Suddenly, It’sGame Time
Q One last thing about — in connection with the Vice President’s trip. On board Air Force Two yesterday, senior administration officials said of the trip, and the message, “We’ve got to get this work done. It’s game time.” — what does that suggest about the first four years of the war? Is it that the administration is just now saying that that was a scrimmage and now it’s game time? What does that mean?
MR. SNOW: I think that’s simply — it gets back to what the President is saying. In some ways, there may be perceptions of two different clocks, Baghdad and Washington. The President said, you’ve got to speed up the clock. It is a matter of realizing that there have been a lot of efforts now. We’ve been working on this joint way forward in Iraq. You are getting results in a number of areas. We have been talking and working with the Iraqis on political, economic, and other reform.
Helen Is Unhappy With A General Setting Foreign Policy For The Country
Q The President emphasized September and he emphasized General Petraeus’ report — all week you moved away from September. Is it a real important date for us to decide things?
MR. SNOW: I think what the President is saying is —
Q Does he know that we have civilian rule in this country?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Do you?
Q I do.
MR. SNOW: Okay, good.
Q I’m not waiting for Petraeus.
MR. SNOW: Well, he does understand, however, that — oh, so you’re thinking what he’s doing — no, I’m not even going to get into that. What people want is a detailed accounting of what’s going on in Iraq. And so —
Q But you guys set the date for September, you keep —
MR. SNOW: No, I think he actually — General Petraeus originally mentioned that, and I don’t want to try to — he mentioned the month, and so —
Q Is it important, or not?
MR. SNOW: Look, what’s important is for people to continue to take a look — May is important; June is important; July is important; August is important; September is important. It’s —
Q You’re telling people to hold off on their opinions —
MR. SNOW: No, what I’m telling people is to keep their eyes open to the situation as it develops.
Surrender Dates For Some, Not For Others
Q The Baker-Hamilton report called for a withdrawal of most troops by early ’08. Does the administration consider that setting a surrender date?
MR. SNOW: What’s also interesting is the Baker-Hamilton commission has a section in there on precipitate withdrawal —
Q And it is against that.
MR. SNOW: And it is against that, for many of the reasons I’ve said —
Q But it is separate from its call for the ’08 withdrawal.
MR. SNOW: And the point is we — again, I’m not going to entertain hypotheticals, except in this way: You may recall yesterday Secretary Gates also said that if, in fact, we get the kind of success we hope for, it is conceivable that there will be troops moving out.
Q To follow on that quickly. There are some Republicans circulating a letter, looking for cosponsors for legislation that would enact all 79 recommendations of that report. What would the President do with such legislation?
MR. SNOW: We’ll see it when we get it.
You Can Tell By The Behavior Of His Children That The President Does Not Believe In Consequences
Q Back to benchmarks, Tony. Most of the lawmakers who advocate them say without consequences, benchmarks are meaningless, are just goals. Without saying which consequences he might be in favor of or against, does the President accept that there ought to be consequences?
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to — I’m not even going to bite on that.
Q You won’t even say that he accepts the need for consequences?
MR. SNOW: I will leave the business of good-faith negotiating to Josh Bolten. He’s having these conversations. I don’t want in any way to impede or influence what’s going on by a statement from the podium.
Trouble In The Ranks
Q Tony, as this meeting has been reported, some of these lawmakers did say that if things still look bad in September, the President is going to lose more party support. Can the President keep soldiering on here and sticking to his own plan if he starts losing his own party’s support?
MR. SNOW: You’re assuming that nothing happens between now and September. As the President also said, wait until September. The premise of the question is nothing happens, therefore it all falls apart.
Q That’s not the premise of the question — you said that there were no — that no consequences came up in the meeting, and apparently there was some sort of “if, then” formulation that was presented to the President.
MR. SNOW: Again, this is — my hands are tied in trying to get into characterizing what people said. They’re going to have to let their own — they get to have their opportunity to characterize their comments.
Hey, He Doesn’t Have To Run Again
Q Is there a point when the President does become concerned with the political ramifications for the party? As I understand it, during the meeting there was an argument made that “our members are worried they’re going to lose their seats,” and that will be bad for the war policy overall.
MR. SNOW: What the President’s main concern is, it’s bad for the country if you have a vacuum. It is, in fact, it is something that the country simply must not permit to happen and cannot afford, which is a failure in Iraq that would create a vacuum that would empower Iran, that would give al Qaeda a staging ground, that would shred American credibility in the region, that would create economic consequences —
Q Who’s the cause of all that?[That’s my Helen!]
MR. SNOW: Well, notice again —
Q Who went into Iraq and created this chaos?
MR. SNOW: Thank you. And so, to continue — but as Helen has pointed out, without taking exception to any of those possible side effects, or those possible effects, that’s what the President thinks about. The President is Commander-in-Chief, and he is President of all the American people. He understands the political concerns of people. But as Commander-in-Chief, his job, his solemn obligation really is one toward national security, and that is first and foremost.
No Big Deal
Q Tony, I’m just wondering, 11 Republicans come to the White House and tell the President that they’re worried about the cost of his war on the party and on their ability to win reelection. How is that not a big deal?
MR. SNOW: What you’re saying is you’re surprised that the President is having candid conversations.
Q Not at all, that’s not the question I’m asking.
MR. SNOW: It is — look, let me, again, because I am constrained by the rules we set out not to respond to you directly —
Q But you’re already in print saying this wasn’t a “march to Nixon” moment.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q So how is —
MR. SNOW: Well, I was trying to be off the record because I was called out of bed. But, unfortunately, I wasn’t completely —
Q Okay, so how — again, but getting back to a conversation that’s unfolding —
Q Are you out of bed now? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I’m on the record, I’m out of bed. (Laughter.)
Q How is this not a big deal to you?
MR. SNOW: Look, it’s not a big deal in the sense that it’s a candid exchange. But on the other hand, what you’re asking — for one thing, you’ve making a blanket assertion that I simply cannot respond to. But you had members of the House in, expressing themselves. That’s good.
Q You’ve got to consider the source. This isn’t Maxine Waters here.
MR. SNOW: As I said, we hear it from a lot of people, Jim. It’s new to you because we don’t read out all these things. So I know it seems novel that members of Congress are coming in and giving —
Q What about the fact that they’re leaking it?
Q It’s also their leader saying it publicly.
Q What about the fact that they want everybody to know?
MR. SNOW: Some are talking, and some are not.
Q The President today said that some people are concerned about winning elections, with a bit of a tone of disapproval there, getting at Jim’s question about is he concerned about the legacy of the party based on this war?
MR. SNOW: Again, the legacy — you can’t — as a Commander-in-Chief, you have got to base your considerations on how to succeed. Good policy success is good politics, that’s it. Your only option is to defend the national security. That’s how he looks at it. He can’t look at it any other way. That’s the way he views the issue.
Q So how does the President respond when a member of his own party says in this meeting, my constituents want out of this war?
MR. SNOW: Again, I will not — all I’ll say is, when the President hears anybody expressing either what their constituents think or what they think, he listens respectfully. He will ask questions. He will try to probe what’s going on, and they’ll continue to talk things through.
Q What does it tell the administration when the former head of the Republican campaign committee goes on the air and says that in this meeting, the sense of the meeting was people saying, my constituents are saying they don’t care if we lose this war, they just want out?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I think — take a look, and I’ve been talking about what the polls are saying — Americans do care, and the President does care.
Suddenly Pony Believes In Polls
Q One last point. Aren’t these public comments a sign the President is losing credibility with his own party?
MR. SNOW: No. And if you take a look — all you have to do is take a look at the polling. You look at Republican support for the President, it still remains overwhelmingly strong.
And Now He Admits The President Is Frustrated After Denying It For Months
Q Is there increasing frustration among Republicans, that you sense?
MR. SNOW: I think — look, frustration is something that everybody has been sensing for a long time, including the President. So frustration is not a new feature, at a time when you want to make sure that you’re doing the right thing and the plan is working, and they want to see data, they want to see evidence, and we agree with them.
Q Well, what do you think would shift the President’s opinion on the war? Is it just General Petraeus? Because when we talk about polls, and the majority of the American people, you say, well we don’t govern by polls.
MR. SNOW: When you say shift his opinion on the war, do you mean, what would make him say, let’s come home without victory?
Q What would lead him to that point?
MR. SNOW: I don’t think the President finds it’s acceptable. The President doesn’t think, I want to figure out how to get out if we lose. In fact, his view is, I want to figure out how we return when we win. That is how you think about it.
Q I’m just wondering, when you said about if you pull out of Iraq, then bin Laden doesn’t become a flower child. Do you think bin Laden is in Iraq right now?
MR. SNOW: No. But on the other hand, as General Petraeus said, al Qaeda is enemy number one in Iraq, and al Qaeda clearly is — and the President —
Q The intelligence estimate said that sectarian violence is actually a bigger threat than al Qaeda.
And Here’s You Daily Les, Plumbing The Depths Of Irrelevancey As They Have Never Been Plumbed Before
Q Tony, thank you. The President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights said it was “reprehensible for the Reverend Al Sharpton to say, ‘As for the Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways.'” And my question, does the President agree or disagree that this Sharpton statement was reprehensible?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know. It probably came as news to Harry Reid.
Q Wait a minute. The Christian Newswire reports that some American Indian leaders have described Jamestown as “an invasion that led to a holocaust and an atrocity.” My question —
MR. SNOW: Right, yes, I know —
Q — does the President intend in any way to apologize for these allegations and to refrain from any mentioning of his and the Jamestown founders’ Christianity when he speaks there on Sunday?
MR. SNOW: No, he doesn’t.