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Posted: Apr 26 2007, 10:09 PM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino and Administration Officials on the EU Summit
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
9:20 A.M. EDT
Dana Perino, Deputy White House Press Secretary
Judy Ansley, NSC Senior Director for European Affairs
Rod Hunter, NSC Senior Director for International Trade, Energy and the Environment
MS. PERINO: Good morning. President had his normal briefings at 8:00 a.m. At 10:00 a.m. he will have a photo opportunity with the 2007 national and state teachers of the year. That will be in the Oval, stills at the bottom. And then at 10:20 a.m. the President will make remarks in the Rose Garden to that same group of folks. Mrs. Bush will introduce the President. And the teacher of the year will make remarks, as well.
Q Will there be dancing?
MS. PERINO: Don't think there's any music to start that up again. (Laughter.) And it might rain on that parade, as well. And then this evening the President and Mrs. Bush will visit with the Prime Minister of Japan, and his wife, Mrs. Abe, at the Blair House. And then there will be a welcome at the North Portico that's open to press, and then the President and Mrs. Bush will host a social dinner with them, as well. Mrs. Bush's office said that it will release the dinner menu this afternoon -- the much anticipated dinner menu.
This morning I'm going to do the same routine that we did yesterday, since we have an upcoming U.S.-EU summit on Monday, but tomorrow morning we're all going to be up at Camp for the Abe visit, so we thought this was the best way to get you a preview of that. Senior Directors Rod Hunter and Judy Ansley will talk to you a little bit about that U.S.-EU summit, and then I'll follow up with all the other questions you have.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: Good morning. On Monday President Bush will welcome German Chancellor and EU President Angela Merkel, and European Commission President Barroso to the White House for the annual U.S.-EU summit. This will be an opportunity for these leaders to discuss our strategic partnership and to explore ways that we continue to expand our areas of cooperation across a broad range of issues: economic, foreign policy and security.
What I'd like to do is just briefly run through the schedule for the events on Monday. The summit will begin at 10:00 a.m. with a 20 minute restricted meeting for the leaders, where we expect they will just talk about whatever issues of the day they want to. That's a really very unscripted meeting. Then it will follow with an expanded meeting for about an hour and a half, where they will discuss economic issues, energy security and climate change, and begin a discussion of some of the foreign policy issues.
That will be followed from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. by a working lunch, where they will continue their discussion on foreign policy and security issues, followed by a press availability with the three leaders.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: East Room. We're working today with the EU on the full range of global challenges. This is no longer a relationship that's just about bilateral issues. I'd like to address just briefly some of the foreign policy and security issues that we expect will be discussed during the summit, and then I'd like to turn it over to Rod for discussion on the economic issues.
In the foreign policy area, our joint goal is to advance freedom, democracy, and human rights worldwide. And we're working, really, globally with the EU on this, from resolving the final status of Kosovo, with the goal of supervised independence; to bringing freedom and security to the last dictatorship in Europe, in Belarus; to the Middle East where through a revived Quartet process we're hoping to restart the peace process, with the goal of two states living side-by-side; to Lebanon, where we're engaged heavily with the EU in ending the crisis there this summer; Iran, I think our work with the EU 3 in trying to prevent nuclear weapons capability in Iran is probably one of the better examples of the successes we've had; also, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, we're engaged very much with the EU on our comprehensive approach, certainly, in Afghanistan, and they're also providing quite a bit of assistance to the government in Iraq.
Latin America is an area that will certainly be a topic of discussion -- agreement between us that we should continue to spread development and human rights throughout Latin America. And of course, that's a particular issue of our President. And in Darfur -- a lot of discussion with the EU about how we can end the genocide in Darfur.
On the security area, we'll be working together -- we'll work together to try to increase our information flow so we can disrupt terrorist activities and also disrupt terrorist financing. That will be a big priority. Proliferation, very much the same type of thing, trying to disrupt the financing for those that are trying to seek weapons of mass destruction and trying to disrupt that flow.
I think I will stop there and let Rod talk a little bit about the economic issues, which will be a big focus of the summit.
Q All that in one day? They're going to do all that in one day?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: He'll actually -- last year when we did the summit in Vienna, they actually went through the whole list of issues. They hit on all of them, and we'll hopefully have a statement that will address all of those.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: Good morning. We would imagine that three -- there would be three issues in particular that would -- economic issues that would be covered by the leaders. First, Doha. This is a top priority for the leaders. They each recognize the importance to continue global growth, but also, and especially for developing countries, of a successful Doha Round.
Second issue, the transatlantic economic engagement. Chancellor Merkel has shown leadership in putting this at the top of her agenda. We have extensive economic integration with the European Union already, and extensive engagement by various government officials. We're going to be -- I mentioned the leaders will be talking about how we can streamline that ongoing cooperation which we have with the Europeans and -- with a view to encouraging growth and further integration.
The third issue, as Judy mentioned a moment ago, will be climate, energy security and economic growth, three issues that need to be discussed together. These are priorities for the leaders, as you know, and as part of those discussions, I would imagine that a central point will be the role of technology development -- innovation and technology as a way to solve the challenges on those three inter-related issues. And this, of course, being an area where the President has shown particular leadership, as demonstrated with the State of the Union address. And then the third part of that would be the need to incorporate, or to draw into this discussion emerging economies.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: Be happy to take any questions.
Q What about the argument that America is going to lose out on globalization to India and China; eventually they're going to become so high-tech we will lose more and more of our jobs, more and more of our entrepreneurship, we'll have nothing for the grandchildren.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I think the leaders view this as -- that further integration is actually an opportunity for our peoples, ours and the Europeans, to take advantage of their opportunities to create better lives for American citizens and for Europeans.
Q You think it will improve it, while we lose all of our jobs, from high-tech to --
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I don't think I would agree that we would lose all of our jobs. In fact, as you've seen at the present, our unemployment rate is at all time lows, and our growth has been pretty strong. The global growth has been pretty strong largely because of integration over the past --
Q Call Bombay for your telephone bill?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I'm sorry? (Laughter.)
Q Is population growth ever an issue on the agenda?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: They do address that. I think they had a little discussion of that last year, and we'll see if comes up again this year.
Q What did they say last year?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: They discussed, obviously, that there are some problems in certain areas, some in terms of population growth, some in areas in Europe where population isn't keeping up, quite frankly. So it's really an issue that spans a lot.
Q When we've been on some of these trips, foreign leaders have brought up the issue of visas and the entry to the U.S. issue that they have. How much is that going to be a part of this?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: We fully expect that they'll raise that again this year. I think the President would welcome that. You know that he made an announcement of an initiative in Estonia when he was there to try to modernize our visa waiver program, to enhance security, and also allow it to be expanded, so that some of these newer European Union countries might be able to get into that program. So it's something that he discusses frequently with Europeans and with the EU, so we expect that that will be discussed, as well.
Q Is he going to announce any more countries that will be eligible to -- that won't be subject to the visa restrictions?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: His initiative was to have a change in the law, and until the law is changed, the countries won't qualify under the old standards.
Q Nothing is going to happen on that front.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: No, other than just, I would imagine, a renewed commitment to try to get that legislation.
Q You mentioned climate as one of the three issues on the economic side. And, obviously, this is going to be a major topic at G8, and the White House has recently indicated that it's going to be a topic at APEC, as well. And I'm just wondering how you move the issue forward when European countries are at odds with what President Bush's vision for this is?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: Well, actually there's a lot more agreement than so much being at odds, as I think you just described it. There's much we agree on. One, about the challenge, and man's role in creating that challenge. There is, I think, general agreement about the importance of developing the innovative technologies which will help us transition to a less burdensome, on the economy, with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
So the questions, I think, are more about means, rather than the ends.
Q So are you only going to talk about the points on which you agree, or are you going to get into some of the areas of disagreement, and try to work something out that -- where each side gives some ground?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: The leaders will have had a number of opportunities, and will have a number in, as you point out, the coming months to discuss these issues. As I say, there's probably a lot more agreement than meets the eye on climate change.
Q Are they going to announce some sort of climate change agreement? Is that what you're saying?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: No. (Laughter.)
Q So the friction will continue? They'll just agree to disagree?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I'm not sure that I'd call it friction, but --
Q It's a little facile to say they agree about the ends, but not the means. We all want world peace, but how do you get there? So is there any indication that there's going to be a new agreement about some of the means, or there's more coming together?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: I think that it's likely that there will be a statement that they'll agree to on this issue. I mean, what will be in it and what the outcome will be, I don't know at this point, but we fully expect that there will be a statement that addresses the issues, as Rod described them, of energy security, climate change, economic development, which is how we addressed it last year in Vienna. I don't have details on --
Q So nothing really so new?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: Well, they have pretty good discussions in these meetings, and I think they'll discuss the full range of things. But as Rod said, there's broad agreement on the issues of certainly what the problem is, and the need to address them, and we can discuss -- the leaders will discuss the various ways of how they want to go about getting to some conclusions. But there certainly is no disagreement on there is a problem and it needs to be dealt with. And as you say, there will be a number of opportunities over the coming months to advance this.
Q Will defense be on the agenda since plans to set up interceptors in Europe have raised concern in Europe, as well as Russia?
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: It won't be on the agenda as such. If it is raised, the President will certainly be more than willing to discuss it.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: One last?
Q Would you talk a little bit more about some of the economic integration specifics? In other words, what's going to be in that statement, or what kind of actual practical result could we expect to see from this?
DIRECTOR HUNTER: I think we should wait until we see -- actually see the statements on Monday.
Q Can you discuss climate change in the context of national security, as well as energy security? There have been studies in terms of how destabilizing this could be in developing countries, like a displacement of poor people in developing countries that could be directly affected by this.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: Well, as I mentioned at the outset, the way the leaders look at this issue, and the way they framed it last year is that climate change needs to be viewed in -- together with energy security, as well as continued economic growth. And I think you'll see them framing it in a similar way in this context. We need to encourage diversification of fuel sources away from energy sources that are -- produce greenhouse gas emissions.
DIRECTOR ANSLEY: Thank you.
DIRECTOR HUNTER: Thanks.
MS. PERINO: Okay. Terry Hunt.
Q You've been keeping track of the number of days since the war supplemental was sent up.
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q How quickly will the President deal with a bill? How quickly will he veto it once it arrives here? Can we expect it to be done the same day?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to put a time on it. But I think -- it will be very soon. We need to see when we get the bill. But it will be very soon. Obviously the President has said that we need to get the process over with, in terms of them sending him a bill and him vetoing it so that we can take the next step. So it will be soon, but I can't give you a date, or time.
Q Do you think -- what do you think about the effort to time this with the fourth anniversary of the President's declaration of the end of major combat --
MS. PERINO: Well, I noticed that yesterday there are anonymous Democratic sources who are saying that this was their strategy and that an on-the-record quote from the Senate Majority Leader's spokesman saying that that is preposterous. I wonder which one is accurate. And I think that if it is the case that they withheld money for the troops in order to try to play some ridiculous PR stunt, that that is the height of cynicism, and absolutely so unfortunate for the men and women in uniform and their families who are watching the debate -- and you would hope that that is not true, although it does make you wonder, why did the House wait so long to appoint conferees? There were no conferees appointed during that two-week break.
And I would just remind you that I know that our opponents for years have tried -- have misconstrued that speech. I would encourage anybody who's actually going to write about this to go back and read that speech and what it was about and what the USS Abraham Lincoln was doing, how long they had been gone, way past their six-month deployment. I think they were gone nine to 10 months. They were expanded, and their mission was accomplished. The President never said "mission accomplished" in his speech.
And I would just hope that the cynicism on the Hill doesn't run that deep, but I wouldn't put it past them.
Q Is it cynicism to want to bring people home to safety, instead of the daily killing that we see in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: No, Helen, that's not what I was --
Q I mean, those words are very tough, very tough.
MS. PERINO: Helen, that's not what I was talking about.
But that's not what Terry's question was. What I was saying is that it is cynical if they withheld money from the troops in order to have a PR stunt.
Q They're not keeping money from the troops. They'll put money in to bring them home.
MS. PERINO: Caren.
Q Any reaction to Senator McCain's comment that he thinks that Gonzales should resign?
MS. PERINO: Just similar to what I had said before, which is, obviously we have good relationships with our friends on the Hill, and when you have good relationships with people, you can have disagreements. And in this one, I think that the President would respectfully disagree.
Q Dana, on the "mission accomplished" speech, though, wasn't the phrase something to the effect of, "the battle of Baghdad is over"? Clearly that's not true.
MS. PERINO: I think it was -- it was major combat. And I -- it was major combat operations. And at that point, if you're going back -- I'm not the greater historian on this, since I was at the Council on Environmental Quality during this episode, but Baghdad did fall very quickly. One of the things that we have learned over the years is how strong, first of all, that al Qaeda would be in Iraq, that they would set up this battle as, in their own words, the battle to win. And we did not know that their stoking of sectarian violence would do what it did last year. We had -- at the end of 2005 and early 2006, you had the votes for a government and a vote for a constitution with millions of people in Iraq. And it looked like we were moving towards a period of political reconciliation. And then if you look at the marker of the bombing of the Samarra mosque in February of 2006, it really started this chain reaction, which is -- then in the fall of 2006, the President heard the call of the American people who wanted to see a change in Iraq, and he underwent an extensive review, a comprehensive review which led to the new Baghdad security plan, which is now under way as General Petraeus --
Q Four years ago he said major combat operations were over. All those things happened after he said major combat operations were over. Wasn't that a rosy scenario?
MS. PERINO: He said that -- he also said that a transition from democracy -- I'm sorry, the transition from dictatorship to democracy would take time. And -- go ahead.
Q Are you really blaming al Qaeda for the sectarian violence in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: I think there's multiple factors, and I think that even General Petraeus said yesterday that their whole aim -- if you look at that Zarqawi to Zawahiri letter, their whole aim was to try to stoke sectarian violence. They love chaos, they want to fill the vacuum with their extremist ideology.
Q Are you suggesting that if it wasn't for al Qaeda, there wouldn't be sectarian violence?
MS. PERINO: No, I'm not suggesting that. But what we do know, and it has been established by the MNFI forces and the intelligence community, if you just look at the NIE that we released in January of 2007 that that is the consensus opinion of the national security agencies of this country.
Q But they're not the only ones responsible. The sectarian divisions existed before, and were exacerbated by the war.
MS. PERINO: I don't think that we're -- we're not arguing that it wasn't.
Q How about this political interference by the Hatch Act, in the Hatch Act?
MS. PERINO: There wasn't political interference within the Hatch Act. What you're talking about is --
Q Use of the government agencies?
MS. PERINO: No, what -- it is perfectly lawful for the political appointees at the White House to provide informational briefings to political appointees at the agencies. And no laws were broken, and we provided more information about that last night.
Q Was that all vetted through the Counsel's Office prior to those sorts of sessions happening? What sort of oversight was done within the White House?
MS. PERINO: Yes, generally -- because it's not unlawful and it wasn't unusual for informational briefings to be given. They were run by Sara Taylor and Scott Jennings.
Q But there's a higher standard, obviously, at the White House than no laws were broken. Aren't there ethical questions, as well?
MS. PERINO: There were no -- what ethical would have been broken?
Q No, in terms of using federal resources, federal people to encourage people. The allegation is out there that people --
MS. PERINO: There's no --
Q -- were being encouraged to help Republicans.
Q Targeting certain Democrats --
MS. PERINO: No, political -- there is no prohibition under the Hatch Act of allowing political appointees to talk to other political appointees about the political landscape in which they are trying to advance the President's agenda. None.
Q You say it's not a violation of the Hatch Act.
MS. PERINO: Not a violation of law, or of ethics.
Q So why is the Office of Special Counsel investigating it, if you're still saying that it's clearly --
MS. PERINO: That you'll have to --
Q -- fine, why would they be investigating?
MS. PERINO: You'll have to ask them. You'll have to ask them.
Q How many of those meetings did --
MS. PERINO: I think there was an average -- we had records from the 2006-2007 cycle. It was around 20.
Q Dana, could --
MS. PERINO: Let me just go to Mark real fast, and I'll get back to you.
Q Should we expect the President to give us a statement on -- after the final passage today?
MS. PERINO: No, I think you're going to have to have one from me. I think this is -- look, this is a little bit of a foregone conclusion, a little bit anti-climatic. The President has long said he would veto a bill if it was sent to him with the constraints that they have in it. And we'll -- I might have more to say a little bit later today.
Q One other point, yesterday Congressman Duncan Hunter called for Senator Reid to step down because of his "War is lost" comment. Does the White House --
MS. PERINO: I haven't seen that.
Q Does the White House think that that statement was so destructive that Reid ought to step down because of it?
MS. PERINO: I'll let the -- I'll let them fight that out on Capitol Hill. We've made our comments about that.
Q David Broder thinks he ought to step down, too. (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: I'll let David Broder speak for himself, as well.
Go ahead, David.
Q Dana, on the political briefings, if it's the White House's position that those are appropriate, and it was done with public funds in a public agency, will the White House consider releasing the PowerPoint demonstration that was used? And if not, why not?
MS. PERINO: I don't think there's any reason for us to release a PowerPoint presentation. Talking about informational briefings at the White House is -- we don't turn over lots of documents. There's work done at the White House, and that is appropriately done. And I just think -- I just caution everyone to take a step back. These briefings were not inappropriate, they were not unlawful, they were not unethical. There is nothing wrong with what they did.
Q Who says so?
MS. PERINO: Who says so? I think -- I don't know who is saying so.
Q Then why not release the documents used and let --
MS. PERINO: I'll take it under consideration, David. I'll take it under consideration, but I sincerely doubt it.
Q If they're subpoenaed, they'll be out.
Q Did all the briefings take place at the White House or were some of at the agencies?
MS. PERINO: No, not necessarily. Sometimes at the agencies.
Q In federal agencies.
MS. PERINO: Yes, but there's -- but there's nothing prohibiting that.
Q Did you say that the Counsel's Office has reviewed this at all?
MS. PERINO: I think the question was had -- did they know about it beforehand, and as a general matter, yes.
Q Were they always presented to the Counsel's Office, can I do this one, can I do this one, on an individual basis?
MS. PERINO: I don't know if that was necessary.
Q It was just common practice and sort of known?
MS. PERINO: I think that since it was allowed and since it had been -- the initial general sign off had been given, I don't think -- I don't know; I'll check and see if each one was checked.
Q Can you clear up just one thing? You said you turned over a bunch of papers last night. Turned them over to who?
MS. PERINO: No, no, no, we provide more information last night about these briefings, in which we said --
Q To whom?
MS. PERINO: To reporters who had been asking about it.
Ann, did you have one?
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q On the upcoming veto, any more discussion as to if there would be a public ceremony or anything?
MS. PERINO: No. Nothing to report yet.
Q Will he dance?
MS. PERINO: Will he dance? I doubt it.
Q What about Secretary Rice. She's saying this morning that -- she sort of suggested she won't comply with a subpoena from the House because she's already answered these questions before. Is the White House --
MS. PERINO: I'd refer you to the -- the Department of State has answered extensively over the last several days, Sean McCormack and Tom Casey have given extensive on the record comment about it and I'd refer you to that. But there is a long-standing practice that the President's senior advisors do not testify on Capitol Hill. And I think what you'll see -- if you go back and look at those State Department briefings -- is that there has been extensive investigation by independent commissions about this matter that Waxman wants to look into. Also her own public testimony when she became Secretary of State.
So I think with the Secretary who is now, I believe, in Norway and then on her way to other places around the world, talking about America's interest in helping to bring peace and security around the world, that that's what she's focused on. And they've said that they will try to answer his questions to the best of their ability.
Q Could you just differentiate between what you just said about the Secretary and Cabinet members not testifying and --
MS. PERINO: Secretaries do testify, but he wants to talk to her about her specific position when she was senior advisor to the President as National Security Advisor.
Q Okay. So you're saying in her role as National Security Advisor, those people do not --
MS. PERINO: Correct. That's it, that's the distinction.
END 9:45 A.M. EDT
Posted: Apr 26 2007, 10:10 PM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Press Briefing by Dana Perino
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
1:51 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Eighty days after President Bush submitted his troop funding bill, the Senate has now joined the House in passing defeatist legislation that insists on a date for surrender, micro-manages our commanders and generals in combat zones from 6,000 miles away, and adds billions of dollars in unrelated spending to the fighting on the ground.
I just spoke to the President in the Oval Office, and as he said he would for weeks, the President will veto this legislation, and he looks forward to working with congressional leaders to craft a bill that he can sign. It is amazing that legislation urgently needed to fund our troops took 80 days to make its way around the Capitol, but that's where we are.
Q Dana, when will the President veto the bill?
MS. PERINO: We still don't know when we will get the bill. We don't know when we're going to get the bill, so we'll make that decision once we have it.
Q Will the goal be to veto it as soon as possible?
MS. PERINO: Well, the President has said that he wants to get the money to the troops as soon as possible. And so as soon as we get the bill, the President, as you could imagine, would make good on his promise to veto it, and then we'll take it from there. And you can assume that the President would soon meet -- quickly after that -- with the congressional leaders in order to start work on the bill.
Q One other on this. Do you see it as a procedural step to veto it and get on with the next stage, or do you see the White House staging some sort of event around it?
MS. PERINO: A little bit too early to preview, but the main point is the President is going to veto the bill, and then get to work with the congressional members on the next step.
Q Dana, the latest CBS News poll has 64 percent of those polled in favor of setting timetables for an Iraqi withdrawal of American troops. And that dovetails, I think, with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that had similar results yesterday. So, clearly, the administration is not on the same page with the majority of the American public.
MS. PERINO: I've said it many times before, and I'll just repeat it. We understand that Americans are tired of this war, they are weary, and they are frustrated, and they want the troops to come home. We want the troops to come home as well, and you're talking about a date for withdrawal. The President is the Commander-in-Chief. He stands on principle. He does not make decisions --
Q But what is --
MS. PERINO: His principle is that he is not going to put our troops into the position of having a date -- a surrender date without providing the Iraqis the chance that they need in order to get the political reconciliation that they need.
Q But here's my question. Isn't his principle, at this point, clearly in opposition with the majority of the American people?
MS. PERINO: Look, I'm not going to -- I can't tell you exactly how your poll ran, or how the question was phrased. I do think that the American people would understand that rashly pulling out quickly, without conditions being right on the ground, is dangerous for the long-term security interests of the United States. Now it is incumbent upon this administration to explain why we think that is the case, and I understand that there are people who disagree, people who are ready for the troops to come home. The President strongly believes that setting a date for surrender is not the way to do that.
Q Let me just follow once on that, because I think what's most interesting in this poll is that two weeks ago the number was 57 percent, and now it's 64 percent. So Americans are watching, they've been watching the last two weeks. The movement is against what the administration's position is.
MS. PERINO: Jim, you've covered the White House long enough to know that this President does not make decisions or change with the wind as the polls change. He understands that it's not popular. He understands how he could be popular, but he's going to continue to have the principled stand that he has.
Q This isn't an issue about popularity at this point, it's a question of which path are you going to take. And the President continues to stay on a path which, at least the polls as a representation of some kind of national opinion, seem to suggest are more divergent than ever.
MS. PERINO: Jim, one thing I would say is that it's not just the President who believes that a precipitous withdrawal is a bad idea. General David Petraeus, who was on Capitol Hill yesterday and gave a press conference today, has said similar, as did the Iraq Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton group, as did the National Intelligence Estimate that is the consensus of the 16 intelligence agencies that looked into this issue. They all said that a precipitous withdrawal would be devastating for Iraq and for the region, and then ultimately have negative consequences for the long-term security of this country.
Q Dana, the President has often said that he understands the patience of the American people is not unlimited. But should we interpret that to mean that patience should extend to the end of his term?
MS. PERINO: What the President has asked is that -- he understood last November that people wanted a change in the war. He himself said he wasn't satisfied with the way that it was going. And so he took pains to have a comprehensive review in order to create the Baghdad Security Plan now being implemented by David Petraeus. What the President has asked for is for the Congress to give -- and the American people to give this plan a chance to work.
And what you heard from David Petraeus this week -- I'm sorry, I should call him General Petraeus -- is that he doesn't have all the troops there that he's asked for. That should be about mid-June, he said, when they will all get there. They're having small signs of success, the sectarian violence is down, but we have the spectacular bombings from al Qaeda. And he said that sometimes, you start to -- he can see progress on the ground, but that can be overtaken by one spectacular bombing by al Qaeda in a major market that kills hundreds of people. And these are not just -- this is not just killing of American troops. These are innocent men, women, and children of Iraq who are trying to go about their daily lives.
And the American troops are there to help try to protect them and to allow this new government to get the de-Baathification law finished, and get the oil law finished. And we understand that it's very difficult for them, but we also -- I can assure you that the President is constantly in contact with Prime Minister Maliki, pressuring him and pushing him and showing him how to lead that country so that it can be one that can sustain, defend, and govern itself.
Q Dana, why isn't it working? I mean, General Petraeus talks about -- the security situation is obvious. But what has to happen here is for the political track to kick in. It hasn't. How do you expect the American people to have patience with Maliki again? This is where we were last year.
MS. PERINO: Well, I think if you listen to David Petraeus, it's not exactly where we were last year, and that he has said the sectarian violence is down by a third.
Q But Maliki has not made that much progress.
MS. PERINO: There has been some progress. And granted -- and President -- we recognize that there are many issues, like those three that I just mentioned -- the de-Baathification law, and the oil law, and the provisional regional elections -- provincial elections -- has not moved forward fully, it's not finalized. But there has been progress and steps forward.
Q But isn't that the key to all of this?
MS. PERINO: It is key. It is absolutely key. But I think that everyone should keep in mind, we have a fully functioning democracy that's been in place for 200 years. Our Congress, it took them five years to pass one energy bill.
Q The President told the American people and addressed Maliki in January that the time for this to happen, this political progress, was now. What does that mean?
MS. PERINO: And I think that they are starting to make some progress. The oil law has now --
Q How long is now?
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry?
Q How long is "now"? What does "now" mean? What's the President --
MS. PERINO: The President has said -- well, I think the way that I would look at it is that the President has said, we're going to try the surge to try the -- to quell the violence there in Baghdad so that the government can have a little bit more time. And as I've just told you, General Petraeus said they're just about two months into the surge, and they don't have -- he doesn't have all the troops there that he wants, and it's going to take a while.
And as I said yesterday, General Petraeus will provide an assessment towards the fall, and that's, I think, when -- I think that's how I would look at the time frame.
Q Can we also go to something you said this morning, which you said, opponents of the administration have misconstrued the carrier appearance by the President four years ago. I don't know how they've misconstrued it. The President said, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
MS. PERINO: And he specifically also said, and this is a quote, "We still have difficult work to do in a dangerous country, which needed [sic] to be rebuilt." He also said, "The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time." And he has also said -- let me remind you what he said on January 10th --
Q But he said major combat operations are over. I mean, I don't even know why you're still arguing about that. I think the President --
MS. PERINO: What the President has said -- what we were talking about then was the fighting -- we toppled the Iraqi government, we toppled the Iraqi army, and that was a pretty quick succession of events.
But what the President then said, and he said on January 10th, is that he acknowledged many times that the U.S. underestimated the insurgence and the foreign fighters' ability to foment sectarian violence and to perpetrate terrorist attacks. And then he also said, "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me."
Q So why quibble over something like this, that he said something that really didn't happen?
MS. PERINO: The President -- because of what -- I think that if you only take the one line, that the end of combat operations -- major combat operations, that's true, but the President also --
Q Yes, but the banner is consideration, as well.
MS. PERINO: Okay, well -- and that's what I meant by that this morning. And we have explained it many times. And you know what? I have a feeling I'm just on the losing end of this battle because the left has decided to believe what they want to believe, which is that the President was saying that the war was over and the troops were coming home. That's not what he said, and I just told you specifically what he said, and I encourage people to read the whole speech.
And that ship -- I'll get to you in a second -- USS America [sic] Lincoln had been deployed for well over its stated period. It was supposed to be gone for six months, and I think it was several months later, that they were coming home. And it was the ship that -- that mission was accomplished. And the President never said, "mission accomplished" in the speech, and people use it that -- now I understand that that's what the banner said, I understand that. But I'm telling you what the President --
Q I'm concentrating on the President's words, more than that.
MS. PERINO: But Martha, what the President said is that the transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time. It is -- we still had difficult work to do in a dangerous country which needed to be rebuilt.
Q Do you believe the timing of all this is related to the May 1st anniversary, which is coming up, in terms of --
MS. PERINO: I would certainly hope not. I think that if that's true, that it is very troubling that Democrats would be so cynical to use our troops in that way, to use troops for a political PR stunt, and to withhold money from the troops and their families. We already know the hardships that are happening from the military based on this.
And I also think that given that they say that they want to provide funding for the troops, it is curious why they didn't appoint conferees for two weeks, and I'm not sure if that had anything to do with this particular timing. I know that their on-the-record quotes are saying that it's just a coincidence, but certainly, the background chatter that they're providing to you anonymously would lead you to -- would only lead me to conclude that they are using the troops for their own political PR stunts.
Q Dana, though, last year it was a Republican Congress that took 118 days to get you a war funding bill, and the White House didn't complain that it took a long time. So why is 70 or 80 --
MS. PERINO: There's a key difference. One is that -- a couple of things. We did not provide the Congress the detail in the request that we did this year with the budget. In fact, we provided it to them later than when the budget came out. This year, we heard their complaints, and we got the request for the supplemental to them the same day as we sent up the regular budget of the United States.
In addition to that, there were some complaints, but the major key difference is, last year we knew that eventually -- that we were going to get a bill that the President could sign.
Q The point is, though, that it took 40 days longer for a Republican Congress to pass a war funding bill, and the money still got to the troops in the field. So isn't this -- aren't you exaggerating the effect on the troops in the field? Last year it took 40 days longer.
MS. PERINO: No, I don't think that we're exaggerating at all. I think if you look at the words from the military, from Secretary Gates and General Pace, that those are real things, and this stage in the war is different than last year. We're in a surge right now. And I think the other thing that they're looking at are some of their long-term procurement contracting issues, that they need to have this money now.
I think you can't underestimate the importance of realizing that we realized that we would get a bill last year that we could sign.
Q But on the question of major combat operations, isn't it more broadly just that, when you said earlier that the American people are weary and frustrated, they want the troops to come home, isn't that due in part to the fact that the President set unrealistic expectations with speeches like that, which suggested to the American people that this was going to be done very quickly?
MS. PERINO: As I said, the President has acknowledged numerous times that he and the administration underestimated the sectarian violence and the ability of al Qaeda in Iraq to foment these spectacular -- I'm sorry, to perpetrate these spectacular bombings, in which hundreds of innocent people are killed. And he said that where any of those mistakes were made, that the responsibility rests with him. And I think that the American people can rest assured that their Commander-in-Chief, number one, takes on that responsibility, and number two, has only the best interests of their security in mind when he makes these decisions.
Q What's your latest pronouncement on when you will know -- since General Petraeus is here now briefing people, when you will know whether or not the surge is working?
MS. PERINO: I'm going to leave that to General Petraeus, who said that it would be sometime in the fall in which he would give an assessment.
Q Dana, looking beyond the veto, you said that the President will be talking to members of Congress. What is the White House position? Is it your position that you will accept nothing less than a clean bill -- no pork, no timetables, no benchmarks -- or is the White House -- is there any give in this from your end?
MS. PERINO: I know that those are all the questions that are burning on your mind. I am not going to negotiate from this podium. I think the best thing to do is let the President get the bill, veto it, and then as I said, you could assume that he would be meeting quickly with congressional leaders. And I'm going to let them talk about it from there.
Q We assume that he is willing to compromise, to a certain extent, to meet them halfway or part way.
MS. PERINO: Sheryl, I'm not going to negotiate at all from here, give any sort of signal in any which way or form.
Q The President has accused the Democrats of holding up funding to the troops. But it's the President's veto that will, effectively, put the funding -- stop the funding in its tracks. So if this is so urgent doesn't he at least share some of the blame?
MS. PERINO: No, Matt --
Q -- some of the blame for the holdup, for failing to have his White House and his fellow Republicans achieve a workable compromise with the Democrats?
MS. PERINO: No. For several weeks the Democrats have known that if the bill, in its current form, is sent to him, that he would veto it. They've also said that they don't plan on cutting off funds for the troops. And given that, since they don't have and they know they don't have the votes to override the President's veto, it is their responsibility to send the President a bill that he can sign. They said -- they insisted on sending him a bill that they knew he couldn't sign. They insisted on sending him a bill that he would veto. And what he had said is, I will reluctantly do so, and then we'll have to get about the business of working on a bill that I can sign. And as you -- as Sheryl's question just indicated, we know that they're going to do that. So the responsibility rested with them.
Q Dana, as the time line issue is lingering, and Americans are in the polls saying they're tired of this war, they want change, does the administration feel that there is pressure that something has to give? I'm asking that as General Barry McCaffrey, someone who has talked to the President, the President has listened to, said that -- let's give Bob Gates another year, and if the game hasn't changed, it's time to go.
MS. PERINO: I'm sorry, I don't understand what your question is.
Q The question is, is there pressure, is there pressure on this White House, understanding that Capitol Hill, you have people that you're talking to; the American public is saying look, something has to give --
MS. PERINO: Of course there's pressure. And that's why the President kind of changed strategy in January, and is hoping that the American people and the Congress would give the new strategy a chance to work.
Q But the issue is, is there pressure on this administration to turn around and walk out? Does this administration feel that pressure?
MS. PERINO: I think the President feels pressure to accomplish the mission, fulfill the mission that he's promised to the troops and to their families, and -- why are you looking at me like that?
Q I understand, but you're not answering --
MS. PERINO: I'm answering your question.
Q Not really. The pressure is to turn things around. He hasn't turned it around.
MS. PERINO: April, what I'm saying is that the surge, as General David Petraeus explained today, he doesn't have all the troops that he has said that he will need in order to fulfill his mission. And so the pressure is to let that process get underway and let the troops get there so that they can fulfill it.
Q That will take 10 years, and the American public is not going to wait --
MS. PERINO: It's not going to take 10 years. He said they'd be there by mid-June, April.
Q No, no, no, to turn things around -- you're saying it's going to happen immediately --
MS. PERINO: No, none of us have said it's going to happen immediately. We have said that we are up against a very determined enemy. This is a sworn enemy of the United States who are being helped by other sworn enemies of the United States. This is very serious. We are deluding ourselves if we think that we walk away, that everything is going to be okay, and that we can just let that region fester and not have any consequences for it, and not have to suffer the consequences of our actions here in Washington. And that is why the President has the principled stand that he does. And he is the Commander-in-Chief, with the long-term national security interests of this country in mind with every step of the way.
Q The General today said that, essentially, this is not an open-ended commitment. He talked about the American clock ticking. He talked about in September he'll give an assessment. And he was asked if he thinks it's not working, will he tell the truth, and will he say we should get out of there, and he said, yes, I will tell the truth about that.
MS. PERINO: As one would expect.
Q Right. So is the White House prepared for a report like that in September, where he comes back and says, we should leave and --
MS. PERINO: We are very clear-eyed about the situation, and we are also very heartened and honored that General David Petraeus is leading this mission.
Q Again, though, I'd have to say, is the President determined to stay there, no matter how many options he runs out of?
MS. PERINO: The President is determined to win in Iraq. I think that the bill that they sent us today is mission defeated. And the President wants us to win in Iraq, not only just for the long-term security interests of this nation, but because 12 million people in Iraq came out and they voted, and they wanted a new government and they wanted a constitution. And they said -- they wanted -- they thanked us for allowing them that opportunity, and now we have a responsibility to help that young government stabilize, to get themselves some laws that will get on the books, and will establish some political reconciliation.
Granted, Martha, this is very tough going; it is slow going. But we have to have slow, focused, persistent work, and encouraging patience on behalf of the American people. As you said, there's a -- there's this talk about an American clock versus an Iraqi clock, and sometimes the two don't tick at the same time.
Q I want to ask about the political briefings that were given to --
MS. PERINO: Can we stay on Iraq, just in case, and then -- anybody else on Iraq?
Q I have one more about the oil law, de-Baathification, the constitution stuff. Is it your thought that if there was no terrorist element in Iraq right now, if al Qaeda all packed up and went wherever home is, would the Iraqi government have oil and de-Baathification and constitutional issues worked out, what, weeks, months?
MS. PERINO: Jim, I'm not going to answer that hypothetical, because al Qaeda is in Iraq. They have said this is the battle for them to win.
Q Let me rephrase that. What is a reasonable period of time for the American people to expect the Iraqi government to work out these critical measures of political accomplishment?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to start the stop watch on the Iraqi government. We encourage them to do it soon.
Q When you say that, you're not going to then, nobody -- then it's again -- it's going to go on forever.
MS. PERINO: No, it's not. Listen, the Iraqis also want progress, and they want it fast.
Q But there's been lots of reports this week that say, regardless of the terrorist activity, there are people inside the Iraqi government who are saying, you know what, this just isn't going to happen. So therefore, you have American troops in Iraq, essentially to reach goals that are unreachable.
MS. PERINO: I think that even in our Congress, you can find people who say that we're never going to get an immigration bill this year, or we're never going to be able to get No Child Left Behind reauthorized. Look, we're all working towards it. This is a new democracy, and I think that they deserve a little bit of time to be able to get things done. That's what our -- that's what we offer our Congress, as well.
Q But you can't define "a little bit of time."
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to do that to them.
Q Dana --
MS. PERINO: Let me go to Ben.
Q Part of the Democratic plan is to hold the Iraqi government accountable. And the President often talks about accountability, not just in foreign policy, but how lawmakers should conduct themselves, how elected officials should spend the public's money, and I'm wondering, where is the accountability in the President's plan? You talked about in pressuring Maliki, patience is not unlimited, but where's the accountability? Where's the teeth to it?
MS. PERINO: I think that -- well, one, I think that the President realizes that one of the -- you don't necessarily work with a government that way, with a sovereign government that way. The President has said he's not -- his patience isn't unlimited, and the American patience isn't unlimited. We've also -- as I've said, I mean, nobody wants peace and stability in Iraq more than the Iraqis. So they feel a lot of pressure on themselves in order to accomplish what is going to be very hard for any democracy. And it would be hard for this Congress to be able to pass those things through.
It's very complicated. But I think that we have to look at this objectively. One of the things that they did do that they are being held accountable for, is they passed a bill in Iraq to spend $10 billion of their own money to start help rebuilding that country. And I think that that shows commitment on their part.
Let me go to Martha, and then Sarah. Okay.
Q When you talk about how long this could take and it's a tough battle, Admiral Fallon recently came out apparently saying that he doesn't want the term "long war" used anymore.
MS. PERINO: I saw a newspaper report about that. I don't know. I just -- what I do know is that what the President has said is that this will be a generational war, and I think that people who have -- understand that the enemy that we face -- and I know that Admiral Fallon is one of them -- that this is going to take a long time. I don't know. I'd have to --
Q That seems at odds with what the administration is --
MS. PERINO: I'd have to refer you to Admiral Fallon. I saw a briefing about that -- I'm sorry, a report about that. But there's no doubt that it's going to take a generation in order to help stamp out this enemy.
Q It is a long war.
MS. PERINO: Go ahead, Sarah.
Q Thank you. Same topic. If the President won't accept benchmarks and a timetable to go with them, what will he do to make Iraq -- the Iraqi government effective --
MS. PERINO: Sarah, I've answered that question several times today. I'll refer you back to the transcript.
Keith, go ahead. I'm just -- let's move on. Keith.
Q Okay, on the political briefings, there seems -- there's no shortage of political information out there. Why does the White House feel it's necessary to give these employees these briefings in the first place?
MS. PERINO: I think that's kind of ridiculous question. I mean, there's -- sorry, I usually don't say those things, but I do think that that one was. Look, there is nothing wrong with political appointees providing other political appointees with an informational briefing about the political landscape in which they are working.
Q I understand. That's not an answer, as ridiculous as the question was.
MS. PERINO: What, you think that we should just look at the CBS/New York Times poll and make our decisions based on that?
Q It's 20 briefings --
MS. PERINO: Jim would agree.
Q Well, I'm trying to get to the motivation for this, and it's 20 briefings --
MS. PERINO: The motivation is to provide people information.
Q But why? Why do they need this information --
MS. PERINO: Why are you asking me these questions? You're asking information, as well.
Q No, no, but --
MS. PERINO: My point was that you're asking --
Q Was there any intent to try to tell people that they need to do something about the election, and to take some action?
MS. PERINO: These are information -- they're informational briefings about the political landscape.
Q Okay, so there was -- there was no intent to do that? Who -- did they ask for the briefings, or was it the White House that decided they wanted to give these briefings?
MS. PERINO: I think it sort of goes both ways. I do know that political appointees around the government -- I used to work at an agency, and you are interested in -- the reason that you're here working for the President is that you want to support his policies and his agenda, and so it's good to get information from time to time.
Q Well, who's idea -- it was the White House idea, initially, or was it the agencies?
MS. PERINO: I think that these briefings -- well, I know the Clinton administration had similar briefings. Where did they originate? I don't know. I couldn't give you a date.
Q Can I follow up? I just wondered why, then, did, according to apparently six witnesses that have apparently spoken to Congressman Waxman, say that at the end of the one of these briefings the head of the GSA said to, I think it was Scott Jennings, one of Karl Rove's aides: What, then, after getting this briefing can we do to go help Republican candidates? And he said, let's talk off line about that.
MS. PERINO: I never talked to Scott Jennings about that. I think that --
Q Well, why would he suggest that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I'm not going to speculate as to what he would have meant by that or not. I mean, he could have meant that that was an inappropriate comment to make in front of other people and talked about that off line, instead of embarrassing her in front of --
Q But if you don't know the answer to that, how do you know that no laws were broken or there was nothing unethical, if you --
MS. PERINO: Checking with Counsel's Office and talking about informational briefings about political landscape, that that is okay, that that is acceptable; there is nothing in the law that says you can't do that, it's not unethical. And it is something that is absolutely reasonable and appropriate, to provide political appointees with information about the landscape in which they're working.
Q But what if at the end of those briefings there were other conversations about, then, how you could help --
MS. PERINO: "What if?" "What if?" I'm not answering "what ifs," Ed.
Q But you don't know the answers to those questions, do you? I mean, how can you make a blanket statement that no laws were broken, as you said this morning, when you don't really know what happened at these briefings or after the briefings?
MS. PERINO: You're asking me to prove a negative and I can't -- nobody can do that.
Q Then how can you make a blanket statement saying no laws were broken? You just made blanket statements without knowing the details.
MS. PERINO: The question is whether or not the political briefings are inappropriate, unethical or unlawful. And the answer to all three of those questions is, no.
Q Even if, at the end of it, an aide to --
MS. PERINO: "Even if," "Even if," I'm not -- you can --
Q Well, but six people who were there say it; it's not just a random "if." Six people.
MS. PERINO: Right, but what I'm saying is you don't -- I have not spoken to Scott Jennings about this, I don't think that I will. If the Office of Special Counsel wants to look into this, they are more than welcome to -- but I'm not going to get into the middle of someone else's investigation. I'm not going to do it.
Q Did the legal Counsel's Office approve -- all of these --
MS. PERINO: As a general rule -- as a general matter, yes, they had approved them.
Q But they didn't go back to them for each one, to approve each one?
MS. PERINO: Not necessarily, no.
Q But isn't a political landscape, in part, describing vulnerable districts and areas where the Republican Party might have trouble in an election season?
MS. PERINO: I think that's what -- yes, of course.
Q Dana, is it the President's view, then, that this Office of Special Counsel inquiry is not warranted?
MS. PERINO: I didn't say that.
Q I'm asking you.
MS. PERINO: No.
Q But if you're saying these briefings are perfectly appropriate --
MS. PERINO: If the Office of Special Counsel wants to inquire about something, that is their right and I'm not going to say whether or not it's appropriate or not. He can inquire and talk to the Counsel's Office about it. We've worked cooperatively with them in the past, and we will do so this time, as well.
Q Dana, I need to clarify something, get you to clarify something really quick. You just said that this is going to be a generational war. And I said something earlier about the American public may not allow the -- accept this, going the way it's going for another 10 years. And you said, it's not going to be 10 years.
MS. PERINO: Oh, I think there's a distinction -- I think that that was about the global war on terror, and I think your question was specifically about the surge.
Q Dana, just back on Iraq for a second. What would be a reasonable period of time for the President to assess whether the surge has worked or not and he had to readjust?
MS. PERINO: As I've said several times, General Petraeus has said that he won't know until the fall, at that point he'll give an assessment. And I think that the President will defer to his commanders on the ground for those assessments.
Q When he gets that assessment, though -- when the President gets that assessment, at that point is the President open to readjusting?
MS. PERINO: Wow, is this, like, hypothetical question day? (Laughter.) I'm not going to say. I think that the President is going to listen to his commanders on the ground, he's going to get an assessment for General Petraeus -- but he's not going to wait until the fall to get an assessment from General Petraeus, they talk quite often -- sometimes weekly, or more.
Q I want to ask about former CIA Director Tenet's new book coming out. He says, in defense of enhanced interrogation techniques, while insisting the United States does not torture, says, "These are people who will never, ever tell you a thing. These are people who know who's responsible for the next terrorist attack." Does the President support these because the ends justify the means?
MS. PERINO: Well, Goyal, first of all -- Wendell, sorry --
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Sorry, I was looking at Goyal. I have not seen the book. I'm not going to comment on the book. What you're suggesting is, does the President support torture. The United States --
Q I am not talking about torture or the book, in this case. I'm talking about enhanced interrogation techniques, which the President has commented on.
MS. PERINO: The President wants our intelligence agencies to follow the law and to make sure that they get the information
that they can get in order to protect this country. That's what he supports.
Q Is this a situation, the use of these interrogation techniques, that is specific to now in the global war on terror? Is it policy that's likely to continue? Is it something we're going to be seeing 10, 15 years from now?
MS. PERINO: This is like a hypothetical question day. I can't look 10 to 15 years in the future. What I can tell you is that this President, and I'm sure future Presidents are going to have the responsibility of protecting the American people. We're ensured that the intelligence agencies follow the law and make sure that any information that is needed from suspects that are picked up, that those laws are followed and that that information is used -- any information gleaned from it is used in order to protect the American people, or our allies around the world.
Q This is also a matter of interpreting the law. These enhanced interrogation techniques have come under some criticism from officials of other countries. Has it complicated the U.S. relationship with our allies?
MS. PERINO: I'm sure that there might be some people who disagree with the United States on that, but I've never heard anything -- I've never heard anything or witnessed anything specific about that. And I think that our allies, who we share information with, are supportive. I would just have to point you back to -- and this has nothing to do with enhanced interrogation techniques, that I know of, but last August, when we worked with the Brits in order to prevent a spectacular al Qaeda attack of blowing up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean. We share information with our allies in order to protect innocent men, women, and children from terrorists who want to kill us.
Q But again, I'm talking about the interrogation techniques used on, in particular, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. And the President has said that this was effective, former Director Tenet says we got more information from him than all the other agencies were able to glean from other suspects. So it takes me back to these interrogation techniques, in particular. Are they something that we're using now in the global war on terror that we won't have to use five or 10 years from now?
MS. PERINO: Wendell, look -- I don't know anything more than what the President or George Tenet have said. And I'll just -- I'm just going to have to leave it at that. I can't look at -- I can't look in a crystal ball 10 to 15 years down the road. It would be wonderful if we would believe that terrorists are not going to exist in the world 10 to 15 years from now. But I'm not going to -- nobody can make that prediction.
MS. PERINO: Go ahead.
Q Dana, first of all, you've done an excellent job in Tony's absence. We look forward to his return on Monday. I wanted to return to the case of Pat Tillman. We, of course, spoke about that yesterday. Yesterday, I asked if the President had spoken to the family of Pat Tillman since the IG report came out, or since the family has complained about the numerous falsehoods that were told to them. And you replied that it would be inappropriate for the Commander-in-Chief to do so. But at the same time, from that podium, you said that he feels deeply sorry for the family and all that they've gone through and he hopes that people are held to account. Why couldn't the President express those thoughts directly to the Tillman family? Why couldn't he call them up directly and express not only his condolences for his death, but his regret for the way in which the Pentagon essentially lied to the family?
MS. PERINO: As I said, I'm the President's spokesman. I provided that comment yesterday because I speak for him. I also know that the President provides a personalized letter to everybody, every family who loses a family member in the war on terror. And what I meant by it would be inappropriate for the President to get involved is that there is a command influence issue. And when the Department of Defense is investigating something, it would be inappropriate for the President to insert himself in that process. He believes that Secretary Gates and General Pace and others that came before them were honest in their assessments of what happened. They found out that there was a question of wrongdoing, a question of a cover-up, and that's why we have the information that we have now and that's the way our system of government works.
Q As far as the President learning that his death was from friendly fire, you said yesterday that from all indications it was well after the funeral. First of all, where are you getting that from and what is your definition of "well after the funeral"?
MS. PERINO: I'm getting that just because there is no indication the General McCrystal memo ever made its way to the White House. There's just no recollection on the part of anybody else that the President would have learned about that before the funeral that was held on May 3rd.
Q Does the President feel regret as to the way the family was treated by the Pentagon --
MS. PERINO: Yes --
Q -- and people from the Army?
MS. PERINO: Yes, I expressed so yesterday. Absolutely.
Q Dana, two quick questions. One, as far as global war on terrorism is concerned, Iraqis want to have freedom, they are free now today, but there is terrorism going on and the Iranians are supporting still terrorism in Iraq. And, also, Osama bin Laden has people claiming that they are behind terrorism in Iraq. My question is that are we still really going -- how are we going to find Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda people? Because many people are saying that if we eliminate Osama bin Laden or his people, then you can eliminate terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
MS. PERINO: What I can assure you is that there are people all around the world that are united in trying to hunt down Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Q And, second, just quick. Yesterday President spoke about malaria, no more malaria. And there are 15 countries from Africa, and also we know that millions have died of the diseases in the past and Africa and around the globe. My question, yesterday President was talking about 15 countries in Africa.
MS. PERINO: What's your question?
Q But malaria also has spread in other parts of the world also. What role U.N. is playing and also if President is going to talk about global war on malaria?
MS. PERINO: When the President talked about Malaria Awareness Day it was not just in Africa -- obviously, that's a huge problem, but we recognize that malaria is something that hurts men, women and children all around the world, especially the children.
I'll take one from Lester and then we'll be done. Les, go ahead. Just one.
MS. PERINO: I've got to go.
Q Yesterday, a Republican National Committee cited the AP report that Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean said the following: "If you want to hear anybody's true views, you cannot do it in the same room as the press. If you want to hear the truth from them, you have to exclude the press." What's the President's opinion of this prescription of the end of press freedom in politics coming from a former governor and national chairman of one of our two main parties?
MS. PERINO: Let me decline to comment now. I'll take a look at the comments; this is the first I've heard of them.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Thank you.
END 2:26 P.M. EDT
Posted: May 1 2007, 02:56 AM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
RSS Feed Press Briefings
10:26 A.M. EDT
PRESS CORPS: (Applause.)
Q Where ya been? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Just hanging out. Thank you so much, it's great to be back.
Q We thought Rove double-deleted you. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: All right. Well, on that note, let me announce the President's schedule for today. He received normal briefings in the morning. There is ongoing a meeting with the U.S.-EU leaders in the Oval Office right now. There will be a working lunch with the U.S.-EU leaders at noon, and a joint press availability at 1:25 p.m. That will be a two-plus-two-plus two, for those keeping score.
At 2:15 p.m., a meeting with TransAtlantic Business Dialogue. It is something that was set up by the late Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, designed to promote closer commercial ties between the United States and the European Union, creates a mechanism to encourage input to foster a more closely integrated transatlantic marketplace.
At 3:45 p.m., a photo opportunity with the FIRST award winners. FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. The President will participate in a photo opportunity with winners of the FIRST Robotics Competition -- they are from Baltimore, Maryland.
Let me also just -- some personal comments -- and I'll try not to get choked up, so I'll go slow. You never anticipate this stuff, it just happens. I want to thank everybody in this room. You guys -- (thumbs up.) (Applause.) I'm getting there.
Q We're glad you're here.
MR. SNOW: Thanks. And thanks for the basket. (Laughter.) I want to thank you all. It really meant the world to me. Anybody who does not believe that thoughts and prayers make a difference, they're just wrong.
Q Take your time.
MR. SNOW: I will, thanks -- especially you. Just a couple things about my situation. I'm not trying to feel sorry for myself, I'm just going to stop being choked up, because you guys have been so wonderful.
I'm a very lucky guy. As I told you before, we were, out of an aggressive sense of caution, going to do an exploratory surgery that did indicate that I still have cancer. Now, I know the first reaction of people when they hear the word "cancer" is uh-oh. But we live in kind of a different medical situation than we used to. And I have been blessed to be treated by, supported by some of the finest doctors in the world. What we are going to do -- we had surgery, where we did disclose -- and there are some cancers in the peritoneum and we are going to attack them using chemotherapy -- I'll start chemotherapy this Friday.
The design is to throw it into remission and transform it into a chronic disease. If cancer is merely a nuisance for a long period of time, that's fine with me. There are many people running around -- and I must tell you, I have received a lot of notes from folks who have had far worse cases than I have, who have survived many years with the kind of regimen that we're talking about, which is chemo up front, and then maintenance chemo to continue combating cancer tells.
I won't tell you how it's going to work out, because I don't know. But we obviously feel optimistic, and faith, hope and love are a big part of all of it.
The other thing is that I hope folks out there who may either have cancer or have loved ones with cancer need to know a couple of things. First, don't go it alone. The support I've received from you and from my colleagues at the White House and people around the country has been an enormous source of strength. You can't -- there's no way to quantify it, but you feel it. You feel it in your heart. And in many ways, that may be the most important organ for recovery, to have the kind of spirit and to realize that, in my case, I'm unbelievably lucky and unbelievably blessed -- and really happy to be back.
The other thing is -- so don't go it alone, and the other thing is be of courage. Realize that in an age like ours, things are happening very rapidly in the medical realm. I'm taking a cancer cocktail this time around, a chemo cocktail that's going to contain two agents that were not in broad use two years ago. Things are moving very rapidly, and there's always hope.
Not everybody will survive cancer, but on the other hand, you've got to realize you've got the gift of life, so make the most of it. And that is my view, and I'm going to make the most of my time with you. I'll take questions.
Q Tony, has the White House been alerted when the Iran supplemental is coming down? And how quickly will the President act to veto it?
MR. SNOW: Okay, first, we can cut cameras now, because we have cut to the other portion of our thing.
As far as the Iran supplemental, we have not. So the real question --
MR. SNOW: I mean, the Iraq supplemental. Yes. The Iran supplemental would be entirely different. (Laughter.)
Q Did we leave the cameras on? (Laughter.)
Q How much is Iran -- (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: As one famous host said, "I-r-a-k."
Q Oh, we love that. (Laughter.)
Q Are we still rolling? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: No, we're not.
No, so we don't know. Again, this is a question --
MR. SNOW: No. And this is a question for Capitol Hill. It's now been passed for five days. We're not quite sure why it's been so difficult to convey it one mile up Pennsylvania Avenue, but we will get back to you when we know.
Q And why did the President talk without Hashimi yesterday? Why was he talking to the Deputy Prime Minister instead of the Prime Minister?
MR. SNOW: Well, the President has talked to the Deputy Prime Minister, as you know he's hosted him here, and he's had conversations with him before. Part of -- the President deals with leaders throughout the Iraqi government, and so to speak, with Mr. Al Hashimi, as well.
Q It's not trying to go around the --
Q Has the administration been notified of anyone else who might be resigning, relating to the D.C. madam?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Does the President have any opinion on the departure of Randall Tobias?
MR. SNOW: Well, he's saddened by it, but it was the appropriate thing to do.
Q Tony, welcome back. A question from today's Washington Post. Will the President really take part in the Sharansky conference in Prague when he visits that city June 4th, June 5th?
MR. SNOW: That would -- Andre, I'll get back to you on that.
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes.
MR. SNOW: It's yes. The answer is, yes. Thank you.
Q Tony, can you give us any update on the war czar? It's been weeks and weeks since that story first broke, that you're looking for someone to supplement Mr. Hadley's job.
MR. SNOW: No, but when we have a personnel announcement, we'll make it.
Q Are you having difficulty finding anyone? Because it seemed they wanted someone right away.
MR. SNOW: Again, we're -- I'm not going to get into the process. We'll let you know when we have somebody.
Q The U.S.-EU, are they going to have some sort of global climate change agreement today?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, rather than jumping what you all will be able to hear about, everybody will have statements and questions at 1:25 p.m. But obviously a host of predictable issues before the U.S. and the EU -- economic cooperation, trade, energy, environment, such as climate change, security issues, joint security issues. So last year I know there was a very detailed agenda, and we got through a whole lot of items, and there is a similar situation this year. So I think I'll let the leaders address those in a few minutes.
Q Tony, can we look ahead to tomorrow's "mission accomplished" appearance at Central Command? I'm assuming that this was scheduled with the anniversary in mind.
MR. SNOW: No, it wasn't. No.
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I did not see anything in the briefing notes that would indicate --
Q What is the -- is there a particular message behind this visit?
MR. SNOW: Yes, it's an annual conference at CENTCOM.
Q Tony, are we winning the war?
MR. SNOW: Are we winning the war?
Q Welcome back. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Yes, exactly, welcome back. (Laughter.) You know, April, we're fighting the war, and it's an important thing to understand that the only way to lose the war is to walk away from it, and that this country not only has made a commitment to the people of Iraq, but the people of Iraq have made a commitment in blood and treasure, as well. And we are working to create a situation where that government, in fact, is going to be able to provide for its citizens, not only economically, but most importantly, a democracy that will respect the rights of all, that will protect those rights, and that will be able to stand tall among the community of nations.
Q How long should we fight the war before we just turn tail --
MR. SNOW: The notion that somehow the United States walks away and there are no consequences I think is the sort of thing that -- it doesn't make any sense. Think of it this way: The United States walks away, who stands to benefit? Answer, terrorists, al Qaeda, the people who are fighting democracy.
One of the reasons -- furthermore, if you are thinking about what goes on within the region, if you are a Middle Eastern power, if you're anybody in the region, and you see this happening, you're going to lose confidence in the United States of America. Let me put it this way: Our allies do not want us simply to leave on a timetable. The Iraqis do not want us to leave. People within the region do not want us to leave, because it does create the possibility of chaos and bloodshed on a horrific scale.
And, furthermore, what it will do is make us less secure as a nation. The fact that it is difficult does not mean that we should walk away from it. As a matter of fact, it is difficult precisely because you have a determined enemy, but we will demonstrate the determination to prevail in Iraq and to help the Iraqis prevail. This is the Iraqis' fight; we are there to assist. And we are building capability on the military side, on the security side, on the economic side and on the diplomatic side. That's part of what will happen in the Baghdad conference.
So the idea -- again, if we turn tail, to use your formulation, what it means is that we weaken ourselves, and we weaken ourselves not only over there, but on our own soil, as well.
Q So you're damned if you do and damned if you don't; you're weakening yourself now, going through equipment, going through troops. And then if you pull out, you damage --
MR. SNOW: No, the fact is, you understand that a military engagement -- if you describe yourself as weakening yourself every time you respond to an enemy, that doesn't strike me as the proper way to frame what happens in a military engagement of that sort. Americans don't like war. We understand that. But Americans also don't like the idea, I don't believe, of a policy that would strengthen al Qaeda, that would strengthen terrorists, that would weaken the United States, and would make us less secure.
It is a tough decision. The President understands that. And it is something that certainly does wear on the American people. But as Commander-in-Chief, the President has a solemn obligation to keep this country safe -- that is in tough times and in good times; that is also when polls are with him and polls are against him. But his obligation is to keep us safe, and he's determined to do that.
Q Why not set benchmarks with -- political benchmarks with consequences, given that there has been so little, if any, progress politically from the Iraqis?
MR. SNOW: Number one, it gets back to what you're saying. If you try to impose timetables, what you end up doing is you say to enemies, you know, all you have to do is create a little bit of chaos.
Q Setting benchmarks, not timetables -- political benchmarks for the Iraqis.
MR. SNOW: Well, if you set a political benchmark with penalties, that would imply that you have a timetable, that you have certain deadlines. A couple of points -- and Secretary Rice made some of these yesterday.
First, the Iraqis, themselves, have set up benchmarks, and they share them. The fact that they do not make progress as rapidly as we might like is frustrating. The President has made it clear, and he said it many times, that the patience of the American people is not unlimited. Meanwhile, as you know, the Iraqis have said -- the Council of Ministers has passed an oil law, and there is still activity along those lines. Some of the other issues may take longer. But the Iraqis share the same goals, and we continue to make it clear to them that they need to do -- they need to take these seriously and they need to move forward as rapidly as possible.
Meanwhile, you also have the situation where terrorists are being pretty clever about it: When things seem to be moving in a certain direction, you go ahead and you set up a series of coordinated bombings that's designed once again to reignite old hatreds between groups, or at least suspicions, and therefore, stall political progress.
So you have a whole series of things that affect the political situation. The Baghdad security plan is designed in a comprehensive way to try to address situations so that you can have more rapid political progress. Do we want to see more rapid political progress? Yes. But do we want to be binding people on the basis of artificial deadlines? No.
Q So you wouldn't rule that out in any sort of --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to negotiate. What's important right now, when we're talking about the supplemental is, let us give our troops the support they need now. We have already been forced to start reallocating money within the defense budget. By the 15th of this month, it's going to become more acute, and all of a sudden, people say they support the troops are going to have to explain why if they support the troops, number one, they drag their feet on sending a supplemental to the White House. Again, they passed it five days ago. It shouldn't -- it's a pretty simple procedure. In fact, I could walk down and pick it up today. But, apparently, it's still -- some difficulty in making its way from Capitol Hill.
But the President understands that people wanted to make a political statement. Fine. Now step forward rather than having military families suffer and equipment -- not being able to replace equipment as rapidly as necessary or proper, let's go ahead and get on with this and get the bill passed. And the President has made it clear that he wants to sit down with bipartisan leadership, bicameral leadership on Wednesday. He's down at CENTCOM tomorrow, and we'll see how quickly we can get it done. He does feel confident and optimistic that we're going to get --
Q Just a follow up. Isn't it possible, though, that the Bush administration could set up those political benchmarks for the Iraqis without necessarily setting up a military timetable or deadline --
MR. SNOW: Again --
Q -- but use, perhaps, resources, money to pull out some of that if the Iraqis --
MR. SNOW: Again, I think --
Q -- don't manage to meet those requirements.
MR. SNOW: I think what you -- in other words, what you're going to say is, we are going to weaken you if you don't move fast enough. I think the most important thing you've got to do is demonstrate -- number one, you're got to do whatever you can to assist the Iraqis to move quickly. You also have to demonstrate good faith.
A lot of times, you have to ask yourself the question, who are you -- who's behavior are you really going to influence with certain actions? Will you encourage the Iraqis, or will you, in fact, give aid and encouragement to the people who are trying to make the government fail?
Having said that, I'm not going to get up here and start negotiating what may be discussed between the President and bicameral-bipartisan leadership. But he's made it clear what his position is, and he's made it clear for a very long time. People on the Hill have known for three months what the President's position is, and a clear veto message has been out for over a month. And so the fact is the symbolic vote has taken place, everybody come back now; once you finish this up, done your symbolic stuff, come back and do your real work.
Q If the military can't be used as a leverage, then would the administration be willing to use financial aid as a possible leverage if the Iraqi's don't cooperate?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to -- again, I'm not getting into sort of gaming this other than to say, we work to assist the Iraqis. And the assumption of the question is that the Iraqis don't want progress. They do. It's tough. And, therefore, what you're assuming is they don't really want to do it, but if we punish them, then that will change behavior. And what I'm saying is be careful, because if you set up punishments, you may change behavior for the worse by, in fact, strengthening the hands of the people who want the democracy to fail.
So you have to take all those into account when you're considering policy.
Q A point of order, if I may. You've inserted twice, and alluded a third time, that the fact that they want the same things we do. I would suggest that that's not at all apparent, from their behavior. And if it's not, in fact, the case, then how does --
MR. SNOW: First, you've got 20 million Iraqis. It is pretty clear that al Qaeda -- their behavior does not --
Q I'm not talking about al Qaeda, I'm talking Iraqis.
Q The Iraqi government.
MR. SNOW: Well, the Iraqis -- well, no, again, you take a look -- the Council of Ministers has passed an oil law. Now you have to go through the business of getting something passed by the parliament. I would just point you to Capitol Hill, where things are not moving as rapidly as leaders there thought would happen when they convened this year. No, I'm just saying democracy is not always as prim and predictable as one might think.
The second thing is, if you take a look at the Baghdad security plan, there are 80,000 people providing security in Baghdad right now; the majority of them are Iraqis. Iraqis have been laying down their -- laying their lives on the line. They still continue, after numerous attacks on police and military sites --
Q Yes, but where does the security work? The security works where there are American troops.
MR. SNOW: Well, but you also see that there has been -- well, go to Anbar. What you have seen there is a shift on the part of tribal leaders -- it's been documented in a number of places in recent days that there has, in fact, been tangible improvement because you have seen a change in the behavior on the part of Iraqis who in the past had not been so assertive against al Qaeda.
So I think it's very difficult to generalize. There are situations that -- there are differences in situations, neighborhood to neighborhood, within Baghdad. But if you take a look at what the Iraqi people have done -- risking their lives to vote, risking their lives to serve -- I think it is pretty clear that they do, in fact, want a stable democracy, and it is a tough thing to do.
Q Let me follow up on that. I think it was either today or yesterday in the Post, a story about the removal of some Iraqi commanders who had gone after Shiite militias. I mean, so --
MR. SNOW: And there have also been stories of fractures within the Mahdi army. But let me put it this way: We're aware of the stories and we're concerned about them, and those are the kinds of things we do discuss with the Iraqis. It is vital for the success of an Iraqi democracy to have security forces that will enforce the law fairly, regardless of who you are or regardless of what group you belong to. We've said it many times, and that continues to be a point of emphasis.
Q But then do you guys -- that example, do you see that as lower down the ranks, or is that the Maliki government not wanting to go too aggressively after Shiite militias?
MR. SNOW: Again, it's -- if you've taken a look at what's gone on, there has been aggressive action within Baghdad in Shia neighborhoods. At this point, I don't want to get too far into trying to prospect what may happen. Keep in mind, we are not yet halfway into full deployment within the Baghdad security plan, and we're continuing to work with the government of Iraq. But, again, we're aware of the reports, we're concerned about them, and that will be a focus of conversations.
Q Tony, is the President at all taken aback by what George Tenet is writing and saying? Is he surprised that Tenet feels scapegoated?
MR. SNOW: I don't know -- I can't -- I haven't had a chance to talk with him about it, Mark, but I think -- Secretary Rice made it clear that she was a little surprised, because George Tenet is somebody who served the nation well. And it is a tough business to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
But the idea that you're scapegoated was a surprise. He felt strongly about the pre-war intelligence, as did people on both sides of the aisle -- Jay Rockefeller, as well as Jon Kyl. You know, you had three-quarters of the United States Senate standing up and talking -- voting on a war resolution, many people talking about imminent threats. And the intelligence was shared not only within the intelligence community in the United States, with the White House and our intelligence agencies, and the intelligence committees on Capitol Hill, but also foreign intelligence operations.
And, obviously, there were some real problems with that intel, which is one of the reasons why there has also been, on a bipartisan basis, an effort to overhaul in a very comprehensive way the way we go about the business of intelligence. So we do not believe he was scapegoated, but he certainly has his first amendment right to lay out his view.
Q Tony, what Tenet is saying publicly now is what we were being told privately at the time, which was that the CIA's intelligence was not nearly as strong as the advice the President was getting from the Defense Intelligence Agency and others, and that their admonitions were not being listened to, if you will, by the White House.
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to go back and flyspeck, but the fact is that everybody got listened to. And Secretary Rice -- no, Wendell, it's interesting. The notion that somehow going into a time of war that the President would not take seriously every piece of intelligence or opinion he would get from qualified people is preposterous.
Q That's one way of putting it, Tony. But the other way of looking at it is the President would not take as seriously what he did not want to hear.
MR. SNOW: Well, that' not the way he operates. I'm sorry, but the President is not the kind of guy who says, tell me what I want to hear. As a matter of fact, you sit in a meeting and you try to do that, you're not going to get very far. What the President wants and demands of his people is -- are their best opinions and their best advice, and that's the way it operates. So --
Q He got a lot of lousy advice, didn't he?
MR. SNOW: Well, he got some advice that -- you know, it's interesting, Bill, you can say about any war that Commanders-in-Chief got lousy advice, because wars never work out quite the way you planned. But what does have to happen is that you have to follow through so that you do have success.
Q Tony, two for you. One is, could you share with us some thoughts about the White House's view of Prime Minister Olmert? The report on the war in Lebanon just came out fairly critical of his handling of it. How important is he to the Middle East peace process? And what does the President make of him as a leader?
MR. SNOW: Well, obviously, he works very closely with Prime Minister Olmert, and thinks that he's essential in working toward a two-state solution. The President remains committed to it. We're not going to comment on, obviously, internal investigations within the Israeli government.
Q The other is that on January 11th, Secretary Rice said that the Iraqi government had two to three months to convince the population that it would apply security fairly, treat everyone fairly, whether -- regardless of their religious or ethnic background. Do you think it's met that timetable --
MR. SNOW: I don't know, it's -- again, I would defer questions like that, at this juncture, to folks who are closer to the realities on the ground. It is clear that there has been some progress in some areas. But on the other hand, as General Petraeus has also said, it's going to take a while to continue not only deploying folks in support of the Baghdad security plan, these things do take time.
But, Olivier, the core of your question, is this a violent essential element in having a successful Iraqi democracy? The answer is, yes.
Q Tony, welcome back.
MR. SNOW: Thank you, sir.
Q I will say that you had a skillful substitute.
MR. SNOW: You know what, thank you. I have -- I want to thank -- what a selfish idiot. Dana and everybody else in the press office have done an extraordinary job. And that should have been the first thing out of my mouth, because the support I got from the White House was absolutely astounding. So yes, a star has been born.
Q Two questions, Tony. Do you, as presidential press secretary, believe that The Washington Post, in its two extensive stories, gave too much coverage to Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias or not?
Q Dana, do you want to take this one? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Les, I am here to speak for the President, and I guarantee you he is not going to have an opinion, either. The Washington Post can -- has its own editorial judgment, and we will let it stand.
Q Follow up on that. Ambassador Tobias --
MR. SNOW: You're going to follow up on the question I didn't answer. (Laughter.)
Q Yes. Ambassador Tobias --
Q Good to have you back. (Laughter.)
Q -- told ABC News that he used Deborah Palfrey's escort service for massages, not sex. Do you believe that many, or any American citizens believe that?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. Look, the guy -- I've told you what I'm going to say. We're saddened, and he resigned, and it was the proper thing to do.
Q Thank you, Tony. And welcome back.
MR. SNOW: Thank you.
Q Last night on "60 Minutes," Director Tenet used some unusually strong language about the Valerie Plame business, in which he said that "that was wrong," her unmasking by the White House, and --
MR. SNOW: Wait, I want to step in, because number one, your characterization does not, in fact, square with the facts of trial.
Q Scott Pelley's characterization --
MR. SNOW: Which would be incorrect.
Q All right. So Pelley's characterization, when he said the White House retaliated, was wrong?
MR. SNOW: That's wrong. That's wrong.
Q Okay. And then Tenet said, "The whole business had a chilling effect on his agency." Your response?
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no. Again, he has his right to free speech and his characterization, but I'm not going to respond to that.
Q Do you expect there to be one on one talks with Iran this week?
MR. SNOW: It's a question that often comes up. There have been a number of occasions, and I've outlined these before, where we have had so-called one on one conversations with Iran in the context of other issues, in Sharm el-Sheikh and other places, where, for instance, if there are to be conversations with the Iranians, these will not be things that betoken a change in the diplomatic status, they will not be on issues that are unrelated to Iraq. And we have had conversations like that with them before. And as a matter of fact, there was at one time an offer to deal on a government-to-government basis on security issues, and it was the Iranians who ended up turning down the offer.
So there may be conversations, but as Secretary Rice said, if there were, they would involve issues such as the impropriety of sending weaponry over the border or the importance of making sure that terrorists are not making their way into the country, the importance of supporting rather than undermining the government of Iraq, and so on. So it is -- it's not the case, in other words, that there would be -- there would not be conversations about other unrelated matters.
Q But she can't control the whole conversation.
MR. SNOW: No, but she can control what she discusses, which is unlike what I'm able to do with --
MR. SNOW: Go ahead, Mark.
Q Hang on, I thought --
MR. SNOW: Okay, Victoria, yes.
Q And going back to Iraq, given all the things you've said this morning, when, then, do you think could we expect to see U.S. forces out of Iraq?
MR. SNOW: I don't know.
Q Do you have any clue?
MR. SNOW: Again, that's really a question to address to General Petraeus. The fact is, to get up and make predictions, first, is an act of pure folly because you are always hostage to changing events on the ground and changing situations. What we've been trying to do is to respond as nimbly to changing circumstances and also to learn from them. The President has spent a lot of time ordering people to take a good, close look at everything in Iraq and Afghanistan; we've adjusted tactics and strategy -- to get back to our old conversations -- so that we have a more effective approach that, in fact, makes the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan more capable of standing on their own.
What the timetable may be, I don't know. General Petraeus I think is the person who is probably best suited, and he doesn't try to answer that question definitively because it's not humanly possible.
Q What do you make of Saudi King Abdullah refusing to meet with Prime Minister al Maliki?
MR. SNOW: That is -- at this point, that is a dispute between the two nations. We think it's important that nations in the region understand the importance of an Iraqi democracy that can stand up and also can serve as a bulwark against terrorism, which is a threat to all nations in the region, whether they be Sunni, Shia, or other.
Q Just one quick one. You said -- back to Randall Tobias. If, as he says, he just got massages, why is it the proper thing for him to do to resign?
MR. SNOW: Well, he apparently thought that it was the proper thing to do, and I will not get into details because I don't know them. Whew! (Laughter.)
Q Estonia and monuments, are you aware of what's happening there?
MR. SNOW: No, but get back to me, I'll get you an answer.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Thanks, everybody. Thank you again.
Q Thank you. Welcome back. (Applause.)
END 10:57 A.M. EDT
Press Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on the U.S.-EU Summit
Via Conference Call
RSS Feed Press Briefings
Fact sheet U.S. - E.U. Summit 2007
4:15 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi. I'd like to just cover three topics that were discussed by the leaders and on which there's been a lot of work leading up to the summit.
The first one is the framework for advancing transatlantic economic integration. The three leaders -- President Barroso, Chancellor Merkel and President Bush -- signed this today, and they spent a significant portion of their time together this morning discussing the importance of this agreement and the path that it really lays out for finding ways to reduce barriers to transatlantic economic trade and investment.
The agreement that was signed has three components of it that are worth mentioning. The first is a regulatory focus on finding ways to converge our different regulatory structure and our regulatory approaches when possible, and also reduce and streamline regulations when possible. As we've interacted with the business communities on both sides of the Atlantic, a consistent set of feedback that we've received is that the very different regulatory frameworks pose real barriers to economic advancement and growth in both economies.
So there's a regulatory focus, in terms of determining how to best develop regulations in the future, and also how to reduce the regulatory burden in key areas for sectoral cooperation. These areas include food safety and cosmetics, medical devices, automotive safety, chemicals and others.
Another part of the economic agreement, or the transatlantic economic integration agreement, is a set of priority projects focused on intellectual property rights and secure trade, financial markets, consolidation, investment promotion and innovation and technology. The Europeans often refer to these at lighthouse projects, and the Chancellor specifically spent some time thinking and talking about how important these projects are for the transatlantic economic relationship.
And then, finally, the agreement includes a transatlantic economic council, which is chaired by Al Hubbard on the U.S. side, and Vice President Verheugen, on the European side. And this group will convene key ministerial level members from both sides, as well as key constituents into a common dialogue that will assess the progress and focus of this transatlantic effort.
So there was a good bit of time focused on this agreement and all three leaders really highlighted what an important path this laid out for our future economic activity and advancement. They all noted that the agreement is an ambitious one and the important next step now is getting past the words and really executing on what are a very important set of priorities.
The second topic that the leaders spoke about -- and probably spent the most amount of time in their discussion on this topic -- is the Doha round. And they made it very clear that this transatlantic economic agreement, which focuses on those specific projects and on the regulatory environment is a very different set of activities than the multilateral trade round.
President Bush emphasized the importance he places on that, the importance that it has for the U.S. economy and the European economy, but also for the developing world. And Ambassador Schwab and Commissioner Mandelson were in the room, and there was a good bit of discussion on the progress that's been made, and on the focused next steps that the EU, the United States, and all critical parties need to take in the coming weeks and months to bring Doha to a successful conclusion. And there was a real uniform expression of commitment and goodwill to try to find a path ahead that would satisfy all those involved. So that was the second important area of discussion.
And then third was the energy security, energy efficiency, and climate change discussion. President Bush introduced this topic. They spent, the three leaders, a good bit of time talking about this. I think what was most notable out of that conversation is how much commonality there is around key principles that the leaders have, the emphasis they place on addressing these combined issues of energy security, climate change, and continued economic growth. There was a great deal of emphasis on the importance of technology in addressing that critical agenda. There was a great deal of emphasis placed on the importance of bringing the emerging economies into this discussion in the role that the EU and the United States could play in that. And there was also a discussion around the very different, in some ways, and in some ways similar activities that the various countries have taken.
So President Bush spent a good bit of time emphasizing what he has recently done in the transportation sector in terms of mandatory restrictions on -- or mandatory increases in CAFE standards and the mix of biofuels in our fuel supply. And there was a good bit of discussion around some of the recent steps taken by the European Union, as well as the joint efforts, and the U.S. effort in particular, around technology investment.
Much of this common ground was captured in a summit declaration around energy security, efficiency and climate change. And in that statement, there's a number of common priorities laid out, several that I'll highlight, is the emphasis that the leaders placed on the deployment of clean coal technology and carbon capture and storage technologies. This is an area where we and the European Union agree there needs to be a great deal of emphasis, in not only developing the technology but deploying it around the world.
A second area that is highlighted in the summit declaration is energy efficiency, especially in the transportation sector and in the building sector. A third area that there's a good bit of combined focus and clarity is around the research, development and deployment around biofuels, and developing a common set of standards. The President, as you all know, has a particular interest in that, and he spent a good bit of time during this morning's session talking about biofuels and the U.S. efforts to develop the next generation of technology in that area.
And then, finally, a fourth area of common focus is the methane recovery and use projects, where we and the European Union have a very cooperative effort underway, and we're looking for ways to further enhance that effort.
So those are the three topics. Those took up probably the majority of the sessions this morning, although there were certainly a number of other important political issues raised. So why don't I turn to my colleague and let her talk about those.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just want to briefly talk about the political and security issues that were raised today. And I would say that most of the lunch discussion focused on these issues, although one of them was touched on in the earlier session. You will see when these documents are put up on the website later today that there is a statement on promoting peace, human rights and democracy worldwide, and it is a statement that really represents the breadth of the relationship we have with the EU in addressing a number of global challenges.
Let me just highlight a couple of the issues that the leaders talked about. First was Kosovo and the need to quickly come to resolution on the final status for Kosovo, based on Special Envoy Ahtisaari's plan. They discussed Iran and the need to make sure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapons capability; discussed Darfur, the importance of ending the violence there; our joint efforts in Afghanistan; reinvigorating the Middle East peace process, which the EU has become even more involved in with the reinvigoration of the Quartet process since Chancellor Merkel took over as EU President.
They discussed Latin America. The President talked a little bit about his trip to Latin America and the importance of working together on human rights and basic freedoms in Cuba. And there was also a discussion of the President's malaria initiative and the need to really address this problem.
I think I will stop there and, Kate, maybe turn it over to questions, if that's okay.
MS. STARR: Yes, fine, time for questions.
Q I'd just like to ask, on the economic integration agreement, what's the relationship between that agreement and what the SEC has been doing for the last few days? I think last week they announced that they were working with their European counterparts on some somewhat similar sounding kinds of initiatives to reach a single standard for accounting for public companies.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, that -- they are very much integrated. So as I mentioned, there are these specific lighthouse projects that have been identified by the Europeans, the Germans, and us. And one of those is focused specifically on financial markets. And so the whole effort here around identifying and agreeing upon common accounting standards is one of the area's focus.
Q And is that something that the SEC has been involved with?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Very much. Yes. It's something that I think Chris Cox has been involved in taking a leadership role in.
Q Hi there. First quick question is just, I want to ask, if we can, why this briefing needs to be on background? Is there any way we can just put this on the record?
MS. STARR: Yes, standard practice, I think, after meetings of this sort is to just to background on the meeting. And also you've got the President a little bit on the record today. So we'll keep it on background, but appreciate your question; noted.
Q My other question is basically, the leaders today were talking about progress on climate change, but when I listened to the President discuss the issue, it's the same thing he's said over and over and over again, and I didn't really hear anything that was different. What actually constitutes progress on this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I guess a couple of things. If you even went back a couple of years ago, even two years ago, I think the discussion around climate change would have been the discussion in isolation of energy security, as well as economic growth. And what was I think notable today in the comments that President Barroso made, as well as Chancellor Merkel, was the emphasis that they both placed in all three, and the common ground that I think they have with the President in terms of the need to address all three holistically.
The second area that they spent a lot of time talking about and just really brainstorming around was how to engage together in a way that would make bringing the emerging economies into this discussion in a constructive way possible. And so there's now discussions about how to do that and how to do that effectively.
Then the third is the area of technology collaboration and cooperation, and the focus that the Europeans -- the Germans, in particular -- and we are placing on that. So this is not to suggest that there's uniform agreement on all aspects of climate policy. But on those foundation points, there is, and that's what they spent the bulk of their time talking about. And the President said this is a conversation that will continue at the G8 and in other forums, and he talks about it with them regularly.
Q It's Olivier, but, close enough. I have one question for each of you, I think. The first one, you said they discussed Kosovo. I'm wondering whether the President reached out to the leaders, the leaders (inaudible) with the President, now that Mr. Holbrooke says that he thinks several EU states would follow the United States in unilaterally recognizing Kosovo.
And on the economic side of things, Chancellor Merkel says it's an enormous step forward that there's now agreement that we need a proper agenda for the Indonesian talks on climate change. What's a proper agenda?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the agenda is still very much under discussion. But I think the fact that they all agree on the principles that I laid out before are important parts of the agenda. So the need for common action, the need for the right participants, the need for a focus on technology, a need for different approaches at the national level to fulfill a broader global objective. This was what came out of the discussion a bit, was the acknowledgment, I think, that the United States and Germany and the EU more broadly are all taking different approaches to a very common and significant global objective.
So there's a lot of common ground there. I think where there's not been common ground is around the wisdom and effectiveness of a global cap and trade system for fulfilling those objectives. And so there, frankly, wasn't a discussion about that today, but that's been an area where there's not been agreement. But there's certainly more areas of agreement than disagreement at this point.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just address the question on Kosovo. The discussion on Kosovo -- and you'll see some of this in the statement that they put out -- was on trying to get a U.N. Security Council resolution on Kosovo. They noted the fact that the Security Council has just taken a trip to Kosovo and Serbia. This was at the request of the Russians. That trip just got back over the weekend. There will be a report sometime this week, and hopefully based on that report we'll be able to move forward in a cooperative way and actually get a Security Council resolution. That's a far preferable way to move forward on that issue. And that was what the discussion focused on.
Q But just to be clear, they did not discuss the possibility of recognizing Kosovo outside that context?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They really -- their discussion really focused on getting some type of a Security Council resolution. Obviously, there are options outside of that, if that's not possible, but the focus is really on trying to work together through the Security Council at this point to try to get something done.
Q Hi there. Can you tell us any more about the high-level forum on climate change that Mr. Barroso mentioned in the press conference? He also mentioned a conference on renewable energy. I wondered if you could tell us more about who would be involved in the forum and then in the conference. Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You know, the high-level forum has been something that has -- was established last year and has become the mechanism by which we have, from the United States, interacted with the European Union on this particular topic. Those dialogues have happened on a fairly regular basis, and that was actually the group that created the statement that we announced today. That group was comprised of a combination of people from the climate side, or the environment ministers, as well as the energy ministers, as well as the economic team.
And one of the key arguments that we've historically made, and that the Europeans have to some degree adopted, is that, again, these topics need to be considered together. And therefore, the people that should be talking about them and considering them are representing all those different aspects of policy.
I'm not actually -- I heard his comment and haven't had a chance to follow up on the second part of your question. I'm not exactly sure of the conference he was referring to. But we can certainly track that down.
Q In the Open Skies agreement, there was some concern that this was going to allow greater foreign control of U.S. airlines. Are there any protections to prevent that from happening?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In terms of what happened on the Open Skies, there were no changes in terms of control of the business, U.S. companies. That would have required a role change, and/or legislation -- neither of those have happened. This is really about access to the markets, in terms of flights from the U.S. to Europe and from Europe to the U.S. Issues of ownership will be dealt with in a second stage negotiation that won't start until 2008.
Q So will the -- when did the, sort of, Open Skies -- I mean, is this just sort of a first step in getting to a broader agreement, or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the Open Skies refers to access to the routes, and access to the various slots at airports throughout Europe and the United States. The ownership issues --
Q I guess my question is when does that open access begin?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: March.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: March of 2008, by the terms of the agreement.
Q Hi. I'm wondering if you can explain what's next in terms of the U.N. international negotiations, in terms of climate change. In the discussions here, Ms. Merkel talked about a strong step forward toward Bali and the agenda that she wants to get there. Was there any agreement on what the United States is going to bring to the Bali meeting in December?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was not any detailed discussion of the specifics of that agenda. I think that that is certainly one of the topics that Chancellor Merkel has outlined as something that she'd like to discuss at the G8. And so this is a discussion that's going to take -- continue to take place in the months ahead. The G8 will be an opportunity where the leaders will talk about these issues again.
And that's an interesting forum because you have Japan, who has just recently -- Prime Minister Abe was here last week, and there was a statement on energy security and climate with Prime Minister Abe and the President, and Japan is a member of the Asia Pacific Partnership, so there's a host of endeavors there, as well as Russia, Canada, and the United States, all of whom have common objectives, I think, but different approaches to achieving those objectives.
So the G8 will provide a forum to begin to try to reconcile those views, and I suspect one of the topics might be how those common views come together in a common agenda through the U.N. or other mechanisms for promoting a climate change, energy security and economic growth agenda.
Q Can I follow up with you? I got on the call a little bit late, so I, one, missed the ground rules in terms of background, and two, what is the administration's position in terms of the next phase after Kyoto expires in 2012? The negotiations will be going on for the next two years, and then there's talk that they'd like to firm those up once Bush leaves office in 2010, I believe it is.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We haven't stated an explicit administration position on what the post-2012 process or approach would be, or should be. The President has articulated a set of principles which I've mentioned, but I'll repeat them just real briefly, which is that he thinks that this is a global challenge that should be addressed by both the developed economies, as well as the emerging economies, and one that they should take on with great focus. He thinks that it should be discussed within the context of energy security, climate change and economic growth. You can't single out one of those; they need to be addressed holistically.
The discussion needs to include the emerging economies, who by any projection will be the primary driver in the foreseeable future of CO2 emissions, and that something that the Chancellor and President Barroso and the President highlighted yet again today, that ultimately technology is going to be the critical ingredient to trying to address this issue globally. And it's not just the development of that technology, but it's the deployment of it in a low-cost way around the world, so China and India and the rest of the emerging economies can actually utilize it.
So those will be the principles that we would place a great deal of emphasis on, but we haven't spoken specifically about what our policy or approach or posture would be to what might emerge after 2012.
MS. STARR: Okay, thank you, everyone. And there will be a transcript on this, so everyone knows, and it should be released fairly soon. Thank you.
END 4:37 P.M. EDT
Posted: May 2 2007, 10:28 AM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route MacDill AFB, Florida
RSS Feed Press Briefings
10:18 A.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good morning. We're on our way to MacDill Air Force Base. This morning the President had his normal briefings. At 11:40 a.m. he'll have his briefing at CENTCOM. It is stills at the top. I think the schedule says closed, but it will be stills at the top.
Let me tell you -- the main people that the President will be meeting with for the briefing are Admiral William Fallon -- he's the Commander of U.S. Central Command -- General Doug Brown, Commander U.S. Special Operations Command, and General David Petraeus, Commander Multinational Force Iraq.
And then the President will make remarks to the CENTCOM coalition conference; expecting around 160 people in the audience. These are senior national representatives from the various countries. The President will speak to their annual conference, and he will thank our many partners in the global war on terror coalition and highlight the broad range of successes the coalition has had while fighting terrorists. One number you might want is, since 2003, 143,336 cumulative coalition troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Q Served in all of these -- in Iraq and Afghanistan?
MS. PERINO: Cumulative coalition troops, right.
Q From how many countries?
MS. PERINO: I know it's around 30 nations now, but I think at one time it was up to --
Q Just in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: I think it's Iraq and -- I think it's total, Iraq and Afghanistan. I'll get -- Bill Luti is on the flight from NSC, and he gave me that number, so I'll see if I can get those two numbers for you. And then --
Q That number doesn't jibe -- there's more than 150,000 U.S. troops at some point --
MS. PERINO: These are coalition -- this doesn't include American forces.
Q Not including.
MS. PERINO: Correct.
Q Non-American --
MS. PERINO: These are non-U.S. And then the President will meet with some families of the fallen. I'll try to get you more specifics, at least in terms of the number of families and where the soldiers died when we get there. And then we are back at the White House at 5:45 p.m.
Q Will he mention the supplemental and the veto in his remarks?
MS. PERINO: No, no.
Q What do you all know about Masri's death?
MS. PERINO: Only what we talked about before we left, which is, MNFI has not confirmed, and so I will defer to them, if and until they have something more to say.
Q Any update on the timing of the veto?
MS. PERINO: As of departure, we still do not know the time that we were going to get the bill, and so we are not able to announce any plans yet, but as soon as we do, I'll let you know. If that does come while we're in the air or on the ground, I'll come and find you and let you know.
Q Is there any possibility that he would veto it today when he got back?
MS. PERINO: That's within the realm of possibility, sure.
Q But it would be when he's back, he obviously --
MS. PERINO: Correct. We didn't have it to bring with us in a special case.
Q And he does expect to receive --
MS. PERINO: All indications we're going to receive it today, but I don't know what time. And so it will just depend -- and so as soon as I know that, I'll let you know. They said that -- we might not know until the early afternoon. And so we'll find out.
Q Would he prefer to do it today? Or would it be -- does he think it might be weird to veto it on the same day that he's meeting with the leaders, tomorrow?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't think the President would think that would be weird. I think that the President would have preferred to sign this -- have a bill that he could sign that was going to fund the troops. He would prefer not to have to veto the bill. And as you all know, it's been 80-odd days since he sent up his request. And so he would prefer to get the -- a clean bill done.
He knew that -- well, he told the Congress weeks ago that he would veto a bill if it came to him in the form that it's coming. He's going to make good on that -- on his word. And then I believe that the leaders and the President will get together quickly. As you know, the President invited them to come to the White House tomorrow. And I don't have a time on that yet. I'll see if I can get that. And then they'll get to work on crafting a bill that they can sign that -- I'm not going to negotiate from here. But as the President said yesterday, he's looking forward to the discussions. I think the leaders have said the same.
Q Do you guys consider benchmarks -- any kind of consequences for benchmarks on the table?
MS. PERINO: I can say, I'm just going to decline to comment on any type of negotiating position from here. I'm going to let the leaders meet. And then if we get more from there, we can let you know.
Q Is there any, shall we say, reluctance on the President's part to actually go through the veto today, being that it's the fourth anniversary of the "mission accomplished" banner, his speech --
MS. PERINO: Obviously, that is -- even thought the Democrats won't say so on the record, it is a trumped-up political stunt that is the height of cynicism and it's very disturbing to think that they possibly held up this money for the troops and the troops' families and the resources they need to try some PR stunt on this day.
The President realizes that today is the fourth anniversary of the day he gave a speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln. As I said last Thursday in the briefing, that speech has been widely misconstrued, and I encourage people to go back and read it. The President did say we had a long and difficult road ahead of us. We're moving from a dictatorship to democracy.
But in addition to that, the President has since said that we did not anticipate the amount of sectarian violence that would happen in the year of 2006, especially fomented by al Qaeda with the Samarra mosque bombing in February of 2006. The President said where there have been mistakes, those mistakes -- that responsibility for those mistakes rests with him.
And so today is the President's opportunity to go and thank the commanders for all of their work, to highlight their successes, to talk about the new strategy that the President has underway, being implemented by General David Petraeus. And he is proud of the work that they've done, the terrorist plots that they have thwarted. And he also is going to remind them about the consequences of success and the consequences of failure.
Q Does the President -- does the President regret the "mission accomplished" speech?
MS. PERINO: Look, I've never heard him describe it that way, absolutely not. Let me just remind everybody, in case you need it, that speech there, I encourage people to read it. The President never said "mission accomplished." I realize that the banner said "mission accomplished." That was specific to the mission of that ship. They were supposed to be deployed for six months. They were deployed well beyond that. I think they'd gone to both Iraq and Afghanistan. And that's what that banner was referring to. But I'm not going to --
Q He did said, "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
MS. PERINO: We did prevail, in terms of toppling the Iraqi army and Saddam Hussein. And several months later, 12 million Iraqis voted for a new government and a constitution. And things looked very promising. And the President did believe that at the end of 2006, he would be announcing basically what was in the Baker-Hamilton report.
Unfortunately, the sectarian violence had grown to the extent that the President, in the fall of 2006, underwent an extensive review to decide on a new strategy in Iraq, of which he announced on January 10, 2007. And the President believes that helping the Iraqi people now is critical. He disagrees with the idea of a time -- a date to tell the enemy exactly when we're going to leave, because it would leave a vacuum that would only lead to many more deaths of the innocent men, women and children of Iraq, destabilize the region. And that is surely not in the long-term interests of the national security of our country.
Q Can I ask about -- do you have a good read of what's going on in Turkey right now? Is the White House concerned at all that democratic principles may not be adhered to when they're trying to sort out their -- the presidency?
MS. PERINO: I would have to get back to you on that. I'm not well versed in it. I do know that Sean McCormack spoke at length in his briefing yesterday. I don't know if there's anything new.
MS. PERINO: Okay?
MR. DECKARD: The meeting is at 2:25 p.m. tomorrow.
MS. PERINO: That's good. Josh Deckard. Hat trick. Two-twenty-five p.m. tomorrow is the meeting with the congressional leadership. And it will be bipartisan, bicameral, the larger group, as they -- that's the same group that came two weeks ago.
Q Do you know coverage yet?
MS. PERINO: I don't. That might be part of -- what I can tell you about later today.
MS. PERINO: Okay. All right, see you on the ground.
END 10:27 A.M. EDT
Posted: May 4 2007, 01:34 AM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
1:03 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Fire away. Questions.
Q From his remarks this morning, the President didn't seem to be much in a compromising mood, still pretty critical of the Democrats. What's going to be his opening remarks?
MR. SNOW: Well, we'll let him make those to Democrats. Let me make a couple of points about -- it's interesting, it appears that the discussion about compromise is all the White House needs to compromise, it's never asked what the Hill is going to do. Fortunately, when there are talks today I think both sides are going to be working in a spirit of trying to get something constructive done. But as tempting as it may be, I'm not going to tell you what precisely the President is going to say. You'll have opportunities to hear from people who will have been involved in the meeting and they can give you their readout.
What the President is not in the mood to compromise about is an attempt to try to tie the hands of generals or troops on the ground. He's not in the mood to compromise about an approach that creates a sense of doubt among our allies, weakens the Iraqi government. Instead what he wants to do is to pull together a package -- and I think both sides want to do this -- that is going to make it possible to give the troops the full funding and also the flexibility necessary to create conditions that are going to -- of greater security and safety within Iraq, and at the same time, also, as you know, part of the funding here is for ongoing economic development efforts -- all of this is very important for building a secure and stable Iraq. That remains the ultimate endpoint, and anything that works against those goals is not going to be serving our national interest.
Having said that, the President certainly is going to be listening to members of Congress and their concerns. They have known for a long time that they are not going to be able to pass into law the measure that finally made its way up here yesterday. Now we've got to find something that will make its way into law and that will meet the basic requirements that the President has laid out. He will not compromise on issues that involve the effectiveness and the security and the operational ability of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Q Can I follow up on that?
MR. SNOW: Yes, sure, Terry.
Q Did the President read the bill before he vetoed it?
MR. SNOW: The President -- we have had plenty of time to review the bill.
Q Can you talk about the spirit of these meetings today, then? Is the spirit to compromise? I know you're saying you won't compromise on this, that or the other --
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way --
Q -- he's listening, but is he willing to compromise in some way to get this through?
MR. SNOW: The President is going to be working with Congress to get something done. Again, you may -- maybe I wasn't listening, but I haven't heard the question asked of congressional leaders. The fact is, both sides have to work together. You may describe it as compromise, you can describe it any way you want. There has to be a constructive effort to get a bill that is going to serve our national interest, meet the basic conditions the President has laid out, and provide the kind of -- the support that the troops need.
Q I'm sure our congressional counterpoints are probably handling that end of it, but can you tell us from the White House podium what spirit the President goes into these meetings with?
MR. SNOW: It's going to be -- it's going to be a spirit of saying, let's work together. It is not -- it is not going to be an antagonistic spirit. And the President does look forward to working with both sides.
Look, he said on a number of occasions in recent days, Martha, that he feels confident that we are going to get acceptable legislation out of this. How that takes place, we'll find out. But this is not going to be an antagonistic meeting where people are sort of glowering at one another. Instead it's going to be one where the President says, okay, let's work together.
Q We want to know if there's going to be any give, any give out of the President -- from the rule of the people to move out of this war.
MR. SNOW: Yes, we want to move out of this war by succeeding.
Q Violence escalating every day.
Q Tony --
MR. SNOW: Wait a minute, let me stop. Helen, the people have been -- if you take a look at what's been going on recently, there have been a number of al Qaeda attacks that had have the -- that have killed innocents --
Q Did every Iraqi attack --
MR. SNOW: No, but if you take a look at the MO of al Qaeda -- bombing attacks -- as a matter of fact, you've seen some reports, for instance, of Iraqis, even those who are opposed to the government, going after foreign fighters. There's a real and recognizable problem there, and it has to be dealt with. So those who say we need to fight al Qaeda, part of what we're trying to do is to build greater capability there.
Q We brought them into Iraq.
Q Tony, on that point, this morning the President said that al Qaeda seems to be a bigger problem than sectarian violence. That seems to fly in the face of what we've heard in recent weeks and months on the ground in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Well, you've got a shifting series of circumstances, Bret. If you take a look, for instance, what al Qaeda -- it's interesting, because it's impossible to segregate them entirely. You take a look at what happened at the Golden Mosque in Samarra -- very likely an al Qaeda attack that, in turn, spawned sectarian violence over the last year and some months. So al Qaeda's explicit goal, as Abu Musab al Zarqawi said many times, was to create sectarian violence, which was to try to use acts of violence that would set Shia against Sunni, and Sunni against Shia, and therefore, would destabilize the government and also create the opportunity to establish a safe ground for al Qaeda within the confines of Iraq.
So they're not neatly divisible. Having said that, you have seen, for instance, the signs of sectarian violence -- the kind of murders that were taking place within Baghdad, those are way down. General Petraeus has laid some of that out, as has the President. So there are some of the things that would be sort of signatures of sectarian violence.
But this is not to say that sectarian violence does not remain a concern, or that it is not something that is going to continue to be a problem. Of course, it will. But what you have seen is sort of a shifting of what's going on, but that is kind of normal in the course of war. There are different things that take place at different times, and a simple categorization of the violence is very difficult to make; things do continue to change.
Q If I could follow. You say you're not going to negotiate from this podium, but can you say that the President is willing to consider benchmarks with some punitive action if the Iraqis don't meet them?
MR. SNOW: I am not going to negotiate from this. Let me tell you, there are two -- let me give you two things to think about. Number one, it's very important to have metrics by which to measure success with the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government is not our enemy, it's our ally. We are here -- we want to support the Iraqi government and help it build capability so that it can handle security operations, economic development, diplomatic relations, political evolution, and so on. All those things are important. So the key is how do you work with them. And I think if you talk to Democrats, ultimately, the question is how do you build that capability and how do you put together the right set of policies so they're going to be able to move forward?
The second thing is that, again, I am not going to be telling you precisely what we're going to be discussing. But the President is looking for ways to --
Q Will he consider it?
MR. SNOW: The President will consider anything that anybody offers. The question is what will people have to say when they get there, and certainly he'll be fair. So, again, we're going to be listening to what everybody has to say. This has to be a constructive exercise. But, again, it also has to be one -- and respect shown on both sides, and also respect ultimately for the goal of trying to build conditions for a successful Iraqi government, along the lines where a lot of the basics everybody does agree on, including metrics, which the President laid out a number of those a while ago and you do need to find ways to be able to measure progress.
Q Tony, the President sort of framed the argument today saying, Americans don't have to choose between being in between warring sectarian sides in a "civil war" -- using that term -- instead, it's a fight against al Qaeda. Wasn't the whole point of the surge to quell the capital and really to diminish the sectarian violence? And now he seems to be saying the enemy is more al Qaeda, rather than --
MR. SNOW: But, again, as I pointed out just a minute ago, Kelly, what you've done is you've indicated that there has been some change in status on the ground since the new Baghdad security plan began to be implemented. And I think that's true. On the other hand, again, nobody wants to take victory laps. For instance, when it comes to sectarian violence, what did you see? You saw members of the Mahdi Army publicly laying down arms. You saw Moqtada al Sadr leaving Baghdad. You saw a series of very swift changes simply upon announcement, and there have been areas in which you have seen reductions in sectarian violence. That reflects the facts on the ground.
You've also seen an attempt by al Qaeda, in response to this, to put together, for instance, coordinated car bombings and the kind of thing, especially near holy sites, not only in Baghdad, but around the country, that probably ought to be construed as attempts to do what happened with the Samarra Mosque bombing, which is to reignite the sectarian tension.
So what the President -- the President is not shifting the analysis; the Baghdad security plan was there to try to learn from the mistakes that we made with the two Baghdad security plans last year. In other words, we didn't keep a 24/7 presence; we didn't move in quickly with economic development; we weren't as fully integrated on a 24/7 basis with Iraqi forces; we weren't the developing -- we didn't give the Iraqis a big enough chip in the game. All of those things are things we've learned from. And you've got David Petraeus, then, who also has considerable success -- he did it in Mosul with counter-insurgency, and is somebody who is our acknowledged expert on the topic.
So what you want to do is you want to keep in mind --
Q Tony, is it politically persuasive to say the enemy is al Qaeda and not getting in between sectarian groups?
MR. SNOW: The characterizations here are not part of a sales pitch, they're an attempt to try to reflect what's going on on the ground. General Petraeus, when he does this, is laying out what he sees. Now, it's entirely conceivable that a month from now you'll have sectarian problems. We hope not. But again, I think you're trying to use a political lens for statements that really are designed simply to say, look, we have shifting realities on the ground.
The President laid out plenty of evidence for that last week. And so has MNFI on a pretty regular basis. They try to do what they can to make the statistics known and the data available to everybody. So it's not an attempt to try to change the characterization for political reasons.
Q Can I just clarify, following Kelly's question, when the President laid out that construct in the speech today, the civil war-al Qaeda construct, it seemed that he was saying there is a civil war.
MR. SNOW: No, if you go back to the National Intelligence Estimate, what you had was -- again, look at what NIE said, which is that you have some clashes that are consistent with civil war, and inconsistent with the notion of a civil war. I am not going to get us back into that whole sort of debate about how you define a civil war. The fact is that we have a situation where we are working to develop for the Iraqis the ability to establish institutions and also conditions on the ground that are going to be conducive not only to creating a stable democracy, but giving people an active incentive to join in. But I'm just --
Q I don't want to go back there, either, except the fact that the President seemed to say it clearly today.
MR. SNOW: Again, it's -- the position -- it's just much more complicated than that.
Q Okay, let me follow one more time on the idea of -- the compromise, which you said the Democrats have not come out and said what they wanted, that everything seems to be us asking you what the White House is willing to do, but we're not hearing it from Capitol Hill.
MR. SNOW: I'm just curious from a questioning point of view that -- yes.
Q Well, there's been reporting and the Democrats said very clearly yesterday that the time to push troop withdrawal deadlines was over, but they were willing to do some work on benchmarks, attaching --
MR. SNOW: Okay, well again, we look forward to the conversation. I'm still not going to --
Q No, but wait a minute. They're being very clear about what they're willing to do and what they're pushing as far as an approach. And I think it's only fair that you give some indications as to whether or not that's something in the ballpark here.
MR. SNOW: The fact is that there have probably been four or five separate proffers from a number of individuals in the Democratic Party, none of which seem to reflect yet a consensus on the part of the party, which is one of the reasons we're asking the leaders in. So what you're asking me to respond to is one of many ideas that have been floated.
Again, I think it's more constructive -- let everybody have their conversations, and you're going to have to be patient. There are going to be discussions. People will be at the sticks today, they'll have comments to make. But I think what you're going to see is a good-faith effort out of the White House, and we think also that the signs we've gotten from Capitol Hill are a good-faith effort to try to get something done that will achieve the basic goals that the President laid out and will allow us to move forward.
Q Tony, I want to go back to the notion of al Qaeda versus sectarian violence. One of the things you and the President have cited is progress in al Anbar recently. That was taking place before the new strategy even began.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q So you keep trying to tie that in with the new strategy, when, in fact, it's really the long war strategy from before it even started.
MR. SNOW: All right, let me break this down for you. What's happened in Anbar, it's not -- what happened in Anbar is, Sunnis were tired of having foreign fighters come in and kill their people, and they decided to turn against them; God bless them. What has happened --
Q Right, and it happened months ago.
MR. SNOW: Okay, but since the beginning -- but my response was still germane about Baghdad, which is -- and you know the figures -- that the benchmarks for sectarian violence, the killings, where you had people going in and killing people wholesale, seemingly merely on a sectarian basis, you had individual murders and that sort of thing going on in areas of Baghdad, those numbers, fortunately, are down. But I do not want to, again, give the impression that we're trying to say, the sectarian violence is at an end. But by the measures that people have been using to gauge such things, they've been down.
Now, if you take a look at, again, the things that have been indicative and typical of al Qaeda activity, such as a single driver going in, blowing himself up, killing a lot of people, or on a timed basis, and the use -- foreign fighters being involved in these activities, those, in fact, have increased in recent weeks. That is primarily what we've been seeing of late. So all that's doing is reflecting as accurately as we can what has been going on on the ground.
Q But answer that question about al Anbar. I mean, the President, again, cited progress in Ramadi and al Anbar, because that seems where the most progress is, and that was before the new strategy.
MR. SNOW: Well, the strategy -- but on the other hand --
Q So what are we supposed to take from that?
MR. SNOW: What you're supposed to take is there's good news. Thank you for reporting it.
Q But it has nothing to do with the Baghdad security plan, but we keep tying it to it.
MR. SNOW: Well, Anbar is not -- no, no, it does -- actually, it does --
Q -- the progress, the real progress -- I saw last August.
MR. SNOW: I know, Martha. But also what you have seen is -- and you might want to call your buds, because a lot of people in Anbar do make this point -- when it was announced that there would be another 4,000 U.S. forces in Anbar, it did, in fact, have the effect of strengthening both the confidence and the resolve of the people there. There have been many attempts over time to try to roll back the progress that had been made there. As a matter of fact, that is not new. You've seen progress in places like Ramadi, and you've seen the resurgence of violence. In this particular case, you have seen an effective and extended period of success there that we hope will continue.
And it is worth noting that as part of the Baghdad security plan there was also a complement of 4,000 U.S. forces that would be there to supplement ongoing efforts in Anbar. You're right, the progress began before, but it has continued. And I think it is reasonable to argue that this will certainly help sustain the success. But also a lot of credit has to go to tribal leaders and also Iraqis in Anbar who have decided to lay down arms, or to go from being people fighting the government to folks who stand in lines and sign up to become members of the police forces, while others are trying to keep the peace.
Q Are there 4,000 more there? I don't know.
MR. SNOW: I don't know that all of them are there yet. I'll find -- you can actually call the Pentagon --
Q Are any of them there?
MR. SNOW: We'll find out.
Q The veto message the President sent up to the Hill argues that what the Democrats are doing is unconstitutional. How can that be unconstitutional when they seem to be exercising their power of the purse?
MR. SNOW: No, they're also -- but when you start getting into operational details that impinge upon the President's prerogatives as Commander-in-Chief, that does raise legitimate constitutional issues.
Q The President earlier today defined success in Iraq. He said, "Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our country that, as you know, have a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives, and that's what we're trying to achieve." What is the President talking about when he says there's parts in our own country where a certain level of violence that people will accept?
MR. SNOW: It means that you have places with high crime rates. And it is something that is quite often a fact of American life that we don't like and it is something that is a matter of constant and ongoing concern. But you could construe that as violence, and it is. If you take a look at drug-related violence that has wracked many of our cities -- and now, increasingly, in rural areas, as well as suburban -- that is a form of violence. If you read stories over the years that constantly take a look at murder rates and rape rates, and every time we come out with either the Bureau of Justice statistics or FBI with its reports, it's a standard part of reporting.
So what he's really talking about is that there's certain kinds of violence that do, unfortunately, exist in a society, but he was not arguing, for instance, that there are militias afoot or that sort of thing. He was simply saying, at some point, you need a level of violence in a society, crime or whatever, that is not going to be undermining your ability to have a functional democracy. And of course, the endless experiment within democracy is always to make it more effective and attending to the needs and safety of the people.
Q If the President is using that as an example of saying that the Iraqis, if they find a certain level of violence that is acceptable, that's defined now as success?
MR. SNOW: Yes, in other words, what he's saying is that if you can have a society that can function more or less normally, where you will have effective police forces that are able to dispense justice fairly, regardless of who you are; you have a growing economy; you have a rule of law; you have political institutions that reflect and protect the rights of all; you have a political system that is able to adjust over time and to -- amid compromise and full debate; you have diplomatic roots set down so you are a strong and functional player within the region. All of those are parts of being a successful state.
Q But the President -- he argued that this is about freedom, this is about democracy. But when the President defines success as a level of violence, where people feel comfortable about living their daily lives -- that bar is very, very low. That's much lower than a democracy or freedom agenda.
MR. SNOW: No, it's not. No, it's not. I mean, look, Washington for many years was the murder capital of the United States of America. I believe we are still able to do our jobs. Now, really what he's talking about -- he's talking about that. He is not talking about --
Q How do you define an acceptable level of violence? I mean, how can that possibly be defined?
MR. SNOW: That's a very good question. I don't have an answer.
Q Can I follow up on --
Q Excuse me --
MR. SNOW: I was going to recognize Sheryl, but, April, you'll be next.
Q When you talk about -- you said, operational details before, with respect to the President's assertion that what the Congress has done is unconstitutional. Are you saying that Congress does not have it within its purview to appropriate money and say what purpose that money can be used for, that they cannot say, this money will be used for support troops, as opposed to combat troops, for instance?
MR. SNOW: Sheryl, if there are attempts -- the President has -- the President needs the ability to operate effectively as Commander-in-Chief, and when people start trying to micromanage that legislatively, that raises constitutional issues.
Q So it's your position that it's unconstitutional then for the Congress to try to say what kind of troops --
MR. SNOW: I'll give you a general characterization --
Q -- the money can be spent on?
MR. SNOW: I actually think that this is a very interesting abstract question that's completely irrelevant because I don't think it's going to be a part of the conversation.
Q It is part of it because the Democrats want to limit the mission. They want to change -- they want to use this bill to change the mission and to move us away from combat troops and into support missions and other missions --
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure that that is -- we'll find out. We'll find as we go.
Q -- talking about what's acceptable in this country. It seems to be a wave of gang violence, as you said, in urban, as well as rural communities. Initiations are creating murders, gang violence itself -- and when you have community leaders to include, black leaders, say genocide of black -- black-on-black crime in urban America. What is acceptable about those -- and they are crippling communities.
MR. SNOW: And this is where -- you're getting into an apples and orange thing, but it's a very good question. Look, no level of violence in the abstract is acceptable. You want people to be able to live in a condition of peace. On the other hand, what the President is talking about is that there will be levels of violence in a society that do not, in fact, cripple the society's ability to function on a daily basis. That's merely what he's referring to.
He has also spoken many times and eloquently about the tragedy of violence within our cities. It remains a concern, and, boy, do I hope that the Iraqis will be in a position where they now can start worrying about those levels of concerns, as opposed to al Qaeda violence, or the possibility of sectarian violence within their boundaries.
Q Well, I hate to paint a drastic picture, but there is a drastic picture in this country. We talk about what's happening in Iraq -- curfews and things of that nature. We have people scared to leave because of sectarian violence and civil war in their country. You have people in this country scared to leave their homes, scared to go out at night because of violence, because of gang problems -- so, unacceptable may be something that --
MR. SNOW: Again, what we're trying to -- look, that's not acceptable; you understand that. What we're trying to do is to come up with a metric of saying, there's going to be a level of violence in a society. But I think you would agree, April, that if that were the kind of violence that were existing, say, in Baghdad, it would not be a cause to have extended American presence there. That's something that the Iraqis ought to be able to take care of.
Q And also on Sudan --
MR. SNOW: Yes, yes.
Q -- on the warrants for the arrests of -- the war crime arrests. Do you have anything -- what's the White House saying about that?
MR. SNOW: We very strongly support accountability for those who are responsible for Darfur, and we expect the government of Sudan to comply with the obligations under United Nations Security 1593 to cooperate with the ICC.
Q The President, in the course of this speech, said that casualties will likely stay high. He spoke of a systematic al Qaeda attack, the choice of responding to the -- he chose the article "the" not "a" civil war -- he said there's no easy way out. Why this grim tone to this speech today, heading into these talks with Congress?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think it's a grim tone. What the President is trying to do is be realistic. You got problems there. You have violence. For instance, if you recall in the State of the Union address, when we were talking about a way forward, it has always been known that when you go in and you're engaging the people who have been responsible for organizing violence, they're going to fight back. And, therefore, you have seen rising casualty rates within Baghdad. That is -- we predicted that from the very start. We have known that that is going to be the case.
On the other hand, there's also been a rapidly rising casualty rate on the part of the people who are responsible for the violence. What you have also seen is Iraqi forces not only more deeply engaged, but also more successful in going in and rooting out some of these cells, in going in and helping pacify various parts of Baghdad.
The President wants people to understand that a war is a tough thing, and furthermore, that one of the reasons why we need to support our forces fully is to go ahead and meet the threat now, rather than to allow it to worsen, and also to send a clear message to the Iraqi people, we know that you're facing difficulty, a lot of it is from foreign forces, and what we want to do is to make sure that you have the ability to enjoy the democracy that millions of Iraqis voted to put into place originally, knowing that there were going to be difficulties, knowing that there is always the possibility of sectarian violence, and also knowing that it is really important for the Iraqi people to be industrious and creative in trying to overcome those.
We saw today, for instance, the council of ministers has passed on to the council of representatives the draft oil law. That is something that they have been working on for a very long time. And that does not mean that you've got instant passage, but you're going to have -- you've got a process where people are working very hard to try to create incentives that reach past historic enmity and instead give people economic, social and political reasons to look at one another as -- not only as countrymen, but as people who have a stake in your success and you have a stake in their success.
Q Tony, sorry, just one more related question. For the first time, the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom has put Iraq on a watch list of countries where worship is under siege. Among other things, its report cited arbitrary arrests and torture and rape. Is this the kind of thing that U.S. troops are in the middle of here?
MR. SNOW: Peter, I haven't seen the report, so I can't comment on it.
Q First of all, welcome back.
MR. SNOW: Thank you, sir.
Q When President Bush made an announcement on mangoes from India, I was with him in India in Hyderabad. And yesterday his dream came true. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and Susan Schwab, the U.S. Rep, and also Ambassador Ronen Sen, they had a celebration yesterday at the Commerce Department by the U.S.-India Business Council. Mangoes from India arrived, and here is a basket for President Bush, and also for the First Lady mangoes from India. My question is that, what message does mangoes bring, as far as India-U.S. relations are concerned -- trade and other issues?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, it is my first mango-related inquiry. (Laughter.) Goyal, I think what you do see is constantly -- India is a very important partner for the United States. You saw the civil nuclear agreement, also agricultural cooperation. India is going to be vital part also in pursuing the Doha Round. So I think it, once again, reflects what we see, which is not only increasing closeness between the two governments, but also increasing interdependency.
Q Tony, back to success again for just a moment. Previously, success has been defined as Iraq defending itself, sustaining itself, and so on.
MR. SNOW: Governing itself.
Q Governing itself. And today we saw success defined as kind of a lower level of violence. Is there a difference?
MR. SNOW: No, this is not inconsistent. This is part of what we discussed before. No, it's not at all inconsistent.
Q Not a new definition --
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Tony, I've got a couple of questions. The first one is, does the President intend to move at all in terms of his position?
MR. SNOW: The President -- again, I know it's really tempting, "the President moved" -- I am sure that everybody is going to have -- when this is all done, I will allow each and every person to decide how much people have moved or boogied or done whatever they've done during the course of legislative compromise. But the fact is that there will be discussions that we think are going to lead to an acceptable measure that both sides are going to be able to take pride and credit. He's going to be listening and it is his determination to work with Congress to get something that's acceptable.
So my guess is, I will let other people do the definitional stuff later. Why don't we wait and see first what we see, in terms of the body language after today's meeting, and also what we begin to see in terms of cooperation on both sides and discussions -- Democrats, Republicans and the White House, together, House and Senate -- to try to come up with a measure that we hope very quickly can get passed into law, because there is a certain amount of urgency in getting this funding in the pipeline.
Q In his speech today, he was asked a question about the media and media coverage. And in his reply he referred to free speech. And then he said, "without glossing over the inherent dangers." What "inherent dangers" in free speech was he referring to?
MR. SNOW: That I don't know, because, frankly, I was not at the speech. And I'll get back to you.
Q Would you, please? It was interesting.
MR. SNOW: Yes, I'm sure it was.
Q I have a related one.
MR. SNOW: Okay. Let's try to keep this in sort of a related -- that's a good idea.
Q Thank you. You mentioned the need for metrics and ways to measure progress, but I'm wondering, is there also a need to find ways to hold people accountable for reaching those --
MR. SNOW: Do you think that it's a matter that the Iraqis do not want peace, do not want security? I think they do. So you can look at it one of two ways. Again, you can treat them as the wayward party that you're going to punish, or you can treat them as the partner you want to assist. And it is our desire, in every way possible, as constructively as possible, to help them go ahead and gain those capabilities. Does it mean that you might try to nudge them? Are you going to have conversations with them? That happens on a very regular basis.
But I think there's a characterization sometimes that tends to demean the government of Iraq, where people are laying their lives on the line and it's a very difficult business, and we want to see that government succeed.
Q Well, how is it demeaning? I mean, people love their children and children are given punishments. Why wouldn't we want to take some way to hold -- or would the President at least consider some way to hold the government accountable for reaching certain goals as a way to prod an ally?
MR. SNOW: Again, you can look at it two ways: Do you prod an ally, or do you weaken the government? Let me put it this way: There are some concerned within the region that the way -- when you frame a question that way, it says we have no faith in the government. Therefore, it creates difficulties within the country because partners to the coalition ask themselves, does this mean that the Americans are not going to help out? Are they going to walk away? Are they going to bail out? If you go back to -- and the fear of the United States doing what the Baker-Hamilton commission called precipitated withdrawal, is palpable. They want to know that we're going to help them succeed.
And so it's important to figure out how you frame it. I think Democrats and Republicans, again, have the same goal, which is, how do you get the Iraqis into a position as swiftly as possible that they succeed in doing these things they need to do? And that will be part of the conversation.
You will notice that I am not going to answer your question when it comes to the way in which you create those incentives. That is properly a matter for discussion between the people who are going to be around the table, and I'm sure they're going to have those conversations. But, again, what you want to do is to find a way to assist that government that does not undermine it, that does not undermine American credibility or prestige in the region, but instead helps to strengthen our interest, helps to strengthen our credibility and helps strengthen that government.
Les, I know that you're not going to be on this issue --
Q You do? How do you know?
MR. SNOW: ESP. Am I correct?
Q You're right. (Laughter.) Will you come back?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Thank you.
Q You said there's a certain amount of urgency in getting this done. Care to be more specific about what it needs to get done?
MR. SNOW: No, because, you know what, as I pointed out, for all the talk about benchmarks, Congress can't meet its benchmarks. If I set up a benchmark it's not necessarily going to be productive. I think everybody wants to get this done quickly. But, no, I do not want to -- I don't want to start the egg timer.
Q Congressional Research Service has said until July there is not really a problem with funding. Is that incorrect?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, if you talk to the Pentagon, there's already been -- it depends on how you define a problem. You've already got the situation where you have to start moving money between accounts. That is not optimal. And I think probably the best thing to do for our military is to go ahead and keep all parts of it fully funded. And that means going ahead and finishing up this emergency supplemental as quickly as possible.
Q "Not optimal," does that mean we're in a problem already, or is it just not optimal?
MR. SNOW: I'm saying that -- I'm not going to get into characterizing it, but I think you would agree that if you have a situation where you have to start moving between accounts, that's less good than one where all the accounts are fully funded.
Q Tony, a senior DOD official said that we have time until June. Is that true? Where there's some leeway for about a month?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to try to characterize exactly what's going on, other than we're moving money between accounts and that's not the way you want to run an operation.
Q So we should see the President standing firm for about another two to three weeks --
MR. SNOW: You'll see the President standing firm on principle throughout. Look, I want you to understand, because there's a tendency in Washington to say, this is a kind of a legislative chess game and we've got to do this, so this guy moves this far and this guy moves this far -- no. The purpose of this bill, it's an emergency supplemental bill to finance ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have to do that in a way that will allow you to conduct effectively ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is not a chess game. The people over there are not chess pieces. They are American citizens fighting for something that is very important for our long-term national security and our immediate national security. And, therefore, the idea of somehow saying, will the President sort of change in two weeks -- the conditions that he's laid out, in terms of providing funding and flexibility are not going to change. That's not going to change.
But on the other hand, you've got a lot of members who agree with him. Probably a majority. So here is a chance to answer a lot of concerns that members of Congress have about how we look at this, work collegially with members of the House and Senate, then provide the funding and flexibility.
Q So do you agree with the person from DOD that the hardship is worse in June, and that's when --
MR. SNOW: The hardship continues to get worse. We've already said that there's already been a transfer, it tends to accelerate the middle of this month and it will get worse as time goes on.
Q Tony, one of the Democrats' arguments is that the American people are on their side in this debate. I'm just wondering, how does the President, how does this White House balance or incorporate the will of the people at the same time as the President taking a principled stand?
MR. SNOW: Well, on the other hand, the American people also have said that if the veto is sustained, Congress ought to go ahead and pass the bill. That's the will of the American people. CBS, Axelrod. The fact is that there are a number of polls. But the problem a lot of times with the polls, it will take a cut at one little sort of a sliver of a much broader debate. And I think what the American people -- of course, the American people want the troops home. The President wants the troops home. Nobody likes a situation of war. But you also don't want a situation that's going to make this nation less secure in the short run or the long run.
Again, you take a look -- one of the things -- here is the National Intelligence Estimate: If coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly, this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance, have adverse consequences for national reconciliation. One of the things it also says in the Baker-Hamilton commission report is: al Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos -- which it judges likely -- the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return. Question: Would you like that situation? The American people would say, no.
The interesting thing about public opinion polls is that you can get people to respond to a headline. But the President can't respond to a headline. He has to respond to a war that has enormous complexity --
Q That he started.
MR. SNOW: -- and has a lot of different pieces to it. And, therefore, the real key is, as Commander-in-Chief his solemn obligation is to make this country safe and to fulfill our security interests, which is what he's going to do. And it's a lot easier, again, to sort of argue about a particular poll question. But there are real security interests that you have to deal with.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Does the President agree or disagree with what page one of The Washington Times this morning reports is D.C. City Councilman Marion Barry's proposal to charge all U.S. citizens tolls if they come to our nation's capital? Or does he believe Mr. Barry should either pay his income taxes or go to prison, as prosecuting attorneys have asked?
MR. SNOW: Les, I'm going to send you Article I of the Constitution. You can sort of look through some of the executive powers and we'll get back to you. But that's --
Q Okay, page one of The Washington Post quotes President Reagan as describing Connecticut's former Senator Lowell Weicker as "a pompous no-good fathead." Does President Bush believe that President Reagan was wrong in this statement, or right, or will your refusal to comment leave everyone wondering?
MR. SNOW: C. (Laughter.)
Q What? C. You'll leave everyone wondering. (Laughter.) You're a funny man.
MR. SNOW: Suzanne, has a question. Let's --
Q The President said earlier today, he said, "Either we'll succeed or won't succeed" regarding the Iraq mission. And six months ago, he was asked, are we winning? He said, absolutely. And then it turned to, we're not winning, we're not losing. Now we're here at, we'll either succeed or won't succeed. It doesn't sound like a vote of confidence for the Iraqi -- what should the soldiers make of that statement?
MR. SNOW: I think the soldiers should make that they've got somebody who supports them. And they understand that the mission is not to leave, but to succeed and then leave.
Q But he says, we'll succeed or we won't succeed. He doesn't sound very confident in our ability to succeed.
MR. SNOW: What he's really talking about is the nature of political debate. Will the United States send a message that we are going to provide the support that will enable the forces to do what they want? As you know, Suzanne, again, the testimony General Petraeus has been giving indicates that there has been some marginal progress. He does not want, again, for people to reach too far in the analysis, but it's there -- not only in Anbar, which predates the Baghdad security plan, but within Baghdad proper.
The point is that the goal here is success, and the President -- success is still an Iraq that can sustain, govern, and defend itself. It's one where you will have levels of violence that will not jeopardize the ability of the government to function on an ongoing basis.
So, no, this is not a stepping back, this is not the President embracing gloom, but realizing that it is a complex situation that ultimately the American people -- and you have to understand what the military understands, which is it is tough business, but it is vital, absolutely vital for our long-term security. This is not -- this is a place where failure really is not and should not be an option.
Q Sustain, govern, and defend, could Iraq do any of those three now?
MR. SNOW: I don't think it is in a position independently to do the three at this juncture. That's one of the reasons why.
END 1:43 P.M. EDT
Posted: May 4 2007, 01:35 AM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:32 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Questions.
Q Any results of the meeting today between Mr. Bolten and Senator Reid?
MR. SNOW: Not that we're going to announce. It was a good meeting. So Josh met with Harry Reid and Senator McConnell, and they will continue to meet.
Q So no movement at this point.
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to characterize. Both sides had an opportunity to express their views, and exchange views, and all that sort of thing, but I don't think -- what we've all agreed to do is to conduct these in a way that is going to allow those involved to go ahead and do their business and not to try to litigate through the press, but allow them to go ahead and move toward a bill that is going to meet the requirements the President laid out, and at the same time is going to give the forces what they need.
Q Does "good" mean that it's leaning your way at the meeting?
MR. SNOW: The "good" means I'm not going to characterize, period.
Q Is there another meeting today, or is the next one tomorrow?
MR. SNOW: I don't know what the schedule is, in terms -- again, we're sort of meeting at -- we're responding to members of the House and when they want to talk, we're making our people available.
Q Are there other meetings, like Portman and Hadley, off in separate sessions with other people?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of today. Now, again, as I said, there are going to be times -- and certainly there are going to be phone conversations. I know Rob has been in contact with some people. There will be some meetings where we have one, two, or all three of the negotiators on Capitol Hill, but there are certainly going to be opportunities to talk by phone, and so on.
Q At any point will the President be brought into these?
MR. SNOW: No, that's certainly not the way it's laid out at this juncture. I think the President has confidence both in the
negotiating team from the White House and also the people we're dealing with in the House and Senate.
Q If it takes until Memorial Day, the end of the month, what's the impact on the military? You've been making the case every day that time is running out.
MR. SNOW: Well, we've made the case that it is certainly not constructive to drag this out, but I'm not going to try to play -- we're not going to answer subjunctive questions.
Q How about the question, will the military --
MR. SNOW: You know subjunctive, subjunctive mood, Les. (Laughter.)
Q Will the military have difficulty if they don't get the --
MR. SNOW: Again, that is a question properly aimed at the Pentagon. But also, as you know, the Pentagon is loathe to get into making characterizations on operational matters. Let's just put it this way: We know that already there's a requirement of transferring money from certain accounts to others to make sure that we have full funding. That will continue to be the case until the emergency supplemental has been passed. We think it is preferable to have all accounts funded fully.
Q The President has sometimes been critical of Congress when it takes a recess when there's important pending business. Does he have a view about the Iraqi parliament planning to take a recess?
MR. SNOW: Well, this is something that I think is probably still under discussion in Iraq, as well. We're not commenting.
Q Do you, today, have a definition of what an acceptable level of violence would be in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: You know, I think what you've managed to do is to try to get your -- we're now playing the adjective game. The fact is, when you talk about an acceptable level, it is something that allows the government to exist independently. If you want to -- the problem is, everybody says, oh, so you accept violence. You like -- violence is okay. No, it's not okay.
So in abstract terms, zero violence is acceptable. On the other hand, we know well, and the President has said many times, that it is going to be a tactic of people who want to bring this government down to commit acts of violence, and violence unfortunately, at least for a while, is going to be a fact of Iraqi life.
What we're really talking about is trying to create conditions of security so that you can have a functional democracy in Iraq where people can go about their daily lives, where they have confidence in the rule of law and the people who are responsible for protecting them; that you have a legislative system that is protecting rights and at the same time getting on with the business -- economic reconstruction, and so on.
So that's really what we're talking about. What you're trying to do is to address the kinds of violence that are designed to destroy Iraq -- for instance, al Qaeda recent attacks that are designed not only to create a lot of bloodshed and to weaken the government, but also to reignite sectarian violence. That has always been the al Qaeda MO. That is something that you're going to have to address.
If there is -- and so those are the issues, those that jeopardize the very existence of the government, those are the things that we want to address.
Q So he wants to minimize violence to a nuisance?
MR. SNOW: What you want to do is to be able to have the government in a position where it can stand by itself. And I think trying to get into definitional matters at this point --
Q In October of 2004, John Kerry said, "We have to get back to the place where we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." The President said he couldn't disagree more; Cheney called this naive and dangerous, and part of a pre-9/11 mind-set. So does the President now have a pre-9/11 mind-set?
MR. SNOW: No, the President does not have a pre-9/11 mind-set. And the fact is -- I'll have to go back and take a look, but my recollection is that there was an attempt to kind of minimize some of the security challenges. But I don't want to put words in Senator Kerry's mouth without looking back at the 2004 debate.
It is important to realize that you're going to have to use military force and, especially in conjunction with the Iraqis, to address violence that comes from a whole series of factors -- whether they be old members of the Baath Party, whether they be Iraqi rejectionists, or whether they be foreign fighters coming in and trying to destroy the government.
Q Tony, why aren't you commenting about the possibility that the Iraqi parliament is going to take two months off this summer with key legislation pending? I mean, even if they are considering this, isn't that an affront to this administration?
MR. SNOW: Why don't you let the Iraqi parliament go ahead and work through and have debates, even though -- let's just let them go ahead and consider the matter. And in two months, if this is a really pressing matter, we can discuss it then.
Q If I could follow here, I mean, it's really kicking up a lot of dust on Capitol Hill. As you're trying to get this supplemental worked out in negotiations, doesn't this hurt the whole process?
MR. SNOW: Again, let's see what happens.
Q Are you hearing something different than what we're hearing, that they're at least considering it?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm aware of the news reports, but I also am aware that you've got an Iraqi government right now, where we are working with them on a whole host of issues -- there was some discussion this morning about the fact that you have now -- the Council of Ministers have passed on to the Council of Representatives an oil law. And there is a lot of activity going on in the country, and I just think at this particular juncture, trying to draw broad conclusions about something that is rumored possibly to happen in two months is a great parlor exercise, but it is not a particularly useful diplomatic exercise.
Q But if somebody is talking about it on the ground --
MR. SNOW: Everybody talking about it -- surely you all will talk about this. No. (Laughter.)
Q Doesn't it speak to political will? At a time when people are questioning, can the Iraqi government actually meet political benchmarks, doesn't that, though, speak to the will of the Iraqi government? Does it have the political will to move --
MR. SNOW: I'm telling you, let's just wait and see what happens over the next couple of months. We have had many debates like this in this country. You may recall when people have gone on vacations before elections, when they haven't passed budgets, when things have been pushed off until the very end of the year. I don't want to be doing equations here, but the fact is the legislative process is something that you have to contend with. This is a democracy.
On the other hand, what have the Iraqis done? They have committed much of their budget surplus this year directly to economic development and to security matters. They have stepped up on the things that we have asked them to do. They're putting their lives on the line. They are working on professionalizing the police forces. They are working on building greater credibility and capability with the military. They're working on economic infrastructure matters. We've got a meeting in Sharm el Sheikh where there is a neighbors' conference. There is going to be another conference in Baghdad.
This is a government that's operational on a whole series of fronts, and again, rather than trying to leap to conclusions and to ignore the vast amount of stuff that that government is doing and the risks that they are undertaking in order to build a secure democracy, what I'd suggest is, wait and see what happens.
Q Tony, any surprises coming out of Egypt, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iranian officials? They walked by one another, and cordial, said hello, but are you expecting anything --
MR. SNOW: I'll let Secretary Rice -- look, Secretary Rice will be able to give you readouts of what's happened. We have made the point that there was a possibility that there may be sidebar, pull-aside conversations. But on the other hand, you need to set this in the context of the meetings. These are meetings that are designed to say to everybody in the region, it is now time to step up and help the Iraqi government; and for those of you who have been trying to undermine it, you need to stop; those who have been training militias, you need to stop; those who have been sending forces across your border, you need to stop; those who have been sending IEDs and EFPs, you need to stop doing that; those who have been assisting in financial flows, you need to stop. It is time now, in very concrete ways, to support this government.
So if there should be conversations, it is likely that the United States would share those views. But keep in mind any conversations would not be bilateral discussions, they would not be formal negotiations. They would be the sort of thing that often happened in meetings of this sort. But again, I'm giving you a hypothetical. Obviously any reports that may come out of Sharm, the Secretary of State can read them out for you.
Q Isn't the essence of what you're saying basically going back to what the Iraq Study Group said, and isn't that basically -- I mean, you're in a quagmire now, that you have many people saying that the Americans have walked away from this war and the --
MR. SNOW: Well, actually --
Q Wait a minute -- General Barry McCaffrey has said, Americans have walked away from the war. And so maybe bring Americans back is to talk to those who are around --
MR. SNOW: Okay. I think -- first, I think what Barry McCaffrey is talking about, that he's talking about things like resolutions that would withdraw support. So if you're talking about Americans, you may want to put into context what Barry is saying.
Secondly, it has been the case in the past where there have been conversations with Iranian or Syrian officials at meetings of this sort with Secretaries of State. Now, the real key is that we do not think at this juncture that it is appropriate to grant full diplomatic recognition to Iran, because we have made clear what the conditions are, and so has the United Nations Security Council, and so have our allies.
So this is certainly not a change in the disposition in terms of full diplomatic relations, but on the other hand, it is not only not unusual, but you ought to expect the fact that when you are at a conference and the topic is how to help Iraq, you will have conversations about how to help Iraq with all the people who are at that conference.
Q The Secretary of State met with the Syrian envoy this morning. How is that not bilateral? How is it not formal?
MR. SNOW: Because -- I'll let them do the readout, but again, that was a pull-aside conversation where --
Q What's the distinction?
MR. SNOW: Well, the distinction is, if you have a set aside -- a meeting that's set aside, and somebody says, okay, we're going to schedule a meeting, we're going to sit down and do this. But again, I'll let the Secretary of State describe the mechanics of it.
The other thing is, what did happen is that the Iraqi government has -- did say, please, can you pass on the message to support. And so that is a sidebar conversation. But it is a far different thing diplomatically than setting up meetings and setting up a broad agenda. This is a conversation about the subject of the conference itself.
And again, Mark, this has happened a lot of times. And in --
Q I know, it's your characterization that I'm still -- how's it -- I mean, they sat down, they had formal discussion, and there were two of them there.
MR. SNOW: No, they didn't. I'm not sure that they had formal discussions; I'm not sure it was just two.
Q Maybe a limited range of subjects, but --
MR. SNOW: No, there was -- limited range of subject, like one.
Q That's still informal and not bilateral.
MR. SNOW: It's a conversation. Yes, it's a conversation. In fact, conversations happen. It's a good thing.
Q Tony, I have two questions. The first is about Gonzales. Does the President consider the matter of the question of whether the AG should resign or should not a salient question? And does the --
MR. SNOW: The President supports the Attorney General.
Q Does the fact that -- that a confirmation hearing would be a blood bath factor into that?
MR. SNOW: No. No. He's -- what you're asking is, does the President support the Attorney General because it would be messier to fire him? Is that the question? No. No. He supports the Attorney General.
Q Follow up. The second question would be, the Pentagon has required all military bloggers to seek approval for their blogging and their -- I think also their email. Some bloggers in the military and conservative commentators have said that the government is shutting down --
MR. SNOW: That's -- from what we --
Q -- good news.
MR. SNOW: From what we understand, that is being over-reported a little bit in the following sense: First, I'm not sure that that is operational, their request. Number two, to the extent that they have asked, and I would refer you to the Pentagon for a full comment on this, but my understanding is that they're concerned about matters of operational security, certainly people giving their opinions about what's going on as long as they do not disclose information that is going to jeopardize operations, ongoing or in the future, or in some way, give away information that will make it easier for the enemy to kill Americans or Iraqis.
That's normal in a time of war. There is always censorship in a time of war, mainly to protect the people who are doing the fighting. Similarly with emails, but there is no wholesale shut down. Again, I'm just giving you what I know, and I would encourage you to talk to the Pentagon for further detail. But my understanding is, there's no wholesale shutting down of blogs or of email. But on the other hand, there is sensitivity to the fact that you have to be careful when you're doing these things, not to jeopardize yourself, your colleagues, the operations, the Iraqis, and the overall mission.
Q When you say over-reported, what do you mean by that?
MR. SNOW: What I'm saying is, the characterization you just gave is some people say they're being shut down.
Q Tony, the President had an immigration event this morning. Where are your folks on negotiations with the Hill on a compromise bill on --
MR. SNOW: Again, we're continuing to work, and you've probably noticed I don't go into a whole lot of detail about what's going on. But there are -- there continue to be talks with Democrats and Republicans and we're hopefully getting a bill passed this year.
Q Well, I know you said that before. But is there any movement anywhere in the last few weeks?
MR. SNOW: Again -- well, again, a lot of times -- I would rather just go ahead and let the conversations proceed rather than trying to characterize it.
Q Will the President be watching the Republican debate tonight?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. That's a good question. I have no idea.
Q How much of an issue do you think he should be in this debate?
MR. SNOW: I don't -- you know, it's one of those things that -- I have a feeling that there will be attempts to goad people into talking about it. On the other hand, each of these people is running for President on his own merits -- there may even be some "hers" getting in here. Who knows? But I don't know. You'll just have to -- I'm not going to try to prejudge the content of the debate.
As a matter of fact, that reminds me, today is World Freedom Day, and I forgot to mention that we have a statement on that that bears on freedom of the press. I'll share it later. (Laughter.)
Q We heard the President's views on that yesterday. (Laughter.)
Q Tony, on Syria again, yesterday the Israeli Ambassador in his speech in Washington before the Israel Project said that Syria has Scud missiles which can hit any part of Israel. Does the United States concur, and has the United States brought that topic up with Syria at all?
MR. SNOW: The conversations in Sharm el Sheikh are about Iraq; they're only about Iraq. Any other conversations -- we still have diplomatic relations with the Syrians, and there are ways of transmitting messages. But I am not -- at this point it's not appropriate for me to pass on what may or may not have been conveyed.
Q The Ambassador also said Israel is being squeezed from the south by arms that are smuggled in from Egypt through the tunnels into Gaza. Is this a trip wire? If there is military action this summer, is the U.S. --
MR. SNOW: Again -- just, come on -- you're asking hypothetical questions with literally explosive consequences, and I think it's best not to go there.
Q Tony, two questions. One, today is World Press Freedom Day. And U.N. resolution 1738 protects journalists around the globe, but today many countries, they don't have respect for the journalists, and also many journalists are under attack around the globe. And as far as President is concerned, how he can enforce the law globally, around the country, where journalists are doing their job --
MR. SNOW: The President does not have the ability unilaterally to enforce laws around the globe. What he does do is encourage freedom of the press everywhere, including places where it doesn't exist. And, obviously, we oppose acts of violence against journalists, against innocent civilians, against -- we deplore acts of violence against innocents, no matter who they are or where they may be.
Q And second, if I may. It's kind of personal, but we have been getting many calls and prayers for you, Tony, how Tony is doing, and all that. What my question is, what they are saying that you have the courage to come out, to say about your health, it may help somebody out there who does not know or they are not aware of. Do you have any message for people --
MR. SNOW: Well, first, don't mistake what I have for courage. Courage is a guy who signs up and says, I want to go to Iraq and I'll face death. I didn't sign up for cancer. I got it. But on the other hand, if I can help people by talking about it, that's great. And it actually has been something that has been enormously gratifying, because as I've said before, a lot of times your biggest enemy is fear. And people who want to hide from a diagnosis are not running -- the best thing to do is to find out what's going on and then allow people to help you; allow your friends, allow people around the world -- the one thing I've once again discovered is the enormous capacity and eagerness of people to help others. There's a lot of goodness out there, and people are perfectly willing to practice it, but you've got to give them a chance.
And so, certainly feel free to let people know what your condition is and I'm certainly very grateful for all the help I've received, but I hope people will do it for a lot of others, as well.
Q The White House is investigating Stuart Bowen. How did this investigation get going? And can it have credibility, or will it look just like a political retribution against somebody who was very critical--
MR. SNOW: Well, two things: First, the White House is not investigating Stuart Bowen. And it's very important to correct that.
Q -- led by Clay Johnson.
MR. SNOW: No, Clay Johnson actually is -- what you have is the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency -- this was created by an executive order in 1992. The theory is to use independent inspectors general to investigate charges against inspectors general. Obviously, if you're an IG, you cannot inspect yourself. It's an independent investigative organization; it does not have ties to the White House.
And so there is an integrity committee that is being chaired at this juncture by the FBI, and they will take a look at any charges. But there's a normal process by which people take a look at these things. It is laid out by executive order. The idea, according to the executive order, is to address integrity, economy, and effectiveness issues that transcend individual government agencies; to increase the professionalism and effectiveness of IG personnel.
And once again, this is sort of a classic way of trying to figure out how do you do oversight and maintain independence. That's precisely what they've done. The White House has no role in this, zero. So it's very important to be -- to draw the distinction there. Clay obviously does chair the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency.
Q Who does Clay work for?
MR. SNOW: He works for the President, obviously. But on the other hand, you have inspectors general who operate independently of the agencies, and they're the ones who are actually conducting it. So, again, I know you want to try to set up the narrative, but Clay is not, in fact, involved in the process, nor was he involved in the referral.
Typically what happens in government, and I think you'll agree, Peter, if somebody has something that people think deserves investigating, you try to look for an independent way of doing it. And the Integrity Committee within the PCIE is, in fact, a way that's been there for a long time -- it's been there since 1992 -- it's an established way to do it precisely so you don't have conflicts of interest.
Q Tony, did Nancy Pelosi ever give the President a debrief on Syria? And is Condi Rice's talk with Syrian officials basically a way once again to set straight, this is what the administration feels, and just lay out the ground work there? And also, what does Iran need to do to have formal diplomatic status?
MR. SNOW: We've already laid out -- let's start at the last question -- we've made it very clear, in order to pave the way to diplomatic status -- and the EU3 and the United States have made this offer repeatedly, which is you have to suspend verifiably your programs that might lead to the development of nuclear weapons. In exchange, the United States and the other partners have offered a way forward that includes diplomatic recognition and involves allowing them to develop a civil nuclear capability, economic ties, cultural ties, social ties, educational and so on.
So it's a simple step required by the government of Iran and it is -- we have made it very public, and we continue to. That position has not changed.
The one and only topic, again, in Iraq is -- I mean, in Sharm el Sheikh is to say it is time now to step forward and support the government of Iraq. That is the strong message that is being sent. And for those who are undermining, they need to stop and they need to begin to support the democratically elected government of Iraq. And it really goes no further than that.
Q Nancy Pelsoi --
Q Try not to --
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I'm not aware that there -- I don't think that there's any --
Q Is this administration trying to make clear that we only speak for ourselves, that meaning Condi Rice is saying we only for ourselves, don't pay attention to anyone else --
MR. SNOW: No, but I think it's understood that in any government the Department of State speaks for the government when it comes to foreign affairs, and that the President is the person responsible for foreign policy. It is certainly common for members of Congress to make travels, but there, on the other hand, is no mistaking who represents the official views of the government of that country.
Q Tony, two questions. At tonight's Republican candidates debate, the pre-debate and post-debate coverage I read will be Chris Matthews and Keith Olberman of MSNBC, of whom there is a report that last October 23rd, Mr. Olberman said, "The leading terrorist group in this country is the Republican Party." And my question: Does the President know why this Republican debate is tolerating such a reported maligner, and does he believe they should?
MR. SNOW: I believe that the President will say, Republicans, you can have whoever moderates your debate that you want to.
Q Okay. The Washington Post reports that House Minority Leader John Boehner said, "When you break the law in pursuit of a political opponent you've gone too far." On Tuesday, after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Democrat Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington State is liable for $60,000 plus $600,000 in Boehner's legal fees over an illegally taped conference call McDermott leaked to newspaper reporters. And my question: The President is glad that Congressman Boehner pursued and repeatedly won this case, isn't he?
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that the President has expressed an opinion, but I know in point of fact that Representative Boehner is happy he did so.
Q And so is the President -- isn't the President happy? He's not unhappy?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. Les, it may surprise you, but a lot of times these sort of saucy little things are kind of beneath the daily attention of a President of the United States who has got a lot of important stuff --
Q Saucy little things -- that's $600,000. That's not saucy or little, is it?
MR. SNOW: Oooh. (Laughter.)
Q You want to run away from this. (Laughter.)
Q No doubt, flailing my hands. Try this one more time. Ambassador Crocker has said publicly he's raised concerns about the Iraqi parliament taking a recess for two months. Why wouldn't the President raise such concerns with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in his frequent video teleconferences?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I'm not going to disclose to you -- we give you readouts of the teleconferences. What I've said is, the Ambassador has made his view known -- views known, and there is a debate going on in Iraq. So let's see how the Iraqis handle this. That's all I'm saying.
Q Why won't the White House weight in?
MR. SNOW: Because you know what? Iraq -- we respect Iraq as a sovereign government, and we are not going to sit around and lecture them on those particular matters. We will make our views known. And the Iraqis also are making their views known. Again, there's a vigorous debate about this, which is why I would suggest that you let these things sort of play out and see what happens.
Q When the President welcomes the Queen, will -- is there time on the schedule they will actually have any talks? Is there anything substantive he would like to discuss with her?
MR. SNOW: I'll have to take a look, Ann. I'll find out.
Q Anything --
MR. SNOW: I just -- I just don't know. I've not -- that is my fault. I'll look much more carefully at the schedule. If you want to get back to me, I'll answer it.
Q Can you let us all know?
MR. SNOW: Yes, or tomorrow, we can -- I will not be on the podium tomorrow, but either Tony Fratto or Dana can get back to you tomorrow on it. Is that okay?
Q Thank you.
END 12:59 P.M. EDT
Posted: Aug 31 2007, 11:11 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
MR. SNOW: Well, now we can have a press briefing.
Q What are your plans?
MR. SNOW: What are my plans? A little vague at this point. I know I'll be giving some speeches. I am going to try to work up some book proposals, probably first and foremost, on issues of how you deal with sickness. One of the things that I have found out is that at least getting out and talking about my own experience with cancer, it's proved to be helpful to people, and that's enormously gratifying. I'm sure I'll do some political writing, as well. I'll be involved in charitable work -- still trying to figure out how all that fits together.
But short run, certainly start by doing some speeches. I will stay involved in politics. I'll be going around the country and talking about things I care about. And as far as the other pieces of the puzzle, I don't know. I'm sure I'll do a little bit of radio, a little bit of TV, but I don't anticipate full-time anchor duties, or the sort of things that I've done in the past.
Q Why are you leaving?
MR. SNOW: Why am I -- because I ran out of money. A lot of people at home are saying, well, what do you mean, you make all this money. Well, you know what, I made more money when I was in my previous career. And I made the decision not to say to my wife and kids, you know, we've finally saved up all this money and done these things, and you're just going to have to give them away so Daddy can work at the White House. We took out a loan when I came to the White House, and that loan is now gone. So I'm going to have to pay the bills.
As far as my health, I'm doing fine. I know a lot of folks have been thinking, oh, come on, it's really the cancer. No, cancer has nothing to do with this decision. I finished chemo two weeks ago today. We did CAT scans and MRIs in the last week and it indicates that the chemo did exactly what we hoped it would do, which is hold serve. The tumors that we've been tracking have not grown. There are no new tumors. And that's what you want. I'm going to be speaking later today with my oncologist. We'll be doing what's called a maintenance dose of chemotherapy just to keep whacking this thing.
As I described I think upon returning from the cancer surgery, I'm in one of these positions now where we're going to try to turn cancer into a chronic disease rather than a fatal disease. And fortunately, that's one of the things you can do with modern medicine. We'll be doing CAT scans and other scans every three months, just to stay on top of everything. And it certainly gives us the ability to respond quickly to any medical emergencies that may arise. But right now I'm feeling great. I've finally put weight back on. I feel strong. The hair will come back. The President was making fun of my hair before.
Q What are you going to say about us in your book?
MR. SNOW: I think anybody who has watched knows how much I love working in this room, and especially love working with you, Helen. I have told people, when I'm your age, I want to be sitting in the front row making life a living hell for a press secretary. (Laughter.) You know, it's just -- you really are -- people talk about inspiration, but you're here working hard, and I just think it's great. And I want to say that I've just got a lot of love and affection for people in this room, and it's been a joy and an honor.
I know the word "honor" is maybe overused, but it's really not. I've been in the business for 27 years, and do not regret a single moment of it, and have really enjoyed not only the thrill of working with the President, but also working with you. And I've got to tell you, I am sure I'm going to go through some serious withdrawals in two-and-a-half weeks. But on the other hand, this is a chance, for the first time in my life, where I'll actually be able to decide what I want to do when I grow up. And I will spend a lot of time trying to speak out on things I care about, and looking at opportunities and trying to do some good.
Q What is your lecture fee?
MR. SNOW: More than you can afford. (Laughter.)
Q They never took your name off the door.
MR. SNOW: They never took my name off the door at FOX?
Q Tony, was there a most challenging day during your tenure in this capacity?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. Well, the first day. The first briefing I was scared to death, because I didn't know what to expect. So I think if you look for the challenging day, that was the real knee-knocker. I didn't know what to expect from you guys, you barracudas, you. So I honestly didn't know what to expect in terms of working. And early on, especially, when "I don't know" became such a regular mantra that it became an object of some derision in some quarters and good humor elsewhere.
But really this is a job that is engrossing and it is really fun. Dana is going to have a great time doing this. And part of it is, you've got a great staff. I also feel blessed -- I mean, you look, you've got Fratto and Stanzel, and you've got Josh Deckard and Gordon Johndroe, and I go through everybody who works on our staff. They are first rate, but they're first-rate human beings. They're fun to work with and fun to see every day.
And working with the President, as Dana was saying, there's 18 months of real business to do in this White House, and a lot of big issues and a lot of big challenges. And I really do wish that I had the resources to be here till the final day, but I don't. But I'm not going to go shrinking into the sunset, I'll still be out speaking my mind.
Q How do you react to the criticism from some quarters that despite your rhetorical abilities, the real object of this White House has been not to answer questions? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I was just trying to figure out a coy way to answer it. The fact is, we do answer questions, and I think you've found that this is a White House where we try to be forward leaning and give a lot of information.
Now, if somebody wants to ask a question about classified information, you're right, I'm a terrible source. And there will always be times where there are subjects that are of interest, of national interest to curious reporters and to people at home that we cannot discuss. And in those cases, you're not going to get the kind of answer you would like because it would be inappropriate from the podium.
On the other hand, when it comes to giving you information -- we've been through this today with Fratto, explaining a lot of what's going on in terms of housing initiatives -- we think it's important to give more information out rather than less. Yes, there are going to be times when we butt heads over it. It has been ever thus and will be ever thus between government officials and people working in the press. And we expect you to keep pushing and prodding. You wouldn't be doing your job if you didn't, and we wouldn't be doing our job if we spilled the beans on things that would be inappropriate for public discussion.
Mike, and then Goyal.
Q Tony, have your views of the President or the press changed since you have been on the inside for the last year? Have you seen things differently than you might have when you were on the outside?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think that anybody who works closely with the President gets a much fuller appreciation of the person in the office. So, while I was naturally inclined to like the President, my admiration for him has grown by leaps and bounds.
Some of you have had the opportunity to see the President behind closed doors, talking with passion and in great detail about the job he does and the challenges he faces. And you find that, quite often, the public caricature of this man is a grotesque disservice to the man himself and to the job he does. And so there's always a certain level of frustration when you see a man who is bright, who is engaged, who is passionate and who is principled being written off in kind of cartoonish terms by people who would rather appeal to stereotype than dig deep and figure out, in fact, he makes decisions.
But he's a great guy to work for. And he's somebody who manages to understand the real importance of the office, and also how important it is to conduct oneself in the office in a way that reflects honor upon it. And, at the same time, he's somebody who has terrific historic insight. He's not somebody who is going to allow himself to get whipsawed by passing controversies. He understands what his long-term obligations are to the country and to the office.
He has a wonderful sense of humor; he is generous; he is extremely kind. And he is somebody that I will be holding up to future friends, employees, and always to my children as a role model, not merely in terms of how he manages the office and conducts the responsibilities of the office, but the kind of person he is. He's a good guy, a good human being.
Q And how do you square that up-close view of him with kind of the unpopularity that the President has outside?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, I would -- I would parse your question a little more closely, because if you take a look at trust numbers and so on, people trust and admire the President. What they don't like is the war. And so do not -- if you want to take a look even beneath your own numbers, they ask two different kinds of batteries of questions. One is, do you approve of the war? One is, do you trust him, do you think he's trustworthy, and that kind of thing. And you get different kinds of answers. But you would have to expect that in something as difficult as a war, that Presidents, in fact, are going to be the recipients of the public's displeasure and also the public's anxiety -- rightful anxiety -- about a nation at a time of conflict. It has happened to every wartime President and will happen to every wartime President.
When times are tough the anxieties of a nation are quite often visited in terms of their reflections on the job a President is doing. Having said that, you also now have I think a glimmer of what happens when a President is steadfast to his policy. We have begun to see out of Iraq a series of stories now about how the surge not only has affected the battleground, but also has affected the spirit and attitude of the Iraqi people, themselves.
And quite often we tend to think of approval as something that is unchanging, whereas it is constantly changing. And we tend to make too much of a number that's taken over a weekend, rather than trying to put it into perspective in terms of trends and developments around the world.
Take a look at what's gone on in Europe. We now have a friendly French President, we have a German Chancellor who is a key and valued ally. Some -- and you see a number of governments in that region that previously had been less than completely warm toward the President where we now have closer relations. And it does seem that many of the things that may have registered as unpopular have been vindicated by subsequent events and by the challenges that the world faces.
Again, to give you one of the reasons I admire the President: He understands how important it is to bring the public along, but he also understands that 20 to 30 years from now, if this nation does not do what is necessary to fight effectively a war on terror and, in fact, we pulled our punches in order to gain five points in a Gallup Poll, nobody is going to ask about that Gallup Poll, they're going to say, why didn't you do your job.
And I love working for somebody who looks at the office that way, because it gives you a task to pursue. The task is not merely to try to get the policies right, but also to engage in a public dialogue so that the American people know what we're thinking about, why we're thinking about these things in these ways, and to engage in a debate that will sometimes stray beyond the poll data itself and into the facts on the ground. And I think that is, again, what -- if you take a look at changes in polls in recent weeks, including whether people think we can win in Iraq -- and those numbers have changed dramatically and positively -- a lot of times that's a reflection of debate about actual facts on the ground there.
In the past, much of the debate had been focused on domestic polls. Now we see a lot more raportage about what's going on on the ground, and I think it makes an important difference.
Q Tony, two questions. First of all, I wish you all the best and I pray for you, and God bless you, and I hope everything is fine with you. As far as this White House press corps is concerned, how do you compare others in the past with this now, after working with --
MR. SNOW: It's hard for me to compare because I wasn't Press Secretary before, you know, so I don't even want to try to. All I know is -- of course -- let me put it this way. The last time I was here, Hunt and Plante were here. So I guess my sense is that the place never changes -- and Helen.
Look, the thing you've got to understand about the White House press corps is that the job of the press corps is to figure out what's going on in the White House. And I like and respect and admire the people who work in this room. You don't get here by being a dummy. You don't get -- this is a job that has some of the most unusual constraints in any political job on Earth. You do not have the ability and freedom to walk the halls as you do when you're covering Congress. You don't have the kind of access that you have in other jobs. It's a tougher job. And yet you generally pursue it with good cheer and hard work, and sometimes you're thinking, wow, where did they get that? So I've got a lot of admiration for the people who work in here.
Q Secondly, if I may change the subject. As far as terrorism is India is concerned, one, we have not seen for at least one and a half years or one year Osama bin Laden or any tape from him. And secondly, they -- (inaudible) -- India-U.S. relations, and they have bombed several bombings in Hyderabad, and now India will be the target as far as the bombing from al Qaeda is concerned. So what can you say now, this --
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't think this in any way colors the President's perceptions of the terror network. It gives you a sense of the MO, which is, to try wherever possible to use fear as a political weapon. It's not going to work. The fact is that al Qaeda tried fear in Iraq, and what has happened is that the Iraqi people have risen up. As a matter of fact, I think maybe the most encouraging signal is what the President has talked about for a long time, which is the natural human desire for freedom and self-determination ultimately is going to crush those who believe that somehow they've got a better sell in saying that if you don't do what we want, we will terrorize you, we will behead you.
That is not a very good sales pitch. And in the long run, an ideology and a philosophy and a governing philosophy that is built around hope and freedom and the capacity of individuals to affect their lives and to build a better future ultimately is going to win. It doesn't mean that terrorists are simply going to give up; they're not. They're going to do their very best to try to scare people. But they have tried and they have failed.
Q Tony, were you ever -- do you feel that you were ever hung out to dry here? Did anyone on the inside ever mislead you, and because of that, you have a regret about anything that you conveyed to us?
MR. SNOW: No, I think there have been a couple of times where I think -- and I can't even remember -- but there have been times where I didn't know about something that I probably should have known about, and that could be my fault. I just -- but are there any egregious things where somebody just woefully misled me? No.
Q Like the things that happened to your predecessor.
MR. SNOW: No, I did not run into any of that.
Q Tony, you serve the President, obviously, but you also serve the American people to a certain extent. Can you tell us how you struck that balance personally within yourself, and how well you think you did at it?
MR. SNOW: Look, I'll let other people hand out scorecards. I simply don't even want to try to get at that.
Look, the way you serve the American people, again, is you try to tell the truth and tell it straight. And there are going to be times -- I mean, I've been pretty straight; when I want to stonewall you, I've not tried to hide the fact. There are just times when I'm not going to answer questions because it would be inappropriate for whatever reason. But on the other hand, the one thing that we have tried to do and will continue to try to do is to get information out. Ultimately the cause of this presidency in any democracy is going to be better served by getting facts into public distribution. And frankly, one of the things that we hope that we're going to be able to do and continue to do better is to make sure that you get full information about the things that this administration is doing, how we pursue them, how we put the policies together.
When we come to points where you run into matters of privilege, and so on, we're not going to be able to answer certain questions. But on the other hand, in trying to give you as full a picture of how this White House operates, it's good for us, and I presume it would be good for you.
Q You mentioned that when you leave you plan to talk about issues you care about.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q I'm just wondering, what are some of those issues, and will your personal opinion be different than the administration's position?
MR. SNOW: No, I think the administration probably thinks cancer is a really lousy thing and -- look, I know I'm going to spend a lot of time on cancer activism. I can't tell you exactly how it's going to work, but I've been very lucky. I've been lucky I work at the White House, I've had the use of diagnostic care. I'd like to find ways to help those who, for whatever reason, don't get the -- don't get diagnostic treatment, don't take care of themselves, may not have the resources that I've had at my disposal. So I'll look for ways to try to make it possible for people to get healthy. That does not mean that I'm going to be necessarily banging the tin cup for federal funding. It may be that I'll go out, try and raise some money myself to try to help people directly.
As far as -- look, I will be speaking my mind, but to tell you the truth, very little distance between me and the President on any significant issue. That's been one of the great things about working at this White House. And I will be speaking out on behalf of this President and this White House on a number of issues, as well.
Q Yesterday you said Alberto Gonzales has been the object of a "concerted series of personal attacks from Capitol Hill that yielded nothing in terms of in, in fact, evidence of any wrongdoing on his behalf." Why then is the Justice Department's own Inspector General now investigating whether or not he told Congress the truth?
MR. SNOW: Because those are things that have -- it's been requested that they take a look at it. The Inspector General is an independent operation within the Department of Justice. Just because -- again, as I was trying to caution earlier today, Ed -- just because somebody is asking a question doesn't mean that somebody is guilty of a crime. It does mean that questions have been raised. Senator Leahy had some concerns that he raised. The IG is going to look at it. That's the way it works within an IG's office.
Q He's already looking at it.
Q In the case of Senator -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
MR. SNOW: I think he also wanted to take a look at an additional angle --
Q In the case of Senator Craig, though, he did plead guilty to a crime. Why hasn't the White House weighed in on whether he should resign then? Back when Trent Lott -- in December of 2002, when Trent Lott made controversial comments, the President publicly weighed in, called it wrong and offensive, and those were just comments. Now somebody has pled guilty to a crime.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, we have said a number of things in this case -- number one, that it's a disappointment, and number two, it ought to be handled by the Senate. We have also not spoken out on a number of other members of -- on the Democratic side who find themselves in legal difficulties. Those are issues that are properly handled by a separate and co-equal branch of government. We would expect them to do the requisite policing of their members and to uphold their own high standards. As I've said, we are not going to go any further than we have gone on the case of Senator Craig.
Q Thank you, Tony. I will really miss you. And I have two --
MR. SNOW: I'll miss you, too. I don't know where I'll get questions like this, but I'll --
Q Well, I have two questions. Teamsters President Hoffa has called the Bush administration's test program to allow Mexican trucks unrestricted access to U.S. highways, in his words, "a disaster; all we're asking is that Mexican trucks and truckers meet the same standards as American trucks and drivers." My question: Why do the Teamsters have to go to court to try to make Mexican truck drivers meet the same drug screening, physical evaluations and hazmat certifications as U.S. truckers?
MR. SNOW: There are a number of things that the Department of Transportation is involved in, in trying to maintain and ascertain and guarantee the safety of any trucks that are on U.S. highways. I don't think that I will buy lock, stock and barrel what the President of the Teamsters Union has to say about possibly competing trucking operations. Nonetheless, they have done a filing -- I would direct you to take a look at what the Department of Transportation has had to say to respond to some of the factual allegations contained in your question.
Q Did the President, on May the 30th of last year, promise completion of 70 miles of border fencing by this coming September the 30th, when less than 20 miles of this fencing have reportedly been completed?
MR. SNOW: Actually that's wrong. More than 80 miles have been completed.
Q More than 80 have?
MR. SNOW: Yes, yes. So --
Q Thank you.
Q Are you going to work for the next two weeks?
MR. SNOW: Yes, absolutely.
Posted: Nov 4 2007, 06:53 PM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 24, 2007
President Bush Discusses Cuba Policy
U.S. Department of State
Fact sheet Fact Sheet: Encouraging Freedom, Justice, and Prosperity in Cuba
1:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Gracias. Buenos Dias. I am pleased to be back at the State Department. I appreciate the work that's done here. Every day the men and women of this department serve as America's emissaries to the world. Every day you help our country respond to aggressors and bring peace to troubled lands. Every day you advance our country's mission in support of basic human rights to the millions who are denied them. Secretary Rice constantly tells me about the good work being done here at the State Department, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for your hard work and I'm pleased to be with you.
President George W. Bush acknowledges his guests, from left to right, Yamile Llanes Labrada, Melissa Gonzalez, and Marlenis Gonzalez during his remarks on Cuba policy, Wednesday, October 24, 2007, at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Labrada is the wife of Jorge Luis Garcia Paneque, a surgeon and journalist who was sentenced to 24 years in prison for speaking out against the regime. Melissa's father, Jorge Luis Gonzalez Tanquero is currently being held in a Cuban prison after being arrested for crimes against the state. White House photo by Eric Draper Few issues have challenged this department -- and our nation -- longer than the situation in Cuba. Nearly half a century has passed since Cuba's regime ordered American diplomats to evacuate our embassy in Havana. This was the decisive break of our diplomatic relations with the island, a troubling signal for the future of the Cuban people, and the dawn of an unhappy era between our two countries. In this building, President John F. Kennedy spoke about the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba's dictatorship. And it was here where he announced the end of the missile crisis that almost plunged the world into nuclear war.
Today, another President comes with hope to discuss a new era for the United States and Cuba. The day is coming when the Cuban people will chart their own course for a better life. The day is coming when the Cuban people have the freedom they have awaited for so long. (Applause.)
Madam Secretary, thank you for your introduction. I'm pleased to be with you and Ambassador Negroponte and all who work here. Thanks for the hospitality. I'm pleased to be here with our Secretary of Commerce, Secretary Carlos Gutierrez -- born in Cuba. I appreciate other members of my administration who are here.
I particularly want to thank the members of Congress who have joined us: Senator Mel Martinez, born in Cuba; Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, born in Cuba; Lincoln Diaz-Balart, born in Cuba; su hermanito --(laughter) -- Mario Diaz-Balart. I want to thank Chris Smith for joining us, Congressman from Jersey; Thaddeus McCotter, Michigan; Debbie Wasserman Schultz, from Florida; as well as Tim Mahone from Florida. Appreciate you being here.
I thank the members of the Diplomatic Corps who have joined us. I appreciate the Ambassadors to the Organization of American States who are with us. I particularly want to thank the Cuban families who have joined me on the stage.
President George W. Bush greets his guests Marlenis Gonzalez, right, and her daughter Melissa, center, Wednesday, October 24, 2007, after his remarks on Cuba policy at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Melissa's father, Jorge Luis Gonzalez Tanquero is currently being held in a Cuban prison after being arrested for crimes against the regime. White House photo by Eric Draper One of the great success stories of the past century is the advance of economic and political freedom across Latin America. In this room are officials representing nations that are embracing the blessings of democratic government and free enterprise. And the United States is proud and active to work with you in your transformations.
One country in our region still isolates its people from the hope that freedom brings, and traps them in a system that has failed them. Forty-eight years ago, in the early moments of Cuba's revolution, its leaders offered a prediction. He said -- and I quote -- "The worst enemies which the Cuban revolution can face are the revolutionaries themselves." One of history's great tragedies is that he made that dark prophecy come true.
Cuba's rulers promised individual liberty. Instead they denied their citizens basic rights that the free world takes for granted. In Cuba it is illegal to change jobs, to change houses, to travel abroad, and to read books or magazines without the express approval of the state. It is against the law for more than three Cubans to meet without permission. Neighborhood Watch programs do not look out for criminals. Instead, they monitor their fellow citizens -- keeping track of neighbors' comings and goings, who visits them, and what radio stations they listen to. The sense of community and the simple trust between human beings is gone.
Cuba's rulers promised an era of economic advancement. Instead they brought generations of economic misery. Many of the cars on the street pre-date the revolution -- and some Cubans rely on horse carts for transportation. Housing for many ordinary Cubans is in very poor condition, while the ruling class lives in mansions. Clinics for ordinary Cubans suffer from chronic shortages in medicine and equipment. Many Cubans are forced to turn to the black market to feed their families. There are long lines for basic necessities -- reminiscent of the Soviet bread lines of the last century. Meanwhile, the regime offers fully stocked food stores to foreign tourists, diplomats and businessmen in communism's version of apartheid.
Cuba's rulers promised freedom of the press. Instead they closed down private newspapers and radio and television stations. They've jailed and beaten journalists, raided their homes, and seized their paper, ink and fax machines. One Cuban journalist asked foreigners who visited him for one thing: a pen. Another uses shoe polish as ink as a typewriter ribbon.
Cuba's rulers promised, "absolute respect for human rights." Instead they offered Cubans rat-infested prisons and a police state. Hundreds are serving long prison sentences for political offenses such as the crime of "dangerousness" -- as defined by the regime. Others have been jailed for the crime of "peaceful sedition" -- which means whatever Cuban authorities decide it means.
Joining us here are family members of political prisoners in Cuba. I've asked them to come because I want our fellow citizens to see the faces of those who suffer as a result of the human rights abuses on the island some 90 miles from our shore. One of them is Olga Alonso. Her brother, Ricardo Gonzalez Alonso [sic], has been harassed by Cuban authorities since he was 11 years old, because he wrote things that the Cuban authorities did not like. In 2003, Ricardo was arrested for his writings and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The authorities seized illegal contraband they found in his home. These included such things as a laptop computer, notebooks and a printer. Olga, we're glad you're here. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)
Marlenis Gonzalez and her daughter, Melissa, are here. They recently arrived from Cuba, but without Melissa's father. Jorge Luis Gonzalez Tanquero dared to defend the human rights of his countrymen. For that, he was arrested for crimes against the state. Now he languishes in poor health inside a Cuban prison. Bienvenidos. (Applause.)
Damaris Garcia y su tia, Mirta Pernet, are with us today. Damaris calls the Cuban government "a killing machine" -- those are her words. They've seen relatives imprisoned for supporting liberty. One beloved family member, Omar Pernet Hernandez, was a poor man who sold candy on the streets of Havana. For advocating freedom, he is serving a sentence of 25 years. He's 62 years old, he's emaciated. Yet he remains a determined advocate for human rights for the Cuban people. Bienvenidos. (Applause.)
Also with us is Yamile Llanes Labrada. Yamile's husband, Jorge [sic] Luis Garcia Paneque, was a surgeon and journalist. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison for daring speak the truth about the regime. Yamile herself was accused of espionage and she feared for the safety of her four children. After Jos 's arrest, a mob organized by state authorities surrounded their house. The mob carried sticks and threatened to set fire to the house with the family inside. Earlier this year, Yamile and her children made it off the island. They do not know when they'll see their father again. Bienvenidos, Yamile. (Applause.)
I want to thank each of you [for] coming today. I thank you for allowing me to share your stories, and I thank you for your courage. I ask that God watch over you and your loved ones. Que Dios les bendiga a ustedes y a sus familias. And I join your prayers for a day when the light of liberty will shine on Cuba.
These are just a few of the examples of the terror and trauma that is Cuba today. The socialist paradise is a tropical gulag. The quest for justice that once inspired the Cuban people has now become a grab for power. And as with all totalitarian systems, Cuba's regime no doubt has other horrors still unknown to the rest of the world. Once revealed, they will shock the conscience of humanity. And they will shame the regime's defenders and all those democracies that have been silent. (Applause.) One former Cuban political prisoner, Armando Valladares, puts it this way: It will be a time when "mankind will feel the revulsion it felt when the crimes of Stalin were brought to light." And that time is coming.
As we speak, calls for fundamental change are growing across the island. Peaceful demonstrations are spreading. Earlier this year leading Cuban dissidents came together for the first time to issue the Unity of Freedom -- a declaration for democratic change. They hear the dying gasps of a failed regime. They know that even history's cruelest nightmares cannot last forever. A restive people who long to rejoin the world at last have hope. And they will bring to Cuba a real revolution -- a revolution of freedom, democracy and justice. (Applause.)
Now is the time to support the democratic movements growing on the island. Now is the time to stand with the Cuban people as they stand up for their liberty. And now is the time for the world to put aside its differences and prepare for Cuban's transition to a future of freedom and progress and promise. The dissidents of today will be the nation's leaders tomorrow -- and when freedom finally comes, they will surely remember who stood with them. (Applause.)
The Czech Republic and Hungary and Poland have been vital sources of support and encouragement to Cuba's brave democratic opposition. I ask other countries to follow suit. All nations can make tangible efforts to show public support for those who love freedom on the island. They can open up their embassies in Havana to pro-democracy leaders and invite them to different events. They can use their lobbies of the embassies to give Cubans access to the Internet and to books and to magazines. They can encourage their country's non-governmental organizations to reach out directly to Cuba's independent civil society.
Here at home we can do more, as well. The United States Congress has recently voted for additional funding to support Cuban democracy efforts. I thank you all for your good work on this measure -- and I urge you to get the bill to my desk as soon as we possibly can. (Applause.) I also urge our Congress to show our support and solidarity for fundamental change in Cuba by maintaining our embargo on the dictatorship until it changes. (Applause.)
Cuba's regime uses the U.S. embargo as a scapegoat for Cuba's miseries. Yet Presidents of both our political parties have long understood that the source of Cuba's suffering is not the embargo, but the communist system. They know that trade with the Cuban government would not help the Cuban people until there are major changes to Cuba's political and economic system. Instead, trade with Cuba would merely enrich the elites in power and strengthen their grip. As long as the regime maintains its monopoly over the political and economic life of the Cuban people, the United States will keep the embargo in place. (Applause.)
The United States knows how much the Cuban people are suffering -- and we have not stood idle. Over the years, we've granted asylum to hundreds of thousands who have fled the repression and misery imposed by the regime. We've rallied nations to take up the banner of Cuban liberty. And we will continue to do so. We've authorized private citizens and organizations to provide food, and medicine, and other aid -- amounting to more than $270 million last year alone. The American people, the people of this generous land, are the largest providers of humanitarian aid to the Cuban people in the entire world. (Applause.)
The aid we provide goes directly into the hands of the Cuban people, rather than into the coffers of the Cuban leaders. And that's really the heart of our policy: to break the absolute control that the regime holds over the material resources that the Cuban people need to live and to prosper and to have hope.
To further that effort, the United States is prepared to take new measures right now to help the Cuban people directly -- but only if the Cuban regime, the ruling class, gets out of the way.
For example -- here's an interesting idea to help the Cuban people -- the United States government is prepared to license non-governmental organizations and faith-based groups to provide computers and Internet access to Cuban people -- if Cuba's rulers will end their restrictions on Internet access for all the people.
Or the United States is prepared to invite Cuban young people whose families suffer oppression into the Partnership for Latin American Youth scholarship programs, to help them have equal access to greater educational opportunities -- if the Cuban rulers will allow them to freely participate.
We make these offers to the people of Cuba -- and we hope their rulers will allow them to accept. You know, we've made similar offers before -- but they've been rejected out of hand by the regime. It's a sad lesson, and it should be a vivid lesson for all: For Cuba's ruling class, its grip on power is more important than the welfare of its people.
Life will not improve for Cubans under their current system of government. It will not improve by exchanging one dictator for another. It will not improve if we seek accommodation with a new tyranny in the interests of "stability." (Applause.) America will have no part in giving oxygen to a criminal regime victimizing its own people. We will not support the old way with new faces, the old system held together by new chains. The operative word in our future dealings with Cuba is not "stability." The operative word is "freedom." (Applause.)
In that spirit, today I also am announcing a new initiative to develop an international multi-billion dollar Freedom Fund for Cuba. This fund would help the Cuban people rebuild their economy and make the transition to democracy. I have asked two members of my Cabinet to lead the effort -- Secretary Rice and Secretary Gutierrez. They will enlist foreign governments and international organizations to contribute to this initiative.
And here's how the fund will work: The Cuban government must demonstrate that it has adopted, in word and deed, fundamental freedoms. These include the freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of press, freedom to form political parties, and the freedom to change the government through periodic, multi-party elections. And once these freedoms are in place, the fund will be able to give Cubans -- especially Cuban entrepreneurs -- access to grants, and loans and debt relief to help rebuild their country. (Applause.)
The restoration of these basic freedoms is the foundation of fair, free and competitive elections. Without these fundamental protections in place, elections are only cynical exercises that give dictatorships a legitimacy they do not deserve.
We will know there is a new Cuba when opposition parties have the freedom to organize, assemble and speak with equal access to the airwaves. We will know there is a new Cuba when a free and independent press has the power to operate without censors. We will know there is a new Cuba when the Cuban government removes its stranglehold on private economic activity.
And above all, we will know there is a new Cuba when authorities go to the prisons, walk to the cells where people are being held for their beliefs and set them free. (Applause.) It will be a time when the families here are reunited with their loved ones, and when the names of free people -- including dissidents such as Oscar Elias Biscet, Normando Hernandez Gonzales, and Omar Rodriguez Saludes are free. (Applause.) It will be a moment when Cubans of conscience are released from their shackles -- not as a gesture or a tactic, but because the government no longer puts people in prison because of what they think, or what they say or what they believe.
Cuba's transition from a shattered society to a free country may be long and difficult. Things will not always go as hoped. There will be difficult adjustments to make. One of the curses of totalitarianism is that it affects everyone. Good people make moral compromises to feed their families, avoid the whispers of neighbors, and escape a visit from the secret police. If Cuba is to enter a new era, it must find a way to reconcile and forgive those who have been part of the system but who do not have blood on their hands. They're victims as well.
At this moment, my words are being transmitted into -- live into Cuba by media outlets in the free world -- including Radio and TV Marti. To those Cubans who are listening -- perhaps at great risk -- I would like to speak to you directly.
Some of you are members of the Cuban military, or the police, or officials in the government. You may have once believed in the revolution. Now you can see its failure. When Cubans rise up to demand their liberty, they -- they -- the liberty they deserve, you've got to make a choice. Will you defend a disgraced and dying order by using force against your own people? Or will you embrace your people's desire for change? There is a place for you in the free Cuba. You can share the hope found in the song that has become a rallying cry for freedom-loving Cubans on and off the island: "Nuestro Dia Ya Viene Llegando." Our day is coming soon. (Applause.)
To the ordinary Cubans who are listening: You have the power to shape your own destiny. You can bring about a future where your leaders answer to you, where you can freely express your beliefs and where your children can grow up in peace. Many experts once said that that day could never come to Eastern Europe, or Spain or Chile. Those experts were wrong. When the Holy Father came to Cuba and offered God's blessings, he reminded you that you hold your country's future in your hands. And you can carry this refrain in your heart: Su dia ya viene llegando. Your day is coming soon. (Applause.)
To the schoolchildren of Cuba: You have a lot in common with young people in the United States. You both dream of hopeful futures, and you both have the optimism to make those dreams come true. Do not believe the tired lies you are told about America. We want nothing from you except to welcome you to the hope and joy of freedom. Do not fear the future. Su dia ya viene llegando. Your day is coming soon. (Applause.)
Until that day, you and your suffering are never far from our hearts and prayers. The American people care about you. And until we stand together as free men and women, I leave you with a hope, a dream, and a mission: Viva Cuba Libre.
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