Bush backs Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rove


(Gold9472: I hope Rove is indicted... man that would be some good material.)

By Adam Entous
Wed Dec 14, 2005 8:04 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush offered strong endorsements on Wednesday to two architects of the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, and said he was as close as ever to top political adviser Karl Rove despite his role in the CIA leak case.

Rebuffing Democratic calls for a shake-up over Iraq war strategy and speculation about rifts within the White House, Bush said he had no intention of removing Rumsfeld as defense secretary, crediting him with doing a "heck of a job." Rumsfeld and the vice president, Cheney, have been frequently accused by critics of pushing the war on false pretenses.

In an interview with Fox News, Bush said his relationship with Cheney had "only gotten better," and he remained "very close" to Rove, who could face charges in the criminal investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

"We're still as close as we've ever been," Bush said of Rove, brushing aside reports he was angry at his deputy chief of staff, who initially denied any role in the Plame leak. "We've been through a lot. You know, when we look back at the presidency and my time in politics, no question that Karl had a lot to do with me getting here, and I value his friendship."

Bush also said he hoped indicted Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay would regain his post as House of Representatives majority leader. But Bush added, "I don't know whether I can expect that."

Bush's words of praise for Rumsfeld were similar to those he used to describe Michael Brown, when Brown, then head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, faced criticism for the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

Bush said of Rumsfeld, "He's conducted two wars and at the same time has helped transform our military from a military that was constructed for, you know, the post-Cold War to one that is going to be constructed to fight terrorism."

Asked if Rumsfeld would stay in the administration until the end of his second term, Bush said: "Yes. Well, (the) end of my term is a long time, but I tell you, he's done a heck of a good job, and I have no intention of changing him."

Rumsfeld has been criticized for the conduct of the Iraq war, with some prominent Democrats, including Massachusetts Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry demanding his resignation. Rumsfeld has also had frosty relations even with fellow Republicans in Congress.

Last week, Rumsfeld said he had no plans to retire from the post more than 2 1/2 years into the Iraq conflict.

Bush acknowledged there was "massive speculation" about his relationship with Cheney -- "whether I like him or don't like him."

"The truth of the matter is that our relationship hasn't changed hardly at all. He's a very close adviser. I view him as a good friend," Bush said. "I'd say the relationship -- it's only gotten better."

DeLay was forced to step down as House majority leader in September when he was first indicted for his suspected role in the Texas campaign financing controversy.

Bush said he believed DeLay was innocent and hoped the powerful Texas Republican would return to being majority leader "cause I like him, and plus, when he's over there, we get our votes through the House."

Bush said he was not that familiar with the federal investigation into the dealings of Jack Abramoff, a once-powerful lobbyist who also had links to DeLay.

"But it seems like to me that he was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties," Bush said.