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Rove: I Wanted FedEx CEO Fred Smith to Replace Rumsfeld, But Democrats Would Have Been Too Mean in the Hearings

On page 466 of “Courage and Consequences,” Karl Rove goes through an elaborate tap-dance to explain that firing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in early 2006 would have seemed political and “damaged the military’s faith in Bush as commander in chief” — but that the White House wanted to do it anyway.

It had to be a seamless move from the old secretary of defense to the new, and we couldn’t make that happen. That summer, I looked into whether FedEx CEO Fred Smith, Bush’s original choice for the post in 1999, was now available. He wasn’t.

There were some reports in 2000 that Smith was under consideration for this job, but none I remember that suggested the CEO of FedEx was Bush’s first choice. Nevertheless, Rove remained confident that leaving Rumsfeld in place for most of the year was the right decision because Democrats, still in the minority at that point, would have been annoying at confirmation hearings.

Democrats had already effectively deployed their party’s few remaining high-profile pro-defense faces, such as Congressmen Ike Skelton and Jack Murtha, to question whether the United States could ever prevail militarily. In the face of this, the spinelessness of some Republicans would have meant that an almost completely unified antiwar Democratic Party would have been duking it out in Congress with a demoralized and split GOP. Hardly helpful to Republican chances.

But at least Rove didn’t damage the military’s faith in Bush as commander in chief!

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