Dana Peroxide Tries To Yank Chimpy’s Foot From His Mouth
Q The President said last week at Heritage that we are standing with those who yearn for liberty. Isn’t — aren’t we in the position now in Pakistan where we are supporting a government that is cracking down on liberty?
MS. PERINO: The government of the United States is deeply disturbed by the proclamation of emergency in Pakistan on November 3rd — about 48 hours ago. We cannot support emergency rule or the extreme measures that are being taken by President Musharraf. Such actions are not in Pakistan’s best interest. And President Musharraf had taken Pakistan well — pretty far along the path to democracy, and this is definitely a setback.
We are currently reviewing our aid.
Q Well, while you’re reviewing the aid, there’s widespread expectation that most of that aid, which is for the military, is going to continue. Isn’t that —
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that — I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of a review that is going to be ongoing, and Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates have said that they would be leading those reviews.
Freedumb On The March!
Q For a long time the President has urged Musharraf to give up his military status, and he has not done so. And you cited a couple of reasons why we should all be mindful of Pakistan’s assistance in the war on terror. Is the U.S. willing to accept a certain amount of Musharraf’s lack of democracy in order to have his assistance?
MS. PERINO: We are not in a give-and-take situation. We want democracy to work. We know that democracy had been working in Pakistan. People have been able to have press freedoms, they’ve been participating in civil society groups, education had started to reform, the public health system was starting to get better.
So I think that if they can return quickly, as Secretary Rice said, return quickly to the rule of law, they can get back on that path to democracy and we won’t face that situation, an either/or situation.
Q Can you have a partner in the war on terror from a country that does not embrace these democratic institutions?
MS. PERINO: I think that the most important thing is for them to get back to their stated goal of having a path to democracy, establishing that free and fair elections would take place in January.
He Would Rather Ride His Bike
Q Why hasn’t the President called Musharraf, who is, after all, a key ally, personally? Is he reserving that, is there a lack —
MS. PERINO: The President has directed his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to have that direct contact. And if there’s more to update later today we will.
Q But, Dana, the President does take great pride in his personal diplomacy. He’s met numerous times with General Musharraf. He stood shoulder to shoulder with him here and in other places. Why doesn’t he just get on the phone and say, back down from this?
MS. PERINO: I’ll just repeat what I just said, which is he has directed Secretary Rice to deliver the message on his behalf, and if there’s more to update you on later we will.
Q Has the President, indeed, already spoken with Musharraf today?
MS. PERINO: No.
Q Dana, should we take it as significant that he has not spoken directly to —
MS. PERINO: No, no. Obviously the President got briefings over the weekend; he had Secretary Rice in touch with him last week. Our Ambassador, Anne Patterson, has been in contact with Musharraf and the — Musharraf’s officials in his government. And we’ve been getting regular updates from the Director of National Intelligence, as well as our national security team, and of course from Secretary Rice, who has been in the region.
Q But it does seem a departure from the way he deals with other world leaders that he claims to have good relationships with.
MS. PERINO: If there’s a phone call, we’ll let you know.
Q Did Musharraf decline calls? Have you attempted a call?
MS. PERINO: No, I don’t believe so.
The Freedumb Agenda!
Q But, Dana, to follow on Bret and Kelly for just a second, because I think there’s a question that a lot of the American people are wondering — this concept of doing business because of the war on terror with a regime that doesn’t embrace democratic ideals — is that acceptable to the administration?
MS. PERINO: The stated goal of President Musharraf and the people of Pakistan is that they want to get back to — back on the path to democracy. We want to see them return to that path as quickly as possible. In terms of what happens in the future, I can’t say from here. But, obviously, we have — it’s a complex situation. We have terrorists that we are trying to fight in that northern region, that we have been supported by President Musharraf in doing so. That has helped protect American — the American people, as well as our allies around the world. It’s helped protect Pakistanis.
But we cannot accept these extra-constitutional measures. And so it’s something that is — we have to work through. We’re calling on them to immediately end the press prohibitions, to release the detainees, and to take several actions to get back to the democratic path; and to hold — announce that he’s going to hold free and fair elections in January, and that he will take off his uniform. But let’s let the President have a word with you all today, in about an hour.
Irony Is Coughing Up Blood
Q Dana, what are the consequences to the United States if an unstable Pakistan or a Pakistan that is not a democracy?
MS. PERINO: Well, these are things that we’re going to have to consider. Obviously having a — we want to prevent terrorists from having a safe haven in Pakistan, and that’s what President Musharraf has been helping us to do. And that has to continue. As Secretary Gates said, we don’t want to take any measures that would undermine our efforts there. But what we’d like to see is an immediate return back to the path to democracy that they were well on their way towards achieving.
Q But what he says what he’s doing is against the terrorists, that is necessary to preserve stability there against terrorist organizations?
MS. PERINO: We do not believe that any extra-constitutional means were necessary in order to help prevent terrorism in the region. And that’s why we are deeply disappointed with the actions, and we asked them to not do it.
Q Is it ever reasonable to restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism?
MS. PERINO: In our opinion, no.
He Should Be Used To Failure By Bow
Q Dana, in addition to this situation, the President has delegated authority for the management of the Middle East summit to the Secretary of State. And here, two days into this crisis, he hasn’t picked up the phone and called the guy who he stood here and called his “good friend.” Is it fair to assume that the President is reluctant to personally invest himself in a situation that possesses a high risk of failure?
MS. PERINO: No, Mark, I think — look, that’s apples and oranges. The President has asked Secretary Rice to work on the Middle East peace summit. She’s the Secretary of State, that is what she does. And she is the person that the President entrusts to carry his messages for him. That’s not unusual. We are working towards a summit on Middle East peace which the President would attend. So I just — I don’t think that follows.
Q We have a couple of situations which hold in them a high risk of failure. Is it fair to consider — is it fair to perceive him as not being interested in personally investing himself in the situation?
MS. PERINO: I resent that, because the President is personally engaged, and it is because of his engagement and his desire to see this succeed that he has Secretary Rice, one of his closest and most trusted advisors, carrying out this action for him.
Dang, Even Goyal Busts On Dana
Q Thank you. Dana, six years and $11 billion of the U.S. taxpayers’ money to Pakistan and (inaudible) and Pakistan has become a haven for terrorism. You think President believes really that this money has worked and —
MS. PERINO: Well, we know one thing for sure, which is that Pakistani officials have certainly helped us find individuals like — terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. That’s how we were able to get him and actually help prevent another terrorist attack. So there has been help; we cannot lose sight of that.
Q And you think President will still call — President Bush still call General Musharraf “President,” or he will change to “General” Musharraf now, because he has —
MS. PERINO: The President has called on President Musharraf to take off the uniform.