Dana Peroxide Really Shouldn’t Get Into A Tit-For-Tat With Helen Thomas
Q Why is the President dodging a personal phone call to Musharraf?
MS. PERINO: The President has had his Secretary of State —
Q I’m asking you directly why doesn’t he call him?
MS. PERINO: The President feels very strongly that President Musharraf knows exactly how he feels about the situation.
Q That isn’t the point.
MS. PERINO: It is the point.
One Would Think That Chimpy Would Be Used To Massive Foreign Policy Failures, Yet He Still Fears Them
Q But why should Musharraf believe that you guys are really serious about what you’re saying from this podium when the President doesn’t actually pick up the phone and call him to let him know personally? That carries a lot more weight than having Condoleezza Rice or somebody else talk to him.
MS. PERINO: Well, we disagree. The President has made his points very clear with Musharraf; he’s had many meetings with President Musharraf. And Secretary Rice has delivered those messages.
Q It still does not carry the same weight as the President having direct contact with Musharraf — (inaudible).
MS. PERINO: Well, I’ll let you — I’ll let that be your opinion. I’ll let that be your opinion.
Q But what is the tactic? I mean, what is the strategic reason for President Bush not to actually pick up the phone and talk to him?
MS. PERINO: I feel confident that the President is being well served and advised by his senior national security team. The decision has been made to have Secretary Rice be the one directed to have this communication.
Q Why shouldn’t we see this as double standard? I mean, it’s not the same standard as applied to Burma.
MS. PERINO: I can understand why that question would be asked, but I think everyone has to remember that we are in the early days of a crisis, looking at a country who had decided to try to move down the path to democracy in establishing freedom of the press, civil societies, improving the education system, the public health system, allowing for freedom of expression and assembly. Democracies take time to develop. It is not easy. And this is certainly a setback, and we’re —
Q Well, they certainly don’t have freedom of the press or assembly at the moment.
MS. PERINO: And we have called for a return to it.
Q Dana, does the White House believe that Musharraf is now a dictator?
MS. PERINO: Look, I think that that is — it’s premature to say that. This is a President —
Q Well, why is premature when the First Lady —
MS. PERINO: — who has worked closely with an ally in the war on terror, President Musharraf. We’re doing two things with them: on the one hand, working cooperatively to take the fight to the enemy, to fight against terrorists; and on the other hand, trying to help President Musharraf and the other members of the Pakistani government to move along the path to democracy, because ultimately what’s going to help solve this problem is a free society, a democratic society. And yes, President Musharraf, we believe, has made a mistake. We are gravely concerned about the situation. We are calling for an immediate return back to —
Q But wait a minute, why are you calling it a mistake? You seem to be giving Musharraf the benefit of the doubt.
MS. PERINO: — we are calling for an immediate return to civilian rule, and we are in communication with them because we have a lot of cooperative interests. We have a broad relationship, and we cannot lose sight of the fact that we have very serious counterterrorism operations that are currently underway in Pakistan as well.
Maybe Laura Should Stick To Chain Smoking And Valium
Q Why did — the First Lady was very clear in her op-ed in The Wall Street Journal about Burma, Myanmar, saying it’s a military dictatorship; what they’re doing is wrong. We’re not hearing the First Lady, we’re not hearing the President being that sharp either on Pakistan. Why do you seem to be giving Musharraf the —
MS. PERINO: And what you have heard — what you have heard from the President and this administration is that we were made aware that this state of emergency could possibly be declared. We have averted it before, in trying to work cooperatively with President Musharraf. This time the President of Pakistan decided that this is the direction he wanted to go in. We disagree with it. We want him to return to civilian rule. We want the normalcy of the democracy to come back. We’re in the early stages of this crisis, and it’s going to evolve. We’re assessing the situation, and we’re reviewing our aid packages.
Q But why is it evolving? It’s been days that he basically said, no more constitution, and we’re going to round up political —
MS. PERINO: We have condemned the action. We have condemned the action.
The Review Of Aid To Pakistan Has Been Given The Same Priority Level As Finding Out Who Leaked Valerie Plame’s Covert Status To Bob Novak
Q Dana, where does the review on aid stand?
MS. PERINO: It’s still ongoing. It’s early to say.
Q I mean, is there a sense of urgency to it? Do you expect any —
MS. PERINO: I can assure that people have been working on this ever since we had heard that the state of emergency may have been what he was going to decide to do, and early on — early to mid last week that they decided to have Secretary Rice call once again to President Musharraf to make our feelings known. The aid review that you talked about is ongoing. It’s interagency, and I don’t have anything more on it right now.
Q What I’m wondering is, are you concerned at all of a world view that perhaps the White House response to this is too passive?
MS. PERINO: We — I believe our — look, our allies understand that we have — that we have a problem here.
Wave Goodbye To Our International Reputation
Q Can you concede that the U.S. doesn’t have the leverage that it once did over Pakistan? And perhaps the reason the President isn’t picking up the phone is because it’s easier to point out that Musharraf turns his back on Secretary Rice than it is to point out that he turns away from the advice —
MS. PERINO: No, the President feels strongly that he and Musharraf have had a good relationship in the past. They have worked well together to help prevent terrorists, as well as the President has helped him on the way to establishing a free and fair Pakistan, one that is democratic.
The United States is certainly a powerful country, and the President feels very confident that his feelings are well known by the Pakistanis, especially President Musharraf.
Q But as far as our leverage over what’s happening in Pakistan.
MS. PERINO: I think that we are quite comfortable with where our leverage is. This is a situation where, look, the United States, we can be a powerful country; we can urge, we can provide aid.
Dana Don’t Know!
Q This might be a little bit arcane, but has the President met with any Pakistani opposition figures in the last six-plus years, that you know of?
MS. PERINO: Olivier, I don’t know.
I Wonder What Costume Dana Wore
Q Dana, when and how did the White House find out about the head of Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s involvement with this incident involving an offensive costume at a government party?
MS. PERINO: I’m not exactly sure how different individuals were informed. I was informed this morning by Fran Townsend, who’s the — actually, I’m sorry, I heard about it earlier from somebody at the Department of Homeland Security who alerted us that this story was underway. Obviously we do not tolerate inappropriate behavior at the Department of Homeland Security. The Secretary has asked for an inquiry into the facts surrounding the incident, and once the facts have been determined we are sure that the department will take all necessary and appropriate actions. But then Fran Townsend did inform senior staff this morning.