A couple months ago a cameraman setting up for one of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's press conferences saw some security guards enter the briefing room and heard them say something to the effect that Mrs. Rumsfeld would be attending. That immediately set off a flurry of rumors that she was coming to watch her husband announce his resignation. It was, of course, a false alarm, but it shows just how intense the interest is in Rumsfeld's future.
Now the rumors have started again. Certainly there is no shortage of people who wish it were true. And it's easy enough to construct a plausible scenario. He is, after all, a 73 year old man working a schedule that would reduce the rest of us to tears. He is just completing a major review of defense strategies and programs which will be the basis for Pentagon budgets for years to come. A permanent Iraqi government is about to be elected and significant U.S. troop withdrawals are expected to begin soon after that. He could say with some justification that a turning point has been reached and it's time to turn the job over to a younger man.
So what do we know for sure? He says he has no plans to retire, and his aides say they have seen no evidence that he intends to leave before the second term is over. He has told at least one aide he plans to stay all four years, and he presses people he is interviewing for positions at the Pentagon to commit to serving until the end of the administration. He can't do much about being 73, but he has an energy level that borders on freakish.
Of course a man as combative as Rumsfeld would never let on that he was thinking of packing it in. It would only give heart to those who oppose him. For what it's worth, in six years of covering him, there has only been one time when I thought he looked and sounded like a man who might resign. It was at the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal when for the one and only time he appeared to me to lose at least some of his monumental self-confidence. We now know, because he has said so, that he did offer his resignation to the President then – not once but twice.