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 The White House, Briefings, Speeches, Signings
Posted: Feb 13 2007, 03:30 PM

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MR. SNOW: Let me begin with a statement by the President:

"I am pleased with the agreements reached today at the six-party talks in Beijing. These talks represent the best opportunity to use diplomacy to address North Korea's nuclear programs. They reflect the common commitment of the participants to a Korean Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons.

"In September 2005, our nations agreed on a joint statement that chartered the way forward toward achieving a nuclear weapons free Peninsula. Today's announcement represents the first step toward implementing that agreement.

"Under the agreements reached today, North Korea has committed to take [several] specific actions within the next 60 days. Among other things, North Korea has agreed to shut down and seal all operations at the primary nuclear facilities it has used to produce weapons-grade plutonium and has agreed to allow international inspectors to verify and monitor this process. In addition to those immediate actions, North Korea has also committed to disclose all its nuclear programs and disable its existing nuclear facilities -- as an initial step toward abandoning all of those programs and facilities under international supervision.

"The other parties have agreed to cooperate in economic, humanitarian, and energy assistance to North Korea. Such assistance will be provided as the North carries out its commitments to disable its nuclear facilities.

"I commend Secretary Rice, Ambassador Hill, and our negotiating team in Beijing for their hard work."


Q Is the President confident that North Korea won't cheat on this agreement?

MR. SNOW: Well, if the North Koreans cheat on the agreement, they are still liable to Chapter 7 sanctions under U.N. Security Council resolutions. Furthermore, the way the agreements are structured, there are performance benchmarks, if you will. For instance, within the next 60 days the North Koreans not only have to take affirmative steps toward dealing with the facilities in Pyongyang [sic], they also have to disclose all of their nuclear operations, they have to be transparent about that.

So those are things that have to be done within the first 60 days. They are not going to get the full benefit of potential diplomatic or economic relations until they, in fact, demonstrate that they're up to performing.

Q Haven't we suspected, though, that North Korea has been hiding things and has not been dealing, you know, openly for years? Why would they do it now?

MR. SNOW: Well, the answer is -- one thing that they have discovered is that this is no longer the two-party process with the United States and North Koreans, where the North Koreans can try to leverage the United States against allies in the region.

Instead, what you have is a multilateral process in which the Chinese have a fundamental role to play; the South Koreans are going to be the chief supplier of energy; the Russians and Japanese are deeply involved, as well. In other words, now all of a sudden, if the North Koreans walk away, it's not simply that they've managed to score a debating point against the United States. They have directly insulted their neighbors, and there are ways in which those neighbors can express their disappointment.

Q Tony, talking to some people yesterday, they were saying the thing to keep the eye on is the difference between this being a freeze and something being done to permanently disable the reactors. So what's in there?

MR. SNOW: Permanently -- not only permanently disable the reactor, but all nuclear activities. That would include weapons, that would include reactors. There will be no nuclear industry at all within North Korea.

Under the agreed framework signed in October of '94 by the Clinton administration, there was a freeze. And as you know, what they were going to try to do is to swap out a plutonium reactor with a light water breeder reactor. There is no swapping nuclear technologies here. The endpoint of this is no nuclear program at all. Instead there will be other forms of energy supplied to the North Koreans.

Q Tony, one thing that's not in the agreement, if I'm correct, is that they don't disclose how many bombs they already have or get rid of those current weapons.

MR. SNOW: No, that's not correct. That is not what they're going to do initially. But, again, it will list all of its nuclear programs as described in the joint statement, which would include weapons programs, including plutonium extracted from used fuel rods that would be abandoned pursuant to the joint statement.

Q So if they have a bomb, they would have to disclose it.

MR. SNOW: Yes, they would.

Q And get rid of it?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Along these same lines, Tony, more than one Asia hand commenting today has recalled the old Reagan mantra, "trust but verify." Given North Koreans track record, given everything that Kim il-Jong has done and has not done. Is either one of those things possible?

MR. SNOW: Kim Jong-il.

Q Kim Jong-il. Trust but verify --

MR. SNOW: Absolutely right. And that's the way these negotiations proceed. This is not something where the moment the North Koreans sign, they get everything. Instead, in the first 60 days, for instance, they only get 5 percent of the potential 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil. They get 50,000. So the fact is that they get only a small portion up front, and they are going to have to justify further increments based on their good behavior.

Q Well, that's justified, but how do you achieve trust or verification with all of these tunnels and all of these secret labs that they have?

MR. SNOW: Well, one of the things they're going to commit to is full and open inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And the IAEA -- look, there are going to be a lot of people very interested in making sure they know what's going on. The other thing is, if there should be a discovery, the North Koreans are going to know that there will be consequences; that if they once again try to cheat on an agreement, they are still liable under Chapter 7 sanctions under the U.N. Security Council. And the parties to the six-party talks have made it pretty clear that when the North Koreans cheat, they're going to take action against them.

Q John Bolton is up on the Hill, and he just said that the agreement -- firstly, that he's not a fan of the agreement, and that the North will be re-writing it every day it's in existence, it's a fantasy, it's rewarding the North and sending a horrible message to the world about the U.S.' stand on weapons of mass destruction.

MR. SNOW: Well, we stood by John Bolton in his time at the United Nations, including when he advocated the six-party agreement -- the September 2005 agreement that, in fact, has been enacted today. One of the things that John Bolton did note is that there are carrots and sticks in the agreement, and as he said in October of '06, which was just a few months ago, the carrots have been there, in a sense, for North Korea of the possibility of ending its isolation, ending the terrible impoverishment of its people. It's the leadership that can't seem to find the carrots that are out there. We think that the leadership has begun to find the carrots. We're going to discover in due course whether they, in fact, are going to fulfill their part of the agreement. However, as we've already said up here, it is a trust-but-verify situation. This is not something where we are simply going to give things to the North Koreans on a timeline. This is all conditioned on their behavior.

Q In what way is this not rewarding the North for bad behavior?

MR. SNOW: Mainly because what we have said all along is, you guys have got to come back to the table without preconditions and, furthermore, you'll have to agree to get rid of the nuclear program. That has always been the condition that was laid out. This was something they agreed to back in September of 2005. What we have now is that the North Koreans basically fulfilling their own word a year-and-a-half after the fact.

If they really want rewards, the way that's going to happen is that they are going to continue not only to shut down Pyongyang -- I mean Yongbyon, sorry; Pyongyang is their capital, Yongbyon, the reactor. But in addition, they're going to go after -- they're going to declare all nuclear activities and facilities, and they're going to shut them down.

Q Would you like to see this agreement serve as a model for negotiations with Iran?

MR. SNOW: Yes, with a clear exception that we don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons, and we don't want it to have nuclear capabilities. It provides a template in the following way: This is the result of concerted diplomatic effort on the part of interested parties, especially the South Koreans and the Chinese, who stepped up and have made it clear that ultimately very good things can happen, not only in terms of the international community, but also in terms of the North Koreans, themselves.

The United States is going to focus primarily on humanitarian aid. But this also makes the world a more peaceful place, because what we're talking about in the context of extended negotiations is human rights -- performance on human rights, dealing with conventional weapons, with proliferation. Those are also ongoing concerns, all of which are now going to be addressed in follow on sessions both with all parties to the six-party talks and bilaterally with various partners.

We see that kind of diplomacy, effective diplomacy, where a party has come back to the table because the international community asserted pressure, they felt the pressure, and they understood that we were serious. And, you know, we hope the Iranians are similarly going to return to the table, because we have offered some real opportunities for them.


Q Tony, on Iran, General Peter Pace is now saying that he was not aware that this briefing was going ahead in Baghdad, where military officers were talking about Iran's influence in Iraq this past weekend. How could the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs not know that military officers would be briefing in Baghdad?

MR. SNOW: I'll refer that back to General Pace, frankly. But I'll tell you, what General Pace --

Q But did the White House loop him in? Did the White House loop in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?

MR. SNOW: I believe that this was a Pentagon briefing. Again, it typically is something that when the Pentagon is doing it, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs knows about it.

Let me tell you what -- I think a lot of people are trying to whomp up a fight here that doesn't exist. I spoke with General Pace a bit this morning, as well. And there is a core of information that everybody agrees upon. Number one, there is weaponry that is of Iranian manufacture that's in Iraq killing Americans. There are Iranians involved, there are Iranians on the ground. Our intelligence indicates that the explosively formed penetrators, the EFP, in fact, are directly associated with Quds forces, which are part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which are part of the government. The Quds force is, in fact, an official arm of the Iranian government and, as such, the government bears responsibility and accountability for its actions, as you would expect of any sovereign government.

And I think that's pretty clear. I mean, General Pace, again, if you go through his --

Q No, you didn't say that, though -- that's where you said "people are trying to whomp up a fight." With all due respect, it's General Pace's comments, not anyone else's, where he said --

MR. SNOW: No, go back --

Q Well, he said -- let me just say, he said, "It is clear that Iranians are involved and it's clear that materials from Iran are involved. But I would not say but what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit." Are you saying that you, from this podium, know more than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

MR. SNOW: I am telling you that -- I'm telling you what the intelligence indicates.

Q So is he not in the loop? I'm just trying to understand why there's a contradiction, where the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs --

MR. SNOW: I'll tell you what -- I just know that there's -- Ed, calm down. I know you're excited, your voice is rising, your pace is increasing --

Q I don't need to calm down. I'm telling you that he is saying this; I'm not.

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm telling you I talked with him. Okay?

Q Okay.

MR. SNOW: And I've talked with him --

Q Well, we'll follow up with him, as well.

MR. SNOW: You better, because I think you will find out that the intelligence does indicate, as he said, this stuff was -- let me pose you with two possibilities. But first, the intelligence indicates that the Quds forces, which are part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, are associated with this.

Now, let me ask a second question to you. I don't know what's more frightening, the fact that the Quds forces would be operating with the knowledge of senior officials or without the knowledge of senior officials. What is beyond dispute, and what is of primary importance here -- and General Pace hasn't disagreed with it, and we don't disagree, and frankly, again, I think you'll find upon further conversation -- he's going to be in the air for about 23 hours, so give him a day -- that, in fact, we generally agree on the basics of the situation here, which is there are armaments that have made their way from Iran into Iraq. There are Iranian forces in Iraq. These weapons are being used to kill Americans; we're going to do everything we can to protect our people.

Q Right. But on the substance of it, the briefers over the weekend said that these parts are sent to Iraq with the approval of senior Iranian officials. And the bottom line is he seems to be contradicting that.

MR. SNOW: Well, I think what General Pace may have been saying -- in fact, I know what he's saying -- and this is where we get to the rhetorical question I was asking you before -- do we have a signed piece of paper from Mr. Khomeini or from President Ahmadinejad signing off on this? No. But are the Quds forces part of the government? The answer is yes.

So the question is, I think this ends up being a semantic dispute about senior levels of the government or the government. And the fact is, the government knows about it.

Q Okay. But isn't it really a question about whether or not you have strong evidence? When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff seem to be saying something different than the White House, does that raise questions about how solid this evidence is?

MR. SNOW: No, because you've got -- you have explosively formed penetrators. He says they exist, correct?

Q I didn't see that in this particular quote, but --

MR. SNOW: Well, no -- he said that there are weapons --

Q He says that there are projectiles manufactured in Iraq.

MR. SNOW: Okay, all right. So, okay, so there's no doubt about that, correct? There are Iranians in Iraq. There's no question about that, correct?

Q Sure.

MR. SNOW: All right, so where's the credibility problem, in terms of -- are you saying --

Q In terms of the Iranian government being behind it. That's not -- nobody's disputing whether it's manufactured in Iran. That's what -- you keep changing what my question is.

MR. SNOW: No, no, I'm trying to clarify your question, because I think this is a --

Q I don't need it clarified, I'm trying to tell you -- I know what my question is, and basically, he's saying that he doesn't see evidence that the Iranian government is clearly behind it. That's my -- I've asked that three or four times. You haven't answered that. You're saying the Iranian government is behind it.

MR. SNOW: Okay, let me put it this way -- I'll say it one more time. The Quds force is part of the Iranian government. The Quds force is behind it, is associated with it.

Q Okay --

MR. SNOW: All right? Thank you.

Q Let me follow up on this, because we have a situation where right now, a lot of the American people are hearing a lot about Iran and whether the government is involved in sending the weapons across or not. And now it would appear that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the administration seem to be on two different pages.

MR. SNOW: We're not. And that's why I'm going to let General Pace speak for himself. We're not on a different page.

Q But you talked to him --

MR. SNOW: I know, and that's why I'm saying, because Ed's question -- Ed is citing a quote that he said earlier. I'm going to let him -- he'll be able to put it all together, because Ed's not going to believe me when I tell him what my conversation was.

Q But he's in the air for 23 hours. And these are the --

Q Let's hear it. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I already laid it out for you, man.

Q But it seems to be a reasonable expectation the American people can have, to get some kind of explanation for how you can have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the administration on two separate pages.

MR. SNOW: We're not on separate pages. The explanation --

Q Certainly, we seem to be, from what was said.

MR. SNOW: I know, because everybody is trying to get into semantic --

Q But yesterday you said the administration is confident the report on Iran is accurate and the weaponry is coming with knowledge of the Iranian government.

MR. SNOW: Of the government. And I still --

Q But now you're saying that the Quds forces, which is part of the Iranian government -- you're sort of parsing.

MR. SNOW: Well, I was parsing yesterday. I'm trying to be careful about how we do this. The question is, do we know that some particular senior official signed off? No, it's an opaque government; it's not a transparent government. But on the other hand, this is part of the Revolutionary Guard, which is part of the government, and therefore you do hold the government responsible.

Q So somebody who reads General Pace's quote, and says, hmm, that's different than what Tony Snow said yesterday -- they're wrong?

MR. SNOW: Yes. Yes. And I think what's -- again, we'll let General -- here's the --

Q So did Pace retract what he said when he spoke to you?

MR. SNOW: No, he didn't retract because what he said was accurate, as well. What he was thinking is, are you trying to lay this at the feet of members of the Supreme Governing Council; are you trying to lay this at the feet of particular individuals? The answer is, no, we don't have the intelligence that makes it that specific. He was trying to be very precise in how he answered the question. And I was being careful in how I answered it yesterday, as well. We know the Quds forces are involved. They're part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. That's part of the government. Just not going to go any further than that.

Q A deputy assistant undersecretary of agriculture is part of the government. Would you say that that -- if somebody was involved at that level, that that's a top level --

MR. SNOW: If you had somebody who was operating with an elite military unit, operating inside the United States, committing acts of violence, would you say that the sponsor government had some -- bore some responsibility for that elite military unit? We're not talking about deputy assistant secretaries of agriculture -- cute question, but it doesn't get to the point that people have moved armaments into Iraq and are killing Americans.

Q Yesterday you said, "In that regime there are not freelancers."

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q Do you stick by that statement, and thereby drawing it to the larger --

MR. SNOW: Again, let me just -- here's your rhetorical question: What's more frightening, the notion that they are freelancing or that they're not?

Q So they might.

MR. SNOW: No, I'm just posing a question for your consideration.

Q But then how solid is the information, though? I think the bottom line question still is if the Chairman --

MR. SNOW: Ed, the information is --

Q He's expressing doubts. He's a General. He knows this better than any of us in this room.

MR. SNOW: There are two things you need to understand. Number one, you guys have been constantly -- I did see what may be the dumbest lead of an editorial I've seen in a long time today in The New York Times, which is, "We need to declare ourselves on Iran." We've declared it over and over -- we're not going to war with them. Let me make that clear. So anybody who is trying to use this as "the administration trying to lay the predicate for a war with Iran" -- no, we're committed to diplomacy with Iran. But we are also committed to protecting our forces.

Let's go back through what we understand. We understand that these weapons came from Iran, no dispute about that. We know that Quds forces have been within Iraq, no dispute about that. We know that the Quds forces are, in fact, part of the Revolutionary Guard; they're an instrument of the Iranian government. Nobody doubts that. So the question therefore becomes, who wrote the orders -- I'm not going to -- we're not going to be able to tell you who signed the orders. But we do know that the Iranian government at that level has been involved.

The important thing is we're trying to do this, and what's interesting is that the Iranian officials -- if they deny it, that's fine. Let's make sure that they, therefore, become engaged in trying to make sure that none of that stuff comes across the border is being used to kill Americans or innocent Iraqis.

Q It's not Iranian officials denying it -- that's not -- again, it's about General Pace --

MR. SNOW: Well, actually, Jessica -- no, Jessica has pinged me many times in the last two days saying they have been denying it on her network.

Q Okay, but, again, when we're talking about -- can you clarify, though, did General Pace -- you said he had a phone conversation with him.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Was he aware that this briefing was going to happen? That his own --

MR. SNOW: I actually -- I did not ask him whether he knew -- I did not ask the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs whether he knew that a Pentagon briefing was going to take place in Baghdad. Forgive me. I didn't ask the process question.

Q Well, he's the one who told reporters that he didn't know about it.

MR. SNOW: Okay. But what I said -- I think -- I asked him about the specific -- he said he wanted to be very precise, because he did not want to be making allegations that could be construed as saying that some senior official within the Iranian government was directly responsible for signing an order. I think that's right. I think he's right about that.

Q Is any of this the reason why the briefing over the weekend became on background, not on camera, because you're concerned about how -- whether --

MR. SNOW: No, what happened was the -- no, the reason it was on background -- the reason it was background -- I'm getting my exercise -- the reason it was on background was that one of the briefers otherwise would not have been able to do it. You guys understand how background briefings work. And that was the ground rule that was laid out. Now, I'm sure that you don't want to rule out background briefings now or anytime in the future. The fact is, we went public with the evidence, and you got the pictures -- again, nobody denies the armaments, nobody denies where they come from, nobody denies the importance of protecting our guys.


Q If I could just come at this one other way. Beyond the evidence of the involvement of the Quds forces, there's no other evidence of ties to the Iranian government?

MR. SNOW: I don't want to lay out -- for one thing, I don't have access to the full chain of intel. But I can tell you the intel community believes that the Quds forces was involved, and I don't want to get into any further characterizations. There I would direct you to the DNI.

Q But as far as you know, when you suggested -- the Iranian government --

MR. SNOW: As far as I'm going to say here, I'm not willing to go any further. I think that's appropriately answered by DNI.

Q Do you think that the off-the-record, low-level Iran briefing has backfired? The reason I ask that is because on the one hand you avoid the comparison with Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations, but at the same time, what you've ended up with is the sense that no one senior in the administration seems to be willing to go on the record. And I understand that one of the people -- not all of the people, but one of the people would have been unable to brief; the other people wouldn't have been unable to brief.

MR. SNOW: No, look, again, I think what's happening is that everybody is trying to create a narrative here of something that's -- look, the problem before, nobody found weapons of mass destruction. You cannot say that nobody didn't -- nobody found explosively formed penetrators. You've got pictures of the things. You know where they came from. There is no doubt about the central fact here: that you have an explosive device that's being used to kill Americans.

So what everybody is trying to figure out now is what General Pace meant -- it's now being devolved into a process argument that overlooks the key fact, which is that weaponry made its way from Iran into Iraq and it's killing Americans, and we're going to try to stop the killing of Americans.

Q Well, isn't the key fact really not only that, but the key fact is, who is sending the weapons into Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, there is evidence that links Quds force to it. Now, again, the question --

Q Direct evidence?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to characterize -- let me put it this way, I will push all the evidentiary questions to DNI, but the finding of the intelligence community is that it's, in fact, linked to the Quds forces.

Q That's kind of a "no."

MR. SNOW: No, it's not. It's one of those -- because what you're asking is for the nature and quality of classified evidence. I get my hands tied when I get -- I don't want to get too far in front of this, trying to give you any kind of characterization beyond what's already on the public record.

Q Tony, could I go to a domestic -- two domestic questions?

MR. SNOW: Yes, you may.

Q I'll yield to anybody else.

I have never heard you or any of your 10 predecessors -- whom I have covered at that podium -- use the obscene words for feces, fornication, semen, anus, and vagina, all of which words were used publicly by Melissa McEwan, who is still on the John Edwards presidential campaign staff because he refused to fire her. And my question, first: Surely the President would never put up with such public obscenity like former Senator Edwards is doing, would he?

MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know about that, but the President expects his aides to behave in a seemly manner.

Q On another issue, Inspector General Robert Skinner admitted at a hearing that his deputies falsely told lawmakers that the agency had documentary proof that then Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean were rouge cops, "out to shoot Mexicans." And my question, is the President assured that Attorney General Gonzales is investigating this?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. Did you read the fuller Inspector General's report?

Q I have not read the whole thing.

MR. SNOW: It's worth reading. I think that questions about the Inspector -- see, the thing about Inspectors General is they actually do operate independently of the agencies, as you understand. But on the other hand, Mr. Skinner will have to answer for characterizations he's made.

Q The House has taken up its resolution of disapproval today. Does the administration envision that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq as a stabilization force for years, if not decades to come, if --

MR. SNOW: I don't think at this point -- no -- go ahead.

Q -- if Iraq doesn't throw us out or Congress doesn't cut off the money?

MR. SNOW: Again, I think it's presumptuous for us to look on that long a timeline. The one thing we are committed to doing is having democracy succeed in Iraq. We're also committed to having Iraqis in lead and leadership roles as soon as possible. As far as whatever the long-term commitments, I mean, that's --

Q But don't you look down the road, don't you have a --

MR. SNOW: We do look down the road, but as you know, there is vast amount of uncertainty from one month to the next, let alone one year to the next. And, therefore, to try to make a characterization of what's going to happen one, two, or five years down the road is the sort of thing that almost certainly is going to be inaccurate, if I'm lucky. So I think at this point we'll just stick with the characterizations of what we're trying to achieve.

Q And is the White House working against -- to stop this resolution?

MR. SNOW: No. I mean, it's -- we've made our views known, in terms of what people have to keep in mind. But members of the House and members of the Senate have the freedom to go ahead and write their resolutions and do what they want with them.

The one thing we do expect is, we do expect those who say they're going to support the troops to support them. And there are going to come times when they're going to have an opportunity to vote on continued support for the forces in the field -- and this is something that we will be discussing with members of both houses and both parties, as well -- in terms of providing the support so that those who are reinforcing forces on the ground and a new and redesigned mission, in terms of dealing with the problems of violence in Iraq, are going to be able to be there for their comrades to help finish the job.


Q A question on the record $764 billion trade deficit. House Democratic Leaders sent the President a letter today, including the Trade Subcommittee Chairman, asking for a change in trade policy, which they say is a link to "failed businesses, displaced workers, and lower real wages." And they ask for the Bush administration to give Congress within 90 days a plan to change or eliminate trade deficits with China, the EU, and Japan.

MR. SNOW: Deb, I haven't seen that at all. We just got an economic report of the President yesterday that talked about a booming economy -- we've got reports now of revenues gushing in first quarter a surplus -- the fact is that the most important thing is to build a strong economy that's going to have opportunities for everybody.

But I don't want to even try to answer to a letter I haven't seen. My guess is it sounds to me like they've got a pretty heft series of concerns that's probably not amenable to a one-sentence answer, let alone a five-page answer. So --

Q Can you address the issue of the trade deficit in the President's policy?

MR. SNOW: No, I'll just -- let me take a look at what they've got. Anything I would give you would be less than you deserve.

Q I wanted to ask you, there have been some stories lately about an ICE detention facility outside of Austin, Texas, where asylum-seekers have been kept in prison-like conditions -- it is a converted prison, although the bars are not kept closed, as it would be in prison. Women and children are kept in garb that is likened to prison outfits. Is the President comfortable with the idea that asylum-seekers, particularly children, are kept in conditions --

MR. SNOW: Well, as you probably know, in the past, children had been separated from their families. What we're actually trying to do is to keep them together. We also have been concerned about making sure that they're kept in humane and sanitary conditions and they're clothed and fed. And all that is as you would expect. But one of the things we're trying to do is to keep families together. When you have a large number of people in a facility like that, it does create challenges, and we're trying to do our best with it.

Q Wouldn't it be better to find another type of facility?

MR. SNOW: Such as?

Q I don't --

MR. SNOW: Sports stadium?

Q -- I don't know.

MR. SNOW: The point is, it's difficult to find facilities, and you have to do the best with what you've got.

Q Thank you, Tony.

Posted: Feb 13 2007, 03:33 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 13, 2007

President Bush Discusses Volunteerism
Roosevelt Room
President's Remarks

11:32 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: I just had a fascinating discussion with members of my administration and some of our citizens who deeply care about the future of the country. Laura and I want to thank you all for joining us. We had two people who actually study the importance of volunteerism for the health of the country.

A couple points I'd like to make. One, we are a nation of people who take time out of their lives on a regular basis to help a fellow citizen realize the full potential of America. We've got a lot of people volunteering in the country, and one of my calls is for people to do more of it. And there's plenty of opportunities to find out where you can volunteer. You can go, for example, on the USAFreedomCorps.gov web page and you can find programs close to you that will give you an opportunity to follow your heart.

Secondly, I fully recognize there's an important role for government in our society, but I also want our fellow citizens to know there's a really important role for you. If you're concerned about the future of America, you can volunteer to help make our future brighter. You can mentor a child, you can teach somebody to read, you can go visit the elderly, you can feed the hungry, you can find shelter for the homeless, and you'll make a significant contribution to America. And as you do so, you'll find you make a significant contribution to your own self worth and your own soul.

We're heralding volunteerism here today. It is a really important aspect of American society. I'm proud of our fellow citizens who have answered the call. I encourage you to continue on. And for those of you who want to enrich your own life, you can find a way to volunteer and help somebody else, and it will do just that.

So thank you all for joining us. Appreciate your good work. God bless those of you who are volunteering.

Posted: Feb 14 2007, 03:55 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2007

Executive Order Trial of Alien Unlawful Enemy Combatants by Military Commission

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Public Law 109‑366), the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40), and section 948b( of title 10, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Establishment of Military Commissions. There are hereby established military commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants for offenses triable by military commission as provided in chapter 47A of title 10.

Sec. 2. Definitions. As used in this order:

(a) "unlawful enemy combatant" has the meaning provided for that term in section 948a(1) of title 10; and

( "alien" means a person who is not a citizen of the United States.

Sec. 3. Supersedure. This order supersedes any provision of the President's Military Order of November 13, 2001 (66 Fed. Reg. 57,833), that relates to trial by military commission, specifically including:

(a) section 4 of the Military Order; and

( any requirement in section 2 of the Military Order, as it relates to trial by military commission, for a determination of:

(i) reason to believe specified matters; or

(ii) the interest of the United States.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) This order shall be implemented in accordance with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

( The heads of executive departments and agencies shall provide such information and assistance to the Secretary of Defense as may be necessary to implement this order and chapter 47A of title 10.

This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.



February 14, 2007.

Posted: Feb 14 2007, 03:59 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2007

Press Conference by the President
The East Room
President's Remarks

11:01 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming in on an icy day. I have just finished a conversation with General David Petraeus. He gave me his first briefing from Iraq. He talked about the Baghdad security plan. It's the plan that I described to the nation last January, and it's a plan that's beginning to take shape. General Petraeus and General Odierno talked about how the fact that the Iraqi government is following through on its commitment to deploy three additional army brigades, Iraqi army brigades in the capital. We talked about where those troops are being deployed, the position of U.S. troops with them, as well as the embeds with the Iraqi troops, and we talked about the plan.

He also talked about the new Iraqi commander. The commander who Prime Minister Maliki picked to operate the Baghdad security plan is in place; they're setting up a headquarters and they're in the process of being in a position to be able to coordinate all forces. In other words, there's still some work to be done there to get the command and control center up and running in Baghdad.

We talked about the fact that our coalition troops that are heading into Baghdad will be arriving on time. In other words, I'm paying attention to the schedule of troop deployments to make sure that they're there, so that General Petraeus will have the troops to do the job -- the number of troops to do the job that we've asked him to do.

We talked about the coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces. And I would characterize their assessment as the coordination is good. In other words, there's good conversation, constant conversation between the commanders of our troops and their troops, and that's a positive development.

The operation to secure Baghdad is going to take time, and there will be violence. We saw on our TV screens the terrorists will send car bombs into crowded markets. In other words, these are people that will kill innocent men, women and children to achieve their objective, which is to discourage the Iraqi people, to foment sectarian violence and to, frankly, discourage us from helping this government do its job.

Yesterday there was a suicide bomber. In other words, there's an active strategy to undermine the Maliki government and its Baghdad security plan. And our generals understand that, they know that they're all aimed at, frankly, causing people here in America to say it's not worth it. And I can understand why people are concerned when they turn on the TV screens and see this violence. It's disturbing to people, and it's disturbing to the Iraqi people. But it reminds me of how important it is for us to help them succeed. If you think the violence is bad now, imagine what it would look like if we don't help them secure the city, the capital city of Baghdad.

I fully recognize we're not going to be able to stop all suicide bombers. I know that. But we can help secure that capital; help the Iraqis secure that capital so that people have a sense of normalcy -- in other words, that they're able to get a better sense that this government of theirs will provide security. People want to live in peace; they want to grow up in a peaceful environment. And the decision I made is going to help the Iraqi government do that.

When General Petraeus' nomination was considered three weeks ago, the United States Senate voted unanimously to confirm him, and I appreciated that vote by the senators. And now members of the House of Representatives are debating a resolution that would express disapproval of the plan that General Petraeus is carrying out. You know, in recent months, I've discussed our strategy in Iraq with members of Congress from both political parties. Many have told me that they're dissatisfied with the situation in Iraq. I told them I was dissatisfied with the situation in Iraq. And that's why I ordered a comprehensive review of our strategy.

I've listened to a lot of voices; people in my administration heard a lot of voices. We weighed every option. I concluded that to step back from the fight in Baghdad would have disastrous consequences for people in America. That's the conclusion I came to. It's the conclusion members of my staff came to. It's the conclusion that a lot in the military came to.

And the reason why I say "disastrous consequences," the Iraqi government could collapse, chaos would spread, there would be a vacuum, into the vacuum would flow more extremists, more radicals, people who have stated intent to hurt our people. I believe that success in Baghdad will have success in helping us secure the homeland.

What's different about this conflict than some others is that if we fail there, the enemy will follow us here. I firmly believe that. And that's one of the main reasons why I made the decision I made. And so we will help this Iraqi government succeed. And the first step for success is to do something about the sectarian violence in Baghdad so they can have breathing space in order to do the political work necessary to assure the different factions in Baghdad, factions that are recovering from years of tyranny, that there is a hopeful future for them and their families. I would call that political breathing space.

And by providing this political breathing space, in other words, giving the Maliki government a chance to reconcile and do the work necessary to achieve reconciliation, it'll hasten the day in which we can change our force posture in Iraq. A successful strategy obviously -- a successful security strategy in Bagdad requires more than just military action. I mean, people have to see tangible results in their lives. They have to see something better. They not only have to feel secure where they live, but they've got to see positive things taking place.

The other day, the Iraqi government passed a $41 billion budget, $10 billion of which is for reconstruction and capital investment. There's a lot of talk in Washington about benchmarks. I agree -- "benchmarks" meaning that the Iraqi government said they're going to do this; for example, have an oil law as a benchmark. But one of the benchmarks they laid out, besides committing troops to the Iraqi security plan, was that they'll pass a budget in which there's $10 billion of their own money available for reconstruction and help. And they met the benchmark. And now, obviously, it's important they spend the money wisely.

They're in the process of finalizing a law that will allow for the sharing of all revenues among Iraq's peoples. In my talks with members of Congress, some have agreed with what I'm doing, many who didn't -- they all, though, believe it's important for the Iraqi government to set benchmarks and achieve those benchmarks. And one benchmark we've all discussed was making it clear to the Iraqi people that they have a stake in the future of their country by having a stake in the oil revenues. And so the government is in the process of getting an oil revenue law that will help unify the country.

The Iraqi government is making progress on reforms that will allow more of its citizens to reenter political life. Obviously, I'm paying close attention to whether or not the government is meeting these benchmarks, and will continue to remind Prime Minister Maliki that he must do so.

We've given our civilians and commanders greater flexibility to fund our economic assistance money. Part of the strategy in Baghdad is to clear, and then to hold, and then to build. We've been pretty good about clearing in the past; we haven't been good about holding -- "we" being the Iraqis and coalition forces. So we spent time today talking to General Petraeus about the need, his need and his understanding of the need to hold neighborhoods so that the people, themselves, in the capital city feel more secure.

But also part of the strategy is to make sure that we build. So we're giving our commanders flexibility with reconstruction money that they have at their disposal. We're also sending more PRTs, provincial reconstruction teams, into Iraq, trying to speed up their arrival into Iraq so that the Iraqi people see tangible benefits from the government that they elected under one of the most progressive constitutions in the Middle East.

Later this week the House of Representatives will vote on a resolution that opposes our new plan in Iraq -- before it has a chance to work. People are prejudging the outcome of this. They have every right to express their opinion, and it is a non-binding resolution. Soon Congress is going to be able to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding, a bill providing emergency funding for our troops. Our troops are counting on their elected leaders in Washington, D.C. to provide them with the support they need to do their mission. We have a responsibility, all of us here in Washington, to make sure that our men and women in uniform have the resources and the flexibility they need to prevail.

Before I'm going to take some questions, I'd like to comment about one other diplomatic development, and that took place in the Far East. At the six-party talks in Beijing, North Korea agreed to specific actions that will bring us closer to a Korea Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons. Specifically, North Korea agreed that within 60 days it will shut down and seal all operations at the primary nuclear facilities it has used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. It has agreed to allow international inspectors to verify and monitor this progress. It is committed to disclosing all of its nuclear programs as an initial step toward abandoning these programs.

In exchange, five other parties at the table -- that would be China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States -- have got commitments. We will meet those commitments as this agreement is honored. Those commitments include economic, humanitarian and energy assistance to the people of North Korea.

This is a unique deal. First of all, unlike any other agreement, it brings together all of North Korea's neighbors in the region, as well as the United States. The agreement is backed by a United Nations Security Council resolution. That resolution came about -- the sanctions came about as a result of the resolution because of a unanimous vote in the Security Council.

This is good progress. It is a good first step. There's a lot of work to be done to make sure that the commitments made in this agreement become reality, but I believe it's an important step in the right direction.

And with that, I'll be glad to take your questions, starting with you, Terry.

Q Mr. President, on Russia. Is the Vladimir Putin who said the United States is undermining global security and provoking a new arms race the same Vladimir Putin whose soul you looked into and found to be trustworthy? Has he changed? Are U.S.-Russian relations deteriorating?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the person who I was referring to in 2001 is the same strong-willed person. He is a person with whom I have had agreements and disagreements throughout the course of my presidency and his. We've disagreed on the utility of NATO. I've tried to convince Vladimir that NATO is positive. It's a positive influence, that democracies on your border are good things to have. The democracies tend not to fight each other. And I firmly believe NATO is a stabilizing influence for the good, and that helps Russia. Evidently he disagrees with that assessment; part of his speech was expressing concerns about NATO.

There's a lot we can work together on, and that's what's important for American people to understand. We know that we've got common goals that make sense for both our peoples. Two such goals are Iran, convincing the Iranians to get rid of its nuclear weapons. And Russia's leadership on this issue is very important to getting a Chapter 7 Resolution out of the United Nations. And by the way, they were constructive in terms of the resolution I just described about North Korea. In other words, where we have common interests, and we work together on those common interests, we can accomplish important things for the security of our own people, as well as the security of the world.

And, secondly, Russia and the United States work very closely on proliferation concerns. We're both concerned about the proliferation of technologies that could end up hurting our people and other people in the world.

So there's -- it's a complicated relationship. It's a relationship in which there are disagreements, but there's also a relationship in which we can find common ground to solve problems. And that's the spirit -- that's the spirit I'll continue to work with Vladimir Putin on.


Q Thank you, sir. General Pace says that these bombs found in Iraq do not, by themselves, implicate Iran. What makes you so certain that the highest levels of Tehran's government is responsible?


Q And how can you retaliate against Iran without risking a war?

THE PRESIDENT: What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did.

But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know? But the point I made in my initial speech in the White House about Iraq was, is that we know they're there and we're going to protect our troops. When we find the networks that are enabling these weapons to end up in Iraq, we will deal with them. If we find agents who are moving these devices into Iraq, we will deal with them. I have put out the command to our troops -- I mean, to the people who are commanders, that we'll protect the soldiers of the United States and innocent people in Iraq and will continue doing so.

Now, let me step back on Iran, itself. We have a comprehensive strategy to deal with Iraq [sic]. There's a variety of issues that we have with Iraq [sic]. One, of course, is influence inside of Iraq. Another is whether or not they end up with a nuclear weapon. And I believe an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be very dangerous for world peace, and have worked with other nations of like mind. And it turns out there's a lot of countries in the world that agree with that assessment. After all, we did get a Chapter 7 Resolution out of the United Nations that included EU3, as well as Russia and China. That's a positive development.

The message to the Iranian people is that your leaders are making decisions that are isolating you in the world, thereby denying you a brighter future. And I believe Iran is an unbelievably vital nation. It's got a great history, it's got wonderful traditions, it's got very capable, smart people. There is -- I believe there's also a desire to not be isolated from the world. And our policies are all aimed at convincing the Iranian people there's a better way forward, and I hope their government hears that message.

Anyway, that's a long answer to a short question, and now you're trying to get to me to -- Gregory. Excuse me, David. David.

Q Thank you, sir. I'd like to follow on Iran. Critics say that you are using the same quality of intelligence about Iran that you used to make the case for war in Iraq, specifically about WMD that turned out to be wrong, and that you are doing that to make a case for war against Iran. Is that the case?

THE PRESIDENT: I can say with certainty that the Quds force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops. And I'd like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds force was ordered from the top echelons of government. But my point is what's worse -- them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it happening? And so we will continue to protect our troops.

David, our strategy is comprehensive in order to resolve problems that will affect our own peace and the peace in the world. And the biggest problem I see is the Iranians' desire to have a nuclear weapon. As you know, we've been dealing with this issue ever since you've been covering me, and pretty much ever since I've been the President. And we've made it very clear to the Iranians that if they would like to have a dialogue with the United States, there needs to be a verifiable suspension of their program. I would hope that they would do that. I would like to be at the -- have been given a chance for us to explain that we have no desire to harm the Iranian people.

But my focus is on making sure that this weapon is dealt with, the program is dealt with in a constructive, peaceful way. And we'll continue to work toward achieving our common objective with other nations in the world in a peaceful way.


Q -- using faulty intelligence to provoke Iran?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I heard your question, and I told you, I was confident that the Quds force, a part of the Iranian government, was providing weaponry into Iraq. And to say it is provoking Iran is just a wrong way to characterize the Commander-in-Chief's decision to do what is necessary to protect our soldiers in harm's way. And I will continue to do so.


Q Mr. President, on the North Korea deal, the former U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton, yesterday said, "It's a bad, disappointing deal, and the best thing you can say about it is that it will probably fall apart." This is from a man you repeatedly praised for his judgment and leadership at the United Nations. His main criticism is that the financial pressure led North Korea back to the table, and now it's being released. How do you respond to that?

THE PRESIDENT: I strongly disagree -- strongly disagree with his assessment. I have told the American people, like the Iranian issue, I wanted to solve the North Korean issue peacefully, and that the President has an obligation to try all diplomatic means necessary to do so. I changed the dynamic on the North Korean issue by convincing other people to be at the table with us, on the theory that the best diplomacy is diplomacy in which there is more than one voice -- that has got an equity in the issue -- speaking.

And so we had a breakthrough as a result of other voices in the United States saying to the North Koreans, we don't support your nuclear weapons program and we urge you to get rid of it in a verifiable way. Perhaps the most significant voice that had been added to the table was China. But the South Korean voice was vital, as was the Japanese and Russian voices, as well. So the assessment made by some that this is not a good deal is just flat wrong.

Now those who say the North Koreans have got to prove themselves by actually following through on the deal are right. And I'm one. This is a good first step. It will be a great deal for the North Korean people if their government follows through with the agreement, which, by the way, started in September of 2005. The agreement that we announced the other day was a continuation of the initial agreement in September of 2005. And for those who say that, well, this is an interesting moment and now it's up to the North Koreans to do that which they say they will do, I couldn't agree more with you.

And the first phase is to shut down and seal their facility, their main weapons manufacturing facility, and then disclose their programs. And for that, they'll receive some help from the South Koreans -- the equivalent of 50,000 tons of fuel.

And the second phase is to disable and abandon their facilities. In other words, this is a phased approach that will enable all of us to say to our respective populations we're watching carefully, and that there's an opportunity for the North Koreans to prove that this program can work.

If they do the second phase, there is a -- there will be about the equivalent of a million tons, minus the 50,000 tons, available food, economic assistance and fuel. I am particularly interested in helping get food to the North Korean people. Now, that's not going to happen until there's some verifiable measures that have been taken.

The financial measures that you're speaking about are really a separate item, because it has everything to do with -- it's a banking issue that our Treasury Department is analyzing to determine whether or not funds were illicitly moved through the bank.

Let's see, yes, sir.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I want to follow up on Iran one more time. You saying today that you do not know if senior members of the Iranian government are, in fact, behind these explosives -- that contradicts what U.S. officials said in Baghdad on Sunday. They said the highest levels of the Iranian government were behind this. It also -- it seems to square with what General Pace has been saying, but contradicts with what your own press secretary said yesterday.

THE PRESIDENT: Can I -- let me -- I can't say it more plainly: there are weapons in Iraq that are harming U.S. troops because of the Quds force. And as you know, I hope, that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. Whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds force to do this, I don't think we know. But we do know that they're there, and I intend to do something about it. And I've asked our commanders to do something about it. And we're going to protect our troops.

Q But given some of contradictions, Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: There's no contradiction that the weapons are there and they were provided by the Quds force, Ed.

Q What assurances can you give the American people that the intelligence this time will be accurate?

THE PRESIDENT: Ed, we know they're there, we know they're provided by the Quds force. We know the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. I don't think we know who picked up the phone and said to the Quds force, go do this, but we know it's a vital part of the Iranian government.

What matters is, is that we're responding. The idea that somehow we're manufacturing the idea that the Iranians are providing IEDs is preposterous, Ed. My job is to protect our troops. And when we find devices that are in that country that are hurting our troops, we're going to do something about it, pure and simple.

Now David says, does this mean you're trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I'm trying to protect our troops. That's what that means. And that's what the family members of our soldiers expect the Commander-in-Chief and those responsible for -- responsible for our troops on the ground. And we'll continue do so.

Yes, ma'am. You're not a "ma'am." Martha.

Q Mr. President, do you agree with the National Intelligence Estimate that we are now in a civil war in Iraq? And, also, you talk about victory, that you have to have victory in Iraq; it would be catastrophic if we didn't. You said again today that the enemy would come here, and yet you say it's not an open-ended commitment. How do you square those things?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, victory in Iraq is not going to be like victory in World War II. It's one of the challenges I have to explain to the American people what Iraq will look like in a situation that will enable us to say we have accomplished our mission.

First, the -- Iraq will be a society in which there is relative peace. I say "relative peace" because if it's like zero car bombings, it never will happen that way. It's like -- the fundamental question is, can we help this government have the security force level necessary to make sure that the ethnic cleansing that was taking place in certain neighborhoods has stopped.

Look, there's criminality in Iraq, as well as the ethnic violence. And we've got to help the Iraqis have a police force that deals with criminals. There is an al Qaeda presence in Iraq, as you know. I believe some of the spectacular bombings have been caused by al Qaeda. As a matter of fact, Zarqawi -- the terrorist Zarqawi, who is not an Iraqi, made it very clear that he intended to use violence to spur sectarian -- car bombings and spectacular violence to spur sectarian violence. And he did a good job of it.

And so there -- and then there's this disaffected Sunnis, people who believe that they should still be in power in spite of the fact that the Shia are the majority of the country, and they're willing to use violence to try to create enough chaos so they get back in power.

The reason I described that is that no matter what you call it, it's a complex situation, and it needed to be dealt with inside of Iraq. We've got people who say civil war, we've got people on the ground who don't believe it's a civil war. But nevertheless, it is -- it was dangerous enough that I had to make a decision to try to stop it, so that a government that is bound by a constitution, where the country feels relatively secure as a result of a security force that is even-handed in its application of security; a place where the vast resources of the country -- this is a relatively wealthy country, in that they've got a lot of hydrocarbons -- is shared equally amongst people; that there is a federalism that evolves under the Constitution where the local provinces have got authority, as well; and where people who may have made a political decision in the past and yet weren't criminals can participate in the life of the country; and is an ally in the war on terror. In other words, that there is a bulwark for moderation, as opposed to a safe haven for extremism. And that's what I would view as successful.

Q Do you believe it's a civil war, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I can only tell you what people on the ground, whose judgment -- it's hard for me, living in this beautiful White House, to give you an assessment, firsthand assessment. I haven't been there; you have, I haven't. But I do talk to people who are and people whose judgment I trust, and they would not qualify it as that. There are others who think it is. It is, however, a dangerous situation, thereby requiring action on my part.

Listen, I considered several options -- one, doing nothing, and that if you don't believe the situation was acceptable, then you should do something. And I didn't believe the situation was acceptable. Secondly, I could have listened to the advice of some and pulled back and hoped for the best. I felt that would be extraordinarily dangerous for this young democracy, that the violence in Baghdad could escalate mightily and then spill out across the country, creating chaos, vacuums into which extremism would flow; or make the decision I made, which is to reinforce the troops that were on the ground, to help this Iraqi government and security force do what they're supposed to do.

Sir. You dropped?

Q Bad hands. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: You know, you got the Blackberry and everything there.

Q I'd like to ask you about troop morale.


Q As you know, a growing number of troops are on their second, third or fourth tour in Iraq. There have been a growing number of reports about declining morale among fighting men. I spoke personally to an infantry commander -- tough guy, patriot -- who says more and more of the troops are asking, questioning what they're doing here. Does this come as a surprise to you? Are you aware of this? Is it a minority opinion, is it a growing opinion, and does it concern you?

THE PRESIDENT: I am -- what I hear from commanders is that the place where there is concern is with the family members; that our troops, who have volunteered to serve the country, are willing to go into combat multiple times, but that the concern is with the people on the home front. And I can understand that. And I -- and that's one reason I go out of my way to constantly thank the family members. You know, I'm asking -- you're obviously talking to certain people, or a person. I'm talking to our commanders. Their job is to tell me what -- the situation on the ground. And I have -- I know there's concern about the home front. I haven't heard deep concern about the morale of the troops in Iraq.

Q -- tell you?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, they'd tell me that. Sure, absolutely. Just like they told me that they thought they needed extra troops to do the job. Sure.

Listen, I want our troops out of there as quickly as possible. But I also want to make sure that we get the job done. And I made the decision I made in order to do so.


Q You spoke positively about the role of diplomacy in North Korea, and you obviously gave it a long time to work. Where does diplomacy fit in, in terms of Iran, and do we have any leverage if we try diplomacy there?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I guess you could call getting the EU3, China and Russia on the same page on a Chapter 7 Resolution successful diplomacy. I thought that was diplomacy. And it took a long time to get there. I mean, we're working hard to send a concerted message to the Iranians -- a focused, unified message that the world believes you should not have a nuclear program. And so this is a multilateral approach to try to get the government to alter its course on a nuclear weapons program.

I can't think of any more robust diplomacy than to have more than one party at the table talking to the Iranians. And we did so through the United Nations in this case. If they want us at the table, we're more than willing to come, but there must be a verifiable suspension of this weapons program that is causing such grave concern.

We'll continue to work with other nations. Matter of fact, I believe that it is easier for the United States to achieve certain diplomatic objectives when we work with other nations, which is precisely why we adopted the strategy we did in dealing with the Iranians.


Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, it seems pretty clear where this Iraq vote in the House is headed. Your press secretary has said repeatedly that members of Congress ought to watch what they say and be concerned about the message that they're sending to our enemy. I'm wondering, do you believe that a vote of disapproval of your policy emboldens the enemy? Does it undermine your ability to carry out your policies there? And, also, what are you doing to persuade the Democratic leadership in Congress not to restrict your ability to spend money in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks. A couple of points. One, that I understand the Congress is going to express their opinion, and it's very clear where the Democrats are, and some Republicans; I know that. They didn't like the decision I made. And by the way, that doesn't mean that I think that they're not good, honorable citizens of the country. I just have a different opinion. I considered some of their opinions and felt like it would not lead to a country that could govern itself, sustain itself, and be an ally in the war on terror. One.

Secondly, my hope, however, is that this non-binding resolution doesn't try to turn into a binding policy that prevents our troops from doing that which I have asked them to do. That's why I keep reminding people, on the one hand you vote for David Petraeus in a unanimous way, and then the other hand you say that you're not going to fund the strategy that he thought was necessary to do his job, a strategy he testified to in front of the Senate. I'm going to make it very clear to the members of Congress, starting now, that they need to fund our troops and they need to make sure we have the flexibility necessary to get the job done.

Secondly, I find it interesting that there is a declaration about a plan that they have not given a chance to work. Again, I understand, I understand. The other part of your question?

Q It emboldens --

THE PRESIDENT: The only thing I can tell you is that when I speak, I'm very conscience [sic] about the audiences that are listening to my words. The first audience, obviously, is the American people. The second audience would be the troops and their families. That's why I appreciate the question about whether or not -- about the troop morale, it gave me a chance to talk to the families and how proud we are of them.

Third, no question people are watching what happens here in America. The enemy listens to what's happening, the Iraqi people listen to the words, the Iranians. People are wondering; they're wondering about our commitment to this cause. And one reason they wonder is that in a violent society, the people sometimes don't take risks for peace if they're worried about having to choose between different sides, different violent factions. As to whether or not this particular resolution is going to impact enemy thought, I can't tell you that.

But I can tell you that people are watching the debate. I do believe that the decision I made surprised people in the Middle East. And I think it's going to be very important, however, that the Iraqi government understand that this decision was not an open-ended commitment, that we expect Prime Minister Maliki to continue to make the hard decisions he's making.

Unlike some here, I'm a little more tolerant of a person who has been only in government for seven months and hasn't had a lot of -- and by the way, a government that hasn't had a lot of experience with democracy. And on the other hand, it's important for him to know, and I believe he does know, that the American people want to see some action and some positive results. And listen, I share that same desire.

The faster that the Maliki government steps up security in Baghdad, the more quickly we can get to what Baker-Hamilton recommended, and that is embedding and training over the rise in presence, protection of the territorial integrity of Iraq, and a strong hunt for al Qaeda, and terrorists who would try to use that country as safe haven. I thought the Baker-Hamilton made a lot of sense, their recommendations. We just weren't able to get there if the capital was up in flames. That's why I made the decision I made.

Yes, Peter.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, we've now learned through sworn testimony that at least three members of your administration, other than Scooter Libby, leaked Valerie Plame's identity to the media. None of these three is known to be under investigation. Without commenting on the Libby trial, then, can you tell us whether you authorized any of these three to do that, or were they authorized without your permission?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks, Pete. I'm not going to talk about any of it.

Q They're not under investigation, though?

THE PRESIDENT: Peter, I'm not going to talk about any of it.

Q How about pardons, sir? Many people are asking whether you might pardon --

THE PRESIDENT: Not going to talk about it, Peter. (Laughter.) Would you like to think of another question? Being the kind man that I am, I will recycle you. (Laughter.)


Q Thank you --

THE PRESIDENT: You like that one? "Recycling" him. (Laughter.)

Q That took care of one of my questions, as well, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: If that's the case, sit down. Next question. (Laughter.)

Q A lot of our allies in Europe do a lot of business with Iran, so I wonder what your thoughts are about how you further tighten the financial pressure on Iran, in particular, if it also means economic pain for a lot of our allies?

THE PRESIDENT: It's an interesting question. One of the problems -- not specifically on this issue, just in general -- let's put it this way, money trumps peace, sometimes. In other words, commercial interests are very powerful interests throughout the world. And part of the issue in convincing people to put sanctions on a specific country is to convince them that it's in the world's interest that they forgo their own financial interest.

And John, that's why sometimes it's tough to get tough economic sanctions on countries. And I'm not making any comment about any particular country, but you touched on a very interesting point.

And so, therefore, we're constantly working with nations to convince them that what really matters in the long run is to have the environment so peace can flourish. In the Iranian case, I firmly believe that if they were to have a weapon, it would make it difficult for peace to flourish. And, therefore, I'm working with people to make sure that that concern trumps whatever commercial interests may be preventing governments from acting. I make no specific accusation with that statement. It's a broad statement. But it's an accurate assessment of what sometimes can halt multilateral diplomacy from working.

Let's see here. Ann.

Q Thank you. Iraq is not only being debated in Congress, but it's going to be debated in the presidential election that's coming ahead. Is that debate -- is there a chance that that is going to hurt your progress in Iraq? And is it appropriate at some point, perhaps, for the government to brief the presidential candidates so they have a better understanding of what it is you're trying to do?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for that question. I thought for a minute you were going to try to get me to comment on the presidential race, and I'd just like to establish some ground rules here with those of you who are stuck following me for the next little less than two years: I will resist all temptation to become the pundit-in-chief and commenting upon every twist and turn of the presidential campaign. As much as I like politics, and I'm intrigued by the race -- it's very similar to how I deftly handled Baker's question -- I won't comment.

Secondly, I remember a member of Congress came to me before one of my speeches -- I think it was the Iraq speech, as opposed to the State of the Union speech, and said, you'd better be eloquent in order to convince the American people to support this plan. He didn't say "articulate," he said, "eloquent." (Laughter.) And my point to the person was, what really matters is what happens on the ground. I can talk all day long, but what really matters to the American people is to see progress -- which leads to your point, Martha -- and that is, progress can best be measured by whether or not the people can see noticeable changes of security inside the capital city. In this case, the Baghdad security plan has got to yield peace in certain mixed neighborhoods, for example.

And so, therefore, to the extent that it affects votes, speeches, perceptions, elections, what really is going to matter is what happens, ultimately. And that's all I really care to comment about it. You know, it's --

Q -- reelection --

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not running. (Laughter.) And I know that's going to disappoint some of you. But, anyway, that's pundit-in-chief type questions, so I'm not going to answer those. You're trying to get me to be pundit-in-chief.

Let's see here. Hutch.

Q Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thanks.

Q I'd like to follow on Sheryl's question about undermining the troops. Do you have to support the war to support the war here? I mean, if you're one of those Americans that thinks you've made a terrible mistake, that it's destined to end badly, what do you do? If they speak out, are they by definition undermining the troops?

THE PRESIDENT: No, she actually asked "the enemy," not "the troops." But I'll be glad to answer your question. No, I don't think so at all. I think you can be against my decision and support the troops, absolutely. But the proof will be whether or not you provide them the money necessary to do the mission.

I said early in my comment -- my answer to Sheryl was, somebody who doesn't agree with my policy is just as patriotic a person as I am. Your question is valid. Can somebody say, we disagree with your tactics or strategy, but we support the military -- absolutely, sure. But what's going to be interesting is if they don't provide the flexibility and support for our troops that are there to enforce the strategy that David Petraeus, the general on the ground, thinks is necessary to accomplish the mission.

Michael. Michael, who do you work for? (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, I work for Politico.com.

THE PRESIDENT: Pardon me? Politico.com?

Q Yes, sir. Today. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: You want a moment to explain to the American people exactly what -- (laughter.)

Q Mr. President, thank you for the question. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Quit being so evasive.

Q You should read it.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it good? You like it?

Q David Gregory --

THE PRESIDENT: David Gregory likes it. I can see the making of a testimonial. (Laughter.) Anyway, go ahead, please.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You spoke hopefully about your ability to work with Democrats, their willingness to work with you in this new world. I wonder how that's going so far, what you've learned about how they think, and does the current debate constitute grounds for divorce?

THE PRESIDENT: Interesting way to put it. First of all, I think they're patriotic people who care about our country -- back to Hutch's penetrating comment, or question. I do. I was very appreciative of the reception I got at the State of the Union. It was a cordial, respectful reception that gave me the chance to talk about what I believe. I was also very grateful for the reception I received at the Democratic retreat that I went to there in Virginia.

You know, my impression of the meeting there was that we share a lot in common; we're people that actually put filing papers down and ran for office, we were willing to put our families through the grind of politics, we wanted to serve our country, that we care deeply about what takes place in Washington, America and the world.

My hope is, is that we can get positive pieces of legislation passed. I think there's a lot of expectation that the difference of opinion on Iraq would make it impossible for us to work on other areas. I disagree with that assessment. And I hope I'm right, and the best way to determine whether I'm right is will I be able to sign legislation that we have been able to work on.

One such piece of policy is a balanced budget. There seems to be agreement that we should have a balanced budget. I laid out one way forward to achieve that balance. And it shows that we can balance the budget without raising taxes and do so in a five-year horizon. And I'd like to work with the Democrat leadership, as well as, obviously, my Republican folks, to get it done.

Secondly, an interesting opportunity is immigration. As you know, I strongly believe that we need to enforce our borders and that -- and have taken steps to do so. But I also believe that in order to enforce the borders, we need a temporary worker program so that people don't try to sneak in the country to work, that they can come in an orderly fashion, and take the pressure off the Border Patrol agents that we've got out there, so that the Border Patrol agents don't focus on workers that are doing jobs Americans aren't doing, but are focusing on terrorists and criminal elements, gun runners, to keep the country -- both our countries safe -- Mexico and the United States safe.

I also know that we need to deal with the people who are here -- the 12 million people who are here illegally. I have said multiple times that we can't kick them out of our country. It doesn't make any sense to me to try to do that, and I don't think -- maybe some feel that way, but I don't feel that way. But I also don't believe we should give them automatic amnesty -- automatic citizenship, which I view as amnesty. And look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to have a comprehensive immigration plan.

Energy is an opportunity for us to work together. We've done a lot of work in the past on promoting alterative sources of energy. America has done more than any nation in the world in promoting alternatives and renewables, all aiming to make sure our economy grows, that we have energy independence, and that we're good stewards of the environment. And I look forward to working with the Democrats on the Energy Independence Initiative I laid out.

One such initiative was the mandatory fuel standards that relies upon alternative fuel to power automobiles. Ethanol is the first and most notable place where we can start, but we also need to spend monies to develop technologies that will enable us to make energy out of products other than corn -- switchgrass or wood chips, for example.

The problem with relying only on corn is that -- by the way, when the demand for corn stays high, the price tends to go up, and your hog farmer gets disgruntled with the alternative energy plan. And, therefore, what's going to matter is that new technologies come online as quickly as possible to take the pressure off of corn ethanol, or corn, as a result of being used in ethanol, and we can work with Congress to do that. That's an area we can work.

Health care. I got a letter the other day from a group of Republican and Democrat senators talking about the desire to work on health care. And they liked some of my ideas. But my only point is that there's an opportunity for us to work together to help the uninsured have private insurance so they can be -- so they can get good health care. And there's an opportunity to work together there.

The governors are coming into town soon, and I'm going to have Secretary Leavitt describe to them the affordable grants program that is a part of our comprehensive approach, including rewriting the tax code.

Finally, No Child Left Behind needs to be reauthorized. I fully understand that if you read your newspaper articles -- which I do sometimes -- and listen carefully, you'll hear voices in both parties saying they don't like No Child Left Behind --it's too much testing, or, we don't want to be held to account, or whatever they say. The bill is working. It makes a lot of sense.

There's an income gap in America that I talked about when I went to Wall Street. And what's clear to me is that our kids have got to have education so that in this global economy, the jobs of the 21st century stay here at home. And it starts with good education. And, therefore, I will argue vociferously the No Child Left Behind Act needs to be reauthorized, it's working, it's an important piece of legislation, and will reach out to Democrat members, as well as Republican members, to get this bill reauthorized.

And so there's a lot of areas, Mike. I'd say it's a little early in the process. This is a two-year term. We've got time to work together to get important pieces of legislation done. And I'd like to start. As a matter of fact, this afternoon I've got members of both parties, both chambers coming down to visit about how we can continue to work together to get some legislation done.

As I told the Democrats, and as the Democrats have made clear to me in my visits, that neither of us are going to abandon our principles, that I don't expect them to change their principles and they shouldn't expect me to. But there's ways for us to work together to achieve legislative successes for the common good. That's what the American people want to see, and that's what I believe we can do. Is it going to take work? Yes, it's going to take work. But it's okay, that's why you pay us all this money.


Q Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Last question, then I've got to go have lunch with Bob Gates, Secretary of the Defense.

What are you looking at? Checking the time? For the viewer out there -- you're getting a big -- timekeeper and everything. (Laughter.)

Q I don't mean to interrupt. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I just thought he was looking at the watch because he was getting bored. I wasn't sure, you know?

Q I'm never bored.

THE PRESIDENT: Remember the debates?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. (Laughter.)

Q Mr. President, Republican and Democratic Presidents before you sat down for face-to-face talks with the Soviet Union, a nation that was clearly hostile, tyrannical, and had a huge nuclear arsenal. Why do you think that face-to-face talks between yourself and the leadership of Iran would be any more compromising for you?

THE PRESIDENT: Richard, if I thought we could achieve success, I would sit down. But I don't think we can achieve success right now. And, therefore, we'll want to work with other nations. I think that we're more likely to achieve our goals when others are involved, as well. I really don't want to put the situation -- let me put it this way: I want to make sure in the Iranian issue that the whole world stays engaged, because I believe that's a more effective way of convincing the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions. That's why.

Look, this is a world in which -- and I'm not suggesting you're this way -- but this is a world in which people say, meet -- sit down and meet. And my answer is, if it yields results; that's what I'm interested in. And so I believe the strategy that -- and by the way, I remember this during the North Korean issue, debate. People kept saying, well, all you've got to do is sit down with the guy. And I kept saying, well, I think it's going to be more effective if we have other people at the table with us saying the same thing, so that just in case he decides not to honor the agreement, there will be other people saying the same thing I'll say, which is, you said one thing, you did another. It will make it easier for us to send that message that the world is pretty well united in solving this problem peacefully.

And so that's why I made the decision I made. It sounds tempting for somebody to say, all you've got to do is sit down with the people. I'm in a little different position in that I'm trying to achieve certain objectives. And we are making progress on the Iranian issue. If you step back to early on in the process, there was doubt as to whether or not the world would come together, sometimes because of the reason John mentioned. There were conflicting interests. And I believe we are making good progress toward solving this issue peacefully.

And we'll continue to try to solve the issue peacefully. It's an important issue whether or not Iran ends up with nuclear weapons. It's one of these issues that people are going to look back and say, you know, how come they couldn't see the impending danger? What happened to them? You've heard me say that often about what would happen if we don't -- if we were to abandon our efforts in the Middle East for stability and peace, through forms of government that are more likely to defeat an extremist ideology that would like to be able to prevail.

And it's a -- at any rate, that's why I made the decision I made. Presidents have to weigh different options all the time. Look, I fully understand there are some who are -- don't agree with every decision I make. I hope the American people understand I make those decisions because I believe it's going to yield the peace that we all want.

Listen, thank you for your time. I enjoyed it very much.

Posted: Feb 14 2007, 04:02 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
February 14, 2007

Vice President's Remarks at the National Association of Manufacturers Breakfast Meeting
J.W. Marriott
Washington, D.C.

8:30 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thank you all very much. Thank you, John, and I appreciate the warm welcome and the chance to be here today with all of you. I especially want to welcome everybody from out of town. It's good to be here. The streets are kind of bad outside, but I guess you're all staying in the hotel, so that wasn't a worry for all of you. But the good news is, the federal government's shut down today. (Laughter.) So everybody's safe. (Laughter.) Just consider this your Valentine's Day present. (Laughter.)

I see many friends in the room this morning, starting, of course, with John Engler, who invited me here -- a great friend of mine for many, many years, a fine public servant, and obviously now a great leader for America's manufacturers.

As members of the NAM, you belong to a respected organization, and you lead a vital sector of the nation's economy. Our manufacturers have faced the unrelenting challenges of competition and globalization, and you've shown the best qualities of the free enterprise system. Manufacturing drives the growth of this economy; it accounts for the majority of America's exports; and it gets more productive each and every year. That productivity, in turn, has helped the export of manufactured goods reach their highest level in history. All by itself, America's manufacturing sector would be the eighth largest economy in the entire world. The members of the NAM know a thing or two about hard work and high quality. You're people of energy and commitment and creativity. And I might add, in this time of national challenge, you're also good citizens -- patriots, veterans, and civic leaders who proudly fly the flag and support the men and women of the United States military. (Applause.)

This week in Washington you've brought together leading manufacturers from across the country -- including, I'm told, at least one with facilities in the best place of all, my home state of Wyoming. Welcome to Washington.

It was my good fortune to serve Wyoming for more than a decade in the House of Representatives, and I was better equipped for the job every time I got advice and input from leaders in the private sector. Folks in Washington simply cannot know the real impact of the laws we make unless we hear from the people who live under those laws. And if the goal is economic growth and more jobs, Washington needs to listen to the ones who actually go out there and make the risk, invest the money, build the plants, hire the workers, and do everything else that makes this economy go.

That's why I'm glad you're here for meetings with members of the administration and members of Congress. There's a lot on the agenda. And with a new Congress and a divided government, more than a few people wonder if we can get anything done in the nation's capital. The fact is that we can, and the American people are expecting us to. We have bigger business here than any issue that may set us apart. Our job is to ensure the strength and the success of America in the world. And that work begins right here at home.

Our strength and success depend on a healthy, growing economy -- and by most any measure, that is what we have today. America has now seen five years of uninterrupted economic growth, in a recovery that has generated nearly seven-and-a-half million new jobs. When people across the world look at our economy they see low inflation, low unemployment, and the fastest growth of any major industrialized nation in the world. Wages are rising, too, allowing families to meet their budgets and to build a better future.

To continue this progress, I believe we need to operate by the philosophy of Ronald Reagan -- that government should "work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government," Reagan said, "can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it."

Those principles set an agenda for our country. Nobody can sit in an office in Washington, D.C. and decide to create prosperity. What we can do, and what we must do, is create an environment in which consumers have the confidence to spend, savers the confidence to save, and entrepreneurs the confidence to invest and to hire new employees. And one of the surest ways to create that climate is to leave as many resources as possible in the hands of the people themselves.

For that reason, at the start of this Administration in 2001, President Bush asked Congress to pass significant, broad-based tax relief. And the House and the Senate, with bipartisan support, responded with historic pro-growth legislation. We reduced taxes for every American who pays income taxes. We doubled the child tax credit and reduced the marriage penalty. In 2003, we created new incentives for small businesses to invest. And in order to lower the cost of capital, and to encourage firms to expand and to hire new workers, we reduced the tax rate on dividends and capital gains.

Now the results are clear for all to see: the Bush tax policy has been right for the country. If you think of all that has happened in these eventful years -- the recession we inherited, terrorist attacks, two wars, corporate scandals, natural disasters, and a tripling in the price of oil -- it's remarkable how tremendously resilient this economy has been. In fact, since 2001, our GDP has grown by 16 percent. Let me put that another way: In less than six years' time, the American economy has expanded by an amount greater than the entire economy of Canada.

Milton Friedman once said that "most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one can gain only at the expense of another." We've shown once again that the right policies can make the pie a lot bigger, and that gains can be widely shared. We've also disproven maybe the biggest, most persistent fallacy in Washington, and that's the idea that pro-growth tax cuts are incompatible with fiscal discipline.

The fact is that pro-growth tax cuts once again have helped to drive an economic expansion that has, in turn, generated higher-than-projected revenues. You might also recall that back in 2004, President Bush set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009. This pledge was greeted with great skepticism, to put it mildly. Yet we met that target in 2006, three years ahead of schedule.

All told, federal tax receipts have gone up by more than $520 billion in the last two years. That's the largest two-year increase in our history. By now it's time for even the skeptics to admit that a lower federal tax burden is a powerful driver of investment, growth, and new jobs for American workers. And that increased economic activity, in turn, generates revenue for the federal government. (Applause.)

Despite the growth in revenues, we still have to hold the line on spending -- and on that score there's plenty to do. Last week the President submitted a budget that continues reducing the deficit each year, and balances the budget by 2012 without new taxes. To meet that goal, we need to set the right priorities. The first priority is to remember that we are a nation at war, and we cannot cut corners on homeland security or defense. Enemies are trying to hit us again and kill more Americans inside our own country. Overseas, we have troops in the field and reinforcements on the way. Job number one is to provide the resources necessary to protect the American people, and to meet all the needs of the United States Armed Forces.

Setting priorities for the budget also means dealing with the matter of Congressional earmarks -- those items that get slipped into spending bills at the last minute. There were more than 10,000 of them alone in 2005. And 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House or Senate -- they're simply dropped into committee reports and aren't even part of the legislation. Congress didn't pass them into law. The President didn't sign them into law. Yet somehow they get treated as having the force of law. We're going to work with Congress to reform the budget process to get these earmarks under control. (Applause.)

Spending discipline, budget reform, and, yes, entitlement reform are vital to keeping our economy strong. And so is a low-tax policy that promotes growth, rewards enterprise, and keeps government within its proper limits. Under current law, many of the Bush tax cuts are still set to expire over the next few years. We feel strongly that Congress should make all of the tax cuts permanent -- and that includes ending the federal death tax. (Applause.)

We're also committed to ensuring that America remains the world's leading innovator. One way to do that is to extend the R&D tax credit, and to make permanent in federal law the R&D tax credit. A majority of industrial R&D occurs in manufacturing, and the benefits extend throughout our economy. It's critical to the competitive strength of our country, so it's plain common sense for the government to encourage private R&D in every way possible.

If America is to remain the world's leading innovator, and the world's largest economy, and the world's biggest exporter, we also have to make sure this country is always the world's best place to do business. A good place to start is health care. This nation's health care system is second to none. But many employers will tell you that health insurance is one of the fastest-growing costs they face. Every year they find it harder and harder to cover their workers, and those rising costs absorb resources that might otherwise go for pay raises for the work force.

The President has a comprehensive agenda to help Americans gain better access to private health insurance. In the last Congress we improved access to care with Health Savings Accounts, which allow a person to save money for medical expenses tax free, and to keep that money even if they move to a different job. We continue to press for Association Health Plans, so that small firms can join together to get health care at the same discount as big companies. And all Americans will be better off if Congress passes medical liability reform, so that health costs are not driven up any further by trial lawyers and predatory lawsuits. (Applause.)

The President is also asking Congress to pass tax reform to help make coverage more affordable and accessible. Part of the reason health care is so expensive today is that the tax code penalizes Americans who are not covered at work, and it subsidizes people who choose the most expensive plans. To fix that, we're proposing a standard deduction for every worker who has private health insurance, no matter where they get it from. We're not touching the corporate tax side; employers will still be able to expense the cost of compensation for their workers. What's new is that employers and workers will be better able to choose the right mix of wages and health insurance, without the tax code distorting those decisions.

Under the President's plan, more than 100 million Americans now covered by employer-provided insurance would actually have lower tax bills. This reform would also level the playing field, so the self-employed or small business worker would get the same tax advantage available to the big company. This would be a positive step toward covering the millions in our country who aren't covered at work and struggle to afford it on their own. We believe changing the tax code is absolutely necessary to getting coverage to more Americans, and to getting a handle on the rising costs of health care.

In this world, America's strength and success have long relied on stable, affordable supplies of energy. As the President told Congress last month, it's in the nation's vital interest to diversify the energy supply, and that the way forward is through technology. We've invested about $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy sources. We're changing the way America generates electricity, by investing in clean coal technology, wind and solar power, and safe nuclear power. We're also seeing great promise in new battery technology that will allow automobiles to go 20 or more miles on stored power -- and we're talking here about real cars, not just little ones that look like golf carts.

We're determined to maintain America's leadership in economic growth, in technology development, and in environmental stewardship. The President has proposed much greater usage of renewable fuels, with higher vehicle fuel economy, and more domestic production -- all of which is intended to enhance our energy security. It's also very important to increase domestic oil and gas production in environmentally responsible ways, in places like the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and off the shores of willing states. (Applause.) We took an important step last December, when the President signed a bill that opens up new areas of production of the Outer Continental Shelf. To further protect Americans against sudden disruptions in the oil supply, he's also directed the Department of Energy to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and asked Congress to double its current capacity -- and the sooner we do that, the better.

America's strength and success also depends on a confident, forward-looking trade policy. The NAM has hosted President Bush, and you know our administration's basic outlook on global trade. We believe in fairness. The United States has opened up our market to other countries, and they need to do the same for us. Trade is worthwhile only if the buying and selling is fair and square on both sides, across the board.

When we took office, America had only a few free trade agreements in effect. Now we have more than a dozen. And even though those countries make up less than one-tenth of the global economy, they take in more than 40 percent of America's exports. That's good for your sector, because one in every six manufacturing jobs is tied directly to trade. It's in our national interest to have a world that trades in freedom. So we're asking Congress to extend Trade Promotion Authority, and we're committed to completing the Doha round of trade talks. (Applause.)

Manufacturers understand, better than most, that trade can be disruptive for some of our fellow citizens. Some economists say that's part of the price we pay to have such a dynamic, flexible economy. But we can help fellow citizens who take the hardest hit. To ease the transition for those Americans, we've provided more direct assistance for retraining, for relocation, and community college aid than any other administration. Government cannot prevent the transformation of the economy -- indeed, a dynamic economy is one of our great strengths -- but we can and will help these workers to get back in the game.

America has the finest labor force in the world, and part of that labor force is composed of men and women from other nations. All of us have roots in some other part of the world, and the United States is a better country for the striving spirit of immigrants. Yet borders and laws alike must be respected. We must know, at all times, who is in our country and why they are here. We must reform our policies on highly skilled immigrants so America continues to attract the best and the brightest in the world. And we can take pressure off the border with a temporary worker program here at home. The time has come for comprehensive, fair-minded immigration reform, and we're asking Congress to pass it into law this year.

America is also a country that takes very seriously the right of men and women to work, and to organize within the law. The American labor movement has a proud history and has long reflected a basic principle of our democracy: fair elections decided by secret ballots. This principle will be put to a test in Congress this year. It's important for everyone in the debate to remember that secret ballots protect workers from intimidation, and ensure the integrity of the process. (Applause.) Beyond that, if workers do decide to form a union, they and their employer should be able to negotiate without having terms forced on them. Our administration rejects any attempt to short-circuit the rights of workers. We will defend their right to vote yes or no by secret ballot, and their right to fair bargaining. H.R. 800 violates these principles, and if it is sent to the President, he will veto the bill. (Applause.)

Of these and many other priorities, ladies and gentlemen, the Congress has heard from the President. Now it's time for Congress to hear from the American people. Most of you come from outside Washington, and your voices are going to make a difference in the months ahead. With more than 10,000 member organizations -- responsible for some 14 million jobs -- you, as much as anybody, are affected by the outcome of the debates in this city. By the same token, as much as any other private group, you can help shape that outcome. You understand what makes our economy run -- how things are made, how jobs are created, how to keep an economy growing. You're respected in your communities, and known as voices of common sense. And it's good that you're here.

The President and I hope to count on your support. We realize, of course, that that support must be earned. So I'm prepared to do my part now, by taking a few questions from the audience.

Thank you very much.

MR. ENGLER: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. That was terrific and we appreciate the announcement on the card check legislation. That's something that's strongly opposed by members of the NAM and a priority that we're talking with the members of Congress on.

Let me -- I've got a few questions that were given to me. One deals with the energy issue, and concerns the Secretary of Energy and testimony from House Energy Committee -- apparently indicating that the Department of Energy is unable to issue loan guarantees due to some of the language that's in the House continuing resolution. And we've got about a hundred -- as many as 140 energy projects that are stalled because of this. I know this is language going back to 2005. Is there any optimism or any procedures that might be used to be able to move the projects forward under current DOE guidelines? A little bit technical, but energy security is one of the important principles that your administration has stood for and something we're keenly in need of; we need kilowatts.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're still wrestling with the CR and its impact, in many respects. Last year we worked through two appropriations bills -- the defense bill and the MilCon bill, or homeland security bill. We were left at the end of the year with all the other appropriations bills, and instead of work through those and pass them as we ordinarily would, one by one, or fold them all into an omnibus appropriations bill, in effect, what's been done is a continuing resolution that expires tomorrow, I believe.

And a CR is more restrictive than any of those other ways of going forward. We're having trouble, for example, with the Base Closing and Realignment Commission, the BRAC process, in terms of how those decisions to, in effect, operate at last year's levels under the CR will affect all of these other projects as well, too. Some adjustments are being made; I don't know if that particular area is being addressed in the bill. They are trying to take some of that into account, but it's going to be difficult to get much flexibility built into the system, I would think, until we move forward with this year's appropriations bills. That process should begin shortly. And, of course, the CR will be in force until September, and then we'll have new appropriations bills.

MR. ENGLER: U.S. economic competitiveness is certainly closely linked to innovation and the success of the high tech industry. Will the administration give priority to this question, to updating export controls -- and I guess deemed exports, the workforce, as well, would be part of that. But is that something that -- there's a lot of work being done on that and we think there's some opportunities that sort of create a win-win for both national security and U.S. exports.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is -- this gets into the whole area of CFIUS, important program that oversees these issues with respect to sensitive subjects and acquisitions and so forth, and that legislation is being revised now to try to strengthen that entire process. So I expect there will be some legislative action in this area sometime this year.

MR. ENGLER: A couple of trade-related questions. The first one, recent news reports suggest White House and Congress may be close to an agreement on extending Trade Promotion Authority. Is that right? What about prospects for free trade agreements -- Peru and Colombia -- and the negotiation of others, like Korea? You addressed that in part in your prepared text, but can you elaborate on where we are in working on a deal?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, our Trade Promotion Authority, of course, runs out this year. And our ability to move forward to continue to advance the trade agenda that we've had in the past is going to depend upon getting Trade Promotion Authority extended. I think it's going to be a tough fight. We're strongly supportive of it, and we think it's very important the President continue to have that authority, but we're going to need help on Capitol Hill, without question. And these trade issues have gotten to be very, very difficult. The Central American Free Trade Agreement that we passed here a year or two ago was, frankly, one of the toughest votes I've been involved in, in the last six years. It was root, hog or die for every single one of those votes.

So we need to continue to push hard on it, but I would hope it would be a priority for the NAM to make sure your members of Congress understand how important this is.

The Doha round, of course, is crucial here going forward. We continue to work on it -- the round at Davos conference in Switzerland, here, a week or two ago, the trade ministers met; the major countries that are involved in these negotiations are trying to move the ball forward.

I'm told our people are somewhat more optimistic now than they were, when they get that done. Right now, the focus in that negotiation is on agriculture. That's the primary hangup. But the big winner here going forward, if we can get the agriculture problem solved, is in the whole area of services, which would be a huge boom to the American economy.

And so it's -- I'd say we're pushing the rock uphill. But we're still pushing. We're going to continue to push hard. We think it's important not to give up in our efforts to continue to advance an aggressive trade agenda.

MR. ENGLER: I think we can do one more and still keep our promise to have you free by 9:00 a.m. This one deals with -- specifically with China. Lots of questions. But the U.S.-China trade relationship is certainly one that has raised all kinds of issues with inside the NAM. There's an appreciation for Secretary Paulson's strategic initiative that's underway, and a recognition that the Chinese leadership is coming here in the spring -- their first visit here, but the return visit.

We've noted also -- and I know the issues like everything from currency to intellectual property to the subsidization -- the administration has been taking what seems to be a firmer line in terms of adhering to WTO compliance. Is there anything relative just to the relationship with China that you have -- can offer, I guess, to this audience some reassurance that everybody has to play by the same rules? And I think, again, you said that well in the remarks.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. Well, I sense we're making progress where China is concerned. It's always been a source of frustration for a lot of us. A big problem I've had over the years is the intellectual property rights and the fact that they don't treat -- or they don't live up to international standards with respect to that.

And lots of times, when you go and address the issue, they'll talk a good game, but then the follow-through is weak. And I remember being over there once, meeting with a group of American businessmen in Shanghai, and we were talking about the problem of intellectual property rights. And they were telling me about a company that manufactures the Hummer, the General Motors Hummer -- only it's not General Motors. It's a local company over there doing this exact replica that looks exactly like the Hummer. And I asked them, what do they say when you point out the fact that it's an exact replica of an American product? They said, oh, it's just a coincidence. (Laughter.)

So that's a problem, without question, and that attitude. But we hammer and hammer and hammer at it. We have made progress in that regard. I think one of the best and most positive developments, where China is concerned, has been Hank Paulson coming on board, and Hank has devoted a lot of time to this. He had great relationships in China before he gave up his job at Goldman and joined the company -- administration as the Secretary of the Treasury.

He had about half the Cabinet over there a few weeks ago to focus on this whole range of issues. I think we've made progress on the currency front in terms of getting them to allow their currency to float and not be as directly pegged to the U.S. dollar as it has been in the past.

And what we've done now, I think, thanks to Hank's leadership, with the President's active support, is to place a lot of these issues front and center for the Chinese so they understand how important they are to us and the importance of addressing these in terms of our overall relationship. And so I think we've got them in a good place now. It will be a matter of follow-through and continuing to push on that agenda. But when the Secretary of the Treasury shows up in Beijing with half the U.S. Cabinet, they know we're deadly serious and we want to work these issues and we want to make progress on them. So we'll continue to push it.

MR. ENGLER: Ladies and gentlemen, lets give the Vice President a round of applause. Thank you very much for joining us.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.)

Posted: Feb 14 2007, 04:03 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2007

Statement on Federal Disaster Assistance for Washington

The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Washington and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the area struck by a severe winter storm, landslides, and mudslides during the period of December 14-15, 2006.

Federal funding is available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm, landslides, and mudslides in Chelan, Clark, Clallam, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, King, Klickitat, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Thurston, and Wahkiakum Counties.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

R. David Paulison, Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Elizabeth Turner as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.

FEMA said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the State and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

Posted: Feb 15 2007, 03:25 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 15, 2007

President Bush Discusses Progress in Afghanistan, Global War on Terror
The Mayflower Hotel
Washington, D.C.

10:05 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. (Laughter.) That's got kind of a nice ring to it. (Laughter.) Chris, thanks for inviting me. I appreciate the chance to come and share some thoughts with the men and women of AEI. I admire AEI a lot -- I'm sure you know that. After all, I have been consistently borrowing some of your best people. More than 20 AEI scholars have worked in my administration. A few have returned to the fold -- you'll have to wait two more years to get another one to return to the fold. wick Cheney is occupied. (Laughter.) He sends his best.

I appreciate what the AEI stands for. This Institute has been a tireless voice for the principles of individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government, and a strong national defense. And no one embodied these principles better than the late Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. (Applause.) She was a professor, author, diplomat, presidential advisor, and a key architect in our victory in the Cold War.

In 2003, I had the honor of asking her to lead the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. I would like to share with you what she told that commission. She said, "[America's] national policy is to assert that all human beings are born free. All human beings are equal in inherent rights and human dignity." That's the policy of the Bush administration, as well. I believe in the universality of freedom, and I believe that this country, this grand country of ours, has an obligation to help people realize the blessings of freedom. I appreciate so very much that Jeane Kirkpatrick was such a well-spoken advocate for that basic truth. I am proud to join you in paying tribute to her life and the legacy of a great American stateswoman.

I appreciate the board of directors of the AEI for giving me this forum. Thanks for trying to stay on the leading edge of thought, as well. It's really important that ideas be conceived, circulated and embraced. I want to thank members of the Congress who have joined us today -- there they are. Good, yes. (Laughter.) All friends -- Pete King from New York, Trent Franks from Arizona, Mario Diaz-Balart from Florida, and fellow Texan Mike McCaul. Thanks for coming. Appreciate you being here. (Applause.) I thank the members of the diplomatic corps who have joined us; proud you're here. Thanks for taking time out of a busy schedule to come and hear this address. I appreciate members of the United States Armed Forces who have joined us. I thank the dignitaries and friends of the AEI and members of my administration who have joined. Don't linger. (Laughter.) Get back to work, but thank you for being here. (Laughter.) I fully expect you to stay awake for the entire address.

As scholars and thinkers, you are contributing to a nationwide debate about the direction of the war on terror. A vigorous debate is healthy for our country, it really is, and I welcome the debate. It's one of the true hallmarks of a free society, where people can get up and express their beliefs in open forum. Yet five years into this war, there is one principle of which every member of every party should be able to agree on -- in other words, after all the debate, there is one thing we all ought to be able to agree on, and that is: We've got to fight the terrorists overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home again.

We're acting on that principle. Since the attacks of September the 11th, we have been on the offense. I believe the best way to do our duty in securing the homeland is to stay on the offense. And we're not alone. That's what our fellow citizens have got to understand. We're not in this fight against extremists and murders alone.

Recently in the Philippines, that country's special forces conducted raids in which they killed two top leaders of an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization -- a group that we believe was responsible for kidnapping four American citizens and killing two of them. In Tunisia, authorities recently broke up a terrorist cell that was planning to attack the American and British Embassies. In Spain, police captured several fugitives wanted for aiding the escape of terrorists responsible for the Madrid train bombings. And in the past year, nations including Denmark, Italy, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Turkey, Canada, and Britain have broken up terrorist cells. The enemy is active, and so are those of us who love freedom. It's in the interests of the United States to encourage other nations not to relent and not to give in, but to keep the pressure on those who try to have their way by murdering the innocent. And that's exactly what we'll continue to do.

This war against the terrorists, this war to protect ourselves, takes place on many fronts. One such front is Iraq. We're on the offense in Iraq, as we should be, against extremists and killers. I recently announced a new strategy for Iraq -- it's a plan that demands more from the Iraqi government. Not only do we demand more from the Iraqi government, but so do the Iraqi people demand more from the Iraqi government. They want to live in peace. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand a mother in downtown Baghdad wants her child to be able to walk the streets peacefully, just like mothers here in America want their children to be able to go to a playground and play peacefully.

I made Baghdad the top security priority. In other words, it's important, in order to achieve our objective, that the capital city of this grand country be secure. And I sent reinforcements to our troops so they can accomplish that mission. I spent a lot of time with members of my administration thinking about the way forward in Iraq. And we listened to a lot of opinions and a lot of different ideas. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success.

And the reason why I mention success is, it's important for us to succeed. It's important for us to help this young democracy fight off the extremists so moderation can prevail. It's important for us to stand with this young democracy as they live -- as they try to build a society under the most modern constitution written in the Middle East, a constitution approved by millions of their citizens.

One of the interesting things that I have found here in Washington is there is strong disagreement about what to do to succeed, but there is strong agreement that we should not fail. People understand the consequences of failure. If we were to leave this young democracy before the job is done, there would be chaos, and out of chaos would become vacuums, and into those power vacuums would flow extremists who would be emboldened; extremists who want to find safe haven.

As we think about this important front in the war against extremists and terrorists, it's important for our fellow citizens to recognize this truth: If we were to leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy would follow us home.

Our new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is now on the ground in Baghdad. I visited him by secure video yesterday. He reports that coalition troops are arriving on schedule. He says the Iraqi government is following through on its commitment to deploy three additional army brigades in the capital. Prime Minister Maliki has said part of our strategy is to put more Iraqis in the fight in the capital city to achieve our objective, and he's doing that. So far, coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces has been good -- they are beginning joint operations to secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, and insurgents, and the criminals, and the roaming death squads. They're doing what the Iraqi people want in Baghdad -- they want a peaceful life.

The initial signs of progress are encouraging. Yet it's important for us to recognize that this is the beginning of what will be a difficult operation in the Iraqi capital. Our troops are risking their lives. As they carry out the new strategy, they need our patience, and they need our support. (Applause.) When General Petraeus' nomination was considered three weeks ago in the United States Senate, the senators voted unanimously to confirm him to his new position, and I appreciate that affirmation, that strong statement for this good General.

Now, the House is debating a resolution that disapproves of our new strategy. This may become the first time in the history of the United States Congress that it has voted to send a new commander into battle and then voted to oppose his plan that is necessary to succeed in that battle.

Members of Congress have every right to express their opinion -- and I fully expect them to do so. The resolution they are debating is non-binding. Soon the Congress is going to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding -- a bill to provide emergency funding for our troops. Our men and women in uniform are counting on their elected leaders to provide them with the support they need to accomplish their mission. We have a responsibility, Republicans and Democrats have a responsibility to give our troops the resources they need to do their job and the flexibility they need to prevail. (Applause.)

As we implement a new strategy in Iraq, we are also taking new steps to defeat the terrorists and extremists in Afghanistan. My administration has just completed a top-to-bottom review of our strategy in that country, and today I want to talk to you about the progress we have made in Afghanistan, the challenges we face in Afghanistan, and the strategy we're pursuing to defeat the enemies of freedom in Afghanistan.

It wasn't all that long ago that we learned the lessons of how terrorists operate. It may seem like a long time ago -- five years is a long time in this day and age of instant news cycles -- but it really isn't all that long ago, when you think about the march of history. In Afghanistan, we saw how terrorists and extremists can use those safe havens, safe havens in a failed state, to bring death and destruction to our people here at home.

It was an amazing turning point in the history of our country, really, when you think about it. It was a defining moment for the 21st century. Think about what I just said, that in the remote reaches of the world, because there was a failed state, murderers were able to plot and plan and then execute a deadly attack that killed nearly 3,000 of our citizens. It's a lesson that we've got to remember. And one of the lessons of that September the 11th day is that we cannot allow terrorists to gain sanctuary anywhere, and we must not allow them to reestablish the safe haven they lost in Afghanistan.

Our goal in Afghanistan is to help the people of that country to defeat the terrorists and establish a stable, moderate, and democratic state that respects the rights of its citizens, governs its territory effectively, and is a reliable ally in this war against extremists and terrorists.

Oh, for some that may seem like an impossible task. But it's not impossible if you believe what Jeane Kirkpatrick said, and that freedom is universal; that we believe all human beings to live in freedom and peace.

Over the past five years, we've made real progress toward this goal I just described. In 2001, Afghanistan was a totalitarian nightmare -- a land where girls could not go to school, where religious police roamed the streets, where women were publicly whipped, where there were summary executions in Kabul's soccer stadium, and terrorists operated freely -- they ran camps where they planned and trained for horrific attacks that affected us and other nations.

Today, five short years later, the Taliban have been driven from power, al Qaeda has been driven from its camps, and Afghanistan is free. That's why I say we have made remarkable progress. Afghanistan has a democratically-elected President, named Hamid Karzai. I respect him. I appreciate his courage. Afghanistan has a National Assembly chosen by the Afghan people in free elections.

Under the Taliban, women were barred from public office. Today, Afghanistan's parliament includes 91 women -- and President Karzai has appointed the first woman to serve as a provincial governor.

Under the Taliban, free enterprise was stifled. Today, the Afghan economy has doubled in size since liberation. Afghanistan has attracted $800 million in foreign investment during that time.

Under the Taliban, there were about 900,000 children in school. Today, more than 5 million children are in school -- about 1.8 million of them are girls.

Under the Taliban, an estimated 8 percent of Afghans had access to basic health care. Today, the United States has built or renovated 681 health clinics across the country -- now more than 80 percent of Afghans have access to basic health coverage -- health care.

Under the Taliban, Afghans fled the country in large numbers, seeking safety abroad. Today, more than 4.6 million Afghan refugees have come home -- one of the largest return movements in history.

In today's Afghanistan, people are free to speak their minds, they're free to begin to realize dreams. In today's Afghanistan there's a NATO Alliance is taking the lead to help provide security for the people of Afghanistan. In today's Afghanistan, the terrorists who once oppressed the Afghan people and threatened our country are being captured and killed by NATO forces and soldiers and police of a free Afghanistan. Times have changed. Our work is bringing freedom. A free Afghanistan helps make this country more secure.

We face a thinking enemy. And we face a tough enemy -- they watch our actions, they adjust their tactics. And in 2006, this enemy struck back with vengeance. As freedom began to spread, an enemy that cannot stand the thought of a free society tried to do something about it, tried to stop the advance of this young democracy. It's not the only place in the world where the enemy struck back in 2006. They struck back in Iraq. They struck in Lebanon. This should be a lesson for our fellow citizens to understand, where these group of people find freedom they're willing to resort to brutal tactics.

It's an interesting enemy, isn't it? An enemy that can't stand the thought of somebody being able to live a peaceful life, a life of hope, an optimistic life. And it's an enemy we've got to take seriously.

Across Afghanistan last year, the number of roadside bomb attacks almost doubled, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled, and suicide bombings grew nearly five-fold. These escalating attacks were part of a Taliban offensive that made 2006 the most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country.

And so the fundamental question is, how do you react? Do you say, maybe it's too tough? Let's just kind of let this young democracy wither and fade away. Do we forget the lessons of September the 11th? And the answer is absolutely not.

And so the Taliban offensive that was launched was turned back by incredible courage of the Afghan soldiers, and by NATO forces that stood strong. You see, I believe the Taliban felt that they could exploit weakness. I believe that they said to themselves, if we can -- we'll test NATO and cause NATO leaders to turn their back on this young democracy.

After the fierce battles throughout the year 2006, the Taliban had failed in their objective of taking and holding new territory.

In recent months, the intensity of the fighting has died down -- that's only natural. It does every year when the snow and ice set in there in Afghanistan. But even in these winter months, we stayed on the offensive against the Taliban and al Qaeda. This January, NATO reconnaissance units observed a major Taliban incursion from Pakistan -- with about 150 Taliban fighters crossing the border into the Paktika province. So NATO and Afghan forces launched a coordinated air assault and ground assault, and we destroyed the Taliban force. A large number of enemy fighters were killed; they were forced to retreat, where they were engaged by Pakistani troops.

Just two weeks ago, NATO launched an air strike against Taliban fighters who had seized the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province -- a key Taliban commander was brought to justice.

The snow is going to melt in the Hindu Kush Mountains, and when it does we can expect fierce fighting to continue. The Taliban and al Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks. Our strategy is not to be on the defense, but to go on the offense. This spring there is going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, and it's going to be a NATO offensive. And that's part of our strategy -- relentless in our pressure. We will not give in to murderers and extremists.

And we're focused on five key goals that I want to share with you. First, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai increase the size and capabilities of the Afghan security forces. After all, for this young democracy to survive in the long term, they'll have their own security forces that are capable and trained. We don't have to teach them courage. These folks understand courage. They're willing to fight for their country. They're willing to defend this young democracy. And so it's in our interest and the interest of NATO countries to provide training so they have more, more strong fighters -- so we're going to increase the size of the national police from 61,000 to 82,000 by the end of 2008. And we'll help them develop new specialties: new civil order brigades, counter-narcotics, and border surveillance.

We're going to increase the Afghanistan army. Today, it's 32,000 -- that's not enough to do the job in this vast country -- to 70,000 by the end of 2008. It's one thing to get them trained and one thing to get them uniforms, but they're also going to have to have ways to move around their country. So we're going to add commando battalions, a helicopter unit, combat support units. In other words, we're going to help this young democracy have a fully integrated security force that will respond to the commands of the elected officials.

Capable troops need intelligence. This is a war that requires good intelligence on all fronts. So the United States and our allies will also work with Afghanistan's leaders to improve human intelligence networks, particularly in areas that are threatened by the Taliban. Together with the Afghan government and NATO, we created a new Joint Intelligence Operations Center in Kabul -- so all the forces fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan have a common picture of the enemy. That may sound simple to those of us who have gotten used to sophisticated systems to protect ourselves. This is important innovation in Afghanistan.

America and our allies are going to stand with these folks. That's the message I want to deliver to the Afghanistan people today. Free debates are important. But our commitment is strong: we will train you, we will help you, and we will stand with you as you defend your new democracy. (Applause.)

The second part of our strategy is to work with our allies to strengthen the NATO force in Afghanistan. Today, Afghanistan is NATO's most important military operation. Isn't it interesting that NATO is now in Afghanistan? I suspect 20 years ago if a President stood in front of AEI and said, I'll make a prediction to you that NATO would be a force for freedom and peace outside of Europe -- you probably never would have invited the person back. (Laughter.) Today, NATO is in Afghanistan. And I thank the leaders of the NATO countries for recognizing the importance of Afghanistan in our own security and enhancing the security of our own countries.

For NATO to succeed, member nations must provide commanders on the ground with the troops and the equipment they need to do their jobs. Many allies have made commitments of additional forces and support -- and I appreciate those commitments, but nearly as much as the people in Afghanistan appreciate them. Norway, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have all agreed to send special operation forces to Afghanistan. Britain, Poland, Turkey and Bulgaria have agreed to additional troops. Italy has agreed to send aircraft. Romania will contribute to the EU police mission. Denmark, Greece, Norway and Slovakia will provide funding for Afghan security forces. Iceland will provide airlift. The people of Afghanistan need to know that they've got a lot of friends in this world who want them to succeed.

For NATO to succeed, allies must make sure that we fill the security gaps. In other words, when there is a need, when our commanders on the ground say to our respective countries, we need additional help, our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in this mission.

As well, allies must lift restrictions on the forces they do provide so NATO commanders have the flexibility they need to defeat the enemy wherever the enemy may make a stand. The alliance was founded on this principle: An attack on one is an attack on all. That principle holds true whether the attack is on the home soil of a NATO nation, or on allied forces deployed on a NATO mission abroad. By standing together in Afghanistan, NATO forces protect our own people, and they must have the flexibility and rules of engagement to be able to do their job.

Third, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai improve provincial governance and develop Afghanistan's -- and to help develop Afghanistan's rural economy. Many Afghans in remote regions fight with the Taliban simply because there are no other jobs available. The best way to dry up Taliban recruits is to help Afghanistan's government create jobs and opportunity. So NATO is operating 25 provincial reconstruction teams across the country. These teams are made up of civilian and military experts. They are helping the Afghan government extend its reach into distant regions, they're improving security, and they're helping to deliver reconstruction assistance. In other words, I just described military operations that are necessary, but in order for these young democracies to survive, there's got to be more than just military. There has to be political development, and tangible evidence that a government can provide opportunity and hope. And these provincial reconstruction teams do just that.

These teams will help build irrigation systems, improve power production, provide access to micro-credit. The idea is to encourage entrepreneurship, job formation, enterprise. These teams will undertake new efforts to train provincial and local leaders. We take democracy for granted. Democracy hasn't exactly been rooted deeply in Afghan history. It takes a while for people to understand how to function as an elected official. It takes help for people to understand the obligations to respond to the people, and these teams will change provincial and local leaders.

Another key element to bringing stability to Afghanistan is building roads. Lieutenant General Eikenberry, who served with distinction in Afghanistan, just finished his tour, he was the senior commander there, said really something very interesting that caught my attention. He said, "Where the roads end in Afghanistan, the Taliban begin." So in order to help the security of this country, the international community has stepped up its road-building campaign across Afghanistan. So far, the United States and other nations have completed construction of more than 4,000 miles of roads -- that sounds like a lot, and it is a lot. We're also talking about a big country.

Much of the ring road -- we call it the ring road -- that links key provincial capitals to Kabul, is pretty well complete. And that's important, because, first of all, road building brings jobs to young men who might be recruited to the Taliban. But roads enable people to get commerce to centers of trade. In other words, roads promote enterprise. Enterprise provides hope. Hope is what defeats this ideology of darkness. And so we're going to build another 1,000 roads [sic] in 2007. It's an important effort, and our allies need to follow through on their commitments to help this young democracy have a road system that will enable it to flourish and survive.

Fourth, the United States and our allies will help President Karzai reverse the increase in poppy cultivation that is aiding the Taliban. After a decline in 2005, Afghanistan saw a marked increase in poppy cultivation last year. This is a direct threat to a free future for Afghanistan. I have made my concerns to President Karzai pretty clear -- not pretty clear, very clear -- and that in order for him to gain the confidence of his people, and the confidence of the world, he's got to do something about it, with our help.

The Taliban uses drug money to buy weapons -- they benefit from this cultivation -- and they pay Afghans to take up arms against the government. And so we're helping the President in a variety of ways to deal with the problem. First, he has established what's called a Central Narcotics Tribunal in Kabul. One way to deal with the drug problem is for there to be a push back to the drug dealers, and a good way to push back on the drug dealers is convict them and send them to prison. He has improved the Afghan Eradication Force this is mobile units that can deploy across the country to help governors in their eradication efforts.

We're supporting him. We're supporting him through direct aid on these mobile units, and we're supporting him to expand alternative livelihood programs. These poppy growers are trying to make a living. And the idea is to provide these farmers with credit, and seeds, and fertilizer, and assistance to bring their products to market. So the strategy to eliminate poppies is to encourage the government to eradicate, and to provide alternative means for a livelihood, and to help have the roads so that when somebody grows something somebody wants to buy in Kabul, there's a road to be able to take the product along to the markets.

It's important, and we're going to stay focused on the poppy issue. And when the President and his government is able to make progress on it, it will really inspire countries who want to help to do more.

Finally, we're going to help President Karzai fight corruption. And one place where he needs help is in the judicial system. There's nothing more discouraging when justice is not fair. And Afghans too often see their courts run by crooked judges. It's important to have the confidence of the people in a free society. Crooked judges makes it hard to earn that confidence.

President Karzai, to his credit, has established a Criminal Justice Task Force that is now after public corruption. This task force has 400 prosecutors [sic] and there are ongoing investigations. The United States, Britain and Norway are providing full time prosecutors, judges, police, and defense attorneys to mentor their Afghan counterparts -- and I appreciate our own citizens going over there. It is must be neat, really -- I guess "neat" isn't a sophisticated word, but it must be heartening to be somebody who's helping this young democracy develop a judicial system that is worthy. And I cannot thank our citizens for taking time out of their lives to go.

The United States has built or renovated 40 judicial facilities; we've distributed more than 11,000 copies of the Afghan constitution; we've trained more than 750 Afghan judges and lawyers and prosecutors. The international community is helping this new government build a justice system so they can replace the rule of the Taliban with the rule of law.

Now, there's another part of our strategy I want to share with you, and that is to help President Musharraf defeat the terrorists and extremists who operate inside of Pakistan. We're going to work Pakistan and Afghanistan to enhance cooperation to defeat what I would call a common enemy. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters do hide in remote regions of Pakistan -- this is wild country; this is wilder than the Wild West. And these folks hide and recruit and launch attacks.

The President understands our desire to work with him to eliminate this kind of action. People say, well, do you think President Musharraf really understands the threat of extremists in his midst? I said, yes, I do. You know how I know? They've tried to kill him. Al Qaeda has launched attacks against the President of this country. He understands. He also understands that extremists can destabilize countries on the border, or destabilize countries from which they launch their attacks. And so he's launched what they call a frontier strategy, and that is to find and eliminate the extremists and deliver a better governance and economic opportunity.

We're helping him in these efforts. It's in our interest to help him. We provided him -- we're helping him equip his security forces that are patrolling the border regions with Afghanistan. We're funding construction of more than 100 border outposts, which will provide their forces with better access to remote regions of this part of the country. We've given him high-tech equipment to help the Pakistani forces locate the terrorists attempting to cross the border. We're funding an air wing, with helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, to give Pakistan better security, better swift response and better surveillance.

President Musharraf is going to better be able to now deal with this problem. Bob Gates went out and visited with him recently, had a good response. He's an ally in this war on terror and it's in our interest to support him in fighting the extremists.

I also had an interesting meeting at the White House last September -- and that is, I hosted a private dinner with President Musharraf and President Karzai, right there in what's called the Family Dining Room. It was a fascinating discussion. Clearly there are different histories, different anxieties about the way forward. We did reach some agreements, however, that it's in all our interests for people to work together, for example, to improve intelligence sharing. It's in our interest to expand trade between these two countries. In other words, on the one hand it's in our interest to work closely on security for security operations, but it's also in our mutual interest -- all three of our interests -- to provide different alternatives for people to choose from.

Remember I said earlier that oftentimes people support the Taliban, or sometimes they support the Taliban in Afghanistan because it's the only job they can find. If that's the case -- and I believe it's true -- we need to help these folks provide an economy that gives hope. And so one way we can do this is what we call reconstruction opportunity zones that exist on both sides of the Pak and Afghan border. These zones will give residents the chance to export locally made products to the United States, duty free. That's our contribution. Got a vast market, wealthy country with a lot of consumers, and it's not going to take much to provide hope if we can get little manufacturing enterprises set up, local entrepreneurs to be able to manufacture goods and sell them here in our countries. It's a tiny contribution for us and a major contribution for providing the conditions necessary for stability.

I'm going to continue to work with both the leaders. It's a useful role for the President of the United States to be in constant contact with both Presidents, to remind them of the great obligations we have to fight the extremists and to help people realize dreams.

So our strategy in this country is robust and important. A lot of attention here in the United States is on Iraq. One reason I've come to address you is I want to make sure people's attention is also on Afghanistan. I'm asking Congress for $11.8 billion over the next two years to help this young democracy survive. I've ordered an increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan. We've extended the stay of 3,200 troops now in the country, for four months, and we'll deploy a replacement force that will sustain this increase for the foreseeable future.

These forces and funds are going to help President Karzai defeat common enemies. Success in Afghanistan is important for our security. We are engaged in a long ideological struggle between the forces of moderation and liberty versus the forces of destruction and extremism. And a victory for the forces of liberty in Afghanistan will be a resounding defeat in this ideological struggle. It's in our national interest that we succeed, that we help President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan succeed. And I'm confident -- I'm confident that with persistence and patience and determination, we will succeed.

And the biggest source for success is the Afghan people, themselves. They want their freedom. Freedom is universal. Jeane Kirkpatrick was right -- people around the world, regardless of their faith, their background, or their gender, want to be free. (Applause.) There is tangible evidence in Afghanistan: 8 million people went to the polls to choose their President in a free election. We take it for granted. Eight million said we want to be free. Imagine how far that society has come from the days of the Taliban. There's courage in that country. People are showing faith and freedom and courage to defend that freedom.

I want to tell you an interesting story about an Afghan security office at Camp Phoenix near Kabul. This fellow has worked at this base for four years -- nearly four years. His job was to guard the front gate and screen cars before they are allowed to approach a U.S. military checkpoint. He is very popular with our troops -- people who have gotten to know him like him a lot. They appreciate his courage and his personality and they call him "Rambo." (Laughter.) Must have been a lot for the Afghan citizen to be called "Rambo," but that's what they call him.

One day Rambo was on duty, a car loaded with explosives tried to crash through the front gate -- they were attempting to get to our troops. This fellow did not hesitate, he jumped in the car and he prevented the terrorist from exploding the device. He saw somebody who was about to harm our citizens, our troops -- he then jumps into the car and stops the attack. A U.S. Army sergeant then responded, helped him pull the guy out of the car.

One of our U.S. soldiers who was there said this, he said, "He saved our lives. I promised him I'd name my firstborn son after him." The guy is hoping for a boy. (Laughter.)

It's a human story. It's a story that speaks of courage and alliance, respect for life. To me it's a story that says these people in Afghanistan want to do what is necessary to survive and succeed, and it's in our interest to help them.

I am really proud that our nation helped liberate the 25 million people of that country. (Applause.) We should be proud to stand alongside the people of Afghanistan, the newly liberated Afghanistan. And I know we're all proud of the men and women who have helped liberate that country -- the men and women who wear our uniform who helped liberate that country and continue to make the sacrifices necessary. (Applause.)

I thank you for giving me a chance to come and talk about a strategy for success, a strategy that is part of our efforts to make sure that a generation of Americans, beyond our generation, will look back and say they did their duty to protect the homeland and, as a result, we can live in peace.

God bless. (Applause.)

Posted: Feb 17 2007, 11:54 AM

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MR. SNOW: First, one little readout. The President had a secure video teleconference this morning with Prime Minister Maliki. It lasted from about 7:05 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. They discussed progress in implementing the Baghdad security plan and positive indicators that the plan is coming together and beginning to have an impact in Baghdad. The Prime Minister again affirmed that no one is going to be above the law, regardless of religious affiliation or social status.

The two leaders also talked about the budget that was just passed by the Iraqi parliament, and in particular, the importance of executing the $10 billion that had been set aside for capital and infrastructure expenditures, and to make sure that they're also allocated equitably around the country.

They talked about the situation in Anbar province. They noted that there are opportunities for the Iraqi government to reinforce Iraqi citizens and the citizens of Anbar who are actively opposing al Qaeda in Iraq. They talked about progress on political issues, including an oil law; a final draft of that could be ready very soon.

And they throughout the meeting affirmed the strong relationship between the two governments and the need to continue their progress in political, economic and security realms.


Q Did they also talk about the non-binding resolution that the House --


Q There was no political discussion? Well, let me ask you, the President seems resigned to the fact that the House is going to pass this today. What is his position on the conditions on funding that the Democrats -- House Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha -- are beginning to outline?

MR. SNOW: Well, first, I would not characterize the President's mood in anything as "resignation." That's not the way he approaches things. But he understands that members of the House are moving forward. And right now everybody is playing with numbers about how big the margin is going to be -- we've heard everything from 12 to 60; we'll find out.

What the President is insistent upon is that our forces have the funds they need and the flexibility required to continue to execute not only the Baghdad security plan, but the way forward that's designed to secure the situation in Iraq. And, therefore, anything that is going to tie the hands of military commanders and deny both the funds and flexibility they're going to need, he will take a dim view of. But at this point, we're just going to have to see what Congress proposes. I'm not going to get into particulars, because while a lot of stuff has been floated, nothing has yet been proposed or dropped in the hopper.

Q There are some particulars out there that Congressman Murtha has talked about, like a year's rest between tours --

MR. SNOW: I understand that --

Q Do you think that's tying your hands?

MR. SNOW: As I said, we'll wait until -- as you know, there were also -- I remember giving similar answers when a whole series of resolutions were posed, some of which never came to votes on the House and Senate floor. We know what Representative Murtha has said, but we're just not going to get into trying to characterize a specific position about a bill that has yet to see the light of day.

Q So, Tony, the President talked about this resolution Wednesday. Is the overall feeling that it doesn't make a difference, and what makes a difference is the funding that's pending down the road?

MR. SNOW: I think, again, we've said all along that people do have to ask whether they think this is going to -- what impact this is going to have not only on force morale, but also on the views of people in the region. On the other hand, it is also absolutely critical -- and we're going to be defending it -- that the forces in the field, the five brigades that are going in, the 4,000 Marines into Anbar, the forces necessary to execute the plan, they need to be funded, they needed to be supported, and the people in the field now deserve to have the reinforcements necessary to be able to carry on their mission.

Q So in the President's conversations with Prime Minister Maliki, there was no concern expressed by the Prime Minister about the lack of political will shown in Congress?

MR. SNOW: No, the Prime Minister and the President were talking about what's actually going on, on the ground. And this is something that would behoove members of Congress to keep an eye on, as well. It's very interesting because for all the talk about benchmarks, the Prime Minister is not getting credit for a lot of things that are happening. It looks as -- as I said, I think there's going to be news in the very near future about a final draft on the oil law. It is very clear that there has been aggressive and effective action against Shia and Sunni actors who have been trying in the past to disturb the peace. It is clear that the Baghdad security plan not only has been signed off upon, but that Iraqi forces have made their way into Baghdad and they are now working in concert with U.S. forces.

General Abud, who is the chief commander in Baghdad, is working with General Petraeus, and you do have the kind of military cooperation and interaction. When it comes to Anbar province, you're seeing progress there. You've seen the Iraqis step up with a quarter of their budget this year being set aside specifically for reconstruction. That was something members of Congress had asked for. In other words, a lot of the things that people have been citing as benchmarks are taking place. And, therefore, it is important to keep an eye on the realities on the ground. But to get back to your question, Bret, no, believe it or not, they were more concerned about success in Iraq than the debate on Capitol Hill.

Q Last one for me. Was there a mention of this announcement by the Interior Ministry about the wounding of al Masri, and do you have any update on that?

MR. SNOW: Nothing. Nothing.

Q What about al Sadr --

MR. SNOW: It was not brought up, and it was -- poor Kelly. We're going to have -- chivalry is going to have its moment. (Laughter.) And in any event, no, there was no discussion of al Masri. Again, we've had so many of these reports in the past. When we have something factual for you, we'll pass it on. We don't yet.

Kelly, and then James.

Q On behalf of both Jim and myself -- (laughter) -- did the President talk about al Sadr at all with Prime Minister Maliki? Any discussion of his whereabouts or the impact of the changes?

MR. SNOW: No, none of that.

Q None at all?


Q That seems surprising, doesn't it, since that --

MR. SNOW: Well, it seems surprising to you guys, but -- again, for the Prime Minister, here's a guy who has already made the step of staying -- both to the Mahdi army, to Sunni insurgents, to people who have been misbehaving -- we're coming after you. If you are trying to bring this government down through acts of violence, if you're operating -- his phrase is "outside the law" -- we are going to apply the law, no matter who you are. And we have seen evidence of that in new Baghdad, which is a Shia neighborhood. We've seen it in Haifa Street. We've seen it in operations that are ongoing in Baghdad now.

So I really think -- and the Prime Minister has made it very clear that people who are on board with the unity government need to get on board and stay on board.

Q Wouldn't the Prime Minister be a good source of information on what al Sadr may be up to?

MR. SNOW: I just -- you know what, right now the most significant political figure in Iraq is not Muqtada al Sadr, it's Nouri al Maliki.

Q Kelly and I have a follow. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: See, and you guys thought kumbaya was dead.

Q That said, have you learned -- never mind this phone call this morning, what have you learned in the last 24 hours since we've spoke about al Sadr and whether he's in Iran -- his being in Iran, if he's there, is a good thing or a bad thing?

MR. SNOW: Since we've spoken -- no, we haven't actually heard -- we've got nothing new for you.

Q There's been no intelligence, there's been no questions, you haven't followed up --

MR. SNOW: Not really, no. The President may have gotten something in his intel brief today. It didn't come up. Shock-shock, it didn't.

Q And when you say, "shock-shock," that's --

MR. SNOW: I think you've got to understand that Muqtada al Sadr is one factor who belongs to a party that has 30 members of a parliament of 250 members, and that what you have seen -- if you want to look at the significant players, take a look at what's gone on in Baghdad, and take a look at the fact that you've got a security plan that's operating in districts, including Shia districts, where, at least according to reports, members of the Mahdi militia put down their arms, and in some cases are saying, okay, let's let the Baghdad security plan succeed. That is the significant factor.

Q But that is related to al Sadr -- if they're doing that, that's an important, significant point.

MR. SNOW: I just -- I've got nothing to give you on that. I mean, we don't know where he is. We don't know where he is. The reports are that he's in Iran, but don't know.

Q Tony, we've heard from a number of Americans who are deeply offended by comments Karl Rove made in defense of the President's immigration policy, when he told a luncheon, "I don't want my 17-year-old son to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas." Does the President want to apologize to Americans who pick crops --

MR. SNOW: You'd better run that -- I think Karl has argued to others that that was taken out of context. And rather than --

Q Can you describe what kind of context in which that was --

MR. SNOW: Why don't you give Karl a call.

Q You mentioned the margin of the vote, 12-6. In the end, does it matter what the margin is, Tony?

MR. SNOW: The question is what the margin is; does it matter. I don't know. Again, members -- it's going to be interesting, because members of Congress have taken their own gamble here. They're gambling on failure -- some members, at least. The President has a plan for success. It's all aimed at success. And there's going to be a vote before long where they're going to have to vote about whether they are going to supply the funds and the flexibility necessary for success. And, remember, in the case of the Senate, the success as defined by the guy that they've just appointed as a top general and the CENTCOM commander, who was also approved, and the man who is now the Chairman -- the Army Chief of Staff, who also approves of the plan, there are a whole series of folks who they, in fact, approve for their new offices who believe that this is vital.

And so, ultimately, members -- this is "a non-binding resolution." But what we're afraid of is that this is, in fact, going to serve as a precursor for cutting off our troops.

Q What do you mean, "gambling on failure"?

MR. SNOW: I mean because all of a sudden, it's -- suppose suddenly that you start to see signs of success. Then are these members going to come out and say, you know what, we were wrong -- they're going to have another resolution?

Q Has the President listened to any of the debate? What does he think?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so. He's had a very busy schedule. I'm not sure that -- the President doesn't have to park in front of C-SPAN and watch the debate all day. He knows what the views are. And in point of fact, we had an interesting conversation with members of the Black Caucus yesterday. We've had discussions this week with the bipartisan leadership, the bicameral leadership.

The President gets plenty of opportunities to hear the views and also solicit the views of members of both Houses. He was at the Democratic retreat, so I don't think there are a whole lot of surprises in terms of the nature of the debate. And, again, he continues to consult with both parties.


Q Can you go any further on being a junior constitutional lawyer and say where you draw the line?

MR. SNOW: No, because, again, you're asking me to draw the line on legislation that does not yet exist.

Q But it's a pretty simple line to envision in principle. You can --

MR. SNOW: I know, but I'm not going to -- I'll deal with things that appear in reality.

Q Tony, Afghanistan is again in the news, and the Afghans are happy with the President's efforts -- he liberated them. But they're not happy with their President Karzai because Taliban and al Qaeda are trying to bring his government down. And --

MR. SNOW: They ought to be mad at al Qaeda and the Taliban, is who they ought to be mad at.

Q (Inaudible) in the area long ago, and he has this very vast experience of the region. And he was recently in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan. And I understand according to the news report that he also -- you know, Musharraf to do more on the efforts. But my question is that was he carrying, really, any special message from the President in the region?

MR. SNOW: Goyal, I will say it for not the first or the last time: When you have communications between the President or his designees in confidential meetings with foreign leaders, we let those remain confidential.

Q Second question is on immigration. Small businesses are under pressure, and they have no workers because legal workers are not available to do those jobs, like in restaurant and odd jobs. And they cannot hire the illegals. How far do you think President will push this new immigration law in the Congress?

MR. SNOW: Well, actually, your question -- and for those who didn't hear it, it was that some small businesses are complaining now that they don't have workers because they're not getting illegal labor. That indicates a couple of things: number one, that the border security plan is, in fact, working, that we have greater border security. And we certainly have indications out of the Department of Homeland Security that that's true. Number two, interior enforcement -- in other words, saying to employers, if you're knowingly hiring illegals, we're coming after you. That is working. It now means that -- so we've demonstrated not only the possibility of good, sound border security, but also the importance of having a temporary worker program, because there are jobs, as you can tell, that are not being filled by Americans, and so you do need to move forward as a next step, once you develop these things, toward a temporary worker program.

So what you're really seeing, I think, Goyal, played out in real life is some of the rationale behind the President's proposal, which involves border security, it involves employer verification, it involves having a tamper-proof ID card, which may be the pivot on which everything turns, so that you know who's here, who came here illegally and who is here now legally, you're able to track them, you're able to make sure that employers are following the law. This allows you to create an immigration system that is credible and, at the same time, is humane in bringing in people who want to work in America and, over time, also those who want to join the line to become American citizens, they will have the opportunity to do so, as well.


Q Thank you, Tony. A few inquiries about the reported dissent on the North Korean treaty within the administration. You spoke yesterday about Elliott Abrams' emails when I asked you about it. Now, I am told that there are at least two people within the Executive Office of the President, one at the same level as Mr. Abrams, one a step higher, who also have the same questions and doubts about the North Korean treaty.

MR. SNOW: Who are they?

Q Well, I'm not going to say the names -- (inaudible) that there were others.

MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of.

Q All right. Do you expect any resignations over this?

MR. SNOW: No. Again, you talk about an over-hyped story. Elliott asked the question: Do we have credibility when it comes to -- to make sure that the North Koreans will earn it if they are delisted as a terror state? And the answer is, yes, they're going to have to earn it. There is a process by doing it, and you have to go through certain things, such as, stop being a sponsor of terrorism.

This was not a political accommodation; this is not a political deal. They're not going to get it without having gone through -- having performed precisely the kinds of activities -- whether it be in terms of nuclear arms and proliferation, or also conventional weapons and sales -- they don't get delisted until they've done what everybody else would have to do -- for instance, in the case of Libya. And Elliott made it perfectly clear that his concerns were satisfied.

This was not a dissent against the proposal. As a matter of fact -- I've talked to Elliott about this, and I talked to him again this morning about it. And this has been spun up in the press as Elliott opposing a treaty. He hadn't even seen it, and he said as much. He said, look, I do the Middle East. This is not what I do -- this is not my area of expertise, but I think it's important to know. And once that question was answered, he was satisfied.

Q All right. Well why do his emails -- his inquiries, wind up in the newspaper, then?

MR. SNOW: Because somebody broke the law.*

Q Okay. Who?

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Can you recall any other case in American history where the United States Senate unanimously voted to approve a general to top command in a war zone and then passed a resolution opposing what that general has stated that he has been ordered to be there to do?

MR. SNOW: Les, I'm unaware of that, but I don't want that to be definitive because I don't have full knowledge.

Q You don't know any other generals?

MR. SNOW: No, unless George Washington, I don't know.

Q George Washington was --

MR. SNOW: He ended up paying expenses out of pocket, as you recall. The Continental Congress, lacking the funds for fulfilling, I believe George Washington, if you go back and look, was paying for clothing and supplies for his own men out of his own pocket.

Q But he was reimbursed.

MR. SNOW: Well, no, he took a dollar a year, I believe.

Q No, no, I think you're wrong. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I am wrong. He took no pay. That's correct.

Q No, he just filed expenses, that's what he did. Speaker Pelosi has said in no uncertain terms that Congress is sending a message to the President with its debate on the Iraq war. And could you tell us, what message is the President receiving?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. We get lots of communications from Capitol Hill. What the President understands is that the war is unpopular, and people don't like the progress or lack of progress they saw in the latter stages of last year, where you had 100 American servicemen dying a month, and you had increased -- much increased violence in Baghdad and the environs. That's the reason why the President decided to act. So if the message is, aren't you concerned about what's going on, the answer is, you bet.

And as a result, the President demanded an exhaustive review, not only to what was going on, but also of possible ways of addressing that, not merely to tamp down in violence in Baghdad proper, but to create conditions where the Iraqi government would have the ability to do all the associated things necessary to have a stable state, which includes political accommodation, economic growth, and so on. So the President gets that message.

But the President also understands that as Commander-in-Chief it is his job and his obligation to keep Americans safe, and also to support the people who are fighting there right now. The way forward is a matter of providing reinforcements to people on an entirely different kind of mission, where their hands are no longer tied by outmoded rules of engagement or political rules of engagement, but instead are going to be able, along with the Iraqis, to do the job. So the message he is sending is that he has got a plan that is designed to secure victory, in terms of an Iraq that is able to stand up as a democracy and stand strong, and is willing and eager to move forward with that.

Paula, and then we've got the love birds up here -- (Laughter.)

Q The love birds. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Paula.

Q Congress said it's planning to spend a lot of time on the alternative minimum tax, and the President has said in the past he wants to look at it, too, but in the context of revenue neutral tax reform measures. Would the White House be willing to explore proposals on this that could include higher taxes to pay for it?

MR. SNOW: The President doesn't believe in tax increases, but here's what we have with the alternative minimum tax. For the last six years, Congress has put in a one-year patch. We put in a one-year patch that was more generous than the ones in the past, because somebody who has not previously been subject to the alternative minimum tax is not going to be sucked into it this year. For each of the last six years you've seen people who, in the past, were not subject to the alternative minimum tax suddenly getting hit with it. So we've prevented additional people from having to pay it.

We also have created the situation now where members of Congress have 20 months -- 20, two-zero months. This is the most ingenious country on the face of the earth and, surely, we can find a way to do it.

But the alternative minimum tax is -- it's a cruel tax and it's an unacceptable tax. It needs to be fixed. We have 20 months to do it. And I certainly am not going to negotiate against myself or against anybody else in talking -- the question may be for you to ask, to turn back to those who are advocating tax increases is, would you consider not raising taxes on people?

Q May I ask you a question, though -- may I ask a question on your definition of a tax increase?

MR. SNOW: Yes. It's something where you change the rates on people.

Q Oh, all right. So then the fact that you proposed raising targeted taxes to pay for your health care standard deduction --

MR. SNOW: We didn't. Again, what -- no, you didn't have targeted taxes. What you're assuming in that particular case is that people do not ever respond. What we've said is, what you're going to have under the tax deduction plan is, you're going to have full tax deductibility up to $15,000. It means that more than 100 million Americans like that get a tax cut. It also means that for a slice of maybe 20 to 30, they're going to have to make a choice about whether they stay in a plan that costs more than $15,000 a year, but also the people who provide those plans are going to have to make a choice about whether they think they're going to make profits by having plans that are subject to taxes, or whether they're going to be able to get business by coming up with more finely crafted plans that are going to appeal to people who have now so-called gold plated plans, and are willing to pay -- to do that $15,000 a year so that they get a full tax deduction and still get the services they'd received previously.

The fact is, the markets do tend to adjust, as we've seen already with the prescription drug benefits, where immediately the costs have gone down, and the number of people who have enrolled are wildly exceeding prior expectations. Why? Because the market is responding to what they want.

So keep in mind, that is -- that's a different situation, and that's one that also has a strong element of choice on the part of consumers, and also on the part of insurance companies.

Q To follow up on the AMT, there was a report in The Wall Street Journal this morning. Part of the story suggested -- quoted blind officials, administration officials --

MR. SNOW: Blind officials? (Laughter.)

Q Blind sources -- (laughter) -- sorry. People who weren't named, saying that --

MR. SNOW: Send the letters to -- (laughter.) Go ahead.

Q -- the President would not object to a tax increase on the wealthy to help pay --

MR. SNOW: Look, again, the President is not for tax increases. And so what we've said all along is, you've got 20 months to figure this out. What happens a lot of times is that people try to do preliminary negotiations through the press by characterizing what they think the President may or may not do. It's always interesting, because they never tell you what they're going to do. The fact is, both sides have an opportunity, so let's see what people have to propose.

And there have -- we have certainly been having -- we've been having conversations with people on both sides of the aisle because it is a problem. Democrats realize it, Republicans realize it, and they want to fix it. And I think we do have enough time right now where people don't have to rush and get themselves into a political fight. They've got an opportunity to try to come up with a calm and rational way to do it. We don't think it needs to involve tax increases, but we're certainly open to hearing what other people have to say.

Q Can I just follow up on Jim and Kelly's question about al Sadr? I mean, wouldn't you concede, Tony, that the skepticism about -- some of the skepticism about the President's Iraq plan centers on the Prime Minister's ability to reign in militias, including those followers of Muqtada al Sadr. So you're saying it should not be viewed as any kind of glaring omission that the President and the Prime Minister did not talk about al Sadr or his whereabouts?

MR. SNOW: Yes, because they're talking about success. Am I reading this wrong? It did not seem to me that the recent stories about al Sadr were designed to demonstrate strength on his part. I don't -- maybe I read them wrong, but without getting into the merits of them, the fact is that the Prime Minister is succeeding and the Iraqi public is building confidence because he's delivering on what he said.

And all along -- look, everybody -- we've been through this before. It's as if you want to say, al Sadr is the bad guy, go get him. Al Sadr -- Muqtada al Sadr is somebody who has got to make a choice. He has got to make a choice whether he wants to follow a path of peace and accommodation, and to become a political player, or whether he is going to be somebody who is part of violent factions outside the government, in which case, the government, with U.S. help, is going to have to come after him. Those are choices he has to make.

And so when you're trying to sort of portray this as al Sadr versus somebody else -- look, this is a guy who is still trying to make choices, I think, and has to make a choice about where he's going to be.

Q Is he still a significant player?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know how you assess that. It's a good question. I'm not sure I have an answer.

Q I just want to follow a little bit on the discussion about messages being sent with this debate. I was talking to a Democratic staffer today who said that Republicans and the White House have been skillful in maneuvering the conversation to supporting the troops, which actually presents a false choice, because -- or it obscures the more important underpinning, which is, Democrats are saying bring the troops home now, or short-term, the next four to six months, and that the White House -- the President's sense is, no, send more troops as a way to win, that it's no longer about victory, that there's actually two different discussions going on.

MR. SNOW: So you're saying Democrats are -- that supporters of the resolution don't believe in victory?

Q No, that they say that -- yes, that that is -- that you're at the wrong end of public opinion.

MR. SNOW: Oh, I see. So they think that the public thinks -- I just -- I'm a little confused --

Q I will clarify this.

MR. SNOW: Please do.

Q The Democrats' point is that victory is no longer what's being talked about, it needs to be -- the question is, can we bring the troops home.

MR. SNOW: No, no I --

Q The American people are not as concerned about victory in Iraq as they are about bringing the troops home; that's a more pressing issue.

MR. SNOW: Ask the following poll question -- first, ask your Democratic source: Do you believe if the United States leaves Iraq there will be a power vacuum, and do you believe into that power vacuum al Qaeda will try to take over Anbar and it will involve adventurism from abroad, whether it be from Iran, or elsewhere. If you do have that, and they have access to billions of dollars a year in oil revenue, and they have the ability to intimidate neighbors in the Gulf states, does that make us more or less secure? And, if that is the case, is it worth withdrawing before you have victory? The President is very clear about this. The stakes of losing and the stakes of leaving before you have secured victory are simply unacceptable. And if you ask the American public if they were willing to accept that, they would say, no.

Q The source says that that -- the American public actually has seen what's going on as a Civil War, and says that that places the White House at the wrong end of public opinion.

MR. SNOW: The President understands public opinion and public impatience. The President also sees intelligence every day, and he has to assess what the long-term costs are going to be. It is significant to me that you have a Democratic source who now says it's all about getting out, and not about success. If that's the case, that is -- it's going to be interesting to see if that continues to be the way Democrats want to frame this up, because it will make for a very important and interesting debate. The fact is, success is absolutely necessary.

And I've heard a lot of Democrats say this. Democrats understand that to create a vacuum in Iraq would be to invite dangers that are simply unacceptable to the American public. Let me add further -- when you're talking about bringing forces in -- but it is an interesting switch. So what you're saying is, it's no longer support the troops, it's just get them out.

Q The question is, does the debate about supporting the troops obscure the real debate that Americans want to have, which is, increase the number there, or start to bring them home?

MR. SNOW: You know what, we'd love to bring them home. We'd love to bring them home. We'd love to -- no, let me continue. But what you have is somebody framing a debate as if the rest of the world didn't exist -- as if Iran didn't exist, as if al Qaeda didn't exist, as if the terror network didn't exist, as if the oil fields did not exist, as if this could not set -- as if Israel didn't exist, as if Hamas, Hezbollah did not exist.

Q His point was that, yes, they understand all that.

MR. SNOW: No, the source -- no, the source's point is to ignore all that and not --

Q Well, actually, I had the conversation with the source, so the source's point was -- the source's point was, yes, they're aware, Americans are aware of all of that; they're looking at it and saying, you know what, we still want to bring the troops home.

MR. SNOW: You know what, the President -- the President understands that to operate under those circumstances is to invite bloodshed on a level that is absolutely appalling, not only in Iraq, but possibly in the United States of America. And if this offends your source, okay. Your source, I'm sure, means well, but the President also is absolutely determined to keep this country safe and do what's best for Americans. That is his job.

Q Tony, one other thing. At the news conference the other day, the President talked about the Iraq Study Group Report, eventually trying to get there. What piece of it does he want to --

MR. SNOW: What he was talking about --

Q -- and it talks about talks with Iran and Syria. Is that what he's talking about?

MR. SNOW: No, what he was talking about is -- he's referred to this on a number of occasions -- the "over the horizon" force. In other words, at some point, when you've got a situation in which the Iraqis are able to take care of the security situation in Baghdad and Anbar and Diyala and Kirkuk and elsewhere, then you have an opportunity to focus on something that the Iraqis are doing right now, which is border security, and deal with the integrity of the borders and use that as a way, ultimately, of being able to pull out of areas that right now are combat areas, and so let the Iraqis handle it. That was one of the key findings of Baker-Hamilton.

When it comes to Iran and Syria, look, we continue to have diplomatic relations with Syria, and the Iranians absolutely know what they need to do -- to reiterate, we love the Iranian people, and the Iranian people love the United States. And what's really interesting about this is that we're offering their government a chance to give them prosperity and a connection with the international community that they crave but do not presently have.

And the approach that this President has taken is certainly one of trying to send a strong signal to the Iranians that the international community really isn't divided here. You've got a Chapter 7 resolution through the U.N. Security Council. And the better part of valor on the part of the Iranian government would be to stop pursuing nuclear weapons, come back to the table, become a partner in fighting terror rather than fomenting it, and there would be enormous good consequences that would flow from that.


Q Could I just follow up on what you said a moment ago about the alternative minimum tax? Are you saying that you're not setting any preconditions with Congress --

MR. SNOW: Yes, members of Congress are free to come up with whatever proposals they want, and we'd like to hear them.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: Okay.

Q Whoa, one more. To just not leave hanging, you said that someone in the Executive Office of the President, presumably, broke the law. Does the President share your view on that?

MR. SNOW: I'm just thinking, if you leak an email. I'll have to go back and double check.

Q But you made a very clear statement that someone in the White House broke the law.

Q Do you stand by it?

MR. SNOW: That's actually an appropriate question. I'll get back to you. I'll get you a straight answer on it, Kelly.

Q Tony, can you please clarify about immigration, about what message does the President have for the small businesses --

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: Goyal, I've already said it. I mean, it's, you know, temporary worker program.

END 1:00 P.M. EST

* The Press Secretary was in error. This instance was not a violation of the law.

Posted: Feb 17 2007, 11:57 AM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 17, 2007

President's Radio Address

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today I would like to talk to you about an urgent priority for our Nation: confronting the rising costs of health care.

In my State of the Union Address, I invited Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work with my Administration to reform our health care system. In the past few weeks, I've discussed my health care proposals with citizens across our country. Next week, I'll visit a hospital in Tennessee to hear directly from people who do not have access to basic, affordable health insurance. I'll also meet with a panel of experts at the White House to discuss how we can build a vibrant market where individuals can buy their own health insurance.

The problem with our current system is clear: health care costs are rising rapidly, more than twice as fast as wages. These rising costs are driving up the price of health insurance and making it harder for working families to afford coverage. These rising costs also make it harder for small businesses to offer health coverage to their employees. We must address these rising costs so that more Americans can afford basic private health insurance.

One of the most promising ways to make private coverage more affordable and accessible is to reform the tax code. Today, the tax code unfairly penalizes people who do not get health insurance through their job. If you buy health insurance on your own, you pay much more after taxes than if you get it through your job. I proposed to end this unfair bias in the tax code by creating a standard tax deduction for every American who has health insurance, whether they get it through their job or on their own.

For example, every family that has health insurance would get a $15,000 deduction on their taxes. This deduction would also apply to payroll taxes, so that even those who pay no income taxes would benefit. Americans deserve a level playing field. If you're self-employed, a farmer, a rancher, or an employee at a small business who buys health insurance on your own, you should get the same tax advantage as those who get their health insurance through their job at a big business.

At the same time, I proposed "Affordable Choices" grants to help states provide coverage for the uninsured. Governors across our country have put forward innovative ideas for health care reform. Under my proposal, states that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens would receive Federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. Next week, the Nation's governors will come to Washington to discuss challenges facing their states. I've asked my Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, to meet with the governors and discuss ways we can work together to help reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

Reforming health care is a bipartisan priority. Earlier this week, I was pleased to receive a letter from 10 senators -- five Democrats and five Republicans -- who expressed their desire to work together on health care reform. I look forward to discussing our proposals and hearing more about their ideas. I appreciate the commitment of this bipartisan group to work with my Administration, and I will continue to reach across party lines to enact common-sense health care reforms.

From my conversations with Democrats and Republicans, it is clear both parties recognize that strengthening health care for all Americans is one of our most important responsibilities. I am confident that if we put politics aside, we can find practical ways to improve our private health care system, and help millions of Americans enjoy better care, new choices, and healthier lives.

Thank you for listening.

Posted: Feb 19 2007, 07:08 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 16, 2007

275th Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington
A Proclamation by the President of the United States

President Bush Honors President Washington's 275th Birthday on President's Day
George Washington Biography

Two hundred seventy-five years after the birth of George Washington, we honor the life and legacy of a surveyor from Virginia who became Commander of the Continental Army, a major force at the Constitutional Convention, and the first President of the United States of America.

Remembered by the Congress as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen," George Washington dedicated his life to the success of America. During the Revolutionary War, Washington's small band of hungry soldiers faced the professional army of a great empire, and his unshakable vision for a new democracy proved a powerful inspiration to his troops. Knowing that the outcome of their struggle would determine "the destiny of unborn Millions," Washington led his often ragged forces beyond incredible hardships into battle and on to victory with strength, steadfastness, and a quiet confidence.

The triumphant General treasured his brief time at home, but his devotion to duty and belief in the promise of a more perfect Union lured Washington from Mount Vernon. He presided over the Constitutional Convention with wisdom, diplomacy, and humility and helped form the working model of our democracy. When the Constitution was ratified, America again turned to a beloved and proven leader, electing George Washington as the first President of the United States.

As we celebrate the life of George Washington and his contributions to the American experiment, we can also take pride in our stewardship of the Republic he forged. Today, he would see in America the world's foremost champion of liberty -- a Nation that stands for freedom for all, a Nation that stands with democratic reformers, and a Nation that stands up to tyranny and terror. On his 275th birthday, George Washington would see an America fulfilling the promise of her Founders, honoring the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and moving forward in the world with confidence, compassion, and strength.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 22, 2007, as the 275th Anniversary of the Birth of George Washington. I encourage all Americans to join me in honoring the Father of our Country with appropriate civic and service programs and activities in remembrance of George Washington and with gratitude for all he gave for his country.

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


Posted: Feb 19 2007, 07:11 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 19, 2007

President Bush Visits Mount Vernon, Honors President Washington's 275th Birthday on President's Day
Mansion -- Mount Vernon Estate
Mount Vernon, Virginia
President's Remarks

10:04 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Laura and I are honored to be with you in this historic place, on this special anniversary. I feel right at home here. After all, this is the home of the first George W. (Laughter.) I thank President Washington for welcoming us today. He doesn't look a day over 275 years old. (Laughter.)

We're really glad you're here. I look out and see a lot of the kids who are here today. (Applause.) When I was your age, I was a little fellow from Midland, Texas -- (laughter and applause) -- and my grandmother brought me here. And then Laura and I brought our daughters here. And the reason I bring this up, this is a good place for Americans to come and bring your families. And we welcome you here today.

You know, we're celebrating around the country President's Day, but the folks that work here call it Washington's birthday. (Applause.) We've been celebrating this holiday for more than two centuries, and this morning we continue this tradition by honoring a man who was our first President, the father of our country, and a champion of liberty.

I appreciate Gay Gaines and the -- Regent of Mount Vernon Ladies Association. I appreciate Jim Rees, who is the Executive Director. I thank Togo West, who is the Chairman of the Mount Vernon Advisory Committee. I appreciate the military who have joined us. General, thank you for being here today with us. I thank the members who work hard to make sure Mount Vernon is preserved for the future, and I thank all of you all for being here.

You know, George Washington was born about 80 miles down the river from Mount Vernon in the year 1732. As a young man, he went West, and explored the frontier, and it changed his life. As he grew older, he became convinced that America had a great westward destiny as a nation of free people, independent of the empires of Europe. George Washington became the central figure in our nation's struggle for independence. At age 43, he took command of the Continental Army. At age 51, he was a triumphant hero of the war. And at age 57, he was the obvious and only choice to be the first President of the United States.

With the advantage of hindsight, it is easy to take George Washington's successes for granted and to assume that all those events were destined to unfold as they did. Well, the truth is far different. America's path to freedom was long and it was hard. And the outcome was really never certain. Honoring George Washington's life requires us to remember the many challenges that he overcame, and the fact that American history would have turned out very differently without his steady leadership.

On the field of battle, Washington's forces were facing a mighty empire, and the odds against them were overwhelming. The ragged Continental Army lost more battles than it won, suffered waves of desertions, and stood on the brink of disaster many times. Yet George Washington's calm hand and determination kept the cause of independence and the principles of our Declaration alive.

He rallied his troops to brilliant victories at Trenton and Princeton. He guided them through the terrible winter at Valley Forge. And he marched them to Virginia for the war's final battle at Yorktown. In the end, General Washington understood that the Revolutionary War was a test of wills, and his will was unbreakable.

After winning the war, Washington did what victorious leaders rarely did at the time. He voluntarily gave up power. Many would have gladly made George Washington the king of America. Yet all he wanted to do was return here to Mount Vernon, and to be with his loving wife, Martha. As he wrote with satisfaction to his friend Lafayette, "I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own vine and my own fig tree."

George Washington's retirement did not last long. In the years after the Revolution, America's freedom was still far from secure. There were uprisings and revolts. States argued over their borders. And under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government was virtually powerless. With the United States in crisis, George Washington was called back to public life to preside over a Convention of the States. And the result was the United States Constitution and a new executive office called the presidency.

When the American people chose Washington for the role, he reluctantly accepted. He wrote a friend, "My movement to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution." George Washington accepted the presidency because the office needed him, not because he needed the office.

As President, George Washington understood that his decisions would shape the future of our young nation and set precedent. He formed the first Cabinet, appointed the first judges, and issued the first veto. He also helped oversee the construction of a new federal city between the northern and southern states. The nation's new capital would take his name, and George Washington hoped it would inspire Americans to put the welfare of their nation above sectional loyalties.

This son of Virginia had come to see himself first and foremost as an American, and he urged his fellow citizens to do the same. More than two centuries later, the story of George Washington continues to bring Americans together. Every year, about a million people visit Mount Vernon to learn about this good man's life. We find the best of America in his spirit, and our highest hopes for ourselves in his character. His honesty and courage have become the stuff of legend. Children are taught to revere his name, and leaders to look to him for strength in uncertain times.

George Washington's long struggle for freedom has also inspired generations of Americans to stand for freedom in their own time. Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life. And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone. He once wrote, "My best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom."

President Washington believed that the success of our democracy would also depend on the virtue of our citizens. In his farewell address to the American people, he said, "Morality is a necessary spring of popular government." Over the centuries, America has succeeded because we have always tried to maintain the decency and the honor of our first President.

His example guided us in his time; it guides us in our time, and it will guide us for all time. Thank you for coming, and may God bless. (Applause.)

Posted: Feb 20 2007, 03:05 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 20, 2007

President Bush Attends Swearing-In of Mike McConnell as Director of National Intelligence
Bolling Air Force Base
Washington, D.C.
10:16 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for the warm welcome. Good morning. I'm proud to be here at Bolling Air Force Base to congratulate Mike McConnell on becoming our nation's second Director of National Intelligence. I'm really pleased that Mike's wife, Terry; his four children, Erin, Mark, Jennifer, and Christine; their grandchildren; his sister -- (laughter) -- and other family members have joined us. It's a big deal to watch your dad and granddad get sworn in to a position of this importance.

I appreciate members of my administration who have joined us, in particular the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates; General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA; Bob Mueller, Director of the FBI; and other important figures to numerous to mention. Thank you for serving our country.

I appreciate the members of the intelligence community who have joined us. Part of the reason I have come is to honor this good man, and part of the reason I have come is to honor your good work. (Applause.) This nation owes you a debt of gratitude.

The Director of National Intelligence holds one of the most difficult and important positions in our government. In this time of war -- and we are a nation at war -- the President and his national security team must have the best intelligence about the plans and purpose of the enemy. And the job of the Director of National Intelligence is to ensure that we do. The Director of National Intelligence is the President's principal advisor on intelligence matters. He is also the leader of our entire intelligence community. He advises me about the national intelligence budget. He oversees the collection and analysis of intelligence information. He works to ensure that all of our intelligence agencies and offices work together as a single unified enterprise.

These are enormous challenges, and Mike McConnell has the experience and the character and the talent to meet them. He spent most of his adult life working in the intelligence world. He served as the executive assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, as the Chief of Naval Forces division at the National Security Agency, as Director of Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Operation Desert Storm, and as the Director for the National Security Agency. He's got a solid resume.

He also earned our nation's highest award for service in the intelligence field. He not only has got a good resume, he backed it up with good action. His work over a career spanning three decades is earning the admiration of his colleagues, the respect of the intelligence community, and a reputation in Washington for personal integrity and effective leadership. In short, you're going to like working with him, and so am I.

Mike's long experience gives him a unique understanding of the threats we face in this new century. He knows that the terrorists who struck America on September the 11th, 2001 are determined to strike our nation again. He understands that the enemy uses the tools of our modern economy -- from rapid transportation, to instant communications, to global finance -- to spread their extremist ideology, and facilitate new attacks.

He knows that his task as the Director of National Intelligence is to make certain that America stays ahead of this enemy and learns their intentions before they strike. He knows that we must stop them from harming our citizens; that the most important task of this government of ours is to protect the American people.

In his new position, Mike builds on the work of an outstanding leader of our intelligence community: Ambassador John Negroponte. The creation of the Director of National Intelligence was one of the most important reforms enacted in response to the attacks of September the 11th. John Negroponte was the first person to fill this new and essential position. He did so with talent and distinction.

During his time in office, John established the DNI as a core member of my national security team. He increased the unity of our intelligence community. He helped strengthen our national counterterrorism capabilities and improved information sharing between our intelligence and law enforcement communities.

John's vision and vigilance helped keep the American people safe from harm. I appreciate his leadership as America's first Director of National Intelligence, and I thank him for agreeing to continue to serve our country as Deputy Secretary of State.

Mike McConnell will expand on the vital reforms that John Negroponte set in motion. I've asked Mike to focus on several key areas. I've asked him to better integrate the intelligence community, making our different intelligence agencies and offices stronger, more collaborative, and better focused on the needs of their customers.

I've asked him to improve information sharing within the intelligence community and with officials at all levels of our government, so everyone responsible for the security of our communities has the intelligence they need to do their jobs. I've asked him to ensure that our intelligence agency focus on bringing in more Americans with language skills and cultural awareness necessary to meet the threats of this new century. I've asked him to restore agility and excellence to our acquisition community, and ensure that our nation invest in the right intelligence technologies. I've asked him to ensure that America has the dynamic intelligence collection and high-quality analysis that we need to protect our country and to win this war against these extremists and radicals.

As he carries out his new duties, Mike McConnell will be relying on the thousands of dedicated intelligence professionals who work day and night to keep us safe. They are America's first line of defense against the terrorists. And while many of their accomplishments must remain secret to our fellow citizens, those accomplishments are known to me. And they're doing good work. You're doing good work. And the American people owe you a strong debt of gratitude. I appreciate your willingness to take on the difficult and dangerous assignments. And you just need to know, you've got the full support of this government and the American people.

Our intelligence community is going to have an able leader in Mike McConnell. I want to thank Congress for swiftly confirming Mike to this vital position. I look forward to working with him as a key member of my national security team. I'm anxious to have him in that Oval Office every morning. (Laughter.) I hope he's anxious to show up. (Laughter.)

He'll find that I value the intelligence products that you create. He's going to find that the intelligence product is an important part of my strategic thought, and important part of helping me get this government to respond to do our most important duty, which is to protect you.

I look forward to working with Mike. I'm comfortable in knowing this is a good man who cares about one thing only, and that's his country. And I thank his family for supporting him as he returns to government service.

And now, I ask my Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to administer the oath of office. (Applause.)

(The oath is administered.) (Applause.)

DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Thank you. Thank you very much for that warm welcome. Mr. President, indeed, we thank you for being here this morning. We, your intelligence community, are honored by your presence.

I also want to thank Mr. Bolten for swearing me in. I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge Secretary of Defense Gates, my friend for more than 15 years, and a predecessor who held this position as the Director of Central Intelligence under another President Bush.

My esteemed colleagues, and of course, my family, thank you for being here.

Last month, I was honored by the President to be nominated to serve as the nation's second Director of National Intelligence. Today, that honor is matched only by the excitement I feel in taking on the work before us now, to further reform and integrate America's intelligence community for better collaboration as the President has charged.

I am most grateful for the hard work and the many accomplishments of Ambassador Negroponte. The President, the Secretary of Defense -- Secretary of State Rice, the State Department, and indeed, the nation are fortunate to have him serving as the Deputy Director of -- the Deputy Secretary of State, pardon me.

For a person who began a public service career 40 years ago this summer as an ensign serving in Vietnam, this is an opportunity and a privilege of a lifetime. Mr. President, I am humbled by your trust, and I'm most encouraged by your continued commitment to the transformation of the intelligence community, to not only serve you better, but to better serve our national leadership in the future.

It is your commitment and your resolve that excites our community of 16 intelligence organizations. After only a few days on the job, I can tell you, it is a commitment that is shared by the dedicated men and women who make intelligence service to the nation their chosen profession.

We take on this work of strengthening and reforming the intelligence community at a challenging time in our nation's history. Many of the developments that have made America so productive and prosperous -- the rise of globalization, rapid transportation, global connectivity, and ever advancing technology -- also have made us more vulnerable to threats such as terrorism.

Taking advantage of these advances in technology, today's threats move at increasing speeds. The time needed to develop a terrorist plot, communicated around the globe, and put it into motion has been drastically reduced. The time line is no longer a calendar, it is a watch.

While the threats have changed, our responsibilities endure. Mr. President, on behalf of the intelligence community, I accept the charge you have given us, and we will dedicate ourselves to making the needed changes for more effectiveness in serving you and in serving the nation. We will focus on our people, our policies, our collection, our technology, our analysis, and our operational results in a way that provides accountability to you, the Congress, and the American people.

To that end, we will revamp security and workforce policies of past. Our nation requires that we have the best and brightest of our citizens in our ranks to fight a very different enemy. The old policies have hampered some common sense reforms, such as hiring first and second generation Americans who possess native language skills, cultural insights, and a keen understanding of the threats we face.

To meet these threats at home, we need an intelligence community that effectively merges foreign and domestic intelligence, something that my generation was restricted from doing before the tragedy of 9/11. With the FBI's national security branch fully integrated into the intelligence community, we need to apply community-wide standards to human intelligence collection and dissemination, and work more effectively to share across organizational boundaries at the federal, state, local, and tribal level.

Of course, in this work, we will continue to conduct ourselves consistent with the Constitution, our nation's laws, to protect privacy and guarantee civil liberties of our citizens. In this area of technology, we need to recapture the acquisition excellence of the Cold War. In that era, drawing on bipartisan consensus for funding and for program stability, and using the Director of Central Intelligence's special authorities for acquisition, the community was able to move with agility and speed to create new technologies and new capabilities that were only imagined earlier. We must create an acquisition environment in this community that will continue to make American intelligence the most effective in the world.

Finally, Mr. President, I want to say a few words about the people in this community, America's intelligence professionals. Tom Brokaw used the term "the Greatest Generation" when he wrote of Americans who served in World War II. That was a time when the country and our allies were fighting another ideology: fascism. Both of our fathers were members of that Greatest Generation, your father fighting in the Pacific, and mine fighting for four years in North Africa and in Europe. They both fought so that others may know freedom.

If Mr. Brokaw were writing another book today, he might call those who served and prevailed in the Cold War, "the Second Greatest Generation," working to help the free world defeat another ideology: communism.

I would like to salute the members of the intelligence community who have served in the long Cold War, lasting almost five decades. From human intelligence to creating new space-based technologies, the men and women of the intelligence community of that era served the nation in silence to provide the information our leadership needed to prevail. I would like to challenge our new generation of intelligence professionals to become "the Third Greatest Generation" in serving the nation to defeat today's threats to our freedoms and our way of life. I know that you're up to it. I would ask that we reflect on the service and sacrifices of those who went before, and to provide the information and service so vital to the nation's leadership.

Mr. President, you've given us a charge today to make the intelligence community more effective in protecting the nation. On behalf of the men and women who make up this community -- the Third Greatest Generation, if I may -- we pledge to do all in our power to make the nation safe.

Thank you, and God bless America. (Applause.)

Posted: Feb 22 2007, 03:57 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 22, 2007

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Raleigh, North Carolina

10:12 A.M. EST

MS. PERINO: Good morning. We are on our way to Franklinton, North Carolina. The President is going to get a tour of Novozymes North America. This is an energy event to highlight the President's State of the Union initiative he announced, the 20-in-10 program. This is the President setting a goal of reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next 10 years.

Just a quick recap: It requires progress on two fronts. We've asked Congress to reform the fuel economy standards for cars so that we can make our use of gasoline more efficient, and we must also then harness technologies so that we can improve the amount of alternative fuels that we use. And the President set a goal of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels to be used in the fuel supply by 2017. Taken together, that's how you get to the 20 percent in the next 10 years.

So the President's tour today, he's going to see this pretty amazing technology that really shows the best of America's ingenuity and ability to be able to drive new technologies. And so he will get this tour, and then we will have a panel discussion that is open press, and then we'll be on our way home.

Q Dana, can I ask you about the use -- apparently new use of chlorine gas in these bombs in Iraq? What does the White House make of this tactic?

MS. PERINO: It's obviously a continued pattern of killing innocent people in very spectacular fashion. Major General Caldwell did make some comments this morning on CNN, in which he talked about the military -- they're taking a close look at this, but obviously there's been these two attacks, and they're looking to see if there are others. He said the main pattern that he sees is the continued use of spectacular events in order to kill innocent people. So it's disturbing and concerning, but I'd have to refer you to DoD to see if there's any other trends that they're tracking there.

Q Dana, the Vice President made some comments about Democrats and their agenda and how it would -- I don't remember the exact wording, but I know you've talked to Ann Compton about this -- just being that it would encourage terrorists in Iraq. My question is, Nancy Pelosi called the President, didn't get him, apparently talked to John Bolten. Is the President going to return her call?

MS. PERINO: Josh Bolten did talk to Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the President. I'm not exactly sure the time of the call, I know the President was traveling yesterday. The bottom line is this: The Vice President was not in any way questioning anyone's patriotism. He was questioning the strategy. And anyone who puts forward a strategy has to be able to explain the consequences of those actions if they were to move forward.

What the President and the Vice President believe is that Nancy Pelosi's and Representative Murtha's plan is one that would not help secure our country and would leave the region in chaos. And securing Baghdad is absolutely critical. So it was a questioning of the merits of their proposal, not their patriotism.

Q Was he at all out of line in making those comments?

MS. PERINO: The Vice President out of line? Absolutely not. He was questioning the merits of the -- of their proposal. And I think if you go up and take a look back at some of the things that they've said about the President, the tables could be turned. But we're not making the same accusations.

Q I'm sorry, just to follow up, the President hasn't called her back. Do you know if he's going to?

MS. PERINO: Chief of Staff Josh Bolten spoke to the Speaker on the President's behalf. As far as I know there's no -- there's been no other phone call.

Q Anything to say about the IAEA's report on Iran --

MS. PERINO: -- checked in just before we left, and the United States officials, State Department officials have just received the report. They're going to take a good look at it. But on first glance, it does appear to confirm what we expected, which is that the Iranians have not complied with what the international community had passed in the U.N. Resolution 1737, I believe was the number.

And in that resolution, it said that the allies would take a look at this report, get together, and then think about next steps. And so that's where we are in the process.

Q Has the President been briefed on the report yet?

MS. PERINO: I don't believe so, because literally, I think we just received the report as we were walking on -- you know, as we were walking out. However, the President meets with Secretary Rice regularly, and I believe they have breakfast scheduled for tomorrow morning. She's just on her way home, as well, so she's in the air.

Q Does the President plan to talk about climate change in the events today or tomorrow?

MS. PERINO: I don't know if the exact words will come out of his mouth, but what I can tell you is that he views this 20-in-10 program and his other energy proposals in a holistic way, meaning that you put forward a program that's -- a proposal that is very bold in reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years, and offsetting that with alternatives, and you get multiple benefits. You get improved national security because you're not importing as much and relying so much on other sources; you get the economic benefit so that you have more domestically produced energy resources; and then you have the cleaner air benefit because you're burning fuels that burn cleaner so you don't have the public health concerns as much -- exasperated as other traditional fuels. And then finally, you also get the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. So that you look at this in a holistic way with multiple benefits.

Q Dana, can I follow up on that? Is the President planning to send legislation to the Hill on these energy policies, in particular the alternative fuels?

MS. PERINO: That's traditionally not the way that we have done it. We usually work with the Hill. We lay out a set of principles in our proposal. And so I think at this point we're following that same model. But if that changes we'll let you know.

Q I'm compelled to ask you this question. Does the President have any Oscar picks, and has he seen any of the films?

MS. PERINO: Has he seen what?

Q Keep in mind this is coming from ABC. Has the President seen any of the Oscar nominated films, and does he have any picks?

MS. PERINO: Well, you know, I have not seen any Oscar nominated films. I don't think, personally, I couldn't even tell you what is actually nominated. But I know he and Mrs. Bush do enjoy watching movies, and I will check into it and see if I can find out. I don't even know what's nominated.

Posted: Feb 23 2007, 04:02 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 22, 2007

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Raleigh, North Carolina

10:12 A.M. EST

MS. PERINO: Good morning. We are on our way to Franklinton, North Carolina. The President is going to get a tour of Novozymes North America. This is an energy event to highlight the President's State of the Union initiative he announced, the 20-in-10 program. This is the President setting a goal of reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next 10 years.

Just a quick recap: It requires progress on two fronts. We've asked Congress to reform the fuel economy standards for cars so that we can make our use of gasoline more efficient, and we must also then harness technologies so that we can improve the amount of alternative fuels that we use. And the President set a goal of 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels to be used in the fuel supply by 2017. Taken together, that's how you get to the 20 percent in the next 10 years.

So the President's tour today, he's going to see this pretty amazing technology that really shows the best of America's ingenuity and ability to be able to drive new technologies. And so he will get this tour, and then we will have a panel discussion that is open press, and then we'll be on our way home.

Q Dana, can I ask you about the use -- apparently new use of chlorine gas in these bombs in Iraq? What does the White House make of this tactic?

MS. PERINO: It's obviously a continued pattern of killing innocent people in very spectacular fashion. Major General Caldwell did make some comments this morning on CNN, in which he talked about the military -- they're taking a close look at this, but obviously there's been these two attacks, and they're looking to see if there are others. He said the main pattern that he sees is the continued use of spectacular events in order to kill innocent people. So it's disturbing and concerning, but I'd have to refer you to DoD to see if there's any other trends that they're tracking there.

Q Dana, the Vice President made some comments about Democrats and their agenda and how it would -- I don't remember the exact wording, but I know you've talked to Ann Compton about this -- just being that it would encourage terrorists in Iraq. My question is, Nancy Pelosi called the President, didn't get him, apparently talked to John Bolten. Is the President going to return her call?

MS. PERINO: Josh Bolten did talk to Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the President. I'm not exactly sure the time of the call, I know the President was traveling yesterday. The bottom line is this: The Vice President was not in any way questioning anyone's patriotism. He was questioning the strategy. And anyone who puts forward a strategy has to be able to explain the consequences of those actions if they were to move forward.

What the President and the Vice President believe is that Nancy Pelosi's and Representative Murtha's plan is one that would not help secure our country and would leave the region in chaos. And securing Baghdad is absolutely critical. So it was a questioning of the merits of their proposal, not their patriotism.

Q Was he at all out of line in making those comments?

MS. PERINO: The Vice President out of line? Absolutely not. He was questioning the merits of the -- of their proposal. And I think if you go up and take a look back at some of the things that they've said about the President, the tables could be turned. But we're not making the same accusations.

Q I'm sorry, just to follow up, the President hasn't called her back. Do you know if he's going to?

MS. PERINO: Chief of Staff Josh Bolten spoke to the Speaker on the President's behalf. As far as I know there's no -- there's been no other phone call.

Q Anything to say about the IAEA's report on Iran --

MS. PERINO: -- checked in just before we left, and the United States officials, State Department officials have just received the report. They're going to take a good look at it. But on first glance, it does appear to confirm what we expected, which is that the Iranians have not complied with what the international community had passed in the U.N. Resolution 1737, I believe was the number.

And in that resolution, it said that the allies would take a look at this report, get together, and then think about next steps. And so that's where we are in the process.

Q Has the President been briefed on the report yet?

MS. PERINO: I don't believe so, because literally, I think we just received the report as we were walking on -- you know, as we were walking out. However, the President meets with Secretary Rice regularly, and I believe they have breakfast scheduled for tomorrow morning. She's just on her way home, as well, so she's in the air.

Q Does the President plan to talk about climate change in the events today or tomorrow?

MS. PERINO: I don't know if the exact words will come out of his mouth, but what I can tell you is that he views this 20-in-10 program and his other energy proposals in a holistic way, meaning that you put forward a program that's -- a proposal that is very bold in reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years, and offsetting that with alternatives, and you get multiple benefits. You get improved national security because you're not importing as much and relying so much on other sources; you get the economic benefit so that you have more domestically produced energy resources; and then you have the cleaner air benefit because you're burning fuels that burn cleaner so you don't have the public health concerns as much -- exasperated as other traditional fuels. And then finally, you also get the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. So that you look at this in a holistic way with multiple benefits.

Q Dana, can I follow up on that? Is the President planning to send legislation to the Hill on these energy policies, in particular the alternative fuels?

MS. PERINO: That's traditionally not the way that we have done it. We usually work with the Hill. We lay out a set of principles in our proposal. And so I think at this point we're following that same model. But if that changes we'll let you know.

Q I'm compelled to ask you this question. Does the President have any Oscar picks, and has he seen any of the films?

MS. PERINO: Has he seen what?

Q Keep in mind this is coming from ABC. Has the President seen any of the Oscar nominated films, and does he have any picks?

MS. PERINO: Well, you know, I have not seen any Oscar nominated films. I don't think, personally, I couldn't even tell you what is actually nominated. But I know he and Mrs. Bush do enjoy watching movies, and I will check into it and see if I can find out. I don't even know what's nominated.

Posted: Feb 26 2007, 03:38 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2007

Nominations Sent to the Senate

S. Ward Casscells, of Texas, to be An Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice William Winkenwerder, Jr.

Claude M. Kicklighter, of Georgia, to be Inspector General, Department of Defense, vice Joseph E. Schmitz, resigned.

William Charles Ostendorff, of Virginia, to be Principal Deputy Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, vice Jerald S. Paul, resigned.

Posted: Feb 26 2007, 03:41 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2007

Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives

February 26, 2007

Dear Madam Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent the enclosed notice to the Federal Register for publication, which states that the emergency declared with respect to the Government of Cuba's destruction of two unarmed U.S.-registered civilian aircraft in international airspace north of Cuba on February 24, 1996, as amended and expanded on February 26, 2004, is to continue in effect beyond March 1, 2007.



Posted: Feb 26 2007, 03:43 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2007

Notice: Continuation of the National Emergency Relating to Cuba and of the Emergency Authority Relating to the Regulation of the Anchorage and Movement of Vessels

On March 1, 1996, by Proclamation 6867, a national emergency was declared to address the disturbance or threatened disturbance of international relations caused by the February 24, 1996, destruction by the Cuban government of two unarmed U.S. registered civilian aircraft in international airspace north of Cuba. In July 1996 and on subsequent occasions, the Cuban government stated its intent to forcefully defend its sovereignty against any U.S.-registered vessels or aircraft that might enter Cuban territorial waters or airspace while involved in a flotilla or peaceful protest. Since these events, the Cuban government has not demonstrated that it will refrain from the future use of reckless and excessive force against U.S. vessels or aircraft that may engage in memorial activities or peaceful protest north of Cuba. On February 26, 2004, by Proclamation 7757, the scope of the national emergency was expanded in order to deny monetary and material support to the repressive Cuban government, which had taken a series of steps to destabilize relations with the United States, including threatening to abrogate the Migration Accords with the United States and to close the United States Interests Section. Further, Cuba's most senior officials repeatedly asserted that the United States intended to invade Cuba, despite explicit denials from the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense that such action is planned. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing the national emergency with respect to Cuba and the emergency authority relating to the regulation of the anchorage and movement of vessels set out in Proclamation 6867 as amended and expanded by Proclamation 7757.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.



February 26, 2007.

Posted: Feb 26 2007, 03:45 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2007

President Bush Meets with the National Governors Association
The State Dining Room

11:22 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. I'm looking for some of the crumbs that got dropped last night here. (Laughter.) Glad you're here, thanks for coming. I hope you enjoyed the dinner as much as we did last night. (Applause.) I thought it was a good, relaxing evening. And I thank you all for joining us today.

I want to thank the members of my Cabinet for talking to the governors about how important it is for us to work together. I do want to spend some -- a little time talking about some issues here, and then I'll answer questions from you.

First, obviously -- well, I don't know if it's obvious to you, or not, but my biggest concern is protecting this country. You got to know something, that a lot of my thinking was defined on September the 11th. I wake up every day thinking about another attack. And that's my job. It's what the people expect. I think about how to have the best intelligence possible to find out where the enemy is and what they're thinking so we can react.

I think about making sure that Homeland Security and our states work closely together. I wish that wasn't the way it was. But it is. That's the reality of the world in which we live. It's easy to kind of hope that these radicals and extremists go away. We've got a two-pronged strategy in dealing with them; one is to stay on the offense and bring them to justice, and two, spread the conditions necessary to defeat an ideology of hatred. I like to say we're in an ideological war that's going to last a while. That's what I believe. That's the basis on which I'm making decisions to protect the country.

We've got active fronts in this war on terror. One is Afghanistan, the other is Iraq. These are the most visible fronts -- let me rephrase that -- there are other active fronts; the most visible fronts are in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I thank you very much for going over to visit the Guard troops and Reserve troops from your states that are there. I appreciate it. It matters to those troops that you take time as a Commander-in-Chief to thank them. And it matters to their families that people are paying attention to them.

You've got two governors who are active in the Guard and Reserve -- Governor Blunt and Governor Sanford. He's not here because he's at a Air Force Reserve meeting, as I understand, and I appreciate very much the example you all are setting.

Obviously, there's concerns about the decisions I have made regarding Iraq, and I understand that. Look, I mean, there's a lot of debate here in Washington, D.C. And if you want, we can spend some time during the question-and-answer talking about why I made the decisions I made. But you've just got to understand, the main reason why is because I understand the consequences of failure in Iraq. If we leave before that country can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself, there will be chaos. And out of chaos will come vacuums; and out of vacuums will come an emboldened enemy that would like to do us harm. I like to remind people that if we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here. And if our job is to protec this country, it's important we get it right in Iraq.

So I made a decision that I think is more likely to succeed than any of the alternatives that were presented to me. And I know you're concerned about the funding for your troops; so am I. I hope out of all this debate -- and by the way, there is -- you've just got to understand, here in Washington, I do not believe that someone is unpatriotic if they don't agree with my point of view. On the other hand, I think it's important for people to understand the consequences of not giving our troops the resources necessary to do the job.

So I'm looking forward to a healthy debate. I'm also looking forward to defending -- strongly defending the budgets we send up to Congress, to make sure those troops who are in harm's way have the resources and that we have the flexibility necessary to -- and our commanders have the flexibility necessary to execute the plan we've laid out.

I understand Pete Pace was here and visited with you. I hope he was able to answer your questions about Guard funding. We submitted a strong budget for 2008. And we're going to need your help to make sure Congress keeps that budget intact. The temptation sometimes is take a little bit from the defense and add it to here. And if you're concerned about making sure your troops get what they need, make sure you call your congressman, or your senator.

The economy is good. We intend to keep it that way. We're not going to raise taxes. We don't need to raise taxes to balance the budget. We can work with Congress on a lot of issues, and one issue we can work with them on is the budget. They want to balance the budget, the administration wants to balance the budget. And Director Portman submitted a plan that balances the budget within five years without raising taxes. The reason I think it's important to keep taxes low is because I think that's important to sustain economic growth and vitality. I'm worried about running up taxes and slowing down the entrepreneurship that is alive and well here in America.

I wish I had the line-item veto like you all do -- or some of you do. It makes it easier to deal with the issues like earmarks or these interests that get stuffed into these bills at the last minute without having been debated. And I'm going to keep working with Congress to try to get a line-item veto. If you want to give the President a hand, you might suggest to Congress to let me have the tools that many of you have in this room. You know it works; it makes sense. It helps keep those budgets lean and focused and having the priorities real clear.

I'm looking forward to working with Congress on health care. I know that Michael has been spending some time with you. I firmly believe, and I know Mike agrees, that the states are oftentimes the best place to reform systems and to work on programs that meet needs. We believe one of the biggest needs is to make sure private health insurance is available to a lot of folks in our country. And so the Affordable Choices program is a real program. And I thank Mike for spending time with you talking about it and wanting to work with you to get it designed properly so it works.

And I also strongly believe we need to change our tax code. It's a tax code that says, if you're single, or you're working for a company that doesn't provide insurance, you're discriminated against relative to the person working for a big corporation. And it doesn't make sense. You want people to be able to have health insurance, to be able to afford private insurance. It makes sense to reform the tax code.

We look forward to working with you on that; look forward to working with you and Congress on reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. I know Margaret talked about it. The real challenge facing this country is whether or not we're going to be competitive; whether or not we've got the skill set necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century. If we don't, they'll go elsewhere. That's just what happens in a globalized world.

No Child Left Behind is the beginning of a comprehensive competitive program, and we want to work with you to make sure it works properly, to make sure that accountability is used properly. The thing I like most about the law is that when we find a youngster who is struggling with reading, that we provide extra help to make sure he or she gets up to speed early, before it's too late. I also like the idea of us being able to say we're making progress toward high goals. And we know we are, or we know we aren't if we're not, because we measure. I don't see how you can fix a problem unless you measure the problem.

I look forward to working with you on immigration. It's a tough issue here in Washington. I strongly believe Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I strongly believe that we need to uphold our laws, enforce our borders, and uphold our traditions in America. We need to treat people fairly.

I'm looking forward to working with Congress on energy policy. We've made some progress through comprehensive energy bills. There's more to be done. We've spent about $12 billion since I've been the President on technologies that will enable us to become less dependent on oil. We're going to continue to invest, by the way, in clean coal technologies and solar technologies and wind technologies. But the area where we're pretty close to some amazing breakthroughs is on getting -- changing our usage of gasoline. Some amazing battery technologies that are now heading toward the market, which will enable people in New York City, for example, to drive the first 20 to 40 miles on electricity. That will make us less dependent on oil from overseas.

Another exciting technological breakthrough is going to come with cellulosic ethanol. It's a long, fancy word for making gasoline -- or making ethanol out of product other than sugar and corn, like switchgrass or wood chips. The ethanol production from corn is full-steam ahead, but it's beginning to squeeze some of the hog farmers and cattle raisers. And therefore, we're going to have to accelerate research into alternative feedstocks for ethanol, to enable us to meet a goal I set, a mandatory goal of using 35 billion gallons of alternative sources of fuel by 2017. It reduces our gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

I wouldn't have put out the goal if I didn't think it was possible and achievable. I also know it's necessary. Becoming less dependent on oil is in our national security interests, it's in our national economic interests, and will enable us to be better stewards of the environment.

I believe we can find a lot of common ground with the Congress on these issues. I've had some good meetings with the Democrat -- Democratic leadership. I appreciate the openness of our discussions. I'm -- will continue to reach out to find common ground, with them and, as well, with you. We owe it to the people to do so.

Anyway, thanks for giving me a chance to come by. I appreciate it. (Applause.)

Posted: Feb 27 2007, 02:37 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 27, 2007

Personnel Announcement

President George W. Bush today announced two key appointments to the Executive Residence staff, naming Rear Admiral Stephen W. Rochon as Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher and Dennis Freemyer as Deputy Director of the Executive Residence and Deputy Chief Usher.

Admiral Rochon will be the eighth Chief Usher of the White House.

Admiral Rochon will serve his last day on active duty with the Coast Guard on March 9, and begin his service at the White House on March 12. Admiral Rochon succeeds Gary Walters, who retired in January 2007 after 20 years as White House Chief Usher.

"Admiral Rochon is a gifted leader and experienced manager who will be a great addition to the White House and the Residence staff," said President Bush. "Laura and I look forward to working with him."

With 36 years in public service, Admiral Rochon has an extensive background in personnel management, strategic planning, and effective interagency coordination. As the Coast Guard's Commander of the Maintenance and Logistics Command Atlantic, Admiral Rochon is responsible for naval and civil engineering, financial management, personnel, legal, civil rights, electronic systems support, and contingency planning across 40 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, Europe, and the Middle East.

A New Orleans native, Admiral Rochon served as the Coast Guard's Director of Personnel Management in the aftermath of the 2005 hurricanes, providing support for Coast Guard personnel and their families, and ensuring they had housing and new job assignments.

Admiral Rochon has a passion for history and historic preservation. He produced video documentaries in 1989 and 2005 honoring Alex Haley, USCG (Ret) and author of "Roots." Admiral Rochon also spearheaded the posthumous awarding of the Gold Lifesaving Medal to the African American crew of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station for their daring rescue in 1896 near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He has contributed his expertise to a number of museums across the Nation, from Louisiana to Connecticut. Admiral Rochon helped rebuild and preserve the historic significance of three turn-of-the-century homes in New Orleans following the 2005 hurricanes.

Admiral Rochon is a highly decorated military officer, and has earned three Legion of Merit medals. He has also received numerous civic and community leadership awards.

Admiral Rochon enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1970. He rose through the enlisted ranks and received a commission as an Ensign in 1975 from the Officer Candidate School at Yorktown, Va. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Xavier University of Louisiana and a M.S in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University.

Admiral Rochon is married, and has four children and eight grandchildren.

Dennis Freemyer has been named the Deputy Director of the Executive Residence and Deputy Chief Usher.

"Dennis has been a valued public servant to five Presidents and their families. Laura and I have known Dennis for more than 20 years, and we look forward to continuing to work with him as he serves the White House in this new role," said President Bush.

Mr. Freemyer has worked in the White House Usher's Office since 1986, most recently as the Assistant Chief Usher where he helped supervise the overall management of the Executive Residence and coordination with the First Family. He has also served as the Program and Project Manager for all design, renovation, maintenance, and construction projects of the White House.

From 1981-86, Mr. Freemyer served as the Architect and Project Manager for the National Park Service, where he was in charge of providing professional architectural expertise necessary for the plan, design, research, and supervision of National Park Service construction and renovations at the White House. During his time at the National Park Service, he also worked in the Contracting Division as an architect from 1978-81 and was detailed to the White House where he was a construction supervisor and construction inspector.

Mr. Freemyer holds a B.A. in Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He is married and has two children.

Posted: Feb 27 2007, 08:12 PM

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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 27, 2007

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room

12:26 P.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Questions.

Q How was the suicide bomber able to get within range of the base where Vice President Cheney was?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I refer it to DOD. I think at this point people are still investigating what happened, so we don't have a firm answer for you.

Q Is there some concern about the security precautions at the base?

MR. SNOW: Again, rather than making presumptions about the proximity of the Vice President -- it is a large facility; I really think it's probably, again, better to let people do the forensics on it, figure out what's going on, they can render judgments later. I've got no comment on it right now.

Q Has the President talked to the Vice President yet?

MR. SNOW: I don't think so. They had a busy morning. The Vice President is on the plane. Typically, what happens is the Vice President comes in, and he'll do an exhaustive debrief with the President, and frankly, nobody else. And the way he works is he shares his counsel with the President, nobody else, so I'm sure he will do that at great length when he gets back.

Q Let me try one other. Do you think that the publicity about the Vice President staying overnight at the base prompted the attack, invited the attack?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know. The fact is the Vice President was committed to having a visit with President Karzai, and he was -- they had a delay due to weather in being able to get together. He certainly wasn't going to leave before he finished doing his business.

Q What does this attack say about the strength of the Taliban in Afghanistan?

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure it says anything.

Q Why?

MR. SNOW: Because you've got an isolated attack. As we've often said about acts of terror, an individual who wants to commit an act of violence or kill him or herself, very difficult to stop. But I'm not sure that you can draw larger conclusions about any organization based on an incident such as this. And in this case, we have a claim of responsibility, but I'm not sure, as I said in answer to Terry's question, that we have a full picture of precisely what took place. I think it will take a while before we get that picture.

Q Is this the first strike in a spring offensive?

MR. SNOW: Again, I really -- I know you guys want to fill in the gaps in this and put it in a larger context. I'm afraid it's going to have to wait until people really do have a chance to take a look at the full picture.

Q What was the President's reaction? And how did he find out about it?

MR. SNOW: He was told by staff this morning. And his reaction is, he first inquired about making sure the Vice President was okay, and he was reassured by that. And obviously he'll continue to get intel about what happened. But at this juncture, especially in the first minutes and hours after an event like this, it takes a little while to figure out precisely what took place.

Q Tony, can you talk a little more about the reason for the Vice President's trip? Did the President specifically ask him to take this trip? Did he ask him to bring any particular message to General Musharraf and to President Karzai?

MR. SNOW: Well, the Vice President was over in the region, and part of the trip was, in fact, to consult with both the leaders, not only in anticipation of a spring offensive, but also working more closely together on the war on terror. They have issues where they need to be working together, and the Vice President had productive conversations with both. Beyond that, can't go into a whole lot of detail.

Q Can you talk about whether it was the President's idea that he should go --

MR. SNOW: It was the President's idea.

Q In this meeting with President Musharraf, the Vice President brought the Deputy Director of the CIA. Can you talk about that at all?


Q Why not?

MR. SNOW: Because --

Q I mean, essentially are you painting the picture to the Pakistani President of what exactly is happening in those tribal regions?

MR. SNOW: As a matter of fact, it's pretty clear that a lot of the narrative has been to try to say that the Vice President was coming to sort of do a slam-down or something on President Musharraf. That's not true, and that was confirmed by a senior administration official earlier today.

I think the important thing is that here you have two committed allies in the war on terror. There have been more al Qaeda killed in Pakistan than anywhere else. That is a problem for the President -- President Musharraf. He understands it. He has taken significant action. And, obviously, we need to continue improving the ability both of the Pakistanis and the Afghans to go after terrorist elements.

But this is -- it's very important to do this in the proper spirit, which is working together. There is no doubt that President Musharraf knows that it's important and wants to be dealing effectively with al Qaeda, and these are conversations about not only doing that, but understanding that when it comes to the war on terror in that particular region, you really have three parties involved -- you have the United States, you have the Pakistanis, and you have the Afghans, and it all works together. The Pakistanis and Afghans certainly have a shared interest in al Qaeda and the Taliban and also what happens in those border areas. And the Vice President, quite properly, was talking about ways forward with all parties.

Q Just real quick -- I know it's early, but is it believed that this was an al Qaeda attack?

MR. SNOW: It's too early to tell. Taliban has taken some -- apparently the Taliban has taken some credit, but I think you just have to let investigators sift through it and find out what they can.

Q Picking up on the proper spirit, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States said that actually the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is strained right now -- his words -- everything isn't hunky-dory.

MR. SNOW: I'll let you direct any questions to him. It's a vital relationship, and this --

Q Is there a rift right now between the U.S. and Pakistan?

MR. SNOW: No. No. But it is -- these are tough issues. These are very tough issues, and you have to work through them together. So, no, I would not apply that label to it. There's certainly not --

Q Why do you think he would?

MR. SNOW: Why don't you ask him?

Q I did. He told me that.

MR. SNOW: And when he said -- and when you asked him why he said it, he said what?

Q He said that too many things are being asked of Pakistan by this administration that they -- the thought is that there is not enough belief in how Pakistan is pursuing terrorism.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I think -- we certainly believe that the Pakistanis are fully committed, and they have made that point publicly, before and after the Vice President's visit there. And the Vice President, again, I think it's safe to say, had a productive set of conversations with President Musharraf.

Q Why do we take issue with the way -- the narrative that has come forth in the last couple of days? You practically repeated it, that basically we went in to tell them how we felt and what we wanted -- we wanted them to shape up.

MR. SNOW: I don't think I've repeated it. I think what I've tried to say is, you've got a war on terror, and it is very important to consult as extensively as possible with important allies. Now, we are getting to a period where every year you've got a spring offensive in that part of the world -- it's about time for that -- and this is a very good time to start looking ahead and working with all parties to try to use it as another opportunity to strike back at the Taliban and al Qaeda, and to continue efforts to disable them, and to allow the democratic government of Afghanistan to become stronger economically, diplomatically, and in terms of its security. So that remains a real area of emphasis for all parties involved.

Q Tony, can I just follow up? I just want to give you the verbatim, since you asked. He says, "It's going through a rough time." And I say, "What's going through a rough time?" He said, "The relationship between this country and my country, because I hear so many voices that you're not doing enough."

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not -- again, I don't know if he's referring to media accounts; I don't know exactly what -- no, I don't know what he's referring to, Jim.

Q He's not. He's referring to what he's hearing from --

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm telling you that our view is that Pakistan is an essential ally who we're continuing to work with. And we're working to support them because both parties understand how vital it is not only to fight the Taliban, but al Qaeda.

Q That doesn't answer his question.

MR. SNOW: Well, I know, but he's asking me to respond to something for which I do not know the full context. I'm giving you what I can.

A couple more. We'll stay on this topic, and then we'll go to Iraq.

Q Tony, no matter who was responsible for this, to what extent does it underscore the very reason that the Vice President was sent there to begin with?

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure -- again, it's -- I don't think -- Peter, I don't know. It's an interesting -- again, the Vice President was there to consult with allies in the war on terror. Now, to the extent that there are elements within the war on terror that depend on isolated acts of violence that are designed to kill indiscriminately and attract worldwide media attention, I suppose it is reflective of that. But on the other hand, you also do have organized elements of Taliban and al Qaeda that one needs to deal with. So I don't know exactly how you -- I don't even know a good metric for figuring out precisely how that fits into the equation.

Q Well, wasn't one of the main reasons he was sent there because of the concern about the spring offensive, about the already ongoing upsurge in violence, and this is emblematic of it?

MR. SNOW: Well, perhaps, again, everybody is leaping to conclusions -- and I can see how you would do it. I'm just being more cautious, because at this point we don't have a whole lot of detail on the whys and wherefores of what took place today. Having said that, it is clear that you've got the Taliban attempting to assert itself. Let me remind you that when it did so last year, NATO forces -- we went through this when we were talking in the briefing room about it, because they were trying to test NATO forces, and the NATO forces were very successful in inflicting real damage on the Taliban. So there's a lot of talk right now emanating from some of those circles, but the fact is that the allies are getting ready, and they're going to fight successfully against them.

Q Tony, why take the risk of sending the Vice President to a war zone at all? What is the value of doing that? Why do you need to do that?

MR. SNOW: The President went to a war zone too, to meet with Prime Minister Maliki. The point is that we have sent the Secretary of State into a war zone. We've sent a number of people into a war zone. We continue to send officials -- congressional delegations go there on a regular basis.

Q But why specifically was it thought that Cheney should be sent on this particular mission?

MR. SNOW: The President asked him. I don't know if the President sat down with a face book full of people, and said, hmm, Cheney -- the fact is that the Vice President is a key and valued advisor to the President, and furthermore, he is somebody who always gives his honest assessments of what's going on, and gives them to the President and to no one else.

Q Was there any consideration of not staying overnight, since that wasn't scheduled? Was there ever any thought perhaps of not being --

MR. SNOW: Well, it would have meant not having the session with the Prime Minister -- I mean, with the President. Again, you had a weather problem yesterday that prohibited the trip, and he was determined to make the trip. As far as logistics on that, you're going to have to refer to Air Force Two or to the Vice President's office when they return.

Q Tony, this morning President, at the State Department, had again strong message against terror for the Taliban and al Qaeda, speaking on the global war on terrorism during the swearing-in ceremony for Deputy Secretary of State. You think, as far as this bombing is concerned, because Vice President had a strong message in the area against -- for Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, you think that that maybe prompted --

MR. SNOW: Again, everybody -- look, let's find out what happened. I can have all sorts of theories about what happened, but I don't have any facts for you. And I'd rather not theorize, especially in the absence of good, hard, investigative fact.

Q Was there any suggestion in advance of this bombing among intelligence officials that something was going to happen? In other words, did we pick up anything about it before it happened?

MR. SNOW: I don't know, and even if I did, it wouldn't be appropriate to share any kind of intelligence conclusions.

Q Tony, on this investigation, what is the expectation of facts -- getting the facts? And this administration has been having a lot of problems getting information in fighting the extremists and terrorists.

MR. SNOW: You're really talking what amounts to a police investigation of a crime incident. I don't think that's -- what you're doing, April, is comparing apples and oranges with intelligence estimates and a crime scene investigation.

Q You're saying investigation, but the thought is within -- well, the thought is terrorists --

MR. SNOW: Well, it's pretty clear it was a terrorist.

Q Right, but to actually pinpoint who, why and how, do you really think that you're going to be getting --

MR. SNOW: I don't know. Honestly, I don't know. We just have to find out what people can discover.

Ed, I jumped past you. Did you have --

Q I wanted to talk Iraq, so --

MR. SNOW: Okay, is everybody -- okay, we've got a few more on this. Go ahead.

Q If the administration believes that al Qaeda and the Taliban are operating in these regions, Pakistan can't or won't do more, why not just send the U.S. military in to take care of it?

MR. SNOW: I quarrel with -- you said, if Pakistan is unwilling or unable to do more. I think the Pakistanis have indicated that they want to do more and they are going to do more.

Q Should the U.S. be doing more?

MR. SNOW: Well, we do -- again, the United States understands that Pakistan is a sovereign government, and you work with that sovereign government to be helpful. And we will certainly do that. But on the other hand, so we'll do what we can to assist the Pakistanis, and I'll leave it at that.

Q Does the President feel the debate in Washington about withdrawing troops from Iraq affects the standing of Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, and his willingness to give -- take a tough stance against the Taliban and the tribes that --

MR. SNOW: No, I think the President believes that if the United States were to withdraw, that that would have a real and dramatic impact on the faith of the Karzai government and others in the region about the reliability and fidelity of the United States, and it would raise real concerns if that were to take place.

Q This conference that -- the Prime Minister of Iraq announced, will the United States hold any bilateral meetings with Iran and Syria during these --

MR. SNOW: Well, these are meetings that are being put together -- first you have a sub-ministerial meeting that's going to take place at the first half of next month. And we are -- first, we're happy that the government of Iraq is taking this step and engaging its neighbors. And we also hope and expect that Iran and Syria will play constructive roles in those talks.

But this is one where the agenda is being set up by the government of Iraq, and the conditions especially for bilateral conversations with the Iranians are pretty clear. The P5 plus one have put together a series of offers to the Iranian government, and it knows that if it takes certain steps, then conversations will follow.

But in this particular case, what we're really talking about is a series of meetings -- first a sub-ministerial-level meeting, probably followed up at some later juncture, we think, by a minister-level meeting that we hope is going to be a constructive and regional effort to try to help the democratic government of Iraq.

Q Thanks, Tony. Republicans have been saying that John Murtha's plan, restrictions on war funding, is a slow-bleed strategy. Murtha responded in the Wall Street Journal today saying, "It's not me that bleeds the troops; it's the President who's bleeding the military by over-deploying them." Pretty heavy charge, and I wanted to give you a chance to respond.

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure exactly what he means. The fact is that we understand that -- the forces that we have in place have been doing heroic duty. We also believe that it is important to expand the end strength both of the Army and the Marines, and that's what we're doing. And we hope that Congressman Murtha is going to help us on that.

Furthermore, what you have seen, actually, is a nimbleness, when it comes to trying to do force protection, I think probably unprecedented in a time of warfare -- we're on the fifth generation of armor for our vehicles -- and that we continue to do everything we can to make sure that we continue to field the most capable, most motivated military in the history of the world.

Q When you say the military is still nimble now -- how does that square with what General Pace said in his report to Congress, this new report, where he basically says there is an increased risk to the United States now, essentially because the military is stretched thin?

MR. SNOW: Well, no, that's -- he also says we still have the capability of fighting yet another war if that is necessary. What he's really referring to is the importance of building up greater end strength, which is one of the reasons why we've done that. But what he has not said is that we lack the capability to succeed in Iraq or Afghanistan. I think he would strenuously disagree with that. It is simply an assessment of, if you had what you think you'd really like and what you consider absolutely necessary in the long run, do you want more? And the answer is, yes. And we believe that's necessary, and that is why that is part of the recommendation that the President has put together for this.

Q The Washington Post reported Friday that according to Army officials, virtually all of the U.S.-based Army combat brigades are rated right now as unready to deploy. So when you say have improved end strength --

MR. SNOW: Well, it's -- this gets you into part of the jargon. What happens is that if you also ask the commanders, when the time comes for deployment will you have readiness, and the answer is, yes. A lot of that has to do with whether the equipment is here or in theater -- the equipment is in theater for the most part -- no reason to sort of take stuff out and then put it back in. We're also in the process of seeking funding to continue to improve and replenish equipment. So the really important question is, do you send any forces into battle that are not fully ready, and the answer is, no.

Q Thanks, Tony. On international broadcasting -- does President Bush approve of the major language cuts? Cutbacks proposed on Voice of America Radio, Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia, at a time the U.S. is working hard to spread its message across the world, their total international broadcasting bill is under $1 billion for the year.

MR. SNOW: Connie, this does fall into those "please give me a head's up before you ask" --

Q I did.

MR. SNOW: Okay, I'm sorry, I did not see that one. That came today?

Q No, three days ago.

MR. SNOW: Oh, okay. Well, I was in North Carolina at the time, I apologize.

Q Could you perhaps look into it?

MR. SNOW: Yes. But, I mean, if you're responding to a budget -- something that's in the federal budget, he certainly supports the budget that he presented to Congress.

Q But it's the overall concept of cutting international broadcasting --

MR. SNOW: I understand. You're trying to engage me in a debate about this, and I'll get some information. You can ask me at a subsequent briefing.


Q Tony, thank you. Two questions. The President is well-known to be a devout Christian, so I presume he will not evade the question -- how does he feel about the Titanic director's claim of discovering the allegedly permanent burial site of the Gospel-reported resurrected Christ, together with alleged Jesus, wife and son?

MR. SNOW: I hope that you will not consider this un-Christian of me, Les, but I am sure that he probably has not spent a moment thinking about that.

Q Okay. Second: Last night, CNN featured the President of the White House Correspondents Association saying of Helen Thomas, "We love her and will take care of her." But CNN also reported that in order to accommodate one more network on row one, Helen, our senior-to-all colleague, is to be relegated to row two when we move back into the White House press room. And my question: Assuming that CNN is accurate, how can you allow this dean of our corps, senior veteran and undeniably colorful character -- (laughter) -- to be back-seated, as has been done to her at presidential press conferences? And what does this say about Bush-Snow treatment of senior citizens who wonder how you and the President would allow networks such ageist favoritism over a veteran?

MS. THOMAS: I swear I didn't put him up to --

MR. SNOW: Okay, well let me -- this is about a --

MS. THOMAS: I never could think of his question in a million years.

MR. SNOW: This is about a thousand-part question, so let me parse it, Les. Number one, of course, we love Helen. Number two, the White House does not make decisions about where people sit, so you can address that to the Correspondents Association. And number three, regardless of the seating arrangement, you'll still be looking at the back of her head. (Laughter.)

Q That's an evasion, Tony. Why do you allow this? Why do you and the President allow this discrimination against a senior citizen who is our senior reporter?

MS. THOMAS: I don't need to be defended, thank you very much.

MR. SNOW: I'm afraid you need to confront Steve Scully in the hallway.

Q -- last Friday, Tony did a great job here at the podium. And also, you were great at the National Press Club.

MR. SNOW: Well, thank you. Let's -- okay, let's -- yes.

Q Does the White House have any reaction to -- mortar attack in Sri Lanka this morning?

MR. SNOW: I'm sure that we obviously -- I don't know anything about the event, but the obvious answer is that we always pray for somebody's health and safety. But, no, I don't have anything for you.

Q -- reported there are going to be a series of -- relationship between the U.S. and North Korea soon. Can you comment on that?

MR. SNOW: No. Again, the six-party talks have laid out the series of steps. One of the working groups has to do with U.S.-North Korean bilateral relations, but I am unaware of any imminent establishment of diplomatic relations. That is something the parties are going to have to work out at the table.


Q On global warming. Five western states yesterday announced a regional carbon trading system they plan to support, and you have a growing number of energy trade associations and the energy industry itself calling for mandatory limits, in the absence of federal legislation. Does the White House support the states and private sector doing this on their own?

MR. SNOW: We have no -- they're free to do what they want. It's a little unclear what the five states are doing, but the President has made it clear that he believes in cleaning the environment. He thinks that global warming exists. He thinks that we need to mitigate it. He has put together a 20-in-10 proposal that has -- that will lead to very significant reductions in vehicular C02 emissions. He also believes that you can have your clean air without having to put a crimp on the economy. And as a matter of fact, a cleaner environment can be and should be consistent with robust economic growth. And that's the way we've been approaching it. If people think that they have innovative new ways to do it, it's going to create some opportunities out there for folks to perform services that a lot of people want to see.

We're at a point in our economy, Paula, and we've been here for quite a while, where cleaner water and cleaner air are, in fact, things that people desire. And there are any number of industries right now that are profiting handsomely from that desire. And what you want to do to the best extent possible is to unleash people's creative abilities, so that they can train their energies on a problem like that, and try to deal with it.

Q May I just ask one follow-up? You talk about economic impact, but several members of the energy industry who want to have -- to influence policy in this area have said mandatory limits are inevitable, and they want to weigh in, basically for business opportunity.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, what you're talking about is somebody who thinks something is inevitable. I don't know if it's inevitable, or not. We do believe that -- we are heartened by some of the conversations we've been having with members of Congress about the President's energy proposal, which really does provide for a cleaner environment and more energy. And we'll continue to look -- we're open to any and all suggestions. But at this point, the President's policy, which is very ambitious, has been laid out for this year, and we certainly hope Congress will adopt it.

Q Thanks, Tony. I have a Syria question, if I may. The Syrian ambassador was summoned to the State Department a couple of weeks ago for talks with -- officials there about the issue of Iraqi refugees in Syria and elsewhere in the region. The position that the Syrians are taking on this is that they're not interested -- this is the by-product of U.S. policy in the region -- they're not interested in talking about the by-product, they're interested in talking about the policy itself towards Syria and the role that Syria may play in Iraq. How anxious are you, at this particular point in the game, to talk to the Syrians about bilateral relations --

MR. SNOW: Well, we have bilateral relations. We have diplomatic relations with the Syrians. Our problem with the Syrians has been that there has -- they have continued to be supporters of terrorist organizations, providing shelter in Damascus for any number of terrorist organizations. And we think that -- support for Hamas and Hezbollah, among others -- we understand, of course, there is a Hezbollah presence within the government, but terrorist activities on the part of those organizations are things that this government does not support. But we have made it clear, as with the Iranians, that there is a way forward, but it's based on performance.

Q What sort of role, Tony, would you like the Syrians to play at this particular point in time, especially in the runup to this conference on Iran?

MR. SNOW: I'm only going to give you the general boilerplate answer, because that is the kind of diplomatic question that is best posed and answered in conversations between senior diplomats. But we want them to play a constructive role.

Q And you're going to attend this regional conference if it takes place?

MR. SNOW: Yes, we've already said. The United States has been invited -- we've always said if we are to be invited, we will attend. Again, the first will be at a sub-ministerial level, but we do intend to attend. And if there is a follow-up, the same would be the case, again, if the Iraqis invited us.

Q Who is sub-minister -- what is that? Is that ambassador or what is that, exactly?

MR. SNOW: I don't want to -- that would certainly be one description. I'm not exactly sure how they're going to define it.

Q What would be the purpose of it, do you know?

MR. SNOW: Yes, it's a regional conference. It's designed, again, to work on issues of mutual interest, which would be security, economics. The Iraqis, themselves, will be putting together the agenda, but economics, trade, security relations, all of those -- diplomatic relations -- all of those are going to fit under the umbrella --

Q Refugees?

MR. SNOW: I suspect refugees also would be part of it.

Q Would the U.S. be able to raise these concerns about Iranian IEDs in Iraq at this conference?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, only if that came up in the context of the security conversations. Again, the Iraqis are doing it.

Jim, the first one, I believe, is -- I believe -- there's not been a full, formal announcement, although the Prime Minister did acknowledge it -- I think the first one would be in Baghdad.

All right, thank you.

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