In today’s gaggle Pony Blow tries to diffuse the notion that Chimpy is an island.
Q The President is isolated in terms of the Iraqi policy and he seems to be among the few who thinks that this step, or any step can actually result in victory. I’m wondering where his mind-set is, how he arrived at this point in doing something that remains quite unpopular?
MR. SNOW: Again, I’m going to be able to give you a lot better answer — I would warn against the theme that the President is isolated, or even — if you go back, for instance, and you look at John Abizaid’s testimony in December, saying, well, properly done, yes, we could use more troops. I mean, there have been a number of different characterizations by members of the military.
Q I guess the challenge would be who besides the President thinks that the war is winnable at this stage?
MR. SNOW: I think millions of Americans believe that this war is winnable, and I think, furthermore, that it’s important to rebuild the sense of political unity. One of the things the President has often said is, the only way we lose if we lose our will.
No Exit Strategy
Q Tony, is the President going to discuss how we get out of Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me put it this way: If you take a look — ultimately, the goal is to have an Iraq that does, in fact, stand up for itself and assumes full responsibility for security for the economy, for the legal system, and so on. And at that point, an American presence would be superfluous, at least other than in an advisory capacity. That’s where you want to end up.
Q But will he define when we know that and how you —
MR. SNOW: Well, I think I’ll —
Q I mean, one of the things in the old plan is you stand up troops — you stand up Iraqi troops, you stand down. That seemed like you had benchmarks on when you can get out, even though it didn’t work. Will there be benchmarks on how the U.S. gets out of there?
MR. SNOW: As I said, I am going to remain vague on this until the President has done his announcement, and then we can go in and you can take a look and ask precise questions about precisely what he will propose.
Ixnay on the Ictoryvay
Q But the President will use the word “victory”?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, everybody keeps trying to get —
Q But he still wants victory?
MR. SNOW: Everybody keeps trying to get me —
Q Is that something he still strives for, victory or success?
MR. SNOW: — discuss —
Q But, Tony, you are calling it “the way forward.” That is what the White House is calling it.
MR. SNOW: Yes, that is correct.
The Last Stand of a Deperate President
Q Related to Peter’s question, in his mind, is this the final stand? In other words, this has to work or the U.S. has to begin a process of disengagement?
MR. SNOW: No, because the question there is one that seems to be token desperation: It’s the last chance. What the President understands is there’s a real sense of urgency within the United States for assurance that, number one, we have a plan for building an Iraq that is going to enhance our security, that is going to make us safer; number two, that is done in such a way that also is going to put the Iraqis in leading positions sooner rather than later. And, so, I’m afraid he takes a much more practical point of view when working through these issues, not, this is the last chance.
Q But there is a level of desperation, isn’t there, when a lot of people who have a hand in the policy — i.e., members of Congress or people within the administration — think it’s over, not just your political critics?
MR. SNOW: You know, it’s interesting — I’ve heard that used by a very small number of people and, yet, you ask the question, must we — you asked a couple of questions. Do you think, for instance, al Qaeda has given up on trying to do major operations in the United States? Do you think failure in Iraq would make al Qaeda more likely to strike the United States? Do you think if al Qaeda or other terror organizations had the opportunity to use Iraq as a launch pad that you’d be safer or less safe? And I think in each case people would say, oh, no, we’d be less safe.
So I think it’s important to realize that in the context of the broader war on terror, most people really do agree success — again, the letter sent by Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid, both said, we want the Iraqi people to succeed.
The Message Sent November 7? Stay the Course!
Q The President, obviously, though, did not read what happened November 7th as a mandate to start bringing troops home.
MR. SNOW: The President believes that — if you take a look, Jim, at the elections, you can read any number of messages — I mean, when people were asked in exit interviews what was their top concern, Iraq was number four, corruption was number one. And guess what? You had 10 members of the Republican caucus who had problems, and they all lost. So you can read a lot of results. There is an understandable — people don’t want to be at war; we don’t want to be at war, the President doesn’t want to be at war. But the fact is you’ve got a situation where terrorists and a terror network is determined to try to do whatever it can to destabilize this country and other parts of the world —
Q But the President is comfortable, then, with saying to the American people, I saw what happened November 7th — actually, you’re upset about corruption?
MR. SNOW: No, I think, Jim, people would be a lot less upset if he didn’t take seriously his obligations as Commander-in-Chief.