In today’s gagglea simple question from Helen…
Q Is the President contemplating a way out of Iraq?
MR. SNOW: The way out of Iraq is to have an Iraq that can sustain, govern, and defend itself, to be an ally in the war on terror and also an example to the region that democracy can succeed. So that is the way out.
Q Does he really think he can achieve such a thing?
MR. SNOW: He believes the Iraqi people can achieve it, and it is our goal to help them develop the capacity to do so.
…Leads to yet another examination of the Assministration’s credibility.
Q So if everybody in Washington and people in the country who are somewhat awaiting this report in a breathless manner as if this is going to be the beginning of the age of course correction — it sounds like what you’re suggesting is no major course correction.
Q — and after these two or three or four reviews that are coming in, there are a lot of Americans saying, I suspect we’re going to embark on a different course in Iraq. That may be unfounded thinking by those people.
MR. SNOW: I just — I don’t know. I would discourage you from trying to leap to preemptory conclusions about what’s going to happen. There’s a review underway. It is obvious, as the President has said, that we’re not doing well enough fast enough. And so you need to find better ways of pursuing the goals of that Iraq that can govern, sustain and defend itself.
When are “winning” and “not winning” the same?
Q Can I just also come back to what Steve was asking about. Gates was asked an up or down question, is the United States winning —
MR. SNOW: Right, and then he was asked a follow-up question, as well.
Q Yes, I understand that. But he did say — “Are we winning?” His answer was, “No.” The last time the President was asked, it was, “Absolutely, yes.”
MR. SNOW: What I would suggest is, number one, I know that you want to pit a fight between Bob Gates and the President. It doesn’t exist. Read the full testimony and you’ll see.
Q If the President were asked that same question today, would he say, absolutely, yes?
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to tell you what the President would say, but you can look at the President’s answer and you can look at Bob Gates. What I would also suggest, though, is you take a look at the Gates testimony, and you see if that’s consistent with what we’ve been talking about, because what you’re going to try to take is that one little question, rather than taking a fuller look at —
Q These are questions that Americans typically ask.
Q Does the President today believe that we are winning in Iraq? It’s a very straightforward question.
MR. SNOW: I know, but I did not ask him the question today. The most recently asked, he said, “yes.”
Q Okay, so that might change from day to day. So it may have changed —
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t —
Q — he may no longer believe that we’re winning the war in Iraq. You don’t know.
MR. SNOW: I have no reason to think it changed, but also, again, go back and take a look at the broader answer that Bob Gates gave and ask yourself, is this consistent or inconsistent with what the President has been saying? I think you’re going to find it’s very consistent.
Q Why is it consistent if he said — he said we’re neither winning, nor losing. He didn’t say we were winning.
MR. SNOW: Then he proceeded to talk about the very challenges the President has been discussing in terms of developing capability on the Iraqi side of an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself. So what you may have are two guys who are looking at different definitions. I don’t know. I don’t want to try to read their minds. But what I do think is important in taking a full look at what Bob Gates was doing is then to take a look at when he started drilling down. What did he talk about? Precisely the same things that the President has been discussing for weeks and weeks and weeks.
Q Even though it was precisely the same thing, he said, we are not winning, and —
MR. SNOW: No, he said — I believe the answer was, either “yes, sir,” or “no, sir.”
Q And then he went into the fact that “but we’re not losing.” But this administration has said we are winning. Leading up to the midterm elections, President Bush was asked pointedly at his press conference, are we winning? He said, yes, we’re winning, and he went on to explain why. He explained why we’re not winning. You from this podium said —
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t believe — what Bob Gates — I don’t believe that Bob Gates said that we were —
Q He supported his statement. And you from that —
MR. SNOW: But how did he support it? Did he support the statement by saying anything that was inconsistent with what the President has said? And I don’t think he did.
Q But his statement is inconsistent with what the administration says. The President has said, we are winning. You from that podium said, we’re winning —
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q — but we haven’t won.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q He said — he agreed that we are not winning. So how is that consistent —
MR. SNOW: And he also said we’re not losing.
Q But how is that consistent? The President never said, we’re not losing. How is that consistent?
MR. SNOW: Because — okay, because they may have — I don’t know what the definitions are, April. That’s why, I think, if you want guidance, you take a look at the broader. If you want to take a look at one question or two questions asked by senators and ignore the bulk of hours of public testimony, you are free to do so. But if you want to try to get a nuance to full understanding of where Bob Gates stands on these issues with regard to the President and his policies and the definition of what it is to win in Iraq and what it takes, then I think you’re going to find that there is — that he agrees and also that he is committed to the mission. That’s what the bulk of today is about.
Why Does Bob Gates Hate Our Troops?
Q Tony, do you think it’s demoralizing for the man who, if confirmed, will be the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon to say to troops out in the field who hear this that America is not winning the war?
MR. SNOW: No, because, again, I’d ask you to do something that would be fair to the troops, which is to look at the full testimony.
Q He was asked point-blank twice by two U.S. senators — he was asked by Senator Levin —
MR. SNOW: I understand that —
Q He was asked the question, is America winning the war? He answer was, “No, sir.” He was asked by another Senator, he was asked by John McCain, do you agree with that statement that you made earlier? His answer was, yes. It’s point-blank. It’s yes or no. He said, no —
MR. SNOW: And then he was also — he was also —
Q My question is, do you think it’s demoralizing to the troops out in the field to hear that from the man —
MR. SNOW: What I think is demoralizing is a constant effort to try to portray this as a losing mission. You know what you ought to do? You ought to talk to some of the troops when they come back. Give them a call. I think you’ll find that they are committed to the mission, and furthermore, you will find that Bob Gates, in his testimony today, did nothing to give the indication that he lacks confidence in either the mission or the people conducting it.
Q But troops haven’t heard their Secretary of Defense, or the man who will become Secretary of Defense, ever say, we are losing the war.
MR. SNOW: He also said we’re not winning the war. And then he proceeded to talk about what it takes. Ask yourself again — you want to know if it’s demoralizing? Ask them. I think what they — you know what’s interesting, because what comes back a lot of times is they say, we’re tired of getting press reports that have a constant failure narrative and never talk about what we’re achieving in the field.
And Now, Your Daily Les
Q Tony, one two-part question. I’d like to ask a question about an issue which was at the top of page one of The Washington Post yesterday. Since the President is known to be deeply concerned about religion, and he worships regularly at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, does that parish agree with his support of marriage as one man, one woman, or do they support the Episcopal sodomist marriage movement, which was on page one of The Washington Post?
MR. SNOW: Now you’re trying to get the President into ecclesiastical disputes.
Q I just want to know how —
MR. SNOW: Is that — you stated a position. Is that what they call it?
Q Don’t you think it’s sodomy?
MR. SNOW: I’m just asking you, is that what they call it, Les?
Q Well, yes, I think it’s described as Sodom and Gomorrah.
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to — much to the disappointment of your listeners, I am not going to play on that one. Let’s hear part two. (Laughter.)
Q You can assure us, can’t you, that if a majority of Episcopal bishops voted in favor of adultery, as they have for sodomy, the President would oppose that, as well, wouldn’t he?
MR. SNOW: Oh, my. April, bail me out right now. (Laughter.)
Q I’m not going to bail you out —
Q You’re in trouble if April has to bail you out.
MR. SNOW: How am I going to dodge — that falls into the unworthy category.