Man, the gagglers batted Dana Peroxide around the briefing room like a ping-pong ball today.
First, On The President And Majority Votes In Congress
Q On this Iraq spending bill, does the President really think that majority votes by both houses of Congress requires no give on his part?
MS. PERINO: Well, that’s — first, let’s step back and talk about that majority, which was a bare majority of 50 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House, which were cobbled together in order to twist arms and buy votes using domestic spending from all the different lobbies that I mentioned, plus other ones — tropical fish — I forgot to throw that one in there.
So if we start there, and say that is not, in any way, representative of large majorities in either side. Of course, the President understands that there needs to be give-and-take between Congress and the White House when we’re talking about any type of legislation. But they’ve known for three weeks what the President’s position is regarding arbitrary timetables for withdrawal, and that is what he said he would veto.
Q Dana, just to follow up on that, then, perhaps a little clarity — if a bill were to come back stripped of spinach, peanut, shrimp, tropical fish, anything else, if it came back stripped entirely of pork, but had timetables in there, would they still get a veto?
MS. PERINO: I think the President said that if there are arbitrary timetables for withdrawal that would tie the hands of our commanders on the ground, then, yes, he said he would veto it.
Iraq War Forevah!
Q So he doesn’t want to be out before 2008?
MS. PERINO: The President would like to see troops home as soon as possible —
Q We know all that business.
MS. PERINO: — but the President does not want to tie the generals’ hands on the ground. I’ll tell you, the framers of our Constitution had it right when they realized that you needed to have one Commander-in-Chief in charge of the war, not 535 generals on Capitol Hill.
Chimpy Is Responsible For Al Qaeda In Iraq
Q The President emphasized al Qaeda in Iraq, and if they don’t — we’ll fight them there. Before the war, he indicated — he not only indicated, he said that there were no ties with Saddam. Is he responsible for bringing al Qaeda into Iraq?
MS. PERINO: I don’t think the President is responsible — no, absolutely not. Al Qaeda went to Iraq —
Q Absolutely not?
MS. PERINO: You just have to go back to Zarqawi, and how he set up shop there in Iraq, and started fomenting the sectarian violence, and he was successful —
Q And he doesn’t think our moves brought them in?
MS. PERINO: — and we’re having to fight that now.
It’s The President Who Will Be Vetoing Funds For Our Troops
Q This morning you said that if the funds stop for the troops in Iraq, that will be the fault of the Democrats, not the President. But in point of fact, it would be the President who is denying this funding from going through. So does the President really want to halt funds to our troops?
MS. PERINO: Surely there can be no excuse for the Democrats trying to pin the blame on the President. What he has said —
Q But it’s not — it’s the mechanical way this works. It would literally be the President who’s stopping this. Is he comfortable being the person stopping the funding?
About Those Bloggers…
Q In his speech today, the President also quoted from a blogger in Iraq as an example of positive developments there, people who see positive developments. Is this really representative of what’s going on in Iraq, one blogger? Is this what the White House is relying on?
MS. PERINO: No, Jessica, you have to look at all the different inputs that are coming in, and General Petraeus’s reports, and from the commanders on the ground, and your own colleagues’ reporting over there. We know that there are real challenges. Obviously, real challenges remain. We have lots of violence. But I think what the President was doing was taking an opportunity to talk about what one person’s expression is.
Q Dana, back on the issue of the bloggers, the unnamed Iraqi bloggers that the President cited and tried to use to help make his argument for progress in Iraq — this is an administration that doesn’t respond to anonymous quotes in established media outlets here in the United States. The President is citing these anonymous — two anonymous Iraqi bloggers to help make the argument —
MS. PERINO: It’s one input from many different inputs that are coming in regarding progress on the ground.
Q Isn’t that a little ironic, though?
MS. PERINO: No, I don’t think it is. You guys call me with anonymous quotes that you want me to respond to all of the time, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I do. I have before.
Q But as a tactic, for him to be — is there something that prompted that specific —
MS. PERINO: I’ll look into the — I think that maybe somebody found it compelling, the President wanted to include it in his speech. And I’ll see if I can get more for you on it, but I don’t think it’s unusual. Blogs are new for all of us, and I know that you all look at them, because then you call me and ask me what we think about the blogs.
Q On the speech today, on these bloggers, does the White House know the identity, or is this just something someone came across —
MS. PERINO: Can I check? I don’t know, I’ll have to check. It was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article at some point. I think I let some of you know that this morning.
Q And just now the White House came upon them?
MS. PERINO: I’m not sure. I don’t know if somebody saw it initially. I don’t know. We can try to check into it. We keep records on that.
Q Back to the speech, if I may. The President said, quoting the Iraqi blogger, that displaced people are coming back home and that the markets in Baghdad in busy. Does the President believe this is what’s happening in Iraq today?
MS. PERINO: I believe General Petraeus has said similar things, and reports on the ground — again, amid real challenges. We’re under no illusions that there are — that things are rosy in Baghdad. Clearly, it is a very, very tough situation and it remains so. But as General Petraeus has said, they are beginning to see some signs of improvement based on the plan that he’s implementing, that the Senate sent him to do unanimously, but now says that they don’t want to fund him to do.
Blogger Identities Revealed
Omar and Mohammed Fadhil write an English-language blog, IraqTheModel.com, from Baghdad. These two brothers, who are both dentists, met with President Bush in the Oval Office on December 9, 2004. Their writings have been widely sited in news outlets like the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Investor’s Business Daily. On March 5, 2007, they authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Notes from Baghdad.”
Chimpy Is Overheated
Q Dana, Nancy Pelosi said she wishes the President would just take a deep breath. Any response to that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think I would go back to the same thing, which is that — she also said that each of us — meaning the Congress and the White House — has a constitutional role, and that is true. And the founders of our country realized that the Commander-in-Chief needed to be the one having the power to conduct the war, not 535 generals on Capitol Hill. And so I think that maybe Washington could take a collective deep breath, but the President has been clearly and calmly explaining that he would veto this bill if it came to him in this format.
Q You don’t feel he’s overheated —
MS. PERINO: No, I don’t.
The President Don’t Do Polls
Q Democrats say they’re reflecting the prevailing opinion of the American people, and the polls seem to bear them out. What’s wrong with doing that?
MS. PERINO: We understand that people want the troops to come home. It’s absolutely clear. We know that war is not popular, it hasn’t been, and this war has not been going well, which is why the President had to have the Iraq review that he did last fall, that culminated in the new way forward that he announced on January 10th.
Q I wanted to come back for a second on the war bill. You said earlier that you thought the public does not support the kind of conditions that the House and Senate are talking about, even though the Pew poll just the other day showed, in fact, strong majority support exactly the kind of bills — the majority says they want their representative to vote for these bills. How do you reconcile that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think it’s incumbent upon us to talk about the consequences of what these bills would do. I know people want the troops to come home, and I think it is probably attractive to think of a date when we could come home, that that would be a goal that we could all look forward to. Unfortunately — and it is incumbent upon us to talk to people across the country, to let them know that those timetables are dates when people can — our enemies can mark their calendars and sit back, regroup, refit, relax, and get ready to have a new safe haven from which to launch attacks. I don’t think the American people would be for that.
Q So they support it, but they’re just not fully aware of the consequences?
MS. PERINO: I think that the consequences are important. I also think that if they realize that the troops weren’t going to be able to get the funding that they needed while they’re in harm’s way, and that their families back home would also be victims of this problem, that they would not support the Democrats’ position. I think that what we need to do is have us get the bill up here, let the President do the veto, and then let more discussions begin on a cleaner bill.
Crazy Withdrawn Like A Fox
Q Another question. What happened to the Sam Fox nomination?
MS. PERINO: Sam Fox nomination? Let me — I’ve got a couple notes on that. As you saw, we sent up a withdrawal for Sam Fox’s nomination. The President believes that Mr. Fox is qualified to serve as ambassador to Belgium. He has a proven record of leadership and a strong willingness to serve our country. He has a long list of accomplishments, including one of them being named the St. Louis Citizen of the Year.
Unfortunately, we received word that because of politics, some members of the Senate would have voted against his nomination, which would have prevented him from serving in this important position. So we are disappointed that they made their decision based upon partisan politics instead of his leadership abilities, and that’s why we withdrew the nomination.
Q The votes weren’t there because of his $50,000 contribution to the Swift Boat group?
MS. PERINO: I don’t know what all the reasons were in terms of individual members making that decision. But we do think that he was qualified to serve, but we have withdrawn his nomination.
Q Do you think that his involvement with the Swift Boat group should be an issue, or should have been an issue?
MS. PERINO: I think that you look at his — no, I don’t think it is, and I think that — but, of course, members of Congress can make their own decisions. Senators can look at any nominee and weigh that decision. I think that weighed — if you look at that he was Chairman and CEO of the Harbour Group, Limited, served in key leadership roles in cultural, education and charitable institutions in St. Louis, on and on — and again, St. Louis Citizen of the Year. And so I think that senators have to make their own decisions, but obviously this is a person who’s qualified to serve as ambassador.
Q Did the White House know about his contribution before they nominated him?
MS. PERINO: There’s no — I don’t believe so. But I know that the President did not when he nominated him.
Q Would that have had an effect?
MS. PERINO: I don’t know.
Q On this topic, did senators threaten to put holds —
MS. PERINO: I don’t know. I do know that his nomination would not have passed today if the vote had been called up.
Q And why not let the vote go ahead?
MS. PERINO: We just decided to withdraw his name.