We get Pony Blow today.
Overplaying the Gonzales Kerfuffle
Q Tony, in the past we’ve heard that some Cabinet members who have been in the midst of trouble, in the midst of controversy, have gone to the President and asked him, should they resign, and the President has declined.
MR. SNOW: April, you are so overplaying this.
Q No, I’m not. Don’t go there. (Laughter.) No, seriously. The AG —
MR. SNOW: Seriously, you are really overplaying this.
Q No, I’m not. I’m asking, has the Attorney General — this Attorney General gone to the President and asked him, should he resign?
MR. SNOW: I have no knowledge of that. I would doubt it.
Q Why would you doubt it?
MR. SNOW: Because.
Q We know Rumsfeld had asked the President —
MR. SNOW: There is no question of the President’s support. You really are — you’re over —
Q I am not.
MR. SNOW: No, you are. Trust me.
Q I know of another Secretary who asked the President —
MR. SNOW: I understand, but you’re overreaching. I’m trying to be helpful.
Q Tony, I want to have one more question about the Attorney General here. Is there any thought inside the White House — the President has showed enormous loyalty to the Attorney General — is there any thought inside the White House that the Attorney General has not shown the same degree of loyalty to the President, because it should be apparent to him at this point that he is damaging the President and that he should go?
MR. SNOW: No. No, what you’re saying is that if you have political opponents who say nasty things about a Cabinet member, that they ought to go.
Q Let me just follow that. If you widen out — however, it becomes very clear that the Attorney General has become a distraction. And so that, again, it is incumbent upon him to say, Mr. President, I don’t want to be a distraction to you anymore.
MR. SNOW: I don’t think he’s a distraction.
Q Tony, if the Alberto Gonzales situation is not a distraction to the President, is that because his advisors have not brought it to his attention?
MR. SNOW: Again, if you take a look at the — the question is, has this changed the way in which the Department of Justice functions? Has it affected any core function? The answer is, no.
Q So have his advisors brought it to his attention?
MR. SNOW: The President doesn’t need advisors to draw to his attention the fact that the Attorney General has been called to Capitol Hill and other people who have worked for the Attorney General have been called to Capitol Hill. He understands these things.
Pony Blow Don’t Know!
Q Could I ask you to clarify one thing about your sense of the situation involving the Attorney General and its effect on the Justice Department? Are you saying that the Justice Department has not been adversely affected by the recent events involving the Attorney General?
MR. SNOW: Jim, I don’t know. It is a gigantic operation. Has it changed the ability to prosecute cases, to go after drug dealers, to try to take a look at antitrust, to investigate things on the civil right front? Has it done that? It is not clear —
Q How about as far as federal prosecutors who feel a sense of —
MR. SNOW: Career federal prosecutors are completely untouched by this.
Q How is that? You don’t feel that morale —
MR. SNOW: Because they’re civil service. As a matter of fact —
Q You don’t think this has affected morale in the Justice Department at all?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know. I don’t know, but I think what, again, you have to ask yourself how prosecutions continue apace. What has happened is that you had some appointees who were replaced and they were replaced by career prosecutors, in some cases, on an interim bases.
Q I’m just saying, do you think the people who do the heavy lifting, that there’s been no adverse effect on morale?
MR. SNOW: I just don’t know, Jim.
What About Dick?
Q Tony, I have one more Al Gore book quote. (Laughter.) “The President deceived the public by suggesting that Iraq was involved in 9/11.” He says, when the administration continued to “make bold and confident assertions that leave the impression with 70 percent of the country that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda and was primarily responsible for the 9/11 attack, this can only be labeled deception.”
MR. SNOW: Unfortunately, the [former] Vice President probably has been listening to people who have deliberately misled him. The President has made it clear over and over and over that there was no relationship between Saddam Hussein and September 11th.
Q Tony, you also realize Mr. Cheney had talked about an operational link, perhaps, between al Qaeda and Saddam, talked about Mohammed Atta having a meeting — there’s been a lot of —
MR. SNOW: Right, but that’s an entirely separate issue from the quote that was read by Bret.
Q Some people don’t view it as a separate issue if it contributes to a view in the general public that there was some Iraq tie to 9/11.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you had Abu Musab al Zarqawi on Iraqi soil; you had reports that there were, in fact, al Qaeda members on Iraqi soil before the war began. That’s in the intel that you saw before the war.
So, again, I think what happens is that people are trying to — you know, if at first you don’t succeed, try to figure out another angle by which you can go after the President, where everybody saw the same intel — at least in those early days after September 11th, they all basically agreed to what they had seen. The President has been straight about the intel.
Pony Sees Progress
Q — is reporting that the White House might be preparing a second surge in Iraq. Can you tell us something about this?
MR. SNOW: Right now, we’re — the question is, a second surge to Iraq. No, we’re in the middle of the Iraq plan that General Petraeus put together. And what you have is the movement of forces in, trying to create conditions of greater security within Baghdad. And at the same time, there are also ongoing efforts, especially in Anbar, to try to create conditions of greater safety, and those have clearly enjoyed some success recently. So, no, the story is wrong.
Q If this plan doesn’t work, is there any way it can —
MR. SNOW: So far the indications are that things are moving forward in a positive direction. It seems to me that it’s highly premature to be asking what happens if it fails, when you’ve got success in Anbar, when you do have continued efforts to build greater capability, going after bad actors wherever they may be within Baghdad. You’re still moving forces in — we’re not going to get all the forces in for some time yet, to have a full buildup. So those are the kinds of questions that really don’t make sense when you’re in the process of carrying out your mission. What you do constantly is assess how you do a better job, and they do that each and every day.
A Gaggler Noticed…
Q Any luck on finding out about the President’s policy on wearing seatbelts?
ThisPhoto by Mandel Ngan for AFP of Chimpy Wheeling Around His Ranch Last Weekend
MR. SNOW: Well, it’s always important to wear seatbelts, especially when driving slowly on the ranch. (Laughter.) But I think it’s, in point of fact, something that — we encourage everybody to wear their seat belts.
Q — Secret Service person here at the White House ask the President and all occupants —
MR. SNOW: No, but I’ll tell you what — the Secret Service, I guarantee you, looks after the President and is absolutely determined to ensure his safety in every way possible.
Fear Of A Brown Planet Gets Les All Riled Up
Q Tony, thank you. Two questions. In regard to what a Washington Post editorial hailed as breakthrough on immigration, which the President supports, the Chairman of the Republican Party in Texas, Tina Benkiser, said this: “It will be yet another colossal failure in dealing with the massive invasion of our country. It accomplishes nothing more than to compromise the security of the American people.” And my question: Does the President believe this Texas Republican leader doesn’t know what she’s talking about?
MR. SNOW: Let me tell you what the President believes about the legislation, rather than trying to pick a personal fight, which is always more tangy, but less useful from my standpoint.
Q Second, Tucson’s Arizona Star reports that the governors of Arizona and New Mexico have written the President, protesting the State Department’s recruiting 120 Border Patrol agents for $134,000 a year, to send to Iraq, which the governors say makes no sense because we should be focusing on supporting our nation’s security efforts along the Mexican and Canadian borders. And my question: Why is the President allowing the State Department to do this?
MR. SNOW: What the President does is — number one, you’ve got to keep in mind that these are not inconsistent. Sending people over to do work in Iraq is not inconsistent with sending people to the border. And —
Q They’re taken from the Border Patrol — we need people at the border.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, have you been — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Les, but what we’re talking about is 18,000 people on the border. That is twice the size of the Border Patrol inherited by the President.
Q They don’t have them there yet.
MR. SNOW: They are building them up at a speed that is unprecedented in American history. You know that as well as I do.