Ah, we get Pony Blow again today.
The Gaggleres Want To Know If Alberto Gonzales Is Going To The Hill To Help Lobby For Immigration Reform
Q Is Al Gonzales coming up today?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know. The way these lunches work is that obviously there will be some conversation about immigration. We’ve got an energy bill that’s coming up, a defense authorization bill that’s going to be debated before long. There’s a whole series of items that I’m sure members are going to want to talk about. I don’t — my guess is, will the Attorney General — probably not. I mean, we had — we had the symbolic vote yesterday. It didn’t have enough votes to get to the floor for a final vote, and I think that’s that. I think that’s over.
Oh, Right — Alberto’s Troubles Are Over [rolls eyes]
The President Is A Looser, Isn’t He?
Q What about the hard-nosed politics here? Isn’t the reality that, given Iraq and a litany of other issues that the President is unpopular with his own party on, that for Republicans who are already skeptical, at the very least, about this, it makes more sense for them to vote against the President then to vote with him?
MR. SNOW: I’m not sure. Are you telling — I don’t think so, because here you have a bill where the law enforcement provisions are significantly — border security is significantly tougher than the status quo. When it comes to tracking down who is here illegally, significantly tougher and more credible than the status quo. When it comes to punishing employers who knowingly hire illegals, by many orders of magnitude, tougher than the status quo.
So conservatives — I think again, for a lot of Republicans, the first thing is, what are you going to do on border security? And our view is, don’t trust us, verify. The way the bill is written says that you have to deploy on the border 370 miles of fence, more than 200 miles of vehicle barriers. The fact is, these numbers are changing in the course of debate, and I think they’ve been strengthened during the course of debate. So what you’re going to have is a certain demonstrated commitment on border security that is — that will be credible.
Furthermore, there’s a proposal by Senators Kyl and Graham that would take all the fees and collections made in the course of this legislation, set it aside basically into a fund that could be used only for border enforcement. There you have a mandatory spending program, where the money flows directly into enforcement, and you have a continuous commitment in terms of funding to keeping your vigilance on the border. So I think those are the kinds of things that members are going to want to hear.
I’m Sure Chimpy Will Step Up And Accept Reponsibility [rolls eyes again]
Q Back on immigration. If the immigration reform plan fails, who bears the responsibility? And are you concerned that Democrats — specifically, the letter from Harry Reid that tells the President, you have to come up with the votes or this won’t make it — do you think the Democrats are laying the groundwork to blame the President for not —
MR. SNOW: You know what? Again, the American people are going to want to ask, after everybody says, this is an important issue, why didn’t you deal with it — we feel confident we’re going to get a vote. Therefore, I’m not going to answer a premise that I don’t think is legitimate on this.
Oh, Pony Blow Is Such A Liar
Q Finally, was the President’s watch lifted in Albania off his wrist?
MR. SNOW: No, it was not. It was placed in his pocket, and I believe your network has actually looked through the tape carefully and has ascertained the same. But, no, the President put it in his pocket, and it returned safely home.
Q Tony, can I follow up on that? Was it — you’ve seen the pictures in Albania; it was quite a reception. Was the Secret Service — were all procedures followed? Were you worried at any point that it was getting a little dangerous as he waited —
MR. SNOW: I was not there, and I have heard — look, what the President — it’s interesting. So your story is, well, we’re worried about, or concerned about the President’s safety. And what you had was an example of what happens when captive nations come free, and they understand the role that the United States has played over the decades, sometimes taking unpopular moves, whether you go back to taking a look at missile deployments in Europe, or pursuing a strategic defense initiative at a time when it was unpopular in Europe, but, in fact, became the bulwark of bringing down a Communist empire and liberating countries like Albania and Bulgaria, where people are euphoric because we helped make them free.
Q I’m not questioning the passions or the euphoria. The President’s head was in a guy’s arm, and it looked like if it was the wrong guy, they could have had a problem.
MR. SNOW: Well, you know what? If there was a problem, Secret Service would have dealt with it, trust me.
Why Not Give The Guy A Trial?
Q Tony, who is harmed if Ali al-Mari is either deported, held as a material witness, or charged with a crime?
MR. SNOW: That is not the issue that was before the court. The issue is whether, in fact, you have the ability to detain enemy combatants. The United States Supreme Court said, yes, in the Hamdi case. A federal — U.S. district court of appeals said, yes, in the Padilla case. And we have asked for an en banc hearing before the 4th U.S. Circuit in the al-Mari case because we think that court precedent supports the position that we have had when it comes to detainees.
Q What about just getting him a lawyer and putting him on trial?
MR. SNOW: Because, once again, there are procedures and precedents that we think are appropriate for this situation.
Q But how does that hurt anybody, to just put him on trial? If he has done these things, just put him on trial.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I’m not going to try to gainsay what has been the security decision of this administration.
Why Not Close GITMO? Pony Blow Don’t Know!
Q Just to follow on that, I mean, the President has taken a few legal hits recently on the treatment of prisoners taken in the war on terrorism. How is the President continuing to justify these policies, plus the continued existence of the Guantanamo prison in the face of this almost unanimous criticism abroad, and increasing at home?
MR. SNOW: Well, I would say — not unanimous — let’s go to Guantanamo. You have had a number of congressional delegations that go down there, they take a look at it, and say, these guys are being treated fairly. You have the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is there constantly and that is constantly monitoring. You have guys who have three square meals a day in keeping with religious traditions, their religious traditions are honored, they are supplied with Korans, prayer mats and other things if they so desire.
In point of fact, it is unpopular — a lot of people have criticized it because they don’t like the idea of having a detention facility for those who are plucked off the battlefields and trying to kill Americans. Nevertheless —
Q Why haven’t they been charged?
MR. SNOW: Nevertheless, what we have tried to do is to repatriate as many as possible. Their home countries think that these guys are so dangerous that they don’t want them back.
Q But doesn’t the indefinite holding of this many prisoners under these circumstances really undercut the President’s arguments in favor of democracy worldwide, as he just spoke about in his speech —
MR. SNOW: How does it do that?
Q That’s what I’m asking you.
MR. SNOW: No, the question doesn’t make sense to me. How does that happen?
Q By not having due process for every —
MR. SNOW: Are you saying that detaining people who are plucked off the battlefields is an assault on democracy? Are you kidding me? You’re talking about the people who were responsible for supporting the Taliban, somehow detaining them is an assault on democracy?
Q And not charging them —
Q Yes. You’re getting quite a bit of criticism internationally, as well as domestically on the issue of holding people indefinitely without charge. Are you denying that’s the case?
MR. SNOW: No, many have been held, but many also are now being processed through the system. What I just thought was peculiar is that you have people who waged active warfare against democracy and you think detaining them somehow is an assault on democracy.
Q Can I follow on that, Tony? Guantanamo, so far only three people have been charged, and the military commission has thrown out two of those charges.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q They’re on appeal, as you know.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Everybody else is an enemy combatant down there, whether he’s described ultimately as unlawful, or not. According to the folks down at Guantanamo — and you said it yourself that this is a question of warfare — they’re being held until the end, presumably, of the war on terror. How on earth do you get to the end of the war on terror and ultimately release these people?
MR. SNOW: Number one, you’re assuming that nobody gets released, and as you know, in fact, the number of people being detained at Guantanamo has been slowly going down; more than 100 have been returned. So you have a significant reduction, and we continue to try as best we can to repatriate folks. So don’t make the assumption that it is a totally static situation.
Number two, it has been the case, in the role of warfare, that, in fact, you can hold enemy combatants during the course of hostilities. Having said that, we’d be perfectly happy to return all those that we can.
Now, keep in mind, one of the conditions is, when you return them, they have to be returned to a nation that will, in fact, respect their human rights and their civil rights in the disposition of these cases. So that is also one of the conditions, and sometimes those conditions are not met.
Q But can I just follow on that? How do you declare an end to the war on terror?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know.
Les Is Ready To Bomb Iran
Q Second, Senator Lieberman said that the U.S. should be prepared to take, “aggressive military action against Iran.” And my question: Does the President disagree with the idea of a preemptive military strike on Iran, which continues its attempt to produce nuclear bombs, or does he agree with President Truman’s preemptive A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
MR. SNOW: I’m not sure that the President is going to go back and hand out grades to Harry Truman, other than to note that he was somebody who had to make tough decisions in difficult times.