Hey, for the second consecutive day the White House has posted the transcript to the morning gaggle, which is unusualy since they normally only post the afternoon gaggle transcript.
Dana Gets All Snippy About “Mission Accomplished”…
Q How quickly will the President deal with a bill? How quickly will he veto it once it arrives here? Can we expect it to be done the same day?
MS. PERINO: I’m not going to put a time on it. But I think — it will be very soon.
Q Do you think — what do you think about the effort to time this with the fourth anniversary of the President’s declaration of the end of major combat —
MS. PERINO: Well, I noticed that yesterday there are anonymous Democratic sources who are saying that this was their strategy and that an on-the-record quote from the Senate Majority Leader’s spokesman saying that that is preposterous. I wonder which one is accurate. And I think that if it is the case that they withheld money for the troops in order to try to play some ridiculous PR stunt, that that is the height of cynicism, and absolutely so unfortunate for the men and women in uniform and their families who are watching the debate — and you would hope that that is not true, although it does make you wonder, why did the House wait so long to appoint conferees? There were no conferees appointed during that two-week break.
And I would just remind you that I know that our opponents for years have tried — have misconstrued that speech. I would encourage anybody who’s actually going to write about this to go back and read that speech and what it was about and what the USS Abraham Lincoln was doing, how long they had been gone, way past their six-month deployment. I think they were gone nine to 10 months. They were expanded, and their mission was accomplished. The President never said “mission accomplished” in his speech.
And I would just hope that the cynicism on the Hill doesn’t run that deep, but I wouldn’t put it past them.
Leaving The Door Wide Open For Helen Thomas…
Q Is it cynicism to want to bring people home to safety, instead of the daily killing that we see in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: No, Helen, that’s not what I was —
Q I mean, those words are very tough, very tough.
MS. PERINO: Helen, that’s not what I was talking about.
But that’s not what Terry’s question was. What I was saying is that it is cynical if they withheld money from the troops in order to have a PR stunt.
Q They’re not keeping money from the troops. They’ll put money in to bring them home.
MS. PERINO: Caren.
Which In Turn Lead To A Feeding Frenzy
Q Dana, on the “mission accomplished” speech, though, wasn’t the phrase something to the effect of, “the battle of Baghdad is over”? Clearly that’s not true.
MS. PERINO: I think it was — it was major combat. And I — it was major combat operations. And at that point, if you’re going back — I’m not the greater historian on this, since I was at the Council on Environmental Quality during this episode, but Baghdad did fall very quickly. [Chimpy actually said, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”] One of the things that we have learned over the years is how strong, first of all, that al Qaeda would be in Iraq, that they would set up this battle as, in their own words, the battle to win. And we did not know that their stoking of sectarian violence would do what it did last year. We had — at the end of 2005 and early 2006, you had the votes for a government and a vote for a constitution with millions of people in Iraq. And it looked like we were moving towards a period of political reconciliation. And then if you look at the marker of the bombing of the Samarra mosque in February of 2006, it really started this chain reaction, which is — then in the fall of 2006, the President heard the call of the American people who wanted to see a change in Iraq, and he underwent an extensive review, a comprehensive review which led to the new Baghdad security plan, which is now under way as General Petraeus —
Q Four years ago he said major combat operations were over. All those things happened after he said major combat operations were over. Wasn’t that a rosy scenario?
MS. PERINO: He said that — he also said that a transition from democracy — I’m sorry, the transition from dictatorship to democracy would take time. And — go ahead.
The Feeding Frenzy Continues — Dana Is So Out Of Her Depth
Q Are you really blaming al Qaeda for the sectarian violence in Iraq?
MS. PERINO: I think there’s multiple factors, and I think that even General Petraeus said yesterday that their whole aim — if you look at that Zarqawi to Zawahiri letter, their whole aim was to try to stoke sectarian violence. They love chaos, they want to fill the vacuum with their extremist ideology.
Q Are you suggesting that if it wasn’t for al Qaeda, there wouldn’t be sectarian violence?
MS. PERINO: No, I’m not suggesting that. But what we do know, and it has been established by the MNFI forces and the intelligence community, if you just look at the NIE that we released in January of 2007 that that is the consensus opinion of the national security agencies of this country.
Q But they’re not the only ones responsible. The sectarian divisions existed before, and were exacerbated by the war.
MS. PERINO: I don’t think that we’re — we’re not arguing that it wasn’t.
Now We Turn To Karl Rove’s Criminality
Q How about this political interference by the Hatch Act, in the Hatch Act?
MS. PERINO: There wasn’t political interference within the Hatch Act. What you’re talking about is —
Q Use of the government agencies?
MS. PERINO: No, what — it is perfectly lawful for the political appointees at the White House to provide informational briefings to political appointees at the agencies. And no laws were broken, and we provided more information about that last night.
Q Was that all vetted through the Counsel’s Office prior to those sorts of sessions happening? What sort of oversight was done within the White House?
MS. PERINO: Yes, generally — because it’s not unlawful and it wasn’t unusual for informational briefings to be given. They were run by Sara Taylor and Scott Jennings.
Q But there’s a higher standard, obviously, at the White House than no laws were broken. Aren’t there ethical questions, as well?
MS. PERINO: There were no — what ethical would have been broken?
Q No, in terms of using federal resources, federal people to encourage people. The allegation is out there that people —
MS. PERINO: There’s no —
Q — were being encouraged to help Republicans.
Q Targeting certain Democrats —
MS. PERINO: No, political — there is no prohibition under the Hatch Act of allowing political appointees to talk to other political appointees about the political landscape in which they are trying to advance the President’s agenda. None.
Q You say it’s not a violation of the Hatch Act.
MS. PERINO: Not a violation of law, or of ethics.
Q So why is the Office of Special Counsel investigating it, if you’re still saying that it’s clearly —
MS. PERINO: That you’ll have to —
Q — fine, why would they be investigating?
MS. PERINO: You’ll have to ask them. You’ll have to ask them.
Q How many of those meetings did —
MS. PERINO: I think there was an average — we had records from the 2006-2007 cycle. It was around 20.
Nothing To See Hear — Because The White House Won’t Release The Evidence
Q Dana, on the political briefings, if it’s the White House’s position that those are appropriate, and it was done with public funds in a public agency, will the White House consider releasing the PowerPoint demonstration that was used? And if not, why not?
MS. PERINO: I don’t think there’s any reason for us to release a PowerPoint presentation. Talking about informational briefings at the White House is — we don’t turn over lots of documents. There’s work done at the White House, and that is appropriately done. And I just think — I just caution everyone to take a step back. These briefings were not inappropriate, they were not unlawful, they were not unethical. There is nothing wrong with what they did.
Q Who says so?
MS. PERINO: Who says so? I think — I don’t know who is saying so.
Q Then why not release the documents used and let —
MS. PERINO: I’ll take it under consideration, David. I’ll take it under consideration, but I sincerely doubt it.
Q If they’re subpoenaed, they’ll be out.
She’s Oh So Defensive
Q Did all the briefings take place at the White House or were some of at the agencies?
MS. PERINO: No, not necessarily. Sometimes at the agencies.
Q In federal agencies.
MS. PERINO: Yes, but there’s — but there’s nothing prohibiting that.
The White House Counsel’s Office Never Reviewed Rove’s Political Rallies
Q Did you say that the Counsel’s Office has reviewed this at all?
MS. PERINO: I think the question was had — did they know about it beforehand, and as a general matter, yes.
Q Were they always presented to the Counsel’s Office, can I do this one, can I do this one, on an individual basis?
MS. PERINO: I don’t know if that was necessary.
Q It was just common practice and sort of known?
MS. PERINO: I think that since it was allowed and since it had been — the initial general sign off had been given, I don’t think — I don’t know; I’ll check and see if each one was checked.
Q On the upcoming veto, any more discussion as to if there would be a public ceremony or anything?
MS. PERINO: No. Nothing to report yet.
Q Will he dance?
MS. PERINO: Will he dance? I doubt it.