McCain ranks Rumsfeld among America's worst military leaders
Times Online, UK
John McCain last night: "We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement -- that is the kindest word I can give you -- of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war."
"Secretary Rumsfeld and I have had our differences" but said: "He deserves Americans' respect and gratitude for his many years of public service."
In the early days of a long campaign in which he is expected to duel with Rudolph Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York, as the leading Republican candidate to succeed Mr Bush, Mr McCain has been setting out his policy positions on social issues important to conservative voters and Iraq, the central question of the presidential contest.
Although he is closely identified with the war, and repeatedly insists that fighting in Iraq is necessary to prevent terrorism from reaching America's borders, Mr McCain has chosen careful differences with the Bush Administration: recently he criticised Mr Bush's latest plan for a "surge" of 21,500 troops, saying that the increase is too small.
In the past he has also criticised policies and decisions directly linked to Mr Rumsfeld: for instance the overall size of the US invasion force in 2003, which Mr McCain has said was too slight. Last year he publicly clashed with the Pentagon and the White House when he insisted that an amendment explicitly prohibiting torture by American personnel was inserted into the defence budget.
Mr McCain addressed Mr Rumsfeld's performance in a speech that otherwise highlighted his conservative credentials. In 2000 he lost the primary election in South Carolina after vicious smear tactics by the Bush campaign, but last night he said that he held no grudges against the President and wanted Roe v Wade, the US Supreme Court decision that legalised abortion in America, to be overturned.
There was no immediate reaction from Mr Rumsfeld, who, since officially stepping down as Defence Secretary on December 18, remains an unpaid consultant at the Pentagon. According to the Washington Times, a staff of seven is helping him compile his papers in a set of transitional offices paid for by the Government.