Earlier today I obsessed over the morning gaggle, an event for which the White House does not routinely post a transcript.
Now the afternoon gaggletranscript is up.
Let’s Start With The “No Comments” Portion of Today’s Gaggle
Q The House Judiciary Committee took another step today in its investigation of the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys. They voted to grant immunity to Monica Goodling, the former aide to Attorney General Gonzales. Does the White House think that’s a good strategy?
MS. PERINO: That’s up to the committee; it’s not something we’re going to comment on.
Unka Karl’s In Trouble
Q A couple of points. Has the White House been notified in any way from the agency known as the Office of Special Counsel about its inquiries into the work of Karl Rove or the political operation here?
MS. PERINO: No. No, we have not. As I said yesterday, we have had cooperation with them in the past, and we’ve responded appropriately. But we have not heard from them on this issue.
Helen Upsets Dana To The Point Where Peroxide Starts To Speak Like Chimpy
Q Is the President still going to veto anything from the Hill that sets a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, despite the belief of the public that we should pull out?
MS. PERINO: I think that — let me try to unpack that. The President has said that if the Democrats decide to insist on sending him a bill that includes a deadline for withdrawal, that he will veto the bill. And I understand that there are many people who are in this country that are frustrated with the war. I do think that you have to be a little bit careful in blanketing everybody that they want to pull out quickly from Iraq and with an arbitrary deadline or a rash decision, and leave that vacuum that we believe is going to be left there, if we leave that quickly.
Q Well, if the majority of people really wanted to pull out, would the President pull out? And what kind of a statistic do you have that they don’t want to?
MS. PERINO: As the President has said many times before, he does not make decisions based on polls. He understands as Commander —
Q Did he make decisions based on what the American people want?
MS. PERINO: He makes decisions based as the elected President of the United States and the Commander-in-Chief and his main priority is the protection of the American people, and that’s what he —
Q How do you protect the soldiers who are over there dying every day?
MS. PERINO: That is the President’s gravest concern, and he talks to the commanders on the ground to make sure that they are protected and that they are doing their jobs. He understands that he has asked them to do a very, very difficult mission. It’s very dangerous in Baghdad. We do have a new Baghdad security plan that’s underway, being led by General David Petraeus, who is up on the Hill today providing an update to the Congress on the status of that Baghdad security plan.
Q But a hundred people are dying in Iraq every day.
MS. PERINO: It’s a very tragic situation. I don’t know if that number is accurate, but obviously it’s not only our troops that are dying, but very many — too great of numbers of innocent men, women, and children in Iraq, as well.
Q Who is the enemy you speak of? Are these Iraqis?
MS. PERINO: We have different folks that we’re considering the enemy. Obviously, al Qaeda is in Iraq, and they say that this is the battle. And then there are insurgents —
Q Are there Iraqis that you speak of, when you speak of the enemy?
MS. PERINO: I think they are definitely — obviously, there are Iraqis who are engaging in criminal activity and in sectarian violence.
Q Criminal? To defend their own country?
MS. PERINO: I think when anyone is killing innocent men, women and children that they —
Q Against an invader and occupier?
MS. PERINO: Helen, we are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government, and we are there under the U.N. Security Council resolution. Mark, did I finish your question?
Next, Martha Raddatz Takes A Hunk Out Of Dana
Q The President said on Charlie Rose last night that he hoped when a new President took over that there would be fewer troops in Iraq. Why is that not a draw-down timetable? Why is that not telling the enemy something?
MS. PERINO: I think that he said “fewer” and it doesn’t mean everybody is leaving, it’s not telling them a date on which we are going to start withdrawing.
Q So it’s okay to say we’re drawing down or he hopes to draw down by a specific date, but it’s not okay to say we hope to get out?
MS. PERINO: Well, the Baghdad security plan hasn’t even had a chance to be fully implemented yet. And what they want to do is allow General Petraeus to go there, but their mission —
Q I’m not talking about that. I’m saying what the President said last night is he hoped that there would be fewer troops — I’m sure he’s not talking about five or ten, I’m sure he’s talking about a substantial number — by the time a new President takes over. That sounds like it’s cluing the enemy into something. I don’t get the distinction.
MS. PERINO: No, I think — well, I do; I understand that you don’t. But I do think that it’s apples and oranges, and let me try to explain it again. I think what the President is saying is that we have a Baghdad security plan; it is a surge. A surge by its name is a temporary mission.
Q So it would be okay for the Democrats to start talking about a timetable after the surge in the fall?
MS. PERINO: No, I think — let’s just take what the Democrats have said right now, which is, they don’t even want to give this surge a chance to succeed. They want to pull out. Harry Reid has said that the war is lost. And they’re not even allowing it to have a chance, and they’re wanting us to pull out prematurely. And it’s going to put our troops in danger if we were to follow that path, and it would put the innocent men, women and children of Iraq in more peril. And that’s why the President says he’ll veto the bill.
Now The Other Gagglers Are Hip To Chimpy’s Timeline Contradiction
Q Can we go back once more to the timeline issue. I understand the issue of a timeline for setting a date for withdrawal. But doesn’t the President also tell the enemy exactly what to do by saying, we’ll know by the end of August, beginning of September whether the surge has worked? Isn’t that the same — here’s the plan, here’s how you can derail it.
MS. PERINO: I can see your point, although I think that what is important is to keep in mind that what the President is saying is that we need to give Baghdad a chance to calm down. And General Petraeus — obviously, these are closed briefings up there, and if he has a chance to talk to the press, I think that he will and hopefully we can ask him these questions.
Q I guess I’m still not sure I see how putting a timeline on a surge — admittedly, a timeline for something other than withdrawal, but a timeline — how that still does not communicate something useful to the enemy.
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that what we’re seeing is the modest signs of hope, little seeds of hope, amongst the destruction and the challenges that we have in Iraq that the Baghdad security plan is starting to have some effect and some success.
Bad Leads To Worse For Peroxide – So She Blames The Republikkkan 109th Congress For The Emergency Supplemental
Q Can you explain why the funding for the troops wasn’t put in the regular budget, why you have to have an emergency supplemental?
MS. PERINO: Yes, we have done that over the years. That’s the way that we have decided to do it, which is so that you don’t put all of that money for a war into the baseline budget of the Department of Defense because we believe that it would be harder to extract it out afterwards, after the war was over.
Q But, I mean, why not plan for the worst? As the President always says, you plan for the worst. Why wouldn’t you put that money in there to make sure that the troops had their money, instead of having what’s happened now?
MS. PERINO: Well, as you know, Congress last year didn’t even pass a budget. And this year I don’t know how much more progress they’re making — I mean, we hope they make some more progress, but I think that in order to ensure the troops have what they need, we had to do it this way, follow the path that we have the past couple of years.
Dana Compares The Brookings Institute To The National Enquirer –Again!
Q Speaking of name calling, Congressman Emanuel had a pretty lengthy speech today in which he said that not since the days of Watergate has partisan politics infiltrated every level of our federal government. I know you’ve seen the prepared remarks, what’s the response?
MS. PERINO: Look, I think that there’s an interesting messenger today giving a speech at the Brookings Institute. It’s one that you would consider reading in the National Enquirer rather than at a prestigious American think tank like the Brookings Institute. And I think what we have going on here is that the 100-hour congressional agenda is faltering, and in that vacuum, that they’ve decided to fall back on what is a tried and true tactic of theirs, which is creating grand conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact.
Q On another topic —
Q Are you accusing Brookings of that?
MS. PERINO: No, no, someone is giving a speech there today.
Q On another topic —
MS. PERINO: I just called it a prestigious think tank. Go ahead, you had a follow up.
White House To Fight Taylor Subpoena
Q Sara Taylor, is she protected under the same protections given to Karl Rove and Harriet Miers — would you — as far as letting her testify with Congress?
MS. PERINO: She would be, but I do think that what we should remember is that we offered to the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Judiciary Committee the opportunity to interview White House officials, in addition to getting documents — email documents that had come into or out of the White House, and that we would consider adding additional names to that if they wanted to take us up on that offer.
What Did The President Know And When Did He Know It?
Q Dana, yesterday we heard testimony from the family of Pat Tillman about the circumstances of his death and the numerous falsehoods that were told to the family by Pentagon officials. Pat Tillman’s memorial service was on May 3, 2004. When did the President learn about the unusual circumstances of his death and the possibility that he was killed by friendly fire?
MS. PERINO: From all indications, it was well after the funeral. And I did check, and the President did ask for updates yesterday on the hearing and received them from senior staff members.
Q And any reaction to the testimony by his family at yesterday’s hearing, from the President?
MS. PERINO: I haven’t spoken to the President, but in talking to — in checking that out to ask if he had been updated on it, he was interested. He was the one who asked about the hearing. He wanted to know more about it. And I think that he feels deeply sorry for the family and all that they have gone through, and he’s pleased that the Department of Defense has taken it upon themselves to investigate it, and he hopes that people are held to account.
Q Has he spoken to the family since the IG report has come out, or since the family has complained about the numerous falsehoods that were told to them?
MS. PERINO: No, he has not spoken to the family
Q Can I just go back to Tillman? You said that the President only knew about it well after Pat Tillman’s funeral.
MS. PERINO: Sometime after that.
Q Can you tell us how he knew, and whether the speechwriter knew? I mean, there’s this email that apparently went to General Abizaid, that he didn’t get for a long time.
MS. PERINO: We have no indication that the President knew that there were questions surrounding the circumstances of Colonel Tillman’s death until sometime afterwards. And it’s not clear — people don’t remember if he heard it from media reports or if he heard it from the Pentagon, but it was sometime after the funeral.
Q Did the speechwriter know?
MS. PERINO: It’s unclear. It didn’t seem that he did. I did not speak to him; he no longer works at the White House. But it is not unusual —
Q But he never got word through this email —
MS. PERINO: It seemed that it never left CENTCOM and got to here. There’s no record of that — of General McCrystal’s memo coming to the White House. But let me tell you it is not unusual that any time the President is going to be giving a speech mentioning somebody that has connections to the Department of Defense or another department, that we wouldn’t reach out and make sure that we had any I’s dotted and T’s crossed. And, obviously, in this regard we would maybe have treated the situation differently had the President known.
Q But it’s unclear when he found out and how he found out?
MS. PERINO: Correct.
Q As the most high-profile casualty at that time, wouldn’t it have been the responsibility of someone to directly tell the President, and not leave it up to him overhearing reports?
MS. PERINO: I think that’s part of the inquiry that Department of Defense is looking into.
Dana Harshes OnNToddler’s Home State
Q Dana, the word “impeachment” has cropped up in D.C. and elsewhere in the country. How seriously does the administration take those words?
MS. PERINO: How seriously do we take Representative Kucinich’s —
Q That and the decision by the assembly in Vermont?
MS. PERINO: The assembly of the what?
Q In Vermont. The resolution by — in the state of Vermont.
MS. PERINO: Oh, I didn’t even know there was a resolution in the state of Vermont. Is that a monthly occurrence? (Laughter.) I don’t know. The President and the Vice President have served honorably, and I don’t think there’s any merit to those impeachment claims.