Pony Blow has entered his own Colbertian nightmare.
MR. SNOW: Helen.
Q I have two questions. Since the President knows how many Iraqis were killed in the two months period, how many were killed in the four years of war?
MR. SNOW: Two things; I know you asked the question in the gaggle. What you had was the President had a briefing on how many people were killed in combat activities. The Iraqi government, itself, compiles its own statistics on those who have died in the violence. I am sure that there is a briefing paper that has that exact number on it, or at least their best guesses on it.
Maybe the one important number is the nearly 27 million Iraqis no longer have to live under the terror and despotism of Saddam Hussein. They have an elected government, which many of them risked their lives to vote for. It’s a unity government. And one of the chief aims, as we’ve just pointed out, is to get rid of the violence that is claiming lives unnecessarily and to allow that democracy to move forward peacefully.
Q That isn’t an answer.
MR. SNOW: Yes, it is.
Q Why? Why can’t you count the number who were killed in four years?
MR. SNOW: Well, apparently it’s a difficult task, and I would refer you to the government of Iraq.
Q How do you know 5,900 were killed in two months?
MR. SNOW: I’m telling you, those are the confirmed kills on the battlefield as passed on by commanders.
Q And what about going after ACLU, when you didn’t go after the Hadley memo —
MR. SNOW: We do not talk about any ongoing court activities. You know that, Helen.
Q But you are going after the ACLU, aren’t you?
MR. SNOW: As I said, we don’t — you could chase me around the table as many times as you want on it, but we do not comment on ongoing court activities.
Q That’s not fair.
MR. SNOW: It may not be fair, but it’s the policy of any administration not to talk about ongoing court activities.
Q As a former Holden —
MR. SNOW: As a former newsman, I know when to stop chasing somebody around the podium. This is a case where it has always been the standard of administrations, Democratic and Republican, that you do not talk about ongoing court issues.
Q Tony, in answer to Helen’s question, were you confirming that there is an investigation of the leak of the Hadley memo?
MR. SNOW: No, I wasn’t. I was saying that you don’t — we don’t confirm.
Q Would you?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Can I chase you around the podium? (Laughter.)
Suddenly Gay-Bashing Is Bad Form
Q Tony, in an interview with People Magazine, the President was asked about Mary Cheney’s pregnancy, and said he’s confident — he believes she’ll be a loving soul to her child. In the past, he said that he believes the ideal is that a child be raised in a married family with a man and a woman. Does he still believe that’s the ideal?
MR. SNOW: Yes, he does, but he also believes that every human life is sacred and that every child that comes into the world deserves love. And he believes that Mary Cheney’s child will, in fact, have loving parents.
Q Does he believe that children who are raised by gay and lesbian parents are at a disadvantage?
MR. SNOW: He does not make comments on that, and nor will I.
The Helen Thomas Effect
Q Does the President’s decision that it was time for a change at the Pentagon mean it’s time for a change in direction, or just time for a change of the figurehead?
MR. SNOW: I think anybody who was a Secretary of Defense will tell you that they are not figureheads; they run a large and very complex operation. With Bob Gates, you get somebody who provides, as the President said, a fresh set of eyes.
It’s Just Not All That Urgent
Q So where is the President in the process of determining the new way forward? Are consultations continuing?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q With whom?
MR. SNOW: Well, with whomever he wishes to speak with. I mean, the point is there is not — this is not something — the President now has got a lot of people doing a lot of work.
Q Has he given them deadlines?
MR. SNOW: Not that I’m aware of.
Q And do you have anything further on when he, himself, is likely to make an announcement?
MR. SNOW: No.
Back To Pony Blow Don’t Know
Q When the President was at the Pentagon on Wednesday, did the Army Chief of Staff tell him that the Army “will break” if they don’t expand size?
MR. SNOW: That, unfortunately, I don’t know because, as you know, we were not in the meeting.
Q Has the President ever been told that the Army “will break” if it isn’t expanded?
MR. SNOW: No, and I’m not sure, again, that the testimony — I’ll have to go back and read the testimony again, but it sounds to me like that was in response to a change in status and change in mission. But I don’t know what he’s been told in all the briefings.
And Now, Your Daily Les
Q WorldNetDaily notes that in previous years the President has been criticized for sending out generic holiday cards at this time of the year, and thus downplaying the celebration of Christmas, a holy day celebrated by a majority of Americans. And my question: Does the President believe that the majority of America’s Jews, Muslims or Hindus would be offended if the card sent by this practicing Christian President were to mention Christmas, instead of just the season, unspecified?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know, Les. The thing is the President celebrates Christian — he’s made no secret of his Christian faith. He also believes in religious tolerance. And —
Q Doesn’t he think that they would be tolerant of him? I mean, as a Christian President sending out a Christmas card —
MR. SNOW: Again, here’s the — you’re always asking me, does the President believe, on wonderfully provocative questions that no sensible press secretary would waste time asking the President about. So the fact is that I don’t have the opportunity to ask him about Christmas cards. (Laughter.)
Q Do you think that Christmas cards are a waste?
MR. SNOW: I think that on the priority list today, it’s kind of far down. And I’ve got to ration my time in front of the President. So it’s — what the President believes is that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior. He also believes that in this time and age it is important to welcome the freedom of all people to worship in accordance with their faith.