I’m not sure how this is going to work in the new digs, seein’ as how Obsession tends to go on and on, and I’ve lost my Read More button, but here goes.
Let’s kick it off withHelen, who seems to hold the odd belief that Iraqis should determine the future of Iraq (and draws the dreaded Civil War comparison out of Pony Blow).
Q Would the administration agree to a referendum in Iraq to see what the people really want?
MR. SNOW: No.
MR. SNOW: The federal Constitution does not permit for such referenda.
Q Why? We are a conqueror. We should be asking the people, do they really want us there.
MR. SNOW: Helen.
Q Yes, sir.
MR. SNOW: Do you believe — well, no, you will scold me for asking a question, so I will not. I will phrase my question in the form of an answer.
Q You know, best defense is offense, is that your whole approach?
MR. SNOW: No, my —
Q I’m asking you a very —
MR. SNOW: No, my approach is to — well, you’re asking a simple question that actually has some fairly complex precedents in the terms of the advisability or possibility of a national —
Q You keep saying that they want us there —
MR. SNOW: Helen, Helen, Helen.
Q Put it to a test.
MR. SNOW: Helen, no war is popular. No war is popular.
Q That’s not the answer.
MR. SNOW: If you had done — no, it is — no, that is an absolutely accurate answer.
Q Nobody wants —
MR. SNOW: If you had asked in 1864 — I’ll go back to the Civil War — the referendum would have failed and Abraham Lincoln would have failed.
Q How do you know that?
MR. SNOW: Go back and read, just a little history will tell you.
Q Who won the war?
MR. SNOW: You had Republican senators trooping up to the White House telling the President that he needed the cut a separate deal, that he needed to dispatch emissaries to speak with Jefferson Davis and his heirs and assigns.
Q — the Civil War?
MR. SNOW: Well, I’m just telling you — I’m trying to make the larger point, and it is getting sort of ludicrous, about the fact that wars are, of course, unpopular, but the important thing to understand is —
Q A referendum is ludicrous?
MR. SNOW: No, no, I’m saying that when we get too deep into historic analogies — but if you’ll permit me to finish an answer, I will let you ask a follow-up question. The point here is that the President understands that a war is unpopular. He also understands that it’s necessary. And you can frame questions in a lot of ways — if you did a referendum to say, will Americans — do you want to succeed in Iraq; do you want democracy in Iraq; would you like terror on your shores; do you believe that al Qaeda wishes to kill Americans, and if it does, do you want to fight them there or here?
Q Do you want an American military occupation in Iraq. That’s the question.
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, you may ask it. Thank you.
Putting the president’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program back under judicial review as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — That was the FISA Court’s idea!
Q On the FISA move, rolling the terrorist surveillance program under the FISA Court. You’re suggesting that this is a voluntary move by the administration, not an action that’s tied to federal court action, or —
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no, no. No. No. As a matter of fact, it may be interesting to see how it plays out in federal courts, but no, this is not a response — again, Bret, this has been going on for two years.
Q But if it has been going on for two years, why wouldn’t you say that during the hubbub when we spent a week dealing with this, instead —
MR. SNOW: Because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court does not like to have its business discussed in public, and only because of the public revelation of the terrorist surveillance program are we announcing this at this juncture. Typically, they are properly very protective of things that go before them. And as a result, we don’t talk about them.
And, yes, it’s an example of a case where we take hits for doing what’s right, rather than getting credit for what seems to be expedient.
Q But what’s different here with the NSA program now? I mean, why are you doing it now? What’s changed that this is now acceptable —
MR. SNOW: The court has put — the court has drafted regulations for the program. I mean, this — the court now has issued an order that governs these sorts of activities, so it’s really timed to what the court has decided and promulgated.
Q And it has nothing to do with acknowledging any action on the Hill or —
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t think the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court sits around and goes —
Q But you — but you saying, okay, they’re going to have oversight here —
MR. SNOW: No, this is a result of the order having been completed by the court.
Q Just back on FISA, I mean, obviously, there are going to be some people who look at the timing of this, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is supposed to go before the Senate Judiciary tomorrow. I mean, people are going to see this as, like, look, politically motivated —
MR. SNOW: But, again —
Q — that he would take a hit tomorrow, that he would be beaten up over this, and he announces today —
MR. SNOW: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Number one, notifications began late last week. Number two, it’s the FISA Court, which is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has done — what you’re doing is you’re accusing that court of engaging in political activity to, what, bail out the Bush administration? I don’t think so. They look at their business as being national security, and they are very professional, and also — they are determined to protect what they see are their responsibilities under statute. So I think it’s a real stretch to try to say that that court somehow is engaged in a politically timed activity.
His own party is slipping away.
Q Is there a growing sense of concern with the administration that you’re losing Republicans in the Senate and the House, and the speech just wasn’t enough to convince them?
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t think so. I think you — if you want people to — number one, I don’t think people are going to make snap judgments on the speech or on the policy. And we’ll continue to consult —
Q It’s been a week.
MR. SNOW: Yes, but you know what? I’m just — we have people who, at this point, I think still may not have had an opportunity to take a look at all parts of it. It’s highly complex. And we feel that this is a time to continue the conversation.
Q Tony, I’d like to go back to the theme of losing Republicans for a minute. The Miami Herald reports this morning that Sunbelt delegates to the Republican National Committee, including Texas, intended to vote against Senator Mel Martinez for general chairman. The Washington Times is claiming that these Republicans have enlisted the aid of a certified parliamentarian to aid them in stopping Senator Martinez from becoming general chairman. Does the White House have any reaction?
MR. SNOW: We’re pretty confident Mel Martinez will become general chairman.
Q Well, I mean, specifically a reaction to the sort of revolt from the grassroots and the implications of losing the Sunbelt.
MR. SNOW: Well, you’ve got to keep in mind — I’m not sure you lose the Sunbelt. You have a handful of people who have expressed some concerns, and we will continue to address those. But on the other hand, I don’t know that you call it a revolt every time you have people who disagree. We think it’s democracy, even with the Republican National Committee. And people are certainly free to disagree. And quite often what it does is it provides a much better basis for moving forward, because you’ve aired your disagreements, you’ve addressed people’s concerns, and you can move forward.
Maybe Laura will invite Rush Limpbaugh to be her guest at the SOTU so he can treat us to his hillarious Michael J. Fox imitation.
Q Tony, what are the thoughts of the White House (inaudible) about Jim Langevin inviting Michael J. Fox for the State of the Union address, putting the stem cell debate square, front and center in front of the President the night of the State of the Union?
MR. SNOW: It’s the first I’ve heard about it, so there’s no official response. Look, we understand that — no President has spent more on stem cell research. We’re absolutely committed to it. There’s quite often a regrettable implication that in opposing stem cell research — which, in the President’s view, involves the taking of a human life — that he shut off stem cell research. As a matter of fact, we’ve spent unprecedented amounts of money looking at all forms of stem cell research and, as was widely reported, there is some sense that maybe amniotic stem cells may also have the pleuropotent potential that people talk about regarding embryonic stem cells.
Q But do you think that the State of the Union is the place for Michael J. Fox and Congressman Langevin to advocate, by their presence, embryonic stem cell —
MR. SNOW: Well, look, April, I’m not going to try to give lectures on etiquette. Members may invite whomever they wish. And the President understands that all these are important issues, and they’re important to us, too. We want to get them right; we want to have a debate; and we want to try to move it from the level where people try to describe as heartless a President whose heart is absolutely in saving lives through stem cell research.
Q And a follow up. You say —
MR. SNOW: Okay, let’s —
Q Okay, I understand. I understand. You continue to say you want debates on all — on many issues. But will you listen to the words of the opposition? That’s the question.
MR. SNOW: Yes. And will the opposition listen to us? That’s also the question. When the opposition says that we’re opposed to stem cell research, it is wrong. And when the opposition says the President does not care about stem cell research, it is wrong.
Them damn Islamofascilibrulhomosatanist Congressmen!
Q Tony, back to this idea about the message that a lack of support, I guess, of the President’s plan would send, have you heard anything in recent days that sends a message to troops that members of Congress are not supporting them?
MR. SNOW: It’s just interesting how members of — again, troops may have their own feelings on how this proceeds. What we want to do is to have a full, respectful and thoughtful debate about how you win in Iraq. And we want members of Congress to participate in that.
Q And you’re not seeing that? Is there anything you’re not seeing that’s not thoughtful, that’s not —
MR. SNOW: No, what we’re not seeing so far — and, again, it’s a little early — is, if not this, what? What is the alternative plan that will guarantee —
Q Well, you’re hearing some pretty solid things today. But I guess I want to go back to this message that you’re giving members of Congress, the President is, and that you just said, they should think about what message they send.
MR. SNOW: Well, let me — because I’m constantly being asked, what message does the President get. It’s probably worth asking, what message does Congress intend to give, and who does it think the audience is? Is the audience merely the President? Is it the voting American public? Or in an age of instant communication, is it also al Qaeda? Is it Iraq? Is it players in Iraq? Is it U.S. troops? Is it people in the Gulf who want to understand whether the United States is, in fact, a partner upon whom they can depend for security even in trying times?
All those are questions that deserve to be raised. I don’t think there are illegitimate questions. And all I’m saying is that those are things that members ought to take into consideration.
Q But by even raising it and saying al Qaeda is — I mean, aren’t you saying that members of Congress are somehow aiding the enemy?
MR. SNOW: No.