Q I want to ask you about the denial of the Jerusalem Post story —
MS. PERINO: Yes.
Q — when you say that the White House’s preference is to solve this through peaceful, diplomatic means. That still leaves the door open, though, to planning an attack. I’m not saying you are planning an attack, but by your specifically saying that your preference is to have a peaceful, diplomatic means, doesn’t that leave the door open to still —
MS. PERINO: I don’t see how that changes — I don’t think that what I said today in response to a Jerusalem Post article that quotes an Army Times* piece that quotes unnamed officials who were quoting unnamed officials — seems a little bit less than ethical to run that as a big story on their website. So what I said in there was I was restating longstanding Bush administration policy, which is to work with our international allies on a multilateral way to get the Iranians through diplomatic means, bringing economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior so that we could sit down at the table with them. And until they halt that nuclear enrichment we’re not going to sit down with them.
But what I said in terms of, as the President said before, no President should take options off the table when dealing with any situation. So — but I don’t think I said anything different from what I’ve said before.
Q But on the — go ahead.
Q Dana, it doesn’t — you don’t deny the premise of the Post article, the Jerusalem Post article, which was that a senior U.S. official said that the President and Vice President were of the opinion that military action is called for in Iran?
MS. PERINO: I have no knowledge of anybody saying that to anybody in Israel, no. And as I said, I will restate that the United States position is to work with our international allies to bring diplomatic pressure to bear, both economic pressure and the diplomatic pressure that comes from working with all of our allies and also the countries in the region who have grave concerns about Iran’s ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon.
“Well Knitted Up” — Like An Old Sock
Q One quick follow on that. A broader question in the story, it also claims that there are sort of two camps in the administration: the President and the Vice President who are leaning more towards an attack, and Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates are sort of pulling them back. Is there any sort of split in the administration?
MS. PERINO: This is something that I have seen reported over the years, and I think it’s just people surmising or trying to string along story lines and rumors that aren’t based in fact. The President’s team is well knitted up.
Yep, Chimpy And Chestpain-ey Want To Attack Iran Now
Q What about the substance of it, though? Do the President and the Vice President feel that an attack is called for — whether someone said that in Israel, or not?
MS. PERINO: Keith, I feel that I just answered that question when I talked about what our policy is.
Q Can you answer yes or no to that?
MS. PERINO: I just told — said what our policy is and that our preference is to solve this diplomatically. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
Q But that doesn’t answer the question.
MS. PERINO: It does answer the question, that that is what we are working with our allies to do. But the President has said — what I’m saying today in response to the Jerusalem Post is nothing different than from what has been said at this podium for a couple of years now.
Q But it’s not quite an answer, because everyone’s preference is always for peace, but someone could still think that an attack may be called for.
MS. PERINO: Look, I think that when you have a longstanding policy, such as the President has, and he’s working with international allies — we’ve already passed three Security Council resolutions; we’re now working on an incentives package; we have multilateral agreement that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, or get the technology to be able to obtain a nuclear weapon, and we’re all working towards that goal. But at the same time, the President has said that no President, no matter who it is, either him or anyone in the future, should take options off the table. It’s not a smart way to negotiate.
Q Does the President — do the President and the Vice President think an attack is called for on Iran? Yes or no?
MS. PERINO: I just said what the United States policy was, which is, our preference is to try to solve this diplomatically.
Q Look, skepticism seems warranted here, because in the run-up to the war in 2003, the line was officially that negotiations were still called for and that there was no decision to attack, when, in fact, subsequent reporting has shown that there probably was a decision to attack well before the attack took place. So why shouldn’t we be skeptical of the claim that there’s no intention to bomb Iran?
MS. PERINO: Bill, you can be as skeptical as you want to be. I stated what our policy is, and I don’t have anything else that I can give you. I’m not going to be able to — if you’re going to be a skeptic, that’s your right — you’re fourth estate, go for it.
Shorter Dana: No
Q Can you honestly maintain with a straight face that in an election season like this the White House was unaware that people would take that statement the President made as an attack on Obama or other Democrats?
MS. PERINO: What I’m saying is that President Bush was there at the Knesset to give a speech on the 60th anniversary of Israel and he restated longstanding United States policy. And I don’t think that he should have to change or sit back and wait out for the next six months while an election is going on.