Your president acquiesced to a couple of questions yesterday after his meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Q The Lebanese Maronite Patriarch you’re meeting with tomorrow supports integrating Hezbollah into the political mainstream in his country. Are you willing to consider that kind of role for Hezbollah?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first, I look forward to listening to the Patriarch. It’s going to be a very interesting discussion. One of the messages I want to say is that my meeting with the Patriarch is in no way embracing any religion for Lebanon; it is a way for me to speak to people that believe the Lebanese society ought to be free.
We view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and I would hope that Hezbollah would prove that they’re not by laying down arms and not threatening peace. One of our concerns The Majesty and I discussed is that Hezbollah may try to derail the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. And it’s very important that this peace process go forward, for the sake of the Palestinians, for the sake of the Israelis, and for the sake of all the people in the region. But Hezbollah has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States because of terrorist activities in the past.
This of course lead to many questions during yesterday’s gaggle that Little Scottie just would not answer.
Q Specifically, what would the President like to see Hezbollahdo in Lebanon to join the political mainstream?
Q The President — does he recognize that Hezbollah is a potent political force in Lebanon?
Q Scott, if we can go back to the President’s remarks earlier today, he said, we view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and I hope that Hezbollah would prove that they’re not by laying down arms and not threatening peace. Is the President giving Hezbollah an opportunity to change, to renounce terror? And if so, will the United States consider it a legitimate political organization?
Q Well, the President brought up the hypothetical when he said, I hope the Hezbollah would prove that they’re not by laying down arms and not threatening —
MR. McCLELLAN: Right.
Q — that they could become a legitimate organization, not a terrorist organization.
Q Is the President saying today, when he says, I hope that Hezbollah would prove that they’re not — being not a terrorist organization — by laying down arms and not threatening peace, is he giving Hezbollah an opportunity here to prove, if they lay down arms, if they renounce terrorism, that the United States would work with Hezbollah in the future and consider it a legitimate —
Q But, Scott, the President’s comment was about Hezbollah. And what he said — and you said, that would ultimately change the dynamic if they were to lay down their arms and renounce terror. If they were to change the dynamic, would the administration deal with Hezbollah? Would they consider Hezbollah a legitimate organization? Is the President creating that opening for this organization to change its dynamic?
Q So we’re not to read into this, the President’s comments, that if they were to disarm, if they were to lay down their arms and not threaten peace, that there would be an opportunity here for the United States to recognize Hezbollah as an organization that it can —
Until one smart cookie hit on the key question: Once a terrorist, always a terrorist?
Q Does the administration believe that once a terrorist organization always a terrorist organization, or that any organization is redeemable, specifically Hezbollah?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to get into that in the context of this question.
Q Well, it’s a policy question about whether or not a terrorist organization can change its behavior, moderate its actions, and change its relationship with the U.S. administration.
MR. McCLELLAN: Carl, I think that in terms of Hezbollah — you’re asking this question in terms of Hezbollah — I just stated what our views are. Those views remain unchanged and —
Q And do they ever change?
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to — you’re asking in the context of Hezbollah, and I think I’ve just made our views clear again what our views are, and I’m not going to get into playing “what ifs” when it comes to Hezbollah.
Q Well, as an example then, there have been Baathists who have been helpful to administration efforts in Iraq — the Baathists clearly on the negative side of the ledger not too long ago — because of their moderated behavior. Isn’t that something that could be imaged by Hezbollah?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think — let’s distinguish here, because you’re talking about — you may be talking about people that may be members of organizations, but are not terrorists, versus terrorists, people who have blood on their hands. There’s a big difference. And I think we’ve spoken to that in the past. But organizations like Hezbollah have to choose, either you’re a terrorist organization or you’re a political organization. They remain a terrorist organization. The President spoke about their past atrocities and their past terrorist acts in his remarks earlier today.
Now, we’ve seen, when I talk about experience shows that people tend to choose leaders who are committed to improving their own livelihood, that are committed to improving their own security, that are committed to improving their own — or expanding prosperity for those people, and one example is elections that took place in the Palestinian Territories. And you saw that there may have been people elected that may have been members of Hamas, but they weren’t terrorists. They were people who advocated the importance of improving the quality of life for people in the region, people in the Territories. And they were businesspeople, they’re professionals.
It’s become obvious that neither Little Scottie nor his boss have one clue how to handle Hezbollah. Maybe Kawen can figure it out, she’s the expert on the Middle East, right?