Gee, a fairly decent gaggle today.
Pony Blow Opens
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. One thing to add to this morning’s gaggle — the President this morning had a 52-minute secure video teleconference with the members of the presidential council in Iraq — the Prime Minister, the President and the two Vice Presidents.
Q During the video teleconference did the President very directly express his impatience about the lack of political movement?
MR. SNOW: No, what he did is he once again reaffirmed the importance of political movement, but it’s something that they’ve shared — one of the things that is happening is that this presidential council is becoming, as they expressed, more effective and coherent as an organization, so that you have not only much closer personal, but professional dealings between the foreign members — at one point calling themselves the gang of four.
So I think it’s — the President was impressed and reassured by the sense of seriousness that he heard in the meeting.
So The President Is Reassured, What About Those Of Us Who Reside In The Reality-Based Universe?
Q Can you tell us anything specific about what that reassurance — why he felt reassured, and also address whether or not they’re taking a vacation and whether you know how long that vacation will be?
MR. SNOW: On the second, I don’t believe so; and on the first, no, I can’t give you any specifics.
Q You don’t believe they’re taking a vacation now?
MR. SNOW: I’m not sure; I don’t think so. Again, I’ll refer it back to —
Q But, Tony, can you give us some sense of why he felt reassured, given that we’ve heard reassurances before?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, it is clear that you’ve got an environment now where the key leaders are working together on these issues. And, yes, we have heard a lot of these things before, but without — and I’m not in a position to go into the details and what they were saying, but there are reasons we think they’re very serious in moving forward on the key items.
Q But, Tony, we’ve heard that before, many times.
MR. SNOW: I understand. I understand.
Q I mean, why is there any more reason now to believe that they’re serious about moving forward than there was the last time you said that? Or the time before?
MR. SNOW: I understand. But, again, I think — let me put it this way, that you see that there are tangible efforts going on and I’m just not going to go into any greater detail, I’m going to let the — that is a sovereign government and I will permit them to make the announcements about how they’re doing and where they’re going.
Q You think there will be announcements on something about where they’re going?
MR. SNOW: No, I think, again, I’m just going to leave it at that.
Pony Claims A Decade Is Not Ten Years In Length
Q Tony, do you agree with General Petraeus’s assessment that it could take about a decade to stabilize Iraq, to fully stabilize —
MR. SNOW: Well, what General Petraeus was pointing out — this is pretty much standard doctrine when it comes to counterinsurgency, is that counterinsurgency is something that does take a great amount of time. He says 10 years. That does not mean that you’re going to have people on a forward combat operation posture for 10 years, but it does mean that — he says that it’s perfectly conceivable, and that tends to be kind of the textbook sense of how long such operations take place.
Q But how does a decade square with the notion of impatience, we’ve got to get moving? A decade sounds like a lot longer than —
MR. SNOW: Well, because I think what you’re doing is you are assuming that, when you talk about a decade, you’re talking about a decade in precisely the same kind of posture we’re in today. That’s not what he was referring to.
Bandar May Take The Entire Bush Crime Family Down With Him
Q Tony, the DOJ has started an investigation of the — or is considering an investigation under the Foreign Practices Act of the billions of dollars that were allegedly paid to Prince Bandar over a period from 1985 to the present, going through a variety of God knows what projects in the Middle East and elsewhere. Given the close relationship of Prince Bandar to the Bush family, to the national security establishment here, and to the office of the Vice President, is the White House prepared to let such an investigation proceed and let the chips fall where they may?
MR. SNOW: As you know, the White House does not, in fact, get involved in making those decisions. That’s a Department of Justice decision. I don’t know anything about it. If it’s true, they will proceed. I can neither confirm it nor deny it because I don’t know anything about it.
I’m The Commuter
Q Tony, could you elaborate on the embrace of the word “commute” versus “pardon” when it comes to Lewis “Scooter” Libby?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Why not?
MR. SNOW: Because we’re just not in a position to talk about that.
Q Well, let me ask you this. We understand — it’s been said that the President’s hand was somewhat forced when the judge said that Scooter Libby would have to serve his sentence, and while a pardon would not be anything to discuss, but “commute” is something that the White House is embracing and looking at —
MR. SNOW: April, I’m just not going to talk about anything that’s under discussion or consideration. What we’ve said is the legal process has to run its course.
“That’s A Whole Lot Of Email”
Q Waxman’s committee has put out an interim report on the issue of the RNC emails showing, they say, that there was more use of those emails than the White House suggested, indicating possibly widespread violation of the Presidential Records Act. It’s, like, 140,000 emails of Rove’s, so the White House Counsel’s Office is aware that official business was being conducted through this party (inaudible) system? Can you respond to all that and what —
MR. SNOW: Look, I can’t respond specifically to things that the committee may have put out. But those email accounts were set up, A, on a model based on the prior administration, which had done it the same way, in order to try to avoid Hatch Act violations. And we’ll just — we’ll leave it at that. I mean, these were designed precisely to avoid Hatch Act violations that prohibit the use of government assets for certain political activities.
Q What have you all found in looking at these emails and emails related to the U.S. attorneys —
MR. SNOW: I don’t have any comment.
MR. SNOW: I’ll tell you what, let me back up — a couple of things. Number one, again, I’m still trying to — Hutch, I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to get at here. I want to make sure I give you a satisfactory answer. What you’re talking about is?
Q Well, you all are going back and saying, remember, how many you could save that might be relevant to that inquiry.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q I’m wondering where that stands. And are you prepared to give up whatever you found at —
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, I’m not going to get into any conversations we may be having with Senator Waxman’s committee about what they may be requesting. But, again, the way the system works, any email sent to or received from White House emails are automatically archived. And the RNC has had an email preservation policy for White House staffers, as well. We’ve sort of been through this — I’m not sure exactly what the start date was — we’ll just have to see how Counsel’s Office responds to Representative Waxman’s request.
Q We have been through this, but you were saying at the time there were, like, 50 staffers — Waxman is saying, no, it’s more like 88, and there are indications — I mean, 140,000 emails is a lot of emails.
MR. SNOW: That is a whole lot of email.
Q And that’s just Rove, that’s not all the other folks.
MR. SNOW: That’s a whole lot of email, absolutely right.
Just Another Silly Investigation
Q Tony, on the question of the emails, one of the things that the committee found was that a significant portion, I think close to half of the emails had gone between email addresses with a .gov address. How, then, if you say that this was set up to avoid Hatch Act violations, is that avoiding Hatch Act violations if these emails —
MR. SNOW: Again, I will let the lawyers work that out. I’m not going to try to pretend to be the legal —
Q Can the lawyers come talk to us about that?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, let’s wait and see what Representative Waxman has to offer. I’m sure at the appropriate point we will have a response.
Q Following on that, the Chairman says that Alberto Gonzales, then White House Counsel, that there’s evidence to suggest he was aware that Karl Rove and others were using RNC-related email for government business.
MR. SNOW: Again, that’s an allegation and we’ll respond to it in due course.
Q Is this being viewed as a serious concern in the White House now?
MR. SNOW: I have not had a conversation with Fred about it, so I don’t know. I mean, obviously — let me put it this way, we’ve seen a number of times right now where people have been putting together investigations to see what sticks. They have had very little success so far. This is an administration that is very careful about obeying the law. We take it seriously. The White House legal Counsel’s Office takes it seriously. And we will look at whatever requests for information people on the Hill may have to offer. We have also made it clear that we are willing to cooperate on a number of fronts, but beyond that, I cannot and shall not go.
Miserable Failure, Part I
Q On the Mideast peace process in general, does the President have any regrets that early in his administration he didn’t engage more fully in the process and maybe that has backfired?
MR. SNOW: I think what the President did early on was make it clear that we’re not going to deal with terrorists. Yasser Arafat, as you know, was in power. He had been the most frequent visitor to this White House in the previous administration. And President Clinton I think had expressed considerable exasperation about the lack of returns for it. What the President had done was maintain a sense of moral clarity about who you’re going to deal with.
But this administration has always been engaged. This is the first administration the have talked about a two-state solution. And we continue to work through it. It is pretty clear, on the other hand, that there are terrorists who, every time there is some inclination of progress, are going to do what they can to try to get in the way of it. As we have said, the Palestinian people are going to have to make choices about whom they support, and we support the emergency government of President Abbas. And, again, for much fuller detail on that, consult the Secretary of State quite soon.
How Can War Bring Peace?
Q Do you think that the war in Iraq has helped push the peace process forward in any way?
MR. SNOW: Don’t know. I mean, what I don’t think is — quite often people say, well, you can’t — you’re not focusing on the Middle East because you’re focusing on Iraq. These are all related.
Q But before the war, the President said that taking out Saddam Hussein would help stabilize the Middle East. Do you think that’s turned out to be true?
MR. SNOW: Hard to say. I mean, what you saw, for instance, was very swift change of behavior on the part of Libya. Certainly we continue to work closely with our other allies in the region.
Miserable Failure, Part II
Q In regard to Gaza, how can what’s happened be interpreted as anything other than a serious setback to the President’s agenda for democracy in the Middle East?
MR. SNOW: I think it’s a serious setback for the Palestinian people. But on the other hand, what you’ve also seen is President Abbas stepping forward, putting together an emergency government, naming a new Prime Minister, and taking affirmative steps. And we are certainly going to support him on that.
It’s Only A Democracy If We Like The Outcome Of Their Elections
Q One could argue that they have democracy, that Hamas was elected a little bit over a year ago; they’re a democratically elected government, and yet this administration and its allies have sought to undermine them. I wonder how you square the notion of democracy in the Middle East and undermining a government when you don’t like who is elected.
MR. SNOW: Well, they have actually pursued a constitutional solution right now. I don’t think that what you would call — correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you’ve seen a vigorous exercise in democracy in Gaza in recent days. I think you’ve seen just the opposite. What this administration has said is that we will not deal with a terrorist organization, but we have also invited those in Hamas to go ahead and abide by the Quartet principles.
Saddam Would Disagree If You Hadn’t Executed Him
Q But is the administration for democracy in the Middle East, regardless of who gets elected? Or if it doesn’t like the results will it go against —
MR. SNOW: We’ve been through the debating points on this many times. We are for democracy in the Middle East. We are also against going in, routing out and slaughtering people you disagree with.
Les Has His Hackles Up
Q Okay. Second, the New York Times quoted Republican Minority Whip Trent Lott as saying, with regard to what caused the stopping of the immigration bill, “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.” And since you are the first talk radio host ever to be a White House press secretary, can you tell us, have you or the President learned from Republican Trent Lott how he has in mind to deal with us without attempting censorship?
MR. SNOW: No, and I would refer it back to him. But on the other hand, also, when you talk about a stalled bill, I think it’s pretty clear that is not a stalled bill.