Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Pony Blow Is Back

Q Where ya been? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Just hanging out. Thank you so much, it’s great to be back.

Q We thought Rove double-deleted you. (Laughter.)

Pony Must Be Feeling Pretty Good As He Took A Shot AtTim Russert [scroll down] To Start Things Rolling

MR. SNOW: Okay, first, we can cut cameras now, because we have cut to the other portion of our thing.

As far as the Iran supplemental, we have not. So the real question —

Q Iraq.

MR. SNOW: I mean, the Iraq supplemental. Yes. The Iran supplemental would be entirely different. (Laughter.)

Q Did we leave the cameras on? (Laughter.)

Q How much is Iran — (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: As one famous host said, “I-r-a-k.”

Q Oooh!

Q Oh, we love that. (Laughter.)

Q Are we still rolling? (Laughter.)

Weenergate

Q Has the administration been notified of anyone else who might be resigning, relating to the D.C. madam?

MR. SNOW: Not that I’m aware of.

Q Does the President have any opinion on the departure of Randall Tobias?

MR. SNOW: Well, he’s saddened by it, but it was the appropriate thing to do.

[snip]

Q Just one quick one. You said — back to Randall Tobias. If, as he says, he just got massages, why is it the proper thing for him to do to resign?

MR. SNOW: Well, he apparently thought that it was the proper thing to do, and I will not get into details because I don’t know them. Whew! (Laughter.)

Still Looking For Someone To Do The President’s Job

Q Tony, can you give us any update on the war czar? It’s been weeks and weeks since that story first broke, that you’re looking for someone to supplement Mr. Hadley’s job.

MR. SNOW: No, but when we have a personnel announcement, we’ll make it.

Q Are you having difficulty finding anyone? Because it seemed they wanted someone right away.

MR. SNOW: Again, we’re — I’m not going to get into the process. We’ll let you know when we have somebody.

Dang, Kick A Man While He’s Down Why Don’t Ya’

Q Tony, can we look ahead to tomorrow’s “mission accomplished” appearance at Central Command? I’m assuming that this was scheduled with the anniversary in mind.

MR. SNOW: No, it wasn’t. No.

Q Really?

MR. SNOW: I don’t think so. I did not see anything in the briefing notes that would indicate —

Q What is the — is there a particular message behind this visit?

MR. SNOW: Yes, it’s an annual conference at CENTCOM.

It’s Tough Out There For A Shill

Q Tony, are we winning the war?

MR. SNOW: Are we winning the war?

Q Welcome back. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Yes, exactly, welcome back. (Laughter.) You know, April, we’re fighting the war, and it’s an important thing to understand that the only way to lose the war is to walk away from it, and that this country not only has made a commitment to the people of Iraq, but the people of Iraq have made a commitment in blood and treasure, as well. And we are working to create a situation where that government, in fact, is going to be able to provide for its citizens, not only economically, but most importantly, a democracy that will respect the rights of all, that will protect those rights, and that will be able to stand tall among the community of nations.

Q How long should we fight the war before we just turn tail —

MR. SNOW: The notion that somehow the United States walks away and there are no consequences I think is the sort of thing that — it doesn’t make any sense. Think of it this way: The United States walks away, who stands to benefit? Answer, terrorists, al Qaeda, the people who are fighting democracy.

Benchmarks Imply Timelines

Q Why not set benchmarks with — political benchmarks with consequences, given that there has been so little, if any, progress politically from the Iraqis?

MR. SNOW: Number one, it gets back to what you’re saying. If you try to impose timetables, what you end up doing is you say to enemies, you know, all you have to do is create a little bit of chaos.

Q Setting benchmarks, not timetables — political benchmarks for the Iraqis.

MR. SNOW: Well, if you set a political benchmark with penalties, that would imply that you have a timetable, that you have certain deadlines. A couple of points — and Secretary Rice made some of these yesterday.

[snip]

Q Just a follow up. Isn’t it possible, though, that the Bush administration could set up those political benchmarks for the Iraqis without necessarily setting up a military timetable or deadline —

MR. SNOW: Again —

Q — but use, perhaps, resources, money to pull out some of that if the Iraqis —

MR. SNOW: Again, I think —

Q — don’t manage to meet those requirements.

MR. SNOW: I think what you — in other words, what you’re going to say is, we are going to weaken you if you don’t move fast enough. I think the most important thing you’ve got to do is demonstrate — number one, you’re got to do whatever you can to assist the Iraqis to move quickly. You also have to demonstrate good faith.

Condi’s Benchmarks Don’t Count

Q The other is that on January 11th, Secretary Rice said that the Iraqi government had two to three months to convince the population that it would apply security fairly, treat everyone fairly, whether — regardless of their religious or ethnic background. Do you think it’s met that timetable —

MR. SNOW: I don’t know, it’s — again, I would defer questions like that, at this juncture, to folks who are closer to the realities on the ground. It is clear that there has been some progress in some areas. But on the other hand, as General Petraeus has also said, it’s going to take a while to continue not only deploying folks in support of the Baghdad security plan, these things do take time.

Not On Chimpy’s Watch

Q And going back to Iraq, given all the things you’ve said this morning, when, then, do you think could we expect to see U.S. forces out of Iraq?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know.

Q Do you have any clue?

MR. SNOW: Again, that’s really a question to address to General Petraeus.

Dear Leader And The King

Q What do you make of Saudi King Abdullah refusing to meet with Prime Minister al Maliki?

MR. SNOW: That is — at this point, that is a dispute between the two nations. We think it’s important that nations in the region understand the importance of an Iraqi democracy that can stand up and also can serve as a bulwark against terrorism, which is a threat to all nations in the region, whether they be Sunni, Shia, or other.

Pony Blow: I’m Surprised Tenet Thinks He Was Scapegoated Since He Offered Such Lousy Advice

Q Tony, is the President at all taken aback by what George Tenet is writing and saying? Is he surprised that Tenet feels scapegoated?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know — I can’t — I haven’t had a chance to talk with him about it, Mark, but I think — Secretary Rice made it clear that she was a little surprised, because George Tenet is somebody who served the nation well. And it is a tough business to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But the idea that you’re scapegoated was a surprise.

[snip]

And, obviously, there were some real problems with that intel, which is one of the reasons why there has also been, on a bipartisan basis, an effort to overhaul in a very comprehensive way the way we go about the business of intelligence. So we do not believe he was scapegoated, but he certainly has his first amendment right to lay out his view.

Q Tony, what Tenet is saying publicly now is what we were being told privately at the time, which was that the CIA’s intelligence was not nearly as strong as the advice the President was getting from the Defense Intelligence Agency and others, and that their admonitions were not being listened to, if you will, by the White House.

MR. SNOW: I’m not going to go back and flyspeck, but the fact is that everybody got listened to. And Secretary Rice — no, Wendell, it’s interesting. The notion that somehow going into a time of war that the President would not take seriously every piece of intelligence or opinion he would get from qualified people is preposterous.

Q That’s one way of putting it, Tony. But the other way of looking at it is the President would not take as seriously what he did not want to hear.

MR. SNOW: Well, that’ not the way he operates. I’m sorry, but the President is not the kind of guy who says, tell me what I want to hear. As a matter of fact, you sit in a meeting and you try to do that, you’re not going to get very far. What the President wants and demands of his people is — are their best opinions and their best advice, and that’s the way it operates. So —

Q He got a lot of lousy advice, didn’t he?

MR. SNOW: Well, he got some advice that — you know, it’s interesting, Bill, you can say about any war that Commanders-in-Chief got lousy advice, because wars never work out quite the way you planned. But what does have to happen is that you have to follow through so that you do have success.

Pony Embraces The Libby Trial

Q Last night on “60 Minutes,” Director Tenet used some unusually strong language about the Valerie Plame business, in which he said that “that was wrong,” her unmasking by the White House, and —

MR. SNOW: Wait, I want to step in, because number one, your characterization does not, in fact, square with the facts of trial.

Q Scott Pelley’s characterization —

MR. SNOW: Which would be incorrect.

Q All right. So Pelley’s characterization, when he said the White House retaliated, was wrong?

MR. SNOW: That’s wrong. That’s wrong.

Q Okay. And then Tenet said, “The whole business had a chilling effect on his agency.” Your response?

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no. Again, he has his right to free speech and his characterization, but I’m not going to respond to that.

Les Is All About The Nookie

Q Two questions, Tony. Do you, as presidential press secretary, believe that The Washington Post, in its two extensive stories, gave too much coverage to Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias or not?

Q Dana, do you want to take this one? (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Les, I am here to speak for the President, and I guarantee you he is not going to have an opinion, either. The Washington Post can — has its own editorial judgment, and we will let it stand.

Q Follow up on that. Ambassador Tobias —

MR. SNOW: You’re going to follow up on the question I didn’t answer. (Laughter.)

Q Yes. Ambassador Tobias —

Q Good to have you back. (Laughter.)

Q — told ABC News that he used Deborah Palfrey’s escort service for massages, not sex. Do you believe that many, or any American citizens believe that?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know. Look, the guy — I’ve told you what I’m going to say. We’re saddened, and he resigned, and it was the proper thing to do.

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