Intoday’s gaggle Pony Blow claims that Osama bin Laden is no longer leading al Qaeda.
Q Tony, yesterday the President’s new Director of National Intelligence testified on Capitol Hill for the first time, and said, U.S. intelligence believes that Osama bin Laden and his number two are alive in Pakistan and reestablishing training camps. If you really have bin Laden on the run, how is he reestablishing training camps?
MR. SNOW: Well, that’s a question — that’s an intelligence matter that I’m not going to be able to go into.
Q But how can you continually say the leadership is on the run and —
MR. SNOW: Well, you take a look also at statements that have been made by generals in recent days — General Schoomaker the other day had a comment that I was asked about, which is he thought bin Laden had been marginalized. The question is whether al Qaeda — I think the bin Laden question may be separable from the al Qaeda question. It’s clear that al Qaeda is trying to gain strength —
Q But isn’t he the leader of al Qaeda?
MR. SNOW: Well, I don’t know. It’s a real question about who assumes operational command.
No Training? No Problem!
Q There was also a report this morning that two Army combat brigades are being sent to Iraq without desert training — the Associated Press has a story out today — and that it’s because they’re being rushed to Iraq to help get the surge in place.
MR. SNOW: Again, let me stress, what happens is, a lot of times you will also do training in theaters, as well as equipping in theater. The generals have made it very clear, and military commanders have made it clear, nobody is going to go into combat activity without proper equipment and training. Period. So if things —
Q But the story flatly says that two brigades are going in without desert training in California. So that doesn’t sound like —
MR. SNOW: All right, I understand.
Q — they’re getting the training.
MR. SNOW: Well, but they can get desert training elsewhere, like in Iraq.
Yesterday , Dick Cheney insisted that he be identified only as a“Senior Assministration Official” before agreeing to answer questions from the press. Then Dick proceeded to out himself in his very first sentence.
The gagglers want to know what’s up with that.
Q Tony, what’s the upshot on your talks on the senior administration official transcript?
MR. SNOW: I have spoken with the Vice President’s office, and the ground rules that were laid out are going to remain in effect. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Well, I will direct that to them. They said that the opinion is that everybody on the plane had agreed to ground rules, and they were not inclined to change them.
Q But didn’t the Vice President change them in his comments?
MR. SNOW: I don’t think so. I mean —
Q — when he identified himself?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I will not comment on a senior administration official briefing. I will simply tell you that that is the opinion of the Vice President’s office. And for further — if you wish to go back and get them to referee it, you may do so.
Q While we’re on this — can I just continue? Can you explain —
MR. SNOW: Please. This is riveting.
Q — on the topic of senior administration officials, why — explain why that device is ever used, and why the public isn’t entitled to know who’s talking when the people they pay them do what they’re paid to do?
MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, sometimes, for instance, when we have senior administration officials who will brief in this room, it is important for matters of confidentiality, in terms of — they’re able to be more open with you, as senior administration officials, and also it denies people an opportunity perhaps to — in any event, I’m not going to get — look, I’m not going to get myself stuck in the endless sort of spin cycle of trying to deal with rules on senior administration officials. If you would like those briefings to cease, we could probably make that happen, but I think you would be poorer for it, and we would, too.
Despite What You May Think, Pony Blow Is Not Staring At Your Ass
Q Back to Katrina. The President took a lot of flak for not mentioning Katrina in the State of the Union speech. In hindsight, was that a mistake?
MR. SNOW: It’s not — you know what? “In hindsight,” I’m just not going to play the “hindsight” game.
And finally, in Your Daily Les, Kinsolving goes all Roger Ebert on us.
Q Tony, thank you. Two questions. Since the President’s one-time election opponent is the only Vice President ever to win the Academy Award’s Oscar, did the President send him congratulations?
MR. SNOW: I’m not aware that he did. But I will send mine.
Q Is this because — the fact that you don’t know that he sent him congratulations due to the fact that the President believes the award should have been for science fiction?
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t. But that was very clever. That was a good one.
Q Thank you very much.
Q No, it wasn’t.
MR. SNOW: Front row disagrees.
Q Did the President watch the movie?
MR. SNOW: I doubt it.