Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Count on Helen to ask the tough questions.

Q Is there a civil war going on in Iraq? And is the President frustrated with the lack of American public support for Iraq?

MR. SNOW: No, number one, there is not a civil war going on. I was on the phone earlier today with Major General Caldwell in Baghdad —

Q One hundred people a day?

MR. SNOW: He understands. And the other thing that’s happening is that there has been — there has been some improvement at least in the situation on the ground, slightly. Yes, you have a number of sectarian violence operations going on, but you’ve also seen now in targeted neighborhoods in Baghdad, there has been a notable decrease in violence in three of the neighborhoods that have been targeted in the last week, and that’s obviously a promising sign; that’s not a victory lap.


As the President has said — the President knows the capability of our forces, and he knows the decency of the American people, and he knows that people do not want us to walk away from something this important. As far as public opinion polls, I’ve addressed it many times. He’s aware of polls, but he’s also more keenly aware of his constitutional obligations, and he takes that first, and if it means taking a PR hit —

Q He doesn’t think he needs the support of the American people on the Iraqi endeavor?

MR. SNOW: I think what’s going to happen, as people learn more and more — as you saw just last week, there was an 11-point pivot just on the basis of the fact that things that people had not seen in terms of behind-the-scenes operations to thwart terror, suddenly said, oh, boy, we do have something — boom, 11-point jump. I think as people begin to see more —

Q I’m talking about Iraq.

MR. SNOW: Well, as people begin to see more of what’s going on — and Major General Caldwell is doing detailed briefings — and one of these days maybe will bring some of the slides and things that he has — giving you a better sense from ground level what’s going on. I don’t think — I think the American people see headlines, they hear about these appalling acts of violence, and they are rightly concerned. What they don’t see are the operations ongoing, the apprehensions of terrorists, the seizure of weapons caches, all of which are going on on a daily basis.

Q Is everybody a terrorist who opposes our presence in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: No, but somebody is a terrorist who kills innocent civilians to try to make a political point.

Obsession continues, Read More…

From Holden:

Why is Laura so much more effective than the president?

Q The First Lady is making three campaign stops today. Why is the — Why is Mrs. Bush campaigning more this year than ever before?

MR. SNOW: I think, number one, she understands how important these midterms are. And she likes doing it. I think she’s become very comfortable going out, delivering speeches. And she believes firmly in what her husband is trying to do as President, and she’s offering whatever support she can.

Q Is she more effective at delivering certain messages than the President, in his view?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know. I don’t think I’m the one to say, sir, is your wife better at delivering a message than you? Maybe you could do that, but I’m not going to do it. (Laughter.)

Q But certainly the President’s advisors have a view on where she’s effective — she’s going to different states than the President goes to. What’s the strategy behind her —

MR. SNOW: It’s interesting, because when we do scheduling meetings, we just do presidential scheduling meetings. And so there may be, at some level, people talking about parsing these. I honestly don’t know and I’ll try to find out. But I am not aware that it really is that kind of mission-specific. And a lot of times you’ve got differing requests. As you know, the Vice President is also giving more speeches than he tends to give. I’m not getting a lot of Vice President questions. But the fact is, this is a very important midterm and you’re going to have key members of this administration out, speaking, trying to talk about the President’s message and his record, and trying also to support Republican candidates in the House and Senate.

Pony Blow opened the gaggle today by denouncing the NYTimes story that claimed he was frustrated with the lack of support for American shown by the people of Iraq. Can Pony explain himself?

Q If the President is not frustrated by the situation in Iraq, what is he?

MR. SNOW: Determined.

Q Is he — does he feel like the Maliki government is doing an effective job?

MR. SNOW: He feels like the Maliki government — look, you’ve got a government that is brand new. As I told you, today you had the Prime Minister going outside the Green Zone, addressing forces, Iraqi forces in Baghdad neighborhoods. This is a guy who has a series of challenges before him with his government, and the President is impressed not only by his determination to get the job done, but the fact is that he is working aggressively to do these things. We don’t expect him to be an overnight success in dealing with all these problems; nobody can be. But the President certainly supports Prime Minister Maliki.

And the frustration angle is just one that just doesn’t — when you’re facing a situation, you don’t sit around and get frustrated. You figure out how to get the job done. And I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it because it’s true: The President is somebody who’s intensely practical about these things, and not somebody who sits around and goes, “Nnnnyoo!” — I can’t wait to see you how you transcribe that. (Laughter.)

Q Do that again.

Q Who is one of those people?

Q Rove. Rove does that.

Q Yes, he does do that. (Laughter.)

Q Are there such people? (Laughter.)