Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Helen Thomas takes Pony Blow to school in today’s gaggle.

Q Does that mean apart from Abbas, the President will urge Olmert to move away or abandon his convergence plan?

MR. SNOW: Well, at this point, again, I’m not going to tell you what he is going to say in upcoming talks with the Prime Minister. That would be inappropriate —

Q But you said you’ve been in meetings with him, so, to date, in meetings with him, has he expressed an interest in Olmert’s —

MR. SNOW: I’ve not been in those meetings with him today, so I will not try to blow smoke on you. I will repeat what I’ve said before. What we have tried to do is to talk about the importance of working toward a two-state solution; to have a two-state solution you have to have people on both sides talking toward doing this. And so I’m not going to address the specifics of the convergence plan.

Q What’s the U.S. role in all this?

MR. SNOW: Well, the U.S. role is one of working with Israel and, when possible, with the Palestinians to try to generate a peace — the same it’s always been, Helen —

Q Then why is it bankrupting the Palestinians?

MR. SNOW: The Palestinians are not being bankrupted, Helen. What’s happening, as you know, is that there is — Hamas is a terrorist organization. We do not give money to terrorist organizations. What has happened is that this government has tried in a number of ways to make humanitarian aid available to the Palestinian people. We draw a distinction between Hamas, which is —

Q And they were democratically elected.

MR. SNOW: They were democratically elected and they’re still a terrorist organization.

Q By your designation.

MR. SNOW: Yes. Thank you very much, Helen. They are, in fact, by the designation of this government, this administration, and prior administrations. So let me continue my answer.

Q Go ahead.

MR. SNOW: Thank you. (Laughter.)

Q You’re welcome.

MR. SNOW: By the way, that’s a nice apple, and congratulations on the book. I want to get all that done. But, look —

Q Here. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Come here. (Laughter.) Whoever thought Helen Thomas would kiss up to me. An apple for the teacher. (Laughter.)

Q Hardly. Hardly. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Now, where was I in this? Okay, what we —

Q Still spinning.

MR. SNOW: — what we are trying to do is to make humanitarian aid available to the Palestinian people, because they need it. They need food aid, they need medical aid, they need money for other basic needs, and we’re trying to make that available to them.

Hoo-hoo, she got the best of him in that exchange. Obsession continues below, Read More…

From Holden:

Blow does not know that he speaks for the entire Assministration.

Q Tony, how does the President react to concerns from Republican leaders, like Speaker Dennis Hastert put out a very strong statement last night, saying he has concern that the raid on Congressman Jefferson’s office could basically be an abuse of executive power?

MR. SNOW: Well, as I said earlier, we are certainly — we are hoping that there is a way to balance the constitutional concerns of the House of Representatives with the law enforcement obligations of the executive branch. Those are two things that are in play here. And obviously, we’re taking note of Speaker Hastert’s statements.

Q But can I just — that balance, why were you not trying to strike that balance before you raided the office? Can you really strike a balance after you’ve already raided some —

MR. SNOW: I did not raid the office.

Q You personally did not.

MR. SNOW: The President did not raid the office.

Q The President’s Justice Department raided —

MR. SNOW: The Justice Department executed search warrants. I think using the term “raid” makes it sound a little like the calvary is storming into the halls of Congress.

Q The Speaker’s chief of staff called the Justice Department and various reports say was basically yelling at them. And so —

MR. SNOW: Let me just say, the Justice Department — and I would refer a lot of this back to the Justice Department — the Justice Department has been speaking with the Speaker’s office, and leaders in the House of Representatives. Now, let me just say, again, we are hoping for a resolution that will balance the concerns of Congress with the obligations of the executive branch.

Q But just a final thing. Why wasn’t — those conversations you say that are taking place, negotiations, why did they not take place before they visited Congressman Jefferson’s office, rather than —

MR. SNOW: They were executing a search warrant. My understanding is that there were conversations that went on between the Justice Department and the legal authorities in the House of Representatives. So, again, I’m going to have to redirect you there, because they’re the ones who are involved in whatever conversations took place before the fact.

Nor does he know the President’s stand on flag-burning….

Q Since you have reportedly confirmed the President’s support for the proposed amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman, could you tell us if the President also supports the proposed amendment to protect the United States flag from public desecration?

MR. SNOW: Do we have a flag desecration — I apologize; this is something that, believe it or not, in the last two weeks has not come up. So I’m afraid —

Q Flag burning.

MR. SNOW: — flag burning. I’ll just have to get back.

And he hasn’t a clue about what the Voting Rights Act is.

Q Tony, on VRA, is the President talking with any of the Republican senators who are stalling the Voting Rights Act right now?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know that — the President, of course, on each and every piece of legislation, doesn’t necessarily call individual members of Congress. That’s what the department of Legislative Affairs does. We have made it clear that we support the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. The President has called it one of the crown jewels of American civil rights, and therefore, he is eager to see its continuation.

Q But, Tony, at issue, they’re looking at fairness for all 50 states, instead of certain Southern states, to be clear. And one of those is a Texas senator who wants to have —

MR. SNOW: Again, April, I am not aware of specific conversations. Again, quite often — you’re asking me if the President has called specific members of Congress on this. I just don’t know. I know that as an administration, we, as a matter of routine, make our views known through Candi Wolff and other members of the Legislative Affairs team, who do convey the President’s wishes and desires to members of the Senate.

Q Well, does he have a major concern, because, as you’re saying, it’s one of the crown jewels?

MR. SNOW: Again, look, he’s concerned. I don’t know how you catagorize. I always — you’re probably learning, I don’t answer state of mind questions, especially major concern, minor concern, middle concern. I don’t know — I know it’s your right to ask, but it’s an unanswerable question, because it involves a sliding scale of valuation that is subject to the whims and vagaries of the person standing behind this podium. It is not subject to any hard, quantifiable sort of representation. Therefore, having said all that, I will simply tell you that the President is concerned. He views it as a very important — it’s a priority; we want to make sure that it gets renewed.

Watch as Pony completely blows this one.

Q Tony, you said that if Iran attacked Israel, we’ll come to the aid of Israel. I wonder if you’d be a little bit more specific. Would we be supporting them in their retaliation against Iran, or would we ourselves be retaliating against Iran?

MR. SNOW: I don’t — I’m not going to give you a specific answer because I’ve given you a general answer to a hypothetical question. I cannot give you a specific answer to a hypothetical question.

Q Do you have any kind of specifics —

MR. SNOW: No, I don’t. I really don’t, because what you’re asking about is the categorization of — I mean, if there’s an attack it could take any number of forms, and a response could take any number of forms. And for me to begin trying to list them, again, would be, A, above my pay grade, and I think, B, irresponsible. I think just leaving it with the general statement that the President has given — I can’t go beyond what the President has said, and I’m not going to try.

Q Would you say then that nothing is off the table?

MR. SNOW: We’ve always said that.

Q Okay.

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: The use of force is off the table. All right? Let me be specific. That is what the President has said. Is that not correct?

Q Is off, or is not off?

MR. SNOW: I’m sorry — is not off the table. Thank you. (Laughter.) Yes, it’s on the table.

And now, Your Daily Les.

Q Tony, the Associated Press reports the President saying, “Doubt it,” when he was asked if he intends to see Al Gore’s documentary film about global warming. And my first of two-part: Does the President, as a devout Christian, intend to see or have shown at the White House “The DaVinci Code”?

MR. SNOW: Lester, somehow it did not occur to me today to ask the President which movies he is going to watch?

Q Would you ask him? I mean, since this is —

MR. SNOW: Probably not. He would probably arch his eyebrows and say, “that’s all you’ve got?” (Laughter.)

Q AP was wrong?

MR. SNOW: I was there, Lester. What he said when somebody asked him, he said, “Doubt it.” So, I’ll tell you what — if you get him outside on the lawn, you can ask the question and pursue the answer.