Pony Blow is back, andHelen Thomas is all over him.
Q Does the President owe the Democrats an apology for saying that the terrorists — that they will appease the terrorists?
MR. SNOW: No. Let’s take — you know what’s interesting, Helen, and I’ve said this before —
Q How bellicose was Holden?
MR. SNOW: I don’t think it’s bellicose. Look, let’s listen to what the Democrats — or let’s think about what Democrats are doing in this election campaign. When it comes to winning the war on terror, what is their plan? They’ve not said. They have talked about withdrawal —
Q — 101 in Iraq —
MR. SNOW: — they’ve talked about a whole series of things, in terms of complaining — looking back over their shoulders and complaining about past decisions. But when it comes to the key issue, how do you achieve victory — they say they want to achieve it, but they won’t tell you how. They will tell you what they oppose what the President is doing. They oppose the Patriot Act; they have opposed the Terrorist Surveillance Program; they oppose the program by which we detain, question and bring to justice the worst of the terrorists. So they have opposed all of those things, so we know what they oppose, but we don’t know what they’re going to do.
Q How does the President propose to win? How does the President — 101 in October dying —
MR. SNOW: The President understands that it is difficult. This is a man who signs each and every condolence note. He is absolutely aware of the human cost. And he grieves for every family and every person that we’ve lost. But on the other hand, he also knows two things. First, as General Casey said last week, there is not a single military engagement that we have not won, and we don’t give our soldiers credit for that.
Helen, you and I have been students of the region long enough to know that everybody is watching — everybody is watching. And the way they see it in the region is either terrorists win or democracy wins. And the President is absolutely determined that democracy wins.
Maliki Calling the Shots
Q How would you judge the Maliki government’s decision to remove the checkpoints in the al Sadr neighborhood in Baghdad, which, as you know, is a very troubled place where the militia of Muqtada al Sadr is viewed as having more strength than perhaps the U.S. forces and the Iraqi forces? Is that not a setback today?
MR. SNOW: No, because, again, checkpoints — to deal with checkpoints does not necessarily change the situation in terms of how you deal with Sadr City. The Prime Minister has also said on a number of occasions, if you look at Sadr City, in his opinion, 90 to 95 percent are people who support the mission and they’re opposed to terrorism. And so he has also said that the Iraqis, themselves, are going to be most capable of gathering intelligence going after them.
Q Tony, more on this non-rift with Maliki.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q How can you say there’s not a rift at all? I mean, that’s the impression you’re leaving — when, as Kelly points out, he has one opinion about how to conduct operations in Sadr City, U.S. commanders have another opinion about how to conduct operations in Sadr City — why is that not a rift?
MR. SNOW: Because — is every time somebody has a discussion about how best to proceed, is that a rift, or is that a — actually, a discussion about how best to proceed? I mean, I think what you’re trying to do —
Q Well, it’s words, not actions. I mean, are his actions what you want?
MR. SNOW: Yes, his actions — again, the Prime Minister, if you take a look at what he’s been doing, he’s been very assertive and aggressive. For instance, I’ve already mentioned a number of times the demobilization of a Shia police battalion —
Q I understand that, but I’m going to go back to a question I’ve had in the past — are you completely satisfied with what Mr. Maliki is doing as far as actions in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Look, what do you mean by completely satisfied? Every single act at every single time —
Q Well, you say there’s no rift —
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to get into the rift creation business. As you understand and the President said, and President Maliki understands, there may be times when, on small details — this is the Prime Minister’s words — on details they may disagree. But on the overall plan for proceeding and how they do it, they do agree. Now, there are going to be times when they disagree on particular actions. For instance, last week, when you had the strike in Sadr City, which he had approved of, which he had known about, but he was not informed at the time that the action took place — he was unhappy, and he should have been. It wasn’t a rift, but it was one of those things where you work together and you try to fix it.
Q So he gets final word? I know it’s a sovereign nation. If the military decides they want to put checkpoints up in Sadr City to make things better for the people of Sadr City, but Maliki says, no, no, no — it’s his final decision?
MR. SNOW: No, you operate cooperatively. As you know, under the U.N. agreement right now, the multinational forces in Iraq make military decisions. But they’re certainly going to do those in concert with Prime Minister Maliki.
Q That’s not a military decision, is it?
MR. SNOW: That’s a military decision, but I’m not aware that people have dug in their heels on it.
Appologies Are For Democrats Only
Q You said earlier in response to Bret’s question that you thought Senator Kerry should apologize to troops.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q I wondered, do you have the same feeling about — in Illinois, when Pete Roscam told Tammy Duckworth, who, as you know, had lost her legs in Iraq, that she would cut and run from Iraq, and then apologized when he realized that she physically couldn’t run? Should he apologize to her? And should — in Pennsylvania, when Sherwood told Chris Carney, who had worked, as you know, in the Pentagon pre-war, that he had helped make a false case for war, directly criticizing his military service — should Sherwood and should Roscam also apologize?
MR. SNOW: What you’re trying to do on the Tammy Duckworth case — and first, the President thanks everybody who served, and that would include Tammy Duckworth. What you’re doing is you’re trying to take a common figure of speech and twist it into a personal insult, and I don’t think it fits in that case. And I don’t know about the Sherwood thing. I mean I just can’t help you with that.
Pony Gets Testy When Called On His Bullshit
Q Does the President have a feeling about the Michael J. Fox ad, which has been so much in the news in that race and in others?
MR. SNOW: No, I have not heard him talk about it. But it’s interesting, let’s make a couple of important points when it comes to stem cell research. Any stem cell research that takes place in the United States today is a result of a decision the President made in 2001, to be the first to make available 60 then-existing stem cell lines involving embryonic stem cells.
Q — going to talk about the record, I would say that those 60 lines didn’t materialize.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, at least 21 of them are involved in active research right now, and you know it.
What Is The President’s Plan?
Q Tony, let me just ask your plan about this idea of — I believe it was called withdrawal without assurance of victory in Iraq, which I think was the summary of the Democrats’ position. And it gets back to this notion of this being a referendum, because isn’t what the President putting forward — is to stay without an assurance of victory in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, it’s to stay with a determination of victory.
Q There’s no assurance of victory in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Well, Jim, are you saying that you don’t think our troops are going to be able to complete the job?
Q I’m not saying — it doesn’t matter what I’m saying. It only matters what you folks are saying.
MR. SNOW: Okay, here’s — let me put it this way. If you’d asked the same question in World War II, people would have looked at you like you were crazy, because even when times looked toughest, there was a national determination to win. And there is a national determination to win in Iraq. And so the assurance I’m giving you is based on the quality and determination not only of U.S. forces, but also the Iraqis who are fighting with them. And the question is not if, but when.
Q But why isn’t it a fair reading of this, if the President is going to throw the idea out that what Democrats are doing is advocating leaving without an assurance of victory, why isn’t it a fair reading of the situation to say, on one hand, you have leaving without assurance, and on the other hand, you have staying without an assurance?
MR. SNOW: Because to leave is to create a vacuum and there is really not much doubt of what the result is going to be. To stay, with victory as your determination, ensures that you’re going to have the ability over time to do what you want to achieve. It seems to me that you’re trying to draw — let me get to the back rows a little bit first, and then we’ll get back up here.
Q When you were talking to Jim about assurance, the Democrats don’t have assurance of victory, that implies you can assure victor in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way. The President is confident of victory. Look, in a time of war — I love this. Would you have asked, would somebody have said, Lincoln, will you assure victory; Roosevelt, will you assure victory?
Q You just said the Democrats can’t assure victory.
MR. SNOW: No, what I’m saying is the Democrats — by saying that their primary mission is to withdraw from Iraq without an assurance of victory means that you set in place conditions that could create absolute chaos in the region and around the world.
Q Well, we’ve also been through many times that the assurances from the administration at the very beginning of the war were that it would be — we’d be greeted as liberators in Iraq, that it would be almost a cake walk, and that didn’t turn out to be true. Isn’t that why people have questions about your assurances now? You’re assurances at the beginning of the war have not come true.
MR. SNOW: Let me make the point again. If you leave without victory, you create conditions for defeat. If you stay and you’re determined to win — I’ll let you ask the question. Have some of your guys in Baghdad ask our forces, do you think you’re going to be able to finish the job? My guess is their answer is going to be, yes.
And Now, Your Daily Les
Q Tony, two questions. On Sunday, Tim Russert asked Maryland’s Republican U.S. Senate nominee Michael Steele, are you running as a proud Bush Republican? Steele replied, and this is a quote, “I’m running as a proud Republican.” My question: What is the reaction of the head of the Republican Party to this deletion of him by nominee Steele, who had no such deletion regarding his endorsements by Don King and Mike Tyson?
MR. SNOW: What you — you forgot Russell Simmons. (Laughter.) You got to finish your endorsement. Look, I’ll tell you what — a couple of things. Number one, the President understands politics and he also wants Michael Steele to be the next senator from Maryland and he’s confident he’s going to be it. I’m campaigning for Michael tomorrow. So it’s not like we’re doing anything we can to hide our support for him.