Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Why am I not surprised that the Bush Assministration sees an opportunity in the blooshed in Lebanon but not in the incapacitation of Fidel Castro?

Q With Castro sidelined, has the United States reached out to his brother, Raul, to try to turn the page, look for anything new?

MR. SNOW: No. Look, the one thing that this President has talked about from the very beginning is his hope for the Cuban people finally to enjoy the fruits of freedom and democracy. And for the dictator, Fidel Castro, to hand off power to his brother, who has been the prison keeper, is not a change in that status. So Raul Castro’s attempt to impose himself on the Cuban people is much the same as what his brother did. So, no, there are no plans to reach out.

Raul Castro: As Legitimate As Bush

Q And one more, please. There are some military U.S. officials who have been contacting generals in Cuba. And they say Raul is more pragmatic than radical — than the radical, his brother, for example. So if he’s in power, you really don’t want to have any business with him? Even if he will change his position or the position of —

MR. SNOW: The view is pretty simple — it’s not my view, it’s the government view — Raul Castro is no more elected than his brother.

Helen Thomas’ Humanity Is Showing Again

Q My question is, how does the President feel about the breaking of the temporary truce in Lebanon?

MR. SNOW: Well, I was reading this out the other day. I think the way this thing was characterized in some press reports was different than the way it had been presented to the White House, which was that the Israelis said that they would suspend bombing except for sites that had activities aimed at Israel or Israelis. And this is the way I read it out the other day on the plane.

So you know, I will direct all questions about Israel’s tactics and how it matches up with rhetoric to them. But the way it was presented to us was not just a blanket cease-fire. The one thing that was blanket was 24 hours of free passage for humanitarian aid, and also for people to get out of the area.

Q The President is still against a cease-fire?

MR. SNOW: No, the President is for a cease-fire, but he’s for a sustainable cease-fire and a lasting peace.

Q An immediate cease-fire?

MR. SNOW: An immediate cease-fire is something that at this point doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Neither side is headed that way. But what the President is working on and what our allies are working on are providing those conditions for a sustainable cease-fire, which means being able to move into southern Lebanon — the Lebanese armed forces. They’re going to need some support, certainly at the outset, by a multinational force. There are contribution talks that are beginning to take shape on those.

[snip]

Q May I just add?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Doesn’t that mean many more people are going to die?

MR. SNOW: I hope not. I think everybody hopes not.

Continues, click on.

From Holden:

No Concern About Qana

Q Tony, is there any concern that the news out of Qana on Sunday is turning opinion — world opinion against the Israelis, is isolating the U.S. —

MR. SNOW: No, because — Jim, you and I had this conversation yesterday, so I’ll help you write tomorrow’s piece. (Laughter.)

[It goes on, but Pony never answers the question]

Hagel Been Hatin’ on The President’s Girlfriend!

Q Senator Chuck Hagel yesterday said that the President should appoint a statesman of global stature, experience and ability to serve as his personal envoy to the region, who would report directly to the President. What is the President’s reaction to that? It seems to implicate that perhaps he doesn’t have very much confidence in Secretary Rice.

MR. SNOW: The President does. (Laughter.) Mike.

Q Are you concerned that a senior Republican senator does not have confidence in Secretary Rice?

MR. SNOW: We understand the political process. The President right now — I’m not going to get into characterizing it, but the President has full confidence. And it would be interesting to ask Senator Hagel what he — because he was not specific about it. You didn’t give me a specific characterization. You’re trying to draw a conclusion from his comments. I’m not sure he’s ready to draw that conclusion, but if he is, okay.

Pony says Hagel wasn’t specific, but…

Q He gave a few names, however. He gave —

MR. SNOW: Well, no, I appreciate that. But, again, Secretary Rice is — let me make a point, because it’s worth making the point that, again, the United States has achieved significant diplomatic — has had significant diplomatic achievements on the North Korean front, on the Iranian front, and soon with the Middle East. That is a demonstration of effective diplomacy, in difficult times, when people would sometimes rather just kick the can down the road.

Hagel’s the Benchwarmer, Chimpy is the Quarterback

Q I was going to ask one other question about Senator Hagel, because he made a point that a lot of other foreign policy experts have been making in recent days, which is that the United States has not been deeply enough engaged in trying to solve the Arab-Israeli problem, and they see that as sort of coming back to haunt the administration. And I’m just curious about what your reaction to that is.

MR. SNOW: I understand that. I would count that as observing from the sidelines, rather than reporting from the front lines.

In Your Daily Les, Pony gives him a hard time but Les has a good question.

Q Tony.

MR. SNOW: On that topic, Lester?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: Not vaguely related to the topic, precisely related to the topic?

Q No, no, it’s right on the topic. And my first question —

MR. SNOW: When I hear this, it’s not going to feel like biting on foil? (Laughter.)

Q Can I come back later for another?

MR. SNOW: Okay, go ahead.

Q During his meeting with Tony Blair last week, the President characterized Hezbollah, which murdered 241 American servicemen in Beirut in 1933 —

MR. SNOW: Eighty-three.

Q Nineteen eighty-three — as a “closed political party that happens to be armed.” In contrast, the President routinely describes al Qaeda as killers and terrorists. And the question: Does the President regard Hezbollah as any less murderous or terroristic than al Qaeda?

MR. SNOW: I think we’ve made our characterization of Hezbollah clear over the years. I don’t want to try to get into assigning precise adjectives. I think we’ve done that.

Q Can I come back with another —

MR. SNOW: Please. (Laughter.)

Les’ second question was about Mel Gibson.