A group of military-targeted trade publications is calling on President Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, citing a lack of support from military leaders over the Iraq war.
"The time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth," said an editorial appearing in the Nov. 13 issues of Gannett Co.'s weekly Military Times newspapers, which include the Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times. "Donald Rumsfeld must go."
Iraq has become a political liability for Bush's Republican Party as violence there has increased in recent months. The Iraq conflict is most often cited in polls of potential voters as the biggest issue in Tuesday's midterm elections, and a majority of the public disapproves of the Bush administration's management the war.
White House spokesman Tony Snow dismissed the editorial as a "shabby piece of work" and said its assertions were mistaken.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the criticism from "active-duty military leaders" cited in the piece was "actually old news and does not include commanders in the field, who remain committed to the mission."
Bush said Wednesday that he wants Rumsfeld to remain as his defense secretary through the remainder of his presidency.
"Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large," the military newspapers said in the editorial, posted on their Web sites.
"His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt."
Bush's reaction to the editorial "was just to shrug it off," Snow told reporters aboard Air Force One yesterday. "He understands what editorial writers sometimes do, and in this case, they're grandstanding."
Politicians are making their final push for votes before the elections.
Democrats, seeking to win control of the Congress for the first time since 1994, need a net gain of 15 seats for majority control of the House and six for the Senate.
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, responded to the Military Times' editorials yesterday with a statement e-mailed to reporters saying that the newspapers "are right" and Rumsfeld should leave.
"We need better civilian leadership at the Pentagon," Reid said in a statement. "America's troops have done their part. President Bush and congressional Republicans have not done theirs."
Military leaders recently began to publicly air their disagreements with Rumsfeld.
Democrats and some Republicans have called for Rumsfeld to resign over the U.S. failure to head off an insurgency and sectarian strife that has increased the level of violence in Iraq.
There were 99 U.S. military personnel killed in combat in Iraq last month, the biggest monthly toll since November 2004, when 126 were killed as U.S. forces were driving insurgents from the city of Fallujah.
A total of 2,268 U.S. service members have been killed in action since the March 2003 invasion, according to figures on the Department of Defense Web site. The total number of deaths, including those from other causes, such as accidents and illnesses, is 2,824.