Pony Blow seems unconcerned by the unfolding Foley scandal intoday’s gaggle.
Q Tony, is the administration satisfied with the way the House Republican leadership is dealing with the Foley matter? And what did you mean when you said there have been scandals, more than simply naughty emails on the Hill?
MR. SNOW: No, no, I said there’s a lot of gossip, as you know. Gossip flows freely about members, and rather than retelling it, I was simply citing a fact of life. I believe maybe even some has come to your attention once or twice, Tom.
Questioning the Assministration’s reaction , or lack thereof, to the famous PDB is “second-guessing”.
Q Tony, going back to the myth that you’re disputing, myth number three, back to that question — how can you dispute it, when in August 2001 there’s a document that was declassified by this administration, “bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S. and” —
MR. SNOW: Oh, you’re talking about the PDB.
Q Yes, I am.
MR. SNOW: You’re talking about the PDB that was discussed ad nauseam before the 9/11 Commission and had a general characterization as some of the things bin Laden may do. It is something that the administration obviously pays attention to.
Condi Rice, I think, was pretty vociferous on that point yesterday. And it’s grossly irresponsible to assume that anybody in a position of power and a position of responsibility is going to look askance at such things. As you know, you can go back and look at the PDB, and it is something that talked in general terms about something that may happen.
Q Tony, I’m sorry, this is not general. It says, “Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.” Is that —
MR. SNOW: Understood.
Q — just vague?
MR. SNOW: No. But it also does not say that people — if you recall, April, before September 11, 2001, when somebody mentioned hijackings it meant taking a plane, taking it to another place and trying to hold up people for ransom. It did not mean flying an airliner into a building and killing 3,000 people.
I am not going to sit up here and tell you everything this administration or prior administrations may or may not have done. But the second-guessing game gets a little bit silly when, once again — and what I’d have you do is go back and read through all the 9/11 Commission stuff, because a lot of people are trying to grandstand, rather than realize that people —
Q But, Tony, it’s not silly when you’re talking about people’s lives, thousands of lives were lost —
MR. SNOW: Absolutely.
Q — and it was a month before, there was a lot of chatter leading up to 9/11. And some people want to know why was it not placed as a high priority to move — to make a movement so that even if it was vague, as far as hijackings, you could have at least been looking at the airports in some kind of way, or the Transportation Administration could have been doing something in relation to this possible hijacking.
MR. SNOW: I appreciate the second-guessing. The fact is that this administration realizes that the preparations this country had made before September 11th were inadequate. It happened.
Please, feel free to second guess. Everybody feels horrible about September 11th, but the other thing that’s important is to understand in the wake of September 11th we learned to take the terror threat with utmost seriousness and we need to continue to do so today.
Q But, Tony — and this is my last question — I understand you keep talking about the Clinton administration, but let’s talk about August 6, 2001, this administration, this PDB. Let’s talk about why it was not placed at a high level. Why not?
MR. SNOW: It’s a presidential decision brief, for heaven’s sake, it goes before the President. What higher level do you have? Members of Congress —
Q Well, why wasn’t it acted upon?
MR. SNOW: Precisely what piece of actionable intelligence is there?
Q Department of Transportation, you could have gone the gambit, CIA, FBI, you’ve could have done a little bit more.
MR. SNOW: Okay. Again, thank you for the second-guessing.
Pony reveals that they are searching the archives for evidence of Condi’s perjury.
Q I just want to follow up. My question — mine’s not second-guessing of September 11th, it’s about the 9/11 Commission. Now you have commissioners outraged, they say that they didn’t know about this meeting. You’re saying that the meeting did take place —
MR. SNOW: The meeting did take place.
Q — but it’s out of context in the book?
MR. SNOW: Yes. And I will —
Q And is there a reason why, I guess, the 9/11 Commission didn’t know about the meeting? That’s the bottom-line question.
MR. SNOW: The answer is, I don’t know. And people are taking a look at all the documents to find out what was reported and what was not to the 9/11 Commission. As a matter of fact, there’s a trip to the Archives right now to try to sort through all that.
Hellen on Henry
Q That’s all right. It’s in the context of the book, but is Henry Kissinger a regular advisor to the President? And did he tell the President to stick it out, and that any withdrawal would be like eating peanuts?
MR. SNOW: No. As a matter of fact, Henry did not talk to Bob Woodward. I spoke with Henry on Friday. So there are some second- or third hand recollections. Dr. Kissinger appears fairly — he appears from time to time. I don’t want to say “fairly regularly,” but he’s been in the White House, as have Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton and any number of people, in contrast to those who say the administration sort of puts on blinders and puts wax in its ears. Dr. Kissinger comes in quite often — it’s when he disagrees with the administration on policy. He told me, what’s the purpose of coming here when I already agree.
Q Did he urge the President to stay the course?
MR. SNOW: The President — no, stay the — I’ll tell you what —
Q Stick it out, I think were his words.
MR. SNOW: No, I didn’t ask him about the phrase. I’ll tell you what he told me, and I’ll just repeat it that way. He said that he supports the overall thrust and direction of the administration policy.
Karl Loves Jack
Q Did Karl Rove run afoul of any White House ethics policies when he went to a basketball game with Jack Abramoff?
MR. SNOW: According to Karl — and, again, we’re still looking through all this — he paid for any and all tickets. If you pay for a ticket, and you have a pre-existing social relationship, as everybody in this room knows, the pre-existing social relationship rules. But as I said on Friday, we are looking very carefully through all of it.
I don’t want to be presumptuous about doing it — the laws are actually fairly complex in sorting through this stuff, and the Office of Legal Counsel and others have taken a good, hard look.
Q But even if he paid for it, he was using one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington like a valet service — here, I’ll go get you some tickets. I mean, is that permissible?
MR. SNOW: Again, what the characterization — he was using it as a “valet service” — that’s colorful, that’s good, that’s really good.
Q Tony, much has been made about President Bush’s relationship with Prince Bandar, who was the former Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, in the book, specifically saying that it was his father who recruited him to act as some sort of advisor, quoting the President, telling him, “I don’t have” —
MR. SNOW: You mean, President Bush 41, who had recruited Bandar to be an advisor?
Q Yes, that’s what Woodward alleges, saying that Bush said, “I don’t have the foggiest idea about what I think about international foreign policy; my dad told me before I make up my mind, go and talk to Bandar.” What is the relationship, what — does that sound accurate? Is that true that he acted as some sort of advisor?
MR. SNOW: Prince Bandar, for a considerable period of time, was the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, and would obviously be somebody with whom one would have a conversation, and to that extent, would be an advisor just as Prince Turki, who is now the Ambassador to the United States, and would be considered an advisor as well. We had the Ambassador of Turkey in today. We have ambassadors in all the time. So it’s not unusual at an ambassadorial level to do that.
But, again, the quote has been cobbled together in such a way as to make it sound like the President just fell off the turnip truck, and this is a President who has been deeply engaged, and very smart about the people he’s dealing with, and also tries to be just as realistic in his assessments of foreign heads of state and others in trying to form judgments, not merely of their positions and their history, but also their character.
No to Oversight
Q I wanted to follow up with one other thing. You were talking about having to try to make the highest ethical standards in the executive branch. In the past couple of weeks, you know that individual overseers — whether it’s IGs or the House Government Reform Committee — have indicated that in four, at least four separate executive departments there have been problems with conflicts of interest in grant-making. My question is, is the White House, is the Chief of Staff concerned enough about the performance in the executive branch that this is a maybe endemic problem, that there needs to be some more oversight at the White House level of what the executive branch is doing?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know, but I doubt it.