In today’s gaggle Pony Blow denies that Chimpy said he’d be “dead when they get it right” — before confirming that he did indeed make that statement.
Q It’s been reported that President Bush, in an Oval Office meeting last week, when he was talking about his Iraq policy, said, “I’ll be dead when they get it right.” In other words, that basically —
MR. SNOW: I don’t remember that.
Q Well, he basically seems to be saying that he never changed his policy one jot. Can you confirm that he said that?
MR. SNOW: No, I can’t, because I didn’t — I would have written down a line like that, because I keep pretty copious notes.
Q Can you confirm Holden he did not say that?
MR. SNOW: I don’t want to confirm or deny, I just don’t know. Let me put it this way — it doesn’t sound like something he would have said. But I did not hear it, and I cannot tell you, because I don’t know — even know what meaning they’re referring to.
Let me put it this way: The President is determined
— he understands that, number one, the war on terror is going to be a long war; number two, it is important to create an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself. And we are working with all our ingenuity and our might to try to support that government and to come up with the right set of policies. If you’re talking about he’s going to be dead before they get it right in Iraq, again, that does not —
Q He’s going to be dead before people get it right, in terms of understanding that he was right with his policies.
MR. SNOW: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I think what the President is talking about there — that’s completely different than what I thought you were asking. Who knows? I mean, I think the President feels — it doesn’t mean that he’s not changing. It means that the President has been steadfast in defending and discussing the goal of an Iraq that can defend, sustain and govern itself, to be an ally in the war on terror, and also his analysis of the war on terror — that you have a totalitarian movement that is designed not merely to crush human freedom, but also to extend its control over a large area, ranging from Micronesia to Northern Africa; and that it’s important to resist that, and to do so in what one might consider the early stages, even though al Qaeda has been gathering strength for more than two decades, because it is important to advance the cause of freedom.
He may have said that it may take some time for people to understand that he was right in viewing it in that way. That would not be unusual. As you know, the President often talks about the fact that last year he had — he read three new biographies of George Washington, who had been dead at the time for more than 200 years. So the fact is that — he certainly stands by his analysis of the situation, but also understands that the tactics that have been employed right now are not doing the job, and there needs to be a better way forward.
Only Sycophants Need Apply
Q Is he going to talk with people who differ considerably from his view, like people who absolutely want to get out of Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, because that does not, in fact, achieve your goal.
The Decider Can’t Decide
Q Did the military leaders encourage him to just take a little bit more time?
MR. SNOW: No, no, no. The President is the Commander-in-Chief; he issues orders. He decided, frankly, that it’s not ready yet.
Q When did he decide that?
MR. SNOW: Well, he let us know today. So I don’t know exactly when he decided, but he made that clear today. I don’t know —
Q Do you suspect it will be before the State of the Union?
MR. SNOW: I’m loathe to suspect. Obviously, this is something that he places a premium on getting done quickly, but also getting done well. And as I’ve said before, the job has got to be done right. This is not one where you have an expiration date, and if your homework is complete or not, you turn it in. He wants everybody to complete it.
Q But is there an urgency here? We’ve talked about this urgency before.
MR. SNOW: Well, the urgency — as I said, there’s urgency, but not panic. And I don’t want to tell you it’s not going to happen before State of the Union. I just don’t want to lock in — I don’t want people to have expectations on a specific date because we don’t have it for you yet.
Q Is it definitely going to be in January?
MR. SNOW: Well, as far as we know. Again, when we have a date for you, we’ll let you know.
Q Tony, it has been the President’s own desire to do a speech prior to Christmas, right?
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q So this wasn’t a staff decision?
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q So some might infer that the delay means he doesn’t know what to do.
The Real Reason For The Delay
Q Is it possible that the President does not want to announce the deployment of thousands of more U.S. troops to Iraq before the holidays?
MR. SNOW: No, it has nothing to do with that. Cynical, but false.
ISG Report? In the Round File!
Q Okay. Secondly, there have been a number of references here about the Baker-Hamilton commission. To what extent is this delay in the expected announcement an effort to put some distance between the release of, and the reaction to that?
MR. SNOW: It has nothing to do with it, period. Nothing. I think the expectation in Washington on Baker-Hamilton is that this becomes the pivot on which everything turns. And again, as I pointed out, the pivot on which everything turns are the unfolding realities in Iraq and how you deal with them. And the President certainly appreciates the contributions of the Baker-Hamilton commission. But these deliberations, in many ways, have been going on for quite a while, and we’re taking a look at a lot of stuff.
Q It seems almost like Baker-Hamilton doesn’t factor in at all. Every time you’re asked —
MR. SNOW: Well, these —
Q — let me finish the question, please. If every time you’re asked, were the contents of Baker-Hamilton discussed, I believe each time you’ve said, no.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q You seem to be distancing from that.
MR. SNOW: I’m not distancing from it. We are aware of the recommendations. And I have — a number of these things have, at various junctures, been considered and may or may not be reflected in the final product. What I’m saying is, nobody said, okay, Baker-Hamilton, let’s open up to page 40; ah-hah, they accepted our goals, high five, everybody. None of that stuff has happened.
Q Has everyone involved in these meetings read the full report?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know. I have. I’m assuming — but I don’t know.
Q Has the President?
MR. SNOW: Yes, absolutely.
Classic Non-Denial Denial
Q Is a shakeup of the national security team under review?
MR. SNOW: As I said, I’m not going to talk about anything that may or may not have been discussed, and, furthermore, all deliberations — and I don’t want you to interpret by that, ah-ha, there’s a shakeup. I don’t want you to interpret it either way, other than as a principled stonewalling.
Pony Has His Own Polls
Q As the President is sort of making his calculations, is he factoring in sort of what the American people have a stomach for?
MR. SNOW: You know, it’s interesting, if you take a look at poll data — and there’s a lot of discussion about that — what’s interesting is that a majority of the American public not only thinks that we’re capable of winning, but we should. I think that there is understandable apprehension about the situation in Iraq. And what people want to hear is, how do you assess the situation and how do you wish to address it? And those are questions the President is going to answer.