Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

It’s the first gaggle since the coronation and the press corps is cranky!

Exhibit A: Regarding the preznit’s now-daily telephone conversations with Iraqi strongman Ayad Allawi.

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. The President had a good conversation this morning with Prime Minister Allawi to discuss the preparations for the upcoming election in Iraq. The President underscored how this election will be an historic moment for the people of Iraq.


Q Prime Minister Allawi probably knows that this is an historic moment. Can you be more specific about what they discussed? This is like the fifth or sixth conversation that he’s had with either the President or the Prime Minister since the New Year.

Ooooo, love the snark!

Exhibit B: On yet another request for billions of dollars for the Iraq rat hole.

Q Before the war, there were estimates coming from the administration that it would cost about $50 billion. Today, if you add everything up, including the amount that we’re going to likely see soon, it will be about $300 billion. What is the White House perspective on why the cost is so much higher than originally anticipated?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, you’re talking about a briefing that will be held later today, so I’m not going to get into specific numbers. But we’ve made it very clear from the beginning that we’re going to do everything we can to support our troops as they work to win the war on terrorism. [Scottie pap snipped for your protection].

Q My question is why — even if you take the — whatever it is you’re going to give — don’t even talk about a specific number because no one talks about that — but, just in general, why was it that the idea and the planning seems to be so different than what it actually is now? What do you ascribe that to?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has talked about that before, Dana. He talked about it on your network just last week in an interview with one of your correspondents. And he’s talked about what we expected would happen and some of the changing circumstances on the ground. War — in a time of war, you have to be prepared for the unexpected and you have to be flexible enough to adapt to circumstances on the ground. And it’s important that you give the commanders on the ground the flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances. And that’s what we will always do. That’s how you are able to succeed and complete the mission.

Q So you didn’t anticipate the insurgency? That’s just the bottom line?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President talked about how, when we went into Iraq, that we didn’t expect that the Iraqi army, under Saddam Hussein, would flee the battlefield like they did and come back to fight another day — they did in large numbers.

Q If you’re talking about a briefing —

MR. McCLELLAN: Hold on, let me go to Terry.

Q Let me try it this way: The changing circumstances you’ve just described have meant the men and women of the American military have had to sacrifice a lot, as has just been pointed out —

MR. McCLELLAN: They have, and their families have, as well.

Q Absolutely. We’re now looking at $300 billion and counting for the cost of this war and operations in Afghanistan. What sacrifice is the President asking the rest of us to make, especially those at the upper-income levels, perhaps, to make, to help shoulder the burden of paying for this war?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, the families of those who are on the front line in the war on terrorism are making tremendous sacrifices —

Q Amen.

MR. McCLELLAN: — and we talk about that on a regular basis, and our thoughts and prayers always remain with the families of those who are in harm’s way. This is about fighting and winning the war on terrorism. We do that by taking the fight to the enemy and staying on the offensive.


Q The cost of that struggle, though, it seems the President is willing just to throw onto the debt of the United States, just to increase the debt of the United States, and increase — make permanent tax cuts for the very wealthiest among us —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let’s separate this out, because these are two different matters.

Q Well, money is money.


Q I wanted to ask a philosophical question. American troops have been in Iraq for more than two years, they’ve been in — I’m sorry, for nearly two years; in Afghanistan for more than three years. Why is it that spending for both those places is an emergency supplemental, surprise-type appropriation? Why isn’t it part of the budget?

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s for the same reasons we’ve stated previously that you have to base it on the assessments of what is needed on the ground. And you look to your commanders on the ground, and you want to make sure that you have the most accurate estimate of what is needed. And so that’s why we’ve done it in the form of supplementals. And this is — again, when you’re talking about these issues, it’s not viewed as a constant year after year after year after year expense. It’s viewed as a temporary expense to meet our commitments in those areas.

Q But I still don’t understand why that could not be accommodated in the budget. There are lots of expenditures that fluctuate year after year with a regular budget. And aside from excluding it from calculations of the budget deficit, why is —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Mark, because circumstances change on the ground based on the situation and based on what our needs are on the ground. You had a situation in Iraq where some of these terrorists and Saddam loyalists started using improvised explosive devices, and we needed to make sure that we got our troops additional body armor, both for themselves, as well as for the trucks that they were using to transport themselves, as well as materials. And so you have to look at the assessment on the ground. We look to our commanders in the region to make those assessments.

Jeebus, between Senate Democrats sprouting a spine and a more aggressive press corps, one would think that the president has no mandate after all.