In today’s gaggle The Decider doesn’t care what you think.
Q The President has also said repeatedly in the past that he will pursue a policy even if it’s unpopular, even if it’s sort of not held by the majority, is not a shared majority opinion. Does that still hold, as far as the way forward in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Holden, you know, what the President is — let me put it this way: The President is committed to an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself and be an ally in the war on terror — that also the goal outlined by the Baker-Hamilton commission. And I think it’s probably shared by a majority of members of Congress. So the question now comes, how do you do it, how do you move forward. And I’m not aware that there is widespread discontent with those as goals. I just haven’t done the polling.
Q I did want to follow up on the specific poll that CBS has just done, our latest poll. And it’s one item, but there’s several.
Q “Should the U.S. set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq?” Fifty-seven percent say, yes, that the U.S. should set a timetable for withdrawing troops. So I —
MR. SNOW: Well, I think the President has made it clear that you do things based on conditions. The President does want to withdraw troops, but you know what —
Q But he’s clearly ruled out a timetable.
MR. SNOW: Jim, as I said in response to Terry’s questions, I’ll let the President announce where he stands on these things when he is prepared to deliver his remarks on the way forward.
He’s Listening To The Same Old Losers
Q Can you give us a sense, when you’re looking at this and the President says he wants to take a fresh look at this, it seems that the same people who’ve been running the war and who’ve been making policy for the last three or four years are the same people who he’s relying on to take this look at it.
MR. SNOW: In substantial portion, that is correct, but on the other hand, you’ve had outside critics in. You have the Baker-Hamilton commission. None of those people were direct stakeholders in what took place. And furthermore —
Q Right, but he’s doing his own look, and that would be largely that —
MR. SNOW: But it’s also — look, it’s not also as if these folks just sort of sat around and stared blankly in a room and said, well gosh, we’ve been doing this, we don’t have any new ideas. They, themselves, have also had conversations with a number of others, and they’ve been soliciting ideas so that they can think of creative ways and effective ways of moving forward toward that goal.
Warning: Propaganda Change Ahead
Q Tony, today the President said that Iraq is the central component in stopping extremists. Has he dropped saying it’s the central front in the war on terror? Because he didn’t mention that.
MR. SNOW: No. Allow him to vary the phraseology from time to time. It does not mean any change in view.
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Q Okay. Republican Senator Gordon Smith, last week, said, “Our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day, it’s absurd. It may even be criminal,” and that he can no longer support this. What is your reaction to a Republican senator saying that what’s going on right now in Iraq is criminal?
MR. SNOW: Well, we dispute the “criminal” part, obviously, and at the same time, understand the senator’s concern. We share the concern about not doing well enough fast enough.
Q Republican Senator Smith is challenging the strategy. What he basically said yesterday, as well, was, when you do the same thing over and over again without a clear strategy for victory, that is dereliction, that is deeply immoral. Such is the dispute. He’s saying what the President is doing is immoral.
MR. SNOW: Well, then we disagree.
Q Tony, first of all, the —
Q You’re just going to blow it off? A Republican senator is saying the President’s policy may be criminal and it’s immoral, and you’re just saying, we just disagree?
MR. SNOW: And what would you like me to say? Should I do duels at 10 paces?
Q Don’t you think you should answer for that? You’re saying — you’ve said from this podium over and over that the strategy is a victory, right? And you have a Republican senator is saying there is no clear strategy, that you don’t have a strategy.
MR. SNOW: Well, let’s let Senator Smith hear what the President has to say. We understand that this is a time where politics are emotional in the wake of an election. And you know what? Senator Smith is entitled to his opinion. But I’m not sure exactly what you would like —
Q Well, how about answering the central thrust about the strategy, not about, like, politics —
MR. SNOW: Okay, the strategy is pretty simple. If you take a look, for instance — if you take a look at the Baker-Hamilton commission report, what do they talk about? They talk about building greater capability on the part of the Iraqis so that you can have an Iraqi government that governs itself, sustains itself, defends itself, who’s ally in the war on terror is a democracy.
I don’t think it’s immoral to be a democracy. I don’t think it’s immoral to have a state that is able to stand up and defend itself against acts of terror. I don’t think it’s immoral to defend the Iraqi people against acts of terrorism aimed at Muslims.
Q The Senator is not saying that’s immoral. He’s saying that the U.S. — he’s saying, of course democracy is a great goal —
MR. SNOW: You know what, Ed? Ed, I’ll tell you what. You’re engaging in an argument and you’re trying to fill in the gaps in a —
Q It’s not an argument. It’s a Republican senator saying it, not me. It’s a Republican senator saying it, and he’s not —
MR. SNOW: Then tell me exactly what —
Q — of course he’s in favor of democracy.
MR. SNOW: Tell me —
Q Are you saying Republican Senator Smith is not in favor of democracy?
MR. SNOW: Well, I don’t know. You just said he said it’s immoral; when I listed the elements of the policy, you said that’s not what he was talking about. So please tell me what he was talking about.
Q He’s saying that day after day, that now U.S. soldiers are patrolling the same streets, that they’re caught up in the middle of a civil war — not about the government there —
MR. SNOW: Okay, here’s what’s immoral: the killing of American soldiers. We agree.
Q All right, no —
MR. SNOW: Look, you’re trying to engage me in a debate, the particulars of which I apparently am unaware and can’t find.