The memo discussed putting "substantial" U.S. forces near Iraq's borders with Iran and Syria, withdrawing American troops from vulnerable positions and moving to a quick reaction status, and "taking our hand off the cycle seat" through the start of "modest withdrawals" of U.S. and coalition forces.
"The president made clear he wanted to open the aperture, really have a re-look and look at a variety of ideas," Bush adviser Stephen Hadley told Bob Schieffer. "And Secretary Rumsfeld, basically, was giving a list for consideration."
"The president has said things are not going well enough in Iraq, not going fast enough in Iraq – that is what is in the Rumsfeld memo," Hadley said. "And he has indicated that he is open to and wants to look at a full range of options for changing what we do and how we do it."
Hadley said later on ABC that he did not perceive Rumsfeld's memo as a late effort to save his job. Rumsfeld resigned Nov. 8, a day after Democrats swept to power in the midterm Congressional elections. Bush has nominated former CIA Director Robert Gates to take over at the Pentagon; his confirmation hearing is set for Tuesday in the Senate.
The administration is conducting a broad review of Iraq strategy and is awaiting the release Wednesday of recommendations from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan group of government advisers.
The president is "going to listen to the reviews that are being done by his agencies," Hadley said on Face The Nation.
As for the commission's upcoming report, Hadley said Bush wants to know what congressional leaders think of the recommendations.
"He's going to want to hear what Republicans and Democrats and the Congress think about. Then he's going to pull it together in terms of a way forward in Iraq that hopefully will command support from Republicans, Democrats, the executive branch and the Congress."
But Senators Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. – two in Congress from whom the president will need support – did not see Rumsfeld's leaked memo in a positive light.
"You can define the current state of play as civil war, chaos, crisis, anarchy, serious, you take your pick," Hagel said. "We have to have a reality check here. And memos being leaked and all of that – that's interesting Shakespearian drama, but bottom line is, if for no other reason, we need a policy worthy of the young men and women serving Iraq today. And we don't have one."
Lieberman, who appeared on Face The Nation with Hagel, said he did not know what to make of the revelation about Rumsfeld.
"The Rumsfeld memo itself is in many ways surprising," Liebrman said. "He raises possibilities of doing things such as redeploying our troops, which he has always said that he was against."
Lieberman suggested that perhaps Rumsfeld was making a last-ditch effort to save his job.
"Seeing as how the president said – when he announced the nomination of Bob Gates to replace Don Rumsfeld – that he and Rumsfeld had conversations about the possibility of this change in the two weeks preceding, you wonder whether Rumsfeld didn't get the message or he did get the message and this was his attempt to try to hold on to his job," he said.
Also Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq was asked if he agreed with Rumsfeld's recommendation that the U.S. greatly reduce its military presence in Iraq. The ambassador spoke on "Late Edition" on CNN.
"Strategically, over the long term, that is right thing to do. The question is whether in the current circumstances in the short term that is the right thing to do," Zalmay Khalilzad said.
But, Hadley told Schieffer that the June 2007 date set by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the Iraqi military to take over responsibility for security was not necessarily realistic.
"What Prime Minister Maliki laid out was steps that could be taken to accelerate the training, equipping, standing up of Iraqi security forces and the transition of responsibility to those forces. Those goals are ambitious," Hadley said. "Our men and women over there who are doing this work judge them to be ambitious, but we're going to try to do everything we can to try and help the Iraqi government achieve those goals."
"We would have liked to see more progress sooner," the ambassador said when asked about Rumsfeld's bleak assessment. "There are areas in which changes are important to look at to see if we could do better."