Rumsfeld going for record as longest serving SOD

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It's "The Long Goodbye"—Pentagon style. Donald Rumsfeld's successor as Defense secretary, Robert Gates, is due to have his confirmation hearing in early December—a process Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada predicted would be swift. "We want the change to take place very quickly," Reid said.

Not so quickly, after all. A White House spokesperson confirms that Gates will be sworn in as the new Defense secretary "in the new year," a good two weeks after his confirmation. According to the White House, Gates needs extra time to wind up affairs as president of Texas A&M University. But that's news in College Station, Texas, where Gates has been handing everything over to the man he calls "my strong right arm," the executive vice president and provost, David Pratt. Gates has publicly announced that he will quit A&M on "completion of the confirmation process and a Senate vote."

The mixed messages have fueled speculation over the delayed departure. One source close to the White House, who spoke anonymously in order to keep his job, believes President George W. Bush has decided to wait until after Dec. 29 "as a personal gesture to Rumsfeld." On that date Rumsfeld would become the longest-serving Defense secretary, beating Robert McNamara's record of 85 months.

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