Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Time once again to hold our noses and dive into Pony Blow’s shit. Today I detect a shift in Assministration policy.

And it’s important to realize also that we do regard a cease-fire as urgent.

Why, a scant two days ago Pony said the White House opposed an immediate cease fire.

Q On Lebanon, there seems to be two tracks that have emerged. There are those calling for an immediate cease-fire; there are those calling for a sustainable cease-fire. And the sustainable camp says there’s a risk — if you just call for an immediate, you’ll be back here in three weeks or three months. Isn’t it worth the risk if you stop innocent Israelis and Lebanese from being killed; isn’t it worth taking that risk while you try to bang out something more sustainable?

MR. SNOW: The question is whether that’s a fool’s errand, Jim. The idea that you suspend — number one, there’s a notion that somehow both sides are going to suspend, and we remain deeply skeptical that Hezbollah is going to abide by any such agreement.

Helen Thomas noticed the shift today as well.

Q Does the U.S. have a new sense of urgency about a cease-fire?

MR. SNOW: No, the U.S. has had a sense of urgency all along. Again, we dispatched diplomats to the region very shortly after this began. There is no new sense of urgency. There’s been a sense of urgency all along.

We have always been at war with Oceania, I suppose.

Obsession continues below…

From Holden:

Restraint is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

Q Yes, Tony, you said that the United States government is urging Israel to be — to use restraint.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Are they using restraint?

MR. SNOW: I’m not going to characterize. I will give you our position, but I’m not going to get into the position — we’ve been through this a lot of trying to grade the activities — because among other things, it would require my knowing what all the conditions and considerations are. And I don’t. And I dare say even very wise and involved people in this country don’t know each and every consideration that goes into specific battle plans. That is a question that I think can only be answered in hindsight, not from here.

That’s right, you can only decide if Israel is using restraint in hindsight. Watching Israeli forces murdering UN observers with your own eyes is not good enough.

Pony sez being a woman in Iraq is better than finding yourself in a mass grave. I’m sure the woman of Iraq are reassured by that sentiment.

Q Yes, this is on Iraq. In Iraq right now, there are — of fatwas being issued, banning women from driving, or being seen out alone; you’ve got women being stoned for wearing make-up and professional women being murdered. And in his speech this morning, al-Maliki praised the high status of women in Iraq. Would you acknowledge that, in fact, the status of women in Iraq is perilous right now?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know that it would be perilous because that would assume that the things that you talk about are, in fact, universal. But I will go back to what the Prime Minister did say, because he acknowledges that — he says that it’s important to acknowledge the rights chartered in the constitution will also help consolidate the role of women in public life and help them play a greater role in public life. It is clear that he thinks that there still is the importance of having a greater role. But I’m not going to try to do a full human rights analysis. It is clear that Prime Minister Maliki is devoted to the cause of the rights of women. And I would redirect to Iraqi officials specific questions about fatwas. A, I don’t know anything about them, and, B, I think it’s their job to respond.

Q The stance of many human rights groups is that what’s happening with women now is, in fact, worse than what was happening under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

MR. SNOW: Again, I redirect to them. I have a feeling — the Prime Minister also made the point that Iraq has moved to a point of elections and not mass graves. We can argue this both ways, I suppose, but I think a situation where people are being dumped into mass graves by a regime that used murder as simply a way of clearing up what it saw as political difficulties is far different than one that tries to deal with its political difficulties by appealing to the needs and desires of the people.

Q Even if you can’t control the people?

MR. SNOW: I don’t think the purpose of a government is to control the people, it’s to respond to their will.

Ridiculous, it’s just ridiculous for the press to expect Iraqi PM Maliki to express his opinions about Hezbollah.

Q Also, the Maliki speech, there was no reference to Hezbollah in there and responsibility. Did the White House make any request that there be such a reference?

MR. SNOW: No. No. But I think the Prime Minister — I don’t know why everybody here wants the Prime Minister to come and talk about a different set of problems. He’s the Prime Minister of Iraq.


Q Going back to the questions about the Iraqi Prime Minister’s approach or no approach to Hezbollah, he was asked in a private session with the senators today the same question he was asked at the news conference yesterday, and he again refused to characterize, in a private session, his feelings. So, to paraphrase what the President said after 9/11, “you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists.” When it comes to Hezbollah — we know where he stands on terrorism, in general, but when it comes to this group that the administration says is fomenting so much trouble, is this guy with us, or is he against us?

MR. SNOW: Look, I’m just not going to play the game. I don’t think any of us — what the Prime Minister is doing is he’s playing a pivotal role in the war on terror, and by setting the example, he’s going to make it clear to everybody that democracy can succeed in the region, despite sectarian strife, despite attempts to assert terror, despite being wedged between Iran and Syria.

So I think those are the important points. And again, I don’t know if there are going to be subsequent statements out of his government, or not. He has never said he’s for Hezbollah. So what you’re — so what everybody is complaining about is something that he hasn’t said. And it strikes me that that is an attempt to draw American politics — for American politics to become a consideration, rather than realize — why did he come here? He came here because he’s fighting a war on terror on his own soil.

And in You rDaily Les, Kinsolving nails Pony with Steele.

Q: The Washington Post this morning quoted Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor and Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Michael Steele, as saying that being a Republican is “like wearing a scarlet letter,” and that he does not want the President to campaign for him this fall. And my question: Since Nathaniel Hawthorne’s original scarlet letter was “A” for adultery, and Mr. Steele has, in effect, told the President to stay away from his campaign, are you just going to respond to this with an icy silence or an irritable evasion?

Q Beautiful smile — he’s got a gorgeous smile.

MR. SNOW: We have the broad sweep of literary history here. Let’s walk through a couple of things. I am told by some of the reporters who were at the scene that it was mischaracterized. But I will leave to people who were there to characterize more fully the statements that were made.

Number two, the President, the First Lady, the President’s father, I believe the Vice President — the Vice President, Karl Rove, this administration has been in Maryland campaigning for Michael Steele. We want him to become the next U.S. senator.

Q Yes, and how grateful has he been? He said he doesn’t want the President to campaign any more.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I’ve received characterizations, but having not been in the room, I think it’s probably not up to me to say exactly what happened. There are probably different versions, and I would refer you either to the people who are elbowing up with him, or

— because, apparently — well, in any event, or to Mr. Steele, himself. I’m just not going to —

Q You remember Tennyson’s a great statement that “in gratitude thou marble-hearted fiend”? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Once again, you’re leaping ahead. I think I’ve made my point on this.

Q Did the President have an emotional reaction when he heard about Steele’s comments?

MR. SNOW: Not that I’m aware of. I wasn’t there.

Q And does he still support his candidacy?

MR. SNOW: Yes, he does.