Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Helen Thomas nails it.

Q Does the President know that he’s in violation of international law when he advocates preemptive war? The U.N. Charter, Geneva, Nuremberg. We violate international law when we advocate attacking a country that did not attack us.

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I would just disagree with your assessment. First of all, preemption is a longstanding principle of American foreign —

Q It’s not a long-standing principle with us. It’s your principle.

MR. McCLELLAN: Have you asked your question?

Q It’s a violation of international law.

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, let me back up, preemption is a longstanding principle of American foreign policy. It is also part —

Q It’s never been.

MR. McCLELLAN: It is also part of an inherent right to self-defense. But what we seek to do is to address issues diplomatically by working with our friends and allies, and working with regional partners. That’s what we’re doing when it comes to the threat posed by Iran pursuing nuclear weapons. That’s what we’re doing when it comes to resolving the nuclear issue with North Korea. So we seek diplomatic solutions to confront threats.

And it’s important what September 11th taught us —

Q The heavy emphasis of your paper today is war and preemptive war.

MR. McCLELLAN: Can I finish responding to your question, because I think it’s important to answer your question. It’s a good question and it’s a fair question. But first of all, are we supposed to wait until a threat fully materializes and then respond? September 11th —

Q Under international law you have to be attacked first.

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, you’re not letting me respond to your question. You have the opportunity to ask your question, and I would like to be able to provide a response so that the American people can hear what our view is. This is not new in terms of our foreign policy. This has been a longstanding principle, the question that you bring up. But again, I’ll put the question back to you. Are we supposed to wait until a threat fully materializes before we respond —

Q You had no threat from Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: September 11th taught us —

Q That was not a threat from Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: — some important lessons. One important lesson it taught us was that we must confront threats before they fully materialize. That’s why we are working to address the threats when it comes to nuclear issues involving Iran and North Korea. That’s why we’re pursuing diplomatic solutions to those efforts, by working with our friends and allies, by working with regional partners who understand the stakes involved and understand the consequences of failing to confront those threats early, before it’s too late.

Try as he might Little Scottie can’t convince the gagglers that his boss is not wagging the dog.

Q Scott, can I ask you a question about this operation underway in Iraq? Does the President think that an offensive like this, high profile, is necessary, in part to turn public opinion around in this country about the war?

Q Are you saying the President specifically did not sign off —

Q You raise the point — are you saying that the President did not specifically authorize this?

Q Therefore he didn’t have to give the go-ahead order, he was just told after the fact.

MR. McCLELLAN: We want to see a successful operation, and we look forward to a successful operation.

Q Can you just clarify that point?


Q He was told after the decision had been made to do it, or did he have to say, yes, let’s do this?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, this was not something that he needed to authorize.

Q But my question — I’m sorry, but you aren’t done with my question, which is, beyond the merits of this particular operation, we are coming to the three-year anniversary of the war. Support for the President is at rock bottom; support for this war is at rock bottom in this country. Does the President think it’s important as a show of U.S. and Iraqi force to mount these kinds of operations, to try to change public opinion in this country?

MR. McCLELLAN: I can’t accept the premise of your question because this was a decision made by our commanders. And it’s important that the commanders have the flexibility to make these type of tactical decisions in order to prevail —

Q But does the President have an opinion on it?

MR. McCLELLAN: — and we’re making a lot of important progress on the ground in Iraq. But this is a difficult time period.


Q May I ask you about the timing of the operation in Iraq today? The 101st released a press release calling it the biggest air assault since the invasion on the very same day that the White House released the National Security Strategy, and Hadley gives this major speech. Is there any coordination whatsoever?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just told you this was a decision made by our commanders, so, no.

Q There was no coordination. And is it an intense effort of this administration to show with the press release from the 101st, to call attention to what the U.S. is doing there? Do you think they need to broadcast more effectively what the U.S. is doing in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Those are decisions made by the military. You ought to direct those questions to them.

Q So all that is done without consultation with the administration?

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s correct.

Let’s not remind Scottie of Unka Karl’s biggest blunder.

Q Scott, May 1, 2003, President Bush stood in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, and announced that major combat operations in Iraq had been completed. In light of the scale and the scope of today’s air assault, is that still the case, or are we in a new phase in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, there have been a number of operations that have been undertaken over the last several months, over the last year, to go and root out the terrorists, and to target the regime loyalists. And so this is another operation that is aimed at the area north of Baghdad in the Samara area to go after some insurgents that are in that area as the military pointed out in their statement. But no one said the combat operations weren’t ongoing. Those operations continue.

The President is a liar.

Q In his speech on Monday, the President claimed that the Iranian government shares a responsibility for anti-coalition attacks in Iraq because, the President said, Tehran is providing the capability for building IEDs used in those attacks. On Tuesday, however, General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had no evidence of Iranian government involvement in such activities. And Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also declined to stand by the claim. I have two questions. First, isn’t it true that the vast majority of attacks on coalition forces are by Sunni —

MR. McCLELLAN: Can I stop you, first of all? I don’t think that’s what Secretary Rumsfeld did, the way you described it. You said he failed to stand by that. I don’t think that’s the case. In fact, he talked about it at fairly more length than what you just described.

Q He said that it’s impossible to tell where material — who is really responsible.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think he pointed out that it’s material coming from — or components coming from Iran.

Q But he said it’s impossible to tell who’s responsible.

MR. McCLELLAN: He talked about individuals that are part of Iranian forces that are operating inside — talked about the example —

Q He said he could not blame the Iranian government on these components coming in.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let’s make sure what you’re saying.

Q Okay. So, first, isn’t it true that the vast majority of attacks on coalition forces are by Sunni insurgents who have no connection to Shiite Iran? And two, will the President retract his claim that apparently was not based on accurate intelligence?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that’s false. That’s just — I don’t accept the premise of your question. You’re absolutely describing it in a false way. Let’s look back at what the President said. The President said that some of the most powerful IEDs — improvised explosive devices — we’re seeing in Iraq include components from Iran. I don’t think there’s any conflict with what Secretary Rumsfeld or General Pace said at their press briefing the next day. So you’re providing a false premise in your question.

And the President also specifically cited what our Director of National Intelligence said in testimony before Congress back in early February. And so you should go and look at that testimony and look at what he said. But he also talked about how coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran. We know that from our intelligence.

Q The President quoted Negroponte as saying that Tehran had provided the capability for building those IEDs.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t see any conflict with what Secretary Rumsfeld and General Pace said.

And now, your sex-obsessed Daily Les.

Q The Associated Press reports that the FCC has noted that a network program called, “Without a Trace,” that aired in December of 2004, was indecent in that it contained a graphic depiction of “teenage boys and girls participating in a sex orgy.” And my question: Does the President believe it is wrong for the FCC to propose a fine of $3.6 million against CBS and dozens of its stations and affiliates for televising this? Or does he oppose the penalty?

MR. McCLELLAN: The FCC Commissioner — a number of the FCC Commissioners have been people that were appointed by the President, and we support the work they are doing. We have also worked to increase —

Q In this case?

MR. McCLELLAN: — penalties when it comes to violations of decency standards. The President always reminds people — parents, particularly — that they have the option to turn off the TV or change the channel if you think something is inappropriate, as well. And so you need to keep that in mind, too.