Helen Thomas Gives Tony Farto A Middle Eastern Wedgie
Q Does the President think it’s a good prelude for the Israelis to kill nine Palestinians, five in one family — as a prelude to his trip on the West Bank?
MR. FRATTO: I think what the President is concerned about is bringing peace to that region and allowing the forces of freedom and democracy to have the opportunity to thrive. And that’s one of the features of his trip. I think we’re concerned, whenever we see extremists, that are —
Q Have you explained to the Israelis about those killings?
MR. FRATTO: We talk regularly to the Israelis, and of course the President is headed there next week. But I think any time we see extremists who are looking to defeat the forces of freedom and democracy, we oppose that. And we understand Israel’s right to protect itself when —
Q It’s not extremist to kill nine people on the West Bank under occupation?
MR. FRATTO: I think what our focus on is having the Palestinians and the Israelis sitting down at the table and making the hard choices so that they can — so they can move to two states living side by side in peace.
Q And can you talk a little bit about the Iowa caucuses last night? You said off camera earlier that the President did stay up and watch it. Can you talk about why and what his interest level is, but also about a lot of people reading the results as being a change of election that we’re heading towards. Is that a repudiation of the President’s policies —
MR. FRATTO: Well, I think — no, not at all. I think every election is a change, especially at the end of two terms. The President has talked about the fact that, you know, after a certain period of time, you want to have new blood and new people in, but we’re looking forward to the next year and getting the work done that we need to get done.
The Dreaded R-Word
Q A couple of analysts this morning, after the report came out, called it a “recession lite.” What do you think of that phrase?
MR. FRATTO: I don’t. John.
Q Thank you. There was some recent manufacturing numbers that came out. With the dollar’s slide, you know, exports are a big part of the economy. And the manufacturing numbers, there was a contraction, as well as a bigger decrease in purchases for future business. Are you concerned that this is predicting future recession?
MR. FRATTO: No. In fact, I would — I would have a little bit of caution in looking at a report and trying to infer what’s going to happen in the future.
Is Chimpy Lying About His Knowledge Of THe CIA Interrogation Tapes?
Q The CIA has now declassified a letter that Representative Jane Harman sent the CIA in February of 2003 raising questions about — and concerns that they were going to destroy these interrogation videotapes. My question is, if a Democratic member of Congress knew in 2003 about the existence of the tapes and about their possible destruction, why would that have not filtered its way to the President? If lawmakers were being briefed, why wasn’t the President briefed by the CIA?
MR. FRATTO: That’s not — that’s just not something I can comment on. I’m not going to be able to talk about any deliberations that occurred here. As you saw, the Attorney General made his announcement that they’re moving to an investigation stage in this, and the counsel we have is to not make comments that might in any way influence that.
Q But are you surprised that they wouldn’t have looped him in — I mean, without judging why they did or didn’t — but were you surprised that it wouldn’t meander its way to —
MR. FRATTO: I think to answer that question would require me to comment in a way that wouldn’t be appropriate.