Intoday’s gaggle we learn that Pony had to cancel the White House subscription toNewsweek.
Q Next question for you. I saw a Newsweek cover story — you see it all over the place — that somehow all these veterans of Bush 41 are coming in and rescuing Bush 43.
MR. SNOW: Holden a veteran of Bush 41, I don’t think that’s the proper way to look at this. I mean, look, I know that it’s one of these things where people think that the President — let me just — rather than trying even to get into characterizing it, no.
Q Has he directly or indirectly — President Bush 41 —
Q What’s “no”? What do you mean, “no”?
MR. SNOW: No, this is not a — this is not bringing in people willy-nilly from the President’s administration “to save him.” Wrong.
Q And has the President — 41 — either directly or indirectly offered his advice to his son that perhaps people like Eagleburger or Secretary Baker or anybody else be involved and should be listened to?
MR. SNOW: I have absolutely no idea. But keep in mind, you just mentioned Secretary Baker and Secretary Eagleburger — they are part of a congressionally-appointed committee.
Q Gates — Dr. Gates?
MR. SNOW: The President picked Bob Gates because he figured that he would be an effective Secretary of Defense, a sentiment that’s been echoed by people at the Pentagon and in both parties on Capitol Hill. He picked a guy that he thought would be able to do the job.
How’s that Strategy for Vicoty thing working out?
Q But you still think your strategy for victory is working?
MR. SNOW: The strategy for victory is working, but the strategy for victory also, as the President said and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, we’re not — it’s not getting better fast enough. And so you need to find ways, militarily and otherwise, to try to improve the situation.
[And Later… ]
Q Tony, with all the changes going on right now, and the President admitting that he’s not happy with the situation in Iraq, can this White House still stand by the statement that we are winning in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: The fact is, April, we would like progress to be moving more quickly. That’s obvious. But on the other hand, when you see what has been going on with the Prime Minister stepping up and assuming more responsibility, working now, shaking up the government, because he also wants to get better results, the fact is, yes, you’re moving forward on this. And in the failure narrative that quite often gets written is one that, as you know, has been deeply distressing to many of the men and women who are fighting over there because they at least have a different picture. Some of it has been portrayed in recent days in press reports.
But this is hard. It’s a war. And there are going to be time when you have a great deal of motion in the direction of victory, and there are going to be times when you have setbacks. And there’s just no way to get around it.
Q You’re not saying victory just for the sake of keeping morale up? You’re saying victory because we are winning?
MR. SNOW: We’re saying victory because we are — we are winning, but on the other hand, we have not won.
Chimpy refuses to listen to any Democratic proposals on Iraq.
Q Tony, I guess sometime last month we were talking about what might be on the table as far as solutions in Iraq, and you had ruled out a phased withdrawal and a partition. I was wondering, A, if either of those came up this morning? And, B, are they still off the table as a possibility?
MR. SNOW: Number one, I can’t tell you any further what went on, other than what the President has said. But this was not a time — this was not proposal shopping by the Iraq Study Group.
Q So when Carl Levin says “four to six months,” I’d like to see troops start coming home?
MR. SNOW: I think what you need to do is to ask Democratic leaders who are now grappling with the fact that they’re going to have real responsibilities. The New York Times said over the weekend, its slogans. Now what you have to do is to have firm proposals for dealing with what’s going on. Senator Levin and others have made comments, but at this point, I don’t think anything has gotten to the proposal stage. We are happy to take a look at anything that will achieve the goal that we’ve talked about, which is an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself, to be an ally in the war on terror.
Q Tony, wait a second. You’re casting this off as slogans, quoting The New York Times. There’s a serious idea on the table. It’s not just Carl Levin’s, it is others within the Democratic Party. It is a serious idea. It’s one that presumably the Iraq Study Group is studying, and that is the notion of a phased withdrawal with some benchmarks. Is the President opposed to that, or supportive of that?
MR. SNOW: Like I said, as I said — what are the benchmarks?
Q I’m asking you a question —
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, I just made the point that what you have is something that’s nonspecific. So what are the benchmarks? If you — see, this is why I’m not going to answer the question as you framed it.
Q I’m asking you a direct question, which is —
MR. SNOW: No, I’m giving you a direct — let me do it and then you can come back at me, okay?
Q No, Tony, because you’re interrupting the thought. You’re asking me questions. I’m asking a direct question: There is an idea on the table that is not willy-nilly, that is not opaque, it is specific. It is the idea of phased troop withdrawal that Republicans and Democrats have referred to, that has behind it the notion of pressuring the Iraqi government. Yes, there are details to be worked out, but it is still a proposition that is a serious — oh, you can laugh. I mean, I don’t know how many people in the public think that’s a funny idea. The point is this is a serious point, and you either have a position, or you don’t. Is the position of the President that he has no position on it?
MR. SNOW: No, the position is — as I think I succeeded in making the point when I asked you what the benchmarks were and you said you didn’t know. You give me a proposal that’s got something to react to. If the conditions on the ground do not merit withdrawal, the answer is, no.
Pony Blow says Helen Thomas accused Our Troops of “Slaughter”. Guess he’s never heard of Haditha.
MR. SNOW: The policy is to create an Iraq where the Iraqis have the ability to sustain, govern, and defend themselves so that they can stand up, so that they will have a democracy that can stand on its own two legs, can defend itself, will have the support of its public, will have an economy that offers opportunity, will have security, will have the ability to demonstrate to terrorists once and for all that despite all their best shots, it just wasn’t going to work.
Q You concede that we didn’t go into Iraq for those reasons, don’t you? And do you think the election had anything to do with us wanting to get out?
MR. SNOW: You know, it’s interesting, Helen, if — there are some polls that I’ve seen referred to, but I haven’t seen today. I think — well, let me back up. If you ask Americans, do you want to win, my guess is, the answer is going to be yes.
Q No, it isn’t the point.
MR. SNOW: No, it is the point.
Q We went in for weapons —
MR. SNOW: No, you just asked — you just asked if we want to get out. The answer is yes, we want to get out when we win. That’s when we want to get out.
Q When we win — but what do we win? I mean, you’re going to have to —
MR. SNOW: What we win — well, I’ll tell you —
Q And how much slaughter? Every day we have slaughter.
MR. SNOW: Are you trying to place us in a morally equivalent position to the al Qaeda terrorists who deliberately are —
Q That’s not an argument.
MR. SNOW: Sure it is. No —
Q I’m not saying —
MR. SNOW: No, you’re accusing — are you accusing the Americans of slaughter? Who are you accusing of slaughter?
Q I’m not accusing — the best defense is offense. We understand your tactic here.
MR. SNOW: No, I’m just asking the question because you talked about slaughter, and it gave the impression that we’re engaged in slaughter.
Q Well, how many people are dying every day?
MR. SNOW: It depends on what the — does it not depend on — well, let me put it this way, Helen, when people are dying because of car bombs it illustrates the difficulty of the situation and the nature of the people we are fighting.
Q But isn’t our presence the cause of that?
MR. SNOW: No, no. As the President has pointed out many times, this stuff began long before September 11th. And, furthermore, it had been practiced throughout the Middle East long before September 11th. But these tactics —
Q In Iran?
MR. SNOW: And furthermore — no, in Iraq. That’s right. They’re trying — in Iraq you had a situation where you had a dictator who was contributing to the terror network, and who in the process was murdering hundreds of thousands of his own people.
Q But the President said there was no tie-in with the terrorists.
MR. SNOW: No, he said there was no tie-in with September 11th. There’s a difference.
When is “Open-Ended” Not “Open-Ended”?
Q Tony, back on Iraq, a couple of questions. First, in an interview yesterday, Carl Levin said, “The point of this is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over, and that they are going to have to solve their own problems.” Does the President believe that the United States needs to send a signal to the Iraqi government that the open-ended commitment is over?
MR. SNOW: No, because we’ve never had an open-ended commitment.
Q Our commitment now is not open-ended?
MR. SNOW: No, our commitment is to get to the point where we achieve victory.
Q But if the conditions on the ground never change, then it is an open-ended commitment.
MR. SNOW: Well, that’s an awfully dire prediction. Perhaps you — well, no, but that’s — I’m just telling you. As far as the Iraqis, we constantly — we’ve been working with Iraqis on security, we’ve been working with them on political reform, we’ve been working with them on economic reform. The fact is, the Iraqis know the importance of it. We’ve seen Prime Minister Maliki — it’s as if Prime Minister Maliki’s statements in the last few weeks have gone completely unnoticed.
And finally a Double-Dose of Your Daily Les.
Q Thank you, Tony. In the primary election in Connecticut, the Democratic Party, as you know, repudiated Senator Lieberman who went on to be the winner as an independent. And the Democratic Party did not even have a nominee for the U.S. Senate in Vermont. Yet, they are claiming these two winners helped them constitute a majority in the Senate. And my question, doesn’t the — doesn’t the President believe this Democrat’s claim everybody theory should and could be tested in court?
MR. SNOW: Lester, as you know, when it comes to the organization of Congress, people get to decide with whom they will caucus. And the indications are that Bernard Sanders and Joe Lieberman would caucus with Democrats. This is not something subject to court order, it is their personal choice.
Q Yes, but they were not Democrats. They did not win as Democrats, did they? How can the Democrats claim that they’ve got a majority if two of them were not elected as Democrats?
Q You’re a very funny man.
Q One follow up. The New York Post quoted the Democrats’ potential House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel as having claimed that “the Vice President is both nuts” and a phrase indicating male offspring of a female canine. (Laughter.) Will the President have no reaction if this kind of insulting of his Vice President continues on Ways and Means?
You don’t want to — it’s so horrifying what he said that you don’t want to respond?
MR. SNOW: No, the story is so old I was trying to remember what I’d said about it originally. It’s about a week and a half old, Les.
Q No, no, no, that was another insult that Rangel —
MR. SNOW: No, these — in any event, no, I’m not going to comment, but thank you.