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Posted by: batmanchester Jan 5 2007, 05:22 PM
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Vice President, thank you. Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White House. I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate Ambassador John Negroponte to be our next Deputy Secretary of State, and Vice Admiral Mike McConnell to be America's next Director of National Intelligence.

Under the leadership of Secretary Rice, the men and women of the State Department are working to expand freedom and defend America's interests around the world. The Deputy Secretary of State is a key role in shaping American foreign policy and in guiding our diplomats deployed around the globe. The Deputy Secretary also helps our nation's chief diplomat manage the State Department, and helps coordinate with other federal agencies so that America speaks to the world with one voice.

I have asked John Negroponte to serve in this vital position at this crucial moment. John Negroponte knows the State Department well. After all, he started there in 1960 as a Foreign Service Officer in the administration of President Eisenhower. In the four-and-a-half decades since, he has served our nation in eight Foreign Service posts, spanning three continents. He served as Deputy National Security Advisor to President Reagan. He represented America at the United Nations. He served as our first ambassador to a free Iraq. And for nearly two years, John has done a superb job as America's first Director of National Intelligence.

John Negroponte's broad experience, sound judgment and expertise on Iraq and in the war on terror make him a superb choice as Deputy Secretary of State, and I look forward to working with him in this new post.

Ambassador Negroponte leaves big shoes to fill as the Director of National Intelligence. The DNI has become a core part of our national security team. The DNI determines the national intelligence budget, overseas the collection and analysis of intelligence information, ensures that intelligence agencies share information with each other, and creates common standards for intelligence community personnel. The vigilance of the DNI helps keep the American people safe from harm.

Admiral Mike McConnell has the experience, the intellect, and the character to succeed in this position. He served as Director of the National Security Agency during the 1990s. He was the intelligence officer for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the liberation of Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. Admiral McConnell has decades of experience, ensuring that our military forces had the intelligence they need to fight and win wars.

He's worked with the Congress and with the White House to strengthen our defenses against threats to our information systems. He has earned our nation's highest award for service in the intelligence community. As DNI, Mike will report directly to me, and I am confident he will give me the best information and analysis that America's intelligence community can provide.

I thank John and Mike for taking on these new challenges. I appreciate their service to our country. Each of them will do good work in their new positions. And it is vital they take up their new responsibilities promptly. I'm confident the United States Senate will also see the value of these two serving in crucial positions. And I would hope that they would be confirmed as quickly as possible.

Congratulations to you both. Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Thank you very much, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Rice, Admiral McConnell. It's been a great honor, Mr. President, to serve as your first Director of National Intelligence. I will always be grateful to you for having given me the opportunity to help achieve the goals that you and the Congress set for intelligence reform.

During the past 20 months, I believe that our intelligence community has embraced the challenge of functioning as a single unified enterprise, and reaffirmed the fact that it is the best intelligence community in the world, second to none. That's to the credit of the hundreds -- the thousands of intelligence professionals who serve this nation around the globe, many in harm's way. They and their families make great sacrifices to keep America safe. It has been a privilege to lead them, and it is because of them that I leave the post of the Director of National Intelligence with regret.

But I am heartened to know that the intelligence community now will be led by Admiral Mike McConnell, a man whose exceptional accomplishments as an intelligence professional will ensure wise stewardship and success as the Director of National Intelligence. Admiral McConnell will continue to drive forward the reforms we have initiated, fully integrating the domestic, foreign and military dimensions of our national intelligence enterprise.

Now for someone who started his career as a junior foreign service officer in October of 1960, the position, Mr. President, to which you are now nominating me is a -- an opportunity of a lifetime. If confirmed by the Senate as Deputy Secretary of State, I look forward to supporting Secretary Rice in carrying out your foreign policy goals. I particularly welcome the opportunity to help her provide leadership to the thousands of Americans and foreign nationals who work in the Department of State here in the United States, and in the more than 270 embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions the Department maintains overseas.

Whether in Baghdad, Kabul, Kosovo, or elsewhere, these dedicated professionals are on the front line of advancing America's commitment to freedom. It will be a great privilege for me to come home to the Department where I began my career and rejoin a community of colleagues whose work is so important and of whom the nation is so justly proud.

Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT: Good job. Thank you. Michael.

VICE ADMIRAL McCONNELL: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Rice, Ambassador. Thank you very much, sir, for your kind remarks and your vote of confidence in asking me to become your second Director of National Intelligence. If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to serving you, Mr. President, the nation's senior leadership and all the great men and women of our national security and homeland security communities.

I understand these people rely on timely and useful intelligence every day. After spending most of my adult life in the intelligence community, focused on getting the right information to the right decision-maker in the right time and format, I'm excited about returning.

Fortunately, my work over the past 10 years after leaving government has allowed me to stay focused on the national security and intelligence communities as a strategist and as a consultant. Therefore, in many respects, I never left. I have followed the issues and the initiatives, and I hope to be quickly and directly relevant to build on the many accomplishments of Ambassador Negroponte and his team.

Unlike just a decade ago, the threats of today and the future are moving at increasing speeds and across organizational and geographic boundaries. This will require increased coordinated responsiveness by our community of intelligence professionals. I plan to continue the strong emphasis on integration of the community to better serve all of our customers. That will mean better sharing of information, increased focus on customer needs and service, improved security processes, and deeper penetration of our targets to provide the needed information for tactical, operational and strategic decision-making.

Public service has always been my passion. I look forward to serving this great nation as we continue to fight on the global war on terrorism and to face the many new challenges of the new century.

I want to thank my wife, Terry, and my wonderful family and our grandchildren for their support as I take on these new challenges.

Thank you again, Mr. President. All the best, Mr. Ambassador, for your new leadership role at the Department of State.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070105-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 5 2007, 11:50 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 5, 2007

Memorandum for the Secretary of Health and Human Services




SUBJECT: Assignment of Functions Regarding the Citizens Health Care Working Group

By virtue of authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States, including section 301 of title 3 of the United States Code, the functions of the President under section 1014(o)(1) of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-173) are assigned to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

GEORGE W. BUSH
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070105-6.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 6 2007, 12:25 PM
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Earlier this week, the newly elected members of the House and the Senate took their oaths of office and became part of the 110th Congress. I congratulate them all, and I look forward to working with them over the next two years.

Since the November elections, I've had a number of productive meetings with the new leaders in Congress, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. I was encouraged by our discussions, and I'm confident that we can find common ground in our efforts to serve our fellow citizens and to move our country forward.

One area where we are already finding agreement is in our effort to spend the people's money wisely. This week, I announced that I will submit a five-year budget proposal that will balance the federal budget by 2012, while making the tax relief we passed permanent. Some Democrats have indicated that balancing the budget is a top priority for them as well. By holding the line on spending and continuing our pro-growth policies, we can balance the budget and address the most urgent needs of our Nation, which are winning the war on terror and maintaining a strong national defense, keeping our economy growing, and creating jobs.

We also see bipartisan agreement emerging on reforming the earmark process in Congress. Earmarks are spending provisions that are often slipped into bills at the last minute -- so they rarely get debated or discussed. Many earmarks divert precious funds away from vital priorities like national defense and education to wasteful pork-barrel projects. I appreciate Democratic leaders who have pledged to maintain our current levels of spending without additional earmarks this year. And I support the temporary moratorium on all new earmarks announced by the Democrats.

This is a good start, but I believe we can do more. This week, I proposed my own earmark reforms, which would make the earmark process more transparent, end the practice of concealing earmarks in so-called report language never included in legislation, and cut the number and costs of earmarks by at least half. These common-sense reforms will help prevent billions of taxpayers' dollars from being spent on unnecessary earmarks.

Another area where Democrats and Republicans can work together is in the effort to improve our schools. We have done so before. In my first year as President, Democrats and Republicans saw that our schools were failing too many students, so we worked together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act. This good law gave our schools new resources -- and in return, we asked them to show results. By setting high standards and measuring student progress, we're holding schools accountable for teaching every student to read, write, add, and subtract.

Since No Child Left Behind was passed, we have seen major improvements in student achievement all across America. In reading, nine-year-olds have made larger gains in the last five years of the test than in the previous 28 years. In math, nine-year-olds and 13-year-olds earned the highest scores in the history of the test. And in both reading and math, African-American and Hispanic students are scoring higher and starting to close the achievement gap.

This year the No Child Left Behind Act is up for reauthorization. I'm confident that both parties can work together to help our Nation's students. By reauthorizing this important legislation, we can help make our schools a gateway to opportunity for every child.

With this new Congress and new year, Democrats and Republicans will have many opportunities to serve the American people. We must rise to meet those opportunities and build a stronger and more compassionate Nation for generations to come.

Thank you for listening.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070106.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 6 2007, 12:27 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 6, 2007

Statement by the Press Secretary




On Friday, January 5, 2007, the President made additional disaster assistance available to the State of Florida by authorizing an increase in the level of Federal funding for Public Assistance projects undertaken as a result of Hurricane Wilma.

Under the President's major disaster declaration issued for the State of Florida on October 24, 2005, for Hurricane Wilma, Federal funding was made available to State and local governments in multiple counties for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, at 75 percent Federal funding. For a period of up to 72 hours, assistance for debris removal and emergency protective, including direct Federal assistance was provided at 100 percent of the total eligible costs.

Under the President's order, the Federal share for Public Assistance, including direct Federal assistance, has been increased to 90 percent of the total eligible costs, except for assistance previously approved at 100 percent Federal funding.

The increase to 90 percent Federal share is retroactive to the date of the President's major disaster declaration for the State of Florida.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FEMA (202) 646-4600.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070106-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 8 2007, 02:43 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 8, 2007

Personnel Announcement




President George W. Bush today announced his intention to nominate two people to serve in his Administration.

The President intends to nominate Zalmay Khalilzad, of Maryland, to be Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, the Representative of the United States of America in the Security Council of the United Nations, and Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States to the United Nations. Ambassador Khalilzad currently serves as United States Ambassador to Iraq. Prior to this, he served as United States Ambassador to Afghanistan. Earlier in his career, he served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Islamic Outreach and Southwest Asia Initiatives at the National Security Council. Ambassador Khalilzad received his bachelor's degree and master's degree from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon and his PhD from the University of Chicago.

The President intends to nominate Ryan C. Crocker, of Washington, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Iraq. Ambassador Crocker, a career member of the Foreign Service, currently serves as United States Ambassador to Pakistan. Prior to this, he served as the International Affairs Advisor at the National War College. Earlier in his career, he served as the Director of Governance for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Ambassador Crocker received his bachelor's degree and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Whitman College.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070108-4.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 8 2007, 04:09 PM
MR. SNOW: Welcome. A few notes before I take questions. The President today spoke with Nicaraguan President Enrique Bola os to thank him for his service to his country. He later spoke with President-elect Daniel Ortega, to congratulate him on his election victory, to express America's strong commitment to the well being of the Nicaraguan people and our continuing interest in a relationship with Nicaragua, noting such ongoing areas of concern as CAFTA and the Millennium Challenge Account. The President also noted that reconciliation, unity, democracy and job creation -- the centerpieces of President-elect Ortega's platform -- are also possible areas for cooperation.

Also the President has been meeting and continues to meet right now -- well, they may be out by now -- with Jos Barroso of the European Union. In a meeting in the Oval Office, they covered areas of economic cooperation, trade, the Doha round, global warming; they talked about Middle Eastern peace, and also regional issues -- larger regional issues, energy cooperation -- that pretty much does it. Darfur, they actually said that they would take up at the beginning of lunch. They were hoping to do it during the Oval Office session, but they, after a very brief conversation, were going to follow up, all expressing their desire to continue to focus international attention on the ongoing genocide there.

Scheduling announcement: The President will travel to Fort Benning, Georgia, on Thursday. He'll visit with troops and make a statement to the press. We'll give you more details as they become available.

With that, I'll take questions. Terry.

Q With the President's speech set for Wednesday night, is it fair to say that he's settled on all the details now?

MR. SNOW: Not all the details, but very close to wrapping them up.

Q I take it that the major decisions have been made. Is what's generally been out there, the 20,000 troops, just a --

MR. SNOW: As I said, you'll have to wait. I'm not at liberty up here to make comments on news reports about it. As we've explained before, as matters of courtesy to members of Congress and others who are involved and being notified, they will be notified before we'll be making any public announcements.

Q When will that be?

MR. SNOW: I don't know precisely when the notifications will start, but not in today's news cycle.

Q Tony, if you take the Reid-Pelosi letter as any indication, it would appear as though the President and the congressional leadership are on a collision course.

MR. SNOW: I'm not so sure. I think you're going to have to wait and see, Jim, how members of Congress react. I can tell you, for instance --

Q I mean, how else could you read that letter?

MR. SNOW: Again, you've got the -- one of the other things that they talk about is their desire to make sure that the people of Iraq succeed. And they want to have Iraq succeed as a country, they want to support American troops.

I think what will happen is that when the President's plan becomes known in detail, then people will be able to talk sensibly about the details and about how the pieces fit together. At this point, I think -- and Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi will have their opportunities to express what they think is necessary for success in Iraq and how they define success. They'll have their opportunity to talk about how they support troops and what they think the troops need. So all of that will be part of the debate.

But the President continues to reach out. A number of members of Congress on both sides said they want to take a good, hard look at it, as they should, and as we invite them to do. A number have expressed support for the determination to go ahead and make sure that we've got an Iraqi democracy that stands on its own.

Q What are you expecting the American people to hear on Wednesday that will change the mind of the majority of American people who don't want to see an open-ended escalation of troops?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, Jim, any sensible answer to that would require my discussing details that I can't give you right now.

Q Is he confident they will?

MR. SNOW: Look, I think what you do -- when you talk about something as tough and important as a war, it is important to take a good look at what the President is proposing, how it fits together, how it meets our national aims and objectives, and how it's going to make us safer. And those are all issues that the President is going to address, and I think at that point you can have a debate about something far more than hypotheticals that are being brooded about, some of which are on target, and some of which aren't.

And I think, therefore, as frustrating as it is, my caution is wait until you see the whole package and then the debate will begin. And, also, at that point, people who are opposed to it are going to be able to give a lot more focused critique in terms of what they like and don't like, and I think at that point I can give you a lot better answer, frankly, than to give you a generic answer.

Q Tony, does the President believe that up until now the policy of what to do with our troops -- their posture, how to deploy them -- has been a failure?

MR. SNOW: No, but it is clear that -- you need to take a look at different phases. Early on, we had what Tommy Franks described as catastrophic victory, sweeping, swift victory in the early combat phases. There was an expectation a year ago, and I think a lot of people in this room probably felt and shared it after the elections, that there might be a possibility of drawing down troops at this juncture.

But the sectarian violence was something that al Qaeda had sought to foment and succeeded in so doing, and they did it at a time when the Iraqi government, itself, had not yet had an opportunity to stand up -- there was a transitional period of four months there where you didn't have the government of Prime Minister Maliki, and then time for that government to form. There were two plans to secure Baghdad that didn't achieve the desired results.

I think what you can say is that what's happened in the wake of sectarian violence clearly did not fully anticipate the way in which that problem would arise and manifest itself, and the plans in Baghdad did not succeed. And, therefore, you need to take a look not merely at the critical issue of Baghdad, but the larger issue of who handles security, what's the best way to deal with it, and how you deal with the other pieces that are absolutely vital to any successful democracy in Iraq, which include building the economy, having political institutions that people trust, having law enforcement institutions that are going to enforce the law fairly with everybody. And all of those considerations have to be taken in mind.

Q At this stage -- you don't want to get into the details of the policy, so I won't press you on that -- but at this stage, the President's previous commanders on the ground who were just replaced said publicly they didn't think additional troops would help. Leaders of Congress who are Democrats don't think additional troops will help. A number of Republicans feel that way -- and there are some who don't, like McCain and Graham and others who support a troop surge. When you look at public opinion, you know where that stands.

The President is isolated in terms of the Iraqi policy and he seems to be among the few who thinks that this step, or any step can actually result in victory. I'm wondering where his mind-set is, how he arrived at this point in doing something that remains quite unpopular?

MR. SNOW: Again, I'm going to be able to give you a lot better answer -- I would warn against the theme that the President is isolated, or even -- if you go back, for instance, and you look at John Abizaid's testimony in December, saying, well, properly done, yes, we could use more troops. I mean, there have been a number of different characterizations by members of the military.

I think what you have to do is to take a look at the whole package and how it fits together, because I think Americans are concerned -- they want to know questions that are often asked: What does it mean -- what is your military objective, precisely what is it? How do the Iraqis fit in? How does the international community fit in? How does it fit in with the war on terror?

So a lot of those key questions I think are worth laying out for the American people. And, furthermore, even within the speech to the nation, there are going to be a lot of details that you're going to be interested in that we're not going to have time -- we're going to spend a lot of time, whatever time you need briefing you on background on that, as well.

I think a full, informed debate allows people to get a sense of what's going on in Iraq and all the various forces that are at play, and how we think one needs to address them. It's going to be useful, and it's worth having a very thoughtful debate about the details and about how the President plans to move forward.

Q I guess the challenge would be who besides the President thinks that the war is winnable at this stage?

MR. SNOW: I think millions of Americans believe that this war is winnable, and I think, furthermore, that it's important to rebuild the sense of political unity. One of the things the President has often said is, the only way we lose if we lose our will. And it is clear that there have been political debates in this country.

And it's also interesting because, again, I've heard a lot of Democrats saying, we want to succeed in Iraq. And, therefore, the question for them is, that's great, we agree, so let's find out what your ideas are, if you think you've got a different or a better idea; let's find out how you'll support the military in this endeavor. That's worth doing. And, frankly, done the right way will reassure the American people that all of Washington is serious about doing the right thing and doing it in the right way. And so we've got an opportunity here I think of getting thoughtful debate.

Q Tony, can you talk again about the President's confidence in Prime Minister Maliki? He has said before about hitting these benchmarks -- back in October -- it didn't happen. He said that there was going to be security in Baghdad; the battalions didn't show up. What has changed over the past few months? And where does the President stand today --

MR. SNOW: The President has confidence in Prime Minister Maliki and also knows that there are very clear things that need to be done. Speaking of some of the benchmarks -- I won't get into a lot of detail, but if you're talking about -- political benchmarks have been mentioned. For instance, the oil law, it looks like that there will be before the council of representatives a vote pretty soon on the oil law. Similarly, on constitutional reforms and a political reconciliation, including things that have to do with modifying the de-Baathification laws. All those are important steps. And Prime Minister Maliki, himself, has reiterated the importance of doing benchmarks.

So I'm not going to get into whether there are or aren't -- later in the week we'll have an opportunity to talk a lot more precisely about these things.

Q All right, Wednesday night, will that include a request for funding?

MR. SNOW: At this point, there will be some discussion of what the President thinks we need to do, in terms of going forward. A lot of the details will be coming out in subsequent days, but I'll leave it vague like that.

Q Tony, is the President going to discuss how we get out of Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, let me put it this way: If you take a look -- ultimately, the goal is to have an Iraq that does, in fact, stand up for itself and assumes full responsibility for security for the economy, for the legal system, and so on. And at that point, an American presence would be superfluous, at least other than in an advisory capacity. That's where you want to end up.

Q But will he define when we know that and how you --

MR. SNOW: Well, I think I'll --

Q I mean, one of the things in the old plan is you stand up troops -- you stand up Iraqi troops, you stand down. That seemed like you had benchmarks on when you can get out, even though it didn't work. Will there be benchmarks on how the U.S. gets out of there?

MR. SNOW: As I said, I am going to remain vague on this until the President has done his announcement, and then we can go in and you can take a look and ask precise questions about precisely what he will propose.

Q One of the things that Nancy Pelosi has been saying over the weekend, and others, is that this is expanding the mission. You've said part of the problem with the Baghdad plan was there weren't enough troops -- so we can assume beyond a hypothetical that you're probably going to want more troops if you want it to succeed, because you've said, there weren't enough. Do you agree --

MR. SNOW: U.S. troops and Iraqi troops.

Q Do you agree -- but I think the other day you said U.S. and Iraqi. Do you agree with her idea that this would expand the mission? Do you have plans to expand the mission?

MR. SNOW: I think, Martha, again, we're talking into a vacuum here, trying to trade characterizations of the plan. Wait until the plan comes out, and then I'll be happy to deal with that characterization or any others, and be able to do it in a way that provides the level of detail that could make that a useful answer for people who want to know.

Q One of the things that goes back and forth -- and the Democrats say they want success in Iraq. The President says he wants victory in Iraq. That's probably the hardest thing to get your hands around here --

MR. SNOW: We've made it clear that when you talk about victory, what you talk about is Iraq being able to assume full responsibility and full control of its democratic destiny. There are likely to be challenges even after that point where insurgents may challenge the government or where you have acts of sectarian violence, but --

Q But we may not be there?

MR. SNOW: -- they will have the ability to deal with their internal problems, and that is the kind of situation -- when you have a democracy that is able to deal independently with those issues, then you've got success, victory, however you may define it. Now, perhaps others have a different definition. But the point is, if you get a democratic Iraq that is bound together by national interests, national identity, that is enjoying economic growth and political liberty -- that sends a powerful message to terrorists.

And if you take a look, geographically you've got -- there is Iraq, right between Iran and Syria, two of the key players in the terror wars. And for an Iraqi democracy to succeed in the region -- despite opposition from the outside, despite attempts to foment sectarian violence on the inside -- sends a powerful message to terrorists, which is, despite your best efforts, it's not going to happen. And it also sends an equally powerful message to people throughout the region -- in Afghanistan, in Lebanon, in the Palestinian areas, in a number of Arab states that are beginning to expand the franchise -- that, in fact, democracy is something that can work in the region.

And so make no mistake, success in Iraq, not only is it vital to our security for reasons that we've talked about many times, but it also has the chance really to send a definitive refutation to those who believe that it is their destiny to foment terror in the world.

Q But the President will use the word "victory"?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, everybody keeps trying to get --

Q But he still wants victory?

MR. SNOW: Everybody keeps trying to get me --

Q Is that something he still strives for, victory or success?

MR. SNOW: -- discuss --

Q But, Tony, you are calling it "the way forward." That is what the White House is calling it.

MR. SNOW: Yes, that is correct.

Q But, I mean, isn't it true that there are limitations as to what the United States can do in Iraq, that much of this rests on the shoulders of the Maliki government and others within the Maliki government?

MR. SNOW: True.

Q So how can the White House say with certainty that what the President will unveil is, in fact, the way forward for Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, what the President is going to do is to unveil -- what you're asking is, does the President have a crystal ball that will project with absolute clarity what's going to happen in the future. Of course not. And what happens with any plan is that you do have to make adjustments when the other side adjusts.

But on the other hand, he will talk about ways of addressing these concerns that reflect a lot of serious thought on the part of a lot of people in the region and outside -- you know, we've done consultations with Congress, with members of the military, with foreign heads of state, with the Iraqi government, with leaders throughout Iraq, with scholars, with people who agree and disagree. There has been a lot of time and effort put in to trying to figure out how do you try to set the conditions that are going to enable you to move forward so that you have an Iraq that can stand up on its own.

So I know, Elaine, that's a very general answer, but on the other hand, the details are forthcoming and you can try to fill in the blanks a little later.

Q Can I follow on what Elaine was asking? As the American people listen to the President describe the new way forward, because of all the things that you just outlined, all the conditions and the things that have gone on in the past, does he want them to look at these at this point as part of a continuum, that he will keep at it until victory? Or does he appreciate that some of them might listen and say, this doesn't work --

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I think the public opinion and public support is a very important part of this. And it is not static. So I think what you have to do is to see how people respond not merely to the speech, but to the particulars of the plan, to the political debate that follows. And, you know, this is going to be fairly complex and it's going to take people a little bit of time to think through. And we will spend a lot of time talking about it, because it's important to do so.

Obviously, I mentioned before, the President has made it clear on a number of occasions: We lose only if we lose the will. It is important to explain to the American people how this fits in to the overall goal of keeping Americans more secure in a world where we continue to be engaged in a global war on terror.

Q And one other follow-up. Do the Democrats or any of the opponents have the executive authority to stop anything that the President is going to present? In other words, is he going to need to ask Congress to approve something?

MR. SNOW: Well, ultimately, anything you do has budgetary implications. I think there was a question earlier today, are we seeking resolutions, and that sort of thing -- and I want to wave you off of that. What you do have, though, is basically budget is policy. So Congress is going to be engaged in the appropriations and authorization process and, you know, through those, they're going to be debating a lot of things. And so that's sort of par for the course.

Q But in terms of anything out of the Pentagon -- the troops, deployment, any of the programs we initiate - the President, alone, has the authority to --

MR. SNOW: You know what, I don't want to play junior constitutional lawyer on this, so let's wait until we see what happens, if you have specific questions about constitutional authority. But, you know, Congress has the power of the purse. The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way.

Let me just say that the early sessions that I've seen have been conducted, as I noted the other day, in a spirit of real respect and they've been constructive. So I know it's tempting to think, boy, this is going to set off a big old political firestorm -- and it very well may. But on the other hand, it may actually set off a period of reflection and constructive activity. And that would be a good thing, as well.

So I will continue to sort of dance around details until they become available. And then it's going to be a whole lot easier -- my guess is the press briefings will be a whole lot longer as we go through these things, and I'll be able to give you a much better answer.

Helen.

Q From all the reports of drawdown that we had many months ago, were they phony? And, also, aren't we trying to now inject 20,000 more troops in a sectarian war? What is this all about? And does the President want to leave this war to another President?

MR. SNOW: Okay, several items. Number one, as I've said to everybody else, can't help you on details -- including your assertion of how many troops might be brought in.

Number two, when it came to troop levels last year, I can remember, even in my early days here, cautioning people against stories of buildup and drawdown. Remember there were stories that, you know, "Is it going to be 90,000 by the end of the year?" And I said, just everybody calm down, we operate according to conditions on the ground. And conditions still remain pivotal there.

So, you know, pepper me with precise questions after we've gotten the plan out and I'll be happy to take them.

Sheryl.

Q Tony, we know that the public and lawmakers are skeptical of whatever the President will propose. You talked about the Fort Benning trip on Thursday. Can you tell us about that trip and about anything else the administration is doing to explain this policy to not only the American people and Congress, but also people around the world?

MR. SNOW: The President has got a pretty good start when he speaks to the nation; the whole world will watch. And beyond that, number one, we will do lots of briefings for members of the press and, certainly, you are very important in informing the American people and the world about what we think and how we think the plan will work.

But, Sheryl, we are obviously going to talk a lot about it. It's a matter of real importance, and it's also something that Congress will not have the ability to deal with overnight, and there's going to be a lot of discussion about it. So am I going to tell you with absolute certainty which events we're going to do and how long? No. But it will be certainly a point of focus, it will continue to be something where the President will explain, and a number of others of us within the administration will do the same.

Q But can you talk a little more about the Fort Benning trip? And, also, will we see perhaps Secretary of State Rice take trips overseas to --

MR. SNOW: Again, let's just -- at Fort Benning we'll get you details. But he will certainly meet with troops, he'll make some comments, and we'll get more details as we get a little closer. As far as Secretary Rice's schedule, we'll let whatever announcements be made when they're appropriate.

Q Any domestic trips beyond Fort Benning in the next week or so?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. Certainly this week that's it.

Q Tony, two quick questions. One, can you confirm about ambassadorial changes the President made this morning, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan --

MR. SNOW: Well, obviously, they're both nominated, and now we hope for speedy confirmation.

Q And Ambassador from Iraq, will he become ambassador to the U.N.?

MR. SNOW: That's correct.

Q Do you know if President is happy with the ambassador, because he was ambassador to Afghanistan, he was a great ambassador to Afghanistan, and now he was in Iraq. So why this change, as far as ambassador is concerned?

MR. SNOW: Well, a couple of things. If you take a look, the ambassadors have been staying in Iraq about a year. That's been more or less normal, and Zal actually stayed on. Secondly, he wouldn't be nominating him to become our permanent representative to the United Nations if he didn't think he was first class. Ryan Crocker also is a guy of extraordinary ability, and therefore we look forward to having him in Baghdad.

Q Last week you said you wanted to --- the President wanted to change the commanders before this new way forward started. Can we expect any other major changes in the national security team coming soon?

MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Q Having now formally put the two nominations in for the ambassador changes at the U.N. and in Iraq, now the national security team responsible for Iraq obviously has changed over fairly significantly. The one place where there hasn't been a change -- not a U.S. change to make -- but is the Maliki government, and that government remains intact, or Mr. Maliki remains at the helm of it. The types of things that you have spoken in the past about wanting to see that government do, it has singularly failed to do, and sectarian tensions have not decreased, the Saddam hanging has certainly increased them --

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure the facts on the ground support that. There have been a lot of reports about -- I would caution you -- maybe you've got different data sets than we've seen; it stimulated certainly a lot of attention internationally. It is not clear that it has been a major contributor to sectarian activity within Iraq. But I think your general drift is you have sectarian violence -- so complete the question.

Q My gist is this: Can you point to any single, specific thing, other than good intentions, that Maliki has done?

MR. SNOW: Well, take a look at a number of things. Yes, among other things, in a country that has not had an elected democracy you've had a Prime Minister who's been able to stand up a government that involves people from every major sectarian group. He has worked forward on the Iraq Compact. If you take a look at the economic growth numbers, they're pretty impressive. If you take a look at the generation of oil and oil pumping, that has produced a source of revenue. If you take a look at the fact that in at least 14 of the provinces you have peace and growing prosperity and a sense of security.

You also have the fact that the Prime Minister, over the weekend, gave a speech where he talked very directly about the challenges. He has no delusions about the challenges, and said that it's going to be incumbent upon his government to go after those who are creating violence. He has talked about the hydrocarbon law, that which will share oil and natural gas revenues. Everybody agrees that's important; he's committed to it. He talks about constitutional reform. Everybody agrees that's important; he's committed to it.

There are a number of things also on the legislative calendar where it's a legislative system, and people are taking times off and he continues to push for them.

Q These are things, particularly on the security front, that he has said before, almost verbatim, exact same language. And when it came -- when push came to shove, the action on the ground did not correspond to the language.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I think what you may want to do is ask me that question Thursday.

Q Tony, this thing has been in the works for months now, this change in strategy, and there have been a lot of personnel changes. Can the public, watching and listening and reading about this on Wednesday night, expect that this is going to be the last big change in strategy that the President is going to make in his final two years?

MR. SNOW: I don't know; ask me in four years -- or maybe two years. What you're asking is -- you're asking a look-back question, rather than a look-forward question --

Q No, I'm asking you a look-forward question.

MR. SNOW: Well, but a look-forward question is the President believes it's important to address the situation in Iraq in a manner that he thinks is going to be effective, that's going to make this country, our country, more secure in the war on terror, by addressing violence and uncertainty in the central front in the war on terror. Make no mistake, Iraq is it. Therefore, rather than saying, well, this is the last big speech -- this is the President's proposal for moving forward in a way that he believes is going to be conducive to producing the results.

Now, you've got to keep in mind, when you have changing conditions -- and this is the one thing that has been very clear -- you've got to find ways to respond nimbly. But also what you have to do constantly is build greater capacity on the part of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. We've talked about this -- and furthermore, one of the other things that's been going on is increasingly moving Iraqi units into leadership positions.

What you ultimately want to see, Peter, is that growing capacity within the Iraqi government, the military forces, the police forces, to deal with this stuff. So all I can tell you is that the President is going to be talking about a way forward that can help address the concerns about sectarian violence, developments within the country, the need for economic growth, political reconciliation, national security, Iraqi responsibility.

Q You never answered Helen's third question there, will this be with the President through the end of his administration? Is he going to leave this for the next person?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, that's a look-back question -- if this could be over tomorrow, we would devoutly wish that were possible.

Q It's looking forward.

MR. SNOW: No, it's -- it is looking forward, but, Peter, I'm afraid I just don't have the God's-eye view that would tell me how the situation is going to unfold in months to come. It is certainly our hope that Iraq has that freestanding democracy as soon as possible.

Q Is there something different about the way this plan was put together that makes it more likely to succeed than, say, Don, or Bremer, or the Pentagon, State, Allawi, et cetera -- was it a procedural --

MR. SNOW: Ask me Thursday. I mean, there are a lot of elements here -- again, a lot of the -- I can give you a much better answer when we have it, because I can start laying out for you different ways in which things are done. I can't do it yet. But I'll be able to give you a better answer --

Q You can't say something like you've reached further to more outside experts, or talked to different levels of commanders, or something like that?

MR. SNOW: All of the above and more.

Q Related to Peter's question, in his mind, is this the final stand? In other words, this has to work or the U.S. has to begin a process of disengagement?

MR. SNOW: No, because the question there is one that seems to be token desperation: It's the last chance. What the President understands is there's a real sense of urgency within the United States for assurance that, number one, we have a plan for building an Iraq that is going to enhance our security, that is going to make us safer; number two, that is done in such a way that also is going to put the Iraqis in leading positions sooner rather than later. And, so, I'm afraid he takes a much more practical point of view when working through these issues, not, this is the last chance.

On the other hand, I do want to make it clear, he does understand that it is important to get the public on board and it is important to build as vigorous a bipartisan consensus as possible. And this is something also that members of Congress have to be aware of, because all the world really is watching and it is important to get this right. And, therefore, the President has made it clear in all the meetings: If you guys have got better ideas, let's hear them. This is not something where it's, sort of, lay down the law. The President wants to make sure that we make the best use of people's expertise and creativity and insight so that the complex of proposals fits together in such a way that are going to maximize the chances of success.

Q But there is a level of desperation, isn't there, when a lot of people who have a hand in the policy -- i.e., members of Congress or people within the administration -- think it's over, not just your political critics?

MR. SNOW: You know, it's interesting -- I've heard that used by a very small number of people and, yet, you ask the question, must we -- you asked a couple of questions. Do you think, for instance, al Qaeda has given up on trying to do major operations in the United States? Do you think failure in Iraq would make al Qaeda more likely to strike the United States? Do you think if al Qaeda or other terror organizations had the opportunity to use Iraq as a launch pad that you'd be safer or less safe? And I think in each case people would say, oh, no, we'd be less safe.

So I think it's important to realize that in the context of the broader war on terror, most people really do agree success -- again, the letter sent by Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid, both said, we want the Iraqi people to succeed.

So I think, David, again, I think what members of Congress want is a good look at what the President has in mind, and there will be consultations over the next couple of days. And I think as members of Congress get an opportunity to review and digest the details, some are going to agree, some are going to disagree -- I mean, that's necessary. But I think if this can be conducted in a spirit of getting it done right, I think it would be constructive for all concerned.

Q The President, obviously, though, did not read what happened November 7th as a mandate to start bringing troops home.

MR. SNOW: The President believes that -- if you take a look, Jim, at the elections, you can read any number of messages -- I mean, when people were asked in exit interviews what was their top concern, Iraq was number four, corruption was number one. And guess what? You had 10 members of the Republican caucus who had problems, and they all lost. So you can read a lot of results. There is an understandable -- people don't want to be at war; we don't want to be at war, the President doesn't want to be at war. But the fact is you've got a situation where terrorists and a terror network is determined to try to do whatever it can to destabilize this country and other parts of the world --

Q But the President is comfortable, then, with saying to the American people, I saw what happened November 7th -- actually, you're upset about corruption?

MR. SNOW: No, I think, Jim, people would be a lot less upset if he didn't take seriously his obligations as Commander-in-Chief.

Paula.

Q Is the focus on this war and the cost of this war drowning out the domestic agenda and your ability to pursue both --

MR. SNOW: Boy, I hope not. No, I certainly hope not. We don't think it is. By golly, we have domestic agenda meetings in house today, as a matter of fact.

No, the President has a vigorous domestic agenda and, obviously, Democrats have some ideas -- you've got the 100-hour clock, I believe, begins to tick tomorrow. So --

Q I believe they delayed that, didn't they, because they didn't want it overshadowed by the speech.

MR. SNOW: They delayed it again? Really? So it doesn't start tomorrow? I didn't know that. I thought it started tomorrow. I could be wrong. Okay, we'll see. Well, in any event, whenever that 100-hour clock starts ticking, you know, you're going to have people beginning to consider a lot of matters.

But, Paula, the question is whether people in this room will ask domestic policy questions. You quite frequently do.

Q May I ask one more?

MR. SNOW: Yes, absolutely.

Q Okay. The Democrats have made one of their agenda items control of the alternative minimum tax. The administration's position on this issue is that, yes, they want to address it, but in the context of tax reform. The administration is not taking up that reform this year, correct?

MR. SNOW: Well, I believe there's also a State of the Union -- when one tries to wheedle from me details that have not yet been made public, I'm afraid I can't play on it. But it's clear that the alternative minimum tax is something that has become a matter of concern. It was put in years ago, you may recall, to "soak to rich." Well, it's soaking everybody who's working. So that is one of those -- when one tries to play class warfare, sooner or later it touches upon every class.

Q At his year-end news conference, the President again did not choose to bring that up. He brought up Social Security reform and directed the Treasury Secretary, in fact, to look at that. And the tax reform recommendations are still sitting in Treasury and it's been over a year.

MR. SNOW: Well, Paula, the fact that the President at a news conference does not mention every item in a budget that goes hundreds of pages probably should not be surprising. We spend a lot of time talking about things, about AMT.

Q Will Wednesday's speech include a recitation or a characterization of the consequences of anything less than victory in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: We'll see. We're still working through the drafts.

Q Does the President have concerns that Americans don't share his concerns or visions of what might happen?

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so, but I think it's always important -- it is, I think, important from time to time for the President to share a little bit of what he sees and how he thinks about it, because, fortunately, Americans have not been confronted since September 11, 2001, with direct evidence that terrorists are trying to kill us. There was a scare of -- but it's there, isn't it? It's part background radiation. Over the weekend you had something happen at the Port of Miami; today you had gas, which I gather, according to the Mayor, may be passing. (Laughter.) That was his term.

But what was people's first reaction? Gas in New York, is it terror? Whenever you get a big or unusual event in Washington, D.C., or around the country, people think, is it an act of terror? So there is an understanding in the hearts and minds of many Americans that terror is a threat that has not manifested itself on our shores, but about which we ought to be vigilant. And so as a result there is -- I think there's a recognition that this is a serious issue and it's worth having the President describe the way in which he comes to these conclusions.

April.

Q Tony, two things, one on Darfur and the other one on the embryonic stem cell issue. Darfur -- when Secretary of State Colin Powell -- then Secretary of State Colin Powell was in office, he called Darfur genocide; the President followed. Years later -- today, President Bush is now saying, outrageous. What comes next? Is military action against the Sudanese government imminent, or what?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, the United States has been trying to work diplomatically through the African Union and also through the United Nations Security Council on this. It has also been talking about trying to come up with forces to help secure the situation. And it is important to get allies in the region and around the world to work with us to come up with an effective way of putting an end to the genocide.

I am not going to make announcements about changes in policy, should they be in the offing, but you'll hear about them if and when they come to pass.

Q But when you turn up the wording and he's saying it's outrageous -- I mean, what's next? What's beyond that?

MR. SNOW: Well, we hope that delivery for the people of Darfur is next.

Q Also, on embryonic stem cell, you said this morning that this administration found out about it over the weekend, and you're looking at it. Some are saying that now that it is not as safe as some would say, because, for instance, women who have amniocentesis, it is a threat -- that a viable pregnancy could be terminated because of that. Is that one of the options as to why you're not supporting it as of yet?

MR. SNOW: No. As you know, amniocentesis -- I mean, we went through it a number of times in our household; not I, of course -- is an elective procedure. Just because you find that there is -- that amniotic stem cells have some medical potential doesn't mean that you run around and say, okay, everybody pony up your amniotic fluid. I mean, it doesn't work that way.

So there will always be concerns. But, obviously, there is a difference between using amniotic stem cells that do not, by design, involve the destruction of a human life, and embryonic stem cell research which does.

Lester.

Q Tony, thank you. Two questions. The London Times reports in detail how Israel is planning to bomb Iranian nuclear arms facilities, and I wondered --

MR. SNOW: Yes, where did they get that detail? What sources did it mention?

Q They just said "sources." And I just wondered if the White House believes this is accurate, and if so, we will support our allies --

MR. SNOW: I just -- come on, give me a serious question. Let's try number two.

Q Okay, WorldNetDaily has asked me to ask you this question, but The New York Times -- well, if you don't think The London Times is serious -- but The New York Times reports that General John Shalikashvili --

MR. SNOW: Shalikashvili.

Q -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton, has called for our armed forces to accept self-announced homosexuals and lesbians, and I just wanted to know, does the Commander-in-Chief agree with this or not?

MR. SNOW: The Commander-in-Chief's position is clear on it.

Go ahead.

Q In the Iraq proposal, you seem to be suggesting that everything the President is going to propose on Wednesday night needs congressional --

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, I'm just saying in this obvious sense, anything this government does requires somebody to look at a budget, then they approve a budget. I'm just going -- that's the simple point I'm trying to make.

Q Including troop --

MR. SNOW: Well, I mean, including whatever. I just -- I don't want to get into --

Q And are you going to brief on Thursday, even though the President is traveling?

MR. SNOW: I think what we may end up trying to do is, there will be some people in traveling parties. Stick with us. We're going to try to come up -- I think I'm going to stay behind, because there still is a lot of follow-on briefing that needs to be done. It will not be this kind of a briefing, but we're going to find ways to get reporters in touch with folks who can continue to do follow-on from Wednesday night's speech.

Q Tony, you said before that the President believes that Prime Minister Maliki doesn't need any benchmarks imposed on him, and that he can meet his objectives by himself. Does the President still believe that way?

MR. SNOW: As I said, we think it's important for -- why don't we talk Thursday, we can go through all this. It's another one of those things that requires a thorough answer, the level of detail that you'll get Wednesday night.

Thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070108-7.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 9 2007, 02:31 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 9, 2007

Statement by the President




I have selected Fred Fielding to serve as Counsel to the President. Fred's exemplary legal career has equipped him with the judgment and expertise necessary to serve in this important position. Fred's distinguished record of public service, including five years as President Reagan's Counsel, makes him uniquely qualified for this position. He served with distinction on the 9/11 Commission, is a senior partner at a leading law firm, and he has earned a strong reputation for integrity. Fred is one of the most well-respected and accomplished lawyers in our Nation, and I look forward to benefiting from his wise counsel. I am pleased that he will once again take up public service in the White House.

Fred is replacing my long-time adviser and good friend, Harriet Miers. Harriet has served as a key member of my team for the last six years, as Counsel, Deputy Chief of Staff, and Staff Secretary. I have greatly valued her sound judgment. Throughout her career, she has devoted herself to the rule of law and the cause of justice, earning a reputation as a talented lawyer dedicated to excellence. Harriet possesses a tireless work ethic and a strong commitment to serving others. Laura and I are deeply grateful for Harriet's dedication and for her friendship. We wish her the very best in the next chapter of her life.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070109-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 9 2007, 02:32 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 9, 2007

Memorandum for the Secretary of the Interior




SUBJECT: Modification of the June 12, 1998, Withdrawal of Certain Areas of the United States Outer Continental Shelf from Leasing Disposition

Under the authority vested in me as President of the United States, including section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby modify the first sentence of the withdrawal of June 12, 1998, of certain areas of the United States Outer Continental Shelf from leasing disposition to read as follows:

Under the authority granted in section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby withdraw from disposition by leasing through June 30, 2012, (1) those areas under moratoria pursuant to sections 104 and 106 of Public Law 109-54, and (2) those areas under moratoria pursuant to section 105 of Public Law 109 54, excluding that portion of the Central Gulf of Mexico planning area defined as the "181 South Area" in section 102(2) of title I ("Gulf of Mexico Energy Security") in Division C of Public Law 109 432, the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 9 2007, 03:15 PM
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. A couple notes, and then I'll be happy to take questions. The President's schedule today: Normal morning briefings; he's consulting with members of Congress, and continuing to work on the speech for tomorrow night. That is the schedule.

Also, the President has selected Fred Fielding to serve as Counsel to the President, replacing Harriet Miers. We have a statement out to that effect. Rather than my reading it out, you can read the statement.

Let's see what else we have. The Domestic Policy Council later today is going to release a report that highlights some new alternative research studies that advance stem cell science without destroying human life; exciting work being done in the area, including an alternative approach to using embryonic stem cells that was reported just this week. The President's policy strikes a balance of supporting funding -- federal funding for research into stem cells, while avoiding federal funding that would encourage the destruction of embryos. And we encourage you to review the report.

And I'll take questions. Terry.

Q Did the President consult with the Hill before the military operation in Somalia?

MR. SNOW: Number one -- let me put it this way: We know that there was a military -- we can confirm that there was a military operation overnight on Sunday in Somalia. We refer you to the Department of Defense for all other details. I don't believe there was a consultation on that. I'm aware of none.

Q Okay. And on Iraq, switching topics, can you say why the -- what the President's rationale is for sending in more troops to Iraq when --

MR. SNOW: I will be happy to talk about rationales and everything else once we have released publicly what the President intends to do.

Q Can you give us an idea of how the President will try to persuade the public that his plan in whatever form we hear tomorrow night is the right course when so many Americans, according to polling, are very concerned about more troops in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, Americans I think are concerned about making sure that we succeed in Iraq, as are members of Congress. What the President is going to do is to talk about the situation in Iraq, how it has evolved, how the challenges have evolved, and he will also talk about the importance of developing capacity so that the Iraqis have the ability to handle their security needs and will continue to have a democracy that grows and flourishes, protecting the rights of all, creating economic opportunities and the like.

So I think it's important to allow Americans to see not only that, but also how this fits into the broader war on terror. Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. Why is it important? What does it mean? What can success breed? What does failure mean? A lot of those questions I think Americans want to hear answered, and they will be answered in the President's address.

Q Those things we have heard before from the President. Is there something specific now that you will try to do or say or demonstrate that would be more persuasive?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Bret.

Q Tony, is that all you're going to have on Somalia, as far as pointing us back to the Pentagon and the ongoing operation?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q You don't have any other details?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q How about how the President found out, et cetera?

MR. SNOW: You know what, stupid me, I forgot to do the process stuff. We'll try to find out.

Q Okay. Let me change gears then. Senator Kennedy today is going to propose legislation denying billions needed to send more troops to the war unless Congress agrees first. This is even before the President lays out his plan. Can you respond preemptively?

MR. SNOW: No, I really can't. I'll take a look -- we'll take a look at it. I'm sure that later in the week we'll have an opportunity to respond more specifically. And I have not -- I haven't looked at it; I don't know if the President has looked at it; I haven't talked to our Leg Affairs people about it. Give us a little time to take a look.

Q What about this overall premise that Democrats and some are considering holding back money to troops --

MR. SNOW: Well, look, Democrats are going to have to make a choice here and they're going to have to decide where they stand in terms of two issues: Number one, do you want Iraq to succeed, and, if so, what does that mean? And, number two, do you believe in supporting the troops as you say, and how do you express that support? Those are questions that will be answered in the process of public debate and also -- and a lot of other considerations. So we'll just have to see how it plays out.

As you've seen, Bret, there is disagreement within both parties about how to proceed. But I think one of the unifying elements can be, when the President does lay out the way forward, it offers an opportunity for everybody to have a full and thoughtful debate about this. Right now many of the debates continue to be conducted in a vacuum -- anticipation that the President is going to say something. And it makes more sense to wait until the President lays out not only military, but also diplomatic, economic, and other actions that he intends to take, and to put them in the broader context of the war on terror and also the context of the security of Americans right here on our own soil.

Q Last one for me. Yesterday you hinted that the President is going to essentially lay out specifics of why Iraq is important to the U.S. as far as our safety. Is that accurate?

MR. SNOW: Well, specifics -- no, we've often described what happens if you have a failed state in Iraq, and we'll continue to make the point, which is, if you've got a failed state in Iraq -- let's draw the image for the American people again -- got Iraq; on one side to its east is Iran, to the west is Syria, two primary terror states who have made it clear that they're going to go after democracies throughout the region. That would include Lebanon, that would include the Palestinian areas. They're trying to send a message that democracy cannot succeed in that part of the world. They're trying to intimidate their neighbors.

If you have an Iraq, with the world's second largest oil reserves, capable of generating incredible amounts of revenue that terrorists can use both to blackmail the West and also to purchase weapons that can be used against anybody else, that creates a situation that's a direct threat to us. So that's really what I was talking about. There is not going to be sort of a roster of specifics, but it is worth reminding the American people of what the stakes are and how they do fit in to the larger war on terror.

Yes, Martha.

Q Back to Kelly's question. The President, beginning in November of '05, I believe, gave a series of speeches on the strategy for victory in Iraq. The American people didn't seem to buy that, the situation in Iraq went downhill. Do you worry about the President's credibility? And is there anything in this speech, or in this plan, that is really, truly new, or is it trying things that have already been tried before?

MR. SNOW: Martha, I will let you judge it, and I will let you ask questions once we've laid it all out. The President understands, and I think you understand, that a war is not a fixed thing that proceeds along a predetermined or straight path, and as situations change, you must adjust. One of the key changes in Iraq last year was the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara and the subsequent flaring up of sectarian violence within Iraq. A year ago a lot of people were feeling optimistic, including members of both parties on Capitol Hill, including people within the military, because here you had the prospects -- you had free elections in Iraq, things seemed to be moving along a pretty good path.

So it's interesting, you can pick whichever wedge of time you want, but there has also been some change in public opinion since late 2005, and in early 2006 there was a sense of optimism. But guess what. The terrorists did succeed in unleashing sectarian violence, and now that has created a new set of realities that one must contend with. The President will talk about that.

I'm simply not going to try to give you a general characterization of how it will be received. My sense is that the American people want to hear what the President has to say. And we're going to spend a lot of time talking about it, because it's not a simple, you know, one-bullet-point plan. There's a lot in it, and as a result, we are going to have an opportunity to take a look at each and all of the aspects.

Q On sectarian violence, is that something the United States should have been prepared for? Or, like the insurgency, you can argue that, who knew? Should they have been prepared for sectarian violence, because we had a letter from Zarqawi, who basically laid out his plan to foment sectarian violence?

MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know, Martha. Apparently, people in Iraq were not quite prepared for it either. The fact is, it happened. And whatever backseat generalship one might wish to practice, the fact is we have important business in Iraq with very high stakes, and the focus now is to figure out a way forward that is going to lead to success.

Jim.

Q Tony, as you said, a public debate will probably ensue here after the President's speech --

MR. SNOW: You think? (Laughter.)

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: Good chance.

Q And so often in debate, obviously, language is very important. To your mind, is there a difference between an increase in troops, an escalation in troops, a surge in troops? Because in the last 24, 48 hours these words have all started to become weighted.

MR. SNOW: It just started to become weighted? I think a lot of times people are going to try to find a one-word characterization that allows them to make a political point without perhaps diving into the details in trying to give a proper --

Q Well, what's the difference between an escalation and a surge?

MR. SNOW: Well, why don't we talk about characterizations once we have a plan?

Q Because I think it's part of a conversation that's going on right now.

MR. SNOW: I understand that, and, guess what -- it's a conversation, as I've said before, that is a bit in a vacuum and I'm not going to get into the business of preemptively characterizing something that we have not released in full detail.

Q But, somehow, "escalation" has become this Democratic word -- the Democratic Party language.

MR. SNOW: Well, ask the guys who do their focus groups. They're going to have an answer for it. Look, the President is talking about a way forward, and rather than getting involved in trying to assess a description of a plan that has yet to be released publicly and, therefore, about which I am not in a position to characterize publicly, it seems a little silly for me to start quibbling about adjectives without discussing what they purportedly describe, don't you think?

Q Well, the President apparently told Gordon Smith and others yesterday that the 20,000 troop increase/surge/escalation is part of the deal. So that's why I'm asking specifically about -- we are going to see some kind of increase.

MR. SNOW: Rather than looking for a one-word handle, look at the policy. And, actually, this is your challenge -- you guys do words for a living; figure out -- rather than trying to ask Democratic or even Republican lawmakers what the proper descriptive term is, you figure it out. I mean, you're going to have an opportunity --

Q I'm trying to, but that's what --

MR. SNOW: Yes, but what you're doing is you're listening to what other people are saying and saying, is that the right one? Well, I can't help you on that.

Q Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing --

MR. SNOW: Can't help you on that one.

Q -- I'm listening to other people describe it, and I'm asking the administration, what's the proper word?

MR. SNOW: I understand. But what we will say is, look at it, then we'll talk.

Q Do you have a problem with the word "escalation"?

MR. SNOW: As I said, look at it, we'll talk.

Q Could you take us behind the scenes a little bit of these meetings that the President is having with the lawmakers? Is he now giving final details of his plan, or is he still listening to advice? Just a little bit of the atmosphere.

MR. SNOW: Well, no, because as we've been saying, these are meetings where the ground rules are, we don't tell who is in them and we don't tell what's going on behind the scenes, but they're free to go out and give whatever characterization they may. The important thing to do is to wait until you've got a chance to see the full thing. Look, there are going to be opportunities for members of Congress, Democratic and Republican, to characterize their conversations with the President. It's a good and healthy thing that they're happening.

And furthermore, the President has made it clear that conversations are going to continue to take place. The address the President is going to give to the nation is not the end of the debate, it is the beginning of an important consideration of how we move forward in Iraq in a way that we send a message to the world that the United States is here to finish the important work of securing liberty, and issuing the definitive refutation of terrorist tactics and strategies. And that is the basis on which I think both parties can fruitfully work together.

Q Can you talk about where the address is at this point? You said the President was looking at preliminary drafts. Is it pretty much done? Is he just --

MR. SNOW: We're getting pretty close.

Q Because he still has consultations going on?

MR. SNOW: There are some, but also just -- now it's the point of going through and looking at language and saying, you know, I want this point, or, let's emphasize this one, or, what about this issue? It is more now at the sort of fine-tuning point. But on the other hand, anybody who has ever done a term paper knows you keep working until the very end. And my guess is that there will continue to be tweaks and practices into tomorrow.

Q Is it fair to say, though, even as he still continues to meet with these lawmakers, his mind is essentially made up?

MR. SNOW: What I would direct you to do -- there are two things. I have noted before that when you're talking about a war, the idea that you have your mind made up, that you have absolute -- this is in stone, this is it -- what you have is a framework for moving forward. And within that framework, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for people to talk and to share their opinions. And the President has made it clear from the very first consultations with Democrats and Republicans that he intends to have more talks. So, to that extent, I think we are going to be open-minded and always looking for good ideas and good, constructive advice.

Q After yesterday's session, and yesterday's were just Republican senators who came, correct?

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q Thad Cochran came out and said, well, I told the President I'd be able to support him, but I was alone, I didn't hear anybody else saying that. Is that an accurate reflection of what happened?

MR. SNOW: You know, as I said, we permit people to come to the sticks and say what they wish. Our ground rules are, we don't talk about it, so I don't talk about it.

Q I'll try and make you talk about it.

MR. SNOW: You'll fail.

Q Is this real consultation, Tony? Senators went in yesterday and came out saying that the President had, effectively, told them what he was going to do, that he was clear about his intentions. Some of these senators had not been in before to talk to the President about his plans for Iraq. So how can you characterize this as consultation?

MR. SNOW: Thank you. As you said, what you're trying to do is to get me to characterize the conversations they've had, and I can't do it, Sheryl.

Q No, I'm asking you to say -- do you believe this is genuine consultation?

MR. SNOW: As I said, Sheryl, it's one of these things that the President has made it clear that he's going to have exchanges of views, but I'm not taking you in the room with them.

(Cell phone rings.) (Laughter.) Does Martha have a hip-hop ring tone? (Laughter.) Play that funky music, white girl. (Laughter.)

Q A nice musical interlude from Martha, but, seriously --can we talk about this issue of consultation? Is the President really soliciting views, and do these lawmakers -- are they having an input into his thinking?

MR. SNOW: Yes, of course. And as I've said before, Sheryl, look, the President still has to make choices and he still has to make decisions, and he still has to lay out a proposal with a way forward. On the other hand, he has made it very clear to one and all that he's interested in hearing from people, he's interested in ideas, and that will continue.

Q But the speech is 30 hours away. That's not that much more time for --

MR. SNOW: I'm not saying that the President is going to go back in and shred it and start over. Again, what I'm saying is the President still continues to have an open mind because this is a way forward. This is not, wave a wand and it's all going to happen. This is a way of talking about the important business of building capacity on the part of the Iraqis to take care of their own security, and to build a strong, independent democracy that really does, as I said, stand as the definitive refutation of terror; and also the example to other countries in the region that hope freedom and democracy are possible and are things that they all ought to pursue.

Go ahead, April.

Q Tony, how far does the President go into the issue of public opinion in weighing this out and in making this new way forward? And, also, what singular group or person has the most influence on the President in his thinking on the way forward?

MR. SNOW: The second question is unanswerable. The President has received a great deal of input from a lot of people, and to try to single one out is probably futile.

As far as public opinion, the President will not shape policy according to public opinion, but he does understand that it's important to bring the public back to this war and restore public confidence and support for the mission.

Q But the public doesn't want to go back to the war. They want to go away, they --

MR. SNOW: No, April, you --

Q -- the midterm elections, did people -- did they or did they not vote for leaders who basically said they wanted to --

MR. SNOW: April, let me ask you a simple question: Do opinions change?

Q Yes, they do.

MR. SNOW: Do they change on the basis of arguments?

Q They change on the basis of results.

MR. SNOW: Exactly, they change on the basis of results. That is absolutely right. So that's what --

Q The results have been more deaths. We went in supposedly to stop the war on terror -- I mean, to stop terrorism around the world, as a result which stemmed from the 9/11 issue. And everyone is saying now, look, you have more people dying than they did in 9/11, and you have more U.S. soldiers dying and the world is not as safe.

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure the world is less safe. The world is -- I guarantee you the world is less safe if the United States withdraws and leaves a vacuum in Iraq. I guarantee it. And I guarantee everybody in this room is going to be less safe, and everybody in this country is going to be less safe. And that is the challenge the President faces, and it is worth explaining that to the American people.

You see, I think Americans believe in liberty, believe in this nation's destiny as a country that does advance the boundaries of liberty not simply because it is a good and noble thing, but because it is good for us and it is good for future generations. And the President will talk about how this advances that not only noble goal, but one that is of great interest to everybody who worried about their kids on September 11th, as you and I did, and who worries about how our families are going to be secure in the future.

Q And on Somalia. What is the administration's thought about the containment of al Qaeda in Somalia, since you're not getting into other issues?

MR. SNOW: I think that, again, without talking about military issues, it is pretty clear that this administration continues to go after al Qaeda. We are interested in going after those who have perpetrated acts of violence against Americans, including bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and we will continue to conduct whatever operations we can to go after that. We've made it clear that this is a global war on terror, and this is a reiteration of the fact that people who think that they're going to try to establish safe haven for al Qaeda anyplace need to realize that we're going to fight them.

John.

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions on the budget, if I might. First, given the published reports that Karl Rove is betting people that there's no way the administration is going to raise taxes, can we now say --

MR. SNOW: Taxes on Social Security.

Q Taxes on Social Security -- can we now say that taxes are off the table in the negotiations?

MR. SNOW: We never said that they are on the table. What's happening is that there's -- here's what's been going on. Hank Paulson, the Treasury Secretary, has been asked by the President to find out a way to work with members of Congress to deal with something everybody knows needs to be addressed, which is the Social Security system is unsustainable in the long run and, ultimately, unless somebody fixes it, it's going to betray old people and it's going to bankrupt young people. You've got to fix it.

The President has made it clear he doesn't want to raise taxes on Social Security, but he's also said, you got a better idea, let's hear it. The people have interpreted that as a way of saying, oh, there they are, they're going to go ahead and permit a back-door tax increase. So far we haven't heard of anybody proposing tax increases. We'll let the debate proceed. But you know what the President's bright lines are; he believes that it's important to have an investment component that allows people to take advantage of the far superior rates of return that one gets investing in the marketplace rather than any system like Social Security where, if the fund doesn't have the money you were promised to have, you don't get it. You've got no recourse. So it's important to deal with those problems.

Q Understood, but why don't you simply say, instead of, I'm not ruling it in or I'm not ruling it out, that it's being ruled out?

MR. SNOW: Well, think through it, John. It's interesting to see what people may have to propose and to listen to everybody's proposals. The President has already made his.

Q A follow-up question on it. The Financial Times reports today that the administration is more than considering raising the contributions that richer Americans -- and I'm quoting from the FT -- make to sustain Medicare. True or false?

MR. SNOW: I'm not aware of that. But -- I'm not aware of that.

Q Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said today he's going to nationalize the country's utilities -- utilities that have a significant American stake in them. Any response from the White House?

MR. SNOW: Well, nationalization has a long and inglorious history of failure around the world. We support the Venezuelan people and think this is an unhappy day for them.

Q Tony, this goes to your previous acknowledgment that the President is aware of public anxiety about the situation in Iraq. What would your guidance be to a public that has seen the President stand under a "Mission Accomplished" banner, proclaim an end to major combat operations, the Vice President talking about the "last throes" -- how should the public go into viewing this speech tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: I think the public ought to just listen to what the President has to say. You know that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was put up by members of the USS Abraham Lincoln. And the President, on that very speech, said just the opposite, didn't he? He said it was the end of major combat operations, but he did not say it was the end of operations. Instead, he cautioned people at the time that there would be considerable continued violence in Iraq, and that there would be continued operations for a long period of time. That single episode has been more widely mischaracterized than just about any aspect of the war.

Q We can debate whether the sign should have been there, whether the White House should have not had it there, but the fact is he stood under it and made the speech.

MR. SNOW: You're right, after people had been on a 17-month deployment, and had said "Mission Accomplished" when they're finally able to get back to their loved ones, the President didn't say, take down the sign, it will be bad. Instead what he did is he talked about the mission. And I would direct you back to the speech he gave then, Peter, because the President --

Q No, I know --

MR. SNOW: Well, then, you know that the President has made it clear that in a time of war you are going to have different phases and you're going to have different responsibilities. I think what the American people will ask themselves is, do we want to win this war? Do we understand what the costs and dangers of not succeeding in Iraq are? And do we think that this is a sensible way forward, given what we know?

The American people now know a lot more about Iraq and about the realities of the region than they did before. This is a serious plan that's got a lot in it. And I think the idea of sitting around and trying to sort of play polling questions or whatever is inviting, but it's a lot less interesting than asking yourself the simple, basic, important question: Do you think it's going to work?

Q I guess another way to ask the question, Tony, would be, why does the President find himself in a position right now to, as you put it, to have to bring the people back to the war?

MR. SNOW: Because what happened last year was the -- how should I put this -- the ignition of sectarian tensions, primarily in the Baghdad area, the vast majority of it a 35-mile radius around Baghdad. But it's the sort that has shaken the confidence of people within Baghdad and people around Iraq, because suddenly you have these groups engaged in a sectarian violence that they had not been engaged in before. And there had been great hopes just months before that, in fact, we would be in a position to be recalling people. So what happened is that there was a development that people had not fully anticipated. And I will allow the President to give his own analysis of the situation tomorrow, and you can judge it.

Q Tony, could you tell us how much it will cost a month to fight a war in Iraq under the President's new plan? Because I understand there's going to be a lot of initiatives to put Iraqis to work, to try to shore up --

MR. SNOW: It's a great way of trying to get me to divulge details before their time, so, no. But we'll get back to you.

Q Is this something that will impact the street? Is this is a significant increase in cost?

MR. SNOW: Okay, you want me, without details, to answer a question, will this move the street. You've got to be kidding me.

Q -- go into details.

MR. SNOW: Well, I know, and you know what, when we're ready to share the details, we'll share the details. I can't do it right now.

Q Tony, at least twice in this briefing you've said that the President would lay out how Iraq could become the definitive refutation of terrorism. What would make a democracy in Iraq more definitive than democracy in the United States, Britain, France, Israel, India, other places that are open societies that have been the subject of terrorism? What's the difference?

MR. SNOW: I think what's happening is that you have seen a deliberate attempt on the part of al Qaeda, and also on the part of players within the region, to try to use everything within their power to destroy that government in its infancy. That's different. The United States now has a long history of democracy. A number of other countries have long histories where they didn't have to work through these kinds of problems. This is one where it is clear that members of the terror network have decided that this is where they want to make an example, this is where they want to make a stand. And for that reason, success there would serve as, I won't say "the" definitive, but "a" definitive refutation of their tactics and aims.

Q I'd like to ask you a question -- we've danced around this a little bit -- the question here about "mission accomplished." Does the President worry at all about his own personal credibility as the messenger, as the person carrying this message? He has given a number of speeches, all of which were designed to tell the American people, I have a plan for victory. And I think that hasn't worked out the way he had hoped, and you're asking them to, again -- almost hear him again to say much the same thing.

MR. SNOW: Well, let me ask you -- I'll turn it at a different angle. If you had asked any other President in American history during a time of war whether they had a credibility problem because they had not foreseen changes on the battlefield, you probably would have had plenty of cause. I mean, Abraham Lincoln constantly guessed from Manassas straight through until the final months of the war. You had George Washington going from defeat to defeat to defeat to defeat to victory, and there was considerable consternation.

So there's the notion here that it is incumbent upon a President to have perfect knowledge of what the conditions on the battlefield are going to be. It's important for a President to have the determination to succeed. Winston Churchill -- was Winston Churchill responsible for the Blitz? What Winston Churchill did was talk about the conditions for victory. And the President, adjusting to constant changes on the battlefield, is adjusting and talking about conditions for victory, and that's the most important thing to do.

Q Tony, I apologize if this has been asked at some point before, but the President has clearly consulted with a wide variety of people on troop levels in Iraq. What happened to the statements that he had made for years that the people who decided troop levels in Iraq were the generals on the ground?

MR. SNOW: Well, he's talked to them, too. And as you probably know, generals are not of one mind. Generals are independent individuals, as well, and there are a number of opinions within the ranks of the military about this.

Q That "he's talked to them, too" is not good enough, because really what he had said previously was that those were the people who make the decisions, and those were the people that he was listening to. And now, very clearly, he's talking to people outside of the military, people on Capitol Hill, generals not in Iraq -- he's talking to a wide variety of people on the issue. What happened to this rule, a real hard and fast rule that he --

MR. SNOW: No, no, it wasn't a hard and fast rule. What he was trying to do was, again, talk about his confidence in generals, and he still has it and he still consults with --

Q Well, he --

MR. SNOW: Let me continue. There also, though, is -- every day I get questions, what about the polls, what about Congress? Well, guess what. When you're trying to build consensus -- now when what the President is trying to do here is lay the foundation for consensus, moving forward in Iraq, it is important to consult people and to take into account a wide variety of ideas so that you have taken advantage of every possible insight you can. It is obvious that the two Baghdad security plans didn't work. And, therefore, you have to ask yourself why, and, how do we move forward.

The other part is that you have to ask yourself, how can we work better with the Iraqis and how can we work better at making them effective? And that also entails a series of conversations with them.

So, in broadening -- and, furthermore, let me add, even before we got to this point, there were still regular invitations of people who had differing views on the region to come in, because the President, whether it is apparent to one and all, constantly takes a look at the situation and tries to assess and reassess and to figure out not merely how it impacts what's going on in Iraq, but within the neighborhood and within the broader diplomatic and economic community.

Q Was it a mistake in earlier years, then, to rely so strongly on the advice of generals in Iraq on troop levels?

MR. SNOW: The President asks for the advice of generals and others in the military on troop levels to enact policy recommendations that he himself has set. And he will continue to do so.

Q Tony, you were saying earlier that the President wants the American people and members of Congress to ask themselves the question, do we want to win in Iraq. Does the President want the Iraqi people to understand that his policy is also stating to them that their country is lost if this --

MR. SNOW: I think there are more positive ways of doing it. The Iraqis understand that it is important for them to step up and succeed. Again, the end point of this -- when we talk about the President's policy, what you're aiming at is an Iraqi government that's fully capable of handling all the responsibilities, from the rule of law to security to economic rules, and so on.

Q What message does he want them to take away --

MR. SNOW: Again, wait until tomorrow night, and you'll have an answer.

Q Is he going to address the Iraqi people directly?

MR. SNOW: As I said, just wait.

Q You may have already addressed this, but have you guys decided how you proceed after the speech? You have the Georgia event. Is that the start of a series of speeches out in the country? And also, do you continue consultations with members of Congress on how to implement what he's talking about?

MR. SNOW: As I said, on the procedural matters, I will allow you to wait and see what the President says tomorrow. We need a sock puppet for this now. (Laughter.) But the fact is that -- make it more interesting, at least briefly -- but let me -- he will be speaking to troops. And we're going to talk about this a lot. This is not, give one speech, dust your hands off and walk away. This is the beginning of an important process for the American people and for the political community to think seriously about it. So you're going to be hearing more about it, absolutely.

Q Will there be a military tour, though --

MR. SNOW: As I said, we'll release the schedule when the schedule is ready to be released.

Paula.

Q Does the White House have any comment on the universal health care plan that has been announced by the California Governor?

MR. SNOW: No. We tend to let states go ahead and make their own policies.

Q And Social Security -- a moment ago, you talked about how the President feels very strongly about the opportunity to have personal savings accounts, and that when you have these talks, that there's no preconditions set. So one of the ideas is to allow for these, but rather than have it carved out, to have it as an add on. So is this among the --

MR. SNOW: As I said, I'm not going to get into characterizing, A, because Hank Paulson is driving it, and, B, we're allowing anybody to say whatever they want. And we're not going to assess the President's conditions -- the President's proposals have been pretty clear, and now we want to see what other people have to put on the table.

Q Isn't there a difference between saying, we'll allow anyone to say what they want, or, the President is listening to your ideas, and actually incorporating any of those ideas?

MR. SNOW: Well, what's interesting is the President has made his proffer. If somebody else wants to put another proposal on the table --

Q Two related questions. One, the global war on terrorism started from Afghanistan, and now there is a war going on, global war between the two Presidents, President Karzai and President Musharraf, as far as border crossings are concerned, because Pakistan is saying that they want to build these land mines along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and President Karzai is objecting to it --

MR. SNOW: Goyal, I'm not going to get into disputes between states, both of whom are allies. It is clear that the issue of border crossings is one of shared interest and concern, and it is important to make sure that terrorists are unable to -- that at least there's a greater capability of intercepting terrorists who try to make their way from the border regions into Pakistan.

Q And second, there are allied forces or NATO forces in Afghanistan that are angry at the British forces because British made a deal with the Taliban, and Assistant Secretary of State Mr. Richard Boucher also said that there is no need, there was no need for any negotiations with Taliban.

MR. SNOW: The Taliban is clearly trying to reorganize. Is has also been getting smashed in engagements with NATO forces in the southern parts of Afghanistan.

Les.

Q Tony, thank you. Two questions. Tomorrow Congressman Ted Poe, who, as you know, is a Republican --

MR. SNOW: No, I didn't, but thank you.

Q -- and from Texas -- he's also from Texas, -- will hold a news conference about the 250,000 petitions asking presidential pardon for U.S. Border Patrolmen facing 10 year prison sentences because they shot a fleeing Mexican drug-pusher in his buttocks. Does the White House believe that the White House believe that the President's fellow Texan and fellow Republican was wrong to do this?

MR. SNOW: I think -- you know Les, I thought I brought my points on that -- why don't you ask that -- because that will be entertaining to do tomorrow, and I want to get back to you on it. I thought I had packed that with my materials today, but I didn't.

Q The AP reports that the U.S. Army sent letters to 75 officers who were killed in action encouraging them to reconsider -- to consider returning to active duty. And while General Richard Cody has apologized for this computer error, there's no report of anyone being disciplined for this. And my question: What does the Commander-in-Chief of the Army have to say about this horrendous error, and about what else such computer errors could do?

MR. SNOW: I'd refer that to the Pentagon, Les.

Q Tony, how much did the Fielding appointment have to do with the expectation that there will be a number of congressional investigations?

MR. SNOW: No, everybody keeps trying to -- look, members of Congress are going to have to decide whether they want -- how they want to respond to the President's open and repeated offers to cooperate on key and important issues. We've also said that if people want to try to mount a series of investigations, we're going to be prepared. But Fred Fielding is a guy of enormous experience and competence. It is gratifying to have a guy of his quality coming into the White House. And he wants to come in because he sees this as a place where there's a lot of constructive work to be done over the next two years in the war on terror, on domestic policy, on judges and a number of other things. And as White House Legal Counsel, he's going to have a real hand in all of those things. That's the reason he expressed.

Q Tony, we haven't talked about Jack Abramoff in a long time, and there's a new photo showing him with the President.

MR. SNOW: The President said he didn't know Abramoff, wasn't buds, and my guess is there are plenty of photos around town with Jack Abramoff and Democrats and Republicans.

Q What about the change in interpreting entrance records to the White House as being the property of the White House and not of the Secret Service?

MR. SNOW: That is a fairly abstruse issue, and I will see if I can get you guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel. I don't want to tap dance around that. I'll try and get you a straight answer.

Thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070109-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 10 2007, 03:19 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 10, 2007

Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials
Room 450
Eisenhower Executive Office Building



12:25 P.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Hello, everybody. The ground rules are this is a background briefing by a senior administration official. We have promised some documents to you; those are still in production. We will notify you as soon as they are ready, but they will be ready for you well in advance of the President's speech tonight. They'll lay out a lot of the basics of the policy. Obviously, feel free to contact us with any questions you have afterward.

But in order to frame it up, I introduce SAO.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm going to try and give you a little feel for what the President is going to say tonight, but I'm going to try to do it in a way that walks you through the logic of the strategy review we've been through, and a little bit, the logic of the President's thinking and how I think you'll hear it tonight.

He will talk about the hopes we had at the end of 2005 for progress in 2006 on the political side, against the violence, and the prospects even for beginning to reduce our troops. He will say that that was dashed in 2006. And really what happened was sectarian violence got out ahead of Iraqi forces, it got out ahead of American forces, and it overwhelmed the political progress that we expected.

And he will then conclude that the situation in Iraq is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to the American people and it's unacceptable to him. He will make clear that our current strategy in Iraq is not working; that he has conducted an extensive review to develop a new strategy; that in the course of that review, two things became clear and really almost reflected a consensus, whether it was congressional leaders, foreign leaders, or the Iraq Study Group, and that is two things -- one, there are no silver bullets here, and secondly, America cannot afford to fail, but we must succeed.

So the challenge, then, is, what is a strategy for success? And you have to start that with, what is the diagnosis of the problem? And the problem, at this point, is the challenge of sectarian violence. It is synonymous with security in Baghdad since 80 percent of the sectarian violence occurs within a 30-mile radius of Baghdad. So the challenge is dealing with sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad.

He will say very clearly that Americans, the coalition cannot do that; the challenge of dealing with the sectarian violence is a challenge to the Iraqis, the Iraqi people, who will have to decide whether they want to live together in peace, and to the Iraqi government, whom the Iraqi people expect to bring security to them in Baghdad. And he will make clear that the Iraq government needs to step up and do that.

The good news is that the Iraqi government has -- they have come forward with a plan. This was first given to the President when he was in Amman, Jordan, and met with Prime Minister Maliki. Maliki's security people, the government security people, and our commanders have been working on that plan. The good news is that they believe that the plan fixes the problems that plagued our earlier efforts to bring security to Baghdad and is a plan that will work. And he'll describe it in some detail. I can do that, but I'd like to do it at the end, because otherwise, we're just going to go right down the details, and I want to give you a little bit of the framework.

The plan fixes a number of -- it is different from what we've done before in four respects. One, it's a different and better concept of operations, which I'll go through. Secondly, it will be adequately resourced. We did have not enough forces before. Front and center, it will be additional Iraqi forces. Iraq will add three army brigades to Baghdad. They will end up having nine Iraqi brigades and nine Iraqi national police, as well as local police.

Second -- first of all, then, it is an Iraqi plan, and it's Iraqi led. Secondly, it will be adequately resourced first and foremost by the Iraqis. Third, those forces will operate under rules of engagement. And that's probably a misnomer. Let me put it this way; prior to now, Iraqi security forces in Baghdad got a lot of political and, in some sense, sectarian instruction and interference. And Prime Minister Maliki and the members of his government have made clear that that will end, and that the Iraqi commanders, once given this responsibility, will be given the full authority to carry it out and will be free of political and sectarian influence. We think that those things taken together give a different situation and allow for the prospects of success.

And the last thing I would say is that if the prior strategy was to clear, hold and build, we cleared but did not hold, and the build never arrived. And so a piece of this plan is to follow on the military operations with economic assistance and putting people to work.

Our commanders have said that the Iraqis clearly would like to do this themselves, but their commanders -- their security officials and our commanders have concluded that their resources are not adequate. And therefore, the military has recommended that additional U.S. forces go into Baghdad. The President, in response to that, has committed five additional U.S. brigades to Baghdad to go into Baghdad. They will move into the theater over time as they get developed, but they will operate very much in support of Iraqi forces.

And let me just describe briefly, then, how the Iraqi forces are going to operate in Baghdad. There will be an overall Iraqi commander. That Iraqi commander will have two deputies, one for each side of the river. They will then have authority over the nine districts of the city. In each district there will be an Iraqi commander. That Iraqi commander will have authority over all Iraqi army units, Iraqi national police, and local police in that district. They will operate in a coordinated way.

They will operate out of police stations in the district, and their job will be to go out in the community, to patrol, to do any necessary checkpoints, and to go door-to-door, not to kick the door in, but to talk to the residents and make it clear that they understand that Iraqi forces are now providing security in the country.

The U.S. role will be to support that effort and help the Iraqis provide population security in Baghdad. To help that, in each district, there will be a U.S. army battalion -- that's 400 to 600 folks -- working in and closely with the Iraqi forces. Those forces, of course -- our forces will remain under U.S. command, but they will work with and in support of the Iraqi forces.

They will do it in several ways. One, there will be U.S. forces embedded with Iraqi units, and one of the things resulting from the strategy review is an expansion of our embedding. That is a good way to supplement the training we've been doing, training that gets the force up and into the field. It is embedding that will help that force, the Iraqi force, be effective in bringing security, but it's also -- think of it as an on-the-job training, a way to ensure that the Iraqis are better and more effective, both in their job and develop more effectiveness over time.

So our forces will do some embedding. They will be there to counsel the Iraqi forces, and, of course, if the Iraqi forces get into trouble, they will be there to help them in extremis. But my point overall is this is an Iraqi plan with an Iraqi lead that we believe will fix the problems that have plagued earlier efforts, and our forces will be in support.

There are other features of this. One of the things is that the President will say very clearly that it is time for the Iraqis to step forward; that there is no indefinite commitment to U.S. presence in Iraq; that our presence is there to enable the Iraqis, but that works only if the Iraqis step forward and step up. And he's made it very clear that if the Iraqis do not do that, they will lose the support of the American people. And the Iraqi people are making it clear that they will also lose the support of the Iraqi people, because the Iraqi people have made very clear they're sick of the violence in Baghdad and they want their government to provide security.

The purpose of all this is to get the violence in Baghdad down, get control of the situation and the sectarian violence, because now, without it, the reconciliation that everybody knows in the long-term is the key to getting security in the country, the reconciliation will not happen. The Sunnis do not know whether -- and do not have confidence this government is going to survive in the long-term, and the Shia are skeptical of the government because it is not providing them protection. So the President's judgment is the first step of a successful strategy in Iraq has to be helping the Iraqis bring security to Baghdad.

As that occurs, we have made very clear that the Iraqi government needs to meet the benchmarks it has set in order to do the things on which a broader reconciliation are required. And you all know them. They're the oil law; they're deBaathification, narrowing the limitations of the deBaathification law; they're provincial elections to bring the Sunnis back into the political process at the local level. There is also continuing, and we would hope even accelerating the transition of security responsibility to Iraqis elsewhere in the country and in Baghdad, because if this works it will actually enable Iraqis sooner to provide security in Baghdad. And we have -- would like, and the Iraqis have made clear that one of their benchmarks is to take responsibility for security in the whole country by the end of the year.

So this is a vehicle for bringing security, encouraging and supporting Iraqis in the broader reconciliation that they need to do. The President will talk about a number of ways where we can support this broader effort. He will talk about ways we can support and accelerate the training of Iraqis through greater embedding, through greater provision of equipment, through supporting Iraqi plans to expand the size of the Iraqi army -- they intend to put greater reliance on the Iraqi army for security.

There are also things that we can do to support them economically. They've announced a $10-billion reconstruction and infrastructure effort. We can complement that. And finally, the Secretary of State will be talking in her testimony about the expansion of provincial reconstruction teams, doubling the number of Americans that will be out in the provinces, basically helping Iraqis build their government from the bottom up, focusing on local reconciliation efforts, local economic assistance efforts, and the like.

He will also talk about the broader regional context, the importance that the effort in Iraq not fail; that the experiment in democracy is a piece of a broader struggle in the Middle East between the forces of moderation, the responsible forces committed to democracy, and those extremist forces that are using terror as an instrument for their own agendas; and the consequences of failure in Iraq for all our allies and friends and supporters in the regions that are moderate and are pursuing democracy. He will talk about some of the things that we are doing to strengthen our commitment and capability in the region.

He will also talk about things that we need to be doing over the long-term to strengthen the ability of the United States and its allies to deal with the war on terror over the long-term. He'll talk about expanding the Army and the Marine Corps. He'll talk about trying to find a way to get Americans able to go overseas in post-conflict situations to help struggling democracies build the infrastructure of democracy -- the police forces, the court systems, the effective administration -- all the things these countries need to go from post-conflict situations to successfully providing services to their people.

Finally, one of the thematics he will talk about is the importance of trying to -- of improving and strengthening relations with Congress. He will have some ideas how to do that to institutionalize contacts between the executive branch and the Congress on dealing with the issue of the long war, and his desire -- and his -- understand there will be questions that will be raised about the President's strategy, and he welcomes those, he welcomes the debate. We hope that people will have time for that debate to occur before taking preemptive action, if you will, and asking that those -- he believes that success is essential and he has a plan for success. He's prepared to defend it, but those who criticize it have, in some sense, a burden to come forward with an alternative path that they think will succeed.

I should make one other note, and then I'll stop. He will also talk about Anbar Province. This is in the west on Iraq. As you know the problem there is not sectarian violence; it is a struggle against al Qaeda. Anbar is basically al Qaeda's base of operations in Iraq. There is an opportunity there because local Sunni tribes have turned against al Qaeda and are going after al Qaeda there. Our local commander believes that a couple additional U.S. battalions, basically a plus-up -- net plus-up of about 4,000 would enhance our ability to help the Iraqi forces there exploit the opportunity, and he will announce that in his speech, as well.

That's what I've got for you. I'd be glad to take any questions.

Q At the start of the war, some of the generals were saying more troops were needed, and the President, at that time, did not listen to that advice. Now the generals are very wary about sending more troops, and, yet, the President is making a decision to send more troops. Why is it that he believes this is a wise course of action after the history of how things have gone in terms of troop levels?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the rationale for it I've really given you. I think, though, I see the history a little different. One of the issues is the Iraqis -- every time we get in discussions with Iraqis about more troops, they generally said, if we need more troops, they need to be Iraqi troops, so please train more Iraqi troops. This is -- Iraqis really want to take more responsibility.

They have concluded -- that is to say, the security people advising Prime Minister Maliki and our commanders have decided that in order to make this plan work -- and everybody believes it is essential that it work -- they need more troops. This recommendation and this plan, in terms of the troops, has the support of General Abizaid, General Casey, General Petraeus, Admiral Fallon, Pete Pace and the Joint Chiefs. This has been a lengthy process that has brought forward this strategy going forward, and it has the support of both the old and the new commanders. So it's just -- it is something that we have all come together on and that has the support, as I say, of the military.

Q The President long said that he didn't want any timetables, that he would not abandon the Iraqi people, and you're talking about it not being an indefinite commitment. So describe for us that change and how he now will accept benchmarks that have time associated with them.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, he hasn't got time lines, he's got benchmarks -- benchmarks that the Iraqis have set for themselves. And he's basically saying, look, it is time for them to perform.

On the one hand, you can say this is a government that has been in power only nine months, an experiment in democracy in a place that's known tyranny for 30 years. On the other hand, it is clear that the Iraqi -- that the patience of the Iraqi people is running out, and, quite frankly, the patience of the American people is running out. And he's been very clear to the government leaders he's spoken to -- he spoke to a number of them this morning -- it is time for this government to perform.

They have concluded that, as well. They have set forward this plan. They have brought forward these benchmarks. And what the President is saying is, fine, we will judge you now less on your words and more on your performance.

Q How do you compel that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's -- I think there's two things. One, I think the Iraqi people are compelling it. This is, after all, a democracy. There is, as you can tell, unhappiness in Iraq that this government has not made the decisions it needs to make. And I think they will hear from the President tonight that the patience of the American people is not unlimited, and they're not oblivious to what is going on on Capitol Hill and the kinds of statements that you've been hearing from Leader Pelosi and others. I think they've got it clear.

Q Underpinning this seems to be a supreme confidence in Prime Minister Maliki to take the lead, despite problems that you've articulated, despite a lack of control in that country. What is that confidence based upon, and isn't it a gamble to put that much faith --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the premise of your question is wrong. There's a lot of skepticism in the country about Prime Minister Maliki. I think, in some sense, a lot of people in the United States share that skepticism. We've been very clear about it. The point is, this is an elected government, it is a unity government. They have come forward with Prime Minister Maliki as the Prime Minister. We will, of course, work with the elected officials of the Iraqi government, but we will, at the same time, say it is time for this government to perform.

Why are -- what is the basis for thinking they can do it? One, that the statements are different. There seems to be an expression of will. Secondly, there seems to be within the Iraqi political system a recognition of the imperative to act. Third, they have come forward with plans that are credible, and they have made commitments to resource those plans. We will see over the next several months whether they begin to make good on those commitments. And I think there is obviously skepticism, and the President has made that very clear to this government: People are skeptical -- your people are skeptical, our people are skeptical. I will support you, but you need to perform.

Q So are the troop deployments directly tied to those benchmarks? Has the President said, or will he say to the Iraqi government, unless X happens, he won't deploy more troops?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, he won't say that, and part of it is because when you're trying to empower a government, you don't talk to them in those terms -- you must do this, or else. This is a government we're trying to strengthen, and trying -- and basically to make clear that they are doing this for their own reasons. And that's what Maliki says -- I'm doing it for my own reasons because it needs to be done for my country.

So we will not be structured in that way. But I think it's very clear that they have made some commitments. We have said very clearly, this is your responsibility, you have -- it is your plan, you need to execute that plan. We can come in behind, but we're not going to come out in front. They're going to need to step forward. And we are going to have to see that they are beginning to implement their plan.

David.

Q Well, can I just follow up? On the benchmarks, then, I can't see what's new with the benchmarks. As you said, we all know what those benchmarks are. And those were part of the original Baghdad security plan. It was a plan that said, we want you to do this, that, and the other. And they didn't do it. The plan was clear, hold and build. It didn't happen. So --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, well --

Q -- is this just a more hopeful plan?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what I described in some detail is how the Baghdad security plan is different, and why we think this plan has a better prospect of success. That, of course, requires Iraqis to do some things. We will have to see whether they do those.

I'm not saying -- I did not claim that everything under the sun here is new. My premise is, as everyone says, there's no silver bullet, there's no magic plan out there. We've all known that in order to solve the problem in Iraq, you've got to do something about security, you've got to do something about the politics, you've got to do something about economics. Sure, benchmarks have been around. What I think is different is a new seriousness by the Iraqis and the United States that they need to be met.

David.

Q Following up on Martha's thought, there seems to be a tension between the implicit statement the President has that our commitment is not open-ended, which is to say if they don't perform, at some point in the future American commitment to this may begin to pull back, and the President's oft-repeated statement that he can settle for nothing short of victory, which would seem to suggest we're there until we win. So can you reconcile those two? And can you tell us whether the President is going to use the phrase "victory" the way he did in his "victory in Iraq" speeches in the end of 2005, and whether he defines it the same way that he did then?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you'll see it in the speech. I think we're in -- you'll see what he says in the speech tonight. I think you'll see some words like "success" and "victory," but we're in a very different context, we have a very different strategy. And I think you'll find that that will affect how he uses those terms. But I think on that piece, I think we ought to wait until the speech tonight.

Secondly, there is broad consensus that we cannot fail in Iraq. The President has gotten the strategy that he believes will succeed and is the best prospect of success. Now, everybody is going to want to say, well, what if it doesn't work, what is plan B, and all the rest. And I think, for obvious reasons, for the President and for senior administration officials, we're going to focus on what we need to do to make this plan work.

This would be a three-for for The New York Times; let's go to The Washington Post.

Q Didn't Prime Minister Maliki make a pledge that he would crack down against Moqtada al Sadr, specifically? Did he pledge that he would move into Sadr City? And do you envision, under this partnership between U.S. and Iraqi forces, that U.S. troops might be acting against the Mahdi Army?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Maliki has said publicly that this is about the rule of law, and that this is about bringing the rule of law to all groups who act outside the law -- whether Sunni, Shia. And everybody knows, and he has said explicitly, that the militias have to be dealt with, because they are operating outside the law. He said very clearly that that includes the Shia militia. And I think everybody in that -- without going into details of presidential conversations -- everybody understands that the Mahdi Army and Sadr have to be dealt with.

What was your third part of your question?

Q And do you envision the partnership between U.S. and Iraqi forces leading U.S. troops to be up against --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He has said that the commander will be free to go after those who act outside the law wherever they are in Baghdad. Maliki has made that very clear. That would include Sadr City.

Obviously, the whole premise of this, as I've described, is Iraqis in the front and we in support. And that model applies everywhere in the city, including Sadr City. Obviously, the details of where you start, how you do it, what's the order of the neighborhoods, how do you deal with an issue of Sadr City, that's something our commanders, Iraqi and U.S., are going to have to work out.

Q But could it theoretically envision or include U.S. troops being --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let's not do hypotheticals. I can't be any more clear. We've got an operational concept, it's going to apply through the whole city --

Q But in principle, it could.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- we're going to have to see how it goes.

Q But in principle, it could.

Q In Amman, the President was very clear that Prime Minister Maliki was the man for the job in Iraq. Is the President going --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just say one other thing -- I'm trying to -- on Robin's question. One of the things you've heard from Maliki is he feels it's very important that Iraqis be in the lead, particularly on the issue of militias. And so I think when you see that issue, that's going to be one area in particular where the Iraqis are going to want to be in the lead, with us in support.

I'm sorry.

Q That's okay. I'm just wondering what the President's -- what he will express in the speech, specifically about Prime Minister Maliki, his confidence in Maliki being the right man for the job, in the same way that he expressed it very clearly in Amman, or has the President undergone rethinking about the confidence level in Maliki?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He continues to think that Maliki is the right man for the job; one, because he's the man that the Iraqis have put in the job, but secondly, because he has had a number of exchanges -- Prime Minister Maliki has been very clear to the President on what his intentions are with the plan, very clear about these ground rules of rules of engagement, to let this security plan work, let the Iraqi commander do the job of bringing security everywhere in the city, operating without political interference and continuing until the job is done. So again -- but he has also said to Prime Minister Maliki, this is the right plan, these are the right words. Now we need to see you perform.

Q So does the speech implicitly put Prime Minister Maliki on notice?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it makes it

-- calls it like it is, which is that they have a plan, they have good statements, it's time to perform. And that's the message he's getting from his own people, that's the message he's getting from the President, and that's the message that he's getting from the American people.

Q What has changed in the last two months? Two months ago, the President said we were winning, and now you're saying that the President made clear the current status is not working. What is the single catalyst for that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's really what we've seen over the last year. The big trigger was obviously going after the Golden -- the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara. I think it's true that the Iraqis did look into the abyss. Two months later, they did -- had a unity government. The Iraqi security forces, particularly the army, did not fracture.

But over the spring and summer, that sectarian violence did not abate, but it continued to build. And I think it led people to conclude that what we were doing wasn't working. And obviously, you don't want to declare a strategy dead until you have a new one to put in its place.

And so -- and about two, three months ago, the President asked -- these reviews started, very informally, and then, as you know, the President asked they be brought together in an NSC system and done in a systematic way. And he's been pretty public about that review over the last two or three months.

Q And last question, how is the President going to justify to Congress the additional need for troops?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: By explaining the problem, emphasizing and I think playing on the fact that most congressmen understand that we can't afford to fail, that -- he will explain why this, as he will tonight, why this is a plan that he believes will succeed and is most likely to succeed, but that it requires the additional troops in order to be successful.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He's got someone waiting for him in the Roosevelt Room. I'll pick up the baton.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q Your colleague just said that the Iraqis want to control security by the end of the year. What are the prospects for that happening?

Q Background for this part?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, everything is still on background. Again, it fits into the larger architecture of what the Iraqis have been talking all along about doing, which is assuming primary responsibility for combat operations. They already do it in three of the provinces.

And again, rather than trying to ask a prospective question, it's something that we're going to work toward achieving. Because, Peter, what you're asking me is, what's going to transpire in the next 10 months. I can't give you a precise answer on it, but the whole -- the way this plan has been put together is in such a way as to work with the Iraqis so that you get away from some of the problems that rendered the Baghdad -- the first two Baghdad plans ineffective, one of the key elements there being rules of engagement that effectively tied the hands of those who are going after bad actors within the city of Baghdad.

You also now have real responsibility on the part of the Iraqis, as we've also been discussing. It is a democratically elected government that's under pressure. The Iraqi people are tired of this, as well. And so there is real pressure within Iraq, even though most of the violence -- sectarian violence is focused around Baghdad, and virtually all of the violence around Baghdad and Anbar; even though 14 provinces have very low levels of violence, nine of them have less than one violent incident per day. It is clear --

Q So is the assessment --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just finish here. That has still had -- even in those areas, the violence in Baghdad has had an effect on confidence in the government, itself. This is a time where the Iraq government has to demonstrate to the Iraqi people its own ability to do the basics. And we are going to do what we can to support and assist it in that effort.

Q He has said that they want to control their security by the end of the year. We've heard this before. So there is no -- going into this, no assessment on whether that's achievable?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Of course, there is. Absolutely. But I don't know -- precisely how would you have me answer the question?

Q Well, I mean, you've been consulting --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let me put it this way.

Q -- with the Iraqis. They've been telling you what they think their capabilities are. Do you think they have that capability?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. We wouldn't be talking about this if we didn't think they had the capability. Furthermore, there has been a pretty clear assessment -- and you'll see this reflected in some of the fact sheets that you will get -- in some of the problems with some of the Iraqi military and some of the police force: absenteeism, those sorts of problems. So there's been a very clear-eyed look at what it takes to make it more professional. So there is training, there is embedding -- one of the Baker-Hamilton commission recommendations was considerably more embedding. And so what you're going to see is U.S. forces embedding deeper down to the company level, so that you are going to be working on the real basics, in terms of fitness and professionality and that sort of thing within the forces.

So this is an effort where we're going to be working at much closer levels, making sure that they're properly equipped -- Barry McCaffrey has talked about that. So there are a whole lot of different pieces here. This is not simply U.S. forces going in following the Iraqis. There are much more determined efforts, in terms of training, coordination, development of capability when it comes to logistics, communications, intelligence on the part of the Iraqis; and also, again, underlined three times, the importance of coming up with rules of engagement that are going to be consistent with making it clear that the law applies to everybody, and furthermore, the forces are going to be able to do the essential jobs, because you cannot move on to complete the political business until you've taken care of the security situation.

Q One more. Are any other countries adding to their forces levels there?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Other countries are going to be involved, and the President will be -- he will not be talking about other countries' military commitments, but it is clear that a very important part of what's going on here is the continued engagement and involvement of other countries in the region, because this, again, is the central front in the war on terror, but there are important other considerations. And I think people in the neighborhood increasingly understand the importance of a successful Iraq.

Q -- are you talking about Iran and Syria?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President will talk about Iran and Syria, absolutely.

Q I was referring to the current coalition countries -- are any of --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, no announcements on anything like that, and that's not part of the discussion.

Q Is there a specific request for additional funding from Congress in the speech?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. But there are -- I think we've briefed you a little bit -- there will be in the supplemental the incremental funding necessary. That will be $5.6 on the military side. That will include, I think, $414 million for provincial reconstruction teams. It will include $350 million for the CERP program -- Commander's Emergency Response Program -- and $400 million for quick response funds, which are also part of the Department of State.

Q Can you address the premise that some lawmakers who have met with the President about this plan are calling it the "last chance"? We've talked about that in the briefing room, but now, more freely, can you address this overall premise?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I think when you go into a planning process like this, you focus on what are the problems and how do you succeed. And that is the attitude. Now, part of succeeding here is making sure that the Iraqi government stands up and does what its people want, what it says it wants, and what the American people want. But I think uses of terms like "last chance," they create a sense of brinkmanship that is not constructive and I don't think reflects the way in which ones goes about trying to address these problems.

Q Again, what compels the Iraqis to -- what happens if they don't meet the benchmarks?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you're going to have to ask them. Again, you want us to talk about "what if," and the moment we talk about that, everybody defaults to that position. That also tips your hands to terrorists and others working in the country. We're simply not going to talk about the "what if" scenario.

Q Sure, but in a country that is tired of listening to, the Iraqis are going to do this, and they never make it there --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, here's -- but you're going to have to -- you're going to have some opportunities to judge very quickly. The Iraqis are going to have three brigades within Baghdad within a little more than a month. They have committed to trying to get one brigade in, I think, by the first of February, and two more by the 15th. When it comes to benchmarks, they are talking about, in a fairly short span of time, addressing some of the key legislative business, including the hydrocarbon law, de-Baathification reforms, and election/constitutional reforms.

So people are going to be able to see pretty quickly that the Iraqis are or are not stepping up. And that provides the ability to judge.

Q The senior administration official was talking about two brigades in Anbar Province and five in Baghdad. Are we talking about 14,000 --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what we're talking about is -- actually, it's two Marine battalions in Anbar, which comes to 4,000 troops, five army brigades in Baghdad. Together, you total them up, it's somewhere in the 21,000-22,000 total.

Q Can you talk about the jobs program? The senior administration official had mentioned a $10-billion effort for Iraqi jobs. I'm assuming that's Iraqi money.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is Iraqi money. The Prime Minister, in his speech last week, they took $10 billion out of the $11 billion that they have in spendable surplus funds, and they've committed that to a reconstruction program that the Prime Minister announced last week.

Q And then the senior administration official said that we can complement that. What does that mean? Does that mean that the $1 billion, in terms of our own, creating another --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Keep in mind -- the other thing is that other countries in the neighborhood, as part of the Iraq Compact -- and it's worth mentioning this -- they're hoping that within the next few weeks, they'll also be able to conclude work on the Iraq Compact, which includes commitments by the U.N. -- U.N. member states and people in the neighborhood also to make commitments when it comes to contributions within Iraq. So those negotiations are moving very rapidly toward a point of conclusion. So do not assume that each and every bit of funding that's going to be expended on reconstruction is U.S. or Iraqi. There are going to be others contributing to that effort.

If you take a look at the provincial reconstruction teams, and also now what we're calling provincial support teams, which will be, essentially, provincial reconstruction teams embedded within some of the combat units -- those are going to be efforts to help train Iraqis in everything from building to putting in place the basics for civil society -- rule of law, court system, that kind of thing. So a lot of those efforts are sort of ongoing. And when we get these fact sheets out to you today, you'll be able to see a little more of that detail.

Q So is that part of the billion-dollar plan that people are talking about --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, what people -- the best I can tell is when people are using the billion-dollar figure, what they are doing is that they are aggregating the accounts that I mentioned before, which would be the provincial reconstruction team money, the CERP money, and also the quick response funds. You put that together, that's in excess of a billion dollars. Those are different accounts, but they tend to be used. And what you're going to see is a much more coordinated effort to use DOD folks out in the provinces, as well as civilian and state folks working out in the provinces to try to develop greater capabilities on the part of local governments and individuals.

Q What does he have to say specifically about Iran and Syria and the talk of a new diplomatic offensive which the Baker-Hamilton proposed --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is nothing about a new diplomatic offensive. What it does is it makes it clear to Iran and Syria the importance of playing constructive roles.

Q Let me follow on Suzanne's question. So what you're saying is the President is going to call for boosting the U.S. reconstruction commitment by more than a billion dollars?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I think what you're talking about is -- if you want to aggregate it that way, your answer is, yes. But I would caution you that this reconstruction effort -- and this is -- General Petraeus has written within the last month a handbook on counterinsurgency. Part of counterinsurgency is not merely doing the military operations, but also confidence-building in provinces. And what we're talking about here is primarily beefing up in the four most dangerous provinces outside of Baghdad -- or the four most violent provinces -- greater capability for locals to be able to deal with civil affairs, which include the capacity for building businesses and getting schools operating properly and doing that. So it's not merely construction, but it really is kind of the nuts and bolts also of getting the civil institutions in shape.

Q Is there a micro loan program in there, as well?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You know what, you're going to have to ask the guys who are doing the line item stuff.

Q Do you have an overall cost estimate to this whole package?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I've just given it to you.

Q No, I'm talking about the military --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The military piece is $5.6 billion.

Q I thought that was just the down payment that's going to be in the supplemental.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that's in the supplemental -- you understand -- I think the question you have -- I've got to go in a couple of minutes -- you're asking a question that anticipates my knowing exactly when everything is over. I don't.

Q Well, is there any end point to the mission for these additional troops?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll find out. I mean, the end point is, we hope that we're going to have -- let me put it this way: You have the mission, and the mission right now is you deal with the security problems, you create breathing space so that the political institutions can continue that business of doing national reconciliation and also addressing very important fundamental needs, whether it be infrastructure in places like Baghdad and other major urban areas, or continuing the business of building civil institutions and economic capacity out in the provinces. All of those things are the things that we're talking about.

Q How does the embedding work, in terms of who gets to decide where these troops go? And the question of Sadr City came up. Is that an Iraqi decision, yes, we're going to take on Sadr City and the Americans follow along? Do the Americans make that decision? Who decides --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the Iraqis are going to be in the lead here, and the United States in support roles, as the senior administration official said.

Q -- that the Iraqi commanders could essentially commit U.S. troops --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, U.S. troops, again, will be working under U.S. command and they will be working jointly. There is not going to be an opportunity for Iraqis to be giving direct orders to the United States.

Q But if Iraqis have tried to take on Sadr City, and U.S. troops are embedded, does that mean U.S. troops --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You're confusing a couple of things also. Just because you have embedded forces and you're doing training does not mean that everybody sort of trails along on each and every mission. As the senior administration official said, of particular interest for the Iraqis is taking the lead in places like Sadr City.

Two more, and then I've got to go.

Q Will the benchmarks in the President's plan be associated with dates? And what's the span under which those --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, but the benchmarks are the ones that the Iraqis themselves have set. What he's saying is -- to the Prime Minister, you have set your benchmarks, you need to meet them.

Q Will he say --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I believe so. If not, our supporting materials all do.

Q After the American people hear the speech or absorb it, will the President be saying that with this plan there is increased risk, expect more casualties, that will happen?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think -- it is certainly a possibility. Common sense would dictate, especially if you're going into areas where you have a dug-in enemy and you're saying, we're going to take you on now, there is a real possibility of -- in the short run -- more violence. We do not want people to think that the enemy simply is going to run away. This is going to be a time where Iraqi and U.S. forces are going very seriously after those who have tried to destabilize the democracy -- Al Qaeda in Anbar, a variety of different groups and organizations within Baghdad proper. So we are certainly

-- we're going to acknowledge the fact that this creates a prospect of greater violence in the short run.

Q The President, himself, is not going to measure success based on increased violence that may occur, and he doesn't want the American people to do that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, but I think -- what ultimately -- you've got a whole series of things. First, let's take a look at Iraqi commitments and fulfilling those. Let's take a look, also, at what happens on the civil front. Then you're going to have to take a look at the fact that knowing that there is likely going to be some increased violence in the short run, are we going to lead to the point where you end up subduing those who are committing acts of violence, and at the same time, forcing those who might either be inclined not to play active roles in supporting the government, or might be inclined to try to go along with the bad actors -- have them -- force them to make a choice.

That has been part of the calculus all along. But the problem is, there has not been consequence for bad behavior in many cases, and now there has to be consequences, and those consequences have to be clear, and they have to be clear enough that people are going to make decisions on their own about which path they're going to pursue.

In many cases, the failure to provide security within Baghdad encouraged people to make their own deals -- either to say, we think this militia is going to be more effective, we think this criminal band is going to be effective, this group of rejectionists -- they're going to protect me. That is an unacceptable situation. Ultimately, it is absolutely essential to build the confidence in the security forces, including the police, so that people will make the choice to support the government, rather than to cast their lot with those who are actively undermining.

Q To clarify, what is "short run"?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What do you mean short run?

Q In the President's mind?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, what is short run in your mind? It's one of those --

Q It doesn't make any difference to me. The American people -- said they're skeptical, there's lack of patience.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. And the President is going to talk about that. But if you're trying to define a term that vague, I think it's less useful. What's going to be primarily useful -- and again, I apologize --

Q He's Commander-in-Chief. He has to have a --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me finish the answer, and then I hope it will be useful to you. The fact is there is not going to be a fact sheet that says "the definition of short run is." We're already telling you that on February 1st we expect there to be a brigade, an Iraqi brigade in Baghdad, and two more by the 15th. You can expect to see operations.

As a matter of fact, you've already seen in recent days stepped up activity led by the Iraqis within Baghdad. And that's the kind of thing you're going to need to see. So I think what you're asking -- I honestly don't know how to answer the question because, to me, it's less on point than, what does the President propose to do, how does he see these pieces fitting together. And it's really answering the questions, why do you think it's different this time around; how do you expect it to work -- these are questions that we're going to be getting a lot of.

I apologize. I've got to get going here in a minute. But let me make a couple of points to everybody, and you can feel free to contact us during the course of the day because we want to be as helpful as possible. We'll get fact sheets out because we've really scratched the surface of a lot of things that are going on.

Let me just back up to what my colleague did at the beginning. There has been a long process of taking a very hard look and looking at each and every alternative -- every alternative -- and people have spent a lot of time looking through them. And they've come up with a comprehensive plan that deals with a lot of different elements of the situation in Iran [sic], including regionally, locally, economically, diplomatically and so on -- sorry, Iraq. Thank you. And as a consequence there's going to be a lot to chew on when you do get these sheets. And I'm sorry they're not ready yet.

Last one.

Q Is this a rejection of the Iraq Study Group's report?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. As a matter of fact, you're going to find that an enormous percentage of what the Iraq Study Group has proposed is in here. Just giving you, for instance the notion of embedding -- as a matter of fact, it was interesting, because there was apparently rejected in -- or changed in a very late draft of the Iraq Study Group report something that said, we think you ought to -- a lot of the things in terms of embedding and doing these things may require increases in troops to be effective.

So I think you're going to find that -- as a matter of fact, we should have something available soon that matches up a lot of the ISG stuff. A lot of that is reflected -- as a matter of fact, a lot of the comments and a lot of the suggestions people have made have been incorporated into this report and we have valued a lot of the input.

I apologize, I have another obligation I have to meet. Feel free to call and get in touch with us and we'll get stuff to you soon.

Q How long is it? How long is the --

Q Will there be excerpts?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are hoping -- we will get excerpts -- we're going to try to get things to you earlier than you're accustomed to receiving them, but I will not make a direct promise on times at this juncture.

Q How long is it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Length of the speech looks to be --

Q Twenty.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Twenty, yes, it's about 20.

Q And tomorrow you're going to do briefings, too?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Tomorrow we'll have some briefings that will be useful to you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070110-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 11 2007, 02:38 PM
9:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight in Iraq, the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror -- and our safety here at home. The new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror.

When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together, and that as we trained Iraqi security forces we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq -- particularly in Baghdad -- overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause, and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra -- in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.

The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq. So my national security team, military commanders, and diplomats conducted a comprehensive review. We consulted members of Congress from both parties, our allies abroad, and distinguished outside experts. We benefitted from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq. And one message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

Now let me explain the main elements of this effort: The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations -- conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.

This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents, but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we'll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods -- and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this. Here is what he told his people just last week: "The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation."

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace -- and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.

America will change our approach to help the Iraqi government as it works to meet these benchmarks. In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units, and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division. We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq. We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance. We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. And Secretary Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq.

As we make these changes, we will continue to pursue al Qaeda and foreign fighters. Al Qaeda is still active in Iraq. Its home base is Anbar Province. Al Qaeda has helped make Anbar the most violent area of Iraq outside the capital. A captured al Qaeda document describes the terrorists' plan to infiltrate and seize control of the province. This would bring al Qaeda closer to its goals of taking down Iraq's democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad.

Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders, and they are protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists. So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar Province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to keep up the pressure on the terrorists. America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan -- and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists and a strategic threat to their survival. These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, and they must step up their support for Iraq's unity government. We endorse the Iraqi government's call to finalize an International Compact that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform. And on Friday, Secretary Rice will leave for the region, to build support for Iraq and continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy, by advancing liberty across a troubled region. It is in the interests of the United States to stand with the brave men and women who are risking their lives to claim their freedom, and to help them as they work to raise up just and hopeful societies across the Middle East.

From Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian Territories, millions of ordinary people are sick of the violence, and want a future of peace and opportunity for their children. And they are looking at Iraq. They want to know: Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists, or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?

The changes I have outlined tonight are aimed at ensuring the survival of a young democracy that is fighting for its life in a part of the world of enormous importance to American security. Let me be clear: The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent. Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue -- and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will.

Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship. But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world -- a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people. A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them -- and it will help bring a future of peace and security for our children and our grandchildren.

This new approach comes after consultations with Congress about the different courses we could take in Iraq. Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States, and therefore, our policy should focus on protecting Iraq's borders and hunting down al Qaeda. Their solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad -- or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces. We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear the country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.

In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on our new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change, we will adjust. Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny. And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.

Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror. This group will meet regularly with me and my administration; it will help strengthen our relationship with Congress. We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the Armed Forces we need for the 21st century. We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas, where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny.

In these dangerous times, the United States is blessed to have extraordinary and selfless men and women willing to step forward and defend us. These young Americans understand that our cause in Iraq is noble and necessary -- and that the advance of freedom is the calling of our time. They serve far from their families, who make the quiet sacrifices of lonely holidays and empty chairs at the dinner table. They have watched their comrades give their lives to ensure our liberty. We mourn the loss of every fallen American -- and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

Fellow citizens: The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve. It can be tempting to think that America can put aside the burdens of freedom. Yet times of testing reveal the character of a nation. And throughout our history, Americans have always defied the pessimists and seen our faith in freedom redeemed. Now America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century. We can, and we will, prevail.

We go forward with trust that the Author of Liberty will guide us through these trying hours. Thank you and good night.

END 9:21 P.M. EST

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070110-7.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 11 2007, 02:39 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 11, 2007

Press Gaggle by Gordon Johndroe
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Fort Benning, Georgia



12:01 P.M. EST

MR. JOHNDROE: Good morning. The President had his regular morning briefings, then presented the Medal of Honor posthumously to Marine Corporal Jason L. Dunham, the story of an American hero who made the ultimate sacrifice, and the President has spoken at length about that today, and also when he was at the Marine Corps Museum opening.

The President spoke a little while ago to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. They talked about the speech last night, the way forward in Iraq, Secretary Rice's upcoming trip, and important regional issues.

We're on our way to Fort Benning, Georgia, now. This is the President's first visit here. He'll have lunch with about 300 military personnel and family members, deliver remarks to them, then view a demonstration of infantry training, with an emphasis on airborne and mechanized infantry systems. In 2005, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Benning conducted 24,000 combat patrols and 3,500 joint U.S.-Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police operations. About 4,000 members of the unit will deploy to Iraq in the coming months. The President will then meet with 25 families of fallen military personnel.

On board today are Congressman Sanford Bishop and Lynn Westmoreland.

A couple of other announcements. The President will participate in an interview with Scott Pelley of CBS News to air on 60 Minutes this Sunday night.

And Mrs. Bush will travel to Paris, France on January 14th through 17th to speak at Mrs. Chirac's Missing and Exploited Children conference. Mrs. Bush will discuss how education is a crucial part of reducing the exploitation of women and children. Mrs. Bush will lead a delegation of U.S. government officials involved in successful efforts here in the U.S. aimed at preventing the exploitation of women and children and prosecuting offenders. Mrs. Bush, who serves as UNESCO's honorary ambassador for the Decade of Literacy, will also visit UNESCO's headquarters in Paris. Mrs. Bush will be briefed on their efforts regarding the critical issue of teacher training and their plans for upcoming regional global literacy conferences as a follow-up to the White House Conference on Global Literacy held during the week of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City this past September.

And with that, I'm happy to answer your questions.

Q I just have a quick question about the deployment. We've been reporting that it's -- they're going earlier, the 3rd Brigade is going earlier. Is that accurate?

MR. JOHNDROE: The Department of Defense will have some announcements today on the deployment schedule that includes the --

Q They were already supposed to go, right?

MR. JOHNDROE: -- that includes the group the President is seeing today.

Q So it does affect them?

MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, it does.

Q They're going this month, then, or this week, or next week?

MR. JOHNDROE: The Department of Defense has a specific schedule they're releasing today, and I'd defer to them.

Q Are they going earlier than they thought?

MR. JOHNDROE: Yes.

Q Can you preview a little bit of what the President is going to say today to the troops?

MR. JOHNDROE: The President is going to, one, thank them for their service in the global war on terror -- personnel from Fort Benning have, one, a long tradition of being deployed overseas in battles for the United States, but most recently in the global war on terror in Afghanistan and in Iraq -- thank them for their service; thank the family members that are here for the sacrifices they make when their loved one is overseas. And then he's going to talk about his speech last night and the mission he outlined and the way ahead in Iraq.

Q How concerned is the President about losing Republican support on the Hill? I think you had Coleman and, yesterday, Brownback, surprisingly, one of the conservatives, saying -- Voinovich and others -- how concerned -- is there any concern around the White House about that?

MR. JOHNDROE: You know, we understand that people are going to be skeptical. We've said that --

Q But they're opposed, not skeptical.

MR. JOHNDROE: We've said that ourselves. I hope they will take a look at the details of the President's plan. I hope they will listen to Secretaries Rice and Gates and Chairman Pace, who are up on the Hill testifying today and tomorrow, and take a look at what actions Prime Minister Maliki and the Iraqis are taking in Baghdad. This is the beginning of new operations and of the new way forward. So let's give them the -- hopefully they will take the opportunity to look at all these things that are happening on the ground.

Q Gordon, Democrats were already complaining about the planning before it came out. But some of these same Democrats -- like Reid, Pelosi, Biden, Kerry -- had all called for an increase in troops over the last couple of years. What does the White House think about the tone of the debate so far, with Democrats disliking the plan even before it came out?

MR. JOHNDROE: I'm sorry, what was the last part of your question?

Q Just the tone of the debate so far. I mean, the tone -- you know, will there be bipartisan support? How will -- how will the White House handle what's happening already with the Democrats?

MR. JOHNDROE: You know, President Bush and the White House engaged in extensive consultations. Over 100 members of Congress came down to the White House in the last few weeks. These are consultations that really began right after the election. And we want to work with the Congress on the way ahead in Iraq. That's why the Secretaries and Chairman Pace are up there testifying today. And we think they will ask tough questions today. But these are the type of tough questions that we were asking as we were putting the policy together. And so we understand some of the concerns, but we want to work with them.

Q One last question. There's some concern about the operation in Iraq last night that involved some Iranian nationals, that this could be construed as an act of war, going on sovereign territory. Can you respond? What's the President's thought about that?

MR. JOHNDROE: I can't -- I'm not going to speak specifically to the Iranians and to that operation today. But the President made it clear last night that we will not tolerate outside interference in Iraq. And that's what the Iranians are up to. And if we get information that is actionable that the Iranians are interfering with Iraq, with Iraqis, or in any way going to harm Americans that we're going to take action.

Q Even if it means going on Iranian soil?

MR. JOHNDROE: No, Chairman Pace said this morning that these are actions that take place within Iraq, and much of this is about force protection of our troops there, and that takes place inside Iraq.

Q Gordon, one more on Saudi Arabia. Can you characterize the discussion that he had? Because in May, the President said he wanted more regional help -- Saudi Arabia, others in the region, to weigh in on this. Now it's January; we haven't seen that yet. Is he pushing for more action on that side?

MR. JOHNDROE: One of the things the President and His Majesty spoke about was Secretary Rice's upcoming trip to the region, which begins tomorrow. And so she's going there to have numerous meetings, and let's see the results, outcomes of those discussions. She'll be coming back and will report to the President. But I think everyone in the region understands what is at stake and what needs to be done.

Q Did he call him, or did the King call --

MR. JOHNDROE: It was a mutually arranged phone call.

Okay? Thanks.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070111-6.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 11 2007, 02:40 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 11, 2007

Religious Freedom Day, 2007
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America



On Religious Freedom Day, we commemorate the passage of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, authored by Thomas Jefferson, and we celebrate the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom.

Across the centuries, people have come to America seeking to worship the Almighty freely. Today, our citizens profess many different faiths, and we welcome every religion. Yet people in many countries live without the freedom to worship as they choose and some face persecution for their beliefs. My Administration is working with our friends and allies around the globe to advance common values and spread the blessings of liberty to every corner of the world. Freedom is a gift from the Almighty, written in the heart and soul of every man, woman, and child, and we must continue to promote the importance of religious freedom at home and abroad.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 16, 2007, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to reflect on the great blessing of religious liberty, endeavor to preserve this freedom for future generations, and commemorate this day with appropriate events and activities in their schools, places of worship, neighborhoods, and homes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eleventh day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.

GEORGE W. BUSH

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070111-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 12 2007, 05:25 PM
MR. SNOW: Welcome. The President's schedule -- the President is in Camp David; you've seen the rest of the day ahead schedule. Just a couple of announcements and then I'll take your questions.

First, there is a Medicare prescription drug bill that's making its way through the House, H.R. 4. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Department of Health and Human Services -- their actuaries say the bill is going to have little or no effect on federal spending and provide no substantial savings to the government or Medicare beneficiaries. We have a Medicare prescription drug reform that has been saving people significant amounts of money, it is effective. If this bill is presented to the President, he will veto it.

As far as earmark reform, the President has also talked about earmark reform. And he said that any good earmark reform has to meet four objectives. Number one, it has to address -- well, actually five -- it has to address all earmarks, and it has to make it clear who is proposing the earmarks, where the money is going, how much money is going, and why. The Senate is taking a look at an earmark bill that really doesn't do that. As a matter of fact, it doesn't disclose earmarks for federal entities, it doesn't address the practice of concealing earmarks in report language, it doesn't ensure that there is going to be a reduction in the number and cost of earmarks. As you know, the President says at least 50 percent reduction in the number and cost.

Senator Jim DeMint estimates that of 12,000 earmarks right now under the Senate proposal that is being discussed, 11,500 of those would be exempted. Now, all of those need to be under consideration. So in any event, the President remains committed to earmark reform, but to real earmark reform.

Also, I want to address kind of a rumor, an urban legend that's going around -- and it comes from language in the President's Wednesday night address to the nation, that in talking about Iran and Syria, that he was trying to prepare the way for war with either country and that there are war preparations underway: There are not. What the President was talking about is defending American forces within Iraq and also doing what we can to disrupt networks that might be trying to convey weapons or fighters into battle theaters within Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis.

As regards Iran, the United States is using diplomatic measures right now to address concerns -- including Iran's nuclear program. We've been working with the United Nations Security Council, recently got a chapter seven resolution. So this is something that is very important to push back, because I know there's been a lot of speculation about it. Let me just try to put that to rest once and for all.

Bret.

Q Tony, were you, were other senior White House officials dismayed about the plan's reception on Capitol Hill yesterday and today? What's the reaction, the feeling behind closed doors?

MR. SNOW: I don't think we're terribly surprised. I mean, you knew going in that there was going to be opposition, and you knew that a lot of people had made public statements about the commitment of additional forces to Iraq. But on the other hand, what we now expect is people actually look at the plan.

Americans -- I think if you say, if things have been going along as before and you just put more troops into the situation and into a strategy that we said wasn't working, we wouldn't support it. But, instead, the President's proposal involves a whole series of changes that are designed to make the Iraqi efforts not only more effective, but also more prominent, so that Americans are going to have confidence that the Iraqis themselves are stepping up and taking lead roles in everything from combat operations to reconstruction to diplomatic outreach. That has to happen, and Americans want to see it -- and if there wasn't some doctrinal change in the way in which we conducted counter-insurgency efforts, but there is. So now comes a time when members of Congress are going to have an opportunity to look at it.

Let me also add, Bret, that funding for the forces and to dispatch them to the region, it's already in the budget. So we're going to proceed with those plans. And what's going to be interesting is the members of Congress are going to have an opportunity to see how things are working in the next months ahead. And at that point, they'll also be able to make judgments as we get closer to the time to look at some real legislative effort.

Q Well, on that point, Secretary Gates was asked repeatedly yesterday and today, when will we know whether this is working. And his answer was, in about two months we should know whether the Iraqis are really meeting up with their commitments. So in two months' time, will this administration kind of do another review to see if what they've done is actually working?

MR. SNOW: I think we've tried to make the point that we continue to do reviews all the time. And so there is constant monitoring of the situation. It's not as if you say, okay, we're going to sit back and just wait for two months. We talk every day with the embassy in Baghdad, there is constant interaction with the commanding general and others on the ground. So I think it's important to realize that there is consistent and constant monitoring of the situation, and we'll continue to make adjustments.

And let me also reiterate what we've been saying all along with members of Congress. Most members of Congress come to the White House and said, we think it's vital to succeed in Iraq. They understand what the stakes are. And they also say, we want there to be success for the Iraqi government. If they don't think is the best way to do it, we do want to hear what they have to say. We have listened to and analyzed proposals throughout the entire range of possibilities. And we will continue to listen to people, because the chief objective here is to succeed in Iraq. And if people are proposing things in the spirit of good will and constructively, that's going to be an important addition. And those who think they have a better way, I think have an obligation to step up and share it.

Terry.

Q You say the Congress is going to have a chance to look at the President's plan. Members heard the President Wednesday night, and yesterday they heard from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, and there's a lot of opposition to this plan. It's not like they're still going to look at it; they don't like it, many of them.

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that they've been able to take a look at all aspects. A number of things have been leaked out. But, for instance, the roles that the Iraqis would play, the way in which the Iraqis would be working together, furthermore a discussion of the fact that when Iraqi -- U.S. support battalions are not going to move into Baghdad until the Iraqis have gotten there first. I mean, there are a whole series of steps in here that seem to answer a lot of the concerns members of Congress have had. They said, okay, you need to -- we need proof that the Iraqis are stepping forward; we need a demonstration that the Iraqis care about this more than we do. And I think that's an important thing to do.

What I'm telling you, Terry, is that there is a natural reaction of people to say, you've said that the old way wasn't working; are you just throwing more troops in a way that doesn't work? And the answer is, no. So what we're inviting people to do now is -- we've heard their original reaction -- spend some time looking through the proposal. And we understand that there's going to be discussion. But I think it's worth giving the entire range of policies that the President has put together, look at them as a package. We expect people are going to have opposition. I also expect that if you do see progress that a number of those members of Congress are going to say, okay, they're going to look at it fairly, too. They're going to want to see what happens.

Bill.

Q Everyone from the President on down has said that this depends on the cooperation of the Iraqis. And yet, to date, nothing has been heard from al Maliki, as far as I know. He's declined to endorse this, though invited to do so. There's no expression of enthusiasm over there.

MR. SNOW: Well, no, that's not true. As matter of fact, the Prime Minister, as I pointed out, on Wednesday he talked in a very forward-leaning direction about going after militias, and he mentioned the Sadrists by name. On Thursday he mentioned Muqtada al Sadr. I'm sorry, that -- yes, Wednesday and Thursday. Then yesterday, his press spokesman, in the weekly briefing, talked about the fact that they have been working with the Americans and that as the plan moves forward it is in concert with the Iraqi government. But there's also another --

Q But he's declined to speak about it.

MR. SNOW: No, and I'm glad you raise that, because that's urban legend number two of the day. And I think some news organizations that have reported this are prepared now to issue corrections.

He did not decline. He was never scheduled to make comments about it yesterday. It was his spokesman's normal weekly briefing. And somehow that has been reported or misreported as the Prime Minister not showing up for a briefing.

Q Sure, but wouldn't you think that under the circumstances, with all of the rollout that's gone on here, that you would want the principal ally to endorse this in the most public and positive way?

MR. SNOW: You know, you've got an interesting political dynamics. You can turn it around and say the Iraqis have made clear their support. And, implicitly, the Prime Minister not only has talked about key elements in a way that I think addresses key American concerns, there has also been very aggressive action within Baghdad proper that demonstrate that there, in fact, are new ways of coordinated operations with the Americans and the Iraqis going after dangerous places within Baghdad. That is not only walking the walk, it's talking the talk, and he's doing both.

The Prime Minister -- you also have to ask, do you want the Prime Minister to -- do you want to treat him as a sovereign head of state? And the answer is, yes. And he has made it clear that he's cooperating with the program, and he's also made it clear, I think through his words and deeds, that he's addressing key American concerns, such as saying to Shia militias, you're not exempt. And he's done it by name. He's talked about the Sadrs, he's talked about Muqtada al Sadr. You know, you can forward your recommendations for more effective PR in Washington.

Q Was he asked to embrace the American plan in public?

MR. SNOW: This is -- no.

Q Nobody in this administration asked him to make some public endorsement of the President's strategy?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I can double-check for you, but I'm not aware of anybody calling up and saying, will you please give a speech. But, again, what you have is the day of, the day after, and also a subsequent briefing by his press spokesman that go into this, that are supportive of the plan.

Q But when so many people are concerned about how much the al Maliki government will be responsive, I think Bill's point is there seems to be a bit of a void in hearing from him after?

MR. SNOW: No, I think what you're saying is he's not responding to the U.S. press corps. What he's doing is, he's responding to the Iraqi public. He's the sovereign head of state in Iraq. And what he's been talking about the last couple of days were what his constituents want to hear about -- and that's everything from pension reform, to going ahead and moving aggressively against terrorists in Baghdad and elsewhere. So he is answering the key questions that his people have been asking. And certainly his spokesman was supportive of U.S. efforts yesterday when asked by the press.

We're going to hear from the Prime Minister. There are going to be opportunities for this.

Q One more.

MR. SNOW: Yes, sure.

Q Maybe two more, actually. When you made reference to "there's already funding in the budget," a lot of Congress members are talking about using the power of the purse. Could you be a little bit more explicit about what funding already exists to enact this --

MR. SNOW: Well, this is -- I mean, we have ongoing military operations financed until later this year, and this is a part of ongoing military operations. Later in the year, members of Congress will look at a supplemental budget appropriation that covers all military operations. We've already mentioned the incremental military costs of what the President has proposed is $5.6 billion. That is a tiny faction of the overall appropriation that Congress will consider. And like I said, let's see how the debate unfolds.

Q And one more, on urban myth number one. You're not saying that there are not currently battle plans available to the Pentagon for Syria and Iran?

MR. SNOW: I just don't know. There's lots of war gaming. What I'm saying is that this notion that somehow what the President was announcing was a precursor to planned military action -- a planned war against Iran, that's just not the case.

Helen.

Q In that connection, did the President give orders to invade the offices of the Iranians and to go into Somalia? And what right do we have to do that?

MR. SNOW: Number one, we don't comment about ongoing military operations. There have been --

Q Is it ongoing, or is it over?

MR. SNOW: You're talking about where?

Q In the case of Iran.

MR. SNOW: Well, I think what you have was -- what has been reported are actions -- and I'm not going to comment beyond what's been reported publicly -- there have been actions in the northern part of Iraq against something that was originally misreported as an official government facility for the Iranians, and it was not.

Q What was it?

MR. SNOW: It apparently was sort of a liaison place where some Iranians would occasionally come.

Q Well, if it was official liaison for Iran --

MR. SNOW: No, it was not an official office, and that at least has been the characterization we've gotten out of Iraq.

Q Aren't you splitting hairs?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so. There's a big difference.

Q And what right do we have to do this?

MR. SNOW: Well, the real question, Helen, is, do you want somebody to intercept those who are trying to kill Americans in Iraq?

Q I'm asking you, what right do we have to be there --

MR. SNOW: I've just answered your question.

Q -- and I don't think it's right for you to turn around --

MR. SNOW: Okay. Then I'll answer the question. It's important to go after people who are trying to kill Americans.

Q Is that their purpose? I mean, or are they in Iraq to help Iraqis?

MR. SNOW: People have made considered judgments about this, and apparently --

Q Why do you keep saying everybody wants to go kill everybody.

MR. SNOW: I think you're the one -- what do you mean, everybody wants to kill everybody? We're not saying that. But we are saying that when somebody gets intelligence that there are efforts to place in jeopardy the lives of Americans, the lives of Iraqis and destabilize the government, that's an important consideration.

Q How about the Somalia announcement?

MR. SNOW: That I can't comment on.

Q Tony, a quick question. The ongoing global war against terrorism, President's war he started on 9/11 and beyond in Afghanistan, you think this has come out of (inaudible) bin Laden's name in many of the briefings by intelligence officials. You think President is frustrated that we still don't have Osama bin Laden? Or how is he being briefed on this, because this is the main -- he said that he will be brought to justice.

MR. SNOW: We have confidence that eventually he will be. Meanwhile, we have not heard a lot from Osama bin Laden. He certainly does not play as prominent a role in the war on terror. He's somebody who remains a target of concern. But at the same time, you've seen al Qaeda has, in many ways, been weakened in terms of its old structure. Now it's adopting new methods where you do have more localized operations.

So bin Laden, of course, is important, but it's also important as you conduct the war on terror to continue to look at all the changes that take place, and again, responding to the changing nature of the threat and the evolving nature of the threat.

Mark.

Q Tony, on the congressional reaction, didn't you think that not only was it very skeptical, but in some cases very hostile to the President's package, the questioning that was put to both Secretaries Rice and Gates?

MR. SNOW: I think that's a pretty accurate characterization.

Q Even among some Republicans? Are you disturbed by that?

MR. SNOW: Again, you've got to understand, a lot of people are skeptical, and especially they want to find out -- there are several questions they want answered. One is what the Iraqis are doing. And I think it's probably also important to start explaining why it is important to be in Iraq. I think as people begin to look at it -- here you've had members of Congress say, it's vital to win there. Well, the question is, why? And there are a series of reasons why.

Geographically, Iraq is right at the center of the war on terror. You've got Iran to the east, number one global sponsor of terror. You've got Syria to the west, headquarters to a lot of terrorist organizations. But beyond that -- and I've made this point many times, but it's worth developing a little further -- if you have a vacuum that is filled by terror in Iraq, you not only have a staging ground for terrorists, but you have access to the world's second-largest oil reserves, which also gives terrorists access to enormous amounts of wealth that they do not presently possess, and as a result allows them to go on the market and develop even more lethal capabilities, which, in many cases, they've said they're going to aim at us and they're going to aim at European allies.

But it goes even further than that. Suppose now that you're in the neighborhood and you are the Saudis or you're in the Gulf states or a number of oil-producing states, and you traditionally look to the United States for security. You're going to be making your own calculation: Can I rely on the Americans or do I need to cut a separate deal? And if you cut separate deals, that not only raises security interests, but if somebody should decide, for reasons of economic warfare -- and bin Laden had talked often about committing acts of economic warfare -- you also have the possibility of their banding together and saying, we're going to put an embargo on the United States; we're going to jack up the price. There are also economic risks.

So the number -- what happens is you start with one set of risks, and they tend to develop others. And I think Americans -- once you start laying that out, they realize their personal security and their economic security are bound up in the ultimate result of what goes on in Iraq. And members of Congress understand this, which is why their first sense is "and we agree we have to succeed in Iraq."

I think we need to make the point more forcefully so people understand that, and then we're willing to draw on the expertise of everybody to figure out the best way to have that success.

Q But when someone of Senator Hagel's standing says it's the biggest blunder since Vietnam --

MR. SNOW: Well, Senator Hagel has been opposed to this pretty much from the start, so, I mean, it's a pretty good line. But the follow-on question is, then what do you do -- and we're interested in hearing; we've made outreach to Senator Hagel on a number of occasions -- what do you do to ensure the security of America and what do you do to ensure the success of Iraq?

Q You seem to be making a case that if the surge strategy fails we should go in and seize the oil fields, keep them out of the hands --

MR. SNOW: No, I'm not making that case at all. As a matter of fact, I'm not -- I have deliberately not entertained the "if the surge fails," because the whole purpose -- number one, it's a -- I don't know that I like the term "surge." I guess Bob Gates may have used it the other day, but it's -- you've got one battalion now, one in a month, another in a month, another in a month, another in a month -- that's not -- you've got -- or it's strengthening. What did I say? You've got brigades going in, one a at a time.

And so -- and see, Helen's got her favorite term, it's "escalation." You've got "surge." (Laughter.) No, surge is not a term I've ever used. But the point is you're trying to add strength to the forces in Iraq so that they're going to be successful in taking out sectarian violence and also al Qaeda violence, so that you have the conditions under which people can pursue the important business of political reconciliation and economic development. You've got to have all of them.

But if you've got the equivalent of an ongoing riot in Baghdad, with constant violence, you're not going to have the conditions for political achievements. And so, therefore, you've got to put all those pieces together. But I am not -- please, please, please -- trying to signal seizing oil fields or any of that sort of stuff.

Q Tony, by pointing out that the money is already in the budget and you're going to go ahead, it seems to be saying, we're just going to go ahead with our plan for the rest of the year. So what relevance does the administration attach to the congressional debate and the public debate?

MR. SNOW: Oh, we think it's very important, and we welcome the debate. Look, if you take a look at the congressional debate, there actually is a substantial amount of agreement. It seems to me that the locus of this agreement is, do you put 20,000, 21,500, do you put the troops in or not. If you ask the question, do you need to succeed, the answer is yes. If you ask the question, should the Iraqis be taking the lead, the answer is yes. Should the Iraqis be pushing for greater political reconciliation, in terms of the hydrocarbon law, de-Baathification reforms, parliamentary reforms, the answer is, yes, we're pursuing that.

Do you think you ought to be concentrating on economic development as a way of building hope and opportunity in the long run? The answer is yes. Do you think the State Department and U.S. civilian agencies ought to be working in the provinces to develop those capabilities? The answer is yes. There is support for all of those activities, so it does seem -- we are fixed on the debate about troop levels, and yet all the other elements, including the diplomatic pieces -- do you bring the neighbors in, do you try to work through diplomatic means to address problems with Iran and Syria -- the answer to all those is yes. And I don't see anybody in Congress disagreeing with a single one of those items.

So now you narrow the debate down to a couple of simple questions. You have as your basis the desire to succeed. You ask yourself, can the Iraqis do it all by themselves right now? If the answer is yes, then, okay, bring everybody home. If the answer is no, the answer is what do you do to try to build that capacity so Americans can come home. And that becomes the focal point of the debate.

So, again, very substantial against on a lot of the key elements in this package. And that's why I say as people begin to look at it, they're going to see that we, in fact, have adopted a lot of the views, including trying to do some political reconciliation here at home by reaching out across party and House Senate boundaries to try to make sure that we stay in touch with people -- including those who disagree with us -- to hear what they have to say, and what advice they have to offer.

Q So you think the criticism is just going to blow over, then?

MR. SNOW: No, no, no. We'll have to see what happens. Look, I expect there to be considerable skepticism for some time because what we have is a plan, but people want to see results. And they want to see results reflected in the increased engagement of Iraq. They want to see real efforts to make sure that the Iraqi government is going after the sources of violence, whether they be Sunni or Shia, or al Qaeda in the case of Anbar province. And those are things that people are not going to see overnight.

As we have said, there's a likelihood that once you have contact and once you have more aggressive action in Baghdad and elsewhere, there's likely to be violent reaction because certainly the people who are trying to bring the government down are not going to go quietly into the night.

But on the other hand, the American people want to see action. They want to see effective action. And they want to see effective action with Iraqis credibly in the lead, and so do the Iraqis. The Prime Minister has made this clear repeatedly. And so now is the time for his government to demonstrate it. And the President said that the other night. He said the Americans -- that this nation's patience is not unlimited. It is limited and people are going to want to see it.

So I expect there to be continued expressions of skepticism until people see some change. And the measures that we have outlined are not things that necessarily are going to happen overnight -- some of these are going to take weeks or months to get in train.

Sheryl.

Q Tony, you talked about political reconciliation here at home, and you've also said that if critics of the plan don't like it, they should come up with an alternative. But the fact is that the Iraq Study Group produced a report that created political reconciliation here at home, and that many of the critics of the President's plan have embraced it. When the report came out, the study group was very specific in saying this is a comprehensive plan, it needs to be adopted in its entirety for it to work. So what was it about that plan that the President didn't like?

MR. SNOW: Well, there were some areas in which we disagreed, and the Iraq Study Group is coming out with a comment. But, Sheryl, you're trying to have it both ways. Members of Congress right now who are criticizing what we did were even more vociferous in their criticism of Baker-Hamilton. What we have done -- if you take a look at page 73, where it talks about building capabilities, putting Iraqis in the lead, and there was even some talk about "a surge," that's in there. When it talks about the need to do a regional diplomatic strategy, that is in there. What we don't have -- we take a different view on how you approach the problem of Iran and Syria. The Syrians and the Iranians know what we want.

Q Well, that --

MR. SNOW: That's a key element. And so you find that the areas of disagreement, again, are fairly narrow here. And if you go looking through it -- and we're putting together a document; I'll be happy to share it with you -- there are substantial areas in which we agree with the Baker-Hamilton commission report, but I think you'll also recall that on Capitol Hill, people said, we're all going to take a look at each and every part, and there was some pretty stern criticism from Democrats and Republicans.

The most important thing is that the Baker-Hamilton commission, as I said at the time, did set a very good role model, in terms of cooperation and good will, and the fact is -- it's interesting, you're saying, is the President saying, take it or leave it? The President is the one who makes the decisions, and the Baker-Hamilton commission certainly gave a lot of very valuable advice, much of which is incorporated into the President's plan, and frankly a number of other people on the outside, their recommendations have also been incorporated into this.

Q Let me read to you from their statement. I think the differences on Iran and Syria are clear, and have always been clear, but they say, "The President did not suggest the possibility of a transition that could enable U.S. combat forces to begin to leave Iraq. The President did not state that political, military or economic support for Iraq would be conditional on the Iraqi government's ability to meet benchmarks." I think that is critical, and why didn't he do that?

MR. SNOW: Well, there are two things. I'm not so sure the President didn't make it clear to the Iraqis that they have to deliver. But you also have a problem, Sheryl, if you say, if you do not take this specified action by this time, we're going to cut you off. If I'm a terrorist, what I'd do is I'd just sit back.

There's a little bit of difficulty -- you create a moral hazard problem if you try to be -- if you try to be too definitive in saying "this by this date," because what you end up doing is that you give your opponents the possibility of giving the impression of good behavior without having terrorists addressed directly, and therefore they have the opportunity to wait it out and then wage greater acts of terror in the future.

On the other hand, I think that you'll find that the recommendations that the President has made, and also the tone of his speech is pretty consistent with the aims of the Iraq Study Group.

Q Tony, can I come back to the money question? How late in the year do you figure you have the money for --

MR. SNOW: I don't know. We'll have to ask the congressional -- that's a good question. I don't have an answer.

Q It's not all the way through the year?

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no. I think it's in May or June, I think.

Q But in effect, you're saying to those on Capitol Hill who would consider a vote for cutting off funding, it's moot?

MR. SNOW: No. Look, they're going to have to make their votes. Again, at some point, the way you do this is they'll have an opportunity to have votes later in the year, and they'll have to make their decisions. It's interesting because I don't think -- and maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but I don't think that there are a huge number of people that say, we're going to cut it off. There have been some, and some serious voices, like Senator Kennedy. But that's a debate members of Congress have to have. And the answer is, if you want to cut it off, explain why, and also explain how you're going to explain that to the forces in the field, and how you think that also is going to influence America's larger standing in the world.

Again, a lot of times there seems to be the impression -- you need to expand the vision beyond the narrow strand or Pennsylvania Avenue that separates the White House from the Capitol building, because things like this do have ramifications in terms of how our allies view us and our strength and credibility in the region. And I think members of Congress will be debating this.

Look, we are in the very early stages of what promises to be a vigorous, sometimes emotional, but overall constructive debate. We need to have this debate, and we need to get into the details, and we need to talk about all the possible ramifications. And so I think it's all healthy. I don't want to discourage it, and frankly it's certainly not my role to discourage members of Congress from expressing their opinions.

And when it takes a firmer shape -- when I was dancing around last week about the plan, I couldn't answer direct questions because things hadn't taken shape -- we're in a little bit of that situation right now, too, when it comes to what's going on, on Capitol Hill, because there's talk of resolutions and so on. But I think at this point members of Congress are still trying to assess all the parts of the President's package and figure out what they may wish to say, not only publicly, but if there is going to be some legislative action. I don't think they've made their way through that yet.

Q The brigades that you have spoken of sending over, you've got the money?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q So it's moot. Any discussion right now of cutting off money --

MR. SNOW: I believe that's the case, I believe that's the case. I'll double-check, but I believe that's the case.

Q This is following up on that. It would be short of Senator Kennedy's resolution de-authorizing use of force over there. And at this point, there's no option available to Congress in the short-term if the money --

MR. SNOW: I don't know. That is a question beyond my -- if Congress wants to try it, we can address that. I just, I honestly don't understand the legal or constitutional implications of all that.

April.

Q Tony, if, indeed, there needs to be more of a political component, why not keep the troops as they were, instead of increasing the troop effort there to support the Iraqis? Why not just focus mostly on the political aspect?

MR. SNOW: Well, as I said, it's very difficult to focus on the political aspect when you have violence and bloodshed occurring all about you. You do have to have a certain amount of peace so that people can calmly and in good will work through some of the tougher issues before them.

That's not an atmosphere -- I think you'll agree -- because I get question after question every day, what about the escalating violence in Baghdad; how can you possibly survive? The question then is, do you think that is an atmosphere in which you are going to be able to move forward on political matters? The answer is, believe it or not, they've been managing to do it anyway. But on the other hand, it is important to be able to build trust so that people are not worried about their life and livelihood.

And, furthermore, April, one of the key elements in political reconciliation is the belief on the part of the Iraqis that their government is going to represent their interests and defend their rights regardless of who they are -- it's not going to pick favorites. There is skepticism in some parts of Iraq that the government is protecting some and not protecting others, and in that atmosphere you cannot move forward, you have to build the baseline confidence in the government and its institutions in order to proceed with those talks. I think that's a matter of common sense.

Q But, Tony, the President in his speech said words like "failed." And if there was a failure militarily, why send more U.S. troops into harm's way, instead of just taking that component, realizing there's a failure there, and moving --

MR. SNOW: Because if you do not have an improvement in the situation, you will not have the necessities and the basics for doing the political. The two work together. You have to make the -- you have to address the security situation so you can complete the work of security. Look, it appears that the Iraqis are moving rapidly toward passing the hydrocarbon law. That is great. It appears that they are working on deBaathification. It appears that they are working on the election reforms.

But you still have the ultimate question of legitimacy, are they going to protect me or are they going to protect my interests? And if you have some people in the country who believe that their own government is not going to protect them, so that they have to rely on a militia for their safety, or they have to rely on armed bands, or they have to rely on armed groups of Saddamists and rejectionists, then you don't have the basis for the kind of political reconciliation you have to have, and you have to develop that fundamental faith that the government that you are talking about you view as your government, and not as a hostile force.

Q And the last one on this, military experts have said we will not -- we have not and will not win militarily.

MR. SNOW: Yes, we've always said that. We have always said that this is not strictly a military operation. Ultimately, you've got to create the conditions --

Q But they've said we've lost militarily.

MR. SNOW: There have been -- no, it's interesting, there are some who say we are losing, but we can win; there are some who talk about how dire it is. And there is no denying the fact that there is an unacceptable level of violence, particularly in Baghdad, also in Anbar. Although as we've mentioned in recent days, there has been significant progress in Anbar, and we need to make sure that we conclude the deal.

But you go back to the public statements of General Casey or General Abizaid or even the President, we have always said that military action is a way of trying to create the conditions of peace so that you can go ahead and finish the political work.

And what also is different about this plan, you talked about putting U.S. forces in harm's way, what we're really doing is we're putting Iraqis in the lead. And you take a look at it, you've got Iraqi battalions. They're going to number in the thousands -- I mean Iraqi brigades -- and U.S. battalions in the hundreds, which are going to be doing a lot of training and organization. But in the key elements of asserting force, the Iraqis are going to be in the lead.

And, furthermore, what you have is a plan in which you make sure that you've got at hand the resources necessary to meet possible contingencies. So, again, I think it's worth mulling over the elements of the plan. And a lot of this, the American public quite rightly says, look, we've got to see it. And that's a fair request.

Ken.

Q Does the administration care what's in the hydrocarbon law? Or you just want them to have a hydrocarbon law?

MR. SNOW: Ken, you care what's in the hydrocarbon law. And there's --

Q What's in it?

MR. SNOW: Well, the hydrocarbon law is one that treats oil and natural gas revenues as a natural resource -- national resource and distributes the proceeds throughout the country.

Q Is that a nationalized oil industry?

MR. SNOW: No, what it does, though, is it does collect at a national level the profits. We have -- it's no more a nationalized oil industry than the hydrocarbon law in Alaska makes Alaska a fiefdom of petro-socialism. (Laughter.)

Q That would look nice on a license plate, I'm sure. (Laughter.) Is there opportunity for American oil companies in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I suspect there's going to be opportunity. Part of the Iraq Compact is inviting bidding on business throughout Iraq from around the world. So I don't have a clear answer to that.

Q Thank you. Tony, Defense Secretary Gates wants 92,000 more soldiers and Marines. Where is he going to get them? And is there any desire to bring back the draft?

MR. SNOW: The answer to the second is no. And the answer to the first is, you recruit them.

Q In the new strategy, what does the President believe needs to be done in Sadr, personally?

MR. SNOW: That is a question that the Iraqis have to answer, and rightfully so. The idea that the United States is going to play sheriff or say, this is the target you need to hit, that's inappropriate for us.

I will point you back to what the Prime Minister has said, which is you cannot accept the existence within Iraq of groups operating outside of the law. Again, that's the term of art for militias and other armed bands that commit acts of violence and otherwise try to usurp government authority. And he has singled out Muqtada al Sadr and the Sadrists, as he called them, specifically.

So it is up to the Iraqis to make the moves. And I think a lot of people are looking to see that Shia and Sunni alike -- those who are committing acts of violence and weakening the government, that they are equally held to account. And that's one of the things that a lot of Americans want to see. We are not going to tell the Iraqi government or the commanders in Baghdad whom they ought to be targeting. That is their responsibility.

Q Why is that? Why is that a red light? I mean, we're advising and working together with the Iraqis on all sorts of things.

MR. SNOW: Well, we continue to. But you don't issue orders. And the fact is, Iraq is a sovereign government. I guarantee you, a story comes out, "U.S. says get X." It makes the government look like a puppet. And the fact is you've got a sovereign government, and we are working not only off a plan that they have proposed, but we are doing so in such a way that you have an Iraqi commander over the entirety of Baghdad. You have deputies over the operations on each side of the Tigris River. You divide it up into nine districts, where the Iraqis are going to be in the lead in each of the nine districts.

I think it is incumbent upon us to support the Iraqis, rather than to try to say, well, we'll really run the country and you just follow along. That is not a way to recognize the sovereignty of that government.

Q Tony, I had two on Iran. One is the Patriots that are being deployed, those are new Patriot batteries. They're not things that were planned before. What --

MR. SNOW: The Pentagon is the place to go for answering those types of questions.

Q What country other than Iran in the region could they be meant to --

MR. SNOW: As I said, I'll just send you off to the Pentagon for those.

Q And could you give us an idea of what kinds of things the United States is doing differently regarding those networks in Iran and Syria?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q Not even the -- I mean, the kinds of things in general?

MR. SNOW: No. I think the last thing you want to do is to say, we're going to try to disrupt networks and let us tell you how, networks. We live in a world of global communications, and so, no, I can't.

Q Tony, thank you. Two domestics, if that's possible, two domestic --

MR. SNOW: That would be domestic issues?

Q Yes. (Laughter.)

Q We're housekeepers. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I just wanted to be clear on this.

Q Right. What is the White House reaction to The Washington Times reporting that our National Guard troops in the Mexican border near Sasabe, Arizona being required to be disarmed, and who had to evacuate due to incursions by armed Mexicans?

MR. SNOW: Talk to the Border Patrol about that. I don't know.

Q But what is the White House -- that's what -- I want to know what is the White House reaction?

MR. SNOW: I understand that the White House -- the reaction of the press secretary is, ask the Border Patrol.

Q Okay. A nationally syndicated columnist, Phyllis Schlafly, reports the following, and this is a quote: "President Bush pardoned 16 criminals, including five drug dealers, at Christmastime, but so far has refused to pardon two U.S. Border Patrol agents who were trying to defend America against drug smugglers." And my question: If Mrs. Schlafly was at all inaccurate in this statement, you would surely rebut, wouldn't you?

MR. SNOW: Well, there are a couple of things. First, I'm not at liberty to comment about proceedings with regard to pardons. She's referring to a case where, at least according to the facts presented in court, you had an incident in which there was an attempt to pull somebody over. He finally got pulled over; somebody holds out a gun. Sort of scuffling ensues. And what happens is you've got a fellow running away, and a couple of agents eventually in pursuit, firing 14 shots at him -- I think 15, actually. Fourteen by one agent missed, one did strike him in the fleshy hindquarters. He eventually made his way into Mexico.

Now, at the time this happened, they did not know if he was an illegal. They did not know that there were 700 pounds of marijuana. They didn't know any of those things. But instead you had this. They also had received arms training the day before that said if you have an incident like this, you must preserve the evidence and you must report it promptly. Instead, according to court documents, they went around and picked up the shell casings. Furthermore, they asked one of their colleagues also to help pick up shell casings. They disposed of them.

They eventually went before a grand jury -- or before a jury -- and were convicted on 11 of 12 counts, by a U.S. attorney who has prosecuted any number of cases. But the facts of this case are such that I would invite everybody to take a full look at the documented record. This is not the case of the United States saying, we are not going to support people who go after drug dealers. Of course we are. We think it's incumbent to go after drug dealers, and we also think that it's vitally important to make sure that we provide border security so our people are secure. We also believe that the people who are working to secure that border themselves obey the law. And in a court of law, these two agents were convicted on 11 of 12 counts by a jury of their peers after a lengthy trial at which they did have the opportunity to make their case.

Now, they also have rights of appeal. So I don't want to be acting here as -- I'm not going to be judge and jury, but I do think that there's been a characterization that somehow the government is turning a blind eye toward the law in enforcing the law. And, Les, I think that's the important thing. So take a look at the facts of the case.

Q I was going to answer, the only one thing is that the man that was shot in the fleshy --

MR. SNOW: Hindquarters.

Q -- hindquarters, they went down to Mexico and brought him back.

MR. SNOW: To testify.

Q Yes. Even though they had found all those drugs. Now, does that -- is that -- does the President approve of that?

MR. SNOW: Again, that takes us into different legal grounds, and I think you ought to contact legal authorities to get it. But you asked me a different question to begin, and I gave you the answer.

Q Thank you.

Q Back on Iraq real quick. On the sectarian flare up possibility, two of the Iraqi army brigades are supposed to be mostly Kurdish, Peshmerga turned Iraqi army. They're going to be going into Shiite neighborhoods. Then you have the Iraqi police -- nine of the Iraqi police brigades, a lot of those are Shia that we had problems with before. How does the President look at this Iraqi influx and see something that is less sectarian than it was before?

MR. SNOW: Look, Iraq is a country that has Kurds, it has Shia, it has Sunnis, and it has others. And if the nation is going to work effectively, each has to have faith in the other. You have two Iraqi army brigades, not exclusively, but they do include a fair number of Kurds in both of them. The question is, do they operate effectively? Do they gain the trust and faith?

Keep in mind the model we're talking about here, Bret, as they go into neighborhoods, and they're there 24/7. They gain the trust of the local population by going door to door and talking with people. It's not door to door to rouse them out, but to do confidence-building measures, and to do law enforcement, similarly with police units.

We have made absolutely clear the fact that we think that there have been real problems, corruption and violence on the part of police -- and I've said it many times from this podium. But you have to assume that the Iraqis now understand the importance of performing. And. therefore, you need to give them a chance. You cannot say, we're only going to send Shia into Shia neighborhoods and only Sunni into Sunni neighborhoods, because in that way, it ends up being self defeating. You have to operate in a way that's certainly going to be sensitive and smart. But on the other hand, you have to understand ultimately the result in Iraq is going to be that all the major groups understand, appreciate, and respect the rights of one another.

Q And so the President's confidence on this comes from his talks with Maliki, and Maliki's confidence --

MR. SNOW: Well, you're going to have -- look, the President understands that these guys are going to have to demonstrate. And so we're going to find out whether they're -- whether they are going to be able to fulfill their part of the -- their responsibilities here.

Thank you.

Q Week ahead.

MR. SNOW: Oh, week ahead, I'm sorry. Thank you. Week ahead, week ahead, week ahead.

Q And anything on the Greek embassy?

MR. SNOW: Greek embassy, all we know is that there was something described as a rocket. I don't know exactly what that means. It was fired through a window just next to the shield in front of the embassy, hit a toilet at a little before 6:00 a.m. Nobody was injured. I think it's an isolated incident, and they're investigating -- the Greek government is investigating, and so is the U.S. government.

Okay, week ahead. Nothing on the public schedule for Monday.

Tuesday the President will meet in the Oval Office with the Secretary General of the United Nations. And the St. Louis Cardinals will be in the East Room; the President will greet them.

On Wednesday there will be a visit to the National Institutes of Health and a roundtable discussion there. That's in Bethesda.

Q Topic?

MR. SNOW: Health care. National Institutes of Health.

There is travel to be announced on Thursday, and nothing at this juncture to announce on Friday. And that is the week ahead.

Q What's the radio address about tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: Radio address is about the way forward, it's about the --

Q Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Yes, about Iraq and the plan the President has --

Q Is there an NSC meeting tomorrow morning?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so.

Q Why is he not doing anything on Monday on --

MR. SNOW: I didn't say that. I just said there's no public schedule at this juncture.

Q Why is he coming back from Camp David tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: Because he wishes to.

MS. PERINO: I think they have a private dinner on Saturday night, and Mrs. Bush leaves for Paris on Sunday.

MR. SNOW: Yes, that's right, thank you. Private dinner on Saturday, and Mrs. Bush heads to Paris on Sunday. Thank heavens for Perino.

Q Tony, what about Secretary Rice's trip, what the President is hoping she'll accomplish.

MR. SNOW: I think --

Q You said, "thank you."

MR. SNOW: Yes. Give Sean a call over at State. He'll be able to give you a better fill on that.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070112-4.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 13 2007, 01:26 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 13, 2007

President's Radio Address

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On Wednesday night, I addressed the Nation from the White House to lay out a new strategy that will help Iraq's democratic government succeed.

America's new strategy comes after a difficult year in Iraq. In 2006, the terrorists and insurgents fought to reverse the extraordinary democratic gains the Iraqis have made. In February, the extremists bombed a holy Shia mosque in a deliberate effort to provoke reprisals that would set off a sectarian conflict. They succeeded, and the ongoing sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad, is making all other progress difficult.

Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. Their leaders understand this, and they are stepping forward to do it. But they need our help, and it is in our interests to provide that help. The changes in our strategy will help the Iraqis in four main areas:

First, we will help the Iraqis execute their aggressive plan to secure their capital. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of Baghdad. The new plan to secure Baghdad fixes the problems that prevented previous operations from succeeding. This time, there will be adequate Iraqi and U.S. forces to hold the areas that have been cleared, including more Iraqi forces and five additional brigades of American troops committed to Baghdad. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter neighborhoods that are home to those fueling sectarian violence. Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference with security operations will not be tolerated.

Second, America will step up the fight against al Qaeda in its home base in Iraq -- Anbar province. Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders, and protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists, so I've given orders to increase American forces in Anbar province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to increase the pressure on the terrorists. America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan, and we will not allow them to reestablish it in Iraq.

Third, America will hold the Iraqi government to benchmarks it has announced. These include taking responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November, passing legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis, and spending $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction projects that will create new jobs. These are strong commitments. And the Iraqi government knows that it must meet them, or lose the support of the Iraqi and the American people.

Fourth, America will expand our military and diplomatic efforts to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. We will address the problem of Iran and Syria allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. We will encourage countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states to increase their economic assistance to Iraq. Secretary Rice has gone to the region to continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.

My national security team is now making our case on Capitol Hill. We recognize that many members of Congress are skeptical. Some say our approach is really just more troops for the same strategy. In fact, we have a new strategy with a new mission: helping secure the population, especially in Baghdad. Our plan puts Iraqis in the lead.

Others worry that we are pursuing a purely military solution that makes a political solution less likely. In fact, the sectarian violence is the main obstacle to a political solution, and the best way to help the Iraqis reach this solution is to help them put down this violence.

Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible.

Whatever our differences on strategy and tactics, we all have a duty to ensure that our troops have what they need to succeed. Thousands of young men and women are preparing to join an important mission that will in large part determine the outcome in Iraq. Our brave troops should not have to wonder if their leaders in Washington will give them what they need. I urge members of Congress to fulfill their responsibilities, make their views known, and to always support our men and women in harm's way.

Thank you for listening.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070113-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 21 2007, 02:40 PM
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. For many Americans, the new year began with a resolution to live a better and healthier life. Whatever goals you have set for yourself this year, one goal we can all share is reforming our Nation's health care system.

Americans are fortunate to have the best health care system in the world. The government has an important role to play in our system. We have an obligation to provide care for the most vulnerable members of our society -- the elderly, the disabled, and poor children and their parents. We are meeting this responsibility through Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. We must strengthen these vital programs so that they are around when future generations need them.

For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs. But rising health care costs are making insurance too expensive for millions of our citizens. Health care costs are growing more than two times faster than wages, and this is making it harder for working families to buy insurance on their own. Rising costs are also making it harder for small businesses to offer health coverage to their employees. Our challenge is clear: We must address these rising costs, so that more Americans can afford basic health insurance. And we need to do it without creating a new Federal entitlement program or raising taxes.

Our Nation is making progress toward this goal. We created Health Savings Accounts, which empower patients and can reduce the cost of coverage. We are working to pass Association Health Plans, so that small businesses can insure their workers at the favorable discounts that big businesses get. We must pass medical liability reform, so we can stop the junk lawsuits that drive costs through the roof and good doctors out of practice. We've taken important steps to increase transparency in health care pricing, and give patients more information about the quality of their doctors and hospitals.

One of the most promising ways to make private health insurance more affordable is by reforming the Federal tax code. Today, the tax code unfairly penalizes people who do not get health insurance through their job. It unwisely encourages workers to choose overly expensive, gold-plated plans. The result is that insurance premiums rise, and many Americans cannot afford the coverage they need.

We need to fix these problems, and one way to do so is to treat health insurance more like home ownership. The current tax code encourages home ownership by allowing you to deduct the interest on your mortgage from your taxes. We can reform the tax code, so that it provides a similar incentive for you to buy health insurance. So in my State of the Union Address next Tuesday, I will propose a tax reform designed to help make basic private health insurance more affordable -- whether you get it through your job or on your own.

As we reform the Federal tax code, we will also support the innovative measures that states are taking to address the problem of the uninsured. Governors across the Nation have put forward plans to make basic private health insurance more accessible for their citizens. When I go before Congress next week, I will announce a new effort -- led by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt -- to help governors reduce the number of people in their states without private health insurance.

All of these changes are based on a clear principle: Health insurance should be available, it should be affordable, and it should put you and your doctor in charge of your medical decisions. I look forward to working with Congress to pass the initiatives that I lay out next week, so we can help millions more Americans enjoy better care, new choices, and healthier lives.

Thank you for listening.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...1/20070120.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 24 2007, 02:19 PM
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. And tonight, I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own -- as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker. (Applause.)

In his day, the late Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr. from Baltimore, Maryland, saw Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum. But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy, presiding tonight as Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Applause.) Congratulations, Madam Speaker. (Applause.)

Two members of the House and Senate are not with us tonight, and we pray for the recovery and speedy return of Senator Tim Johnson and Congressman Charlie Norwood. (Applause.)

Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour -- when decisions are hard and courage is needed. We enter the year 2007 with large endeavors underway, and others that are ours to begin. In all of this, much is asked of us. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies -- and the wisdom to face them together.

Some in this chamber are new to the House and the Senate -- and I congratulate the Democrat majority. (Applause.) Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities. Each of us is guided by our own convictions -- and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we're all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this nation's prosperity; to spend the people's money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us. (Applause.)

We're not the first to come here with a government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people. Our citizens don't much care which side of the aisle we sit on -- as long as we're willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done. (Applause.) Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and to help them to build a future of hope and opportunity -- and this is the business before us tonight.

A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy -- and that is what we have. We're now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs -- so far. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising. This economy is on the move, and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government, but with more enterprise. (Applause.)

Next week, I'll deliver a full report on the state of our economy. Tonight, I want to discuss three economic reforms that deserve to be priorities for this Congress.

First, we must balance the federal budget. (Applause.) We can do so without raising taxes. (Applause.) What we need to do is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, and met that goal three years ahead of schedule. (Applause.) Now let us take the next step. In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years. (Applause.) I ask you to make the same commitment. Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the federal government, and we can balance the federal budget. (Applause.)

Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour -- when not even C-SPAN is watching. (Laughter.) In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate -- they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. Yet, they're treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session. (Applause.)

And, finally, to keep this economy strong we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience, and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound. Yet, we're failing in that duty. And this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Everyone in this chamber knows this to be true -- yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act. So let us work together and do it now. With enough good sense and goodwill, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid -- and save Social Security. (Applause.)

Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, preserving local control, raising standards, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Now the task is to build on the success, without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform. We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools, and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose someplace better. (Applause.) We must increase funds for students who struggle -- and make sure these children get the special help they need. (Applause.) And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future and our country is more competitive by strengthening math and science skills. The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America's children -- and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law. (Applause.)

A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care. (Applause.) When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children. And we will meet those responsibilities. For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs. (Applause.) But many Americans cannot afford a health insurance policy.

And so tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income on payroll tax -- or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills. At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job. For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, this proposal would mean a substantial tax savings -- $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans. (Applause.)

My second proposal is to help the states that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing federal funds and use them to create "Affordable Choices" grants. These grants would give our nation's governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.

There are many other ways that Congress can help. We need to expand Health Savings Accounts. (Applause.) We need to help small businesses through Association Health Plans. (Applause.) We need to reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology. (Applause.) We will encourage price transparency. And to protect good doctors from junk lawsuits, we passing medical liability reform. (Applause.) In all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors. (Applause.)

Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America -- with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country. To secure our border, we're doubling the size of the Border Patrol, and funding new infrastructure and technology.

Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border -- and that requires a temporary worker program. We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won't have to try to sneak in, and that will leave Border Agents free to chase down drug smugglers and criminals and terrorists. (Applause.) We'll enforce our immigration laws at the work site and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers, so there's no excuse left for violating the law. (Applause.)

We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. (Applause.) We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty. (Applause.) Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate, so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law. (Applause.)

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America's economy running and America's environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists -- who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy.

It's in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply -- the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power. (Applause.) We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. (Applause.) We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol -- (applause) -- using everything from wood chips to grasses, to agricultural wastes.

We made a lot of progress, thanks to good policies here in Washington and the strong response of the market. And now even more dramatic advances are within reach. Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years. (Applause.) When we do that we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 -- and that is nearly five times the current target. (Applause.) At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks -- and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but it's not going to eliminate it. And so as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. (Applause.) And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (Applause.)

America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change. (Applause.)

A future of hope and opportunity requires a fair, impartial system of justice. The lives of our citizens across our nation are affected by the outcome of cases pending in our federal courts. We have a shared obligation to ensure that the federal courts have enough judges to hear those cases and deliver timely rulings. As President, I have a duty to nominate qualified men and women to vacancies on the federal bench. And the United States Senate has a duty, as well, to give those nominees a fair hearing, and a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. (Applause.)

For all of us in this room, there is no higher responsibility than to protect the people of this country from danger. Five years have come and gone since we saw the scenes and felt the sorrow that the terrorists can cause. We've had time to take stock of our situation. We've added many critical protections to guard the homeland. We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us -- unless we stop them.

With the distance of time, we find ourselves debating the causes of conflict and the course we have followed. Such debates are essential when a great democracy faces great questions. Yet one question has surely been settled: that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy. (Applause.)

From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing, and free flowing communications are long over. For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same.

Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented, but here is some of what we do know: We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean. For each life saved, we owe a debt of gratitude to the brave public servants who devote their lives to finding the terrorists and stopping them. (Applause.)

Every success against the terrorists is a reminder of the shoreless ambitions of this enemy. The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that's the case, America is still a nation at war.

In the mind of the terrorist, this war began well before September the 11th, and will not end until their radical vision is fulfilled. And these past five years have given us a much clearer view of the nature of this enemy. Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent.

Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology. Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: "We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse." Osama bin Laden declared: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

These men are not given to idle words, and they are just one camp in the Islamist radical movement. In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah -- a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. Whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East, and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.

In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers had ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people. (Applause.)

This war is more than a clash of arms -- it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and to come and kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom

-- societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies -- and most will choose a better way when they're given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates and reformers and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must. (Applause.)

In the last two years, we've seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East -- and we have been sobered by the enemy's fierce reaction. In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution, they drove out the Syrian occupiers and chose new leaders in free elections. In 2005, the people of Afghanistan defied the terrorists and elected a democratic legislature. And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections, choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world, and then electing a government under that constitution. Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget. (Applause.)

A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon's legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia -- and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory. (Applause.)

We're carrying out a new strategy in Iraq -- a plan that demands more from Iraq's elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.

In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, we're sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. (Applause.) We didn't drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.

The people of Iraq want to live in peace, and now it's time for their government to act. Iraq's leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended. They have promised to deploy more of their own troops to secure Baghdad -- and they must do so. They pledged that they will confront violent radicals of any faction or political party -- and they need to follow through, and lift needless restrictions on Iraqi and coalition forces, so these troops can achieve their mission of bringing security to all of the people of Baghdad. Iraq's leaders have committed themselves to a series of benchmarks -- to achieve reconciliation, to share oil revenues among all of Iraq's citizens, to put the wealth of Iraq into the rebuilding of Iraq, to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's civic life, to hold local elections, and to take responsibility for security in every Iraqi province. But for all of this to happen, Baghdad must be secure. And our plan will help the Iraqi government take back its capital and make good on its commitments.

My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success. Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq, because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far-reaching.

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country -- and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is the greatest ally -- their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy. Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq and to spare the American people from this danger. (Applause.)

This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you've made. We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field, and those on their way. (Applause.)

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. And that's why it's important to work together so our nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. It's why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. We'll show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.

And one of the first steps we can take together is to add to the ranks of our military so that the American Armed Forces are ready for all the challenges ahead. (Applause.) Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. (Applause.) A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. It would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.

Americans can have confidence in the outcome of this struggle because we're not in this struggle alone. We have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism. In Iraq, multinational forces are operating under a mandate from the United Nations. We're working with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the Gulf States to increase support for Iraq's government.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons. (Applause.) With the other members of the Quartet -- the U.N., the European Union, and Russia -- we're pursuing diplomacy to help bring peace to the Holy Land, and pursuing the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security. (Applause.) In Afghanistan, NATO has taken the lead in turning back the Taliban and al Qaeda offensive -- the first time the Alliance has deployed forces outside the North Atlantic area. Together with our partners in China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, we're pursuing intensive diplomacy to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma -- and continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur. (Applause.)

American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy. Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required. We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger and poverty and disease -- and that is precisely what America is doing. We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa. (Applause.) Because you funded our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the number of people receiving life-saving drugs has grown from 50,000 to more than 800,000 in three short years. I ask you to continue funding our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. I ask you to provide $1.2 billion over five years so we can combat malaria in 15 African countries. (Applause.)

I ask that you fund the Millennium Challenge Account, so that American aid reaches the people who need it, in nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat. And let us continue to support the expanded trade and debt relief that are the best hope for lifting lives and eliminating poverty. (Applause.)

When America serves others in this way, we show the strength and generosity of our country. These deeds reflect the character of our people. The greatest strength we have is the heroic kindness, courage, and self-sacrifice of the American people. You see this spirit often if you know where to look -- and tonight we need only look above to the gallery.

Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine -- but Coach John Thompson got a look at Dikembe and had a different idea. (Laughter.) Dikembe became a star in the NBA, and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth, or the duty to share his blessings with others. He built a brand new hospital in his old hometown. A friend has said of this good-hearted man: "Mutombo believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things." And we are proud to call this son of the Congo a citizen of the United States of America. (Applause.)

After her daughter was born, Julie Aigner-Clark searched for ways to share her love of music and art with her child. So she borrowed some equipment, and began filming children's videos in her basement. The Baby Einstein Company was born, and in just five years her business grew to more than $20 million in sales. In November 2001, Julie sold Baby Einstein to the Walt Disney Company, and with her help Baby Einstein has grown into a $200 million business. Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America. And she is using her success to help others -- producing child safety videos with John Walsh of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Julie says of her new project: "I believe it's the most important thing that I have ever done. I believe that children have the right to live in a world that is safe." And so tonight, we are pleased to welcome this talented business entrepreneur and generous social entrepreneur -- Julie Aigner-Clark. (Applause.)

Three weeks ago, Wesley Autrey was waiting at a Harlem subway station with his two little girls, when he saw a man fall into the path of a train. With seconds to act, Wesley jumped onto the tracks, pulled the man into the space between the rails, and held him as the train passed right above their heads. He insists he's not a hero. He says: "We got guys and girls overseas dying for us to have our freedoms. We have got to show each other some love." There is something wonderful about a country that produces a brave and humble man like Wesley Autrey. (Applause.)

Tommy Rieman was a teenager pumping gas in Independence, Kentucky, when he enlisted in the United States Army. In December 2003, he was on a reconnaissance mission in Iraq when his team came under heavy enemy fire. From his Humvee, Sergeant Rieman returned fire; he used his body as a shield to protect his gunner. He was shot in the chest and arm, and received shrapnel wounds to his legs -- yet he refused medical attention, and stayed in the fight. He helped to repel a second attack, firing grenades at the enemy's position. For his exceptional courage, Sergeant Rieman was awarded the Silver Star. And like so many other Americans who have volunteered to defend us, he has earned the respect and the gratitude of our entire country. (Applause.)

In such courage and compassion, ladies and gentlemen, we see the spirit and character of America -- and these qualities are not in short supply. This is a decent and honorable country -- and resilient, too. We've been through a lot together. We've met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence -- because the State of our Union is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on. God bless. (Applause.)

See you next year. Thank you for your prayers.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070123-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 24 2007, 02:21 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 24, 2007

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Wilmington, Delaware



9:27 A.M. EST

MS. PERINO: All right, we have a short flight to -- we have a short flight to Delaware. So I have a few announcements to make, and I'll take as many questions as possible, and we'll see as far as we can get. And then we'll be around the rest of the day if you need anything.

So the President had his normal briefings this morning. He will tour -- can you guys back these off just a little bit, thanks -- tour of DuPont Experimental Station. He will tour a greenhouse that will feature cellulosic energy research. He will make remarks. There's about 1,150 attendees -- mostly are made up of DuPont employees. Secretary Bodman is on the plane. He will introduce the President. Congressman Mike Castle is also on the plane.

At 1:00 p.m. today, the President will meet with -- I'm sorry, 1:10 p.m., the President meets with General Dan McNeil, incoming Commander for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The President will congratulate General McNeil on his appointment. He's the first American assigned to this important position. They will discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the importance of success in Afghanistan as it relates to the war on terror. The United States is fully committed to providing the necessary resources to President Karzai.

And at 5:00 p.m. -- this is an addition -- at 5:20 p.m. -- we didn't have it on the schedule last night -- it was on the schedule, we just didn't put it on the public schedule, but should have -- meeting with the Joint Chiefs and combatant commanders. This is an annual meeting. The meeting will be in the Cabinet Room, followed by a dinner in the residence, in the Yellow Oval. He traditionally hosts this every year, as I mentioned.

This year's meeting with the President takes place on the first day of their three-day conference. This is an opportunity for the President to commend the senior defense leaders for their hard work and accomplishments in fighting the war on terror, defending our homeland, and maintaining a strong joint force.

I expect they will discuss progress to date on the new Iraq strategy, and then the continued efforts in -- to counter the Taliban in Afghanistan. He'll also talk about budgetary issues and working with Congress to ensure that they have the needed support for DoD operations and key programs.

Secretary of Energy Sam Bodman will also be on "Ask the White House" this afternoon to discuss the President's State of the Union address last night and the energy policy that was proposed in that speech.

Q What times is that, Dana?

MS. PERINO: The "Ask the White House"?

Q Yes.

MS. PERINO: At 4:00 p.m.

And last announcement is that this morning, the President signed an executive order that directs the federal government to lead by example in advancing the nation's energy security and environmental performance needs. It's an order that consolidates five existing executive orders and two memoranda, and then establishes new and updated goals, practices, and reporting requirements for environmental, energy, and transportation performance and accountability.

A couple of examples are, the increased use of alternate fuels, including more use of alternate fuel vehicles such as hybrids; reduce federal petroleum consumption in fleet vehicles by 2 percent per year through 2015, and increase use of non-petroleum-based fuels; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy intensity by 3 percent a year, or 30 percent by 2015. And we will release that EO upon landing.

With that, I'll take any questions.

Q Dana, can you recap that the 5:20 p.m. meeting with the Joint Chiefs and combatant commanders, is that right?

MS. PERINO: Yes.

Q Is that annual --

MS. PERINO: Yes, the President traditionally hosts them every year. And so they're going to meet in the Cabinet Room, and then they'll have dinner in the Yellow Oval after.

Q Dana, now that the President has laid out his plans, particularly on health care and energy, requiring congressional action, what is his next step? What is he going to do now?

MS. PERINO: We were very pleased with the President's speech last night. We think that once people get past sort of the canned prebuttals of the State of the Union, and have a chance to look at the President's proposals, that we'll be able to have continuing dialogue with them.

I think that you saw some initial positive reaction on the energy piece. I think, collectively, everyone said, that might be something we can work on. If you think about it, over the years, there's been core bipartisan support for increased use of alternative fuels and renewable fuels. So that one is a little bit more ripe for a full-fledged discussion and to get hearings underway. It's an ambitious goal, but one, we think, that's attainable.

On health care, I see that one as a little bit more innovative and challenging. I believe it challenges the political imagination to think about how to upend the current health care system and have a very bold proposal that would change the way health care insurance is done in this country. I heard it was one of the most radical changes since Harry Truman actually gave the employer health care benefit -- tax benefit back in 1940.

So we have a lot of work to do in order to bring Congress along, but I think that the President also set a tone last night that will try to cool political passions, especially on a topic like immigration. Remember he said that convictions run very deep, but he believes that we can have a civil and serious discussion. And what he would like to see is a bill to his desk this year on that one. I think that that debate has been, again, discussed over the past few years, and it's ripe now for legislation to come to his desk.

Q -- hear anything new in today's speech, or is there any new thing to be looking for?

MS. PERINO: Well, I just announced the EO that the President did, but in the remarks of the President's speech? I think --

Q -- (inaudible) --

MS. PERINO: No.

Q Congressman Boehner says that the U.S. should know within 60 to 90 days whether or not the Iraq surge plan is going to work. What's your reaction to that? He's effectively laying down a marker, saying if something doesn't happen within 60 to 90 days --

MS. PERINO: I think General Petraeus is the best person to talk about that, and he did so yesterday. He's going to be the commander on the ground, and so the President will look to him. The President believes that the plan that he laid out is the best way to secure Baghdad so that we can help the Iraqis get to a position for political reconciliation.

In addition to that, we are also going to be looking to make sure that the Iraqis are meeting their end of the bargain, that they are ponying up the troops and that they are moving forward on the oil law and the other benchmarks that we laid out. So we'll be keeping a close watch.

Q The fact that you now have House Republicans openly saying there's a time frame here, 60 to 90 days, does that -- how does that sort of factor into the President's --

MS. PERINO: I didn't see his exact comments. I don't know if he meant -- what he meant -- what would happen at the end of 60 or 90 days. I think maybe he said we would know if it was headed in the right direction. And I think that General Petraeus and the commanders on the ground and supporters are the ones that could best answer that question, and we're not going to do it from Washington. And we're going to keep watch to make sure that they're meeting their end of the deal.

Q Dana, your announcement on fuel usage, is that strictly for federal government vehicles?

MS. PERINO: That's for the federal government.

Q Do you know how many vehicles that entails, how large the fleet is? I mean, how extensive is it?

MS. PERINO: I do not. I will see if we can get that. Well, I do know that the federal government is the single largest purchaser and user of energy in the world.

Anything else? All right, see you on the ground.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070124.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 25 2007, 03:45 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 25, 2007

Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Kansas City, Missouri



10:42 A.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Welcome, everybody, to this morning's gaggle. I have with me Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, and Kate Baicker from the National Economic Council.

Before we begin, let me just -- a couple of comments on developments in Iraq. The Prime Minister today has given an address -- we don't have a full translation yet, but as you probably know from your own reporting, at least three basic and important points:

Number one, he has once again made it clear that there's going to be no safe haven for those committing acts of terror within Baghdad, regardless of whether they're Shia, Sunni, Kurd, Arab, you name it.

Secondly, he has told the Council of Representatives that he wants the Council, during its current legislative session, which just has a couple more weeks to run, to pass a hydrocarbon law and also de-Baathification reform. As you know, those are two hugely important political benchmarks.

Number three, he also talked about the fact that in certain neighborhoods within Baghdad people have been pushed out of their homes, quite often by advocates or practitioners of sectarian violence. He says that the government is determined to allow those people back into their homes, and to push out what he referred to as the squatters.

So you had a very assertive address on the part of the Prime Minister. We certainly welcome that, because it demonstrates the kind of vigor we've been talking about and that the American people expect, and also responds specifically to concerns members of Congress have been expressing, in terms of the aims of and the determination of the government of Iraq.

And with that, I'll take questions.

Q Tony, could you talk about the Post support today on possible $7 billion to $8 billion increase for Afghanistan money?

MR. SNOW: Secretary Rice will be talking about it tomorrow, but we are, in fact -- and the President has discussed previously that we may be increasing our commitment in Afghanistan, and we will be.

Q Is that amount correct?

MR. SNOW: I think the amount is basically correct. Again, I'll let the Secretary confirm it tomorrow. But it's certainly in the ballpark.

Q It's for a wide -- not just military, it's for a wide range of initiatives, across a bunch of fronts, right?

MR. SNOW: Correct, but it will have a military component.

Q Do you have a comment on the resolution that got passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday?

MR. SNOW: No real surprises. Senator Hagel was the only Republican to vote for it. He was a co-sponsor, however, so you expect him to sign on to his own resolution. The President understands that people have political concerns. What he has said is, let's give this chance -- this plan a chance to work. You've already seen significant action, I think, since the President -- well, significant action since the President announced the way forward in the sense that Muqtada al Sadr has told members of the Mahdi army to stop wearing black and to put their arms down, and he's also instructed members of his political party to return to the political process.

We have seen assertive action on the part of Iraqi forces and joint Iraqi-U.S. forces within Baghdad taking on terror. You've seen what the Prime Minister had to say today. I don't want to attribute that specifically to the President's announcement of a way forward, but it is clear that a sign of American determination not only builds confidence but also activism on the part of the Iraqi government. And we continue to believe that it's important to make it clear to the Iraqis that our job is to help them build capability, and we'll do it.

Q Republicans on the panel were critical of the plan, like Voinovich and Lugar. Are you worried about the party splitting over Iraq?

MR. SNOW: No. What we want to do is, again, let members of the party -- and we know they will -- take a look at what happens as we proceed with the way forward. They know that five brigades are going into Baghdad, they know that 4,000 Marines are headed to Anbar, they know that there has been significant military improvement within Anbar, and they have all said things that we agree with: Number one, we cannot fail in Iraq. Number two, they support the troops. Number three, they want Iraqis in the lead.

We believe that the President's plan is the best way to achieve those objectives. We've also said, if you've got a better proposal that will achieve success in Iraq, help Iraqis get swiftly into the lead, and will demonstrate support for American forces, let us hear it. You have a patriotic obligation and you can do the whole nation a service.

Q Do you expect Iraq will dominate the meeting tomorrow with the House Republicans?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so. In fact, I don't expect it at all. I'll be talking to the House Republicans before the President does, but I think what House Republicans are looking for is they're going to want to talk about issues that came up in the State of the Union address, too, because that is going to play a significant role in politics over the next few months. So we'll talk about health care, we'll talk about immigration, we'll talk about energy, we'll talk about education, and we will talk about working together on Iraq, as well.

The fact is everybody in both Houses knows that we are going to proceed with the way forward, and they will have an opportunity to see results on the ground. And we also have no delusions, Americans want to see results on the ground, as well.

Q As the debate unfolds, though, are you hearing anything on Capitol Hill that you see as responsible -- you said that you'd be open to the debate -- anything that you can latch on to and perhaps move on yourselves?

MR. SNOW: I think at this point I really would resist talking about "latching on to," because it gives a sense of a sense of desperation, where, in fact, the President approaches this as a Commander-in-Chief. And as a Commander-in-Chief, it is his obligation to figure out how to succeed in Iraq. This is not a political exercise, this is an exercise in leadership.

To the extent -- we continue to look for each and every avenue towards success -- diplomatically, economically, politically and militarily. I think at this juncture, what we have are members expressing concerns -- perfectly understandable. We expect that. But also we understand that members of Congress will keep a keen eye out for what happens in the region and how events continue to unfold.

Q How aggressively is the White House lobbying members, particularly Republicans, on the resolutions?

MR. SNOW: Not particularly. We're talking with them, but we understand that members have concerns and they want to express them.

Q Have you asked Warner whether he will withhold negotiation with Democrats for a united resolution? Are you speaking with him about limiting any changes he might make to his resolution that might be more attractive to other Democrats?

MR. SNOW: No, certainly we've had conversations with Senator Warner. We're trying to take his temperature on what he intends. But I think any conversation about what he intends to do you probably ought to leave up to him. I'm certainly not going to speak on his behalf.

All right, thanks.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...1/20070125.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 25 2007, 03:51 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 24, 2007

Executive Order: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management




By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to strengthen the environmental, energy, and transportation management of Federal agencies, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of the United States that Federal agencies conduct their environmental, transportation, and energy-related activities under the law in support of their respective missions in an environmentally, economically and fiscally sound, integrated, continuously improving, efficient, and sustainable manner.

Sec. 2. Goals for Agencies. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order, the head of each agency shall:

(a improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions of the agency, through reduction of energy intensity by (i 3 percent annually through the end of fiscal year 2015, or (ii 30 percent by the end of fiscal year 2015, relative to the baseline of the agency's energy use in fiscal year 2003;

(b ensure that (i at least half of the statutorily required renewable energy consumed by the agency in a fiscal year comes from new renewable sources, and (ii to the extent feasible, the agency implements renewable energy generation projects on agency property for agency use;

(c beginning in FY 2008, reduce water consumption intensity, relative to the baseline of the agency's water consumption in fiscal year 2007, through life-cycle cost-effective measures by 2 percent annually through the end of fiscal year 2015 or 16 percent by the end of fiscal year 2015;

(d require in agency acquisitions of goods and services (i) use of sustainable environmental practices, including acquisition of biobased, environmentally preferable, energy-efficient, water-efficient, and recycled-content products, and (ii use of paper of at least 30 percent post-consumer fiber content;

(e ensure that the agency (i reduces the quantity of toxic and hazardous chemicals and materials acquired, used, or disposed of by the agency, (ii increases diversion of solid waste as appropriate, and (iii maintains cost-effective waste prevention and recycling programs in its facilities;

f ensure that (i new construction and major renovation of agency buildings comply with the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings set forth in the Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings Memorandum of Understanding (2006), and (ii 15 percent of the existing Federal capital asset building inventory of the agency as of the end of fiscal year 2015 incorporates the sustainable practices in the Guiding Principles;

(g ensure that, if the agency operates a fleet of at least 20 motor vehicles, the agency, relative to agency baselines for fiscal year 2005, (i reduces the fleet's total consumption of petroleum products by 2 percent annually through the end of fiscal year 2015, (ii increases the total fuel consumption that is non-petroleum-based by 10 percent annually, and (iii uses plug-in hybrid (PIH) vehicles when PIH vehicles are commercially available at a cost reasonably comparable, on the basis of life-cycle cost, to non-PIH vehicles; and

(h ensure that the agency (i) when acquiring an electronic product to meet its requirements, meets at least 95 percent of those requirements with an Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT)-registered electronic product, unless there is no EPEAT standard for such product, (ii) enables the Energy Star feature on agency computers and monitors, (iii) establishes and implements policies to extend the useful life of agency electronic equipment, and (iv) uses environmentally sound practices with respect to disposition of agency electronic equipment that has reached the end of its useful life.

Sec. 3. Duties of Heads of Agencies. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order, the head of each agency shall:

(a implement within the agency sustainable practices for (i) energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions avoidance or reduction, and petroleum products use reduction, (ii) renewable energy, including bioenergy, (iii) water conservation, (iv) acquisition, (v) pollution and waste prevention and recycling, (vi) reduction or elimination of acquisition and use of toxic or hazardous chemicals, (vii) high performance construction, lease, operation, and maintenance of buildings, (viii) vehicle fleet management, and (ix) electronic equipment management;

(b implement within the agency environmental management systems (EMS) at all appropriate organizational levels to ensure (i) use of EMS as the primary management approach for addressing environmental aspects of internal agency operations and activities, including environmental aspects of energy and transportation functions, (ii) establishment of agency objectives and targets to ensure implementation of this order, and (iii) collection, analysis, and reporting of information to measure performance in the implementation of this order;

(c establish within the agency programs for (i) environmental management training, (ii) environmental compliance review and audit, and (iii) leadership awards to recognize outstanding environmental, energy, or transportation management performance in the agency;

(d within 30 days after the date of this order (i) designate a senior civilian officer of the United States, compensated annually in an amount at or above the amount payable at level IV of the Executive Schedule, to be responsible for implementation of this order within the agency, (ii) report such designation to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, and (iii) assign the designated official the authority and duty to (A) monitor and report to the head of the agency on agency activities to carry out subsections (a) and ( of this section, and ( perform such other duties relating to the implementation of this order within the agency as the head of the agency deems appropriate;

(e ensure that contracts entered into after the date of this order for contractor operation of government-owned facilities or vehicles require the contractor to comply with the provisions of this order with respect to such facilities or vehicles to the same extent as the agency would be required to comply if the agency operated the facilities or vehicles;

(f ensure that agreements, permits, leases, licenses, or other legally-binding obligations between the agency and a tenant or concessionaire entered into after the date of this order require, to the extent the head of the agency determines appropriate, that the tenant or concessionaire take actions relating to matters within the scope of the contract that facilitate the agency's compliance with this order;

(g provide reports on agency implementation of this order to the Chairman of the Council on such schedule and in such format as the Chairman of the Council may require; and

(h provide information and assistance to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Chairman of the Council, and the Federal Environmental Executive.

Sec. 4. Additional Duties of the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order, the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality:

(a (i) shall establish a Steering Committee on Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management to advise the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Chairman of the Council on the performance of their functions under this order that shall consist exclusively of (A) the Federal Environmental Executive, who shall chair, convene and preside at meetings of, determine the agenda of, and direct the work of, the Steering Committee, and (B the senior officials designated under section 3(d)(i) of this order, and (ii) may establish subcommittees of the Steering Committee, to assist the Steering Committee in developing the advice of the Steering Committee on particular subjects;

(b may, after consultation with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Steering Committee, issue instructions to implement this order, other than instructions within the authority of the Director to issue under section 5 of this order; and

(c shall administer a presidential leadership award program to recognize exceptional and outstanding environmental, energy, or transportation management performance and excellence in agency efforts to implement this order.

Sec. 5. Duties of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall, after consultation with the Chairman of the Council and the Steering Committee, issue instructions to the heads of agencies concerning:

(a periodic evaluation of agency implementation of this order;

(b budget and appropriations matters relating to implementation of this order;

(c implementation of section 2(d) of this order; and

(d amendments of the Federal Acquisition Regulation as necessary to implement this order.

Sec. 6. Duties of the Federal Environmental Executive. A Federal Environmental Executive designated by the President shall head the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, which shall be maintained in the Environmental Protection Agency for funding and administrative purposes. In implementing the policy set forth in section 1 of this order, the Federal Environmental Executive shall:

(a monitor, and advise the Chairman of the Council on, performance by agencies of functions assigned by sections 2 and 3 of this order;

(b submit a report to the President, through the Chairman of the Council, not less often than once every 2 years, on the activities of agencies to implement this order; and

(c advise the Chairman of the Council on the Chairman's exercise of authority granted by subsection 4 of this order.

Sec. 7. Limitations. (a This order shall apply to an agency with respect to the activities, personnel, resources, and facilities of the agency that are located within the United States. The head of an agency may provide that this order shall apply in whole or in part with respect to the activities, personnel, resources, and facilities of the agency that are not located within the United States, if the head of the agency determines that such application is in the interest of the United States.

(b The head of an agency shall manage activities, personnel, resources, and facilities of the agency that are not located within the United States, and with respect to which the head of the agency has not made a determination under subsection (a of this section, in a manner consistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order to the extent the head of the agency determines practicable.

Sec. 8. Exemption Authority. (a The Director of National Intelligence may exempt an intelligence activity of the United States, and related personnel, resources, and facilities, from the provisions of this order, other than this subsection and section 10, to the extent the Director determines necessary to protect intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure.

(b The head of an agency may exempt law enforcement activities of that agency, and related personnel, resources, and facilities, from the provisions of this order, other than this subsection and section 10, to the extent the head of an agency determines necessary to protect undercover operations from unauthorized disclosure.

(c (i) The head of an agency may exempt law enforcement, protective, emergency response, or military tactical vehicle fleets of that agency from the provisions of this order, other than this subsection and section 10.

(ii) Heads of agencies shall manage fleets to which paragraph (i) of this subsection refers in a manner consistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order to the extent they determine practicable.

(d The head of an agency may submit to the President, through the Chairman of the Council, a request for an exemption of an agency activity, and related personnel, resources, and facilities, from this order.

Sec. 9. Definitions. As used in this order:

(a "agency" means an executive agency as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code, excluding the Government Accountability Office;

(b "Chairman of the Council" means the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, including in the Chairman's capacity as Director of the Office of Environmental Quality;

(c "Council" means the Council on Environmental Quality;

(d "environmental" means environmental aspects of internal agency operations and activities, including those environmental aspects related to energy and transportation functions;

(e "greenhouse gases" means carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride;

(f "life-cycle cost-effective" means the life-cycle costs of a product, project, or measure are estimated to be equal to or less than the base case (i.e., current or standard practice or product);

(g "new renewable sources" means sources of renewable energy placed into service after January 1, 1999;

(h "renewable energy" means energy produced by solar, wind, biomass, landfill gas, ocean (including tidal, wave, current and thermal), geothermal, municipal solid waste, or new hydroelectric generation capacity achieved from increased efficiency or additions of new capacity at an existing hydroelectric project;

(i "energy intensity" means energy consumption per square foot of building space, including industrial or laboratory facilities;

(j "Steering Committee" means the Steering Committee on Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management established under subsection 4(b of this order;

(k "sustainable" means to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans; and

(l "United States" when used in a geographical sense, means the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands, and associated territorial waters and airspace.

Sec. 10. General Provisions. (a This order shall be implemented in a manner consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(b Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c This order is intended only to improve the internal management of the Federal Government and is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, entities, officers, employees or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 11. Revocations; Conforming Provisions. (a) The following are revoked:

(i) Executive Order 13101 of September 14, 1998;

(ii) Executive Order 13123 of June 3, 1999;

(iii) Executive Order 13134 of August 12, 1999, as amended;

(iv) Executive Order 13148 of April 21, 2000; and

(v) Executive Order 13149 of April 21, 2000.

(b In light of subsection 317(e) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002 (Public Law 107 107), not later than January 1 of each year through and including 2010, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the Senate and the House of Representatives a report regarding progress made toward achieving the energy efficiency goals of the Department of Defense.

(c Section 3((vi) of Executive Order 13327 of February 4, 2004, is amended by striking "Executive Order 13148 of April 21, 2000" and inserting in lieu thereof "other executive orders".

GEORGE W. BUSH

THE WHITE HOUSE,

January 24, 2007.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070124-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 26 2007, 04:00 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 26, 2007

National African American History Month, 2007
A Proclamation by The President of the United States



African Americans have been an integral part of America for generations, and our Nation is stronger because of their contributions. During National African American History Month, we honor the achievements of African Americans and recognize our continued responsibility to strive for equality for all our citizens.

With grace and determination, African-American men and women have shaped our Nation and influenced American life. Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr., advanced the cause of civil rights for all Americans and helped change the course of American history. Educators Booker T. Washington and Carter G. Woodson helped break down racial barriers in education to provide opportunity for all people. Americans have benefited from the achievements of scientists like George Washington Carver. Artists such as Pearl Bailey, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong inspired Americans and created some of the most celebrated music this Nation has ever produced.

The theme of this year's National African American History Month, "From Slavery to Freedom: Africans in the Americas," recalls African Americans' long journey to justice and commemorates the courage and persistence of the heroes who called on our Nation to live up to its founding promise. A century after African-American soldiers fought for their freedom on the battlefields of the Civil War, African Americans struggled peacefully for their rights in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, and on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Courageous civil rights leaders answered hate and discrimination with love and dignity, toppled segregation laws, and worked to make America a more just and hopeful Nation.

All Americans can be proud of the progress we have made, yet the work for a more perfect union is not done. As we celebrate National African American History Month, we reaffirm our commitment to build a society where every individual has the opportunity to achieve the promise of this great land.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2007 as National African American History Month. I call upon public officials, educators, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities that honor the significant contributions African Americans have made to our Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-sixth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.

GEORGE W. BUSH

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070126-4.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 26 2007, 04:01 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 26, 2007

Executive Order: Further Amendment to Executive Order 13285, Relating to the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation




By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to extend the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation, it is hereby ordered that Executive Order 13285 of January 29, 2003, as amended, is further amended by revising section 4( to read as follows: "( Unless further extended by the President, this order shall expire on November 30, 2008."

GEORGE W. BUSH

THE WHITE HOUSE,

January 26, 2007.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070126-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 26 2007, 04:04 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 26, 2007

President Bush Speaks to the House Republican Conference
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay
Cambridge, Maryland



12:26 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate the warm applause, thank you very much. It's good to be with you again -- twice in one week, and I'm better off for it. Laura sends her very best to those of you who've run and won, and to your families. I want to say something about the families -- I know how hard it is to be in a political family, and I know the sacrifices that the spouse and children make. So on behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for standing by your loved one as he or she serves a noble cause, and that is the cause of democracy here in the greatest country on the face of the earth, the United States. (Applause.)

I am glad to be among friends. I count a lot of you as personal friends. I particularly count the leadership as friends. I've gotten to know John Boehner and Roy Blunt over the past six years; I value their friendship, I look forward to working with them. And I know that the Republican Party is in good hands in the House of Representatives with these fine leaders.

I, of course, have known Kay a long time. She and I were blessed, like old Judge Carter, to be raised in Texas. For those of you from Texas, you know what I'm talking about, being blessed to be raised there -- for the rest of you, come on down and visit us sometime.

I've come to admire Adam Putnam. You call him Adam, I call him "Red." (Laughter.) But, nevertheless, he is a strong leader and good friend. I appreciate Tom Cole and Thaddeus McCotter, as well. These two gentlemen are new to the leadership, but I'm confident they'll be able to provide a lot of good direction to the caucus. And so I'm looking forward to working with you all, and I appreciate you taking on big responsibilities.

I want to spend a little time talking about the state of the union. I want to remind you that as a result of our philosophy, this economy of ours is strong. (Applause.) I said to the country the other night, we're a country with low inflation, low unemployment and increasing wages. We've got people working, and they're putting more money in their pocket. And one of the reasons this economy is strong is because we had the wisdom to cut the taxes on the working people. And we need to keep them low. (Applause.)

I'm looking forward to working with you on balancing the budget. Your old colleague Rob Portman, who is now the head of the OMB, will be submitting a budget that shows we can balance this budget within the next five years without raising taxes on the American people. (Applause.)

I want to work with you on earmarks. I know many of you are concerned about these spending items that just show up in bills that you didn't vote on and you didn't discuss. I want to work with you on entitlement reform. There's a lot of discussion about the budget, and there ought to be. There's focus on whether or not we can balance the budget in the short-term; but the truth of the matter is the bigger problem we've got is unfunded liabilities inherent in programs like Medicare and Social Security. And in my judgment, now is the time to fix this problem and now pass them on to future Congresses and future Presidents. (Applause.)

I know it sounds counterintuitive for a Texan to say that we're too dependent on oil -- but we are. And we need to do something about it. And the amazing thing is, we're on the verge of technological breakthrough that will enable us to power our cars in different ways, starting with ethanol derived from corn, and eventually, ethanol derived from wood chips, corn stalks, all kinds of stuff. It's called cellulosic ethanol, and I ask you to join me in continuing to spend taxpayers' money on research that will be necessary to develop new technology so we become less dependent on foreign sources of oil. (Applause.)

I want to work with you on health. I'm a big believer in No Child Left Behind. I think it needs to be reauthorized. I want to work with you on immigration reform, and I want to work with you on health care reform. These are big ideas, and it's going to require us working together to get the job done on behalf of the American people.

And I also appreciate your understanding that we're still a nation at war. You know, when I talked to the country the other night, I wish I could have reported differently. But it's not the truth, and it's not the reality. There's an enemy out there that would still like to strike us. And as I said, and I know most of you believe, the best way to defend this country is to stay on the offense and bring the enemy to justice before they hurt us again. (Applause.)

I talked about the progress, the advance that democracy was making around the Middle East. And then the fact that the enemy struck back, and they struck back against these young democracies, because they cannot stand the thought of freedom. You see, the best way to defeat totalitarianism in the long run is to offer a more hopeful ideology. And that's what we offer through the ideology based on human rights and human dignity, the central theme of which is, all people desire to be free. And it's in the interests of the United States to not only defend ourselves against the enemy in the short term, but it's in the interests of our children and grandchildren to spread freedom so that we can live in peace in the long term. (Applause.)

I've spent time talking about Iraq, and I'll talk with you a little bit later on. But my message to the American people was, I thought about all kinds of ideas about Iraq. And I told the American people I fully understand there are differences of opinion. But one of the things I have discovered is, in Washington, D.C. most people understand the consequences of failure. And if failure is not an option, then it's up to the President to come up with a plan that is more likely to succeed. And I spent a lot of time on the subject, because I understand how serious the issue is. And the plan I outlined to the American people is one that I believe can succeed.

Today I had the honor of welcoming David Petraeus to the Oval Office. He had just been confirmed by the United States Senate without one dissenting vote. (Applause.) And as I looked at that General, who is willing to go back into the war zone to represent our country, it reminded me, as the President, I must make sure he has everything he needs -- that he thinks he needs to succeed in the mission that we have sent him on. And I look forward to working with you to make sure that our generals and our troops that we put into harm's way have the support of the United States Congress.

I talked about the need to have a foreign policy that's more than just military, a foreign policy that's got active diplomacy, which we do all around the world. I mentioned in my speech that the United States does not stand alone. As a matter of fact, our troops are in Iraq based upon a United Nations mandate. We're working with the countries in the neighborhood to support this young democracy and making it clear the stakes of the ideological struggle we're in.

I talked about the fact that we've encouraged and worked with NATO to be an active participant in Afghanistan -- it's the first time that alliance has deployed outside of Europe in the history of its existence. I talked about the fact that we will never forget the importance of freedom, whether it be in our hemisphere, in Cuba, or in Burma, or in Belarus; and when we call a human tragedy "genocide," like in Darfur, we'll continue to rally the world to solve the problem. (Applause.)

I want to thank members of the Congress for supporting the HIV/AIDS initiative on the continent of Africa. It gave me great pleasure to tell the American citizens that because of your actions, because you acted, 50,000 people -- what was once 50,000 people receiving life-saving drugs has increased to 800,000 people in three short years. I firmly believe what I said: To whom much is given, much is required. A lot has been given to the United States, and it's in our interests to help people who suffer from disease and hunger. And I thank you for your support. And the next great initiative is to eliminate malaria in countries on the continent of Africa, and I ask you to join me.

I said, finally, introducing the people that were there, something I believe: I believe the state of this union is strong, and it's strong because the character and decency of the American people remain strong.

And so I'm looking forward to serving with you this year and next year. I thank you for your sacrifices. I have confidence in the future of this country, because we're a country full of such decent and courageous and loving people.

Thanks for having me. (Applause.)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070126-3.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 29 2007, 05:20 PM
MR. SNOW: All right. As all of you know, the President is going to be highlighting the strength of the economy over the next couple of days. First, there will be a visit to Peoria, Illinois. He'll visit the Caterpillar headquarters and speak to employees, highlighting, among other things, the benefits of global trade and the way in which free and fair trade have enabled companies like Caterpillar to prosper on the global market.

Then he'll head to New York, the world's leading financial center, and deliver a speech on the state of the economy. He will deliver the New York speech at Federal Hall, where I believe George Washington took the oath of office, and Alexander Hamilton held forth as Treasury Secretary. The President also -- double check on that one, as well -- the President last was there in October of 2001.

Over the last six years the American economy has had to endure a great deal: recession, September 11th terrorist attacks, the bursting of the technology bubble, devastating hurricanes that have crippled entire regions. We have had corporate scandals, we have had wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a larger war on terror; we have had an oil shock. And, despite all that, the economy continues to thrive.

And the President is going to talk about how to make sure that we build a basis for future and further prosperity in an increasingly competitive global economic environment that includes giving our kids the intellectual and educational skills they're going to need to compete. It means that we are going to try to reduce reliance on foreign oil. It means that we are also going to try to create better, fairer, more efficient legal and health care systems; deal with our long-term entitlement programs -- that is something that inflicts other industrialized nations; continue to expand free and fair trade and keep taxes low; and allow small businesses to thrive. So that is what the President will be doing the next couple of days -- you are all invited.

Questions.

Q The President said today that the United States would take firm action against Iran if military activities in Iraq threaten Americans. He doesn't seem persuaded that Iran's statement that it's going to become more military involved or in the economy of Iraq as a positive development.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, we'll wait and see whether it's a positive development or not. You're talking about statements to the effect that the Iranians are thinking about opening a series of banks within Iraq, and that they have also offered to do military cooperation.

What we've said is to the extent that anybody -- including Iranians -- are smuggling weapons, bringing in fighters, killing Americans, trying to destabilize the democracy in Iraq, we will take appropriate measures to defend our troops and also to defend the mission.

But the Iranians understand that there's a burden of proof for them, and so it's an interesting statement. As I told you before, we don't have much more on it, and we don't have a lot of detail on it. But the Iraqi government is sovereign and it certainly can make arrangements with its neighbors. And I daresay it's not going to make arrangements that are going to be detrimental to its security or its prosperity.

Q Is that something that the President might talk to the Prime Minister about, to find out where that's going or --

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm sure that there are ongoing conversations. The Prime Minister talks regularly with the ambassador and other officials in Baghdad. I honestly don't know where they stand in terms of those conversations. But they may discuss it.

Q Do you take it at face value that they're trying to help their economy and want to cooperate --

MR. SNOW: Well, we'll just have to see. You don't take -- it's a statement, let's see what actions follow.

Q Tony, if I could follow, just on balance, does the Bush administration see Iran's activities inside of Iraq as more of a positive than a negative?

MR. SNOW: Right now what we are seeing is some evidence that the Iranians have been involved in activities that have led to the deaths of American soldiers and also the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians -- and to the extent that that kind of activity continues, we will respond appropriately.

What you're asking us to do is to respond to something that hasn't happened. There is a statement of intent and we'll see how they follow through on it. We would certainly welcome Iran to start playing a constructive role in the region. And among other things, they could stop smuggling arms -- or at least contributing arms. They could stop contributing to terrorist organizations. They could stop supporting Hezbollah. They could, in fact, encourage people within the Middle East to promote peaceful negotiations with Israel on a two-state solution. There are a whole series of positive things they can do.

On a separate but equally important track, they could accept the offer that the United States and other nations have made to give them peaceful civil nuclear power in exchange for their renouncing any programs, verifiably, that could lead to the creation of nuclear weapons. And we have certainly extended our hand, in terms of much warmer, more constructive relations should they do so.

Q So it's fair to say the Bush administration still considers Iran's role largely negative inside of Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Again, what we have seen -- I'm going to twist it in a different direction. We would love to see them start playing a positive role.

Q Have you seen anything positive, Tony? I mean, why would you believe this might be a positive role?

MR. SNOW: We don't believe, we just -- as I just said, Martha, let's see what the actions are. You've characterized accurately the situation, which is, we have a statement. Let's see what happens in terms of actions, and then we will assess them.

Q The President is going to talk about trade tomorrow. Does he need -- would he like to have fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals?

MR. SNOW: Absolutely. What he wants to do is to continue to have Trade Promotion Authority; every other President has had it. It is the ability to negotiate a good faith trade agreement without their later being changed by Congress, which means you have to go back to the table and kind of renegotiate. It is an important device in extending free trade and also allowing negotiators to operate effectively. President Clinton used it to positive effect during his presidency, as have prior presidents, and we certainly think it is important that Congress renew it.

Q Will he talk about that tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: I don't know if he's talking about it tomorrow or Thursday, but he will be talking about it -- I mean, tomorrow or Wednesday, but he will talk about it this week.

Helen.

Q What did the President think of the march on Washington?

MR. SNOW: I don't think he really thought a lot about it. It's nice to see Jane Fonda in front of the camera again. There are a number of people who were here making statements, and that's perfectly appropriate. This is a vigorous democracy.

Q You said something earlier this morning, though. Would you like to repeat that?

MR. SNOW: It's simply that there were predictions of a larger audience than showed up for the protest.

Q And you really counted heads?

MR. SNOW: No. Did you? Did you see 100,000?

Q Don't you think we had a good turnout?

MR. SNOW: Honestly, I didn't go there, Helen, so I'm not going to characterize.

Q How do you make a statement like that?

MR. SNOW: Well, because it's pretty clear from the press accounts that nobody attached six figures to the number who appeared.

Q Tony, the President touched briefly in that NPR interview about the actions Sunday in Najaf. What is the feeling inside the White House about what happened over the weekend, these raids, and the prospects for moving forward?

MR. SNOW: Well, what the President also said is we're getting briefed up on them and he had not been fully briefed. So it's a little -- I'm afraid I'm not in a position to comment specifically on it.

But let's talk generally about the kind of action we've been seeing of late within Iraq, which is Iraqi and U.S. forces standing up against those who are trying to commit acts of violence -- at least according to press accounts, and that's all I can go on now, Bret. They were talking about an operation, actually, on Shia and Sunni together, who were trying to commit acts of violence that would disrupt Shia religious observances, much as we saw last year with the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

We have seen the kind of impact that sort of action could have, in terms of inflaming sectarian violence. And it is important to go after those who try to commit such acts of violence. So it is certainly the kind of thing we expect to see more of, in terms of U.S. and Iraqi forces in joint operations going after these acts of violence. It also means that somebody had to provide information that was necessary for carrying out the operation.

Ultimately, the Iraqis are going to have to find a way to provide for their own security, and they are going to need to be able to conduct these kind of operations. They will need the intelligence capabilities, they will need the logistical capabilities. They clearly will need the arms and training to do it in a professional manner. So I know it's a very general answer to the question because even now the kinds of reporting we're getting are fluctuating, in terms of casualty counts and exactly where it was and so on, so I don't want to be too specific because, frankly, we don't have the specifics yet.

Q Follow on a different track -- politics. Senator Clinton in Iowa talking about the war said, "The President has said that this war is going to be left to his successor. He's said that on more than one occasion. I really resent that. This was his decision to go to war." And she described it as "the height of irresponsibility."

MR. SNOW: All right, well, expect a lot of "can you top this" rhetoric early on, on the campaign trail. But let's talk about the merits of the case, as well. Senator Clinton voted to authorize action in Iraq. And Senator Clinton, in many cases, has stood with the President, including providing funding for our forces there. The real question here is, the United States Senate that voted 81 to nothing -- I think that was the vote -- for General Petraeus, now it ought to go ahead and supply what he needs in terms of reinforcements and resources for finishing the job in Iraq.

But, more importantly, you've got ask yourself, what do you really want. If you want American forces out of Iraq, probably the best way to do that is to support the President and support the combatant commanders in doing what they say they need. We have seen already, in the wake of the President's announcing a new way forward, a shift in the way people are behaving in Iraq. We have seen -- apparently some terror groups are making their ways out of Baghdad. You've seen a direct change in the public stance of Muqtada al Sadr. You have also seen very good signs of determination on the part of Prime Minister Maliki, not only in terms of public statements, but also in terms of operations that have been aimed at Shia and Sunni organizations that seem to be working to undermine the government.

And it's important to realize that every time the United States shows strength and determination in operations like this, it makes a difference. After the United States Army went into -- or the U.S. military actually went to Baghdad in three-and-a-half weeks, you saw that Mommar Ghadafi made a calculation about what he thought was in his nation's best interest and decided to stop being part of the problem with terror and started to cooperating with the United States. And you saw in the wake of that a number of nations in the region extending the franchise. You saw the Lebanese putting together the Cedar Revolution.

And as the President also pointed out, last year in the wake of those successes, terrorists decided to fight back. It is important to realize that withdrawal from Iraq without success means that the President would be handing his successor failure. And failure could have dire consequences.

The other thing is when the President talks about handing things to the next President, he's not merely talking about Iraq, he's talking about a larger war on terror. And the point he has also made -- tried to make is that he understands right now that there's enormous political controversy. But he also understands that, like it or not, the terrorists are simply not going to lay down their hatred on January 20, 2009, just as they did not lay down their hatreds when George W. Bush took the oath of office, and they had already been in the stages of planning for September 11th.

This is a long war, based on deep and profound hatred of the United States and its way of life, and a determination to kill us, people who spend their time scheming to find ways of killing us. And the President wants to make sure that the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States will have access to intelligence that can save American lives; will have access to law enforcement tools that will allow people in the United States to go ahead and break up cells before they can act; will have access to the kind of military, diplomatic and economic levers that are going to force nations to make a choice about whether they're going to support us or be against us in the war on terror.

All of those things are essential. And his view is not one of simply trying to confine his field of vision to Iraq, but to say, he will do everything in his power to make it possible for the next President to succeed in a war on terror that surely will continue, even if everybody is home from Iraq, when the next President takes the oath of office.

David.

Q Can you repeat that? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Let me try. (Laughter.)

Q I want to ask you about the mixed messages that NPR pointed out during an interview with the President -- that the Vice President has been quoted as saying there's a lot of success in Iraq; the President has said there's not been enough success in Iraq, and that he doesn't approve of what's going on, either. How do you explain this disconnect and the kind of --

MR. SNOW: I see it less a disconnect as two different ways of looking at it. When you talk to combatant commanders, they make the point that every time there's a military engagement, such as the one that Bret was talking about, the other side doesn't win. On the other hand, what we have seen is a change in the situation on the ground, particularly with regard to sectarian violence, and also some strengthening -- although the locals have been fighting back against it in Anbar province. So what the President sees is the situation of violence in Baghdad and he says this is unacceptable -- and the Vice President agrees.

But the Vice President, I think, was also trying to make the statement that American forces, contrary to popular opinion, aren't just sitting ducks. They have, in fact, been engaged in military operations, and when there is direct conflict, they're successful. And it is important now to create the ability for the most important success of all, which is training up and creating capability within the Iraqi forces so that, sooner rather than later, they can assume full control for their security.

Q But when the President says that his Vice President is a glass half full kind of guy, might that be more charitable than others would allow, and they might think, no, when the Vice President talks about things going so swimmingly, that he's out of touch with what's going on?

MR. SNOW: You mean others are more critical of the Vice President than the President may be?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: Well, the Vice President does have a lot of critics.

Q Well, right, but the point is that, whether these are Republican critics or Democratic critics, the idea to -- when the President says he's a glass half full kind of guy, he's not being a little bit charitable, I guess?

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. Again, I think there are two ways you look at it. You can take a look at what happens -- it's important -- everybody says, we support the troops, and everybody praises the troops. Well, then acknowledge what they do. And when they do have conflicts in the field, they do succeed.

But the question now is building that capability among the Iraqis and also change in the way we do business in Baghdad proper, so that once you clean out a neighborhood you can keep it cleaned out, you can bring in jobs, you can build a foundation for real and permanent success. That's not something that was being done before and, frankly, the prior efforts didn't work. And so those of -- I think that's what the President and the Vice President are both talking about.

Q But to follow this, are the President and the Vice President -- can we characterize them as being on the same page with their read on Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q And the Vice President's comments reflect the administration's thinking?

MR. SNOW: Both the President and the Vice President -- again, you can take a look at this in two ways, Jim. If you take a look in terms of specific military engagements, you can point to successes. For instance, you take a look at what's been going on in Anbar, you can take a look at operations recently in Diala, you can take a look at what's been going on down south with attempts to create acts of violence or to commit acts of violence against Shia worshipers -- those would all count as "successes."

But on the other hand, there's also been, over the last year, the new phenomenon of sectarian violence that was not addressed effectively, and I think the President and the Vice President both agree that it was not addressed effectively and we need to find better ways of doing it.

Q Tony, why a separate state of the economy speech? Isn't that something typically in the State of the Union speech?

MR. SNOW: Yes, but it wasn't in the State of the Union speech; hence a state of the economy speech.

Q Why? Why the decision to shift it off separately?

MR. SNOW: Well, let's see. the State of the Union speech, as it was, took sort of the normal hour, once you put everything together, and we wanted a State of the Union address that could be focused on key issues and bold initiatives. And you know what? It is worth reminding people of how good this economy is.

We are starting to see signs of it, in terms of people's general confidence in the economy and certainly consumer behavior. But you look at polls a lot of times and people think, well, it's going great for me, but maybe it's not going great for everybody else. The fact is that the American economy, having absorbed the kind of body blows that lesser economies would not have been able to survive, has continued to thrive.

And the last thing we can do -- you know, American workers have done this -- there haven't been any special acts of heroism, people have just gone to work and they've worked hard and they've saved and they've said, okay, I'm going to do what I need for a home addition, or I'm going to save up some money and buy something for my kid, I'll buy more this year for Christmas -- whatever the case may be. People have worked hard to pursue the kind of goals to make life better for themselves and their families. And that has made our economy stronger. And the last thing we need to do to these workers who have put the U.S. economy on their back, through all of these various challenges, is now to say, do you know what, job well done, we're now going to cut your pay in the form of a tax increase.

So what the President is really arguing for is, let's go ahead, let's make permanent the tax increases that have enabled people to have more cash in hand to pump back into the economy, to create conditions of economic growth, and let's make life more rewarding, literally, for the people who are working hard in this country, including small businesses.

Q He's not downgrading that by taking it out of the State of the Union speech?

MR. SNOW: No. No. I don't think -- as a matter of fact, this offers a chance to highlight it, don't you think? I mean, it's a separate speech.

Q Is he also, in a sense, trying to prod the Democrats into acting on this issue? Is this a message really directed to the Hill?

MR. SNOW: If you take a look -- any time a President gives a speech about politics, Sheryl, there are multiple audiences -- certainly Capitol Hill, but also the American public. For instance, in the State of the Union address, a health care plan that really does offer the possibilities of revolutionary change in the health care system that will make it user friendly, which a lot people complain that it is not today. He is talking about taking a new look at the way we go ahead and pursue energy innovation, so we cut our dependence on foreign oil, but at the same time we make the environment cleaner and we create new economic opportunity, rather than throwing people out of work.

Q Does he really expect Democrats to partner with him on those two issues, and to make his tax cuts permanent?

MR. SNOW: Well, we're going to find out. The Democrats, as I've noted many times, said that they wanted to come to Washington, they wanted to work with the President, they wanted to get things done. And I think the President has proposed things that make sense. People understand it. They understand that what he is talking about addresses some of their basic concerns about education, about the environment, about energy, about health care, about immigration, and people want to see action on those. And I think there are enough people of good will on both sides of the aisle that we may, in fact, be able to get things done.

Q Tony, talking about people want to see action on things, you also brought into the issue of the economy the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. You have Mark Morial, the head of the National Urban League, calling for a summit, and you have people like Bruce Gordon still very upset. What can the White House do to help in this lowest (inaudible), particularly as it's concerned with New Orleans, because there seems to be a disparity between the other (inaudible) in the state.

MR. SNOW: Well, as the papers in Louisiana have pointed out, that's really a question to point toward officials in Louisiana, because whereas -- the federal government has made more than $100 billion available for hurricane relief, and it has made billions of dollars available for housing. In the state of Mississippi, thousands of people have received checks, and they've been able to proceed with the business of rebuilding their homes and their lives. My understanding is that in New Orleans, that number is still less than 300, even though they've already spent more than $100 million in administrative costs. So it is an important question -- we will do everything we can to work with local officials, in terms of trying to increase the speed.

But right now, the federal government has made the money available, and we will do whatever those officials think they need in terms of assistance to finish their part of the job.

Q Tony, apparently it's not necessarily about money, it's about when do you say when, and not just work with, but help guide them, push them to move in --

MR. SNOW: Well, I think they're getting pushed a lot by their constituents right now.

Peter.

Q Tony, so the main issue tomorrow in Peoria is trade; is that right?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q There seemed to be some movement on this over the weekend, on the issue of world trade talks. What do you see -- what's your assessment for a world trade agreement at this point?

MR. SNOW: Sue Schwab and her counterpoint -- counterpart with the EU have been working very hard, and they've also been reaching out to the G20 nations. It's a very complex set of negotiations going forward. Also it's, I think, realized that it is going to be in the best interest of all to have success in the Doha round.

I cannot and would not get into details at this point. We are at a very important point of the negotiations. We've got a small window to get a lot of things done. And I know all sides are working very hard on this. But the President is deeply committed to working with all our allies. And they've assured us that they're committed also in working with us toward resolution.

Q And will he address this tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: He's not going to talk in detail about it, but what he will do is once again point to the importance of free trade. You see, not only do we have free trade within the global structure of the Doha round, but also the United States is engaged in a series of free trade agreements that also have yielded real benefits for American businesses and workers.

Q On another issue there, he's going to the Caterpillar plant, and that company was among those last week -- you know, called for the mandatory emissions controls. Do you think that issue will come up?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. We'll have to see. I certainly expect it to come up in reporter questions. But I don't know. Certainly, we're aware of the concern. And, frankly, what we do share is the belief that it is important to figure out every possible way to reduce carbon emissions and at the same time create conditions for continuing a strong economic growth.

There has been in the past -- and I think environmentalists realize this -- the creation of a kind of environmentalism that said the only way that we can clean the environment is to throw people out of work, shut down the factory, impose killer regulations -- in point of fact, there are real markets for making the economy cleaner. We have seen auto companies advertising the fact that their cars are cleaner than others and so on. It's something that Americans want and desire, so there are real market forces in favor of a cleaner environment. And, certainly, we'll continue working with any and all companies to do whatever we can.

Olivier.

Q Tony, this morning in a preview of the economic speech, you mentioned robust growth of India and China. And you said the President was going to lay out why it was important to stay number one.

MR. SNOW: No, what -- I was -- he is not. What I was saying, I was talking in general terms. So that was my characterizing the fact that we've got a very competitive global environment. And in this environment, it is important to make sure that our workers have the education they need, the training -- because you need to have the intellectual capacity to change jobs and change careers a number of times. It happens now with amazing swiftness. Companies themselves change. They change names. They have new logos. They change their missions.

We have an economy that has far more sweeping rapid irregular change than previous generations -- than the previous generations of Americans have had to deal with. It creates a sense of excitement, but also there is a challenge to make sure that you've got the conditions to allow companies to innovate and flourish, and also the ability to make sure that workers have the training and education necessary to compete in that kind of an environment.

Q So he's not going to cast this, then, as a global competition?

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no.

Sarah.

Q Thank you. Tony, Saudi Arabia is offering to try and broker peace between Hamas and Fatah as violence continues in Gaza. Does the President support such an effort?

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way, what we would like to see is a Palestinian partner that is willing to talk about peace with the Israelis. We saw a suicide bombing today in Eilat. It is important to have a negotiating partner that renounces violence, acknowledges Israel's right to exist and will abide by all prior agreements made by previous Palestinian administrations with the Israelis. What we're interested in is a reliable partner for peace.

Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. To the President's knowledge, has the United States Senate ever before voted to confirm appointment of a combat commanding general, like General Petraeus, and then voted to condemn the mission that he will lead in what would be an astounding hypocrisy?

MR. SNOW: Well, I am not -- I don't think that the people who are discussing resolutions would characterize them in that manner, and nothing has been passed yet.

Q No, of course not, because they're engaged in the hypocrisy. But isn't it hypocrisy?

MR. SNOW: Well, thank you -- thank you for the editorial comment. Let's go to question number two.

Q The Hill newspaper on Capitol Hill reports that Jane Fonda's fellow anti-war protesters were allowed to spray paint on part of the west front steps of the U.S. Capitol building on Saturday after U.S. Capitol Police were ordered by Chief Phillip Morse to fall back, after which 300 protestors spray painted, "Our Capitol building and you can't stop us."

And my question, does the executive branch believe the legislative branch should have allowed this treatment of the Capitol building of the United States?

MR. SNOW: Well, Les, what you're doing is -- I would encourage you, or all others interested, to call the Capitol Police and find out how this came to pass. I just -- I can't answer it.

Q Yes, one wonders what does the President -- he must have an opinion of this? Doesn't he? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Go ahead.

Q How closely is the President following the Libby trial?

MR. SNOW: Not that closely really. I know there's this perception that we're all sitting around buzzing about it, but we really aren't.

Q Well, I mean, you've got Rove and Bartlett both subpoenaed, and you've got the Vice President testifying. I would think there would be some interest in the White House.

MR. SNOW: Yes, but it's just -- look, it is what it is, it's an ongoing trial, and we're not going to comment on it further.

Q What is the President's response to seeing the White House portrayed as being at war with itself?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, as I said, as tempting as it is to jump into that, we're not commenting.

Q Are you glad you were not press secretary then? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I am glad I'm press secretary now.

Q North Korea insists they would never, ever return to the six-party talks unless BDA matter is resolved. Is there any precondition (inaudible) on North Korea?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into talks, but we've made it clear the North Koreans need to return to the talks without precondition, and then we can move forward.

Ann.

Q Considering the size of the potential crowds of candidates who are already going to Iowa and New Hampshire, has the President been asked to authorize Secret Service protection for any of the announced candidates yet? And will the budget that comes out next week provide for what may be an unusually large number of candidates?

MR. SNOW: I know the answer to neither. We will get them for you. Obviously, on the budget stuff, you're going to have to wait until we release the budget. I will find out and we will attach an asterisk if we do have an answer.

Q Is the President concerned that Israel may have used U.S. cluster bombs in South Lebanon, according to preliminary findings of the State Department?

MR. SNOW: What we're doing is -- I would encourage you to call the State Department about that. That's in their bailiwick, and they'll have a better answer for you.

Paula. You know, I noted you earlier you were in the second row. Now you're way back. I miss you. Come closer.

Q Same type of question, either way. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: In that case, go back. (Laughter.)

Q In terms of health care --

MR. SNOW: Go ahead.

Q In case of -- now you've got me speechless. The administration approach to health care, it's been argued that if you really wanted to reach low and middle class families you should have taken a refundable health care tax credit approach.

MR. SNOW: What we've done is we've tried to put together two pieces that together we think offer the opportunity to get private health care in everybody's hands. Number one, you create a health care deduction that allows everybody to have cash in hand that are going to require insurance companies suddenly to compete for their business, and say, let me give you what you want, rather than now, where we stand in lines once a year at open enrollment and we take what they'll give us.

It is really a sea change in the way that market is going to operate. It's going to make it more user friendly. And based on the experience that we've seen with the prescription drug benefit, where there's been vigorous competition to make people happy, we can expect an improvement not only in the quality of the product, but also lower prices.

On the other hand, we do understand that there are some people who, even under this system, are not going to be able to afford health care, and therefore we are working with states to put together programs that are going to allow those states to make private insurance available to all. So I know there are two different ways of cutting the issue. There are a series of -- there are varied series of pluses and minuses to either.

We think this is a strong way to do two things. Number one, create a responsive health care market. Immediately it's going to lower costs for 100 million Americans -- that's a good thing. But also, in addition to providing private health care for the poor, it's also going to give them an opportunity to enter an entirely different kind of health care system, one that's going to be, by design, more user friendly.

Q Also, on health care and climate change, a growing number of states and localities are actually approaching the health care issue by trying to establish universal health care coverage, and also putting their own caps on greenhouse gas emissions, because they apparently feel the federal government isn't setting a high enough bar on either of those.

MR. SNOW: We believe in federalism. On the other hand, we also believe in competition. States are certainly free to try out whatever they can. We think private markets are going to work better than a single payer plan, because, again, a single player plan forces consumers to do whatever government offers them, as opposed to saying to consumers, here is your money, have people go out and compete for the right to get your dollars. That makes the -- that gives the companies a far more profound incentive to reform the system in a way that's going to make it a happier experience for us all.

Q Thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070129-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 30 2007, 06:36 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 30, 2007

Press Gaggle by Tony Fratto and Al Hubbard
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Peoria, Illinois



PARTICIPANTS
Tony Fratto, Deputy Press Secretary
Al Hubbard, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director, National Economic Council

9:46 A.M. EST

MR. FRATTO: Hi guys. We have the President's National Economic Advisor, Al Hubbard, here with us today. I'm going to run through a few things. Let me just tell you a little bit about the President's day. He had his normal briefings this morning. On the airplane with us is Congressman Ray LaHood. We'll be visiting his district today, in Peoria.

Something that wasn't on the schedule that went out -- I think you may have it -- but our first stop is going to be a visit with business leaders, breakfast meeting with business leaders in Peoria. It will be an opportunity for the President to spend some time talking to some of the local business leaders in the community and getting their sense of how the economy and the region is going there. And then of course we go the Caterpillar plant for a tour, and the President will make remarks to Caterpillar employees, and then we'll head back.

I'm going to ask Al Hubbard to give us a rundown of some of the themes the President will be discussing today, and maybe tomorrow, and then we can come back to questions after.

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Thanks, Tony. Obviously, he'll be highlighting how strong this economy is, how truly remarkable it is, given the challenges that we've faced over the last six years, starting with 9/11, and then the recession, and Katrina, and the war in Iraq. And despite that, this economy continues to expand and be very strong, unemployment at 4.5 percent. We've created over 7 million jobs since 2003, and there's nothing to suggest that we won't continue to have a strong and prosperous economy.

The President is going to be talking about what needs to be done to ensure that we continue our growth. Obviously, keeping the taxes low and making his tax cuts permanent are extremely important to that; continuing to support free trade policies. Caterpillar is a great example of how the American worker can compete with anyone on a level playing field. Caterpillar is enormously successful -- over half the products they manufacture are actually exported.

And every time we have a new free trade agreement with a country like Chile or Australia, the sales of Caterpillar dramatically improve. That's why the President is committed to continuing to expand our trade agreements and support the Doha Round and the Doha agreement.

He'll also be talking about the major initiatives that he discussed in his State of the Union -- health care reform, which is so important to America, to American businesses, most importantly to all Americans. The cost of health care has been growing at an unsustainable pace. It is too expensive. And the President has some, as you all know, very important reforms that would have a major impact on accessibility of health care, affordability of health care, especially for the uninsured.

One little detail that I think I'd like to make clear about our health care proposal: It helps every single working American, even those who don't pay federal income taxes, because everyone would get the opportunity to deduct on their payroll taxes, as well as their income taxes. So for someone buying individual insurance who does not pay federal income taxes, they would get an $1,125 tax credit, or a reduction in their payroll taxes if they bought single coverage. They'd get at $2,250 deduction if they bought family coverage. And that's for people who do not pay federal income taxes, because the President's proposal allows individuals who purchase health insurance to get the same deductions as people who get their health insurance from their employers.

He's also going to be talking about the importance of energy, and reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and his commitment to reducing our dependence on gasoline by 20 percent within the next 10 years, which is very ambitious, but we believe that the ingenuity and the commitment of the American people will make that happen.

He will continue to talk about the importance of education, and he'll talk about that today at Caterpillar, because there's no question the inequality between the skilled and unskilled, in terms of compensation, has been growing over the last 25 years. The most important determinant of one's wages is one's education, and that's why the President is committed to No Child Left Behind, which is working. He's committed to having it, what do you call it in Congress, reauthorized, because what's important is that we dramatically increase the number of high school graduates who are prepared for college, and we do that by improving our K through 12 education system. And that's what the President is committed to.

Q Is the CEO of Caterpillar going to be there today?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Yes.

Q He's been -- he was part of that industry group that came out for carbon caps a week or two ago. Why is the administration not following the lead of industry on the issue of addressing carbon dioxide emissions?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Well, I think the President has talked about the importance of global warming and climate, and the policies that he's promoted, in terms of alternative fuel, will have a dramatic impact on CO2 emissions. And within 10 years, assuming we meet our goals, we will stop the growth of CO2 emissions from automobiles.

Q You talked about energy independence, and part of that being ethanol. And the President is also going to talk about free trade today. What's the rationale for imposing a tariff on imported ethanol? And why would the administration not lift that, if those are two things that the President aspires to?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Well, as you know, ethanol receives a -- my numbers may not be perfect here -- $0.51 per gallon subsidy, and I think there's a $0.54 per gallon import duty, and those offset one another. So there's a reason behind the import duty, and the President's position is, that's in law right now, and we see no reason to change that.

Q No reason to change the import tax on ethanol?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: It's set to expire in 2009, and at that point in time we think it's appropriate for Congress to revisit that.

Q Can you talk about how this speech will differ from tomorrow's speech?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Well, he's going to be using talking points today, and tomorrow really it's a formal state of the economy, where he's going to talk about where the economy is, the condition of the economy, what's made us successful, and most importantly, what's important to ensure that we continue to be successful.

Q Are new initiatives going to be unveiled today, and/or tomorrow?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: I'll leave that up to the President.

Q Are you encouraged or discouraged by the latest talks about restarting the Doha Round of trade talks? Is the President going to mention that today?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Listen, the President mentions that every chance he gets, just like he mentions entitlements every chance he gets, because those are two initiatives that are so important to him, because he thinks they are so important to the country. We are -- feel more optimistic. We made a very, very bold proposal in October of '05, and we continue to -- Susan Schwab representing the U.S. -- continues to lean forward to work with our trading partners to work for an agreement. We are waiting for them to meet us halfway, or not even halfway. And hopefully that's a signal that the Europeans are going to be more aggressive, like we are, in terms of negotiating the Doha Round.

Q Is the President going to call for a renewal of fast track authority today?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: We'll leave that up to him.

Q What if Congress doesn't renew fast track?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Again, TPA, we all know, is extremely important -- TPA meaning Trade Promotion Authority, the fast track -- is very important to passing any trade bill. And so that's been critical during this administration, and it will be critical to future administrations.

Q What's your take on the minimum wage situation on Congress? Are the tax break coupling -- is that a deal breaker if that doesn't happen?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: We think it's important -- raising the minimum wage will cost some jobs, and we think it's important to counter that with tax breaks that will replace those jobs, so it will have a no-net impact on the number of jobs in America. And what's most important to the American worker is opportunity for work.

Q Is there any negotiating room?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Congress is working on it. I'm confident Congress will make sure that -- and the Republicans will make certain that there are appropriate tax breaks in the bill.

Q What sort of changes in the labor provisions are you guys seeking in the already negotiated trade agreements with Peru and those countries?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: I don't know the details, so I can't --

Q It's been mentioned in press reports that Henry Paulson is going to take on a high profile role in the Doha negotiations. Is that true?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Susan Schwab will continue to be our leader in the negotiations. At the same time, everyone in this administration is involved, committed, and trying to help Susan and reinforcing her positions with the foreign leaders with whom they meet. And Hank has been enormously helpful. Condi Rice is being enormously helpful -- obviously, Secretary Johanns, Secretary Gutierrez. So it's important that this is a team effort, but we're being led by Susan Schwab, and we'll continue to be led by Susan Schwab.

MR. FRATTO: Thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070130-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 30 2007, 06:38 PM
President Bush Discusses Economy
Caterpillar, Inc.
East Peoria, Illinois


In Focus: Jobs & Economy
In Focus: Economy


11:52 A.M. CST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thanks for letting me come by. Please be seated. Thanks for the warm welcome. It's good to be in the heartland of America. Thanks for coming to let me visit with you a little bit about our economy. I really want to thank the good folks at Caterpillar for letting me come by. I like it when they say, Team Caterpillar. That's a good sign. It means people are working together for the common good. (Applause.)

You know, people from Texas like to say, things are better in Texas. Well, when you tour the Cat plant here, it's -- having second thoughts about if things are better in Texas. (Laughter and applause.) I'm impressed by the machinery I have seen. More importantly, I'm impressed by the workers I have met who are putting the machines together. (Applause.) And I'm impressed by a culture of excellence and accomplishment that is the spirit of Caterpillar. I also appreciate the chance to drive a D10. If you've never driven a D10 -- (laughter) -- it's a cool experience. (Laughter.)

I'm going to go to New York City tomorrow to deliver a speech on the state of the economy, but I really want to spend a little time here in Peoria to see how things are going. I was at the Sterling Brothers -- Sterling Family Restaurant today -- Sterling Brothers? -- Sterling Family, yes, run by two brothers -- and met with some small business owners, social entrepreneurs, as well as business entrepreneurs. I wasn't surprised by what I heard. It reminded me about the greatness of America. I heard about people willing to work hard to achieve dreams, and people realizing that when they achieve dreams they have an obligation to help others. It seems like to me the community spirit here in Peoria, Illinois is strong.

And that's the way our economy is, as well. It's a strong economy. And the fundamental question is, what are we going to do to keep it strong? It's one thing to say today's economy is strong -- I say it because inflation is down, interest rates are down, wages are on the increase, unemployment rate nationally is low, people are working and putting more money in their pocket. And the question facing the country is, what are we going to do to make sure it's strong tomorrow? As I said to Congress, we don't need more government, we need more enterprise. And so I want to spend a little time talking with you today, talking about the economy.

Before I do, I want to thank Congressman Ray LaHood. He's been bugging me ever since I got elected President -- (applause) -- I didn't tell you what he's bugging me about. He's bugging me to come to Peoria. He said, when are you going to show up? I kept saying, as soon as possible. The moment has finally arrived, and I'm glad I came. Thank you for the invitation.

I appreciate Jim Owens, the Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar. I thank Bob Williams for helping me with the tour. I thank Gerry Shaheen, who is the group president of Caterpillar. I want to thank the workers I met with today. I spent some time with people on the line, talking about the education programs here at this fine company. I thank the leaders of the UAW who welcomed me here. I thank the folks up and down the line who put up with me and all the cameras. I just don't travel alone these days, in case you've noticed. (Laughter.)

I want to thank Mayor Jim Ardis, Mayor of Peoria, Illinois. I met him at the airport. It was about -10. (Laughter.) I said, do you want to get in the limousine? He said, as fast as possible. (Laughter.) So we drove over to the Sterling Family Restaurant together. I was impressed by your young mayor. I want to thank the local and state officials who joined us. I appreciate you serving. I appreciate you doing what you think is right for the community that you represent. But most of all, thanks for letting me come.

People say, why would you want to go to Peoria, and I just told you -- I want to get out of Washington and sit down with folks that are really the backbone of this country. And I wanted to come to one of America's great companies, and that's Caterpillar. (Applause.)

The good folks here show others that in the manufacturing world, we can compete. And that's really what America -- what Americans wonder, can you compete in a global economy? And my answer is, darn right you can, with good policy. And in this company, you've shown how to compete. I want to spend some time explaining that to the American people why competition is important, and why America can compete with anybody, anytime, anywhere, and why it's in our interest to do so.

First of all, it's important for people to know that Caterpillar employs 48,000 workers across America. Secondly, more than half those workers are here in Illinois, 17,000 of them right here in Peoria. Caterpillar has great workers because it has got good training programs. Caterpillar can employ new people because it makes good product that people want.

I appreciate very much the notion that you all are in this deal together. That's what "team" means, that everybody works together for the common good, and if it benefits one, it benefits all. And that's the spirit I have found here. And our job in government is not to get in your way. Our job in government is to put pro-growth economic policies in place that mean companies like Caterpillar, which do the right things, can succeed. And let me talk some of what that means.

First it means keeping taxes low. Oh, there's a debate in Washington that says we need more taxes. We don't need more taxes. It's important for you to keep your own money. You work hard for your money and I -- (Applause.) I understand workers are saying, am I going to have more money in my pocket? That's what we want. And one way to make sure you don't have more money in your pocket is for the government to raise your taxes.

And so we cut taxes. Listen, we've been through a tough economic period in this country. You remember it -- right after the -- we headed into a recession in early 2001, then the terrorists attacked us. And the question was, could we recover? And I worked with Congress to cut taxes before the terrorist attack and after the terrorist attack. And I believe one reason why the recession we went through was one of the shallowest in American history is because we cut the taxes. See, when you have more money in your pocket to spend or save and invest, the economy benefits, as far as I'm concerned. And so one of the challenges we face is making sure that we keep the taxes low.

We cut the taxes on everybody who paid taxes. We increased the child tax credit. Look, if you've got a child, we want to help you. We reduced the marriage penalty. I didn't like a tax code that penalizes marriage. I thought we ought to be encouraging marriage, not penalizing marriage in our society. (Applause.) We cut taxes on capital gains and dividends, cut the taxes on small businesses.

Now, all those tax cuts affected the performance of Caterpillar. You see, the tax cuts help your workers have more money in their pocket. I happen to believe that if the workers have got more money in their pocket, they're going to be a more satisfied worker. I know it sounds not very sophisticated to say that, but I suspect it's true. If you got a safe workplace, a workplace where people are working together, you're a better satisfied worker if you're keeping more of what you earn. And that's what the tax cuts have helped provide.

We helped small businesses with expensing provisions. That's an accounting term that says if you buy new equipment you get a tax benefit for buying new equipment. That helps people in Caterpillar, because it encourages small businesses to use your products. It also helps make sure the small business sector remain vital. Seventy percent of new jobs in America are created by small businesses, and if you're interested in coming out of a recession, and interested in people working, it makes sense to provide tax incentives to help the small business owner in America. And that's what we did.

Capital gains and dividend tax cuts benefit people who invest in your company. One of the things -- reasons this company is strong is you're able to attract capital. People say, I like what the workers are doing, I like the product that's being put together, we want to invest, we want to work alongside of the good people here in Caterpillar. And the tax incentives that we provided by cutting capital gains and dividends encouraged that kind of investment.

We extended the research and development tax credit. One reason why Caterpillar is a modern, competitive company is because you're always investigating new methodologies, you're investing in research. And therefore, in the tax code, we tried to encourage research and development. And so the tax cuts have worked. And I hope you don't fall prey to people in Washington saying, we need more of your money in order to balance the budget. I don't think so.

I think what we need to do is to set priorities like you set priorities with your money, and make sure we focus on that which is necessary to do. And the most important priority we have is to defend this homeland from attack. (Applause.) And we better make sure that when we have a man or woman in our uniform in harm's way, they get all the equipment, all the support they need to defend the United States here in the 21st century. (Applause.)

I have an obligation to submit a budget. It's one thing to stand up here and say we don't need to increase your taxes, we can set priorities and balance the budget; so next Tuesday, I'm going to do just that. I'm going to submit a budget for Congress to look at that shows how we can balance the budget in five years and keep your taxes low.

I want to talk a little bit about trade. Trade is an important subject here at Caterpillar, and the reason why is because a lot of the product you make here, you sell to somebody else, sell overseas to another country. That's trade. And yet it's -- it's a topic of hot debate. The temptation is to say, well, trade may not be worth it, let's isolate ourselves. Let's protect ourselves. I think it would be -- I know it would be a mistake for Caterpillar workers to do that. I think it would be -- I know it's a bad mistake for the country to lose our confidence and not compete.

Let me give you some interesting statistics. First of all, we're the largest exporter in the world. Last year we exported a record $1.4 trillion worth of goods and services. Now, in order to export something, somebody has to make it. In other words, when I talk about numbers, behind the numbers is people who are providing the service and/or making the product. So the more one exports, the more likely it is people are going to be working.

Exports account for about 11 percent of our economy. One in six manufacturing jobs in the United States depends on manufacturing exports. We also benefit when people invest here. There are people who have good-paying jobs as a result of somebody saying, I want to invest in the United States. And so when I'm talking about opening markets, I'm making sure that not only is our markets open, but somebody else's market is opened. And we expect people to treat us just the way we treat them. All we ask for is be fair with the American people.

We've got free trade agreements. That's how you make sure that we're treated fairly. Our market is open, and we want their market open. We got -- these free trade agreements really represent only a small fraction of the GDP. In other words, they're not necessarily with significant economies, and yet they account for 42 percent of American exports.

One way to look at trade is this: We're 5 percent of the people in the world; that means 95 percent live outside of America, and shouldn't we try to put ourselves in a position where we can sell goods and services to those 95 percent? I think it makes sense to do so.

We've pursued trade agreements. The way it works is, you have bilateral trade agreements, in other words, with the United States and, say, Chile. And we have regional trade agreements and world trade agreements. One world trade agreement is called the Doha Round of the WTO -- it's basically attempting to make sure that everybody gets treated the same way, in the same fashion, so that the world markets are open.

Again, I repeat to you, I strongly believe that if we can compete with people on a level playing field, nobody can compete with us. And so the key is to make sure the rules are fair. We had bilateral agreement with three countries when I first became President; they're now up to 13, and we've got three more in the mill.

Let me talk to you about Caterpillar. Half the products you make in America are exported. It's an interesting statistic, isn't it? You walk by one of these things, it's sold right here in the United States, but the other one right here is sold overseas. Cat sells more than 300 products in foreign markets. It's not just the D10 I drove that gets sold overseas, there's 299 other products manufactured by this company, by American workers, that are sold overseas.

Free trade agreements are helping. We did a free trade agreement with Chile. Chile has become Caterpillar's fifth largest export market since that free trade agreement. In other words, because we lowered trade barriers, and said, you treat us the way we treat you, it has enabled this company to sell more product than ever before, which means people are working, when you have to make the product.

The free trade agreement completed with Australia took effect in 2005. Caterpillar exports to Australia have grown by 26 percent. In other words, opening markets benefits people who produce goods that people want. And people want Caterpillar product. Why? Because they work. They generally don't break down, the master craftsmanship is great, and there's a demand for them.

Opening China's market -- I understand trade with China is considered controversial. I know that. But I want to tell you something, if you're a Caterpillar worker or a Caterpillar shareholder, what that has meant; it meant that Caterpillar exports to China have increased by 40 percent since the market was opened. That's helped to create more than 5,000 new jobs right here in America.

We're going to continue to negotiate free trade agreements. And by that I mean we just want people to treat us fairly. I'm confident in our ability to sell American product and services overseas if the playing field is level.

A little bit on health care. You've got a good health care plan here, thanks to Caterpillar employees. A lot of small businesses don't. The cost of health care is on the rise; you know it. Some things we can do to make the health care system better is to make sure that customers, the patients, are more in charge of their lives and their plans. I'm worried about frivolous lawsuits that are running up the cost of health care. You know that there's about 1,500 counties in America where the OB/GYN has left because of frivolous lawsuits, and when somebody gets sued all the time, they practice more medicine than is necessary and it runs up your cost.

Health care needs to have new information technologies. I met some people on the floor that are running some pretty sophisticated computer ware, and we need information technology in health care. The old system of carrying handwritten files is not efficient, runs up the cost of medicine for you, and leads to errors. Most doctors can't write very well to begin with. (Laughter.) It's hard to read their writing.

We need to change the tax code in a fair way that treats everybody fairly. In other words, I've got a plan I'm going to spend a little more time with in New York tomorrow. I want to talk about energy tomorrow in New York. I'll give you the summary here. Dependency on oil puts us in a position that -- where terrorists can harm our economy. When you're dependent on a product, and you import that product, if somebody were to inflict damage on a energy infrastructure, it could cause the price of your energy to go up. Or if you're dependent upon product from a hostile regime, it means you're in a position of vulnerability.

And so I'm going to work with the Congress to spend some of your money on technologies that would change the way we live. One of the interesting things that's happening is that there's some new battery research taking place. And I believe within relatively short order Americans will be able to drive the first 20 miles, and eventually 40 miles, on a new battery. And you can imagine, particularly in the big cities, if people are using electricity to drive their car -- and by the way, the car is not going to look like a golf cart. (Laughter.) Not exactly looking like one of these things, but nevertheless, it will be normal size, something you actually want to use. But you can imagine how this battery technology can change our dependence on oil, because if we reduce the use of gasoline, you reduce your use of oil. And if most of your oil is coming from overseas, you're reducing your dependency upon oil from overseas.

I'm a big believer in ethanol. You've got a lot of farmers around here who -- (applause.) Fifteen years ago, or 20 years ago, if people stood up here and said a lot of people would be using a corn product to drive their cars, they'd have said, man, what -- the guy has kind of lost it, hasn't he? But it's happening. We're up to about -- I think it's 6 billion or 7 billion gallons of ethanol per year now.

We're going to run into a constraint pretty soon, though. It turns out corn is needed for more than just ethanol. You got to feed your cows and feed your hogs. And that's why we're spending some of your money on what's called cellulosic ethanol research so we can use wood chips or other agricultural wastes to make ethanol, to power our automobiles.

I believe we can reduce our consumption of gasoline by 20 percent over the next 10 years, in order to be able to meet a goal of becoming less dependent on oil. And it's coming. These are new eras and it's exciting times. (Applause.)

This is a global issue, obviously. It's an issue -- for example, when demand for oil goes up in a place like India or China, it affects the price that you pay at the pump. And therefore, it makes sense for us to help these developing countries with new technologies that will not only make them less dependent on hydrocarbons, but better stewards of the environment.

And so I appreciate what Caterpillar has done. They're involved with what -- we set up what's called the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. I don't know if you know this, but you've sold more than $50 million worth of equipment to a large coal mine in China to help capture methane gas and turn that into energy. In other words, you're not only making Cats, you're making interesting product that will enable us to be better stewards of the environment. And I thank you for that.

And my only point to you is, is that in order for us to be competitive, in order for us to remain the economic leader of the world, we're going to have to promote new technologies that make us less dependent on oil. And it's coming. These are exciting times. I'm very optimistic about meeting the future, because of new technologies.

I do want to say one thing about education. I really appreciate the worker program, the education program for the workers here. I think Cat spends about $900 a worker to help make sure our workers have the skills necessary to be competitive in the 21st century. But good education starts early. And we need to make sure our public schools, particularly in the early grades, get it right.

There's a piece of law I signed that I'm very proud of called the No Child Left Behind Act. The spirit says we're going to raise standards. If you have low standards, you get lousy results. I used to call it the soft bigotry of low expectations. If you don't believe a kid can learn, guess what's going to happen -- he's not going to learn. And so inherent in the No Child Left Behind Act says there is a role for the federal government. After all, we're spending a fair amount of money, and we ought to expect good results for that money.

So we said, in return for federal money we expect you, the local districts, to set high standards and to measure. I've heard every excuse for not measuring: you're teaching the test, you're testing too much. How can you solve a problem unless you measure? And what we need to do is figure out who can read or write early, and have extra money to help those who can't read or write. (Applause.)

We have an achievement gap in America that we better do something about if we're going to be competitive. And by that, I mean when you put out the test scores, the minority students test below white students. And that's not good enough. And we'd better make sure all our children can read early, not just a handful. And therefore, I like the idea of holding people accountable. And we say, we'll measure as a diagnostic tool to correct problems early. And at some point in time, if schools refuse to change, there needs to be a consequence. There needs to be accountability. This isn't anti-teacher, this is pro-teacher. And it's pro-parent, and equally importantly, it's pro-child. (Applause.)

And Congress needs to reauthorize this bill. It's working. The achievement gap is closing. How do I know? Because we're measuring. We can measure success in schools. It's in our interest as a country to make sure every child gets a good education, and it's important to start early.

Oh, I'm sure you've heard about all the reading debates, what works and what doesn't. Well, you're able to determine what works or what doesn't by measuring. And a measurement system says to a school, we appreciate your hard work, thanks for being in the classroom, but you might think about changing your curriculum since you're not meeting standards.

And then what this country needs to do is to recognize that we need to help poor students go to college. That's why we're expanding and increasing Pell Grants. And then what this country needs to do is understand the importance of community colleges and support community colleges, to help older workers gain new skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

In order to compete, we got to have an education system that makes sure all children from all walks of life have skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century; we got to be confident and open up markets so that our companies that produce products, goods and services that people want are able to sell them overseas; we got to have a tax code that keeps taxes low on the people who are working for a living; we got to have a health care system that is patient-centered, not government-centered; and we got to make sure that we don't lose our confidence. And if you really knew America like I'm able to see it, which is to see the compassion and the decency and the courage and the strength of the people, you'd share the same confidence I have about the future of this country.

I'm honored to be with you. (Applause.) Thanks for letting me come to the heartland of the United States. God bless. (Applause.)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070130-7.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 31 2007, 03:37 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 31, 2007

President Bush Delivers State of the Economy Report
Federal Hall
New York, New York


In Focus: Jobs and Economy
Fact Sheet: State of the Economy Overview


11:12 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Please be seated. Thanks for being here. I'm pleased to be back in Federal Hall. You know, I drove in, and there stood George Washington. I like to call him George W. (Laughter.) It's nice to be back here.

Last week, I delivered my State of the Union. This morning, I've come to deliver a State of the Economy speech -- and there's no better place to do it than in America's financial capital. More than two centuries ago, Alexander Hamilton led the U.S. Treasury Department from this building. Today, New York City is headquarters of global corporations, it's a center for capital markets, it's the home of three of the world's greatest stock exchanges. You have a Mayor whose name is a fixture on trading floors across the world. And until I took him to Washington, you had Hank Paulson -- who, by the way, is doing a fabulous job.

As we begin this New Year, America's businesses and entrepreneurs are creating new jobs every day. Workers are making more money -- their paychecks are going further. Consumers are confident, investors are optimistic. Just today, we learned that America's economy grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006. That means our economy grew at 3.4 percent last year, which is up from 3.1 percent in 2005. Ladies and gentlemen: The state of our economy is strong. (Applause.) And with the hard work of the American people and the right policies in Washington, we're going to make it even stronger.

Mr. Mayor, thanks for being here. I appreciate you coming. You're doing what people want you to do, and that is to lead this city.

I appreciate Bill Rudin -- thanks for having me, Bill. Good to see you again. I want to thank members of the Congress who have joined us -- Pete King, Vito Fossella, Carolyn Maloney, and Tom Reynolds. Thanks for flying down with me today. Do you want a ride back? (Laughter.)

Mr. Mayor -- David Dinkins, thank you for being here. Proud you're here. And it's good to see my buddy, Mayor Ed Koch. Mr. Mayor, thank you for coming. Appreciate you being here. (Applause.)

I thank the members of the Association of a Better New York who have joined us. I appreciate all the state and local officials who are here.

Bill mentioned that I was here in October 2001. I recognized then our economy had been hit hard and there was great uncertainty about the future. It was a tough time for the country. Many people were out of work. By mid-December, nearly a million jobs had been lost. The collapse of the Twin Towers had left dangerous cracks in this building's foundations.

I said that day that I was optimistic that our economy would recover from these attacks. But if I'd have told you that we would also make the recession one of the shortest on record, that we'd have confronted corporate scandals, absorb a tripling in the price of oil, fight a global war, and help a whole region of our country recover from a hurricane, you might have been a little skeptical.

Yet America's economy has overcome all these things. Federal Hall has been fully restored. It's on solid ground. And so is the New York City economy -- as the Mayor mentioned, it's booming -- with a bond rating at an all-time high, and unemployment near an all-time low. Across our nation, small businesses and entrepreneurs are creating millions of new jobs. Retail sales are up, consumer spending is strong, exports of goods and services have jumped by nearly 35 percent. The Dow Jones has set new records 26 times in the last four months. Productivity is strong, and that's translating into higher wages.

When people across the world look at America's economy what they see is low inflation, low unemployment, and the fastest growth of any major industrialized nation. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the United States. There is one undisputed leader in the world in terms of economy, and that's the United States of America. (Applause.)

On Wall Street, you know that America's economic leadership rests on strong and flexible capital markets. Capital markets connect entrepreneurs with the investment they need to turn their ideas into new businesses. America's capital markets are the deepest, the broadest, and the most efficient in the world. Yet excessive litigation and over-regulation threaten to make our financial markets less attractive to investors, especially in the face of rising competition from capital markets abroad. To keep America's economic leadership, America must be the best place in the world to invest capital and to do business.

One important step we've taken in Washington is to pass litigation reform like the Class Action Fairness Act. It's important for people in Congress to understand that excessive lawsuits will make it hard for America to remain the economic leader that we want to be. Another important step we've taken is to strengthen our business institutions by passing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. This law helped boost investor confidence by establishing high standards for transparency and corporate governance. The principles of Sarbanes-Oxley are as important today as when they were passed. Yet complying with certain aspects of the law, such as Section 404, has been costly for businesses and may be discouraging companies from listing on our stock exchanges.

We don't need to change the law. We need to change the way the law is implemented. America needs a regulatory environment that promotes high standards of integrity in our capital markets, and encourages growth and innovation. And I'm pleased of the progress that Hank Paulson and Chairman Chris Cox are making to make sure the regulatory burden is not oppressive, and fair, and helps us meet a great national objective to keep the United States the economic leader in the world.

Our economic leadership also depends on sensible, pro-growth tax policies. To help bring our economy out of a recession and recover from September the 11th, we cut taxes on the American people. We cut taxes on everybody who pays income taxes. We doubled the child tax credit. We reduced the marriage penalty. We cut taxes on small businesses. And we cut taxes on dividends and capital gains.

There's a lot of political debate about these tax cuts. But here are some of the facts: Since we enacted major tax relief into law in 2003, our economy has created nearly 7.2 million new jobs. Our economy has expanded by more than 13 percent. That expansion is roughly the size of the entire Canadian economy. This economic growth has led to record tax revenues, which has helped us cut the deficit in half three years ahead of schedule. One fact should be clear when you look at the statistics: The fastest way to kill a recovery would be to raise taxes on the people who created it. Now is not the time for the federal government to be raising taxes on the American people. (Applause.)

We must ensure that the money you send to Washington is spent wisely. Next Monday, I'm going to submit to Congress a budget that will eliminate the deficit by 2012. In order to do so, we need to set priorities in Washington. You can't try to be all things to all people when it comes to spending your money if you want to keep taxes low, keep the economy growing, and balance the budget. And my number one priority is to protect this country. And we're going to make sure our troops have all the equipment they need to do the job we've sent them to do -- (applause) -- and make sure our citizens have what it takes to defend this homeland.

That means we've got to be careful about how we spend money in other areas. One thing we can do to show the American people that we're going to be smart about how we spend their money is to do something about earmarks -- it's that system of appropriations where things end up being spent even though nobody has voted on them. And I'm going to work with Congress to reduce the amount of earmarks and the number of dollars spent by earmarks in a significant way to earn the trust of the taxpayers of this country, and at the same time, be wise about how we spend their money.

I believe I need a line-item veto to help Congress spend money wisely. And so I put forth a plan that says the legislative branch and the executive branch will work together to eliminate wasteful and unnecessary spending.

We're about to pass a farm bill that provides a strong safety net, while tightening spending and cutting subsidies. We can manage this short-term deficit -- and I look forward to working with Congress to do so. But it's important for Congress to understand there are unfunded liabilities inherent in Social Security and Medicare that we need to do something about now.

And I understand it's tough work that requires political will from both the President and the Congress to come together and solve this problem. I'm hopeful that we can set aside needless politics and address the issues with entitlements in a constructive way. That way people will say, they came to Washington and they did the job we expect them to do.

Our growing economy is also a changing economy. The rise of new technologies, new competition, and new markets abroad is bringing changes -- and these changes are coming faster than ever. There was a time when most people expected they'd keep a job for life. Now the average American has 10 jobs before the age of 40. It used to be that a company's name would stay the same for decades. New companies are now -- now companies are merging and splitting, and creating new names and new stock symbols. Some of us can still remember when cell phones were the size of bricks and considered a luxury. Now they fit in your pocket, they take photos, they play music, and every teenager in America has one, it seems like.

By and large, our dynamic and innovative economy has helped Americans live better and more comfortable lives. Yet the same dynamism that is driving economic growth is also -- can be unsettling for people. For many Americans, change means having to find a new job, or to deal with a new boss after a merger, or to go back to school to learn new skills for a new career. And the question for America is whether we treat the changes in our economy as opportunity to help improve people's lives, or as an excuse to retreat into protectionism.

I believe that the changes present us with historic opportunities -- America's growing economy allows us to approach them from a position of strength. And so today, I'm going to discuss actions we should take to make America's economy more flexible and dynamic in four areas -- trade, health, energy and education.

First, we can make our economy more flexible and dynamic by expanding trade. America has about 5 percent of the world's population. That means 95 percent of our potential customers are abroad. Every time we break down barriers to trade and investment, we open up new markets for our businesses and our farmers. As we improve free trade, consumers get lower prices. There are better American jobs. You see increased productivity. Jobs supported by exports of goods pay wages that are 13 to 18 percent higher than the average. So one of our top priorities has been to remove obstacles to trade everywhere we can.

When I took office, America had free trade agreements with three countries. We have free trade agreements in force now with 13 countries -- and we have more on the way. These agreements are leading to direct benefits for America's businesses and, equally importantly, America's workers. Yesterday, I went to the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Illinois

-- that's where they make big bulldozers. The folks there told me that Caterpillar now exports more than one-half of the products they make. They see immediate results when we have broken down barriers to trade. Within two years of implementing our free trade agreement with Chile, Caterpillar's exports to that country have nearly doubled. The opening of this and other export markets has led Cat to add thousands of new jobs here in America.

Manufacturers, farmers, and service providers all across our country have similar stories. So we need to continue to level the playing field for our goods and services. I strongly believe this: When people around the world have a choice, they choose goods that say "Made in the USA."

In this global economy, new competition means that American businesses must constantly approve [sic]*. Global competition can also lead to hardships for our workers and their families. Government has a responsibility to help displaced workers find new jobs, or even a new career. So my administration has reformed job training programs and expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance to help more displaced workers learn the new skills they need to succeed. I'm going to work with Congress to reauthorize and to improve the Trade Adjustment Assistance this year, so we can help Americans take advantage of this growing, dynamic economy.

At this moment, the most promising opportunity to expand free and fair trade is by concluding the Doha Round at the World Trade Organization. Global trade talks like Doha have the potential to lower trade barriers all around the world. They come around only once every decade or so. Successful trade talks will have an enormous impact on people around the world. Since World War II, the opening of global trade and investment has resulted in income gains of about $9,000 a year for the average American household.

The Doha Round is a chance to level the playing field for our goods and services -- in other words, so we can be treated fairly in foreign markets -- but it also is a great opportunity to lift millions of people out of poverty around the world. And so we're going to work hard to complete it. We are dedicated to making sure we have a successful Doha Round.

The only way America can complete Doha and make headway on other trade agreements is to extent Trade Promotion Authority. This authority allows the President to negotiate complicated trade deals for our country, and then send them to Congress for an up or down vote on the whole agreement. Presidents of both parties have considered this authority essential to completing good trade agreements. Our trading partners consider it essential for our success at the negotiating table. The authority is set to expire on July 1st -- and I ask Congress to renew it. I know there's going to be a vigorous debate on trade, and bashing trade can make for good sound bites on the evening news. But walling off America from world trade would be a disaster for our economy. Congress needs to reject protectionism, and to keep this economy open to the tremendous opportunities that the world has to offer.

Second, we can make our economy more flexible and dynamic by reforming our health care system. Across the country, business owners tell me that the cost of health care is their biggest problem, and it's becoming harder to provide coverage for their workers. American workers and their families also find that the health care system is rigid and confusing. They end up with medical bills that are impossible to understand, and spend hours filling out complicated insurance forms. They feel locked into jobs because they're worried about losing the health insurance if they leave their job. They have no way to measure the quality of their doctors and hospitals. They see good doctors being driven out of practice because of frivolous lawsuits. All this leads to higher medical costs, and higher insurance premiums for businesses and their families.

Listen, federal government has an important role to play when it comes to health care, and that is to help the poor and the disabled and the elderly. And we're keeping those obligations. But for all other Americans, I believe that private health insurance is the best way for them to meet their needs. Many Americans cannot afford private health insurance. So we're taking steps to make it more affordable and to give patients more choices and more control over their health care decisions.

We created health savings accounts, which put patients in charge of their medical decisions and helps reduce the cost of their coverage. And I ask Congress to strengthen health savings accounts. We need to pass Association Health Plans, so that small businesses can insure their workers by pooling risk at the same discount that big companies are able to get.

We're using information technology. Listen, we're a giant consumer of health care at the federal level. And we're insisting upon new technologies to make health care more efficient, and thereby reducing costs inherent in an inefficient system, and reducing medical errors. We believe that the health care industry needs to post price and quality, so as consumers have more choice, they're able to make better decisions about the health care they get. We understand that a non-transparent system where somebody else pays the bills is likely to cause costs to continue to rise. Congress needs to pass medical liability reform. If you're interested in available and affordable health care, we should not have a legal system that's running good doctors out of practice and running up the cost of your medicine. (Applause.)

And one of the most promising ways to make private health insurance more affordable is to reform the tax code. Under current law, workers who get health insurance from their companies get a tax benefit. If you buy insurance on your own, you do not get the tax benefit. The tax code is not fair. So in my State of the Union address I proposed to end this unfair bias in the tax code by creating a standard deduction for every American who has health insurance, no matter where you get it from.

This deduction would also apply to payroll taxes, so those who do not pay income taxes would still get a benefit. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills. Those who now purchase health insurance on their own would save money on their taxes. Millions of others who have now no health insurance at all would find basic private coverage within their reach.

As well, we need to do more to help the states and localities deal with the uninsured. I think the most innovative programs are developed at the state level. And I think it's in our interest to support states that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens to have help from the federal government, to help them with the poor, to help them with the uninsured. So we're asking Congress to join us in setting up "affordable choices" grants to make sure that the poor and the sick have private health insurance available to them, as well.

All these steps will bring America closer to a health care system where patients are in charge of their medical decisions. In a reformed system, there will be a vibrant individual market, in which health insurance companies actually compete for your business. When you leave your job for a better opportunity elsewhere, you will be able to take your health care plan with you. If people change jobs 10 times before they're 40, we need a health care system that is flexible and consumer-oriented. Health care providers will have an incentive to improve their service. Your medical records would fit on a CD, so you would not have to fill out multiple forms every time you visit your doctor. In the end, you would have a more flexible health care system that responds to your needs, and at the same time helps us keep our economy flexible and dynamic.

Third, we can make our economy more flexible and dynamic by diversifying our energy supply. Energy is vital to businesses and farmers and families all across our nation. Yet, we have a fundamental problem: We're too dependent on oil. That creates vulnerabilities. When demand for oil goes up in China or India, it affects the price of gasoline here in America. If a terrorist were to attack oil infrastructure, it affects the supply of energy here in America.

Dependency on oil means we're not being as good a steward of the environment as we should be. The way to overcome these challenges is through innovation and technology. I believe it is a good use of your money to spend at the federal level on new technologies to make us less dependent on oil -- and that's exactly what we've done. We're spending money on cellulosic ethanol -- that's a fancy word for saying some day we're going to be able to convert switch grass into energy that powers your cars. We're spending money on biodiesel fuels. We're spending money on advanced batteries, so some day you'll be able to plug in your automobile and drive the first 40 miles on electricity, and your car is not going to look like a golfcart. We're spending money on solar and wind energy, and clean coal and nuclear power.

Since 2001, my administration, working with Congress, has invested up to more than $10 billion to develop cleaner energy alternatives. And this federal funding has helped America's scientists and engineers make tremendous progress toward a goal of becoming less dependent on oil. As well, the private sector is responding. You know it better than I do, but a lot of people are seeing interesting opportunities available in alternative energies. And private money is flowing into these new alternatives.

So we're on the threshold of dramatic technological breakthroughs. And now the challenge is to move the technologies from research lab into the marketplace. In my State of the Union I set an ambitious goal of reducing gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent over the next 10 years. If you want to become less dependent on oil, the quickest way to do so is to use less gasoline. Meeting this goal will require significant changes in supply and demand. On the demand side, we have got to reform our economy -- fuel economy standards, that will reduce the amount of gasoline that cars and SUVs consume. And on the supply side, I have proposed a new mandatory fuel standard that is nearly a fivefold increase over the current target for renewable and alternative fuels.

We'll leave it to the market to decide the mix of fuels that most effectively and efficiently meet this goal. But that goal can be achieved, and that's why I put it out there. It's a necessary goal for our national security and economic security. It's an important goal to deal with the issue of climate change. Imagine what these technologies will mean for somebody living in New York -- the fuel in your car is going to come from a cornfield in Iowa, or perhaps switch grass out of Texas. Hybrid electric taxicabs will be running on new generation lithium ion batteries. The financial pages will be filled with new stock symbols for dynamic American companies in the growing field of alternative fuels.

This day is coming, but it's not going to happen overnight. If you want to be less dependent on foreign oil, we ought to be drilling for oil and gas in environmentally friendly ways here in the United States. And if you're concerned about a terrorist attack which could disrupt oil supplies, it makes sense for Congress to double the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

So I hope Congress moves forward on these initiatives, and I'm looking forward to working with them. The idea is to diversify our energy supply, keep our air clean and help create new jobs through new industries that will meet the demand for alternative sources of energy.

Fourth, we can make our economy more flexible and dynamic by strengthening public education. A strong and vibrant education system is vital to maintaining America's competitive edge in the world. A strong and vibrant education system will ensure that every citizen can share in this nation's prosperity.

I know some of our citizens worry about the fact that our dynamic economy is leaving working people behind. We have an obligation to help ensure that every citizen shares in this country's future. The fact is that income inequality is real; it's been rising for more than 25 years. The reason is clear: We have an economy that increasingly rewards education, and skills because of that education. One recent study of male earnings showed that someone with a college degree earns about 72 percent more than someone with a high school diploma. The earnings gap is now twice as wide as it was in 1980 -- and it continues to grow. And the question is whether we respond to the income inequality we see with policies that help lift people up, or tear others down. The key to rising in this economy is skills -- and the government's job is to make sure we have an education system that delivers them.

And that's why I think one of the most important economic initiatives of my presidency has been the No Child Left Behind Act. The philosophy behind No Child Left Behind says: We're going to spend federal money, but we expect you, at the local level to deliver results. In other words, we've insisted upon accountability. I understand some people don't like accountability, but how can you make sure if our kids are getting the foundation for the skills necessary to compete in the 21st century unless you measure? And when you measure and find failure, correct problems early before it's too late.

The No Child Left Behind Act is working. There's an achievement gap in America that's not fair and it's not right, and it's beginning to close. You know how I know? Because we're measuring. This good law is working, and the Congress needs to reauthorize it. (Applause.)

The agenda to strengthen education and make America more competitive extends beyond the primary grades. And that's why I proposed -- and I'm working with the Congress to pass -- the American Competitiveness Initiative. That means we're going to improve math and science education in the middle schools and high schools. You can't compete in the 21st century unless we're educating young engineers and physicists and chemists -- unless our kids have the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

I also believe it's a vital role for the federal government to spend money on basic scientific research. So I've called upon Congress to double the funding for basic scientific research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology labs, or the Department of Energy's Office of Science, or the National Science Foundation. In other words, there's things we can do in Washington to put good policies in place to make sure that we stay on the cutting edge of change, and at the same time, educate our kids so they can take advantage of the world we're in.

I believe -- and I appreciate Congress's expanding Pell Grants. It's a strong initiative I support. Pell Grants are a good way to help our poor students go to college. And I'm a big believer in the community college system here in America. Community colleges work. They're available and they're affordable, and they have the capacity to change curriculum to meet the needs of the local work force. And it makes sense for the federal government to support community colleges -- for this reason: It doesn't take much additional education to gain a new skill set so you can find jobs in this 21st century.

Let me give you an example. I went to Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland and I met Jeannetta Smith. She used to work in the textile industry. She left to study nursing. She recognized that in nursing she could make a better living for her family and herself. And so she went to a community college and she got some low-interest loans to help her, and she became a registered nurse. With a little bit of extra education and some help, she went to the community college and she's now making three times what she did in her old job. Education enables one to gain new skills necessary to fill the jobs that are coming in the 21st century. She said about her new career, "It's been very, very good. The opportunities are boundless." And that's what we want people saying in America: I have got the skill set to be able to say, the opportunities are boundless.

America's businesses have responsibilities here in America. I know you know that. A free and vibrant economy depends on public trust. Shareholders should know what executive compensation packages look like. I appreciate the fact that the SEC has issued new rules to ensure that there is transparency when it comes to executive pay packages. The print ought to be big and understandable. When people analyze their investment, they ought to see loud and clear -- they ought to be able to see with certainty the nature of the compensation packages for the people entrusted to run the companies in which they've got an investment.

Government should not decide the compensation for America's corporate executives, but the salaries and bonuses of CEOs should be based on their success at improving their companies and bringing value to their shareholders. America's corporate boardrooms must step up to their responsibilities. You need to pay attention to the executive compensation packages that you approve. You need to show the world that American businesses are a model of transparency and good corporate governance.

One New Yorker who understands corporate responsibility is a fellow named John Duffy. John Duffy grew up in the Bronx. He became CEO of a Manhattan investment and research firm called Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. On September the 11th, KBW had its offices in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. That day the firm lost 67 people, including John's 23-year-old son. Many thought KBW was finished. But not John Duffy. He moved his company to temporary offices. He paid out $40 million to the families of the employees the firm lost. He set up a charitable trust to help them with medical bills and college expenses. And he rebuilt his business. Last year, KBW went public, and now the firm has twice as many employees as it did on September the 11th.

I want the people to listen to what John Duffy said: "If that day was our final day, it would have meant that the bad guys had won. Our way to fight back was to keep going." It says something about John Duffy that the terrorist attacks only made him more determined to succeed. It says something about New York that there are countless stories like KBW's, of hardworking men and women who picked themselves up and rebuilt bigger and better than before. It says something about America that we continue to produce citizens who come back from adversity and create new opportunity for themselves and for others.

And this is the true strength of our economy. That's what makes us the economic leader of the world. And that's why I'm confident that we can remain that economic leader, because we're a nation of dreamers and doers and believers -- God-fearing, decent, honorable people. And I'm proud to be the President of such a nation. God bless. (Applause.)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070131-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 31 2007, 03:39 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 31, 2007

Press Gaggle by Tony Snow and Ed Lazear
Aboard Air Force One
En route New York, New York


PARTICIPANTS
Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary
Ed Lazear, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors

9:31 A.M. EST

MR. SNOW: All right, everybody ready? The President's schedule, early normal briefings. We're on our way to New York, where we'll go to Federal Hall. The President will first have an interview with Neil Cavuto, of FOX News, on the state of the economy address that the President is going to deliver afterward at Federal Hall. And then upon conclusion of that, he'll meet we Ceasar Borja, Jr. and other members of the Borja family. And then we will return home.

Questions.

Q The meeting with Borja is after the speech?

MR. SNOW: That's correct.

Q Do you know what other members of his family are going to be there?

MR. SNOW: His mother, brother and sister. His mother is Eva; brother, Evan; and sister, Nhia, N-h-i-a.

Q I'm sorry, you said he's going to be meeting with them after his speech?

MR. SNOW: That is correct.

Q Is that going to be pooled at all?

MR. SNOW: It's a private meeting. We will probably -- we may have a photo release. We're not going to do pool; this is a private meeting.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: What?

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what?

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: Because it's an appropriate thing to do.

Q Well, I mean, but, it's a legitimate question. I mean, the kid has been calling for a lot more money than the President put up yesterday, for instance. Why --

MR. SNOW: Well, I think -- look, the President is going to be dealing with a grieving young man and his family. The one thing we can assure him, from a policy point of view, is that we will plug the gaps in any coverage and anybody who needs treatment will get it. Period.

Q "Anybody" -- say that again, anybody --

MR. SNOW: First responders who need treatment will get the treatment they need. Many are already covered by insurance programs, many through their union; but if there are gaps in that, we're going to do it. We've already -- he will get -- the family will get some briefing also about ongoing medical efforts.

Q But you're saying anybody -- when you said "anybody," you're saying first responders --

MR. SNOW: What I'm saying is first responders.

Q -- because, you know, people like Senator Clinton have talked about broadening it out to residents, out of state folks that showed up.

MR. SNOW: Well, at this point we're talking with the family of the first responder. I think at this particular juncture the most important thing to do is to talk to the Borja family, to pass on condolences and we do not look upon this as a political meeting, and I doubt they look at it as a political meeting, as well.

Q On a different subject, how confident are you that Iran was behind the agents that killed those five soldiers in Karbala?

MR. SNOW: I'm not getting into that sort of speculation. I'd send you off to the Department of Defense for any readout they're going to give. But let me just reiterate what the President said -- we're going to do force protection and people who are trying to kill our troops or to try to destabilize the democracy, we will respond to forcefully and appropriately.

Q Tony, good economic news this morning on GDP, how does that help you, if at all, when working with Congress? Does it give you a boost in terms of getting your agenda done?

MR. SNOW: Well, I think it indicates the success of the President's program. If you take a look at the GDP numbers -- a couple of other items I'd draw your attention to: low inflation and high wage growth. What we're seeing now is vigorous growth -- I think it's 5.4 percent in wage growth in the fourth quarter. You guys will have handouts, so you can double check me on the numbers. The fact is, there's vigorous wage growth and it indicates that the President's proposal of cutting taxes and creating more opportunities for businesses and workers is, in fact, succeeding, and it's important that Congress continue to think about ways of expanding our prosperity. And the first thing it ought to do is to extend the tax cuts that are already part of the law.

I've also got Eddie Lazear here, Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. So if you want sage advice on economic analysis, Eddie is your guy.

Q Do you think that this kind of economic growth is sustainable?

CHAIRMAN LAZEAR: I do. We've had this kind of economic growth for a number of years now. It's symptomatic of what we see as we come out of a recovery. Usually the first year or two is very, very strong, then it tapers off.

We've been fortunate in that this economy has been able to sustain growth for a long period of time. We're seeing it show up not only in growth of output in GDP, but we're also seeing wage growth, as Tony said. We're seeing high profits, which help the business climate, in terms of investment.

The only weak spot in the economy has been housing, and the very good news is that the economy is so robust that it's been able to grow at a very steep pace, despite the fact that the housing sector has slowed really to its historic levels. So it's not slowing relative to its past, it's just slowing to its historic levels.

Q -- quarterly GDP figures going ahead this year?

CHAIRMAN LAZEAR: We think there -- we think that we could see sustained growth. Remember, the labor market is extremely tight right now. We have a lot of people working. We've got 4.5 percent unemployment. Job growth is very strong. When you see that in the labor market, that suggests that the economy can continue to grow.

Q Can I ask you one other question on the Ground Zero stuff? You're saying anybody, first responder, who needs treatment will get treatment. Indefinitely? There's also a question, sort of, of how long this commitment will last.

MR. SNOW: Look, I'm not going to get into specifics. I'll let you -- the better thing to do is talk to the policy guys. Again, what you have is a situation where a lot of people were insured, and if there are holes in the insurance, we're going to plug them. The federal government has made a significant commitment, and we're committed to helping the first responders.

Q Do you have any sense of how much beyond the $25 million we're going to need? Everybody seems to agree that's sort of a down payment at this point.

MR. SNOW: Well, we'll have to see. Look, there are a lot -- what happened is that there was a big first payment -- the federal role began to expand only last October, as you know. So at this point, we are still getting data in. As a matter of fact, the first tranche of data should be coming in either tomorrow or the beginning of next week.

So rather than trying to do a back-of-the-envelope calculation, we'll take a look at the real numbers and find out what we've learned through the first quarter, and obviously we'll make appropriate adjustments as the data indicate.

Q Appropriate adjustments in the 2008 budget?

MR. SNOW: We'll find out. Again, we don't know what adjustments need to be made. So you're trying to talk into a vacuum. It may be that this is sufficient, it may be that it isn't. We'll just have to see.

Q Do you know when you'll know?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, the guys are going to start crunching the numbers as soon as they come in. The best thing to do is to give us a few days to find out, A, when the data are going to be available, and how long they think it's going to take to assess it.

All right, thanks, guys.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...1/20070131.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 1 2007, 06:54 PM
MR. SNOW: Before we get to it, just one quick announcement. Secretary Margaret Spellings is at a higher education forum in North Carolina State University. Today she will announce that the President's 2008 budget will include some significant increases for Pell Grants, as a matter of fact the largest increase in more than three decades. The budget would raise the Pell Grant maximum for students to $4,600, and increase that maximum over a five-year period to $5,400. That is the largest one-year increase and also the largest five-year increase in the history of the program. As you know, it's a program that makes college available for many low-income students who otherwise could not afford to go to college, and right now they're helping more than 5 million full and part time low-income students afford higher education each year.

Q Does that mean the President's cool with the adjustments that Democrats have proposed for, I believe, the current fiscal year?

MR. SNOW: The President is laying out -- I don't -- the current fiscal year, that would be in the CR.

Q And I believe it is in the CR.

MR. SNOW: That I don't know. I'll find out. But I think what you can say is, whatever it is, this is -- the President is, in fact, proposing ambitious increases in Pell Grants.

Q What classifies -- their adjustment was about at a $4,600 level.

MR. SNOW: Well, then my guess is they would agree with this.

Q General Casey testified today that securing Baghdad would take fewer than half the additional troops that President Bush has proposed, and he said that he had asked for two brigades, based on the recommendations of his subordinate commanders. So how did we wind up with five additional brigades?

MR. SNOW: Well, the President has talked with -- you also know that General Casey supports the plan. And the plan is to bring in five brigades into Baghdad, and also another 4,000 Marines into Anbar, not only to take care of immediate security concerns, but to make sure that we have adequate force structure as the Iraqis begin bringing brigades into each of the nine districts of Baghdad, and the Americans also into those nine districts, in support, that we have adequate resources and forces to deal not only with the media, but also potential threats to security.

Q But why the disparity in numbers? When he's talking on the Hill about asking for two, and the President asked for five?

MR. SNOW: Well, there were a number of conversations, and the President, after talking with General Casey and other commanders, came to the conclusion that he preferred to have five brigades into Baghdad and 4,000 Marines into Anbar. And again, what General Casey was talking about is some suggestions he'd made earlier. The President has made his decision, and it does reflect the wisdom of a number of combatant commanders. And again, it does have the assent of General Casey.

Q Let me get one more. General Casey, do you think that he's kind of been all over the park on this? He's first of all, said that additional troops weren't warranted, and then he went along with the President, and now he's saying this?

MR. SNOW: No, I think what you've had is you had a shifting series of circumstances within Baghdad. Keep in mind the assumption originally of Operation Together Forward was that we would not need extra forces. But it became obvious that we did need more simply because we did not have the capacity to put in grounded forces and to leave them 24/7 within the districts of Baghdad.

Equally important we needed significantly more Iraqi forces on the ground. And that really is the key element in this plan. It's one that we tend not to stress because we're thinking about our troops. But the Iraqis are going to be putting significantly more forces, additional forces into Baghdad, as, indeed, already they have more forces in the city, as well.

David.

Q Tony, on that -- the resolution. So you've got more Republicans and Democrats coalescing around some language which at its core opposes the troop increase. You've made the argument about what message that kind of resolution would send. That's an argument. People will agree or disagree with that. What will the President do when there is an actual resolution?

MR. SNOW: The President will continue to exercise his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief and do what he thinks is going to be best for American security.

The other thing he will do is what he's done already, which is to encourage people to give the plan a chance. It has not yet begun to take effect. The Iraqi forces are not yet into Baghdad, they're on the way. The U.S. brigades are not yet deployed, they're on the way. What you have seen already, however, perhaps as a result of -- signals of American determination, are real signs on the ground, again most recently, Muqtada al Sadr telling his people, lay down your arms. You have seen a move back into the political process of members of al Sadr's party. You have seen open attempts by Shia and Sunni groups to try to figure out how to create the basis for political reconciliation. You've also seen tough military action against Shia and Sunni groups that were operating outside the law. The Prime Minister has given a series of speeches about what he intends to do.

So what you are seeing, David, is many of the actions that members of Congress say they want to see are beginning to take place already. We think it's important, because, again, as you know and everybody else knows, the money is in the budget now for the five brigades into Baghdad and the 4,000 Marines into Anbar, and we would encourage everybody to take a look at what happens.

Q But isn't there -- when this resolution comes to pass in whatever form is final, isn't there a realization on the part of the President that he's effectively lost the public and then lost Congress, and so the answer to the question of, give it more time, is essentially, why should we trust you, Mr. President, to mend this thing?

MR. SNOW: No, I don't, because, again, there are a number of things being floated around, including language that says the finances to support troops in the field. There is a general recognition among members of Congress that we can't afford to fail in Iraq. And there is fairly significant agreement that that means Iraqis able to handle their own security. So I think there's still a basis for further discussion on this.

Also, Americans want to see results and they do want to see an improvement in conditions in Baghdad. I don't think you should take public opinion as something that is chiseled into stone. This is something that can change, based on the realities on the ground. As a matter of fact, the President -- he's made the point a number of times, if somebody were polling him on the situation right now, he would not approve of what's going on, which is precisely why we've come up with a new way of deploying forces, new rules of engagement, new strategies involving such things as much greater presence of provisional reconstruction teams, economic development teams within Baghdad. All of these are a recognition of what was going on before didn't work, and we need to succeed.

Q Fair enough. But there's still a realization that if his request was for patience and allow this to work, the answer, at least where public opinion is today and where congressional opinion is -- if we get this resolution, is, we don't trust you to carry it out.

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that's right. I'd take a look -- well, well, based --

Q You can make an argument, but I mean based on what? What would you --

MR. SNOW: Based on -- for instance, if you take a look at when people got a chance to listen to him at the State of the Union address. You've seen the flash polls, and they indicated the people did think, okay, we get it. I think that there is still a basis for the public wanting to see success in Iraq.

I think to the extent that the public doesn't like what's going on, we agree with them. And as I would suggest again, facts on the ground are going to shape opinion. We know that. The President has an obligation as Commander-in-Chief to do what he thinks is necessary to keep this country safe.

And one of the things vital to keeping this country safe is to prevent the creation of a vacuum in Iraq that could create conditions of terror that certainly could influence this country, not only our safety but our economic security.

Q Just one final one on this. You make assertions about the public gets it, the public wants this based on I don't know what --

MR. SNOW: No, I mean, we've done --

Q And what I'm -- the question is, do you think the American people and Congress trust the President to fix what's wrong in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: I think the American people want to see results. I think -- I don't know how you say -- let me explain why I think trust is a little loaded. The President is a man of his word, and he's a man of honor. And trust is often associated with that. Do Americans have absolute confidence that what we have laid out is going to have 100 percent chance of success? No, they want to see results. So I think the reason I'm reluctant to answer the trust question is that that bears on character. And I think people do, in fact, trust the President's character.

Q I'm using it in terms of track record.

MR. SNOW: Well, that's why I'm -- I'm taking issue only with that particular term. But the fact is, you got a skeptical public. Absolutely. And it's got a right to be skeptical. They want to see results. And what we're saying is we want to see results, as well. That's why we have changed a whole significant number of the elements of our force structure, the way they operate, the way they interact with the Iraqis and all that. And therefore, I think it is important to let the public see what this program can achieve.

Already a sign of American determination has changed behavior for the better, it appears, on the ground in Iraq. But certainly that is only a very, very, tiny, modest down payment on what we all want and need to see.

Martha.

Q Tony, you talk about progress over there with the Iraqis. And on the surface it appears that way. But General Casey in his testimony said some of the ministries are so corrupt, they won't make any progress. You talk about al Sadr telling his followers to lay down their arms. He's done that so many times before. And whenever he wants them to pick them up again, they do.

MR. SNOW: Well, yes, and that bears on what I was just talking about, Martha, which is there's a different approach. In the past, you would have forces going in by day and out by night. And that's not a very effective way to deal with militias that are gathering up arms. The Prime Minister has made it real clear that anybody who is trying to build up armaments on the sly is going to be operating outside the law. The difference now is that you're going to have Iraqi brigades with U.S. battalions in support in each of the nine districts.

Q In Sadr City.

MR. SNOW: In Sadr City.

Q Including patrolling, and how big a presence?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I don't know exactly how the map carves up Sadr City, but it's certainly going to be at least one of the districts and perhaps maybe even falling within more than one district. And so you're going to have an Iraqi brigade and you're going to have U.S. support.

In addition, as you know, part of the deal is, you go door to door. You build confidence with the forces. And by the way, this bears on your corruption question, which I'll get to in a moment, and you also try to collect intelligence. It is absolutely vital to get real-time intelligence. The Iraqis are going to be better at it than we are. Also to try to force people to make choices -- are you going to do the political path, or are you, in fact, going to try to operate outside the law?

There have already been operations within Baghdad in recent days that have made it clear that the Prime Minister is not only willing, but understands the necessity of using force against those who are trying to amass arms to weaken him in his government. So the fact is, you have a different approach. You have different rules of engagement. Nobody can call off an engagement because they're afraid some political ally might get into harm's way. And there is a determination on the part of the Iraqi government not merely to move forward, but to have a 24/7 presence in those districts. I will not give you --

Q But you've got 2.5 million people in Sadr City.

MR. SNOW: I know.

Q And you're talking about a brigade with support from Americans?

MR. SNOW: Yes. Again, I'll have to go back -- and you've probably seen the maps, as well. Let's go back. We'll take a look at -- if you want an operational description, it's where I talk about --

Q I don't want an operational -- but when you come up and you say, it's great, he's going back to the political process, he's asking people to lay down their arms. But you've got 2.5 million people and you've got a brigade, and you've got somebody who has broken their promise a zillion times.

MR. SNOW: I believe also that I have said that it's a very tiny down payment on progress that people expect to see. You've also seen one of his key lieutenants arrested -- not released. These are signs that something different is going on.

Now, I trust that you and everybody else will keep a watchful eye on what goes on in Sadr City. And I think if you want to get into operational detail, it's probably better to talk to the Pentagon about that.

Q I'm not getting into operational details.

MR. SNOW: Let me -- well, you were asking an operational question, how are you going to deal in Sadr City. Now as for the corruption question --

Q But that's the way you answered it, so I get to ask the questions.

MR. SNOW: Well, the corruption question is also very important because absolutely it's a problem. You've seen another shake-up in the police this week. We have made no bones about it, there have been corruption problems. And they have to be addressed and addressed aggressively because if you've got that kind of corruption, especially the situation where people don't know if police are there to save them or kill them, that is not the way to build confidence. You have to have a government that creates confidence among those who are the governed.

And we made it clear to the Iraqis that that is going to be vital for their success. So on that front, I agree with you. Corruption has been a problem. And, yes, we've talked about addressing it before. What we did didn't work as well as it needed to, and obviously, there needs to be more aggressive efforts there.

Q Can I just go back to the question about General Casey and the brigade, saying he felt fewer than half of what the President has planned were needed. You say he supports the plan now. He says he does, but it seems like a very diplomatic way to say, not really, and I don't have to be there to carry it out. So who did the President rely on heavily when he made these decisions? The commander on the ground did not, it appears, agree with the President's bigger, larger plan for more brigades. The commander of Central Command apparently did not. So the President relied mostly on outside people, or the people who he was trying to get to go in --

MR. SNOW: I've often been asked about internal deliberations, and I've always given the same answer, which is, I'm not going to characterize them. It is worth noting that General Abizaid and General Casey, both of whom you've described as being in opposition to the plan, publicly have supported it. And so I'll let you --

Q But what he said today didn't quite fit that, Tony.

MR. SNOW: I'd refer the questions back to him and I let him clarify.

Q How much responsibility do you think General Casey bears for a failed plan?

MR. SNOW: The President has made it clear that if anybody bears responsibility, it's the President. And he does not want people second-guessing commanders who have been acting on his orders.

Q Is the President disappointed that some key Republican allies like Senator Warner have been instrumental in pursuing this resolution?

MR. SNOW: Again, let's see where these things go. Even this issue is in considerable flux. And we're aware of the conversations that have been going on on Capitol Hill; we've been monitoring them. But as I said also, we're not going to get into the business of writing resolutions. As David has pointed out, we've laid out benchmarks about what we think people ought to consider, and they'll do that.

The other thing is we've got a way forward that acknowledges all the faults and defects of previous plans that you have noted and others have noted. This is not an attempt to ignore problems, it's a commitment to address them. And so, as Congress thinks about this, we also would expect members to take a very careful look at how this programs proceeds -- not expecting overnight results, because nothing can yield overnight results, but the problems we have are significant. But we also believe that we have the force structure and the doctrine in place, as well as the commitment on the part of the Iraqis, that will get us to the situation where the Iraqis, as quickly as is feasible, assume lead positions on security and other functions within their government so that they are going to have that free-standing democracy.

Q Tony, back on the issue of Iraqi brigades that you mentioned. What is their status? They're not all there yet, obviously, but --

MR. SNOW: Well, we're talking about five brigades, and as you know, it takes time to get there. What the Iraqis have talked about is within the next four to five weeks trying to get three deployed within Baghdad. So we'll see.

Q Because one of the things that a senior official said on January 10th, when the President was going to deliver his Iraq address, was that the American people are going to have these signs --

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q -- very quickly they'll be able to see whether or not the Iraqi government is coming through. And one of the things that was talked about as an example of that was this move to get Iraqi brigades in -- and it's February 1st now, and --

MR. SNOW: Go back and look what the senior official said, too, it will be mid to late February. So it's still within the time frame I mentioned to you.

Q Well, I believe one of the dates was February 1st there would be at least one Iraqi brigade --

MR. SNOW: No, I think -- go back and take a look. I think it was 15, one; 30, two. But go back and check. The point is we're still within the time frame of that. The other thing is that people have always said, look, you may have a day or two here -- I know you've got the stopwatch going, today is February 1st, but there's progress on that. And, yes, there will be an opportunity to see how quickly people -- how quickly the Iraqis get their forces into Baghdad. So we're taking a look at it. But I don't think that there's any sign right now that indicates that they're not capable of meeting this.

Mark.

Q Back to Casey and his questioning today. Senator McCain was pretty scathing in questioning Casey's credentials and saying all these mistakes were on his watch and he should take responsibility for them. You're just saying that you think the President takes responsibility for that --

MR. SNOW: I know he does.

Q -- does that mean Casey is off the hook?

MR. SNOW: No, look, the President is not in the business of putting his commanders on the hook. He's the Commander-in-Chief, and he has said -- he said it yesterday with The Wall Street Journal -- I'm the Commander-in-Chief; I do not want you second-guessing people who have been carrying out my orders.

And so the President says he takes -- the President takes full responsibility for what has not worked, and he understands that he is going to be held accountable for what happens in the way forward. That's what happens when you're a Commander-in-Chief, you have to make decisions.

Q So Senator McCain was off base --

MR. SNOW: No, don't try to -- Senator McCain is -- in the process of advising and consenting on a nomination, is certainly free to ask tough questions and to express his opinions. I'm telling you what the President's view is. I am not going to try to get caught in a fight with Senator McCain, whom we respect and who has been very supportive of the President on the way forward.

April, you had a question earlier and I jumped -- do you want to go back and get that?

Q Yes, please. Could you articulate how you're connecting -- how the White House will connect the Pell Grant issue being increased to helping to keep the economy resilient?

MR. SNOW: Yes. If you take a look yesterday at the remarks the President made on income inequality, which gathered a significant amount of attention, it is obvious that there is a significant income gap in this country based on educational attainment levels. It's one of the reasons why we want to make sure that high schools provide better education -- actually, K through 12 -- but also that more people have access to a college education, because in the kind of economy we have now, education matters.

You've got an economy where there is an enormous amount of transition within industries. As I pointed out before, in any given month we create millions of new jobs. The economy sheds millions, but creates even more. And many people go through a variety of careers. What is the best way to be able to cope with an economy like that? The answer is the kind of intellectual, skills, tools, and creativity and inquisitiveness that allow you to adjust, adapt, or even simply pick up and change careers on various occasions based on what you want to do.

That's a strict byproduct of education. In a global economy, education really is going to matter. And it is important that people at all income levels have the same ability to learn, to get first-class educations. That is the thought behind No Child Left Behind, and it is the commitment embedded also in the Pell Grant program.

Q Can I follow up on something else. Is the President going into the lion's den tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: No -- are you talking about when he's speaking -- he's actually -- no, he is speaking to Republicans tomorrow. He will speak to Democrats on Saturday.

Q Well, the Democrats Saturday.

MR. SNOW: Okay.

Q Is he going into the lion's -- forgive me for --

MR. SNOW: No, it's -- actually, it was intriguing and pleased to be invited. And I think this is going to be an opportunity for the President once again to repeat things that he has said on a number of occasions, which is, there's an opportunity to work together, and the State of the Union had a series of four big areas of stated concerns of Democrats and Republicans.

And this is, incidentally, not a way of saying, I just want to work with Democrats. The President wants to work with Democrats and Republicans in both chambers to address educational performance -- again, No Child Left Behind, going ahead and renewing No Child Left Behind; a health care proposal that offers not only lower health care costs to 100 million Americans, but also the prospects of private insurance to millions who either can't afford it, or go uncovered today. He believes that it's very important to have an energy policy that provides the energy we need and cleans the environment at the same time.

These are a series of initiatives -- and on immigration, something that not only respects the rule of law when it comes to people who are trying to cross the border, people who are trying to exploit cheap labor by employing people illegally, and knowingly so, but also, at the same time, realizing that this is a nation that grows stronger when we have the rule of law and we also create opportunities for everybody.

So all of that -- all of those are themes that I think are profitable and fruitful to discuss before Democratic and Republican audiences.

Q But there's just so much strong disagreement on Iraq, and then there's so much strong disagreement on the health care proposal, particularly saying that people who don't have insurance now don't have it for a reason. If they have a chance to pay for a house, versus insurance --

MR. SNOW: But that's precisely why we're talking about innovative ways to make insurance available for those who can't afford it. Furthermore, the tax credit is available to anybody who works. So this is really a two-part program. It's not merely -- not the tax credit, but the tax deduction. You've got the tax deduction, plus you also have a supplementary program that's designed to address the poor and the uninsurable. So those are all parts of it.

But, look, they can talk this back and forth. If you listened to Speaker Pelosi yesterday, she, in fact, talked about wide areas of agreement when she came back from a trip to Iraq. She's had critical comments, but she also came out when she was at the sticks -- all of you freezing out there yesterday waiting for her -- got to hear the Speaker say that there's a lot they have in common. I think there's an opportunity for both sides to examine where they can work together.

And both have said they think that it's vital for the credibility of this Congress to demonstrate that it can get the job done. And the President is committed to getting things done. He's a man of action.

Connie.

Q Thank you so much. Do you have any reaction to this alleged terrorist arrest, series of arrests in Great Britain? They were pretty horrific. Is there any lesson in this for the U.S.? And did the U.S. intelligence have any input in arresting these men?

MR. SNOW: The first part is no comment. And the second is, come on, of course, no comment.

I really don't have anything to say about the British arrests. And we would never talk about intelligence cooperation. You know that.

Q Do you see similar dangers from the community here in this country, based on the U.K.?

MR. SNOW: Again, I don't want to start -- what you're talking about is -- I'd rather not try to make broad brush characterizations of any community in the United States. What we have tried to do is to make it possible for law enforcement authorities to do everything they can to give them the tools they need to try to figure out who is trying to kill Americans. A lot of them are Americans, perhaps. A lot of them may have come here from overseas. But the fact is you need the surveillance tools. You need the law enforcement tools. You need the intelligence tools. And most importantly, you also need to be able to deal with the threat overseas to try to deal with many of the sources, financially, inspirationally and otherwise, for terror around the world. So that's the most important thing for this government to do.

And obviously an essential part of that is dealing with foreign governments. We have a lot of cooperation at the strategic and tactical level, as well in intelligence-sharing. But for obvious reasons, we don't want the bad guys to figure out what's going on. We're not going to talk about it publicly.

Q Do you know if President Bush had any contact with Prime Minister Blair in the wake of this?

MR. SNOW: The President talks to Prime Minister Blair very regularly.

Q Democrats next week are going to make a big deal about the cost of the war. And so I'm wondering what you can say about how the budget is going to address the costs of the war. And just what did you say --

MR. SNOW: Well, as we've said, we're going to try to be much more transparent in the costs of the war. I will let all that come out at the beginning of next week when the President releases the budget. But you'll see that in the budget. And Democrats will have an opportunity to respond to what they see in that budget.

Q Tony, I have a question on the influence of presidential appointees on regulatory and environmental policy. There is an executive order that came out a few weeks ago that's drawn criticism because it would require all policy, regulatory review officers to be presidential appointees. And I just wondered your response to a concern that this will have a chilling effect and slow down the process --

MR. SNOW: I don't buy it. You have political appointees. You also have an administration -- and, Paula, we'll be happy to do chapter and verse with you -- where not only on regulation but also environmental issues, we've spent more money on environmental research than all the other governments of the world. This is an administration that actually has a better performance in terms of CO2 emissions. It is an administration where the President in the summer of 2001 was talking about man-made global warming and the need to address it through innovation, and created a panel that involves key Cabinet members in going after the sources of pollution and emissions.

So the fact is, we do have an aggressive set of regulations in place. And the other thing is, the process here is one that always ends up, in scientific peer review -- I would encourage people, rather than looking at whether somebody is a political appointee, to look at the process that has been laid out for reviewing regulations, because it's designed not to chill, but in fact to invigorate a process to make sure that you have thorough scientific review of all these things, as well as cost benefit analyses.

Q The other question, though, related to influence on environmental policy. There was a hearing a few days ago in which government scientists have said that their works have been either edited or censored if it does not support administration policy on climate change. As far as peer review, too, it's been a criticism that some of these boards are made up of somewhat industry-friendly members.

MR. SNOW: What's also the case is that some of the people who have been at the lead of making these allegations are not, themselves, scientists. I would just point to the fact that, for instance, the IPCC report, which will be coming out, makes use of U.S. scientists and U.S. scientific data. The largest source of scientific data on climate change comes from the United States. The incremental improvement in our ability to understand what's going on with climate change is a result of research that has been funded through the United States government.

So I understand that there will be people who say their voices are not heard, but we will be happy to provide you in great detail -- because I now have a stack that is about this thick -- that goes through the processes and the data that have been gathered. But no administration in American history, and none on the face of the Earth, has been more aggressive in trying to do sound science on this than this administration.

Q But the survey that was cited at that hearing was based on the respondents, who are all government scientists.

MR. SNOW: I understand that. As I said, I will be happy to provide you -- without getting into the vagaries of one survey, we'll be happy to swamp you with data so that you will be in a position to assess fully and completely the varying claims.

Q You were just mentioning cooperation with foreign governments on your fight against terrorism. Is the administration going to cooperate with the German government after the German justice has issued mandates against a dozen of the CIA operators?

MR. SNOW: We'll continue to do security and intelligence cooperation with allies. We do not discuss particular operations or allies. But let me just say that we continue to work with people who have been helpful in the war on terror.

Les.

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Since the President told Fox News yesterday that he is "impressed" by Senator Obama, who he finds "attractive and articulate," surely you can tell us, Tony, what the President thinks of a widely reported page 1 quote of Senator Biden that Senator Obama is "clean"?

MR. SNOW: No, I can't. But thank you. I haven't talked to him about it. It's just -- I don't know.

Q Well, Senator Obama said yesterday that "Senator Biden certainly didn't intend to offend. And I'll leave it at that."

At which Senator Biden called Obama "a superstar, the most exciting candidate from either party in decades, he's fresh, he's new, he's smart, he's insightful, a very special guy, who is like catching lightning in a jar. I think he's great. I think I'm better."

And my question, does the President --

MR. SNOW: Whoa, wait a minute -- all that, and he's better?

Q Yes, right, right, and he's better.

MR. SNOW: Wow. Well, you need to call him and ask him how he'd describe himself.

Q He says he's better.

MR. SNOW: But what's better than lightning in a jar? (Laughter.)

Q Fireflies in a jar.

Q White lightning in a jar. (Laughter.)

Q White lightning in a jar. Does the President recognize this hilarious contradiction as the indication of a preface to another Biden withdrawal, as he did in 1988?

MR. SNOW: Oh, my goodness. Let the candidates make their cases to the public. The public will decide.

Victoria.

Q Tony, yesterday Dana said these resolutions send mixed signals to our troops and our enemies. Should we really be so concerned that the misunderstanding of the exercise of our form of government by the enemy would cause us to not pass resolutions?

MR. SNOW: Well, if one came to the conclusion that it emboldened an enemy and placed people in harm's way and increased the risk. It's something -- look, the thing is, when you talk about this, you're trying to read states of mind. And these are things that are important to keep -- at least to consider when you're doing these things. As you know, and I've said many times, Osama bin Laden thought the lack of American resolve was a key reason why he could inspire people to come after us on September 11th. I am not accusing members of the Senate of inviting carnage on the United States of America. I'm simply saying, you think about what impact it may have.

But we also -- look, they're a separate and co-equal branch of government. And they will do what they think is appropriate. The most important thing to do is for everything to realize -- I'll finish up and then you can come back at me.

Q All right.

MR. SNOW: The real challenge before members of Congress who say they do not like the idea of putting in another 21,500 forces is, okay, then what other path to success in Iraq? That is one of the things we would love to hear.

Rather than trying to get into these debates that sort of try to paint one side into a corner, this is an opportunity for people to try to step up and work together.

Q It seems as though you're suggesting that the Senate should not pass this kind of resolution because in fact it would somehow embolden the enemy.

MR. SNOW: I just don't know. I don't -- I'm saying that that is something that they'll have to consider. And I'm sure they are.

Q Tony, what's the earliest date on which it would be fair to gage whether the new way forward is working or has worked?

MR. SNOW: It's a tricky question and I can't give you an answer. I'll tell you why it's tricky. One of the reasons we have resisted strict timetables is because you do then create sort of an invitation for those who would undermine the government to kind of sit it out, to melt away to the periphery, to try to build strength and organization. That's something you have to be concerned about.

So -- but what we have said is that people are going to need to see progress. I won't give you an absolute timetable, but obviously the next six to eight months are going to be times when people expect to see something happening. But I would be very wary about trying to assign a specific date to it.

Q And what will the administration do if, after eight months, it's not working?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, you don't talk about "what if" -- what you're asking is, what happens if a program that hasn't even begun doesn't work? We spent a lot of time thinking through this program precisely because we thought it did work. And we hope we will never get to the point where we have to ask the follow-up.

Q Is six to eight months the timetable the administration is working with on when another look at it might have to be taken?

MR. SNOW: You take a look at it every day. This is not something where -- look, we want to see results, but the other thing that's going to happen is that there will be constant communications on the ground. How do you see it? What's going on with the Iraqi forces? What's going on inside the country? What does intel tell us about -- are people filtering out to the north, are they filtering to the south? It's a war-time situation. So real-time intelligence and nimble response on the basis of that intelligence is always going to be important.

Getting back to what Terry said, there may be the need -- part of what's built in here is the ability to respond to some of those shifts in the landscape so that you don't find yourself in a position of saying, oops, we need another thousand forces. At that point, you're not going to have the political capital to do it because the American people then will come back and say, why didn't you, and fill in the blank.

Q One way or the other, when people start voting roughly a year from now in the presidential primaries and caucuses, is Iraq going to look a lot different than it does today?

MR. SNOW: Sure hope so, but we don't know. I mean, the thing is what you're asking for -- General Petraeus and others have said, don't expect instant results. We're -- it's not something that changes overnight, but on the other hand, I think what we do hope that Americans will certainly see is much enhanced Iraqi capability -- we're talking about the Iraqis a year from now being in control of security operations in each and every one of the 18 provinces. That will be significant.

We are talking about significant economic development efforts; we're talking about significant political reconciliation. Those are the kinds of things that we would expect to see. There is no guaranteeing a complete and total end to violence, because, as we've seen, a small number of people who are determined to commit mass murder by packing themselves with dynamite, or loading up a car and driving by somebody -- that's almost impossible to stop. What you do have to do is create the conditions where the public is pushing back hard enough within Iraq, itself, that it decreases the ability of such people to organize themselves and to carry off missions, but also, that there's going to be a much stronger commitment to the success of the government because people are feeling a greater sense of security and also greater sense of economic security.

One of the big contributors to what's going on right now is high unemployment and a considerable amount of criminal activity that's made possible by the fact that people don't have other things to do. And therefore, you have to address all those. I know it's a long, sprawling answer, but that's -- those are the kinds of things that we take into account when we start assessing the situation in Iraq.

April.

Q Eight months from now would put us at October, and that would --

MR. SNOW: Okay, nine months -- then we get to November.

Q Wait a minute. But you're saying, between six and eight months we can kind of gage to see if it's working. And then in November, that's a month away -- do you have enough time to change -- to put the Iraqi security in total control within that small window?

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, what I'm saying is this is a time for -- between now and then, April, in the next few months we're going to see increasing numbers of provinces going over to Iraqi control. This is not something where everything gets stacked up with November 1st as sort of the beginning date. A lot of these transfers of authority are going to be taking place during the course of the year.

Q Tony, Senator Bill Nelson was one of the Senators that visited Damascus some months ago with Senator Kerry, Senator Dodd, and has been talking to the Council on Foreign Relations about his discussions with President Bashir Assad, where he indicated that, although Assad was saying many of the same things he's been saying on a lot of topics, with regard to the over-the-border operations that were being conducted from Syrian territory, he was willing to talk with either the United States or with the Iraqi government to do something about this. And Nelson indicated that from past experience when there were moves made by the Syrians to try and deal with this, they did show an indication that they would work on this.

The question is, would the United States be willing to talk with Syria about these issues and somehow try and engage in a dialogue with them on the situation in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: I think the better way to think of it is if the Syrians want to demonstrate goodwill -- because Senator Nelson has also been the recipient of broken promises on prior trips to Damascus. He's come back, said, I was promised this, and it didn't happen. So probably the best thing to do is for the Syrians simply to go ahead, step up and go ahead and take action against cross-border incursions.

As you know, the Iraqis have decided to do so themselves. That was one of the things that they've announced in the last days. So certainly the Syrians can make that a lot easier by striking a cooperative pose and doing what they can to try to prevent the shipment of arms, and also people coming across the border. They don't need our permission. We would love to see this. As a matter of fact, what we've said all along is one of the conditions in the future for having negotiations with the Syrians is for them to demonstrate good behavior.

Q Prime Minister Maliki seems to resent the new order to kill, capture Iranian agents in Iraq. And how is the President respond or react to Maliki when he talks about the United States -- with the regime of Iran, and he literally said, take your issues and fight outside Iraq?

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure he resents.

Q He literally said that, we know there are issues between the United States and Iran, and they shouldn't be solved on the ground of Iraq.

MR. SNOW: Right, but -- and we agree. But when there are Iranian agents trying to destabilize the government of Iraq, I believe that the Prime Minister also believes in protecting his own government from foreign incursions, and he's talked about foreign fighters. I believe he's talking about something far different.

Let me -- there has been so much speculation about the United States crossing the border and invading Iran. And everybody keeps trying to create this narrative. The President has said it, and I've said it three or four times from the podium, let me reiterate, we're not invading Iran. What we are doing is force protection within Iraq, which is something that is done with the cooperation and support of Prime Minister Maliki, because quite often arms that are smuggled in are designed not only to kill Americans, but quite often to kill larger numbers of Iraqis. And as the head of a government that needs to reduce the level of violence and increase the level of cooperation across sectarian lines, it's certainly in his interest to do so.

Bret.

Q Tony, Vice Admiral McConnell was up on the Hill for his confirmation hearing today. The criticism up there is that the DNI just created another level of bureaucracy, and that now the guy who set up the bureaucracy and at least knew about it is heading over to State. What's your response to that --

MR. SNOW: Well, the response is that John Negroponte is the Director of National Intelligence -- he's not created another bureaucracy, but what he's tried to do is to assemble a new institution that is able to do what a whole series of sometimes competing bureaucracies in the past could not do, which is to try to find a coherent way to assemble and make use of intelligence gathered by various parts of the United States government.

Now you're bringing in Admiral McConnell, who not only has intelligence and military background, but private sector experience that gives him management skills that are going to enable him creatively to handle some of the challenges at the Department of National Intelligence.

So one of the reasons, in fact, we chose him is that he's somebody who has experience and he knows how to use intelligence, and at the same time, he also knows how to manage.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: All right, thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070201-5.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 1 2007, 06:55 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 1, 2007

American Heart Month, 2007
A Proclamation By the President of the United States of America




Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives each year. During American Heart Month, we renew our commitment to fighting cardiovascular disease by increasing public awareness of this deadly disease and understanding of how it can be prevented.

Today, millions of Americans live with some form of cardiovascular disease, including congenital heart disease, coronary heart disease, and high blood pressure. Individuals can reduce their chance of developing these and other types of heart disease by exercising regularly, maintaining healthy eating habits and weight, avoiding tobacco use, and monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure levels. All Americans should speak with their doctors about the dangers of this disease and get regular preventive screenings.

My Administration continues to help raise awareness of heart disease through initiatives such as "The Heart Truth" campaign, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. First Lady Laura Bush serves as the National Ambassador of "The Heart Truth" campaign and works with partner organizations as part of her Women's Health and Wellness Initiative. The campaign informs women about the dangers of this deadly illness and encourages them to make cardiovascular health a priority. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the campaign, which uses the red dress as a symbol to remind women to protect their heart health and inspire them to take action. New data shows that fewer women are dying from heart disease, and more women are aware heart disease is the number one killer.

During American Heart Month, we honor the medical professionals, researchers, and all those whose tireless efforts are making a positive difference in the lives of those battling heart disease. By working together, we can continue to help the American people live longer and healthier lives.

In acknowledgement of the importance of the ongoing fight against cardiovascular disease, the Congress, by Joint Resolution approved December 30, 1963, as amended (77 Stat. 843; 36 U.S.C. 101), has requested that the President issue an annual proclamation designating February as "American Heart Month."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim February 2007 as American Heart Month, and I invite all Americans to participate in National Wear Red Day on February 2, 2007. I also invite the Governors of the States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of other areas subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and the American people to join me in recognizing and reaffirming our commitment to fighting cardiovascular disease.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.

GEORGE W. BUSH

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070201-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 2 2007, 03:01 PM
MR. HADLEY: Good morning. I presume everybody has seen the declassified key judgments for the NIE on prospects for Iraq stability. I just wanted to talk a little bit about that, draw your attention, I think, if I could, to a couple aspects of it that are useful, and then take your questions.

I want to begin by saying that while the NIE, the National Intelligence Estimate, which is an effort to bring together all the elements of the intelligence community and come out with a consolidated set of judgments about the situation in Iraq -- this is a new document, the result of the conclusion of that review, but it's not new intelligence. That is to say, the substance of the document is intelligence that we have been provided by the intelligence community for several months, and it is this intelligence and the picture it paints that caused the President to conclude and then develop a new strategy or new approach to Iraq.

Secondly, in developing that new strategy or new approach, the intelligence community was a participant, and this intelligence, of course, inputted into that process to help us identify, then, and develop the policy that we did. Put another way, the intelligence assessment that is reflected in this NIE is not at war with this new approach or new strategy the President has developed, but I would say, explains why the President concluded that a new approach, a new strategy was required; explains a number of the elements of that strategy, and generally supports it. That is to say that the policy is designed to deal with the challenges that are reflected in this intelligence.

I think overall it is a fair statement of the challenge we face in Iraq, about the prospects for success, and a good statement about the risks if we do not succeed in Iraq, for Iraqis, for the region, and for Americans here at home.

So, in summary, it's a tough look at Iraq. It makes clear the challenges we face. It does suggest that we can succeed with the right policies, and we think we've developed the right policy, the right strategy, the right approach. And it makes it clear once again, as the President has been saying, that the consequences of failure are grave, indeed.

I'd like to just call your attention to some portions of the NIE that I think are important to get in front of us. The NIE shows, and the President clearly understands that it is clearly a difficult, challenging and complex situation on the ground in Iraq. This is not a simple problem. And we came to -- that is to say, the President came to the same conclusion that unless efforts to reverse these conditions in Iraq show measurable progress in the coming 12 to 18 months, the overall security situation will deteriorate.

That's a conclusion the President reached. To continue doing what we're doing was, as he said, a prescription for slow failure. We needed to do something different, which is why we have a new strategy, and we need to measure our progress in carrying out that strategy -- things that the Iraqis need to do, and things that we need to do.

I think it's important also to focus on the fact that as a follow-on to that statement -- that unless efforts are made to reverse the situation, the situation will deteriorate -- the declassified version says really in its first paragraph something very important -- "If strengthened, Iraqi security forces more loyal to the government and supported by coalition forces are able to reduce levels of violence and establish more effective security for Iraq's population, Iraqi leaders could have an opportunity to begin the process of political compromise necessary for longer-term stability, political progress, and economic recovery." And the comment I would make here is, everyone understands that that greater compromise and working together of Iraq's communities is critical to long-term security and stability in Iraq.

In order to achieve that, the judgment here and the judgment of the President was we need to get control of the violence in Baghdad and return Baghdad to the control of the Iraqi government. Nonetheless, even then it will not be easy. And as the NIE goes on to say, "Nevertheless, even if violence is diminished, given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraq leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation in the time frame of this estimate."

We agree that it is hard. We think that's accurate. We would emphasize the "hard pressed," because we will be pressing them hard, and the Iraqi people will be pressing the government hard, because in the end of the day, we all understand that reconciliation is a key to long-term security and success.

The NIE makes clear the consequences of withdrawal are serious. Again, I'd like to quote from it: "Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq." And that is why, as part of the President's strategy, while the Iraqis have a plan for bringing security to Baghdad, it is a plan that requires the support of the coalition and the additional forces of reenforcement that they describe.

Let me continue to read: "If coalition forces were withdrawn, if such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the Iraqi security forces would be unlikely to survive as a nonsectarian national institution. Neighboring countries, invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally, might intervene openly in the conflict. Massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable. AQI, or al Qaeda in Iraq would attempt to use parts of the country, particularly al Anbar Province, to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq. And spiraling violence and political disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion.

That's why the President concluded that while the current strategy was not working and it was a prescription for slow failure, an American withdrawal or stepping back now would be a prescription for fast failure and a chaos that would envelop not only Iraq, but also the region, and could potentially, by giving al Qaeda a safe haven in Iraq, result in risk and threats to the United States.

The NIE gives us some evidence of why the President announced a fundamental shift in our strategy in Iraq. The President and the Iraqis have taken steps necessary to address the conditions described in the report. For example, most people agree that we have to focus on fighting al Qaeda. The President's strategy steps up that fight, particularly in Anbar Province, which is the stronghold of the al Qaeda in Iraq, and where al Qaeda seeks a sanctuary.

The administration also agrees that we must accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces. And the President's strategy does this, with benchmarks to track the progress and bolster the size and effectiveness of Iraqi forces. And as we have said, the training and supporting of Iraqi troops will remain our military's essential and primary mission. But again, for the reconciliation to occur, and for that training in the end to be effective, we need to get control of the situation in Baghdad.

I think I will stop at that point -- I'll just say a couple other things I'd like to draw your attention to, in terms of the question I think you're going to have, which is, what is the marrying up or the match up between this intelligence judgments and the President's strategy. And let me just try to direct your attention to a couple things in that regard.

If you go to page three, it talks at the bottom of the page, it talks about a number of identifiable security and political -- what they call political triggering events, things that if they occurred, would severely convulse the Iraqi security environment, and result into a range of bad effects. And the point I would make here -- and they talk about mass sectarian killings, assassination of major religious or political leader, defection of the Sunnis from the government. The point here is, and what the President concluded from this is that the status quo is not stable. With the level of violence we have, particularly in Baghdad, it makes more likely that one of these triggering events that could collapse the government and the Iraqi security forces might occur.

And we had a rather chilling taste of that this week, with the actions and effort by a Shia extremist group to launch what appears to have been an attack in Najaf to kill the key clerical leaders of Shia in Najaf. If that would have occurred, it could have triggered exactly the kind of thing talked about in the NIE. And that's why the priority for the President is to get the level of violence down, to reduce the likelihood that one of these triggering events could actually occur.

So the NIE identifies a problem, derives a policy process which tries to develop a solution to that problem. Let me give you a second one, if I might.

We talked about the security forces and needing the support from the coalition forces and, of course, that is, indeed, the reason why, while the Iraqis are in the lead with the Baghdad security program, they have called for the support of coalition forces -- why the President thinks it's so important for the coalition to support them and give adequate forces in order to do that.

A third -- on page two, it talks about a number of identifiable developments that could help to reverse the negative trends in the current environment. And one of the -- on the list, the third on the list talks about a bottom up approach, "deputizing, resourcing and working more directly with neighborhood watch groups, and establishing grievance committees to mend relations at the local level." That's exactly one of the features that distinguishes the new approach of the President. It is not so Baghdad-centric, there's an effort to get out in the provinces and increase our presence in the provinces.

That's why the President has doubled the number of provincial reconstruction teams, and increased the number of State Department and other civilians who will be in the provinces to do not only local reconstruction, but also provide and provoke reconciliations among the communities at the local level, and to build governmental institutions at the local level. So we're going to try and help Iraqis build this democracy from the top down, and from the bottom up.

And finally, on the top of page three, there is a statement that says, "A key enabler of all these steps would be stronger Iraqi leadership." The President clearly agrees with that, and that's one of the reasons he's been very clear in his comments, both publically and privately to the current unity government that it is time for them to step up; that they need to take the lead on these issues, particularly Baghdad security, and success will depend on them doing so.

So that's by way of introduction, and I would be pleased to take your questions.

Q Mr. Hadley, the report also says, the term "civil war" accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict. Is the President ready to embrace that term, as well?

MR. HADLEY: One of the things that is helpful -- and this is on page two -- is a statement that the intelligence community judges that the term "civil war" does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq. And we think that is right. And one of the things that's good about the NIE is it describes the complexity. Iraq right now is a number of different conflicts, and it talks in that paragraph about Shia-on-Shia violence, al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent attacks on coalition forces, criminally motivated violence. I would add one more, and I don't think the analysts would object, and that is efforts by al Qaeda not just to attack coalition forces, but to attack Shia civilians in order to provoke them to attack Sunnis and to encourage the sectarian violence that we've seen.

So I think the thing I would say is, we would agree with the description in that paragraph of the realities on the ground. Now, you get to the issue of labels. Labels are difficult. And of course, everyone is looking at the label of "civil war." Let me read to you what Iraqis say. As we've talked about before, Iraqis do not describe it as a civil war. And it's very interesting -- in a recent interview, the Iraqi Prime Minister* [sic], Abd al Madhi, had the following statement, which I thought was an interesting, different perspective on this issue. He said first, "I don't think we are in a civil war. We are in a war on civilians. That's what Abu Musab al Zarqawi was trying to do. That's what the insurgents are trying to do. Otherwise, what is the meaning of a car bomb in a university or market? You're against a society, against civilians. Or when Sunni militias attack, some Shia militias attack in retaliation. They are not attacking as one army against another, but they are attacking civilians from the other community. That's why I say," and this is Abd al Madhi's comment, "we are in a war against civilians, not a civil war."

And finally he says, "Secondly, the government is still powerful, still feared by the population. Whenever it issues a curfew it is respected all over Iraq. No country in a civil war respects the decision of a government. We have to go and decrease the sectarian violence; we have to go and protect people from car bombs and from insurgent acts that target civilians and institutions."

So what I would say -- let me just say, the description in the NIE of the situation on the ground and the variety of these challenges is real. And we agree with that. The issue of the level -- the issue of the label is one we're going to go back and forth on. What the President's job is, in view of that situation on the ground, to develop a policy and a strategy that has the prospect of success. That's what the policy challenge is, and that's what we think we've done.

Q Does it mean that the President does accept that civil war accurately describes key elements -- does he accept that?

MR. HADLEY: I think what the President does is he accepts the description of the key elements -- that is that there's a hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements. The facts are not in dispute, and they are what drove the policy. And the policy seeks to try and respond to those facts and come up with a strategy that will succeed. That's what our task is and that's what we've done.

Q About the sea change in the character of the violence that the report describes, all senior administration officials, when they're asked about the deterioration of security in Iraq, point back to the Samarra bombing as a key -- as the sea change, if you will. And they point to this changing nature of the violence, now the Iraqi-on-Iraqi sort of violence, not an insurgency against U.S. forces so much. But correct me if I'm wrong -- did not the administration intercept a letter from Zarqawi in 2005 that laid out his plans to foment this kind of sectarian violence? And if that's the case, why did something like the Samarra bombing, that kind of tactic come as such a surprise to this administration?

MR. HADLEY: I don't think it came as a surprise to us. This has been clear -- Zarqawi's strategy. It's one of the reasons why, for the last three years, a major priority for our forces in Iraq has been to go after al Qaeda and to go after their leadership, and to frustrate the strategy. And that's been a major focus of our activity on the ground, because we saw the danger it posed.

What we saw was a series of incidents of al Qaeda attacks trying to provoke a kind of Shia response. And for over two years plus, it failed, and the Shia community showed great restraint. I think what happened was, with the Samarra bombing, because it was an attack on a religious facility and because it came after that length of time, it caught the Iraqi community, in some sense, it was a trauma for the Iraqi community, in some sense.

And what we watched, in some sense, holding our breath, is what would happen. And in the short run the response was good. After about 24 hours, 48 hours, the Iraqi security forces stepped in and they were able to bring the violence down. And the Iraqi government did not splinter. So the security forces held together, the government held together. And that's why we said at the time, Iraqis have looked into the abyss and they've stepped back.

But what we found was, while the initial response was good, we began to see the kind of mobilization in the Shia community and the beginnings of retaliation of Shia on Sunni, and Sunni on Shia. And that is talked about very clearly in the NIE.

Q And that wasn't anticipated by the administration?

MR. HADLEY: We did, and we had two security plans, efforts -- because, of course, as you know, most of this is focused in Baghdad; about 80 percent of sectarian violence is within 30 miles of Baghdad. And we took two bites at that apple in terms of Iraq security plans, phase one, phase two. And the truth is, as we've said very clearly, they did not work. And it did not bring down the violence.

And what we've done with the Baghdad security plan that is now being -- beginning to be executed by the Iraqi government is a new approach that we believe learns from that prior experience and corrects the defects. It's an Iraqi plan; they're in the lead; different operational concept to bring security to the population of Baghdad, not just simply sweep through looking for bad guys, following on with economic assistance that arrives in time and promptly, and adequate forces -- U.S. and Iraqi -- and having those forces working in a configuration that would be more effective.

So that's the narrative of how we got here.

Q The President asked for patience to see that his plan will work. The NIE says that unless there's measurable progress in 12 to 18 months, then the security situation could deteriorate. Is that the same time frame that you all are looking at to see if this plan is going to work?

MR. HADLEY: Well, we'd obviously like the plan to work sooner, because the sooner we get the violence down, the sooner the Iraqis can move forward more effectively on the reconciliation, the sooner we can proceed in training the Iraqi security forces. So we would like it to occur as soon as we can. Nonetheless, as you've heard from General Petraeus and from General Casey in their testimony, we've got to be patient, it's going to take some time.

Q But are you not going to reassess the new strategy in 12 to 18 months?

MR. HADLEY: No, no, we're -- one of the advantages about the benchmarks that we have talked about and the President talked about is they are gauges for whether that strategy is succeeding, both narrowly, in terms of the Baghdad security plan, but also more broadly, because, as you know, some of those benchmarks involve the reconciliation effort. So we are going to try and monitor the progress and our response is going to be, if we don't see progress, we're going to be talking to the Iraqis and emphasize the importance that we, and they take the steps that they need to do.

So we're going to be monitoring this along the way. The Congress has made clear that they will be monitoring the situation as we go.

Q Could you clarify the CBO estimate in number of troops, support troops that might be going would be 21,500? Because now there seems to be a suggestion that it's an appreciable number more than 21,500 troops when you factor in support troops.

MR. HADLEY: Well, what the President focused on was what we needed to make the Baghdad security plan work, which was additional Iraqi brigades and additional American brigades. And so if you looked at his speech, what he talks about is, five brigades into Iraq and a 4,000 increase -- net increase in the forces in al Anbar to deal with al Qaeda. You run the numbers on though, it gets you somewhere north of 20,000. He was focusing on the combat element.

I've not seen the CBO study. I know DOD is looking at it. I don't know the assumptions. It's one thing to put combat units into an environment where there is no support, it's another to put them into an environment of 140,000 U.S. troops. So I can't give you a good answer to that question. What the President was focusing on is what we needed in terms of combat power. And I'm sure DOD will figure out what additional support, if any, is required. General Casey gave an initial answer on this yesterday. I'd really stand with his answer.

Q Let me just direct you, then, back to what -- the second graph here under key judgments. Could you clarify what your point was about -- the paragraph that says, "Nevertheless, even if violence is diminished, Iraqi leaders will be hard-pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation" -- because I heard you as sort of saying this sort of fits in with the general approach of the administration. This seems to be, with the "nevertheless," even if the ISF is successful, there's still a great chance that Iraqi leaders will be unable to achieve sustained political reconciliation.

MR. HADLEY: I agree. I read it the same way you do. And I was doing a bit of a play on words, which probably I shouldn't have done. It makes it clear -- and that's why I wanted to emphasize it for completeness. Even if we get the violence down, the NIE says that the forces are going to be hard pressed to come forward with the reconciliation. We agree with that, but we think there is no alternative but to press them hard to do that reconciliation.

And Maliki agrees. And if you look at the program that the Iraqis are starting to talk about, they're talking about the need for a revision to the de-Baathification law, an oil law, constitutional amendments to address some of the issues that remain unresolved from the constitution.

Q But if you read this paragraph straight, it seems to me what's being suggested is the odds are against success.

MR. HADLEY: It's going to be hard, and the President made it very clear it's going to be hard, and there's no assurance for success. The case the President has made is, he's looked at all the alternatives, and the alternatives have little, if any, prospect for success, whether it's slow failure as I talked about, or fast failure. The President believes his strategy has a prospect for success. It's going to be hard. The NIE says that; the President has said that.

They agree, though, on two things: One, the consequences of failure give us every incentive to try to make this succeed. And secondly, if you look at the end of the key judgments, the last section, which talks about, in some sense, alternatives, what might happen if this fails, they are pretty grim. So I would say, yes, this is no assurance of success, but it is the only path that offers the prospect for success. And because the consequences of failure are so dire, and we all agree with that, we need, together with the Congress, to put every effort in towards achieving success.

Q Mr. Hadley, I want to go back to the term "civil war." The administration has really gone out of its way not to use that term, "civil war," in the same way that Don Rumsfeld wouldn't call it a "guerilla war" when it was, or an "insurgency" when it was. Why do you go out of your way not to use that word? The President goes out of his way, as well. You say labels are difficult, but is it not important -- certainly any military strategist will tell you it's important to know what kind of fight you're in. Can you call it a civil war, and why haven't you?

MR. HADLEY: We know what kind of fight we're in. We know the facts. That is described well in this NIE, and we have a strategy to deal with those facts and to try to succeed.

Q Is it a civil war?

MR. HADLEY: I will tell you what this NIE says.

Q I want to know why you avoid using that term.

MR. HADLEY: Because it's not an adequate description of the situation we find ourselves, as the intelligence community says. Intelligence judges "the term civil war does not adequately capture the complexities of the conflict in Iraq." And what we're doing is saying, if you're going to run policy, and if you're going to explain it to the American people, we need to get across the complexities of the situation we face in Iraq, and what is our strategy to deal with that. And simple labels don't do that. We're going to try and force everybody to get into the facts.

Q Can I do a follow-up on something else? Can you talk about accelerating the training of the Iraqi security forces? That has been done so many times before. How do you plan on accomplishing that, and particularly in 12 to 18 months? And I think the key judgments say they're not going to be able to do significant security for 12 to 18 months, during that period.

MR. HADLEY: No, no, that is not what the NIE says. You ought to be very clear about that. The NIE talks about the role of the Iraqi security forces in bringing security to Baghdad. And, indeed, the strategy -- which is the strategy they have developed -- has the Iraqi security forces very much in the lead.

One of the things they've done in the operational concept is to try and make up for some of the weaknesses in the security forces. Everybody knows that the police has been a problem of effectiveness and of infiltration by sectarian groups. So the concept in Baghdad is to have nine districts, to have a military or national police commander head of each district, and within that district the army -- the Iraqi army, the Iraqi national police and the local police are all going to be working together out of various police stations under unity of command. We think that, plus the presence of a U.S. battalion in each of those districts, will stiffen those forces and make them more effective.

We also think that if this succeeds -- and we believe it will, General Petraeus believes it will, General Casey believes it will -- it is the best kind of training for Iraqi security forces. They've had the classroom training, they've been equipped; now this is the on-the-job training phase. And we think if and, we believe, when they succeed in Baghdad, the result will be a more effective Iraqi security force in Baghdad.

Now, separate from that, we will continue to do the training countrywide that we've been doing. The Iraqis have made clear they are going to put greater reliance on the Iraqi army. Prime Minister Maliki has talked about expanding the Iraqi army. There are additional equipment needs they have; we are addressing those. And also, as you know, separate and outside of Baghdad, we will also be embedding our forces, doing more embedding with Iraqi units.

So this is both, if you will, train and fight, recognizing that, in some sense, for security forces, fighting is a good complement to training. That's what we're trying to do. On the acceleration, there is a plan. Prime Minister Maliki has developed and it and shown the benchmarks. That's the essence.

Q If this falls apart, and as you say, these catastrophic events, if they happen --

MR. HADLEY: Can we get on to some other people?

Q Yes, just one last one. If this falls apart -- and they talk about this in the NIE, that there would be mass chaos, there would be sectarian violence -- do we have a plan on how we would operate in there if that happened?

MR. HADLEY: As you would expect, we are developing all kinds of contingency plans. But the best -- one of the things you should conclude from this NIE is the best plan is to have this plan succeed.

Q The report says that outside actors, including Iran, are not likely to be a major driver of violence. Given that, is it possible the President has been overstating the danger posed by Iran in Iraq?

MR. HADLEY: I think it's important, actually, to take a look at that language. It's on page three of the key judgments. And it says, as Steve says, that "Iraq's neighbors influence and are influenced by events within Iraq, but the involvement of those outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability, in light of the sectarian character of this."

I would point your attention to the sentence that follows -- "Nonetheless, Iranian lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants clearly intensifies the conflict in Iraq. Syria continues to provide safe haven for expatriate Iraqi Baathists, and to take less than adequate measures to stop the flow of foreign jihadists in Iraq."

The President has talked about the concerns about Iranian activity in Iraq, first and foremost, because it puts our troops at risk and because it's resulting in the death of Iraqis. That is something that we need to address.

The other thing I think that this does not adequately reflect, particularly in the next paragraph, that talks about Sunni concerns with Iran -- there's a suggestion almost that the concern of Sunni nations for Iran's activities comes out of their assessments of what's happening in Iraq. But, of course, if you talk to any of those leaders, their concerns about Iran go much beyond an Iranian role in Iraq. They are concerned about what Iran is doing to destabilize the democratically elected Siniora government in Lebanon. They're concerned about Iranian training and support for Hamas that is making it difficult for President Abbas to move forward with Prime Minister Olmert to try and find a way forward to a peace. And of course, there's concern in the region about a nuclear-armed Iran because of the current Iran can cause this much disruption, the concern is with a nuclear Iran.

So I think if there's one thing in the key judgments, I think that does not adequately put the regional context around Iran. I'm not criticizing the NIE. I'm sure if the analysts were here they would agree with what I'm saying, because I'm getting that from their intelligence. And I think -- I'm quite confident that in the bulk of the document, those issues are adequately addressed.

Q Do you think the threat from Iran is more grave than the report reflects?

MR. HADLEY: No. I think the report -- if you read it in toto, and particularly if you read what I'm sure is in the back elaborating the things I've been saying, is a pretty good judgment. And the other thing is to say we're very much concerned, first and foremost from force protection, the Iraqis have also been talking increasingly about the unconstructive role that Iran has been playing. So it's not just us.

Q Going back to the civil war, the use of that term, is it fair to say, or accurate to say that it is now beyond a civil war, because that would imply that you have the elements of a civil war and yet there is -- there are additional factors?

MR. HADLEY: I think I can't do better than the description of the facts on the ground that is in the NIE with which we agree, and that says this is a complex, difficult situation. And that's what it is.

Q Can I also ask you about -- the report talks about the consequences of rapidly withdrawing coalition forces.

MR. HADLEY: Yes.

Q But what about the option of adding forces, as the President has now chosen to do? Was that part of their examination of the situation on the ground, the possibility of the consequences of adding forces?

MR. HADLEY: We certainly talked about that in the review that was developed -- that produced this strategy that the President adopted, and of course, as I said, the intelligence community participated in that review. I thought it's interesting -- in the earlier portion of it, they do talk about the need for continuing involvement of coalition forces if this is going to succeed. The NIE key judgments is very clear about that. And as they talk about the need to get control of security situations, they talk about strengthen Iraqi security forces, which we're trying to do, and supported by coalition forces. So I think the intelligence community recognizes that for this to succeed, it is going to require those two things -- more effective Iraqi security forces and coalition support.

Yes, sir.

Q But it doesn't talk about level, the number of forces.

MR. HADLEY: No, the President has talked about the number in the speeches that he's given.

Q Steve, in 2002 and 2003, in the run-up to the Iraq war, the administration made statements that were obviously not borne by facts subsequently. And it later came out that caveats from the intelligence community, caveats from Energy Department analysts, those were left out of public statements of Vice President Cheney, the President, others in the administration. Now when it comes to Iran, you've been saying for months that Iran is a key driver of violence in Iraq. You've said there is evidence tying Iran to attacks in Iraq. You've said that you'd make that evidence public. That supposed to be made public on the 31st.

MR. HADLEY: Right.

Q It wasn't.

MR. HADLEY: That's correct.

Q Now you have this report saying it contributes in some way, so does Syria, so do other factors, but it is not, in and of itself, causing the violence, nor would the violence stop if Iranian influence stopped.

MR. HADLEY: I didn't read it that way.

Q You see it on the second --

MR. HADLEY: "Iraq's neighbors influence and are influenced by events within Iraq. But the involvement of these outside -- is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospect for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq's internal sectarian dynamics."

We need to get control of that. Now, to the extent Iraqi support -- sorry, Iranian support is going to extremist groups that are participating in that sectarian violence, it is obviously a factor. And as we talked about it more broadly, they are, of course, a disruptive factor in the region.

The reason we put the intelligence briefing on hold was really two reasons. One, we thought we'd better get the NIE out so people could see the full context, which you now can. And secondly, quite frankly, we want to make sure that if we put out intelligence, the intelligence community and MNFI can stand behind it, because we are sensitive to try and put out the facts as accurately as we can.

Q When will that be, that briefing?

MR. HADLEY: When this process gets done, the briefing will be -- will come out. I don't think there's a timetable on this point since it's slipped a couple times. We want to get the work done so that we can get people a firm date and that we won't have to change.

Q Even though it was already scheduled and officials in Baghdad gave a date, they gave a time, and in some cases, they gave a place?

MR. HADLEY: Correct.

Q And now it's been pushed back. Can we conclude anything from that other than people looked at the intelligence that was set to offered and said, this is not good enough?

MR. HADLEY: No, I wouldn't --

Q Does that mean there was a willingness to overstate it?

MR. HADLEY: The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated. And we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts. And that's not a criticism of anybody. It was, in some sense, an attempt to do and address some of the issues in the NIE in a briefing on intelligence of Iranian activity in Iraq. And we thought, hey, why are we doing this? Let's get the NIE out, the coordinated intelligence judgment of the intelligence community. And then with that as context, get a briefing that is focused on and one that we're confident everyone can stand behind.

Q Mr. Hadley, given the track record on weapons of mass destruction, and recent events that have alleged that intelligence has been cherry-picked and pulled selectively, how can the public be assured that intelligence is driving the policy and not the other way around, that it's being tailored to what the President and the Vice President want the policy to be?

MR. HADLEY: By putting out things like this, the coordinated judgment of the intelligence community, so you can see the intelligence on which the policy was based.

Q How can we be assured that this wasn't written for that purpose?

MR. HADLEY: Well, you can talk to the intelligence community. This came from the NIC -- the National Intelligence Council. And it came out of that process. It was not a result of a policy process. It was a result of the intelligence process. And there was no effort to put a policy spin on that by the White House. This is a thing we got roughly a day or two before you.

One last question, ma'am.

Q Can I clarify the use in this document of the words Iraqi leaders and leadership? There's the sentence here, "Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation . . . the absence of unifying leaders limits prospects for reconciliation." The President has made a bet that Prime Minister Maliki is a leader who can act more strongly. Does the full document from the intelligence community agree with him on that? Or do they believe that in the 12 to 18 months that they're assessing that Prime Minister Maliki will not be a unifying leader?

MR. HADLEY: I think what I read from the key judgments -- and you'll have -- in some sense, you have to ask the analysts. What I would say is it's a recognition that, one, we have to start from the proposition it is a unity government. Prime Minister Maliki is there, but he has in his government representatives of the Kurdish community, the Shia community, the Sunni community, and other communities in Iraq. And the President, while he has good conversations with Prime Minister Maliki, he's also talking about -- with Vice President Hashimi, he's talking with President Talabani, he's talking with Abdul Aziz al Hakim, one of the leaders of the Shia community.

So he is basically calling on this unity government that was the creation of Iraqis, that now is the time to step forward. That's what the NIE says, that's what the President believes, and that's what he's been telling the Iraqis.

Q Does the complete document assess Prime Minister Maliki's activities and performance?

MR. HADLEY: You've got me in a problem, because the complete document is classified, so I can't talk to you about it. What I can talk to you about is the unclassified document that we released today.

Q Does it address it? That's all we want to know.

MR. HADLEY: The document is a long document, 90 pages. It addresses a whole bunch of things.

Q Is that a "yes"?

MR. HADLEY: No, I didn't say, yes. I'm saying, really, you've got me in a difficult situation. You're asking me to talk about a classified document which is now classified.

Q -- because you, yourself, assessed that in your memo to the President.

MR. HADLEY: Right.

Q You did it personally, so I can only assume that they would have followed up in the same way you did.

MR. HADLEY: And I think what you get from the NIE here, clearly, is this government needs to step up. That's the conclusion of the memo, that's the conclusion of the President in his strategy, and that is, I think, supported by this NIE, which says that is going to be a crucial aspect of success.

Thanks very much.

END 12:23 P.M. EST

* Deputy President

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070202-6.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 2 2007, 03:03 PM
For Immediate Release
February 2, 2007

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Finalizes Report
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
Washington, DC


Office of Science and Technology Policy
In Focus: Environment


The United States joined 112 other nations in finalizing and approving a landmark climate change science report today in Paris, France. Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acted to finalize its contribution to the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report. The Fourth Assessment Report, consisting of three Working Group contributions and a Synthesis Report, will be released in the fall. The Working Group I portion of the Assessment Report released today represents a comprehensive assessment of the most recent state of knowledge of the physical science of climate change. A Summary for Policymakers, which is a condensed summary of the Working Group I assessment was approved on a line-by line basis by the participating nations over this past week and released in Paris today. The last IPCC assessment of the physical science aspects of climate change was issued in 2001.

"This Summary for Policymakers captures and summarizes the current state of climate science research and will serve as a valuable source of information for policymakers," said Dr. Sharon Hays, the leader of the U.S. delegation at the meeting and Associate Director/Deputy Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "It reflects the sizeable and robust body of knowledge regarding the physical science of climate change, including the finding that the Earth is warming and that human activities have very likely caused most of the warming of the last 50 years."

The United States has played a leading role in advancing climate science and observations. Since 2001, the President has devoted nearly $29 billion to climate-related science, technology, international assistance, and incentive programs. Since 2002, the President has spent nearly $9 billion on climate science research -leading the world with unparalleled financial commitment.

These investments have played a key role in enabling the research results summarized in the IPCC Working Group I report. The U.S. delegation to the Working Group I meeting included climate science experts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Department of State. The delegation's participation in the meeting followed significant U.S. involvement in the generation of the report, as numerous U.S. climate scientists were involved in its drafting and expert review. In addition, a NOAA climate expert, Dr. Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado served as co-chair of Working Group I.

The IPCC was established under the auspices of the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organization to periodically undertake comprehensive and objective assessments of scientific and technical aspects of climate change. The first IPCC Assessment Report was completed in 1990, the second in 1995, and the third in 2001. Today's Working Group I summary represents the first of the current series of three reports, and is focused on the physical science basis of climate change. IPCC's Working Group II meets in Brussels in April to issue a Summary for Policy Makers on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability issues. Working Group III will meet in Bangkok in May to consider a summary report on technical aspects of climate change actions.

IPCC reports are drafted and reviewed by several hundred scientists who are leading experts in their fields from around the world, and contain extensive scientific and technical information and analysis. The drafts go through both expert and government reviews. U.S. government scientists led the U.S. review of the draft, and provided an opportunity through the Federal Register for citizens in the United States to provide expert comments in preparation for this review.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...2/20070202.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 5 2007, 04:59 PM
Press Briefing by OMB Director Rob Portman on the President's Fiscal Year 2008 Budget
Room 450
Eisenhower Executive Office Building

12:04 P.M. EST

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Well, thank you all for braving the cold and joining us this morning. As you probably know, earlier today the President transmitted to the Congress the FY 2008 five-year budget. It contains good news for the American people. It includes a balanced budget over five years, while meeting the nation's priorities.

It's a credible and more transparent budget. Instead of painting a rosy scenario on revenues to get to balance, we take a cautious approach. We've shown full war costs for the rest of this administration and some of 2009. We've also included these war costs as war supplementals as part of the budget this year, in a more transparent, timely and comprehensive way than ever before. And by the way, all of those war costs are included in our balanced budget calculations.

We changed our projections from past years to include a slight increase in non-security discretionary spending, consistent with what Congress and the President have actually enacted for the past three years.

In our budget we also begin to address our biggest fiscal challenge, the unsustainable growth in entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Although the fiscal house is getting in order short-term, frankly these looming challenges are the biggest budget problem we face. We take a good first step by proposing sensible reforms, primarily in Medicare, that are less than a 1 percent deduction in the annual rate of growth. Instead of Medicare increasing 7.4 percent per year over the next 10 years, for instance, it would increase 6.7 percent.

While restraining growth overall in spending, the President's budget also provides new resources for key priorities. It increases funding for our national security to combat terrorism and to protect the homeland. It includes new policies to address critical issues that concern America's families, including educating their children, access to affordable health care, and reducing energy costs.

Over the past two years we have worked with Congress to reduce the deficit by $165 billion. We've been able to make progress on this for two primary reasons: first, the strong and growing economy; and second, a little better restraint of non-security spending. It is exactly these elements -- a solid economy and restraint on spending -- that will enable us to achieve a balanced budget.

As you see from this first chart, our budget reduces deficits every year and results in a surplus in 2012. In FY07, we project that deficit will decline to $244 billion, a reduction of $95 billion since our last estimate in July 2006; $244 billion is the difference between total spending of just under $2.8 trillion, and total receipts of just over $2.5 trillion.

The deficit in 2008 falls again. This projected deficit is 1.6 percent, as a percent of our economy, which is really the key measurement, because it shows the impact of government deficits on economic activity. The projected FY08 deficit is lower than 18 of the past 25 years as a percent of our economy. The deficit then continues to decline each year, both in nominal terms and as a percent of the economy until we reach a budget surplus of $61 billion in 2012.

You'll recall that three years ago, President Bush established the goal of cutting the federal budget deficit by half in five years from its projected peak in 2004. At the time, many expressed skepticism this goal could be met. But we achieved the goal last September, three years ahead of schedule. We'll now build on that success and work with Congress to balance the budget within five years.

Again, getting the balance requires keeping the economy strong and sensible and realistic spending restraint. The President's budget is able to achieve both of these goals while funding critical priorities, including our national security.

To keep our economy vibrant, we continue the pro-growth policies that have helped fuel the robust economy and the increased revenues. The 2008 budget continues to support growth, innovation and investment by making permanent the President's tax relief which would otherwise expire in 2010.

In addition to tax policy, the budget will also strengthen our ability to compete in the global economy. It advances the American Competitiveness Initiative to increase our investment in critical basic research, ensures the United States continues to lead the world in innovation, and provides American children with a stronger foundation in math and science. And it will promote the continued opening of new export markets for America's farmers, workers, and service providers.

As you can see from this next chart, since the tax relief took full effect in 2003, we've seen a strong and steady growth in the economy. We've seen steady job growth, with the creation of 7.4 million new jobs since 2003. We've also seen a pretty dramatic increase in business investment during that period. Productivity is strong, paychecks are growing, with real hourly wages growing 1.7 percent in 2006, which is above the average of the late 1990s.

Unemployment remains low at 4.6 percent. Gas prices are down. Inflation remains low. Interest rates have moderated. And the stock market has reached new highs, showing that investors have confidence in America's economic future. And investors should be optimistic. In the most recent quarter, when there was a lot of talk of a slowdown, real GDP grew by a very strong 3.5 percent. The U.S. economy has now grown faster than the G7 industrialized countries for the past four quarters, and remains the envy of the world, in part because of its resilience in the face of some very significant headwinds. A healthy economy is a testament to the work ethic and ingenuity of the American people, but also to the effectiveness of pro-growth policies, including the tax relief.

This chart shows that after 2003 the economy not only strengthened, but federal revenues also surged, hitting record levels in the past two years. The President's 2008 budget uses five-year economic projections that are in line with forecasts by outside experts. As you'll see from this chart, we assume GDP growth will average about 3 percent over the budget window. This closely tracks the forecast of the blue chip forecasters. This year, our 2.7 percent growth you see for 2007 is now below most outside forecasts and market expectations.

As you'll see from this next chart, with solid economic growth, total receipts for 2006 were slightly above the historical average of 18.3 percent as a share of the economy, and we project receipts remain at this historical average for much of the five-year period, in fact, slightly above the historical average.

We have what I would term a cautious revenue forecast for this fiscal year and going forward. We forecast revenue growth will be 5.5 percent in fiscal year 2007 and average 5.4 percent through 2012. This is below the 40-year average of 7.6 percent and well below the dramatic 11.8 percent and 14.5 percent revenue growth we've seen over the last two fiscal years. In fact, it's below the actual first quarter FY07 revenue increase of 8.2 percent over the same period last year.

As in the past, our revenue projections are produced by the career professionals at the Office of Tax Analysis at the U.S. Department of Treasury. And I will say this morning, as was the case in the past two years, we may well find that our revenue projections are not rosy, but pessimistic.

Even with the a conscious forecast on revenues, this budget demonstrates we can balance by 2012 without raising taxes. In addition, we have plans to more effectively and efficiently collect the taxes owed, help to close the tax gap. Our budget helps close the tax gap in two ways. First, we improve the effectiveness of IRS activities with a $410 million package of new initiatives to enhance enforcement and taxpayer service, and to improve IRS's technology. Second, we include in the budget 16 carefully targeted tax law changes that promote compliance while maintaining an important balance between taxpayers and their government. These tax law changes alone are estimated to raise $29 billion over the next 10 years out of the tax gap.

The success of our growing economy following the enactment of the President's tax relief also underscores exactly why it's important to balance the budget without raising taxes, as others have suggested. By raising taxes, we could put the growth of jobs and our economy at risk. Now is the time instead to focus our energy on spending restraint.

To keep spending under control, our budget provides realistic spending restraint for the annually appropriated day-to-day government spending that isn't focused on national security. It strengthens our efforts to better manage taxpayer resources, and it proposes significant budget reforms to eliminate wasteful and unnecessary spending. And as noted earlier, it also takes an important first step in implementing changes needed to address our long-term challenge, the unsustainable growth in entitlement programs.

The 2008 budget proposes to hold the rate of growth for non-security discretionary spending to 1 percent, well below the rate of inflation. We believe this is both fiscally prudent and realistic. As noted earlier, Congress and the President have done a better job restraining spending in this area over the past few years. In fact, the average growth in this area of non-security spending has been about 1.2 percent for the past three years, including spending growth in the roughly 1 percent range in this long-term continuing resolution the House just passed.

We believe this level of non-security discretionary spending is not only what we've been able to do the last three years, but it's adequate to fund the nation's priorities. One way to judge this restraint is to look at our total government spending as a percent of the economy. We're moving in the right direction. While tax revenues as a percent of the economy are about 18.3 percent, total spending drops from 20.2 percent of the economy in FY 2007 to 18.3 percent in 2012.

One of the ways we're achieving smart spending restraint is by closely examining each federal program to determine if it's a priority, whether it's effective in producing the intended results. Based on these thorough reviews, the budget proposes to terminate or reduce 141 discretionary spending programs, for a savings of $12 billion in 2008. These reforms will help us reduce the deficit and channel resources to higher priorities and more effective programs.

We're able to make these judgments of how to spend taxpayer dollars more wisely in part with tools that we've developed through the President's management agenda. Last year, to ensure greater government accountability, we launched a new website -- here it is -- ExpectMore.gov. The site includes information for taxpayers, and the programs have been assessed for their effectiveness, using the program assessment rating tool, commonly known as "the part." With this website, Congress and the public now have an unprecedented view into which programs work, which do not, and what they're doing to try to improve. It's another way we're providing greater transparency, holding ourselves accountable and demanding results.

With the new and improved version of this website, launched today, we now have program-level information about the performance of nearly 1,000 federal programs, representing 96 percent of government and $2.5 trillion of federal spending. I encourage you to go online and check it out.

With our changes to the functionality, users can now more easily search for programs by their rating or topic, or conduct a key word search. They can also look broadly at how each agency's programs are performing and find detailed evidence to support the program's rating. I want a nod to Clay Johnson, who is here with us this morning, the Deputy Director of OMB for Management, for his good work in leading the charge in the President's management agenda and on launching ExpectMore.gov.

The President's 2008 budget also outlines a comprehensive series of budget reforms that will improve fiscal restraint, transparency, and accountability in government spending. There's been a lot of discussion about earmarks, provisions added by Congress that direct funding to specific recipients or locations without being subject to competition or merit-based selection processes.

Often, these earmarks are not subject to adequate legislative or public scrutiny, and they often lead to wasteful federal spending. Earmarks have grown dramatically, as you know. They've nearly tripled in the last decade. And that's why the President has outlined three key reforms: First, full disclosure of all earmarks; second, putting earmarks in actual legislative language rather than a report language so they can actually get voted on; and third, cutting the number and amount of money provided in earmarks by half by the end of this year.

The President has also called on Congress to enact a legislative line-item veto. This would be a powerful tool. It complements the earmark reforms to help the executive and legislative branches work together to strike unwarranted earmarks and other wasteful and unnecessary spending from the budget. Both the House and the Senate have now demonstrated by a majority vote that each chamber supports this legislation. It's time to enact this sensible budget reform.

Our budget also shows how we can work with Congress to achieve a balanced budget by 2012 by dealing with the entitlement issue. Accomplishing a balance would be short-lived without addressing our long-term budgetary challenge, which is the unsustainable growth in these important programs -- Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

As you can see from this chart, mandatory spending is overwhelming the rest of the budget. In the space of four decades, mandatory spending -- also called entitlement spending -- has grown from 26 percent of the budget in 1962 to 53 percent of the budget by 2006, and it's growing. As this next chart shows, the current trends are simply not sustainable. Under current law, we estimate that by 2040, as you'll see on this bar chart, spending on these three important programs alone will crowd out all other spending -- no defense spending, no education spending, no homeland security spending -- unless we are willing to make the necessary reforms.

It seems to me there's now near universal and bipartisan agreement that the unchecked growth of these programs presents real long-term threats to beneficiaries, to our federal budget, to our economy. The choices without reform are pretty stark: massive benefit cuts, enormous deficits, or huge tax increases. We should not leave these problems for our children and grandchildren to solve. We now face a $32 trillion unfunded obligation in Medicare over the 75-year horizon.

The balanced budget is important in part because it better positions our country to address these looming fiscal challenges, but our five-year budget proposal also makes an important down payment towards sensible reform of mandatory spending, reducing spending growth by $96 billion over five years. These reforms are primarily in the Medicare program, but also in Medicaid and other programs. The proposals that we are submitting today are very similar in character to what this administration and the prior administration have offered in the past.

To put the reforms in context, you can see from this next chart the size of our budget proposal is considerably smaller than the savings in the balanced budget agreement of 1997 when I was in Congress, and the last time that Congress attempted to balance the budget. Although an important first step, the savings in this proposal would only reduce the unsustainable annual growth rates of mandatory spending by less than one percentage point. Specifically, again, over 10 years, the annual growth of Medicare would be reduced from 7.4 percent to 6.7 percent. However, these proposals do deliver more savings over time. The changes we have proposed to Medicare would reduce the unfunded obligation of the program by almost 25 percent, or $8 trillion, over the 75-year horizon.

Frankly, under the budget we have proposed, we can achieve balance within the five-year window without making any of these mandatory savings changes. But we would only be digging a deeper hole by ignoring it for another year. Balance is not coming at the expense of our nation's commitment to seniors and low-income Americans; quite the opposite. We must begin the reform of these programs now in order to protect those commitments. Addressing entitlement spending is the right thing to do because small changes now can have a big impact later. I urge Congress to take a careful look at these sensible reforms.

As we restrain spending, we're investing in our nation's highest priorities: combating terrorism, protecting the homeland, and addressing pocketbook issues that affect the standard of living for America's families.

The 2008 budget supports our troops fighting terrorism abroad, strengthens our military for the future, supports our efforts on the diplomatic front, and protects our homeland from attack. It invests substantial resources to maintain high levels of military readiness and to continue the transformation of our military to meet the new threats of the 21st century.

I want to make this point very clear, because it's often misunderstood: The cost of the war is reflected in the administration's deficit projections. In fact, there has been a $165 billion decrease in our deficit over the past two years, and that includes all of the war costs that we've incurred during that time.

As noted earlier, the administration supports greater transparency and accountability. And this budget improves the timeliness and specificity of the information provided to Congress and to the American public about the cost of the war.

With the 2008 budget, the administration goes further than we have in the past to show the full cost of the war

-- Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terror, generally -- for the rest of the President's term. We are providing our requests for the full cost of the war in both FY 2007 and 2008, and for the first time, including account-level detail and justifications. Specifically we're requesting additional resources of $99 billion for FY 2007 to support our troops, $145 billion for 2008, and an allowance of $50 billion for anticipated war costs in 2009.

The administration welcomes oversight of its war spending, and we hope these details will help Congress more fully understand our war-related request. This is our good-faith effort to be as transparent as possible in what we anticipate the needs will be as far out as we can possibly and reasonably project.

The President's budget also addresses three key issues that are on the minds of many American families: the quality and cost of their kid's education, access to affordable health care, and our nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy from unstable parts of the world.

Regarding our schools, No Child Left Behind is already working to achieve the goal of all students performing at or above grade level in reading and math by 2014. It's raised student achievement for millions of children in schools across our country. The 2008 budget directs more funding to high schools to better prepare our students for college or the work force. It offers new school choice options, so children in low-performing schools can have a chance to attend a school where they can learn and succeed. To help low-income families afford college, the 2008 budget substantially increases the Pell grant maximum awards.

The 2008 budget also improves America's access to affordable health care through a number of proposals. It proposes a significant change in the tax treatment of health care to expand coverage and bring greater fairness to the system. With more transparency and competition, it will also slow the rate of growth of health care costs, all of which will help reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

The budget also provides for an affordable health care initiative with the states, improves access to health care by allowing small businesses and civic and community groups to band together to leverage their bargaining power, and it helps reduce frivolous lawsuits that increase patient's costs.

The budget includes a number of proposals to increase our energy security, while improving our environment. As noted in the State of the Union speech, the President is proposing to increase the current standards for alternative fuels use, and for fuel economy in order to cut our domestic gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years, thereby reducing projected air pollution, and projected CO2 emissions.

The budget also continues the Advanced Energy Initiative to make alternative sources of fuel and electrical energy -- like cellulosic, hydrogen, solar, nuclear, and clean coal more cost-competitive.

And in a continued effort to preserve our environment and national treasures, we are proposing today an exciting new plan, called the National Parks Centennial Initiative. This new program will provide up to $3 billion over the next 10 years in new federal and private spending to help achieve new levels of excellence in our national parks.

The budget shows that we can achieve balance by keeping the economy strong and by imposing realistic spending restraint, while investing in our nation's priorities. We are committed to the hard work ahead, to ensure that our fiscal house is in order, for the near-term and for the longer-term. I am optimistic we can do it across party lines, as the American people expect and deserve.

I've just outlined the broad structure of the President's budget and touched on some of the key priorities. Greater detail on every aspect of this budget is available online. If you go to our website, www.omb.gov, you will find lots of detail. In the meantime, I'm happy to try to answer any questions you might have.

Q Why did you decide to switch and put the war spending in the main budget, as opposed to the supplemental? What was your thinking in previous years, and how does that thinking change this year, and why?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Thanks for the question. Let me clarify what we've done first. The war spending continues to be supplemental. It is supplemental spending. It is not in the base spending of the Department of Defense or the Department of State. And I think that's appropriate; otherwise, you'd be building into the base very large numbers that, frankly, would be difficult to extract when the war costs do begin to go down, which we all expect to happen and we all hope happens.

However, in the past, we have put our budget forward and then later submitted a supplemental for the year in question -- in other words, our 2007 budget had 2006 war costs a few weeks later provided in a supplemental, without the kinds of justifications that members of Congress have been seeking. So the two big differences are, one, we are moving the supplemental spending request into the budget. Literally a separate chapter of the budget will be supplemental war spending. And second, we're providing a lot more detail, including all of the justifications up front. We are also going out another year, so we're providing full war costs not just for '07, but for '08. And then additionally, we are adding a supplemental amount of $50 billion for '09.

Why did we decide to do it? Because we heard loud and clear from Congress that they were seeking more transparency and more and better information sooner, so they could conduct appropriate oversight. And so we've tried to be responsive to that concern.

There's a balance here, because as you provide more and more information, further and further out, it's very difficult to predict what those costs will be. And you can imagine that our war planners had a difficult time telling the department of -- Management and Budget and also telling the Congress what the costs will be in fiscal year 2008. Much of that spending won't occur for 18 months or two years. On the other hand, we've tried to achieve this balance where we're providing as much information as we can to go beyond that. To provide information for further years I think would be very unwise because it would be very unreliable information that could be misleading. But that's the balance that we tried to achieve, and that's why we changed our approach this year.

Q Why the $50 billion figure in '09? Is that just a place holder, or it's something that's going to happen that's going to cut the war costs by $95 billion?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: I think we call it an allowance, and it's a notion that we believe there will still be war costs in 2009. We have no idea what those costs will be.

Q But why so small?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Well, again -- interesting that you say it's so small. Others have said these war costs are large. What we're trying to do is to show as much of the war costs as possible, as reasonable, as practical. And that's why we're showing full war costs for '07, for '08, and then for '09, we really don't know what the war costs will be, but we think there will be war costs. So we call it an allowance. You called it a place holder. That sounds pretty good. That's more or less what that is for '09.

Q -- in '08 you're approaching something like $700 billion with the war -- can you speak a little bit to what that combination of defense and war spending is going to do to the budget --

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: It's a good question, and I do want to make that clear that we're not just providing these supplemental spending requests; we're also providing, in the actual budget for '08, an increase in the Department of Defense base spending. That increase will be approximately 11 percent from 2007. It's a substantial increase. As you will see, it focuses directly on the issues. We've heard from the military on -- and from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and regardless of their opinion about the ongoing military operations in Iraq, and that is readiness.

We have, as you know, an increase in troop strength in the budget for the five-year period. Beginning in '08, we also have increases in procurement, equipment, training. And so this is to be responsive to the concerns that the military has expressed. And again, you will find, in the halls of Congress on both sides of the aisle, there is -- has been a concern about readiness. We directly address this in the budget, both in the supplemental with regard to the war costs, and significant reset or reconstitution funding there, particularly for equipment that's been subject to wear-and-tear, but also in our base funding for the Department of Defense.

I would also make the point that although this is a substantial commitment to our military and to our troops, it is all included in the numbers you saw earlier, which show declining deficits every year and a balanced budget in the fifth year.

Q If the situation with the entitlements is so critical, than why not accept some tax increases as a way to get the Democrats to go along with spending reforms?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Well, the entitlement situation is critical. And, again, the President, by submitting this budget, only takes a first step toward addressing it. But I think it will be interesting to see how this first step is responded to. So far, in my conversations with Democrats and Republicans about the proposal, I've gotten a sense that although there are some immediate negative response that you might predict, there's also a lot of response that says, let's take a look at this, on both sides of the aisle. And so I think this will be an important test to see whether we can move beyond talking about sitting down and move beyond talking about the need to discuss reform of these important programs, to what are some of the solutions. And, clearly, because Medicare is the program that has the largest unfunded obligation -- I mentioned $32 trillion over the 75-year period -- this seems to us to be a good place to start.

In terms of the discussions that the President has talked about, particularly on Social Security, but also on entitlements generally, he's made clear that there will be no preconditions; that all sides should come together and we can talk about these issues, and that there would be no preconditions on our side, nor should there be on the other side. And I think this is exactly the way we must proceed -- it's the only way to proceed.

So to answer your question, I guess I would say, the President is very interested in addressing these issues. He's shown great political courage, and certainly has not shrunk from the challenge of Social Security over the last few years. And he wants to continue to try to work with Congress to address that issue, but also the larger problem of mandatory and entitlement spending.

Q Are there any specific places where he's willing to soften his stance, any compromise areas?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Well, by saying there are no preconditions and we should all come to the table and talk, that was a change in position. And by putting into the budget some specific ideas, the President is, again, taking the next step, which is not just the need to discuss, but the need to actually start to put solutions on the table.

Q Mr. Portman, you said there are no preconditions. But in the Cabinet meeting a couple hours ago, the President said no tax increases. That sounds like a precondition.

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: What the President said was, that we can balance the budget in five years without increasing taxes, and that, in fact, to increase taxes would put at risk the economy that's generated the revenues that are largely responsible for putting us in a better fiscal condition. So he was very explicit about that issue, but it was in relation to this proposal.

Q So he would welcome tax increases beyond those five years?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: No, that's not what he said. I'm just telling you that -- unless I missed something -- I was sitting next to him at that Cabinet meeting -- what he was talking about there was his strong belief that it is incumbent upon us to keep the tax relief in place. It's encouraging innovation, encouraging investment. It's been very responsible, as we saw on those charts, since 2003 for the growth in jobs, the growth in productivity, and the ability for us to see these increased revenues. And it would be exactly the wrong thing to do to put the economy at risk and raise taxes on the American people at this point.

Instead, what we should be doing, restraining spending a little bit better, which is in this budget, and continuing with solid economic growth so that we can, indeed, balance the budget for the American people. It's an exciting opportunity, and we don't need to raise taxes to do it.

Q One final thing, just broadly speaking, beyond entitlements. Is there a percentage of growth for the overall -- to sort of put in plain terms -- $2.9 trillion budget, is that 2 percent higher than last year, or where is the budget sort of in the big picture? How much has it increased?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Is it 2.9 percent or is it just over 2.8 percent, Steve? We'll give you 2.9 percent, which is a little growth. What's the percentage growth? The overall growth in the non-security area in this budget is 1 percent. The overall growth in the security area is closer to 6 percent, and the overall growth in the mandatory side, which is about half the budget, is closer to 6 or 7 percent. So, Ned, I think it's about probably a little higher than the GDP growth, which will be about 5.6 percent for this year.

Yes, Keith.

Q You seem in the budget to have assumed very little in the way of AMT relief. I'm wondering why did you do that? Is that very realistic? And also, doesn't it threaten to hamper your efforts to get to a surplus in 2012?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Yes, it's a good question. The alternative minimum tax is addressed in this budget. Congress has, in the past, enacted patches to the alternative minimum tax so that it does not hit upper-middle and middle-income taxpayers -- or hit additional upper-middle income or middle-income taxpayers.

We are proactive in this budget in the sense that although Congress has not passed a patch for this year, we include a patch in the budget. That patch is the most generous version of the patch that Congress has passed, which is a "no new filers" patch. It is for 2007. Although Congress has not passed that yet, it would enable Congress, then, not to have to patch again for about 20 months, until the end of 2008. The cost of that is about $36 billion, incidentally, and most of that is in the FY 2008 numbers.

Going forward, we want to work with Congress to reform the AMT because we believe that it is misguided tax policy. We want to keep it from, again, hitting further down into the tax brackets. We think there's a way to do that, working with Congress. This is what we have proposed in the past five budgets, as you know. This year, I think things might be a little different. I think there's more discussion of the importance of dealing with AMT. I think there's more concern because of the impact of a non-indexed AMT on taxpayers over the next several years.

So I'm hopeful that working with Congress, we can come up with a way to reform AMT. We think it ought to be part of a larger tax reform. It almost has to be, because there's so many interactions now between AMT and the individual income tax code. So we will be looking forward to seeing what the congressional budget proposals are in this regard, but we think it's an issue that we ought to be addressing together.

Q Okay, but doesn't it threaten to sort of really sap a lot of revenues out of your predictions when you do get a fix, or does it need to be done revenue neutral, in your view?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Well, implicit in the budget would be revenue neutrality because that's the numbers we show include AMT revenues. But I think we need to see. We'll work with Congress on that. Some members of Congress have proposed elimination without any pay-for's. Others have suggested that there ought to be pay-for's, and we want to work with Congress on that.

I indicated earlier that I believe our revenue projections this year are cautious. I'm saying that, in part, because I don't want those of you who are going to write the story about the rosy scenarios to then, in July, write the story about how we lowered expectations, which is what happened the last couple of years. So I will just tell you I think our expectations on the revenue growth are probably low, and the first-quarter results are in -- 8.2 percent, and we're saying 5.5 percent -- and there's no sign of a slowing economy right now.

So the first quarter growth numbers came in higher than expected. We had not included those in our budget projections, of course, because the budget was put to bed before those numbers came out a week ago. So that's an example, Keith, where there may be additional revenue available that Congress would want to work with to address a pressing issue, like reform of the alternative minimum tax.

Q On the health care proposal of the President, how does a tax expense work out? There's some cost on the tax expense the President -- there's some cost initially, and then it evaporates, or what?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: I think in the first five years, it's -- there is an impact on the budget. If you look at our numbers, it will show that in the first five years, it is a coster.

Q Is it broken out in the book?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Yes, it is. Longer-term, 10 years, it's about revenue neutral.

Q Two questions. First, you're projecting some pretty substantial savings on -- for Medicare reforms and I guess Medicaid reforms. And you talked throughout your presentation about a rosy scenario and a cautious approach. Do you consider this a cautious approach?

And then secondly, you're proposing to limit the kids who are in the SCHIP program to those under 200 percent of poverty. Seventeen states currently allow children in families over that line to be eligible for SCHIP, so what happens to those kids under this budget?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Can we take the charts back to the chart on the 1997 balanced budget? Do we have that ability? Thank you.

In terms of caution and prudence, I think that is realistic. I don't know if it's cautious, but I think encouraging Congress to look at the mandatory side of the ledger -- again, more than half of our spending now is in the entitlement area. It is growing faster by far than inflation, faster by far than our GDP numbers, faster than the rest of the domestic spending. It's the fastest growing part of our budget now. And over time, as we noted, it crowds out all other federal spending unless we do something. This assumes that we don't have huge tax increases or huge benefit cuts.

So I don't think it's unrealistic to expect Congress to do something along the lines that the President has proposed. And these proposals are not particularly new or different. You'll see the proposals are similar to what we've proposed before. In fact, it's about doubled our Medicare provisions in our last budget, in terms of the savings over time.

But the proposals are very similar. You look back to the Clinton administration, you'll see some very similar proposals. You've heard from Capitol Hill some Democrats respond that they want to take a look at these proposals, because some of them have made some of the same proposals. One proposal that's a little different in our budget is, there is more on income relating, both in Part B of Medicare and in Part D, otherwise known as means testing. And so for those who are retired and making over $80,000 a year, or $160,000 a year as a couple, would continue to have their premiums subsidized, but not as much, under our proposal. This would affect about 5.6 percent of current beneficiaries, under our proposal. And again, this includes Part B. Some of these proposals have been out there before, but also a little more income-relating or means testing in Part D.

So that's part of the way that we get the savings. It begins, I think, a very important debate as to what is the best way to restrain the rate of the growth of these programs. Nobody is talking about cutting these programs. It's a question of how much the unsustainable rate of growth can be reduced so that it becomes sustainable.

So I don't think it's unrealistic. I would hope that, again, in a good-faith effort, we can work on both sides of the aisle on this, because both sides of the aisle acknowledge the problem.

What's your second question?

Q On SCHIP, there are 17 states that currently allow kids to go to --

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: On SCHIP, we have to go through the reauthorization process of SCHIP every several years, and this year is the reauthorization year for SCHIP. So we included in the budget a reauthorization number for SCHIP. It includes somewhere between $4 billion and $5 billion in additional spending on the SCHIP program, but it does target this additional spending on children who need the help the most, which is low-income children. And those are children under 200 percent of poverty. We think that's appropriate. We think that is the original intent of the program. And again, that debate will unfold this year as we get into the reauthorization process.

Q Mr. Portman, you talked a second ago about the introduction of some more means testing in the Medicare proposal. And, obviously, although this catches relatively few people at this juncture, presumably, over time, a larger and larger proportion of people would meet these income thresholds, and therefore be drawn into the means testing. Also -- and separately, the budget once again endorses the progressive indexing approach to Social Security benefits. So I wanted to ask you, does this add up to a sort of vision of how to fix the entitlement problem, that in other words, rather than raising taxes to meet the entitlement spending, you proportionately reduce the amount of benefits paid to higher income citizens?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: I think that's observant, and once again, you are looking beyond maybe where we are in the budget and where we're headed. I don't know if it is a change. In other words, this has been something that Congress has debated for years. There is already means testing in every one of these programs. In the Part D program, as you know, we focused the new resources on prescription drugs on those who needed the help the most. So low-income seniors are given the great bulk of the support under that program. That was something new.

This is, I think, again, not a surprise or a new approach, but I think it's part of what everyone acknowledges who has looked carefully at these programs, part of the long-term solution.

Q Mr. Portman, you said that a reason you included the war costs in the budget is because you heard Congress loud and clear. I wonder, are there any other elements of this budget on which you heard Congress loud and clear, things that you did specifically because Congress has been asking for it?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Actually, there are. Our attempt here is to provide a credible, more transparent budget, and one that is more realistic, and so there are a number of different areas where we tried to be responsive. One is showing more war costs in greater detail, sooner in the process. Another is trying to minimize the number of user fees that are in the budget that permit us to spend more in other areas because we can show a savings on a user fee, but that have little chance of being enacted by Congress. Another is some of the so-called mandatory saving programs that the Appropriations Committee is concerned about because we have a savings again in our budget that the appropriators cannot effectuate on their own. And so we have attempted in this budget to reduce or eliminate those kinds of differences between us and the Appropriations Committee. So this is viewed as a more realistic document.

I'll give you a great example of that. When I first started by consultations on the budget, I went to the Hill. I didn't go around the administration. I went first to the Hill to hear what they were looking for. And they were concerned about the fact that we included a user fee in a number of different areas. One was -- the biggest one is in the TSA area, and we had a Transportation Security Administration user fee of about a billion dollars over the five-year period, per year -- a billion dollars per year for the five-year period -- so $5 billion in our previous budgets. And that fee, you will see, is no longer in our budget because the Congress has not shown an interest in funding TSA through such a fee, but we think it's good policy, frankly. So we had tried to be responsive to appropriators and others who have said, this is not a realistic budget.

The second one I'll tell you is our budgets the last couple of years, you will see, have had a freeze in spending outside of security. In fact, for the fiscal years, we've had below a freeze request in our budgets. This budget is a tight budget, as it should be, in the situation we find ourselves in. But it has a 1 percent increase in non-security spending as compared to below a freeze in the year in question, and then a freeze for the out-years.

So it -- and how did 1 percent come about? It came about because we looked back at what Congress has actually done the last few years, including this year, with a Democrat Congress, the long-term continued resolution for this area of spending will be roughly 1 percent.

So war costs, some of the specifics in the budget -- and we'll be happy to give you more detail on that -- we tried to be more realistic in terms of what the spending levels will be for the annual appropriated funds. We've tried to be more realistic and tried to give Congress the ability to use this document as a basis for coming up with a budget that serves the American people's interest.

Q -- 141 programs, are these the same programs this year at the same level of reduction or elimination?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: They're very similar --

Q And if not, do you have a list of what the 141 programs are for this year versus last year?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: They are different. Last year it was a little higher number. But they are some of the same programs. Some are relatively small programs. There's a new venture capital fund that was put in legislation for -- I think it's called the Red Venture Capital Fund for NASA. We don't think the government ought to be investing in venture capital. So we propose eliminating that program, as an example. There are some oil and gas tax incentives that we believe are not necessary given the current price of oil and gas, and so we recommend eliminating those in this budget.

So there's some new ones, and others we can provide you. If you look at the website I talked about earlier, the OMB.gov website, you will see a list -- is it separately broken out, Steve or Beth, the 141 programs? Will it be?

After your question, it will be. (Laughter.)

Q Today?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: I don't know if we can get it up today, but we're happy to present that information to you, so just contact us.

Q What assumption do you use on immigration? Do you assume that this is going to be 10 million illegal aliens in the country contributing to Social Security and Medicare? Do you assume there's going to be a comprehensive reform that will change those figures?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: That's interesting. As you know, the CBO numbers have been interesting on that, what the various reforms would cost. Some have indicated that because of the fees that would go into a new temporary worker program you might see an increase in revenues; others have said a decrease because of the Social Security benefits. We have not attempted to do that in this budget. We have assumed that, from a budget perspective, that there would not be those changes. But we have looked at those CBO analyses, and we're doing some of our own analyses, as well.

Q In terms of getting to the balanced budget by 2012, you mentioned that you can get there without the Medicare savings that you just outlined. In your mind, what would you identify as the key decisions in this document that get you to 2012, the three or four things that you think are the most significant? And just a side question on private accounts -- do you deal with private accounts on this at all? Do you propose that? And was there any discussion about sort of leaving that out to be

-- as a sign of peace to the Democrats?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Good question, Mike. I guess if I were to say three or four things -- this won't surprise you -- I would say, again, it comes back to, can you keep a growing economy? I think our projections are very realistic on that front. We're not assuming a huge increase in revenues, as we've seen in the last two years, but we're assuming a steady growth of an economy, and we're assuming some spending restraint, as we have done the last few years, on the non-security side. And then, as you say, we don't need the mandatory savings to achieve balance; however we think it's the right thing to do. So I would say those are the fundamentals.

And although this tax issue has become sort of a political football, if we can show balance by providing for the nation's priorities without raising taxes which put the economy at risk, in our view, that ought to be a priority. And there's no reason that we can't. In a sense, then the burden is on others to show why there is a need for additional spending, other than what we have provided for, including, as I noted, healthy increases in spending on the security side, both for Iraq and Afghanistan, but also for our nation's defense readiness.

So that's what I would say. It's pretty simple; it's how do you keep the economy moving forward -- pro-growth policies -- and then how do you have just reasonable spending restraint? We find ourselves in a very fortunate situation because of strong economy and because of increased progress on restraining non-security spending, we can -- we can achieve balance for the American people. And it's the right thing to do, because it will position us better for the future.

While we're doing that, though, we should also begin the process of restraining this growth rate in the entitlement programs, both because of the long-term challenge, which is mind-boggling -- $32 trillion over 75 years, over $70 trillion over the infinite horizon, just in Medicare, $15 trillion with Social Security -- but also because every year, these programs are crowding out other spending that is considered important, whether it's education or homeland security. So it's the right thing to do. But I'd say that's the trick.

And I think we can get there. I'm really encouraged by what I hear -- when the President talked about a balanced budget at the House Democrat retreat on Saturday, you might have noticed, he got an ovation, because members, I think, on both sides of the aisle, are eager to show constituents, to show the American taxpayer that we can get our fiscal House in order here short-term. It's necessary to do it. Because of these other challenges that we face, it's the right way to go.

Q I've got one more --

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Oh, private accounts. We do include private accounts in the budget, but as an olive branch, I suppose you could say they are delayed, but also, because we think as a practical matter, probably would not be able to be implemented until 2012. So we delay them from 2010 to 2012. Last year, we delayed them from 2009 to 2010. So we delay them another year. But private accounts are in the budget, and the President continues to believe that this is part of the answer to Social Security, particularly for younger people.

Q On homeland security, there's also been some political changes on the Hill. You've got Robert Byrd at appropriations. They want -- the authorizing committee wants to inspect every container. Would you say that your homeland projections are also low ball, given what Democrats are likely to do to plus things up?

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: I don't know, we'll have to see. We have a healthy increase in homeland security spending. We have our specific ideas as to how that should be spent, including more border security, including more Border Patrol. But it also includes more funds across the board for homeland security. So we will be working closely with the authorizers and the appropriators to try to ensure that the funds that we provided here are properly allocated to best protect the country. But we do provide significant increases in resources.

Q -- to build the fence --

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: There is adequate funding to build 370 miles of fence in the --

Q (Inaudible).

DIRECTOR PORTMAN: Well, it depends if you mean double strand or double fence for 700 -- no. If you mean virtual fence using the SBI net, in other words, having in some places, other than a physical fence, I suppose you could take it out to 700 miles. But there is significant new resources toward border security, including fence. We can give you all that detail if you're interested.

Thank you all.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070205-3.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 7 2007, 02:36 PM
MR. SNOW: One addition to the schedule for tomorrow. Tomorrow the President will travel to the Department of Homeland Security and visit the Nebraska Avenue complex. He'll receive a briefing from Secretary Chertoff and other senior-level employees on their priorities and efforts to guard against the threat of terrorism and keep America safe.

As you know, the global war on terror is a struggle against terrorists who are threatening the entire civilized world. While men and women in the military are fighting abroad we've got to make sure that we continue to fight them at home. And the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security are essential in that fight. So we hope to have pool coverage at the end. We'll give you details on coverage as they become available.

Questions.

Q Tony, the President said in his speech on the 10th that America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced. How do you follow through on that pledge if Iraq is not meeting its own target dates for certain pieces of legislation, they're not supplying troops into Baghdad at the numbers that were expected? What does the White House do to follow through?

MR. SNOW: I think the most important thing to do is to keep in mind what is, in fact, going on. For instance, yesterday, I think the Prime Minister stood up before everybody and said, "I call on you quickly to finish the preparations so we don't disappoint people." He also made the point that either we win or -- "Either we all win or we all lose. The whole world is watching us and expecting us to win."

I think at this point, to try to start rendering summary judgment at the very beginning of an effort by the Iraqis not only to deal with matters of legislation, but also economic development and getting forces on the ground, and for that matter, getting their headquarters and command stood up, is a little premature. The other thing we've said is if it takes a couple extra days or weeks at one end or another, we're going to understand that.

It is clear that there are very serious and good-faith efforts to deal with all the things you've been talking about, Jennifer, including getting the legislature, the council of representatives to conclude business on an oil law, and also to move on such things eventually as the de-Baathification statute, or de-Baathification reforms. So those continue to be priorities. But I think it's simply too early at this point to start drawing conclusions.

The Iraqis are continuing to move forces toward Baghdad, but this is an ongoing process. And there's going to be a requirement to, not only on the military side, put people in place to assess what's going on in neighborhoods, to work on plans, to work on the unity and the cohesiveness of U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Let me just read you something that General Petraeus said the other day, because I think this helps put in perspective the fact that these things don't happen overnight, it does take time, and there are a lot of logistical considerations to take into account. And he said, "It will take time for the additional forces to flow to Iraq, time for them to gain an understanding of the areas in which they will operate, time to plan with and get to know their Iraqi partners, time to set conditions for the successful conduct of security operations, and of course, time to conduct those operations and build on what they achieve."

So all these are still really in progress. But as we've said all along, over time, within the next couple of months, we'll be able to get a firmer sense of how the Iraqis are doing and how the plan is proceeding.

Q What will happen then?

MR. SNOW: Well, we hope that we'll be able to report success.

Q But even that drawn-own process doesn't do much to address the lack of security for the people who are needed to rebuild Iraq in places outside the Green Zone. And as you know, there's difficulty getting those people to go there.

MR. SNOW: Yes, there is, absolutely. We're in the process right now of working on building up the provisional reconstruction teams. The State Department pretty much has its commitments now made. Their team leader positions are pretty much filled. The President, in the Cabinet meeting the other day, made it clear to members of the Cabinet that we need to be able to get people in place, and we've also talked about a civilian corps that would be able to provide some of the services we need.

Force protection is clearly a priority, not merely for the military, but for the people working on the PRTs. But the Department of State, the Department of Defense and other departments, other Cabinet-level departments and agencies, are working toward getting them staffed up, because there also is a significant return, once you do start creating economic opportunities and jobs. And I know you've seen some of the research on it, which indicates that it does have a significant impact on reducing violence. You have a situation where once you do have the ability, first, to clean and hold neighborhoods -- or clear and hold neighborhoods, it does then give you the opportunity to follow on.

What we are not doing is putting provisional reconstruction teams in hot zones. But the plan is, you go in, you go in with force, you stay in on a 24-7 basis, you clear the neighborhoods, you also work on developing the trust and confidence of those -- then you start flowing in with the forces that do the economic support. So we're keenly aware of the security challenges.

Q You've got a chicken-and-egg question here. I mean, you can't get people in there because it isn't secure.

MR. SNOW: Well, keep in mind, the security part is the first -- as I just explained, when you're working with the U.S. and Iraqi forces going in district by district, you do the clear and hold; and then at that point you start bringing in the other infrastructure, the provisional reconstruction teams.

Q And that's taking a lot of time, a lot more time than people --

MR. SNOW: Well, it's still worth doing. It's an important piece.

Q What can you tell us about the helicopter that was shot down?

MR. SNOW: Not much. I'd refer you to DOD.

Q Was it shot down?

MR. SNOW: Again, preliminary reports indicate mechanical, perhaps. But again, I just -- I don't -- we don't have firm word on it. And the place to go for a real answer is the Department of Defense.

Q Tony, are you concerned about these reports that a member of the Iraqi parliament, Dawa party member, ruling coalition, appears to be the same guy that was convicted of those embassy bombings back in '93?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, the one thing we've made clear with the Iraqi government, and the Prime Minister has made clear, is that you have a situation now where you have a government that's committed to peace. And people who are operating outside the law committing acts of violence, you're going to need to deal with them. But I'm not going to render judgment on the story.

Q Tony, this may seem demeaning, but it's obviously a serious question. This NASA scandal is huge all over the world. Is the White House going to ask the NASA for any more transparency in the oversight and selection of astronauts in light of this unfortunate --

MR. SNOW: I know it is the most salacious story, but I'll refer it all to NASA, much to the consternation of all in this room.

Q Well, even the oversight of the way they select, and then they continue to monitor their astronauts --

MR. SNOW: Again, Connie, I'm just -- NASA has the answers and the responses to this, and I'd direct you to them. I'm not going to grandstand on that story.

Q Tony, as far as terrorism, the President going to talk tomorrow. I'm frustrated, as many Americans, that it's been a long time, five years, for General Musharraf to respond not to support the terrorism. So much has been written on this issue

-- clearly indicates also that he is not questionable as far as the support in global war on terror with the United States. Do you think the President is frustrated? Or he still has faith and trust in General Musharraf?

MR. SNOW: I haven't had a "pick on Musharraf" question since you've been gone. No, look, President Musharraf is an absolutely essential ally in the war on terror. He has, himself, been the object of a number of assassination plots. And he is somebody who is serious about helping, and has been a considerable help, and we continue to work with him.

As we've said before, also, when it comes to cross-border incursions, people making their way into Afghanistan, it's very important to deal with it. And I believe he's had some public announcements this week about his determination to try to foil that. So I think it would simply be misstating the facts to say he hasn't been active. He's been very active.

Q Tony, I'm curious about this Centennial Parks Initiative. This is a time of very tight budget constraints; even programs like Children's Health Insurance got only the smallest of increases. I'm wondering what brought on this sort of sudden bout of conservationism and a big increase for parks.

MR. SNOW: Sheryl, you haven't been watching. You're talking about a $1-billion federal increase with a $1-billion matching grant. By the way, your characterization of CHIPS, the budget right now is $5 billion. It's going to be increased by -- we're putting $4.8 billion into it over the next five years. That is not an insubstantial increase. As a matter of fact, it's a significant one. Furthermore, there is a real focus right now on making sure that you're dealing with poor Americans.

Q -- talking about the parks --

MR. SNOW: No, the first thing we've got to do is to talk about the assumption of the question, because it was an argumentative assumption that I think is worth at least trying to pick apart, as well.

The President has been committed to conservationism since the beginning of this administration. Last year, for instance, we set aside the largest natural wildlife reserve on the face of the Earth. This is not new. Just as many people have been saying, wow, isn't the President -- isn't it nice that the President has finally agreed that global warming has manmade components, only to find out, because we've been telling you, that he first started talking about it in June of 2001.

There's been a lot of misreporting, or perhaps it just hasn't -- perhaps folks have not taken notice of the fact that this is an administration that's been keenly committed, both to environmentalism and conservationism from the start. This is important -- this is also a plan to work on the national parks over a 10-year period. So what we're talking about is $1 billion over 10 years for the centennial of the U.S. Park Service, which will -- it seems to me that that's a pretty reasonable down payment.

Q Well, you raise that point about reporting on the President's environmental record. People are starting to say, is George Bush waking up to the environment?

MR. SNOW: Well, the fact is -- actually, the question is, are reporters waking up to his five-year record? The answer is, the long national slumber may be approaching an end.

Q Is there any concern that U.S. and Italian relations are going to be hurt by the Italian judge charging an American soldier with homicide for that --

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to talk about any particular judicial activity, but I will note that we continue to work closely with our allies. And many of our -- throughout Europe, our allies continue to supply important aid and assistance in the war on terror, and that's going to continue.

Q Lawmakers have been going after Secretary Paulson up on the Hill in the hearings the last few days on the budget, particularly the AMT fix, saying that the administration has used the revenue after '08 to balance the budget. Do you think that's a fair criticism?

MR. SNOW: No, because what we've said all along -- there are a couple of things going on. First, as some people in this room are suddenly finding out, the alternative minimum tax is a way of declaring working people rich and raising their taxes. I know a number of you have suggested in recent days that you're starting to feel the bite of the AMT.

There are a couple of things that we've tried to do. Number one is to put in a patch not only for this year, but for next year, which gives us 20 months to figure out what's going on. Also, this is a patch that means that nobody who has not been previously affected by the AMT will be affected, because in the past, other people woke up with the unpleasant surprise that, lo and behold, they were going to get socked with a tax that was once designed to be reserved for the rich, but increasingly is, in fact, hitting middle-income American families.

Now we have 20 months to work with Congress. And our rules are the same as they are in the rest of the budget deliberations, which is that we still want revenue-neutral solutions to this. This is something that is going to have to be the product of legislative deliberation. And both parties now have, as I said, 20 months to work through how best to do this. This is an administration that believes in cutting taxes, and that includes on people who have suddenly been socked with the alternative minimum tax, and we look forward to working with Congress on it.

Q But, Tony, if the administration believes in cutting taxes, why didn't the administration propose a legislative fix

--

MR. SNOW: Well, I think you understand, what's happened is it's a pretty hot topic and a lot of members of Congress, I think, at this point, are going to want to talk it through. So let's see what members of Congress have. What we're doing is we're trying to be deliberative. We have now created and opportunity -- we've basically created a space, a 20-month space, in which members of Congress can avoid trying to sort of score quick political points and instead do something that's responsible, because millions of Americans now have suddenly become alive to the fact that this is a tax increase that's been sort of snuck in.

And by the way, a few years from now, if Congress does not extend tax cuts that are now in effect, they're going to have a similar unpleasant surprise when tax cuts expire. So the President has, in fact, been talking with Congress about a series of things: holding taxes down, extending tax cuts, working on the AMT, and also the kind of budget discipline that's going to make it possible for us to do this without raising taxes on Americans.

Q Just one question, though. Do you acknowledge that just the one-year fix, and nothing -- and being silent in the off-years helps show a balanced budget by 2012?

MR. SNOW: No, what it means is it gives us the basis for working forward on it. Obviously, this is part of the balanced budget, but what I've just told you is the principle of revenue neutrality remains in effect.

Q I had a couple questions on -- the first being a response to what you just said a moment ago. Are you saying, then, in terms of the President's position on greenhouse gas emissions, that five years ago you said with 90 percent certainty -- contributes to greenhouse gases --

MR. SNOW: What you're talking about is having the President, five years before the fact, read out something that was in a draft report in the year 2007 at the International Panel on Climate Change. What he said was that global warming exists and humans are significant contributors. That's what he said. Since then, what has this administration done? Well, we have spent more money on technology and also research than anybody else -- $9 billion on basic scientific research strictly into global warming, which very likely is more than the rest -- any other -- the rest of the world combined.

In addition, $29 billion total on technology. What happened, for instance, in the previous administration is that there was talk of Kyoto, which would have been economically ruinous and would have thrown a lot of people out of work. The President, instead, has aggressively pursued ways of trying to clean the environment that don't have to make people lose their jobs, and in effect -- and at the same time, proceed on all the major areas where pollution is concerned.

You and I have talked before about industrial pollution. We've got clean coal technology programs. We have alternative fuel programs for auto emissions. We're talking about nuclear development, which is now championed by, among others, Greenpeace. The fact is no administration has been more aggressive, no administration has put more money into research, and none has been more committed to basic peer review research on climate change than this one. And that one you can look up and we'll be -- I'm sure Jim Connaughton has already supplied you with plenty of data on it, but if not, he will be happy to do so.

Q Well, in respect to opposing views, companies such as -- Energy, Whirlpool, are coming out and saying we need mandatory federal constraints --

MR. SNOW: Well, they're talking about carbon caps.

Q -- is the administration meeting with these groups at all, these groups that believe that mandatory -- whether it's a carbon tax, or --

MR. SNOW: Yes, as a matter of fact, if you'll recall, one of the first trips -- it may have even been the first trip right after the State of the Union was to DuPont, which was one of those companies.

Q Greenpeace has signed on to nuclear?

MR. SNOW: I think there's some Greenpeace people who are certainly advocates of nuclear power. Why? Because it's clean and it provides for energy.

Q I'm sorry -- did they discuss greenhouse gas emissions at that event?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know. Paula, we constantly have conversations with people on this, as well as with scientists. And I think what you're trying to do is to lend the impression that if a President does not meet with people who are corporate leaders, that somehow that issue goes unexamined within the administration. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Again, think about what happened. In the Clinton administration they went -- they talked about Kyoto and did nothing to get it passed, knowing what kind of a ruinous economic impact it would have. What we did is instead, we said, we believe in the goal -- and early on, the President talked about the linkage between climate change and the human elements -- and began to proceed on the most aggressive program of research and technology ever, when it comes to this.

And furthermore, on the negotiation side, not only are we talking about follow-on negotiations when it comes to climate change with our allies, we've also been dealing with the developing world, which was not at all included within Kyoto, offering them technology, and really taking the kinds of steps that demonstrate real seriousness, not simply giving the speeches, but walking the walk.

So the idea that somehow we are -- that we don't understand the arguments, or we're not contemplating or taking serious the arguments about carbon caps -- of course, we are. I would point out that the carbon -- that there is a carbon cap system in place in Europe. We are doing a better job of reducing emissions here.

Q Thank you. Tony, an advance team is reportedly on his way to Central and South America to prepare for the President's special trip there next month. Is he going? And what about a stop in Puerto Rico? No President has visited there in more than 50 years.

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to comment on unannounced trips.

Q Does the President think it's a good idea that Speaker Pelosi have a large government military jet available to her to back and forth to California?

MR. SNOW: After September 11th, the Department of Defense -- with the consent of the White House -- agreed that the Speaker of the House should have military transport. And so what is going on is that the Department of Defense is going through its rules and regulations and having conversations with the Speaker about it. So Speaker Hastert had access to military aircraft and Speaker Pelosi will, too.

Q Does the United States have moral obligation to refugees from Iraq? And if so -- refugees from the war in Iraq, which there are now a couple million almost in Syria and Jordan -- and if so, why have we accepted so few?

MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know if you saw this, Wendell, yesterday, but the Secretary of State has, in fact, announced the creation of a working group on the problem. I don't know if it's a moral obligation, but it is certainly an obligation that we think is important to take up. I think to the extent that we believe there's a moral obligation to reach out to those who have been displaced around the globe -- and the United States is usually the first to the scene -- we certainly are interested in trying to work with regional partners to deal with those who are there. We're also trying to work with the Iraqis to create better conditions on the ground. But it is a problem. And as I said, the Secretary yesterday announced a program for addressing that and will continue to do so.

Q That does not indicate that we would accept any more than the --

MR. SNOW: I just don't --

Q -- the tiny handful that we've accepted in this country.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I would refer those issues over to State. That is -- no, I would. If you want an answer to it, call them.

Q Let me try and bring it home here.

MR. SNOW: Okay.

Q Gerald Ford made a commitment to accept Vietnamese refugees. Is the President willing to make the same commitment?

MR. SNOW: As I said, I would refer -- right now this is being done in a working group at State. And so we're not in a position to make any announcements at this point of that sort. But why don't you give them a call? They may be able to -- literally be able to give you better context and texture about this.

Paula.

Q I just want to make clear something about 2001. Wasn't this President's position then that, yes, he acknowledged there is global warming, but there's too much scientific uncertainty as far as how much of it was human-generated?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, go back to the statement. He talked about -- there was a certain amount of uncertainty about the percentage that is human-generated, and there continues to be controversy in scientific circles. But what the President said right then and there was that human behavior was a significant contributor. I don't know how to make you happy. When he says exactly what you've been wanting him to say, it turns out he's been saying it actually over a six-year period, I think you'd say, okay, I need to give him credit. And instead what you're saying is, well, golly, didn't he say what the IPCC said in 2007? I mean, come on, give us a break here.

Q -- on global warming, do you have any reaction to some apparent comments by Al Gore in Spain in an interview, where he suggested that the administration is paying scientists to dispute the global warming findings --

MR. SNOW: The reported remarks by the Vice President that the United States -- that the government is going out and paying money to those who dispute climate change research is just breathtakingly silly. I think maybe what he's done is he's mixed up a story about a think tank in Washington with government policy.

As I've said, this administration has spent more money than his administration and any other administration when it comes to doing serious, peer-reviewed scientific researches on the nature, causes and extent of global warming, and also has spent far more money on technology to try to ameliorate it without throwing people out of work.

The President really does believe that it is important to address climate change, and, incidentally, to address issues of pollution, as well, on the industrial side, on the transportation side. And that is why he laid out a whole series of initiatives in the State of the Union address. Those really build on the efforts -- and, again, just to reiterate, $9 billion for basic research when it comes to climate change, and $29 billion total on that research, plus technological innovation designed to make sure that Americans do get -- that we address carbon emissions, we address issues of pollution and, at the same time, we do it in a way that continues to make economic opportunity possible for everybody.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: Thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070207-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 8 2007, 03:53 PM
MR. SNOW: Hello. I just learned an interesting factoid, apropos of Black History Month. On this day in 1944, Harry S. McAlpin became the first black reporter admitted to a White House press briefing, representing the National Negro Press Association, in 1944.

Q Now do you want to bust on the White House Correspondent's Association, on what they offered him?

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so.

Q Okay.

MR. SNOW: I'll let you take that up.

Q Wasn't that the same reporter that was thrown out of the Senate press gallery? I believe he was.

MR. SNOW: I'll let you recall that from your memory, Les; I don't know. (Laughter.)

All right, also this: President and Mrs. Bush will travel to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico from March 8th to 14th of 2007. The trip will underscore the commitment of the United States to the Western Hemisphere and will highlight our common agenda to advance freedom, prosperity and social justice, and deliver the benefits of democracy in the areas of health, education and economic opportunity. Many more details forthcoming in the days ahead, but there you have that.

And I'll be happy to take questions.

Q You called the Pelosi plane issue a "silly story" this morning. Shortly thereafter the RNC put out a statement saying -- calling it "Pelosi's power trip" and that she's "non-stop Nancy seeks flight of fancy." Are you calling that --

MR. SNOW: Well, I'll reiterate our position. The question -- the RNC has put out a statement on Speaker Pelosi and travel arrangements, and I'll just repeat our position, which is, as Speaker of the House, she is entitled to military transport, and that the arrangements, the proper arrangements are being made between the Sergeant of Arms office in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Defense. We think it's appropriate, and so, again, I think this is much ado about not a whole lot. It is important for the Speaker to have this kind of protection and travel. It was certainly appropriate for Speaker Hastert. So we trust that all sides will get this worked out.

Q So, Tony, is it inappropriate for the RNC then to make an issue out of this, and say -- I mean, ridiculing her as "non-stop Nancy, flights of fancy"?

MR. SNOW: Jonathan, you know what my position is. I will let you draw whatever conclusions you may, but our position is pretty clear on this one.

Q Senator McCain had some harsh comments about General Casey today. And among other things, he said that lawmakers were promoting a general who has pursued a failed policy. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. SNOW: Well, the President supports General Casey. That's why he has nominated him to become the Army Chief of Staff. We understand that there are members of Congress who do have disagreements. But we support his nomination and hope that it will be voted on successfully, that he will approved today by the United States Senate.

Q Can I also ask you about Iran, as well? Do you have any response to the comments from Iran's supreme leader, talking about attacking interests around the world --

MR. SNOW: I believe the Ayatollah was referring to, if the United States attacked -- let's see, I have said it, the Secretary of Defense has said it, the President has said it: We're not invading Iran. So I think this is -- he's spinning a hypothetical about something that is not contemplated.

Q Why did he have to say it?

MR. SNOW: Why did he have to say it?

Q No, why do you have to say it?

MR. SNOW: Because you guys kept trying to report that we were doing it, and we kept saying, no, we're not.

Q -- forces in your backyard, aircraft carriers, missiles, submarines?

MR. SNOW: Yes. That's correct.

Q Does that give you a little pause --

MR. SNOW: I don't think so.

Q -- as an American?

MR. SNOW: It doesn't give me pause. It gives me reassurance to know that we were able to deploy people.

Q You don't think we should be worried about that?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q Why?

MR. SNOW: Because we quite often deploy carrier task forces all around the world.

Q Two task forces in their backyards?

MR. SNOW: I don't believe it's their backyard. I believe it is the ocean that also encompasses a whole series of other nations. It is not as if they are parking outside of Iranian ports. As a matter of fact, as you know, the area of passage through the Straight of Hormuz is quite narrow -- 21 miles -- and we are talking about deploying through an area where -- that includes a number of key allies, including the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, and others.

Q Thank you, Tony. A follow up question. Is the military satisfied with the clarity of the guidance they're getting as to how to deal with the Iranians in Iraq, or the members of the IRG that are coming across the border?

MR. SNOW: Is the military satisfied? I would -- you'll have to ask the military about that. They have rules of engagement. But as you also know, John, we are not from the podium going to be describing in any detail any particular orders given to people in the field. The President has said that we will do force -- we will protect our forces in the field. I will go no further than that.

Q Can I go back to the Pelosi issue? The Republican National Committee is putting out press releases. Is the RNC now beyond the President's purview? If you think it's a silly story, is there -- they're able to just operate if they want to attack like that on their own?

MR. SNOW: Well, apparently they did this time. (Laughter.)

Q Two quick questions. As President speak on homeland security today -- you're worried about the homegrown terrorists and some of them may have connection outside of the country, or -- mosques around the country, here in the U.S. What's the President's position as far as we still live under the threat of terrorism even though we haven't had any major attack after 9/11?

MR. SNOW: No, that's precisely why he's visiting the Department of Homeland Security. You cannot try to live under the illusion that the war on terror is confined to Iraq, or even that region of the world. It is a global war on terror, as the President made very clear on September 20th of 2001. And it requires activity by every department and agency of the federal government in trying to deal with challenges as they become appropriate. It's why we have the Patriot Act. It's why we have the Terror Surveillance Program. And it's why the President has tried to do everything he can lawfully to find out who's on our soil trying to kill our people and to conduct the proper kind of surveillance and give law enforcement officials the tools they need to track down and apprehend folks who are trying to kill Americans before they have a chance to do so.

Jennifer.

Q -- still calling on the global war on terrorism as far as to the top al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden?

MR. SNOW: Well, that's certainly part of it. But as you know, also what's happened is that a lot of that original organizational structure of al Qaeda has been significantly degraded. However, what we've seen are the splintering into a number of autonomous, independently acting groups that are committing acts of terror. And that also raises the challenge of finding -- the ability to gather intelligence to track the changing nature of the terror threat.

Jennifer.

Q You said this morning that you all were taking essentially a hands-off, sort of interested observer approach to the Iraq debate on the Hill --

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Why is that? I mean, there may be some sense of inevitability about what's going to happen there, but that's never stopped the White House before from getting very involved in debates that are --

MR. SNOW: This is a little unusual. This is a non-binding resolution where people are trying to speak their minds on an issue. And it's appropriate to let them go ahead and work through it. This is not something where the White House is in a position, or ought to be in a position to try to tell people exactly how they ought to frame it; instead you have members of Congress who have been trying to have an open debate about this, and to offer different views and different ways of expressing their concerns about the war.

Americans are concerned about the war. The President is concerned about the war. Nobody is happy with the way the situation is today. And therefore, the key challenge is to move forward in a way that leads towards success.

Q But is there a sense of, maybe, resignation that you just have to let this one go --

MR. SNOW: No --

Q -- because the White House has never stayed out of a battle like this before --

MR. SNOW: Have you ever seen a battle like this?

Q On other issues --

MR. SNOW: On a resolution, on a non-binding resolution, where people are trying to make a statement? I don't think -- I think it would --

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: No, I think it would be difficult to draw a parallel. But this is an expression of opinion on the part of members of Congress. And therefore, it is appropriate to let them go ahead and express it. You don't want to -- this is not something where you negotiate and say, Senator, that's not your view. It doesn't work that way. I mean, a lot of times when you're dealing with a piece of legislation, you can sit down and you can try to work with folks. As a matter of fact, we made it clear to members of the House and Senate that we do want to work with them and share our views. But on something where they're trying to express their views, they're their views.

Q But every vote is an expression of opinion. I mean, by that argument you could say --

MR. SNOW: Come on, Jennifer, no --

Q -- we should never try to convince someone to vote a way that they don't --

MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, but when you're talking about the difference, for instance, on Social Security, or health care, or energy, you're dealing with specific provisions that have policy implications where an administration will be called upon to enact that law. This is different. It's a non-binding resolution that we think members ought to look at carefully to see what kind of message they're sending, but on the other hand, we don't think that it's appropriate to say, don't express your views. They've decided to do so, and it's appropriate.

Q Well, would you concede that the White House has an interest in the outcome of this debate, particularly in that it may hold the President's policy up to further criticism?

MR. SNOW: We understand -- I'm sorry, would I concede?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: No. Lousy verb. I think --

Q It was deliberate.

MR. SNOW: I know. That's why I pointed it out. I know you choose it carefully. (Laughter.) This is great, he keeps the poker face longer than anybody on the front row. (Laughter.) In any event, actually, what's interesting is members, I think, are stepping back and they're thinking, okay, what message do we want to send, and how do we contribute in the long run to success of the mission in Iraq. We think it's going to be a healthy debate.

Q Well, you say it's non-binding, but you have seven Republican senators now threatening to slow down the legislative process by attaching their measure to any bill that hits the floor. So clearly the White House must take -- must be concerned beyond that this is just a non-binding vote because it now has other consequences.

MR. SNOW: No. These are seven senators who, the other day, also voted against cloture because the cloture resolution didn't -- the resolution that was being sought for cloture didn't permit the free expression of views including their own.

This is -- you know, this is a process question involving members of the Senate. We are talking about something that is not going to happen this month. It gives members on both sides, in both parties, an opportunity to work through this. And I think rather than trying to squeeze a view out of the White House about what's likely to happen in three weeks, talk to the members. I think they're working that through, and I think it does have to do more with procedural matters within the United States Senate.

Q Tony, let me go --

MR. SNOW: Peter, and then --

Q Just going back to the Pelosi story for a moment, just to clarify, is there no message coordination between you guys and the RNC?

MR. SNOW: There is from time to time, yes. But in this particular case, we've got a clear view.

Q Would it be correct to put it --

MR. SNOW: Would --

Q No, would it be -- it just seems that you're at such odds on this. Would it be correct to say that --

MR. SNOW: Well, why don't you -- why don't you call the RNC and ask what the view is.

Q Oh, absolutely.

MR. SNOW: Okay.

Q But as the President's spokesman, are you unhappy about this, disappointed that it's come out this way?

MR. SNOW: I emote constantly about it, but I won't share that. That's private --

Q Pardon me?

MR. SNOW: I was being a smart aleck. (Laughter.) Look, my view is it's important to clarify the President's position on this, and the President's position is that Speaker Pelosi, because of an agreement that was made, I think wisely, of necessity after September 11th, has access to U.S. Department of Defense transportation, under suitable rules and guidelines, and that is going to be negotiated between DoD and the Sergeant at Arms, and that's as it should be.

Q The President is headed to DHS today, Secretary Chertoff on the Hill today and tomorrow, and the committee he will face tomorrow, the Chair of the committee describes the morale at the DHS as appalling and is very critical of cuts in

first responder programs and budget increases for first responders, and security programs for aviation and mass transit that he considers totally inadequate.

MR. SNOW: Sorry, who is the source of this? Who is the source of the characterization?

Q Bennie Thompson.

MR. SNOW: Who does not work at the Department of Homeland Security.

Q But he's homeland security chairman.

MR. SNOW: Yes, I know. He's making a characterization. He'll be able to ask Secretary Chertoff about that. Fact is, the people who work at the Department of Homeland Security have an enormously difficult task. They work at it. And I'm not going to characterize morale. I mean, I think what he's talking about are grants that are awarded and continue to increase in terms of the amount of money that we're allocating to them when it comes to dealing with first responders.

Q -- some of those grants were cut?

MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, there's a process. Some of the grants to different areas -- last year, we were under fire because they went down for New York. They're back up for New York this year. The fact is that there is a formula for trying to apportion those based on need and appropriateness. You do have to make some choices with the scarce resources available to you.

Q One follow up on that?

MR. SNOW: Well, first -- yes, go ahead.

Q A recent OMB survey came out, ranked 36 federal agencies, and homeland security -- the Department of Homeland Security came in 36th out of 36 on job satisfaction, 35th on leadership and management, 36th on results-oriented performance, and 33rd in talent management. Does that raise concerns about the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to protect homeland security?

MR. SNOW: I think the most important thing to do is constantly to work -- every department and agency, Jonathan, worries about its effectiveness and constantly strives to improve. And that's going to be true at DHS as well as anybody else.

Q You're not concerned, the President's not concerned?

MR. SNOW: Wendell, I didn't raise it with him today.

Go ahead.

Q Tony, somewhat going back to you opening with the minority -- well, the Black History Month factoid, do you think in February 2007 that this country is hyper-sensitive when it comes to minorities to include -- not just saying minorities in race, but minority in gender? Look at the Nancy Pelosi issue right now, do you think that this country is hypersensitive about that because of her gender?

MR. SNOW: I believe women are a majority in this country.

Q Yes, but who runs Washington? How is Washington --

MR. SNOW: No, no, actually, April, I don't think that has anything to do with the fact that the Speaker is a woman. I think we've grown up a lot as a country when it comes to minorities over the decades. We have a way to go. That's the way it works in this country. The one thing you can always be sure of is that we try to get it right and we try to make sure that over time, we acknowledge the equality of every human being not only before the law, but before God, and try to respect their individual dignity.

Q Well, Ms. Pelosi just came out saying that she would like to be afforded the same --

Q Mrs. Pelosi.

Q Mrs. Pelosi, thank you so much, said that she would like to be afforded the same items that her male counterpart received. And she brought into the issue of gender into this whole --

MR. SNOW: I spoke with her office earlier today on this, if you're talking about the flights. We're supporting them, and I'm not going to get into characterizations about it because, frankly, in this particular case, it certainly plays no role in our calculations.

Q Do you think that at this stage --

MR. SNOW: I'm not -- I'm not going to --

Q But wait a minute --

MR. SNOW: But you're asking me for a chin-pulling, metaphysical judgment on --

Q Do you think that this nation is hypersensitive when it comes to issues --

MR. SNOW: Hypersensitive, in and of itself, is one of those things that almost -- no, I think what it is is we've got a nation that's determined to make things better, and that's one of the glories of being an American.

Q Tony, any readouts from the meeting with Amine Gemayel this morning?

MR. SNOW: No. We'll get you one when we have one, but I don't have one.

Q Tony, Hamas and Fatah have reached a deal, apparently forming a government of national unity. Will the U.S. support such a government? Will it resume its aid to the --

MR. SNOW: We're going to have to see. At this juncture, as you know, there are very preliminary reports, and we have not had -- we have not had any opportunity to study what may have been worked out there.

The one thing that we have always said, and will continue to say, is that it's important to have a government that will be a full negotiating partner with Israel, and therefore, will abide by the Quartet conditions, which are a renunciation of violence, an agreement to all prior treaty obligations, and an acknowledgment of Israel's right to exist.

So those are the key pillars of our view. But I cannot at this -- it's just too early to give you an answer on it.

Q On this Iraq debate, you say that President Bush or his aids spoke with Mitch McConnell or Judd Gregg about their legislative strategies?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so, but I just don't know. I can't tell you. But look, on something like this, we are certainly keeping an eye on it. But members of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, they're grown ups. They can -- they can deal with their own issues on this. We are keeping an eye on it. But again, I think any notion that the White House is somehow trying to micro manage that is something that I think senators would find unwelcome, and you would have heard about.

Q It must be the reverse. I mean, what Gregg proposed is something the White House looked like they would be comfortable with, maybe you called over there.

MR. SNOW: Well again, I'm not going to characterize, but we've got an eye on all of them. We're certainly -- we're staying informed about it, but on the other hand, as you see with what happened last night, I'm not sure a lot of members of the Senate know that the letter was coming out from the seven. They've got their strong feelings, and they're going to proceed as they feel appropriate.

Q Tony, the President had groups of senators down to the White House for a reception a week, or 10 days, or so ago. Wasn't that, at least in part, trying to express influence over the --

MR. SNOW: No. I was in the meeting. I guarantee you, members there were expressing their concern about Iraq. There was -- as well as a number of other issues. This was not an attempt to sit around and strategize about resolutions.

Certainly the topic came up, but again, it's just -- this is not one where if the White House is trying to dictate language -- these are senators. Senators have their own sense of pride and their own obligations to be working through these things, and these are unique because these are resolutions that have to do with the sentiments of the senators themselves. You can't dictate that.

Q Does the President think that the role of the Commander-in-Chief is so powerful that he can ignore the will of the people as manifested in the election and also in Congress?

MR. SNOW: Helen, if you can find somebody who says that they want us to fail in Iraq, then perhaps --

Q That's not the question. I --

MR. SNOW: No, what you asked was a very vague question about the will of the people.

Q It's not vague.

MR. SNOW: Yes, it is, because if you want to talk --

Q I want you to -- do you think the power of a Commander-in-Chief is so all powerful that he can ignore the people?

MR. SNOW: The President never ignores the people. And that's why it's a tendentious assumption on your part that somehow the President runs roughshod over the will of the people. But he does have an obligation to keep the people safe --

Q -- ignored --

MR. SNOW: No, he doesn't -- if you get a non-binding resolution, he certainly is not going to ignore it. But on the other hand, he's going to do what it takes to keep you safe, and everybody in this room safe.

Q That's not the question.

MR. SNOW: Oh, yes, it is. Au contraire, Helen.

Q It is, is he going to ignore --

MR. SNOW: I got to tell you, you've got to understand in this particular case, when the President is thinking about national security, he understands the importance of opinion. He shares people's opinion that what's going on is --

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: What do you think --

Q -- responded to it?

MR. SNOW: He's responded to it. He's responded to it by laying out a new way forward --

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: Well, it will be interesting. Let's see how the debate unfolds and let's also see how facts on the ground unfold in Baghdad.

Jonathan.

Q On North Korea, there are reports there may be an agreement coming in the six-party talks. So I'm wondering what you think -- what's your feeling, are you optimistic we'll get an agreement coming out of that? And secondly, the reports are that some kind of an agreement where North Korea would suspend activity at its Yongbyon nuclear plant in exchange for easing some of the financial --

MR. SNOW: I'm unaware of all of those at this point. Let's not negotiate from the podium, let's see what happens. We have always -- our view is that we need to return to the September 19th agreement, which includes the suspension of all enrichment and reprocessing activities, and that they need to sit down and they need to deal with us. So let's -- that is what we're hoping. We know at this point the Chinese, I think, are going to be putting an offer on the table, but it's really not fruitful to be trying to speculate about possible proffers. Let's see what happens at the table.

Q But as a principle, would it be appropriate to ease any of the financial measures that the U.S. has imposed on North Korea for anything short of a full dismantling of that nuclear program?

MR. SNOW: Again, as a principle -- we've already laid out what our principle is, which is the September 19th accords. In terms of trying to get into what may be going on in the negotiations, it's also, as a principle, not wise to get ahead of yourself. But let us -- what we have made clear is that the action that's been taken financially has to -- involves criminal activity in terms of counterfeiting U.S. currency.

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. News reports last week listed two days in which 70 Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians in the Fatah-Hamas killings of each other. Since they have continued killing each other, along with many Israeli civilians as they can, why is U.S. money by the millions being still sent to what is hardly a government as much as a conclave of competing terrorists who refuse -- still refuse, as I understand, to recognize Israel?

MR. SNOW: Well, to the extent that there is aid, it is going to forces that are actually trying to put an end to violence rather than to foment it.

Q Okay. The Democrats, along with some Republicans in the Senate, apparently are planning to express their dissatisfaction with attempts to bring about victory in Iraq by opposing more U.S. troops being ordered there. And my question: What is the alternative if winning isn't pursued and defeat isn't acceptable?

MR. SNOW: You're asking me -- this is actually even more chin-pulling than the earlier inquiry in the sense that you're asking me to respond to something that has not formally been proposed. The President has made it clear, we've got forces going into the field --

Q Are you saying --

MR. SNOW: You know, it will be interesting, I don't have the crystal ball. Members of Congress have a very serious -- they're going to have some serious decisions to make about whether to continue their support for forces in the field. A lot of people pointed to what General Pace had to say yesterday -- one of the most important things he had to say is that the measure the troops are going to use about whether they're supported is whether their activities are going to continue to be supported by members of Congress when these things come up for a vote. And I'm not talking about a resolution, I'm talking about continued funding.

Paula.

Q The House Ways and Means Committee has indicated that they're planning to advance the minimum wage bill that has a small amount of small business tax breaks in it, sizably less than the Senate. Is there any set amount that you want to see? Would that be acceptable?

MR. SNOW: Again, abiding by my rule expressed earlier to Jonathan, I'm not going to negotiate against ourselves up here. We're going to have to see what comes out of a conference. We do think it is a welcome sign that the House is considering relief for small businesses because they're the providers of the bulk of minimum wage jobs, and you want to make sure that the businesses are still around to provide those jobs so that people can get their first jobs and start moving up the economic ladder.

Q And also, the White House yesterday issued an open letter on climate change --

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q -- and in it there is cited a National Academy of Science study, but it doesn't include in it part of the National Academy of Science conclusion that the verdict is still out to the extent that natural greenhouse cycle contributes to climate change, versus the human generation --

MR. SNOW: Are you talking about the 2001 report?

Q Right. I'm talking about the reference in the open letter to the President's speech, which doesn't include -- in fact, it doesn't even include one sentence in the paragraph it is cited.

MR. SNOW: So you're saying that we didn't heavily footnote the President's speech. I think if you go back and take a look at the status of science in 2001 -- I'm sorry, that was a cheap shot, and I apologize. You go back and look at the state of science in 2001, both with the National Academy of Sciences and the IPCC, you find that there was considerably more uncertainty about the nature and causes. In fact, go back and look at the 2001 IPCC report, and you will find that human activity is seen as likely, as opposed to very likely in the more recent report, and the percentage of likelihood was considerably lower than it is today.

What the President was calling for in 2001 is good science. And over the first six-plus years of this administration we've committed, as I pointed out yesterday, $9 billion to climate change science, which is more than any other country on Earth. And it is largely as a result of that research that the IPCC issued its findings.

Q But my question is also in reference to what you said yesterday, which is that you said in 2001, the President said, human activity is a significant factor, when in fact, as you just said, the verdict was still out on that.

MR. SNOW: Yes, but what he did, it still said -- here's what it says: "The National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity." You're right. He didn't use the term significant. He used the term "in large part."

Q Yes, but you also in that paragraph did not include what was in the President's speech which, prior to the sentence he read -- and this is what they're referring to -- an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q Yes, but this gives the impression that what you're referring to is that it's the actual increase of surface temperatures of the Earth that is in large part due to human activity, when in fact, in his own speech, that reference to increase --

MR. SNOW: No, Paula, you're trying too hard. You're trying too hard. If you look at the quote that we -- here's the President's full quote: "There is a natural greenhouse effect that contributes to warming. Greenhouse gases trap heat and thus warm the Earth because they prevent a significant portion of infrared radiation from escaping into space. Concentration of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, have increased substantially since the beginning of the industrial revolution. And the National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity."

It then goes on to say that the science is unsettled and it is less settled today in large part because we've ponied up the money and we've funded the scientific research to try to get at it. What the President was talking about back then and continues to talk about is putting money behind good science.

Q Thank you for putting that full paragraph into the record.

MR. SNOW: Yes, happy to do so.

Go ahead.

Q Can I ask you about FEMA, specifically the idea of cutting 14 percent from FEMA's budget? What is the administration's thinking on that?

MR. SNOW: Look, I'm going to have to go back. Are we talking about 14 percent straight cut, or 14 percent against the baseline?

Q Well, it's the $800,000 -- I'm sorry $800 million.

MR. SNOW: Okay, I don't know. Neither you nor I know enough about this one right now. Give me a call and I'll get you an answer. I don't have a good FEMA answer on me right now.

Q Can I just clarify something on Pelosi? You said you spoke with her office today and then "we're supporting them," supporting the Speaker's use of a military plane for transportation?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Or their desire to fly -- that she be able to fly nonstop?

MR. SNOW: Their argument is -- all they're doing is -- the Sergeant at Arms is conducting negotiations, and everybody else seems to be getting knitted up against this. I'm not going to get into middle of negotiations about the way it works. When Tom Foley was Speaker, he sometimes used military transport and stopped in North Dakota, but that doesn't mean -- I think this is something that the Sergeant at Arms and DoD have to work out.

Q It's probably North Dakota.

MR. SNOW: I know. He was --

Q Tom Foley?

MR. SNOW: Yes, I know. He was from Washington state. He had to stop to get gas so he could complete the journey.

Q So what was your phone call about?

MR. SNOW: Just to -- just making sure that they understood what our position was on this, which is that the Speaker of the House deserves DoD transport.

Q But not necessarily a nonstop flight --

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: Because this thing came out shortly before the press conference. I spoke to them considerably before.

Q But she doesn't necessarily have -- she's not necessarily entitled to a nonstop flight to California.

MR. SNOW: Well, you've got to take a look at -- you've got a whole series of craft. And not every one is available at each and every time. You're talking about a limited fleet. The jet that Speaker Hastert used probably gets you about halfway across the country. They got G-3s and G-5s that can get you all the way. There's a 757, but the Vice President usually gets that one. So you've got to keep in mind that it's -- sometimes there are -- the craft will be available, and sometimes they won't be. And I think, again, everybody is busy trying to pick a fight on this one. Let the Sergeant at Arms and DoD work through this, and then everybody can make their final commentary.

Q Tony, as President travels to the neighboring countries, immigration will be the major topics of his trip.

MR. SNOW: The South America trip? No.

Q Well, because in the past Mexico has -- immigration issue will be solved, illegals in this country -- but where do we stand as far as the immigration issue is concerned because I'm sure this will be a major topic also in the coming elections as in the past?

MR. SNOW: Well, let me correct. For instance, in Brazil, we'll be talking about energy independence, and we'll be talking about trade. In Uruguay, it's a reciprocal trip, and they'll do bilateral issues of interest. In Bogota, we're going to talk about President Uribe's commitment to battling narco-terrorism.

and also improving the lives of the Columbian people. When we're in Guatemala, they're going to reemphasize the close relationship between the countries. And obviously in Mexico, we're going to be supporting the President's efforts to address poverty, income equality, law -- restoring law and order, fighting the common threats of drug trafficking, and strengthening the economic relationship.

So those -- I think to deal with this as strictly an immigration trip is, I think, to underplay the significance of the trip, because there will be a lot of discussions of trade. And things like addressing poverty, income equality, drug trafficking, law enforcement, those all have a role also in dealing with the immigration problem.

Q But don't you think he will -- immigration in Mexico, particularly because Mexico has a major role. More illegals are from Mexico in this country --

MR. SNOW: The numbers have been going down pretty significantly in the last year. We continue to be committed to having the borders where -- to securing our borders, and at the same time, dealing with the problem of those who have come here illegally, and what you do --

Q Should price be, or cost be an element in deciding which airplanes might be available to the Speaker? Because as you -- well, it costs more --

MR. SNOW: This is -- Ann, this is not a negotiation. What I -- please ask the Sergeant at Arms and ask the Department of Defense. I'm not getting -- this is not our negotiation. They're dealing with it.

Q -- what are you supporting --

MR. SNOW: The fact that the Speaker is entitled to a Department of Defense aircraft pursuant to an agreement that was made after September 11th.

Q But an airplane at any cost, security at any cost?

MR. SNOW: Again --

Q You don't think cost should be a factor?

MR. SNOW: I'm not aware that this is the primary concern at this point. I don't believe she's asking to be sent on -- you know, in the space shuttle. (Laughter.)

Q Would you like her to be put on the space shuttle, Tony? (Laughter.) I didn't hear an answer to that.

Q The 757 costs more to operate than the Gulfstream --

MR. SNOW: Well again, that's almost all -- that's more likely going to be set aside for the Vice President. What I was trying to do is to give people a sense of the variety of aircraft that are available, and it's a fairly limited fleet. So that's all I was trying to do there. I believe I noted at the time that the Vice President almost always has access to the 757.

Thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070208-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 9 2007, 03:04 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 9, 2007

Memorandum for the Secretary of State




SUBJECT: Implementation of Sections 603 and 604 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-228)

Consistent with the authority contained in section 604 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-228) (the "Act"), and with reference to the determinations set out in the report to the Congress transmitted pursuant to section 603 of the Act, regarding noncompliance by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority with certain commitments, I hereby impose the sanction set out in section 604(a)(2), "Downgrade in Status of the PLO Office in the United States." This sanction is imposed for a period of 180 days from the date hereof or until such time as the next report required by section 603 of the Act is transmitted to the Congress, whichever is later. You are authorized and directed to transmit to the appropriate congressional committees the report described in section 603 of the Act.

Furthermore, I hereby determine that it is in the national security interest of the United States to waive that sanction, pursuant to section 604 of the Act. This waiver shall be effective for a period of 180 days from the date hereof or until such time as the next report required by section 603 of the Act is transmitted to the Congress, whichever is later.

You are hereby authorized and directed to transmit this determination to the Congress and to publish it in the Federal Register.

GEORGE W. BUSH

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070209-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 9 2007, 03:28 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 8, 2007

President Bush Discusses Department of Homeland Security Priorities
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C.


4:20 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for the hospitality. I appreciate you inviting me over to hear what has been a substantive briefing by your different operating entities.

First of all, I'm very proud of the hard work of the men and women of the Homeland Security Department. This vital department is actively engaged in the war on terror. We are still a nation at risk. Part of our strategy, of course, is to stay on the offense against terrorists who would do us harm. In other words, it is important to defeat them overseas so we never have to face them here. Nevertheless, we recognize that we've got to be fully prepared here at the homeland.

Part of that preparation requires a robust budget. We submitted the budget, you testified on the budget. It's about an 8 percent increase in the budget of the Homeland Security Department.

This department works to secure our borders. I appreciate very much, Ralph, you and your department's hard work of doing a difficult job, and that is doing what the American people expect and that is to have secure borders. But we're making good progress. We're modernizing a border that needed to be modernized, whether it be through fencing or the different types of high-tech investments.

I firmly believe that in order for your Border Patrol agents to be able to do their job, we need a guest worker program so that people don't have to sneak in our country, and therefore, we can really enable your good folks to be able to focus on terrorism, drug runners, gun runners.

I appreciate so very much the fact that we've got a wise strategy to effect the security of our ports and cargo. We've got a lot of good people working hard overseas. In other words, we're inspecting cargo before it leaves a port -- foreign port -- so that the first line of defense is away from our shores, or away from our ports. And we've got a lot of good people working hard to achieve that.

I appreciate so very much the effort of TSA. You've got a hard job. It's a job that really was a response to 9/11, and that is we don't want people getting on our airplanes that will terrorize our fellow citizens again. I fully recognize that there are thousands of hardworking people that are trying to do their best to, on the one hand, accommodate our fellow citizens as they travel; on the other hand, protect our country from attack.

We also talked about the need to have effective response if there is a emergency, if there is a catastrophe. And one agency that has been under fire and that needed to be reorganized was FEMA, and I asked David Paulison to do just that. We took the lessons learned from Katrina and applied it to this vital agency. And this agency was recently tested through the tornadoes there in central Florida. And I want to thank you, Dave, and your team for a quick response to help the poor citizens who were affected by that natural disaster.


The Department of Homeland Security was initially melded together by organizations that tended to be stove-piped -- independently run organizations that we felt needed to be brought under the central planning, the central organizing principle of a single department. The organization of such a vast enterprise has been difficult and complicated; nevertheless, there is noticeable and substantial and measurable progress.

And I appreciate all the hardworking folks for putting together an institute, part of our government, all aiming to protect the American people.

And so, Secretary, thank you for the invitation. I appreciate the hard work of the people of this department. I oftentimes say to the American people that you can go about your business, you can run your enterprises, you can send your children to school, knowing full well that there are thousands of our fellow citizens who work every day, 24 hours, to help you by protecting this homeland. And this is where it all starts. And I thank you for your hard work.

Thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070208-5.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 12 2007, 04:57 PM
MR. SNOW: Questions.

Q Wow. (Laughter.)

Q Tony, the Democrats are out with their proposed --

Q Answers. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Please, Steve is trying to speak here. We believe in decorum.

Q The Democrats in the House are out with their resolution -- fairly straightforward. Is this something you can live with?

MR. SNOW: Look, Congress is going to do whatever it thinks it needs to do, in terms of resolutions. We're not going to get into the business of writing them. What the President lives with is the responsibility of being an effective Commander-in-Chief and advancing the cause of a democracy in Iraq. Although members of the House did not have an opportunity to vote on General Petraeus, members of the Senate did, and without objection they voted for him. And we believe that he ought to get what is necessary to move forward in Iraq.

So as we have said in all cases, members need to understand that their words do travel, and they need to assess what impact they think they may have. But other than that --

Q Tony, to be more specific on that point, there were Republican talking points on the Hill floating around that say that this House resolution Steve mentioned will, "weaken troop morale," and will, "give comfort to the enemy." Do you agree with that assessment?

MR. SNOW: Don't know. I mean, I've always said that -- and the President has said that those are things that people have to take into account. Certainly, General Petraeus and Secretary Gates thought that they would have an adverse impact when it came to morale, and also that they may provide some comfort to the enemy. But, again, I think these are serious matters that people voting on the resolution are going to have to take into account.

Q But the resolution, itself, the first line says that the United States Armed Forces are serving and have served bravely and honorably in Iraq. I mean, it's very clearly stating that the supporters of this resolution -- there is one Republican who has signed on -- believe that U.S. soldiers have served bravely and honorably. So what's the --

MR. SNOW: Okay, so they don't want to provide the additional support for their mission, and that helps how?

Q That's for them to answer. But they say that --

MR. SNOW: That's what I'm saying.

Q Okay. Well, then what is your problem with it? Because specifically after saying that they believe U.S. soldiers have served bravely and honorably, it says Congress disapproves of the decision of President Bush announced on January 10th to deploy --

MR. SNOW: Well, we disagree, and the President is Commander-in-Chief, and he has the obligation to do what he thinks is best to make this country safe, and that's what he's doing.

Q Doesn't the Congress have the obligation to weigh in on it?

MR. SNOW: Congress has the option of it. Members of Congress can express themselves however they wish.

Q This brings up sort of a very interesting point that I think, if we pull back a second, that a lot of Americans are probably engaged in trying to get their arms around. There was an op/ed piece yesterday by a former Director of the NSA and a former Army senior intelligence official, and he asked the question, can you support the troops and still call for bringing them home? Is the only way to support the troops to follow out what -- follow what the President's sort of continued mission is? What do you think of that?

MR. SNOW: Well, what I think is I'm not going to quite rise to that bait, but I'll give you an answer that is responsive. The way you support the troops is help them complete their mission successfully. That's how you support them. And after a very long period of review, the President and senior military commanders came to the conclusion that it will require additional troops, but a completely different kind of mission.

I think there's a common misperception that all we're doing is we're throwing an extra 21,000 into exactly the same mission that existed before. You've got a different structure with the Iraqis, you have different rules of engagement, you have a different approach to trying to deal with problems of violence -- including integrating economic development teams, the provisional reconstruction teams -- in areas where we have cleared out some of the bad guys.

So the fact is, this is a significantly different approach to dealing with the problems of violence, especially in Baghdad, Anbar province and a couple of other places within Iraq. And, therefore, in order to make this particular approach succeed, the President came to the conclusion you need five brigades in Baghdad and you need another 4,000 Marines in Anbar.

Q Clearly, the underpinnings of what the President -- why the President decided on the policy he did -- and I don't think this is bait. I think it's a very important philosophical question, because right now, the way it's configured, you can't say "bring them home" without being accused of not supporting the troops.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, if "bring them home" -- I want somebody to fill in the blanks: Bring them home achieves victory in the following way. If the simple goal is to bring them home, that is different than having a goal of providing victory in Iraq, providing an Iraq that can stand up as a democracy. And we have said from the very beginning the members of Congress, yes, they've got a chip in the game, and one of the things they can do is that they can offer their own plan that they think is going to be -- if they think that they have a superior way to have a democracy that's going to be stable so that you do not have the opportunity for al Qaeda to use Anbar province as a launching pad; so that you do not create a power vacuum that may allow other nations to come in and try to take advantage of chaos within Iraq; and you do not set off a series of consequences throughout the region that may, in fact, make us less safe, make that region less stable and make the globe a less peaceful place.

So you put all that together, there are real consequences to leaving before the job is done. And if critics have a better way of achieving the aims that we've laid out, we'd love to hear them.

Q When he makes the speech this week on Afghanistan, is he going to be making the case for military buildup or at least --

MR. SNOW: I'll let the President make whatever case he wishes to make. We have talked about having more resources in Afghanistan.

Q And, also, does the administration have any evidence that Iran is becoming more involved in Afghanistan?

MR. SNOW: I'm not aware of any findings to that effect. The real key -- the destabilizing factors in Afghanistan largely have been al Qaeda or Taliban remnants. That's a much different thing, as you know. It tends to be Sunni violence. In any event, the key level of concern in the southern part of Afghanistan tends to be, again, attempts to rebuild the Taliban or to have fighters coming in across the Pakistani border.

In terms of going any more in depth into the intelligence, it's inappropriate for me to do it. I direct you to DNI.

Q Tony, the senior military officials made this presentation in Baghdad on background about the evidence against Iran active inside Iraq. Can you talk about the significance of that presentation, about its timing, and what it really means in context of the war right now?

MR. SNOW: What it means is that there is evidence that there's been some weaponry coming across the border into Iraq and it's being used to kill Americans. And it explains why the administration -- why our military commanders are doing what they can to try to interdict any movement of weapons into the theaters of battle so we can save American lives. It really is a -- it's a force protection issue.

So why in Baghdad? Because that's where the action is and that's where people are collecting things. Why on background? Because one of the key briefers otherwise could not participate, and we thought it was important to get information to reporters. Why then? Because the information was ripe and it had been scrubbed and therefore was ready for presentation. But I don't want to make more or less of it than it was.

Q You and others have said repeatedly that the U.S. is not preparing for war against Iran. Yet administration critics continue to say this is making the case for action against Iran.

MR. SNOW: These guys are trying to create an issue maybe for their own political fortunes, and they need to stop it. This is clearly a case where people are hyping something up. I don't know how much clearer we can be: We're not getting ready for war in Iran. But what we are doing is we're protecting our own people. And we're going to do it, and we've made it clear that that is going to be a priority.

We have also said to the Iranians, look, you really do have an opportunity to get yourself into the global community in a way that is going the reflect not only the long glory of the Persian culture, but also an opportunity for Iran to be a member in good standing of the international community, with many of the things that it has always seen as benchmarks of respect, including civil nuclear power. So we continue to work diplomatically with the Iranians. The President has made it absolutely clear that he believes in pursuing diplomacy. We have a number of partners who have been working with us on it, and we will continue to make our views known that way.

Q Tony, when Diane Sawyer interviewed Iranian President Ahmadinejad earlier today, he said that this presentation was based on fabrication. Is the U.S. administration confident that there is conclusive evidence that Iran is providing these weapons to Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q And what's the administration's reaction to Ahmadinejad's claim that Iran is promoting peace in the region?

MR. SNOW: Well, it's got funny ways of showing it. We think the Iranians -- if they want to promote peace, they need to stop funding Hezbollah, they need to stop funding terrorist organizations around the world; they need to stop moving in the direction of developing nuclear -- enriched uranium or plutonium in a way that could be used for nuclear weapons. And they also have an opportunity to demonstrate their own peaceful desires by, in fact, meeting the conditions that have been laid out for returning to the table with the U.S. and other partners.

So, I mean, I think that's probably the key here. We would love for the Iranians, in fact, to be a force for peace in the region. It would be good for them, it would be good for the region. And we've laid out very strong inducements that we think make it perfectly sensible for them to do so.

Q As far as democracy and freedom is concerned, beyond Iran, last week Secretary of State Dr. Rice was on the Capitol Hill before the Senate. And many senators, including -- especially Senator Lugar was very critical of what the Secretary was saying. He's saying that, as far as democracy and freedom is concerned in Pakistan, that it must (inaudible) terrorism is concerned, because he is not very helping. And upcoming election is not going to be fair and free, and General Musharraf must step down and --

MR. SNOW: What? I'm sorry, there have been so many parts to this --

Q Actually, about the elections -- upcoming elections in Pakistan, and also democracy and freedom in Pakistan.

MR. SNOW: We obviously advocate the continued progress toward democracy everywhere.

Q Tony, going back to something you said earlier, is there anything in the resolution that denies Petraeus what he needs, inherent in that resolution?

MR. SNOW: No, because Congress -- the budgetary authority already exists for dispatching the five brigades and the 4,000 Marines. At some point, if Congress wishes to get back into the business, obviously there are going to be some budgetary decisions to be made later this year. But in the short run, no.

Q Do you support the statements made by Prime Minister Howard of Australia about the deadline? And has President Bush been in contact with him since the statement?

MR. SNOW: The answer to the second is no, and the answer to the first is we're not commenting on Democratic candidates. People have tried to get us to bite on that a number of times. What's going to happen is that Democratic candidates are going to be standing for election. Most of them -- I think they all oppose the President's policy in Iraq, so they're going to have to describe how to make the world safer.

Meanwhile, the President is trying to put in place the tools that are going to allow the next President, Democrat or Republican, to be able to exercise Commander-in-Chief responsibilities with the kind so tools necessary to succeed, and that includes everything from the Patriot Act, the Terror Surveillance Program, putting in place the vital tools to fight effectively a war on terror that surely will continue into the future, not merely in Iraq, but elsewhere. And as each and every one of these candidates hits the hustings, they're going to have to make their case about why they're going to be better as a Commander-in-Chief.

Victoria.

Q What direct evidence do you have that Iranian leaders authorized the smuggling of weapons into Iraq?

MR. SNOW: What I first would do is just point you back to the briefing. What they have are a number of serial numbers, and so on. I'd just take you back to the transcript on that. If you're looking for the granular evidence, that's what they presented.

Q But that wasn't direct evidence linking Iran --

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: There's not a whole lot of freelancing in the Iranian government, especially when it comes to something like that. So what you would have to do, if you're trying to do the -- to counter that position, you would have to assume that people were able of putting together sophisticated weaponry, moving it across a border into a theater of war and doing so unbeknownst and unbidden.

Q Could I just follow it just one more time? So the direct evidence would be the assumption, then, that it would have to be Iranian --

MR. SNOW: Again, what I would suggest, Victoria, if you really want to go into the details, is you go to Embassy Baghdad, because they're the ones who do the briefing. This really is -- it's a force protection matter. That's why they did the briefing. And I'm not going to be able to give you all the jot and tittles on it. That's why -- if you want to call them, or call DoD, they'll be able to give you more detail on it.

Les.

Q I thought you were going to be calling on me. You said you would call on me first --

MR. SNOW: No, I think I actually said Victoria. I didn't say April. I did look in your direction, however.

Q You did call on me, because --

MR. SNOW: Sorry if I created offense.

Q I will certainly yield to this lady on my right.

MR. SNOW: You know, I believe many people will be grateful for that. Go ahead. (Laughter.)

Q Following up with Jessica and Victoria's question. Tony, the American public is somewhat leery of the intelligence issues with the United States, because especially after Iraq, they found that a lot of the intelligence was faulty on Iraq. And word is from those in the security community, national security community, that our intelligence is much less -- it's maybe just as faulty or worse on Iran. How can you say for sure and for certain what you're saying from the podium?

MR. SNOW: Well, number one, again, I would refer you back to the people doing the briefing. And this -- there is no question when you have these enhanced devices, these IEDs, they have them -- they're there. So you do have direct physical evidence that, in fact, the weapons are being used within Iraq. There's no question that they're being used, and they are, in fact, of enhanced lethality. And we are doing our best to respond as quickly as possible to the challenge presented by it.

April, the most important thing to understand here -- again, I think what's happening is a lot of people keep trying to hype this into a casus belli with the Iranians -- no, it is simply a matter of force protection with the United States. Our people laid out what they think -- "our people," that is, the Pentagon -- and the briefers in Baghdad laid it out. They're the ones who have the evidence. And if you want to get into the evidentiary findings, you're going to need to talk to the Pentagon about it.

Q Do you think the American people deserve a little bit more than deduction? I mean, the evidence --

MR. SNOW: I think what the American people -- what our troops deserve is somebody who is going to protect them. Now, you cannot deny these weapons exist. You cannot deny that there is presently no manufacturing capability within Iraq able to produce those kinds of weapons. Beyond that, again I point you back to Defense briefing. What the American people need is somebody who is going to say we're going to protect our people from these weapons. The weapons exist. People have got to look at it, they've got to look at what happens when they detonate. It's hard for me to argue that that's a phantom menace. And it's also a lot harder to argue to our troops, who have been getting hit by them.

Q Tony, Senator Feinstein has been authorized by Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy to lead a Senate investigation of the case of former U.S. Border Patrol Agent Ignacio Ramos, who was assaulted by four other inmates in the federal prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi, about which Senator Feinstein said this -- and this is a quote -- "I urge the committee to look into why these agents are not being protected in the federal prison system. It is not hard to predict that two federal agents would be targeted in a prison population."

And my question, what is the President's reaction to this upcoming investigation and Republican Congressman Rohrabacher's warning of "impeachment talk if either of these agents is killed"?

MR. SNOW: You know, this is a time when cooler heads ought to prevail and facts ought to be presented. Therefore, we're perfectly happy with anything that will reveal the facts of this case. I think there are efforts ongoing and may yield fruit quite soon to get the full transcripts of the trial of agents Campion and Ramos out before the public, every syllable. You and your guys can read them. You know, obviously, we're concerned about the safety of anybody in the prison system.

Q As a former leader of baseball, what was the President's reaction to the death on February 9th of the greatest pitcher who ever lived?

MR. SNOW: And that would be?

Q Eddie Feigner, the King and his Court.

MR. SNOW: He actually may have been, Eddie Feigner having thrown, what, 280 perfect games? Having struck out more than 12,000 people? Having had a fastball in excess of 104 m.p.h.?

Q (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: -- from time to time? Did you ever watch the King and his Court? (Laughter.) I don't know, but I think he's under-rated. I will speak completely independently.

Q Did you brief --

MR. SNOW: No, I'm a sports nut. Eddie Feigner --

Q Softball we're talking about?

MR. SNOW: Yes, we're talking about softball, Eddie Feigner, softball.

Q He struck out five in a row, of the top baseball player.

MR. SNOW: Of six. He faced six.

Q There were some reports it was 113 m.p.h.

MR. SNOW: I think it's time for WorldNetDaily to do more of its famous investigations.

Q Tony, I'm not sure you want to go back on this notion of freelancing in the Iranian government, but there's obviously a difference between saying, as they did in Baghdad, that some elements in the leadership --

MR. SNOW: Look, the Department of Defense is doing this. What I'm telling you is you guys want to get those questions answered, you need to go to the Pentagon, because they're the ones who have done the work on this.

Q But they've refused. I mean, you should be able to give us --

MR. SNOW: Well, actually, no. I didn't get briefed on it.

Q Well, there should be some kind of coordination, don't you think?

MR. SNOW: Well, actually, when you've got -- combatant commanders are out doing their work. You can pick up the phone and call the Pentagon. We'll be happy to supply numbers for you.

Q Give me the number --

Q How long have these EFPs been around, that the White House is aware of, in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Again, I'd refer you back -- I think -- I don't want to fake it.

Q They've been reported for a few years, though.

MR. SNOW: Yes, but they've also been increasingly rather dramatically in use, I believe, if you take a look at it over the last year or so. They're a concern. But on the other hand, you've got to keep in mind, there's an attempt here to try to narrow the focus, so this becomes the grand showdown between the United States and Iran. What you have are weapons making their way in and we're going to try to stop it to protect our people. But there are plenty of other things going on. Al Qaeda is active, and you do have rejectionist cells, and you do have some activity -- you have militia activity.

And all these things need to be addressed in the context of a war. It's sort of a classic case of taking one piece and trying suddenly, boom, to make it the big story of the day or to try to internationalize it. This is what it is. They have found munitions, they've traced them to Iran. And, again, for all those further details, you can call the Pentagon and get what you need.

Q But that's not new, is it?

MR. SNOW: No, it's not -- thank you -- no, it's not new. It's not new. The concern is something that we've had for some time, and it's one of the reasons why, for instance, there's a new generation of armor that's being used for Humvees and other things.

Q Thank you. Tony, politics aside -- (laughter) --

MR. SNOW: Politics aside. (Laughter.)

Q Aside. Would the President like to get more troops in Iraq from Australia and other friendly nations? And what about NATO? Shouldn't we try to get NATO to send troops into Iraq, as well as Afghanistan?

MR. SNOW: Politics aside, he's the Commander-in-Chief of the United States, and I would defer to the commanders-in-chief of the other nations.

Paula.

Q No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization, and there's a somewhat controversial provision in there right now, requiring standardized tests for immigrant children after they've been here a year, regardless of their proficiency in English. Why is the administration opposed to alternative assessments for children who aren't proficient in the English language?

MR. SNOW: Paula, I cannot answer question. I will find out.

Q Tony, I just wanted to follow on what you were saying before, about the President -- with the resolutions flying around the Hill, what the President is doing. He's focused on trying to, you said, leave tools in place to fight the war on terror for the next President.

MR. SNOW: Correct.

Q What, then, do you say to the President of Russia, one of the President's allies, who is saying that the President's policies have actually made the Mideast more unstable?

MR. SNOW: That's actually not what he said. What he -- I've got the quote, maybe you've got a different one. He talks about greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. He says --

Q Okay, let's start with that one, then.

MR. SNOW: Okay.

Q I mean, he said a litany of things --

MR. SNOW: Yes, he said a litany of things, and the fact is, the basic thrust of those is wrong. The United States continues -- we continue also to have Russia as a valued ally in this. For instance, you talk about the ongoing discussions with North Korea, the six-party talks, where we're working with the Russians; we have worked with the Russians on the GNEP program, which is an attempt to try to provide peaceful civilian nuclear energy, among others, to Iran. They're working with us on the Iranian front. We continue to work with them on matters of trade. We've continued to work on matters of intelligence and security.

If you take a look at the way this administration has dealt with international issues, it has always begun with an international diplomatic component, and will continue to. Secretary Gates will be in Moscow, I believe next week, and so --

Q But if you're working on all these things together, then why would President Putin come out and say, "uncontained hyper use of force ... bringing the world up to the abyss of one conflict after another." I mean, those are things --

MR. SNOW: I'd pose that to President Putin. The most important thing is, we continue to work together.

Q But how can you say on the one hand, you're working together on all these wonderful projects you just laid out, and on the other hand, he's saying the President --

MR. SNOW: On the other hand, he's delivered a speech. I would ask him.

Q Where are they on the kumbaya index?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. That's a very good question. I haven't heard him sing.

Q Tony, as far as the Iranian support for the Iraqi elements are concerned, do we know where the Iranians are getting those weapons they are supplying to the --

MR. SNOW: Why do you guys ask me intel questions that even if I knew them, it would be utterly inappropriate for me to answer?

Q And is this a warning to Iran, as far as --

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no. I'm almost ready to hit my head on the microphone again. I'm not saying, but I'm saying -- (laughter.)

Q Is our President ignoring us? Does he want to have a news conference this week, maybe, and if so, when?

MR. SNOW: You'll be contacted at the appropriate time.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: Thank you.

Q Tony, Tony --

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q One -- The New York Times quotes Senator Clinton in Berlin, New Hampshire, saying in answer to a question about her vote for our military move into Iraq, "I've taken responsibility for my vote. Mistakes were made by this President, who came into office with an obsession to oust Saddam Hussein. I'm not a psychiatrist, I don't know all the reasons behind their concern. Some might say obsession."

Question: Will the President remain silent about this presidential candidate's charge that he is obsessed?

MR. SNOW: Yes, but I hope you will read them with equal feeling at all times. (Laughter.) You can do sort of a daily readout.

Thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070212-3.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 12 2007, 04:59 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 12, 2007

Fact Sheet: The Economic Report of the President




"Our economy is on the move and we can keep it that way by continuing to pursue sound economic policy based on free-market principles."

- President George W. Bush, 2/12/07

Today, The White House Released The Economic Report Of The President. The Economic Report of the President is an annual report written by the Council of Economic Advisors. It overviews the Nation's economic progress and is transmitted to Congress no later than 10 days after the submission of the Budget of the United States Government.

The Full Economic Report Of The President Is Available At: http://www.whitehouse.gov/cea/pubs.html.
Chapter 1: The Year In Review And The Years Ahead

Economic Growth In The United States Has Been Above The Historic Average And Faster Than Any Other Major Industrialized Economy In The World. The economic expansion continued for the fifth consecutive year in 2006. This economic growth comes despite numerous headwinds, and results from inherent U.S. economic strengths and pro-growth policies. Chapter 1 reviews the past year and discusses the Administration's forecast for the years ahead. The key points are:

Real GDP posted above-average 3.4 percent growth in 2006. The composition of growth changed, with more coming from exports and business structures investment, while residential investment flipped from contributing to GDP growth in 2005 to subtracting from it in 2006. Consumer spending remained strong.
Labor markets continued to strengthen, with the unemployment rate dropping to 4.6 percent and payroll job growth averaging 187,000 per month. Real average hourly earnings accelerated to a 1.7 percent increase during the 12 months of 2006.
Energy prices rose sharply in the first half of the year, but then declined just as sharply in the second half.
Chapter 2: Productivity Growth

Strong Productivity Growth Underlies Much Of The Good Economic News From The Past Few Years. Productivity growth rarely makes the headlines, but is important to the Nation because higher productivity growth improves the outlook for economic issues such as standards of living, inflation, international competitiveness, and long-run demographic challenges. Chapter 2 reviews the sources of the recent strength in productivity growth, highlighting the role that flexible markets and entrepreneurship play in explaining cross-country differences. It also explains the benefits of productivity growth and discusses how policymakers can further promote it. The key points are:

Recent productivity growth has been primarily driven by efficiency growth (growth in how well labor and capital inputs are used) and by capital deepening (growth in the amount of capital that workers have available for use).
Openness to international trade and investment, and improvements in the education and training of the U.S. workforce, will continue to be important to long-run productivity growth.
Policies that encourage capital accumulation, research and development, and increases in the quality of our education system can boost productivity growth.
Chapter 3: Pro-Growth Tax Policy

Sound Economic Policy Begins With Low Taxes. Chapter 3 discusses the advantages of adopting a more pro-growth tax system. It reviews recent changes that have reduced tax distortions on capital investment decisions, and evaluates options to reduce such distortions further. The key points are:

The goal of pro-growth tax policy is to reduce tax distortions that hamper economic growth. Most economists agree that lower taxes on capital income stimulate greater investment, resulting in greater economic growth, greater international competitiveness, and higher standards of living.
The tax code contains provisions that discourage investment and create distortions that affect the level, distribution, and financing of capital investment.
Estimates from research suggest that removing these tax distortions to investment decisions could increase real gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 8 percent in the long run.
Since 2001, temporary changes in the tax code have reduced the tax on investment. These pro-growth policies have stimulated short-run investment and economic growth. However, the temporary nature of the provisions eliminates desirable long-run economic stimulus.
Chapter 4: The Fiscal Challenges Facing Medicare

The President And Congress Should Work Together To Spend The Taxpayers' Money Wisely And To Tackle Unfunded Liabilities Inherent In Entitlement Programs Such As Social Security, Medicare, And Medicaid. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are three entitlement programs in the United States that provide people with important economic security against financial risk. However, the projected long-term growth in entitlement spending is unsustainable because of the pressure it puts on future Federal budgets. It is crucial that reforms to these programs preserve the protection against financial risk that these programs provide without having negative effects on economic growth. Chapter 4 focuses on Medicare by examining the main reasons for its projected financial pressures and by discussing ways to improve the efficiency of the program and thus slow the growth of Medicare spending. The key points are:

Medicare spending is growing quickly, primarily because of the demographic shift to an older society and the increases in per-beneficiary medical spending driven largely by new technologies.
Rewarding providers for supplying higher-quality care and improving incentives for patients to choose higher-value care can both increase the efficiency and slow the growth of Medicare spending.
Chapter 5: Catastrophe Risk Insurance

Insuring Economic Losses Arising From Large-Scale Natural And Manmade Catastrophes Such As Earthquakes, Hurricanes, And Terrorist Attacks Poses Challenges For The Insurance Industry And For Federal And State Governments. Chapter 5 examines the economics of catastrophe risk insurance. The key points are:

In insurance markets, as in other markets, prices affect how people weigh costs and benefits. Artificially low insurance prices can discourage people from adequately protecting against future losses. For example, subsidized property insurance prices may stimulate excessive building in high-risk areas, potentially driving up future government disaster relief spending.
Government intervention in insurance markets can have unintended consequences, such as limiting the availability of insurance offered by private firms.
Insurers manage catastrophe losses by being selective about which risks to insure, designing insurance contracts to provide incentives for risk-reducing behavior, and charging prices that are high enough to enable them to diversify risk over time or transfer risk to third parties. By managing and pricing risk more effectively, government insurance programs can reduce the burden they impose on taxpayers and minimize negative effects on private insurance markets.
Chapter 6: The Transportation Sector: Energy And Infrastructure Use

We Must Continue To Diversify Our Energy Supply To Benefit Our Economy, National Security, And Environment. The transportation sector accounts for the majority of the petroleum consumed in the United States and whether plane, train, ship, or automobile almost all transportation is powered by petroleum. Understanding the petroleum market, and the ways in which consumers and firms respond to changes in world oil prices, is key to understanding the transportation sector. In addition to petroleum, the transportation sector also relies heavily on infrastructure. The key points of Chapter 6 are:

Recent increases in the price of oil and the external costs of oil have led to renewed interest by markets and governments in the development of new alternatives. Government can play a role in ensuring that external costs are taken into account by markets, but ultimately markets are best suited to decide how to respond.

Cars and light trucks are the largest users of petroleum. As a result, the fuel economy of the vehicles purchased and the number of miles that they are driven have a large effect on oil consumption.
Congestion is a growing problem in American urban areas. Cities and States have shown a growing interest in and capacity for setting prices for road use during peak periods to reduce the full economic costs of congestion.
Chapter 7: Currency Markets

Open Commerce And Financial Markets Allow Productivity To Flourish. The need for international transactions provides the impetus for a huge, well-functioning market that facilitates currency conversions and allows global economic integration and trade to occur smoothly and quickly at low cost. Both by volume of trade and ease of making transactions, currency markets today are the world's deepest, most liquid markets. Currency markets range from common markets where parties simply exchange one currency for another to sophisticated markets where parties buy and sell currencies far into the future. The key points of Chapter 7 are:

Foreign-exchange markets allow firms to trade goods and services across borders, and to manage the risks they face from fluctuations in the price of their domestic currency.
As with any other good, the exchange value of a currency is determined by its supply, as well as the demand for the country's assets, goods, and services.
Over much of the 20th century, countries tended to favor fixed exchange rates, but in recent decades there has been a shift toward freely floating exchange rates.
Monetary and exchange-rate policies are tightly linked. A nation's government must decide between controlling its exchange rate and controlling its domestic inflation rate.
Chapter 8: International Trade And Investment

We Must Keep Our Economy Open And Break Down Barriers To Trade And Investment Abroad So Our Workers And Consumers Can Continue To Enjoy The Benefits Of Global Commerce. The United States derives substantial benefits from open trade and investment flows. Over many decades, increased trade and investment liberalization has been an important catalyst for greater productivity growth and rising average living standards in the United States. The key points of Chapter 8 are:

Looking ahead, international trade liberalization in services presents significant opportunities for U.S. workers, firms, and consumers.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows into the United States benefit the U.S. economy by stimulating growth, creating jobs, promoting research and development that spurs innovation, and financing the current account deficit.
U.S. direct investment abroad is an important channel of global market access for U.S. firms. U.S. multinational companies have contributed to productivity growth, job creation, and rising average living standards in the United States.
Chapter 9: Immigration

To Improve Border Security, Reduce The Number Of Unauthorized Workers, And Maintain The Economic Benefits Of Immigration, We Must Pursue Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The United States is a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, and we value both historical legacies. Immigrants continue to make positive contributions to our Nation and our economy, yet our current immigration laws have proven difficult to enforce and are not fully serving the needs of the American economy. The key points of Chapter 9 are:

International differences in economic opportunities and standards of living create strong incentives for labor migration. Once established, migration flows from a certain region tend to be self-perpetuating.
Foreign-born workers make significant contributions to the American economy, but not all Americans gain economically from immigration. Foreign-born workers tend to be concentrated at the low end and the high end of the educational spectrum relative to native-born workers.
Immigration policy plays a key role in determining the volume and composition of the foreign-born workforce. Comprehensive immigration reform can help ensure an orderly, lawful flow of foreign-born workers whose presence continues to benefit the American economy.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070212-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 12 2007, 05:00 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 12, 2007

Nominations and Withdrawal Sent to the Senate




Carol D'Amico, of Indiana, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Board for Education Sciences for a term expiring November 28, 2010.
(Reappointment)

Perry R. Eaton, of Alaska, to be a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development for a term expiring May 19, 2012, vice A. David Lester, term expired.

Ford M. Fraker, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

David C. Geary, of Missouri, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Board for Education Sciences for a term expiring November 28, 2010, vice Roberto Ibarra Lopez, term expired.

Eric Alan Hanushek, of California, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Board for Education Sciences for a term expiring November 28, 2010.
(Reappointment)

Janis Herschkowitz, of Pennsylvania, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Consumer Cooperative Bank for a term of three years, vice Rafael Cuellar, term expired.

Marylyn Andrea Howe, of Massachusetts, to be a Member of the National Council on Disability for a term expiring September 17, 2008, vice Glenn Bernard Anderson, term expired.

Sonya Kelliher-Combs, of Alaska, to be a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development for a term expiring May 19, 2008, vice Michael A. Naranjo, term expired.

Zalmay Khalilzad, of Maryland, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations.

Zalmay Khalilzad, of Maryland, to be the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, and the Representative of the United States of America in the Security Council of the United Nations.

Brenda L. Kingery, of Texas, to be a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development for a term expiring May 19, 2012, vice John Richard Grimes, resigned.

Julie E. Kitka, of Alaska, to be a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development for a term expiring May 19, 2012, vice Katherine L. Archuleta, term expired.

Kristine Mary Miller, of Colorado, to be a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development for a term expiring May 19, 2010, vice D. Bambi Kraus, term expired.

Lonnie C. Moore, of Kansas, to be a Member of the National Council on Disability for a term expiring September 17, 2008, vice Marco A. Rodriguez, term expired.

David George Nason, of Rhode Island, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Consumer Cooperative Bank for a term of three years, vice Michael Scott, resigned.

Nguyen Van Hanh, of California, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Consumer Cooperative Bank for a term of three years, vice Alfred Plamann, term expired.

W. Craig Vanderwagen, of Maryland, to be Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services.
(New Position)

Cynthia Allen Wainscott, of Georgia, to be a Member of the National Council on Disability for a term expiring September 17, 2008, vice Barbara Gillcrist, term expired.

Ellen C. Williams, of Kentucky, to be a Governor of the United States Postal Service for a term expiring December 8, 2014. (Reappointment)

WITHDRAWAL SENT TO THE SENATE:

Ellen C. Williams, of Kentucky, to be a Governor of the United States Postal Service for a term expiring December 8, 2016 (Reappointment), which was sent to the Senate on January 9, 2007.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070212-6.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 13 2007, 03:30 PM
MR. SNOW: Let me begin with a statement by the President:

"I am pleased with the agreements reached today at the six-party talks in Beijing. These talks represent the best opportunity to use diplomacy to address North Korea's nuclear programs. They reflect the common commitment of the participants to a Korean Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons.

"In September 2005, our nations agreed on a joint statement that chartered the way forward toward achieving a nuclear weapons free Peninsula. Today's announcement represents the first step toward implementing that agreement.

"Under the agreements reached today, North Korea has committed to take [several] specific actions within the next 60 days. Among other things, North Korea has agreed to shut down and seal all operations at the primary nuclear facilities it has used to produce weapons-grade plutonium and has agreed to allow international inspectors to verify and monitor this process. In addition to those immediate actions, North Korea has also committed to disclose all its nuclear programs and disable its existing nuclear facilities -- as an initial step toward abandoning all of those programs and facilities under international supervision.

"The other parties have agreed to cooperate in economic, humanitarian, and energy assistance to North Korea. Such assistance will be provided as the North carries out its commitments to disable its nuclear facilities.

"I commend Secretary Rice, Ambassador Hill, and our negotiating team in Beijing for their hard work."

Terry.

Q Is the President confident that North Korea won't cheat on this agreement?

MR. SNOW: Well, if the North Koreans cheat on the agreement, they are still liable to Chapter 7 sanctions under U.N. Security Council resolutions. Furthermore, the way the agreements are structured, there are performance benchmarks, if you will. For instance, within the next 60 days the North Koreans not only have to take affirmative steps toward dealing with the facilities in Pyongyang [sic], they also have to disclose all of their nuclear operations, they have to be transparent about that.

So those are things that have to be done within the first 60 days. They are not going to get the full benefit of potential diplomatic or economic relations until they, in fact, demonstrate that they're up to performing.

Q Haven't we suspected, though, that North Korea has been hiding things and has not been dealing, you know, openly for years? Why would they do it now?

MR. SNOW: Well, the answer is -- one thing that they have discovered is that this is no longer the two-party process with the United States and North Koreans, where the North Koreans can try to leverage the United States against allies in the region.

Instead, what you have is a multilateral process in which the Chinese have a fundamental role to play; the South Koreans are going to be the chief supplier of energy; the Russians and Japanese are deeply involved, as well. In other words, now all of a sudden, if the North Koreans walk away, it's not simply that they've managed to score a debating point against the United States. They have directly insulted their neighbors, and there are ways in which those neighbors can express their disappointment.

Q Tony, talking to some people yesterday, they were saying the thing to keep the eye on is the difference between this being a freeze and something being done to permanently disable the reactors. So what's in there?

MR. SNOW: Permanently -- not only permanently disable the reactor, but all nuclear activities. That would include weapons, that would include reactors. There will be no nuclear industry at all within North Korea.

Under the agreed framework signed in October of '94 by the Clinton administration, there was a freeze. And as you know, what they were going to try to do is to swap out a plutonium reactor with a light water breeder reactor. There is no swapping nuclear technologies here. The endpoint of this is no nuclear program at all. Instead there will be other forms of energy supplied to the North Koreans.

Q Tony, one thing that's not in the agreement, if I'm correct, is that they don't disclose how many bombs they already have or get rid of those current weapons.

MR. SNOW: No, that's not correct. That is not what they're going to do initially. But, again, it will list all of its nuclear programs as described in the joint statement, which would include weapons programs, including plutonium extracted from used fuel rods that would be abandoned pursuant to the joint statement.

Q So if they have a bomb, they would have to disclose it.

MR. SNOW: Yes, they would.

Q And get rid of it?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Along these same lines, Tony, more than one Asia hand commenting today has recalled the old Reagan mantra, "trust but verify." Given North Koreans track record, given everything that Kim il-Jong has done and has not done. Is either one of those things possible?

MR. SNOW: Kim Jong-il.

Q Kim Jong-il. Trust but verify --

MR. SNOW: Absolutely right. And that's the way these negotiations proceed. This is not something where the moment the North Koreans sign, they get everything. Instead, in the first 60 days, for instance, they only get 5 percent of the potential 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil. They get 50,000. So the fact is that they get only a small portion up front, and they are going to have to justify further increments based on their good behavior.

Q Well, that's justified, but how do you achieve trust or verification with all of these tunnels and all of these secret labs that they have?

MR. SNOW: Well, one of the things they're going to commit to is full and open inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And the IAEA -- look, there are going to be a lot of people very interested in making sure they know what's going on. The other thing is, if there should be a discovery, the North Koreans are going to know that there will be consequences; that if they once again try to cheat on an agreement, they are still liable under Chapter 7 sanctions under the U.N. Security Council. And the parties to the six-party talks have made it pretty clear that when the North Koreans cheat, they're going to take action against them.

Q John Bolton is up on the Hill, and he just said that the agreement -- firstly, that he's not a fan of the agreement, and that the North will be re-writing it every day it's in existence, it's a fantasy, it's rewarding the North and sending a horrible message to the world about the U.S.' stand on weapons of mass destruction.

MR. SNOW: Well, we stood by John Bolton in his time at the United Nations, including when he advocated the six-party agreement -- the September 2005 agreement that, in fact, has been enacted today. One of the things that John Bolton did note is that there are carrots and sticks in the agreement, and as he said in October of '06, which was just a few months ago, the carrots have been there, in a sense, for North Korea of the possibility of ending its isolation, ending the terrible impoverishment of its people. It's the leadership that can't seem to find the carrots that are out there. We think that the leadership has begun to find the carrots. We're going to discover in due course whether they, in fact, are going to fulfill their part of the agreement. However, as we've already said up here, it is a trust-but-verify situation. This is not something where we are simply going to give things to the North Koreans on a timeline. This is all conditioned on their behavior.

Q In what way is this not rewarding the North for bad behavior?

MR. SNOW: Mainly because what we have said all along is, you guys have got to come back to the table without preconditions and, furthermore, you'll have to agree to get rid of the nuclear program. That has always been the condition that was laid out. This was something they agreed to back in September of 2005. What we have now is that the North Koreans basically fulfilling their own word a year-and-a-half after the fact.

If they really want rewards, the way that's going to happen is that they are going to continue not only to shut down Pyongyang -- I mean Yongbyon, sorry; Pyongyang is their capital, Yongbyon, the reactor. But in addition, they're going to go after -- they're going to declare all nuclear activities and facilities, and they're going to shut them down.

Q Would you like to see this agreement serve as a model for negotiations with Iran?

MR. SNOW: Yes, with a clear exception that we don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons, and we don't want it to have nuclear capabilities. It provides a template in the following way: This is the result of concerted diplomatic effort on the part of interested parties, especially the South Koreans and the Chinese, who stepped up and have made it clear that ultimately very good things can happen, not only in terms of the international community, but also in terms of the North Koreans, themselves.

The United States is going to focus primarily on humanitarian aid. But this also makes the world a more peaceful place, because what we're talking about in the context of extended negotiations is human rights -- performance on human rights, dealing with conventional weapons, with proliferation. Those are also ongoing concerns, all of which are now going to be addressed in follow on sessions both with all parties to the six-party talks and bilaterally with various partners.

We see that kind of diplomacy, effective diplomacy, where a party has come back to the table because the international community asserted pressure, they felt the pressure, and they understood that we were serious. And, you know, we hope the Iranians are similarly going to return to the table, because we have offered some real opportunities for them.

Ed.

Q Tony, on Iran, General Peter Pace is now saying that he was not aware that this briefing was going ahead in Baghdad, where military officers were talking about Iran's influence in Iraq this past weekend. How could the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs not know that military officers would be briefing in Baghdad?

MR. SNOW: I'll refer that back to General Pace, frankly. But I'll tell you, what General Pace --

Q But did the White House loop him in? Did the White House loop in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?

MR. SNOW: I believe that this was a Pentagon briefing. Again, it typically is something that when the Pentagon is doing it, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs knows about it.

Let me tell you what -- I think a lot of people are trying to whomp up a fight here that doesn't exist. I spoke with General Pace a bit this morning, as well. And there is a core of information that everybody agrees upon. Number one, there is weaponry that is of Iranian manufacture that's in Iraq killing Americans. There are Iranians involved, there are Iranians on the ground. Our intelligence indicates that the explosively formed penetrators, the EFP, in fact, are directly associated with Quds forces, which are part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which are part of the government. The Quds force is, in fact, an official arm of the Iranian government and, as such, the government bears responsibility and accountability for its actions, as you would expect of any sovereign government.

And I think that's pretty clear. I mean, General Pace, again, if you go through his --

Q No, you didn't say that, though -- that's where you said "people are trying to whomp up a fight." With all due respect, it's General Pace's comments, not anyone else's, where he said --

MR. SNOW: No, go back --

Q Well, he said -- let me just say, he said, "It is clear that Iranians are involved and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved. But I would not say but what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit." Are you saying that you, from this podium, know more than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

MR. SNOW: I am telling you that -- I'm telling you what the intelligence indicates.

Q So is he not in the loop? I'm just trying to understand why there's a contradiction, where the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs --

MR. SNOW: I'll tell you what -- I just know that there's -- Ed, calm down. I know you're excited, your voice is rising, your pace is increasing --

Q I don't need to calm down. I'm telling you that he is saying this; I'm not.

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm telling you I talked with him. Okay?

Q Okay.

MR. SNOW: And I've talked with him --

Q Well, we'll follow up with him, as well.

MR. SNOW: You better, because I think you will find out that the intelligence does indicate, as he said, this stuff was -- let me pose you with two possibilities. But first, the intelligence indicates that the Quds forces, which are part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, are associated with this.

Now, let me ask a second question to you. I don't know what's more frightening, the fact that the Quds forces would be operating with the knowledge of senior officials or without the knowledge of senior officials. What is beyond dispute, and what is of primary importance here -- and General Pace hasn't disagreed with it, and we don't disagree, and frankly, again, I think you'll find upon further conversation -- he's going to be in the air for about 23 hours, so give him a day -- that, in fact, we generally agree on the basics of the situation here, which is there are armaments that have made their way from Iran into Iraq. There are Iranian forces in Iraq. These weapons are being used to kill Americans; we're going to do everything we can to protect our people.

Q Right. But on the substance of it, the briefers over the weekend said that these parts are sent to Iraq with the approval of senior Iranian officials. And the bottom line is he seems to be contradicting that.

MR. SNOW: Well, I think what General Pace may have been saying -- in fact, I know what he's saying -- and this is where we get to the rhetorical question I was asking you before -- do we have a signed piece of paper from Mr. Khomeini or from President Ahmadinejad signing off on this? No. But are the Quds forces part of the government? The answer is yes.

So the question is, I think this ends up being a semantic dispute about senior levels of the government or the government. And the fact is, the government knows about it.

Q Okay. But isn't it really a question about whether or not you have strong evidence? When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff seem to be saying something different than the White House, does that raise questions about how solid this evidence is?

MR. SNOW: No, because you've got -- you have explosively formed penetrators. He says they exist, correct?

Q I didn't see that in this particular quote, but --

MR. SNOW: Well, no -- he said that there are weapons --

Q He says that there are projectiles manufactured in Iraq.

MR. SNOW: Okay, all right. So, okay, so there's no doubt about that, correct? There are Iranians in Iraq. There's no question about that, correct?

Q Sure.

MR. SNOW: All right, so where's the credibility problem, in terms of -- are you saying --

Q In terms of the Iranian government being behind it. That's not -- nobody's disputing whether it's manufactured in Iran. That's what -- you keep changing what my question is.

MR. SNOW: No, no, I'm trying to clarify your question, because I think this is a --

Q I don't need it clarified, I'm trying to tell you -- I know what my question is, and basically, he's saying that he doesn't see evidence that the Iranian government is clearly behind it. That's my -- I've asked that three or four times. You haven't answered that. You're saying the Iranian government is behind it.

MR. SNOW: Okay, let me put it this way -- I'll say it one more time. The Quds force is part of the Iranian government. The Quds force is behind it, is associated with it.

Q Okay --

MR. SNOW: All right? Thank you.

Q Let me follow up on this, because we have a situation where right now, a lot of the American people are hearing a lot about Iran and whether the government is involved in sending the weapons across or not. And now it would appear that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the administration seem to be on two different pages.

MR. SNOW: We're not. And that's why I'm going to let General Pace speak for himself. We're not on a different page.

Q But you talked to him --

MR. SNOW: I know, and that's why I'm saying, because Ed's question -- Ed is citing a quote that he said earlier. I'm going to let him -- he'll be able to put it all together, because Ed's not going to believe me when I tell him what my conversation was.

Q But he's in the air for 23 hours. And these are the --

Q Let's hear it. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I already laid it out for you, man.

Q But it seems to be a reasonable expectation the American people can have, to get some kind of explanation for how you can have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the administration on two separate pages.

MR. SNOW: We're not on separate pages. The explanation --

Q Certainly, we seem to be, from what was said.

MR. SNOW: I know, because everybody is trying to get into semantic --

Q But yesterday you said the administration is confident the report on Iran is accurate and the weaponry is coming with knowledge of the Iranian government.

MR. SNOW: Of the government. And I still --

Q But now you're saying that the Quds forces, which is part of the Iranian government -- you're sort of parsing.

MR. SNOW: Well, I was parsing yesterday. I'm trying to be careful about how we do this. The question is, do we know that some particular senior official signed off? No, it's an opaque government; it's not a transparent government. But on the other hand, this is part of the Revolutionary Guard, which is part of the government, and therefore you do hold the government responsible.

Q So somebody who reads General Pace's quote, and says, hmm, that's different than what Tony Snow said yesterday -- they're wrong?

MR. SNOW: Yes. Yes. And I think what's -- again, we'll let General -- here's the --

Q So did Pace retract what he said when he spoke to you?

MR. SNOW: No, he didn't retract because what he said was accurate, as well. What he was thinking is, are you trying to lay this at the feet of members of the Supreme Governing Council; are you trying to lay this at the feet of particular individuals? The answer is, no, we don't have the intelligence that makes it that specific. He was trying to be very precise in how he answered the question. And I was being careful in how I answered it yesterday, as well. We know the Quds forces are involved. They're part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. That's part of the government. Just not going to go any further than that.

Q A deputy assistant undersecretary of agriculture is part of the government. Would you say that that -- if somebody was involved at that level, that that's a top level --

MR. SNOW: If you had somebody who was operating with an elite military unit, operating inside the United States, committing acts of violence, would you say that the sponsor government had some -- bore some responsibility for that elite military unit? We're not talking about deputy assistant secretaries of agriculture -- cute question, but it doesn't get to the point that people have moved armaments into Iraq and are killing Americans.

Q Yesterday you said, "In that regime there are not freelancers."

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q Do you stick by that statement, and thereby drawing it to the larger --

MR. SNOW: Again, let me just -- here's your rhetorical question: What's more frightening, the notion that they are freelancing or that they're not?

Q So they might.

MR. SNOW: No, I'm just posing a question for your consideration.

Q But then how solid is the information, though? I think the bottom line question still is if the Chairman --

MR. SNOW: Ed, the information is --

Q He's expressing doubts. He's a General. He knows this better than any of us in this room.

MR. SNOW: There are two things you need to understand. Number one, you guys have been constantly -- I did see what may be the dumbest lead of an editorial I've seen in a long time today in The New York Times, which is, "We need to declare ourselves on Iran." We've declared it over and over -- we're not going to war with them. Let me make that clear. So anybody who is trying to use this as "the administration trying to lay the predicate for a war with Iran" -- no, we're committed to diplomacy with Iran. But we are also committed to protecting our forces.

Let's go back through what we understand. We understand that these weapons came from Iran, no dispute about that. We know that Quds forces have been within Iraq, no dispute about that. We know that the Quds forces are, in fact, part of the Revolutionary Guard; they're an instrument of the Iranian government. Nobody doubts that. So the question therefore becomes, who wrote the orders -- I'm not going to -- we're not going to be able to tell you who signed the orders. But we do know that the Iranian government at that level has been involved.

The important thing is we're trying to do this, and what's interesting is that the Iranian officials -- if they deny it, that's fine. Let's make sure that they, therefore, become engaged in trying to make sure that none of that stuff comes across the border is being used to kill Americans or innocent Iraqis.

Q It's not Iranian officials denying it -- that's not -- again, it's about General Pace --

MR. SNOW: Well, actually, Jessica -- no, Jessica has pinged me many times in the last two days saying they have been denying it on her network.

Q Okay, but, again, when we're talking about -- can you clarify, though, did General Pace -- you said he had a phone conversation with him.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Was he aware that this briefing was going to happen? That his own --

MR. SNOW: I actually -- I did not ask him whether he knew -- I did not ask the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs whether he knew that a Pentagon briefing was going to take place in Baghdad. Forgive me. I didn't ask the process question.

Q Well, he's the one who told reporters that he didn't know about it.

MR. SNOW: Okay. But what I said -- I think -- I asked him about the specific -- he said he wanted to be very precise, because he did not want to be making allegations that could be construed as saying that some senior official within the Iranian government was directly responsible for signing an order. I think that's right. I think he's right about that.

Q Is any of this the reason why the briefing over the weekend became on background, not on camera, because you're concerned about how -- whether --

MR. SNOW: No, what happened was the -- no, the reason it was on background -- the reason it was background -- I'm getting my exercise -- the reason it was on background was that one of the briefers otherwise would not have been able to do it. You guys understand how background briefings work. And that was the ground rule that was laid out. Now, I'm sure that you don't want to rule out background briefings now or anytime in the future. The fact is, we went public with the evidence, and you got the pictures -- again, nobody denies the armaments, nobody denies where they come from, nobody denies the importance of protecting our guys.

David.

Q If I could just come at this one other way. Beyond the evidence of the involvement of the Quds forces, there's no other evidence of ties to the Iranian government?

MR. SNOW: I don't want to lay out -- for one thing, I don't have access to the full chain of intel. But I can tell you the intel community believes that the Quds forces was involved, and I don't want to get into any further characterizations. There I would direct you to the DNI.

Q But as far as you know, when you suggested -- the Iranian government --

MR. SNOW: As far as I'm going to say here, I'm not willing to go any further. I think that's appropriately answered by DNI.

Q Do you think that the off-the-record, low-level Iran briefing has backfired? The reason I ask that is because on the one hand you avoid the comparison with Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations, but at the same time, what you've ended up with is the sense that no one senior in the administration seems to be willing to go on the record. And I understand that one of the people -- not all of the people, but one of the people would have been unable to brief; the other people wouldn't have been unable to brief.

MR. SNOW: No, look, again, I think what's happening is that everybody is trying to create a narrative here of something that's -- look, the problem before, nobody found weapons of mass destruction. You cannot say that nobody didn't -- nobody found explosively formed penetrators. You've got pictures of the things. You know where they came from. There is no doubt about the central fact here: that you have an explosive device that's being used to kill Americans.

So what everybody is trying to figure out now is what General Pace meant -- it's now being devolved into a process argument that overlooks the key fact, which is that weaponry made its way from Iran into Iraq and it's killing Americans, and we're going to try to stop the killing of Americans.

Q Well, isn't the key fact really not only that, but the key fact is, who is sending the weapons into Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, there is evidence that links Quds force to it. Now, again, the question --

Q Direct evidence?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to characterize -- let me put it this way, I will push all the evidentiary questions to DNI, but the finding of the intelligence community is that it's, in fact, linked to the Quds forces.

Q That's kind of a "no."

MR. SNOW: No, it's not. It's one of those -- because what you're asking is for the nature and quality of classified evidence. I get my hands tied when I get -- I don't want to get too far in front of this, trying to give you any kind of characterization beyond what's already on the public record.

Q Tony, could I go to a domestic -- two domestic questions?

MR. SNOW: Yes, you may.

Q I'll yield to anybody else.

I have never heard you or any of your 10 predecessors -- whom I have covered at that podium -- use the obscene words for feces, fornication, semen, anus, and vagina, all of which words were used publicly by Melissa McEwan, who is still on the John Edwards presidential campaign staff because he refused to fire her. And my question, first: Surely the President would never put up with such public obscenity like former Senator Edwards is doing, would he?

MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know about that, but the President expects his aides to behave in a seemly manner.

Q On another issue, Inspector General Robert Skinner admitted at a hearing that his deputies falsely told lawmakers that the agency had documentary proof that then Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean were rouge cops, "out to shoot Mexicans." And my question, is the President assured that Attorney General Gonzales is investigating this?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. Did you read the fuller Inspector General's report?

Q I have not read the whole thing.

MR. SNOW: It's worth reading. I think that questions about the Inspector -- see, the thing about Inspectors General is they actually do operate independently of the agencies, as you understand. But on the other hand, Mr. Skinner will have to answer for characterizations he's made.

Q The House has taken up its resolution of disapproval today. Does the administration envision that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq as a stabilization force for years, if not decades to come, if --

MR. SNOW: I don't think at this point -- no -- go ahead.

Q -- if Iraq doesn't throw us out or Congress doesn't cut off the money?

MR. SNOW: Again, I think it's presumptuous for us to look on that long a timeline. The one thing we are committed to doing is having democracy succeed in Iraq. We're also committed to having Iraqis in lead and leadership roles as soon as possible. As far as whatever the long-term commitments, I mean, that's --

Q But don't you look down the road, don't you have a --

MR. SNOW: We do look down the road, but as you know, there is vast amount of uncertainty from one month to the next, let alone one year to the next. And, therefore, to try to make a characterization of what's going to happen one, two, or five years down the road is the sort of thing that almost certainly is going to be inaccurate, if I'm lucky. So I think at this point we'll just stick with the characterizations of what we're trying to achieve.

Q And is the White House working against -- to stop this resolution?

MR. SNOW: No. I mean, it's -- we've made our views known, in terms of what people have to keep in mind. But members of the House and members of the Senate have the freedom to go ahead and write their resolutions and do what they want with them.

The one thing we do expect is, we do expect those who say they're going to support the troops to support them. And there are going to come times when they're going to have an opportunity to vote on continued support for the forces in the field -- and this is something that we will be discussing with members of both houses and both parties, as well -- in terms of providing the support so that those who are reinforcing forces on the ground and a new and redesigned mission, in terms of dealing with the problems of violence in Iraq, are going to be able to be there for their comrades to help finish the job.

Deb.

Q A question on the record $764 billion trade deficit. House Democratic Leaders sent the President a letter today, including the Trade Subcommittee Chairman, asking for a change in trade policy, which they say is a link to "failed businesses, displaced workers, and lower real wages." And they ask for the Bush administration to give Congress within 90 days a plan to change or eliminate trade deficits with China, the EU, and Japan.

MR. SNOW: Deb, I haven't seen that at all. We just got an economic report of the President yesterday that talked about a booming economy -- we've got reports now of revenues gushing in first quarter a surplus -- the fact is that the most important thing is to build a strong economy that's going to have opportunities for everybody.

But I don't want to even try to answer to a letter I haven't seen. My guess is it sounds to me like they've got a pretty heft series of concerns that's probably not amenable to a one-sentence answer, let alone a five-page answer. So --

Q Can you address the issue of the trade deficit in the President's policy?

MR. SNOW: No, I'll just -- let me take a look at what they've got. Anything I would give you would be less than you deserve.

Q I wanted to ask you, there have been some stories lately about an ICE detention facility outside of Austin, Texas, where asylum-seekers have been kept in prison-like conditions -- it is a converted prison, although the bars are not kept closed, as it would be in prison. Women and children are kept in garb that is likened to prison outfits. Is the President comfortable with the idea that asylum-seekers, particularly children, are kept in conditions --

MR. SNOW: Well, as you probably know, in the past, children had been separated from their families. What we're actually trying to do is to keep them together. We also have been concerned about making sure that they're kept in humane and sanitary conditions and they're clothed and fed. And all that is as you would expect. But one of the things we're trying to do is to keep families together. When you have a large number of people in a facility like that, it does create challenges, and we're trying to do our best with it.

Q Wouldn't it be better to find another type of facility?

MR. SNOW: Such as?

Q I don't --

MR. SNOW: Sports stadium?

Q -- I don't know.

MR. SNOW: The point is, it's difficult to find facilities, and you have to do the best with what you've got.

Q Thank you, Tony.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070213-3.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 13 2007, 03:33 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 13, 2007

President Bush Discusses Volunteerism
Roosevelt Room
President's Remarks


11:32 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: I just had a fascinating discussion with members of my administration and some of our citizens who deeply care about the future of the country. Laura and I want to thank you all for joining us. We had two people who actually study the importance of volunteerism for the health of the country.

A couple points I'd like to make. One, we are a nation of people who take time out of their lives on a regular basis to help a fellow citizen realize the full potential of America. We've got a lot of people volunteering in the country, and one of my calls is for people to do more of it. And there's plenty of opportunities to find out where you can volunteer. You can go, for example, on the USAFreedomCorps.gov web page and you can find programs close to you that will give you an opportunity to follow your heart.

Secondly, I fully recognize there's an important role for government in our society, but I also want our fellow citizens to know there's a really important role for you. If you're concerned about the future of America, you can volunteer to help make our future brighter. You can mentor a child, you can teach somebody to read, you can go visit the elderly, you can feed the hungry, you can find shelter for the homeless, and you'll make a significant contribution to America. And as you do so, you'll find you make a significant contribution to your own self worth and your own soul.

We're heralding volunteerism here today. It is a really important aspect of American society. I'm proud of our fellow citizens who have answered the call. I encourage you to continue on. And for those of you who want to enrich your own life, you can find a way to volunteer and help somebody else, and it will do just that.

So thank you all for joining us. Appreciate your good work. God bless those of you who are volunteering.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070213-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 14 2007, 03:55 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2007

Executive Order Trial of Alien Unlawful Enemy Combatants by Military Commission




By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Public Law 109‑366), the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40), and section 948b( of title 10, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Establishment of Military Commissions. There are hereby established military commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants for offenses triable by military commission as provided in chapter 47A of title 10.

Sec. 2. Definitions. As used in this order:

(a) "unlawful enemy combatant" has the meaning provided for that term in section 948a(1) of title 10; and

( "alien" means a person who is not a citizen of the United States.

Sec. 3. Supersedure. This order supersedes any provision of the President's Military Order of November 13, 2001 (66 Fed. Reg. 57,833), that relates to trial by military commission, specifically including:

(a) section 4 of the Military Order; and

( any requirement in section 2 of the Military Order, as it relates to trial by military commission, for a determination of:

(i) reason to believe specified matters; or

(ii) the interest of the United States.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) This order shall be implemented in accordance with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

( The heads of executive departments and agencies shall provide such information and assistance to the Secretary of Defense as may be necessary to implement this order and chapter 47A of title 10.

This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

GEORGE W. BUSH

THE WHITE HOUSE,

February 14, 2007.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070214-5.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 14 2007, 03:59 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2007

Press Conference by the President
The East Room
President's Remarks

11:01 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming in on an icy day. I have just finished a conversation with General David Petraeus. He gave me his first briefing from Iraq. He talked about the Baghdad security plan. It's the plan that I described to the nation last January, and it's a plan that's beginning to take shape. General Petraeus and General Odierno talked about how the fact that the Iraqi government is following through on its commitment to deploy three additional army brigades, Iraqi army brigades in the capital. We talked about where those troops are being deployed, the position of U.S. troops with them, as well as the embeds with the Iraqi troops, and we talked about the plan.

He also talked about the new Iraqi commander. The commander who Prime Minister Maliki picked to operate the Baghdad security plan is in place; they're setting up a headquarters and they're in the process of being in a position to be able to coordinate all forces. In other words, there's still some work to be done there to get the command and control center up and running in Baghdad.

We talked about the fact that our coalition troops that are heading into Baghdad will be arriving on time. In other words, I'm paying attention to the schedule of troop deployments to make sure that they're there, so that General Petraeus will have the troops to do the job -- the number of troops to do the job that we've asked him to do.

We talked about the coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces. And I would characterize their assessment as the coordination is good. In other words, there's good conversation, constant conversation between the commanders of our troops and their troops, and that's a positive development.

The operation to secure Baghdad is going to take time, and there will be violence. We saw on our TV screens the terrorists will send car bombs into crowded markets. In other words, these are people that will kill innocent men, women and children to achieve their objective, which is to discourage the Iraqi people, to foment sectarian violence and to, frankly, discourage us from helping this government do its job.

Yesterday there was a suicide bomber. In other words, there's an active strategy to undermine the Maliki government and its Baghdad security plan. And our generals understand that, they know that they're all aimed at, frankly, causing people here in America to say it's not worth it. And I can understand why people are concerned when they turn on the TV screens and see this violence. It's disturbing to people, and it's disturbing to the Iraqi people. But it reminds me of how important it is for us to help them succeed. If you think the violence is bad now, imagine what it would look like if we don't help them secure the city, the capital city of Baghdad.

I fully recognize we're not going to be able to stop all suicide bombers. I know that. But we can help secure that capital; help the Iraqis secure that capital so that people have a sense of normalcy -- in other words, that they're able to get a better sense that this government of theirs will provide security. People want to live in peace; they want to grow up in a peaceful environment. And the decision I made is going to help the Iraqi government do that.

When General Petraeus' nomination was considered three weeks ago, the United States Senate voted unanimously to confirm him, and I appreciated that vote by the senators. And now members of the House of Representatives are debating a resolution that would express disapproval of the plan that General Petraeus is carrying out. You know, in recent months, I've discussed our strategy in Iraq with members of Congress from both political parties. Many have told me that they're dissatisfied with the situation in Iraq. I told them I was dissatisfied with the situation in Iraq. And that's why I ordered a comprehensive review of our strategy.

I've listened to a lot of voices; people in my administration heard a lot of voices. We weighed every option. I concluded that to step back from the fight in Baghdad would have disastrous consequences for people in America. That's the conclusion I came to. It's the conclusion members of my staff came to. It's the conclusion that a lot in the military came to.

And the reason why I say "disastrous consequences," the Iraqi government could collapse, chaos would spread, there would be a vacuum, into the vacuum would flow more extremists, more radicals, people who have stated intent to hurt our people. I believe that success in Baghdad will have success in helping us secure the homeland.

What's different about this conflict than some others is that if we fail there, the enemy will follow us here. I firmly believe that. And that's one of the main reasons why I made the decision I made. And so we will help this Iraqi government succeed. And the first step for success is to do something about the sectarian violence in Baghdad so they can have breathing space in order to do the political work necessary to assure the different factions in Baghdad, factions that are recovering from years of tyranny, that there is a hopeful future for them and their families. I would call that political breathing space.

And by providing this political breathing space, in other words, giving the Maliki government a chance to reconcile and do the work necessary to achieve reconciliation, it'll hasten the day in which we can change our force posture in Iraq. A successful strategy obviously -- a successful security strategy in Bagdad requires more than just military action. I mean, people have to see tangible results in their lives. They have to see something better. They not only have to feel secure where they live, but they've got to see positive things taking place.

The other day, the Iraqi government passed a $41 billion budget, $10 billion of which is for reconstruction and capital investment. There's a lot of talk in Washington about benchmarks. I agree -- "benchmarks" meaning that the Iraqi government said they're going to do this; for example, have an oil law as a benchmark. But one of the benchmarks they laid out, besides committing troops to the Iraqi security plan, was that they'll pass a budget in which there's $10 billion of their own money available for reconstruction and help. And they met the benchmark. And now, obviously, it's important they spend the money wisely.

They're in the process of finalizing a law that will allow for the sharing of all revenues among Iraq's peoples. In my talks with members of Congress, some have agreed with what I'm doing, many who didn't -- they all, though, believe it's important for the Iraqi government to set benchmarks and achieve those benchmarks. And one benchmark we've all discussed was making it clear to the Iraqi people that they have a stake in the future of their country by having a stake in the oil revenues. And so the government is in the process of getting an oil revenue law that will help unify the country.

The Iraqi government is making progress on reforms that will allow more of its citizens to reenter political life. Obviously, I'm paying close attention to whether or not the government is meeting these benchmarks, and will continue to remind Prime Minister Maliki that he must do so.

We've given our civilians and commanders greater flexibility to fund our economic assistance money. Part of the strategy in Baghdad is to clear, and then to hold, and then to build. We've been pretty good about clearing in the past; we haven't been good about holding -- "we" being the Iraqis and coalition forces. So we spent time today talking to General Petraeus about the need, his need and his understanding of the need to hold neighborhoods so that the people, themselves, in the capital city feel more secure.

But also part of the strategy is to make sure that we build. So we're giving our commanders flexibility with reconstruction money that they have at their disposal. We're also sending more PRTs, provincial reconstruction teams, into Iraq, trying to speed up their arrival into Iraq so that the Iraqi people see tangible benefits from the government that they elected under one of the most progressive constitutions in the Middle East.

Later this week the House of Representatives will vote on a resolution that opposes our new plan in Iraq -- before it has a chance to work. People are prejudging the outcome of this. They have every right to express their opinion, and it is a non-binding resolution. Soon Congress is going to be able to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding, a bill providing emergency funding for our troops. Our troops are counting on their elected leaders in Washington, D.C. to provide them with the support they need to do their mission. We have a responsibility, all of us here in Washington, to make sure that our men and women in uniform have the resources and the flexibility they need to prevail.

Before I'm going to take some questions, I'd like to comment about one other diplomatic development, and that took place in the Far East. At the six-party talks in Beijing, North Korea agreed to specific actions that will bring us closer to a Korea Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons. Specifically, North Korea agreed that within 60 days it will shut down and seal all operations at the primary nuclear facilities it has used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. It has agreed to allow international inspectors to verify and monitor this progress. It is committed to disclosing all of its nuclear programs as an initial step toward abandoning these programs.

In exchange, five other parties at the table -- that would be China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States -- have got commitments. We will meet those commitments as this agreement is honored. Those commitments include economic, humanitarian and energy assistance to the people of North Korea.

This is a unique deal. First of all, unlike any other agreement, it brings together all of North Korea's neighbors in the region, as well as the United States. The agreement is backed by a United Nations Security Council resolution. That resolution came about -- the sanctions came about as a result of the resolution because of a unanimous vote in the Security Council.

This is good progress. It is a good first step. There's a lot of work to be done to make sure that the commitments made in this agreement become reality, but I believe it's an important step in the right direction.

And with that, I'll be glad to take your questions, starting with you, Terry.

Q Mr. President, on Russia. Is the Vladimir Putin who said the United States is undermining global security and provoking a new arms race the same Vladimir Putin whose soul you looked into and found to be trustworthy? Has he changed? Are U.S.-Russian relations deteriorating?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the person who I was referring to in 2001 is the same strong-willed person. He is a person with whom I have had agreements and disagreements throughout the course of my presidency and his. We've disagreed on the utility of NATO. I've tried to convince Vladimir that NATO is positive. It's a positive influence, that democracies on your border are good things to have. The democracies tend not to fight each other. And I firmly believe NATO is a stabilizing influence for the good, and that helps Russia. Evidently he disagrees with that assessment; part of his speech was expressing concerns about NATO.

There's a lot we can work together on, and that's what's important for American people to understand. We know that we've got common goals that make sense for both our peoples. Two such goals are Iran, convincing the Iranians to get rid of its nuclear weapons. And Russia's leadership on this issue is very important to getting a Chapter 7 Resolution out of the United Nations. And by the way, they were constructive in terms of the resolution I just described about North Korea. In other words, where we have common interests, and we work together on those common interests, we can accomplish important things for the security of our own people, as well as the security of the world.

And, secondly, Russia and the United States work very closely on proliferation concerns. We're both concerned about the proliferation of technologies that could end up hurting our people and other people in the world.

So there's -- it's a complicated relationship. It's a relationship in which there are disagreements, but there's also a relationship in which we can find common ground to solve problems. And that's the spirit -- that's the spirit I'll continue to work with Vladimir Putin on.

Steve.

Q Thank you, sir. General Pace says that these bombs found in Iraq do not, by themselves, implicate Iran. What makes you so certain that the highest levels of Tehran's government is responsible?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes --

Q And how can you retaliate against Iran without risking a war?

THE PRESIDENT: What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did.

But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know? But the point I made in my initial speech in the White House about Iraq was, is that we know they're there and we're going to protect our troops. When we find the networks that are enabling these weapons to end up in Iraq, we will deal with them. If we find agents who are moving these devices into Iraq, we will deal with them. I have put out the command to our troops -- I mean, to the people who are commanders, that we'll protect the soldiers of the United States and innocent people in Iraq and will continue doing so.

Now, let me step back on Iran, itself. We have a comprehensive strategy to deal with Iraq [sic]. There's a variety of issues that we have with Iraq [sic]. One, of course, is influence inside of Iraq. Another is whether or not they end up with a nuclear weapon. And I believe an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be very dangerous for world peace, and have worked with other nations of like mind. And it turns out there's a lot of countries in the world that agree with that assessment. After all, we did get a Chapter 7 Resolution out of the United Nations that included EU3, as well as Russia and China. That's a positive development.

The message to the Iranian people is that your leaders are making decisions that are isolating you in the world, thereby denying you a brighter future. And I believe Iran is an unbelievably vital nation. It's got a great history, it's got wonderful traditions, it's got very capable, smart people. There is -- I believe there's also a desire to not be isolated from the world. And our policies are all aimed at convincing the Iranian people there's a better way forward, and I hope their government hears that message.

Anyway, that's a long answer to a short question, and now you're trying to get to me to -- Gregory. Excuse me, David. David.

Q Thank you, sir. I'd like to follow on Iran. Critics say that you are using the same quality of intelligence about Iran that you used to make the case for war in Iraq, specifically about WMD that turned out to be wrong, and that you are doing that to make a case for war against Iran. Is that the case?

THE PRESIDENT: I can say with certainty that the Quds force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops. And I'd like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds force was ordered from the top echelons of government. But my point is what's worse -- them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it happening? And so we will continue to protect our troops.

David, our strategy is comprehensive in order to resolve problems that will affect our own peace and the peace in the world. And the biggest problem I see is the Iranians' desire to have a nuclear weapon. As you know, we've been dealing with this issue ever since you've been covering me, and pretty much ever since I've been the President. And we've made it very clear to the Iranians that if they would like to have a dialogue with the United States, there needs to be a verifiable suspension of their program. I would hope that they would do that. I would like to be at the -- have been given a chance for us to explain that we have no desire to harm the Iranian people.

But my focus is on making sure that this weapon is dealt with, the program is dealt with in a constructive, peaceful way. And we'll continue to work toward achieving our common objective with other nations in the world in a peaceful way.

Sheryl.

Q -- using faulty intelligence to provoke Iran?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I heard your question, and I told you, I was confident that the Quds force, a part of the Iranian government, was providing weaponry into Iraq. And to say it is provoking Iran is just a wrong way to characterize the Commander-in-Chief's decision to do what is necessary to protect our soldiers in harm's way. And I will continue to do so.

Bret.

Q Mr. President, on the North Korea deal, the former U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton, yesterday said, "It's a bad, disappointing deal, and the best thing you can say about it is that it will probably fall apart." This is from a man you repeatedly praised for his judgment and leadership at the United Nations. His main criticism is that the financial pressure led North Korea back to the table, and now it's being released. How do you respond to that?

THE PRESIDENT: I strongly disagree -- strongly disagree with his assessment. I have told the American people, like the Iranian issue, I wanted to solve the North Korean issue peacefully, and that the President has an obligation to try all diplomatic means necessary to do so. I changed the dynamic on the North Korean issue by convincing other people to be at the table with us, on the theory that the best diplomacy is diplomacy in which there is more than one voice -- that has got an equity in the issue -- speaking.

And so we had a breakthrough as a result of other voices in the United States saying to the North Koreans, we don't support your nuclear weapons program and we urge you to get rid of it in a verifiable way. Perhaps the most significant voice that had been added to the table was China. But the South Korean voice was vital, as was the Japanese and Russian voices, as well. So the assessment made by some that this is not a good deal is just flat wrong.

Now those who say the North Koreans have got to prove themselves by actually following through on the deal are right. And I'm one. This is a good first step. It will be a great deal for the North Korean people if their government follows through with the agreement, which, by the way, started in September of 2005. The agreement that we announced the other day was a continuation of the initial agreement in September of 2005. And for those who say that, well, this is an interesting moment and now it's up to the North Koreans to do that which they say they will do, I couldn't agree more with you.

And the first phase is to shut down and seal their facility, their main weapons manufacturing facility, and then disclose their programs. And for that, they'll receive some help from the South Koreans -- the equivalent of 50,000 tons of fuel.

And the second phase is to disable and abandon their facilities. In other words, this is a phased approach that will enable all of us to say to our respective populations we're watching carefully, and that there's an opportunity for the North Koreans to prove that this program can work.

If they do the second phase, there is a -- there will be about the equivalent of a million tons, minus the 50,000 tons, available food, economic assistance and fuel. I am particularly interested in helping get food to the North Korean people. Now, that's not going to happen until there's some verifiable measures that have been taken.

The financial measures that you're speaking about are really a separate item, because it has everything to do with -- it's a banking issue that our Treasury Department is analyzing to determine whether or not funds were illicitly moved through the bank.

Let's see, yes, sir.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I want to follow up on Iran one more time. You saying today that you do not know if senior members of the Iranian government are, in fact, behind these explosives -- that contradicts what U.S. officials said in Baghdad on Sunday. They said the highest levels of the Iranian government were behind this. It also -- it seems to square with what General Pace has been saying, but contradicts with what your own press secretary said yesterday.

THE PRESIDENT: Can I -- let me -- I can't say it more plainly: there are weapons in Iraq that are harming U.S. troops because of the Quds force. And as you know, I hope, that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. Whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds force to do this, I don't think we know. But we do know that they're there, and I intend to do something about it. And I've asked our commanders to do something about it. And we're going to protect our troops.

Q But given some of contradictions, Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: There's no contradiction that the weapons are there and they were provided by the Quds force, Ed.

Q What assurances can you give the American people that the intelligence this time will be accurate?

THE PRESIDENT: Ed, we know they're there, we know they're provided by the Quds force. We know the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. I don't think we know who picked up the phone and said to the Quds force, go do this, but we know it's a vital part of the Iranian government.

What matters is, is that we're responding. The idea that somehow we're manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing IEDs is preposterous, Ed. My job is to protect our troops. And when we find devices that are in that country that are hurting our troops, we're going to do something about it, pure and simple.

Now David says, does this mean you're trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I'm trying to protect our troops. That's what that means. And that's what the family members of our soldiers expect the Commander-in-Chief and those responsible for -- responsible for our troops on the ground. And we'll continue do so.

Yes, ma'am. You're not a "ma'am." Martha.

Q Mr. President, do you agree with the National Intelligence Estimate that we are now in a civil war in Iraq? And, also, you talk about victory, that you have to have victory in Iraq; it would be catastrophic if we didn't. You said again today that the enemy would come here, and yet you say it's not an open-ended commitment. How do you square those things?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, victory in Iraq is not going to be like victory in World War II. It's one of the challenges I have to explain to the American people what Iraq will look like in a situation that will enable us to say we have accomplished our mission.

First, the -- Iraq will be a society in which there is relative peace. I say "relative peace" because if it's like zero car bombings, it never will happen that way. It's like -- the fundamental question is, can we help this government have the security force level necessary to make sure that the ethnic cleansing that was taking place in certain neighborhoods has stopped.

Look, there's criminality in Iraq, as well as the ethnic violence. And we've got to help the Iraqis have a police force that deals with criminals. There is an al Qaeda presence in Iraq, as you know. I believe some of the spectacular bombings have been caused by al Qaeda. As a matter of fact, Zarqawi -- the terrorist Zarqawi, who is not an Iraqi, made it very clear that he intended to use violence to spur sectarian -- car bombings and spectacular violence to spur sectarian violence. And he did a good job of it.

And so there -- and then there's this disaffected Sunnis, people who believe that they should still be in power in spite of the fact that the Shia are the majority of the country, and they're willing to use violence to try to create enough chaos so they get back in power.

The reason I described that is that no matter what you call it, it's a complex situation, and it needed to be dealt with inside of Iraq. We've got people who say civil war, we've got people on the ground who don't believe it's a civil war. But nevertheless, it is -- it was dangerous enough that I had to make a decision to try to stop it, so that a government that is bound by a constitution, where the country feels relatively secure as a result of a security force that is even-handed in its application of security; a place where the vast resources of the country -- this is a relatively wealthy country, in that they've got a lot of hydrocarbons -- is shared equally amongst people; that there is a federalism that evolves under the Constitution where the local provinces have got authority, as well; and where people who may have made a political decision in the past and yet weren't criminals can participate in the life of the country; and is an ally in the war on terror. In other words, that there is a bulwark for moderation, as opposed to a safe haven for extremism. And that's what I would view as successful.

Q Do you believe it's a civil war, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I can only tell you what people on the ground, whose judgment -- it's hard for me, living in this beautiful White House, to give you an assessment, firsthand assessment. I haven't been there; you have, I haven't. But I do talk to people who are and people whose judgment I trust, and they would not qualify it as that. There are others who think it is. It is, however, a dangerous situation, thereby requiring action on my part.

Listen, I considered several options -- one, doing nothing, and that if you don't believe the situation was acceptable, then you should do something. And I didn't believe the situation was acceptable. Secondly, I could have listened to the advice of some and pulled back and hoped for the best. I felt that would be extraordinarily dangerous for this young democracy, that the violence in Baghdad could escalate mightily and then spill out across the country, creating chaos, vacuums into which extremism would flow; or make the decision I made, which is to reinforce the troops that were on the ground, to help this Iraqi government and security force do what they're supposed to do.

Sir. You dropped?

Q Bad hands. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: You know, you got the Blackberry and everything there.

Q I'd like to ask you about troop morale.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q As you know, a growing number of troops are on their second, third or fourth tour in Iraq. There have been a growing number of reports about declining morale among fighting men. I spoke personally to an infantry commander -- tough guy, patriot -- who says more and more of the troops are asking, questioning what they're doing here. Does this come as a surprise to you? Are you aware of this? Is it a minority opinion, is it a growing opinion, and does it concern you?

THE PRESIDENT: I am -- what I hear from commanders is that the place where there is concern is with the family members; that our troops, who have volunteered to serve the country, are willing to go into combat multiple times, but that the concern is with the people on the home front. And I can understand that. And I -- and that's one reason I go out of my way to constantly thank the family members. You know, I'm asking -- you're obviously talking to certain people, or a person. I'm talking to our commanders. Their job is to tell me what -- the situation on the ground. And I have -- I know there's concern about the home front. I haven't heard deep concern about the morale of the troops in Iraq.

Q -- tell you?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, they'd tell me that. Sure, absolutely. Just like they told me that they thought they needed extra troops to do the job. Sure.

Listen, I want our troops out of there as quickly as possible. But I also want to make sure that we get the job done. And I made the decision I made in order to do so.

Jim.

Q You spoke positively about the role of diplomacy in North Korea, and you obviously gave it a long time to work. Where does diplomacy fit in, in terms of Iran, and do we have any leverage if we try diplomacy there?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I guess you could call getting the EU3, China and Russia on the same page on a Chapter 7 Resolution successful diplomacy. I thought that was diplomacy. And it took a long time to get there. I mean, we're working hard to send a concerted message to the Iranians -- a focused, unified message that the world believes you should not have a nuclear program. And so this is a multilateral approach to try to get the government to alter its course on a nuclear weapons program.

I can't think of any more robust diplomacy than to have more than one party at the table talking to the Iranians. And we did so through the United Nations in this case. If they want us at the table, we're more than willing to come, but there must be a verifiable suspension of this weapons program that is causing such grave concern.

We'll continue to work with other nations. Matter of fact, I believe that it is easier for the United States to achieve certain diplomatic objectives when we work with other nations, which is precisely why we adopted the strategy we did in dealing with the Iranians.

Sheryl.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, it seems pretty clear where this Iraq vote in the House is headed. Your press secretary has said repeatedly that members of Congress ought to watch what they say and be concerned about the message that they're sending to our enemy. I'm wondering, do you believe that a vote of disapproval of your policy emboldens the enemy? Does it undermine your ability to carry out your policies there? And, also, what are you doing to persuade the Democratic leadership in Congress not to restrict your ability to spend money in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks. A couple of points. One, that I understand the Congress is going to express their opinion, and it's very clear where the Democrats are, and some Republicans; I know that. They didn't like the decision I made. And by the way, that doesn't mean that I think that they're not good, honorable citizens of the country. I just have a different opinion. I considered some of their opinions and felt like it would not lead to a country that could govern itself, sustain itself, and be an ally in the war on terror. One.

Secondly, my hope, however, is that this non-binding resolution doesn't try to turn into a binding policy that prevents our troops from doing that which I have asked them to do. That's why I keep reminding people, on the one hand you vote for David Petraeus in a unanimous way, and then the other hand you say that you're not going to fund the strategy that he thought was necessary to do his job, a strategy he testified to in front of the Senate. I'm going to make it very clear to the members of Congress, starting now, that they need to fund our troops and they need to make sure we have the flexibility necessary to get the job done.

Secondly, I find it interesting that there is a declaration about a plan that they have not given a chance to work. Again, I understand, I understand. The other part of your question?

Q It emboldens --

THE PRESIDENT: The only thing I can tell you is that when I speak, I'm very conscience [sic] about the audiences that are listening to my words. The first audience, obviously, is the American people. The second audience would be the troops and their families. That's why I appreciate the question about whether or not -- about the troop morale, it gave me a chance to talk to the families and how proud we are of them.

Third, no question people are watching what happens here in America. The enemy listens to what's happening, the Iraqi people listen to the words, the Iranians. People are wondering; they're wondering about our commitment to this cause. And one reason they wonder is that in a violent society, the people sometimes don't take risks for peace if they're worried about having to choose between different sides, different violent factions. As to whether or not this particular resolution is going to impact enemy thought, I can't tell you that.

But I can tell you that people are watching the debate. I do believe that the decision I made surprised people in the Middle East. And I think it's going to be very important, however, that the Iraqi government understand that this decision was not an open-ended commitment, that we expect Prime Minister Maliki to continue to make the hard decisions he's making.

Unlike some here, I'm a little more tolerant of a person who has been only in government for seven months and hasn't had a lot of -- and by the way, a government that hasn't had a lot of experience with democracy. And on the other hand, it's important for him to know, and I believe he does know, that the American people want to see some action and some positive results. And listen, I share that same desire.

The faster that the Maliki government steps up security in Baghdad, the more quickly we can get to what Baker-Hamilton recommended, and that is embedding and training over the rise in presence, protection of the territorial integrity of Iraq, and a strong hunt for al Qaeda, and terrorists who would try to use that country as safe haven. I thought the Baker-Hamilton made a lot of sense, their recommendations. We just weren't able to get there if the capital was up in flames. That's why I made the decision I made.

Yes, Peter.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, we've now learned through sworn testimony that at least three members of your administration, other than Scooter Libby, leaked Valerie Plame's identity to the media. None of these three is known to be under investigation. Without commenting on the Libby trial, then, can you tell us whether you authorized any of these three to do that, or were they authorized without your permission?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks, Pete. I'm not going to talk about any of it.

Q They're not under investigation, though?

THE PRESIDENT: Peter, I'm not going to talk about any of it.

Q How about pardons, sir? Many people are asking whether you might pardon --

THE PRESIDENT: Not going to talk about it, Peter. (Laughter.) Would you like to think of another question? Being the kind man that I am, I will recycle you. (Laughter.)

John.

Q Thank you --

THE PRESIDENT: You like that one? "Recycling" him. (Laughter.)

Q That took care of one of my questions, as well, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: If that's the case, sit down. Next question. (Laughter.)

Q A lot of our allies in Europe do a lot of business with Iran, so I wonder what your thoughts are about how you further tighten the financial pressure on Iran, in particular, if it also means economic pain for a lot of our allies?

THE PRESIDENT: It's an interesting question. One of the problems -- not specifically on this issue, just in general -- let's put it this way, money trumps peace, sometimes. In other words, commercial interests are very powerful interests throughout the world. And part of the issue in convincing people to put sanctions on a specific country is to convince them that it's in the world's interest that they forgo their own financial interest.

And John, that's why sometimes it's tough to get tough economic sanctions on countries. And I'm not making any comment about any particular country, but you touched on a very interesting point.

And so, therefore, we're constantly working with nations to convince them that what really matters in the long run is to have the environment so peace can flourish. In the Iranian case, I firmly believe that if they were to have a weapon, it would make it difficult for peace to flourish. And, therefore, I'm working with people to make sure that that concern trumps whatever commercial interests may be preventing governments from acting. I make no specific accusation with that statement. It's a broad statement. But it's an accurate assessment of what sometimes can halt multilateral diplomacy from working.

Let's see here. Ann.

Q Thank you. Iraq is not only being debated in Congress, but it's going to be debated in the presidential election that's coming ahead. Is that debate -- is there a chance that that is going to hurt your progress in Iraq? And is it appropriate at some point, perhaps, for the government to brief the presidential candidates so they have a better understanding of what it is you're trying to do?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for that question. I thought for a minute you were going to try to get me to comment on the presidential race, and I'd just like to establish some ground rules here with those of you who are stuck following me for the next little less than two years: I will resist all temptation to become the pundit-in-chief and commenting upon every twist and turn of the presidential campaign. As much as I like politics, and I'm intrigued by the race -- it's very similar to how I deftly handled Baker's question -- I won't comment.

Secondly, I remember a member of Congress came to me before one of my speeches -- I think it was the Iraq speech, as opposed to the State of the Union speech, and said, you'd better be eloquent in order to convince the American people to support this plan. He didn't say "articulate," he said, "eloquent." (Laughter.) And my point to the person was, what really matters is what happens on the ground. I can talk all day long, but what really matters to the American people is to see progress -- which leads to your point, Martha -- and that is, progress can best be measured by whether or not the people can see noticeable changes of security inside the capital city. In this case, the Baghdad security plan has got to yield peace in certain mixed neighborhoods, for example.

And so, therefore, to the extent that it affects votes, speeches, perceptions, elections, what really is going to matter is what happens, ultimately. And that's all I really care to comment about it. You know, it's --

Q -- reelection --

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not running. (Laughter.) And I know that's going to disappoint some of you. But, anyway, that's pundit-in-chief type questions, so I'm not going to answer those. You're trying to get me to be pundit-in-chief.

Let's see here. Hutch.

Q Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks.

Q I'd like to follow on Sheryl's question about undermining the troops. Do you have to support the war to support the war here? I mean, if you're one of those Americans that thinks you've made a terrible mistake, that it's destined to end badly, what do you do? If they speak out, are they by definition undermining the troops?

THE PRESIDENT: No, she actually asked "the enemy," not "the troops." But I'll be glad to answer your question. No, I don't think so at all. I think you can be against my decision and support the troops, absolutely. But the proof will be whether or not you provide them the money necessary to do the mission.

I said early in my comment -- my answer to Sheryl was, somebody who doesn't agree with my policy is just as patriotic a person as I am. Your question is valid. Can somebody say, we disagree with your tactics or strategy, but we support the military -- absolutely, sure. But what's going to be interesting is if they don't provide the flexibility and support for our troops that are there to enforce the strategy that David Petraeus, the general on the ground, thinks is necessary to accomplish the mission.

Michael. Michael, who do you work for? (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, I work for Politico.com.

THE PRESIDENT: Pardon me? Politico.com?

Q Yes, sir. Today. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: You want a moment to explain to the American people exactly what -- (laughter.)

Q Mr. President, thank you for the question. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Quit being so evasive.

Q You should read it.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it good? You like it?

Q David Gregory --

THE PRESIDENT: David Gregory likes it. I can see the making of a testimonial. (Laughter.) Anyway, go ahead, please.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You spoke hopefully about your ability to work with Democrats, their willingness to work with you in this new world. I wonder how that's going so far, what you've learned about how they think, and does the current debate constitute grounds for divorce?

THE PRESIDENT: Interesting way to put it. First of all, I think they're patriotic people who care about our country -- back to Hutch's penetrating comment, or question. I do. I was very appreciative of the reception I got at the State of the Union. It was a cordial, respectful reception that gave me the chance to talk about what I believe. I was also very grateful for the reception I received at the Democratic retreat that I went to there in Virginia.

You know, my impression of the meeting there was that we share a lot in common; we're people that actually put filing papers down and ran for office, we were willing to put our families through the grind of politics, we wanted to serve our country, that we care deeply about what takes place in Washington, America and the world.

My hope is, is that we can get positive pieces of legislation passed. I think there's a lot of expectation that the difference of opinion on Iraq would make it impossible for us to work on other areas. I disagree with that assessment. And I hope I'm right, and the best way to determine whether I'm right is will I be able to sign legislation that we have been able to work on.

One such piece of policy is a balanced budget. There seems to be agreement that we should have a balanced budget. I laid out one way forward to achieve that balance. And it shows that we can balance the budget without raising taxes and do so in a five-year horizon. And I'd like to work with the Democrat leadership, as well as, obviously, my Republican folks, to get it done.

Secondly, an interesting opportunity is immigration. As you know, I strongly believe that we need to enforce our borders and that -- and have taken steps to do so. But I also believe that in order to enforce the borders, we need a temporary worker program so that people don't try to sneak in the country to work, that they can come in an orderly fashion, and take the pressure off the Border Patrol agents that we've got out there, so that the Border Patrol agents don't focus on workers that are doing jobs Americans aren't doing, but are focusing on terrorists and criminal elements, gun runners, to keep the country -- both our countries safe -- Mexico and the United States safe.

I also know that we need to deal with the people who are here -- the 12 million people who are here illegally. I have said multiple times that we can't kick them out of our country. It doesn't make any sense to me to try to do that, and I don't think -- maybe some feel that way, but I don't feel that way. But I also don't believe we should give them automatic amnesty -- automatic citizenship, which I view as amnesty. And look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to have a comprehensive immigration plan.

Energy is an opportunity for us to work together. We've done a lot of work in the past on promoting alterative sources of energy. America has done more than any nation in the world in promoting alternatives and renewables, all aiming to make sure our economy grows, that we have energy independence, and that we're good stewards of the environment. And I look forward to working with the Democrats on the Energy Independence Initiative I laid out.

One such initiative was the mandatory fuel standards that relies upon alternative fuel to power automobiles. Ethanol is the first and most notable place where we can start, but we also need to spend monies to develop technologies that will enable us to make energy out of products other than corn -- switchgrass or wood chips, for example.

The problem with relying only on corn is that -- by the way, when the demand for corn stays high, the price tends to go up, and your hog farmer gets disgruntled with the alternative energy plan. And, therefore, what's going to matter is that new technologies come online as quickly as possible to take the pressure off of corn ethanol, or corn, as a result of being used in ethanol, and we can work with Congress to do that. That's an area we can work.

Health care. I got a letter the other day from a group of Republican and Democrat senators talking about the desire to work on health care. And they liked some of my ideas. But my only point is that there's an opportunity for us to work together to help the uninsured have private insurance so they can be -- so they can get good health care. And there's an opportunity to work together there.

The governors are coming into town soon, and I'm going to have Secretary Leavitt describe to them the affordable grants program that is a part of our comprehensive approach, including rewriting the tax code.

Finally, No Child Left Behind needs to be reauthorized. I fully understand that if you read your newspaper articles -- which I do sometimes -- and listen carefully, you'll hear voices in both parties saying they don't like No Child Left Behind --it's too much testing, or, we don't want to be held to account, or whatever they say. The bill is working. It makes a lot of sense.

There's an income gap in America that I talked about when I went to Wall Street. And what's clear to me is that our kids have got to have education so that in this global economy, the jobs of the 21st century stay here at home. And it starts with good education. And, therefore, I will argue vociferously the No Child Left Behind Act needs to be reauthorized, it's working, it's an important piece of legislation, and will reach out to Democrat members, as well as Republican members, to get this bill reauthorized.

And so there's a lot of areas, Mike. I'd say it's a little early in the process. This is a two-year term. We've got time to work together to get important pieces of legislation done. And I'd like to start. As a matter of fact, this afternoon I've got members of both parties, both chambers coming down to visit about how we can continue to work together to get some legislation done.

As I told the Democrats, and as the Democrats have made clear to me in my visits, that neither of us are going to abandon our principles, that I don't expect them to change their principles and they shouldn't expect me to. But there's ways for us to work together to achieve legislative successes for the common good. That's what the American people want to see, and that's what I believe we can do. Is it going to take work? Yes, it's going to take work. But it's okay, that's why you pay us all this money.

Richard.

Q Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Last question, then I've got to go have lunch with Bob Gates, Secretary of the Defense.

What are you looking at? Checking the time? For the viewer out there -- you're getting a big -- timekeeper and everything. (Laughter.)

Q I don't mean to interrupt. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I just thought he was looking at the watch because he was getting bored. I wasn't sure, you know?

Q I'm never bored.

THE PRESIDENT: Remember the debates?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, Republican and Democratic Presidents before you sat down for face-to-face talks with the Soviet Union, a nation that was clearly hostile, tyrannical, and had a huge nuclear arsenal. Why do you think that face-to-face talks between yourself and the leadership of Iran would be any more compromising for you?

THE PRESIDENT: Richard, if I thought we could achieve success, I would sit down. But I don't think we can achieve success right now. And, therefore, we'll want to work with other nations. I think that we're more likely to achieve our goals when others are involved, as well. I really don't want to put the situation -- let me put it this way: I want to make sure in the Iranian issue that the whole world stays engaged, because I believe that's a more effective way of convincing the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions. That's why.

Look, this is a world in which -- and I'm not suggesting you're this way -- but this is a world in which people say, meet -- sit down and meet. And my answer is, if it yields results; that's what I'm interested in. And so I believe the strategy that -- and by the way, I remember this during the North Korean issue, debate. People kept saying, well, all you've got to do is sit down with the guy. And I kept saying, well, I think it's going to be more effective if we have other people at the table with us saying the same thing, so that just in case he decides not to honor the agreement, there will be other people saying the same thing I'll say, which is, you said one thing, you did another. It will make it easier for us to send that message that the world is pretty well united in solving this problem peacefully.

And so that's why I made the decision I made. It sounds tempting for somebody to say, all you've got to do is sit down with the people. I'm in a little different position in that I'm trying to achieve certain objectives. And we are making progress on the Iranian issue. If you step back to early on in the process, there was doubt as to whether or not the world would come together, sometimes because of the reason John mentioned. There were conflicting interests. And I believe we are making good progress toward solving this issue peacefully.

And we'll continue to try to solve the issue peacefully. It's an important issue whether or not Iran ends up with nuclear weapons. It's one of these issues that people are going to look back and say, you know, how come they couldn't see the impending danger? What happened to them? You've heard me say that often about what would happen if we don't -- if we were to abandon our efforts in the Middle East for stability and peace, through forms of government that are more likely to defeat an extremist ideology that would like to be able to prevail.

And it's a -- at any rate, that's why I made the decision I made. Presidents have to weigh different options all the time. Look, I fully understand there are some who are -- don't agree with every decision I make. I hope the American people understand I make those decisions because I believe it's going to yield the peace that we all want.

Listen, thank you for your time. I enjoyed it very much.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070214-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 14 2007, 04:02 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
February 14, 2007

Vice President's Remarks at the National Association of Manufacturers Breakfast Meeting
J.W. Marriott
Washington, D.C.



8:30 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thank you all very much. Thank you, John, and I appreciate the warm welcome and the chance to be here today with all of you. I especially want to welcome everybody from out of town. It's good to be here. The streets are kind of bad outside, but I guess you're all staying in the hotel, so that wasn't a worry for all of you. But the good news is, the federal government's shut down today. (Laughter.) So everybody's safe. (Laughter.) Just consider this your Valentine's Day present. (Laughter.)

I see many friends in the room this morning, starting, of course, with John Engler, who invited me here -- a great friend of mine for many, many years, a fine public servant, and obviously now a great leader for America's manufacturers.

As members of the NAM, you belong to a respected organization, and you lead a vital sector of the nation's economy. Our manufacturers have faced the unrelenting challenges of competition and globalization, and you've shown the best qualities of the free enterprise system. Manufacturing drives the growth of this economy; it accounts for the majority of America's exports; and it gets more productive each and every year. That productivity, in turn, has helped the export of manufactured goods reach their highest level in history. All by itself, America's manufacturing sector would be the eighth largest economy in the entire world. The members of the NAM know a thing or two about hard work and high quality. You're people of energy and commitment and creativity. And I might add, in this time of national challenge, you're also good citizens -- patriots, veterans, and civic leaders who proudly fly the flag and support the men and women of the United States military. (Applause.)

This week in Washington you've brought together leading manufacturers from across the country -- including, I'm told, at least one with facilities in the best place of all, my home state of Wyoming. Welcome to Washington.

It was my good fortune to serve Wyoming for more than a decade in the House of Representatives, and I was better equipped for the job every time I got advice and input from leaders in the private sector. Folks in Washington simply cannot know the real impact of the laws we make unless we hear from the people who live under those laws. And if the goal is economic growth and more jobs, Washington needs to listen to the ones who actually go out there and make the risk, invest the money, build the plants, hire the workers, and do everything else that makes this economy go.

That's why I'm glad you're here for meetings with members of the administration and members of Congress. There's a lot on the agenda. And with a new Congress and a divided government, more than a few people wonder if we can get anything done in the nation's capital. The fact is that we can, and the American people are expecting us to. We have bigger business here than any issue that may set us apart. Our job is to ensure the strength and the success of America in the world. And that work begins right here at home.

Our strength and success depend on a healthy, growing economy -- and by most any measure, that is what we have today. America has now seen five years of uninterrupted economic growth, in a recovery that has generated nearly seven-and-a-half million new jobs. When people across the world look at our economy they see low inflation, low unemployment, and the fastest growth of any major industrialized nation in the world. Wages are rising, too, allowing families to meet their budgets and to build a better future.

To continue this progress, I believe we need to operate by the philosophy of Ronald Reagan -- that government should "work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government," Reagan said, "can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it."

Those principles set an agenda for our country. Nobody can sit in an office in Washington, D.C. and decide to create prosperity. What we can do, and what we must do, is create an environment in which consumers have the confidence to spend, savers the confidence to save, and entrepreneurs the confidence to invest and to hire new employees. And one of the surest ways to create that climate is to leave as many resources as possible in the hands of the people themselves.

For that reason, at the start of this Administration in 2001, President Bush asked Congress to pass significant, broad-based tax relief. And the House and the Senate, with bipartisan support, responded with historic pro-growth legislation. We reduced taxes for every American who pays income taxes. We doubled the child tax credit and reduced the marriage penalty. In 2003, we created new incentives for small businesses to invest. And in order to lower the cost of capital, and to encourage firms to expand and to hire new workers, we reduced the tax rate on dividends and capital gains.

Now the results are clear for all to see: the Bush tax policy has been right for the country. If you think of all that has happened in these eventful years -- the recession we inherited, terrorist attacks, two wars, corporate scandals, natural disasters, and a tripling in the price of oil -- it's remarkable how tremendously resilient this economy has been. In fact, since 2001, our GDP has grown by 16 percent. Let me put that another way: In less than six years' time, the American economy has expanded by an amount greater than the entire economy of Canada.

Milton Friedman once said that "most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one can gain only at the expense of another." We've shown once again that the right policies can make the pie a lot bigger, and that gains can be widely shared. We've also disproven maybe the biggest, most persistent fallacy in Washington, and that's the idea that pro-growth tax cuts are incompatible with fiscal discipline.

The fact is that pro-growth tax cuts once again have helped to drive an economic expansion that has, in turn, generated higher-than-projected revenues. You might also recall that back in 2004, President Bush set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009. This pledge was greeted with great skepticism, to put it mildly. Yet we met that target in 2006, three years ahead of schedule.

All told, federal tax receipts have gone up by more than $520 billion in the last two years. That's the largest two-year increase in our history. By now it's time for even the skeptics to admit that a lower federal tax burden is a powerful driver of investment, growth, and new jobs for American workers. And that increased economic activity, in turn, generates revenue for the federal government. (Applause.)

Despite the growth in revenues, we still have to hold the line on spending -- and on that score there's plenty to do. Last week the President submitted a budget that continues reducing the deficit each year, and balances the budget by 2012 without new taxes. To meet that goal, we need to set the right priorities. The first priority is to remember that we are a nation at war, and we cannot cut corners on homeland security or defense. Enemies are trying to hit us again and kill more Americans inside our own country. Overseas, we have troops in the field and reinforcements on the way. Job number one is to provide the resources necessary to protect the American people, and to meet all the needs of the United States Armed Forces.

Setting priorities for the budget also means dealing with the matter of Congressional earmarks -- those items that get slipped into spending bills at the last minute. There were more than 10,000 of them alone in 2005. And 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House or Senate -- they're simply dropped into committee reports and aren't even part of the legislation. Congress didn't pass them into law. The President didn't sign them into law. Yet somehow they get treated as having the force of law. We're going to work with Congress to reform the budget process to get these earmarks under control. (Applause.)

Spending discipline, budget reform, and, yes, entitlement reform are vital to keeping our economy strong. And so is a low-tax policy that promotes growth, rewards enterprise, and keeps government within its proper limits. Under current law, many of the Bush tax cuts are still set to expire over the next few years. We feel strongly that Congress should make all of the tax cuts permanent -- and that includes ending the federal death tax. (Applause.)

We're also committed to ensuring that America remains the world's leading innovator. One way to do that is to extend the R&D tax credit, and to make permanent in federal law the R&D tax credit. A majority of industrial R&D occurs in manufacturing, and the benefits extend throughout our economy. It's critical to the competitive strength of our country, so it's plain common sense for the government to encourage private R&D in every way possible.

If America is to remain the world's leading innovator, and the world's largest economy, and the world's biggest exporter, we also have to make sure this country is always the world's best place to do business. A good place to start is health care. This nation's health care system is second to none. But many employers will tell you that health insurance is one of the fastest-growing costs they face. Every year they find it harder and harder to cover their workers, and those rising costs absorb resources that might otherwise go for pay raises for the work force.

The President has a comprehensive agenda to help Americans gain better access to private health insurance. In the last Congress we improved access to care with Health Savings Accounts, which allow a person to save money for medical expenses tax free, and to keep that money even if they move to a different job. We continue to press for Association Health Plans, so that small firms can join together to get health care at the same discount as big companies. And all Americans will be better off if Congress passes medical liability reform, so that health costs are not driven up any further by trial lawyers and predatory lawsuits. (Applause.)

The President is also asking Congress to pass tax reform to help make coverage more affordable and accessible. Part of the reason health care is so expensive today is that the tax code penalizes Americans who are not covered at work, and it subsidizes people who choose the most expensive plans. To fix that, we're proposing a standard deduction for every worker who has private health insurance, no matter where they get it from. We're not touching the corporate tax side; employers will still be able to expense the cost of compensation for their workers. What's new is that employers and workers will be better able to choose the right mix of wages and health insurance, without the tax code distorting those decisions.

Under the President's plan, more than 100 million Americans now covered by employer-provided insurance would actually have lower tax bills. This reform would also level the playing field, so the self-employed or small business worker would get the same tax advantage available to the big company. This would be a positive step toward covering the millions in our country who aren't covered at work and struggle to afford it on their own. We believe changing the tax code is absolutely necessary to getting coverage to more Americans, and to getting a handle on the rising costs of health care.

In this world, America's strength and success have long relied on stable, affordable supplies of energy. As the President told Congress last month, it's in the nation's vital interest to diversify the energy supply, and that the way forward is through technology. We've invested about $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy sources. We're changing the way America generates electricity, by investing in clean coal technology, wind and solar power, and safe nuclear power. We're also seeing great promise in new battery technology that will allow automobiles to go 20 or more miles on stored power -- and we're talking here about real cars, not just little ones that look like golf carts.

We're determined to maintain America's leadership in economic growth, in technology development, and in environmental stewardship. The President has proposed much greater usage of renewable fuels, with higher vehicle fuel economy, and more domestic production -- all of which is intended to enhance our energy security. It's also very important to increase domestic oil and gas production in environmentally responsible ways, in places like the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and off the shores of willing states. (Applause.) We took an important step last December, when the President signed a bill that opens up new areas of production of the Outer Continental Shelf. To further protect Americans against sudden disruptions in the oil supply, he's also directed the Department of Energy to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and asked Congress to double its current capacity -- and the sooner we do that, the better.

America's strength and success also depends on a confident, forward-looking trade policy. The NAM has hosted President Bush, and you know our administration's basic outlook on global trade. We believe in fairness. The United States has opened up our market to other countries, and they need to do the same for us. Trade is worthwhile only if the buying and selling is fair and square on both sides, across the board.

When we took office, America had only a few free trade agreements in effect. Now we have more than a dozen. And even though those countries make up less than one-tenth of the global economy, they take in more than 40 percent of America's exports. That's good for your sector, because one in every six manufacturing jobs is tied directly to trade. It's in our national interest to have a world that trades in freedom. So we're asking Congress to extend Trade Promotion Authority, and we're committed to completing the Doha round of trade talks. (Applause.)

Manufacturers understand, better than most, that trade can be disruptive for some of our fellow citizens. Some economists say that's part of the price we pay to have such a dynamic, flexible economy. But we can help fellow citizens who take the hardest hit. To ease the transition for those Americans, we've provided more direct assistance for retraining, for relocation, and community college aid than any other administration. Government cannot prevent the transformation of the economy -- indeed, a dynamic economy is one of our great strengths -- but we can and will help these workers to get back in the game.

America has the finest labor force in the world, and part of that labor force is composed of men and women from other nations. All of us have roots in some other part of the world, and the United States is a better country for the striving spirit of immigrants. Yet borders and laws alike must be respected. We must know, at all times, who is in our country and why they are here. We must reform our policies on highly skilled immigrants so America continues to attract the best and the brightest in the world. And we can take pressure off the border with a temporary worker program here at home. The time has come for comprehensive, fair-minded immigration reform, and we're asking Congress to pass it into law this year.

America is also a country that takes very seriously the right of men and women to work, and to organize within the law. The American labor movement has a proud history and has long reflected a basic principle of our democracy: fair elections decided by secret ballots. This principle will be put to a test in Congress this year. It's important for everyone in the debate to remember that secret ballots protect workers from intimidation, and ensure the integrity of the process. (Applause.) Beyond that, if workers do decide to form a union, they and their employer should be able to negotiate without having terms forced on them. Our administration rejects any attempt to short-circuit the rights of workers. We will defend their right to vote yes or no by secret ballot, and their right to fair bargaining. H.R. 800 violates these principles, and if it is sent to the President, he will veto the bill. (Applause.)

Of these and many other priorities, ladies and gentlemen, the Congress has heard from the President. Now it's time for Congress to hear from the American people. Most of you come from outside Washington, and your voices are going to make a difference in the months ahead. With more than 10,000 member organizations -- responsible for some 14 million jobs -- you, as much as anybody, are affected by the outcome of the debates in this city. By the same token, as much as any other private group, you can help shape that outcome. You understand what makes our economy run -- how things are made, how jobs are created, how to keep an economy growing. You're respected in your communities, and known as voices of common sense. And it's good that you're here.

The President and I hope to count on your support. We realize, of course, that that support must be earned. So I'm prepared to do my part now, by taking a few questions from the audience.

Thank you very much.

MR. ENGLER: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. That was terrific and we appreciate the announcement on the card check legislation. That's something that's strongly opposed by members of the NAM and a priority that we're talking with the members of Congress on.

Let me -- I've got a few questions that were given to me. One deals with the energy issue, and concerns the Secretary of Energy and testimony from House Energy Committee -- apparently indicating that the Department of Energy is unable to issue loan guarantees due to some of the language that's in the House continuing resolution. And we've got about a hundred -- as many as 140 energy projects that are stalled because of this. I know this is language going back to 2005. Is there any optimism or any procedures that might be used to be able to move the projects forward under current DOE guidelines? A little bit technical, but energy security is one of the important principles that your administration has stood for and something we're keenly in need of; we need kilowatts.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're still wrestling with the CR and its impact, in many respects. Last year we worked through two appropriations bills -- the defense bill and the MilCon bill, or homeland security bill. We were left at the end of the year with all the other appropriations bills, and instead of work through those and pass them as we ordinarily would, one by one, or fold them all into an omnibus appropriations bill, in effect, what's been done is a continuing resolution that expires tomorrow, I believe.

And a CR is more restrictive than any of those other ways of going forward. We're having trouble, for example, with the Base Closing and Realignment Commission, the BRAC process, in terms of how those decisions to, in effect, operate at last year's levels under the CR will affect all of these other projects as well, too. Some adjustments are being made; I don't know if that particular area is being addressed in the bill. They are trying to take some of that into account, but it's going to be difficult to get much flexibility built into the system, I would think, until we move forward with this year's appropriations bills. That process should begin shortly. And, of course, the CR will be in force until September, and then we'll have new appropriations bills.

MR. ENGLER: U.S. economic competitiveness is certainly closely linked to innovation and the success of the high tech industry. Will the administration give priority to this question, to updating export controls -- and I guess deemed exports, the workforce, as well, would be part of that. But is that something that -- there's a lot of work being done on that and we think there's some opportunities that sort of create a win-win for both national security and U.S. exports.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is -- this gets into the whole area of CFIUS, important program that oversees these issues with respect to sensitive subjects and acquisitions and so forth, and that legislation is being revised now to try to strengthen that entire process. So I expect there will be some legislative action in this area sometime this year.

MR. ENGLER: A couple of trade-related questions. The first one, recent news reports suggest White House and Congress may be close to an agreement on extending Trade Promotion Authority. Is that right? What about prospects for free trade agreements -- Peru and Colombia -- and the negotiation of others, like Korea? You addressed that in part in your prepared text, but can you elaborate on where we are in working on a deal?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, our Trade Promotion Authority, of course, runs out this year. And our ability to move forward to continue to advance the trade agenda that we've had in the past is going to depend upon getting Trade Promotion Authority extended. I think it's going to be a tough fight. We're strongly supportive of it, and we think it's very important the President continue to have that authority, but we're going to need help on Capitol Hill, without question. And these trade issues have gotten to be very, very difficult. The Central American Free Trade Agreement that we passed here a year or two ago was, frankly, one of the toughest votes I've been involved in, in the last six years. It was root, hog or die for every single one of those votes.

So we need to continue to push hard on it, but I would hope it would be a priority for the NAM to make sure your members of Congress understand how important this is.

The Doha round, of course, is crucial here going forward. We continue to work on it -- the round at Davos conference in Switzerland, here, a week or two ago, the trade ministers met; the major countries that are involved in these negotiations are trying to move the ball forward.

I'm told our people are somewhat more optimistic now than they were, when they get that done. Right now, the focus in that negotiation is on agriculture. That's the primary hangup. But the big winner here going forward, if we can get the agriculture problem solved, is in the whole area of services, which would be a huge boom to the American economy.

And so it's -- I'd say we're pushing the rock uphill. But we're still pushing. We're going to continue to push hard. We think it's important not to give up in our efforts to continue to advance an aggressive trade agenda.

MR. ENGLER: I think we can do one more and still keep our promise to have you free by 9:00 a.m. This one deals with -- specifically with China. Lots of questions. But the U.S.-China trade relationship is certainly one that has raised all kinds of issues with inside the NAM. There's an appreciation for Secretary Paulson's strategic initiative that's underway, and a recognition that the Chinese leadership is coming here in the spring -- their first visit here, but the return visit.

We've noted also -- and I know the issues like everything from currency to intellectual property to the subsidization -- the administration has been taking what seems to be a firmer line in terms of adhering to WTO compliance. Is there anything relative just to the relationship with China that you have -- can offer, I guess, to this audience some reassurance that everybody has to play by the same rules? And I think, again, you said that well in the remarks.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. Well, I sense we're making progress where China is concerned. It's always been a source of frustration for a lot of us. A big problem I've had over the years is the intellectual property rights and the fact that they don't treat -- or they don't live up to international standards with respect to that.

And lots of times, when you go and address the issue, they'll talk a good game, but then the follow-through is weak. And I remember being over there once, meeting with a group of American businessmen in Shanghai, and we were talking about the problem of intellectual property rights. And they were telling me about a company that manufactures the Hummer, the General Motors Hummer -- only it's not General Motors. It's a local company over there doing this exact replica that looks exactly like the Hummer. And I asked them, what do they say when you point out the fact that it's an exact replica of an American product? They said, oh, it's just a coincidence. (Laughter.)

So that's a problem, without question, and that attitude. But we hammer and hammer and hammer at it. We have made progress in that regard. I think one of the best and most positive developments, where China is concerned, has been Hank Paulson coming on board, and Hank has devoted a lot of time to this. He had great relationships in China before he gave up his job at Goldman and joined the company -- administration as the Secretary of the Treasury.

He had about half the Cabinet over there a few weeks ago to focus on this whole range of issues. I think we've made progress on the currency front in terms of getting them to allow their currency to float and not be as directly pegged to the U.S. dollar as it has been in the past.

And what we've done now, I think, thanks to Hank's leadership, with the President's active support, is to place a lot of these issues front and center for the Chinese so they understand how important they are to us and the importance of addressing these in terms of our overall relationship. And so I think we've got them in a good place now. It will be a matter of follow-through and continuing to push on that agenda. But when the Secretary of the Treasury shows up in Beijing with half the U.S. Cabinet, they know we're deadly serious and we want to work these issues and we want to make progress on them. So we'll continue to push it.

MR. ENGLER: Ladies and gentlemen, lets give the Vice President a round of applause. Thank you very much for joining us.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070214-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 14 2007, 04:03 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2007

Statement on Federal Disaster Assistance for Washington




The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Washington and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the area struck by a severe winter storm, landslides, and mudslides during the period of December 14-15, 2006.

Federal funding is available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm, landslides, and mudslides in Chelan, Clark, Clallam, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, King, Klickitat, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Thurston, and Wahkiakum Counties.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

R. David Paulison, Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Elizabeth Turner as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FEMA said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the State and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FEMA (202) 646-4600.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070214-3.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 15 2007, 03:25 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 15, 2007

President Bush Discusses Progress in Afghanistan, Global War on Terror
The Mayflower Hotel
Washington, D.C.

10:05 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. (Laughter.) That's got kind of a nice ring to it. (Laughter.) Chris, thanks for inviting me. I appreciate the chance to come and share some thoughts with the men and women of AEI. I admire AEI a lot -- I'm sure you know that. After all, I have been consistently borrowing some of your best people. More than 20 AEI scholars have worked in my administration. A few have returned to the fold -- you'll have to wait two more years to get another one to return to the fold. wick Cheney is occupied. (Laughter.) He sends his best.

I appreciate what the AEI stands for. This Institute has been a tireless voice for the principles of individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government, and a strong national defense. And no one embodied these principles better than the late Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. (Applause.) She was a professor, author, diplomat, presidential advisor, and a key architect in our victory in the Cold War.

In 2003, I had the honor of asking her to lead the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. I would like to share with you what she told that commission. She said, "[America's] national policy is to assert that all human beings are born free. All human beings are equal in inherent rights and human dignity." That's the policy of the Bush administration, as well. I believe in the universality of freedom, and I believe that this country, this grand country of ours, has an obligation to help people realize the blessings of freedom. I appreciate so very much that Jeane Kirkpatrick was such a well-spoken advocate for that basic truth. I am proud to join you in paying tribute to her life and the legacy of a great American stateswoman.

I appreciate the board of directors of the AEI for giving me this forum. Thanks for trying to stay on the leading edge of thought, as well. It's really important that ideas be conceived, circulated and embraced. I want to thank members of the Congress who have joined us today -- there they are. Good, yes. (Laughter.) All friends -- Pete King from New York, Trent Franks from Arizona, Mario Diaz-Balart from Florida, and fellow Texan Mike McCaul. Thanks for coming. Appreciate you being here. (Applause.) I thank the members of the diplomatic corps who have joined us; proud you're here. Thanks for taking time out of a busy schedule to come and hear this address. I appreciate members of the United States Armed Forces who have joined us. I thank the dignitaries and friends of the AEI and members of my administration who have joined. Don't linger. (Laughter.) Get back to work, but thank you for being here. (Laughter.) I fully expect you to stay awake for the entire address.

As scholars and thinkers, you are contributing to a nationwide debate about the direction of the war on terror. A vigorous debate is healthy for our country, it really is, and I welcome the debate. It's one of the true hallmarks of a free society, where people can get up and express their beliefs in open forum. Yet five years into this war, there is one principle of which every member of every party should be able to agree on -- in other words, after all the debate, there is one thing we all ought to be able to agree on, and that is: We've got to fight the terrorists overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home again.

We're acting on that principle. Since the attacks of September the 11th, we have been on the offense. I believe the best way to do our duty in securing the homeland is to stay on the offense. And we're not alone. That's what our fellow citizens have got to understand. We're not in this fight against extremists and murders alone.

Recently in the Philippines, that country's special forces conducted raids in which they killed two top leaders of an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization -- a group that we believe was responsible for kidnapping four American citizens and killing two of them. In Tunisia, authorities recently broke up a terrorist cell that was planning to attack the American and British Embassies. In Spain, police captured several fugitives wanted for aiding the escape of terrorists responsible for the Madrid train bombings. And in the past year, nations including Denmark, Italy, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Turkey, Canada, and Britain have broken up terrorist cells. The enemy is active, and so are those of us who love freedom. It's in the interests of the United States to encourage other nations not to relent and not to give in, but to keep the pressure on those who try to have their way by murdering the innocent. And that's exactly what we'll continue to do.

This war against the terrorists, this war to protect ourselves, takes place on many fronts. One such front is Iraq. We're on the offense in Iraq, as we should be, against extremists and killers. I recently announced a new strategy for Iraq -- it's a plan that demands more from the Iraqi government. Not only do we demand more from the Iraqi government, but so do the Iraqi people demand more from the Iraqi government. They want to live in peace. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand a mother in downtown Baghdad wants her child to be able to walk the streets peacefully, just like mothers here in America want their children to be able to go to a playground and play peacefully.

I made Baghdad the top security priority. In other words, it's important, in order to achieve our objective, that the capital city of this grand country be secure. And I sent reinforcements to our troops so they can accomplish that mission. I spent a lot of time with members of my administration thinking about the way forward in Iraq. And we listened to a lot of opinions and a lot of different ideas. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success.

And the reason why I mention success is, it's important for us to succeed. It's important for us to help this young democracy fight off the extremists so moderation can prevail. It's important for us to stand with this young democracy as they live -- as they try to build a society under the most modern constitution written in the Middle East, a constitution approved by millions of their citizens.

One of the interesting things that I have found here in Washington is there is strong disagreement about what to do to succeed, but there is strong agreement that we should not fail. People understand the consequences of failure. If we were to leave this young democracy before the job is done, there would be chaos, and out of chaos would become vacuums, and into those power vacuums would flow extremists who would be emboldened; extremists who want to find safe haven.

As we think about this important front in the war against extremists and terrorists, it's important for our fellow citizens to recognize this truth: If we were to leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy would follow us home.

Our new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is now on the ground in Baghdad. I visited him by secure video yesterday. He reports that coalition troops are arriving on schedule. He says the Iraqi government is following through on its commitment to deploy three additional army brigades in the capital. Prime Minister Maliki has said part of our strategy is to put more Iraqis in the fight in the capital city to achieve our objective, and he's doing that. So far, coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces has been good -- they are beginning joint operations to secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, and insurgents, and the criminals, and the roaming death squads. They're doing what the Iraqi people want in Baghdad -- they want a peaceful life.

The initial signs of progress are encouraging. Yet it's important for us to recognize that this is the beginning of what will be a difficult operation in the Iraqi capital. Our troops are risking their lives. As they carry out the new strategy, they need our patience, and they need our support. (Applause.) When General Petraeus' nomination was considered three weeks ago in the United States Senate, the senators voted unanimously to confirm him to his new position, and I appreciate that affirmation, that strong statement for this good General.

Now, the House is debating a resolution that disapproves of our new strategy. This may become the first time in the history of the United States Congress that it has voted to send a new commander into battle and then voted to oppose his plan that is necessary to succeed in that battle.

Members of Congress have every right to express their opinion -- and I fully expect them to do so. The resolution they are debating is non-binding. Soon the Congress is going to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding -- a bill to provide emergency funding for our troops. Our men and women in uniform are counting on their elected leaders to provide them with the support they need to accomplish their mission. We have a responsibility, Republicans and Democrats have a responsibility to give our troops the resources they need to do their job and the flexibility they need to prevail. (Applause.)

As we implement a new strategy in Iraq, we are also taking new steps to defeat the terrorists and extremists in Afghanistan. My administration has just completed a top-to-bottom review of our strategy in that country, and today I want to talk to you about the progress we have made in Afghanistan, the challenges we face in Afghanistan, and the strategy we're pursuing to defeat the enemies of freedom in Afghanistan.

It wasn't all that long ago that we learned the lessons of how terrorists operate. It may seem like a long time ago -- five years is a long time in this day and age of instant news cycles -- but it really isn't all that long ago, when you think about the march of history. In Afghanistan, we saw how terrorists and extremists can use those safe havens, safe havens in a failed state, to bring death and destruction to our people here at home.

It was an amazing turning point in the history of our country, really, when you think about it. It was a defining moment for the 21st century. Think about what I just said, that in the remote reaches of the world, because there was a failed state, murderers were able to plot and plan and then execute a deadly attack that killed nearly 3,000 of our citizens. It's a lesson that we've got to remember. And one of the lessons of that September the 11th day is that we cannot allow terrorists to gain sanctuary anywhere, and we must not allow them to reestablish the safe haven they lost in Afghanistan.

Our goal in Afghanistan is to help the people of that country to defeat the terrorists and establish a stable, moderate, and democratic state that respects the rights of its citizens, governs its territory effectively, and is a reliable ally in this war against extremists and terrorists.

Oh, for some that may seem like an impossible task. But it's not impossible if you believe what Jeane Kirkpatrick said, and that freedom is universal; that we believe all human beings to live in freedom and peace.

Over the past five years, we've made real progress toward this goal I just described. In 2001, Afghanistan was a totalitarian nightmare -- a land where girls could not go to school, where religious police roamed the streets, where women were publicly whipped, where there were summary executions in Kabul's soccer stadium, and terrorists operated freely -- they ran camps where they planned and trained for horrific attacks that affected us and other nations.

Today, five short years later, the Taliban have been driven from power, al Qaeda has been driven from its camps, and Afghanistan is free. That's why I say we have made remarkable progress. Afghanistan has a democratically-elected President, named Hamid Karzai. I respect him. I appreciate his courage. Afghanistan has a National Assembly chosen by the Afghan people in free elections.

Under the Taliban, women were barred from public office. Today, Afghanistan's parliament includes 91 women -- and President Karzai has appointed the first woman to serve as a provincial governor.

Under the Taliban, free enterprise was stifled. Today, the Afghan economy has doubled in size since liberation. Afghanistan has attracted $800 million in foreign investment during that time.

Under the Taliban, there were about 900,000 children in school. Today, more than 5 million children are in school -- about 1.8 million of them are girls.

Under the Taliban, an estimated 8 percent of Afghans had access to basic health care. Today, the United States has built or renovated 681 health clinics across the country -- now more than 80 percent of Afghans have access to basic health coverage -- health care.

Under the Taliban, Afghans fled the country in large numbers, seeking safety abroad. Today, more than 4.6 million Afghan refugees have come home -- one of the largest return movements in history.

In today's Afghanistan, people are free to speak their minds, they're free to begin to realize dreams. In today's Afghanistan there's a NATO Alliance is taking the lead to help provide security for the people of Afghanistan. In today's Afghanistan, the terrorists who once oppressed the Afghan people and threatened our country are being captured and killed by NATO forces and soldiers and police of a free Afghanistan. Times have changed. Our work is bringing freedom. A free Afghanistan helps make this country more secure.

We face a thinking enemy. And we face a tough enemy -- they watch our actions, they adjust their tactics. And in 2006, this enemy struck back with vengeance. As freedom began to spread, an enemy that cannot stand the thought of a free society tried to do something about it, tried to stop the advance of this young democracy. It's not the only place in the world where the enemy struck back in 2006. They struck back in Iraq. They struck in Lebanon. This should be a lesson for our fellow citizens to understand, where these group of people find freedom they're willing to resort to brutal tactics.

It's an interesting enemy, isn't it? An enemy that can't stand the thought of somebody being able to live a peaceful life, a life of hope, an optimistic life. And it's an enemy we've got to take seriously.

Across Afghanistan last year, the number of roadside bomb attacks almost doubled, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled, and suicide bombings grew nearly five-fold. These escalating attacks were part of a Taliban offensive that made 2006 the most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country.

And so the fundamental question is, how do you react? Do you say, maybe it's too tough? Let's just kind of let this young democracy wither and fade away. Do we forget the lessons of September the 11th? And the answer is absolutely not.

And so the Taliban offensive that was launched was turned back by incredible courage of the Afghan soldiers, and by NATO forces that stood strong. You see, I believe the Taliban felt that they could exploit weakness. I believe that they said to themselves, if we can -- we'll test NATO and cause NATO leaders to turn their back on this young democracy.

After the fierce battles throughout the year 2006, the Taliban had failed in their objective of taking and holding new territory.

In recent months, the intensity of the fighting has died down -- that's only natural. It does every year when the snow and ice set in there in Afghanistan. But even in these winter months, we stayed on the offensive against the Taliban and al Qaeda. This January, NATO reconnaissance units observed a major Taliban incursion from Pakistan -- with about 150 Taliban fighters crossing the border into the Paktika province. So NATO and Afghan forces launched a coordinated air assault and ground assault, and we destroyed the Taliban force. A large number of enemy fighters were killed; they were forced to retreat, where they were engaged by Pakistani troops.

Just two weeks ago, NATO launched an air strike against Taliban fighters who had seized the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province -- a key Taliban commander was brought to justice.

The snow is going to melt in the Hindu Kush Mountains, and when it does we can expect fierce fighting to continue. The Taliban and al Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks. Our strategy is not to be on the defense, but to go on the offense. This spring there is going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, and it's going to be a NATO offensive. And that's part of our strategy -- relentless in our pressure. We will not give in to murderers and extremists.

And we're focused on five key goals that I want to share with you. First, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai increase the size and capabilities of the Afghan security forces. After all, for this young democracy to survive in the long term, they'll have their own security forces that are capable and trained. We don't have to teach them courage. These folks understand courage. They're willing to fight for their country. They're willing to defend this young democracy. And so it's in our interest and the interest of NATO countries to provide training so they have more, more strong fighters -- so we're going to increase the size of the national police from 61,000 to 82,000 by the end of 2008. And we'll help them develop new specialties: new civil order brigades, counter-narcotics, and border surveillance.

We're going to increase the Afghanistan army. Today, it's 32,000 -- that's not enough to do the job in this vast country -- to 70,000 by the end of 2008. It's one thing to get them trained and one thing to get them uniforms, but they're also going to have to have ways to move around their country. So we're going to add commando battalions, a helicopter unit, combat support units. In other words, we're going to help this young democracy have a fully integrated security force that will respond to the commands of the elected officials.

Capable troops need intelligence. This is a war that requires good intelligence on all fronts. So the United States and our allies will also work with Afghanistan's leaders to improve human intelligence networks, particularly in areas that are threatened by the Taliban. Together with the Afghan government and NATO, we created a new Joint Intelligence Operations Center in Kabul -- so all the forces fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan have a common picture of the enemy. That may sound simple to those of us who have gotten used to sophisticated systems to protect ourselves. This is important innovation in Afghanistan.

America and our allies are going to stand with these folks. That's the message I want to deliver to the Afghanistan people today. Free debates are important. But our commitment is strong: we will train you, we will help you, and we will stand with you as you defend your new democracy. (Applause.)

The second part of our strategy is to work with our allies to strengthen the NATO force in Afghanistan. Today, Afghanistan is NATO's most important military operation. Isn't it interesting that NATO is now in Afghanistan? I suspect 20 years ago if a President stood in front of AEI and said, I'll make a prediction to you that NATO would be a force for freedom and peace outside of Europe -- you probably never would have invited the person back. (Laughter.) Today, NATO is in Afghanistan. And I thank the leaders of the NATO countries for recognizing the importance of Afghanistan in our own security and enhancing the security of our own countries.

For NATO to succeed, member nations must provide commanders on the ground with the troops and the equipment they need to do their jobs. Many allies have made commitments of additional forces and support -- and I appreciate those commitments, but nearly as much as the people in Afghanistan appreciate them. Norway, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have all agreed to send special operation forces to Afghanistan. Britain, Poland, Turkey and Bulgaria have agreed to additional troops. Italy has agreed to send aircraft. Romania will contribute to the EU police mission. Denmark, Greece, Norway and Slovakia will provide funding for Afghan security forces. Iceland will provide airlift. The people of Afghanistan need to know that they've got a lot of friends in this world who want them to succeed.

For NATO to succeed, allies must make sure that we fill the security gaps. In other words, when there is a need, when our commanders on the ground say to our respective countries, we need additional help, our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in this mission.

As well, allies must lift restrictions on the forces they do provide so NATO commanders have the flexibility they need to defeat the enemy wherever the enemy may make a stand. The alliance was founded on this principle: An attack on one is an attack on all. That principle holds true whether the attack is on the home soil of a NATO nation, or on allied forces deployed on a NATO mission abroad. By standing together in Afghanistan, NATO forces protect our own people, and they must have the flexibility and rules of engagement to be able to do their job.

Third, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai improve provincial governance and develop Afghanistan's -- and to help develop Afghanistan's rural economy. Many Afghans in remote regions fight with the Taliban simply because there are no other jobs available. The best way to dry up Taliban recruits is to help Afghanistan's government create jobs and opportunity. So NATO is operating 25 provincial reconstruction teams across the country. These teams are made up of civilian and military experts. They are helping the Afghan government extend its reach into distant regions, they're improving security, and they're helping to deliver reconstruction assistance. In other words, I just described military operations that are necessary, but in order for these young democracies to survive, there's got to be more than just military. There has to be political development, and tangible evidence that a government can provide opportunity and hope. And these provincial reconstruction teams do just that.

These teams will help build irrigation systems, improve power production, provide access to micro-credit. The idea is to encourage entrepreneurship, job formation, enterprise. These teams will undertake new efforts to train provincial and local leaders. We take democracy for granted. Democracy hasn't exactly been rooted deeply in Afghan history. It takes a while for people to understand how to function as an elected official. It takes help for people to understand the obligations to respond to the people, and these teams will change provincial and local leaders.

Another key element to bringing stability to Afghanistan is building roads. Lieutenant General Eikenberry, who served with distinction in Afghanistan, just finished his tour, he was the senior commander there, said really something very interesting that caught my attention. He said, "Where the roads end in Afghanistan, the Taliban begin." So in order to help the security of this country, the international community has stepped up its road-building campaign across Afghanistan. So far, the United States and other nations have completed construction of more than 4,000 miles of roads -- that sounds like a lot, and it is a lot. We're also talking about a big country.

Much of the ring road -- we call it the ring road -- that links key provincial capitals to Kabul, is pretty well complete. And that's important, because, first of all, road building brings jobs to young men who might be recruited to the Taliban. But roads enable people to get commerce to centers of trade. In other words, roads promote enterprise. Enterprise provides hope. Hope is what defeats this ideology of darkness. And so we're going to build another 1,000 roads [sic] in 2007. It's an important effort, and our allies need to follow through on their commitments to help this young democracy have a road system that will enable it to flourish and survive.

Fourth, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai reverse the increase in poppy cultivation that is aiding the Taliban. After a decline in 2005, Afghanistan saw a marked increase in poppy cultivation last year. This is a direct threat to a free future for Afghanistan. I have made my concerns to President Karzai pretty clear -- not pretty clear, very clear -- and that in order for him to gain the confidence of his people, and the confidence of the world, he's got to do something about it, with our help.

The Taliban uses drug money to buy weapons -- they benefit from this cultivation -- and they pay Afghans to take up arms against the government. And so we're helping the President in a variety of ways to deal with the problem. First, he has established what's called a Central Narcotics Tribunal in Kabul. One way to deal with the drug problem is for there to be a push back to the drug dealers, and a good way to push back on the drug dealers is convict them and send them to prison. He has improved the Afghan Eradication Force this is mobile units that can deploy across the country to help governors in their eradication efforts.

We're supporting him. We're supporting him through direct aid on these mobile units, and we're supporting him to expand alternative livelihood programs. These poppy growers are trying to make a living. And the idea is to provide these farmers with credit, and seeds, and fertilizer, and assistance to bring their products to market. So the strategy to eliminate poppies is to encourage the government to eradicate, and to provide alternative means for a livelihood, and to help have the roads so that when somebody grows something somebody wants to buy in Kabul, there's a road to be able to take the product along to the markets.

It's important, and we're going to stay focused on the poppy issue. And when the President and his government is able to make progress on it, it will really inspire countries who want to help to do more.

Finally, we're going to help President Karzai fight corruption. And one place where he needs help is in the judicial system. There's nothing more discouraging when justice is not fair. And Afghans too often see their courts run by crooked judges. It's important to have the confidence of the people in a free society. Crooked judges makes it hard to earn that confidence.

President Karzai, to his credit, has established a Criminal Justice Task Force that is now after public corruption. This task force has 400 prosecutors [sic] and there are ongoing investigations. The United States, Britain and Norway are providing full time prosecutors, judges, police, and defense attorneys to mentor their Afghan counterparts -- and I appreciate our own citizens going over there. It is must be neat, really -- I guess "neat" isn't a sophisticated word, but it must be heartening to be somebody who's helping this young democracy develop a judicial system that is worthy. And I cannot thank our citizens for taking time out of their lives to go.

The United States has built or renovated 40 judicial facilities; we've distributed more than 11,000 copies of the Afghan constitution; we've trained more than 750 Afghan judges and lawyers and prosecutors. The international community is helping this new government build a justice system so they can replace the rule of the Taliban with the rule of law.

Now, there's another part of our strategy I want to share with you, and that is to help President Musharraf defeat the terrorists and extremists who operate inside of Pakistan. We're going to work Pakistan and Afghanistan to enhance cooperation to defeat what I would call a common enemy. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters do hide in remote regions of Pakistan -- this is wild country; this is wilder than the Wild West. And these folks hide and recruit and launch attacks.

The President understands our desire to work with him to eliminate this kind of action. People say, well, do you think President Musharraf really understands the threat of extremists in his midst? I said, yes, I do. You know how I know? They've tried to kill him. Al Qaeda has launched attacks against the President of this country. He understands. He also understands that extremists can destabilize countries on the border, or destabilize countries from which they launch their attacks. And so he's launched what they call a frontier strategy, and that is to find and eliminate the extremists and deliver a better governance and economic opportunity.

We're helping him in these efforts. It's in our interest to help him. We provided him -- we're helping him equip his security forces that are patrolling the border regions with Afghanistan. We're funding construction of more than 100 border outposts, which will provide their forces with better access to remote regions of this part of the country. We've given him high-tech equipment to help the Pakistani forces locate the terrorists attempting to cross the border. We're funding an air wing, with helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, to give Pakistan better security, better swift response and better surveillance.

President Musharraf is going to better be able to now deal with this problem. Bob Gates went out and visited with him recently, had a good response. He's an ally in this war on terror and it's in our interest to support him in fighting the extremists.

I also had an interesting meeting at the White House last September -- and that is, I hosted a private dinner with President Musharraf and President Karzai, right there in what's called the Family Dining Room. It was a fascinating discussion. Clearly there are different histories, different anxieties about the way forward. We did reach some agreements, however, that it's in all our interests for people to work together, for example, to improve intelligence sharing. It's in our interest to expand trade between these two countries. In other words, on the one hand it's in our interest to work closely on security for security operations, but it's also in our mutual interest -- all three of our interests -- to provide different alternatives for people to choose from.

Remember I said earlier that oftentimes people support the Taliban, or sometimes they support the Taliban in Afghanistan because it's the only job they can find. If that's the case -- and I believe it's true -- we need to help these folks provide an economy that gives hope. And so one way we can do this is what we call reconstruction opportunity zones that exist on both sides of the Pak and Afghan border. These zones will give residents the chance to export locally made products to the United States, duty free. That's our contribution. Got a vast market, wealthy country with a lot of consumers, and it's not going to take much to provide hope if we can get little manufacturing enterprises set up, local entrepreneurs to be able to manufacture goods and sell them here in our countries. It's a tiny contribution for us and a major contribution for providing the conditions necessary for stability.

I'm going to continue to work with both the leaders. It's a useful role for the President of the United States to be in constant contact with both Presidents, to remind them of the great obligations we have to fight the extremists and to help people realize dreams.

So our strategy in this country is robust and important. A lot of attention here in the United States is on Iraq. One reason I've come to address you is I want to make sure people's attention is also on Afghanistan. I'm asking Congress for $11.8 billion over the next two years to help this young democracy survive. I've ordered an increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan. We've extended the stay of 3,200 troops now in the country, for four months, and we'll deploy a replacement force that will sustain this increase for the foreseeable future.

These forces and funds are going to help President Karzai defeat common enemies. Success in Afghanistan is important for our security. We are engaged in a long ideological struggle between the forces of moderation and liberty versus the forces of destruction and extremism. And a victory for the forces of liberty in Afghanistan will be a resounding defeat in this ideological struggle. It's in our national interest that we succeed, that we help President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan succeed. And I'm confident -- I'm confident that with persistence and patience and determination, we will succeed.

And the biggest source for success is the Afghan people, themselves. They want their freedom. Freedom is universal. Jeane Kirkpatrick was right -- people around the world, regardless of their faith, their background, or their gender, want to be free. (Applause.) There is tangible evidence in Afghanistan: 8 million people went to the polls to choose their President in a free election. We take it for granted. Eight million said we want to be free. Imagine how far that society has come from the days of the Taliban. There's courage in that country. People are showing faith and freedom and courage to defend that freedom.

I want to tell you an interesting story about an Afghan security office at Camp Phoenix near Kabul. This fellow has worked at this base for four years -- nearly four years. His job was to guard the front gate and screen cars before they are allowed to approach a U.S. military checkpoint. He is very popular with our troops -- people who have gotten to know him like him a lot. They appreciate his courage and his personality and they call him "Rambo." (Laughter.) Must have been a lot for the Afghan citizen to be called "Rambo," but that's what they call him.

One day Rambo was on duty, a car loaded with explosives tried to crash through the front gate -- they were attempting to get to our troops. This fellow did not hesitate, he jumped in the car and he prevented the terrorist from exploding the device. He saw somebody who was about to harm our citizens, our troops -- he then jumps into the car and stops the attack. A U.S. Army sergeant then responded, helped him pull the guy out of the car.

One of our U.S. soldiers who was there said this, he said, "He saved our lives. I promised him I'd name my firstborn son after him." The guy is hoping for a boy. (Laughter.)

It's a human story. It's a story that speaks of courage and alliance, respect for life. To me it's a story that says these people in Afghanistan want to do what is necessary to survive and succeed, and it's in our interest to help them.

I am really proud that our nation helped liberate the 25 million people of that country. (Applause.) We should be proud to stand alongside the people of Afghanistan, the newly liberated Afghanistan. And I know we're all proud of the men and women who have helped liberate that country -- the men and women who wear our uniform who helped liberate that country and continue to make the sacrifices necessary. (Applause.)

I thank you for giving me a chance to come and talk about a strategy for success, a strategy that is part of our efforts to make sure that a generation of Americans, beyond our generation, will look back and say they did their duty to protect the homeland and, as a result, we can live in peace.

God bless. (Applause.)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070215-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 17 2007, 11:54 AM
MR. SNOW: First, one little readout. The President had a secure video teleconference this morning with Prime Minister Maliki. It lasted from about 7:05 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. They discussed progress in implementing the Baghdad security plan and positive indicators that the plan is coming together and beginning to have an impact in Baghdad. The Prime Minister again affirmed that no one is going to be above the law, regardless of religious affiliation or social status.

The two leaders also talked about the budget that was just passed by the Iraqi parliament, and in particular, the importance of executing the $10 billion that had been set aside for capital and infrastructure expenditures, and to make sure that they're also allocated equitably around the country.

They talked about the situation in Anbar province. They noted that there are opportunities for the Iraqi government to reinforce Iraqi citizens and the citizens of Anbar who are actively opposing al Qaeda in Iraq. They talked about progress on political issues, including an oil law; a final draft of that could be ready very soon.

And they throughout the meeting affirmed the strong relationship between the two governments and the need to continue their progress in political, economic and security realms.

Terrence.

Q Did they also talk about the non-binding resolution that the House --

MR. SNOW: No.

Q There was no political discussion? Well, let me ask you, the President seems resigned to the fact that the House is going to pass this today. What is his position on the conditions on funding that the Democrats -- House Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha -- are beginning to outline?

MR. SNOW: Well, first, I would not characterize the President's mood in anything as "resignation." That's not the way he approaches things. But he understands that members of the House are moving forward. And right now everybody is playing with numbers about how big the margin is going to be -- we've heard everything from 12 to 60; we'll find out.

What the President is insistent upon is that our forces have the funds they need and the flexibility required to continue to execute not only the Baghdad security plan, but the way forward that's designed to secure the situation in Iraq. And, therefore, anything that is going to tie the hands of military commanders and deny both the funds and flexibility they're going to need, he will take a dim view of. But at this point, we're just going to have to see what Congress proposes. I'm not going to get into particulars, because while a lot of stuff has been floated, nothing has yet been proposed or dropped in the hopper.

Q There are some particulars out there that Congressman Murtha has talked about, like a year's rest between tours --

MR. SNOW: I understand that --

Q Do you think that's tying your hands?

MR. SNOW: As I said, we'll wait until -- as you know, there were also -- I remember giving similar answers when a whole series of resolutions were posed, some of which never came to votes on the House and Senate floor. We know what Representative Murtha has said, but we're just not going to get into trying to characterize a specific position about a bill that has yet to see the light of day.

Q So, Tony, the President talked about this resolution Wednesday. Is the overall feeling that it doesn't make a difference, and what makes a difference is the funding that's pending down the road?

MR. SNOW: I think, again, we've said all along that people do have to ask whether they think this is going to -- what impact this is going to have not only on force morale, but also on the views of people in the region. On the other hand, it is also absolutely critical -- and we're going to be defending it -- that the forces in the field, the five brigades that are going in, the 4,000 Marines into Anbar, the forces necessary to execute the plan, they need to be funded, they needed to be supported, and the people in the field now deserve to have the reinforcements necessary to be able to carry on their mission.

Q So in the President's conversations with Prime Minister Maliki, there was no concern expressed by the Prime Minister about the lack of political will shown in Congress?

MR. SNOW: No, the Prime Minister and the President were talking about what's actually going on, on the ground. And this is something that would behoove members of Congress to keep an eye on, as well. It's very interesting because for all the talk about benchmarks, the Prime Minister is not getting credit for a lot of things that are happening. It looks as -- as I said, I think there's going to be news in the very near future about a final draft on the oil law. It is very clear that there has been aggressive and effective action against Shia and Sunni actors who have been trying in the past to disturb the peace. It is clear that the Baghdad security plan not only has been signed off upon, but that Iraqi forces have made their way into Baghdad and they are now working in concert with U.S. forces.

General Abud, who is the chief commander in Baghdad, is working with General Petraeus, and you do have the kind of military cooperation and interaction. When it comes to Anbar province, you're seeing progress there. You've seen the Iraqis step up with a quarter of their budget this year being set aside specifically for reconstruction. That was something members of Congress had asked for. In other words, a lot of the things that people have been citing as benchmarks are taking place. And, therefore, it is important to keep an eye on the realities on the ground. But to get back to your question, Bret, no, believe it or not, they were more concerned about success in Iraq than the debate on Capitol Hill.

Q Last one for me. Was there a mention of this announcement by the Interior Ministry about the wounding of al Masri, and do you have any update on that?

MR. SNOW: Nothing. Nothing.

Q What about al Sadr --

MR. SNOW: It was not brought up, and it was -- poor Kelly. We're going to have -- chivalry is going to have its moment. (Laughter.) And in any event, no, there was no discussion of al Masri. Again, we've had so many of these reports in the past. When we have something factual for you, we'll pass it on. We don't yet.

Kelly, and then James.

Q On behalf of both Jim and myself -- (laughter) -- did the President talk about al Sadr at all with Prime Minister Maliki? Any discussion of his whereabouts or the impact of the changes?

MR. SNOW: No, none of that.

Q None at all?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q That seems surprising, doesn't it, since that --

MR. SNOW: Well, it seems surprising to you guys, but -- again, for the Prime Minister, here's a guy who has already made the step of staying -- both to the Mahdi army, to Sunni insurgents, to people who have been misbehaving -- we're coming after you. If you are trying to bring this government down through acts of violence, if you're operating -- his phrase is "outside the law" -- we are going to apply the law, no matter who you are. And we have seen evidence of that in new Baghdad, which is a Shia neighborhood. We've seen it in Haifa Street. We've seen it in operations that are ongoing in Baghdad now.

So I really think -- and the Prime Minister has made it very clear that people who are on board with the unity government need to get on board and stay on board.

Q Wouldn't the Prime Minister be a good source of information on what al Sadr may be up to?

MR. SNOW: I just -- you know what, right now the most significant political figure in Iraq is not Muqtada al Sadr, it's Nouri al Maliki.

Q Kelly and I have a follow. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: See, and you guys thought kumbaya was dead.

Q That said, have you learned -- never mind this phone call this morning, what have you learned in the last 24 hours since we've spoke about al Sadr and whether he's in Iran -- his being in Iran, if he's there, is a good thing or a bad thing?

MR. SNOW: Since we've spoken -- no, we haven't actually heard -- we've got nothing new for you.

Q There's been no intelligence, there's been no questions, you haven't followed up --

MR. SNOW: Not really, no. The President may have gotten something in his intel brief today. It didn't come up. Shock-shock, it didn't.

Q And when you say, "shock-shock," that's --

MR. SNOW: I think you've got to understand that Muqtada al Sadr is one factor who belongs to a party that has 30 members of a parliament of 250 members, and that what you have seen -- if you want to look at the significant players, take a look at what's gone on in Baghdad, and take a look at the fact that you've got a security plan that's operating in districts, including Shia districts, where, at least according to reports, members of the Mahdi militia put down their arms, and in some cases are saying, okay, let's let the Baghdad security plan succeed. That is the significant factor.

Q But that is related to al Sadr -- if they're doing that, that's an important, significant point.

MR. SNOW: I just -- I've got nothing to give you on that. I mean, we don't know where he is. We don't know where he is. The reports are that he's in Iran, but don't know.

Q Tony, we've heard from a number of Americans who are deeply offended by comments Karl Rove made in defense of the President's immigration policy, when he told a luncheon, "I don't want my 17-year-old son to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas." Does the President want to apologize to Americans who pick crops --

MR. SNOW: You'd better run that -- I think Karl has argued to others that that was taken out of context. And rather than --

Q Can you describe what kind of context in which that was --

MR. SNOW: Why don't you give Karl a call.

Q You mentioned the margin of the vote, 12-6. In the end, does it matter what the margin is, Tony?

MR. SNOW: The question is what the margin is; does it matter. I don't know. Again, members -- it's going to be interesting, because members of Congress have taken their own gamble here. They're gambling on failure -- some members, at least. The President has a plan for success. It's all aimed at success. And there's going to be a vote before long where they're going to have to vote about whether they are going to supply the funds and the flexibility necessary for success. And, remember, in the case of the Senate, the success as defined by the guy that they've just appointed as a top general and the CENTCOM commander, who was also approved, and the man who is now the Chairman -- the Army Chief of Staff, who also approves of the plan, there are a whole series of folks who they, in fact, approve for their new offices who believe that this is vital.

And so, ultimately, members -- this is "a non-binding resolution." But what we're afraid of is that this is, in fact, going to serve as a precursor for cutting off our troops.

Q What do you mean, "gambling on failure"?

MR. SNOW: I mean because all of a sudden, it's -- suppose suddenly that you start to see signs of success. Then are these members going to come out and say, you know what, we were wrong -- they're going to have another resolution?

Q Has the President listened to any of the debate? What does he think?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so. He's had a very busy schedule. I'm not sure that -- the President doesn't have to park in front of C-SPAN and watch the debate all day. He knows what the views are. And in point of fact, we had an interesting conversation with members of the Black Caucus yesterday. We've had discussions this week with the bipartisan leadership, the bicameral leadership.

The President gets plenty of opportunities to hear the views and also solicit the views of members of both Houses. He was at the Democratic retreat, so I don't think there are a whole lot of surprises in terms of the nature of the debate. And, again, he continues to consult with both parties.

John.

Q Can you go any further on being a junior constitutional lawyer and say where you draw the line?

MR. SNOW: No, because, again, you're asking me to draw the line on legislation that does not yet exist.

Q But it's a pretty simple line to envision in principle. You can --

MR. SNOW: I know, but I'm not going to -- I'll deal with things that appear in reality.

Q Tony, Afghanistan is again in the news, and the Afghans are happy with the President's efforts -- he liberated them. But they're not happy with their President Karzai because Taliban and al Qaeda are trying to bring his government down. And --

MR. SNOW: They ought to be mad at al Qaeda and the Taliban, is who they ought to be mad at.

Q (Inaudible) in the area long ago, and he has this very vast experience of the region. And he was recently in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan. And I understand according to the news report that he also -- you know, Musharraf to do more on the efforts. But my question is that was he carrying, really, any special message from the President in the region?

MR. SNOW: Goyal, I will say it for not the first or the last time: When you have communications between the President or his designees in confidential meetings with foreign leaders, we let those remain confidential.

Q Second question is on immigration. Small businesses are under pressure, and they have no workers because legal workers are not available to do those jobs, like in restaurant and odd jobs. And they cannot hire the illegals. How far do you think President will push this new immigration law in the Congress?

MR. SNOW: Well, actually, your question -- and for those who didn't hear it, it was that some small businesses are complaining now that they don't have workers because they're not getting illegal labor. That indicates a couple of things: number one, that the border security plan is, in fact, working, that we have greater border security. And we certainly have indications out of the Department of Homeland Security that that's true. Number two, interior enforcement -- in other words, saying to employers, if you're knowingly hiring illegals, we're coming after you. That is working. It now means that -- so we've demonstrated not only the possibility of good, sound border security, but also the importance of having a temporary worker program, because there are jobs, as you can tell, that are not being filled by Americans, and so you do need to move forward as a next step, once you develop these things, toward a temporary worker program.

So what you're really seeing, I think, Goyal, played out in real life is some of the rationale behind the President's proposal, which involves border security, it involves employer verification, it involves having a tamper-proof ID card, which may be the pivot on which everything turns, so that you know who's here, who came here illegally and who is here now legally, you're able to track them, you're able to make sure that employers are following the law. This allows you to create an immigration system that is credible and, at the same time, is humane in bringing in people who want to work in America and, over time, also those who want to join the line to become American citizens, they will have the opportunity to do so, as well.

John.

Q Thank you, Tony. A few inquiries about the reported dissent on the North Korean treaty within the administration. You spoke yesterday about Elliott Abrams' emails when I asked you about it. Now, I am told that there are at least two people within the Executive Office of the President, one at the same level as Mr. Abrams, one a step higher, who also have the same questions and doubts about the North Korean treaty.

MR. SNOW: Who are they?

Q Well, I'm not going to say the names -- (inaudible) that there were others.

MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of.

Q All right. Do you expect any resignations over this?

MR. SNOW: No. Again, you talk about an over-hyped story. Elliott asked the question: Do we have credibility when it comes to -- to make sure that the North Koreans will earn it if they are delisted as a terror state? And the answer is, yes, they're going to have to earn it. There is a process by doing it, and you have to go through certain things, such as, stop being a sponsor of terrorism.

This was not a political accommodation; this is not a political deal. They're not going to get it without having gone through -- having performed precisely the kinds of activities -- whether it be in terms of nuclear arms and proliferation, or also conventional weapons and sales -- they don't get delisted until they've done what everybody else would have to do -- for instance, in the case of Libya. And Elliott made it perfectly clear that his concerns were satisfied.

This was not a dissent against the proposal. As a matter of fact -- I've talked to Elliott about this, and I talked to him again this morning about it. And this has been spun up in the press as Elliott opposing a treaty. He hadn't even seen it, and he said as much. He said, look, I do the Middle East. This is not what I do -- this is not my area of expertise, but I think it's important to know. And once that question was answered, he was satisfied.

Q All right. Well why do his emails -- his inquiries, wind up in the newspaper, then?

MR. SNOW: Because somebody broke the law.*

Q Okay. Who?

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Can you recall any other case in American history where the United States Senate unanimously voted to approve a general to top command in a war zone and then passed a resolution opposing what that general has stated that he has been ordered to be there to do?

MR. SNOW: Les, I'm unaware of that, but I don't want that to be definitive because I don't have full knowledge.

Q You don't know any other generals?

MR. SNOW: No, unless George Washington, I don't know.

Q George Washington was --

MR. SNOW: He ended up paying expenses out of pocket, as you recall. The Continental Congress, lacking the funds for fulfilling, I believe George Washington, if you go back and look, was paying for clothing and supplies for his own men out of his own pocket.

Q But he was reimbursed.

MR. SNOW: Well, no, he took a dollar a year, I believe.

Q No, no, I think you're wrong. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I am wrong. He took no pay. That's correct.

Q No, he just filed expenses, that's what he did. Speaker Pelosi has said in no uncertain terms that Congress is sending a message to the President with its debate on the Iraq war. And could you tell us, what message is the President receiving?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. We get lots of communications from Capitol Hill. What the President understands is that the war is unpopular, and people don't like the progress or lack of progress they saw in the latter stages of last year, where you had 100 American servicemen dying a month, and you had increased -- much increased violence in Baghdad and the environs. That's the reason why the President decided to act. So if the message is, aren't you concerned about what's going on, the answer is, you bet.

And as a result, the President demanded an exhaustive review, not only to what was going on, but also of possible ways of addressing that, not merely to tamp down in violence in Baghdad proper, but to create conditions where the Iraqi government would have the ability to do all the associated things necessary to have a stable state, which includes political accommodation, economic growth, and so on. So the President gets that message.

But the President also understands that as Commander-in-Chief it is his job and his obligation to keep Americans safe, and also to support the people who are fighting there right now. The way forward is a matter of providing reinforcements to people on an entirely different kind of mission, where their hands are no longer tied by outmoded rules of engagement or political rules of engagement, but instead are going to be able, along with the Iraqis, to do the job. So the message he is sending is that he has got a plan that is designed to secure victory, in terms of an Iraq that is able to stand up as a democracy and stand strong, and is willing and eager to move forward with that.

Paula, and then we've got the love birds up here -- (Laughter.)

Q The love birds. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Paula.

Q Congress said it's planning to spend a lot of time on the alternative minimum tax, and the President has said in the past he wants to look at it, too, but in the context of revenue neutral tax reform measures. Would the White House be willing to explore proposals on this that could include higher taxes to pay for it?

MR. SNOW: The President doesn't believe in tax increases, but here's what we have with the alternative minimum tax. For the last six years, Congress has put in a one-year patch. We put in a one-year patch that was more generous than the ones in the past, because somebody who has not previously been subject to the alternative minimum tax is not going to be sucked into it this year. For each of the last six years you've seen people who, in the past, were not subject to the alternative minimum tax suddenly getting hit with it. So we've prevented additional people from having to pay it.

We also have created the situation now where members of Congress have 20 months -- 20, two-zero months. This is the most ingenious country on the face of the earth and, surely, we can find a way to do it.

But the alternative minimum tax is -- it's a cruel tax and it's an unacceptable tax. It needs to be fixed. We have 20 months to do it. And I certainly am not going to negotiate against myself or against anybody else in talking -- the question may be for you to ask, to turn back to those who are advocating tax increases is, would you consider not raising taxes on people?

Q May I ask you a question, though -- may I ask a question on your definition of a tax increase?

MR. SNOW: Yes. It's something where you change the rates on people.

Q Oh, all right. So then the fact that you proposed raising targeted taxes to pay for your health care standard deduction --

MR. SNOW: We didn't. Again, what -- no, you didn't have targeted taxes. What you're assuming in that particular case is that people do not ever respond. What we've said is, what you're going to have under the tax deduction plan is, you're going to have full tax deductibility up to $15,000. It means that more than 100 million Americans like that get a tax cut. It also means that for a slice of maybe 20 to 30, they're going to have to make a choice about whether they stay in a plan that costs more than $15,000 a year, but also the people who provide those plans are going to have to make a choice about whether they think they're going to make profits by having plans that are subject to taxes, or whether they're going to be able to get business by coming up with more finely crafted plans that are going to appeal to people who have now so-called gold plated plans, and are willing to pay -- to do that $15,000 a year so that they get a full tax deduction and still get the services they'd received previously.

The fact is, the markets do tend to adjust, as we've seen already with the prescription drug benefits, where immediately the costs have gone down, and the number of people who have enrolled are wildly exceeding prior expectations. Why? Because the market is responding to what they want.

So keep in mind, that is -- that's a different situation, and that's one that also has a strong element of choice on the part of consumers, and also on the part of insurance companies.

Q To follow up on the AMT, there was a report in The Wall Street Journal this morning. Part of the story suggested -- quoted blind officials, administration officials --

MR. SNOW: Blind officials? (Laughter.)

Q Blind sources -- (laughter) -- sorry. People who weren't named, saying that --

MR. SNOW: Send the letters to -- (laughter.) Go ahead.

Q -- the President would not object to a tax increase on the wealthy to help pay --

MR. SNOW: Look, again, the President is not for tax increases. And so what we've said all along is, you've got 20 months to figure this out. What happens a lot of times is that people try to do preliminary negotiations through the press by characterizing what they think the President may or may not do. It's always interesting, because they never tell you what they're going to do. The fact is, both sides have an opportunity, so let's see what people have to propose.

And there have -- we have certainly been having -- we've been having conversations with people on both sides of the aisle because it is a problem. Democrats realize it, Republicans realize it, and they want to fix it. And I think we do have enough time right now where people don't have to rush and get themselves into a political fight. They've got an opportunity to try to come up with a calm and rational way to do it. We don't think it needs to involve tax increases, but we're certainly open to hearing what other people have to say.

Q Can I just follow up on Jim and Kelly's question about al Sadr? I mean, wouldn't you concede, Tony, that the skepticism about -- some of the skepticism about the President's Iraq plan centers on the Prime Minister's ability to reign in militias, including those followers of Muqtada al Sadr. So you're saying it should not be viewed as any kind of glaring omission that the President and the Prime Minister did not talk about al Sadr or his whereabouts?

MR. SNOW: Yes, because they're talking about success. Am I reading this wrong? It did not seem to me that the recent stories about al Sadr were designed to demonstrate strength on his part. I don't -- maybe I read them wrong, but without getting into the merits of them, the fact is that the Prime Minister is succeeding and the Iraqi public is building confidence because he's delivering on what he said.

And all along -- look, everybody -- we've been through this before. It's as if you want to say, al Sadr is the bad guy, go get him. Al Sadr -- Muqtada al Sadr is somebody who has got to make a choice. He has got to make a choice whether he wants to follow a path of peace and accommodation, and to become a political player, or whether he is going to be somebody who is part of violent factions outside the government, in which case, the government, with U.S. help, is going to have to come after him. Those are choices he has to make.

And so when you're trying to sort of portray this as al Sadr versus somebody else -- look, this is a guy who is still trying to make choices, I think, and has to make a choice about where he's going to be.

Q Is he still a significant player?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know how you assess that. It's a good question. I'm not sure I have an answer.

Q I just want to follow a little bit on the discussion about messages being sent with this debate. I was talking to a Democratic staffer today who said that Republicans and the White House have been skillful in maneuvering the conversation to supporting the troops, which actually presents a false choice, because -- or it obscures the more important underpinning, which is, Democrats are saying bring the troops home now, or short-term, the next four to six months, and that the White House -- the President's sense is, no, send more troops as a way to win, that it's no longer about victory, that there's actually two different discussions going on.

MR. SNOW: So you're saying Democrats are -- that supporters of the resolution don't believe in victory?

Q No, that they say that -- yes, that that is -- that you're at the wrong end of public opinion.

MR. SNOW: Oh, I see. So they think that the public thinks -- I just -- I'm a little confused --

Q I will clarify this.

MR. SNOW: Please do.

Q The Democrats' point is that victory is no longer what's being talked about, it needs to be -- the question is, can we bring the troops home.

MR. SNOW: No, no I --

Q The American people are not as concerned about victory in Iraq as they are about bringing the troops home; that's a more pressing issue.

MR. SNOW: Ask the following poll question -- first, ask your Democratic source: Do you believe if the United States leaves Iraq there will be a power vacuum, and do you believe into that power vacuum al Qaeda will try to take over Anbar and it will involve adventurism from abroad, whether it be from Iran, or elsewhere. If you do have that, and they have access to billions of dollars a year in oil revenue, and they have the ability to intimidate neighbors in the Gulf states, does that make us more or less secure? And, if that is the case, is it worth withdrawing before you have victory? The President is very clear about this. The stakes of losing and the stakes of leaving before you have secured victory are simply unacceptable. And if you ask the American public if they were willing to accept that, they would say, no.

Q The source says that that -- the American public actually has seen what's going on as a Civil War, and says that that places the White House at the wrong end of public opinion.

MR. SNOW: The President understands public opinion and public impatience. The President also sees intelligence every day, and he has to assess what the long-term costs are going to be. It is significant to me that you have a Democratic source who now says it's all about getting out, and not about success. If that's the case, that is -- it's going to be interesting to see if that continues to be the way Democrats want to frame this up, because it will make for a very important and interesting debate. The fact is, success is absolutely necessary.

And I've heard a lot of Democrats say this. Democrats understand that to create a vacuum in Iraq would be to invite dangers that are simply unacceptable to the American public. Let me add further -- when you're talking about bringing forces in -- but it is an interesting switch. So what you're saying is, it's no longer support the troops, it's just get them out.

Q The question is, does the debate about supporting the troops obscure the real debate that Americans want to have, which is, increase the number there, or start to bring them home?

MR. SNOW: You know what, we'd love to bring them home. We'd love to bring them home. We'd love to -- no, let me continue. But what you have is somebody framing a debate as if the rest of the world didn't exist -- as if Iran didn't exist, as if al Qaeda didn't exist, as if the terror network didn't exist, as if the oil fields did not exist, as if this could not set -- as if Israel didn't exist, as if Hamas, Hezbollah did not exist.

Q His point was that, yes, they understand all that.

MR. SNOW: No, the source -- no, the source's point is to ignore all that and not --

Q Well, actually, I had the conversation with the source, so the source's point was -- the source's point was, yes, they're aware, Americans are aware of all of that; they're looking at it and saying, you know what, we still want to bring the troops home.

MR. SNOW: You know what, the President -- the President understands that to operate under those circumstances is to invite bloodshed on a level that is absolutely appalling, not only in Iraq, but possibly in the United States of America. And if this offends your source, okay. Your source, I'm sure, means well, but the President also is absolutely determined to keep this country safe and do what's best for Americans. That is his job.

Q Tony, one other thing. At the news conference the other day, the President talked about the Iraq Study Group Report, eventually trying to get there. What piece of it does he want to --

MR. SNOW: What he was talking about --

Q -- and it talks about talks with Iran and Syria. Is that what he's talking about?

MR. SNOW: No, what he was talking about is -- he's referred to this on a number of occasions -- the "over the horizon" force. In other words, at some point, when you've got a situation in which the Iraqis are able to take care of the security situation in Baghdad and Anbar and Diyala and Kirkuk and elsewhere, then you have an opportunity to focus on something that the Iraqis are doing right now, which is border security, and deal with the integrity of the borders and use that as a way, ultimately, of being able to pull out of areas that right now are combat areas, and so let the Iraqis handle it. That was one of the key findings of Baker-Hamilton.

When it comes to Iran and Syria, look, we continue to have diplomatic relations with Syria, and the Iranians absolutely know what they need to do -- to reiterate, we love the Iranian people, and the Iranian people love the United States. And what's really interesting about this is that we're offering their government a chance to give them prosperity and a connection with the international community that they crave but do not presently have.

And the approach that this President has taken is certainly one of trying to send a strong signal to the Iranians that the international community really isn't divided here. You've got a Chapter 7 resolution through the U.N. Security Council. And the better part of valor on the part of the Iranian government would be to stop pursuing nuclear weapons, come back to the table, become a partner in fighting terror rather than fomenting it, and there would be enormous good consequences that would flow from that.

Paula.

Q Could I just follow up on what you said a moment ago about the alternative minimum tax? Are you saying that you're not setting any preconditions with Congress --

MR. SNOW: Yes, members of Congress are free to come up with whatever proposals they want, and we'd like to hear them.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: Okay.

Q Whoa, one more. To just not leave hanging, you said that someone in the Executive Office of the President, presumably, broke the law. Does the President share your view on that?

MR. SNOW: I'm just thinking, if you leak an email. I'll have to go back and double check.

Q But you made a very clear statement that someone in the White House broke the law.

Q Do you stand by it?

MR. SNOW: That's actually an appropriate question. I'll get back to you. I'll get you a straight answer on it, Kelly.

Q Tony, can you please clarify about immigration, about what message does the President have for the small businesses --

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: Goyal, I've already said it. I mean, it's, you know, temporary worker program.

END 1:00 P.M. EST

* The Press Secretary was in error. This instance was not a violation of the law.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070216-3.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 17 2007, 11:57 AM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 17, 2007

President's Radio Address



THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today I would like to talk to you about an urgent priority for our Nation: confronting the rising costs of health care.

In my State of the Union Address, I invited Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with my Administration to reform our health care system. In the past few weeks, I've discussed my health care proposals with citizens across our country. Next week, I'll visit a hospital in Tennessee to hear directly from people who do not have access to basic, affordable health insurance. I'll also meet with a panel of experts at the White House to discuss how we can build a vibrant market where individuals can buy their own health insurance.

The problem with our current system is clear: health care costs are rising rapidly, more than twice as fast as wages. These rising costs are driving up the price of health insurance and making it harder for working families to afford coverage. These rising costs also make it harder for small businesses to offer health coverage to their employees. We must address these rising costs so that more Americans can afford basic private health insurance.

One of the most promising ways to make private coverage more affordable and accessible is to reform the tax code. Today, the tax code unfairly penalizes people who do not get health insurance through their job. If you buy health insurance on your own, you pay much more after taxes than if you get it through your job. I proposed to end this unfair bias in the tax code by creating a standard tax deduction for every American who has health insurance, whether they get it through their job or on their own.

For example, every family that has health insurance would get a $15,000 deduction on their taxes. This deduction would also apply to payroll taxes, so that even those who pay no income taxes would benefit. Americans deserve a level playing field. If you're self-employed, a farmer, a rancher, or an employee at a small business who buys health insurance on your own, you should get the same tax advantage as those who get their health insurance through their job at a big business.

At the same time, I proposed "Affordable Choices" grants to help states provide coverage for the uninsured. Governors across our country have put forward innovative ideas for health care reform. Under my proposal, states that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens would receive Federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. Next week, the Nation's governors will come to Washington to discuss challenges facing their states. I've asked my Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, to meet with the governors and discuss ways we can work together to help reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

Reforming health care is a bipartisan priority. Earlier this week, I was pleased to receive a letter from 10 senators -- five Democrats and five Republicans -- who expressed their desire to work together on health care reform. I look forward to discussing our proposals and hearing more about their ideas. I appreciate the commitment of this bipartisan group to work with my Administration, and I will continue to reach across party lines to enact common-sense health care reforms.

From my conversations with Democrats and Republicans, it is clear both parties recognize that strengthening health care for all Americans is one of our most important responsibilities. I am confident that if we put politics aside, we can find practical ways to improve our private health care system, and help millions of Americans enjoy better care, new choices, and healthier lives.

Thank you for listening.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...2/20070217.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 19 2007, 07:08 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 16, 2007

275th Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington
A Proclamation by the President of the United States


President Bush Honors President Washington's 275th Birthday on President's Day
George Washington Biography


Two hundred seventy-five years after the birth of George Washington, we honor the life and legacy of a surveyor from Virginia who became Commander of the Continental Army, a major force at the Constitutional Convention, and the first President of the United States of America.

Remembered by the Congress as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen," George Washington dedicated his life to the success of America. During the Revolutionary War, Washington's small band of hungry soldiers faced the professional army of a great empire, and his unshakable vision for a new democracy proved a powerful inspiration to his troops. Knowing that the outcome of their struggle would determine "the destiny of unborn Millions," Washington led his often ragged forces beyond incredible hardships into battle and on to victory with strength, steadfastness, and a quiet confidence.

The triumphant General treasured his brief time at home, but his devotion to duty and belief in the promise of a more perfect Union lured Washington from Mount Vernon. He presided over the Constitutional Convention with wisdom, diplomacy, and humility and helped form the working model of our democracy. When the Constitution was ratified, America again turned to a beloved and proven leader, electing George Washington as the first President of the United States.

As we celebrate the life of George Washington and his contributions to the American experiment, we can also take pride in our stewardship of the Republic he forged. Today, he would see in America the world's foremost champion of liberty -- a Nation that stands for freedom for all, a Nation that stands with democratic reformers, and a Nation that stands up to tyranny and terror. On his 275th birthday, George Washington would see an America fulfilling the promise of her Founders, honoring the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and moving forward in the world with confidence, compassion, and strength.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 22, 2007, as the 275th Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington. I encourage all Americans to join me in honoring the Father of our Country with appropriate civic and service programs and activities in remembrance of George Washington and with gratitude for all he gave for his country.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.

GEORGE W. BUSH

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070216-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 19 2007, 07:11 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 19, 2007

President Bush Visits Mount Vernon, Honors President Washington's 275th Birthday on President's Day
Mansion -- Mount Vernon Estate
Mount Vernon, Virginia
President's Remarks


10:04 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Laura and I are honored to be with you in this historic place, on this special anniversary. I feel right at home here. After all, this is the home of the first George W. (Laughter.) I thank President Washington for welcoming us today. He doesn't look a day over 275 years old. (Laughter.)

We're really glad you're here. I look out and see a lot of the kids who are here today. (Applause.) When I was your age, I was a little fellow from Midland, Texas -- (laughter and applause) -- and my grandmother brought me here. And then Laura and I brought our daughters here. And the reason I bring this up, this is a good place for Americans to come and bring your families. And we welcome you here today.

You know, we're celebrating around the country President's Day, but the folks that work here call it Washington's birthday. (Applause.) We've been celebrating this holiday for more than two centuries, and this morning we continue this tradition by honoring a man who was our first President, the father of our country, and a champion of liberty.

I appreciate Gay Gaines and the -- Regent of Mount Vernon Ladies Association. I appreciate Jim Rees, who is the Executive Director. I thank Togo West, who is the Chairman of the Mount Vernon Advisory Committee. I appreciate the military who have joined us. General, thank you for being here today with us. I thank the members who work hard to make sure Mount Vernon is preserved for the future, and I thank all of you all for being here.

You know, George Washington was born about 80 miles down the river from Mount Vernon in the year 1732. As a young man, he went West, and explored the frontier, and it changed his life. As he grew older, he became convinced that America had a great westward destiny as a nation of free people, independent of the empires of Europe. George Washington became the central figure in our nation's struggle for independence. At age 43, he took command of the Continental Army. At age 51, he was a triumphant hero of the war. And at age 57, he was the obvious and only choice to be the first President of the United States.

With the advantage of hindsight, it is easy to take George Washington's successes for granted and to assume that all those events were destined to unfold as they did. Well, the truth is far different. America's path to freedom was long and it was hard. And the outcome was really never certain. Honoring George Washington's life requires us to remember the many challenges that he overcame, and the fact that American history would have turned out very differently without his steady leadership.

On the field of battle, Washington's forces were facing a mighty empire, and the odds against them were overwhelming. The ragged Continental Army lost more battles than it won, suffered waves of desertions, and stood on the brink of disaster many times. Yet George Washington's calm hand and determination kept the cause of independence and the principles of our Declaration alive.

He rallied his troops to brilliant victories at Trenton and Princeton. He guided them through the terrible winter at Valley Forge. And he marched them to Virginia for the war's final battle at Yorktown. In the end, General Washington understood that the Revolutionary War was a test of wills, and his will was unbreakable.

After winning the war, Washington did what victorious leaders rarely did at the time. He voluntarily gave up power. Many would have gladly made George Washington the king of America. Yet all he wanted to do was return here to Mount Vernon, and to be with his loving wife, Martha. As he wrote with satisfaction to his friend Lafayette, "I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own vine and my own fig tree."

George Washington's retirement did not last long. In the years after the Revolution, America's freedom was still far from secure. There were uprisings and revolts. States argued over their borders. And under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government was virtually powerless. With the United States in crisis, George Washington was called back to public life to preside over a Convention of the States. And the result was the United States Constitution and a new executive office called the presidency.

When the American people chose Washington for the role, he reluctantly accepted. He wrote a friend, "My movement to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution." George Washington accepted the presidency because the office needed him, not because he needed the office.

As President, George Washington understood that his decisions would shape the future of our young nation and set precedent. He formed the first Cabinet, appointed the first judges, and issued the first veto. He also helped oversee the construction of a new federal city between the northern and southern states. The nation's new capital would take his name, and George Washington hoped it would inspire Americans to put the welfare of their nation above sectional loyalties.

This son of Virginia had come to see himself first and foremost as an American, and he urged his fellow citizens to do the same. More than two centuries later, the story of George Washington continues to bring Americans together. Every year, about a million people visit Mount Vernon to learn about this good man's life. We find the best of America in his spirit, and our highest hopes for ourselves in his character. His honesty and courage have become the stuff of legend. Children are taught to revere his name, and leaders to look to him for strength in uncertain times.


George Washington's long struggle for freedom has also inspired generations of Americans to stand for freedom in their own time. Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life. And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone. He once wrote, "My best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom."

President Washington believed that the success of our democracy would also depend on the virtue of our citizens. In his farewell address to the American people, he said, "Morality is a necessary spring of popular government." Over the centuries, America has succeeded because we have always tried to maintain the decency and the honor of our first President.

His example guided us in his time; it guides us in our time, and it will guide us for all time. Thank you for coming, and may God bless. (Applause.)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...2/20070219.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 20 2007, 03:05 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 20, 2007

President Bush Attends Swearing-In of Mike McConnell as Director of National Intelligence
Bolling Air Force Base
Washington, D.C.
10:16 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for the warm welcome. Good morning. I'm proud to be here at Bolling Air Force Base to congratulate Mike McConnell on becoming our nation's second Director of National Intelligence. I'm really pleased that Mike's wife, Terry; his four children, Erin, Mark, Jennifer, and Christine; their grandchildren; his sister -- (laughter) -- and other family members have joined us. It's a big deal to watch your dad and granddad get sworn in to a position of this importance.

I appreciate members of my administration who have joined us, in particular the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates; General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA; Bob Mueller, Director of the FBI; and other important figures to numerous to mention. Thank you for serving our country.

I appreciate the members of the intelligence community who have joined us. Part of the reason I have come is to honor this good man, and part of the reason I have come is to honor your good work. (Applause.) This nation owes you a debt of gratitude.

The Director of National Intelligence holds one of the most difficult and important positions in our government. In this time of war -- and we are a nation at war -- the President and his national security team must have the best intelligence about the plans and purpose of the enemy. And the job of the Director of National Intelligence is to ensure that we do. The Director of National Intelligence is the President's principal advisor on intelligence matters. He is also the leader of our entire intelligence community. He advises me about the national intelligence budget. He oversees the collection and analysis of intelligence information. He works to ensure that all of our intelligence agencies and offices work together as a single unified enterprise.

These are enormous challenges, and Mike McConnell has the experience and the character and the talent to meet them. He spent most of his adult life working in the intelligence world. He served as the executive assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, as the Chief of Naval Forces division at the National Security Agency, as Director of Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Operation Desert Storm, and as the Director for the National Security Agency. He's got a solid resume.

He also earned our nation's highest award for service in the intelligence field. He not only has got a good resume, he backed it up with good action. His work over a career spanning three decades is earning the admiration of his colleagues, the respect of the intelligence community, and a reputation in Washington for personal integrity and effective leadership. In short, you're going to like working with him, and so am I.

Mike's long experience gives him a unique understanding of the threats we face in this new century. He knows that the terrorists who struck America on September the 11th, 2001 are determined to strike our nation again. He understands that the enemy uses the tools of our modern economy -- from rapid transportation, to instant communications, to global finance -- to spread their extremist ideology, and facilitate new attacks.

He knows that his task as the Director of National Intelligence is to make certain that America stays ahead of this enemy and learns their intentions before they strike. He knows that we must stop them from harming our citizens; that the most important task of this government of ours is to protect the American people.

In his new position, Mike builds on the work of an outstanding leader of our intelligence community: Ambassador John Negroponte. The creation of the Director of National Intelligence was one of the most important reforms enacted in response to the attacks of September the 11th. John Negroponte was the first person to fill this new and essential position. He did so with talent and distinction.

During his time in office, John established the DNI as a core member of my national security team. He increased the unity of our intelligence community. He helped strengthen our national counterterrorism capabilities and improved information sharing between our intelligence and law enforcement communities.

John's vision and vigilance helped keep the American people safe from harm. I appreciate his leadership as America's first Director of National Intelligence, and I thank him for agreeing to continue to serve our country as Deputy Secretary of State.

Mike McConnell will expand on the vital reforms that John Negroponte set in motion. I've asked Mike to focus on several key areas. I've asked him to better integrate the intelligence community, making our different intelligence agencies and offices stronger, more collaborative, and better focused on the needs of their customers.

I've asked him to improve information sharing within the intelligence community and with officials at all levels of our government, so everyone responsible for the security of our communities has the intelligence they need to do their jobs. I've asked him to ensure that our intelligence agency focus on bringing in more Americans with language skills and cultural awareness necessary to meet the threats of this new century. I've asked him to restore agility and excellence to our acquisition community, and ensure that our nation invest in the right intelligence technologies. I've asked him to ensure that America has the dynamic intelligence collection and high-quality analysis that we need to protect our country and to win this war against these extremists and radicals.

As he carries out his new duties, Mike McConnell will be relying on the thousands of dedicated intelligence professionals who work day and night to keep us safe. They are America's first line of defense against the terrorists. And while many of their accomplishments must remain secret to our fellow citizens, those accomplishments are known to me. And they're doing good work. You're doing good work. And the American people owe you a strong debt of gratitude. I appreciate your willingness to take on the difficult and dangerous assignments. And you just need to know, you've got the full support of this government and the American people.

Our intelligence community is going to have an able leader in Mike McConnell. I want to thank Congress for swiftly confirming Mike to this vital position. I look forward to working with him as a key member of my national security team. I'm anxious to have him in that Oval Office every morning. (Laughter.) I hope he's anxious to show up. (Laughter.)

He'll find that I value the intelligence products that you create. He's going to find that the intelligence product is an important part of my strategic thought, and important part of helping me get this government to respond to do our most important duty, which is to protect you.

I look forward to working with Mike. I'm comfortable in knowing this is a good man who cares about one thing only, and that's his country. And I thank his family for supporting him as he returns to government service.

And now, I ask my Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to administer the oath of office. (Applause.)

(The oath is administered.) (Applause.)

DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Thank you. Thank you very much for that warm welcome. Mr. President, indeed, we thank you for being here this morning. We, your intelligence community, are honored by your presence.

I also want to thank Mr. Bolten for swearing me in. I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge Secretary of Defense Gates, my friend for more than 15 years, and a predecessor who held this position as the Director of Central Intelligence under another President Bush.

My esteemed colleagues, and of course, my family, thank you for being here.

Last month, I was honored by the President to be nominated to serve as the nation's second Director of National Intelligence. Today, that honor is matched only by the excitement I feel in taking on the work before us now, to further reform and integrate America's intelligence community for better collaboration as the President has charged.

I am most grateful for the hard work and the many accomplishments of Ambassador Negroponte. The President, the Secretary of Defense -- Secretary of State Rice, the State Department, and indeed, the nation are fortunate to have him serving as the Deputy Director of -- the Deputy Secretary of State, pardon me.

For a person who began a public service career 40 years ago this summer as an ensign serving in Vietnam, this is an opportunity and a privilege of a lifetime. Mr. President, I am humbled by your trust, and I'm most encouraged by your continued commitment to the transformation of the intelligence community, to not only serve you better, but to better serve our national leadership in the future.

It is your commitment and your resolve that excites our community of 16 intelligence organizations. After only a few days on the job, I can tell you, it is a commitment that is shared by the dedicated men and women who make intelligence service to the nation their chosen profession.

We take on this work of strengthening and reforming the intelligence community at a challenging time in our nation's history. Many of the developments that have made America so productive and prosperous -- the rise of globalization, rapid transportation, global connectivity, and ever advancing technology -- also have made us more vulnerable to threats such as terrorism.

Taking advantage of these advances in technology, today's threats move at increasing speeds. The time needed to develop a terrorist plot, communicated around the globe, and put it into motion has been drastically reduced. The time line is no longer a calendar, it is a watch.

While the threats have changed, our responsibilities endure. Mr. President, on behalf of the intelligence community, I accept the charge you have given us, and we will dedicate ourselves to making the needed changes for more effectiveness in serving you and in serving the nation. We will focus on our people, our policies, our collection, our technology, our analysis, and our operational results in a way that provides accountability to you, the Congress, and the American people.

To that end, we will revamp security and workforce policies of past. Our nation requires that we have the best and brightest of our citizens in our ranks to fight a very different enemy. The old policies have hampered some common sense reforms, such as hiring first and second generation Americans who possess native language skills, cultural insights, and a keen understanding of the threats we face.

To meet these threats at home, we need an intelligence community that effectively merges foreign and domestic intelligence, something that my generation was restricted from doing before the tragedy of 9/11. With the FBI's national security branch fully integrated into the intelligence community, we need to apply community-wide standards to human intelligence collection and dissemination, and work more effectively to share across organizational boundaries at the federal, state, local, and tribal level.

Of course, in this work, we will continue to conduct ourselves consistent with the Constitution, our nation's laws, to protect privacy and guarantee civil liberties of our citizens. In this area of technology, we need to recapture the acquisition excellence of the Cold War. In that era, drawing on bipartisan consensus for funding and for program stability, and using the Director of Central Intelligence's special authorities for acquisition, the community was able to move with agility and speed to create new technologies and new capabilities that were only imagined earlier. We must create an acquisition environment in this community that will continue to make American intelligence the most effective in the world.

Finally, Mr. President, I want to say a few words about the people in this community, America's intelligence professionals. Tom Brokaw used the term "the Greatest Generation" when he wrote of Americans who served in World War II. That was a time when the country and our allies were fighting another ideology: fascism. Both of our fathers were members of that Greatest Generation, your father fighting in the Pacific, and mine fighting for four years in North Africa and in Europe. They both fought so that others may know freedom.

If Mr. Brokaw were writing another book today, he might call those who served and prevailed in the Cold War, "the Second Greatest Generation," working to help the free world defeat another ideology: communism.

I would like to salute the members of the intelligence community who have served in the long Cold War, lasting almost five decades. From human intelligence to creating new space-based technologies, the men and women of the intelligence community of that era served the nation in silence to provide the information our leadership needed to prevail. I would like to challenge our new generation of intelligence professionals to become "the Third Greatest Generation" in serving the nation to defeat today's threats to our freedoms and our way of life. I know that you're up to it. I would ask that we reflect on the service and sacrifices of those who went before, and to provide the information and service so vital to the nation's leadership.

Mr. President, you've given us a charge today to make the intelligence community more effective in protecting the nation. On behalf of the men and women who make up this community -- the Third Greatest Generation, if I may -- we pledge to do all in our power to make the nation safe.

Thank you, and God bless America. (Applause.)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070220.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 22 2007, 03:57 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 22, 2007

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Raleigh, North Carolina



10:12 A.M. EST

MS. PERINO: Good morning. We are on our way to Franklinton, North Carolina. The President is going to get a tour of Novozymes North America. This is an energy event to highlight the President's State of the Union initiative he announced, the 20-in-10 program. This is the President setting a goal of reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next 10 years.

Just a quick recap: It requires progress on two fronts. We've asked Congress to reform the fuel economy standards for cars so that we can make our use of gasoline more efficient, and we must also then harness technologies so that we can improve the amount of alternative fuels that we use. And the President set a goal of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels to be used in the fuel supply by 2017. Taken together, that's how you get to the 20 percent in the next 10 years.

So the President's tour today, he's going to see this pretty amazing technology that really shows the best of America's ingenuity and ability to be able to drive new technologies. And so he will get this tour, and then we will have a panel discussion that is open press, and then we'll be on our way home.

Q Dana, can I ask you about the use -- apparently new use of chlorine gas in these bombs in Iraq? What does the White House make of this tactic?

MS. PERINO: It's obviously a continued pattern of killing innocent people in very spectacular fashion. Major General Caldwell did make some comments this morning on CNN, in which he talked about the military -- they're taking a close look at this, but obviously there's been these two attacks, and they're looking to see if there are others. He said the main pattern that he sees is the continued use of spectacular events in order to kill innocent people. So it's disturbing and concerning, but I'd have to refer you to DoD to see if there's any other trends that they're tracking there.

Q Dana, the Vice President made some comments about Democrats and their agenda and how it would -- I don't remember the exact wording, but I know you've talked to Ann Compton about this -- just being that it would encourage terrorists in Iraq. My question is, Nancy Pelosi called the President, didn't get him, apparently talked to John Bolten. Is the President going to return her call?

MS. PERINO: Josh Bolten did talk to Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the President. I'm not exactly sure the time of the call, I know the President was traveling yesterday. The bottom line is this: The Vice President was not in any way questioning anyone's patriotism. He was questioning the strategy. And anyone who puts forward a strategy has to be able to explain the consequences of those actions if they were to move forward.

What the President and the Vice President believe is that Nancy Pelosi's and Representative Murtha's plan is one that would not help secure our country and would leave the region in chaos. And securing Baghdad is absolutely critical. So it was a questioning of the merits of their proposal, not their patriotism.

Q Was he at all out of line in making those comments?

MS. PERINO: The Vice President out of line? Absolutely not. He was questioning the merits of the -- of their proposal. And I think if you go up and take a look back at some of the things that they've said about the President, the tables could be turned. But we're not making the same accusations.

Q I'm sorry, just to follow up, the President hasn't called her back. Do you know if he's going to?

MS. PERINO: Chief of Staff Josh Bolten spoke to the Speaker on the President's behalf. As far as I know there's no -- there's been no other phone call.

Q Anything to say about the IAEA's report on Iran --

MS. PERINO: -- checked in just before we left, and the United States officials, State Department officials have just received the report. They're going to take a good look at it. But on first glance, it does appear to confirm what we expected, which is that the Iranians have not complied with what the international community had passed in the U.N. Resolution 1737, I believe was the number.

And in that resolution, it said that the allies would take a look at this report, get together, and then think about next steps. And so that's where we are in the process.

Q Has the President been briefed on the report yet?

MS. PERINO: I don't believe so, because literally, I think we just received the report as we were walking on -- you know, as we were walking out. However, the President meets with Secretary Rice regularly, and I believe they have breakfast scheduled for tomorrow morning. She's just on her way home, as well, so she's in the air.

Q Does the President plan to talk about climate change in the events today or tomorrow?

MS. PERINO: I don't know if the exact words will come out of his mouth, but what I can tell you is that he views this 20-in-10 program and his other energy proposals in a holistic way, meaning that you put forward a program that's -- a proposal that is very bold in reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years, and offsetting that with alternatives, and you get multiple benefits. You get improved national security because you're not importing as much and relying so much on other sources; you get the economic benefit so that you have more domestically produced energy resources; and then you have the cleaner air benefit because you're burning fuels that burn cleaner so you don't have the public health concerns as much -- exasperated as other traditional fuels. And then finally, you also get the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. So that you look at this in a holistic way with multiple benefits.

Q Dana, can I follow up on that? Is the President planning to send legislation to the Hill on these energy policies, in particular the alternative fuels?

MS. PERINO: That's traditionally not the way that we have done it. We usually work with the Hill. We lay out a set of principles in our proposal. And so I think at this point we're following that same model. But if that changes we'll let you know.

Q I'm compelled to ask you this question. Does the President have any Oscar picks, and has he seen any of the films?

MS. PERINO: Has he seen what?

Q Keep in mind this is coming from ABC. Has the President seen any of the Oscar nominated films, and does he have any picks?

MS. PERINO: Well, you know, I have not seen any Oscar nominated films. I don't think, personally, I couldn't even tell you what is actually nominated. But I know he and Mrs. Bush do enjoy watching movies, and I will check into it and see if I can find out. I don't even know what's nominated.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070222-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 23 2007, 04:02 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 22, 2007

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Raleigh, North Carolina



10:12 A.M. EST

MS. PERINO: Good morning. We are on our way to Franklinton, North Carolina. The President is going to get a tour of Novozymes North America. This is an energy event to highlight the President's State of the Union initiative he announced, the 20-in-10 program. This is the President setting a goal of reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next 10 years.

Just a quick recap: It requires progress on two fronts. We've asked Congress to reform the fuel economy standards for cars so that we can make our use of gasoline more efficient, and we must also then harness technologies so that we can improve the amount of alternative fuels that we use. And the President set a goal of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels to be used in the fuel supply by 2017. Taken together, that's how you get to the 20 percent in the next 10 years.

So the President's tour today, he's going to see this pretty amazing technology that really shows the best of America's ingenuity and ability to be able to drive new technologies. And so he will get this tour, and then we will have a panel discussion that is open press, and then we'll be on our way home.

Q Dana, can I ask you about the use -- apparently new use of chlorine gas in these bombs in Iraq? What does the White House make of this tactic?

MS. PERINO: It's obviously a continued pattern of killing innocent people in very spectacular fashion. Major General Caldwell did make some comments this morning on CNN, in which he talked about the military -- they're taking a close look at this, but obviously there's been these two attacks, and they're looking to see if there are others. He said the main pattern that he sees is the continued use of spectacular events in order to kill innocent people. So it's disturbing and concerning, but I'd have to refer you to DoD to see if there's any other trends that they're tracking there.

Q Dana, the Vice President made some comments about Democrats and their agenda and how it would -- I don't remember the exact wording, but I know you've talked to Ann Compton about this -- just being that it would encourage terrorists in Iraq. My question is, Nancy Pelosi called the President, didn't get him, apparently talked to John Bolten. Is the President going to return her call?

MS. PERINO: Josh Bolten did talk to Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the President. I'm not exactly sure the time of the call, I know the President was traveling yesterday. The bottom line is this: The Vice President was not in any way questioning anyone's patriotism. He was questioning the strategy. And anyone who puts forward a strategy has to be able to explain the consequences of those actions if they were to move forward.

What the President and the Vice President believe is that Nancy Pelosi's and Representative Murtha's plan is one that would not help secure our country and would leave the region in chaos. And securing Baghdad is absolutely critical. So it was a questioning of the merits of their proposal, not their patriotism.

Q Was he at all out of line in making those comments?

MS. PERINO: The Vice President out of line? Absolutely not. He was questioning the merits of the -- of their proposal. And I think if you go up and take a look back at some of the things that they've said about the President, the tables could be turned. But we're not making the same accusations.

Q I'm sorry, just to follow up, the President hasn't called her back. Do you know if he's going to?

MS. PERINO: Chief of Staff Josh Bolten spoke to the Speaker on the President's behalf. As far as I know there's no -- there's been no other phone call.

Q Anything to say about the IAEA's report on Iran --

MS. PERINO: -- checked in just before we left, and the United States officials, State Department officials have just received the report. They're going to take a good look at it. But on first glance, it does appear to confirm what we expected, which is that the Iranians have not complied with what the international community had passed in the U.N. Resolution 1737, I believe was the number.

And in that resolution, it said that the allies would take a look at this report, get together, and then think about next steps. And so that's where we are in the process.

Q Has the President been briefed on the report yet?

MS. PERINO: I don't believe so, because literally, I think we just received the report as we were walking on -- you know, as we were walking out. However, the President meets with Secretary Rice regularly, and I believe they have breakfast scheduled for tomorrow morning. She's just on her way home, as well, so she's in the air.

Q Does the President plan to talk about climate change in the events today or tomorrow?

MS. PERINO: I don't know if the exact words will come out of his mouth, but what I can tell you is that he views this 20-in-10 program and his other energy proposals in a holistic way, meaning that you put forward a program that's -- a proposal that is very bold in reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years, and offsetting that with alternatives, and you get multiple benefits. You get improved national security because you're not importing as much and relying so much on other sources; you get the economic benefit so that you have more domestically produced energy resources; and then you have the cleaner air benefit because you're burning fuels that burn cleaner so you don't have the public health concerns as much -- exasperated as other traditional fuels. And then finally, you also get the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. So that you look at this in a holistic way with multiple benefits.

Q Dana, can I follow up on that? Is the President planning to send legislation to the Hill on these energy policies, in particular the alternative fuels?

MS. PERINO: That's traditionally not the way that we have done it. We usually work with the Hill. We lay out a set of principles in our proposal. And so I think at this point we're following that same model. But if that changes we'll let you know.

Q I'm compelled to ask you this question. Does the President have any Oscar picks, and has he seen any of the films?

MS. PERINO: Has he seen what?

Q Keep in mind this is coming from ABC. Has the President seen any of the Oscar nominated films, and does he have any picks?

MS. PERINO: Well, you know, I have not seen any Oscar nominated films. I don't think, personally, I couldn't even tell you what is actually nominated. But I know he and Mrs. Bush do enjoy watching movies, and I will check into it and see if I can find out. I don't even know what's nominated.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070222-1.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 26 2007, 03:38 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2007

Nominations Sent to the Senate


S. Ward Casscells, of Texas, to be An Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice William Winkenwerder, Jr.

Claude M. Kicklighter, of Georgia, to be Inspector General, Department of Defense, vice Joseph E. Schmitz, resigned.

William Charles Ostendorff, of Virginia, to be Principal Deputy Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, vice Jerald S. Paul, resigned.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070226-2.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 26 2007, 03:41 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2007

Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives

February 26, 2007

Dear Madam Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent the enclosed notice to the Federal Register for publication, which states that the emergency declared with respect to the Government of Cuba's destruction of two unarmed U.S.-registered civilian aircraft in international airspace north of Cuba on February 24, 1996, as amended and expanded on February 26, 2004, is to continue in effect beyond March 1, 2007.

Sincerely,

GEORGE W. BUSH

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070226-3.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 26 2007, 03:43 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2007

Notice: Continuation of the National Emergency Relating to Cuba and of the Emergency Authority Relating to the Regulation of the Anchorage and Movement of Vessels

On March 1, 1996, by Proclamation 6867, a national emergency was declared to address the disturbance or threatened disturbance of international relations caused by the February 24, 1996, destruction by the Cuban government of two unarmed U.S. registered civilian aircraft in international airspace north of Cuba. In July 1996 and on subsequent occasions, the Cuban government stated its intent to forcefully defend its sovereignty against any U.S.-registered vessels or aircraft that might enter Cuban territorial waters or airspace while involved in a flotilla or peaceful protest. Since these events, the Cuban government has not demonstrated that it will refrain from the future use of reckless and excessive force against U.S. vessels or aircraft that may engage in memorial activities or peaceful protest north of Cuba. On February 26, 2004, by Proclamation 7757, the scope of the national emergency was expanded in order to deny monetary and material support to the repressive Cuban government, which had taken a series of steps to destabilize relations with the United States, including threatening to abrogate the Migration Accords with the United States and to close the United States Interests Section. Further, Cuba's most senior officials repeatedly asserted that the United States intended to invade Cuba, despite explicit denials from the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense that such action is planned. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing the national emergency with respect to Cuba and the emergency authority relating to the regulation of the anchorage and movement of vessels set out in Proclamation 6867 as amended and expanded by Proclamation 7757.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

GEORGE W. BUSH

THE WHITE HOUSE,

February 26, 2007.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070226-4.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 26 2007, 03:45 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2007

President Bush Meets with the National Governors Association
The State Dining Room

11:22 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. I'm looking for some of the crumbs that got dropped last night here. (Laughter.) Glad you're here, thanks for coming. I hope you enjoyed the dinner as much as we did last night. (Applause.) I thought it was a good, relaxing evening. And I thank you all for joining us today.

I want to thank the members of my Cabinet for talking to the governors about how important it is for us to work together. I do want to spend some -- a little time talking about some issues here, and then I'll answer questions from you.

First, obviously -- well, I don't know if it's obvious to you, or not, but my biggest concern is protecting this country. You got to know something, that a lot of my thinking was defined on September the 11th. I wake up every day thinking about another attack. And that's my job. It's what the people expect. I think about how to have the best intelligence possible to find out where the enemy is and what they're thinking so we can react.

I think about making sure that Homeland Security and our states work closely together. I wish that wasn't the way it was. But it is. That's the reality of the world in which we live. It's easy to kind of hope that these radicals and extremists go away. We've got a two-pronged strategy in dealing with them; one is to stay on the offense and bring them to justice, and two, spread the conditions necessary to defeat an ideology of hatred. I like to say we're in an ideological war that's going to last a while. That's what I believe. That's the basis on which I'm making decisions to protect the country.

We've got active fronts in this war on terror. One is Afghanistan, the other is Iraq. These are the most visible fronts -- let me rephrase that -- there are other active fronts; the most visible fronts are in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I thank you very much for going over to visit the Guard troops and Reserve troops from your states that are there. I appreciate it. It matters to those troops that you take time as a Commander-in-Chief to thank them. And it matters to their families that people are paying attention to them.

You've got two governors who are active in the Guard and Reserve -- Governor Blunt and Governor Sanford. He's not here because he's at a Air Force Reserve meeting, as I understand, and I appreciate very much the example you all are setting.

Obviously, there's concerns about the decisions I have made regarding Iraq, and I understand that. Look, I mean, there's a lot of debate here in Washington, D.C. And if you want, we can spend some time during the question-and-answer talking about why I made the decisions I made. But you've just got to understand, the main reason why is because I understand the consequences of failure in Iraq. If we leave before that country can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself, there will be chaos. And out of chaos will come vacuums; and out of vacuums will come an emboldened enemy that would like to do us harm. I like to remind people that if we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here. And if our job is to protec this country, it's important we get it right in Iraq.

So I made a decision that I think is more likely to succeed than any of the alternatives that were presented to me. And I know you're concerned about the funding for your troops; so am I. I hope out of all this debate -- and by the way, there is -- you've just got to understand, here in Washington, I do not believe that someone is unpatriotic if they don't agree with my point of view. On the other hand, I think it's important for people to understand the consequences of not giving our troops the resources necessary to do the job.

So I'm looking forward to a healthy debate. I'm also looking forward to defending -- strongly defending the budgets we send up to Congress, to make sure those troops who are in harm's way have the resources and that we have the flexibility necessary to -- and our commanders have the flexibility necessary to execute the plan we've laid out.

I understand Pete Pace was here and visited with you. I hope he was able to answer your questions about Guard funding. We submitted a strong budget for 2008. And we're going to need your help to make sure Congress keeps that budget intact. The temptation sometimes is take a little bit from the defense and add it to here. And if you're concerned about making sure your troops get what they need, make sure you call your congressman, or your senator.

The economy is good. We intend to keep it that way. We're not going to raise taxes. We don't need to raise taxes to balance the budget. We can work with Congress on a lot of issues, and one issue we can work with them on is the budget. They want to balance the budget, the administration wants to balance the budget. And Director Portman submitted a plan that balances the budget within five years without raising taxes. The reason I think it's important to keep taxes low is because I think that's important to sustain economic growth and vitality. I'm worried about running up taxes and slowing down the entrepreneurship that is alive and well here in America.

I wish I had the line-item veto like you all do -- or some of you do. It makes it easier to deal with the issues like earmarks or these interests that get stuffed into these bills at the last minute without having been debated. And I'm going to keep working with Congress to try to get a line-item veto. If you want to give the President a hand, you might suggest to Congress to let me have the tools that many of you have in this room. You know it works; it makes sense. It helps keep those budgets lean and focused and having the priorities real clear.

I'm looking forward to working with Congress on health care. I know that Michael has been spending some time with you. I firmly believe, and I know Mike agrees, that the states are oftentimes the best place to reform systems and to work on programs that meet needs. We believe one of the biggest needs is to make sure private health insurance is available to a lot of folks in our country. And so the Affordable Choices program is a real program. And I thank Mike for spending time with you talking about it and wanting to work with you to get it designed properly so it works.

And I also strongly believe we need to change our tax code. It's a tax code that says, if you're single, or you're working for a company that doesn't provide insurance, you're discriminated against relative to the person working for a big corporation. And it doesn't make sense. You want people to be able to have health insurance, to be able to afford private insurance. It makes sense to reform the tax code.

We look forward to working with you on that; look forward to working with you and Congress on reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. I know Margaret talked about it. The real challenge facing this country is whether or not we're going to be competitive; whether or not we've got the skill set necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century. If we don't, they'll go elsewhere. That's just what happens in a globalized world.

No Child Left Behind is the beginning of a comprehensive competitive program, and we want to work with you to make sure it works properly, to make sure that accountability is used properly. The thing I like most about the law is that when we find a youngster who is struggling with reading, that we provide extra help to make sure he or she gets up to speed early, before it's too late. I also like the idea of us being able to say we're making progress toward high goals. And we know we are, or we know we aren't if we're not, because we measure. I don't see how you can fix a problem unless you measure the problem.

I look forward to working with you on immigration. It's a tough issue here in Washington. I strongly believe Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I strongly believe that we need to uphold our laws, enforce our borders, and uphold our traditions in America. We need to treat people fairly.

I'm looking forward to working with Congress on energy policy. We've made some progress through comprehensive energy bills. There's more to be done. We've spent about $12 billion since I've been the President on technologies that will enable us to become less dependent on oil. We're going to continue to invest, by the way, in clean coal technologies and solar technologies and wind technologies. But the area where we're pretty close to some amazing breakthroughs is on getting -- changing our usage of gasoline. Some amazing battery technologies that are now heading toward the market, which will enable people in New York City, for example, to drive the first 20 to 40 miles on electricity. That will make us less dependent on oil from overseas.

Another exciting technological breakthrough is going to come with cellulosic ethanol. It's a long, fancy word for making gasoline -- or making ethanol out of product other than sugar and corn, like switchgrass or wood chips. The ethanol production from corn is full-steam ahead, but it's beginning to squeeze some of the hog farmers and cattle raisers. And therefore, we're going to have to accelerate research into alternative feedstocks for ethanol, to enable us to meet a goal I set, a mandatory goal of using 35 billion gallons of alternative sources of fuel by 2017. It reduces our gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

I wouldn't have put out the goal if I didn't think it was possible and achievable. I also know it's necessary. Becoming less dependent on oil is in our national security interests, it's in our national economic interests, and will enable us to be better stewards of the environment.

I believe we can find a lot of common ground with the Congress on these issues. I've had some good meetings with the Democrat -- Democratic leadership. I appreciate the openness of our discussions. I'm -- will continue to reach out to find common ground, with them and, as well, with you. We owe it to the people to do so.

Anyway, thanks for giving me a chance to come by. I appreciate it. (Applause.)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...2/20070226.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 27 2007, 02:37 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 27, 2007

Personnel Announcement

President George W. Bush today announced two key appointments to the Executive Residence staff, naming Rear Admiral Stephen W. Rochon as Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher and Dennis Freemyer as Deputy Director of the Executive Residence and Deputy Chief Usher.

Admiral Rochon will be the eighth Chief Usher of the White House.

Admiral Rochon will serve his last day on active duty with the Coast Guard on March 9, and begin his service at the White House on March 12. Admiral Rochon succeeds Gary Walters, who retired in January 2007 after 20 years as White House Chief Usher.

"Admiral Rochon is a gifted leader and experienced manager who will be a great addition to the White House and the Residence staff," said President Bush. "Laura and I look forward to working with him."

With 36 years in public service, Admiral Rochon has an extensive background in personnel management, strategic planning, and effective interagency coordination. As the Coast Guard's Commander of the Maintenance and Logistics Command Atlantic, Admiral Rochon is responsible for naval and civil engineering, financial management, personnel, legal, civil rights, electronic systems support, and contingency planning across 40 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, Europe, and the Middle East.

A New Orleans native, Admiral Rochon served as the Coast Guard's Director of Personnel Management in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricanes, providing support for Coast Guard personnel and their families, and ensuring they had housing and new job assignments.

Admiral Rochon has a passion for history and historic preservation. He produced video documentaries in 1989 and 2005 honoring Alex Haley, USCG (Ret) and author of "Roots." Admiral Rochon also spearheaded the posthumous awarding of the Gold Lifesaving Medal to the African American crew of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station for their daring rescue in 1896 near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He has contributed his expertise to a number of museums across the Nation, from Louisiana to Connecticut. Admiral Rochon helped rebuild and preserve the historic significance of three turn-of-the-century homes in New Orleans following the 2005 hurricanes.

Admiral Rochon is a highly decorated military officer, and has earned three Legion of Merit medals. He has also received numerous civic and community leadership awards.

Admiral Rochon enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1970. He rose through the enlisted ranks and received a commission as an Ensign in 1975 from the Officer Candidate School at Yorktown, Va. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Xavier University of Louisiana and a M.S in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University.

Admiral Rochon is married, and has four children and eight grandchildren.

Dennis Freemyer has been named the Deputy Director of the Executive Residence and Deputy Chief Usher.

"Dennis has been a valued public servant to five Presidents and their families. Laura and I have known Dennis for more than 20 years, and we look forward to continuing to work with him as he serves the White House in this new role," said President Bush.

Mr. Freemyer has worked in the White House Usher's Office since 1986, most recently as the Assistant Chief Usher where he helped supervise the overall management of the Executive Residence and coordination with the First Family. He has also served as the Program and Project Manager for all design, renovation, maintenance, and construction projects of the White House.

From 1981-86, Mr. Freemyer served as the Architect and Project Manager for the National Park Service, where he was in charge of providing professional architectural expertise necessary for the plan, design, research, and supervision of National Park Service construction and renovations at the White House. During his time at the National Park Service, he also worked in the Contracting Division as an architect from 1978-81 and was detailed to the White House where he was a construction supervisor and construction inspector.

Mr. Freemyer holds a B.A. in Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He is married and has two children.


http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/02/20070227-3.html

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 27 2007, 08:12 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 27, 2007

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room

12:26 P.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Questions.

Q How was the suicide bomber able to get within range of the base where Vice President Cheney was?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I refer it to DOD. I think at this point people are still investigating what happened, so we don't have a firm answer for you.

Q Is there some concern about the security precautions at the base?

MR. SNOW: Again, rather than making presumptions about the proximity of the Vice President -- it is a large facility; I really think it's probably, again, better to let people do the forensics on it, figure out what's going on, they can render judgments later. I've got no comment on it right now.

Q Has the President talked to the Vice President yet?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so. They had a busy morning. The Vice President is on the plane. Typically, what happens is the Vice President comes in, and he'll do an exhaustive debrief with the President, and frankly, nobody else. And the way he works is he shares his counsel with the President, nobody else, so I'm sure he will do that at great length when he gets back.

Q Let me try one other. Do you think that the publicity about the Vice President staying overnight at the base prompted the attack, invited the attack?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know. The fact is the Vice President was committed to having a visit with President Karzai, and he was -- they had a delay due to weather in being able to get together. He certainly wasn't going to leave before he finished doing his business.

Q What does this attack say about the strength of the Taliban in Afghanistan?

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure it says anything.

Q Why?

MR. SNOW: Because you've got an isolated attack. As we've often said about acts of terror, an individual who wants to commit an act of violence or kill him or herself, very difficult to stop. But I'm not sure that you can draw larger conclusions about any organization based on an incident such as this. And in this case, we have a claim of responsibility, but I'm not sure, as I said in answer to Terry's question, that we have a full picture of precisely what took place. I think it will take a while before we get that picture.

Q Is this the first strike in a spring offensive?

MR. SNOW: Again, I really -- I know you guys want to fill in the gaps in this and put it in a larger context. I'm afraid it's going to have to wait until people really do have a chance to take a look at the full picture.

Q What was the President's reaction? And how did he find out about it?

MR. SNOW: He was told by staff this morning. And his reaction is, he first inquired about making sure the Vice President was okay, and he was reassured by that. And obviously he'll continue to get intel about what happened. But at this juncture, especially in the first minutes and hours after an event like this, it takes a little while to figure out precisely what took place.

Q Tony, can you talk a little more about the reason for the Vice President's trip? Did the President specifically ask him to take this trip? Did he ask him to bring any particular message to General Musharraf and to President Karzai?

MR. SNOW: Well, the Vice President was over in the region, and part of the trip was, in fact, to consult with both the leaders, not only in anticipation of a spring offensive, but also working more closely together on the war on terror. They have issues where they need to be working together, and the Vice President had productive conversations with both. Beyond that, can't go into a whole lot of detail.

Q Can you talk about whether it was the President's idea that he should go --

MR. SNOW: It was the President's idea.

Q In this meeting with President Musharraf, the Vice President brought the Deputy Director of the CIA. Can you talk about that at all?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q Why not?

MR. SNOW: Because --

Q I mean, essentially are you painting the picture to the Pakistani President of what exactly is happening in those tribal regions?

MR. SNOW: As a matter of fact, it's pretty clear that a lot of the narrative has been to try to say that the Vice President was coming to sort of do a slam-down or something on President Musharraf. That's not true, and that was confirmed by a senior administration official earlier today.

I think the important thing is that here you have two committed allies in the war on terror. There have been more al Qaeda killed in Pakistan than anywhere else. That is a problem for the President -- President Musharraf. He understands it. He has taken significant action. And, obviously, we need to continue improving the ability both of the Pakistanis and the Afghans to go after terrorist elements.

But this is -- it's very important to do this in the proper spirit, which is working together. There is no doubt that President Musharraf knows that it's important and wants to be dealing effectively with al Qaeda, and these are conversations about not only doing that, but understanding that when it comes to the war on terror in that particular region, you really have three parties involved -- you have the United States, you have the Pakistanis, and you have the Afghans, and it all works together. The Pakistanis and Afghans certainly have a shared interest in al Qaeda and the Taliban and also what happens in those border areas. And the Vice President, quite properly, was talking about ways forward with all parties.

Q Just real quick -- I know it's early, but is it believed that this was an al Qaeda attack?

MR. SNOW: It's too early to tell. Taliban has taken some -- apparently the Taliban has taken some credit, but I think you just have to let investigators sift through it and find out what they can.

Q Picking up on the proper spirit, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States said that actually the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is strained right now -- his words -- everything isn't hunky-dory.

MR. SNOW: I'll let you direct any questions to him. It's a vital relationship, and this --

Q Is there a rift right now between the U.S. and Pakistan?

MR. SNOW: No. No. But it is -- these are tough issues. These are very tough issues, and you have to work through them together. So, no, I would not apply that label to it. There's certainly not --

Q Why do you think he would?

MR. SNOW: Why don't you ask him?

Q I did. He told me that.

MR. SNOW: And when he said -- and when you asked him why he said it, he said what?

Q He said that too many things are being asked of Pakistan by this administration that they -- the thought is that there is not enough belief in how Pakistan is pursuing terrorism.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I think -- we certainly believe that the Pakistanis are fully committed, and they have made that point publicly, before and after the Vice President's visit there. And the Vice President, again, I think it's safe to say, had a productive set of conversations with President Musharraf.

Q Why do we take issue with the way -- the narrative that has come forth in the last couple of days? You practically repeated it, that basically we went in to tell them how we felt and what we wanted -- we wanted them to shape up.

MR. SNOW: I don't think I've repeated it. I think what I've tried to say is, you've got a war on terror, and it is very important to consult as extensively as possible with important allies. Now, we are getting to a period where every year you've got a spring offensive in that part of the world -- it's about time for that -- and this is a very good time to start looking ahead and working with all parties to try to use it as another opportunity to strike back at the Taliban and al Qaeda, and to continue efforts to disable them, and to allow the democratic government of Afghanistan to become stronger economically, diplomatically, and in terms of its security. So that remains a real area of emphasis for all parties involved.

Q Tony, can I just follow up? I just want to give you the verbatim, since you asked. He says, "It's going through a rough time." And I say, "What's going through a rough time?" He said, "The relationship between this country and my country, because I hear so many voices that you're not doing enough."

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not -- again, I don't know if he's referring to media accounts; I don't know exactly what -- no, I don't know what he's referring to, Jim.

Q He's not. He's referring to what he's hearing from --

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm telling you that our view is that Pakistan is an essential ally who we're continuing to work with. And we're working to support them because both parties understand how vital it is not only to fight the Taliban, but al Qaeda.

Q That doesn't answer his question.

MR. SNOW: Well, I know, but he's asking me to respond to something for which I do not know the full context. I'm giving you what I can.

A couple more. We'll stay on this topic, and then we'll go to Iraq.

Q Tony, no matter who was responsible for this, to what extent does it underscore the very reason that the Vice President was sent there to begin with?

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure -- again, it's -- I don't think -- Peter, I don't know. It's an interesting -- again, the Vice President was there to consult with allies in the war on terror. Now, to the extent that there are elements within the war on terror that depend on isolated acts of violence that are designed to kill indiscriminately and attract worldwide media attention, I suppose it is reflective of that. But on the other hand, you also do have organized elements of Taliban and al Qaeda that one needs to deal with. So I don't know exactly how you -- I don't even know a good metric for figuring out precisely how that fits into the equation.

Q Well, wasn't one of the main reasons he was sent there because of the concern about the spring offensive, about the already ongoing upsurge in violence, and this is emblematic of it?

MR. SNOW: Well, perhaps, again, everybody is leaping to conclusions -- and I can see how you would do it. I'm just being more cautious, because at this point we don't have a whole lot of detail on the whys and wherefores of what took place today. Having said that, it is clear that you've got the Taliban attempting to assert itself. Let me remind you that when it did so last year, NATO forces -- we went through this when we were talking in the briefing room about it, because they were trying to test NATO forces, and the NATO forces were very successful in inflicting real damage on the Taliban. So there's a lot of talk right now emanating from some of those circles, but the fact is that the allies are getting ready, and they're going to fight successfully against them.

Q Tony, why take the risk of sending the Vice President to a war zone at all? What is the value of doing that? Why do you need to do that?

MR. SNOW: The President went to a war zone too, to meet with Prime Minister Maliki. The point is that we have sent the Secretary of State into a war zone. We've sent a number of people into a war zone. We continue to send officials -- congressional delegations go there on a regular basis.

Q But why specifically was it thought that Cheney should be sent on this particular mission?

MR. SNOW: The President asked him. I don't know if the President sat down with a face book full of people, and said, hmm, Cheney -- the fact is that the Vice President is a key and valued advisor to the President, and furthermore, he is somebody who always gives his honest assessments of what's going on, and gives them to the President and to no one else.

Q Was there any consideration of not staying overnight, since that wasn't scheduled? Was there ever any thought perhaps of not being --

MR. SNOW: Well, it would have meant not having the session with the Prime Minister -- I mean, with the President. Again, you had a weather problem yesterday that prohibited the trip, and he was determined to make the trip. As far as logistics on that, you're going to have to refer to Air Force Two or to the Vice President's office when they return.

Q Tony, this morning President, at the State Department, had again strong message against terror for the Taliban and al Qaeda, speaking on the global war on terrorism during the swearing-in ceremony for Deputy Secretary of State. You think, as far as this bombing is concerned, because Vice President had a strong message in the area against -- for Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, you think that that maybe prompted --

MR. SNOW: Again, everybody -- look, let's find out what happened. I can have all sorts of theories about what happened, but I don't have any facts for you. And I'd rather not theorize, especially in the absence of good, hard, investigative fact.

Q Was there any suggestion in advance of this bombing among intelligence officials that something was going to happen? In other words, did we pick up anything about it before it happened?

MR. SNOW: I don't know, and even if I did, it wouldn't be appropriate to share any kind of intelligence conclusions.

Q Tony, on this investigation, what is the expectation of facts -- getting the facts? And this administration has been having a lot of problems getting information in fighting the extremists and terrorists.

MR. SNOW: You're really talking what amounts to a police investigation of a crime incident. I don't think that's -- what you're doing, April, is comparing apples and oranges with intelligence estimates and a crime scene investigation.

Q You're saying investigation, but the thought is within -- well, the thought is terrorists --

MR. SNOW: Well, it's pretty clear it was a terrorist.

Q Right, but to actually pinpoint who, why and how, do you really think that you're going to be getting --

MR. SNOW: I don't know. Honestly, I don't know. We just have to find out what people can discover.

Ed, I jumped past you. Did you have --

Q I wanted to talk Iraq, so --

MR. SNOW: Okay, is everybody -- okay, we've got a few more on this. Go ahead.

Q If the administration believes that al Qaeda and the Taliban are operating in these regions, Pakistan can't or won't do more, why not just send the U.S. military in to take care of it?

MR. SNOW: I quarrel with -- you said, if Pakistan is unwilling or unable to do more. I think the Pakistanis have indicated that they want to do more and they are going to do more.

Q Should the U.S. be doing more?

MR. SNOW: Well, we do -- again, the United States understands that Pakistan is a sovereign government, and you work with that sovereign government to be helpful. And we will certainly do that. But on the other hand, so we'll do what we can to assist the Pakistanis, and I'll leave it at that.

Q Does the President feel the debate in Washington about withdrawing troops from Iraq affects the standing of Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, and his willingness to give -- take a tough stance against the Taliban and the tribes that --

MR. SNOW: No, I think the President believes that if the United States were to withdraw, that that would have a real and dramatic impact on the faith of the Karzai government and others in the region about the reliability and fidelity of the United States, and it would raise real concerns if that were to take place.

Q This conference that -- the Prime Minister of Iraq announced, will the United States hold any bilateral meetings with Iran and Syria during these --

MR. SNOW: Well, these are meetings that are being put together -- first you have a sub-ministerial meeting that's going to take place at the first half of next month. And we are -- first, we're happy that the government of Iraq is taking this step and engaging its neighbors. And we also hope and expect that Iran and Syria will play constructive roles in those talks.

But this is one where the agenda is being set up by the government of Iraq, and the conditions especially for bilateral conversations with the Iranians are pretty clear. The P5 plus one have put together a series of offers to the Iranian government, and it knows that if it takes certain steps, then conversations will follow.

But in this particular case, what we're really talking about is a series of meetings -- first a sub-ministerial-level meeting, probably followed up at some later juncture, we think, by a minister-level meeting that we hope is going to be a constructive and regional effort to try to help the democratic government of Iraq.

Q Thanks, Tony. Republicans have been saying that John Murtha's plan, restrictions on war funding, is a slow-bleed strategy. Murtha responded in the Wall Street Journal today saying, "It's not me that bleeds the troops; it's the President who's bleeding the military by over-deploying them." Pretty heavy charge, and I wanted to give you a chance to respond.

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure exactly what he means. The fact is that we understand that -- the forces that we have in place have been doing heroic duty. We also believe that it is important to expand the end strength both of the Army and the Marines, and that's what we're doing. And we hope that Congressman Murtha is going to help us on that.

Furthermore, what you have seen, actually, is a nimbleness, when it comes to trying to do force protection, I think probably unprecedented in a time of warfare -- we're on the fifth generation of armor for our vehicles -- and that we continue to do everything we can to make sure that we continue to field the most capable, most motivated military in the history of the world.

Q When you say the military is still nimble now -- how does that square with what General Pace said in his report to Congress, this new report, where he basically says there is an increased risk to the United States now, essentially because the military is stretched thin?

MR. SNOW: Well, no, that's -- he also says we still have the capability of fighting yet another war if that is necessary. What he's really referring to is the importance of building up greater end strength, which is one of the reasons why we've done that. But what he has not said is that we lack the capability to succeed in Iraq or Afghanistan. I think he would strenuously disagree with that. It is simply an assessment of, if you had what you think you'd really like and what you consider absolutely necessary in the long run, do you want more? And the answer is, yes. And we believe that's necessary, and that is why that is part of the recommendation that the President has put together for this.

Q The Washington Post reported Friday that according to Army officials, virtually all of the U.S.-based Army combat brigades are rated right now as unready to deploy. So when you say have improved end strength --

MR. SNOW: Well, it's -- this gets you into part of the jargon. What happens is that if you also ask the commanders, when the time comes for deployment will you have readiness, and the answer is, yes. A lot of that has to do with whether the equipment is here or in theater -- the equipment is in theater for the most part -- no reason to sort of take stuff out and then put it back in. We're also in the process of seeking funding to continue to improve and replenish equipment. So the really important question is, do you send any forces into battle that are not fully ready, and the answer is, no.

Q Thanks, Tony. On international broadcasting -- does President Bush approve of the major language cuts? Cutbacks proposed on Voice of America Radio, Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia, at a time the U.S. is working hard to spread its message across the world, their total international broadcasting bill is under $1 billion for the year.

MR. SNOW: Connie, this does fall into those "please give me a head's up before you ask" --

Q I did.

MR. SNOW: Okay, I'm sorry, I did not see that one. That came today?

Q No, three days ago.

MR. SNOW: Oh, okay. Well, I was in North Carolina at the time, I apologize.

Q Could you perhaps look into it?

MR. SNOW: Yes. But, I mean, if you're responding to a budget -- something that's in the federal budget, he certainly supports the budget that he presented to Congress.

Q But it's the overall concept of cutting international broadcasting --

MR. SNOW: I understand. You're trying to engage me in a debate about this, and I'll get some information. You can ask me at a subsequent briefing.

Les.

Q Tony, thank you. Two questions. The President is well-known to be a devout Christian, so I presume he will not evade the question -- how does he feel about the Titanic director's claim of discovering the allegedly permanent burial site of the Gospel-reported resurrected Christ, together with alleged Jesus, wife and son?

MR. SNOW: I hope that you will not consider this un-Christian of me, Les, but I am sure that he probably has not spent a moment thinking about that.

Q Okay. Second: Last night, CNN featured the President of the White House Correspondents Association saying of Helen Thomas, "We love her and will take care of her." But CNN also reported that in order to accommodate one more network on row one, Helen, our senior-to-all colleague, is to be relegated to row two when we move back into the White House press room. And my question: Assuming that CNN is accurate, how can you allow this dean of our corps, senior veteran and undeniably colorful character -- (laughter) -- to be back-seated, as has been done to her at presidential press conferences? And what does this say about Bush-Snow treatment of senior citizens who wonder how you and the President would allow networks such ageist favoritism over a veteran?

MS. THOMAS: I swear I didn't put him up to --

MR. SNOW: Okay, well let me -- this is about a --

MS. THOMAS: I never could think of his question in a million years.

MR. SNOW: This is about a thousand-part question, so let me parse it, Les. Number one, of course, we love Helen. Number two, the White House does not make decisions about where people sit, so you can address that to the Correspondents Association. And number three, regardless of the seating arrangement, you'll still be looking at the back of her head. (Laughter.)

Q That's an evasion, Tony. Why do you allow this? Why do you and the President allow this discrimination against a senior citizen who is our senior reporter?

MS. THOMAS: I don't need to be defended, thank you very much.

MR. SNOW: I'm afraid you need to confront Steve Scully in the hallway.

Q -- last Friday, Tony did a great job here at the podium. And also, you were great at the National Press Club.

MR. SNOW: Well, thank you. Let's -- okay, let's -- yes.

Q Does the White House have any reaction to -- mortar attack in Sri Lanka this morning?

MR. SNOW: I'm sure that we obviously -- I don't know anything about the event, but the obvious answer is that we always pray for somebody's health and safety. But, no, I don't have anything for you.

Q -- reported there are going to be a series of -- relationship between the U.S. and North Korea soon. Can you comment on that?

MR. SNOW: No. Again, the six-party talks have laid out the series of steps. One of the working groups has to do with U.S.-North Korean bilateral relations, but I am unaware of any imminent establishment of diplomatic relations. That is something the parties are going to have to work out at the table.

Paula.

Q On global warming. Five western states yesterday announced a regional carbon trading system they plan to support, and you have a growing number of energy trade associations and the energy industry itself calling for mandatory limits, in the absence of federal legislation. Does the White House support the states and private sector doing this on their own?

MR. SNOW: We have no -- they're free to do what they want. It's a little unclear what the five states are doing, but the President has made it clear that he believes in cleaning the environment. He thinks that global warming exists. He thinks that we need to mitigate it. He has put together a 20-in-10 proposal that has -- that will lead to very significant reductions in vehicular C02 emissions. He also believes that you can have your clean air without having to put a crimp on the economy. And as a matter of fact, a cleaner environment can be and should be consistent with robust economic growth. And that's the way we've been approaching it. If people think that they have innovative new ways to do it, it's going to create some opportunities out there for folks to perform services that a lot of people want to see.

We're at a point in our economy, Paula, and we've been here for quite a while, where cleaner water and cleaner air are, in fact, things that people desire. And there are any number of industries right now that are profiting handsomely from that desire. And what you want to do to the best extent possible is to unleash people's creative abilities, so that they can train their energies on a problem like that, and try to deal with it.

Q May I just ask one follow-up? You talk about economic impact, but several members of the energy industry who want to have -- to influence policy in this area have said mandatory limits are inevitable, and they want to weigh in, basically for business opportunity.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, what you're talking about is somebody who thinks something is inevitable. I don't know if it's inevitable, or not. We do believe that -- we are heartened by some of the conversations we've been having with members of Congress about the President's energy proposal, which really does provide for a cleaner environment and more energy. And we'll continue to look -- we're open to any and all suggestions. But at this point, the President's policy, which is very ambitious, has been laid out for this year, and we certainly hope Congress will adopt it.

Q Thanks, Tony. I have a Syria question, if I may. The Syrian ambassador was summoned to the State Department a couple of weeks ago for talks with -- officials there about the issue of Iraqi refugees in Syria and elsewhere in the region. The position that the Syrians are taking on this is that they're not interested -- this is the by-product of U.S. policy in the region -- they're not interested in talking about the by-product, they're interested in talking about the policy itself towards Syria and the role that Syria may play in Iraq. How anxious are you, at this particular point in the game, to talk to the Syrians about bilateral relations --

MR. SNOW: Well, we have bilateral relations. We have diplomatic relations with the Syrians. Our problem with the Syrians has been that there has -- they have continued to be supporters of terrorist organizations, providing shelter in Damascus for any number of terrorist organizations. And we think that -- support for Hamas and Hezbollah, among others -- we understand, of course, there is a Hezbollah presence within the government, but terrorist activities on the part of those organizations are things that this government does not support. But we have made it clear, as with the Iranians, that there is a way forward, but it's based on performance.

Q What sort of role, Tony, would you like the Syrians to play at this particular point in time, especially in the runup to this conference on Iran?

MR. SNOW: I'm only going to give you the general boilerplate answer, because that is the kind of diplomatic question that is best posed and answered in conversations between senior diplomats. But we want them to play a constructive role.

Q And you're going to attend this regional conference if it takes place?

MR. SNOW: Yes, we've already said. The United States has been invited -- we've always said if we are to be invited, we will attend. Again, the first will be at a sub-ministerial level, but we do intend to attend. And if there is a follow-up, the same would be the case, again, if the Iraqis invited us.

Q Who is sub-minister -- what is that? Is that ambassador or what is that, exactly?

MR. SNOW: I don't want to -- that would certainly be one description. I'm not exactly sure how they're going to define it.

Q What would be the purpose of it, do you know?

MR. SNOW: Yes, it's a regional conference. It's designed, again, to work on issues of mutual interest, which would be security, economics. The Iraqis, themselves, will be putting together the agenda, but economics, trade, security relations, all of those -- diplomatic relations -- all of those are going to fit under the umbrella --

Q Refugees?

MR. SNOW: I suspect refugees also would be part of it.

Q Would the U.S. be able to raise these concerns about Iranian IEDs in Iraq at this conference?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, only if that came up in the context of the security conversations. Again, the Iraqis are doing it.

Jim, the first one, I believe, is -- I believe -- there's not been a full, formal announcement, although the Prime Minister did acknowledge it -- I think the first one would be in Baghdad.

All right, thank you.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/20...20070227-4.html

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 4 2007, 06:45 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 3, 2007

Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel and FEMA Director David Paulison
Aboard Air Force One
En route Alabama
8:28 A.M. EST

MR. STANZEL: Good morning, everybody. Thank you all for being here. Just wanted to talk with you a little bit about the President's day.

As you know, the President is traveling to Enterprise, Alabama. He'll receive a briefing from local officials and meet with some local families that have been impacted by the storms there. Then we'll continue on to Americus, Georgia, where he'll also have a briefing with local officials.

We'll be taking the helicopter between the two locations, so as we get there and as we arrive in both communities, we'll have an opportunity to take an aerial view of the damage, as well.

I'm joined here today by FEMA Director David Paulison. So he'll talk with you a little bit about the partnership that we have with state and locals, and give you a sense of the federal government's activities in response to this storm.

So, Director Paulison.

DIRECTOR PAULISON: The President and I are coming down to get some firsthand look at the damage. We've had teams on the ground just a few hours after the storms. But this truly is a partnership with the local community and the state and the federal government. That's the new FEMA.

The system we used in the past, waiting for a local community to become overwhelmed before the state steps in, waiting for the state to become overwhelmed before the federal government steps in, doesn't work. We have to go in as partners, so that's what we're going to be doing.

As soon as the hurricanes hit -- I'm sorry, the tornadoes hit, I was on the phone with the State Emergency Manager, Bruce Baughman -- what do you need, what can we do? So we started moving equipment, supplies, food, water, ice, and communications equipment in immediately, even before -- the Governor had not even asked for the declaration at that time. We were right by their side.

We're doing preliminary damage assessments in Alabama; they're almost completed. And this morning we'll start preliminary damage assessments in Georgia to get a good handle exactly what the damage is and where it is.

We moved in -- like I said earlier, we moved truckloads of water, truckloads of ice, truckloads of blue tarps, plastic sheeting, communications equipment to make sure that the state has everything it needs to take care of those residents whose homes were damaged.

Q Do you get assurances from the people on the scene that the President's visit doesn't in any way interfere with the relief and recovery efforts?

DIRECTOR PAULISON: Absolutely. The first -- what we do is call, call the State Emergency Manager, if we come down, is that going to interfere with what you're doing. And the answer is, absolutely not, we want you here; we want to show you personally where the damage is. It's important that I see it, because we have decisions to make about whether there's going to be declarations signed or not. The President wants to see it personally, and the local community and the state has said, absolutely, we want you to come down and see this.

Q And what have you heard from your preliminary assessment so far in Alabama? What do the figures look like?

DIRECTOR PAULISON: What we've seen so far is -- now, they're not complete yet, but it looks like Coffee County is the heaviest damage. That's where Enterprise is. That's the bulk of the damaged homes, and that's what we're focusing on today. The others are not as damaged. Some of the damage on the coastline were vacation homes, but when you get back inside closer to Enterprise, they're the homes people lived in, and that's where the focus is. And of course, the school is totally damaged, also.

Q Will you be using this visit to determine whether or not to declare a disaster, or determine a certain level of federal aid? What are you looking for?

DIRECTOR PAULISON: That's why we're down here now. That's why we're doing these preliminary damage assessments with the teams, to see what kind of damage is, and see, does it overwhelm the state. And that's the main priority -- is the damage significant enough that it overwhelms the local and state capabilities to handle it without federal assistance.

Q What's your best guess on that, is it significant enough?

DIRECTOR PAULISON: Well, we're processing the declaration now. Again, that's why I'm coming down. I want to see it firsthand because I have to make the recommendation to the President.

Q But there's no doubt these people will be getting federal assistance, the communities that were hit, right?

DIRECTOR PAULISON: That's not been determined yet.

Q Really?

DIRECTOR PAULISON: Yes. It has to be -- again, the damage has to overwhelm the local and state community, and that's why we're looking -- that's why I have teams on the ground. I have 14 teams down here doing home inspections, looking at the public assistance piece of it, what public infrastructures were destroyed, what single family homes were destroyed, what kind of businesses were destroyed.

MR. STANZEL: Any other questions?

Q Is there a monetary threshold when you say, does the damage overwhelm the state? What is the monetary threshold?

DIRECTOR PAULISON: It depends on the state, it depends on the amount of insurance. For example, if you had an area of 100 percent homeowners insurance, there would be no reason for the federal government to step in, because we can't duplicate benefits. So it's a combination of monetary damage, a combination of number of homes destroyed, and a combination of the impact on the community. It's a whole complicated formula that goes into us making a decision to make a recommendation to the President for a declaration.

Q And when would you expect a recommendation to be final? How soon?

DIRECTOR PAULISON: We should be able to do this fairly quickly, because I'm coming down personally to see it.

MR. STANZEL: All right, thank you all.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/03/20070303.html

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 5 2007, 06:47 PM
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 5, 2007

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room



12:02 P.M. EST

MR. SNOW: The briefing is in order. Questions.

Q My goodness, where is everybody? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: You guys have been -- you've been briefing -- I know, we've got the answer to briefing fatigue.

Please, questions. Anybody. Victoria?

Q Is it something the President should do, as Commander-in-Chief, to say, the buck stops here and take responsibility for the scandal at Walter Reed?

MR. SNOW: Well, in a sense, the President, and also everybody within the chain of command are taking responsibility. It's time to shine a bright light on the entire system and find out where the failings may be, and address them. The people who have served have given us their best; it's time for us to make sure that they get our best when it comes to treatment.

You already have ongoing, I think, very swift and definitive action on the part of the Department of Defense, not only on the personnel side, but the Secretary of Defense has put together a team involving medical professionals, and on a bipartisan basis, to take a look specifically at Walter Reed and Bethesda.

Meanwhile, there's an interagency task force working out of the V.A. to take a look at the entire medical system and the care system for veterans. And the President is putting together also a presidential commission that will take an even broader look at the needs, and also possible future needs.

So we take a very exhaustive look at this. It is very important to figure out what's wrong, and get it fixed. And the President is committed to that.

Q But the President hasn't said in any way, shape, or form, this is my responsibility, this is on me?

MR. SNOW: Okay, well, I'll take the rhetorical flourish under advisement.

Q Tony, how important is the President's upcoming trip to Latin America in countering the growing influence of Hugo Chavez in the region?

MR. SNOW: I think the more important thing is, it underscores America's commitment to the region. And you will hear a lot today, when the President talks, that the United States' commitment is not only economic, but we also think it's important to bring to the people of South and Central America the full benefits of democracy, which include representation, but also the basics: health care, help with social programs, education, and so on. The United States is committed to doing what we can to make life better, and we have -- again, I'm not going to steal the thunder from the President's speech, but he outlines a lot of that in his address today.

Q But is the White House concerned about the growing -- Chavez's growing influence in the region?

MR. SNOW: Well, there have been a number of cases in which that government has tired to intervene in elections, and so far is batting zero. I think it's more important to, again, extend the blessings of democracy throughout the region and make it clear that the United States is committed not only to the prospect of free elections, but also the follow on, so that you can continue to provide hope and opportunity for people who live in democratic nations.

Q Tony, back on Walter Reed, the V.A. system. Some have said that the V.A. system is a whole other monster all unto itself. Has the President been hearing from anyone particularly, reaching out, making phone calls, and just asking their thoughts or their personal experiences --

MR. SNOW: What the President is really trying to do right now is to assemble people who can devote their full time and attention to an exhaustive look, as I said, to shine light on the system and to take a comprehensive look at what's going on. I'm not aware -- as you know, April, he had a very busy weekend, and he was on the road Thursday and Friday, as well. I'm not aware of any reach out calls to ask people about personal experiences. But on the other hand, what he has been doing is making sure that people take a good look to find out what the situation is -- no excuses, get the facts, get it fixed.

Q But isn't it sad that it takes Walter Reed to go back into the V.A. system that has been a problem for so, so many years?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, that's an editorial comment I'm not willing to make. A couple of things. Number one, this administration has been committed to trying to improve things through the '08 budget that the President has proposed. We're talking about a 77 percent increase in V.A. spending, as well as an 83 percent increase in medical spending for the military. But having said that, the point I made before is, they've given us their best, it's time that we make sure we give them our best, when it comes to their care.

Q Tony, we've just come off the weekend where Senators Clinton and Obama generated a lot of news coverage with their trip to Selma. We're sitting here now in practically an empty briefing room. The President has said repeatedly that he believes he has the microphone still. But are you concerned that you are losing the microphone, and the President is losing his microphone?

MR. SNOW: No, if you'd come earlier, it was fuller. (Laughter.) The fact is, Sheryl, the President is not losing his microphone. And when you take a look -- whether it is the conduct of the war on terror or domestic policy, the President is the one who is out there with not only a message, but proposals that are going to shape a lot of what goes on in terms of the domestic political debate, and they ought to. They're good ideas, and contrary to the suspicions of some earlier on, he is somebody who has been bold and not cautious in terms of tackling big problems.

And I think you see, again, with what's going on with Walter Reed and the situation there, we are attacking problems boldly because they're not going to go away, whether it be the war on terror, or whether it be health care, education, immigration, energy. And we have had a number of constructive conversations with Democrats and Republicans. Both parties, I think, have not only an obligation, but a vested interest in showing something for their work this year.

I think what you're really talking about is something bright, shiny, and new every time we have a presidential campaign. And reporters are dispatched to look at it and get the local color and speculate and figure out who is ahead and who is behind. CPAC also had its complement of reporters last week. That's part of the pageantry, but while that's going on, there is serious legislative business that is not going to await the campaign trips of various candidates.

Ken.

Q Tony, back on Chavez, Citgo/Venezuela has a very aggressive TV ad campaign on now where they have lower-income Americans, in effect, thanking Venezuela for the low-cost heating oil that Venezuela is providing. Is that as it seems, or is that some sort of propaganda effort?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to comment on those ads.

Q Tony, Michael Battle, the Director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys is resigning. As you know, this comes in the wake of firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys across the country that Congress is now investigating; some Democrats saying they were fired for political reasons. Is the timing of this resignation now all tied with any --

MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, because you've had conversations with them, no. He's made it known for many months that he's wanted to move on. So it's certainly not news. He's wanted to go the private sector.

Q Can you comment on the investigation into the firing of these eight U.S. Attorneys?

MR. SNOW: No, because that, I think, is being done on Capitol Hill.

Q Tony, two quick questions. The major story this weekend, all over the globe, one is, China's military expansion, and second, immigration. And as far immigration is concerned, President leaves for those countries where U.S. has more than 10 million illegals from those countries, and still coming in this country. And people around the country are worried about the illegals in the future. So what really, again, President's chance on this immigration (inaudible), immigration bill, is it going through? (Inaudible) as he has done in the last six years, he's going to push again in the Democratic Congress --

MR. SNOW: Of course. The President is absolutely committed to comprehensive immigration reform because it's the best way not only to guarantee our security, but also balance against that economic needs and urgencies, and America's long tradition of welcoming people who want to be Americans, who want to experience freedom and make the most of it. So all of those things are very important to him, and he will absolutely proceed.

As far as the Chinese military spending, a high rate of expenditure certainly is concerning some of China's neighbors. It's raising concerns. And it is inconsistent with the policy of peaceful development. But the more important issue for everybody, I think, is to have transparency, budgetary and otherwise, so people can actually see what the situation is.

Q (Inaudible) China's neighbors, it's not right (inaudible), because that's what all that (inaudible) -- that whatever China is doing as far as building nuclear (inaudible), is going to (inaudible) the United States because they are --

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into -- again, that gets back into the issue of transparency.

Jim.

Q Tony, when's the last time the President had any contact with President Maliki?

MR. SNOW: Gordo? It's a good question. We'll find out. Couple of weeks maybe.

Q Is there any sense -- I mean, there's some sort of conflicting pictures coming out of Iraq this morning. On one hand, you have this implementation in Sadr City, more troops and the security plan. On the other hand, there's a story about the intelligence agency in Basra. First of all, what's the, sort of, assessment of how things are going with the implementation?

MR. SNOW: Well, okay, a couple --

Q And is there concern about what you're doing out of Basra?

MR. SNOW: We're still trying to figure out what the facts are. We don't have a full readout on that. If you take a look at what's been going on, the President -- the Prime Minister, I mean, gave a speech over the weekend on reconciliation, which, in fact, hit on all the themes that Democrats, Republicans, and the President have said are important. And he talked about such things as the rule of law and making sure that the law is enforced fairly across the country; reconciliation, he spoke of the oil law; he spoke of going after corruption. So all of those things certainly said the right things.

If you take a look at what's been going on, on the ground in Baghdad and elsewhere, there are encouraging signs. But I want to remind people that we're at the very beginning stages of the new way forward. There's one U.S. brigade in, out of five. The Iraqis have placed three brigades into Baghdad now. The Prime Minister has recently signed off on the orders for Baghdad security. We have seen operations in Shia and Sunni neighborhoods. We have seen some small, but encouraging signs. But, again, one doesn't want to read too much into it.

I think it's important to give everything a chance to work. General Petraeus has been on the ground for about three weeks. So I think for people to start drawing snap conclusions, let's see how things continue to work.

But you may recall, we were talking not so long ago about a series of things that would qualify as benchmarks, such as having three brigades in by the end of February -- it happened. As far as pushing for the oil law, it's now been passed by the Council of Ministers, it goes to the legislature, the Council of Representatives. If you take a look at the way the Iraqis also have reached out within the region, that is a key recommendation of Baker-Hamilton, and something a lot of Democrats and this administration have talked about. We're going to have a meeting in Baghdad on the 10th of March, followed by a ministerial level meeting the following month, in April, that will include Secretary Rice and others.

So, again, a lot of encouraging signs. As you know, I'm hesitant to give out report cards on the Prime Minister, but we have seen many encouraging signs in recent days. But we also acknowledge that we're still at the very beginning of this plan.

Q Is it discouraging, his initial comments about the Basra incident seem to focus on the invasion into the office, as opposed to the apparent torture victims found there?

MR. SNOW: As I said, what you're trying to do is to get me to comment. I'm aware of the news reports, just as you are. What we're still trying to do is to unravel everything, and I feel a little uncomfortable about trying to do it simply on the basis of wire stories.

Q And one last question, I missed this. Has there been a location nailed down for the second meeting in April?

MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of, no. No, that's still pending.

Q Two questions, one on Walter Reed and the veterans. Is there anything that the President is doing to facilitate immediate improvements in care? I understand there are long-term commissions, but anything to help people who are in need right now?

MR. SNOW: I know what's going on is that there's a full-court press both out of DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs. DoD obviously would have the lead on Walter Reed, and I'd send you in that direction.

Q So nothing the White House knows of?

MR. SNOW: Well, no, I'm not saying that. I'm saying what the President said early on is find out what's wrong and fix it. And we have seen quick action. I know that there were some people from DoD who were out there last week, inspecting Unit 18. I just honestly don't know, Jessica, precisely what's been done. But he's made it clear that he wants improvements done, and done quickly.

Q Why did it require media exposure for the President and the administration to act on this?

MR. SNOW: I think what happened was that people weren't aware of it. And that was one of the sources of concern.

Q So none of the letters or the protests that have been expressed by the veterans' families ever reached anyone in a position of power?

MR. SNOW: Well, apparently, what happened was that within the chain of command, things were not getting up high enough and, therefore, weren't acted upon.

Q And the President and the administration wasn't aware of other media reports that came out last year about these issues?

MR. SNOW: I don't want to say that nobody was aware of them, but when the President saw the story in The Post, that was the first he was aware of what was going on in Unit 18. And as I told you the following day, he wanted to know what was wrong and get it fixed.

Q Tony, U.S. forces killed a number of Afghan civilians over the weekend, including 10 who were shot by American troops. Can you tell us -- the Afghan government has condemned it, Karzai, in particular. The U.S. military says it was -- they acted in self-defense. And can you tell us what this says about winning hearts and minds, at a time when the Taliban are resurgent and al Qaeda is regrouping?

MR. SNOW: Yes, a couple of things. First, everything is under review, so I don't want to try to presume. Secondly, there's a real difference between the Taliban, which kills innocent as a matter of policy, and the United States, which abhors the death of any innocent. And that's just -- they're two different approaches. And, frankly, in the battle of hearts and minds, the Taliban already lost that. What they're trying to do, once again, is to use terror to impose their will -- and it's not going to happen.

But it is certainly the case that -- again, I want to make it very clear that any attempt to draw a moral comparison between terrorists who kill innocents as a matter of policy, and the United States, which is trying to save innocents as a matter of policy, is utterly unwarranted. There is no moral parallel between the two.

Q You just draw that parallel; I didn't. But what is the U.S. going to be doing --

MR. SNOW: Well, but it's embedded in the question, when you talk about winning hearts and minds -- when you're saying in winning hearts and minds, it would insinuate that there was something there that would, in fact, constitute a deliberate assault on hearts and minds. So I just -- well, I think a lot of people would construe it that way, so I wanted to make sure that there was no confusion.

Q What will the U.S. do to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening in the future? We've had two major instances --

MR. SNOW: In a time of war you can never fully -- if somebody tries to hold innocent civilians, put them in harm's way, it's very difficult to at all times avoid unfortunate circumstances. But, look, again, we're still studying it. So what you're asking me to do is to give you a detailed explanation of what happened and how one would fix it in the future, and I'm not in a position to do it.

Q Tony, just as a brief follow on that, has the President and Karzai, have they communicated on this, talked about this at all?

MR. SNOW: I don't believe -- no, no direct conversation. Again, look, when things like this happen, there is always immediate diplomatic contact.

Q Tony, maybe you commented on this already, but I saw the mention several times over the weekend that this line of analysis about Walter Reed, that the administration can't afford another Katrina, and that Walter Reed is viewed as if it is another potential Katrina.

MR. SNOW: I think that was done by a polemical columnist, but I don't see any parallel. Here you have a very rapid and definitive response on the part of the Department of Defense; you have a very rapid and definitive response on the part of the White House and the V.A. No comparison.

Q Is the "rapid and definitive" response, in some part, out of the memory of what happened when there wasn't a rapid and definitive response?

MR. SNOW: No. It's out of being concerned and alarmed by the reporting.

Q But, Tony, the reason there's no comparison is that Katrina was a natural disaster, whereas this situation at Walter Reed is something over which the administration had control. And it would suggest there was incompetence or, you know, not --

MR. SNOW: And what did you see -- and you saw the immediate holding of people accountable. Again, Sheryl, the first the President saw of that was in the pages of The Post. And that set in train without having to -- the President didn't have to call Bob Gates, people in the higher levels of the chain of command were not aware of it and that is a failing of the system.

Q But doesn't it speak to the larger level of incompetence --

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so.

Q -- or a failing of the system, that it happened on the President's watch?

MR. SNOW: It is failures within the system that led to this. But I would also caution you against having wholesale indictments of a system that has saved many, many lives. There has been an extraordinary improvement in the quality of military medicine during the course of this conflict that has saved lives that otherwise would have been lost, and dedicated people -- look, I go to Walter Reed. I get my regular cancer checkups there. These are people who are really devoted to what they do. And so I would strongly caution against trying to use the broad brush of "incompetence." What we're talking about at this point is outpatient care. We're also talking about administrative problems.

But there is also, I think -- and I would direct you to V.A., because I know they've done some analysis of this, in terms of the levels of satisfaction with care -- but the fact is, look, as long as you have one of these cases, it's too much. But, again, I would just warn against trying to do a broad and sweeping allegation of incompetence based on this. It is simply something that -- but on the other hand, it is utterly unacceptable.

Q Tony, there was a front page story about a lack of a Plan B for the Baghdad security plan. Is there a Plan B?

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: Plan A is barely underway. And it is always -- the idea that the administration would talk freely about a Plan B is -- it's silly. But you also know, as you have long experience with the Pentagon -- that people have lots of plans, and continue to plan for every imaginable contingency. But as Secretary Rice said, the real secret right now is making Plan A work. And Plan A is -- we've got about 15 percent of the troop complement on the ground. As I said, we have seen encouraging signs, but there's a lot of work yet to do. And before people start casting about for Plan B, Plan A first has to be implemented.

Connie.

Q Just to follow up, since you know Walter Reed very well, and since thousands more wounded warriors are coming into Walter Reed, have you or the President discussed changing plans to close down Walter Reed?

MR. SNOW: I am aware of no -- I certainly haven't discussed it with the President. It is important to try to figure out how to provide the most effective care for all veterans. I am simply not going to get into the debate about facilities and BRAC decisions. But the point is we remain committed to first-class care for everybody.

Q Change of subject, immigration. I wanted to just do a spot check, based on discussions on the Hill. Does the President still believe that the guest worker program has to include a path to citizenship to be effective to work?

MR. SNOW: Well, first, the way the guest worker program operates is there's a path to citizenship -- the path to citizenship and the guest worker program are separate items. The guest worker program is something in which people would come here for a specified stay, and they would return. They wouldn't bring family members; you'd have workers coming, being matched for jobs that Americans are not taking, and after a specified time, return. If they decided that they wanted to become citizens, then they would go through the regular process of trying to get green cards, and so on.

The path to citizenship -- I think you're referring to trying to figure out how to deal with 12 million people who are here illegally and coming up with some sensible way of dealing with the problem, knowing that you are not in a position to kick them all out, nor does it make any sense to ignore the fact that they're here as a result of having broken a law.

And what the President has proposed is a way of acknowledging the rule of law by requiring those who have gotten here illegally, effectively, to acknowledge it by paying penalties, and also, at the same time, going to the very back of the line when it comes to immigration -- I mean citizenship -- should they want to apply for it, and during that time, have to maintain continuous employment, good behavior and mastery of the English language.

Q Following up on that, Tony, if I may, really quickly. The President will talk about, I assume, defense with President Calderon during the trip --

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure precisely what it is. I'd refer you back to Steve Hadley's briefing. He gave that to you about an hour ago.

Q Okay. Let me also follow up, then, on the V.A. Is it your expectation that there may be more big fish, if you will, to fall in the wake of this particular circumstance?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. Our primary concern is to make sure the system gets fixed. I don't know if that implies that there are going to be other personnel changes, or not. I know that makes for, sort of, saucier reporting, but it's much better to get into the real and important business of ensuring that the people who have risked their lives and have been wounded in service to their country receive first-class treatment from the moment they're in, through the rest of their lives. That's what they're promised; that's what they deserve.

Les, and then in the back.

Q Thank you, Tony. The New York Times reports this morning that yesterday, in Selma, Mrs. Clinton recalled going as a teenager to hear Dr. King speak in Chicago in 1963, but she made no mention at all of what is in her autobiography, that in 1964, she campaigned as a Goldwater Girl, and Senator Goldwater opposed the '64 Civil Rights Act. And my question: The President believes she surely should have admitted this at Selma yesterday, doesn't he?

MR. SNOW: Oh, please don't waste my time with this silly stuff. I've already told you we're not commenting --

Q It's not silly stuff, that --

MR. SNOW: Yes, it is.

Q -- was from The New York Times. Do you think that's a silly paper?

MR. SNOW: Yes, it's a silly question because we have told you the President is not going to play pundit-in-chief. As much as you want to go --

Q -- just want to know where he stands on this.

MR. SNOW: As much as you want to goad me into doing judgments about Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, it's not going to happen. So don't blow one of your questions by asking something you know I'm not going to answer.

Q Well, let me ask you about another one, not Obama or -- the AP reported that Bill Clinton's induction yesterday into Selma's Voting Rights Hall of Fame -- do you, Tony, know of any record that, in March of '65, when 18-year-old Bil