Let’s kick off today’s gaggle with the latest casualty of Josh Bolten’s program to instill competence into this White House.
MR. SNOW: As you now know from wire reports, Harriet Miers has tendered her resignation as White House Legal Counsel, effective the 31st of this month. She informed the President yesterday, and he has regretfully accepted her resignation. We have copies of her letter available in lower press if you need to get copies.
Q Why is she leaving?
MR. SNOW: She’s been here for six years. It’s hard duty. Yes, it really is.
Q Is it White House burnout? Is that what you’re just clearly saying, White House burnout, after six years?
MR. SNOW: No, I’m just — I’m not going to do a shorthand for it. I just think, again, Harriet has decided it’s time to move on. And I’ll let you — her letter is pretty eloquent, and I’ll let you read it. And if you have further questions, call me on it.
Chimpy Spoke To Maliki Today, But Not About Anything Of Importance
MR. SNOW: Also, the President today had about an hour-and-forty-five minute secure video teleconference call with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq.
Q Did the President press the Prime Minister on dealing with the Shiite militias?
MR. SNOW: No, because it was unnecessary. The Prime Minister talked about that without — he brought the topic up. Now, I can’t tell you, Bill, what the two of them discussed privately because they’ve literally — everybody out of the room but the principals and their translators. And they had a very long conversation. I don’t know if further conversation about that arose when the two of them were talking.
Q Well, does the President believe that progress is being made in eliminating the hold of the militias?
MR. SNOW: He thinks it’s important to take on the militias, and that’s a point that he made very clear. And the Prime Minister —
Q Yes, but does he think —
MR. SNOW: Well, at this point —
Q It doesn’t appear that any progress has been made.
Bush is Dumping Casey
Q Tony, can we just — as long as we’re on personnel changes, The New York Times which you referred us to yesterday —
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q — said a couple of days ago, that General Casey’s departure might be accelerated by the President. Is that true?
MR. SNOW: As I said, I’m not prepared to discuss any other personnel matters today.
Q Is he happy with what General Casey is doing?
MR. SNOW: He respects what General Casey has done. And again, I’m going to — we will be happy to discuss other personnel matters at another time.
Q Would he like him to stay until summer?
MR. SNOW: Thank you, Martha.
And Then There’s Negroponte…
Q I have another personnel question.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q Can you address reports —
MR. SNOW: Am I staying? Hope so.
Q Can you address the reports that Ambassador Negroponte is moving to Deputy Secretary of State?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Okay. (Laughter.) Has the President been pleased with Ambassador Negroponte as DNI?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q How so?
MR. SNOW: Look, John Negroponte has come in as the first head of DNI, and he’s done a very effective job of organizing and working within a brand new intelligence apparatus. He’s done a terrific job. And the President, obviously, sees him five to six days a week with intel briefings and the like, and the two of them have a close and respectful relationship. And the President is very impressed with the work he’s doing.
Q Tony, follow up to that?
MR. SNOW: Look, let me just — I know you’re all going to try to pull the tails about these stories, and I’m just not in a position to do it.
Q Do you want to comment — there’s speculation that the reason that Mr. Negroponte is going to move over to State is because Dr. Rice will leave in several months and that he’s in a position to take over. Do you want to say anything about it?
MR. SNOW: No. But let me just — let me try to do this. This will be some subtle body language that should help you on this. You ready? (Head and eye roll.) (Laughter.)
Q Just to follow on Negroponte. We didn’t see him in Crawford participating in that meeting with the President.
MR. SNOW: Yes, don’t read — that’s reading too much —
Q Did he participate at all with the National Security Council meeting with the President when he was talking about his new Iraq strategy?
MR. SNOW: I was not party to the meeting. I don’t know.
Q Well, not too much like a commentary on his abilities, but just whether or not — I mean, the head of intelligence, it would have been important to have him in that meeting —
MR. SNOW: But he is — look, he —
Q — you had the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State. Does that, in some way, reflect a diminished role for the intelligence community, and —
MR. SNOW: No, by no means at all. Keep in mind that the Director of National Intelligence is in briefing the President on a daily basis and has the trust and confidence of the President of the United States. So, no, I just — like I said, you’re barking up the wrong tree on that one. I know a lot of people have been trying to read something into it. But, no.
Shiites Gone Wild!
Q Does he believe that the way that [Saddam’s hanging] was handled is in any way an example of the Maliki government not having control over the institution —
MR. SNOW: No. No, and I think what you’re seeing is the Prime Minister asserting control immediately, because he clearly was unhappy with it, as well. And he made it absolutely clear — the phrase he used, again, I think is — he said it was pained, the government was pained, and that they were going to punish those responsible. That seems to me to be the reaction of somebody who was surprised by what he saw and unhappy upon seeing it.
Q Does the President see that as a setback to the forming of institutions that are necessary —
MR. SNOW: Again, if you take a look at what’s been going on, the Prime Minister indicates that there does not seem to have been a rise in acts of violence or other sorts of activities within Iraq as a result of this, but he also understands the importance of reconciliation. And one of the interesting things is this does remove one of the arguments people have made, about what if Saddam comes back.
Damn Press Corps, Too Concerned About The Present And Its Impact On The Future
MR. SNOW: It also creates — not the video, but the fact that in that part of the world, a tyrant who killed hundreds of thousands with impunity and never was punished, to see a man brought to justice, granted the trial that he would not grant his fellow citizens, given an appeal that nobody ever got, and getting treated — and being able to have full access to law, and being lawfully executed after legal processes that had passed international muster, that’s a powerful signal that the rule of law does apply within Iraq.
Q Concerns are not about Saddam’s conduct. It’s about the carrying out of justice in the final moments —
MR. SNOW: And the point I made yesterday is that there is — at least among the American press, the fascination with the final moments and the relatively less description of the first 69 years.
Q It’s not about Saddam.
MR. SNOW: There’s — well, no, of course, it’s about Saddam.
Q It’s not about Saddam. It’s about the carrying out of justice, and was he subjected to circumstances that are not in line with what the U.S. is hoping Iraq will do in an execution?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, look, the Iraqis have made that point, Kelly. How many times do I have to point it out? The Prime Minister is unhappy with it.
Q But you resort to talking about Saddam. And our questions are really about the President’s view of how this was handled.
MR. SNOW: I know. And as I’ve told you, the President thought it was appropriate to do a review. And the Prime Minister is doing a review. And I think we leave it at that.
Shiites Gone Wild! Part II
Q Next question on Iraq. The handlers of the hanging, has it been concluded that this was a Shia lynch mob, because they had no allegiance to Iraq? In their statements, what they were saying, they were not talking about Iraq. They were talking about al Sadr’s father. And it’s —
MR. SNOW: Who was — who was killed by Saddam Hussein.
Q But it wasn’t about Iraq.
MR. SNOW: I — April, I don’t even — I’m not sure I can understand the question, therefore, I can’t answer it.
Q Has it been proven that this was a Shia lynch mob that killed Saddam Hussein?
MR. SNOW: No. But again, I would refer — this is — these are questions most properly raised with the Iraqi government, which is conducting its own investigation. But for me to render a summary, let alone inflammatory comments about what went on would be inappropriate.
Les Kinsolving Is Still An Ass
Q The top of page one of this morning’s Washington Times has a headline, “Cindy Sheehan routs the Democrats; House Majority Leaders run, hide.” Do you, as the President’s Press Secretary, believe that this headline is inaccurate?
MR. SNOW: Lester, I find it entertaining.