Category Archives: Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

Helen Thomas & Our Obsession With Tough Questions

I dug back into Holden’s old posts for my latest over at SF:

How long are we going to keep bombing Iraqis?

How does the President intend to commemorate “Mission Accomplished” after five years of death and destruction?

Is every Iraqi a terrorist?

The President has said publicly several times, in two consecutive news conferences a few months ago, and you have said over and over again, we do not torture. Now he has admitted that he did sign off on torture, he did know about it. So how do you reconcile this credibility gap?

Would the administration agree to a referendum in Iraq to see what the people really want?

A.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Well, looks like we’re stuck with Tony Farto again today (hat-tip to montag for the nick), I guess no one else wanted to go to Crawford.

Tony Farto Lectures A Former President

Q President Carter amended his comments over the weekend, this morning, saying essentially he didn’t mean to say that the Bush administration’s foreign policy was the worst in history, he was talking about it more in comparison with Nixon’s foreign policy. Do you have any response to that?

MR. FRATTO: I don’t think I have response — a specific response to that. I think it just highlights the importance of being careful in choosing your words. I’ll just leave it at that.

“The Importance of being careful in choosing your words.” This From The Guy Who Called Our 39th President“Increasingly Irrelevant”

The Iraqi Government Moves About As Fast As Cheney’s Bowels

Q Tony, you mentioned that when the President spoke to the Prime Minister this morning he got some updates on some of these key measures — the hydrocarbon law and constitutional review. Are we getting — is the President getting any commitments about when those things will happen?

MR. FRATTO: It’s very hard to put a sense of timing on some of these things. Obviously, we want the Iraqis and the Iraqi parliament to move as quickly as possible. Progress on advancing these initiatives is not moving as quickly as anyone wants, and I think that includes Prime Minister Maliki and many members of parliament.

So we don’t have a specific time frame on that. We want to see them move quickly. Obviously, those are elements of benchmarks that we’ve talked about and that Prime Minister Maliki has talked about. We think they’re essential for bringing peace and security and an equity feeling in a national Iraq that is, to a large part, based on those kinds of reforms. So we want to see progress on those issues.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Pony Blow Sets Helen Straight

MR. SNOW: Helen, to answer your question from this morning, the President met this morning by secure video teleconference with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and two members of the Presidency Council, Vice President Tariq Hashimi and Vice President Adel Mahdi. It’s the first time the President has met this group, the Prime Minister plus the Presidency Council, via secure teleconference.

[snip]

Q Length —

MR. SNOW: It was about 40 minutes.

Q Did they discuss an exit strategy?

MR. SNOW: No. There was gratitude for America’s continued support.

Q Did they talk about the five British citizens who were —

MR. SNOW: No.

Q And do you have anything more on that?

MR. SNOW: No.

The Fifty Year War

Q Tony, on Iraq, for the gaggle you were asked about U.S. troops and just how long the presence would be there, the vision. And you compared it to the Korean model. Can you explain that?

MR. SNOW: Yes. It was actually a question that Helen raised and Helen used to create an analogy, but the President has used it before.

MS. THOMAS: Thank you. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: That is Helen Thomas, front row veteran. (Laughter.)

Q Spell it right. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Here is — what the President means by that is that at some point you want to get to a situation in which the Iraqis have the capability to go ahead and handle the fundamental matters of security. You have the United States there in what has been described as an over-the-horizon support role so that if you need the ability to react quickly to major challenges or crises, you can be there, but the Iraqis are conducting the lion’s share of the business — as we have in South Korea, where for many years there have been American forces stationed there as a way of maintaining stability and assurance on the part of the South Korean people against a North Korean neighbor that is a menace.

[snip]

Q For 50 years?

Q Now, the Korean model, you’ve got thousands of U.S. troops there for some 50 years. I mean, how is that comparison and vision in that —

MR. SNOW: Wendell just asked the same question. I don’t think — again, that’s not strictly comparable because what you have is a North Korea that continues to be a threat, I mean as we’ve seen with the development of nuclear weapons. We’re hoping that the Iraqis, in fact, are going to have the kind of security and stability they need so that what you’re really dealing with is the internal security of Iraq, rather than trying to provide reassurance against an external foe.

Q So you’re not suggesting that U.S. troops would be there for over 50 years in a —

MR. SNOW: No, no, I’m not. I don’t know. It is an unanswerable question, but I’m not making that suggestion.

Q You’re not suggesting that there’s a parallel between the Korean model today and the Iraqi model today in terms of U.S. force posture?

MR. SNOW: No, what I’m saying is you get to a point in the future where you want it to be a purely support role. But, no, of course, we’re in active combat.

Q Tony, while there’s no way of telling whether we’ll be there 50 years, or not, but isn’t there planning going on for a significant number of troops to be there for a long time? I mean, do you still consider this a long war?

MR. SNOW: Well, the war on terror is a long war.

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Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Wait A Minute, I ThoughtDana Peroxide Didn’t Believe I Evolution

Q Can I ask about Pakistan? Benazir Bhutto has said today that she won’t participate in a government with Musharraf, and that her party may consider dropping out of the elections if they’re held. The situation keeps sort of getting worse. What is — how are you guys looking at this? How do you see it? Do you see it as getting worse?

MS. PERINO: I would describe it as evolving and changing over — almost every hour, there seems to be a different development. And the call by President Musharraf to — that he would have free and fair elections was a positive one because it clarified for the Pakistani people that that would take place. But we remain concerned that the emergency order is still in place, and if confirmed by the supreme court to be President, then President Musharraf should be quick to take off his uniform, as he said he would do. We are hopeful that moderate elements can join together to have increased dialogue as they work through this political situation.

Situational Interest

Q At what point do you all have to make the calculation that the concerns about fighting terrorism in Pakistan — obviously real ones — but you have to make the calculation that those concerns — expressing such sort of mild condemnation of what’s happening there becomes — makes you all vulnerable to just being situational, having situational interest in democracy and situational interest in human rights? I mean, all of his promises come with a caveat that’s unacceptable to the White House.

MS. PERINO: And that’s why we are having to urge strongly President Musharraf to get back on the path to the constitution. And the other political parties that — in Pakistan should all be working towards that goal together. And we — it is not a tidy situation and something that we are continuing to monitor very closely, to be engaged in. And as I said, Deputy Secretary Negroponte will be traveling to the region later this week.

Revealing The True Cost Of Chimpy’s Vanity War = Politics

Q Do you have any reaction to the new report — it was in the Post — about the war cost $20,000 so far for American families, and $1.5 trillion more —

MS. PERINO: I haven’t seen the report, but it’s obvious the motivations behind it. This report was put out by Democrats on Capitol Hill. This committee is known for being partisan and political. They did not consult or cooperate with the Republicans on the committee. And so I think it is an attempt to muddy the waters on what has been some positive developments being reported out of Iraq.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Pony Blow openstoday’s gaggle by cracking on John Bolton.

Q John Bolton is up on the Hill, and he just said that the agreement — firstly, that he’s not a fan of the agreement, and that the North will be re-writing it every day it’s in existence, it’s a fantasy, it’s rewarding the North and sending a horrible message to the world about the U.S.’ stand on weapons of mass destruction.

MR. SNOW: Well, we stood by John Bolton in his time at the United Nations, including when he advocated the six-party agreement — the September 2005 agreement that, in fact, has been enacted today. One of the things that John Bolton did note is that there are carrots and sticks in the agreement, and as he said in October of ’06, which was just a few months ago, the carrots have been there, in a sense, for North Korea of the possibility of ending its isolation, ending the terrible impoverishment of its people. It’s the leadership that can’t seem to find the carrots that are out there. We think that the leadership has begun to find the carrots. We’re going to discover in due course whether they, in fact, are going to fulfill their part of the agreement. However, as we’ve already said up here, it is a trust-but-verify situation. This is not something where we are simply going to give things to the North Koreans on a timeline. This is all conditioned on their behavior.

Q In what way is this not rewarding the North for bad behavior?

MR. SNOW: Mainly because what we have said all along is, you guys have got to come back to the table without preconditions and, furthermore, you’ll have to agree to get rid of the nuclear program.

Obsession continues…

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Today On Holden’s Obsession With [Yesterday’s] Gaggle

Dana Peroxide Is Confused About Whether Henry Waxman Is A Senator Or A Congressman

Q Congressman Waxman is calling on the White House to release hundreds of pages of documents regarding convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He says that the White House has released several thousand pages, but there are about 600 that you have not released. Are you asserting executive privilege over these?

MS. PERINO: This is a letter that came to the press before it came to the White House, which is, unfortunately, the pattern of behavior of Senator — Representative Waxman’s committee.

[snip]

There is — internal deliberations are protected under the law. Senator — Representative Waxman knows that.

Um, Maybe Janet Reno Was Not Attempting To Immunize The President From War Crimes Charges

Q If the committee wants more documents, are you going to send them?

MS. PERINO: Well, we have — Judge Mukasey actually responded to 495 questions for the record. Just as a comparison, before her nomination, Janet Reno didn’t have to answer a single question for the record before she was confirmed. We’ve gone over and beyond the call of duty here by any reasonable stretch.

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Today On Holden’s Obsession With [Yesterday’s] Gaggle

Peance and Freeance! Part I:

Q I guess I might ask if you’d please take it — last night, CBS “60 Minutes” had a horrific feature on the persecution of Christians and I guess other minorities in Iraq and it appears to be getting much worse. Is there anything that our administration — your administration can do to try to prevent this?

MS. PERINO: Well, this is something that the President has raised with Prime Minister Maliki and our Ambassador is certainly aware of it. The President also spoke about it with the Pope in both of his meetings this year. So it is something that the President gets regularly updated on. He’s concerned about it and he thinks that everybody should be allowed to worship freely. And he believes that Prime Minister Maliki agrees with him in that regard — whether you’re Sunni, Shia, Christian, Jew or otherwise — that everybody should be allowed to worship freely and be free from persecution.

Peance and Freeance! Part II:

Q U.S. forces in Iraq reportedly killed a relative of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a raid last Friday on a villa belonging to the Prime Minister’s sister, and the villa is in Karbala province, which is supposedly under full Iraqi control. And Iraqi officials said they were not informed about the raid in advance. Was that raid a mistake, and will you issue an apology?

MS. PERINO: I think you’ll need to call MNFI. I don’t have any information on that.

Les’ Unrequited Love For Apartheid

Q Yes, on this. Thank you, Dana. Two questions. Does the White House believe that apartheid South Africa ever killed and tortured as many blacks as Mugabe’s Zimbabwe?

MS. PERINO: It would be impossible for me to quantify. I don’t know, Les.

Q Does the White House believe that in the United States there have ever been as many demonstrations against Zimbabwe and against Amin’s Uganda by black organizations like the NAACP than the 5,000 who picketed the apartheid South African embassy?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that any time anyone — any time there is suffering or people aren’t allowed to live free as everybody is guaranteed the right to under God, as the President has said, that that should be condemned. I’m not going to comment as to how many protests there are against a regime.

Q Well, do you think it was more — don’t you think it was more protests against —

MS. PERINO: I’m going to move on, Les.

Q You don’t want to —

MS. PERINO: I’m going to move on. Olivier.

Q You don’t want to —

MS. PERINO: I’m going to move on. Olivier.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With [Yesterday’s] Gaggle

Dana Sez We Can’t Outlaw Torture

Q Has the President ever considered an executive order that would ban torture specifically? There’s a letter out now from a bipartisan group of former Secretaries of State, including Secretary of State George Shultz, with whom the President was a couple of weeks ago, and former Defense Secretaries and military officials saying that there should be an executive order with the force of law saying that torture is unacceptable.

MS. PERINO: Well, we certainly respect the views of George Shultz. And one thing I would point to is that we have a set of laws that have been passed during this administration, and an executive order, in fact. There was the Detainee Treatment Act, there was the Military Commissions Act, and then there was the President’s executive order interpreting Common Article 3.

So we feel like we have taken steps to address that issue. And I would also point out that we face a very different enemy today than America has ever faced before. We face an enemy that respects no borders, respects no uniforms, and certainly has no regard for civilians, especially innocent women and children and the elderly. So we take his position seriously, but we do think that we have the mechanisms in place to address the issue.

Sovereignty Is A Bitch

Q After the meeting with President Talabani, how close is the U.S. and Iraq to reaching an agreement on the strategic force —

MS. PERINO: Well, they continue to work on it, and I couldn’t put odds on it either way. But we continue to work on it. We think that it’s critically important that we have some sort of mechanism to — legal mechanism to make sure that our forces can operate legally there. So they had a good conversation about it, and obviously the negotiators continue to work on the issue.

Q Did they get into the details of it?

MS. PERINO: No, I don’t think — no, I don’t — the negotiators are getting into the details.

Surprised? He Approved!

Q What was the President’s reaction to the Justice Department report on improper hiring?

MS. PERINO: I said today that the President appreciated the fact that Attorney General Mukasey had already implemented all the recommendations that the Inspector General had put forth, and he expects that those should be implemented fully across the board, and that no politicization in terms of hiring practices should be allowed.

Q Was he not surprised that such a process was taking place?

MS. PERINO: Was he not surprised?

Q Was he surprised that such a process was taking place?

MS. PERINO: Well, I didn’t ask if he was surprised or not. But we do know that he was thankful that General Mukasey had taken this on and had implemented the recommendations of the Inspector General.

Dana Don’t Know, But It’s A Good Idea!

Q Has the President ever met with a group of TV military analysts assembled by the Pentagon?

MS. PERINO: I don’t know. But what — I don’t know.

Q The Pentagon released emails saying that they were seeking such a meeting — that was in March 2006.

MS. PERINO: I think it would probably have been a good idea if they had. It would have been a good meeting.

Q What would such a meeting have —

MS. PERINO: I’m not going to speculate on a meeting that I don’t remember, that I don’t know it happened. I just will say I don’t know, but I think it would have been a good idea had there been a meeting.

Les’ War OnThe New York Times

Q The New York Times reported this morning from San Francisco that the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is planning to ask voters to change the name of the prize-winning water treatment on the shoreline to, “The George W. Bush Sewage Plant.” And my question: What is the White House reaction to this New York Times news report?

MS. PERINO: I just don’t think it dignifies a response.

Q But do you think that The New York Times doesn’t deserve an answer? Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PERINO: I think your question doesn’t deserve an answer. (Laughter.)

Q Wait a minute, what about The New York Times? I didn’t bring it up. It was The New York Times, Dana, New York Times.

MS. PERINO: I don’t think they were the first to report it.

Q Well, don’t you have any comment on The New York Times?

MS. PERINO: No. Since she’s not here to defend herself, I’ll pass.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Appeasement!

Q Dana, is the United States considering opening an interest section in Iran? How close are we to reaching a decision on that, and why would the U.S. do that?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that Secretary Rice said it best yesterday when she said that there might be some ideas out — floating out there, but there’s nothing concrete at the moment. In regards to us reaching out and talking directly to the Iranians, President Bush goes out of his way every time he talks about the Iranian issue, which is often; he gets asked about it and he brings it up proactively himself.

[snip]

Q Is it consistent with the idea of isolating Iran to open a U.S. interest section there?

MS PERINO: I think that — I don’t know a lot about U.S. interest offices, but I know that there’s — as I read, there’s one in Cuba. So I think that we’ve — it’s not unprecedented, and so I don’t think it’s inconsistent, no.

Chimpy Owes His Second Term To 9/11

Q And on another subject, the President supports John McCain as far as being the next President of the United States. But what does the President and this administration say about one of McCain’s inner circle saying that a terrorist attack on this country would be a big advantage for McCain?

MS. PERINO: Again, I’m not — I’m just not going to get into it and get the President involved in disputes between the campaigns.

Q This administration has been fighting vigorously against terror on the homeland. For him to say it’s a big advantage, somebody that the President supports his campaign, I mean —

MS. PERINO: I also saw that the individual who said that apologized. And so I think I would point you to that apology.

“The Reporting I’ve Seen On The Ground – That I’ve Read From Reporters”

Q The new GAO report, critical of progress in Iraq — what’s the White House comment on that?

MS. PERINO: Well, I just think that you have to look at facts on the ground in terms of the reporting. I don’t know — I don’t know what the parameters were for the GAO report. I think that from what I’ve read of it, it’s inconsistent with the reporting on the ground that I’ve seen — that I’ve read from reporters of the news media who were there. And certainly it doesn’t — it’s not consistent with some of the facts that we have here. And I would point you to the rebuttals that the State Department and the Treasury Department provided to GAO, saying that they thought that their report was way off-base.

Progress in Iraq is undeniable. And I think one of the things that you can point to is not just the political and security gains, but certainly the economic gains that they’ve had, as well. And we should all be celebrating that and working towards it.

Les Screws The Pooch

Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions. In the President’s real hope that we will have a presidential election that is fair to both sides, he was concerned by what The Washington Times reported that one of the two presidential campaigns sent a plane load of reporters back to Washington while this candidate, without telling them, slipped away to stay in Chicago, at which “several bureau chiefs and the Associated Press accused him of deliberate deception.” And my question: Without mentioning which candidate did this, could you tell us if you have ever heard — (laughter) — could you tell us if you ever heard of President Bush so mistreating reporters during either of his two presidential campaigns?

MS. PERINO: I think that the reporters are going to have to take that up with the presidential nominee that you are referring to. But I think you have your facts wrong in terms of the legs of that trip.

Q The facts wrong? You reported — that was The Washington Times.

MS. PERINO: Wrong flight, going the other way.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Welcome Back, Ms. Peroxide

MS. PERINO: Hello, everybody. I don’t have anything to start off with, so —

Q The stock market is down, the oil prices are up. I take it that this wasn’t the outcome you would have wanted from the energy summit.

Q Yes, things are going to hell in a hand basket.

MS. PERINO: Will attribute that to Bill Plante. (Laughter.) Look, look back to what we said going into the conference, which is that this is going to take a long time for us to deal with. There’s no magic wand, it’s not going to be a problem that we solve overnight.

[snip]

Q Wouldn’t more supply in the short term help more quickly than long-term planning for oil that can’t be gathered for another 10 years?

MS. PERINO: I think that the important thing to do in regards to the long-term planning is to send a signal to the market so that they know that this time the government of the United States is serious.

[snip]

So there’s a long-term answer and there’s a — there’s not a real good short-term answer. And we’ve been very explicit about that from the beginning.

Q But the short-term problem is what seems to upset people as they go to fill their cars up every day.

MS. PERINO: We absolutely are sympathetic. We understand. Many of us are consumers, too.

Dana Don’t Know!

Q Yes, ma’am. Dana, back on the energy issue, you said we should not expect a short-term fix. Are you saying that in the next seven months, we shouldn’t see anything really new, or any major changes before this President leaves this White House?

MS. PERINO: April, that’s impossible for me to say.

Other Gaglers Hate Les

Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions. The President believes that the First Amendment, freedom of speech and the press, should not be denied to radio and television by the so-called Fairness Doctrine, doesn’t he?

MS. PERINO: That’s correct.

Q That’s correct. Republican congressman Mike Pence of Indiana has introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act, which needs only 24 more signatures on a discharged petition to go to the House floor for a vote. And my question: Since, in the House, both of Maryland’s Republicans have supported the Broadcaster Freedom Act, but all six of Maryland’s Democrats have refused to do so, the President recognizes this as an indication the Democrats generally want the return of the Fairness Doctrine’s on-air censorship, doesn’t he?

MS. PERINO: Well, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case, but it sounds like you have some lobbying work to do up on Capitol Hill, so we should dispatch you up there and see if you can get it done.

Q He’s not allowed to lobby and hold a press pass at the same time, remind him. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you very much. Thank you very much, CBS. (Laughter.)

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Let’s Drill For Oil InTony Farto’s Head

Q Durbin said on the floor the other day that there’s oil leases on millions and millions of acres offshore that are just not being used and not being tapped. Why not —

MR. FRATTO: There are lots of reasons. I mean, one is that you don’t just drop a drill into — whether it’s offshore or on property — and hope that oil comes out. It takes years and years of geological study, environmental impact regulations that you have to deal with. You want to make sure there is actually oil there that you can go out and extract and bring to market.

So it’s a very long process, it’s a very expensive process. There are other places out there like the Outer Continental Shelf and ANWR where we know, in fact, that there are — there is oil there that can be brought to market. But the first step in all of this is exploration. And even on those existing leases, you still need to go out and explore, and that takes lots and lots of time.

Q But it seems like those existing leases are far more down the pipe than ANWR or any other spaces that aren’t even opened up. Why not follow those leads first?

MR. FRATTO: I’m sure some of them are, but it’s not a question of, why not do something first; it’s why don’t we do everything that we can do.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

ShorterTony Farto: It’s Clear! No, It’s Not Clear! Wait, Mommie!!!!!

Q On the President’s offshore oil statement today, it didn’t seem like he really wanted to cooperate much with Congress. He’s calling them obstructionists, and blaming them for the high price of oil. Where do you come up with the idea earlier that he wanted to work closely with Congress on this?

MR. FRATTO: No, we certainly do want to work closely with Congress. And I think the point is, the only way to get this done, to get the moratorium lifted so that we can begin drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf and on the other elements that the President talked about is through Congress. We need congressional action to get this thing done.

Congress — the Democrats in Congress, either with a Republican majority or under Democratic control, there’s no question their position on drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf or ANWR has been relatively clear, just as much as it’s been clear for us that we would like to open up those areas. And that’s a fact.

[snip]

Q Well, since it’s clear that Congress is not going to do what the President wants, why doesn’t he take the step himself and let the —

MR. FRATTO: No, I don’t think it’s clear.

Shorter Tony Farto: John McCain Is Trying To Fool People

Q Tony, the Democrats have made it clear for a long time that they’re absolutely opposed to this. This appears to be going nowhere. Are there any other ideas that the White House is exploring that can actually do something about the high gas prices?

MR. FRATTO: There is — anyone who is — anyone out there saying that something can be done overnight or in a matter of months to deal with high gasoline prices is trying to fool people. There is no tool in the toolbox out there that will lower gas prices overnight or in weeks, and probably not even in months. People — there have been a lot of things talked about out there.

[snip]

Q But one of the people who is saying that something could be done overnight is John McCain, with the tax moratorium. You’re not trying to say he’s trying to —

MR. FRATTO: He has a view on the tax moratorium and that’s his position, and we talked about looking for it. The President has been looking at it, but what the President has been focused on is the root of the problem, which is supply and demand.

Tony Farto, Butt Of All Jokes

Q The second is, there’s apparently an EPA draft — a draft of the EPA’s coming report suggests that the agency believes that automakers could increase CAFE standards much faster than the President has called for.

MR. FRATTO: I haven’t seen that. I haven’t seen any EPA reports, and I’d refer you to them.

Q Because it hasn’t been released yet —

MR. FRATTO: Okay. (Laughter.)

“I’m Not Here To Defend The Oil Companies”

Q Why is he pushing Congress on this, and not pushing the oil companies that have 33 million acres of leased area that they aren’t developing, that’s not under the —

MR. FRATTO: The first step in development in the oil business is actually exploration. They hold these leases — I’ve heard people up on the Hill, “the oil companies are sitting on leases”, as though the oil companies — I’m not here to defend oil companies; I’m just telling you that they have every incentive in the world to go out there and pump more oil. I mean, Ann, if you’ve got —

Q — without Congress lifting the ban?

MR. FRATTO: I’m sorry?

Q Are there not leases out there that are not — that have already proved — that have not been developed, that they could be doing and they’re not doing?

MR. FRATTO: It’s not a question of whether — oil companies can say that on any given piece of lease that they’re holding whether it’s productive or not. I’m just telling you I can’t imagine an oil company not wanting to produce oil today. And what we see are oil companies out there looking to try to produce and do more drilling. But it takes many, many years, and millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to go from a lease to actually pumping oil.

[snip]

Q Perhaps I was inelegant in how I asked the question. Are there not leases that are out there that could be developed, explored and developed right now, and which do not need to lift any kind of ban, and the companies haven’t done it? Why isn’t the President turning to the oil companies and telling them to explore some of the leases they currently hold?

MR. FRATTO: I think what we have heard and what the oil companies have testified to is that they are trying to develop those. You can’t develop all of them at once. They make their priorities and they go to the ones that they think they can develop and bring the product to market. I think it’s — I can’t think of a product out there that has seen —

Q But that’s not the point, Tony. The point is —

MR. FRATTO: It is the point, though. I mean — I’m sorry, the —

Q Are the oil companies doing everything they can to explore and drill where they already have permission, without opening up the OCS any more, or ANWR?

MR. FRATTO: I can’t speak to every business decision that oil producers make, and I’m not here to defend what they can do and can’t do; they can answer those questions for themselves.

Q Is the President satisfied the oil companies are doing all they can –

MR. FRATTO: Like I said, I can’t imagine their incentives being better aligned than to go out and develop. And I think —

Q I’m not quarreling with you on that, I’m just saying —

MR. FRATTO: And I think they are.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Jeebus, We’re Stuck WithTony Farto Today And He Does Not Like Ponies

Q A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the President’s disapproval rating has now reached 68 percent. That’s the highest disapproval rating since Gallop’s first in 1938. Any thoughts on that?

MR. FRATTO: No, I don’t think we’ve commented on polls and I don’t think there’s a good reason to start now.

Q I mean, what would you say to Americans who —

MR. FRATTO: We don’t base what we try to do here by polls. We know people have lots of different views of what’s going on out in the political world and what they’re hearing. But we try to focus on the policies that we’re trying to accomplish for the rest of the way here and not comment on what we hear in one poll or another.

The Taliban Is Kicking Ass

Q Tony, we saw the President’s meeting on Afghanistan this morning and the brief comments. Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense was saying that the number of villages northwest of Kandahar have been taken over, essentially, by the Taliban. Is there truth to that from this White House; do you believe that to be a fact? And what about that situation as it develops in southern Afghanistan?

MR. FRATTO: Well, look, I think it’s — as we have said many times, our forces in Afghanistan are facing a determined enemy. That enemy is there, it’s showing itself, it shows itself in certain spectacular acts from time to time. I don’t know for a fact whether Taliban troops have taken over certain villages or not, and we’ll try to get that from DOD or maybe DOD can share more on that.

[snip]

Q We saw the British pledge, but are we going to have to see another surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan soon?

MR. FRATTO: I couldn’t give you anything on that. I think you’d have to check in with DOD and see what their estimates are.

Tony Farto Thinks Hope Is A Plan

Q You talk about building up Afghan troops. How confident can you be that that’s going well when they weren’t able to stop the Taliban from blowing a hole in the wall and letting a thousand prisoners escape?

MR. FRATTO: That’s the problem that we have, whether it’s in Iraq or Afghanistan or here at home, is that we need to be successful a hundred percent of the time and these troops are —

Q This is about the readiness of those troops to do anything material in defending themselves.

MR. FRATTO: Yes, and we’re seeing them getting better trained, better equipped, better able to be mobile around the country and deal with the threats as they see it. That does not mean that they’re going to be able to stop 100 percent of the attacks of a very determined and creative enemy.

So what we need to do is to continue to increase their level of training — the British troops and U.S. troops and others are doing excellent work on training. We need to see more numbers. We need to see their equipment improve. And you will see, and as we have seen, their capabilities will improve also.

Q And you think you can do that without another U.S. infusion of troops into Afghanistan?

MR. FRATTO: Well, we hope so.

Tony Don’t Know!

Q Tony, there’s a Senate hearing today on the treating on detainees. And one of the ways the White House has defended its policy before is by saying that the International Red Cross is able to go into Guantanamo Bay and other prisons and check out what’s going on.

At this hearing today, a memo surfaced — a previously secret memo — suggesting that when the Red Cross came into Gitmo over the past few years, prisoners who were treated harshly were being hidden from the Red Cross. Is the White House concerned at all? Would you condone such —

MR. FRATTO: I haven’t seen that memo, and haven’t had a chance to follow the hearing. I can tell you it’s always been the policy of this government to treat these detainees humanely and in line with the laws and our legal obligations.

Q Well, along those lines, another memo came out suggesting that a senior CIA lawyer, while they were debating this in 2002, said the only sure test for torture is if a detainee dies or not, and said, “If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.” Does that fit into the guidelines —

MR. FRATTO: I don’t know who that is or who that came from. I’m telling you that abuse of detainees has never been, is not, and will never be the policy of this government. The policy of this government has been to take these detainees and to interrogate them and get the information that we can get to help protect this country, which we have been very successful at doing, and we’ve been very successful at getting the information that has saved lives and prevented attacks on this country and on our allies.

Q But the White House policy does not — the bar is not —

MR. FRATTO: The White House policy —

Q — the bar is not whether or not you die.

MR. FRATTO: No, the White House policy is what I told you, which is that we do not abuse and we treat detainees humanely and comporting with the law.

Lindsey Graham, GITMO Bait

Q To follow that up, Tony, because one thing that struck me from those hearings was something a Republican senator said, Lindsey Graham. I’ll quote it at you and ask for your response, if I may — that the analysis that the military got from the administration civilian lawyers would “go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and short-sighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation’s military intelligence community.” What do you say to that — a Republican?

MR. FRATTO: We have great respect for Lindsey Graham. We’re not going to review every legal opinion that has ever been proffered by this government. I’m telling you what our policy has been has been to deal with these detainees humanely, get the information from them that we can to protect this country, and as we’ve been working through the process with Congress and putting in place laws to deal with them in a legal way.

Q His conclusion clearly is that that’s not the advice that the military was getting.

MR. FRATTO: Yes, Les.

And, Right On Cue, Les Throws A Hissy-Fit

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Last week, Senator Leahy told the American Constitution Society — and this is a quote — “We need a President who has actually read the Constitution, understands the Constitution, and will respect the Constitution.” Now, my question: Aside from this slur that the President has neither read nor understands the Constitution, how does the President imagine that this Judiciary Committee Chairman can expect any respect for what Mr. Leahy alleges is neither read by, nor understood by the President?

MR. FRATTO: Les, I’m not sure I followed the whole line of the question, but let me just say, the President has read and is sworn to defend and protect the Constitution, and he does that.

Q Senator Leahy also said the Guantanamo decision was a stinging rebuke of the Bush administration. “I’m in support of the Constitution of the USA. If we turn our backs on the Constitution where would we be?” And my question: How can this be interpreted as anything but a charge that the President has turned his back on the Constitution? And is that either accurate or fair?

MR. FRATTO: Again, I think you lost me somewhere along the long line of that question. I’ll just tell you that we expressed our views on the Boumediene decision. We disagreed with it. The President said he would —

Q And you disagree very strongly with the Senator from Vermont, don’t you?

MR. FRATTO: But that’s usually where we are, is disagreeing with the Senator from Vermont.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Shorter Dana: No

Q Is there any approach that the administration can take to deal with Zimbabwe, what’s going on in Zimbabwe, other than condemnation?

MS. PERINO: I would — make sure that you have a chance to look at the briefing today by Ambassador James McGee, who is our Ambassador to Zimbabwe. He did an on-the-record briefing earlier today and said that they’re going to look at the full suite of diplomatic tools that they have available to them. But there’s no doubt that the situation in Zimbabwe is worsening, and it was already a terrible situation.

Dana Channels Holy Joe

Q Dana, the climate change bill and the action in the Senate. What do you say to those who say that by threatening to veto this cap and trade system and with a Republican filibuster, that basically, let’s just kick the can down the road for another year and postpone action on this issue?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think it would be, one, important for people to look at the fact of what really happened on this bill. This was a — they tried to have a vote on the Boxer substitute, which is Senator Boxer’s bill, that had not been fully analyzed, had not been given any economic analysis, had not been given any environmental impact analysis, and the Republicans had a beef with how theDemocrat Majority Leader was treating them when it came to an agreement that they felt they had on judges. So there are parliamentary maneuvers that can be taken on both sides.

[snip]

Q What about the — the backers of the bill said that they think they really have the strength to pass it. And they’re citing this letter that both Senator Obama and Senator McCain signed, saying they would have voted for it had they been there.

MS. PERINO: I don’t know if that’s a clever way to try to get me to talk about ’08 politics, but let’s just say we did not support the bill.

How About “Crapped His Pants”? Will “Crapped His Pants” Work For You?

Q Dana, can you describe for us the President’s reaction to the latest economic numbers? And does he believe that the stimulus package will be a difference-maker in terms of making this downturn short-lived?

MS. PERINO: Well, you’ll hear from the President pretty soon, because at the swearing in for Steve Preston over at the Department of Housing and Urban Development I believe the President will address the housing number today.

We’re obviously not happy with the unemployment number that had gone up.

Dana Don’t Know!

Q We’ve just gotten news that the United States intends to walk away from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Are you aware of those reports? Can you confirm them?

MS. PERINO: I wasn’t aware of it, but I’ll refer you to the State Department for more. I think they’re briefing now.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Dana Peroxide Refuses To To Say Whether Or Not Chimpy Hyped The Intelligence

Q Dana, maybe — it’s been a couple of hours since the Senate report came out, so I just wanted to give you a chance on camera to talk a little bit about Senate Democrats — I know Republicans are disagreeing on the Hill — but Senate Democrats are alleging that it’s not that intelligence was wrong, but that the administration maybe exaggerated some intelligence and maybe left out some key caveats about that intelligence in the run-up to the war. And I wonder, for your reaction, especially since Scott McClellan — it’s not just Democrats, but Scott McClellan made a similar claim in his book.

MS. PERINO: Well, one, I would say that the issue of pre-war intelligence on Iraq has been thoroughly reviewed over the years by the Congress, as well as the independent WMD Commission. The majority report today is a selective view. And as you just said, the minority, the Republicans, have their own report, and I would encourage everyone to look at that as well.

[snip]

Q Senator Rockefeller also specifically said today, he used the word “catastrophe” and said that if the administration had been more careful with the intelligence, we may have been able to avoid this catastrophe, talking about the war in Iraq. How do you react to a statement like that?

MS. PERINO: Well, again, I think that the President and administration officials and the Congress were all working from the same intelligence and acting on the same information. And when the intelligence community tells you this — gives you information, you have an obligation to look at it.

Little Scottie McClellan: Big Poo-Poo Head

Q Dana, following on that, in the release from the Senate Democrats, their message — the first sentence says that this report confirms former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s account of how the Bush administration led the nation to war through a propaganda campaign. What’s your reaction to that?

MS. PERINO: Scott, by his very own admission, wasn’t there at the time. He was the Deputy Press Secretary for Domestic Affairs. He has said, as I understand it, that looking back, even though he wasn’t there, reading Bob Woodward’s book, this is how he came to his conclusion.

So I think that the Senate Democrats and the Republicans took a lot of — look, I don’t know how well this report would stand up in terms of the processes. I know that the Republicans on Capitol Hill have a lot of beef with how it was taken — how it was done.

And so, when it comes to Scott, I would just remind you that he was the Deputy Press Secretary for Domestic Affairs. He said that upon reflection, looking back at how the war was packaged — and that’s his words — he disagrees with that. That’s fine, that’s his opinion. It doesn’t change the fact that the information that the President has, the information he was given by the intelligence community — he based that on the facts that he was given; he based his decisions based on the facts that he was given, and a political judgment. The fact that the intelligence turned out to be wrong on WMD does not mean that anyone purposefully lied. And that is the insinuation by some on Capitol Hill, and by a former colleague. And that’s why we were so saddened and disappointed and hurt by his words.

[snip]

Q Can I follow on that? With all due respect, press secretaries are authorized to speak for a President. Scott spoke on the war issues, even before — that happened before he was Press Secretary, just as you’re speaking to the intelligence process and how it was reformed before you became Press Secretary. And I was unaware that Scott was limited to domestic affairs. I think those of us that covered him felt that we could go to him on all matter of —

MS. PERINO: Let me be a little bit more precise. The issue is, if I could just — I’ll delve a little bit more into the detail of it — is that — it’s the question of — and I served as the Deputy as well. I didn’t sit in on national security meetings as the Deputy Press Secretary when I dealt with domestic affairs, and neither did Scott. That’s my only point on that. In terms of looking back at issues of 2001 and 2002 and 2003, when intelligence was reviewed, those are the places where he wasn’t. And he says that in his book and he’s said it in interviews since.

Old News, Move On

Q But you understand the differences they’re making, that they think that the claims — understanding that the intelligence was wrong — but that the claims went far beyond what the intelligence community was giving the White House, and that it ignored significant dissent within the intelligence community — the White House.

MS. PERINO: That dissent, amongst experts within the intelligence community at some levels, did not reach the President.

[snip]

And I think that this is just another example of rehashing this old issue, which is fine. If people want to spend their time doing that, that’s up to them. But we have changed the process, and it’s much more improved. And that’s good for the President — not just this President, but any future President as well.

Exaggerated Statement About Exaggerated Intelligence

Q Okay. And on the Iraq intelligence report, you’ve said a couple times in the past week or so that the entire world had the same intelligence on Iraq. Given the significant dissent even inside the United States intelligence community on a lot of key issues, how can that be true?

MS. PERINO: Okay, well, maybe “entire world” was probably a little bit too strong, or too broad. But clearly, other governments that looked at the same intelligence that we had came to the same conclusions. I don’t think that’s in dispute.

Cheney in Charge

Q A follow-up from yesterday. Do you have anything on an agreement between Cheney and Olmert on a military aid package that includes F-35 stealth fighter jets in 2012 —

MS. PERINO: Did you say Cheney and Olmert?

Q — and missile defense cooperation?

MS. PERINO: Did you say Cheney and Olmert? No, I don’t have anything on that. No, I don’t.

Q Did he meet with Cheney?

MS. PERINO: He did meeting with the Vice President. I believe they had dinner on Tuesday night. I don’t know if that came up. I’d refer you to his office for more.

Your Daily Dana Don’t Know

Q On the story in The Independent about the deal allegedly between the U.S. and Iraq, The Independent says that details of the deal were leaked to them. I’m sure you’ve seen The Independent’s story —

MS. PERINO: I don’t know, I haven’t seen it.

Q You’ve not seen the story in The Independent?

MS. PERINO: I’ve not seen The Independent, I don’t think.

Q Really?

MS. PERINO: I’ve read about ten other papers today, but not The Independent.

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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.

[snip]

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.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

TheWhite House Wants To Keep Little Scottie Out Of The Witness Chair

Q Congressman Wexler has called on Scott McClellan to testify before Congress, and Congressman Conyers says that he has directed his committee staff to reach out to Mr. McClellan to make arrangements for him to talk to the committee. Does the White House have any objection to this kind of conversation?

MS. PERINO: I checked on it for you. The White House Counsel’s Office takes these things when we have a formal request. We don’t have a formal request yet. When we get one, that’s when we look at the request, weigh it fully — as we do with all the others — and it’s just not a decision that we would make prior to getting a formal request.

Q Could the White House block him from testifying if he wanted to testify? Or how does that work?

MS. PERINO: Conceivably?

Q Yes.

MS. PERINO: Hypothetically — which I’m not supposed to answer hypotheticals — (laughter) — yes, I think so. The law would allow for that, but by saying that I’m not suggesting that that’s what would happen or not happen.

Three Shakespeares, No McClellans

Q Has President Bush read this — read McClellan’s book or does he have any intention to, to sort of find out what this is all about?

MS. PERINO: Well, he’s been regularly briefed. I think he’s read a lot of the articles about it, but I don’t anticipate — he may or may not read the book. I don’t know, we haven’t talked about that.

Q You haven’t bought it for him?

MS. PERINO: No.

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Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

PutImpeachment Back On The Table

Q Dana, I wanted to ask you, I know you don’t want to go line-by-line with the whole book thing, the Scott McClellan book — but I’m thinking you may want to address this because there’s something out there. Not having the benefit of having the book in front of me, there’s an allegation apparently made by Scott in the book that a reporter shouted a question to the President, on a trip that Scott had been with him on, just as they were getting on Air Force One, and it was Valerie Plame-related. Basically, it prompted Scott to ask the President directly, “Were you the one who authorized the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name?” And the President apparently told Scott, “Yes, I was.”

MS. PERINO: I don’t know. Obviously I wasn’t there and — obviously I don’t know the context. I think the — it’s hard for me to say. I don’t have the book in front of me either and I don’t know.

But what I do know is that what we have said before, which is defending the President’s decision to go to war is something that we have done repeatedly, and the suggestion that the President had sent Joe Wilson to Africa was false. And so I don’t know if that was what it was in regards to or not, so I’m — I don’t know.

Q But I mean, if that’s an allegation that’s out there, that the President is supposedly responsible for the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name, is that something you want to —

MS. PERINO: I don’t think that’s what Scott says in the book and I think that everyone should go back and look at it a little bit more carefully. I don’t think that’s what he says.

Q Can you comment more generally about whether the President has ever authorized the leaking of classified information?

MS. PERINO: I’m not aware of that, no. And I also know that President Bush would never ask anyone to knowingly go out and lie. But do we defend the President’s record vigorously? Yes, you bet we do. And I think — parts of the book that suggest that there was propaganda or — you know, I just don’t know how substantiated that is in the book. I would ask to — you know, where, when, how, specifically? What are you talking about, were there charts, were there et cetera that you thought were lies? And I don’t think that he’s saying that either. So I just question the accounts.

Dana Don’t Know!

Q On the two congressional fundraisers on this trip, was it the White House’s decision or the candidate’s decisions for them to be closed? Do you know?

MS. PERINO: I don’t know.

Dana Calls The Governor of New York An “Activist Judge”

Q Do you have anything on the Governor of New York’s decision to recognize gay marriages from other states?

MS. PERINO: I saw a brief report about it. I don’t know a lot about the decision. I think that I would go back to that the President believes that we should try to make this decision based on a nationwide agreement for the what the definition of a marriage should be, and that activist judges and different states trying to impose something of that importance on the rest of the nation is to be looked at skeptically.

Q Is there any particular concern, though, about the legal implications of states beginning to recognize other states’ rights, in other words?

MS. PERINO: Yes, I’m sure that there is, but again I briefly saw the reports and I would refer you — let me see if I can get something from the Justice Department — I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people who analyze the legal ramifications of it. I think the President’s point is that judges shouldn’t be making these decisions; the people should be making these decisions.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With [Yesterday’s] Gaggle

Um, Dana, Was There A Great Deal Of Poo-Flining When You Broke The News About Little Scottie To The Chimp?

Q I know that you said you weren’t going to be speaking anything more about McClellan, but could you give us a little sense of who told the President about it, when it occurred and any reaction he had?

MS. PERINO: Sure. Well, you will recall that it was last November, right before Thanksgiving when we first heard about the book, when the excerpt came out. I was with the President at the time and told him about it — we were at Camp David, right after an interview he had just finished.

And at that time, was led to believe that the excerpt was a little bit over-written and not necessarily representative of what the book would be like.

[snip]

So the President has been aware that it was going to come out. I talked to him a little bit yesterday — I can’t exactly remember where, but on the plane here — I guess it was on the plane; I don’t remember where we were on our way to, since we had three stops yesterday. And his reaction was similar to what I said this morning, which is he is puzzled, and he doesn’t recognize this as the Scott McClellan that he hired and confided in and worked with for so many years; and disappointed that if he had these concerns and these thoughts he never came to him or anyone else on the staff that we know of.

So I think it’s just a sad situation.

Q So you briefed him?

MS. PERINO: Yes, but I think I may not be the only one; we’ve known it’s been coming for a while, so I’m assuming that other members of senior staff had alerted him.

[snip]

Q I’m sorry if you said this, but was the President surprised?

MS. PERINO: I think you can fairly characterize it is as surprised, as well as he thinks it’s a sad situation and was disappointed, as I said just a moment ago.

Stay The Course!

Q I’m just kind of curious, in terms of the general — you’ve kind of portrayed this as a sad situation that you’re — you don’t quite understand this. But do you think this is causing any scrutiny on the White House as part of its own handling of the pre-war intelligence? I mean, is it causing any —

MS. PERINO: I think that horse has been beaten enough. And —

Q So the substance of what Scott is saying is not something that is causing any rethinking on the part of the White House?

MS. PERINO: I don’t see any reason for it to do so. As I said, the questions about the intelligence being wrong has been — have been asked an answered multiple times. And I think that I have had a good experience working both for Scott, for Tony Snow, and now heading up the press office, that I have good relationships with you all in the press corps, ones that are based on honesty and integrity. And I don’t think that it ever — I think that’s always been the case since I’ve been there. So I don’t see any reason for us to have to rethink anything at this point.

Dana Peroxide Says Little Scottie Is “Rewriting History”, But She Can’t Bring Herself To Call Him A Liar

Q The President often talks about, you know, history being the judge. And this is somebody who had a position where they could see more than, certainly, the public does. After some years of reflection, perhaps, looking back, thinking out of the limelight in private and everything, and coming up with his first version of history, isn’t it a concern that, for you, for the administration, that the conclusions he’s come to are the ones of your critics, essentially, rather than the supporters of the administration?

MS. PERINO: I think this is a unique situation. I don’t think that this is so much as writing history as rewriting history.

Dana Don’t Know!

Q If only to change the subject. Do you have anything on the vote on the cluster munitions?

MS. PERINO: The what?

Q The vote on the cluster munitions negotiations in Brussels, I think.

MS. PERINO: Where was — no, I’m sorry. Clearly, you can tell from my face I don’t know. I haven’t been informed about that.

Q Anything on —

MS. PERINO: Where was the vote?

Q What?

MS. PERINO: Where was the vote?

Q It was today, and it was in — I want to say Brussels, maybe The Hague.

MS. PERINO: Sorry, I don’t. I’ll have to refer you to DOD or State at the moment.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With [Yesterday’s] Gaggle

Um, Dana? How Come Nobody Wanted To Hear The Presidnet Speak?

Q Can you clarify the circumstances with the Convention Center versus a private residence? There were reports that —

MS. PERINO: I did over the weekend, though you may not have seen the comments, so I’ll just repeat them here, which is that as you know, our practice has been for fundraisers that the President does, if they’re at a venue like a hotel, that they are open to press. The McCain campaign has a practice that’s different, and that is that all of their fundraisers, regardless of location, are closed to the press. And so to accommodate the practices, they decided to move it to a private residence today.

Q There was a specific report that ended up getting pretty widely circulated out of Arizona that said the event was moved because of lackluster sales, and also because of feared protests. Are either of those points accurate?

MS. PERINO: Not that I’m aware of. I’d refer you to the McCain campaign for those. But I would remind you that given that it’s a free country, no matter where we go there’s always a possibility for protests, so I don’t think I’d put a lot of stock into that concern.

Whay Are Taxpayers Footing The Bill For Chimpy’s GOP Fundraising Activiites?

Q Can I ask one last thing? What is the division on the cost of the trips between official business and then party business?

MS. PERINO: There’s some — there is a formula that exists. I don’t have it off the top of my head, but it’s followed whenever we go on trips like this.

Q Can we run that down at some point?

MS. PERINO: We’ll see —

Q — in the next couple days since — get a sense of which part of the trips?

MS. PERINO: Maybe you should look at your reporting from last year, because — or in 2006 cycle. We had the exact same conversations over and over again. So I’ll try to get it for you right now, but —

Q That would be great.

Q — because of fuel costs. Does it still cost $68,000 an hour to operate Air Force One?

MS. PERINO: I have no idea, Roger.

Q Could we get an update, maybe?

Q I think our question — one question I have is the breakdown of this trip, because there’s a little bit of official and there’s a little — you know, certain days are —

MS. PERINO: I don’t know how specific we get in breaking that down, but I’ll see what I can get you. Okay?

Q Thanks.