Second-stringer Dana Peroxide subbed for Pony Blow today and had to field a question about Rockeygate.
Q Were you aware of Rockey Vaccarella’s political background? Was he invited to meet with the President because he supports the President?
MS. PERINO: I checked into that, and at the time of invitation, no, there was no knowledge of his political affiliation.
Q You didn’t know he had ever been a Republican candidate?
MS. PERINO: No, he was not invited — he was invited before anybody knew that. [Ah, so Vaccarella was invited to the White House, so much for his journey of “protest”.]
Q And were you aware that he was going to endorse the President for a third term? (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: No. And, believe me, I think staff thinks that two are plenty. (Laughter.) I don’t think it was a secret that Rockey Vaccarella had been supportive of the federal effort and he had said supportive things about the President, as well. He asked to make sure that the President doesn’t forget the Katrina victims, and the President reaffirmed that he will not.
Q Why does the staff think two terms is enough?
MS. PERINO: Because I’m tired. (Laughter.)
Obsession continues below…
Hey Dana — why should be trust you this time around?
Q Just a quick follow on Iran. The House Intelligence Committee put out a report today, talking about threats from Iran, but also specifically said the intelligence community has to do a better job of analyzing what capacity there is for Iran in terms of building and trying to obtain nuclear weapons. What steps do you think the White House has taken, the administration has taken in general, to make sure that the intelligence reports about Iran’s nuclear ambitions are not off the mark like the Iraqi WMD reports were?
MS. PERINO: I think that goes back to — the President acknowledged that the intelligence was poor, and one of the ways that he addressed that was a wholesale transformation of the intelligence community. And the DNI’s office, Director of National Intelligence, led by John Negroponte, is now coordinating efforts, and that seems to be working better. And I think that we saw that a couple of weeks ago. I’ve heard that the coordination amongst the intelligence agencies, not only interagency here in America, but working with our allies overseas when the Brits were able to foil that terror plot, that it was working better. I can’t tell you any specifics, of course, but that was my sense.
A Rotation By Any Other Name
Q Why are we sending more troops to — Marines and soldiers to Iraq?
MS. PERINO: I think “more” is the wrong word. I think this is a rotation.
MS. PERINO: This is a rotation. The order was signed by the President several weeks ago. The military commanders at the Pentagon know best how to do those troop rotations. And just as he defers to his commanders on the ground in Iraq, he defers to his military leaders here. That’s why he signed the order.
As I understand it, DoD held a roundtable today to discuss the order. And they’ll be taking volunteers first, and then going to involuntary action, if necessary. This does reflect the fact that we’re in a long and difficult struggle. The President is grateful and thankful for every soldier’s sacrifice and the sacrifice made by their families, especially.
I would note, this morning, somebody asked if this was a recruiting problem. But across the military, at all branches, the military is hitting its targets for recruiting.
Q So it’s not an increase?
MS. PERINO: No, as I understand it, it’s a rotation.
Johnnie’s Been a Baaaad Boy
Q Senator McCain, in his comments yesterday, said that the American people had been led to believe by the administration that the Iraq war would be a “day at the beach.” Does that concern the White House? Do you feel that you’re losing support among Republicans?
MS. PERINO: I think it’s important to look back at what President Bush has said from the beginning. If you look at what he has said, starting even in March of 2003, that, “Helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable, and free country will require our sustained commitment.”
It’s puzzling to me that McCain’s comments yesterday are getting so much attention today when if you look over the past couple of months, Senator McCain has made similar comments. He is a Senator who is not shy about sharing his views. That’s one of the reasons he is such a unique figure in American politics, and also one of the most popular. And he shares, however, a commitment with the President that we win Iraq, and he understands the struggle that we’re in. The President appreciates his support.
The President has never made the comments that you referred to. [Ahhhhgg! McCain specifically mentioned Chimpy’s “mission accomplished” speech! You lie, Dana!] Any time that the President has felt a need to acknowledge mistakes in the war on Iraq, he has done so. And other members of his administration, they can speak for themselves. And I know that the Vice President has repeatedly been asked about comments that he’s made in the past, and he’s answered them. So I don’t understand why we’re going back over all this ground now.
Q Well, perhaps because support for the war seems to be slipping, it’s down at a new low point in the latest polling, and may reflect concern for the political year that we’re in.
MS. PERINO: I think if you look at what the President said on Monday, this is tough work that we’re doing in Iraq, and criticism is part of our system of government and certainly a part of when you take tough action and when you are stalwart in your action. We’re aware of the polls, and the President said on Monday, of course, you want people in America to support your positions. You’ve seen him out talking about it. His administration is going to continue to explain to the American people the situation that we’re in, the struggle that we face and how important it is that we win.
Q Following up on that — since he does talk to members of Congress regularly, will he or anyone from the staff be consulting with Senator McCain to find out why the Senator believes that the administration has misled the public on the war?
MS. PERINO: We’ll see if there’s any updates in terms of
— we have regular communication with Senator McCain’s office, as you can imagine. And if there’s something to update you on that, we can in the future.
Q It would seem logical that with such serious allegations, that somebody would want to reach out to him.
MS. PERINO: I think we’re in regular communication with Senator McCain, but I also — I point back that he’s not shy about his views, and these are views that he’s been expressing for several months now. So I’m not quite sure I understand the point about —
Q I don’t recall him saying the administration had misled the public.
MS. PERINO: I never actually saw the word — him use the word “misled” in quotes that I went back and looked up today. I could be wrong. But I understand the point that he is making, and —
Q — “a day at the beach” —
MS. PERINO: Going back to what the President said, that it’s going to be a long and difficult struggle. And what they do is share the goal of winning in Iraq.
Josh Marshall will be very unhappy after reading today’s Daily Les.
Q On Monday, The New York Times reported that Tony Snow refused to say the President will support and campaign for Connecticut Republican nominee, Alan Schlesinger. My question: This is primarily because Lamont, the Democratic nominee, has accepted public support from Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Maxine Waters, and Schlesinger —
MS. PERINO: And your question is?
Q — has slipped to a single digit. Isn’t this the reason Tony didn’t want to answer that question? Or would you like to answer the question?
MS. PERINO: I’m going to leave it where the President left it on Monday, and I will give you that transcript so that you have it.
Q He will not campaign for this Republican, will he?
MS. PERINO: He will not.