No More Hugs For McCain?
Q Two quick issues. Senate John McCain was touring a Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans today. He said, “Never again will a disaster be handled in this terrible and disgraceful way.” He was asked specifically to talk about President Bush and how he failed in his Katrina conduct, and he said, “I think everybody knows how it was a failure.” There were unqualified people in charge. There was a total misreading of the dimensions of the disaster. There was a failure of communications on the part of the way — the common spectrum to used by many first responders. He said, “It’s been well chronicled. I don’t think anybody in America, hardly, is unaware of the many failings that took place.” What your reaction to that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I didn’t see the comments, but from what I know, having been here during the time, President Bush absolutely took responsibility for any failing on the part of the federal government. But at the same time there were problems at the federal, state and — I’m sorry, at the state and local levels, as well, which they have admitted to.
The Albanians Stole Chimpy’s Watch, The Mexicans Stole Chimpy’s Blackberry
Q One quick one to finish up. Is there any update on the stolen Blackberries in New Orleans? What is the story with this?
MS. PERINO: There was an incident in New Orleans at the leaders’ summit in — where an individual from the Mexican delegation, or a staff member was involved in these Blackberries — the disappearance of a couple of Blackberries. I don’t know how many it was. The matter is under investigation by law enforcement officials and they haven’t decided yet what exactly happened, but they’re working on it.
Q Was there sensitive material on the Blackberries?
MS. PERINO: I don’t know. I’m going to let the investigation take place before I comment on it.
Q Whose were they?
Q Yes, whose Blackberries? Were they White House staff Blackberries?
DANA*: I don’t — I’m not —
DANA: U.S., yes.
Q White House officials?
DANA: I don’t know if they were — I’m not quite sure whose they were, so I don’t want to say that, but they were certainly U.S. delegation.
*Note the offical White House transcript identifies the Press Secretary to the President by her first name.
Dana Can’t Discuss The Bush Assministration’s Ongoing Incompetence
Q Does the information that’s being released today about North Korea and Syria help or hurt the administration’s argument that North Korea is going to fully disclose its nuclear activities?
MS. PERINO: As I said this morning, there are many things I’m not going to be able to comment on in today’s briefing, which I know is very frustrating, not just for you but for me, too.
Q I’m not talking about the information itself, but I’m talking about —
MS. PERINO: But commenting on — by answering that question I would be also answering the previous question.
Q One more general question, though. The administration got it wrong on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Why should this new information, whatever it is, be believed?
MS. PERINO: Again, Mark, I am going to — I understand the question. I appreciate that you’d like for me to be able to answer it. I am not going to be able to answer these questions.
Q Dana, on that point, because you brought up the lawmakers, two of them who were briefed today who were among those who were briefed back in the fall came out — Chairman Reyes and Ranking Republican Hoekstra — and they were livid, I think to say the least. And what Hoekstra said — and I’m quoting him — he says, “We were used.” The administration — he said, we were told — “We were used today by the administration, not because they felt they had to inform Congress because it was their legal obligation to do that, but because they had other agendas in mind.” He says, any bond of trust between the administration and Congress has been shattered. And he says it will now be very difficult to get any agreements, in particular, anything based on the six-party talks through Congress. What do you say to that?
MS. PERINO: Obviously we would be very disappointed that he feels that way and would hope he understands our tremendous respect for members of Congress.
Q He says he just doesn’t feel that then, in September, eight months ago, that they got any kind of decent explanation as to why the other members of the committee shouldn’t have been briefed. They asked for them to be briefed. And he said, I don’t — still don’t believe we’ve gotten a good explanation then today for this delay. Why now?
MS. PERINO: Again, I will decline to comment.
Coddling Chimpy’s Hand-Holding Buddies
Q Some Senate Democrats are threatening to block arms deals if the Saudis, the Kuwaitis and other Arab countries don’t pump more oil. And there’s also a call on the House Democratic side once again to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
MS. PERINO: Okay, I’ll go in order then, taking the first question first. I think once again the Democrats are barking up the wrong tree. The last thing that we want to do is increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy. For years they have been in the lead to block efforts to have environmentally responsible exploration and production in our own country. Arms deals are not favors that we do for friends; they are in our national strategic interests and something that we work closely with Congress on.
Q Can I just get your reaction to something that Senator Schumer said on the same thing? He said that the Saudis and the oil companies are in cahoots and the administration is coddling them.
MS. PERINO: You know, I think that Senator — that those types of — that those remarks are ones that again continue to ignore the root cause of this issue. And continuing to blame other countries, when in fact, those countries — and the one that he mentioned, especially in regards to Saudi Arabia just this week talked about how they have spent billions of dollars to explore for more oil in their own country. There are limits to supply and there is a huge amount of demand.