Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Ho-ho-ho and a bottle of Rummy!

Q Scott, back to Rumsfeld again. This morning, the President, for the second time in four days, had to express his support for the Defense Secretary. And he said that — he expressed some frustration that he had to mention it last week and that all of the speculation essentially raises questions about people’s reputations. He said, people’s reputations are at stake here. So does the President, does the administration feel as though this sort of drip, drip of criticism that’s come from retired generals weakens Donald Rumsfeld efficacy —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think there are a number of retired generals who have said otherwise from which — the sources that you are citing. And there are a lot of people that work very closely with Secretary Rumsfeld that have spoken out, like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pace.

Q I understand, but this is the question: When the President references specifically that people’s reputations are at stake, in the context of the Defense Secretary’s necessity as both a military-civilian commander, as well as a politician in the Bush administration and this city, is he — by the sheer quantity of the criticism — subject to having his position weakened?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made it very clear that he has his full support and deepest appreciation. The President has assigned Secretary Rumsfeld some difficult tasks. The President talked about that. And when you are a military that is going through a transformation so that you’re better prepared to meet the threats of the 21st century, and engaged in an ongoing global war on terrorism, that tends to generate a lot of discussion and a lot of debate. I talked about that last week. The President referenced some of that in his remarks on Friday, when we put out the statement expressing his full support for Secretary Rumsfeld. So I think you have to look at it in those contexts.

And you talk about the quantity, again, there are a number of generals that work with him today and that have worked with him previously and that are now retired that fully support his leadership, and they have said so.

Today’s Rummython continues, Read More…

From Holden:

Q The President — one more time on Rumsfeld, but a different look at it — basically, the President said he had to deal with the speculation, wanted to tamp down the speculation about Secretary Rumsfeld, defend his reputation, as you noted. But Secretary Snow has faced similar speculation. What about his reputation? Why does the President —

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President said he has strong he has strong confidence in his Cabinet, in each member of his Cabinet.

Q So does that mean that he then has the same feelings for Secretary Snow as he does for Secretary Rumsfeld —

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ve expressed on behalf of the President his deep appreciation for the job that Secretary Snow is doing.

[snip]

Q Scott, at what point, if at all, would the President or Secretary Rumsfeld say, look, these generals are honorable men, they served, they fought, let’s sit down with them and talk about what their concerns are — rather than sending a whole bunch of other generals out with talking points —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think people, as he said, people are very well-aware of their views and they have the right to express their opinions. There are others that have a different view.

Q What about engaging with them?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that their views have been expressed.

[snip]

Q Scott, you talk about the views of these retired generals being well-known, and yet it seemed like the President immediately discounted those views by coming out with his statement, even though these are commanders on the ground. And every time we bring up those retired generals and the views they had about Secretary Rumsfeld, you talk about the generals who didn’t have those views. Does the President just simply discount these views? It appeared he did.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact, I think he expressed otherwise in his comments. I don’t know how you’re drawing that conclusion.

Q Because he immediately came out and said he supported Donald Rumsfeld, even though these generals had questions about Donald Rumsfeld and, in fact, had called for his —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, but I think I would go back and look at what he said in the Rose Garden a short time ago because I did not read anything into that that you are.

Q And you can’t read into the fact that on Friday, immediately he came out, after there were six generals who came forward?

MR. McCLELLAN: He felt it was important to make a strong statement reiterating his full support for the Secretary of Defense. And that’s why he issued the statement.

Q But he had no interest, as Victoria said —

MR. McCLELLAN: And the President called the Secretary of Defense that morning, around 10:00 a.m., to let him know.

Q And you don’t think that’s immediately saying, you guys are wrong?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you’re drawing too broad of an interpretation from the comments that he made, and I think that the comments he made actually said otherwise. He said, people are expressing their views, he hears those views, he listens to those views, but he made very clear —

Q — an immediate statement saying —

MR. McCLELLAN: — but he made very clear where he stood. Well, he thought it was important to do so, Martha, for the reasons that we stated in that statement, as well as the ones that I mentioned prior to that statement going out last week.

Q I guess — how are we to look at that and say that he’s not listening to the advice he wants to hear, or the people, the voices he wants to hear that back up his position, and not commanders on the ground who seem to have a different one?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, there you go, over-interpreting things and drawing the wrong conclusions from what he has said. That’s not at all what he was saying.

Rats, exiting the ship.

Q Thank you, Scott. I’ve noticed in the bulletins that you send out on personnel that there’s been an unusually large number of people who are withdrawing their nominations previously sent up for confirmation — Judge Saad of Michigan, who we discussed; David Sanborn to head the Federal Maritime Administration; Mike Duncan to be on the Legal Services Corporation. Is this a trend that we should look for in personnel in the coming weeks? MR. McCLELLAN: There are thousands and thousands of nominations that are made. I’m not sure I agree with your assessment that it’s a large number.

Q But it’s a number to be noticed, certainly.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you mentioned three people, so I’m not sure that that’s a large number in the overall scheme of the announcements we have made.

Q And the other thing is just on — and I know you don’t comment on personnel, but can you say why Mr. Sanborn requested that his nomination not be sent?

Of course, David Sanborn was a senior Dubai Ports World executive when Chimpy nominated him to be the head of the Maritime Administration, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with his decision to withdraw from the nomination.

And finally, Your Daily Les.

Q The Weekly Standard’s editor, William Kristol, recalls that the President has said, “Iran’s development of a nuclear development is unacceptable; Iran armed with a nuclear weapon poses a grave threat to the security of the world.” And my question: This means that if Iran proceeds to the point of being on the immediate threshold of a nuclear weapon, we will launch a nuclear attack, rather than allow Iranian ICBMs to devastate Tel Aviv, New York and Washington, doesn’t it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, we’re pursuing a diplomatic solution by working with the international community. This is a threat that the international community recognizes needs to be addressed. That’s why we are working at the Security Council, that’s why we’re working with Germany and other friends and allies, to send a clear and united message to the regime that we will not allow it to develop nuclear weapons capabilities, or a — nuclear weapons.

Q How will we not allow it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Our Under Secretary of State, Nicholas Burns, has been in Moscow, continuing to have meetings with his counterparts of a number of countries that I have touched on. And those discussions continue. We are making it very clear that there needs to be meaningful steps taken at the Security Council to address the threat posed by the regime’s continued defiance. This is a regime that continues to isolate itself and its people from the rest of the world by its defiant actions and its defiant statements. And it’s time for the Security Council —

Q How will we not allow it?

MR. McCLELLAN: — to act and take additional steps on the diplomatic front.