Pony Blow openstoday’s gaggle by bickering with Terrence Hunt.
Q Iran says it’s holding the United States responsible for the safety of an Iranian diplomat who was seized by people in Iraqi uniforms, Iraqi soldier uniforms. What do you know about this?
MR. SNOW: All we know is that the Iraqi government is investigating it. And obviously, we abide by and support the Vienna Convention for diplomats. But we don’t really know a lot about it at this point. We know that the Iraqi government is investigating.
Q And is the United States — can it confirm that Iraqi soldiers took this person?
MR. SNOW: Again, I think you — refer all that to the Iraqi government. We’ve seen the news reports. We’re not in the business of confirming. They’re investigating. I would refer you to the people doing the investigation.
Q Do we know, did it happen?
MR. SNOW: I’ve seen news reports, again, Terry —
Q Nothing more than that?
MR. SNOW: Terry, you know who to call, or you know who to have your people call.
Q I’m starting with you.
MR. SNOW: All right, and I’m telling you that this is something that the Iraqis are investigating.
Sigh. The Assministration’s evaluation of the performance of Iraqi army units seems to rest on the narrow shoulders of blogger.
Q I’ve read a couple of articles, in two papers this morning, that seems to back up what our people in Iraq are saying, which is that the Iraqi soldiers do not make, at this point, the kind of partners on a raid that a lot of the U.S. troops feel comfortable trusting, that they’re not up to the job yet. What evidence do you have, or have you seen, that the Iraqi soldiers are up to the job?
MR. SNOW: Number one, we have all seen differing reports. As a matter of fact, you open today’s newspapers, and you have everything from, yes, they’re doing great, to, we’re still building — working with them.
There are two things. First, we have heard many times from our combatant commanders that there is significantly increased capability among the Iraqis, and there is also testimony from reporters, bloggers, embeds and others that they’ve seen a considerable improvement over the last 12 months.
Nevertheless, it’s also the case that there is still the need to build greater capability.
Read My Lips: No New
Q Tony, in his speech today in Virginia, the President talked about trying to find common ground on Medicare and Social Security. Are there any new ideas that he wants to put on the table, or is he referring to —
MR. SNOW: No, the President really has put his ideas on the table, and now what has been going on is Treasury Secretary Paulson and others have been talking around town to say, we know everybody has concern; it is absolutely clear to one and all that the present system is unsustainable in the long run. So you need to find a way that is going to enable us to meet our obligations to retirees without bankrupting younger generations of workers. So if people have other ideas, we’d certainly like to see them.
Q But he doesn’t have any new ones?
MR. SNOW: He does have —
Q They were non-starters in the last session.
MR. SNOW: Well, you know what? They make sense. The point is, at some point, one has to stop looking strictly through a political lens and ask the very pragmatic question, what works? And we’re absolutely confident that this approach works.
Q Can I ask you about an argument the President made today and has made repeatedly in terms of the tax cuts? He speaks of the economic output that is raised by the tax cuts. But he specifically is crediting his tax cuts for the increased revenues to the U.S. Treasury. Does the President believe that the tax cuts have paid for themselves, or will pay for themselves anytime in the foreseeable future?
MR. SNOW: What you’re doing is you’re getting yourself into abstruse ground. There are any number of ways of calculating it. By some calculations they have paid for themselves and then some. But what I’d ask to do before getting into that thicket is to find out what you want to use as your base, know what your baselines are, because whenever one gets into games like this, it’s all about assumptions. And I don’t know what assumptions are embedded in the question.
Q I’m not sure I’d look at it as a game, but when the President says low taxes means economic vitality, which means more tax revenues —
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q — does the Treasury tell him that more money is coming in than was lost to the tax cuts?
MR. SNOW: Well, I’m not sure — the whole point is that the tax cuts generate extra economic activity. All you have to do is — I would, if you want to —
Q That’s a separate issue.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, it’s not. It’s not a separate issue at all. What it says is when you have greater economic —
Q If the economy is growing more, that’s one thing; but whether tax revenues are growing is a separate issue.
MR. SNOW: Well, but tax revenues tend to grow in tandem with economic activity.
Q I’m asking specifically about the budget, which is what the President was arguing about today. And when he says low taxes means more tax revenues —
MR. SNOW: Yes, that’s right.
Q — he is, in a sense, saying that it makes it easier to balance the budget, is he not?
MR. SNOW: Yes. A growing economy always makes it easier to balance the budget.
Q No, that cutting taxes in the way he’s done makes it easier to balance the budget.
MR. SNOW: But cutting the taxes — you’re not connecting the dots. Cutting the taxes, in fact, is something that encourages economic growth. And it is that economic growth that ends up generating the revenue, that allows you to balance the budget ahead of time.
Q But has the Treasury told him that the tax cuts enacted on his watch make it easier to balance the budget?
MR. SNOW: I’m not sure that anybody has framed it that way. Call over to Treasury, ask them.
Q I’ve looked at their analyses; I don’t see it, is why I’m asking.
MR. SNOW: Like I said, that’s why — when you talk about pay-for, that really does get into how are you cutting it, and what are you using as your baseline, what’s your projection, what are the assumptions. That is not as simple a question as you might think it is. It just isn’t. Whenever you get into —
Q I know this debate is to how big the effect is, but I’ve not seen it —
MR. SNOW: But I’ve also heard people say, yes, we can say it’s paid for.
Kinsolving Succeeds in Pissing Off Pony Blow in Your Daily Les
Q I have a couple of follow-ups. The Fort Worth Star Telegraph quotes President Bush on Fox TV network as saying that he is bound by strict federal guidelines on pardons, and cannot immediately grant a pardon to Border Patrol agents Ramos and Campean because, quote, “there is a series of steps that are analyzed in order for the Justice Department to make a recommendation as to whether or not a President grants a pardon,” from the President. Was this series of analyzed steps followed when President Jerry Ford pardoned President Nixon even before he was tried; when President Carter pardoned all those draft resisters?
MR. SNOW: You know, that is one of the most preposterous comparisons I’ve ever heard. But having said that, let me just — what you’re asking is, should the President waive standard procedures in this case. And the answer is, no, we want to be careful about issuing pardons, and we’re trying to be careful about the facts, which is why the Department of Justice is in the process of trying to get full transcripts of the trial of Agents Compean and Ramos, so you and everybody else who are willing to ask questions about this will be armed with facts.