Hmmmmm… Do I Detect A Change In The Assministration’s Rhetoric Regarding The Urgent Need For War Funds?
Q If it takes until Memorial Day, the end of the month, what’s the impact on the military? You’ve been making the case every day that time is running out.
MR. SNOW: Well, we’ve made the case that it is certainly not constructive to drag this out, but I’m not going to try to play — we’re not going to answer subjunctive questions.
Q Will the military have difficulty if they don’t get the —
MR. SNOW: Again, that is a question properly aimed at the Pentagon. But also, as you know, the Pentagon is loathe to get into making characterizations on operational matters. Let’s just put it this way: We know that already there’s a requirement of transferring money from certain accounts to others to make sure that we have full funding. That will continue to be the case until the emergency supplemental has been passed. We think it is preferable to have all accounts funded fully.
*It’s OK If Your The Iraqi Parliament
Q The President has sometimes been critical of Congress when it takes a recess when there’s important pending business. Does he have a view about the Iraqi parliament planning to take a recess?
MR. SNOW: Well, this is something that I think is probably still under discussion in Iraq, as well. We’re not commenting.
Q Tony, why aren’t you commenting about the possibility that the Iraqi parliament is going to take two months off this summer with key legislation pending? I mean, even if they are considering this, isn’t that an affront to this administration?
MR. SNOW: Why don’t you let the Iraqi parliament go ahead and work through and have debates, even though — let’s just let them go ahead and consider the matter. And in two months, if this is a really pressing matter, we can discuss it then.
Q If I could follow here, I mean, it’s really kicking up a lot of dust on Capitol Hill. As you’re trying to get this supplemental worked out in negotiations, doesn’t this hurt the whole process?
MR. SNOW: Again, let’s see what happens.
Q Are you hearing something different than what we’re hearing, that they’re at least considering it?
MR. SNOW: Well, I’m aware of the news reports, but I also am aware that you’ve got an Iraqi government right now, where we are working with them on a whole host of issues — there was some discussion this morning about the fact that you have now — the Council of Ministers have passed on to the Council of Representatives an oil law. And there is a lot of activity going on in the country, and I just think at this particular juncture, trying to draw broad conclusions about something that is rumored possibly to happen in two months is a great parlor exercise, but it is not a particularly useful diplomatic exercise.
Q But if somebody is talking about it on the ground —
MR. SNOW: Everybody talking about it — surely you all will talk about this. No. (Laughter.)
Q Doesn’t it speak to political will? At a time when people are questioning, can the Iraqi government actually meet political benchmarks, doesn’t that, though, speak to the will of the Iraqi government? Does it have the political will to move —
MR. SNOW: I’m telling you, let’s just wait and see what happens over the next couple of months. We have had many debates like this in this country. You may recall when people have gone on vacations before elections, when they haven’t passed budgets, when things have been pushed off until the very end of the year. I don’t want to be doing equations here, but the fact is the legislative process is something that you have to contend with. This is a democracy.
Q Try this one more time. Ambassador Crocker has said publicly he’s raised concerns about the Iraqi parliament taking a recess for two months. Why wouldn’t the President raise such concerns with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in his frequent video teleconferences?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I’m not going to disclose to you — we give you readouts of the teleconferences. What I’ve said is, the Ambassador has made his view known — views known, and there is a debate going on in Iraq. So let’s see how the Iraqis handle this. That’s all I’m saying.
Q Why won’t the White House weight in?
MR. SNOW: Because you know what? Iraq — we respect Iraq as a sovereign government, and we are not going to sit around and lecture them on those particular matters. We will make our views known. And the Iraqis also are making their views known. Again, there’s a vigorous debate about this, which is why I would suggest that you let these things sort of play out and see what happens.
Somone Is Not Wearing APony Blow Bracelet Today
Q Do you, today, have a definition of what an acceptable level of violence would be in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: You know, I think what you’ve managed to do is to try to get your — we’re now playing the adjective game. The fact is, when you talk about an acceptable level, it is something that allows the government to exist independently. If you want to — the problem is, everybody says, oh, so you accept violence. You like — violence is okay. No, it’s not okay.
So in abstract terms, zero violence is acceptable. On the other hand, we know well, and the President has said many times, that it is going to be a tactic of people who want to bring this government down to commit acts of violence, and violence unfortunately, at least for a while, is going to be a fact of Iraqi life.
Q So he wants to minimize violence to a nuisance?
MR. SNOW: What you want to do is to be able to have the government in a position where it can stand by itself. And I think trying to get into definitional matters at this point —
Which Lead To The Question Of The Day
Q In October of 2004, John Kerry said, “We have to get back to the place where we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.” The President said he couldn’t disagree more; Cheney called this naive and dangerous, and part of a pre-9/11 mind-set. So does the President now have a pre-9/11 mind-set?
MR. SNOW: No, the President does not have a pre-9/11 mind-set. And the fact is — I’ll have to go back and take a look, but my recollection is that there was an attempt to kind of minimize some of the security challenges. But I don’t want to put words in Senator Kerry’s mouth without looking back at the 2004 debate.
Condi Is Now Negotiating With The Iranians And The Syrians
Q Isn’t the essence of what you’re saying basically going back to what the Iraq Study Group said, and isn’t that basically — I mean, you’re in a quagmire now, that you have many people saying that the Americans have walked away from this war and the —
MR. SNOW: Well, actually —
Q Wait a minute — General Barry McCaffrey has said, Americans have walked away from the war. And so maybe bring Americans back is to talk to those who are around —
MR. SNOW: Okay. I think — first, I think what Barry McCaffrey is talking about, that he’s talking about things like resolutions that would withdraw support. So if you’re talking about Americans, you may want to put into context what Barry is saying.
Secondly, it has been the case in the past where there have been conversations with Iranian or Syrian officials at meetings of this sort with Secretaries of State. Now, the real key is that we do not think at this juncture that it is appropriate to grant full diplomatic recognition to Iran, because we have made clear what the conditions are, and so has the United Nations Security Council, and so have our allies.
Q The Secretary of State met with the Syrian envoy this morning. How is that not bilateral? How is it not formal?
MR. SNOW: Because — I’ll let them do the readout, but again, that was a pull-aside conversation where —
Q What’s the distinction?
MR. SNOW: Well, the distinction is, if you have a set aside — a meeting that’s set aside, and somebody says, okay, we’re going to schedule a meeting, we’re going to sit down and do this. But again, I’ll let the Secretary of State describe the mechanics of it.
Q I know, it’s your characterization that I’m still — how’s it — I mean, they sat down, they had formal discussion, and there were two of them there.
MR. SNOW: No, they didn’t. I’m not sure that they had formal discussions; I’m not sure it was just two.
Q Maybe a limited range of subjects, but —
MR. SNOW: No, there was — limited range of subject, like one.
Q That’s still informal and not bilateral.
MR. SNOW: It’s a conversation. Yes, it’s a conversation. In fact, conversations happen. It’s a good thing.
The Blood Bath Factor
Q Tony, I have two questions. The first is about Gonzales. Does the President consider the matter of the question of whether the AG should resign or should not a salient question? And does the —
MR. SNOW: The President supports the Attorney General.
Q Does the fact that — that a confirmation hearing would be a blood bath factor into that?
MR. SNOW: No. No. He’s — what you’re asking is, does the President support the Attorney General because it would be messier to fire him? Is that the question? No. No. He supports the Attorney General.
MR. SNOW: As a matter of fact, that reminds me, today is World Freedom Day, and I forgot to mention that we have a statement on that that bears on freedom of the press. I’ll share it later. (Laughter.)
Q We heard the President’s views on that yesterday. (Laughter.)
Les Calls Keith Olberman A “Malingerer”
Q Tony, two questions. At tonight’s Republican candidates debate, the pre-debate and post-debate coverage I read will be Chris Matthews and Keith Olberman of MSNBC, of whom there is a report that last October 23rd, Mr. Olberman said, “The leading terrorist group in this country is the Republican Party.” And my question: Does the President know why this Republican debate is tolerating such a reported maligner, and does he believe they should?
MR. SNOW: I believe that the President will say, Republicans, you can have whoever moderates your debate that you want to.