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Posted: Mar 4 2007, 06:45 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 3, 2007
Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel and FEMA Director David Paulison
Aboard Air Force One
En route Alabama
8:28 A.M. EST
MR. STANZEL: Good morning, everybody. Thank you all for being here. Just wanted to talk with you a little bit about the President's day.
As you know, the President is traveling to Enterprise, Alabama. He'll receive a briefing from local officials and meet with some local families that have been impacted by the storms there. Then we'll continue on to Americus, Georgia, where he'll also have a briefing with local officials.
We'll be taking the helicopter between the two locations, so as we get there and as we arrive in both communities, we'll have an opportunity to take an aerial view of the damage, as well.
I'm joined here today by FEMA Director David Paulison. So he'll talk with you a little bit about the partnership that we have with state and locals, and give you a sense of the federal government's activities in response to this storm.
So, Director Paulison.
DIRECTOR PAULISON: The President and I are coming down to get some firsthand look at the damage. We've had teams on the ground just a few hours after the storms. But this truly is a partnership with the local community and the state and the federal government. That's the new FEMA.
The system we used in the past, waiting for a local community to become overwhelmed before the state steps in, waiting for the state to become overwhelmed before the federal government steps in, doesn't work. We have to go in as partners, so that's what we're going to be doing.
As soon as the hurricanes hit -- I'm sorry, the tornadoes hit, I was on the phone with the State Emergency Manager, Bruce Baughman -- what do you need, what can we do? So we started moving equipment, supplies, food, water, ice, and communications equipment in immediately, even before -- the Governor had not even asked for the declaration at that time. We were right by their side.
We're doing preliminary damage assessments in Alabama; they're almost completed. And this morning we'll start preliminary damage assessments in Georgia to get a good handle exactly what the damage is and where it is.
We moved in -- like I said earlier, we moved truckloads of water, truckloads of ice, truckloads of blue tarps, plastic sheeting, communications equipment to make sure that the state has everything it needs to take care of those residents whose homes were damaged.
Q Do you get assurances from the people on the scene that the President's visit doesn't in any way interfere with the relief and recovery efforts?
DIRECTOR PAULISON: Absolutely. The first -- what we do is call, call the State Emergency Manager, if we come down, is that going to interfere with what you're doing. And the answer is, absolutely not, we want you here; we want to show you personally where the damage is. It's important that I see it, because we have decisions to make about whether there's going to be declarations signed or not. The President wants to see it personally, and the local community and the state has said, absolutely, we want you to come down and see this.
Q And what have you heard from your preliminary assessment so far in Alabama? What do the figures look like?
DIRECTOR PAULISON: What we've seen so far is -- now, they're not complete yet, but it looks like Coffee County is the heaviest damage. That's where Enterprise is. That's the bulk of the damaged homes, and that's what we're focusing on today. The others are not as damaged. Some of the damage on the coastline were vacation homes, but when you get back inside closer to Enterprise, they're the homes people lived in, and that's where the focus is. And of course, the school is totally damaged, also.
Q Will you be using this visit to determine whether or not to declare a disaster, or determine a certain level of federal aid? What are you looking for?
DIRECTOR PAULISON: That's why we're down here now. That's why we're doing these preliminary damage assessments with the teams, to see what kind of damage is, and see, does it overwhelm the state. And that's the main priority -- is the damage significant enough that it overwhelms the local and state capabilities to handle it without federal assistance.
Q What's your best guess on that, is it significant enough?
DIRECTOR PAULISON: Well, we're processing the declaration now. Again, that's why I'm coming down. I want to see it firsthand because I have to make the recommendation to the President.
Q But there's no doubt these people will be getting federal assistance, the communities that were hit, right?
DIRECTOR PAULISON: That's not been determined yet.
DIRECTOR PAULISON: Yes. It has to be -- again, the damage has to overwhelm the local and state community, and that's why we're looking -- that's why I have teams on the ground. I have 14 teams down here doing home inspections, looking at the public assistance piece of it, what public infrastructures were destroyed, what single family homes were destroyed, what kind of businesses were destroyed.
MR. STANZEL: Any other questions?
Q Is there a monetary threshold when you say, does the damage overwhelm the state? What is the monetary threshold?
DIRECTOR PAULISON: It depends on the state, it depends on the amount of insurance. For example, if you had an area of 100 percent homeowners insurance, there would be no reason for the federal government to step in, because we can't duplicate benefits. So it's a combination of monetary damage, a combination of number of homes destroyed, and a combination of the impact on the community. It's a whole complicated formula that goes into us making a decision to make a recommendation to the President for a declaration.
Q And when would you expect a recommendation to be final? How soon?
DIRECTOR PAULISON: We should be able to do this fairly quickly, because I'm coming down personally to see it.
MR. STANZEL: All right, thank you all.
Posted: Mar 5 2007, 06:47 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 5, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:02 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: The briefing is in order. Questions.
Q My goodness, where is everybody? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: You guys have been -- you've been briefing -- I know, we've got the answer to briefing fatigue.
Please, questions. Anybody. Victoria?
Q Is it something the President should do, as Commander-in-Chief, to say, the buck stops here and take responsibility for the scandal at Walter Reed?
MR. SNOW: Well, in a sense, the President, and also everybody within the chain of command are taking responsibility. It's time to shine a bright light on the entire system and find out where the failings may be, and address them. The people who have served have given us their best; it's time for us to make sure that they get our best when it comes to treatment.
You already have ongoing, I think, very swift and definitive action on the part of the Department of Defense, not only on the personnel side, but the Secretary of Defense has put together a team involving medical professionals, and on a bipartisan basis, to take a look specifically at Walter Reed and Bethesda.
Meanwhile, there's an interagency task force working out of the V.A. to take a look at the entire medical system and the care system for veterans. And the President is putting together also a presidential commission that will take an even broader look at the needs, and also possible future needs.
So we take a very exhaustive look at this. It is very important to figure out what's wrong, and get it fixed. And the President is committed to that.
Q But the President hasn't said in any way, shape, or form, this is my responsibility, this is on me?
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, I'll take the rhetorical flourish under advisement.
Q Tony, how important is the President's upcoming trip to Latin America in countering the growing influence of Hugo Chavez in the region?
MR. SNOW: I think the more important thing is, it underscores America's commitment to the region. And you will hear a lot today, when the President talks, that the United States' commitment is not only economic, but we also think it's important to bring to the people of South and Central America the full benefits of democracy, which include representation, but also the basics: health care, help with social programs, education, and so on. The United States is committed to doing what we can to make life better, and we have -- again, I'm not going to steal the thunder from the President's speech, but he outlines a lot of that in his address today.
Q But is the White House concerned about the growing -- Chavez's growing influence in the region?
MR. SNOW: Well, there have been a number of cases in which that government has tired to intervene in elections, and so far is batting zero. I think it's more important to, again, extend the blessings of democracy throughout the region and make it clear that the United States is committed not only to the prospect of free elections, but also the follow on, so that you can continue to provide hope and opportunity for people who live in democratic nations.
Q Tony, back on Walter Reed, the V.A. system. Some have said that the V.A. system is a whole other monster all unto itself. Has the President been hearing from anyone particularly, reaching out, making phone calls, and just asking their thoughts or their personal experiences --
MR. SNOW: What the President is really trying to do right now is to assemble people who can devote their full time and attention to an exhaustive look, as I said, to shine light on the system and to take a comprehensive look at what's going on. I'm not aware -- as you know, April, he had a very busy weekend, and he was on the road Thursday and Friday, as well. I'm not aware of any reach out calls to ask people about personal experiences. But on the other hand, what he has been doing is making sure that people take a good look to find out what the situation is -- no excuses, get the facts, get it fixed.
Q But isn't it sad that it takes Walter Reed to go back into the V.A. system that has been a problem for so, so many years?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, that's an editorial comment I'm not willing to make. A couple of things. Number one, this administration has been committed to trying to improve things through the '08 budget that the President has proposed. We're talking about a 77 percent increase in V.A. spending, as well as an 83 percent increase in medical spending for the military. But having said that, the point I made before is, they've given us their best, it's time that we make sure we give them our best, when it comes to their care.
Q Tony, we've just come off the weekend where Senators Clinton and Obama generated a lot of news coverage with their trip to Selma. We're sitting here now in practically an empty briefing room. The President has said repeatedly that he believes he has the microphone still. But are you concerned that you are losing the microphone, and the President is losing his microphone?
MR. SNOW: No, if you'd come earlier, it was fuller. (Laughter.) The fact is, Sheryl, the President is not losing his microphone. And when you take a look -- whether it is the conduct of the war on terror or domestic policy, the President is the one who is out there with not only a message, but proposals that are going to shape a lot of what goes on in terms of the domestic political debate, and they ought to. They're good ideas, and contrary to the suspicions of some earlier on, he is somebody who has been bold and not cautious in terms of tackling big problems.
And I think you see, again, with what's going on with Walter Reed and the situation there, we are attacking problems boldly because they're not going to go away, whether it be the war on terror, or whether it be health care, education, immigration, energy. And we have had a number of constructive conversations with Democrats and Republicans. Both parties, I think, have not only an obligation, but a vested interest in showing something for their work this year.
I think what you're really talking about is something bright, shiny, and new every time we have a presidential campaign. And reporters are dispatched to look at it and get the local color and speculate and figure out who is ahead and who is behind. CPAC also had its complement of reporters last week. That's part of the pageantry, but while that's going on, there is serious legislative business that is not going to await the campaign trips of various candidates.
Q Tony, back on Chavez, Citgo/Venezuela has a very aggressive TV ad campaign on now where they have lower-income Americans, in effect, thanking Venezuela for the low-cost heating oil that Venezuela is providing. Is that as it seems, or is that some sort of propaganda effort?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to comment on those ads.
Q Tony, Michael Battle, the Director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys is resigning. As you know, this comes in the wake of firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys across the country that Congress is now investigating; some Democrats saying they were fired for political reasons. Is the timing of this resignation now all tied with any --
MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, because you've had conversations with them, no. He's made it known for many months that he's wanted to move on. So it's certainly not news. He's wanted to go the private sector.
Q Can you comment on the investigation into the firing of these eight U.S. Attorneys?
MR. SNOW: No, because that, I think, is being done on Capitol Hill.
Q Tony, two quick questions. The major story this weekend, all over the globe, one is, China's military expansion, and second, immigration. And as far immigration is concerned, President leaves for those countries where U.S. has more than 10 million illegals from those countries, and still coming in this country. And people around the country are worried about the illegals in the future. So what really, again, President's chance on this immigration (inaudible), immigration bill, is it going through? (Inaudible) as he has done in the last six years, he's going to push again in the Democratic Congress --
MR. SNOW: Of course. The President is absolutely committed to comprehensive immigration reform because it's the best way not only to guarantee our security, but also balance against that economic needs and urgencies, and America's long tradition of welcoming people who want to be Americans, who want to experience freedom and make the most of it. So all of those things are very important to him, and he will absolutely proceed.
As far as the Chinese military spending, a high rate of expenditure certainly is concerning some of China's neighbors. It's raising concerns. And it is inconsistent with the policy of peaceful development. But the more important issue for everybody, I think, is to have transparency, budgetary and otherwise, so people can actually see what the situation is.
Q (Inaudible) China's neighbors, it's not right (inaudible), because that's what all that (inaudible) -- that whatever China is doing as far as building nuclear (inaudible), is going to (inaudible) the United States because they are --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into -- again, that gets back into the issue of transparency.
Q Tony, when's the last time the President had any contact with President Maliki?
MR. SNOW: Gordo? It's a good question. We'll find out. Couple of weeks maybe.
Q Is there any sense -- I mean, there's some sort of conflicting pictures coming out of Iraq this morning. On one hand, you have this implementation in Sadr City, more troops and the security plan. On the other hand, there's a story about the intelligence agency in Basra. First of all, what's the, sort of, assessment of how things are going with the implementation?
MR. SNOW: Well, okay, a couple --
Q And is there concern about what you're doing out of Basra?
MR. SNOW: We're still trying to figure out what the facts are. We don't have a full readout on that. If you take a look at what's been going on, the President -- the Prime Minister, I mean, gave a speech over the weekend on reconciliation, which, in fact, hit on all the themes that Democrats, Republicans, and the President have said are important. And he talked about such things as the rule of law and making sure that the law is enforced fairly across the country; reconciliation, he spoke of the oil law; he spoke of going after corruption. So all of those things certainly said the right things.
If you take a look at what's been going on, on the ground in Baghdad and elsewhere, there are encouraging signs. But I want to remind people that we're at the very beginning stages of the new way forward. There's one U.S. brigade in, out of five. The Iraqis have placed three brigades into Baghdad now. The Prime Minister has recently signed off on the orders for Baghdad security. We have seen operations in Shia and Sunni neighborhoods. We have seen some small, but encouraging signs. But, again, one doesn't want to read too much into it.
I think it's important to give everything a chance to work. General Petraeus has been on the ground for about three weeks. So I think for people to start drawing snap conclusions, let's see how things continue to work.
But you may recall, we were talking not so long ago about a series of things that would qualify as benchmarks, such as having three brigades in by the end of February -- it happened. As far as pushing for the oil law, it's now been passed by the Council of Ministers, it goes to the legislature, the Council of Representatives. If you take a look at the way the Iraqis also have reached out within the region, that is a key recommendation of Baker-Hamilton, and something a lot of Democrats and this administration have talked about. We're going to have a meeting in Baghdad on the 10th of March, followed by a ministerial level meeting the following month, in April, that will include Secretary Rice and others.
So, again, a lot of encouraging signs. As you know, I'm hesitant to give out report cards on the Prime Minister, but we have seen many encouraging signs in recent days. But we also acknowledge that we're still at the very beginning of this plan.
Q Is it discouraging, his initial comments about the Basra incident seem to focus on the invasion into the office, as opposed to the apparent torture victims found there?
MR. SNOW: As I said, what you're trying to do is to get me to comment. I'm aware of the news reports, just as you are. What we're still trying to do is to unravel everything, and I feel a little uncomfortable about trying to do it simply on the basis of wire stories.
Q And one last question, I missed this. Has there been a location nailed down for the second meeting in April?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of, no. No, that's still pending.
Q Two questions, one on Walter Reed and the veterans. Is there anything that the President is doing to facilitate immediate improvements in care? I understand there are long-term commissions, but anything to help people who are in need right now?
MR. SNOW: I know what's going on is that there's a full-court press both out of DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs. DoD obviously would have the lead on Walter Reed, and I'd send you in that direction.
Q So nothing the White House knows of?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I'm not saying that. I'm saying what the President said early on is find out what's wrong and fix it. And we have seen quick action. I know that there were some people from DoD who were out there last week, inspecting Unit 18. I just honestly don't know, Jessica, precisely what's been done. But he's made it clear that he wants improvements done, and done quickly.
Q Why did it require media exposure for the President and the administration to act on this?
MR. SNOW: I think what happened was that people weren't aware of it. And that was one of the sources of concern.
Q So none of the letters or the protests that have been expressed by the veterans' families ever reached anyone in a position of power?
MR. SNOW: Well, apparently, what happened was that within the chain of command, things were not getting up high enough and, therefore, weren't acted upon.
Q And the President and the administration wasn't aware of other media reports that came out last year about these issues?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to say that nobody was aware of them, but when the President saw the story in The Post, that was the first he was aware of what was going on in Unit 18. And as I told you the following day, he wanted to know what was wrong and get it fixed.
Q Tony, U.S. forces killed a number of Afghan civilians over the weekend, including 10 who were shot by American troops. Can you tell us -- the Afghan government has condemned it, Karzai, in particular. The U.S. military says it was -- they acted in self-defense. And can you tell us what this says about winning hearts and minds, at a time when the Taliban are resurgent and al Qaeda is regrouping?
MR. SNOW: Yes, a couple of things. First, everything is under review, so I don't want to try to presume. Secondly, there's a real difference between the Taliban, which kills innocent as a matter of policy, and the United States, which abhors the death of any innocent. And that's just -- they're two different approaches. And, frankly, in the battle of hearts and minds, the Taliban already lost that. What they're trying to do, once again, is to use terror to impose their will -- and it's not going to happen.
But it is certainly the case that -- again, I want to make it very clear that any attempt to draw a moral comparison between terrorists who kill innocents as a matter of policy, and the United States, which is trying to save innocents as a matter of policy, is utterly unwarranted. There is no moral parallel between the two.
Q You just draw that parallel; I didn't. But what is the U.S. going to be doing --
MR. SNOW: Well, but it's embedded in the question, when you talk about winning hearts and minds -- when you're saying in winning hearts and minds, it would insinuate that there was something there that would, in fact, constitute a deliberate assault on hearts and minds. So I just -- well, I think a lot of people would construe it that way, so I wanted to make sure that there was no confusion.
Q What will the U.S. do to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening in the future? We've had two major instances --
MR. SNOW: In a time of war you can never fully -- if somebody tries to hold innocent civilians, put them in harm's way, it's very difficult to at all times avoid unfortunate circumstances. But, look, again, we're still studying it. So what you're asking me to do is to give you a detailed explanation of what happened and how one would fix it in the future, and I'm not in a position to do it.
Q Tony, just as a brief follow on that, has the President and Karzai, have they communicated on this, talked about this at all?
MR. SNOW: I don't believe -- no, no direct conversation. Again, look, when things like this happen, there is always immediate diplomatic contact.
Q Tony, maybe you commented on this already, but I saw the mention several times over the weekend that this line of analysis about Walter Reed, that the administration can't afford another Katrina, and that Walter Reed is viewed as if it is another potential Katrina.
MR. SNOW: I think that was done by a polemical columnist, but I don't see any parallel. Here you have a very rapid and definitive response on the part of the Department of Defense; you have a very rapid and definitive response on the part of the White House and the V.A. No comparison.
Q Is the "rapid and definitive" response, in some part, out of the memory of what happened when there wasn't a rapid and definitive response?
MR. SNOW: No. It's out of being concerned and alarmed by the reporting.
Q But, Tony, the reason there's no comparison is that Katrina was a natural disaster, whereas this situation at Walter Reed is something over which the administration had control. And it would suggest there was incompetence or, you know, not --
MR. SNOW: And what did you see -- and you saw the immediate holding of people accountable. Again, Sheryl, the first the President saw of that was in the pages of The Post. And that set in train without having to -- the President didn't have to call Bob Gates, people in the higher levels of the chain of command were not aware of it and that is a failing of the system.
Q But doesn't it speak to the larger level of incompetence --
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so.
Q -- or a failing of the system, that it happened on the President's watch?
MR. SNOW: It is failures within the system that led to this. But I would also caution you against having wholesale indictments of a system that has saved many, many lives. There has been an extraordinary improvement in the quality of military medicine during the course of this conflict that has saved lives that otherwise would have been lost, and dedicated people -- look, I go to Walter Reed. I get my regular cancer checkups there. These are people who are really devoted to what they do. And so I would strongly caution against trying to use the broad brush of "incompetence." What we're talking about at this point is outpatient care. We're also talking about administrative problems.
But there is also, I think -- and I would direct you to V.A., because I know they've done some analysis of this, in terms of the levels of satisfaction with care -- but the fact is, look, as long as you have one of these cases, it's too much. But, again, I would just warn against trying to do a broad and sweeping allegation of incompetence based on this. It is simply something that -- but on the other hand, it is utterly unacceptable.
Q Tony, there was a front page story about a lack of a Plan B for the Baghdad security plan. Is there a Plan B?
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: Plan A is barely underway. And it is always -- the idea that the administration would talk freely about a Plan B is -- it's silly. But you also know, as you have long experience with the Pentagon -- that people have lots of plans, and continue to plan for every imaginable contingency. But as Secretary Rice said, the real secret right now is making Plan A work. And Plan A is -- we've got about 15 percent of the troop complement on the ground. As I said, we have seen encouraging signs, but there's a lot of work yet to do. And before people start casting about for Plan B, Plan A first has to be implemented.
Q Just to follow up, since you know Walter Reed very well, and since thousands more wounded warriors are coming into Walter Reed, have you or the President discussed changing plans to close down Walter Reed?
MR. SNOW: I am aware of no -- I certainly haven't discussed it with the President. It is important to try to figure out how to provide the most effective care for all veterans. I am simply not going to get into the debate about facilities and BRAC decisions. But the point is we remain committed to first-class care for everybody.
Q Change of subject, immigration. I wanted to just do a spot check, based on discussions on the Hill. Does the President still believe that the guest worker program has to include a path to citizenship to be effective to work?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, the way the guest worker program operates is there's a path to citizenship -- the path to citizenship and the guest worker program are separate items. The guest worker program is something in which people would come here for a specified stay, and they would return. They wouldn't bring family members; you'd have workers coming, being matched for jobs that Americans are not taking, and after a specified time, return. If they decided that they wanted to become citizens, then they would go through the regular process of trying to get green cards, and so on.
The path to citizenship -- I think you're referring to trying to figure out how to deal with 12 million people who are here illegally and coming up with some sensible way of dealing with the problem, knowing that you are not in a position to kick them all out, nor does it make any sense to ignore the fact that they're here as a result of having broken a law.
And what the President has proposed is a way of acknowledging the rule of law by requiring those who have gotten here illegally, effectively, to acknowledge it by paying penalties, and also, at the same time, going to the very back of the line when it comes to immigration -- I mean citizenship -- should they want to apply for it, and during that time, have to maintain continuous employment, good behavior and mastery of the English language.
Q Following up on that, Tony, if I may, really quickly. The President will talk about, I assume, defense with President Calderon during the trip --
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure precisely what it is. I'd refer you back to Steve Hadley's briefing. He gave that to you about an hour ago.
Q Okay. Let me also follow up, then, on the V.A. Is it your expectation that there may be more big fish, if you will, to fall in the wake of this particular circumstance?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. Our primary concern is to make sure the system gets fixed. I don't know if that implies that there are going to be other personnel changes, or not. I know that makes for, sort of, saucier reporting, but it's much better to get into the real and important business of ensuring that the people who have risked their lives and have been wounded in service to their country receive first-class treatment from the moment they're in, through the rest of their lives. That's what they're promised; that's what they deserve.
Les, and then in the back.
Q Thank you, Tony. The New York Times reports this morning that yesterday, in Selma, Mrs. Clinton recalled going as a teenager to hear Dr. King speak in Chicago in 1963, but she made no mention at all of what is in her autobiography, that in 1964, she campaigned as a Goldwater Girl, and Senator Goldwater opposed the '64 Civil Rights Act. And my question: The President believes she surely should have admitted this at Selma yesterday, doesn't he?
MR. SNOW: Oh, please don't waste my time with this silly stuff. I've already told you we're not commenting --
Q It's not silly stuff, that --
MR. SNOW: Yes, it is.
Q -- was from The New York Times. Do you think that's a silly paper?
MR. SNOW: Yes, it's a silly question because we have told you the President is not going to play pundit-in-chief. As much as you want to go --
Q -- just want to know where he stands on this.
MR. SNOW: As much as you want to goad me into doing judgments about Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, it's not going to happen. So don't blow one of your questions by asking something you know I'm not going to answer.
Q Well, let me ask you about another one, not Obama or -- the AP reported that Bill Clinton's induction yesterday into Selma's Voting Rights Hall of Fame -- do you, Tony, know of any record that, in March of '65, when 18-year-old Bill Clinton -- that he participated in the Selma march with those of us who did, and who came from a lot further away than either Arkansas or Georgetown?
MR. SNOW: I'm unaware.
Q You're unaware.
MR. SNOW: Paula.
Q The Employee Free Choice Act is under consideration; the White House has put out a veto threat based on the secret ballot provision.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q But those who support the bill have said that the current system allows employers to intimidate anyone that wants to join a union, and threaten relocation. Does the administration dispute that --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into that, simply because what you're asking -- if you've got specific instances you want to bring up, we'll be happy to refer you to the NLRB. That sort of activity, as you know, is illegal.
On the other hand, a secret ballot has always been a hallmark for protecting people's civil rights, as you know, and why people who are in the process of trying to decide whether to join labor unions would be denied that, is peculiar, and it is -- it's one of the reasons why this administration, the senior officials, have recommended a presidential veto if that provision carries forth.
Q Tony, real quickly, can you describe the process as the Secretary of Defense is making personnel changes related to responsibility at Walter Reed? How is he working with the White House to either fly those by him, choose the replacements --
MR. SNOW: We place a lot -- the President places a great deal of trust in Bob Gates. I am not aware that this is something where he does a flyer. I think he informs the President about what he's going to do. But this is my acting on instinct, rather than on direct knowledge. I have not been in on any meetings. It's not my understanding that it works in that way. Bob Gates was selected as Secretary of Defense in part because of his no-nonsense manner and also because of his managerial abilities, and we've seen both of those in evidence recently.
Q Thank you, Tony.
Q On North Korea, U.S.A.-North Korea will discuss normalization of relationship between U.S. and North Korea in New York today. Would you be more specific to tell us that normalization (inaudible)?
MR. SNOW: No. What's going on is within the context of the six-party talks, there are five different working groups, two of them involve normalization -- one with Japan, one with the United States -- and this is the first meeting under the six-party agreement that was signed off on a couple of weeks ago.
Q Thank you.
Posted: Mar 5 2007, 06:50 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 5, 2007
Press Briefing on the President's Trip to Latin America
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
10:44 A.M. EST
MR. HADLEY: Good morning. In a few hours the President will deliver remarks in advance of his upcoming trip to Latin America. In his speech today, the President will announce new initiatives to benefit the people of Latin America. He will announce additional money to be committed for better health care in the Americas, an innovative education initiative to benefit disadvantaged youth, and initiatives to make it easier to start and grow small businesses, and help lower-income citizens of Latin America be able to purchase a home.
Latin America has made great political and economic progress in the last several decades. It is a region now firmly committed to democracy. Some 34 members of the Organization of American States have democratic constitutions. And only one member country lives under a leader not of his people's choosing.
It is a region that has seen rapid economic growth. Real GDP growth for Latin America and the Caribbean is estimated at 5.3 percent for 2006. This is the fourth year of consecutive growth that averaged around 4 percent. Life expectancy is up, infant mortality is down, and overall development has improved.
But the benefits of democracy, free markets and economic integration have been slow in reaching many in the region, especially the poor, the disadvantaged and the indigenous. Poverty, inequality and social exclusion in the Americas is unacceptably high. The result is that an estimated one in four in Lain America live on $2 a day, or less. Too many have inadequate access to education, health care, and housing and jobs. And the President is committed to further efforts to address these issues.
The President in his speech will outline ways we are helping democracies in the Americas to do three things: provide government institutions that all sectors of society, especially the poor and marginalized, can trust; better deliver basic social services, like education and health care, to all the people of the region; and assist in creating economic conditions that give ordinary men and women a chance to escape from poverty and to rise in society.
Some of this work government can do. Since taking office, the President has doubled U.S. foreign assistance to Latin America, to about $1.6 billion per year. This includes development assistance, military assistance, and narcotic assistance.
Latin America is also an important focus for the Millennium Challenge Account Initiative, which provides increased aid to governments committed to governing justly, fighting corruption, investing in the education and health of their citizens, and helping lift people out of poverty through the power of free markets and free trade.
The President will also highlight the extensive interaction outside the orbit of government between the United States and Latin America. Government-to-government programs are only a small portion of the societal, cultural and familial interaction that occurs between the citizens of the United States and our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This private interaction dwarfs everything else. Let me give you some examples. It includes $45 billion in remittances to the region from the United States each year; $180 billion worth of duty-free exports from Latin America to the United States; and $350 billion in U.S. investment in the region, not including investment in Canada. And this investment contributes to the creation of nearly 2 million jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Private interaction also includes non-government organizations, church groups, local civil associations, and volunteer medical teams. These activities involve literally thousands of private American citizens who give their time and donate their personal funds to help people throughout Latin America.
The President looks forward to highlighting these and other accomplishments in the region, as well as meeting with his partners in Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. He will discuss how we can continue to help the people of Latin America enjoy more opportunities for employment, quality health care, a solid education, better housing and secure, reliable energy resources.
With that introduction, let me outline the trip day-by-day. On Thursday, March 8, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Andrews Air Force en route S o Paulo, Brazil. They will arrive in Brazil on Thursday evening.
On Friday, March 9, the President will participate in an event for employees of the U.S. Consulate in S o Paulo. Later that morning, the President will participate in a tour and briefing on biofuel technology. The event will highlight Brazil's outstanding progress in developing and industrializing this technology.
That afternoon -- still Friday, March 9 -- the President will meet with President Lula of Brazil. They will have lunch, and both Presidents will then participate in a joint press availability. The two leaders will discuss exploring ways to deepen the U.S.-Brazil relationship, including working together to strengthen democracy and international economic cooperation, and to develop alternative energy sources.
I want to note that President and Mrs. Bush will host President Lula and Mrs. da Silva at the end of March, at Camp David. This will be the first time a Latin American leader has been at Camp David since 1991.
Late that afternoon on Friday, March 9, the President will participate in a community roundtable at the Meninos do Morumbi Community Center. The center is located in a S o Paulo neighborhood where very rich and very poor live close together. That visit will highlight programs to give poor and disadvantaged youth new opportunities.
That evening, the President and Mrs. Bush depart Brazil en route Montevideo, Uruguay.
On Saturday, March 10, in Montevideo, the President will participate in an event for embassy staff and families. Following the U.S. Embassy event, the President will meet with the President of Uruguay. The meeting with President V zquez will be in Anchorena Park. This is Uruguay's official presidential retreat -- their Camp David, if you will. Following their meeting, the two leaders will host a joint press availability.
The President and Mrs. V zquez will then host President and Mrs. Bush for a social lunch. Following the lunch, the leaders will tour Anchorena Park, which is both a national park and an example of a quintessential Uruguayan ranch.
Late that afternoon, still Saturday, March 10, the President will participate in a reception for the Uruguayan government and business leaders at the U.S. Ambassador's residence. The President and Mrs. Bush will overnight in Montevideo.
On Sunday, March 11, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Uruguay and travel to Bogot , Colombia. Upon arrival in Colombia, the President and Mrs. Bush will participate in an arrival ceremony at Casa de Nari o. This is the office and official residence of the President of Colombia.
Following the arrival ceremony, the President will meet with President Alvaro Uribe. Following a working lunch, the two leaders will host a joint press availability.
Late that afternoon, Sunday, March 11, the President will meet in a roundtable with a number of Afro-Colombians who have benefited from educational opportunities provided by various U.S. and Colombian programs. Afro-Colombians comprise about a quarter of Colombia's population. Following the roundtable, the President will be briefed on and view products from alternative development programs that provide farmers alternatives to growing illicit crops.
Late that afternoon, Sunday, March 11, the President will participate in an event for U.S. Embassy staff and their families. The event will be at the U.S. Embassy compound.
The President and Mrs. Bush depart Colombia after the embassy greeting, en route to Guatemala City, Guatemala. They spend Sunday night, March 11, in Guatemala City.
On Monday, March 12, in Guatemala, the President and Mrs. Bush will start the day by traveling to Chimaltenango -- it's a department, or state outside Guatemala City. They will first visit a U.S. military medical readiness training exercise, known as a med-ready. This med-ready will consist of 18 U.S. military medical personnel from the U.S.-Virgin Island National Guard. These personnel are providing basic medical care to Guatemala citizens as part of a U.S. Southern Command training exercise that was previously scheduled for Guatemala.
Following the visit to the med-ready, the President and Mrs. Bush will visit Santa Cruz Balanya. They will meet with President Oscar Berger and Mrs. Berger. Santa Cruz is a town of about 10,000, the overwhelming majority of the population being indigenous. The town was founded by a Spanish bishop in 1787. In 1976, a major earthquake devastated much of Guatemala, and Santa Cruz Balanya was completely destroyed. No structures in the town today pre-date 1976. But with assistance from the United States, Canadian, and European governments, the town of Santa Cruz Balanya was able to rebuild.
Just outside that city, the President will visit Labradores Mayas, the Labradores Mayas Packing Station. This is an agricultural cooperative consisting of 66 member organizations that provide jobs for 200 indigenous farmers. Between 2001 and 2006, annual sales from this cooperative increased from $45,000 to $650,000. This cooperative is taking advantage of the breakdown of trade barriers within Central America. It exports its products, for example, to Wal-Mart Central America.
One of the goals of CAFTA, as you remember, is to increase Central American integration. And this is an example of that coming to pass. Another objective is to increase job opportunities for all sectors of Guatemalan society, and this cooperative is an example of that progress in that regard.
Following the event at Labradores Mayas, the President will visit Iximch . These are Mayan ruins. They are the inspiration for the name "Guatemala," derived from "Guatemalan," meaning "land of many trees."
Upon his return to Guatemala City -- still Monday, March 12 -- the President will participate in an arrival ceremony at the National Palace. Following the ceremony, the President will meet with President Berger, and the two leaders will participate in a joint press availability.
The President will end his visit to Guatemala with an event for the staff and families of our embassy, followed by a social dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Berger.
That night, the President and Mrs. Bush will travel to M rida, Mexico.
On Tuesday, March 13, the President will travel from M rida to Hacienda Temoz n to meet with President Calderon of Mexico. The two last met in November, when then President-elect Calderon came to the White House. The site of the meeting, Hacienda Temoz n, was formerly a sisal-producing farm that has been converted into a resort.
After the bilateral meeting, President Calderon and Mrs. Zavala will host the President and Mrs. Bush for a social lunch.
After lunch, the first couples will tour the Uxmal ruins. This is one of the most famous and best preserved Mayan cities and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
That evening -- still Tuesday, March 13 -- the President and Mrs. Bush will be the guests of President Calderon and Mrs. Zavala for a social dinner at Hacienda Xcanatun in M rida. The President and Mrs. Bush will overnight in M rida.
On Wednesday, March 14, the President and President Calderon will participate in a joint press availability. The President will then greet the staff and families of the U.S. Consulate in M rida. Following the consulate event, the President will depart Mexico and return to Andrews Air Force Base. He will be back at the White House late afternoon on Wednesday, March 14.
That's the trip. I'd be glad to take any questions you might have.
Q In Brazil, the President is expected to sign an agreement to help make ethanol more available. Can you talk a little bit about the agreement?
MR. HADLEY: Yes. And the President will talk a little bit about it today. It really has three parts. One is cooperating on the development of ethanol. As you know, the United States and Brazil are the two biggest global producers of ethanol.
Secondly, it's also an effort to, together, encourage greater cooperation in Central America and the Caribbean to promote local biofuels production. Those areas, as you know, are looking for assured energy sources, had been looking at oil. The President's view is there is a real opportunity for that region in biofuels. We want to work with Brazil to try and encourage that direction.
And, finally, the two countries are going to participate in the international biofuels forum. There was a meeting on this just last Friday in New York. It is a forum to try and promote the development of biofuels by focusing on standards and codes and information exchange to, if you will, kind of standardize the industry for biofuels. That's the gist.
Q Will there be discussion of reducing the tariff on importing sugar cane ethanol?
MR. HADLEY: No, the tariff is not under negotiation and we have no intention to propose altering the tariff. That's obviously a congressional matter.
Q One last, can I -- some people have dubbed this an ethanol OPEC that the President is trying to form with Brazil. Is that a fair characterization?
MR. HADLEY: No, it's not about production-sharing, it's about encouraging development and encourage the Caribbean and Central American countries to get into the game, and also to establish a set of standards and the like that will open the industry and standardize the industry, not close it. At this point, it needs to be encouraged to open up and more countries, both producers and consumers, need to get into the game.
Q How much of this is an anti-Chavez tour?
MR. HADLEY: It's really not. The President has had Latin America and the Western Hemisphere, generally, as a priority since he came into office. Gordon provided some numbers for me coming in. This will be his 11th trip in the Western Hemisphere; a couple of those were to Canada. He has had, this year alone [sic],* 20 meetings with hemisphere leaders. He's had over 40 phone calls just this year with heads of state. He has been involved and committed to Latin America throughout his presidency.
It's not gotten the attention it deserves. That's one of the reasons we're doing this trip, to both make it clear to the people of Latin America, really, three things: one, that we are committed through democracy and economic opportunity to help bring the people of Latin America out of poverty; secondly, that we, both the government, our private sector and non-governmental sector, have made an enormous contribution to that; and, third, that we remain committed and have some additional ways of providing initiative to trying to achieve those objectives.
What we want is a partnership with right-thinking governments that are making the right decisions for their people and that are making an effort to develop -- to deliver the benefits of democracy and economic opportunity to their people. That is what this is about.
Q Do you expect the Chavez issue to come up in some of these private talks?
MR. HADLEY: I think there are a range of issues in the hemisphere that will come up. One is the plight of democracy in the hemisphere, which is something that has been an enormous achievement of the last half of the 20th century; it's something we don't want to lose. I'm sure that will be discussed, sure, and other regional issues, of course.
Q Why is the President spending so much time in Uruguay, which is a pretty small, poor country? Can you explain why so much focus on Uruguay?
MR. HADLEY: One, it's a country that has for some time now made right choices. And part of the President's message is that if governments will make right choices, they will have a partner in the United States. And the Uruguayan government is a government that has been making right choices. It is not a political complexion particularly like the current administration in Washington, but President V zquez has led his country, he's making right choices, fighting corruption, providing good government, investing in his people's health and education, and is opening -- encouraging free trade and free markets.
And this is -- the President's message is this is the path to prosperity and a better life in Latin America. Unfortunately, in too many cases, these principles of democracy and free markets have not delivered to the most disadvantaged, and one of the things he wants to talk to those -- those countries whose leaders are committed to the right principles for benefiting their people, how we can work together and get the benefits of democracy and free trade down into the societies, to the most disadvantaged, the indigenous and others.
And President V zquez is a good interlocutor for that purpose.
Q Mr. Hadley, to what extent did the events on 9/11 and the Iraq war and Afghanistan affect the President's original priority, stated in 2001, to make Latin America his top purpose?
MR. HADLEY: I think it's continued to be his top focus, and I hope one of the things you'll get from the speech and from the visit is that it has been a top focus and an area where the United States has made considerable effort.
And, unfortunately, I think a lot of the 9/11 coverage has obscured this. It has also obscured, for example, the President's agenda in Africa, which I won't go through, but in terms of HIV/AIDS and malaria and all the rest, he has a terrific case to be made for what he has done in Africa. I'm afraid one of the casualties of 9/11 and the war on terror is that these things have not been reported and covered as much as they should. That's one of the reasons he's conducting this trip.
Q So you're saying it was under-reported -- why do we hear --
MR. HADLEY: Look, this isn't -- please, this is not a rap on the press. It is just -- I think it has gotten crowded out in the war on terror. I think one of the problems we have in Latin America is that people thought that the American agenda was counter-terror, trade and counter-narcotics. And clearly that is something that is very important, because it is terror, narcotics, that gets in the way, in many ways, of governments being able to act in a non-corrupt way to benefit their people.
And so one of the problems we have in Latin America is that the trade, terrorism, counter-narcotics agenda has caused people not to pay enough attention to the other half of his agenda, which is not just making these areas safer but making them better. And that is the focus on good government, health, education, housing, these things that he'll be talking about today.
So it's something we have not done well enough as getting out the full scope of the President's message. The President said that he wanted to have an initiative and a trip that would showcase the other half of his agenda. He's been wanting that for some time, and we are finally, hopefully, going to deliver.
Q Why do you think that, when we talk to analysts across the political spectrum down there that we hear the world "neglect" so often, in terms of their view of us?
MR. HADLEY: I think it's what I said, I think what they have heard coming from us -- what they have focused on is the terrorism and counter-narcotics, which is something in which we all have an interest, but I think has deflected attention from these other aspects of the President's message, and, as I say, that's why he's giving the speech today, and that's why we're doing this trip, so the people of Latin America understand that this President and this administration stand with them in their efforts to better the lives of their people.
Q I have two questions on two separate issues. First of all, just to pick up on what we're talking about here right now, is there a concern that with a supposed lack of promotion of the U.S. agenda down there that it's left an opening for, sort of, leftist movements and anti-American political movements? And is that part of that concern, that we need to promote --
MR. HADLEY: Well, as you should have gotten from my comments today, we have been pursuing the agenda.
Q Yes, well, the promotion of the agenda.
MR. HADLEY: Well, there's an issue about public promotion, but the agenda has gone forward. Look, we've got trade agreements now with the CAFTA-DR countries, plus three pending additional. I think at the start of this administration, there were a total of two trade agreements. So the trade agenda obviously has gone forward in a very ambitious way.
And as you can see from my comments, the MCA program, the Millennium Challenge Account program is focused in Africa, but also in Latin America. We have almost doubled our annual development assistance. So I would say to you, the agenda has gone forward. But what the President wants to do is to highlight it, put it in a broader context and make people aware, and greater attention to the full aspect of the agenda.
Q Right, but in terms of that perception issue, then -- which is strictly what I meant in terms of my question -- is there a perception issue where you feel like this needs to be promoted more aggressively because it hasn't left an opening for leftist political types to rise?
MR. HADLEY: Well, the region has gone in the last 14 months through 15 elections of heads of government; I think that's the right number. And it's been very interesting. There have been -- the issue of Chavez efforts to intervene in some of those elections has been an issue. And a number of candidates have run successfully against that intervention.
So that certainly is an issue in terms of Latin America, but what the President wants to do is focus in a positive way on our agenda, what we're doing, what is the formula, which really is that Millennium Challenge Account formula, for what works in bringing people out of poverty. There are a lot of false promises today. What we know from experience is good governments that fight corruption, invest in their people through health and education, and are open to the power of free trade and free markets. That is a formula that works. And it is important for the people of Latin America to see the results of governments that have made those investments, and the impact it has in raising people out of poverty. That's what the President wants to shine his spotlight on.
Q Thank you, Mr. Hadley. When you talk about development, that's one angle, but we'd also like to talk about aid, cash aid. By reports, it's going down considerably by 2008. Is that a little counterintuitive? How do you promote development, and yet you're shrinking the aid to the region?
MR. HADLEY: I don't know what you talk about in terms of aid. What I've got is the figures I gave you, which we've gone from about $800-plus million a year to over $1.4 billion** a year. So that I know is going up --
Q But by '08 it's supposed to go down, correct?
MR. HADLEY: I'll take a look at that. I don't know what that number is. The other thing is the reason why you have to look at it in totality is, for example, the MCA -- Millennium Challenge -- Millennium Challenge Corporation is looking at additional compacts in Latin America. And, as you know, those are pretty big-dollar items. So we'll get you the answer on 2008. I don't have it in front of me.
Thanks very much.
Posted: Mar 6 2007, 06:04 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 6, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:37 P.M. EST
MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. Obviously, we have a verdict from the jury in the Scooter Libby trial. Let me start off by saying that the President was informed by -- he was in the Oval Office. He saw the verdict read on television. Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and Counselor Dan Bartlett were with him.
He said that he respected the jury's verdict, that he was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family, and that the White House direction from here on out -- and I know that there's going to be a lot of disappointment with this, but there is an ongoing criminal proceeding. Scooter Libby's attorneys just announced that they are going to ask for a new trial and that they are going to -- failing that, they will appeal the verdict. And so our principled stand of not commenting on an ongoing legal investigation is going to continue. I know that's going to be very disappointing for many, but that is the decision that we're going to -- that we've made, and the decision -- and the practice that we're going to continue on the way forward.
Q Let me ask you about some of the congressional reaction. You have Senator Reid saying that President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct. What's the reaction to that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I'm aware of no such request for a pardon. And as is afforded to all Americans, there is a process that is followed in which to apply for a pardon. And I don't think that speculating on a wildly hypothetical situation at this time is appropriate.
Q You're not closing the door to it, you're leaving the door open to a pardon?
MS. PERINO: I'm not commenting on a hypothetical situation. I think that that is the best way to respond to that. I think that there is a process in place for all Americans, if they want to receive a pardon from a President, be that any President that is in office, and I'm aware of no such request.
Q Would the President be receptive to that?
MS. PERINO: It is a hypothetical situation. I'm never even brought it up with him.
Q Has the President talked to the Vice President yet?
MS. PERINO: No. The Vice President was on his way to the Senate policy lunch. I believe that's what -- no, it was this afternoon. And so the President was in the Oval Office, ready for his lunch. The Vice President was on his way to the Hill, so he didn't get a chance to see him.
Q Does the President feel like there's any responsibility to figure out a way to talk about this in a way that doesn't prejudice or jeopardize any ensuing legal process, and still say something to the American people about this case?
MS. PERINO: We've given it a lot of thought, to try to find out a way to sort of answer the mail on the requests that are coming in from not just the media, but also from the American people. However, the legal advice that we get from our Counsel's Office, and the request that we had from the parties in the case was that we not comment on it while there was an ongoing criminal matter. And since that is still the case, I think that what the President -- the best thing I can offer you right now is what the President's reaction is, that he respected the verdict, he respects the jury, and we're just not going to be able to comment on it beyond it.
Q One more follow on this. And again, what I'm asking you in no way deals with any ongoing legal proceedings. I'm asking you now that the administration has, on one hand, with the Libby trial, questions raised about how the administration decided to go to war, and on the other side right now, with the Walter Reed situation, there's questions about what happened once the administration did go to war. Are you feeling political pressure building in sort of a new and intensified way?
MS. PERINO: I'm not sure how you're putting those two things together. In regards to intelligence and prewar intelligence, we have answered those questions repeatedly, and we have taken action to fix what was wrong in the intelligence community in order to make sure that that never happens again. When you're talking about the Walter Reed and the effects from that, I'm not exactly sure how you bring those two together.
Q I'm saying there are two news stories right now that are making -- putting the war, not only how we got there, but what happened once we did get there, in terms of various ways the policy that the White House pursued -- the consequences. And I'm wondering if you feel now a new pressure to sort of -- or the President feels a new pressure to look the American people in the eye and explain the fallout, the consequences of what's obviously and naturally going to be raised by these two stories?
MS. PERINO: I don't see where -- I understand where you're coming from. I don't see it that way. I think that the President answers to the American people quite regularly, all the time. We're here every day on his behalf, and then you get to ask him questions quite regularly, as well. So the President talks about how we are going to make sure that this never happens again in the intelligence community, as well as taking immediate action to make sure that the problems that were uncovered at Walter Reed are fixed, and not only at Walter Reed, with the DoD commission, but just today he announced a bipartisan non-governmental commission to take a longer view, to make sure that our global war on terror servicemen and women get the care that they need. We can talk about both stories, I just don't know if they fit into the same paragraph.
Q They fit into the fallout of the decision to go to war.
MS. PERINO: The President has said that the hardest decision that any President ever makes is a decision to send young men and women into war. And again, he's taking action to make sure that the servicemen and women get what they need upon return, if they are wounded, or -- beyond being wounded, but also if they need additional education, if they want to start a business, to make sure that they get back on their feet when they come back to the States.
Q Dana, I'll try it another way. Dissecting Senator Reid's statement that was put out just a minute after the verdict was read. He says, "It's about time someone in the Bush administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics."
MS. PERINO: I just totally reject his characterization. I just went through all the things that we said about prewar intelligence, how the President took responsibility for the gaps that we had, and then immediately worked -- and now over the years has built a very different intelligence community that is working much better, headed by the DNI. And we have a new CIA Director, we have a national counterterrorism center, we have the Homeland Security Council. And by all accounts, they are all coordinating much better. And so in regards to improving intelligence and making sure that we all have the best information possible, we've taken action on that. So I just disagree with the characterization of his comment.
Q Is this damaging to this White House, embarrassing for this White House?
MS. PERINO: You know, I think that any administration that has to go through a prolonged news story that is unpleasant and one that is difficult for -- when you're under the constraints and the policy of not commenting on an ongoing criminal matter, that can be very frustrating. But I think that we have been able to continue on, moving forward on all sorts of different fronts while also being aware that this situation is out there. But, no, I wouldn't characterize it the way you did.
Q Dana, in the closing argument, the special prosecutor said that there was a cloud over the vice presidency. Now that all is said and done, do you share that concern?
MS. PERINO: Certainly not. And I don't know how the Vice President is going to respond today. I don't know if they'll be issuing a statement, or not, but we'll try to connect with Lea Anne McBride -- but as I said, the Vice President was at this lunch when the verdict was read. And so I don't have more from his office at this time.
Q So there are no concerns about his credibility, his role in this?
MS. PERINO: No.
Q What about the overall White House credibility? Has it been damaged now that a senior administration official has been convicted of perjury?
MS. PERINO: You know, I think that when Scooter Libby was first indicted, one of the things that the President said was that we were saddened by the situation. But, no, I would disagree with -- I would not agree with the characterization of the question.
Q As you know, people are trying to tie this to Iraq. Does that affect the way you all proceed on other issues, such as Iran and North Korea -- do you feel like there is credibility on those situations that have been undercut --
MS. PERINO: Let me just remind everybody of how the President took responsibility and has completely revamped the intelligence community, and by all accounts, everyone is much better coordinated not only amongst ourselves, with the 16 or 17 intelligence agencies that we have here, but with our allies overseas. And so when we're working on matters of sensitive intelligence, which is a difficult -- difficult to unearth it, to try to gather all of this information, all of the sources that we need in order to gain the information that we have -- the DNI's office is pulling all that together and making sure that gaps don't exist.
Q I keep reading and hearing the phrase, the curtain has been pulled back on the way the Bush administration does business, through this trial. Do you agree with that, in some way that people have a little better understanding of how business is done?
MS. PERINO: I'm not exactly sure that this trial has showed anything regarding that. What I will say is that throughout any administration or any -- if you're on the Hill, anywhere, that attacks and defenses are mounted every day in this city, and we have an obligation to make sure that our points are getting across. But I don't think that the trial did what you said it did.
Q You said the President is saddened by this. Was there anyone in the White House, or him, personally, reaching out to Scooter Libby, expressing --
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of. Again, it just happened 30 minutes ago, so I don't know.
Q Obviously, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid puts out this statement within a minute of the verdict being released. It's clear, apparently, Democrats are going to try to derive some political benefit from that. Is the White House concerned about this, that they'll --
MS. PERINO: I'm shocked, shocked --
Q -- that they will paint this as another ethics problem, one among many that Republicans have had in recent years?
MS. PERINO: If the Democrats choose to use anything for personal or political gain, I wouldn't be surprised. But I'm not going to -- again, I reject the characterization of his comments, and I'm not able to comment further about the merits of the trial.
Q Can I just follow up on something you just said about attacks and defenses being mounted every day in this city? I'm not asking you to comment on the perjury and obstruction charges, but is this an example of kind of everyday attacks and defenses that are mounted -- that are focused on this trial? Is there nothing unusual about what happened here?
MS. PERINO: Well, I know that there's going to be many different ways to try to get me to comment on the trial. The point that I was making, Mark, is that if this wouldn't -- if we wouldn't have come in here today and had Harry Reid give a statement about this, that there probably would have been a statement about something else, about maybe the President's budget on Veterans Affairs, and then I would have worked to make sure that you understood and had the facts as we saw them and had all the information. That's the point that I was getting at.
Q Just the way you said it made it sound like, well, this is just completely --
MS. PERINO: That's not how I meant it.
Q Dana, somewhat on the line of lessons learned, how has this administration, with all of this going on, learned to police itself, or is it policing itself, from retaliation in an era of trying to defend itself in Washington? How do you --
MS. PERINO: I really do appreciate how people are seeking comment about the trial, in one shape, form or another. And I am just not in a position to be able to do that.
Q It's not about the trial. It's about how the White House itself deals with the attacks now. Instead of retaliation, are you finding ways --
MS. PERINO: I think that we deal -- we deal with attacks day in and day out all of the time, and --
Q Are there safeguards, policing measures now that you have within the White House, that you have to scrutinize before you go out and make statements about --
MS. PERINO: The President has said that he expects everyone to act in the most ethical manner, which is how we conduct ourselves.
Q Dana, you said the President is saddened by this. Is he saddened by the fact that a former top advisor in this building is facing this personal problem? Or is he saddened by the fact that a former advisor is convicted of lying in a federal investigation?
MS. PERINO: He was saddened for Scooter himself, personally, and for Scooter's family.
Q He's not saddened that his top advisor lied to -- was found guilty of lying to investigators?
MS. PERINO: He's saddened for Scooter. We're not going to comment on the trial.
Q I have one on this, I have one on another issue.
MS. PERINO: Maybe we can do this, and then I can finish up and come back.
Q You said that nobody has reached out to Scooter from the White House?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q Is he being cut loose after being a loyal soldier?
MS. PERINO: I don't know -- Victoria, I'm not -- I don't know anybody who has been contact with him. It's possible that people have. I have not.
Q Does the White House believe that this will make it harder politically to prosecute the war in Iraq? And I ask that because the debate recently has shifted from the President and the White House to Capitol Hill, now with the spotlight back on the President. Is he concerned about public support further eroding?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't -- I don't believe so. I think that what we have there is General Petraeus on the ground for just about three weeks now, implementing the new strategy. Very tough days. We had -- you see some signs of success, but you also see horrible suicide bombings and you also see our soldiers dying. And so we have got a long way to go. And as I think I've talked to you about, we're in a marathon, not a sprint, when it comes to communicating for the importance of winning in the war in Iraq and the global war on terror, and in explaining to Capitol Hill the President's decisions, and also his decision-making, what went into them.
MS. PERINO: Greg, go ahead.
Q Are there any administration policies or rules in effect that would prevent any White House employees from making contributions to Scooter Libby's legal defense fund if they so chose to on a personal basis?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of, but we can check with the Counsel's Office and let you know.
Q Dana, is this --
MS. PERINO: Go ahead. Let me just finish back here. Go ahead, Paula.
Q You mentioned a moment ago how the President expects everyone to uphold the highest ethical standards. Have the White House or the President in any way commented on the ethics involved in this? I think in the beginning, he said he takes this seriously, and he changed the ground rules for dismissal. Why hasn't he ever commented on --
MS. PERINO: I think the President has had a very principled and responsible stand to not comment on the ongoing criminal matter in any way, shape, or form, and that has been his position. It's been the -- it's a responsible one, it's a principled one, and that's what he's done.
Q He hasn't commented on the ethical conduct --
MS. PERINO: Well, again, I appreciate how people want to try to get us to comment on the trial in any way, shape, or form, and we're just -- we're not going to do it.
Q Can you say when you are going to be able to comment on the verdict? (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: Hypothetically, had there been an acquittal today, then our conversation might have been very different.
Q Given that there was a conviction, though, when do you think the process would --
MS. PERINO: I think you have to let the appeals process play itself out.
Q So after the appeals process is over?
MS. PERINO: I think when it is no longer an ongoing criminal matter, that's when I would say that that would be -- the time when the trial was over.
Q One more thing. Do you think that Senator Reid was acting inappropriately by issuing the statement that he issued today?
MS. PERINO: No. If that were the case, then that would be a pretty interesting standard.
Q Dana, back on the fighting the war thing, and it's kind of a tough connection, but Democrats appear to be failing to get their effort to stop the surge to move forward on Capitol Hill. Do you think somehow that this verdict is empowering war critics and somehow rallying the troops on the other side?
MS. PERINO: I don't know.
Q But is there a fear that that is what the verdict is?
MS. PERINO: Not that I've heard expressed, no. I think that one of the things that we -- and the other day, I said that we can all -- we all know that what the Democrats are for, we just don't know what they are -- I'm sorry, what they are against, but we don't know what they're for. But I think anymore, we're not even sure what they're against, nor what they are for when it comes to opposing a surge and the way -- the tools that they're going to use in order to manifest that position.
And so we continue to wait to see what sort of legislation is going to be proposed. And there's been no -- nothing put to paper yet as far as I've seen. And so they continue to have discussions up there amongst the Democrats. The way you describe it, no, I haven't heard anybody express that concern.
Q Two questions. One, is it unfair for the American people to sort of lump this all in with the administration and say, well, the verdict today, it's a culture of corruption -- is that unfair, do you think, in some sense?
MS. PERINO: I do, yes. Believe us, we understand that the American people have a somewhat negative view of Washington, whether it come from the partisan, or charges of corruption, or convictions of corruption. And so our duty is to make sure that we uphold the most ethical standards that we can.
John, go ahead. Sorry, Kevin. Did you have a second?
Q Yes, I did have a follow on the surge. Have you gotten any reports from generals on the ground, commanders in the field, how it's going? Are we seeing progress, are they encouraged by what they've seen so far?
MS. PERINO: I think we have to remember that General Petraeus has only been on the ground for three weeks. And so I think it's too early to tell. The President does get regular updates, but no one has come back with a pass/fail grade yet.
Q Going back to your earlier answer, why is it appropriate for Senator Reid to make these comments, but it would be inappropriate for you to make comments about this?
MS. PERINO: I'm just not going to make a judgment about Senator Reid and his decision to issue statements from his office about any topic.
Is this still on this topic? Anybody else?
Q -- it's terrorism.
MS. PERINO: Okay, quickly.
Q -- who is a close ally of Osama bin Laden, he told the British press in London that Osama bin Laden is alive and he has been talking to him and he's planning attacks along the Pakistani border.
MS. PERINO: And your question?
Q Yes, he's planning some attacks in Afghanistan because what you see today in Afghanistan, all these -- that's because
-- Osama bin Laden. And also --
MS. PERINO: What is your question, Goyal?
Q The question is that, British intelligence are informing yesterday that be aware of attacks from Osama bin Laden. What are we doing here in the U.S.? Are we warning same thing, telling --
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on the intelligence matters, but of course, you can -- rest assured, we are continuing to hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Q One more quick question.
MS. PERINO: No, Goyal, let me keep going, since we are running a little late here.
Go ahead, Victoria.
Q During the week of May the 4th, 2003 --
MS. PERINO: Okay. (Laughter.)
Q Did Karl Rove speak to anybody in the executive or the legislative branch about the Iranian proposal for negotiations with the United States?
MS. PERINO: No, not that I'm aware of. I have looked into this preliminarily, and he has no recollection of that.
Q No recollection from anybody at all?
MS. PERINO: No.
MS. PERINO: Mark.
Q Can we go back to the President's speech to the American Legion?
MS. PERINO: Sure.
Q A line at the end that struck me --
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q In closing, he talked about the letters he's gotten from soldiers. He then turns and says, "The struggle in Iraq may be hard, but this should not be a time for despair." Does the President sense despair out there now?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that he senses people's patience running out, and people's frustration with seeing the innocent people of Iraq being killed and our soldiers being killed. And I think what he was trying to do was deliver a message of we can win this war. We've got a strategy in place, we have a general that is backed unanimously by the United States Senate. Hopefully, they will give him the tools he needs in order to prosecute -- I'm sorry, to implement that plan. But I think that the President is trying to remind people that we have -- we have a way to win here, and we just need to stand fast and do it.
Q Yes, thank you, Dana. Two questions.
MS. PERINO: Quick.
Q The AP reports that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is suing the Army Corps of Engineers for $77 billion for damages because of levee breaches during Hurricane Katrina. And my question: Without reference to any trial that may ensue, does the Bush administration believe the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana had no responsibility for that levee breaking?
MS. PERINO: Surely you wouldn't want me to comment on any possible litigation.
Q It's not -- it hasn't started --
MS. PERINO: No, I'm not going to comment on that, on a lawsuit.
Q Okay. An HBO TV personality named Bill Maher said on the air, the Vice President, "I'm just saying, if he did die, other people, more people would live. That is a fact." End of quote. Question: Since this is the same person whom ABC fired five years ago for commending the terrorists responsible for 9/11, surely the White House has some concern about Maher's reference to the desirability of the Vice President's death, don't you?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to dignify his comments with a response.
Q Do you think that it's outrageous -- you think it's outrageous, don't you?
MS. PERINO: I'm not commenting, Lester.
Q The former U.S. attorney from Maryland by the name of Tom DiBiagio is quoted in The New York Times this morning as saying that he believes he was forced to resign because of pressure surrounding the political investigations that he was undertaking. What is the White House response to that?
MS. PERINO: The Justice Department has said that Mr. DiBiagio, the decision to ask him to resign was made by a 42-year career employee of DOJ who oversees ethics issues for the department, and was unaware of any investigation into former Maryland Governor Ehrlich's administration, and the White House was not advised of the decision.
Q Follow-up, please. Is the White House regularly advised of corruption investigations going on by various U.S. attorneys?
MS. PERINO: No, not that I'm aware of. I don't believe so.
Q Did the Justice Department try to hush up the fired prosecutors from talking about their cases?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware. I saw that testimony today, but it was the first I'd heard of it.
Q And six of the eight people who were fired said today that their thoughts would be welcomed by the Justice Department and they could be freely and openly debated, but that that's not the case. Is the administration trying to stifle dissent from these people?
MS. PERINO: I would refer you to Justice Department for the merits of their decision. But what I can tell you is that the Justice Department did, as with any agency that wants to make a change in a political appointee status, let the White House know that they were thinking of making a change of these political appointees and asking them to resign. The White House -- it would have been unusual if they hadn't told the White House about it. We did not disagree with their recommendations, and the Justice Department moved forward to implement their plan.
Q When you say you didn't disagree, who was that? Was that --
MS. PERINO: The Counsel's Office.
Q -- at the President's level or --
MS. PERINO: For sure, Counsel's Office. I did check with Chief of Staff Josh Bolten; he does not recall if he was briefed on it or not.
Q How about Karl Rove's office? Do you know if he was involved?
MS. PERINO: I don't believe so.
Posted: Mar 6 2007, 06:06 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 6, 2007
Executive Order: Establishing a Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors and a Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to provide a comprehensive review of the care provided to America's returning Global War on Terror service men and women from the time they leave the battlefield through their return to civilian life, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Establishment of Commission. There is established the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors (Commission).
Sec. 2. Membership of Commission. The Commission shall be composed of nine members appointed by the President. The President shall designate two Co-Chairs from among the members of the Commission.
Sec. 3. Mission of Commission. The mission of the Commission shall be to:
(a) examine the effectiveness of returning wounded service members' transition from deployment in support of the Global War on Terror to successful return to productive military service or civilian society, and recommend needed improvements;
( evaluate the coordination, management, and adequacy of the delivery of health care, disability, traumatic injury, education, employment, and other benefits and services to returning wounded Global War on Terror service members by Federal agencies as well as by the private sector, and recommend ways to ensure that programs provide high-quality services;
© (i) analyze the effectiveness of existing outreach to service members regarding such benefits and services, and service members' level of awareness of and ability to access these benefits and services, and (ii) identify ways to reduce barriers to and gaps in these benefits and services; and
(d) consult with foundations, veterans service organizations, non-profit groups, faith-based organizations, and others as appropriate, in performing the Commission's functions under subsections (a) through © of this section.
Sec. 4. Administration of Commission.
(a) The Secretary of Defense shall, to the extent permitted by law, provide administrative support and funding for the Commission. To the extent permitted by law, office space, analytical support, and staff support for the Commission shall be provided by the Department of Defense.
( Members of the Commission shall serve without any compensation for their work on the Commission. Members of the Commission appointed from among private citizens of the United States, while engaged in the work of the Commission, may be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, as authorized by law for persons serving intermittently in Government service (5 U.S.C. 5701-5707), consistent with the availability of funds.
© The Co-Chairs of the Commission shall select an Executive Director to coordinate administration of the Commission.
(d) The heads of executive branch departments and agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law, provide the Commission with information as requested by the Co-Chairs.
(e) The Co-Chairs of the Commission shall convene and preside at the meetings of the Commission, determine its agenda, and direct its work.
(f) The functions of the President under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.)(Act), except for those in section 6 of that Act, that are applicable to the Commission, shall be performed by the Secretary of Defense, in accordance with the guidelines that have been issued by the Administrator of General Services.
Sec. 5. Report of Commission. The Commission shall report its recommendations to the President through the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Commission shall issue a final report by June 30, 2007, unless the Co-Chairs provide written notice to the President that an extension is necessary, in which case the Commission shall issue the final report by July 31, 2007.
Sec. 6. Termination of Commission. The Commission shall terminate 30 days after submitting its final report, unless extended by the President prior to that date.
Sec. 7. Establishment of Task Force. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Secretary) shall establish within the Department of Veterans Affairs for administrative purposes only an Interagency Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes (Task Force).
Sec. 8. Membership and Operation of Task Force. The Task Force shall consist exclusively of the following members, or their designees who shall be at the Under Secretary level (or its equivalent) or higher:
(a) the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who shall serve as Chair;
( the Secretary of Defense;
© the Secretary of Labor;
(d) the Secretary of Health and Human Services;
(e) the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development;
(f) the Secretary of Education;
(g) the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;
(h) the Administrator of the Small Business Administration; and
(i) other officers or employees of the United States, as determined by the Secretary.
The Secretary or the Secretary's designee shall convene and preside at meetings of the Task Force and direct its work. The Secretary shall designate an official of the Department of Veterans Affairs to serve as the Executive Secretary of the Task Force, and the Executive Secretary shall head any staff assigned to the Task Force.
Sec. 9. Mission of Task Force. The mission of the Task Force shall be to:
(a) identify and examine existing Federal services that currently are provided to returning Global War on Terror service members;
( identify existing gaps in such services;
© seek recommendations from appropriate Federal agencies on ways to fill those gaps as effectively and expeditiously as possible using existing resources; and
(d) (i) ensure that in providing services to these service members, appropriate Federal agencies are communicating and cooperating effectively, and (ii) facilitate the fostering of agency communications and cooperation through informal and formal means, as appropriate.
Sec. 10. Administration of Task Force. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall, to the extent permitted by law, provide administrative support and funding for the Task Force.
Sec. 11. Action Plan of Task Force. Consistent with applicable law, the Task Force shall outline a Government-wide action plan that identifies existing Federal services for returning Global War on Terror service men and women and that
ensures the provision of such services to those service members as effectively and expeditiously as possible. The Task Force shall submit the action plan to the President within 45 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 12. Termination of Task Force. The Secretary, with the approval of the President, shall terminate the Task Force upon the completion of its duties.
Sec. 13. General Provisions.
(a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect (i) authority granted by law to an agency or the head thereof, or (ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, or legislative proposals.
( This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
© This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees, agents, or any other person.
GEORGE W. BUSH
THE WHITE HOUSE,
March 6, 2007.
Posted: Mar 7 2007, 05:18 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 7, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:13 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: All right, let me begin with a quick readout of a couple of main -- do we have audio on? Is this the mic up? Okay.
Just a quick readout on the President's meeting with the co-chairs on the Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, and also the Interagency Task Force. The President met with Secretary Shalala and Senator Dole, and not only thanked them for their service, but there's a theme running through the meetings, which is that he wants to make sure that for people who are in service, that there is a seamless transition for those who are wounded when they return home, or actually the moment they enter the Department of Defense health care system. At some point, there's a transition to V.A., and at a later juncture, a transition to life after V.A. And he wants to make sure that all of those are seamless and that the needs are taken care of and that the government's duties and responsibilities are taken care of fully at every step along the process.
Senator Dole certainly has experience in the system. Secretary Shalala, not merely by virtue of running HHS, but she's also been involved in ongoing health care efforts in Florida. She did mention, also, that I believe it's now four straight generations of her family have been in military service, including a nephew who is deploying to Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Interagency Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes, that's the interagency task force that's being chaired by Secretary Nicholson. Part of what they're doing is taking a look right now at addressing problems as they become apparent throughout the system, and dealing with them, and also serving both as a resource and an agent of action for the Commission on Care for the Wounded Warriors.
Let me also note that at 4:00 p.m. today, Secretary Gates and Chief of Staff Pete Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, are going to be holding a briefing at the Pentagon, also, about some ongoing efforts in their own operation dealing with Walter Reed and Bethesda.
Q It seems this will probably run into a question of money, of whether there's enough money available. Is the President prepared to offer an emergency budget request to take --
MR. SNOW: We've got a supplemental coming up. I don't want to try to prejudice exactly what's -- we're going to figure out a way to meet the needs of those who have served.
Q Secretary Nicholson seemed to think that everything was pretty much okay, that these were isolated incidents -- when he was talking outside. Is that the President's take, too?
MR. SNOW: The President's take is isolated or not, you need to deal with them. What we want to have is a system that fails no one who has served. So, you know, I mean, there is certainly plenty of evidence that this has been a health care system that has had a good record of success. But on the other hand, we've had some documented failures of late, and you've got to address those. So at this point the emphasis is not only on making sure that there's a high standard of care, but it's applied to everybody.
Q Tony, two quick questions. One, yesterday, Secretary Rice (inaudible) the global human rights (inaudible) at State Department. And she had already sent a stern warning for a number of countries, like Burma and North Korea and China, as far as human rights violations are concerned. And Saudi Arabia and the Iranians are also now standing and asking -- calling on the U.S. to do something. And as far as human rights violations are concerned, this time, again U.S. is absent from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is really run by the violators of human rights. So where are we heading now, as far as global human rights are concerned?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, that last part, Goyal?
Q The U.N. Human Rights Council --
MR. SNOW: No, I understand the Human Rights Commission, yes.
Q This has been run now by the violators of human rights. And the U.S. is again absent from this council, this (inaudible).
MR. SNOW: Well, I think our commitment to human rights is well documented, and we continue to believe that everybody has not only -- we believe in the dignity of all human life, and what we're trying to do is to extend the borders of democracy. You've got a freedom agenda that at the core of that is a firm and fixed belief in human rights. And the President also believes strongly in having the United Nations live up to the obligations under the universal declaration of human rights and applying to such situations as Darfur and around the world. So I think the President's record is clear on that.
Q A second. Former House Speaker, Mr. Newt Gingrich, he was speaking at CPAC and he said that U.S. is rewarding North Korea (inaudible) -- and maybe Iran is next on the -- and why are we rewarding the countries that we have been against this nuclear program?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think there have been -- again, I don't want to -- I did not hear Newt's speech, so I don't know precisely how he framed it and I don't know if that's an exact characterization of the argument or a paraphrase. But let me say of our position, it is based entirely on what the North Koreans do. If you take a look at what Chris Hill was saying yesterday, it was very obvious that the desire here is not to hand out goodies regardless of what the North Koreans do; instead there's got to be a very real commitment for us to shut down Yongbyon, and then also to take down any capacity for enriching uranium or plutonium and accounting for all those materials and dispensing of them.
So the goals remain the same. And if you take a look at the way in which the six-party talks are structured, you have at the beginning a 60-day window. The first thing they've got to do is they've got to close down Yongbyon and they've got to allow IAEA inspectors back -- that is a key element. And beyond that there are things that they may become eligible for in the fullness of time, but they have to engage in actions. They have to earn it. And that remains -- that's one of the reasons why we think it -- secondly, you also now have within the six-party talks -- it's not two-party talks, it's not the United States and North Korea. The attempt to isolate the United States or even to isolate other partners within the six-party talks is not going to work. There's a unified front here in dealing with the North Koreans. And that's one of the reasons we feel confident of the diplomatic approach and hopeful that the North Koreans will live up to their obligations.
Q Tony, have there been any discussions, either with the President or among staff members, about a pardon for Scooter Libby?
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware of any. And let me just say that -- all of this conversation/speculation about a pardon, I know, makes for interesting speculation, but it's just that. Right now Scooter Libby and his attorneys have made it clear that they're going to try to get a re-trial; if they don't get that, they're going to get an appeal. And we really haven't been commenting on any aspect of it.
As we pointed out before, there is a process, you know, and it's available to anybody who has been convicted in the United States.
Q I've been looking at some of Mark Knoller's carefully culled statistics, and it seems to suggest that the President, relative to other Presidents in recent history -- with the exception of his father -- is stingy when it comes to giving out pardons.
MR. SNOW: I think I would use the term "careful."
Q What does --
MR. SNOW: Because a pardon is not a goodie. And I think it's important, so I would hesitate to use a term like "stingy." But I think it's something that's taken very carefully. You've got -- the general process is an application will go to the pardon attorney, that could be forwarded to the Department of Justice, which in turn would make a recommendation to the White House. These are not things that are treated blithely.
Q But what do you think -- both as governor and as President -- what do you think it tells us about the President's approach to the concept of pardons, pardons that he's given relatively fewer than other Presidents --
MR. SNOW: I think it means that he takes the process very seriously and he wants to make sure that in his judgment, anybody who receives one, that it's warranted. But, again, I would caution against any speculation in this case.
Q Can I have one more follow-up?
MR. SNOW: Yes, please.
Q I want to know, after the verdict yesterday, because the Vice President's top aide has been convicted of perjury, I think it's a natural question is, think about motive, it raises questions about protecting the Vice President. Does the President feel that any statement/further explanation/discussion with the American people is necessary at this point, outside of the legal proceedings?
MR. SNOW: At this point, we are -- our view is that you have an ongoing legal proceeding, and we're very wary of saying anything that may prejudice the rights of Scooter Libby as he proceeds to seek a retrial or an appeal.
Q And the questions that are raised among --
MR. SNOW: Well, a lot of questions -- again, you've asked a very -- you've asked a general question about questions. It's difficult for me to --
Q I'm asking about the very many people in this country who, after yesterday, are perhaps looking at this in a different way than they were before, now that there's been a verdict rendered, and that perhaps the President -- and it speaks to so many issues about the administration -- that perhaps the President wants to -- feels like something is necessary.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, what you're asking -- if you want to try to identify issues, I think there has been an attempt to try to use this as a great big wheelbarrow in which to dump a whole series of unrelated issues and say, "Ah-ha." And it is what it is; it's a case involving Scooter Libby and his recollections, and we're just not going to comment further on it.
Q It doesn't provide any greater insight into the way the administration was addressing critics --
MR. SNOW: If you want insight into the way the administration addresses trouble, I would have you take a look at what's happened with Walter Reed in the last two weeks.
Q Tony, has the President yet spoken to the Vice President about the Scooter Libby verdict? Have they discussed it? And what are his thoughts, to those who say this leaves a cloud over the White House, over the Vice President, in particular?
MR. SNOW: Kathleen, you've asked me in a different way to answer the same question I didn't answer with Jim. Let me make it clear. The Vice President and the President have confidential conversations. They don't share them with us. Did it come up? I don't know. I can guess. It's a pretty hot topic today. But not having absolute confirmation, I'm just not going to tell you "yes" or "no." But, furthermore, they don't share their conversations with us. So I cannot tell you what they talk about. They don't pass it on to us. It's one of the reasons why I think there's so much trust, and also closeness between the two.
Q But, again, Tony, what do you say to those who say this leaves a cloud hanging over the White House, and in particular the Vice President?
MR. SNOW: How?
Q It's their words. I'm just --
MR. SNOW: I know, but it's -- see, the use of terms like "cloud" -- because this has come up before -- is, what does that mean? There's an attempt to impugn ability, or -- this White House takes very seriously its obligations to the American people. And you've got a President who has made it clear after the elections that he is going to be aggressive and he is going to be bold in dealing with the problems that the American people face.
You take a look at the State of the Union address -- immigration reform, energy, with environmental impacts. You've got education. You've got health care. These are issues that Americans care about, and care about deeply. And he is not only talking to Congress, but working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
No doubt those things are going to come up today in the meeting with the leadership of the House and Senate when they come over. In addition, on the war on terror, similarly, there is a real determination to figure out a way forward that is going to lead to success.
It's okay, I know -- cell phone violation.
Q The kid's home alone. The kid's home alone.
MR. SNOW: Oh, my goodness, more important. Well, if you have to go out there to have a conversation, we'll let you come back.
Q Has anyone reached out to Scooter Libby yet?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I'm not aware of anybody.
Q Excuse me, may I have a question?
MR. SNOW: Sure.
Q And by the way, we hope your physical exam went well yesterday.
MR. SNOW: It -- yes. Although, I set off the radioactivity detectors all day yesterday. (Laughter.)
Q You did?
Q We can understand why.
MR. SNOW: I had a PET scan, so they fill you up with this nuclear stuff, so you could -- I mean, you could hear me -- literally, my staff could hear me down the hall because all the things would start beeping. (Laughter.)
Q We always thought you were radioactive, Tony. (Laughter.)
Q What is your analysis of the fact that so many conservatives and Republicans are calling for a pardon, whereas the Democrats are --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to analyze it, Connie. People have strong feelings about this on both sides.
Q In light of some of the comments that your predecessor, Scott McClellan, said to me last night, do you feel Scott was deliberately misled by --
MR. SNOW: You know, I wasn't here, and I'm not going to get into it. I just -- I'm an incompetent witness on that.
Q Does the President believe that the trial showed that members of his administration leaked classified information?
MR. SNOW: I'm not -- I don't think the President is going to get into the business of trying to characterize it. The one thing that he has said all along is that you need to allow the system to work, and he has confidence in our system of justice.
Q And does he stand by his statement that anyone involved in leaking classified information will no longer work here?
MR. SNOW: Again, I think what we have to do is just take a look -- first, what you are trying to do is to draw me into a conversation about matters that may not have been at trial, but certainly are not appropriate to comment on at this juncture.
Q But you won't just repeat the standard that anyone who leaked is gone?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm telling you that I'm staying away from characterizations of things that may arise in court.
Q Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan yesterday said that there's a possibility of a recession by the end of the year. This contrasts considerably with what the President's economic advisors and even this current Fed Chairman have forecast. Are you at all revisiting the basis of your economic outlook?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Okay. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I hope that was a crisp enough response. (Laughter.)
Q I have an unrelated follow-up.
MR. SNOW: Okay, go ahead.
Q And it does relate to the Libby verdict yesterday. The President has said that he expects everyone on his staff to uphold the highest ethical standards. Does the President believe that everyone involved in this has upheld the highest ethical standards?
MR. SNOW: Again, look, I'm not going to go back and sort of re-litigate it, but he does insist on the highest ethical standards in this White House.
Q Well, then, excuse me, the fact that he hasn't taken any action against anyone, does that, indeed, mean that everyone has acted ethically --
MR. SNOW: Again, you're going to ask me to re-litigate the case. There was only one person on trial yesterday.
Q Thank you, Tony, two questions. The President, in his addressing the American Legion yesterday, talked about the importance of both diplomacy and the need for a robust military strategy in Iraq. And my question: What is the single most important factor in leaving behind, when the U.S. military does leave, an Iraq that will not erupt into a conflagration of terrorist activity?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what was the most important -- I thought there were two options there; you gave me one. Is there a second part?
Q When they leave behind -- when the U.S. military forces -- what is the most important to assure that Iraq will not erupt into a conflagration of terrorist activity, what is the most important --
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I mean, that's an awfully broad -- are you angling for something? Help me out here; I want to be able to help you.
The fact is that the business of creating peace in Iraq is enormously complex. If you take a look at the way forward, there is a military component, there's a diplomatic component, including a regional component. There's political reconciliation, there's economic development, sectarian reconciliation.
So all those pieces are essential. I'm not sure that you can bracket out one and say it, alone, is important -- because you pull out one of those lights and the entire edifice can collapse.
Q Tony, a second one. As the President's chief media advisor, can you tell us, Tony, do you honestly believe that the bulk of the American people will conclude that real justice exists in the United States if Scooter Libby goes to prison, while Sandy Berger doesn't?
MR. SNOW: Oh, my goodness. Thank you, Les.
Q You just want to evade -- that's newsworthy.
MR. SNOW: If you wish to characterize the non-answer of a crazy question as an evasion, I will plead guilty. (Laughter.)
Q You think it's crazy?
MR. SNOW: Because what you're asking me to do is to come up with a global analysis of people's assessment on the character of the system of justice based on two things that have not happened.
Q Well, he -- Berger is still not -- he's still out, he's not going to prison.
MR. SNOW: As I said -- he's not gone to prison. Again, you're posing -- you're asking me to get people to -- let me put it this way: I don't think a lot of people are sitting around their dinner tables, saying, let's think about these two things -- wow, honey, we really think about the system of justice; pass the mashed potatoes. (Laughter.)
Q You think there's no injustice if Berger goes loose and he goes to prison?
MR. SNOW: I think it's a wonderful thing to ponder, and I'll ponder it.
Q That's all?
MR. SNOW: Yes, that is all.
Q Okay, thank you.
Q Tony, the President said yesterday that the upcoming security conference in Baghdad would be a test for both Iran and Syria. Iran has now said it's definitely attending. Do you have anything specific in mind, in terms of how Iran would pass that test? Anything specific you're looking for at this conference?
MR. SNOW: No, again, as we've made clear all along, the purpose of this conference is to deal with issues of Iraq. And the Iraqis are running the conference, and we are happy to be participants. But I want to guard against the notion that somehow we are -- there's a temptation to turn something like that into an expectation that there's going to be a bilateral conversation about unrelated matters, and that sort of stuff. This is an opportunity for the parties there to be constructive in dealing with Iraq.
Now there are any number of things that may come to mind, but rather than have me serve as the person who tries to do the interpretation of that -- I don't have a clear interpretation of precisely what they had in mind.
Q Of what the President had in mind when he said --
MR. SNOW: Let me give you some options. Number one, to be helpful. Iran needs to make sure that there is no more exporting into Iraq of people who are committing acts of terror and also weapons that are being used to kill Americans and Iraqis and others within Iraq in an effort to disrupt the government. There are a number of things that the Iranians can do to demonstrate their bona fides as good neighbors. And we hope they'll do it.
Q Thanks, Tony. Does the President believe that the crimes that Scooter Libby was convicted of yesterday -- obstruction of justice, lying to the FBI and two counts of lying to a grand jury -- are serious crimes?
MR. SNOW: Yes, they're serious crimes. But, again, I'm not going to -- you asked me the description of those crimes. I'm not going to characterize the issues of Mr. Libby's case for the obvious reasons.
Q Well, you just said they're serious crimes. Are they so serious as to preclude the possibility of a presidential pardon?
MR. SNOW: Anybody in the United States of America who has been convicted can apply for a pardon. I am not going to characterize one way or another what happens in this case when it comes to a pardon, because it's inappropriate.
Q But can you tell me, has anything changed between yesterday, before the verdict was announced, and today, after the verdict has been announced, in terms of Vice President Cheney's stature in the White House? Has his relationship changed in any way with President Bush?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Tony, Secretary Shalala seemed to suggest that she heard a certain anger in President Bush's voice about the Walter Reed issue. Do you describe him as feeling angry? And do you have a sense of who the other seven people on this commission may turn out to be?
MR. SNOW: I have a sense, but let's wait until the commission is fully appointed. As I've noted earlier, when it comes to putting this together, you get recommendations. And the President asked both Secretary Shalala and Senator Dole for their ideas, as well. You have to take a look through a list, then you go through a vetting process. It takes a little bit of time. You want to make sure you have the right people.
Whether it's anger -- there's certainly passion in it. The President has made no secret how deeply he feels a sense of affection and admiration for those who have been serving in all of our Armed Services. And he wants to make sure that we make good on our obligations to them. And he made it very clear, he doesn't want anybody sugarcoating the situation. He wants to find out what the facts are, and he wants people to come up with sensible solutions to the problems, and he wants to get them enacted as swiftly and effectively as possible.
And that is why you've got a three-layered approach. You've got the Department of Defense looking at Washington-area facilities -- Bethesda and Walter Reed -- you have the interagency task force taking a broader look. We're concentrating at this juncture on the war on terror and the people who are coming back. And then the commission, with Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala taking an even broader look at the entire system to make sure that there are no discontinuities from people from the time they leave the theater of battle to the time they enter the Defense Department health care system, to the time they go into the V.A., for the rest of their lives, we want to make sure that there's continuity of service so that people do not fall in the cracks.
Q Tony, is there any internal machinery, so to speak, here at the White House, that is still investigating the Plame matter and the leak of her name?
MR. SNOW: Investigating? In what --
Q Still looking into -- I just -- (inaudible) -- the White House looked into it?
MR. SNOW: No, I think that's why you have -- that's why you have -- and the solution was to find a special council.
Q So nobody in the White House is --
MR. SNOW: Do we have a Plame task force? No.
Q And, Tony, in retrospect, does the President feel it was wise to appoint a special prosecutor in this case? And is he satisfied with Patrick Fitzgerald's work?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to characterize. The President has said that he appreciates the diligence and professionalism of Mr. Fitzgerald. We're not going to get into the business of second-guessing.
Q Had he to do over again, would he --
MR. SNOW: I don't ask him those questions, and I doubt he -- look, the emphasis on this White House is to figure out what the tasks are before you and to deal with them, and looking forward. So that's kind of one of those questions that maybe, sometime in the dim and distant future, he'll be talking about. But I've heard no conversation about it.
Q Tony, a question not about the legal process, but about a previous White House statement. In 2003, this White House made it very clear that neither Scooter Libby nor Karl Rove was involved in the leak. Does that public denial need to be corrected?
MR. SNOW: Again, you're asking me things that predate me, and I'm not going to try to get into parsing it.
Q Well, in that respect, though, then why did the President change the grounds of dismissal for "anyone involved" to "anyone convicted"? And would it be accurate --
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that there has been a change, Paula. I just --
Q Well, there's a difference between "anyone involved" and "anyone convicted," isn't there? I mean, you can act unethically, but not be proven to have acted --
MR. SNOW: Well again, you've bundled a whole lot of things -- a lot of presumptions into a question, and I'm not sure I accept any of them.
Q But what is the policy? Is it "anyone involved," or "anyone convicted"?
MR. SNOW: You know, I'm going to let the President's words stand.
Q But they were different words.
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. The words have been pretty consistent.
Posted: Mar 7 2007, 05:20 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 7, 2007
Executive Order: Extending Privileges and Immunities to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 7( of the Department of State Authorities Act of 2006 (22 U.S.C. 288l), I hereby extend to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, and to its members, the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the diplomatic missions of member states to the United Nations, and members of such missions, subject to corresponding conditions and obligations.
This extension of privileges and immunities is not intended to abridge in any respect privileges or immunities that the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York and its members otherwise may have acquired or may acquire by law.
GEORGE W. BUSH
THE WHITE HOUSE,
March 7, 2007.
Posted: Mar 8 2007, 07:50 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 8, 2007
Press Gaggle by Steve Hadley, Dan Bartlett and Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En route São Paulo, Brazil
Steve Hadley, National Security Advisor
Dan Bartlett, Counselor to the President
Tony Snow, Press Secretary
12:56 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: Okay, nothing special on the President's schedule. You understand what it is -- we're flying to Brazil. As you may also know, earlier today House Democrats have come up with a proposal for the supplemental appropriation. It would include a series of benchmarks and timetables. It is apparent, once you look at the details of this proposal that the chief aim of Democratic leaders was to get Democrats happy, rather than the more important goal of providing the funding and flexibility generals need to succeed in their mission in Iraq.
And I'll just leave it at that for a brief opening statement. I don't know if my colleagues want to revise and extend -- anything else, guys?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, if you don't know about the details of this plan is that it appears -- and we don't have specific language, but if you go by their public statements -- is that they have tied specific troop withdrawals, whether the Iraqis fail or whether the Iraqis succeed. It underlines the basic premise that their first goal is to pull all the troops out, regardless of the conditions on the ground, which would be in direct contradiction of the 16 intelligence agencies and the National Intelligence Estimate that said that a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be harmful to the security of the country, and obviously harmful to U.S. interests in that country and the region.
For particular details, they said if the benchmarks -- and we haven't seen all the benchmarks, but it's, like, the oil law, it's, like, liberalization, deBaathification law, the $10 billion, provincial elections -- if those are not met by July 1st of this year and not certified that they've been met, they would have all troops pulled out by the end of this year, 2007. They said if they do meet these benchmarks, they'll give us to October to have a specific withdrawal of all troops by September of 2008.
So what this is, is a political compromise in the Democratic caucus of the House, aimed at bringing comity to their internal politics, not reflective of the conditions on the ground in Iraq. It would unnecessarily handcuff our generals on the ground, and it's safe to say it's a non-starter for the President.
Q What is your all's strategy going to be now?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, the leader of the Republicans in the House, Boehner, Leader Boehner, has already had a press conference declaring their opposition to this legislation. Obviously, the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looked like what was described today. Again, we don't have all the details, there's as lot of definitional purposes, but what we're seeing here is an artificial, precipitous withdrawal from Iraq based on, unfortunately, politics in Washington, not on conditions on the ground in Baghdad, Iraq.
MR. SNOW: And, again, just to add a little, tiny bit to that. The purpose is to succeed in Iraq so we can make America safer. The purpose of a resolution should not be to get disparate factions of the Democratic Party to be able to agree on a resolution. As Dan has just pointed out, what they're really talking about is internal party politics. What the President is proposing is a way forward that is going to strengthen American security and also make the world a safer place.
Q Does it look like the Democrats have enough support to pass this thing?
MR. BARTLETT: Well, that's up to them to decide whether they have the votes or not. I just think they'll be, you know, a solid number or Republicans who would not want to handcuff our generals on the battlefield in the middle of a decisive security mission. And we'll see whether any Democrats within the caucus give pause to such an approach.
MR. SNOW: There's also a game of charades going on, which is to say we will fully fund the President's supplemental request, then we will order the troops to leave on a date certain. It's an attempt to say that they're supporting the reinforcements. You can't do that by saying we're going to support for a certain period of time and then order folks home.
Q Are you in touch with the Republican leadership?
MR. BARTLETT: Absolutely. We've stayed closely coordinated with the Republican leadership. It's been a -- it has required almost hour-by-hour communication, because the Democrats' position has changed by the hour. But their latest proposal -- and we'll see if it has enough staying power; we don't think it does, because I think it's in direct contradiction to what they American people want, they don't want 535 members of Congress micro-managing our generals on the ground who are trying to fight a war -- but, yes, we are in close coordination.
Q -- yesterday, when the President met with the Democratic leadership?
MR. BARTLETT: Not in this type of detail, no. I think it's safe to say even at that hour they didn't have a final solution.
Q Last night -- or through the night -
MR. SNOW: It must have been. It obviously became known publicly, but it was not a part of the discussion yesterday.
MR. BARTLETT: It's one of the few benefits of the 24-hour news cycle, seven days a week, is you can keep up actually with the position of the Democrats. (Laughter.)
Q Can you describe the situation on the ground in Baghdad, how the surge is going? Are you satisfied with the progress?
MR. HADLEY: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the question.
Q Can you describe the situation on the ground in Baghdad and whether you're satisfied with the progress of the troop deployment there?
MR. HADLEY: Well, I think it's too early to draw particular conclusions. I think the best assessment of the situation on the ground you can get from the briefing that General Petreaus gave here just this morning, you can get a look at the transcript.
I think the important thing to remember is we've talked about some encouraging signs. We're at the early stages of the rollout of the Baghdad security plan. The additional Iraqi forces are nearing the completion of showing up. We still, of course, only have about two of our five brigades in place. So this is early on, it's still getting organized. There are some positive signs. The Iraqis seem to be showing up and stepping up. But I think at this point it's -- you've heard it from General Petreaus, and I think the main thing is just to remember we're in the early stage of this, as the President said many times. Yes, there are some encouraging indications so far, we're at the early stages, and we're going to have some good days and some bad days, and that's the way this is going to unfold.
Q Can I ask you about final U.S. troop numbers going into Baghdad? There seems to be some question about whether 21,500 was an accurate estimate of how many American troops would actually end up on the ground in Baghdad.
MR. HADLEY: It was an accurate estimate of the combat troops that were going into Baghdad. That's what the President talked about. He said that there would be five brigades that would be going into Baghdad. He talked about 22,000-23,000 troops, something like that, the bulk of which would be going into Baghdad. So what he was talking about is combat troops.
Secretary Gates and General Pace, a couple weeks ago, noted that there would be some combat support troops. Any time you send in combat troops, you're going to need, of course, combat support troops. The burden is less because we've got, of course, 140,000-plus folks on the ground. But he did indicate here a couple weeks ago that he thought the increment of additional combat support troops would probably be 10 or 15 percent, and he's talked publicly of a number around 2,400, something like that.
In addition, General Petreaus is on the ground and he's been, of course, told that if there are additional requirements he needs to get the job done, he should come back and indicate what they are. And, again, I think in his press availability today he indicated that there might be an additional increment for detainee operations and that sort of thing.
So this is not unexpected. It's about the right size of how we're coming in and the fact that, as the General says, he's got a plan, we're executing the plan; as you get into the execution of the plan, you learn a lot, conditions change and you make adjustments, and that's what we're going to be doing. But, you know, again, we're in the early stages at this point.
Q But if it's in the early stages, how long do you give it before you can tell whether it's really working or not? At this point, it seems like these suicide bombers are confounding it by moving north.
MR. HADLEY: I think what you can say at this point is, you know, we're at the input stage -- getting organized, getting commands organized, getting commanders in place, getting troops in place; we're at the input stage. And that seems to be going pretty well. As I said, the Iraqis are showing up and standing up, and we're bringing our own troops in.
There have been some briefings from the theater that have talked about some early signs of positive developments on the security. Again, my answer to you is, it's pretty early, we appreciate those positive signs, but it's pretty early -- there's going to be good days, there are going to be bad days. And, remember, the bad guys are going to try and defeat this thing early, because the longer it goes, the more confidence citizens of Baghdad have that it's working, the harder it's going to be for the bad guys. So if you're them, you're going to try and knock this out early. And that's why I think you're going to see these efforts to have spectacular attacks, with VBIEDs and car bombs and suicide bombs -- heavily al Qaeda, to try and, again, touch off Shia on Sunni violence.
So I think you can expect in the near-term -- and I think you heard this from the President and you heard this from General Casey-- that the bad guys are going to try and derail this thing through violence. And that's why I think people have to let this plan unfold. As we've said, as each months go by, we will know more and we will learn more about how it's doing. But I think it's going to be some months before we're really going to know how this is working.
Q Will you have a good feel for it by June or July?
MR. HADLEY: Conditions on the ground, it depends on so many different things. I think what I would say to you is we're going to be learning more month to month, we're going to have briefings that will be available to the press, to try and give people a sense of how it's going. And we're going to evaluate it in terms of what we see on the ground, in terms of the progress --
Q So no month --
MR. HADLEY: I've answered your question to the best of my ability.
Q What evidence are you seeing that the bad guys are simply leaving Baghdad and regrouping elsewhere?
MR. HADLEY: I did not say that; you said that. I think one of the things we have seen is there are questions -- and you see them in the press -- about what the JAM, the Mahdi army are doing, reports that Sadr is in, and some of the senior leadership may be in Iran; reports that there seems to be a decision by some of the JAM elements, that they're going to go underground for a while. You've seen that in some of the Shia neighborhoods. You saw in the press that our military is moving into Sadr City, which, of course, has been a JAM stronghold.
But, again, one of the reasons I urge people that we're in the early stages is we're getting our leadership, our troops in, our operation underway, and the bad guys are actually making their own calculations, and the Iraqi people are making their own calculations. And I think one of the things that we can say is the anecdotal evidence, that the Iraqi people in Baghdad are glad to see someone coming and trying to bring some security to their neighborhoods. That's a good thing.
MR. BARTLETT: I'd just note that General Petreaus is briefing this morning, and that there are several elements of the enemy that are not going underground, unfortunately -- mainly al Qaeda based in Iraq, are inspired by the VBIED attacks and other spectacular attacks to try to derail the security plan before it has a chance to work. That's been a strategy they've used in the past, in some cases successfully. And we can expect there to be continued type of violence. As General Petreaus briefed this morning, the aim of the security plan is to reduce that significantly. But if somebody is willing to take their own life, and kill innocent men, women and children, it's a very difficult proposition.
MR. HADLEY: One other thing -- I agree with everything Dan said -- not that he needed validation from me -- (laughter) -- the focus in Baghdad, remember, is sectarian violence. And if listened to the President's speech before the American Legion that, of course, is what we're really focused on, because it's that sectarian violence that could destabilize the situation, make the reconciliation among the various groups that has to come more difficult.
So, again, we're working on that sectarian violence. And you can see, then, as Dan said, since that is the focus, if your strategy is al Qaeda, it is to use suicide attacks, VBIEDs directed against coalition and Iraqi forces, but also against Iraqi civilians, to try and encourage and accelerate that sectarian violence, which is really the focus of our end.
Q Is there anything that you could do to nudge Maliki to do something else? What would it be, at this point?
MR. HADLEY: Well, what we need him to do has actually been pretty clear, and we've been pretty clear on it with him and the President has been pretty clear with the American people. One, move forward on the Baghdad security plan, which as I said, Iraqis seem to be showing up and stepping up. We've emphasized the oil law, for example, which, as you know, has been approved by the cabinet and will be submitted to the Council of Representatives. We are trying to move forward on narrowing and revising and reforming the deBaathification legislation.
So the things that we've asked him to do and that we think would help send a clear message of a desire for reconciliation are the things that we've asked him to do. The President is public about it. And the good news is that Maliki has been public about it, and he's established an agenda. These benchmarks people keep talking about, remember, are largely Iraqi benchmarks that they have set for themselves and that the President has endorsed, because they are the key elements of a national reconciliation among the groups.
Q So you don't think he's dragging his feet on any particular issue at this point?
MR. HADLEY: I think there's a lot of work to do, that needs to be done. And I think, look, we have to recognize it's a challenge, particularly when you say that you want legislatures or parliaments to pass legislation. I mean, that's a difficult thing to do. It's a difficult thing for our Congress to do on a timetable, and our Congress is the most powerful and the most sophisticated legislature in the world. In Iraq, you have a legislature that is new, in the midst of sectarian violence, in the context of a country where Sunni, Shia and Kurds are trying to live together as partners for the first time in their history -- and in some sense, for the first time in the Middle East. This is a tall order.
So one of the problems with these, you know, time lines and due dates for legislative action is, you know, we know and our Congress knows in the heart of hearts how difficult those are to keep if you're the United States Congress. Think about how difficult it is for the Council of Representatives.
What we can ask is the Iraqis to commit to benchmarks, which they have, and make every effort to achieving them and show progress towards that. And that's what the President has called for.
MR. BARTLETT: Yes, I would just say that's why today's announcement is so disappointing, because it has all the hallmarks of a political compromise and none of the coherence of a military and political strategy that would help you win and accomplish your goals in a very important theater of this war. And that's why we feel so strongly that at this time and this juncture in the mission in Iraq, that we don't need to be handcuffing the generals on the ground.
MR. SNOW: Furthermore, it's a kind of impatience that our Founding Fathers would not have been able to meet. The United States has a real commitment and people in that region understand it's a serious commitment to a freedom agenda, to having a democracy succeed in Iraq -- and Dan is absolutely right, you do not hamstring generals, you don't put them in handcuffs -- it's a good day for Dan. (Laughter.) You don't handcuff them. You give them the funding and flexibility they need to get the job done.
Q On the diplomatic front, what are the -- there has been some criticism of the administration for engaging -- for agreeing to engage Iran and Syria in the regional diplomatic talks. What are the short-term goals for the U.S. in participating in those talks?
MR. HADLEY: I think it's a mischaracterization of what we're doing to say we're engaging Iran and Syria in the context of the regional talks. I would flip it. What we are doing is supporting the Iraqi government in organizing a regional conference of neighbors, of the P5, and, ultimately, when it gets to ministerial levels of the G8 countries, as well.
What is the purpose of that regional? Why does Iraq call it? They are trying to get additional diplomatic support for what the Iraqis are trying to do, to get the neighbors to provide what assistance they can, in terms of alleviating the security situation by using their efforts with some of the parties within Iraq to reconcile with the government, to end the violence. It's an opportunity for us to put pressure on a number of the neighboring countries -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and others -- to do more to help Iraq. And we hope it is an opportunity for those same neighbors to put pressure on Syria and Iran to stop destructive activity and be constructive and to be supportive of bringing security and peace to Iraq.
So that's the purpose. The purpose -- it is about Iraq. It so happens that Syria and Iran are neighbors of Iraq. The Iraqis have invited them to this conference. We have no objection to that. We have participated in these kinds of meetings where Iran and Syria have been present before. Secretary Colin Powell did it in 2004, at the first meeting of the international compact, the U.N.-sponsored activity. We've had subsequent meetings of the international compact where we have been there, along with Iran and the Syrians. This is not about engaging Iran and Syria. It is about getting the countries of the region and the broader international community to support Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Also, just to add one other level of detail. Also, it talks about Afghanistan afterward, also. You had -- I know the Iranians were involved in those talks, as well. So it's important to remind people that this is not unprecedented. The United States has been at multilateral meetings on a number of occasions over the last five or six years, at which one or both of those nations was also present.
MR. HADLEY: I'd just say one other thing. And the other thing, of course, that we will do, I'm sure, in that meeting -- as we have in our public statements -- is send a clear message to Iran that they need to stop activity in Iraq that is putting at risk innocent Iraqis, Iraqi security forces and our men and women in uniform -- and that is training, that is providing equipment by elements in Iraq that are using it against Iraqis, using it against our forces. So we are also in this press conference and other avenues sending that message to Iran: it is time for them to knock this off and play a constructive role. And we hope that the neighbors in this regional conference will send that message to Iran.
Q Just a question about the trip that we're on. Hugo Chavez is going to hold a rally in Argentina. What do you think he's up to here?
MR. HADLEY: I don't know. You can ask him. What the President is about is coming to the region to emphasize that our agenda for the region is the agenda the region has for itself. That is to say, democracy, there is a consensus for that in the region, these are democratic governments. There is increasing openness to free trade. But why democracy and free trade? Because they are the best way to raise people out of poverty and have them have a better life.
So the President is going to be emphasizing that is the focus of our efforts -- democracy, trade -- but also supporting these governments that are making right decisions to fight corruption, to invest in their people by education and health care; and that it is our priority, as a good neighbor with this hemisphere, to work together with them to show that democracy and free markets and a willing and a devotion to the good of your people can take those abstract principles and translate them into a better life for the people of Latin America.
Q Your critics on Capitol Hill are saying that in the 2008 budget support for Latin America actually goes down. How do you justify the message that the President is trying to send, that we're emphasizing these programs that are continuing in Latin America, but not getting much attention when the 2008 budget actually cuts.
MR. HADLEY: There are a lot of different programs, and one of things you need to do is sum them all together. The President has increased the sort of traditional development assistance to Latin America from about $800 million to, I think it's close to $1.6 billion. Now, I'm told that in this budget there is some diminution of that amount. The other thing you need to look at, for example, is programs like the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which has already made four grants to Latin American countries. As countries in Latin America become eligible for compacts, those are big dollar items. So you need to look across, in terms of U.S. government assistance.
But the other thing people need to remember is that American engagement with Latin America is much bigger than just what the government says. And the statistics are overwhelming and they dwarf, really, anything anybody else is doing in that region -- remittances, $45 billion every year sent from men and women working in the United States back home; trade, $180 billion a year of duty-free trade from Latin America into North America; private -- foreign investment by American companies in Latin America, $350 billion, resulting in generating directly 2 million jobs. Large numbers of church, faith-based groups, NGOs and others -- private businesses -- that are very active in Latin America, and thousands of people going there, doing things at the local level to help this hemisphere develop in the way they want and that we want them to develop.
So I would ask people when you think about the American assistance to the people of Latin America to look at the full, broad gauge of American engagement, not just what the government does, but what business does, what the NGO does, what trade does, remittances, all the rest. It is a huge project and it is all aimed at helping the people of Latin America realize their aspirations for freedom and a better life.
Q It's pretty likely that Chavez is going to mention the President, he speaks about him very frequently, and in harsh terms. Will we hear the President acknowledge the tour that he's doing, in contrast to this agenda, that he's coming down -- I mean, will the President talk about Chavez at all?
MR. HADLEY: The President is going to do what he's been doing for a long time: talk about a positive agenda, that we want to help; his vision for Latin America, which is the vision of Latin Americans for themselves. And he's going to be focusing on those countries and those leaders that have the right model and the right ideas for a better Latin America. That's what he'll be doing.
Thanks very much.
Posted: Mar 12 2007, 04:41 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 12, 2007
Nominations and Withdrawal Sent to the Senate
NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:
William Herbert Heyman, of New York, to be a Director of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation for a term expiring December 31, 2007, vice Deborah Doyle McWhinney, term expired.
William Herbert Heyman, of New York, to be a Director of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation for a term expiring December 31, 2010. (Reappointment).
Anne Cahn, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace for a term expiring January 19, 2009, vice Betty F. Bumpers, term expired.
Bruce P. Jackson, of the District of Columbia, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace for a term expiring January 19, 2011, vice Chester A. Crocker, term expired.
Kathleen Martinez, of California, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace for a term expiring January 19, 2011, vice Seymour Martin Lipset, term expired.
George E. Moose, of Colorado, to be Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace for a term expiring January 19, 2009, vice Mora L. McLean, term expired.
Jeremy A. Rabkin, of New York, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace for a term expiring January 19, 2009, vice Barbara W. Snelling, term expired.
Dale Cabaniss, of Virginia, to be a Member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority for a term of five years expiring July 29, 2012. (Reappointment).
Carol Waller Pope, of the District of Columbia, to be a Member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority for the term of five years expiring July 1, 2009. (Reappointment).
WITHDRAWAL SENT TO THE SENATE:
William Herbert Heyman, of New York, to be a Director of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation for a term expiring December 31, 2008, vice Thomas Waters Grant, term expired, which was sent to the Senate on January 29, 2007.
Posted: Mar 14 2007, 04:55 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 14, 2007
President Bush and President Calderón Participate in a Joint Press Availability
Fiesta Americana Mérido
10:04 A.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: (As translated.) Good morning, Mr. President, dear friends from the media. I thank you for being here in this press conference. I would like to thank very sincerely President George Bush for visiting our country and for dedicating almost three days to his visit in Mexico.
I'm very pleased to inform you that President George Bush and myself, we're fully satisfied for how fruitful this meeting has been for both countries. As leaders of sovereign nations, we have talked in a respectful environment and a cordial environment about very diverse and complex issues of our bilateral agenda. We coincided in sharing our core responsibility, which now, more than ever, happened to be a shared responsibility. We reiterate our commitment with democracy, with the defense and respect of human rights, the promotion of free trade, with the rule of law, security, sustainable development and, in particular, our fight against poverty.
From this platform of understanding, we have covered in detail each of the issues of our bilateral agenda. I would like to express my gratitude to President Bush that we have talked so openly, with the sincerity and respect of both countries that are not only neighbors, but they are pursuing to do what true friends should do.
We have talked, for example, about the strengthening of a task force that will be directed to the transition of full trade of sensitive products such as corn and beans. We talked about the need to cover the phenomenon of migration as a factor of prosperity for both nations, orderly migration process. We acknowledged the effort that President Bush and his administration is doing in order to promote within the Congress a comprehensive migratory reform that will acknowledge the rights of the migrants and workers, that would allow orderly and legal programs for temporary jobs, and would allow the reunification of family ties.
We have expressed our concern for protecting and guaranteeing human rights of those who cross the border and, above all, about the enormous relevance of generating in Mexico opportunities that the citizens need for their development.
We shared the need of having a safe border that will close the gates to drugs, arms and terrorism, and that will open its doors to trade -- prosperity and trade. Our border should be a tightening and closing point. The border should bring us together and not separate us. For this, we are considering the possibility of establishing new cross-points and border bridges that will speed up the transit of goods and people. Both Presidents have agreed to coordinate in a better way our actions in order to confront organized crime in both sides of the border.
Mexico and the United States are nations that are joined together in the pursuit for better levels of well-being for its people. We do have the means, and in this meeting, we have seen the political will in order to reach shared goals. I'm fully convinced, then, from this visit on, we will be able to start a new stage of the relationships that take place between Mexico and the United States.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Señor Presidente, gracias. Buenos días. Laura and I have had a fascinating trip, and our final stop was a really good one. Glad to be back in Mexico. This is an especially beautiful part of your wonderful country. The hospitality was very generous -- and the meals were quite good. (Laughter.) Estoy lleno. (Laughter.)
Over the past two days, the President and I have had a very -- a series of friendly and very productive meetings. That's what the people of our respective countries expect. They expect people to work out differences in a constructive way. They expect leaders to seize opportunities for the benefit of our respective peoples. And the spirit is very strong to work together.
I appreciate so very much the fact that during our meetings we reaffirmed the values of democracy and transparency and rule of law that guide both our countries. We discussed ways to make our nation safer, both nations safer, and both nations prosperous.
President Calderón is taking a tough stand against organized crime and drugs, and I appreciate that. I made it very clear to the President that I recognize the United States has a responsibility in the fight against drugs. And one major responsibility is to encourage people to use less drugs. When there is demand, there is supply. And to the extent, Mr. President, that we can continue to make progress to reduce drugs, it will take pressure off of Mexico. So we have a responsibility.
Mexico has a responsibility, as well, and the President is working hard on that responsibility. And we agreed to work together. Mexico is, obviously, a sovereign nation, and the President, if he so chooses, like he has, will lay out an agenda where the United States can be a constructive partner.
And the other place where we can work together is in the region. And so the President, who is a very strong leader in Central America, for example, will work with the United States and the Central American countries to develop a regional plan, because it could be successful in Mexico, and yet the problem could be transferred to the South, in which case we wouldn't have the security we would want.
So, Mr. President, thank you for your leadership on this issue. I'm looking forward to working with you on it.
We talked about the economy. My view is, is that when Mexico grows, the United States benefits. And obviously, to the extent, Mr. President, you're able to put forth your innovative policies, we applaud your efforts. I appreciate so very much some of the innovative ideas that you're putting forward. As I said last night in the dinner, I appreciate very much the fact that you're focusing development in the south of your country.
Obviously, there was a lot of discussion about trade. People in my country are concerned about trade; people in Mexico are concerned about trade. There are strong protectionist sentiments in the United States. I will work, Mr. President, to reject those protectionist sentiments, because I believe trade is one of the best avenues to help common prosperity. Now, anytime we have trade relations, there will be complications. And I pledged to the President that we would work together to ensure a smooth transition to full trade in dealing with sensitive issues such as corn and beans.
Education is an important issue that is -- for our two countries. And I appreciate your commitment to strong education. The United States can help. I'm a big believer in student exchanges between our two nations, on both sides of the border. And one reason I am is because I think it's important sometimes for people to gain an accurate perception of my country by coming to my country. I love the fact that students travel back and forth.
Mr. President, this morning I met with some students, that are funded through USAID programs, who have come to the United States to take different courses in different subjects, and then have come back to Mexico to lend the expertise that they have gained to improve the communities in which they live. This is a vital program that the United States must continue, in my judgment, in order to help people realize the great benefits of education.
We spent a lot of time on the important and sensitive issue of migration. I say, sensitive, because obviously this is an issue that people can use to inflame passions. I say, important, because a good migration law will help both economies and will help the security of both countries. And the reason I say that is that if people can come into our country, for example, on a temporary basis to work, doing jobs Americans aren't doing, they won't have to sneak across the border.
And by the way, a system that encourages people to sneak across the border is a system that leads to human rights abuses. It's a system that promotes coyotes and document forgers. It's a system that allows for the exploitation of citizens who are trying to earn a living for their families.
And so, Mr. President, as we discussed, I will work with Congress, members of both political parties, to pass immigration law that will enable us to respect the rule of law and, at the same time, respect humanity in a way that upholds the values of the United States of America.
I appreciate your hospitality. It's been a very warm greeting, Mr. President. I thank you and your good wife for being so kind to Laura and me. I look forward to future conversations. Muchas gracias.
PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: We will have a Q&A session now, starting with the Mexican press.
Q Good morning, President of the United States of America, President of the United Mexico States. Your visit is coming to an end now. This is a question for President George Bush. At the end of your visit, sir, have you found allies in order to place a counterweight to the initiatives of Hugo Chavez? What commitments did President Calder n take on in order to be a counterweight to these initiatives of Hugo Chavez, on the one hand?
And on the other hand, President Calderón, Foreign Minister Patricia has said that you are working in order to strengthen the relationship with Venezuela. How is this compatible with the commitments that you're taking on with President Bush in order to give thrust to this counterweight in Latin America?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you for the question. We spent a lot of time talking about Mexico's role in the world. Mexico is a respected nation. President Calderón is a respected leader. But our conversations focused on democracy and rule of law, and prosperity and how to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. We spent time talking about social justice and concern for the poor.
One of the reasons I've come down here again is to remind people in this important part of the world that the United States cares deeply about the human condition; that we spent $1.6 billion of bilateral aid last year, most of the money going to social justice programs. And that doesn't include programs like the one I saw in the highlands of Guatemala, where our military was providing basic health care for citizens.
So, Mr. President and I spent time talking about how to advance a hopeful agenda, one that will lift the spirits of people. And I respect the role Mexico plays. Mexico will lead diplomatic efforts for the common security and common prosperity, and that's an important role.
PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: The commitment and purpose of my government is to have constructive, positive and sound relations with all countries of the world, and of course, with the countries of Latin America, without exception. And certainly the most important relationship with Mexico abroad is the one that we have with the United States, due to the migration that exists, the flows through the borders and all else that you are well aware of.
However, Mexico is respectful of the opinions of other leaders. We are respectful of the heads of state of other countries, such as Venezuela, and certainly the United States. We are a government that has principles and values, values such as democracy, freedom, liberty and legality and, certainly, security and safety.
On the other hand, not as a strategy -- this was not something that we focused on as a strategy in our talks, but as a conviction of our government. Mexico has to play a role which is balanced, weighed, and it has to be a leader in Latin America, in agreement with its culture, its history, its economy, its people.
We are deeply Latin American, and we, too, want justice, development, democracy for all of Latin America. That is where we are engaged and we are committed. We certainly do agree and coincide with other countries, many countries, of course, who coincide and agree with those principles.
Q Mr. President, the Attorney General acknowledges in a statement --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on, Roger. The world wants to hear your voice.
Q Thank you. The Attorney General acknowledged yesterday that there were mistakes in the firing of prosecutors. What is his future in your cabinet? Do you have confidence in him? And more importantly -- or just as important -- how effective can he be in Congress going forward when he's lost a lot of confidence among Democrats and doesn't have any defenders among Republicans?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I do have confidence in Attorney General Al Gonzales. I talked to him this morning, and we talked about his need to go up to Capitol Hill and make it very clear to members in both political parties why the Justice Department made the decisions it made, making very clear about the facts. And he's right, mistakes were made. And I'm, frankly, not happy about it, because there is a lot of confusion over what really has been a customary practice by the Presidents. U.S. attorneys and others serve at the pleasure of the President. Past administrations have removed U.S. attorneys; they're right to do so.
The Justice Department recommended a list of U.S. attorneys. I believe the reasons why were entirely appropriate. And yet this issue was mishandled to the point now where you're asking me questions about it in Mexico, which is fine. If I were you, I'd ask the same question. This is an issue that -- let me just say, Al was right, mistakes were made, and he's going to go up to Capitol Hill to correct them.
I appreciate the fact that he's taken some action, because anytime anybody goes up to Capitol Hill, they've got to make sure they fully understand the facts, and how they characterize the issue to members of Congress. And the fact that both Republicans and Democrats feel like that there was not straightforward communication troubles me, and it troubles the Attorney General, so he took action. And he needs to continue to take action.
Q Good morning to both Presidents. President Bush, I ask you, why would you think that Mexicans could believe in a reform in migration when for so many years this was not a possibility nor reality? And what are your chances of coming through with this bill in Congress? And President Calderón, you had lunch with President Fox. Can you tell us what you talked about?
PRESIDENT BUSH: They talked about carne. (Laughter.) Excuse me. I wasn't there. (Laughter.)
No, that's a legitimate question, and the question is, why now? Why do I think something positive can happen? Well, first of all, the legislative process takes awhile in the United States. I don't know about Mexico, Mr. President, but sometimes legislators, you know, debate issues for awhile before a solution can be achieved.
And we had a very -- by the way, we haven't had a serious debate on migration until recently. A law was passed in 1986, and then there really wasn't a serious debate until pretty much starting after the year 2000, if my memory serves me well. I've always known this is an important issue because I happened to have been the Governor of Texas. And so I'm very comfortable about discussing the issue, and have elevated the issue over the past years. And members of Congress have taken the issue very seriously, but it's hard to get legislation out of the Congress on a very complex issue.
A lot of Americans were deeply concerned that the United States was not enforcing our laws. They felt like there wasn't a commitment to the rule of law. Over the past year, I believe we have shown the American people that there is a strong commitment to the rule of law, and I think members of Congress are now feeling more comfortable that the country is committed to rule of law, which then makes some more open mined to my argument, which is that if we can have migration reform, it will make it less likely somebody will feel like they have to sneak across our border, and therefore, take pressure off the border. In other words, security for the country, border security, will be enhanced by a good migration law. And then it will make it easier for us to focus our assets on drugs, terrorists, criminals and guns moving both ways.
I believe -- I feel pretty good about it. I don't want to predict legislative successes. But I can tell you my mood, and my mood is optimistic because the mood in the Congress seems like it has changed, from skepticism last year to knowledge that getting a comprehensive bill will be in the nation's interests.
Secondly, I'm optimistic because Republicans in the Senate are working with Democrats in the Senate. We're facilitating that work. The administration is very much involved with helping the senators find common ground to the point where we can move a bill as quickly as possible out of the Senate so it gets to the House of Representatives.
I'm not a betting man. I don't like to bet, because when I do I usually lose, but I'm an optimistic man in this case about getting comprehensive reform. And a bill is in the interests of both countries.
PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: I met with former President Vicente Fox, whom I like, and we have a good friendship. We belong to the same party. I invited him to lunch; we talked for quite a while, talked about matters in a very constructive fashion. And he congratulated us for the work that we've done during these first 100 days. He also said that he had the will to collaborate and cooperate in a respectful fashion with the government for the benefit of Mexicans.
I have also met with other former Presidents, and I'm sure that I will continue to meet with President Fox in the future throughout my administration.
Q Thank you, Mr. President, President Calder n. On the dismissal of U.S. attorneys, there have been allegations that political motivations were involved. Is political loyalty to your administration an appropriate factor? And when you talked to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last year, what did you say, and what did you direct him to do?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thanks, Kelly. I've heard those allegations about political decision-making; it's just not true. Secondly, just so you know, I get asked -- I get complaints all the time from members of Congress on a variety of subjects -- this senator, this congressperson so-and-so -- there's occasionally frustration with the executive branch. And they will pull me aside and say, are you aware of this, are you aware of that? And I did receive complaints about U.S. attorneys.
I specifically remember one time I went up to the Senate and senators were talking about the U.S. attorneys. I don't remember specific names being mentioned, but I did say to Al last year -- you're right, last fall -- I said, have you heard complaints about AGs, I have -- I mean, U.S. attorneys, excuse me -- and he said, I have. But I never brought up a specific case nor gave him specific instructions.
Q Sir, might he have inferred that you discussed it with him was a need for him to take action?
PRESIDENT BUSH: You're going to have to ask Al that question, but as I say, I discuss with my Cabinet officials complaints I hear. When members of the Senate come up and say to me, I've got a complaint, I think it's entirely appropriate and necessary for me to pass those complaints on. I don't every single time, but people view their moment with the President sometimes as an opportunity to unload their frustrations about how things may be working in their state -- or congresspersons how things may be working in their district. And whether it be the Attorney General or the Secretary of State or other members of my Cabinet, I pass those complaints on at times.
What Al did was -- and what the Justice Department did was appropriate. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. In other words, they're appointed by the President. They can be removed by the President. What was mishandled was the explanation of the cases to the Congress. And Al has got work to do up there. And the thing I appreciate about the Attorney General was, he said publicly he could have handled it better, mistakes were made, and took action. And, obviously, more action needs to be taken. That's what I discussed with him on the phone today.
Q Good morning. President Calder n, concerning energy matters, three days before the celebration of the anniversary of the expropriation of oil in our country, could you tell us what the position of the senators of opposition have stated about these matters of oil? We know that the reserves, and of course this oil abundance, perhaps, is coming to its end. Was this issue on oil discussed here?
And, President Bush, 2008 will welcome the opening up of livestock and agriculture matters. Sir, is there a possibility of renegotiating or perhaps leave it for a later date this negotiation of this part of the trade agreement, because of the complaints of Mexican producers?
PRESIDENT CALDER N: The truth of the matter is that we did not discuss this issue of oil, because this is something that has to do specifically with Mexicans. This is a Mexican issue. We will not privatize a company that belongs to Mexicans, such as of the case of Pemex. We will have to see this later on, in terms of sovereignty, and speak about the initiatives, of course, and to see what our Congress states. We do have problems with the decline of especially Cantarell, which has been very important in the production of oil throughout the years, but which is declining in amounts. But we will have to be very clear on the fact that we will be sharing responsibility between Congress and the President.
Concerning agriculture and livestock, I do share the sensitivity of our working group and President Bush. We have set up a working group to deal with the matters of corn and bean, precisely to make more agile this transition, which is established at the end of the free trade agreement, NAFTA.
We do have different problems now today, different from what it was one year ago when we see that the prices of corn are going down. We are having very high costs in our production. This has left our producers out of competition. And now we are seeing what consumption is all about with these very high prices, in the case of corn.
However, due to the circumstances we have in this meeting, we strengthened and we will be strengthening even more a group, a working group, which will address these issues, which are very sensitive for Mexican producers.
PRESIDENT BUSH: One reason I didn't bring up energy is because energy is -- it belongs to sovereign Mexico. And I'm confident that the President will make the best interests for the people of Mexico, working with the Congress.
In terms of opening up NAFTA, renegotiating NAFTA is a mistake, in my judgment. NAFTA has worked. And there is a mechanism in place that the President just described about how to resolve sensitive issues. There will be sensitive issues on a frequent basis when it comes to trade. And the best way to resolve those is through negotiations and discussions, recognizing the sensitivities on both sides of the border, but trying to renegotiate a treaty that has been incredibly important for both sides of the border, in my judgment, would be a mistake. You don't want to weaken NAFTA; you want to make sure it stays strong in order that prosperity continues to expand and people benefit on both sides of the border.
Q Thank you. President Bush, you said the other day that you want, first, on immigration, want to first find a coherent Republican position in the Senate. Most Senate Republicans voted against last year's bill in the Senate. What changes are you willing to make, and would you be willing to forego a path to citizenship as part of that bill? And President Calderón, it's been reported you have relatives working in the United States. What have you learned from their experiences? Do they want to become citizens? And do you know, are they there legally? (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: What was your question again? No. (Laughter.) Michael Chertoff and Carlos Gutierrez are negotiating with Republicans, helping Republicans find common ground, Steve, and this isn't the appropriate place to be conducting negotiations.
It is the appropriate place to talk about the spirit of moving the bill forward. And, obviously, we would like to be able to convince no voters that it makes sense to be for a comprehensive immigration policy. I feel strongly that it's in our interests, national interests, to get a bill done. That's why, after all, I gave the address to the United States from the Oval Office on this very subject.
And you asked about amnesty -- look, amnesty is not going to fly. There is not going to be automatic citizenship, it just won't work. People in the United States don't support that, and neither do I, nor will kicking people out of the United States work. It's not practical. It is not a realistic solution. Some may articulate that, but it's empty talk. And so, therefore, there's got to be a middle ground, a reasonable way to deal with the 12 million people or so that have been in our country for a period of time. And that's where a lot of the discussions are taking place. And I think we can find a rational way forward, somewhere in between automatic citizenship and kicking people out of the country. It's in our interests we do so. We are a nation of law, and therefore, if we can change the law for the better, we ought to do so.
And so, Mr. President, back to the man's question over there, I'm optimistic. But he helped -- his question was somewhat insightful -- very insightful, because what he pointed out was the legislative challenges that we face. He also made it clear in his question that the administration is very much involved with working with Republican senators to help find common ground between Republican Senators and Senator Kennedy, who is emerging as the lead senator on the Democrat side.
I will tell you, if we can find that common ground, we have a very good chance of getting the bill out of the Senate, because Senator Kennedy is one of the best legislative senators there is. He can get the job done. I know firsthand, because we reformed our education system, Mr. President, with his help in 2001. Not to slip in another issue, but we do need to get No Child Left Behind reauthorized, and I'm looking forward to working with Senator Kennedy on the reauthorization.
PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: Yes, I do have family in the United States, and what I can tell you is that these are people who work and respect that country. They pay their taxes to the government. These are people who work in the field, they work with -- in the fields with vegetables. They probably handle that which you eat, the lettuce, et cetera. These are people who respect the United States. These are people who have children, who want these children to be educated with respect for the land where they live and with respect for Mexico.
I am from Michoacan, and in Michoacan, we have four million people, two million of these Michoacanos are in the States. We want them to come back; we want them to find jobs here in Mexico. We miss them. These are our best people. These are bold people, they're young, they're strong, they're talented. They have overcome tremendous adversity, who are working so that they can come back to their country someday.
And I'm saying this for all Mexicans, not only those Mexicans that I am related to by blood, by land, soil, air. And I want to say that I am fighting so that instead of having our people cross the border to find work, we want investments to cross the border and come over here.
The U.S. economy is capital intensive. We are labor- intensive. We can give democracy to our people if we find sound basis so that we could also find those factors which can give jobs for our people. I have said this, and I will continue to say this: I hope -- and I hope that some day, everybody will believe as I do. I believe in work. I believe that I will see all of these people coming back and embrace them knowing that, well, that we live in countries that defend liberty and freedom.
Thank you so much to all. Have a nice day. (Applause.)
Posted: Mar 15 2007, 04:06 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
March 15, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:49 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Hello. The President this morning had a good meeting with the Iraqi Vice President, Adil Abd Al-Mahdi. Among other things, the Iraqi Vice President noted that the ongoing security plan in Iraq is going, as he said, better than expected. But he also noted that we've got a long way to go. There are a lot of issues -- politically, economically, and in terms of security -- to address within Iraq. As he said -- he talked about the hydrocarbon bill and deBaathification. But it was an important and a good meeting.
And it, incidently, comes at a time when the United States Senate is debating a resolution that would pull the rug out from under the Iraqi people by trying to set artificial deadlines when it comes to U.S. military commitments. If that bill comes before the President, he will veto it.
The Vice President also -- that is the Iraqi Vice President -- also noted that yesterday he visited soldiers in the hospital, and he was impressed by the high spirit they had -- "better morale than I had," he said, talking about their mission. And in trying to bind the hands of the administration would pull the rug out from under them, as well. So we do have some business going on on Capitol Hill today.
Q The Judiciary Committee today approved subpoenas -- authorized subpoenas for five Justice Department officials as they look into the prosecutors case. What's the administration's reaction?
MR. SNOW: Well, I refer you to the Department of Justice on that. I know that they've had some conversations, but I'll refer you to DOJ on that.
Q Why would that be? Why wouldn't the White House --
MR. SNOW: Because it's subpoenas for the DOJ, and the Department of Justice will respond. The Department of Justice has also had ongoing conversations with people on Capitol Hill. I don't want to be their fact witness on this one, but, again, I suggest you give their office a call.
Q But you said Fred Fielding is talking with the Hill to see about --
MR. SNOW: Yes. I said he's been talking with people on the Hill. He was up on the Hill yesterday. I don't know if he'll be up --
Q Still no resolution of that?
MR. SNOW: No. But, again, what we're trying to do is to make sure they get the information they need in a manner that's consistent with presidential prerogatives.
Q Tony, it's getting hard to find a Republican around town who says that Gonzales will survive this. Is there any feeling inside the White House that Attorney General Gonzales will survive this?
MR. SNOW: The President has confidence in the Attorney General. He's made that clear, both privately to the Attorney General, and he made it clear yesterday in the press conference.
Q But if you have an ever-growing number of Republicans on the Hill calling for resignation or expressing strong --
MR. SNOW: Well, you're asking me if; we have one publicly declared.
Q You do have more Republican opinion that Gonzales should not keep his job.
MR. SNOW: Well, again --
Q That's got to factor into an administration who wants to do business with Republicans on the Hill to get a domestic agenda done, if nothing else.
MR. SNOW: Well, we're working with people on both sides of the Hill, and, Jim, one of the things the President said is that the Attorney General is going to be going to Capitol Hill to talk about some of the mistakes that were made in terms of providing notification on U.S. attorneys. And furthermore, the information was provided to people within the Department of Justice when they went to testify on the Hill. So the Attorney General also is going to have an opportunity to speak with members of Congress and address their concerns.
Q At this point, the Attorney General --
MR. SNOW: The President has confidence in the Attorney General.
Q He had confidence in Rumsfeld, too.
Q Will the President let current and former officials, like Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, testify on Capitol Hill?
MR. SNOW: As I said, Fred Fielding is busy conducting talks with people in the House and Senate, with Democrats. And I'm not going to tell you what's going to be decided. I'm going to let them go ahead and have their conversations. Again, we're going to give them the information they need in a manner that's consistent with presidential prerogatives.
Q Without them having to subpoena?
MR. SNOW: Again, you're trying to get me to jump ahead and do negotiations. Not going to do it.
Q Was the Mohammed on the front pages subjected to any torture in the secret prisons?
MR. SNOW: We don't -- again, the policy of this government is we do not engage in torture.
Q And so you can guarantee that he was not tortured in all the years of secret --
MR. SNOW: I'm telling you the policy is that we don't do torture, and furthermore, that there are -- very specific guidelines have been laid down in terms of the questioning of people who, in fact, have been in U.S. custody.
Q But after it was all revealed. How do we know -- I mean, this is -- why would you send them to secret prisons in the first place?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to -- Helen, we have been through long conversations about that. There was a big debate on Capitol Hill about this. We're not going to relitigate it.
Q So you're saying he was not --
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Tony, let me talk about the Judiciary Committee decision to authorize the subpoenas before these talks with Fielding are completed -- do you feel that's premature?
MR. SNOW: Well, you're talking about Department of Justice subpoenas, those are not White House subpoenas. That's a separate issue.
Q Tony, Leahy said that he would subpoena Rove, Miers, if there was not voluntary cooperation.
MR. SNOW: Well, as I said, I'm not going to get up here and act as if -- Fred Fielding is having conversations. I think it's advisable to let those proceed.
Q But if he does subpoena, is there anything the White House can do to stop --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to play the "if" game. Let's just wait and see. Rather than trying to answer hypotheticals, we will deal with facts as they arise.
Q Do you think the White House made any mistakes in this whole matter of the discussions over the firings? And particular, I'm wondering if Attorney General Gonzales was making statements to members of Congress, beginning in January, that later proved to be not exactly in line with the facts, weren't people in the White House aware of that?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into extensive sort of fact witnessing. Let me make a simple point. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, and these were proper decisions to remove seven U.S. attorneys. And the Department of Justice went through its own process, and I'll let the Department of Justice speak for the metrics, and so on, that it used. But it's certainly within the right of the President to replace people.
Furthermore, as you know, with U.S. attorneys, they've got a four-year term. Each of these folks had fulfilled the four-year term. There are holdover provisions, but it is well within the President's executive authority to replace people.
Q Tony, two quick questions. One, there has been so much written so far now as far as terrorism, threat of terrorism is concerned in Afghanistan and also here in the U.S. And The Washington Post former prime minister of Pakistan is writing that now that a clear story has come that General Musharraf is not doing enough as far as what he was accepted by the President -- and even not only President -- satisfied with what's happening with what's going on. And where do we stand now as far as Osama bin Laden and all those --
MR. SNOW: Goyal, you're asking me to answer a question that involves highly classified matters, and I can't do that. I'm not going to do --
Q Not classified --
MR. SNOW: There's not a lot of unclassified information about what we're doing with regard to Osama bin Laden. The fact is that this administration remains determined to prosecute the war on terror on all fronts.
Q Second, on immigration. As far as presidential trip is concerned, he had -- immigration as far as Mexico is concerned -- so he said that he will double his efforts as far as the immigration bill is concerned in the U.S. Senate. So what is he going to do now? Is it what Democrats want, or what --
MR. SNOW: No, the President laid it out yesterday -- working with Republicans to come up with a largely accepted Republican view, and then work with Democrats to get a bill passed. I mean, he's been pretty straightforward about the approach. But the President -- make no mistake, the President is committed to this cause. He delivered a nationwide address from the Oval Office. It certainly was something we discussed at every stop along the way. He thinks it is vital for making this nation more secure, this nation more prosperous, and incidentally, also for making our friends and allies in the neighborhood more secure and prosperous. It's good for both sides.
And as a result, he wanted to make sure that everybody understood that this was a real firm, profound and personal commitment on his part.
Q -- you can clear very quickly. Fred Fielding is negotiating with members on the Hill on possible subpoenas of White House staff. Does that mean he's not talking to them about the possible Justice Department subpoenas?
MR. SNOW: What I'm not going to do -- what he's talking about is -- and I'm not even going to engage -- what you've done is jump to negotiating about subpoenas. What we're talking about is getting information to them that they need in a manner that's consistent with our prerogatives. And that can cover a lot of ground. I am not privy to the precise conversations, but Fred is having conversations with them, and I don't want to characterize them.
Q You seem to be pushing off -- you seem to be pushing our questions on subpoenas --
MR. SNOW: Because the Department of Justice has been, in fact, having its own conversations with those committees.
Q Does the White House have no opinion about whether Justice Department officials should -- honor subpoenas?
MR. SNOW: That's sort of the backdoor way of getting into the conversations that Fred may be having with folks on the Hill. Let's just let these talks play out, and then once we get to a point where there's resolution, then you can ask me and I can give you a much more direct answer. We're dealing at a highly hypothetical level right now and that kind of musing doesn't give us much to go on.
Q Tony, going to another subject, the Pentagon. Is the President now going to start embracing the words "civil war," to a certain extent as it relates to Iraq?
MR. SNOW: What you're talking about is the 90/10 report that came out. That, April, reflects the language that was used in the National Intelligence Estimate. As you'll recall, the National Intelligence Estimate said there are some things that are characteristic of a civil war, some that are not. So this is -- there's not new language, or for that matter, new analysis.
Q It's not new language for the NIE, but it's new language for the President --
MR. SNOW: No, no, the President -- what the President is focusing on is succeeding in Iraq. And again, you've got evidence that there has been progress. I don't want to oversell it because it is tough and there's along way to go. We're still busy moving forces into Iraq. We're still working with the Iraqis to develop capability. They've been stepping up and taking on tough decisions. The oil law has been passed by the council ministers; it is going before the legislature. What I'm telling you, April, is there's a lot of stuff going on. And what you're asking about is a phrase used in a National Intelligence Estimate.
Q Don't diminish it, because for months you, from that podium, have been dancing around the words, "civil war," and sectarian --
MR. SNOW: Right, but what you are trying to say is that that is a label that is attached as an absolute -- that is being used to describe accurately what's going on. And if you take a look at the NIE, it said it has some characteristics and some that are inconsistent. So we're not going to use the term.
Q So you're not going to use the term, the President is not?
MR. SNOW: No, but the President -- the National Intelligence Estimate says that there are some characteristics that are consistent and some that aren't.
Q Okay. And lastly, on the Sudan, why did it take so long for this administration to come out with the issue of sanctions, financial sanctions? From my understanding, this administration had been looking into that issue for months.
MR. SNOW: This administration has been working for months -- I would flip it around -- this administration -- and the President was the first person to call this genocide -- he has been working and he has been very aggressive on the diplomatic track, trying to get people in the neighborhood, within the African Union and also the United Nations to step up. This needs to be addressed.
Q Well, why has it taken the sanctions -- as you said, he's called it genocide; he's even called it outrageous. But why has it taken so long? I got word of it last year, towards the end of summer, that they were looking at sanctions. Why are we now in March, and they're talking about sanctions --
MR. SNOW: We have been trying to work, April, to make sure that we have the ability of players in the region to have some influence on the government, which, in the Sudanese government, has consistently rejected overtures, and that becomes a forcing event to get others involved.
Q Back on the prosecutors. Has the White House been in touch with Harriet Miers to see if she has further information in this case?
MR. SNOW: I don't know.
Q The President said, "I've heard those allegations about political decision-making; it's just not true." How can he say that when he hasn't seen all the emails, emails continue to come out, and of those that have already come out, some of them clearly seem to show that at some level, at least, there was political decision-making?
MR. SNOW: I'm not -- how would you define "political decision-making"?
Q Well, decision-making that involves politics.
Q How would you define it, Tony?
MR. SNOW: Well, it's a loaded term. I mean, I think what the President -- what the President is saying is that there is no -- that in evaluating U.S. attorneys, this is based on performance. And the important thing to do -- and furthermore, the Department of Justice made recommendations that the President has accepted. Also keep in mind, the President has the authority to remove people and put other folks in the job. That is at his discretion. That's presidential power.
Q But is he saying that he was so in the loop, then, that he definitely knew there was nothing political, or was he, in fact, removed, as you indicated this morning?
MR. SNOW: No, I think -- again, what the President has -- the Department of Justice has made recommendations, they've been approved. And it's pretty clear that these things are based on performance and not on sort of attempts to do political retaliation, if you will.
Q Tony, thank you. Thousands of veterans are coming from all over the country to make sure on Saturday that a rally organized by a group called Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism does not deface the Vietnamese War Memorial like the Capitol was spray-painted by another mob. My question: Does the President have any welcome for these veterans protecting our war memorial?
MR. SNOW: The President welcomes all veterans and thanks them for their service.
Q Since it has been my impression that Vice President Cheney has always been loyal to the President, could you tell us the President's reaction to the Time Magazine cover story that described Mr. Cheney as, "the administration's enemy within," "an independent operation inside the White House that has done more harm than good" and one of Bush's biggest liabilities?
MR. SNOW: That would be inaccurate.
Q Wait a minute, one last one, because you've been away for a week.
Q Welcome back.
MR. SNOW: Yes, this is my welcome back. (Laughter.)
Q Both the Media Research Center, as well as The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial headlined, "The Hubbell Standard: Hillary Clinton knows about sacking U.S. attorneys," deplored the old big media uproar about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, when the Clinton administration fired 93 in one day. And my question: Does the President agree or disagree with The Wall Street Journal and the Media Research Center?
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware that he's expressed an opinion on it. Let me just remind everybody again, U.S. attorneys are --
Q What do you think?
MR. SNOW: It's not my job to get up here and expound my views.
Q I'd love to hear your opinion on it.
MR. SNOW: Well, that's well and good, and I appreciate that. It makes me feel all warm inside. But it's not appropriate for me to do that.
Q Welcome back.
MR. SNOW: Thank you.
Q Tony, has the building of the wall between Mexico and the United States damaged relations between the two countries beyond repair?
MR. SNOW: No. As a matter of fact, the relations are close. And the conversations between President Calder n and President Bush were, as the President said, extremely productive. They were detailed and -- the two leaders were honest with each other about things where they agreed and where they disagreed, and maybe the most important thing is that they also committed to taking issues of concern directly to Cabinet-level officers so that they could go ahead and really seize responsibility.
There are a lot of good things that we can do with the Mexican government -- border security, drug interdiction, arms interdiction, trying to make sure that the borders are safe, building conditions for greater prosperity in Mexico -- that takes pressure off the border and, frankly, greater prosperity within the region. There were educational exchanges. I mean, they talked about a lot of things.
So I would -- number one, I would argue that what's happened is that U.S.-Mexican relations have been strengthened as a consequence of the visit; and, also, that the personal relationship between the two Presidents was strengthened by virtue of the fact that they were candid with each other and I think they were both impressed with the seriousness, and also the leadership quality. President Calder n is a leader. He's been in office for a hundred days or so and he is tackling directly a lot of the most important businesses. So, again, to use the term the President did, very productive meetings.
Q Tony, in your answer this morning on the new Palestinian government, you said you hoped that President Abbas could proceed with the ability to follow the Quartet commitments. Can you explain what that --
MR. SNOW: Well, we're really -- at this point, let's wait until we have a government fully formed up. But the most important issue, ultimately, in dealing with peace in the region is to have the Palestinians abide by the Quartet conditions. That has been our position and will continue to be our position.
Q Tony, while the President was traveling, New Century fund, one of the biggest mortgage lenders, almost went belly-up, causing a major fall in the stock market. What's troubling investors now is the fact that this housing market, which has been based on some very risky loans, is really holding up the whole stock market situation. And if the bubble blows in the housing market, a lot of people are going to be in trouble, the U.S. economy goes down the tubes. I was just wondering if the President is focused on this problem. And does he have a game plan, aside from the denial and the happy talk that's been coming out of the Secretary of Treasury?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, I would -- if you want to -- I would encourage you to take your concerns to the Secretary of Treasury; I'm sure he'll be happy to respond. Hank Paulson is not only an enormously capable, but very realistic Secretary of the Treasury. So, please, try that.
Secondly, we do have -- the fundamentals in the economy are sound, but I am not going to get into talking about markets. Any time somebody makes comments from this podium it is something that could potentially influence markets; I'm just not going to do it.
Q If such a collapse -- as a follow-up on that -- if such a market collapse would occur, would the President be intent on maintaining the value of the dollar?
MR. SNOW: I will refer you to my prior answer. What you're asking me to do now is to accept a premise, the acceptance of which would be a market-moving event.
Q Is the President worried about eroding support for No Child Left Behind?
MR. SNOW: No. The President is deeply committed to No Child Left Behind. And it's important to make sure not only that we have standards for schools, but that we extend to every child -- from kindergarten straight through 12th grade -- the opportunity and the promise of good education, so that they are equipped to intellectually -- they have the intellectual tools and capabilities to deal with a workforce in which they're going to change careers any number of times; that they're going to have the intellectual abilities. And the President is committed to making sure richer, poorer, wherever you live, you're going to have those opportunities. And he is strongly committed to it and he's working with Democrats and Republicans -- Republicans first, of course.
Q We know he's committed to it, but what about Republicans who signed on it before, but have now expressed interest in other legislation?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think, again, there are plenty of conversations that are ongoing. But the President feels confident that we're going to get reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, and, furthermore, that it's vital to American students.
Q How soon does the President want the Security Council to vote on the Iran resolution --
MR. SNOW: Well, they're still working it out. I mean, I don't think that the President has a timetable on it, but, obviously, we think it's going to be soon. It's important to realize, though, that we have been working within -- we're now going to present it to the full Security Council and I think we're pretty close on it.
Q Well, is the President satisfied with the language then?
MR. SNOW: Well, let's wait until everything is signed. This is another one of these things where we want to make sure it's all wrapped up, signed, sealed and delivered, and then we'll be happy to characterize.
Q On the attorneys, you mentioned that these firings were not done as political retaliation or retribution. If we're going to talk about, kind of, the President's powers, though, if any of the firings were for political retribution, is that within his purview, as well?
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: Again, the President has the authority to remove people who serve at his pleasure. And these are folks who had four-year terms, all of which had expired.
Q Is there any plan to commemorate March 19th, four years into war?
MR. SNOW: To "commemorate"? The one thing we do is constantly --
Q Take notice of.
MR. SNOW: Well, I think there will be plenty people taking notice of it. The one thing that we want to do is also make sure that people take notice of how vital it is to continue to supply the reinforcement our forces need and the support that the Iraqi government is going to need in order to put all the pieces together that are going to allow that nation to be delivered from an age of tyranny under Saddam Hussein to one of hope and democracy.
Q Well, but is anything going to be done by the President, personally? You don't know.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Thank you.
|alive and still talking||
Posted: Mar 18 2007, 01:25 AM
alive and still talking
Member No.: 1,913
Joined: 3-February 07
We are all STUCK with Bush, God help us all....
Posted: Mar 22 2007, 04:38 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 22, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:48 A.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: A couple of things up top. As you probably know, Senator John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, have announced that she has a recurrence of cancer, and that they will still continue a full and vigorous campaign. First, our thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth Edwards.
Also, as somebody who has been through this, Elizabeth Edwards is setting a powerful example for a lot of people, and a good and positive one. She has been on top of diagnosis and follow-up. When you have cancer it's very important to keep checking. She's being aggressive. She's living an active life. And a positive attitude, prayers, and people you love are always a very good addition to any kind of medicine you have. So for Elizabeth Edwards, good going; our prayers are with you.
Now to politics. The House of Representatives is considering an emergency supplemental appropriations bill. The one they're considering has zero chance of being enacted into law; it's bad legislation; the President is going to veto it, and Congress will sustain that veto.
The bill is fatally flawed in several ways. Number one, it ties the hands of our generals. It does so by putting politicians and staffers in charge of the kinds of things that need to be determined on the battlefield -- everything from deployment schedules to dwell times -- thus denying commanders the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to the changing realities on the ground. We think that's inadvisable. It also would withdraw U.S. troops regardless of conditions on the ground in Iraq if events did not meet a pre-ordained time schedule being placed forth by members of Congress. As we've said, that is a formula for failure. Among other things, it allows an enemy to adopt a "wait it out" strategy, and also sends the wrong kind of signals to our allies.
In addition, it also imposes a time line on Iraqi forces and would cut them off at precisely the time that we are trying to build capacity on the part of the Iraqi forces so they can assume increasing and ultimately total responsibility for security operations within their own country.
Secondly, it weakens our effort at sustaining the peace. Part of the President's plan for Iraq and the way forward, involves not merely military action, but also the ability to create opportunity and hope for Iraqis. How? By going into neighborhoods and saying, we're going to help build jobs; we're going to help build civil institutions. We learned in the first Iraqi plan that, in fact, if you simply create a vacuum -- you have peace, but you do not have opportunity to follow on -- sooner or later, crime and terror tends to fill that vacuum.
So the President has announced a number of things. Today he met with members of provisional reconstruction teams -- actually, leaders who are going to go there. And it was an extraordinary meeting because you had many people with significant diplomatic experience -- indeed, many people who have returned from retirement because they love the idea of helping build democracy in dangerous parts of Iraq.
These were programs that they ask for volunteers -- the State Department, the Defense Department, USAID -- and in every case, they were overwhelmed by the number of people who volunteered, and we got to meet people who are going to be helping man up the first 10 of these provisional reconstruction teams in such areas as Baghdad and Ramadi.
Having noted that, this supplemental appropriations bill actually cuts funding for these very people. For democracy- building efforts, it cuts that by $40 million. It cuts $100 million out of efforts to build local governing capacity. It builds -- it cuts jobs programs by $30 million, and I just mentioned the PRTs -- provisional reconstruction teams -- cuts $33 million out of that, and another $20 million out of programs for the rule of law.
Now, while cutting this funding for peace and prosperity, here's what this bill -- and this is a emergency supplemental military bill -- here are some of the items in there: $60.4 million for salmon fisheries; $74 million for peanut storage; $100 million for citrus assistance; $120 million for shrimp and menhaden fishing; $400 million for rural schools; and $500 million for a firefighting fund that already has an available balance of $831 million. These may be priorities, but they are not part of an emergency supplemental for the military.
Finally, this: The clock is ticking. Money is going to run out for our forces in Iraq sometime next month. The money is running out, and meanwhile, you have people on Capitol Hill trying to buy or cajole votes for a bill that's not going to pass. The Speaker is busy working some of her members and they're also trying to twist some arms.
Our suggestion is, please get this done as rapidly as possible, because day after day, the money is running out like sands through an hour glass. And if you want to support our troops, get them the money they need when they need it.
Now, we hope Congress will go ahead and vote on this stuff, because if you take a look at the calendar now, the next few weeks, you will notice that I think a week from Monday, houses of Congress start breaking for their Easter or spring break, depending on how you want to define it, and you do not have all of Congress back until the 16th of April, I believe. I think that's right, isn't it -- 16th of April? In any event, there's a very real chance that money for the troops will run out while members of Congress are on vacation. Is that the message you want to send to men and women who are putting their lives on the line?
So I think it's important to go ahead and move on for this. The President has made it clear that this needs to be a bill for the military. All the other stuff can be folded into budget bills which also are being offered up. This is an emergency supplemental for the troops and military operations.
It's also a chance -- we've said this before, but we're serious about it -- a chance to work together. We can figure out how to solve the military piece; all these other things we'd be happy to debate -- in fact, the debate on those begins almost immediately. So there you have it. And the Senate also, I must say, has now said it is going to consider precisely the same bill. So this is basically a wheel-spinning exercise so that people can make a rhetorical point at a time when the real point is, if you want to support the troops, let's get the money in the pipeline in time.
Q Can I just ask on that, before we go to other things? When you said the cuts that it makes, is that cuts from existing spending --
MR. SNOW: That's cuts from our request.
Q Oh, from your request.
MR. SNOW: No, these are requests that we had made.
Q Okay. Is the position still that there must be no strings attached, that all these -- the peanut storage and the rest of it -- need to be out of a bill like this?
MR. SNOW: Well, I've told you what our position is. And the President -- we have put out a supplemental -- I mean, a statement of administration policy. We think that this is inappropriate. What we want to do is to make sure that the funds have -- that our commanders have the funding and flexibility they need. That is the paramount consideration.
Q I'd like to ask you about the standoff between Congress and the White House on the testimony of aides. The Senate Judiciary Committee has now followed the lead of the House, and they have voted to authorize subpoenas. What now?
MR. SNOW: That's a good question.
Q Is this headed for the courts?
MR. SNOW: You'd have to ask Congress. I think what the House and Senate have both done is to go through the step of authorizing subpoenas but not issuing them. As I have mentioned before, the conversations, at least the readouts I've gotten from Fred Fielding, about his discussions with members of Congress, they've been respectful and collegial. And I have noted -- I think maybe I'm being too optimistic, but I've noted that there's been sort of a moderation in some of the rhetoric in the last 24 hours.
I think everybody realizes that the end product of this inquiry ought to be the truth. And we have offered a suggestion that we think allows everybody to get at the truth and to get all the answers.
The phone lines are still open, and at this point, I'm not aware of any conversations that Fred may have had. But we certainly are not averse to hearing from members of Congress, and, if nothing else, explaining more fully what our position is and why we think it's appropriate.
Q So you're inviting conversation, dialogue, compromise?
MR. SNOW: I'm just saying we're not averse to it. It's certainly appropriate.
Q If the phones lines are open, what are you willing to compromise on, in terms of your initial --
MR. SNOW: Well, this is -- this initial position is a significant compromise in this sense: We could have said no, we're not going to do it, we're not going to share White House deliberations, and we could have cited any number of legal precedents.
What we have said instead is that we're going to help you assemble every document and every -- and make available every individual, both at the Justice Department and the White House, you need to hear from. And you'll be able to measure every single data point, every single communication. If you look at the letter Fred sent, it talks about every communication with Capitol Hill, with the Justice Department, with anybody on the outside. That enables you to put together a pretty extraordinary record and try to assemble the facts.
It also makes available all the people in the decision-making loop in the Justice Department. They're certainly free to get asked about any interaction they may have had with the White House. Plus, we have said, you're going to have an opportunity to interview the key members of the White House, and get factual answers to your questions.
So that, in fact, is -- the point I was making. I think Ken was -- Ken Herman was making fun of it, the "extraordinary generous offer" -- but, you know, it is, and it's one of these things that is designed not in an effort to have a confrontation with Congress, but to show cooperation and good will, because we believe it's also important to get all the facts out.
Q You say the phone lines are open. On the other hand, you have two -- I understand the White House position, but it's -- on the other side, you have Justice sort of calcified --
MR. SNOW: I think members are still thinking this through. I don't think members are all that eager to have a big fight either. We don't want a fight. So I think one of the things you need to look for in the next couple of days, or maybe even a few more days, is let people think this through. This is not something that's going to be decided overnight. You have had comments from -- you've had some very good quotes from Senator Leahy and Representative Conyers that are kind of piquant, but at the same time, you've also had expressions that they don't want to move quickly or rationally, and I think that's right.
Q You're sounding much more possible --
MR. SNOW: That's because I think --
Q -- compromise --
MR. SNOW: No, I think we've got a really good offer, and I think as people begin to look at it --
Q It sounded like there's a possibility for some compromise here between the White House and Capitol Hill.
MR. SNOW: No, we already -- we started with the compromise, and now we want to get members of Capitol Hill to join us.
Q Arlen Specter suggested another version of the deal today, which is -- he said, "Testimony that would be open to the public with a limited number of senators, and with a transcript, but no oath."
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't -- again, our offer is our offer, and we know that Senator Specter has tried to play a constructive role here.
Q Wait, wait, wait. Is that a, no?
MR. SNOW: Wait, wait, wait -- it's a, no. (Laughter.)
Q But why? You say you're open to compromise, and what way do you indicate --
MR. SNOW: No, I didn't. I didn't say we were open to compromise. I said, we opened with a compromise.
Q And there's no further compromise from there? How is this not a showdown if you're not willing to compromise further?
MR. SNOW: Well, because -- well, wait a minute, the question we're asking is, will members -- the real question -- let me put it this way: Our goal is to make sure all the facts get out. Does our proposal allow all the facts to get out? The answer is, yes. Does our proposal enable Congress to get at the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? The answer is, yes. Will the American people be able to have an answer that indicates precisely what went on in making these decisions and be able to have confidence that they were appropriate, they were -- within the President's authority, they were the right thing to do? The answer is, yes.
Q The cameras weren't on this morning. You came and said one of the big stumbling blocks is you don't want to see Karl Rove with his hand up in front of a bunch of cameras flashing.
MR. SNOW: You bet.
Q You don't want the --
MR. SNOW: While the cameras are on, I'll say the same thing.
Q So then, your concern is about a public spectacle.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q So if there's no oath, what's the problem?
MR. SNOW: What do you mean? There's -- you still have the public spectacle.
Q If it's behind closed doors, what's the problem?
MR. SNOW: The thing that we have said all along is, we think that you ought to have the ability for members of Congress to get information in a way that also does not create precedence, and is going to have a chilling effect for presidential advisors to be able to give their full and fair advice to the President of the United States. We think that the compromise we shaped enables us to fulfill that obligation to the President, and to the public in terms of first-rate advice from the White House and the people working in the White House, and at the same time, allows Congress to do what it has to do, which is conduct oversight. There is nothing that says Congress has to have television; it says that Congress does have oversight responsibilities and needs to get at the facts.
Furthermore, the people who are first and foremost in the decision loop here, the folks at the Department of Justice, they aren't going to be out. I mean, they're going to be out, they're going to be testifying, they're offering all their documentation, as well.
Q They get to be in public, but you want your guys behind closed doors.
MR. SNOW: There are -- in this particular case, the Department of Justice -- the Congress does have legitimate oversight responsibility for the Department of Justice. It created the Department of Justice. It does not have constitutional oversight responsibility over the White House, which is why by our reaching out, we're doing something that we're not compelled to do by the Constitution, but we think common sense suggests that we ought to get the whole story out, which is what we're doing.
Q Tony, you just said a moment ago you don't want a fight, but this morning you compared this drama, or whatever you want to call it, to "Boston Legal," "Law & Order." You've used words like "show trials," "klieg lights," "partisan fishing expedition." It seems like you have been spoiling for a fight, and you've been poisoning the well with that kind of rhetoric at the start, before --
MR. SNOW: Do you think that some Senate Democrats, when they talk about crimes, have been poisoning the well? I'll tell you what I was talking about, Ed. That was a rhetorical question, I apologize -- I know that's a sore spot. But the fact is, what I was talking about was a spectacle. And I still hold my characterizations of those things. The question is, do you want to have a dignified process, one that is going to demonstrate that in Washington senior political officials of both parties can act like grownups and get the nation's business done, so that you can conduct a good-faith inquiry into an issue that's interesting and important to people, and at the same time, also make that pivot to working on things like funding the troops.
And I got to say, there are a lot of very constructive conversations going on right now about substantive matters that the President laid out in the State of the Union address -- education, immigration and energy right up at the front of that. So I think this is an opportunity to do those things. So those comments I've made were specifically targeted at the seeming hubbub designed to get certain White House officials -- usually Karl -- out in front a camera so that you can sort of create a sensation. What we'd rather do is just find the truth.
Q Why haven't you moved on the transcript issue, though, then? This morning you were saying off-camera that you don't need an oath because if someone says something that's not true, they still could be prosecuted if they lie to Congress, essentially.
MR. SNOW: Right. Well, again --
Q If there's no transcript, what U.S. attorney can actually go through and see what they said, if there's no record?
MR. SNOW: I will let you -- you're asking a legal question that I would refer you either to the Department of Justice or to prosecutors, because they know the law. As you know, Ed, anybody who testifies before Congress, anybody that talks before Congress, is under an obligation to tell the truth, and if they don't, they're liable to legal punishment.
Q If they don't have a record of it, how would a U.S. attorney know how to prosecute it --
MR. SNOW: U.S. attorneys have been able --
Q -- you trust people's word.
MR. SNOW: I'm not a prosecutor, but I think you'll find that plenty of prosecutors out there will tell you how to get a conviction without a transcript.
Q Tony, will this President --
Q -- dodging the oath because of the legal consequences?
MR. SNOW: We're dodging the oath because -- well, I'm not going to say we're dodging the oath, because that -- (laughter.) Yes, I know, kaboom, steel trap closes. No, it's -- this is not a notion of dodging. It's simply, we don't think it's appropriate.
Q Appropriate doesn't set the scene.
MR. SNOW: The scene?
Q People are seeking the truth.
MR. SNOW: That's right, and we're making the truth available. And that's why we're kind of confused, because it seems that people are more interested in sort of seeing White House officials with their hands up being hectored, and I don't think members of Congress --
Q Why do you say that? Why don't you think they really want to know --
MR. SNOW: Why don't you -- okay, I'll tell you why, because there is so much speculation about this. I opened up the newspapers today, and there are pictures of Karl Rove, many people saying, we need to -- the purpose here is to find out what happened, what the truth is.
Q How about that?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q So Tony, this President for years has used the Constitution as his backdrop. He said, look, this is my right under the Constitution.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q This government was founded on a series of checks and balances. Why not, if you're going to say you're using the Constitution, just apply what she's using there to what this government was founded upon: checks and balances --
MR. SNOW: What actually --
Q -- and one legislative body checking another legislative body, and having a top White House official testify under oath.
MR. SNOW: Well, we are an executive body, not a legislative body. And secondly, we have, in fact, said, what we're going to do is bend the rules in favor of Congress on this part, because we are going to give the --
Q There are checks and balances, correct?
MR. SNOW: What we are doing -- yes, but you're mixing --
Q Not necessarily.
MR. SNOW: Well, yes, look, again, there's a legitimate oversight of the Justice Department and the decisions that went into this, and what we've said is since there were conversations and communications between the White House and the Justice Department, you ought to be able to see them all -- every one, every single -- every single communication available to the American public.
Therefore, that -- you're talking about transparency. That's the kind of transparency that you don't normally get. So we have made an offer not only to do that, but to say to members of Congress, you want to talk to our guys, you can. And they are going to be compelled legally to tell the truth. But furthermore, the President is going to tell them to tell the truth because it's in our interest to make sure that the whole truth gets out.
Q But do you agree that transparency is something that this administration shuns?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't agree.
Q Okay, when it was time for the Vice President to give up the list of names of his energy council --
MR. SNOW: Well, as you recall, April, that was, in fact, a separation of powers case that the Vice President --
Q I understand --
MR. SNOW: -- won precisely because of the checks and balances you've talked about.
Q But secrecy, secrecy --
MR. SNOW: Well, wait a minute. You can't have it both ways. You've just talked about constitutional prerogatives --
Q I'm saying how this White House seems to run from transparency.
MR. SNOW: No, we're not running.
Q Then you had the 9/11 Commission, we're having conversations, nothing under oath. And now this.
MR. SNOW: Well, wait a minute. The 9/11 Commission, number one, was authorized by Congress and signed by the President and supported by the administration. What we were trying to do was, again, to avoid the kind of precedent that we're talking about now, which is to bring senior aides up under oath. So what you ended up having were, in fact -- I think they were categorized as briefings. They used that particular -- they used that formulation for precisely the same reasons I'm talking about now.
So I don't think this is a matter of transparency. This is a matter of trying to have -- what do you mean? Condoleezza Rice was on there and she was facing tough questioning from Richard BenVeniste --
Q But certain people -- the Vice President and the President would not testify under oath. You had "conversations" at that time. And there's a --
MR. SNOW: Yes. That's perfectly appropriate.
Q You used the word "avoid." There is an avoidance, it seems, of this administration to sit down and talk on the record, under oath, about critical issues.
MR. SNOW: What you're saying is that every time somebody wants to try to mount a charge you ought to be able to get hauled up and testify under oath, with a presumption of criminality, rather than a presumption of goodwill. I'm not going to buy that.
Q Was it criminal, 9/11 -- was that criminal?
MR. SNOW: No. What I'm saying is that the 9/11 Commission, we participated fully.
Q Tony, I spoke to a top Senate Republican aide recently, and he said that he thinks that this debate over the subpoenas, is a distraction in some ways from what they believe Democrats are trying to raise taxes by $900 billion this week. Do you guys share that opinion?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to try to read -- I'm not going to try to assign motives. We'll have plenty to say about the budget, because you're right, it has major tax increases and spending hikes, and we don't support what we've seen of the budget proposals.
First thing we really want to deal with is get the supplemental out of the way. Democrats have had a tough time. They have learned that governing is a lot tougher than complaining from the sidelines. And the Senate has yet to come through with a resolution expressing condemnation. But I also think that they're beginning to realize that what the President offered, in terms of constructive cooperation on big issues, that's good for them. We've been saying this all along, but all of a sudden you realize, you know what, people want us to do our business. They want us to do it in a way that actually reflects well on the ability of people who have differing political views to get important business done. So I don't want to try to assign motives.
Q You keep mentioning -- there's sort of a pathological obsession with Karl Rove. Is that accurate to say?
MR. SNOW: I'm not -- again, there's certainly a lot of people who seem to have Karl on their mind a lot.
David. I'm not -- David.
Q I'm not thinking about Karl, I'm not thinking about Karl at all.
MR. SNOW: Okay, Karl on the mind. David.
Q I'd like to ask a question about the war spending bill. Part of this debate is the assertion by you and others, and including the President, that a date certain for withdrawal of troops would lead to chaos, accelerated violence, regional conflict in Iraq. Why should Americans trust your assumptions about the outcome of troop withdrawal, based on this administration's record of assumptions and the way things played out in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Okay, don't trust our assumptions, take a look at the record itself. What you have found is that there's been a determination on the part of the terror network to try to make a couple of cases: Number one, you can't rely on the Americans. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, as well as Abu Musab al Zarqawi, have tried to make the point that the Americans, they really can't take the heat, they're going to get out, and when they get out, you go in and you take over. And that is a case they make in recruiting, and it is a case they also make in trying to wage acts of terror against neighboring states and to try to weaken the will of those who have been supporting us in the war on terror. So don't take our word for it, take their word for it. And the President read out some of those back in September.
Secondly, if you try to think strategically about what this says, if you have a date certain regardless, succeed or fail, what it says to those who want to commit acts of terror is, put your feet up, go ahead and try to build up arms strength and go try to do this, that or the other, try to get yourself organized, wait it out, and when the Americans leave, you hit and you hit hard. That would make common sense. And I think you're going to find most military folks agree with it.
What you pointed out, David, is that in a time of war, nobody is a perfect predictor. But on the other hand, what you have to do is to make sure that you're not weakening your hand by doing something that almost immediately could be construed as a rhetorical victory for the enemy, and ultimately as a strategic victory for the enemy, because you get -- take a look at what happened as the new Baghdad plan came out. You saw many terror figures getting out of Baghdad. You saw that there was a change in the attitude and behavior of a number of people, including perhaps Muqtada al Sadr.
What you have seen, is, in fact, there -- people take seriously the focused application of American force. And as a result, they behave differently. And even though it is -- certainly, as Helen was just pointing out, not perfect in Iraq, there has been some improvement, and we hope it continues to improve. So those are the kind of considerations that go into that.
Q Tony, I want to go back to the offer on the U.S. attorneys. I'm not clear about something now. Is the White House offer on that, is that non-negotiable?
MR. SNOW: We're not negotiating. This is our offer. This is our position.
Q Okay, so there will be no negotiating on that offer, is that correct?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of. But the other thing we can do -- see, what happens is, a lot of times, people are trying to characterize the offer, but haven't looked at it. And if your concern as a member of Congress is, will I get all the facts? We're going to answer your question. We're going to tell you what all the facts are. We're going to let you draw a full and fair conclusion about what's going on.
And therefore, if that is the real aim of a congressional investigation, to find out what happened and to be able to assess it, and if necessary, take action. We're going to give them everything they need.
Q Can I just follow up? I mean, "not that I'm aware of" is not a -- is really not a line in the sand. I mean, are you --
MR. SNOW: Okay, line in the sand. That's a -- that's our position.
Q Democrats are defying the President in the standoff over the firing of U.S. attorneys. They're also showing a readiness to defy the President over Iraq war emergency funding. Now, with all this bad blood that's developing, what are the chances for this President to stave off lame-duck status and push his -- get his agenda unstuck?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'd turn it around. Congress has to pass something. They haven't done it yet -- haven't been able to pass an anti-war resolution. I think this is an opportunity for them to show they can get something done.
Now, they know for a fact -- this may be defiance, but it's a kind of defiance that doesn't help you, because they know for a fact that these bills aren't going to become law. They still have to -- they still have to put together a law that will get passed.
So the question is, is it so important to you to make a rhetorical point with a law that will never see the light of day, that you are willing to risk the fact that the money is going to run out on the troops while you're still doing this? Or do you want to, in fact, demonstrate real support for the troops? I don't think that is a sign of White House weakness.
Furthermore, politicians in this town -- you know, they've got a pretty good sense of how the business works. And they also have the ability quite often to set aside whatever disagreements they may have on some issues to work together on others. Look at No Child Left Behind. You had Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush working together. There are a number of issues on which the President has made common cause with Democrats and Republicans, and frankly, what we're offering is a good deal for both parties on really serious issues.
Now, if the American public sees that all Congress can do -- all that's going to happen in Washington is squabbling over things while the funding runs out for troops -- while we don't get things done on energy independence, while we don't reauthorize No Child Left Behind, while we don't move on immigration -- they're going to say, why did we bring you here? There's a powerful incentive for members of Congress to work with us, and a powerful incentive for us to work with them so we get important stuff done. And again, I've been in a lot of these meetings, and they have, for the most part, been very respectful and constructive, and I do think things are going to get done.
So I would -- I would avoid trying to read too much into
a day's news.
A friend of mine, years ago, said, Washington is a town where the urgent overwhelms the important. And quite often we get a sense of urgency about the news of the day, and we forget that ultimately the people brought members of Congress and the President here to do work, and not to squabble.
Q Tony, Iraq -- the Maliki government, according to an official of the Ministry of National Dialogue, has been holding indirect discussions with insurgents for the past three months. Is our government aware of that?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. And I apologize, I had told you I was going to try to get an answer. You were kind enough to email me before. I will get you an answer on that. I think I probably know what it is, but I don't want to guess.
Q Tony, there's been a lot of congressional hearings on global warming, as you know. And one other proposal that keeps coming up is this idea of a moratorium on your coal-fired power plants because they emit a lot of carbon. And the answer or the proposal is to hold the moratorium until you have the technology to capture and store. You have put a lot of faith in technology. Is there any willingness to consider this idea?
MR. SNOW: Paula, I don't know. What you are asking is, are we going to stop generating electricity or -- the President -- let me refrain it, but try to be responsive. The President has put a lot of money into clean coal technology. We think that it is absolutely important because, you're right, coal-fired plants right now are polluters. China is building one a week. And we think it's important, for the sake of the United States and the rest of the world, to help clean up the environment by having a clean-coal technology that has the capability, effectively, of reducing greenhouse emissions to zero. And it is a priority item. And take a look -- it's been a priority item for the President for a long time.
The President has also talked about nuclear power as also a non-polluting form of energy that we think holds a great deal of promise, for allowing people to keep their jobs and have their clean air, too. So what we're trying to avoid are attempts to force people into a false tradeoff, which is, you've got to give up your job to have clean air. We don't think you have to do that. We think that you can keep the economy going at full-speed and, at the same time, continue to clean the air -- which is why, incidentally, the United States has a better record in cleaning the air than any other major industrialized country, the EU. It's because we continue using technology -- and not just because of government dicta; people like you and everybody else, we like clean air. It's something that everybody wants.
And there are profits aplenty to be made by folks who figure out how to generate energy and do important economic activity without pollution.
Q Are you then saying that there are jobs to be made in technology, rather than job losses?
MR. SNOW: Yes, which is precisely why Congress ought to pass the President's energy plan, because, if you take a look at it, what we're really trying to do, for instance, is generate technological capability when it comes to biofuels, biodiesel, ethanol and other fuels that, in fact, are not only renewable, but clean.
Q Tony, you've expressed concern about Democrats running around with transcripts, say, of Karl Rove's interview and in front of cameras and creating a public spectacle. How could it possibly be a public spectacle if oaths are taken privately, behind closed doors?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you're -- there are two different issues. Number one, what we're trying to do is to say, we don't like the precedent of also treating this like -- these ought to be interviews. This should not be a deposition; this should not have a feel of a trial. These are people who are going to come here and give you the facts you need. Furthermore, everybody knows that the way the law is written, you're compelled to tell the truth. So we see that as an unnecessary add-on and one that we don't think adds anything to the content that members of Congress are going to receive.
Let me reiterate the key point. Members of Congress are going to get every shred of information they need. We think it's a good thing; we want them to know the truth, and we've come up with a way that we think not only befits the dignity of the White House, but also could give people a refreshing sense that, hey, we can look at a tough issue without engaging in trench warfare.
Q Can you tell us, when did the Department of Justice brief you on the gap in the emails? Was it after or before --
MR. SNOW: I have actually not been briefed by the Department of Justice. And I would suggest --
Q That they told you --
MR. SNOW: No, I actually have not spoken directly with DOJ. But I'm glad you asked. You really need to ask them about it. The answer we have gotten is that the documents that have been provided are fully responsive to the request from Congress. But if you want a detailed answer, you really need to go there.
Q No, that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a time line of when you got the answer that you've gotten, whether it was before or after the story broke in the press.
MR. SNOW: Well, it would have been yesterday, so it probably would have been after. Yes, it would have been after.
Q Can I just follow with a clarification of what you're saying?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q With the offer that's been given to Congress -- because Congress is asking for additional documents from the White House voluntarily -- is the President interested, separate and apart from the interviews, in producing those documents from the White House to external sources? In other words, would that take the temperature down --
MR. SNOW: We already have it in writing. I'll just read -- what it says here is, we would provide communications between the White House and persons outside the White House concerning the request for resignations of the U.S. attorneys in question, and communications between the White House and members of Congress concerning those requests.
Q I'm just asking, is that only active if they accept the offer, or will he do that as --
MR. SNOW: I think at this point -- look, what you're asking us to do is negotiate against ourselves. We made our position clear. If --
Q No, no, no --
MR. SNOW: This is the offer. I'm not qualifying the offer.
Q I'm just following on what you were saying about the production of the Justice documents was designed to be helpful and voluntary because it was everything that Justice had, to be responsive to the request. There's an additional request: We'd like to see information from the White House. And the President has said, I'd like to do that -- this is what I'm offering; I'd like to do that. But he's not going to do that voluntarily, separate and apart from the deal. In other words, you could gather all that now, give it to them, and maybe it would help.
MR. SNOW: Maybe. I'll take it under advisement. Thank you.
Q But you're saying he's not doing that.
MR. SNOW: I don't know, that's not --
Q I'm asking the question, you have not --
MR. SNOW: No. No. No.
Q Okay. The second question I have is, do you have anything new on when Mr. Gonzales might appear, to help his case, on the Hill?
MR. SNOW: I think that's -- I believe -- I don't think he schedules himself. I believe that Houses of Congress do that.
Q So there's nothing new on that. And the second element of that is, would it be helpful if the Attorney General came to this room or the Justice Department and actually just sat and took every question he could get?
MR. SNOW: You're going to have to ask the Attorney General how he --
Q I'm asking whether you think --
MR. SNOW: I know, but that's -- I'm not speaking for the Attorney General, I'm speaking for the President.
Q Tony, two quick questions. One, as far as human rights in China is concerned, people fighting for democracy are being jailed, and (inaudible) is fighting here, according to Washington Times. What are we doing as far as human rights and democracy in China?
MR. SNOW: Well, Goyal, you know our commitment to human rights and democracy remains strong throughout the globe.
Q And second, as far as the Iranian nuclear issue is concerned, again the President of Iran has said that those who are against our nuclear program will be punished severely. What --
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what you've found, with the success of the international community working together with North Korea, getting the North Koreans to return to the six-party talks, allowing IAEA inspectors in, they've certainly promised a number of things, including shutting down Yongbyon in the near future. This is the approach we're taking, which is why we've been in discussions. The P5 plus one have already come up with agreement on a U.N. Security Council resolution, a follow-on resolution with regard to Iran. We're talking it over with the full Security Council.
That's really the way you deal with this. We understand that there are some people in Iran who are going to issue public statements. Our public statement to Iran is simple: we're here to help the Iranian people. We're here to help the Iranian people get nuclear power if they want it, to help them get greater closer economic and cultural ties. The one thing that we also think is in Iran's interest is not to have a nuclear weapons program.
So that's really -- our position remains very clear on that. But it's one, really, of outreach of the Iranian people.
Q I have one more just quickly. As far as this drugs and homelessness is concerned, including in the Asian community, this week there was a spiritual leader from India -- in Centreville, Virginia. What he said that he congratulated President Bush also, but he said that what I am requesting him is that education is the key to get all these problems, including people who get into terrorism and all that, and also -- one Indian medical doctor who's also homeless here and Oprah also had a special program on homeless. So when President do you think --
MR. SNOW: The President made it clear recently, when he spoke on Wall Street, and also every time he advocates for No Child Left Behind that education is vital. Is it the cure-all? No. But it is certainly an important element in separating those who succeed from those who do not -- not only economically, but in terms of their personal lives.
But having said that, there are any -- what you've raised are a whole series of complex issues that you can't raise -- that you're not going to solve with a simple federal program. But education is an absolutely vital element.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. The Washington Times published Purdue law professor, Louis Beres, and Israeli Major General Isaac Ben-Israel's statement that Israel has the right guaranteed to all states to act preemptively when faced with nuclear assault. And my question: Does the President agree or disagree with their writing that this is affirmed in international law?
MR. SNOW: The President is not commenting on op-ed pieces. Next.
Q They all -- well --
MR. SNOW: I know -- I know, it's a good question. And it's -- you know, it's got great concern, but you know what? You ask me questions like this, I can't give you answers. And you know what? Why do you do this? Give me a question that -- rather than asking an argumentative question about something that raises a provocative issue, or give me a head's up, and I'll try to do it. But we go through this. I love you. But you've got to help me out here. (Laughter.) I mean, it's just -- you know.
Q But these were statements by these --
MR. SNOW: I know, and you think the President should respond to every statement made in every newspaper in the United States of America?
Q No, I just want to know. If you don't want to respond, that's fine. Could I just follow this up with the second part of it? They also write that the right to such preemptive action is also affirmed in the September 20, 2002 American policy codification of the national security strategy of the United States. Are they wrong in this?
MR. SNOW: No, we have a national security strategy, and I'm glad that they have read it.
Q Thank you.
Posted: Mar 23 2007, 05:21 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
March 23, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:19 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Questions.
Q Tony, have you been in touch with the Iranians, or tried to contact them to try to get the release of those British sailors?
MR. SNOW: No, the British are handling the communications.
Q Are you making any point that they should be released or --
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware of direct communication -- again, as you know, we don't have direct diplomatic relations with the Iranians. But we certainly stand by our British allies.
Q Was the President briefed on it? Has he talked to Blair?
MR. SNOW: I don't think he has talked with Blair, and I am assuming he's been briefed on it, but I don't know that for a fact -- I haven't had an opportunity to speak with him this morning.
Q Were they there legitimately, or is this --
MR. SNOW: The way the British have reported it is that the ship was moved from Iraqi to Iranian waters, by Iranian ships. And at that point the sailors were seized. That's really all I know. That's what the Ministry of Defense put out.
Q Did the President respond to Fred Fielding, or did Fred Fielding have a conversation with the President?
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way, as you know, the issue of internal White House deliberations figures rather large in what we're discussing here. But if Fred Fielding has made a representation that he would take something to the President, you can take it to the bank that that happened.
Q Okay. And then what was the President's response? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I'm not even going to try to fake that one. Again, internal deliberations. Thank you. The President's position is pretty clear.
Q And there's no change in it, no give?
MR. SNOW: There is no change. It's a principled position, but it's one that we think -- look, what do you want? You want all the facts, and we're going to make the facts available. We think that this offer is a way to have an amicable and a serious and comprehensive look at the issue so that people can get at the answers.
Q We spoke with the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. Senate says there is no precedent for having an official of this nature come and speak to the Committee without a transcript. The House also says they can't find any precedent. Why should this case set a precedent?
MR. SNOW: Well, the fact is what they're trying to do is to establish their own set of precedents. What we're trying to do is to set a precedent for adult behavior in a way that is going to reflect well on a situation and offer an opportunity -- I don't think you're going to find any case where there has been no allegation of impropriety, no specific --
Q It's not about --
MR. SNOW: -- any specific allegation of impropriety, suddenly to say, we're going to offer up internal deliberations. But we're doing this because we know there are concerns on the Hill and we want to address them. I think that this is -- I'm not sure that there are any situations for which there is a precedent for this.
Q Even transcripts?
MR. SNOW: For any of this.
Q But, Tony, the idea of minutes goes back to the beginning of Western thought. Plato kept minutes on Socrates. What does Karl Rove have on Socrates? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Plato kept -- was that the case, or was it Aristotle who kept notes on Plato?
Q Well, Plato also --
MR. SNOW: Inquiring minds want to know. This is Maimonides. Let's just start dropping philosophers' names. The fact is --
Q The point is --
MR. SNOW: No, here's the point, is we've set up a situation in which we think members of Congress and staffers -- this is open to members and staff, who are able to take notes, and we also believe that writing goes back to the inception of Western civilization, and the ability -- I'm not sure that they had recordings or transcripts, but they did have writing. There was writing.
Q So you want everyone to come out with their own notes -- you know how often you challenge what we've said and what we've written down, that's how you want it to be recorded?
MR. SNOW: Look, first --
Q Would that be different --
MR. SNOW: Let's please put this in perspective. Here's a decision made at the Department of Justice. Any documents, any deliberations, any key players, they're available. Now, if there are additional questions about White House involvement, as people say, any communication is going to be available, any. So as a consequence --
Q You just don't want a record of what they said.
MR. SNOW: No, no, no. The record, in fact, is going to be available. So then if there are follow-on questions of a factual nature, they are going to be able to be answered.
Q Available, but without a transcript?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Follow on, on Maimonides. (Laughter.) I'm actually kidding. (Laughter.)
To be serious for a second. It looks like the House is about to vote and pass, so I'd like to get your reaction to that, to follow up on that, after you do that. The President has said in the past, he's told the like to Senator Levin, keep the pressure on the Iraqis. That's not a bad thing when you call for some kind of accountability for the Iraqis and the message that the U.S. isn't there for an indeterminate amount of time. Is there something out of this approach, in either the House or the Senate, with regards to benchmarks or timelines, that the President thinks could be positive?
MR. SNOW: Look, the President is going to veto this bill, and he's going to veto it because even though it provides some funding, it also puts handcuffs on generals, colonels, lieutenant colonels, majors, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, corporals, privates, and everybody else. What it says is that they're going to place conditions on the daily activities of our forces, and that is inappropriate.
It is also going to place conditions on Iraqis. It's going to threaten to withdraw money from Iraqis -- whom we are trying to train up. And it's also going to provide less than the necessary funding for the very people who are doing what members of Congress say they want to do, which is to build democracy through provisional reconstruction teams and other means. And on top of that, you've got a lot of pork barrel spending.
The President -- his position has been very clear, which is, please, you say you support the troops, support the troops; write a bill that is an emergency supplemental for the military, then if you want to talk about peanut storage or citrus farming or shrimp and menhaden, you can do that, just do it in the context of the normal budget process.
The other thing the President wants to make clear is, right now what Democrats are doing is they're wasting time at a time when the clock is ticking. The Secretary of Defense yesterday made it clear that a number of things start happening on April 15th, when half the Congress is still going to be on vacation. These would involve curtailing or suspending reserve component preparations for rotations; it's going to slow the training of the people who are scheduled to deploy next, jeopardizing deployments; it's going to degrade the quality of life for soldiers and families at home stations, including upgrades for barracks, dining facilities, also recreational facilities; and it's going to stop the repair of equipment such as tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
These are serious things, and what you need to do is to understand that any attempt to sort of run the clock or to create a situation where having wasted a lot of time on a bill they know is not going to pass, they're then going to try to point fingers at the President for vetoing a bill at a time when the money is running out. Right now Congress needs to do the responsible thing, which is, get this charade over -- go ahead and make your PR point, and then do your job.
Q Well, let me follow on that, because you say, if you want to support the troops, pass a different sort of bill. A majority of Americans, Tony, don't think that American sacrifice is worth this war. So how -- you could look at supporting the troops and be consistent with what the House bill does, which is to set a deadline to remove them.
MR. SNOW: I think if you ask the American --
Q Why does the President -- if I can just finish -- why do you and this President have the corner on what it means to support the troops?
MR. SNOW: I think if you ask the troops, "Do you think it's supporting you if we are going to cut off your ability in two-and-a-half weeks to repair your tanks, to fix your fighting vehicles, to be able to have your reinforcements in, to have rotations? Do you think that constitutes support?" My guess is they'd say "No." I think this is a pretty simple case, when you start cutting people off in the middle of an engagement.
What you're really asking is, I think -- and correct me if I paraphrase wrong -- a lot of people want us out. And, yes, I mean, we'd like to be out. But we need -- the fact is we want to leave when we have, in fact, succeeded in the mission. I think you'll find that the folks in the military agree with that, too.
So you can't have it both ways, if you're a member of Congress saying, "Well, we support the troops," and then, on April 15th, you begin to have consequences for the troops in the field, and by May 15th, you continue to have even more dramatic consequences, which the Secretary of Defense laid out yesterday.
So this is sort of a fish-or-cut-bait time. Members of Congress have before them the challenge of making sure that the reinforcements continue to flow, and also the supplies to the men and women who are in the field continue to flow right now.
Q But just a final one. Do you dispute the central aim of this bill, which is to reflect the country's will to get out of Iraq by a date certain?
MR. SNOW: I think -- the problem is, if you're trying to sort of do the public opinion poll, you can read them a lot of different ways, based on the way you do the question. I think --
Q You can read American sentiment about the war a lot of different ways?
MR. SNOW: Yes, because if you ask questions -- if you ask a question, "Would you want to leave without completing the mission?" People say "No." It really does depend on how you frame the question. But we understand that people don't like war. And the President doesn't like war, and we wish we could get out yesterday, but we can't.
Q It's not that they just don't like war. They don't like how this administration is handling this war. Right?
MR. SNOW: Well, yes, but on the other hand, if you ask -- if you take a look, for instance, at what has happened: a response in Baghdad security that so far has produced -- again, so far -- has produced positive results; you see that there has been a change in perception, a pretty significant one in the last month. And I think Americans are willing to stand by the troops.
If you ask the question, "Should our commanders be able to determine the way to run the war?" The answer is, "You bet." If you say, "Should key battlefield decisions be made by members of Congress and their staff, as opposed to generals and those who serve under them?" The answer would be, "No." And so that's one of the issues.
But fundamentally, David, these guys know this bill isn't going to pass. They're doing exactly what you say, which is trying to make a statement, but the statement they're making is, they're willing to waste time on a rhetorical point when the soldiers in Iraq, looking at their watches, are saying, what happens to us on April 15th?
Q Tony, what's Fred Fielding doing on the Hill, if there are no negotiations with members of Congress?
MR. SNOW: Well, you can have conversations, but they're not -- but there are not negotiations going on. That's --
Q So does that mean is -- is Arlen Specter wasting his time, then?
MR. SNOW: You'll have to ask Senator Specter. I mean, what you -- again, I think you guys are so busy working on the brinkmanship scenario that you have to understand that everybody realizes that this is serious business. And what we believe is that we have made a highly unusual, if not unprecedented, offer of access to deliberations and every fact that you need, to be able to determine what went on and to figure out if you need to do anything else. And I can't imagine a more generous offer, but we've done it.
And so, members of Congress, also, have to think this through. They've got a lot of other things on their plate. We're talking about it now. You've got supplemental vote today. You also have budget deliberations in the House and Senate. But Fred has made it clear that he's willing to talk with folks.
Q On another matter?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Secretary Gates' concerns about Gitmo. Did they reach the President?
MR. SNOW: No. I received some guidance from the Secretary of Defense's office, which is that it never did reach the President. He had some concerns, and illegal issues were resolved. And he deferred to the Attorney General on the legal issues. And beyond that, I'm going to kick it all over to DoD. But it did not reach the President.
Q Why is it that the President's stated desire to close Guantanamo Bay cannot be turned into some kind of plan of action?
MR. SNOW: Because there are legal constraints, and those are the things that the Attorney General had made clear in terms of the inadvisability of putting Guantanamo detainees on continental U.S. soil. We have tried as best we can to move those who are in Guantanamo either to their home nations, or nations where they are wanted for other trial or justice dispensation. But we also have laid down the benchmark that you also have to be able to assure that they're going to be treated humanely.
Very few countries want these people back, and, therefore, what you have to do is to work through a procedure where you do, in fact, bring them to justice. But the President made clear back in September that he would love to be able to shut it down, but unfortunately the circumstances do not presently permit.
Q So, realistically, are you saying that Guantanamo Bay will not be shut down before the end of his presidency?
MR. SNOW: I doubt it, no. I don't think it will.
Q Tony, I have two. You said this morning that you're committed to giving Congress whatever they need.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q How can they know what it is that they need until they see it? I mean, aren't you pretty much predetermining their needs for them by deciding what they need?
MR. SNOW: No. Think of it this way: Congress wants to know "whether there was a White House role." You would be able to determine that by examining any communication from the White House to the outside. So what we've said is, you got it. Do you want to know any conversation or any communication with the Department of Justice? Got it. How about U.S. attorneys? You can have that, too. Members of Congress? Yes. Anybody on the outside, we'll supply that, as well.
So the fact is, that is completely responsive to the issue here. What's also interesting is, again, nobody in Congress has any specific allegation of impropriety or wrongdoing on the part of the White House. Instead what they're saying is, well, maybe there is. Well, that's not how you conduct an investigation -- but we're still understanding the need to get answers about this because they're curious. We're enabling them to find out every bit of communication that went from the White House elsewhere. That's all you need to draw your conclusions.
Q They'd like to see what Harriet Miers and Karl Rove had to say to one another.
MR. SNOW: I know, but that is immaterial, in the sense -- there are two things. Number one, you understand the confidentiality of an internal White House deliberations, and number two, that is an attempt -- that is not germane, because if that's not communicated to anybody, who cares?
Q Well, I think a lot of people will care, depending on what they say.
MR. SNOW: Well, they might care because, yes, they want to second-guess, they want to fly speck or they want to listen, just as a lot of people would be interested to find out what kind of things are going on right now between fundraising organizations and Democrats. But on the other hand, we respect their right to a certain amount of confidentiality in these deliberations because it's really what you do in terms of reaching out to others for action items that does matter.
Q I have one other one. In a letter from the House Judiciary Committee, it said the -- this was the one yesterday -- "In the meantime, we ask that you ensure the preservation of relevant White House documents in defined in our March 9th letter." Should they have any concern about the preservation of documents from the White House?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Tony, do you see any connection, however tenuous, between the Iran-British dispute now with the sailors and what's going on at the U.N. Security Council?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to draw any conclusions. But, again, what is important is that the U.N. Security Council is working on another resolution with regard to Iran that says, look, don't move in the direction of developing nuclear weapons.
And let's reiterate, because I don't think you can say it often enough, we want to support the Iranian people in everything they want, including the ability to have peaceful nuclear power. What we don't want is the opportunity for that government to destabilize the region by developing the capacity to have nuclear weapons. And the international community is perfectly united on this, and has been moving in a patient and careful manner to make its will known to the Iranian government.
Q And what does the President hope for from Secretary Rice's trip to the Middle East?
MR. SNOW: Well, at this point, Secretary Rice really is -- she understands that peace efforts are very important in the region. And so she's going to continue to reach out to all parties -- the Palestinians, the Israelis and Arabs -- to work for a solution that's going to lead to peace, a Palestinian state living side by side peacefully with Israel, and also a Palestinian state that meets the Quartet conditions of renouncing violence, recognizing Israel's right to exist, and also obeying all -- recognizing and obeying all previous treaty obligations.
Q Including pushing Arab states, moderate Arab states to recognize Israel --
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I'm not going to -- I won't speak for the Secretary, but she is there to advance the cause of peace.
Q Do we know anything more about the assassination attempt this morning on the Deputy Prime Minister -- the conditions, and who might have been responsible?
MR. SNOW: No, we really don't. And, again, I think that's probably something the folks in Baghdad are going to have a little more detail. It takes a while for that to get back.
But, again, it is very clear that what you've had is an attempt -- an example of the kinds of means the terrorists are going to use to try to unsettle democracy, and also the importance -- and it is ironic, at a time when we're talking about continuing to provide funds for our forces, when General Petraeus, who did not have a single contrary vote in the United States Senate says, I need reinforcements and this is what I need, for members of Congress to try to hamper his ability to carry out the plan that they've already seeming endorsed with their vote in support of him.
Q Tony, just one question today, and it's from our fellow talk radio host, Roger Hedgecock, in San Diego. The President is under fire for firing Carol Lam as U.S. attorney in San Diego because she didn't prosecute drug smugglers and human smugglers, called coyotes. And the question, might the President consider firing Johnny Sutton, U.S. Attorney for Southeastern Texas, for prosecuting law enforcement officers who appear guilty of doing nothing more than doing their job?
MR. SNOW: Well, Les, once again, you've tried to draw me into an ongoing legal dispute.
Q No, no, no, this is Roger Hedgecock in San Diego.
MR. SNOW: Oh.
Q That's his question.
MR. SNOW: I see. Roger Hedgecock has tried to draw me into something that I cannot comment upon because there are ongoing legal deliberations in the case that he has cited, and therefore, I can't say anything.
Q Back to the production of documents.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Clarification, is the President prepared as part of his offer to turn over all materials and emails that were created on the RNC domain, which is primarily --
MR. SNOW: As I said, all responsive documents will be provided.
Q So he has the authority to tell the RNC to turn it over?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into the vagaries of document production, because that is an issue for lawyers to go into. But any documents that would be generated, that would be germane to the inquiry, would be provided.
Q Whether or not they were created on this system here --
MR. SNOW: Like I said, I don't want to get into the technical issues.
Q So Secretary Gates has now been persuaded on the need to keep Guantanamo Bay open?
MR. SNOW: Well, it's not "now." It was really quite awhile ago. It is -- again, the Attorney General has made it clear over a period of time that there are very serious legal reasons why not to put Guantanamo detainees on continental U.S. soil. And so whatever ideas the Secretary of Defense may have had coming in, when they had the discussion, he deferred to the legal opinion of the Attorney General.
Q And your prediction that Guantanamo will remain open throughout the rest of the President's term, what do you base that on?
MR. SNOW: The fact that we have just begun a legal procedure that does take time, and in cognizance of the rights of those involved, there are still quite a number of detainees, and I am imagining that -- and I think it's pretty solid ground, but you can certainly contact the Department of Defense, which is coordinating military commissions -- it's highly unlikely that you can dispense with all those cases between now and the end of the administration.
Q How much of the Attorney General's story is sort of getting in the way of the President's agenda? He was out in Kansas City to talk about energy, he's going to be talking about energy again next week, and the day -- on Tuesday was the day that the Fred Fielding letter, all of that, dominated the headlines. So how much is that sort of stepping on what the President wants to try and accomplish?
MR. SNOW: I think it's stepping on his being able to get you guys to cover it. But it continues to be -- I don't think he's handcuffed at all. We've talked about a number of issues. And we have been encouraged by the bipartisan cooperation on a lot of issues. We talked earlier today, off camera, about immigration. Energy is an issue where there is substantial agreement between both parties on this -- same thing with education.
Members of Congress understand that this is a time to deliver for the American people. And that's one of the messages that we've been trying to make clear in terms of this budget supplemental. What's going on today is rhetorical exercise. But you cannot supply the forces in the field with rhetoric. You need to supply them with the funding and the flexibility they need to get the job done.
Conversely, a lot of these other issues -- as we've said, the ball is kind of in Congress's court on the issue of U.S. attorneys. We have made clear that we'll provide every fact that they need to make their decisions. And I haven't heard anybody say that there's a fact that they would be denied. And as a result, we think it's a perfectly reasonable and acceptable way to do this and a way that would build confidence with the American public, because I think it would be good for people to see Democrats and Republicans getting together, working together and getting stuff done.
So the President, I think, continues to work with members of both parties on these things. I think quite often the challenge is not getting through on Capitol Hill, because there are a lot of people who are committed in either party to these issues, and they're continuing to work them. But if you've got any advice on how we can lead the news with it, I'll accept all suggestions.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Okay, one last thing. There have been a lot of rumors about my health, so let me tell you what's going on. In a recent series of CAT scans and PET scans and MRIs, we have found a small growth in my lower abdomen. Blood tests are negative, PET scans are negative. But out of an aggressive sense of caution, I'm going to go in for surgery on Monday and have it removed. I'll be out for a few weeks, because it's still -- you know, they're going to cut me. And it will take me a little while to heal up. So I'll come back here a little lighter -- (laughter) -- in, oh, I don't know, a few weeks, maybe three or four weeks. Dana Perino will be handling the responsibilities from behind the podium.
But for those of you -- and I appreciate the expressions that I've received from a number of people on this. But please do not leap to conclusions about this, because we don't know what this is. We know it's coming out, and I know I'll be back soon. And I'll miss you each and every day, especially when I'm sore and filled up with drugs. (Laughter.) Thanks.
Q You're a very brave man.
Q Where are you having it done, Tony?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to do that.
Q You don't want the flowers and the cards?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't -- I want my medical care-givers to be able to do their job without distraction.
Q Tony, a question about this. You've been very open about your issues, health-wise. And as you know, we heard about Elizabeth Edwards yesterday. And so many other Americans -- I believe the stats are one in three in this country are affected by some form of cancer in their lifetime. What would you say to those who are trying to survive?
MR. SNOW: Again, thank you, that is a great question. And first, let -- again, don't leap to any cancer conclusions about what's going on with me, because we don't know. But I'll tell you what -- and the reason I got choked up with Elizabeth Edwards yesterday is she is doing a wonderful thing. The one thing I have learned -- and I've had the great opportunity -- and it really is -- to be able to talk with and try to help out cancer patients. The biggest problem you have a lot of times with cancer is just flat-out fear. And when you're seeing Elizabeth Edwards saying, I'm going to embrace life and I'm going to move forward, that is a wonderful thing, because once you decide that you're going to embrace life, you become a much better patient. And once you decide that you proceed with a sense of hope and optimism, people are going to rally to your side, and they do. And it's a truly wonderful thing.
And so I certainly encourage everybody to send their thoughts and prayers to Senator Edwards and to Mrs. Edwards. And what she is going to do is going to provide a lot of encouragement and example that I think is going to help a lot of people, and that is a truly wonderful thing, and I congratulate her for it.
Q Tony --
MR. SNOW: Oh, oh, here we go, thank you. We've been waiting for this moment. The President will make a statement to the pool on the Iraq war emergency supplemental at 1:45 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. There will be live pool coverage.
Now we can end this. Thank you.
Posted: Mar 23 2007, 05:24 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 23, 2007
President Bush Discusses Iraq War Emergency Supplemental
Diplomatic Reception Room
2:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Today I'm joined here at the White House by veterans, family members of people serving in combat, family members of those who have sacrificed. I am honored that they have joined me here today.
Here in Washington, members of both parties recognize that our most solemn responsibility is to support our troops in the war on terror. Yet, today, a narrow majority in the House of Representatives abdicated its responsibility by passing a war spending bill that has no chance of becoming law, and brings us no closer to getting our troops the resources they need to do their job.
The purpose of the emergency war spending bill I requested was to provide our troops with vital funding. Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq. They set rigid restrictions that will require an army of lawyers to interpret. They set an arbitrary date for withdrawal without regard for conditions on the ground. And they tacked on billions for pet projects that have nothing to do with winning the war on terror. This bill has too much pork, too many conditions and an artificial timetable for withdrawal.
As I have made clear for weeks, I will veto it if it comes to my desk. And because the vote in the House was so close, it is clear that my veto would be sustained. Today's action in the House does only one thing: it delays the delivering of vital resources for our troops. A narrow majority has decided to take this course, just as General Petraeus and his troops are carrying out a new strategy to help the Iraqis secure their capital city.
Amid the real challenges in Iraq, we're beginning to see some signs of progress. Yet, to score political points, the Democratic majority in the House has shown it is willing to undermine the gains our troops are making on the ground.
Democrats want to make clear that they oppose the war in Iraq. They have made their point. For some, that is not enough. These Democrats believe that the longer they can delay funding for our troops, the more likely they are to force me to accept restrictions on our commanders, an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and their pet spending projects. This is not going to happen. Our men and women in uniform need these emergency war funds. The Secretary of Defense has warned that if Congress does not approve the emergency funding for our troops by April the 15th, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions, and so would their families.
The Democrats have sent their message, now it's time to send their money. This is an important moment -- a decision for the new leaders in Congress. Our men in women in uniform should not have to worry that politicians in Washington will deny them the funds and the flexibility they need to win. Congress needs to send me a clean bill that I can sign without delay. I expect Congress to do its duty and to fund our troops, and so do the American people -- and so do the good men and women standing with me here today.
Thank you for your time.
END 2:04 P.M. EDT
Posted: Mar 26 2007, 07:05 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 26, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:38 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. I have a readout for you this afternoon of the President's meeting with the Big 3 automakers. They had a very good meeting. It was scheduled to go just 30 minutes; it almost went to 45 minutes. So they had lots to talk about. I was told that it focused primarily on the President's 20-in-10 program. This is the program where the President is seeking to reduce gasoline consumption in America by 20 percent in 10 years. They talked about the advancements in technology, including specifically biodiesel, E85, and lithium ion batteries, and they shared optimism on cellulosic ethanol, with both the President and the CEOs agreeing that cellulosic ethanol and the technology push is the linchpin to reaching the 20-in-10 goal.
And with that, I'll take your questions.
Q Can I follow up because --
MS. PERINO: Sure.
Q Was there any discussion of Korea and the United States negotiating a trade deal with Korea that's not very popular with the automakers? Did they press him on that at all?
MS. PERINO: I didn't attend the meeting, and from the readout I got, that did not seem to come up. But I can -- we can check back.
Q Did the President -- on that same subject, did the President mean to say that by 2012, half of all the cars in America would be alternative fuels, as he said, or would it be half of all new cars being produced?
MS. PERINO: I believe it's the new cars that are being produced. And we can refer -- let me refer back and see what the automakers say, because I believe they addressed it at the stakeout, as well.
Q You said this morning that Attorney General Gonzales needs to go to Capitol Hill to explain the decision and how it happened and how it was explained. Two questions about that. One, he's not scheduled to do that for more than three weeks. Is that too long to wait? And number two, is this a signal that his future in the administration might rest on how good a job he does with that explaining?
MS. PERINO: No, I was -- what I meant this morning is I was referring back to what the President had said, which is that the Attorney General has work to do on Capitol Hill. And that remains to be true. It is true that the Attorney General's scheduled testimony is not for about three weeks, and I grant you I think that seems like a long time. But I don't think I would read into that that the Justice Department isn't having ongoing discussions with members of the Judiciary Committees on both the House and Senate side, and other members who have expressed interest.
Q Would you rather that he went sooner?
MS. PERINO: It's really not up to me. I think that the Attorney General and the Congress is going to have to work that out. I know that this Thursday there will be testimony by a DOJ official.
Q You chose to emphasize that, so is there any sort of signal that there's anticipation here that he needs to do a good job and --
MS. PERINO: Oh, I think that that's implicit in -- from the very beginning, when the President said, when we were in Mexico, that, yes, he absolutely has -- the Attorney General has the confidence of the President, but that it was understandable that Congress had questions and that they needed those questions to be answered. And the President wanted them to do that.
And I would remind everyone here another thing that I said this morning, which is that one of the things the President wanted to make sure that the Attorney General was doing is turning over responsive documents to the Congress. And they've been working around the clock to try to find those. And as they do, they release them. I know that was a little bit of a frustration late on a Friday night, but they are trying to be as responsive as possible as quickly as possible.
Q Dana, are you saying that his scheduled testimony, which is three weeks away -- that he actually may go up to the Hill before when he's scheduled right now?
MS. PERINO: I don't know if there are individual meetings -- you would have to ask Department of Justice if any members have asked to see the Attorney General beforehand. That would not be unusual.
Q Let me ask you about the email that shows the Attorney General in a meeting on November the 27th, and then the Attorney General's statements on March 13th, "We never had a discussion about where things stood." Do you find anything inconsistent in that?
MS. PERINO: The Justice Department, when they gave their statements on Friday night, said that they weren't inconsistent. And my reading of it is that the Attorney General has said -- I understand that there's a March 13th piece, but I also looked back on March 14th, when he did interviews back and forth -- I think it was with a CNN network -- in which he said, and he said consistently, that he does not recall being involved in deliberations about who -- which U.S. attorneys might be asked to be replaced for the remainder of the term. But he does say that he signed off on the final list. And my reading of that meeting was that was the final decision -- the decisions had been made, the final plan had been in place, and they were asking the Attorney General for a sign-off.
Q So what's he getting out of the 13th, when he said, "We never had a discussion about where things stood"?
MS. PERINO: I think what he's referring to -- and, again, I'm going to refer you to Justice Department for exactly what his thinking is, but when he says he doesn't recall having recollections about having deliberative discussions about the ongoing process over that two-year period, but that he does take responsibility for signing off on the final plan.
Q Are you concerned -- this is a Cabinet Secretary. Are you concerned at all that there seems to continue to be drips and drabs of information that comes out which seems to contradict the ever-changing story of the Attorney General?
MS. PERINO: I would take a slight issue with that, because I think what the Justice Department has done was what the President has asked them to do, which is to go back and look and leave no stone unturned, and find the documents that are responsive to the Congress. And when they do so, they turn them over. On that November 27th date, there was apparently a meeting. I don't know who attended, I know that it was on a schedule.
Q Well, it's pretty clear who attended. I mean, it says there who --
MS. PERINO: It says who was invited to attend --
MS. PERINO: -- but I don't know who all ended up being there.
Q Are there any notes from that meeting?
MS. PERINO: Jim, you guys are going to have to -- as much as I would like to be able to help you and answer that question for you, I don't know. You'd have to ask the Justice Department.
Q But you're in a position now where people are looking at this and going, this is really starting not to pass the sniff test. And that's an administration issue, not a Justice Department issue.
MS. PERINO: I just explained to you my understanding of the meeting and why I believe that those statements were consistent. Now, does the Congress continue to have questions? Yes, they do, and I understand that. And the President understands that. And we have said for the past couple weeks as this has been going on that the communications with the Hill needs to be --
Q One more. So we should look at his statements now on March 14th as the accurate answer --
MS. PERINO: I'm trying to give you a full picture. I'm trying -- people were looking at that March 13th date. My recollection is that the Attorney General had said that he did not remember having discussions about deliberations of the ongoing process, but that he had signed off on the final list. I understand that that March 13th press conference, he might be accused of being imprecise in what he was saying. But I do know that on March 14th, which is just the next morning when he did those interviews, that he did reiterate what I had just told you.
Q Can he afford to be imprecise at this point in the proceedings?
MS. PERINO: I think -- look, you're talking about two weeks ago. I think that -- I understand the concern, I understand that people might think that there are inconsistencies, but as I read it, I think that he has been consistent.
Q Dana, when the President said in Mexico City that Attorney General Gonzales would -- or in M rida, the Attorney General would go up to Capitol Hill and reassure lawmakers and deal with their concerns, I took it to mean he would go up there in public testimony and do so. Was I wrong at that?
MS. PERINO: I think it could mean a variety of things. I mean, in Capitol Hill, members of the Cabinet and members of the administration have meetings, individual meetings or group meetings with members of Congress all sorts of times, and it doesn't have to necessarily be testimony. The Department of Justice had said that the Justice Department officials were willing to testify, but I don't think at that time that a hearing had been scheduled.
Q So the President wasn't necessarily talking about Attorney General Gonzales going up there and sitting before a congressional committee and answering all their questions?
MS. PERINO: I think what the President meant was that it was inclusive of all different ways that you can talk to Congress.
Q Dana, this morning you said that this November 27th meeting that the Attorney General was just signing off on the names, right?
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q It's an hour-long meeting. Does it take an hour to just sign off on the names, or doesn't it sound like there may have been some deliberations there?
MS. PERINO: Ed, I don't know how Justice Department does its scheduling. I don't know how many people attended. I don't know who actually showed up to attend the meeting. I don't know how long the meeting lasted. I don't know exactly what was said in the meeting. But I know that -- what I can tell you is what the purpose of the meeting was.
Q When Kyle Sampson resigned a couple of weeks back, the White House said the reason was that he had not fully informed his superiors about the deliberations and what-not. Does that still hold water, since on November 27th, in fact, he had a one-hour meeting with the Attorney General, who was his superior?
MS. PERINO: Again, go back to what I said, Ed, which was that the Attorney General has said he doesn't recall having discussions about the deliberations that had been ongoing, that he had delegated that to members of his staff -- that remains true -- and that he had signed off on the final list -- that remains true.
Q But presumably, if he signs off -- is the Attorney General, the chief law enforcement of the nation, does he just sign off on a list without, hey, how did you arrive at this decision? I mean, you're saying he just signed off on it and didn't know how they arrived there at all? He just said, okay, I'll sign my name?
MS. PERINO: Ed, as much as I would like to be able to answer questions about what exactly happened in that meeting, I just can't do that from here, and I have to refer you to the Justice Department.
Q And also, just in general, if he had a meeting, though -- Kyle Sampson -- with his superior, the Attorney General, on November 27th, and then the Attorney General signed off on these names, that would seem to imply that, in fact, the Attorney General was informed of the fact they were firing these people. He signed off on it. So can Kyle Sampson really --
MS. PERINO: I think that's a little bit of a stretch, because I do think what the Attorney General has consistently said is that he doesn't recall having discussions about the ongoing deliberations; that when he was presented with the final plan he did give the final sign-off. So I think that that is consistent.
Q Okay, last thing. Where does it stand right now, in terms of the negotiations with Capitol Hill on moving forward with testimony for White House aides like Karl Rove? And where do you stand on just the broad issue of executive privilege? Is that something you anticipate the White House will cite here?
MS. PERINO: We have not cited any particular privilege. There are long-standing constitutional separation of powers issues that go all the way back to the framers, who thought about this long and hard and could maybe anticipate things that we were going to be going through as a nation as three branches have natural tensions amongst each other. So, no, we have not asserted any type of privilege.
What we have done is, if you step back, the Congress said that they were going to authorize subpoenas to the Justice Department, and Justice Department said, you don't need to; we'll be willing to come up, we'll be willing to turn over documents. That said, they went ahead and issued subpoenas. The White House -- they said they were going to issue subpoenas. We said, there's no need to authorize subpoenas, because we have -- even though we don't have any responsibility to you, and you don't have any specific oversight over the White House, we are willing to have our four officials that you've asked for to go up and have an interview with members of Congress -- all those details to be worked out -- and that we would release documents from here, from the White House, to outside entities.
That was an extraordinary compromise on our part from the beginning, and so we do feel like we have compromised. We have made a very reasonable offer. I do know of no ongoing negotiations with the Hill in regard to the offer that we have. If the Congress wants to choose confrontation over resolution, that is their choice. But we remain hopeful that they would see the wisdom in working this out with us, with this offer.
Q When you say that the Congress has no oversight over the White House -- Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is saying in Esquire Magazine this month that the President --
MS. PERINO: Quoting Esquire Magazine.
Q Well, a Republican Senator is quoted in there saying that, in fact, the President does not believe that -- Chuck Hagel believes the President doesn't think he needs to be held accountable, and that he drops the word "impeachment," that perhaps others -- he's not saying himself -- but Hagel says, others may want to bring up the word, impeachment, but --
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on something as ridiculous as that.
Q A couple things. Just for the record, are the people who are not negotiating with Congress aware that it is unprecedented for somebody like Karl Rove, or somebody who's giving even an interview, to have no transcript kept of their closed-door interview, except in national security instances?
MS. PERINO: I don't know all the issues of precedent that go all the way back. I do know that people have meetings all the time and they have discussions all the time, and there aren't transcripts produced all the time. But this isn't --
Q Not according to the committee --
MS. PERINO: Let me finish, Jessica, which is that the White House -- the Congress does not have oversight over the White House. We are not -- this is not a hearing, this is not an interrogation --
Q What do you mean, don't have oversight?
Q But there is checks and balances, and that's the way the system has worked --
MS. PERINO: There are checks and balances, but we could have said, we're not going to talk to you at all. But that's not what we did.
Q But that's a form of -- you don't see this as a form of confrontation, refusing to follow practice?
MS. PERINO: No, the way I see it is that it is a form of accommodation.
Q And so the White House is being accommodating by saying, we won't negotiate, take our offer or leave it?
MS. PERINO: We are being accommodating because we could have said, we're not going to talk to you at all, and instead we've been quite generous and extraordinarily open about what we're willing to provide.
Q Okay, another question. Has the President talked to the Attorney General since this new set of documents came out Friday night?
MS. PERINO: No.
Q So what you're telling us when you've given us a response today is your interpretation of what the Attorney General has said in public before and what these documents say. Wouldn't it be --
MS. PERINO: And my conversations with the Justice Department and my team here.
Q What is keeping the White House from calling the Attorney General directly and saying, hey, man, what's the inconsistency, explain it?
MS. PERINO: I can't tell you that there hasn't been anybody that's talked to the Attorney General. You asked me if the President had spoken to him, and I believe the answer is, no.
Q So the President isn't worried about an apparent inconsistency?
MS. PERINO: I've not spoken to the President about it.
Q Is the President confident in Gonzales, based on the fact that he believes the criteria of all the massive firings was direct -- bad performance?
MS. PERINO: The President believes that -- well, first of all, just to take a step back. Any U.S. attorney serves at the pleasure of the President. They are political appointees. And when they are nominated we work very hard to make sure that they are supported politically so that they can get through what, as you all know, can be a very combative confirmation process. So they serve at the pleasure of the President. The President has a responsibility to set a broad prosecutorial agenda that the U.S. attorneys then go forward to fulfill.
And we provide -- we at the White House give wide deference to the Justice Department in its management of the U.S. attorneys. And if they decided that there were six, seven, eight, nine, 93 U.S. attorneys that they thought should be replaced, and that they say that they had reasons to do it --
Q That isn't an answer to my question.
MS. PERINO: -- for the reasons that they've said, then the President does have confidence in the Attorney General and the final decision that he made.
Q Does the President have -- does the Attorney General have to have a reason for firing, or can it be just on a whim?
MS. PERINO: Technically, no. Technically, no.
Q Dana, you have Republican senators now saying that they need a transcript for this meeting, interview, as you call it. It seems to be an area where if the White House would give a little bit, you might find some give at least in your own party on Capitol Hill. Is this the White House's position that the offer for these interviews without a transcript is final and that there will be no negotiation over the issue of a transcript?
MS. PERINO: I know of no negotiations that are ongoing. I do know that in regards to the transcript, we -- this is not a hearing or an interrogation, and in order to avoid the appearance of that, we offered the interview. I do understand that there are some people who would disagree with our position.
Q But I'm asking you --
MS. PERINO: I understand that there are some Republicans who think that we should offer a transcript, as well. That is just not where we are right now.
Q You're saying that you know of no negotiations that are ongoing, but is it your position that there will be no negotiations, that this is a non-negotiable issue?
MS. PERINO: At this point, I believe that is true. From all that I know, I believe that is true. I do think that anyone looking at it objectively could say that because we could have said that we are not going to talk to you at all, and we offered this olive branch of sorts, that they don't want to take us up on it.
Q So your position is firm, no transcript?
MS. PERINO: Correct.
Q How does the President think that the Attorney General can be effective when the erosion of support among Republicans is growing?
MS. PERINO: I think that -- I don't know if any of you are on the Department of Justice press release distribution list, but I certainly get lots of press releases from them on all the issues that they are managing, including immigration cases and the child exploitation cases that the Attorney General has placed a priority on, corruption cases -- we saw one just last week, a member of our own administration, so -- a former member of our own administration. And so I think that the Justice Department absolutely continues on, as we all do in government. Sometimes when you're under the spotlight like that, it might be uncomfortable, and you have to have a lot of -- you have to do a lot of work on that issue in order to keep going, but absolutely, the other issues of the Department have to continue on. And from all I know, they certainly are.
Q And he's still effective?
MS. PERINO: Absolutely.
Q Dana, first of all, I pray for the --
MS. PERINO: Is this still on U.S. attorneys?
MS. PERINO: Okay. Is there anybody else?
MS. PERINO: Kevin.
Q How concerned are you that the appearances, when you don't have testimony that's on a transcript, and when you don't have people that are willing to be under oath, that the American people look at that and say, what are they up to, maybe they're trying to hide something -- how concerned are you about that appearance?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that it's incumbent upon us to continue to explain what our position is and why it is. I think the people understand that it is good, not just for this President, but for the presidency as a whole, to have White House internal deliberations continue to be held within the confidence of the President. And that is good, not just for this President, but for future presidents, what he or she may do in the future. So it's incumbent upon us to explain that.
Also, the other thing that we need to remind people is that the President expects every member of his administration to be truthful when they're talking to anybody; that includes members of Congress. In fact, it's a crime if you don't tell the truth to a member of Congress.
And so we could have said, we're not going to talk to you at all, and then what sort of a PR position would we be in? But the President decided that he would allow his aides to go up and testify, that we would turn over an unprecedented amount of documents from -- unprecedented from our standpoint, from our administration. And so in terms of concern, I understand where you're coming from, but I think that we have continued to explain what our position is, and that's what we have -- that's just what we have to do.
Q Following up on Roger's question, following the comments of Senator Graham, Senator Specter, and other Republicans, do you sense an erosion of Republican support for the Attorney General?
MS. PERINO: I don't know how to characterize it. I do know that those three members have expressed concern, and other members have, as well, and the Attorney General knows that he has work to do on Capitol Hill. And we talked a little bit about that beforehand. And so that work has to be ongoing. He has to get up there and continue to explain.
And they also -- I think the other thing that we cannot lose sight of is that the Justice Department is going out of its way to try to find documents that are responsive to the request, and then to turn them over to the Congress and to the press as soon as possible.
Q It seems that each document released raises new questions.
MS. PERINO: I disagree, I understand that's what your characterization is, but I just disagree.
Q Dana, can I just follow one more time on this notion of transcript? Doesn't the events of last Friday illustrate perfectly why a transcript is necessary? In other words, you have more documents that come out Friday. You have the Attorney General saying something that appears inconsistent. And then you say, ah, but look at the transcript of CNN on the --
MS. PERINO: I see your point. (Laughter.) I see your point, Jim, and I understand that people would think --
Q -- it's a serious question, that you're referring to something that there's no dispute about what was said, because there's a transcript.
MS. PERINO: Jim, I see your point, but -- however, the decision that we have made is to allow for interviews that would be on the record, where people could take notes. And I understand that some people would think that that is not a good idea, and I understand the inconsistency of my own statement of referring back to a transcript of March 14th. However, these meetings are not hearings, they are not interrogations, they are not under the Kleig lights. They are meetings in which members say they want to get to the bottom of the facts. And if they really want to, they have that opportunity available to them --
Q But if Harriet Miers --
MS. PERINO: -- and there are other opportunities for members of Congress to get different data points of information in order to pull the full story together.
Q But if Harriet Miers and Karl Rove have recollections of answers to questions that don't exactly match, and we're trying to "get to the truth" --
MS. PERINO: Nothing would prevent them from following up.
Q But follow up how? With notes, or with what each one actually said?
MS. PERINO: With follow-up questions.
Q Yes, based on what? What each one actually told investigators, or what the best notes reflect of what they told them?
MS. PERINO: Jim, we're not going to have a transcript.
Ann, go ahead.
Q The House is going to vote to roll back the authority to name new replacement U.S. attorneys --
MS. PERINO: Under the Patriot Act?
Q Under the Patriot Act. Does the President -- would the President sign HR 580, if it lands on his desk?
MS. PERINO: I believe that we have taken a position we are not going to oppose the legislation. And so if it makes it through -- we'll see how it ends up through the legislative process, but we are not actively opposing the legislation.
Q Does the President think it's okay that the Attorney General did not have more involvement in the deliberations about firing the U.S. attorneys?
MS. PERINO: I believe so. I haven't talked to the President about that. I know that the Attorney General has said that he delegated this responsibility to people who work for him in his office. And certainly the President does that in his own office. And so his management style is similar in that regard.
Q But isn't that a pretty major decision for an Attorney General to fire eight U.S. attorneys --
MS. PERINO: He did say that he signed off on the final plan.
Q What else is he doing if he's not really involved in a personnel matter of that level?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think the Attorney General is extremely busy, and you just have to look at the record of successes they've had in terms of the prosecutions and the policy matters that they've gone forward on in a variety of different areas, including privacy protection, and the exploitation of children and trying to end that. And they're working very cooperatively across the administration in order to move forward on several of those fronts.
Q But he was too busy to do this?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to answer that.
Go ahead, Victoria.
Q Is the White House calling Republican members of Congress to try to stop the erosion of support?
MS. PERINO: Well, I know that -- I don't know specifically how the conversations are going. I do know that our staff, our White House Legislative Affairs staff, led by Candi Wolff, is in regular contact with members of Congress. And so I don't have anything specific for you, but, of course, you can bet that we're talking to members of Congress.
Q And do you see how, to the American people, the notes which are going to be taken by several different people and invariably going to vary, and don't have the solidity of a transcript, could be seen as just you being not quite straight?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't think that that's how people would see it. I understand some people would disagree with our decision about not having a transcript. However, these are not hearings, this is a meeting. And you have meetings all the time where transcripts aren't produced.
Q The Senate is beginning debate on the Iraq resolution. Their version has a time line, but it's a non-binding time line. Why should that still be veto bait?
MS. PERINO: It's non-binding -- I guess -- you mean there's no -- non-binding, so there's just a time line just to have a time line? I don't know specifically about that. I do know that we would object to time line -- timetables for withdrawal. We would object to people taking out flexibility for commanders on the ground. And we also object to extra domestic spending that is used to buy votes in order to get to a simple majority vote that is not going to be able to sustain a veto. And the President has said that he is going to veto this bill. And so, as he said on Friday, the Democrats have had a chance to make their political statement. They've made it, and now it's time to stop that charade and move on and let's get to the business of making sure that the troops have what they need.
Q Well, yes, because the Senate bill is different in one of the --
MS. PERINO: I'd have to take a look at that language, in terms of the timetable -- time line, versus timetable. I'd need to take a look.
Q Is the President going to do any events in the foreseeable future aimed at supporting that message, saying that we need the funding to support the troops and support --
MS. PERINO: Yes, on Wednesday the President is giving a speech at the Cattlemen's Association. Two broad themes for that speech are that the President will discuss the importance of trade and opening markets for America's producers, especially the beef industry and other agricultural products. There are a number of trade deals before the Congress. They are Peru, Panama, and Colombia. And the U.S. Trade Representative is also in the midst of promising discussions with South Korea.
So he is going to be talking about that, including asking Congress to reauthorize trade promotion authority, shorthand TPA, as you hear people talk about that. But he'll also talk about the supplemental legislation that's moving through. He'll use it as an opportunity to address the global war on terror, and the importance of allowing the new Iraq plan to succeed. The President will say it is dangerous to our soldiers on the ground to let Washington politics delay this funding. So that will happen on Wednesday.
Q Dana, quick two questions, but before my questions, I just pray for a speedy recovery for Tony.
MS. PERINO: Yes, we certainly -- we all do.
Q And my question is, there is an article in India Globe that as far as Pakistanis are concerned here, there is an outlook list at the Homeland Security. Can you confirm that political Pakistanis are being hunted by the Homeland Security, as far as going and coming from and to Pakistan, as far as getting training in Pakistan, and --
MS. PERINO: No, I haven't heard that. I'd have to refer you to DHS for more on that.
Q Second question. As far as this Iranian nuclear program is concerned, U.N. Security Council voted Saturday, I think, against Iran as far as sanctions are concerned. But Iranian President is now retaliating and also calling on the West that they will pay the price, including IAEA and other --
MS. PERINO: And your question?
Q Where do we stand -- where do we go from here? Because as far as sanctions are concerned, they hardly work against any country, as far as I have seen --
MS. PERINO: I would disagree with that. What happened was, on Saturday evening, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to send a strong message to Iran, to stop isolating their country and their people, to suspend their program, and to come to the table. It was very good to see that the international community was so strongly united, and we would urge the Iranians to stop and think before going down the road of non-compliance.
Let me go to the back, and then Jessica, and then Lester.
Q On a different issue, the primary meetings of the Arabic summit, which is going to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, are underway. And as you know that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia acknowledged the peace initiative, which is now the Arabic peace initiative. To what extent do you think that this summit will help in bringing about peace and stability in the region?
MS. PERINO: As you know, Secretary Rice is in the region, and I think I would have to refer you to the State Department for any update on her trip. But yesterday -- she had a press conference yesterday with the Foreign Minister in Egypt, and then her talks are ongoing. So I'm going to let State Department read that out.
Let me go to Jessica, and then we'll come to you, Lester.
Q About the British sailors. These are 15 sailors with, perhaps, the U.S.'s closest allies have been taken by the Iranians. And the President hasn't made a statement about it, and even from the podium you all -- both you and Tony have said, we echo what the Brits have said. Is there a deliberate effort to keep a backseat on this, for the White House to not mess up some sort of diplomatic efforts?
MS. PERINO: Well, you can be assured that we are in close contact with our British allies. We strongly support the message that Tony Blair sent yesterday, the strong message of the hostage taking being wrong and unjustified. But as far as further comment, I don't have anything for you.
Q Is the President not outraged by this?
MS. PERINO: We share the same concern and the outrage that Prime Minister Blair has.
Q Will we be hearing from the President on it?
MS. PERINO: I'll keep you updated.
Q Can I just ask one quick one about Pat Tillman?
MS. PERINO: Sure.
Q Has the President been briefed on that? What's your sense. It's coming out at 4:00 p.m. today, and what's the White House reaction?
MS. PERINO: I went to check on it. The President is aware that the Department of Defense is going to issue an IG report today. He wants to learn more. He didn't get the details, he got a very brief briefing. He has very serious concerns, as does the Secretary of Defense. The President feels that Pat Tillman was an inspiration to all of us. And I looked back, and in 2004, one of the things that the President said was that "Pat Tillman set aside a career in athletics and many things the world counts important -- wealth and security and acclaim of crowds. He chose instead the rigors of Ranger training and the fellowship of soldiers, and the hard duty in Afghanistan and Iraq."
And, of course, we hold Pat Tillman's family in our thoughts and prayers. And as there's more information to release from the White House, we'll let you know. But as you said, the Department of Defense is having a briefing at 4:00 p.m.
Q But why do you think the Pentagon -- since you have such reverence for Pat Tillman's service, why wasn't the Pentagon honest with his own family about his death?
MS. PERINO: I think that we need to allow the IG report to come out, and they can answer those questions from there. As I said, the President is very concerned, and those are shared by the Secretary of Defense.
Okay, Lester. Quickly.
Q Thank you, Dana. And welcome.
MS. PERINO: Thank you.
Q Two questions. Regarding your mentioning of the exploitation of children, another attempt to prevent children from being exposed to pornography on the Internet has been struck down by a federal judge. How important is it that the nation implement protections to keep professional pornographers from preying on America's children?
MS. PERINO: Obviously, no one would want to see children preyed upon, and so those matters are very important.
Q So you disagree with this judge?
MS. PERINO: I haven't seen the -- I haven't seen the ruling or the judge, and I have to refer you to the Justice Department for their reaction.
Q The New York Times reports that the head of the 70 percent federally financed non-profit tax-exempt Smithsonian Institution, Lawrence Small, is paid a salary of $915,000 a year, and he logged $90,000 in unauthorized expenses. And my question: Does the President support Republican Senator Grassley in his expos of this, and his amendment to freeze a $17 million proposed increase in the Smithsonian's budget?
MS. PERINO: Well, certainly the President agrees that Secretary -- that Senator Grassley is right to look into the matter.
Q And what is his reaction when this man is being paid more than twice --
MS. PERINO: -- informed by our ABC colleagues that he's resigned. So I think that --
Q He's resigned?
MS. PERINO: Well, you'll have to -- you'll have to get that from ABC, not from me. (Laughter.)
Q Any update on Tony Snow?
MS. PERINO: Tony's surgery wasn't scheduled until 1:30 p.m. this afternoon, so as soon as we have an update -- we've asked Mrs. Snow to give us a call to let us know that he came through brilliantly and he's resting comfortably, and as soon as we are able to do that, we will let you know.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Thank you.
Posted: Mar 27 2007, 05:34 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 27, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:33 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. As I was able to tell you this morning, you know that Tony Snow went into surgery yesterday. He told everyone last Friday that he was going to have this surgery. You remember that he said that the doctors had found a small growth, that they had seen over a series of CAT scans and MRIs, that had been identified on his abdomen. It was in the area where his previous cancer had been located. Tony called us this morning and informed us that despite all of our best hopes and expectations, that his doctors, unfortunately, learned that the growth was cancerous and there has been some metastases, including to the liver.
This news has obviously saddened everyone at the White House; from the President and the First Lady, his team, the entire staff, the outpouring has been quite amazing. You heard from the President in the Rose Garden. Of course, all of Tony's family is in our prayers. The President said, Tony should stay strong, and "know a lot of people love you and care for you and will pray for you." And we'll all look forward to the day when Tony can come back and take the podium again. Believe me, we're looking forward to that.
I spoke to Tony briefly this morning, around 9:30 a.m. He told me he was up, walking around and comfortable. He will remain in the hospital for several days. That was already part of the plan because it was major surgery that he had. He did not have a lot more detail. I will try to answer your questions as best I can, but the ones that I can't answer I will endeavor to get you the answer, or I'll just have to tell you that we're not going to be able to answer those questions. Some of them are privacy concerns and health related.
If you know Tony, then you know that he's a fighter. He plans to take this on with the advice of his doctors. They are in consultation right now, talking about an aggressive treatment to go after the cancer that he said will likely include chemotherapy, but could include other things, as well. And when I have more on that I can provide that to you, as well. All of us -- we gain a lot of strength from his optimism. He told me that he beat this thing before and he intends to beat it again.
The other thing that I would say about Tony Snow is that he doesn't skip a beat; he had obviously been paying attention to the news and he was really fired up about the Iraq war supplemental. And I said that I would make sure that I delivered the President's message today, regardless of this. So if you'll bear with me -- I don't know if you were able to see it, given the news this morning, while we were all focused on Tony -- the President did issue a statement of administration policy on the Senate's Iraq war supplemental. And just a couple of points -- I'm going to read it from -- just a little bit just to make sure I fulfill my promise to Tony and make sure that you heard this before we go to questions.
The administration strongly opposes the Senate bill. The legislation would substitute congressional mandates for the considered judgment of our military commanders. The bill assumes and forces the failure of the new strategy even before American commanders in the field are able to fully implement their plan. Regardless of the success that our troops are achieving in the field, this bill would require their withdrawal. This and other provisions would place freedom and democracy in Iraq at grave risk, embolden our enemies, and undercut the administration's plans to develop the Iraqi economy. If this legislation were presented to the President, he would veto the bill.
The war supplemental should remain focused on the needs of the troops, and should not be used as a vehicle for added non-emergency spending and policy proposals, especially domestic proposals, which should be fully vetted and considered on their own merits. This bill adds billions in unrequested spending that is largely unjustified and non-emergency. And because of the excessive and extraneous non-emergency spending it contains, if this legislation were presented to the President, he would veto the bill.
Congress should reject this legislation and promptly send the President a responsible bill that provides the funding and flexibility our troops need, and without holding funding for the troops hostage to unrelated spending.
And with that, I'll go to questions. Jennifer.
Q Dana, our thoughts really are with Tony, so if you would pass that on, we'd appreciate it.
MS. PERINO: Absolutely.
Q Just one quick question, if you're able to answer. During the surgery, do you know if they were able to take the area out of the liver that was cancerous? And you mentioned that it had spread to areas, including the liver. Does that mean it's gone beyond to other areas, as well?
MS. PERINO: I can -- I don't know the answer to the first question, in regards to if they did any further surgery or -- on the liver at the time. Again, if I can find that out, I'll let you know, if I can get back in touch with him today. What he told me is that the small growth that they had found was in the general area of where the first cancer had originated those years ago, and that when they went back in, even though the blood tests have been negative and the PET scans had been negative for cancer, that they discovered it was cancer, and then he said, and it had spread to the liver, and there has been some metastases -- plural. So that's as far as I can go on that.
Q Dana, do you have a sense of how his treatment might differ this time, versus the first occurrence of cancer?
MS. PERINO: I don't. I know that he's working with the same doctors, at least a core of the same doctors that he worked with before. And, so, obviously, they were successful in their first attempts to beat it back those couple years ago. I think it was just last month that he had reached the two-year mark of being cancer free.
So he just said that he's in consultations with his doctors, and I think that they'll -- it will take some time, I think, for them to figure out what's the best course of treatment. But as soon as I can tell you, and to the extent that he's comfortable with me being able to share that with you, I will do so.
Q Dana, where other than the liver? You said metastases, plural.
MS. PERINO: I don't know, he didn't say.
Q Dana, just two questions. One, when was this growth first detected? And then a question about the first episode. Do you know at what stage the cancer was at the time in 2005 that it had actually penetrated --
MS. PERINO: Stage 3, that first -- when he was first diagnosed those years ago, it was stage 3. I do not know which stage this cancer is that they found.
Q But when was it that they first detected the growth?
MS. PERINO: This new growth?
Q The new growth, yes.
MS. PERINO: All I know is that he said, "in a recent series of CAT scans and PET scans and MRIs, we have found a small growth in my lower abdomen." I don't know specifically, but I do know that as a cancer patient, and many others who either have cancer patients in their family or are survivors themselves, you get regular checkups. And he would go in for a checkup every three to four months. And I believe that this goes back -- maybe just a couple of the tests before that. They've been keeping an eye on this growth.
Q How big was the growth, Dana?
MS. PERINO: On Friday he said that it was about the size of the tip of his pinky finger. And so -- his pinky finger is probably a little larger than mine.
Q And do you have any information on his family? Obviously, his wife and his children --
MS. PERINO: I don't. I know that Jill Snow, his wife, was with him at the hospital today when I spoke to her. Obviously, this is a family that has been through a lot. And they -- I have never seen such a close-knit family. They really just love each other so much. They're very supportive. Being a Press Secretary of the United States -- to the President of the United States is not an easy job, but Tony really cut out time for his family whenever he possibly could and they were very close. And so I'm sure that this is difficult for them. And I know that they appreciate all the prayers that people are offering.
Q Did he express that he was feeling ill prior to the surgery, or anything that might have been -- looking back now --
MS. PERINO: No, he said that he felt fine. He said he felt fine.
Q How does the President feel about his Republicans on the Hill tossing the ball back to him and letting him hold the bag, basically, on a veto on pullout, which is against the will of the American people?
MS. PERINO: Yes, I read reporting this morning that indicated that somehow the Senate Republicans were defying the President. Actually, that's not the case. In fact, last week, when the President met with the Senate Republican leadership, they talked about needing to go ahead and get this vote over with, and get the bill to the President's desk so he could veto it, so that they could go on and get to the business of presenting the President a clean bill.
Q So it was a plan, really?
MS. PERINO: Yes, and if you look at the President's remarks on Friday, he indicated that.
Q Doesn't this go against the will of the American people who want to pull out?
MS. PERINO: I think the President has been very clear that they don't want to pull out if it means losing. And the President has said that --
Q How does losing -- losing what?
MS. PERINO: The President has made it clear that the goal is to make sure that we can stabilize Baghdad, especially, so that the politicians in Baghdad can do the work that they need to do in order to reconcile politically and get the economic engine going, so that the security situation can not only stabilize in Baghdad, but then spread throughout the country.
Q At any price?
MS. PERINO: We understand fully the sacrifice that our men and women and the innocent Iraqis --
Q And you still think it's worth it?
MS. PERINO: We do.
April. We'll go back to Tony.
Q Now that Tony has become more of a public face for cancer, and it's shaken the White House, can we expect the White House, as it does other health issues like heart awareness, heart health awareness, can we expect to see something from the White House as to something on cancer prevention, something that's been a pet project of Tony's?
MS. PERINO: It's a great question. Obviously, the President and Mrs. Bush do lots of different focus -- as Mrs. Bush is really focusing on heart health for women, and we have, obviously, AIDS prevention issues. It's a good question about cancer prevention. I think -- well, one thing I know for sure for myself and my team, and -- our team at the White House, everybody, we are much more aware about cancer and also about the treatments that people get, and the things that a family goes through when they go in for their checkups, and there's that huge sigh of relief that they have whenever that test comes back negative
And so it's a great question. I don't have any specific programs to think about right now, but I know that we have had some increases in cancer funding, and especially cancer research funding. And I'll work with Tony Fratto, we can get you the details on that.
Anybody else? On Tony? Sheryl, then Connie.
Q Dana, a couple more questions on Tony. He went for a series of checkups recently. There were -- a couple weeks ago he told us he was going off to Walter Reed, and then I believe he went back again for an MRI. Did something come up at that Walter Reed checkup that then prompted this series of --
MS. PERINO: From what he told me and from what I understood -- and again, I'm not a doctor, so I probably didn't ask all the right questions -- but he had had the CAT scan and/or the MRI -- I don't know if anyone else remembers -- but he had the CAT scan. And because the growth -- they continued to see it and they had seen it had grown over that time period between the last checkup, there was a decision to do a PET scan and possibly -- I don't know when the MRI came in. Maybe around the same time. But the PET scan was, as I understand it, a more in-depth look as to what was going on with the growth. And so he did that PET scan, and it was from there that they decided and weighed options about how to go in and tackle it.
Q And also, last Thursday, when Elizabeth Edwards made her announcement, Tony spoke rather eloquently about her. And it was only the next day, Friday, that he told us that he would, himself, be going in for surgery. Did he talk at all about this being on his mind on Thursday, as he was speaking --
MS. PERINO: It was on his mind. He had been wrestling with the decision with his doctors. I think that early on Tony Snow had decided, given the options, whether laparoscopic surgery and just doing a biopsy, or going in and doing the full surgery, that that was something he and his family and his doctors had to weigh. And Tony decided -- I think he told you last week that he was very -- he's an aggressive cancer patient. And once you decide to be that optimistic person and you have the will to live, that you are a person that's a really good patient for the doctors. And he had decided that he wanted to do the full-blown surgery.
He needed to get some things in order, and he needed to make sure he talked to the President; he needed to find -- he wasn't sure when the -- on Thursday, I can tell you, he wasn't sure when the surgery was going to be. I believe they were still talking with the surgeons to figure out schedules.
Q But, Dana, you remember that moment, that quite emotional moment, when he was talking about Elizabeth Edwards, and he paused -- was he aware of something at that point that was causing such emotion for him?
MS. PERINO: No, if you remember -- well, I think anyone who is a cancer survivor -- and I am not one, so I cannot put myself in their shoes -- but anytime I think that you're talking about a fellow human being -- and I don't know how well he knows the Edwards family, but I think that you have a kinship and an understanding and a connection that maybe some of us don't have. And of course, I'm sure he was thinking of his own family and he knew that he had made the decision to go in for the surgery.
But remember, he told all of us not to jump to conclusions because the blood tests and the PET scan had been negative for cancer. And he really believed that the best thing to do for himself and for his family was to aggressively go after the cancer and just to see -- I'm sorry -- aggressively go after the growth, see if there was any problem with it. And unfortunately, there was.
Q Did he talk to you today about a feeling of shock? I know that when I spoke to him, he seemed -- he was very upbeat about it and he told us all, don't jump to conclusions, as you said. So did this -- how did he take this news?
MS. PERINO: Our conversation was about five to six minutes long. When I talked to him he had already talked to the President. It's hard for me to describe if he was shocked, or not. Disappointed, surely; but resolute, and almost immediately ready to get up and start fighting. Like I said, he said, you have to make sure that you deliver the message on the Iraq war supplemental. But in addition to that, he had said that his doctors are top-notch, and that they were already in consultations. So they did the surgery yesterday, and within a 12-hour period, they're already discussing the treatment for the way forward.
Q Dana, is it his expectation, his desire, to be back here on the job while he undergoes this treatment? I mean, obviously, we don't know what the treatment is yet. But if that is physically possible, is it his desire to be back here?
MS. PERINO: Well, I certainly hope so. But he -- I can't say what his treatment is going to be, because he hasn't decided yet. And I did talk to Dr. Tubb just to understand the range of possibilities with chemotherapy treatment, and he doesn't know what the doctors are going to decide, but it just depends on what they decide to do and what the needs are.
I do know that Tony Snow loves this job. He says it is the best job he's ever had in his life. He, in fact, has called it "communications Disneyland." (Laughter.) So he loves the job, and I think his intention, of course, is to come back. The President wants to have him back, as you heard today. So as soon as we have more on that, we can let you know. But the intention is that he'll be back, and I just don't know when.
Q Is he watching you now, do you think?
MS. PERINO: Is he watching me now? I hope he's sleeping. I hope he's not watching me now, I'll start blushing. (Laughter.)
Connie, go ahead.
Q Thank you. By the way, we are all sorry, and we appreciate you talking to us. Two questions. Abdominal surgery is really painful. What is being done to control the pain?
MS. PERINO: I don't know. I don't know the answer to what's being done to control the pain. I'm sure his doctors are taking very good care of him, and if he's in pain, that they're addressing it.
Q And one more. He made a huge financial sacrifice to take this job, even though he loves it. Is the White House or the government doing anything to help --
MS. PERINO: Tony Snow is paid the salary that he's paid, and he has health insurance, and I'm sure he's taken care of that way.
Q How bizarre is this for you?
MS. PERINO: How bizarre is this for me?
Q Yes, I mean, now suddenly you're up there, it's an incredibly intense time, as far as the administration goes. I'm sure you weren't prepared to --
MS. PERINO: Anticipating this?
MS. PERINO: No. As my team laughs. But the great thing about the White House is the people that you work with. That is by far what everyone says, whenever they leave, that the thing that they miss the most are the people that you work with. And we are so supportive of each other. And Tony has really given all of us a lot more opportunities as deputies, and we have tried to step up to the plate where he has allowed us to -- or given us opportunity to. And so, for me, I don't have really any other feeling but concern for Tony, a little bit of shock for myself. I thought he was going to call back and they were going to say, oh, he's fine, no problems.
And so all of our energies are going to be concentrated on making sure that we do the job Tony would want us to do, and we will make sure that we try to fulfill every need that you have and that the President has, and we'll be in touch with him for advice.
Q Would the President be considering a visit to him in the next few days or early next week?
MS. PERINO: We'll let you know. I know there's nothing on the schedule right now. Remember, Tony didn't tell you where he was. And if we take the President, then you'll know where he is.
Q When I asked him Friday, he wouldn't say, either.
MS. PERINO: No, he doesn't want to say.
Q Dana, do you know enough about what's in Tony's short-term future to know whether he will be in a position to be in daily contact with the White House, or is he --
MS. PERINO: Seems so. I don't know for sure, but it seems so. I talked to him -- he talked to the President in the 7:00 a.m. hour this morning; he talked to me at 9:30 a.m. And again, he said, none of us should bug him for details about his medical condition, but I think that if we need him, we need his advice, I'm sure that if we need to find him, we can. But it's just too early to say.
Q So he's making the afternoon meeting this afternoon by phone? (Laughter.)
Q Have any doctors discussed what the survival rate is for cancer victims who have had cancer metastasize --
MS. PERINO: I'm sure all of you have access to medical experts or medical correspondents that -- I'd have to refer you to them. I know of no such thing.
Q For viewers who want to send a get-well wish, a card, anything like that --
MS. PERINO: Can I look into that and figure out the best way to do that? And we'll get you a good address to make sure -- make sure they get there.
Q Are we ready to --
MS. PERINO: Lester, is yours on Tony, or not?
Q It begins with Tony, but I'll --
MS. PERINO: Why don't we save you to the end?
MS. PERINO: Best for last. Still on Tony? Okay, April.
Q It's kind of a procedural -- understanding cancer, how will -- as the process goes, we just don't know how long it takes and what kinds of treatments have to be done -- what will be in place procedurally here for us? Will it be you or someone else?
MS. PERINO: As Tony said on Friday, that I'll be assuming as acting press secretary or deputy -- I am his deputy. I'm not the press secretary; I'm the deputy press secretary, but I'm acting in his position. So if you need things that you would have taken directly to Tony, I'll try to help you out.
Moving on. Okay, Jim.
Q I'd like to ask you about Monica Goodling. Her decision to take the Fifth contradicts the Attorney General's promise that his staff would be forthcoming. What are your thoughts about that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think it's unfortunate that a public servant no longer feels that her testimony would be treated fairly before the Congress. And, yes, the Attorney General, with the support of the President, urged all the members of the Justice Department to cooperate with Congress's request for testimony. However, we must respect the constitutional right of the individuals involved, and we are not going to question decisions that she made in private conversations with her and her attorney to protect those right.
Q But, clearly, the Attorney General is unable to deliver on a promise about getting to the bottom of all this now.
MS. PERINO: Again, I am not going to question someone's constitutional right that they made the decision based on with their lawyer. I would refer you to her attorney, who made a statement yesterday, to pursue that, or to the Justice Department as to --
Q Does this interface at all, or underscore for you the other part of this discussion, which has been about the terms in which White House staff will be able to have conversations with the Judiciary Committees? Because it just shows the complexity of communication, that perhaps the rules that are in place, how we do this, transcript, so forth, should be in place here?
MS. PERINO: I still believe that what we could have done at the White House is told the Judiciary Committees that no one at the White House was going to talk to them at all. Instead, what the President did was say, I've got -- you have requests to speak to four individuals, four members of my administration, close advisors, and I'm willing to have them meet with you and to have a meeting and discuss this. And I don't think that anything that she would have said, or her lawyer would have said on her behalf yesterday changes that for us.
Q Senator Specter also said that he had heard comments from Senator Leahy that he felt were prejudicial. Did the President think that the Senate Judiciary Committee had a presumption of guilt, and did that weigh in to his decision to not let Karl Rove and Harriet Miers be sworn and --
MS. PERINO: No, I've not heard the President express it that way. What we've talked about, going back, is to the principle of the equal branches of government as established by the founders of our nation under our Constitution. That was the President's principle that he was thinking of.
Q So separation of powers, and not a presumption of guilt?
MS. PERINO: Correct. But I will tell you what the President said, as well, is that what he provided was an opportunity for the members of the Congress to get to the facts that they said that they wanted to get to, in a way that was consistent with presidential prerogatives, and that he was going to resist subpoenas, of course, because of the desire on behalf of some Democrats, it seems, that they would rather have a public spectacle made out of this whole deal, rather than get to the facts that they said they want.
Q What's the White House view on the congressional Democrat calls for safeguarding political emails by the party or by anyone in the White House who may have a sort of political email account?
MS. PERINO: What I know -- I checked into this -- is that certain White House officials and staff members who have responsibilities that straddle both worlds, that have responsibilities in communication, regular interface with political organizations, do have a separate email account for those political communications. That is entirely appropriate, especially when you think of it in this case, that the practice is in place and followed precisely to avoid any inadvertent violations of what is called the Hatch Act. And so there are some members of the administration that do straddle both worlds. And so under an abundance of caution so that they don't violate the Hatch Act, they have these separate emails.
Q So is that traffic being safeguarded, if you will, for Congress to look at, if it decides?
MS. PERINO: With respect to presidential records, an email that is sent to or from a White House email address is automatically archived, even if the other person is not using a White House email account. I believe our -- well, I know that our White House Counsel's Office is in communication with the RNC's general counsel to make sure that those archivings have taken place.
Q So if someone sent aide X an email at one of these political accounts, are you saying that it would be archived on the --
MS. PERINO: As a general matter, I believe that to be true, but as I said, the White House -- our White House Counsel's Office is talking to the RNC just to make sure that that's the case. In some cases -- I don't know how far back that goes. I think that -- even though that there was email use in the '90s, I do think that our administration is the first, in a lot of cases, to be dealing with the volume of email that all of us deal with on a daily basis and that now you guys get to have fun with looking through.
Q So how's the White House going to respond to the request for them?
MS. PERINO: As I said, our White House Counsel's Office is talking to the RNC, and then we'll try to get back to you.
Q Is that in response to Senator Waxman's call?
MS. PERINO: The archiving?
Q The archiving, yes.
MS. PERINO: No, this has been something that was in place long before that.
Q So it's automatic?
MS. PERINO: Let me get back to you in terms of dates and how far it goes back and for which individuals.
Q I'm not sure I understand. The White House Counsel has asked the RNC to make sure which emails are archived?
MS. PERINO: Well, I took your question to be -- I took your question just a second ago to be that we all knew -- started archiving once Waxman made a request; that's not true.
Q That's not true?
MS. PERINO: No.
Q No, no, no. But you said that Attorney Fielding is in contact with the RNC to ensure -- to make sure some archiving took place. What archiving is that? I'm sorry.
MS. PERINO: The archiving that would have been for any of these -- over the past few years, of emails that had been going back and forth between people that would have these accounts to the outside.
Q How many people have those accounts?
MS. PERINO: I think it's a handful, I don't think it's a lot. Obviously, the Office of Political Affairs, because they straddle these -- both worlds. I know I don't have one.
Can I go to the back and come back? Victoria.
Q Is the White House also in touch with Bush-Cheney 2004, over their email accounts?
MS. PERINO: Not that I know of. Bush-Cheney 2004 --
Q Bush-Cheney 2004 email accounts were also --
MS. PERINO: I don't know. Let me get back to you. I don't know how those emails were -- you mean if people had both an RNC email and a Bush-Cheney email? I think, in some cases, I think those were forwarded to one place, but those are technical questions I can't answer from here right now.
Q Is it the White House's position then that it would be, or would have been inappropriate to have disposed of any emails of RNC or Bush-Cheney 2004 email accounts?
MS. PERINO: I don't know all the policies that have been in place, but I know that anything -- that we would want to make sure that we are in compliance, not only to avoid any inadvertent violations of the Hatch Act, which carries criminal penalties, but we also want to make sure that we are in compliance with the Presidential Records Act.
Q Why did you not come forward and tell the committee about this? This came out as a result of the committee's investigation they we're about; otherwise, they would never have known about it.
MS. PERINO: Well, I don't think there was anything to hide. I think people have been having these email addresses since the beginning of the administration. It's nothing hidden.
Q The Attorney General continues to meet with prosecutors around the country. What is his message to them? Is he going to complete that? And then is there a plan for him to come see President Bush in the near future? And is there any plan to advance that testimony that, as you know, is still three weeks hence?
MS. PERINO: I'll let the Attorney General talk about his conversations with the U.S. attorneys that he's meeting with around the country. I'm sure that he's got -- I saw reporting that he had had a conference call with them, I think maybe it was last Saturday, maybe the Saturday before, in which he told them how much he appreciated all of their service.
As to whether or not the Attorney General will be coming back to the President to report, I don't have anything on the schedule, but of course, if the Attorney General wanted to talk to the President he would be welcome to do so.
Q And how about advancing the schedule date for the testimony? Because even you were saying yesterday that that is a long time.
MS. PERINO: Yes, that's something the Justice Department is going to have to work out with the committee. I don't know of any efforts underway by the Justice Department to speed that up.
Q One last question. Did the President have any reaction to the musings that the Attorney General made on his future in that interview last night, about, well, I've put some thought into whether I should stay?
MS. PERINO: I have not talked to the President about it. I talked to the President this morning about Tony Snow, but as the President -- we've said that the President has the confidence -- the Attorney General has the confidence of the President.
Q On the White House's offer right now for lawmakers to have these interviews, as you call them -- you talk about that being basically the point at which -- that that's the compromise that was reached by the White House that was presented. But was it ever really seriously considered to not make anybody available at all? I mean, was that really an option?
MS. PERINO: It's certainly an option. It's certainly an option, sure.
Q But at a time when, obviously, this is such a politically charged atmosphere and there are questions, that even the President has expressed concerns about --
MS. PERINO: I think that whenever -- I'm not going to discuss internal White House deliberations as to how we arrived at the offer that we arrived at. However, lots of things go into that consideration. And the decision that we made was one to be as forthcoming as possible to Congress and still preserve the President's prerogatives.
Q Dana, it would seem that on the issue of testimony interviews by Rove and others, you're at an impasse. The Judiciary Committee has sent Fred Fielding a letter formally rejecting the White House offer, and saying that it would like further negotiations. Is Fred Fielding preparing a response?
MS. PERINO: I'll check -- as far as I know -- and I saw him this morning -- I don't know of any negotiations that are ongoing. I will check to see if there have been any discussions. I know that Fred was willing to listen respectively and attentively to members, but that we felt that our offer was one that we would hope that they would see wisdom in accepting.
Q The Democrats seem to feel that the ball is in your court to respond to that letter.
MS. PERINO: The ball is on the fence.
Q Do you feel that the ball is in their court, and that theirs --
MS. PERINO: We do.
Q -- and theirs is the next move, and they can either accept or issue subpoenas?
MS. PERINO: Look, we -- I would say that they initially said that they wanted to issue subpoenas. We said that's not necessary. We said we will make these four individuals available to you to talk to in a way that's consistent with the President's prerogatives. And they decided not to take it.
However -- so they went ahead and they authorized subpoenas anyway. So they said they were going to do it; we said you didn't need to; they went ahead and did it, in terms of the authorization. And I haven't heard anything more about whether or not those subpoenas are forthcoming. But we believe that if they wanted to get to the facts of the matter, we have presented them a way to do that.
Q So whose is the next move?
MS. PERINO: I think it's Congress's.
Q Dana, if Justice officials are taking the Fifth, does that put any pressure on you guys to possibly negotiate? Because Tony has been saying you can get everything you need from all the key players at Justice, and we're being extremely generous, as well.
MS. PERINO: Well, first of all, step back. You're saying if Justice Department officials, plural, are going to be taking the Fifth -- and I want to make it clear that there was one individual who, through her counsel, made a statement yesterday regarding that. I don't know of anybody else that has, but I am not in regular contact with them, and I'm not inquiring to their counsels of what they're going to do.
And I can see -- I can see your point, as to why someone might think that that we would want to change our negotiations stance. However, I think that lots of people can find lots of different reasons for us to change our negotiation stance, and I don't see any reason to at this point.
Q Dana, is pleading the Fifth signifying that a crime has been committed?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that's an unfortunate interpretation of the Fifth Amendment, which is available to all of us, that in our public -- in our judicial system, invoking the Fifth Amendment is not an admission of guilt. But I would refer you to her lawyer for anything more.
Jonathan. I'm sorry, go ahead.
Q Once again -- and I asked Tony this last week -- was a crime committed in firing --
MS. PERINO: There is absolutely no indication that there was any crime committed, nor was there anything improper done.
Q You're saying, "indication;" you're not giving me a flat-out no.
MS. PERINO: I'm telling there's absolutely no indication that would point to that. Absolutely no indication to point to that.
Q Ask about Iran?
MS. PERINO: Sure.
Q The Pentagon has announced naval exercises in the Persian Gulf involving two aircraft carriers, quite an elaborate exercise. Is this an effort to send Iran a message, particularly in regards to those captured British sailors --
MS. PERINO: No -- I checked on this right before coming out, and I understand that those are long-planned naval exercises that they're carrying forward. They were long -- they've been on the schedule for a while, and so I'd have to refer you to DOD for more.
Q Actually, what the Navy said is that the two aircraft carrier groups were scheduled to be in the Persian Gulf for a long time, but this exercise was planned after the seizure of those British sailors.
MS. PERINO: Then perhaps I misunderstood what I heard. I understood the exercise was planned, as well. But can we look into it and get back to you?
Can I go to the back, and then Lester? Then maybe we'll be done? Okay. (Laughter.) Steve -- help me. (Laughter.)
Q We can stop now. (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: Go ahead.
Q Are you aware of how many conversations the President had about the eight U.S. attorneys in question prior to them being dismissed?
MS. PERINO: No, I have said on the record for several weeks now that there is no indication that the President knew about any of the ongoing discussions over the two years, nor did he see a list or a plan before it was carried out.
Q If that's the case, what is the White House position, as it relates to executive privilege? My understanding of executive privilege, as it was decided by the Supreme Court, is that if the President has not had a conversation about the issue at hand, the people involved in the Office of the President would not be covered by executive privilege.
MS. PERINO: No -- well, first of all, we have not asserted --
Q What is the White House position regarding --
MS. PERINO: Okay, I'll answer you. First of all, we have not asserted any privilege at all, whatsoever, and that includes executive privilege. I have laid out for you the principles that we have. But I will tell you that conversation amongst and between the President's closest advisors are included in that principle that a President should be able to get advice from his closest advisors. That includes the conversations that happen in between them, even if they don't reach the President.
Q So as it relates to congressional committees' requests to meet with members of the White House staff, you have not gone back to those senators and congressmen and said, the reason why we don't want our members of the Office of the President meeting with you is because of executive privilege?
MS. PERINO: I think if you look at the letter that we sent to the Hill, we spell that out pretty clearly.
Okay, Lester. Make it quick.
Q Yes. Two questions.
MS. PERINO: Okay. I figured.
Q What role does the President believe government should play in advocating or requiring higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles?
MS. PERINO: Well, we said that in the President's 20-in-10 program that he is seeking to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years. You get there two ways. One is by reforming the CAFE system, and the other is by replacing 35 billion gallons of traditional gasoline with alternative fuels.
Q And second question: Senator Hillary Clinton said that Attorney General Gonzales should resign "because he is at the center of a widening scandal over the firing of several U.S. attorneys, a grand total of eight." But in March of 1993, when Janet Reno fired all 93 U.S. attorneys at once, President Clinton said -- a quote -- "All of those people are routinely replaced," noted The Wall Street Journal. And my question: What is the President's reaction to the Clinton appointment of Paula Casey as U.S. attorney in Little Rock who never brought any major Whitewater indictments?
MS. PERINO: Well, first of all, let me back up and say that people might want to use -- use the word "scandal" to describe the President's absolutely proper and reasonable reasons to -- or the reasonableness of being able to hire and fire U.S. attorneys at will because they serve at the pleasure of the President, and the President sets a broad prosecutorial agenda which the U.S. attorneys are there to fulfill.
And I will let other people, and your listeners, make conclusions about Hillary Clinton's statements.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Thank you.
Posted: Mar 27 2007, 05:35 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 27, 2007
Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A., 2007
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America
A future of hope and opportunity in America requires that all our children develop the knowledge and character they need in life. On Education and Sharing Day, we recognize our responsibility to ensure that our young people have the foundation necessary to lead lives rich in purpose and fulfillment.
Education and Sharing Day honors the legacy of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and emphasizes our commitment to teach the next generation of Americans the values that make our country strong. The Lubavitcher Rebbe believed that society should "make a new commitment to kindness," and he helped to establish education and outreach centers offering social service programs and humanitarian aid around the world.
The character of our young people is strengthened by serving a cause greater than self and by the anchor of virtues, including courage and compassion. By instilling a spirit of service in our children, we create a more optimistic future for them and our Nation.
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 March 30, 2007, as Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A. I call upon government officials, educators, volunteers, and all the people of the United States to reach out to young people and work to create a better, brighter, and more hopeful future for all.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty sixth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Posted: Mar 28 2007, 05:28 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 28, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:45 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. I'll start with an opening statement, and then I'll take your questions. As you heard the President today, he talked about, in his speech to the Cattlemen's Association, the Iraqi war supplemental. Today Senator Reid responded to the President by saying, "We should get real with what's going on with the world." Let me just take a moment to step back and talk about where we are in the world.
On March 8th, the President said -- we said that the President would veto any bill that tied a timetable or restrictions to the supplemental. So the Democrats have known for 20 days, nearly three weeks, that their current bill would never become law. Yet they continued down their current path. A week ago, they heard from the Secretary of Defense that if the emergency funding isn't provided by April 15th, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions, and so will their families. Yet they continued down their current path, and they cobbled together votes by adding extraneous spending and domestic spending for such things as the spinach, peanut, and shrimp lobbies.
So they continued down that path. And let me remind you that two months ago, the National Intelligence Estimate, released on February 2nd, predicted that withdrawing coalition forces from Iraq within the next 12 to 18 months would not solve Iraq's problems, but would, in fact, lead to catastrophe.
Democrats in Congress must take responsibility for their votes and their statements, and stop trying to have it both ways. It is completely disingenuous to stand up and highlight the intelligence community's judgment about conditions on the ground in Iraq one month, as Senator Reid did, but then vote for the precise action that the same experts say would make the situation catastrophic the next. It is also disingenuous to praise the Iraq Study Group's report in December, but now support an artificial timetable for withdrawal.
Secretary Baker, himself, says General Petraeus and our new strategy "ought to be given a chance." And the Iraq Study Group said of withdrawal, "the point is not for the United States to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose." Have Democrats decided to reject the judgment of our intelligence community, the Baker-Hamilton report, and our military experts? If not, then they need to stop undermining the early progress we are seeing in Iraq, so that they can sound tough without having to take responsibility for their actions.
Q On this Iraq spending bill, does the President really think that majority votes by both houses of Congress requires no give on his part?
MS. PERINO: Well, that's -- first, let's step back and talk about that majority, which was a bare majority of 50 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House, which were cobbled together in order to twist arms and buy votes using domestic spending from all the different lobbies that I mentioned, plus other ones -- tropical fish -- I forgot to throw that one in there.
So if we start there, and say that is not, in any way, representative of large majorities in either side. Of course, the President understands that there needs to be give-and-take between Congress and the White House when we're talking about any type of legislation. But they've known for three weeks what the President's position is regarding arbitrary timetables for withdrawal, and that is what he said he would veto.
Q Dana, just to follow up on that, then, perhaps a little clarity -- if a bill were to come back stripped of spinach, peanut, shrimp, tropical fish, anything else, if it came back stripped entirely of pork, but had timetables in there, would they still get a veto?
MS. PERINO: I think the President said that if there are arbitrary timetables for withdrawal that would tie the hands of our commanders on the ground, then, yes, he said he would veto it.
Q So he doesn't want to be out before 2008?
MS. PERINO: The President would like to see troops home as soon as possible --
Q We know all that business.
MS. PERINO: -- but the President does not want to tie the generals' hands on the ground. I'll tell you, the framers of our Constitution had it right when they realized that you needed to have one Commander-in-Chief in charge of the war, not 535 generals on Capitol Hill.
Q The President emphasized al Qaeda in Iraq, and if they don't -- we'll fight them there. Before the war, he indicated -- he not only indicated, he said that there were no ties with Saddam. Is he responsible for bringing al Qaeda into Iraq?
MS. PERINO: I don't think the President is responsible -- no, absolutely not. Al Qaeda went to Iraq --
Q Absolutely not?
MS. PERINO: You just have to go back to Zarqawi, and how he set up shop there in Iraq, and started fomenting the sectarian violence, and he was successful --
Q And he doesn't think our moves brought them in?
MS. PERINO: -- and we're having to fight that now.
Q This morning you said that if the funds stop for the troops in Iraq, that will be the fault of the Democrats, not the President. But in point of fact, it would be the President who is denying this funding from going through. So does the President really want to halt funds to our troops?
MS. PERINO: Surely there can be no excuse for the Democrats trying to pin the blame on the President. What he has said --
Q But it's not -- it's the mechanical way this works. It would literally be the President who's stopping this. Is he comfortable being the person stopping the funding?
MS. PERINO: The President has said he is going to -- if this bill comes to him in this form and it ties the generals' hands and does not allow them the flexibility that they need, that tells General Petraeus, we really like you, General Petraeus, we really trust in you, we really want you to complete your mission, but we think it's going to fail, then, yes, the President would veto it.
And I think that if -- it's really disingenuous to try to have it both ways. If the Democrats want to end this war and they want to cut off funding, then they should go ahead and do that. But that's not what they've done. They've made -- had this charade going for three weeks, they knew the President was going to veto the bill. We've given them substantial warning and information, and we've been talking to them about all of our reasons. And so this cannot be laid at the President's feet. This will be the fault of the Democrats.
Q In his speech today, the President also quoted from a blogger in Iraq as an example of positive developments there, people who see positive developments. Is this really representative of what's going on in Iraq, one blogger? Is this what the White House is relying on?
MS. PERINO: No, Jessica, you have to look at all the different inputs that are coming in, and General Petraeus's reports, and from the commanders on the ground, and your own colleagues' reporting over there. We know that there are real challenges. Obviously, real challenges remain. We have lots of violence. But I think what the President was doing was taking an opportunity to talk about what one person's expression is. But that doesn't mean that there aren't other people having that same expression. Certainly nobody can deny what General Petraeus has been saying and reporting.*
Q Dana, Nancy Pelosi said she wishes the President would just take a deep breath. Any response to that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think I would go back to the same thing, which is that -- she also said that each of us -- meaning the Congress and the White House -- has a constitutional role, and that is true. And the founders of our country realized that the Commander-in-Chief needed to be the one having the power to conduct the war, not 535 generals on Capitol Hill. And so I think that maybe Washington could take a collective deep breath, but the President has been clearly and calmly explaining that he would veto this bill if it came to him in this format.
Q You don't feel he's overheated --
MS. PERINO: No, I don't.
Q Democrats say they're reflecting the prevailing opinion of the American people, and the polls seem to bear them out. What's wrong with doing that?
MS. PERINO: We understand that people want the troops to come home. It's absolutely clear. We know that war is not popular, it hasn't been, and this war has not been going well, which is why the President had to have the Iraq review that he did last fall, that culminated in the new way forward that he announced on January 10th.
I don't think that the American people want our troops to not have the funds that they need when they're in harm's way. I don't think the American people want the generals' hands to be tied behind their backs. I don't think that they want to mandate failure and legislate failure, which is what these bills would do.
Q Dana, back on the issue of the bloggers, the unnamed Iraqi bloggers that the President cited and tried to use to help make his argument for progress in Iraq -- this is an administration that doesn't respond to anonymous quotes in established media outlets here in the United States. The President is citing these anonymous -- two anonymous Iraqi bloggers to help make the argument --
MS. PERINO: It's one input from many different inputs that are coming in regarding progress on the ground.
Q Isn't that a little ironic, though?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't think it is. You guys call me with anonymous quotes that you want me to respond to all of the time, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I do. I have before.
Q But as a tactic, for him to be -- is there something that prompted that specific --
MS. PERINO: I'll look into the -- I think that maybe somebody found it compelling, the President wanted to include it in his speech. And I'll see if I can get more for you on it, but I don't think it's unusual. Blogs are new for all of us, and I know that you all look at them, because then you call me and ask me what we think about the blogs.
Q Dana, two questions. One, is it your contention that there is not support for a cutoff date in Congress, that the Democrats essentially bought this with the additional spending?
MS. PERINO: I think that there's no doubt that they had to go out and get this extra domestic spending in order for them to get the bare majorities that they got.
Q Second, Senator Levin seems to recognize that the bills will not pass -- or will not be signed into law by the President. But he says, the votes that Congress has conducted serve to put pressure on the Iraqi government to live up to its benchmarks, and that helps the President. Do you dispute that?
MS. PERINO: No, I -- remember, we believe in benchmarks, and we worked with the Iraqi government on benchmarks. Two examples that we've been talking about are the oil law and the de-Baathification law. Progress is very slow. It takes a long time to get something done. But, imagine -- I can't remember the exact date, but one of the timetables and benchmarks that they tied this funding to up on Capitol Hill is that they have to have the oil law passed and finalized by a certain date, three months from now. I can't imagine Congress being able to finalize any type of legislation -- our Congress, our fully-functioning Congress that's been in place over 200 years, being able to complete anything in three months. They couldn't even pass a budget last year. These things are complicated. We do want the Iraqis to be able to reach consensus and it is a slow-moving progress, but progress, nonetheless.
Q Not so much the date that Congress has set, the pressure on the U.S. President serves notice to the Iraqis, Senator Levin is saying --
MS. PERINO: I think that everyone feels the pressure and is fully incentivized in order to get the situation stabilized in Iraq. I think you would have to ask no one -- all of the Iraqis, especially the ones in the government, understand the tremendous pressure that they're under, how their citizens are living in fear and how they need to get their services back up, in order -- I mean, there's no one more incentivized than the Iraqis.
Q Dana, the President -- given the current congressional schedule, the soonest that they could get to conference on this, if they stick to their current schedule, would be the 16th of April, which is a day after Secretary Gates and other people have said that the money will start running out. Would the President like to see Congress stay, cut their recess short, in order to resolve this?
MS. PERINO: Look, that's going to be up to members of Congress. The President has said that he'll be here, he'll be in Washington and is willing to work. We have that one Easter break, but we'll be back by the 9th. And we think that if Congress wants to work these things out that they can do that.
I do think it's very real -- and the people -- Senator McConnell, this morning, had an op-ed in which he said that,"The only ones directly affected in the short-term by this action would be the American soldiers in Iraq and their families here at home. By forcing a presidential veto and delaying the shipment of supplies, they're the ones who lose." And so I think that Congress ought to take that into consideration.
Q Has he expressed this to the leaders on either side?
MS. PERINO: Yes, the President has talked about how he would veto the bill.
Q But his willingness to stay and work through the recess?
MS. PERINO: The President is going to be here. So it's up to them.
Q He could sign and then they'd have the support --
MS. PERINO: I haven't heard any of that, and that will be up to Congress. But what the President has said is, let's get this over with. You've made your political statements; send the bill up here, the President will veto it, and then we can get about the business of negotiating.
Q But he wouldn't use his power to call them back, would he? Or would he?
MS. PERINO: That's a hypothetical that I have not even -- I didn't even know he could. I think I kind of knew he could, back from civics class. But we'll have to check into it and see. But I haven't heard anybody talking about that.
Q -- then you're holding out --
MS. PERINO: I'm not holding anything out there. You are. But I will check into it. (Laughter.)
Q Dana, what's the administration's policy over the years of holding out sweeteners for help on funding and special projects, to get votes from members of Congress on issues that it wants?
MS. PERINO: I know that there have probably been bills in which those -- when you work with members of Congress, you have to talk those things through. I don't know about emergency war supplementals, and I would have -- I'll check into it for you. But I think that this one is separate and apart.
Q Another question. What happened to the Sam Fox nomination?
MS. PERINO: Sam Fox nomination? Let me -- I've got a couple notes on that. As you saw, we sent up a withdrawal for Sam Fox's nomination. The President believes that Mr. Fox is qualified to serve as ambassador to Belgium. He has a proven record of leadership and a strong willingness to serve our country. He has a long list of accomplishments, including one of them being named the St. Louis Citizen of the Year.
Unfortunately, we received word that because of politics, some members of the Senate would have voted against his nomination, which would have prevented him from serving in this important position. So we are disappointed that they made their decision based upon partisan politics instead of his leadership abilities, and that's why we withdrew the nomination.
Q The votes weren't there because of his $50,000 contribution to the Swift Boat group?
MS. PERINO: I don't know what all the reasons were in terms of individual members making that decision. But we do think that he was qualified to serve, but we have withdrawn his nomination.
Q Do you think that his involvement with the Swift Boat group should be an issue, or should have been an issue?
MS. PERINO: I think that you look at his -- no, I don't think it is, and I think that -- but, of course, members of Congress can make their own decisions. Senators can look at any nominee and weigh that decision. I think that weighed -- if you look at that he was Chairman and CEO of the Harbour Group, Limited, served in key leadership roles in cultural, education and charitable institutions in St. Louis, on and on -- and again, St. Louis Citizen of the Year. And so I think that senators have to make their own decisions, but obviously this is a person who's qualified to serve as ambassador.
Q Did the White House know about his contribution before they nominated him?
MS. PERINO: There's no -- I don't believe so. But I know that the President did not when he nominated him.
Q Would that have had an effect?
MS. PERINO: I don't know.
Q On this topic, did senators threaten to put holds --
MS. PERINO: I don't know. I do know that his nomination would not have passed today if the vote had been called up.
Q And why not let the vote go ahead?
MS. PERINO: We just decided to withdraw his name.
Q On the speech today, on these bloggers, does the White House know the identity, or is this just something someone came across --
MS. PERINO: Can I check? I don't know, I'll have to check. It was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article at some point. I think I let some of you know that this morning.
Q And just now the White House came upon them?
MS. PERINO: I'm not sure. I don't know if somebody saw it initially. I don't know. We can try to check into it. We keep records on that.
Q Dana --
MS. PERINO: Goyal, can I go to the back real quick and come back to you?
MS. PERINO: Okay. Victoria.
Q Yesterday, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Robert Mueller said, again -- he admitted to mistakes, carelessness, confusion, lack of training, lack of guidance, and lack of adequate oversight. Is it time for the President to ask for his resignation and regain the trust of the American people in the FBI?
MS. PERINO: The President has confidence in FBI Director Mueller. He went up to the Senate, he answered all of their questions, he took responsibility as the Director. And I think that that was the appropriate thing to do. He also talked about all the measures that they've put in place in order to start addressing some of the issues that were brought up in those IG investigations.
Q There was also talk among the senators and the Director about the possibility of some kind of MI-5 organization that, just basically, the FBI has too much on its plate and that they can't take it on. What does the administration think about that?
MS. PERINO: I think that those are ideas that are floating out there, but I don't know of anyone seriously considering --
Q Does the President have a view?
MS. PERINO: I've never talked to him about it. I don't know. I think that he believes that the FBI is doing a great job in protecting this country, and I think the facts bear that out.
Q Would the President veto a supplemental bill strictly over a withdrawal date that is not legally binding?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to negotiate from this podium. Of course, we're going to have conversations with Congress, and the President has been clear that arbitrary timetables that put handcuffs on our generals and tie funding to conditions on the ground that don't match the conditions on the ground is what he would be against.
Q A follow-up on that. If the war effort were to literally start running out of money, doesn't the President have some emergency spending powers akin to what goes on here when there's a government shutdown? Have you been looking into that?
MS. PERINO: I'd have to refer you to Department of Defense. I'm not -- or we can look into it and try to get back to you. I don't know. What I do know is that the President has listened to Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, who has said that as of April 15th, the money is going to start running out.
Let me go to April, and then I'll go to you, Les.
Q On that subject, basically both sides are standing toe-to-toe, looking eye-to-eye. No one is blinking. Is the President prepared to allow the troops not to be funded after April 15th? Because he continually talks about the need for flexibility, the need to fund them for what they need on the ground.
MS. PERINO: The President -- we stand ready. We have open lines of communication with Capitol Hill. You can bet that we're in constant communication. You know that the members have been down -- both sides of the aisle have been down to talk with the President, and members of our staff are up there talking to them, and I'm sure there are phone calls going back and forth.
Q Is there any way the President will bend on all of this pork and allow some to stay in?
MS. PERINO: Again, I'm not going to negotiate from this podium, or talk about any specific negotiations that would be ongoing. But we're going to be talking to Capitol Hill that we need the money for the troops.
Q So, basically, the President is not going to blink?
MS. PERINO: We'll be talking with members of Congress.
Q Yes. Thank you, Dana. Two questions. What is the President prepared to offer in the way of help to Great Britain to free the 15 of its armed forces seized by the Iranians?
MS. PERINO: I do have one update. The President did speak to Tony Blair today by SVTS. This was a secure video teleconference. That was scheduled before this incident had occurred, and they did speak today on a variety of topics, including this one. The President fully backs Tony Blair and our allies in Britain.
Q Does the President believe that PA President Abbas truly desires to be a partner for peace, when only weeks ago Abbas and his Fatah party joined the Hamas terrorist government after signing the Mecca agreement, which does not call for peace, but for more terrorism, and demands the so-called "right of return"?
MS. PERINO: Peace in the Middle East is a priority for this administration. Secretary Rice is in the region. We are talking to them, are talking to the unity government.
Q She seems to think that this is a development for peace. And I'd like to know, where does the President stand on what PA President Abbas has done?
MS. PERINO: I do believe that the President believes that President Abbas has the intention of finding a peaceful solution. And we are encouraged by Secretary Rice's discussions with them, as one of the things that has come out of her trip is that they will be meeting -- Abbas and Olmert will be meeting bi-weekly to have meetings and discussions, and that's encouraging. We need to have them to have a continuing conversation.
Peter, did you have one?
Q I wanted to come back for a second on the war bill. You said earlier that you thought the public does not support the kind of conditions that the House and Senate are talking about, even though the Pew poll just the other day showed, in fact, strong majority support exactly the kind of bills -- the majority says they want their representative to vote for these bills. How do you reconcile that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think it's incumbent upon us to talk about the consequences of what these bills would do. I know people want the troops to come home, and I think it is probably attractive to think of a date when we could come home, that that would be a goal that we could all look forward to. Unfortunately -- and it is incumbent upon us to talk to people across the country, to let them know that those timetables are dates when people can -- our enemies can mark their calendars and sit back, regroup, refit, relax, and get ready to have a new safe haven from which to launch attacks. I don't think the American people would be for that.
Q So they support it, but they're just not fully aware of the consequences?
MS. PERINO: I think that the consequences are important. I also think that if they realize that the troops weren't going to be able to get the funding that they needed while they're in harm's way, and that their families back home would also be victims of this problem, that they would not support the Democrats' position. I think that what we need to do is have us get the bill up here, let the President do the veto, and then let more discussions begin on a cleaner bill.
Q Back to the speech, if I may. The President said, quoting the Iraqi blogger, that displaced people are coming back home and that the markets in Baghdad in busy. Does the President believe this is what's happening in Iraq today?
MS. PERINO: I believe General Petraeus has said similar things, and reports on the ground -- again, amid real challenges. We're under no illusions that there are -- that things are rosy in Baghdad. Clearly, it is a very, very tough situation and it remains so. But as General Petraeus has said, they are beginning to see some signs of improvement based on the plan that he's implementing, that the Senate sent him to do unanimously, but now says that they don't want to fund him to do.
Q Dana, two quick questions. First, I agree with President Bush when he said yesterday that we have to pray for Tony Snow.
MS. PERINO: Yes, I think we all do.
Q The question is, that as far as Iranian issue is concerned, number of countries who were warned not to do business with the Iranian government, that they are still doing business, as far as -- (inaudible) -- they are dealing with Iran.
MS. PERINO: What's your question?
Q Number of countries who were warned by the United States not to do business with Iran, but they are still doing business with Iran.
MS. PERINO: I'll have to refer you to State Department. I don't know, Goyal.
Q And second, as far as the immigration bill is concerned, which was sponsored by the President and Secretary of Homeland Security also supported the bill. And recent raids in Senator Kennedy's home town or home state -- where the Secretary was accused by Senator Kennedy that maybe there were ill treatment of the workers there or something. But Secretary was defending his move, as far as illegal immigration is concerned. My question is that as far as the small business community is concerned, and illegal immigrants, they are in fear that they cannot find any workers now, because of those ongoing raids.
MS. PERINO: Well, workplace enforcement is an important part of immigration reform. I will make sure -- everyone should go ahead and take a look at the ombudsman column from Sunday's Washington Post, in which they talked about those stories, because a lot of them were -- a lot of the stories that came out of that were not based on the facts. And I think that ICE -- the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency over at Department of Homeland Security has tried to correct those.
On immigration reform, absolutely, we have to continue to work closely with members of Congress. We need to get a bill so that we can have a temporary worker program.
Q How close President is moving on this bill in the --
MS. PERINO: We want to get it done before August. That's what the President said.
Q You said the Department of Justice continues looking for new documents, if they need to release more. In some of those documents that have been released, there have been non-White House addresses, email addresses, that people have written from. Is there a policy from the White House that tells employees that if they're doing White House business, it should be with their White House email? Or are people always free to use an outside address for business?
MS. PERINO: No -- and I talked a little bit about this yesterday, that there are certain individuals, limited individuals, that have responsibilities that may straddle both worlds, both White House and then have interface with political organizations. And so in those cases, they've been given these emails in which -- in order to avoid any possible potential violations of the Hatch Act, they use those emails. Of course, people are encouraged, on official White House business, to use their official White House accounts. Sometimes there might be a gray area and people have to make a judgment call.
Q And since this came to light, has anybody inside the White House, like yesterday, issued a new directive, reminding people to use their White House emails?
MS. PERINO: I don't know -- I don't know of any new directive, but it is what we ask people to do.
Q Dana, on the war supplemental, besides the extraneous funding provisions, there's also amendments that would include minimum wage and small business tax breaks. Is that now at a level, pertaining to the small business relief, that the administration would support if it were separated out?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment specifically. I do know that those measures were included, and we're continuing to have discussions with the Hill. Obviously, the tax relief, along with the minimum wage increase, was what we had looked for in terms of our principles.
Q Any update on Tony Snow?
MS. PERINO: I don't have an update on Tony Snow. I tried to reach him before I came over here. I wasn't able because he was on the phone with Secretary Rice. (Laughter.) We know he is up and about and at least talking to Secretary Rice.
And I really want to thank each and every one of you, and your colleagues, for all the outpouring of support. He really feels it. And I talked to him last night -- well, yesterday afternoon about 4:30 p.m., and he said he was up, walking around. He was not in any pain, that he was in consultations with his doctors, and that his family was -- he was surrounded by family. And so I think he's in good spirits.
Q Let's get a bus and all go over there. That will work. (Laughter.)
Q He'd love that.
MS. PERINO: That was Roger's idea yesterday.
Okay, thank you.
END 1:12 P.M. EDT
*Omar and Mohammed Fadhil write an English-language blog, IraqTheModel.com, from Baghdad. These two brothers, who are both dentists, met with President Bush in the Oval Office on December 9, 2004. Their writings have been widely sited in news outlets like the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Investor's Business Daily. On March 5, 2007, they authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Notes from Baghdad."
Edit note: While usually not commenting on government posts, I find it interesting that the President chose to use the blog that he did. It is a shame that he chose to ignore the flip side of this coin, in the form of a brave young woman who writes a blog entitled " Baghdad Burning."
Posted: Mar 28 2007, 05:29 PM
Member No.: 331
Joined: 20-October 06
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 28, 2007
National Donate Life Month, 2007
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America
White House News
Donating organs, marrow, and tissue is a kind and compassionate act that can protect and enhance the precious gift of life. During National Donate Life Month, we recognize the generosity of donors and raise awareness of the importance of donating.
In recent years, there has been great progress in this important effort, and the rate of organ donation has steadily increased -- helping save thousands of lives. Despite this success, more than 95,000 Americans currently await organ transplants, and hundreds more are added to the transplant list each month. My Administration strongly supports organ, marrow, and tissue donation, and we are working with public and private groups to help more citizens understand the impact of organ donation.
Americans who wish to become organ and tissue donors can register with their State's donor registry, designate their intent on their driver's license, and sign and carry donor cards, which are available at organdonor.gov. I urge all citizens to consider becoming donors and encourage all donors to inform their loved ones of their decision so their wishes can be fulfilled. Every human life holds inherent dignity and matchless value, and National Donate Life Month is an opportunity to celebrate our country's organ and tissue donors. The decision to donate the gift of life demonstrates the compassionate spirit of our Nation.
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 April 2007 as National Donate Life Month. I call upon health care professionals, volunteers, educators, government agencies, faith-based and community groups, and private organizations to help raise awareness of the urgent need for organ and tissue donors throughout our Nation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.
GEORGE W. BUSH
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