Today we discover that Pony Blow doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “benchmarks”.
First, the House is going to be taking up a war supplemental spending bill — a couple of notes on that. It is a withdraw-the-troops bill, not a fund-the-troops bill. It requires the Iraqi government to meet certain conditions or benchmarks;but even if the benchmarks are met, it would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops and forces without regard to whether we’re making progress against the enemy. It would also force failure of the mission in Iraq and forfeit the sacrifices made by our troops.
Um, Pony? If the benchmarks are met that will mean we are “making progress”. Let’s have a gaggler try to explain.
Q Tony, can I ask about the string that’s in the House bill? September 2008, is their deadline. The President said today, don’t judge my plan in days, don’t judge it in weeks — but months we should know whether it’s working. Eighteen months in the future seemed a pretty far period of time.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, the concept of trying to create withdrawal without reference to the conditions on the ground, the President considers that irresponsible.
Q Does that mean that the — and I know we’ve gone over this before, but it seems like the message today is the same. Is this not an open-ended commitment?
MR. SNOW: No, it’s a commitment to win, that’s what it is. It’s a commitment to succeed.
Q But isn’t the message, at the same time, don’t worry if you don’t meet the benchmarks, because we’re going to be there as long as it takes?
MR. SNOW: No, the President has made it very clear to Prime Minister Maliki he understands the political atmosphere. But, frankly, that’s not been the situation.
Next Topic: Alberto Be-Out-Of-Your-Office-By-Five
Q You said this morning that you hope that — the White House hopes that Alberto Gonzales stays as Attorney General. Your comment has been seen as a rather tepid endorsement. Has he —
MR. SNOW: No, I didn’t —
Q Has he offered his resignation?
MR. SNOW: No, he hasn’t. Let me — a couple of things. And the President has not spoken to him since he spoke to him in Mexico. What I was trying to do is, you ask a hypothetical question about things that are going to happen over the next two years. None of us knows what’s going to happen to us over the next 21 months, and that’s why it’s an impossible question to answer: Will somebody stay throughout? However, the reason I said, we hope so, is we hope so. He has the confidence of the President. But I do not — as a pure and simple matter, nobody is prophetic enough to know what the next 21 months hold.
Q And there’s backing away from him?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q There’s full confidence?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Pony Blow Sez: Fred Fielding Rulz My World
Q Wouldn’t it help, if White House aides have nothing to hide, come forward and tell what they knew, when they knew it, and clear the whole thing up? You’re putting out documents. Why not make —
MR. SNOW: As I’ve said before — first, let’s put this in perspective, please. The President does have the authority to hire and fire people who serve at his pleasure — political appointees. And while we know that there are some questions that people have, the Department of Justice, which conducted the review, has offered to make available all documents and individuals. That seems to me to be a pretty forthcoming offer.
So at this juncture — and I’m going to let Fred [Fielding] — I’m not going to get into the position of trying to explain to you or to make predictions or to tell people what’s likely to happen, because I think that’s best left — and, again, it’s in the spirit of not trying to issue dicta from this podium. Fred is going there to try to have constructive talks.
Q You seem to be trying to insulate the White House. You keep saying the Justice Department is making people available, but White House people have been implicated in these emails, as well. So it’s one thing to put up Justice officials. What about the White House?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, the White House made available those emails.
Q What about the officials, I’m asking.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, that’s a question that has a lot of complexity to it, Ed. You know that, and that’s why I’ll leave it in the capable hands of Fred.
Q It’s not an offer. He’s not going — necessarily going up there tomorrow with an offer. He’s just going up there to have constructive conversation?
MR. SNOW: I’m not telling you — look, I’m not — again, I’m letting Fred conduct the conversations, and I’m not in a position to tell you what he’s going to be taking.
Karl Rove Can Talk About His Role In Firing The US Attorneys Whenever He Likes – So Long As He Is Not Speaking Before Congress
Q Tony, how do you respond to senators who are asking, since Karl Rove is making speeches on this topic, why can’t he come to the Hill and answer questions about it?
MR. SNOW: I understand, and, again, I’m going to leave that to Fred. As you know, Peter, conversations like this involve some fairly complex issues and I think Fred Fielding is the man to be dealing with that, and not me.
Q Why is he using this tactic of sort of preemptively giving his — explaining his case, laying it out in friendly audiences —
MR. SNOW: I believe Karl was answering a question. This wasn’t preemptively, it was answering a question from a student at Troy State University.
Q He doesn’t have to answer it.
MR. SNOW: Well, he did.
Lam Was Fired Because Her Fleece Was White As Snow
Q The White House has been clear that politics didn’t play a role in the firing of the seven or eight U.S. attorneys. And, yet, Senator Feinstein has highlighted, in the case of Carol Lam in San Diego, an email from Kyle Sampson to the White House Counsel’s Office saying, one day after she filed indictments against Republican lawmakers — this is a paraphrase — we need to do something about her now. Is that appropriate? Is that not political in appearance?
MR. SNOW: Again, I’m going to let Kyle Sampson refer to that. If you also take a look at emails in your possession, you’ll find as early as January 2005, there were expressed concerns about Carol Lam. But having said that, those are issues properly addressed to the Justice Department and to those responsible.
Q Well, but, Tony, if I can just follow, because this is — it’s not good enough to say, well, Justice Department officials will be made available, and so forth. You say, put it in perspective. Part of that perspective is the question of independence, the judicial independence — Justice Department’s independence from the White House. And this is the White House Counsel’s Office and political advisor involved in conversations about attorneys. And in this case, a direct communication about, “we need to do something about her now.”
MR. SNOW: But, again, you’re referring to a Kyle Sampson memo. What I’m telling you is, I’m going to — Kyle Sampson and others are going to have to answer the question what they meant by that, because I don’t know. We don’t have the context for it. But what I tell you, the implication in your question is that suddenly she becomes a concern on this date — which I believe is in, like, May of 2006, something like that. We have documents that, again, have been made public already that have people expressing concern about her in January of 2005. I’m not sure —
Q So no political interference in this particular firing?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Candy and Flowers
Q A new USA Today/ABC News poll of Iraqis around the country, where six in 10 people are saying their lives are going badly, only a third saying things will get better next year. What is the administration’s reaction to this?
MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, there was also a British poll at the same time that had almost diametrically opposed results.
Q So, Tony, you don’t believe that this poll is accurate? It doesn’t tell —
MR. SNOW: I don’t know. I don’t know.
Q But isn’t it rather devastating to have these kinds of figures coming from the Iraqi people, themselves, despite the progress you continually cite?
MR. SNOW: Martha, as I said, it’s a little difficult to assess how the polls work. I know your network did the poll —
Q But you’ve done polling, right?
MR. SNOW: — and I said and another network. You know, there was a British poll with twice the sample that reached a different conclusion.
Q That was some time ago.
MR. SNOW: So the point is, we understand that there are challenges, but —
Q But this is beyond challenges. It’s the Iraqi people, themselves, are feeling they don’t have security — and you can go through all those poll numbers — isn’t that devastating, four years into the war?
MR. SNOW: No. No. Devastating? No, what it is, is — I’ll tell you what it indicates is that, again, you have an enemy that tries to use acts of violence to shape public opinion and to try to influence the course of American policy and perhaps even Iraqi perceptions.
Pony Blow Sez The President Is Not Optimistic About Iraq
Q When did the President decide he would make the statement this morning? It wasn’t on the schedule.
MR. SNOW: I believe over the weekend.
Q So how would you characterize his frame of mind right now?
MR. SNOW: Determined. When it comes to Iraq, you have to be focused, you have to be determined, and at the same time, you have to be realistic about the challenges and make sure that you’re getting as clear a view of what’s going on, and at the same time, everybody also is trying to respond as quickly as possible to a changing situation — keeping in mind the much broader framework that Iraq not only is a central front on the war on terror, there are other pieces in the war on terror.
So what the President — I think the President is determined. He understands —
Q Is he optimistic?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know if he — I think “determined” is the proper term to use.
Q Tony, it seems there was a time when the President came close to guaranteeing victory in this war. Today he said that it can be won. Asked if he’s still optimistic, you said he’s determined. Is his optimism down from what it was?
MR. SNOW: No, it’s not. But the reason I — the reason for the formulation is you’ve got a political debate in this country, and part of the political debate hinges upon whether Congress is going to provide the flexibility and funding necessary to succeed. And it is a very high-stakes debate. The President has already laid his marker.
So, no, he — in terms of his optimism, no, but at the same time, he understands in the political environment, first thing you’ve got to do is to make sure you have the funding and flexibility in place so General Petraeus can proceed along the lines laid out, not merely the Baghdad security plan, but also integrated security activities within Iraq. And keep in mind, all this also is taking place in the context of a larger build-up of the Marines and the United States Army forces, which the President had recommended in the State of the Union address. So there are a lot of different pieces going on.
Q With the funding and flexibility, is he guaranteeing victory?
MR. SNOW: Again, I think at this particular point, the President is not issuing guarantees, but he is confident that if we stay along the course and we maintain our focus, we can win.
Q Thank you, Tony.
MR. SNOW: That is not a back-off. I mean, it’s simply a statement of his belief.
Q Does it guarantee defeat if he doesn’t get the funding and flexibility —
MR. SNOW: I don’t believe the President is in the business of making guarantees.
Les Kinsolving Is Wasting Your Time
Q Thank you. In the 1987 Washington summit’s first one-on-one session, when the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev contended that a congressional proposal to build a fence along the Mexican border was as bad as anything the USSR had ever done in the Berlin Wall, President Reagan replied — and this is a quote — “This is hardly the same thing as building a Berlin Wall, which imprisoned people in a social system they didn’t want to be a part of.” My question: Does President Bush believe that President Reagan was right — (laughter) —
MR. SNOW: I’m sorry, I was working on the — (laughter.)
Q Keep going or repeat it again —
Q — on the last question? I’ll be glad if you want to answer the last question.
MR. SNOW: It will take a little while. Les, come on. You ask me a question that pertains to news and I’ll be happy to —
Q Well, this is news. Does President Bush believe that President Reagan was right, and that Mexico’s President Calderon is wrong to compare our border fence to the Berlin Wall?
MR. SNOW: What the President has said is that the United States is determined to do what is necessary for border security. And he’s also working with President Calderon on a series of issues of mutual concern to make sure that we have security and we also —
Q How does he feel about Calderon’s comparison of this wall to the Berlin Wall, is my question, Tony.
MR. SNOW: I don’t have an answer for you, Les. Thank you.
Q You would like to evade?
MR. SNOW: No, it’s just — you’re bringing in Ronald Reagan and you’re doing all this stuff and it’s —
Q Why not bring in Ronald Reagan? Are you opposed to Ronald Reagan, or what?
MR. SNOW: Love the man, but, frankly, it just meanders too much.