Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Our Intelligence AgenciesDon’t Know Nothin’!

Q The Israeli media is reporting that Olmert is going to come with a message that he hopes the President will disavow the NIE on Iran; that essentially Israel believes it’s wrong. Do you believe that to be true?

MS. PERINO: I don’t know what Olmert will say. Obviously Prime Minister Olmert will have his speech tonight at AIPAC and so I’ll — you will get a chance to see that. The President has spoken to Prime Minister Olmert and many other leaders across the Middle East and throughout the world about the Iran NIE, and so I don’t think there’s really anything too new there for them to discuss. I think they both made their points very clear, and Israel has made it clear that they think the — that intelligence is wrong, and that Iran is still pursuing a nuclear weapon.


Q So as you continue to hear this concern about the NIE, what’s the message from the White House to the Middle East about this document?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that the President has been clear. And you heard him say, when he went to the Middle East back in January, he explained to everyone that our position on Iran is — remains one in which we want to solve this diplomatically, and that we are working on an international basis with our partners, the EU plus a couple of others — I can’t remember the number of that one — but there’s multiple — multilateral negotiations going on in order to put pressure on Iran in order to get them to fulfill their obligations, which is to halt, or suspend the enrichment of uranium, come clean on what their past program was, and allow the international community to come in and be satisfied; that if their claims are expected to be taken as truth, then we have to have some verification that they really aren’t pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Obviously, what the NIE said is that they had a nuclear weapons program, it was covert, and they hid it from the world. The NIE said that it stopped in 2003, but there is no evidence — nobody could say either way whether they restarted it. That’s what the concern was.

It’s All About Chimpy

Q Dana, you talk about the need to conclude this by the end of this year, on the President’s schedule. But putting it on the President’s schedule, doesn’t that create an artificial deadline that the President usually tries to steer clear of?

MS. PERINO: I think you’re mixing up a couple of different things there. But remember, if you go back to November 30th, when the President invited all the leaders here at the Annapolis Conference, one of the things that President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, amongst other leaders who attended, that they all said that they believe that it was the right thing to do to try to get this done before the end of the year. That was their timetable. And the President fully supports it. He wants to try to get it done, as well.

Q So are you saying that this is in no way driven by the President’s term in office?

MS. PERINO: Well, of course, it — I’m not saying that. I don’t know why you would suggest that. I’m saying that they both — both of those leaders said they want to get it done on this President’s watch, and the President is going to try to help them do that. We’re pretty well aware of the calendar, seven and a half months or so left, a long way to go. But they’ve also come a long way since November.

That Les, Always The Comedian

Q The New York Times editorial page commends Senator McCain for promising, if he is elected, to bring the hallowed British parliament’s Prime Minister’s question time to Congress. And my question: Would the President be willing to try this just once as a sampling before the election? (Laughter.)

MS. PERINO: As entertaining as that might be, I think we’ll let — the next President can decide if they want to do that or not.