Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Most of today’s gaggle was taken up with questions about the stunning loss the Bush Assministration suffered in the Supreme Court. Pony Blow’s line is that it’s not a stunning loss, just a minor change in direction, but no one is buying that.

First off, we now know why Chimpy was so completely uninformed during his little presser with the Japanese PM.

Q Can you describe for us — the President mentioned the drive-by briefing —

MR. SNOW: Yes. I conducted that. I helped conduct it.

Overreah, or Reacharound?

Q This administration has said that under the Constitution, at a time of war, the President has had very far-reaching power to protect the American people, and the Court seems to disagree and says the President overreached in that power.

MR. SNOW: You know, it’s — overreached is the headline, it’s not the way it’s been written by the Court. I mean, I’ve got the opinion here, and I’d defy anybody to come up with a very quick and simple analysis of the varied holdings in here. You’ve got people agreeing and disagreeing in part. So I think what the Court is saying is that it wants to make sure that there’s congressional authorization, and it also is concerned about comporting with the Geneva Conventions and also the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And those are matters that will be taken under advisement.

Q And those are things that this White House has basically said it did not have to do, that executive has the authority to pursue this war without dealing with those other institutions.

MR. SNOW: The Court disagreed with that.


Q Then as far as the congressional oversight, could you just flesh out for me —

MR. SNOW: It’s not oversight, it’s authorization.

Q Authorization. Could you flesh out for me what that does —

MR. SNOW: I wish I could. I think what it means is that they want to make sure that Congress authorizes, pursuant to Congress’ obligations when it comes to declaring war and laying conditions for a war, it wants Congress to authorize the way to proceed forward in terms of bringing to justice those who have been brought in from the battlefield.

Q So doesn’t that, by definition, mean the administration overreached in setting up its initial approach?

MR. SNOW: I think it would say that the administration — the Supreme Court has disagreed with the approach we’ve taken. You may — I don’t know how you’d say “overreached.” Apply whatever adjective or whatever verb you want, the Supreme Court has said that it disagrees with the way in which the commissions were convened, and has laid down some guidelines for proceeding.

Obsession continues, Read More…

From Holden:

The future of GITMO? Confused at best.

Q The President said before that he was waiting for the Supreme Court ruling before he would make any comments about it, but he also said that he really wanted to close it soon. So where do we stand with that?

MR. SNOW: Well, you’re talking about Guantanamo?

Q Yes. The ruling didn’t address the —

MR. SNOW: Correct, and the ruling — the President never said he wanted to — he said he wants to close Guantanamo. He didn’t say he wanted to close it quickly, because there are some practical considerations.


Q Forgive me, Jim. The President has said, I want to close Guantanamo —

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q — I’m waiting for this decision. You’re just now saying, this doesn’t mean we close Guantanamo. Isn’t that —

MR. SNOW: No, because he wanted to see the decision, and I think what the decision has done — for instance, in the case of Mr. Hamdan, is it’s now reverting it back to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Q For the record, the President still stands by the idea that he wants to close Guantanamo Bay.

MR. SNOW: Absolutely. Yes, that hasn’t changed.

Poor Chimpy, feeling a bit cranky today I imagine.

Q Can you characterize the feeling upon hearing the ruling today? Was it disappointment?

MR. SNOW: No, it really is — again, this is — I’ll just describe to you — have you guys had a chance to look at this? Here is — first we have — we have Justice Stevens. Here’s his majority opinion, it’s 73 pages long. Parts I through IV have the concurrence of four other members of the Court, but parts V and VI-D-iv do not.


Q Okay. In addition to that, there was some strong rhetoric in some of these decisions, the majority decisions, Kennedy writing in a separate opinion, “It’s a concentration of power” — referring specifically to the executive branch — “puts personal liberty in peril of arbitrary action by officials,” “an incursion to the Constitution’s three-part system is designed to avoid.” Is there any feeling in terms of the administration’s reaction to that?

MR. SNOW: No. I mean, again, you’re trying to frame this as a political fight, and it’s not.


Q Well, I’m not trying to make this a political argument, but you guys — the White House has put forward the argument that in extraordinary times, the White House needs to take extraordinary measures and act as executive power on its own. And the Supreme Court — a majority ruling of the Supreme Court has said, no, you can’t, not in this instance.

MR. SNOW: Well, the majority of the Supreme Court — a lot of this is procedural, Jake, and that’s why it gets complicated and it gets pretty quickly beyond my brief. But if you take a look at it, a lot of it really is procedural. It has to do with congressional authorizations, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and so on.

Q But those are the steps that you guys bypassed.

MR. SNOW: Well, and so those are not going to be bypassed in the future, and there’s a disagreement. The Supreme Court has rendered its decision.

Ah, one gaggler hit on the key issue: adherence to the Geneva Conventions.

Q I just have one more. The ruling today also seemed to say that the prisoners at Guantanamo should be treated in adherence to the Geneva Conventions. So what will that mean for the treatment of prisoners going forward?

MR. SNOW: That is something we’re going to have to study. I’m not aware that it would involve any changes in the procedures by which prisoners are detained. But I think — I better be careful about that, because I don’t know for sure. But I know people are looking at that right now.

Pony plays dumb — it’s not hard, really.

Q Is this a setback in terms of the broader goal of this administration to expand executive authority?

MR. SNOW: I don’t think it’s ever been the goal of the administration to expand executive authority. In a time of war, the President has tried to act in a way that meets the needs and obligations of a Commander-in-Chief against a dispersed and highly-unique kind of enemy. But we don’t have “expand executive power” sessions. So nobody thinks in terms of, how do we expand executive power. This has been a time where the President has had to figure out how to maneuver in ways consistent with his obligations of Commander-in-Chief, and consistent with the Constitution. And I dare say it’s raising questions that are fairly new and people are wrestling with.

Q I do think the Vice President has said that it was a broader goal to expand executive authority.

MR. SNOW: Well, I missed the “expand executive authority” meetings.

And if the Assministration believes the Hamdan decision won’t have any effect on their warratnless eavesdropping they are in for a rude awakening.

Q Do you see a potential impact on things like the National Security Agency eavesdropping program and some of the other surveillance programs when the President used sort of the same rationale that he used with respect to Guantanamo when he talked about his constitutional authority perhaps being curtailed —

MR. SNOW: I just — I don’t — you’re talking apples and oranges here, Kelly.

Q Not entirely, no.

MR. SNOW: Well, yes, you are. You’re talking about entirely different sets of legal authorizations, and without getting into the weeds on it —

Q He also, in both instances, argued that the congressional use of force authorized it, and his constitutional authority authorized it. And the Court is saying that he still needs congressional —

MR. SNOW: The Court — well, the Court is addressing this in the specific instance of military commissions, going back and trying to take a look at the history of military commissions. So it really is a far more specific ruling than that. It has to deal with the institution of military commissions, which goes back to the age of the Civil War.

On Israel’s invasion of Gaza: democracy has its limits, apparently.

Q They’ve gone in and they’ve made some arrests of some Hamas officials and government officials.

MR. SNOW: I’m aware of that.

Q Does the President endorse that?

MR. SNOW: We are going no further than what we’ve said, which is, we are encouraging both sides to practice restraint.

Q Tony, a follow up, if I may. The President talked today about shared values in democracy in the Middle East, for elected officials, whether — regards of what other countries think of them. Sixty-four officials have been arrested, including Cabinet members, members of Parliament. Is this a day for the United States to stand up for democracy in the Middle East, or should we get a free pass?

MR. SNOW: It’s an argumentative question. I appreciate it, and I’m going no further than my prior statement.

And now, Your Daily Les..

Q Reuters reports that while the Pentagon no longer deems homosexuality a mental disorder, this reversal has no impact on U.S. policy prohibiting openly gay people from serving in the military. And my question: Does this also accurately report the position of the Commander-in-Chief, or not?

MR. SNOW: I will defer all questions about military personnel policies to the Department of Defense.

Q How does the President — has he changed his mind on this or not?

MR. SNOW: The President’s positions on all these matters are well-established, Les.

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