With the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld and the instant nomination of Robert Gates, I think I see a little hint of Bush’s political strategy for dealing with the newly-Democratic congress.
The Secretary of Defense, like most of the president’s top advisors, needs the approval of the Senate to take office. It’s part of the Constitution, the “advise and consent” role of Congress in checking the power of the Executive. Gates will have to win the votes of a majority of the Senate before taking office.
Perhaps one of the ideas of losing Rumsfeld so quickly after the election was to not only take away one of the Democrats’ talking points, but to see how the Democratic Senate leadership will handle their first real political encounter with the White House.
All the sources I saw said that Rumsfeld’s resignation didn’t have a specific date attached. My hunch is that he will stick around until his relief is confirmed — that’s been the tradition for a lot of other resignations.
So the Democrats will be presented with a Hobson’s Choice: either quickly confirm Gates and get rid of one of their bugbears, Donald Rumsfeld, once and for all, while showing that they can work with Bush, or stonewall the confirmation, keep Rumsfeld in office, and set a tone of confrontation and partisanship for the next two years.
Like I said yesterday — say what you want, the next two years will NOT be dull.