Dana Peroxide channelled Little Scottie today.
Q But did the President actually see the testimony?
MS. PERINO: He got regular updates from us while we were on the road — we were on the road that day, on the way to Ohio.
Q So how can he say he has increased confidence if he got updates from other people? So he didn’t actually see the testimony, himself, because —
MS. PERINO: He got updates from us, and I think he saw some news coverage of it later that day.
Q But as Jim noted, I mean, Arlen Specter yesterday said that it was “very, very damaging to his own credibility.” So what did the President see — well, he didn’t see the testimony, but what did he hear that he —
MS. PERINO: What the President knows is that the Attorney General answered honestly, truthfully and was as responsive to Congress as he could possibly be during hours of testimony and in turning over all the documents, and then making people that work for him available to the Congress in order to answer their questions.
Flashback to September 29, 2003:
Q All right. Let me just follow up. You said this morning, “The President knows” that Karl Rove wasn’t involved. How does he know that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I’ve made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place. I saw some comments this morning from the person who made that suggestion, backing away from that. And I said it is simply not true. So, I mean, it’s public knowledge. I’ve said that it’s not true. And I have spoken with Karl Rove —
Q But how does —
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to get into conversations that the President has with advisors or staff or anything of that nature; that’s not my practice.
Q But the President has a factual basis for knowing that Karl Rove —
MR. McCLELLAN: I said it publicly. I said that —
Q But I’m not asking what you said, I’m asking if the President has a factual basis for saying — for your statement that he knows Karl Rove —
MR. McCLELLAN: He’s aware of what I’ve said, that there is simply no truth to that suggestion. And I have spoken with Karl about it.
Q Does he know whether or not the Vice President’s Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby —
MR. McCLELLAN: If you have any specific information to bring to my attention — like I said, there has been nothing that’s been brought to our attention.
Dana Peroxide — So Lame
Q Does the White House think that Congress should have any role in talking about the Iraq war, setting deadlines or anything like this — that they should have any voice?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think the Congress does have a voice and does have input. And the President has said from the beginning that if they have ideas and they have concerns, that he wants to hear them.
One thing that concerned me today is I heard that Senator Reid said that the President is in denial about the war. And I think that any quick glance in the mirror would show him that he’s in denial on several things — that Senator Reid is.
Q Back on Iraq. The President said this morning he’s willing to work with Congress, but Senator Reid said that when he met with the President last week, the President just repeated some scripted talking points. Is that, in fact, true?
MS. PERINO: I think that Senator Reid is confusing scripted talking points with principled stand.
He shouldn’t be able — Senator Reid should not be allowed to get away with his own scripted talking points, that is sometimes a little bit hard to keep track of because you can’t understand what his positions are. But this President has had a very principled stand and I don’t think anyone could argue with that.
The Assministration Is “Flailing and Defenseless”
Q Can you talk about — you talked about the fact that you won’t leave the Iraqis “flailing and defenseless,” as you say. And, yet, the President repeatedly says, and everybody from the administration, that this is not an open-ended commitment. So at some point are you willing to leave them? If they don’t come along and the Iraqi government doesn’t do what you want it to do, what’s required — are you willing to leave them at that point?
MS. PERINO: I think that the President is confident that Prime Minister Maliki understands that the Iraqi people have limited patience, as well, and they are desperate for the security and to get their lives back to what they were before. I think that he believes that while they don’t have the capacity yet in order to perform the political reconciliations that need to be done, that they are on their way to be able to doing so.
Q But back on the open-ended commitment — I mean, you’re trying to clearly pressure the Iraqi government to meet some sort of benchmark, you don’t think they’re going fast enough, you’d like them to go faster. If they don’t go fast enough, then can you see pulling out?
MS. PERINO: Look, I think that you’re asking me to answer a hypothetical question. And what I could tell you is that —
Q But you’re the one who’s saying that the Democrats are saying they would leave them defenseless and flailing.
MS. PERINO: That’s what I’m saying. And what the President is saying is let’s let this Baghdad security plan have a chance to work.
So I think it’s a little bit premature — and the President has confidence that Prime Minister Maliki, and that the Iraqi troops who are growing in number, and the police officers who are growing in number, in terms of the training, that they will be able to succeed.
Q Can you describe what success will look like at this point?
MS. PERINO: That has not changed for the President. He believes that success is an Iraq that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror, and be a democratic country in the heart of the Middle East.
Throwing The President’s Words In Her Face
Q Dana, on March 14th, when the President first talked about Alberto Gonzales, he said, mistakes were made and he will send the Attorney General to Capitol Hill to correct those mistakes. Does the President feel like that’s what the Attorney General did last week?
MS. PERINO: You heard from the President this morning, and he said that the Attorney General went to Congress after providing thousands of pages of documents, and talking to them individually, but went to Congress and answered hours of testimony, and he answered as honestly as he could. And so, yes, the President thinks he did the work that he needed to do.
Q But here’s what I don’t understand about that, because I thought what the President’s point was, Alberto Gonzales had to be able to sort of make it right with Congress; to regain the faith and the trust on the Hill. And if you take a look at Republican senators — so it’s not politics as usual — Republican senators, he didn’t do that.
MS. PERINO: I think there is no doubt that there are some people who don’t support the Attorney General. But you heard the President today; he does. And I think what the President was talking about on March 14th, and any other time that he said that the Attorney General would go to Capitol Hill, is that he would answer the questions honestly and answer to the best of his ability in terms of what he could recall.
Q He did answer to the best of his ability, I suppose, but that wasn’t good enough not just for one or two Republicans — with the exception of maybe one, one-and-a-half, just about every Republican on the Judiciary Committee. So the question becomes, is the President looking out of touch with his stance of unwavering support behind the Attorney General?
MS. PERINO: We have strong, good relationships with our allies on Capitol Hill. And when you have relationships like that, you can have the opportunity to respectfully disagree with them.
And so when the Attorney General went up and answered hours’ worth of questions from the Congress, he did what he could in order to answer honestly and to the best of his ability. And that’s what the President asked him to do.
Q Dana, to follow on that, you just used a phrase that the President did today, “he answered as honestly as he could.” Isn’t honesty sort of black and white?
MS. PERINO: I think what I mean by that is that I know that there was frustration because there were several types of questions that the Attorney General could not answer with a “yes” or a “no” because he didn’t recall. And I think that’s what the President meant, and that’s what I mean now.
Q There were about 64 variations, according to some accounts in the media, 64 variations of “I don’t recall,” “I don’t remember. So what about that testimony in which he said “I don’t recall,” some variation, 64 times, that made the President say he now has increased confidence in the Attorney General?
MS. PERINO: Look, Ed, I think that you had testimony that lasted I don’t know how many hours, over seven hours, and so many of those questions were repeated over and over. And the Attorney General, who is an honorable and honest man answered truthfully. And I think that’s all that we can ask of any public servant or any of us in this room.
Memory Problem At Justice
Q Between them, the Attorney General and Kyle Sampson said, “I don’t recall” over 200 times. Is there concern that at the top of the Justice Department, there’s seems to be a massive lack of memory?
MS. PERINO: Victoria, I think that that is an outrageous comment. The Attorney General and Kyle Sampson are two of the most honorable people I know. And they were asked multiple questions in various different ways on the same topics in which they did not have full memory. Now what would have been dishonorable is if they had made it up. And they didn’t. They were honest.
Q But, nevertheless, they didn’t remember.
MS. PERINO: It’s just as if you don’t remember something. You shouldn’t make it up just to satisfy somebody’s curiosity about something. That would be wrong.
Q But there is not concern that there are people running the Department —
MS. PERINO: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
Chimpy Won’t Dump His Friend (Unless He Does So To Save Himself Or Rover)
Q Dana, how far — on Gonzales, how far does friendship and loyalty go when you have people in your own party now calling for you to step down?
MS. PERINO: I’m not going to answer that. You know, Kelly answered [sic] a similar question. And while the President takes very seriously long-time friendships, he takes very seriously, as well, capabilities. And anyone who takes an objective look at the record of the Department of Justice will see that they’ve done — he’s done a remarkable job at the helm.
Q But is the President to a point where friendship is overriding politics, policy, and what some people are calling common sense?
MS. PERINO: No, I don’t believe so. I think that the Attorney General is fulfilling the agenda that the — the prosecutorial agenda that the President wants to follow. You know, today, he’s — the Attorney General and the FTC Chairman, Deborah Majoras, are holding a press conference talking about identity theft, which is one of the things that he asked them to do. They are going about the business of the American people, and that’s what the President expects.
Poor Karl Rove
Q Dana, can I ask you, there’s been a lot of chatter over the last couple days about this confrontation that Karl Rove allegedly had with a couple of celebrities about global warming, climate change. What was Karl Rove’s reaction to being confronted at the dinner in this way?
MS. PERINO: I think Karl Rove just wanted to have some fun on Saturday night. And I think he wasn’t the only one.
I think that it’s unfortunate that people who have an impassioned view about a topic don’t take the time and afford the President the same respect that they are asking for. The President’s record on climate change is very strong. I do not understand why they can’t take “yes” for an answer. The President has acknowledged, since the beginning of his term, that climate change is real. He has a different approach of how to help solve the problems, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t acted.
We have provided billions of dollars, in terms of resources, to develop the new technologies that are not only going to help solve that problem, but will also help lift people out of poverty from around the world because they need the clean energy that everyone else needs in order to help their economies grow.
Q But it was not until this last State of the Union that he mentioned climate change, right, so —
MS. PERINO: Absolutely not.
Q He did not mention it directly.
MS. PERINO: In the State of the Union?
Q In the State of the Union. I thought this was the last —
MS. PERINO: Well, in the State of the Union, but that doesn’t mean that people weren’t actively working on things.
So we have big climate change challenges ahead of us, and I just wish that they would channel some of that Hollywood energy into something constructive, rather than baseless finger pointing.
Q Did Rove leave early because he was angry because of this?
MS. PERINO: Rove left to get in the motorcade to go home. (Laughter.) That’s what we all have to do if we’re in the motorcade. I got to stay behind.