Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Pony opened today’s gaggle by misstating May’s employment numbers.

Also, economic numbers today, change in payroll employment, 7,500 increase — that’s lower than the expected 170,000; unemployment rate at 4.6 percent, that is lower than the expected 4.7 percent.

But things really got hot when he tried to claim that Iraqi PM Maliki had been “misquoted” when he claimed that US attacks on Iraqi civilians were a daily occurrance.

Q And also can you — have you been able to get any kind of readout on what the Prime Minister said yesterday about —

MR. SNOW: Yes. As a matter of fact, I just — I spoke just a couple of minutes with Ambassador Khalilzad, who, today with General Casey, went over and spoke with the Prime Minister. And according to the Ambassador, the Prime Minister says he was misquoted.

[snip]

Q He was misquoted. Do you have a sense of what he said or meant to say?

MR. SNOW: No, I — it was one of these things where he said at one point he was asking an unrelated question about a traffic stop, and it really does get pretty convoluted. I don’t want to get myself too much into it. But he said — what Ambassador Khalilzad did say is that he said he was misquoted and they’re going to look into it. That is what Prime Minister said.

Q Can I just follow on that, Tony, because it sounds a little too neatly wrapped up.

MR. SNOW: Well, then you’re going to have to take that up with the Prime Minister.

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From Holden:

Q Well, but I assume we were taking that up with the Prime Minister. So why don’t we talk about it from the U.S. government perspective.

MR. SNOW: All right.

Q Which is how does the President react to the fact that someone we had heaped praise on has fired a pretty serious shot across the bow at U.S. forces who are securing Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, I’ve just told you, David, that he said he didn’t.

Q And that’s it? I mean —

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q — he was just misquoted?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q So what did he — I just want to push —

MR. SNOW: Well, again, you can feel free to push. I’ve tried to relay to you what was related to me by —

Q That he just didn’t mean it?

MR. SNOW: No, no, not that he didn’t mean it, that he didn’t say it. He said he was misquoted. When somebody says they’re misquoted that means —

Q What’s the issue? What’s the concern that U.S. officials over there are trying to deal with, then?

MR. SNOW: They’re not. There are regular meetings. I think — as you know, there are allegations of things that have gone on in Haditha, in Hamandiya and now in Ishaqi. And these things are — these are matters —

Q But his remarks are much more general than that.

MR. SNOW: But I’m answering your question, because what I’m trying to do is to talk about the nature of the conversations between the Ambassador and General Casey and the Prime Minister. And, again, this is based on my conversation just concluded with the Ambassador. And they try to maintain regular contact about these things, and they want to make sure that he’s fully informed.

[snip]

Q So does the Ambassador and does General Casey sense that they’ve got some frustration in the Iraqi leadership?

MR. SNOW: No, I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, this is an Iraqi leadership that’s not even two weeks old. They don’t sense frustration. Actually, what’s interesting is that the readout I am getting on the Prime Minister — and everybody — they’re still in that phase where they’re getting to know each other — Prime Minister Maliki is not an English speaker, he speaks Arabic, and so it’s not the kind of thing where these guys have had long-standing conversations. So they’re feeling each other out.

What I’m getting is just the opposite of frustration. They’re impressed.

[snip]

Q I’m talking about frustration on his end toward us.

MR. SNOW: No. No.

Q So we don’t have a problem here with the Iraqi Prime Minister?

MR. SNOW: No. No.

Q What was misinterpreted? Surely — you’ve been a reporter a long time. You just simply ask, what was the real reason that he —

MR. SNOW: Well, what I’ve tried to do —

Q Where does he say he was misinterpreted?

MR. SNOW: Well, unfortunately, Helen, I have just tried to — what I’m trying is to relate to you, through Ambassador Khalilzad, through me, what was told to him through an interpreter by the Prime Minister. And it becomes a little convoluted, and so I don’t want to make a real clear characterization, because it’s a little hazy to me, too. All right? What I do know is that he was misquoted, he’s looking into it. But that what he said, and when he said it, and in reaction to what is a little gauzy.

Q No, no, no, but what was the crux of the misinterpretation?

MR. SNOW: The crux is that he says he didn’t say it, and that there was —

Q He didn’t say he wants us out?

MR. SNOW: Somebody had shouted out a question about an unrelated incident, and I’m not sure I can quite follow it either.

Jim.

Q The phrase that I saw was, “a daily phenomenon.” This is fairly specific stuff he’s talking about. So to say, well, we know he didn’t say that, when the quotes are — it’s not a generalization, it’s very specific stuff that he’s quoted as saying. So if you then turn around and say: Well, we know he didn’t say that; we don’t know what he said, but we know he didn’t say that —

MR. SNOW: I’m just telling you what he said. But here’s the other thing. Here’s Rich Oppel’s piece —

Q You’re not telling us what he said.

MR. SNOW: But I don’t know exactly what he said. All I’m doing is giving you the characterization I repeated through the Ambassador. I’m trying my best to be your advocate on this one. But I did not have a direct conversation with the Ambassador — I mean, with the Prime Minister. But it’s interesting to note that you have — violence against civilians has become a “daily phenomenon by many troops in the American-led coalition who did not respect the Iraqi people.” This is gauzian in and of itself. It doesn’t refer to American troops. It talks about troops in an American-led coalition, which also involves Iraqi troops. I don’t know what this means. I wish I did, and I wish I could give you clearer guidance.

Q But we do know that it’s favorable in terms of the relationship between Maliki and the United States?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q We know that there’s no problem, everybody is in great shape, “Kumbaya”? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: No — do you really think it’s “Kumbaya”? You were talking —

Q That’s what I’m asking. I’m trying to figure out what it is.

MR. SNOW: No, that is — no, come on. You’re —

Q That’s the impression you’re giving from the podium.

MR. SNOW: I am not giving — when we are talking about investigations that could lead to capital prosecutions, nobody is singing “Kumbaya.” And when you have —

Q And that’s not what I referring to now, either, and you know that.

MR. SNOW: And when you have General Casey going in and trying to brief a Prime Minister, nobody is singing “Kumbaya.” You know what they’re saying? They’re saying, let’s figure out what the facts are and let’s work together to secure peace.

Q And Tony, that referred specifically to the idea of what the Ambassador is reporting the conversation with the Prime Minister said. That’s all I’m trying to figure out.

MR. SNOW: I gave you my best readout, which is, he said the Prime Minister said he was misquoted, and the Prime Minister was looking into how the misquote appeared.

Q And at some point, we will get a more accurate readout about exactly what he did mean?

MR. SNOW: Lots of luck. We will see what we can get. All right?

[snip]

Q Let’s go back for a second to a conversation you just had with the Ambassador.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q The Prime Minister tells him that he was misquoted.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q The next logical question for anyone to ask would be, what did you say or what did you mean? And, presumably, the Ambassador and/or General Casey asked the Prime Minister that question.

MR. SNOW: Well, you know what, what I got — I’m trying to tell you here that, again, you’re getting a translated conversation, now translated through an Ambassador to me to you. And you can ask — I’ve told you everything I know.

Q Okay.

MR. SNOW: So you can try to tease out more, but there ain’t any more to tease out.

Q Did you try to find out more?

MR. SNOW: Yes, absolutely I’ll try to find out. Because I’ll get on the horn with the Ambassador, and try to find out.

Q If I were in your position, I’d want to know — I’d want to be able to come in here and say, okay, he said he was misquoted, one; and, two, here’s what he said he meant, or here it —

MR. SNOW: Thank you for sharing what you would do if you were in my position. Let me just —

Q Just trying to be helpful.

Hoo-boy, you’re not at Fox News anymore, Pony.

Next, why is the president suddenly making a big deal about hating the gays?

Q Tony, this debate obviously played a big role in the 2004 reelect, and the President made some pledges at that point to fight hard for this. There have been some conservatives who have suggested that he’s not made good on that pledge. So apart from tomorrow’s radio address and Monday night’s activity on the eve of the actual vote, what can be said on the President’s behalf to suggest to those critics that, actually, he has done some lifting on this?

MR. SNOW: Well, the President — I don’t know sometimes how you — the President is going to have to let what he’s doing on behalf of this particular legislative proposal stand for itself. They’re going to have to draw their own judgments.

[snip]

Q The President wades into this when it’s politically expedient —

MR. SNOW: Oh, David, come on.

Q He did that in 2004 — don’t “come on” me. You know just as well as I do what happened in 2004 —

MR. SNOW: This is what people have been waiting for. (Laughter.)

Q Two-thousand-four, in the heat of the campaign, he gets into it, and he gets into it again in an election year where he’s getting a lot of heat from his base to get back into this issue.

MR. SNOW: All he’s doing is he’s stating a position on the eve of the vote. I mean, I think it’s really not that unusual for a President to make statements that are timed to coincide with things on the legislative calendar, I really don’t.

[snip]

Q I think you’re pretty well aware of how Presidents can use their office —

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q — to weigh in on issues and influence issues.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q So when you say you don’t know how to attach a priority to it, I think you pretty well do, just like you do on other issues. So the President is making it a priority now, at a time when it is politically expedient. Do you dispute that?

MR. SNOW: Yes, I do, because political expedience — are you going to say that every time a President makes a speech that’s timed to coincide with a vote on a piece of legislation that it’s politically expedient? The other way — you could turn it around and say, it’s politically ripe — I mean, for the President to have done it three weeks ago, what do you do, you tuck it into a vacuum. You have to make statements at a time when it makes sense to do it.

Furthermore, I guarantee you, people who have not spoken about this in many months who are opposed to it are also going to speak out. Is that politically expedient? No, it’s politically ripe. It’s their chance to have their say about an issue that is now going to be before the United States Senate.

Q Tony, when the President was inaugurated for a second term, he said that he wasn’t going to spend time lobbying senators on this issue because he didn’t think the Senate was going to pass it. Has his assessment changed on this?

MR. SNOW: I’m not going to get into assessments. We’ll just have to wait and see what the vote is next week.

Q He was allocating priorities then. He was saying, it wasn’t a priority because he didn’t think it would pass —

MR. SNOW: Look, you got me, because I was not here for that one, and I just can’t go back and compare it for you Peter, sorry.

[snip]

Q My second one was, we’ve got investigations into massacres in Iraq —

MR. SNOW: Alleged massacres.

Q Alleged — well, there are investigations.

MR. SNOW: Yes, they’re investigations.

Q We’ve got Iran. We’ve got hurricane season beginning. We’ve got terrorism funding. And yet the President has chosen for his radio address the subject of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Does the President see gay marriage as such a gathering storm that he feels the need to focus on that?

MR. SNOW: No, again, it’s a matter — it’s a matter of a vote. Keep in mind, going back to the ripeness criterion, there will be times, I am sure, unfortunately, where we’ll have to talk about hurricane preparedness. There will be times when we’ll have to deal with a number of these other issues. He can’t give a speech on Haditha and Hamandiya. He can’t. So, no, I don’t think it’s a matter of setting those issues aside. I can tell you there have been plenty of meetings on issues like hurricane preparedness and other things this week. It’s one where there is significant attention being paid. But you’ll hear about them.

And now, Your Daiily Les.

Q Two questions. Reuters reported yesterday from Boston that U.S. war veteran Sergeant Peter Damon, who lost both of his arms in Iraq, has sued Michael Moore for using clips without his permission to give the false impression that he opposed the war. And he said, “I didn’t lose my arms over there to come back and be used as ammunition against my Commander-in-Chief.” And my question, if he is asked, will this Commander-in-Chief be willing to testify in court on behalf of this double amputee sergeant?

MR. SNOW: Lester, I have often had to resist the temptation to answer hypothetical questions. I don’t even have to resist that one. Look, it’s a hypothetical question. We can’t — please don’t put me in the position of trying to answer to a lawsuit between somebody who served his country and Michael Moore. We’ll let them deal with it.