Man, I love me some Helen.
Let’s have her open today’s gaggle, shall we?
Q Does the President Holden to leave this war for the next administration, as he has indicated? Or does he have any option to get out?
MR. SNOW: Helen, what the President has said is that the war on terror will continue. He has made no firm predictions because neither he, nor I know exactly when hostilities will cease in Iraq. But we hope that there will be an Iraqi government that stands up and has successfully fought back against forces of violence in its midst.
Q We’re the invader. Do you realize that?
MR. SNOW: Helen, we’ve engaged in this conversation a few times. The Iraqi people have made it clear that they think that America’s involvement in unseating Saddam Hussein was historic and liberating. The real tragedy is that there are people who are willing to kill by the thousands to prevent Iraq from becoming free. And I would —
Q How can they feel free when they’re under occupation?
MR. SNOW: I would warn against — I would warn against drawing moral equivalents between people who take IEDs and blow up civilians and Americans who are laying their lives on the line so that there can be a democracy in Iraq. As for our occupation, the United States would like to be able to leave as quickly as possible. The Iraqis would, too. But the Iraqis say, don’t leave until the job is done. We agree. It is important to win in Iraq as defined by a free democracy that sustains, governs, and defends itself.
Q When did the Iraqis say that?
MR. SNOW: They’ve said it on a number of occasions; they’ve made it known.
Just How Did King Abdullah Call Cheney On The Carpet Again?
Q Can I just ask one more on a slightly different subject, on the Saudis? The Times reports that essentially, the Saudis told the Vice President, we’ll help the insurgents if you pull out. But the Hadley memo, which came to light, whether he liked it or not, makes clear that that sort of support for the insurgency by the Saudis is already going on, is already an issue of concern for this administration. So I’m wondering what kind of communication there’s been in the Saudi government to essentially say, stop it, and stop it now?
Non-Denial Denial #1
MR. SNOW: Well, let me break this into two pieces. Number one, that was a representation of conversations the Vice President had with the King. I’ve spoken with the Vice President’s Office, and they say, there’s no way that anybody is going to know what the Vice President said to the King because that is kept in the strictest confidence.
Non-Denial Denial #2
And the second point, in talking to our NSC folks who are tasked to it: Number one, that’s not Saudi policy. Number two, the Saudis are rightfully and rightly concerned about the adventurism of Iranians in Iraq. And we share that concern. And furthermore, they understand that were the United States to leave without an Iraqi democracy that could sustain, govern and defend itself, that it would create a vacuum — a power vacuum that would have dangerous consequences.
And Then, Confirmation
Q On the Saudi thing, I just wanted to clarify a couple of things. The Vice President and the King, you didn’t want to characterize their conversations, but you’re not denying that they might have had a conversation about Saudi support for —
MR. SNOW: I’d just — what I would do is I would warn you against — away from the story, and I will not characterize the conversation.
Q Right, but you’re not denying that it could have taken place, you’re just warning us away from it.
MR. SNOW: They could have talked about the Boston Red Sox off-season plan for spending $50 million on a Japanese pitcher. So the realm of theory is vast when it comes to conversations.
Q And then, with regard to the policy itself, what their policy is and what it isn’t, you also would accept that it’s possible that, regardless of what their official policy is, it’s quite possible that they would put forward the idea that they would support insurgents if the Americans leave Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Well, it is not something that has been described to me as something that is consistent with the conversations we’ve had. So again, you can talk — anything is possible, any words can come out of someone’s mouth, but whether there’s a high likelihood or probability that they did is an entirely different question. And again, unfortunately, I am not in a position to tell you about the Vice President’s conversations.
Q But there are conversations that you can say it’s not consistent with?
MR. SNOW: Yes. And those would be those with our diplomats who deal with the Saudis.
Yet Another Non-Denial Denial: Pace and Abizaid Are Off The Reservation
Q On the area of service needs and the President’s talks with Pentagon officials, a couple of questions. On the reporting that Generals Casey and Abizaid told the President yesterday they don’t need more troops in Iraq, they need more equipment for Americans and Iraqis.
MR. SNOW: Again, I’m not going to characterize the conversations they’ve had. But I’ve certainly see the reports.
Q Are you going to challenge them?
MR. SNOW: No. I’m also not going to affirm them. Look, there are times when I have to walk the high wire. This is a high wire moment when I want to be careful that you understand that when I do not deny something, that does not mean that I affirm it. I just — I want to be very careful for the sake of everybody’s work.
Q Tony, three years after the Iraq war began, there’s a new way forward now, the President is looking for a new way forward. Five years since 9/11, Osama bin Laden has not been found. Is there any conversations here at the White House about changing plans and strategy and finding the man who started all this?
MR. SNOW: Well, there’s not a lot of conversation at the White House, although there is — the President is regularly briefed in highly classified briefings about ongoing operations involving bin Laden and others. And it is certainly the case that there are continued efforts to go after him and other key members of the terror network. It is worth noting that al Qaeda has lost a lot of its operational coherence and has been shattered as an organization. Instead now what you see are offshoot organizations which we have to address, like al Qaeda in Iraq.
Why Can’t Republikkkans Win Elections? The Press Corps Rubs It In
Q Response to the defeat in Texas yesterday of Congressman Henry Bonilla who had been an important figure in GOP outreach to Hispanics?
MR. SNOW: Yes, well, the President is going to miss him. Henry is a good guy, but we congratulate the victor.
Q What does it say about Hispanic outreach — GOP outreach to Hispanics?
MR. SNOW: Nothing. I mean, I think that’s a local race and you’ve got to take a look at it, but one thing it does say is that GOP outreach to Hispanics will continue. It’s very important to the President, and I think it’s important to the country that both political parties work aggressively for all votes, people of all races.
Q Is it a significant defeat in the outreach effort to Hispanics?
MR. SNOW: No, it’s not. And I suspect that Henry will remain engaged in that task. He won’t be a member of Congress, but there are a number of people who remain committed to it and will continue to be.
Q — way he winds up losing a seat as a result of the DeLay effort to redistrict in Texas. Looking back on that effort, was it a mistake?
MR. SNOW: That’s a Texas matter, and we’re not going to comment on it.
Q Texas no longer being part of the union? (Laughter.) MR. SNOW: No. Texas redistricting, state legislative efforts not necessarily being something over which the President can fruitfully comment. I heard it’s a republic, though. (Laughter.)
Q Not so much Republican. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I said republic.