So: Rumsfeld is out. At least three years too late, but better late than never, when people are dying. And make no mistake: this one really matters. Even if God were to appear to Donald Rumsfeld in a vision and reveal some way of bringing a lasting peace to Iraq and Afghanistan while simultaneously transforming the military in unimaginably wonderful ways, Rumsfeld has lost so much credibility that he could not possibly acted on these revelations. And since he's still a first-class bureaucratic knife-fighter and Bush and Cheney still seemed to like him, no one else could have done anything good against his will. His departure was a necessary condition for any real change in Iraq or Afghanistan. Obviously, his resignation is a long way from ensuring that any such change actually happens, but at least it's not flatly impossible anymore.
I'm not thrilled by Gates, especially given his role in Iran/Contra. Nonetheless, barring some unforeseen development, I hope the Democrats don't pick a fight over this nomination. There are many, many worse people Bush could have chosen.
If I were a Republican, I'd probably be asking, with Rick Moran, why Bush didn't get Rumsfeld to resign before the election:
"Was it out and out hubris that kept the President from firing Rumsfeld before the election? Wouldn’t firing him have signaled a “change in course” and knocked the chocks from underneath the Democratic critique of “stay the course?” Did the President’s stubbornness and overweening pride prevent him from appearing to give in to his political opponents before an election?
I may be very tired and not reading this correctly but what this says to me is that Bush cared more about his personal standing than he did the party. The fact that he said a week ago that Rumsfeld would be his Secretary of Defense till the end of his term probably played a role in waiting until after the election. But firing Rumsfeld now rather than last week (or last month for that matter) just doesn’t make any sense to me."
Since I am me, however, I just think: well, it looks to me as though Bush undercut his party and its candidates on this one for no good reason, but then I've never had any idea why he does most of the things he does. Besides, the leaders of the Republican party are the geniuses who decided that W would make a good candidate for President, even though enough of them must have known, back in 1998 and 1999, that he was personally and intellectually unqualified* for the job. If that decision turns out to have damaged them, they have no one to blame but themselves.
* By "intellectually unqualified" I don't mean stupid. I have no idea what Bush's IQ is; if I had to guess, I'd guess on the high side of normal, though I'd also guess that some chunk of his natural intelligence has atrophied because of not being used. I mean a bunch of other things: he has no intellectual (or other) curiosity; he is uninformed; he doesn't seem to value listening to and weighing other opinions; he doesn't seem to realize the importance of figuring out the facts of an issue before deciding on policy.