Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:08 P.M. EDT
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. He thanked the leaders for joining him and looks forward to future such meetings, which also will include President Jalal Talabani, who, as you know, has been in the United States for medical treatment. The President will, however, meet tomorrow with President Talabani here at the White House.
Q: Picture of today's meeting available?
MR. SNOW: No.
The President thanked them for working together on key economic, political and security challenges, noting the importance of building national unity. He also encouraged them to keep making progress on an oil law, de-Baathification legislation, constitutional reforms, including provincial elections. They also discussed security concerns, including sectarian violence and al Qaeda activity.
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.
Q: Tony, two questions. One, we have just celebrated Memorial Day and freedom day, and those who fought for us. And as far as crimes committed against women and human rights, there's a lady in Burma who's been fighting for the last 17 years for her freedom and her -- on and off now -- the dictatorship have again extended another year -- (inaudible.) Now, human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Asia Watch are saying that she is a prisoner of China in Burma. What are we doing as far as freedom --
MR. SNOW: We made our position clear, which is that she should not be in prison.
Q: Tony, on two issues, one immigration and one on Sudan. On Sudan, what are you getting from France's new leader and from Gordon Brown? Prime Minister Blair will no longer be in office -- and how are you handling many of these foreign leaders as far as moving forward?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, let's make it clear, the United States' position on Darfur has been -- we've been straightforward in, A, characterizing it as genocide, and B, seeking aggressive international action -- we've certainly taken our own steps. When it comes to dealing with the Britons, we're still dealing with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. There will come a time when Gordon Brown takes over, and there will be conversations then. But we have certainly had support from the Prime Minister when it comes to Darfur.
As far as the French, the President is going to have an opportunity next week to sit down with President Sarkozy. I can't guarantee you that that's going to come up, but it very well may, and one would expect that at some point it will arise during the deliberations between the leaders at the G8.
Q: On immigration, is there a fear -- I mean, after yesterday's speech, is the President fearful that this just may not fly this year at all?
MR. SNOW: No, actually, he feels optimistic, but he understands it's tough. The thing about immigration is it is an emotional issue. And the President yesterday was trying to make the point that as you take a look at immigration, you need to be able to step back and take a calm and deliberate look at what's been proposed by the Congress.
The building block is pretty simple. Number one, you've got a plan that has the greatest investment ever in border security, and it's one that says, don't take our word for it, we have to deliver before we move on to other aspects of the package. So you have 370 miles of fence, you've got 200 miles of vehicle barriers, you have extensive deployment, at least 70 radar facilities, you have four unmanned aerial vehicles that are going to be able to put eyes all up and down the border -- in other words, a very significant devotion to resources -- 18,000 Border Patrol -- 18,000 strong. Furthermore, other commitments are embodied in legislation passed last year by Congress that represent, again, the firmest and most important commitment in American history to border security.
Point number two, it also restores meaning to the rule of law. A lot of people are rightly skeptical about what happened after 1986 because you had a law that was toothless, and it was violated with impunity for 21 years -- for the better part of 21 years. This administration last year stepped up unilaterally and said, we are going to go ahead and take measures not only on border security, but enforcing this law. And so we stepped up the way in which we did employer damages.
But what we have done is we've said, first, if you've broken the law, you've got to admit it. You pay a fine right up front. If you want to become a citizen, it becomes even more -- by the way, you pay a fine up front and, for the privilege of staying on American soil, you are on probation. What does probation mean? It means that you have to stay continuously employed; it means that you can't break the law; it means that you are not going to have access to the welfare system other than K-12 education and emergency rooms, both of which have been ordered by the Supreme Court. It means that you ought to pay taxes; it means that you ought to pay back taxes, at least according to most recent Senate language. In addition, you are also going to have to master the English language. That's just to stay.
You want to become a citizen? You've got another $5,500 in fines and fees, plus you're going to have to embrace and learn American culture, so that at the end of this you've got a probation that is going to weed out people who truly want to be American citizens, who contribute to the society, who work hard, who play by the rules, who've admitted that they've broken the law, who have made restitution, and over a long period of time, have demonstrated that they, in fact, are precisely the kind of people you want as American citizens.
Point number three, you do restore that notion of citizenship as something that is earned and not simply given away. It is a privilege extended to those who love the country and its culture.
So there is -- those are your core concepts. And we think, frankly, people agree that this is a nation of immigrants, it is a nation of laws. It is a nation where we have always embraced those who want to live the American Dream; it's one where we set high standards for those who wish to become Americans. And you pull those all together, I think there are broad areas of agreement around it with Democrats and Republicans.
Q: If we can stay on immigration. Do you think that from the history, just in the last couple of months, that from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other, they are able to compromise? And that's what many people are saying, that compromise is the major key --
MR. SNOW: Take a look at what's happened in the Senate. You've got overwhelming votes in favor of the legislation. We haven't gotten to the House of Representatives yet. But I think what you've seen is, in fact, not only compromise, but kind of a model bipartisanship where you've got a dozen Democrats and Republicans who worked together, ironically it was described as probably as open a drafting process as one I've seen. There were regular briefings in both caucuses about what was going on. This is a situation in which people have worked together, but now the bill is out.
Everybody can take a look at the details, everybody can also take a look at the overall architecture. And the question is, do you agree with those baseline principles I outlined? And if you do, how do you make it work? And that's a challenge that I think is worthy of Congress.
Q: Tony, you've got the President in a serious row with conservatives over immigration. You've got Republicans who have complained personally to the President that he lacks credibility as a messenger on the war. And you've got the candidates either keeping their distance, or, in the case of Newt Gingrich, very vocal in his criticism of the President and the political strategy pursued by Karl Rove. What does all of this say about the President's standing within his own party right now?
MR. SNOW: Actually, a couple of things, David. First, when it comes to presidential politics, you know that the first rule is, if you're running, even in your own party, the first thing you do is you try to differentiate your product, and you always use the President as somebody that you're sort of measuring yourself against. It is one of these cases where they're all going to try to set out their own positions.
Secondly, when it comes to the President, if you take a look -- again, let's just take a look at what's gone on with the war funding, the supplemental. You had strong unity among Republicans on Capitol Hill, and you built a bipartisan measure that passed both Houses of Congress so that you do have continuous funding through the fiscal year. You move to immigration, you take a look -- you've got bipartisan -- led by the President. I mean, there's no doubt about who's been leading this. And at the same time, you've got 60-plus votes on the Senate side.
So the fact is that there's a lot of stuff that's being delivered. And so there are going to be times when people are going to express their displeasure with the President or with his standing in the polls. But what's been interesting is really the level of accomplishment here. We have had, in the last couple of days, an announcement on Darfur -- that's an important step -- the President making his announcement today on PEPFAR, on the AIDS program -- that seems something that you're going to get both Houses of Congress working on. We're talking about No Child Left Behind -- that is something where you can get bipartisan consensus.
So even though there's going to be a lively debate about what the public opinion polls mean and don't mean, but what we have seen is when a President decides to lead he can be very effective. And this is a President who has led on those issues and has been effective.
Q: You disagree with the notion that the President and his war in Iraq have created a big drag on his party?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I think the President -- look, the President has been pretty clear, wars are politically difficult, period. And so that is always going to be -- there's always some contention in society. They're unpopular. Nobody wants to be in a war. As I've said many times, that would include the President.
But also, nobody wants to leave this country in a position where it is going to be less secure over the long run, and this President is going to make absolutely sure that the next President of the United States, who will face a war on terror, who will face a murderous al Qaeda, who will face challenges from abroad, will have the tools necessary to wage that war effectively and continuously to keep the American people safe.
Q: You're making -- in answering April's question, you're making the sort of argument that you've been quite aggressively going out and making to people, through radio appearances and what have you -- what kind of evidence do you have that the argument you're making to people is winning over enough critics so that you'll be able to --
MR. SNOW: That's a good question and I think this is one of these times where you've got to get people working together. I mean, if you want to look at the public support of it, look at your own polls, because the idea of doing a comprehensive immigration reform laid out under the general principles that we've described is something that people do support.
But I think this is one of these times where -- look, we want to make it clear, we don't question anybody's patriotism when it comes to a debate like this. What we do want to do is to have a thoughtful debate about how you deal with a problem that is -- a mess that has been 21 years in the making, and how you work that out I think is of real concern to a lot of people. Understanding that passions run very high on this, but I think the most important thing to do now is -- certainly not discounting people's passions, but allow people also to step back, take a careful look not only at the details, but also at the overall architecture and the basic building blocks of the program, and ask themselves, do I agree with the fundamental presuppositions, and if so, are my disagreements the kind that should scuttle a bill, or whether we roll up our sleeves and work to complete a bill that will be good for the American people, and address a problem that's not going to go away. Inaction will not make the problem go away.
Q: I assume you're not just going out there and making the argument and then coming back. People in the White House are measuring and asking, finding out if these arguments are actually having any effect.
MR. SNOW: Look, I think in a lot of the debate, especially with the House, we are still at the point where we're having a lot of conversations with people. And again, it's a big, complex bill and it does take a lot of time to look through in detail. So I think it's premature to start drawing big conclusions about things that work and don't work. I think the most important thing is for us to continue making our case in a way that is clear and that accurately reflects not only the thinking behind the bill, but what it ought to accomplish.
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.
In this particular case, what you want to be able to do -- and I'm now not trying to draw comparisons with any of the neighbors of Iraq, but instead, simply taking a look at the situation within Iraq proper. You get yourself into a position where you do have security in places like Baghdad and at the provincial level, and then you provide security as long as seems reasonable to the Iraqi people who are, after all, your hosts and the ones making the invitations.
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. As far as what happens in Iraq, you constantly have to default to the reasonable position that you defer to commanders on the ground. There were reports not so long ago that half the forces would be out next year. The fact is you have to take a look at what is going on in terms of the growing capability of Iraqi forces and, frankly, the growing reassurance on the part of the Iraqi people to step up and to go after those who are responsible for sectarian violence, and those who are responsible for foreign-fed violence, especially al Qaeda, so that they play a role in rooting out and vanquishing those who are presenting a real threat to their safety and security.
But having said that, you don't have a crystal ball; what you do hope is that you get to that point where the United States moves away from primary combat roles as swiftly as possible.
Q: But what about planning, Tony? I mean, you may not have a crystal ball, but you can -- the way that the country is going today. And when you talk about this Korean model, would that kick in whether things are going poorly after the surge, or going well after the surge? I mean, do you have to maintain a stability of some sort?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, Martha, as we have said, take a look at the facts on the ground. As you know -- you know and I know that Pentagon planners have a whole series of plans that try to encompass every eventuality. I'm not going to get into any of the details of those sorts of things, but obviously planners spend a lot of time trying to figure out where things are going to lead and how you properly follow.
Q: Tony, I'm sorry, but when you look at a mission, when you say, I don't know whether we'll be in Iraq or not -- I mean, how do they know what their mission is if you --
MR. SNOW: What their mission is, is to go --
Q: -- can't even articulate --
MR. SNOW: What do you mean? We know what the mission is, which is --
Q: Is it a long war mission? Is it a short mission? Is it results right now? What is it?
MR. SNOW: The mission is to build capability so that you have the ability to have a stable, functioning Iraqi democracy where the Iraqis are assuming the primary responsibility for security and every other aspect of their government and their development. I mean, that's been the key from the start.
Q: Thank you, Tony. You said earlier that you don't question anyone's patriotism --
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q: -- in this entire debate. Yesterday, when the President spoke, he said, if you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick every little aspect out of it and frighten people. That's pretty strong language. Was he referring to at least two of the leading candidates for the Republican Party?
MR. SNOW: No, he wasn't. And I know that for a fact. What he was talking about is he believes that comprehensive immigration reform is right for America. Everybody agrees it's a problem; now you've got the task of finding a solution. He believes that finding a solution is what's right for America. And no, there was no attempt to try to be -- look, the invited politicians at the event were Republicans. The President is the leader of the Republican Party. He is not picking a fight with Republicans.
Q: Follow-up question, Tony. Yesterday, Mayor Lou Barletta, of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who was renominated by both parties last month because of his stand on immigration regarding employers who knowingly hire illegals, said on this bill -- came out against the bill. And he said that when you give a temporary visa, as it does to everybody immediately, that's an amnesty, and that's why he's opposed to it.
MR. SNOW: Well, I think this is one of those cases where it's going to make sense to step back and take a look at what the bill does, because, number one, there's a lot of controversy, for instance, over the background checks. The background checks take time. There's a one-day provision just to sort of see what you know, but there is still a follow-through so that you do have a thorough background check. And those who don't pass muster get kicked out.
Furthermore, what is the first condition for staying in America even with a Z visa? Answer is, you broke the law by [sic] paying $1,000 fine . The other thing that you -- again, you've got to pay $1,000 fine, no matter who you are. That ceases to be amnesty. Furthermore, you are placed on probation. You break the law, you get sent back. If you get caught not having presented proper identification because you do have to come up with a tamper-proof visa, you get sent back, and the employer -- tamper-proof ID -- and the employer gets socked with penalties.
If you don't believe this administration is serious, take a look at what has happened in terms of the punishments meted out to employers. There's absolutely no comparison for what came before this administration. What has happened over the last year-and-a-half, where we have been tougher than anybody in going after those who knowingly hire illegals, and also rounding up in large numbers -- in one case, more than 1,000 -- those who have been working illegally, who have been knowingly sheltered by employers.
So I think this is one of these things where -- welcome Mayor Barletta, take a look -- I know everybody will scamper back and try to get quotes, but it's worth taking a good look at what the bill actually does propose because it not only is not amnesty, it proposes taking a look at finding out who the people are, who is here illegally, they've got to identify themselves, they've got to get the tamper-proof ID, they've got to pay $1,000, they don't have access to the welfare system, they've got to hold a job, they've got to learn the language, they can't break the law -- that's hardly amnesty. That is a fine and probation for starters, and if they want to be citizens, the standards get even tougher.
Q: Tony, looking ahead to the President's speech tomorrow on the G8 summit agenda -- actually about global warming. Yesterday Gene Spinoughton [sic] said the United States does not accept the global emissions limits that the Europeans are proposing. Apparently, the administration is also rejecting the idea of issuing a mandate for a new round of negotiations for a new treaty. Is the President going to be the odd man out on global warming again?
MR. SNOW: You know what's interesting is -- first, it's Connaughton. But Jim Connaughton -- well, you'll have to say his name. (Laughter.) Well, it's true.
Q: Your radio pooler thanks you.
Q: What a guy.
MR. SNOW: Here to help. (Laughter.)
The fact is that this -- as the President said when Chancellor Merkel was here, we've got a lot more in common than we do in terms of separating us. And the administration is committed, number one, to the notion that climate change exists; number two, that you've got to address it; and number three, we believe the most effective way is to go aggressively after technologies that are going to mitigate the problem. You take a look at the flash report that came out last week, CO2 emissions in 2006 down by 1.3 percent, and carbon intensity emissions down by 4.5 percent -- that is unparalleled by many other people -- by the European Union and by the other major developed economies, period. Nobody has that record.
And so the fact is that the United States not only has a record, but we've also demonstrated ways to move forward. What we're not saying is, let's be fighting about this. What we're saying is, let's find effective ways that are going to enable us to clean the air, and at the same time, also provide for the kind of prosperity that every leader is going to be expected to provide for his or her citizens.
The United States is going to play a leadership role here. I will leave it to the President to talk about particulars. But I think if you take a look at the administration's record on this, going after carbon emissions in terms of intensity, but also having the pretty astounding result of a 1.3 percent drop last year, at least according to the early estimate, the 20-in-10 plan for trying to replace an enormous 35 million gallons of gasoline over the next decade -- I'm sorry, billion. What is it, million or billion? You have to help me out here. At any rate, 20-in-10 -- yes, 35 billion gallons of gasoline with renewable fuels.
You've got partnerships all around the world that are designed to figure out ways to place in people's hands technology, such as clean coal technology as it comes online, that are going to allow developing countries to be able to have their clean air and their prosperity, too. And I think you've got a basis for considerable working together. There are going to be some disagreements on some of these issues.
Q: -- principal allies calling for a new treaty, they're calling for specific limits -- overall limits on greenhouse gasses. Does not the President look like a rejectionist?
MR. SNOW: No, I think the President looks like a leader, and rather than trying to prejudge what's in the speech, I would suggest you wait and hear what he has to say.
Q: Can I follow up for a second? Because there is, it seems to me, a basic difference in greenhouse gas intensity and straight greenhouse gas emission reductions.
MR. SNOW: Well, C02 -- you're right. But the fact is, they're both. The intensity is -- look, we had a reduction. Nobody else had a reduction last year, Jim. It's a 1.3 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, which is pretty astounding. Now, the intensity is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic activity. So there is a difference. And obviously --
Q: But doesn't that allow -- correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that allow, if the economy is booming, for actual emissions to go up, even though this intensity is going down?
MR. SNOW: That's why I pointed out the astounding fact that in real terms the amount of carbon dioxide emitted went down. But you're absolutely right, it is conceivable that the intensity could go down and carbon dioxide emissions could go up. That did not happen last year.
Q: Thank you, Tony. Two questions. While Jimmy Carter was President, he invited to the White House Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, whom he saluted as, "A notable world leader, exemplifying the finest aspects of humanity in achieving liberty and justice based on freedom and decency, and a result which thrills the whole world." And my question, what is the President's reaction to this as a measure of Mr. Carter's standard of presidential goodness?
MR. SNOW: Rather than bringing out an old quote from Jimmy Carter, our position is pretty clear on the importance of democracy in Zimbabwe and the record of President Mugabe. Whether Jimmy Carter still shares that old opinion, I do not know.
Q: The Washington Post reports that while President Carter has requested only $518,000 funding, including staff, travel, and office rental, President Clinton has asked for nearly twice that -- $1.16 million, including $516,000 for office rental, even though Mr. Clinton has taken in $40 million of lecture fees. And my question: Why does President Bush believe that President Clinton deserves nearly twice as much as President Carter, or does he?
MR. SNOW: I don't believe this is a matter of desert, Les, I think this is a matter of how the law operates.
Q: The President's meeting with Vladimir Putin July 1st and 2nd, it follows some particularly harsh criticism on the part of the Russian President. You've got analysts saying that U.S.-Russian relations are at the worst they've been since the Soviet era. Do you disagree?
MR. SNOW: Look, we're -- the fact is, look, there are some areas where we disagree, where we've had open disagreements. And one of the interesting things about the President and President Putin is that they are not afraid to ventilate them and they're brutally honest with one another. The President has always made the point that when he is talking with President Putin, President Putin has never lied to him, and they have certainly been free to express themselves fully about their concerns.
On the other hand, you also have the situation where the Russians are very important partners of ours in a whole series of ongoing concerns, such as Iran, where they have been party to the U.N. Security Council sanctions; North Korea, where they have done the same. And so the Russians still remain a very important partner, despite the tensions that may arise over various issues. We're going to make all our concerns known, but on the other hand, we're going to continue working to work ahead.
Q: Can I please follow on that?
MR. SNOW: Yes, please.
Q: The tensions are what I want to get to. I mean, you have Putin making comments that appear to compare President Bush's policies with those of the Third Reich.
MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, the following day the Foreign Minister said, no, that, in fact, was an incorrect reading of the statement.
Q: The quote is "disrespect for human life, claims that global exclusiveness have dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich." Will the President discuss this with Mr. Putin in Kennebunkport?
MR. SNOW: You know what, I'm not going to try to prejudge what the President will discuss. And the fact is, what you work on, Wendell -- again, I would invite you to go back and look at the Russian government's official statements about that reported comment and let that stand as the final word on it. What I would suggest is that when two leaders get together, they spend less time talking about rhetoric than action. And that is the way it works.
Q: Is this the kind of rhetoric you expect from an ally?
MR. SNOW: Again, look at what the Russian government has said subsequently.
Q: Following on -- you've answered part of my question, but why Kennebunkport? I mean, is this is a social visit?
MR. SNOW: It's partly social. I think it's a reflection of the fact that these guys do get along. But on the other hand, when the President does meet with other heads of state, you're always going to have a certain -- you're going to have moments where you're informal. But the two of these guys are going to be working, and they're going to be working hard.
Q: And does President Bush continue to have concerns about Putin's drift away from democracy?
MR. SNOW: Again, obviously we are very clear on our views about the importance of democracy and we continue working with President Putin on all the issues of bilateral concern.
Q: The Talabani visit tomorrow, is that mostly a courtesy call?
MR. SNOW: Yes, you know -- well, he's going to be -- again, apparently he's getting better, because he's obviously been able to leave the Mayo Clinic and at least travel to Washington. But we'll give you a readout. I don't want to --
Q: Is there any agenda? I mean, the same issues that they talked about in the secure call today?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm sure that those may come up. For instance, you're going to continue -- when you have the legislative items that are clearly within the realm of the Council of Presidents, including oil law, de-Baathification, constitutional reform and provincial elections, those are all things that have come up in the past. I would expect them to come up. But having said that, I haven't looked at a briefing paper and taken a close look. So the best thing to do is to get you a readout afterward.
Q: Thank you. I know the President is spread so thin, but is he spending any personal time with the turmoil in other parts of the Middle East -- Gaza, Lebanon -- or has he left that all to his State Department?
MR. SNOW: Of course. The President -- and he has had discussions with leaders in the region in recent weeks. But of course, he keeps an eye on this.
Q: That's my second question. When was the last time he spoke to either the Prime Minister of Lebanon --
MR. SNOW: We read out foreign leader calls when we consider it appropriate.
Q: Thank you, Tony. Another one on Russia. Russia is opposed to the establishment of a U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. Will the President discuss this issue with Putin at the G8?
MR. SNOW: These guys control their own agenda. It is likely to come up. We have said missile defense is one of the issues that's likely to arise, certainly in Kennebunkport, so probably before. And the point that we've made at all times is that missile defense is designed as a way of protecting European nations, including Russia, from external attack. So this should not be construed as something that in any way threatens Russia. As a matter of fact, we have invited the Russians to cooperate with us on it, and we'll continue to make those points.
Q: On Cuba, Fidel Castro released a statement today which said, "I'm not the first, nor will it be the last, that Bush has ordered to be killed, nor one of those people who he intends to go on killing individually or en masse."
MR. SNOW: Oh, my goodness.
Q: Any concern about these incendiary remarks?
MR. SNOW: It's Fidel Castro.
Q: Tony, an immigration reform bill is fine and dandy, but isn't it kind of whistling in the wind unless Mexico does its part? What is the administration doing to put pressure on Mexico to clean up their act in terms of their economy, in terms of encouraging people to come across the border to find work here and send remittances back?
MR. SNOW: There are a couple of things to keep in mind. Number one is that, when we were in Mexico, obviously there was a lot of concern about a whole host of related issues -- narco-terrorism and narco-trafficking not only within Mexico, but throughout the region, enhanced cooperation there; there has also been enhanced cooperation at the ministerial or cabinet level between U.S. and Mexican officials. We believe that it's important to have a strong and growing Mexican economy. That not only makes life better for Mexican citizens, but also reduces the inducement to come to the United States.
On the other hand, you also have to come up -- you have to acknowledge that the United States, in fact, has more jobs than laborers. And therefore, we do need people to come here and fill jobs that Americans are not filling. And that's why the President proposes coming up with a temporary worker program, where you're able to track people, where you've got very clear rules about how it works, where you have a much more secure border so it's a lot more difficult to cheat, where you have punishments so that if for any reason you cross the border and then you get caught doing it illegally you never get to come back.
So the point is that these are areas where the U.S. and Mexican government continue to work together on trying to make life better on both sides of the border. Ultimately, that's good for all parties involved.
Q: Two questions. One on the meeting this morning. The fact that these leaders haven't met before --
MR. SNOW: No, they haven't met with the President before. They have been meeting more regularly together within Iraq. This is the first time by secure video teleconference that you had the leaders of the Council of Presidents plus the Prime Minister together.
Q: Hashimi -- didn't he try to resign last month, and did that get resolved?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q: Second question would be on immigration. Do you have an answer to charges that this bill will not change local law enforcement's treatment of illegal immigrants?
MR. SNOW: What it does is it changes the federal government's approach -- look, there are -- you always have federalism issues where, in fact, there are limits on what the federal government can do in the way of mandates. I'm afraid I'm going to need a more specific question than something vaguely about local law enforcement. And frankly, if it's a technical issue that I can't resolve, I'll have to kick you over to DHS for a nuanced answer, because I don't have a grasp of all the vagaries.
But let me put it this way: You have got a bill that makes, again, this unparalleled commitment in terms of technology and manpower to the U.S.-Mexican border, and the U.S.-Canadian border -- they've got two borders -- as well as patrolling the oceans on both sides as a way of trying to keep America more safe and secure. That is something that -- point of fact, the President has been more aggressive and been demanding more than Congress has over time.
And so it's I think an important first step to try to reassure people. Furthermore, you're backing it up with the ability to detain people who are caught illegally -- no more catch and release -- and also working it diplomatically so that you can repatriate those who are going to be deported. In some cases, that has been more difficult in the past than it will be in the future.
Q: Senator Sessions, for example, said that one of the main reasons he doesn't want to support the bill is because local law enforcement will continue to not, basically, I think, turn over illegal immigrants to federal authorities if they're arrested, or if they're caught and they're not in the country legally.
MR. SNOW: Well, the thing is, what you're going to have is an unparalleled capability. As soon as you have somebody who has entered into the criminal system, unless local law enforcement officials simply are no longer going to take identification of people who break the law, you're going to have the ability to find out right away who's been breaking the law.
But, frankly, rather than trying to get -- to pretend that I'm more -- I've got more expertise on this, my sense is that you've got a system where you have local and federal information sharing when it comes to the justice system that is unlike anything we've had before, and therefore, does create the capability of tracking down people who have broken the law.
In terms of Senator Sessions' particular concerns, those are probably better addressed -- unfortunately, Mike Chertoff is in Germany right now for a few days. But I'd call over to DHS, because they're going to have a better handle of whatever specific concern the Senator may have. Certainly one of the things that we think is absolutely vital is making sure that you've got -- you make the rule of law credible by having credible enforcement of immigration reform.
Q: -- support the Cornyn amendment? Because I believe the law right now would not deport somebody if they are caught for drunk driving.
MR. SNOW: Again, I don't know that we've got a position on that at this juncture.
END 12:45 P.M. EDT
Tony Snow, Press Briefing by Tony Snow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/275218