Dana Peroxide Is Back, So HelenTries Again
Q Yesterday, according to The New York Times, we dropped a bomb on a home in Sadr City and burned alive a pregnant woman and her children. How long is the siege of Sadr — how long are we going to keep bombing Iraqis?
MS. PERINO: Well, I’m not aware of that particular report. I have not — I’ve not seen it.
Q Well, it was pretty buried in the story.
MS. PERINO: Okay. Well, the operation against the militias in Sadr City will continue until they root them out. And that is expressly in order to protect people like you just mentioned.
Q Root who out, Iraqis, in their own country?
MS. PERINO: It is Prime Minister Maliki’s government which is going after the militia, which is appropriate.
Q Why are we bombing these people?
MS. PERINO: Any time anyone that is an innocent civilian is hurt in a conflict, we obviously regret it, and we go out of our way to make sure it doesn’t happen.
Press Secretary Pickles
Q Dana, speaking of Mrs. Bush, what was the motivation behind having the First Lady speak out yesterday on Myanmar, instead of the President? Whose idea was it? And was there any concern at all that one part of that dual message, the criticism of the military junta, could be hindering the other part, which was the offer of U.S. aid?
MS. PERINO: No. Mrs. Bush — it is no surprise that Mrs. Bush feels very strongly about Burma, and she and the President have been working as partners on this issue for a long period of time. And we were very happy to have her here in the briefing room, and I think it sent a really good message, especially to the people of Burma — if they got a chance to hear her, hopefully, through some of the radio programs that they would be able to hear — that the United States cares; that we want them to live in freedom and democracy and justice — have justice for their citizens. And we’d be happy to have her in the briefing room any time she would like to come.
Q So, in other words, because she has spoken out in the past, you felt it was appropriate for her to carry that message on yesterday?
MS. PERINO: I cannot see any reason why it would be inappropriate for the First Lady of the United States to grace the press briefing room with her presence.
Q But, again, any concern that by — because she did criticize the junta — that that would in any way deter them from accepting U.S. aid?
MS. PERINO: Our position about the way that they have governed has been very clear. That was not the first time that Mrs. Bush or anyone in the federal government has expressed that concern.
Cheney In Charge
Q How is the administration going to respond to this House push for a subpoena of the Vice President’s Chief of Staff?
MS. PERINO: Well, I understand that David Addington issued a letter last week in which he said he would be responding to the committee, and I know that he will do so. And I’m going to refer you to the office of the Vice President —
Q So is he going to testify?
MS. PERINO: I’d refer you to him for more. They — the office of the Vice President’s Press Secretary can handle that.
Q Don’t hold your breath.
Q They don’t tell you what they’re doing?
MS. PERINO: Look, the subpoena was just served. He said he would respond appropriately, and I’m sure he will.
They Don’t Care
Q The head of the National Institutes of Mental Health says that it’s possible that the number of suicides among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may turn out to be greater than the number who actually die in combat. And at least two senators say that the VA has withheld the actual number of suicides and attempted suicides, and have called for the resignation of the VA’s Director of Mental Health. What’s your reaction?
MS. PERINO: Well, I’m aware of the hearing today where the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Peake was answering questions about this very thing today. And I’m sure that you are covering that, as well. President Bush is very concerned about the mental health of our veterans and has made sure that we are doing everything we can to make sure that American veterans are getting the care that they need.
Q Well, has the White House or the Pentagon been aware of the possibility that the VA has been withholding the statistics on the number of suicides and attempted suicides?
MS. PERINO: We’re aware of the accusations and I do believe Secretary Peake answered those today.
Q Well, what is the answer?
MS. PERINO: I would refer you to — nobody was covering it, so I wasn’t able to see it directly.
Q Well, I mean, what is the response from here? I mean, what are you going to direct people to do about it?
MS. PERINO: Well, the President has full confidence in Secretary Peake and believes that he is handling it appropriately.
Q What about the head of the mental health services at the VA?
MS. PERINO: Well, again, he works for Secretary Peake and I’ll refer you to them.
Son Of They Don’t Care
Q What’s the White House position going to be on the Democrats’ idea of including unemployment benefit extensions in the supplemental?
MS. PERINO: Well, remember that right now — in fact, just last week, we had mixed reports on the economy, and one of them was the unemployment rate remains relatively low by historic standards, at 5.0 percent, recognizing that some people are on unemployment for longer than they would like. And we’re aware of that.
Q The Democrats are talking about it in the House, including it in the supplemental, the Iraq supplemental.
MS. PERINO: We feel strongly that the Iraq war supplemental should remain for national security needs. We understand that there could be debates on other issues, such as unemployment benefits and food stamps, other issues that are important to a lot of people. But those issues can be taken up separate from our national security needs in the Iraq war supplemental.