Pony Blow is Holden, and so am I. On with the obsession!
When Chimpy Looked Into His Eyes Did He See A Quitter?
Q Prime Minister Maliki says that he wishes he could leave office before his term is over and that he wouldn’t run again. Does the President still think that he’s the right man for the job?
MR. SNOW: Yes, he’s the duly elected leader of the Iraqi people.
Q Yes, but here is a man that says he wishes he could get out of there.
MR. SNOW: Again, I’ve read the stories; I don’t have any further context on that. So no further comment on it.
The Gagglers have many Saddam questions, Read More!
Betcha The President Wanted To Get In On The Taunting
Q Does the President think that Saddam Hussein’s execution was handled appropriately?
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way — our officials have said they would — and you have heard General Caldwell say — they would have done it differently. The Iraqi government apparently has some qualms about some of the behavior of people within and they are taking a look, as well.
Q Do you have qualms?
MR. SNOW: I think the most important thing to realize is that Saddam Hussein was executed after a long trial, long and public trial that met international standards, an appeal that met international standards, under American — he was in American custody for the vast majority of the time. He apparently, according to General Caldwell, thanked the jailers for their treatment of him. He was handed over to the Iraqi government. There were some — the embassy expressed some concerns; the Iraqis listened to those concerns, they’ve carried it forward. And I think — it’s interesting because there seems to be a lot of concern about the last two minutes of Saddam Hussein’s life and less about the first 69 in which he murdered hundreds of thousands of people. That’s why he was executed.
Q Has the President seen the videotape of the execution?
MR. SNOW: I don’t think so.
Q Is there anything to the school of thought, following up on this two minutes versus 69 years thing, that it’s not so much about Saddam Hussein as it is about the government that we’re doing business with right now?
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t think so. Look, again, you had a long process where people were very careful about having a legal process where he had the right to self-defense, where he had the right to counsel, where he had the right to make his best case. And the government is investigating the conduct of some people within the chamber, and I think we’ll leave it at that. But the one thing you’ve got to keep in mind is he got justice. This is a man who killed hundreds of thousands and was executed for it, according to the laws of the country and in accordance with legal traditions that have met international scrutiny.
Q But can you characterize what you saw what the President thought of this?
MR. SNOW: No. I think, as we’ve said — the comments have already been made — General Caldwell said that we would have done it differently. The Iraqi government apparently thinks they should have done it differently. Let’s see how it goes out. The most important thing to keep an eye on, this is a guy who killed hundreds of thousands of people and received justice.
Q So if you want to move forward right, what you have to move forward to do is national reconciliation. And the message that the Iraqi government has for allowing that —
MR. SNOW: It allowed what?
Q A spectacle.
MR. SNOW: Describe the spectacle.
Q Well, there was a cell phone video in there; there were people shouting “Moqtada, Moqtada.” I mean, that’s about as far from national reconciliation as you can get.
MR. SNOW: I think the government has made it clear that they understand that reconciliation is going to be a critical piece.
Q You don’t think that shows that there’s somebody in that government with connections to al-Sadr?
MR. SNOW: It’s hard to say. Let them do — they’re doing an investigation here. I think it’s worth taking a look at.
Just How Out Of Touch Is The Chimp?
Q The only question, though, to press a little bit, is the view that the President has been determined, he’s been resolved, and nobody questions that, but does he get it? I mean, is he fundamentally out of touch with what the reality is on the ground in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, I think what happens is, we may be out of touch with reality because we sit around and we look at fractional pictures on the screen. This is a President who gets exhaustive briefings on a daily basis about the situation. He knows more than anybody in this room about what’s going on there. And as Commander-in-Chief, he also has solemn and important obligations to deal with the situation properly, as the Commander-in-Chief, and as somebody who is committed to a way forward that’s going to create the independent and free and democratic Iraq.
So the President does get it. One of the reasons why he has demanded options on a better way forward is that he understands — getting back to your earlier questions about sectarian strife — the Baghdad security plan didn’t produce. You need to find a way to have an effective Baghdad security plan. You need to have proposals that not only deal with sectarian strife, but also some things that may be contributors, such as economic growth.
Q I just want to ask one thing. Are you suggesting that “we may be out of touch with reality,” do you mean “we” the press corps, “we” the American people — I mean, in other words, is the picture that’s emerging out of Iraq through reporting of the press corps there, does it not represent reality?
MR. SNOW: I’m saying it’s absolutely impossible for any reporting to capture fully the complexity of the situation like that. It’s humanly impossible. I mean, you — I’ve been a journalist, you’re a journalist, you know that you make choices about what goes in and what goes out of any story. And this is no reflection on the people doing the business — everybody in here knows, especially those of you in TV, when you’ve got a certain amount of time, you’ve got to figure out what goes in and what goes out. And the President has more time and has — gets far more information than what is going to be able to shove into even the best and most thoughtfully produced news story or television report.
Has He Finished His Homework Yet?
Q How far along is the President in developing his new plan for Iraq? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: It’s one of those things — you know, one of these sort of hot and cold questions, Steve. I think he’s fairly far along. Obviously, everybody is eager to find out when the speech is going to be, and at the earliest proper date, we will let you know. It’s not done yet. The policy is not done. He is still talking to people. He’s going to be engaging in consultations. He made this point in Crawford last week. But on the other hand, we’re getting closer to the date. I just — there has been a lot of speculation, and as I was telling a number of you yesterday, don’t bet the mortgage on any particular — don’t do an office pool on this. Just wait until the job is done properly. The President understands that this is important and it needs to be done right. And when he’s confident it’s done right, then he will present it to the American people.
Helen Zings Pony Blow
Q Does the administration have a policy for open-door immigration for the collaborationists in Iraq who have been helping us who might have to leave now or when we finally leave?
MR. SNOW: Boy, that is — Helen, that is such a — I don’t even know how to think about the question. You’ve asked me a question that is three “ifs.”
Q I’m asking you now.
MR. SNOW: I know, but let me tell you —
Q Are we taking care of any Iraqis whose life might be in jeopardy and getting them out of the country?
MR. SNOW: What we’re trying to do is to make sure that innocent Iraqis no longer have to live under conditions when their lives are in jeopardy. But as far as —
Q So we have no policy to bring them here like we did the South Vietnamese?
MR. SNOW: I am not going to — I honestly don’t know and I doubt I’d be —
Q Can you find out?
MR. SNOW: Well, I might, but I don’t know if I’d be at liberty to tell you.
Again, Has The Chimp A Clue?
Q And then, separately, to what extent was the President and also his advisors informed of the efforts by Americans in Baghdad to delay the execution? How much was he kept apprised of the events in the hours leading up to the execution?
MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, the President had been briefed fully on it. The American government made known to the Iraqi government its thoughts on it. The Iraqi government took that into account and proceeded as it saw fit. The President knew about that and knew what the plans of the Iraqi government were on the day the execution took place.
Q Did the President personally approve the decision to hand Saddam over to the Iraqis?
MR. SNOW: I mean, it was something — I don’t know if the President called up and said, okay, you may do it now. It was one of these things that had always been part of the process, that had been part of the agreement, that the United States would maintain custody until shortly before the execution. Again, it was the Iraqi government, itself, that was responsible for the timing and would be making the appropriate request.
Q Our officials had to say, okay, we’ve decided, the Iraqi government is not going to accede to our request to delay, we’re going to hand him over — did Mr. Bush sign off on that?
MR. SNOW: I think what you’re doing is you’re framing it the wrong way. The Iraqi government makes a request: It is now — we would now like you to hand over the prisoner. It has been our approach to say, okay, and to cooperate with them. That’s how it worked. The concerns had been expressed; they had been taken into account by the Iraqi government; they did as they saw fit. They made a request and we complied.
Q What were the concerns the Americans had about the timing of the execution and so forth?
MR. SNOW: Again, it had been — I’ll tell you what. I know what’s been reported. It’s been confirmed to me, and I can tell you nothing more than has been in the papers on it. I have not had an opportunity to speak to Ambassador Zal Khalilzad on it, but —
Q But Ambassador Khalilzad was expressing those concerns at the behest of the administration, which includes the President.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q You made it sound like — the President knew all along that he was going to request —
MR. SNOW: The President is going to know what the Ambassador is doing, yes, sure.
Q Why should we rely on press reports? Why can’t you tell us what the concerns were?
MR. SNOW: Because I honestly don’t know any further than that. I’ll try to get you more detail.
Q The President gave the green light, didn’t he?
Q — reconciliation, was it —
MR. SNOW: Again, there was concern about timing. I can get you no more. I know nothing — I’m afraid I don’t know beyond that. This is going to create a whole new spate of things, but for those who keep tracks of “I don’t know,” we will also try to provide asterisks which are not accounted for in subsequent reporting.
The “I” Word
Q While Speaker-to-be Pelosi has taken the issue of impeachment off the table, if you listen to the C-SPAN call-in to Debbie Wasserman Schultz today, one out of three calls were calling for impeachment from these Democratic people calling in. Is the President concerned that there might be a groundswell, in spite of whatever promises may have been made, and in the light of all the investigations that will be going on, that the issue of impeachment still hangs over the President and —
MR. SNOW: The President is going to be doing his job. As somebody who used to be a talk show host, you learn never try to take the pulse of a nation on the basis of people who call in. Victoria is shaking her head knowledgeably sitting right in front of you. I would hesitate to draw vast conclusions about the American populace based on folks who choose to call in to a single television program.
And Now, Your Daily Les
Q There is a report that in the fall of 2000, when he was first running for President, Mr. Bush received standing ovations from thousands in Washington and elsewhere by promising that on January 20, 2001, he would order the U.S. embassy be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in which he was supported by the 90 percent vote of both houses of Congress in 1995. And my question: Since the Zionist Organization of America has declared that, “the President has completely violated his repeated and public presidential campaign promise,” what do you say, Tony, as his spokesman?
MR. SNOW: I think you would be hard pressed to find any President who has been more faithful in his defense and support of Israel than this one.
Q I understand that, but what about his promise to move on Inauguration Day?
MR. SNOW: I’m just — I believe that they have said that temporarily the — I believe that the announcement that came out is that the embassy is going to remain temporarily in Tel Aviv. I will repeat to you, because the implication is that somehow the President has not been true to his word when it comes to supporting Israel, that no President has been more supportive, and that’s all I’m going to say on it.