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Bush Backs Rumsfeld Anew, Rejects Critics


President Bush is rejecting critics of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The president says he has the final say in whether Rumsfeld stays in the job, and that he has full confidence in his defense secretary. The comments follow criticism from retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's dismissal.

President Bush says he does not appreciate speculation about Rumsfeld's future, speculation sparked by unusually public criticism from six retired generals calling for the defense secretary's dismissal.

Taking questions from reporters in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Bush says he listens to all the voices, but his is the final decision.

"Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job," Mr. Bush says. "He is not only transforming the military, he is fighting a war on terror. He is helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices. And I read the front page. And I know the speculation. But I am the decider. And I decide what is best. And what is best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

Rumsfeld says he serves at the pleasure of the president and has no intention of resigning.

Much of the retired-military criticism centers on the defense secretary's management style and his direction of the war in Iraq, a campaign that he initially said required far fewer troops than some uniformed officers recommended.

In an unusual written statement of support Friday, President Bush addressed those management complaints head-on, saying he has seen first hand how Rumsfeld relies on military commanders in the field and at the Pentagon to make decisions about how best to complete difficult missions.

He says Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period, and the defense secretary has the commander-in-chief's full support and deepest appreciation.

While the president appears to have no intention of replacing Rumsfeld, other staff changes are expected at the White House, amid record low public approval ratings and falling support for the war in Iraq.

The new White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, told officials Monday that anyone considering leaving this year should go now.

Trade Representative Rob Portman was nominated to fill Bolten's old job as budget director and Deputy Trade Representative Susan Schwab has been nominated to move up.

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