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McIntyre: Rumsfeld news surprises Pentagon

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WASHINGTON (CNN -- Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down as defense secretary, President Bush announced Wednesday, a day after voters in the midterm elections expressed dissatisfaction over the handling of the war in Iraq.

Bush said he will nominate former CIA director Bob Gates to head the Pentagon. CNN's Don Lemon spoke to Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre to gauge to mood at the defense headquarters.

LEMON: Jamie, reaction from there?

MCINTYRE: Well, Don, I can tell you that this came as a bit of a surprise here at the Pentagon, considering the misdirection that President Bush gave last week when he indicated that he expected Donald Rumsfeld to stay 'til the end of his administration.

The president admitting today that during the last week he had been reconsidering the tenure of Donald Rumsfeld. And he actually had come to the decision, before yesterday's election results were clear, that Donald Rumsfeld would be replaced, in his words one way or another, that Bob Gates would replace him, the former CIA director.

Most of the people at the Pentagon found out the news this morning as they came in to work during various briefings and phone calls that took place in the course of the morning.

Donald Rumsfeld always said that he served at the pleasure of President Bush, indicated that he would not be stepping down voluntarily. But the president said after mutual discussions with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld it was agreed that his replacement would bring a fresh perspective to the Iraq policy.

The president also today conceding that progress in Iraq has not been fast enough and that the message sent by the American people in yesterday's elections was a clear signal that they expected more results. The president called it "a thumpin' " that the Republicans took at the polls yesterday. And he said now it is incumbent upon him to work with the Democrats to forge a way forward.

A couple of unanswered questions: We don't know exactly where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is at this moment or whether he is still technically the defense secretary until Bob Gates is confirmed. They have not told us the effective time of his resignation.

LEMON: It seems yesterday the president saying in his news conference that he met with the secretary of defense and decided that he would take his resignation, but no word yet or no sight of Donald Rumsfeld.

MCINTYRE: Usually when these kinds of things happen, the person stays on until the next person is in place. However, there is a deputy defense secretary that can take over if Rumsfeld steps away. And they may want to make a clean break.

We've asked the Pentagon for clarification on those two points. When exactly did Defense Secretary Rumsfeld stop being Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and will we hear from him at all today? Presumably he is in Washington, but we haven't seen him in the building.


CNN Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre

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