The White House is the most important, and some people close to its inner circle suggest that despite the outward display of support for the defense secretary, years of battles with the Pentagon over Iraq war planning and the occupation have taken a toll. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, repeated on Friday that President Bush remained in support of his defense secretary, as did some others. But a person close to Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, speculated that Ms. Rice, who has a history of tense dealings with Mr. Rumsfeld, might not be unhappy if he resigned. “He appears to have become a liability for the president, and has complicated the mission in Iraq,” the person close to Ms. Rice said, adding that Ms. Rice, like the president, is leaving options open: “They’re waiting to see what the system will bear, and if the story dies down after today, Rumsfeld survives.” Sean McCormack, the National Security Council spokesman, said Friday night that it was “100 percent absolutely false,” that Ms. Rice would welcome Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation.
Others who know the president said Mr. Bush, who puts a premium on loyalty, would be reluctant to fire Mr. Rumsfeld, and might even have trouble accepting his resignation. Although Mr. Bush has dismissed subordinates like Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill, he has done so only after months, if not years, of dissatisfaction with their service. Mr. Bush, who was on a bus campaign trip on Friday in Iowa and Wisconsin, phoned Mr. Rumsfeld before flying home to tell him he “did a really good job” in his testimony, Mr. McClellan told reporters. Nonetheless, Mr. Bush made no public comments on Friday about Mr. Rumsfeld’s testimony to the Senate and House Armed Services Committee.
Among those now calling for resignation: John Kerry.