FEMA MakesDana Peroxide SIC
Q Dana, on Tuesday, FEMA’s deputy administrator held what was called a news briefing to talk about the California wildfires. And from what we understand, the questions were posed not by reporters, but by staffers, and that distinction was not made known. Is that appropriate?
MS. PERINO: It is not. It is not a practice that we would employ here at the White House or that we — we certainly don’t condone it. We didn’t know about it beforehand. FEMA has issued an apology, saying that they had an error in judgment when they were attempting to try to get out a lot of information to reporters, who were asking for answers to a variety of questions in regards to the wildfires in California. It’s not something I would have condoned, and they, I’m sure, will not do it again.
Q Who is responsible?
MS. PERINO: FEMA is responsible, and they have taken that — they have accepted that responsibility, and they issued an apology today.
Q But isn’t — a follow-up on that. Isn’t there a normal morning call with all the press secretaries of all the agencies here, and whether somebody is having a press briefing or not is discussed?
MS. PERINIO: We have a variety of ways that we talk to the — communicate to the communicators in the agency. FEMA is not on that daily call, no, and I don’t know if the DHS — the head of DHS communications knew about it either. But FEMA has apologized for the error in judgment.
Q Dana, why didn’t this raise alarm bells, in terms of credibility, with anyone there?
MS. PERINO: You’ll have to ask them. They have admitted that they had an error in judgment. I would agree with that. They’ve issued an apology. You’ll have to ask them about why they decided to do that.
Q But isn’t the President concerned, at a time when he is traveling to the area to talk about a very significant natural disaster — there have been issues about FEMA in the past, trying to make a distinction about progress made, and for them to effectively pretend to hold a news conference, doesn’t the President have concerns about that?
MS. PERINO: I just said that the White House did not know about it before hand, andthe White House condones* [sic] it. And they have apologized for it. They had an error in judgment, they’ve admitted that. And I think that what they were — I don’t think that there was any mal-intent. I think that they were trying to provide information to the public through the press, because there were so many questions pouring in. It was just a bad way to handle it, and they know that.
Q Will anybody be reprimanded?
MS. PERINO: You’ll have to ask FEMA.
Follow The Asterisk, Dana
*The White House does not condone the way the FEMA press conference was handled.
Chimpy Looked Into His Soul
Q Do you want to address the remarks by President Putin, who said the United States setting up a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe was like the Soviet Union putting missiles in Cuba, setting up a Cuban Missile Crisis?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that the historical comparison is not — does not exactly work. What I can say is what President Putin went on to say, which is that the President and President Putin have said that we can work together on this.
Q As a follow-up, Dana, have you gotten any readout — I asked Tony about this earlier — on the President’s conversation with Putin since the visit to Iran and what his sense was of the gap between the U.S. on this and on Iran policy?
MS. PERINO: Well, we — yes, and I think we have provided a readout on that. That call happened I think — maybe Monday, or earlier in the week; it was definitely earlier in the week, I think it was Monday — might have been Tuesday. But President Putin had a conversation where they talked about a variety of issues, including the issue of Iran. And the President does believe that Iran — that Russia agrees that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. And he came away feeling that that was a solid answer from President Putin.
Q Dana, back on Iraq for a moment. There was another Putin analogy. Yesterday he compared the U.S. imposing of new sanctions on Iran to — we’re running around like a madman with a blade in his hands. And can you comment on that and the critics’ view that these sanctions are counterproductive to the U.S. objective of getting Iran to give up its nuclear programs.
MS. PERINO: The sanctions are part of the diplomatic process, and that has been laid out for several years. We are being very patient with Iran. We have laid out a schedule for them to be able to comply with the unanimous consent of the U.N. Security Council, that they need to stop the enrichment and reprocessing activities that they have going on in their country.
Again, this is not — the United States is not at fault.
Q And as to whether these kinds of comments by President Putin show that he’s not anywhere near on the same page as the Bush administration?
MS. PERINO: I’m not going to comment on them.
Q Can I ask you about President Putin? I mean, how would you characterize the relationship with President Putin? I mean, is he a strong U.S. ally with rhetoric like this? And also the Cuban missile comparison, is that helpful?
MS. PERINO: I think that — look, the President has said that we have a good but complicated and complex relationship with Russia. And the President has a relationship with President Putin, one, that he treats him with a lot of respect, and because of that, he’s able to have very frank and honest discussions with him. And I think the relationship — in a variety of ways, we work well together on many different issues.
In any — when you’re dealing with a world leader that has a different point of view, you don’t come out and slam them for that, just because they have a different point of view on a particular thing. But the bottom line is Iran does agree that — I’m sorry, Russia agrees that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.
Q But it doesn’t (inaudible) where this relationship is headed in the future? It doesn’t seem to bode well for where the U.S. —
MS. PERINO: Well, I think the President has done a very good job of making sure that this country has good relationships with Russia, and that’s across the board.
Dick Cheney Punches You Right in The Wallet
Q Oil was trading at $92 a barrel today. That’s 51 percent higher than a year ago. Is there any concern that it’s going to start damaging the economy?
MS. PERINO: Well, I’m not an economist — and we could try to get you together with Eddie Lazear — but we do believe that oil prices are way too high, especially for families who deal — if you have a family budget, the one item that you don’t have flexibility on is on your energy cost: You have to pay to heat your home and pay for gas in your car so that you can get to work and back.
Q But the main two reasons are the Iran sanctions thing and the tension between Turks and Iraqis.
MS. PERINO: Look, I think there could be a lot of reasons that oil prices go high. I’m not going to comment on the market movements; there’s plenty of people around this country who would. But I think that the problem comes down — the basic problem comes down to supply and demand, and that’s something that we are trying to address.
What A Shock! Dana Don’t Know!
Q The other thing, Dana, is, in California recently, campaign has started to place a measure on the ballot that would change the electoral college distribution or electoral vote distribution from statewide to winner-take-all by congressional district, the way they do it in Maine and Nebraska. And a lot of the President’s friends are behind it, I noticed. Is the administration in favor of it?
MS. PERINO: Well, it’s the first I’ve heard of it, and I don’t know what the President’s position is on it.
Q Dana, the Committee to Protect Journalists, citing recent physical attacks on reporters in the Democratic Republic of Congo, today urged President Bush to raise that topic with President Kabila. Do you know if that topic came up?
MS. PERINO: I didn’t. I didn’t get a chance to sit in on that, but I’ll check.
Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions. Senate bill 505, the so-called Hawaii apartheid bill, has resurfaced recently. And this is the one that would permit native Hawaiians to declare themselves a sovereign nation. Does the administration have a position on that?
MS. PERINO: John, I know that we have expressed one in the past; I can’t remember exactly what our position is.
Q It’s estimated that up to 2 million housing foreclosures could happen if restrictions aren’t lifted, in terms of sub-prime mortgages. And I just wondered, does the White House have any second thoughts about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in terms of any kind of relaxation?
MS. PERINO: I’m not well-versed in all of the details. I do know that we have FHA modernization bill that we would like the Congress to pass.
Q One on Kosovo. They are not — Russia said yesterday (inaudible) recognize two separate regions of Georgia as independent states — namely (inaudible) and (inaudible). (Inaudible) — split from Serbia by December 10th. Any comment on that?
MS. PERINO: I’m sorry, I’m not well-versed in it, but we’ll try to get you an answer.