Third-String MouthpieceGordon Johd’oh Opens With A Statement FromThe President…
We join the people of Pakistan in their continued concern about the state of emergency and curtailment of basic freedoms. We urge Pakistan’s authorities quickly to return to constitutional order and democratic norms. All parties in Pakistan agree that free and fair elections are the best way out of the current situation there. Free and fair elections require the lifting of the state of emergency. We, therefore, continue to call for an early end to that state of emergency, and the release of political members and peaceful protestors who have been detained. We also continue to call on all sides to refrain from any violence, and to work together to put Pakistan back on the path to democracy.
…Leaving Himself Wide Open
Q Gordon, why doesn’t that statement mention Musharraf by name?
MR. JOHNDROE: Well, we call on all Pakistan authorities. We have talked about this with President Musharraf. He made some comments that we noted yesterday; it’s good that he clarified those for the people of Pakistan, that elections will be held early next year and that he will remove his uniform.
But there are certainly a number of people involved in the situation on the ground there, and so we call on all of them.
Q Is that an indication that the administration has given up on him doing what you’re desiring?
MR. JOHNDROE: No, absolutely not. I think his remarks yesterday were notable for calling for elections early next year, as well as removing the uniform. So we expect him to uphold those commitments that he’s made.
It’s Not Mushie’s Fault!
Q Why is your statement not putting the onus on General Musharraf? It seems fairly even-handed, when it’s General Musharraf who is the one who is arresting all the lawyers, who’s arresting the human rights activists. He’s the one who’s caused the current crisis, so I’m just kind of curious why the statement does not take some more even-handed, balanced approach to what’s causing the problem there.
MR. JOHNDROE: Well, I would say that our position with regards to President Musharraf has been very clear. We’ve talked to him about having elections soon, ending the state of emergency, removing the — removing his uniform. So our position is clear to him and to everyone in Pakistan.
But I would also say there are a lot more people involved on the ground than just one person, and the point is that all of these people need to work together. There needs to be a dialogue among all the various political parties, and that is the best way to end this situation.
Q You don’t agree then that he is the cause of the current crisis?
MR. JOHNDROE: I believe that there are a lot of factors on the ground.
Q Gordon, is it fair to say that the President, President Bush, is at all frustrated that he’s seeing these steps after the phone call that he made, where he seemed to get some assurances, as you mentioned earlier, that they were going to go back on the path to democracy?
MR. JOHNDROE: Well, I would characterize the President’s feeling as focused on a Pakistan that is a ally and a partner in the war on terror, and gets back to the path to the democracy.
Q But you’ve seen additional steps that would seem to contradict your stated goal.
MR. JOHNDROE: Right. Well, we certainly want them to release everyone that has been detained, and we want people to have freedom of movement.
Q Gordon, what does it say about the President’s phone call to Musharraf if, the day after, or is it two days after that, Benazir Bhutto is basically in house arrest? I mean, so what impact did President Bush’s phone call actually have?
MR. JOHNDROE: You know, I don’t think it’s for me to be the political scientist or the pundit on what impact the President’s phone call had.
He Listens To A Higher Father
Q President Bush — former President Bush gave an interview in which he defends his decision not to go after Saddam Hussein, but also President Bush’s decision to go in and take Saddam out. Does President Bush have any second thoughts about what his father did? Or has he talked to former President Bush about the comments in the interview today?
MR. JOHNDROE: I’ve not asked the President about the interview today. I just think that President Bush 41 was noting something that we note from here often: Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who was a threat to his own people and the world, and it was the right thing to do. But our focus now on is making Iraq a secure and stable country and an ally in the war on terror.
Q Does the President solicit advice from his father on Iraq?
MR. JOHNDROE: You know, I would say I think the conversations between Presidents 41 and 43 are private, and I will leave them at that.
The Standard No Comment
Q Any reaction to the indictment on Kerik, the President’s nominee at one point for Homeland Security?
MR. JOHNDROE: Let me look into that.