Ah, it’s good to get back to the gaggle, but I have to wonder why the President hates Connecticut Republicans.
Q Does the President support the Republican candidate for Senate in Connecticut?
MR. SNOW: The President supports the democratic process in the state of Connecticut, and wishes them a successful election in November.
Q Wait a minute. I realize he supports democracy, but I’m wondering, does he actually support his own party’s candidate?
MR. SNOW: I know that’s not news —
Q Why aren’t you committing — why wouldn’t the President commit support for the Republican candidate in that —
MR. SNOW: I don’t know. Why do you ask? Is there something about the candidate that I should know about that would lead to judgments?
Q I’m just asking you —
MR. SNOW: No, that’s just a —
Q — it seems like a very natural thing, why wouldn’t he support a member of his own party? Is it because he’s well behind in the polls? Is it because the President likes Joe Lieberman? What’s — why not?
MR. SNOW: There may be — there are a whole host of reasons the President — I’m just not going to play.
Q It’s not really a game —
MR. SNOW: It’s not a game. It’s not a game, but I’ll — okay, I’ll tell you what. I’ll refer you to the political office to give you the full judgments on that. I think you know the situation in Connecticut.
Q Following on Keith’s question, so we should not routinely assume that the President is supporting the Republican nominee —
MR. SNOW: I think there’s some peculiar characteristics going on in the Republican Party with the President candidate, and why don’t you wait and see what happens?
Q What are those characteristics?
MR. SNOW: I think I was asking you and you wouldn’t play, so —
Q Are there any other states where there are peculiar characteristics, or is this one unique?
MR. SNOW: I think this one may be unique. But we’ll find out. Look, I know what you’re trying to do and it’s great and it’s great fun, but —
Q — get an answer.
MR. SNOW: Yes, well, they know the answer.
Oh Pony, you are soooooo clever.
More after the break…
Pony gives an update on the War on Lebanon that only proves that he’s not much more than a tall sack of hair.
An update on the situation in Lebanon: Since the cease-fire this morning, there have been no rocket attacks, no defensive movements.
Q Tony, you mentioned there were no defensive actions today after the cease-fire. What do you define as “defensive actions”? If Israel continues to go into areas after being attacked, is that a defensive action?
MR. SNOW: It appears at this point — let me just put it this way — nobody seems to have initiated any kind of movements, and I’ll leave it at that for now.
Q Could you define what you mean by “defensive action”, why you chose to use that language?
MR. SNOW: Because that was the language that was recited to me. (Laughter.)
And of course the toughest question for Pony Blow to answer on this topic is who won the war.
Q As you look at this, the month-long war in the Mideast, who won?
MR. SNOW: I’m not sure — right now what’s won is diplomacy has won. There has been an attempt to make effective U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for the abolition of militias in the southern part of Lebanon, and also — by the way, that would include Hezbollah or any other militias — and also the cessation of attempts to arm such militias from abroad. That is now the focus of efforts by the United States, the United Nations, the international community.
At this point, we are hoping that the people of Lebanon will be the ultimate victors because they’ll be able to have a government in which the democratic will of the people is expressed through the policies of that government, and they don’t have to be worrying about Hezbollah having its own independent foreign policy or the ability to try to wage war and engage neighboring states.
Q Do you think that Hezbollah has been weakened? What is its strength —
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to give you a military assessment. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that there’s been some weakening; I’m not going to try to assess it. But by Israeli reckoning, more than 500 Hezbollah guerillas killed, certainly rocket capacity has degraded, and so on. But, again, it would be presumptuous of me to try to give you an on-the-ground military assessment. I will let the interested parties talk about that.
Q Is there any disappointment in the administration that Israel didn’t do a better job of knocking out Hezbollah?
MR. SNOW: No. There’s been a lot of speculation that the United States has been engaged in military coordination, cooperation with Israel, and it’s not the case. And furthermore, the notion that we’re sort of sitting back, saying, “get them, get them, get them; we’re buying you time,” that’s not the way it worked. If you take a look at the diplomacy last week, we were pushing very hard to try to get a resolution wrapped up as quickly as possible. So the answer is, no.
Q To follow up on Peter’s question, is it worrisome or sobering that, given a month, Israel wasn’t able to defeat, contain, degrade Hezbollah?
MR. SNOW: Again, I think you guys are trying to keep scorecards based on impressions. I don’t know — if you can tell me exactly what the situation in on the ground and precisely how Hezbollah has been affected, then you ought to ask the Israelis about that. That is an Israeli strategic question.
The concern of this administration, from the start, has been very clear: to try to lay the basis for dealing with the root cause, which is Hezbollah aggression, and also to put in place a force that is going to be able to deter and deal with that aggression in the future. But you are asking me to render judgment on a military operation in which we play no part, and therefore, it’s simply inappropriate for me to be entertaining such questions. You can call the Israeli embassy or you can call the Israeli military and try to get their own judgments on this, but it is not something that is of germane concern for us.
Q No, it’s just in the past you’ve said it was part of the global war on terror, and that’s —
MR. SNOW: And it is part of the global war on terrorism. But what you’re asking for is an operational assessment of what’s been going on with the Israelis and Hezbollah. I think what you were asking me to do was to assess what you considered the military objectives on the part of Israel and how we would assess their success in meeting those goals. And my point is that’s a question for them and not for me.
Q But, Tony, would you like to see Hezbollah degraded?
MR. SNOW: We would like to see Hezbollah stop committing acts of terror. We also would like to see Hezbollah take the political path rather than the terror path.
Q Don’t you want to see them disarmed?
Q But not militarily degraded —
MR. SNOW: Disarmament is something that will be the responsibility of the sovereign government of Lebanon with the assistance of international forces. It is part of the resolution, as it was part of Resolution 1559. So the answer is, yes, we would like to see that happen. But it is not something that’s going to happen overnight. It is going to take concerted action on the part of the government of Lebanon and also on the part of the forces that are there operating in conjunction with and in support of the Lebanese armed forces.
Helen wants to know why Chimpy wants to amend the War Crimes Act of 1996. Of course we all know it’s due to the fact that the president has violated that very same law.
Q Why does the President want to modify the Geneva accords, conventions, to prevent inhumane, cruel treatment of detainees?
MR. SNOW: The President has never suggested modifying the Geneva conventions.
Q You mean that all these stories are wrong?
MR. SNOW: Well, the Geneva conventions, as has been construed — there are two things you’ve got to keep in mind. Number one, the Geneva conventions always must be construed especially — you’re talking about Common Article Three?
MR. SNOW: — in manners that are consistent with the U.S. law. The second thing is this is a new situation because the Geneva conventions in the past have not been construed as applying to those who do not fight for duly constituted military forces. We will wait to see when we have a final decision on how to implement the Hamdan case. I think, at this point, what you’re reacting to is things that you’ve seen, and I’ll be happy to entertain more specific questions when we have a proffer.
Q Are these all speculative and not true?
MR. SNOW: No, it’s all trying to figure out the proper way also. One of the difficulties in Common Article Three is that there’s a great deal of vague language and rather than, “trying to change the Geneva accords,” what we’re trying to do is to interpret them.