White House officials are telling associates they expect Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to quit early next year, once a new government is formed in Iraq, sources said yesterday.
Rumsfeld's deputy, Gordon England, is the inside contender to replace him.
However this there maybe another candidate...A source close to the White House said Rumsfeld wanted out a year ago, after Bush's reelection, but neither he nor President Bush wanted his departure to appear to have been forced.
"They didn't want to give the critics the satisfaction that their piling on was what got rid of him," a Bush adviser said.
Bush has told friends that Rumsfeld is a political liability, but the President has a history of sticking with his personnel baggage until an opportune moment.
There's also speculation that Sen. Joe Lieberman - a Democrat who ran against Bush-Cheney in the 2000 election - might become top guy at the Pentagon.
Rumors that Lieberman could replace Rumsfeld started flying early this week, and Bush and Vice President Cheney fanned the flames by quoting the former Democratic veep candidate's pro-war statements.
The mention of Lieberman's name prompted some Democrats to whisper that he is lobbying for the job.
"Lieberman seems to be coordinating his statements on the war with the White House," a Senate Democratic source said.
The source pointed to a news conference this week where Lieberman urged his party not to undermine Bush. The timing of Lieberman's pitch, also this week, to form a bipartisan "war cabinet" to aid Bush was cited as well.