledged to work with the White House.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: "Democrats are ready to lead. We’re prepared to govern, but that means in a bi-partisan way in the system that is self-evident. The President is the President of the United States. I hope he would listen to the voices of the people, and that again, putting aside partisanship, and looking to a partnership to end this war."
In other news, former US soldier Steven Green pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he raped an Iraqi girl and murdered her and her family in March. Others charged in the case have testified Green herded the girl — Abeer Kassem Hamza al-Janabi — her mother, father, and five-year old sister into a room and shot them dead with an AK-47 rifle. Green and another soldier then raped Abeer, shot her, and set her body on fire in an apparent effort to cover up the crime. Green was discharged from the military in May and is being prosecuted in civilian court. Four other soldiers are being tried in military court.
And back in the nation’s capitol, peace mom Cindy Sheehan was arrested Wednesday outside the White House. Sheehan was leading a protest of about fifty people trying to deliver an anti-war petition signed by 80,000 US citizens.