In today’s gaggle we learn that Chimpy is a *gasp* liar.
Q I have a question about the Rumsfeld memo. At the time when he was saying to the President, in this memo, that things aren’t working in Iraq, the President was saying two things publicly: One, that we’re winning in Iraq, absolutely; and he was also lashing Democrats, saying that criticism was not a plan for Iraq, and that we — the administration — have a plan for victory in Iraq. So why wasn’t the President leveling with the American people?
MR. SNOW: Actually, at the time that this came —
Q Why wasn’t he saying publicly what top members of this administration who were running the war were saying privately?
MR. SNOW: Well, there are a couple of things. First, at that very time, he was actually saying, things are not getting well enough fast enough. That was a formulation he was using at the time. If you take a look at the Rumsfeld memo that was printed in The New York Times, what you end up having is what the President I think has made it clear that he wants, which are people thinking creatively and exhaustively about ways of getting better results in Iraq.
So I don’t think you’ve got a case where the President was saying one thing and advisors were saying another.
Q But doesn’t it strike you that at the same time that you and others in this administration were accusing the likes of John Murtha of cutting and running by suggesting redeployment of forces to the periphery of Iraq or to nearby Kuwait, that the Secretary of Defense is suggesting similar options?
MR. SNOW: What Mr. Murtha had suggested was — he was never quite that specific, and I think I’d let him speak for himself, but I believe when he came on “Meet the Press,” he was talking about redeploying to Okinawa. What you have in here is a description of possibly having forces —
Q But that’s not the — he talked about redeploying to Kuwait. You say you don’t want to talk more, but you’re not talking accurately.
MR. SNOW: No, here’s what he says, is, “You can withdraw forces from vulnerable positions — cities, patrolling, et cetera — and move forces to a quick reaction force status operating from within Iraq and Kuwait.” Now, it is one of many options that are described here. What it means is the administration is trying to take a look at every suggestion, as I think would be incumbent.
Q Wait a second. You’re not really answering the question. You’re trying to parse what Murtha’s position was.
MR. SNOW: No, I’m not —
Q Wait a second, let me just finish.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q Isn’t it striking that this administration was accusing the likes of John Murtha and other Democrats who suggested course correction, including phased withdrawal, of cutting and running —
MR. SNOW: No, let me —
Q — at the same time that the Defense Secretary was suggesting just the same option?
MR. SNOW: Holden.
Q You don’t see hypocrisy there?
MR. SNOW: No, because you’re talking about apples and oranges. If you take a look at —
MR. SNOW: Yes, really — because there is no suggestion in here that things be done without regard to developments on the ground. What the President has already said is, what you try to do is, obviously, we want U.S. forces to be withdrawing based on what is going on, on the ground in Iraq. And there is still a significant difference.
Q So this White House is playing it straight with the American people?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Can The President Even Say The Word “Duplicitous”?
Q Rumsfeld says in the memo, advising the President, “announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis.”
MR. SNOW: That’s one of the options.
Q Right, this will give the U.S. the “ability to readjust and move to another force, if necessary, and therefore, not to lose.”
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Does the President typically get this kind of advice from Rumsfeld, to do one thing, but tell the American people he’s doing something else?
MR. SNOW: No. Again, if you take a look at this, this is illustrative options and this covers a whole lot of ground. And the President can sort through it. I think Secretary Rumsfeld was musing, but you’ll have to ask Secretary Rumsfeld what he had in mind.
Q You don’t see this as duplicitous in any way?
MR. SNOW: You know, I’ll let you characterize it. What he was doing was laying out options.
Q Well, how does the White House characterize it? To say to tell the American people one thing and to do another —
MR. SNOW: Well, the White House characterizes it —
Q — how is that not duplicitous?
MR. SNOW: Again, if you take a look — Suzanne, you read through every one of these, correct?
MR. SNOW: And you understand that there are a whole series of options, some of which probably reflect the thinking of Secretary Rumsfeld and probably some of which don’t; correct? And you understand that these are options that may represent the views, including of people on Capitol Hill, Democrats with whom he may disagree. These are not recommendations. These are options.
Q But the option — just listen to the language of the option — “announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis.” Is he suggesting that whatever the approach is, we’re going to call it one thing, but it’s another? Is that —
MR. SNOW: No — I will let the words speak for themselves, because, honestly, I have not spoken with the Defense Secretary about what he meant by specific bullet points on this and, therefore, I’m going to have to leave it to him.
Islamofascist In Da Hisizzle!
Q Tony, I’d like to follow up on the al Hakim meeting, if I can, for just a second.
MR. SNOW: Yes, sure.
Q U.S. intelligence and military sources have him intimately connected to death squads, he is closely tied to Iran —
MR. SNOW: “Intimately connected” with death squads? In what sense?
Q Well, that he was responsible for the —
MR. SNOW: That he was giving orders?
Q Yes, it could be giving of — when death squads began to emerge, there are intelligence sources that say he was if not running the show, very closely connected with the policy of implementing it. So that’s number one. Number two, he’s closely tied to Iran. So what’s a guy like this doing in the Oval Office?
MR. SNOW: Well, there are a couple of things — and we addressed the Iran question in the gaggle this morning. This is a man who spent 20 years in Iran when Saddam Hussein was in power, but he’s also made it clear that he sees himself as an Iraqi leader, not somebody who is beholden to Iran.
He leads a parliamentary bloc that includes 128 members of the Iraqi parliament.
He is a significant force in Iraqi politics, and he’s somebody who can play a very constructive role, and we hope he will.
Q But you’re comfortable with the guy you’re having a discussion with today not being another militia leader? You’re not talking to him because he’s a rival of Sadr? And you’re comfortable that he is not involved with the death squads in —
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to get up here and characterize intelligence. I’m going to tell you that militias continue to be a concern, and we share Prime Minister Maliki’s view that there should not be armed organizations outside the government itself. That would include militias. We don’t think militias are proper.
Helen Brings Us Back To Reality
Q Ten Americans were killed Sunday in Iraq, or on the weekend. Is there any impact on the President? Does it affect him at all that there’s a growing consensus in Iraq and America to get out now?
MR. SNOW: Well, it’s interesting — I don’t know if there’s a growing — what we hear from the Iraqis is, we want to have the capability so that the Iraqi security forces can assume the lead. And it is also the case that they say that they need more. And we are working with them —
Q You’re hearing that from people who want to stay in power, believe me —
MR. SNOW: No, wait, look —
Q — not the people.
MR. SNOW: I don’t know, Helen. It’s very difficult.
Q The —
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, let me back up. The President is somebody, as I’ve said many times, and you’ve seen it, who grieves the loss of anybody over there, and this is not something where, as Commander-in-Chief, he wants anything other than success and to bring everybody home safely.
On the other hand, this is a mission where we will and we must succeed. And the President understands the difficulties of war, and he also understands the toll it takes on a public. But as you’ve heard him say many times, if you look at this — what’s going on in Iraq, and if the United States leaves, it creates an even greater opportunity for terrorists to kill Americans, to kill people around the globe, and to spread oppression, then we not only will have created — we not only will have left things in a position where we’re going to have to go back, we also will simply have stepped away when we knew we had an opportunity to stop terror before the terror network was able to get access —
Q They’re not operating in Iraq. It’s, really, the people are against our presence.
MR. SNOW: People don’t want — let me put it this way: The Iraqi government has said many times that they want to be able to assume responsibility as soon as possible, and we want them to do it, too. We want American forces back as soon as possible, under the proper conditions, and I think Iraqis agree. What we hear a lot from Iraqis is, we do want you to go, but don’t go until the conditions are right. And we agree.
Aren’t We Already Training Iraqis?
Q One of the things we heard last week was about speeding up the training of the Iraqis and how that was going to take place. Why wasn’t it already going full-speed ahead, given that they —
MR. SNOW: Well, it was. But we’re also trying to build increased capability in terms of embeds. And also you look at the Rumsfeld memo, there are also maybe new ideas of figuring out not merely embedding American forces with Iraqis, but Iraqis with American. I think people are looking for ways to try to do this. Also, there has been training of the trainers taking place, and that will continue to go forward.
Q So was that not happening before?
MR. SNOW: It was happening before. And it has been something — if you go back and look through transcripts, we’ve been talking about this for quite a while. But we do want to try to figure out how to accelerate it, so that means trying to get more people in a position where they’re going — capably — not merely to be training Iraqi security forces, but also — and this continues to be an area of concern, and it’s one where we’ve gotten some help from allies — the police forces. Because the police forces have, as you know, been a source of concern, will continue to be. So there’s training going on, on both of those fronts.
Putting the “Suck” in “Success”
Q How about one on Bolton?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Isn’t this an example of the system working exactly as it should? There are enough senators who didn’t like his performance, who didn’t want him in place. They were able to block him.
MR. SNOW: Well, Ken asked that question this morning. I suppose if you decided that you wanted to shut down the government because you just didn’t — regardless of the success or failure of the person, you wanted to make a point to the other side, that could be seen as “a success of the system.” Procedurally, it’s how the system works.
But the American people are going to ask themselves, do we really want a system where a guy has gone through and he has led successful diplomatic efforts in dealing with North Korea, in dealing with Iraq, in dealing with Lebanon, in dealing with Darfur, and has managed — has been a highly capable, competent and effective and sometimes very creative diplomat working with other countries, building large coalitions, as well as coalitions within the U.N. Security Council, people are going to say, why didn’t that guy — they didn’t like him, why?
Q Where’s the success in Darfur, North Korea, Iran?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me put this way, Wendell: Before you did not have — as far as the six parties — the Chinese and the South Koreans taking the kinds of positions they have had. When it comes to Iran, you did not have the kinds of coalitions — including the Russians — working with us on Iran. When it came to Darfur, the United Nations itself was not willing to step up. Now there is United Nations participation.
Q But success means — Tony —
MR. SNOW: Go ahead, April.
Q But success for Bolton, wouldn’t that constitute the fact that there are solutions to these situations, not just movement on the measuring stick, but total success in the direction of Darfur?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me put it this way, April: I don’t know if anybody knows the solution to success in anything, whether it be television ratings or anything else. It’s a very complex world out there. So what you end up doing is you try to put together — you’re not going to have success in the form of a resolution.
Q Has this administration changed the definition of success?
MR. SNOW: No. Have you? What is — what is your definition of diplomatic success?
Q I’m listening to what you’re saying here and then going back a couple of weeks ago, when you said, “We’re winning but we haven’t won.” And now you’re saying, what is it, we’re more assertive, we’ve coordinated diplomacy —
MR. SNOW: I didn’t want to use the word “robust” again.
MR. SNOW: “Doonesbury” is going to beat me up again. (Laughter.)
Q Okay, all right. But the definition, it seems like you’re re-crafting how a win is perceived, how success is —
MR. SNOW: No, we’re talking about diplomacy, April. We’re talking about diplomacy. We’re talking about the limited horizon within which the United Nations can operate. And within that horizon, John Bolton was highly successful. I would argue during his tenure there — I would guess that if you asked people going in, especially those who’ve been skeptical, whether he had achieved one, let alone all of these things, they probably would have told you, no.
And Now, Your Daily Les
Q The Washington Post published —
MR. SNOW: The Ho Chi Minh pictures —
Q Yes. And I’m just wondering they also had a letter from Anne Jacoby, the wife of an Army officer who served in Vietnam, saying she was horrified to see the President smiling as he stood up there, which was disrespectful of those Americans who served so bravely against hideous atrocities sanctioned by Ho Chi Minh. And my question, she asked, where were the President’s advisors when he was allowed to be seen in that photo op?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me just — I don’t want to pick a fight with Ms. Jacoby, so I will not. But the President was meeting with the elected leaders in Vietnam in their chambers, each of which featured some statuary that involved Ho Chi Minh.
The other thing I would point to Ms. Jacoby is she would have been moved by the fact that tens of thousands in Saigon, and maybe hundreds of thousands in Saigon, and at least tens of thousands in Hanoi lined the streets when the President came. This is a country that loves Americans, that is eager for free markets, and for closer contacts with the United States of America. And that, in fact, what has happened — I forget who did it, but somebody wrote an op-ed piece saying, the United States won. And in a sense, if you take a look at the battle between communism and free markets, you’re going to find that the desire for freedom and entrepreneurship is very strong in Vietnam. And those of you who were on the trip, saw pretty good evidence of it.