Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
James S. Brady Briefing Room
MR. SNOW: Helen, welcome back. Good morning, everybody. Today's schedule: The President had a meeting this morning, regularly scheduled and recurring meeting with the Secretary of State. He has signed H.R. 5403, the Safe and Timely Interstate Placement of Foster Children Act. He's now riding a bike. That is all I have for today's schedule.
Tomorrow, of course, the President will be making remarks at the Independence Day celebration at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, then attending a lunch with military personnel at Fort Bragg; returning to the White House for July 4th celebration with family and friends. That will also serve as a birthday party for the President.
Q: What has the President decided to do about the Supreme Court rulings on military commissions?
MR. SNOW: The military commissions -- really, we're still trying to explore all the options. As we mentioned last week, there are two basic sets of options. One is to proceed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Also, members of Congress are acting to respond to what amounted to the invitation of the Supreme Court to proceed with some way of finding and authorizing legislation for military commissions. Continuing to examine all options. There is no final decision at this point about which way to proceed, but, obviously, having to figure out some way to move ahead toward getting justice for those in Guantanamo in a manner in keeping with the Supreme Court's decision.
Q: Why doesn't he just stick, then, with the Courts Martial?
MR. SNOW: As I said, he may, but they're examining all options to figure out the best and most appropriate ways to do it.
Q: Who has he been talking to on the Hill about this?
MR. SNOW: I don't know about specific conversations. I know that members of the administration -- and I talked about this yesterday -- Steve Hadley talked at the end of last week with Senator McCain. I know Senators McCain, Graham, many others, have been in conversations with members of the President's team. I don't know about any specific conversations the President has had.
Q: Is this something you'd want to try to do this year, or can it be --
MR. SNOW: Yes, I mean, what's going to -- I think you want to get this moving as rapidly as possible, otherwise you have, essentially, a detentions policy. And the most important thing is to try to bring people to justice. Having said that, it's a detentions policy, there is still the continuous and ongoing effort to repatriate many of those who are at Guantanamo. One of the problems is the reluctance of some of the host governments to take back some of those. So we're looking at ways to try to repatriate a number of those who are still at Guantanamo.
Q: Do you think that proceeding under the Uniform Code of Military Justice would handicap the government in a --
MR. SNOW: You know, that's -- again, rather than trying to play through all the considerations from here, why don't we just wait and see what decision they come up with. I think at that point, we can game out what the decisions were or what the considerations were. But able legal minds at this point are still doing their very best to try to figure out what is the best way to conduct operations that are consistent with national security imperatives, and at the same time, also proceed with rendering justice for those at Guantanamo.
Q: Has the President expressed a preference?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q: Tony, North Korea is threatening nuclear war if the United States should carry out a strike. One would assume that means shooting down its Taepodong-2 missile. Does the President and does the administration view that as merely saber-rattling, or does the threat -- is the threat taken seriously? And is there any update as to what's going to happen with this missile if it's fired?
MR. SNOW: Well, Ivan, how many times have you asked me this question?
Q: I can't get an answer, Tony.
MR. SNOW: You'll continue not to get an answer. The point here is that -- (laughter.) Well, you know, you're not going to -- I'm not going to respond about a hypothetical situation, what the United States may do if -- the strong preference of the United States and the other parties of the six-party talks, other than North Korea, is for North Korea to rejoin the talks, to sit down at the table.
Q: But leave that aside, follow up the first part of my question, this threat of nuclear war.
MR. SNOW: That is -- again, that still takes you into the realm of hypotheticals, and I'm just not going to get into it.
Q: But it's a threat. It's a legitimate threat. Do we take it seriously?
MR. SNOW: It is a statement about what may happen if something that hasn't happened, happened, if you follow my drift. It is still deeply hypothetical. Not going to go there.
Q: One Iranian news source, a so-called news agency, has said in advance of the meeting with Solana that Iran will never accept the end of its enrichment program. Would that be considered an answer?
MR. SNOW: No, if Mr. Larijani were to convey that to Javier Solana as the official position of the Iranian government, we would take that seriously. What we have said all along is that the proper channel for conveying the position of the Iranian government is through Ali Larijani to Javier Solana. The two of them, obviously, are supposed to meet on the 5th, and we'll see what happens then.
Q: Secretary Rice over the weekend spoke with Olmert and expressed support for ongoing diplomacy, but also some concerns about the humanitarian situation regarding the Palestinians. Does the President see Israel's actions as being proportional now to the situation, or is there a concern of a humanitarian crisis developing?
MR. SNOW: Well, as you probably know, what's already happened is that supplies have been flowing into Gaza today, and also some resumption of electricity.
This government and the government of Israel have both been concerned about humanitarian situations within Gaza and within the Palestinian areas for some time. We do not recognize the Hamas government, and also, we want to remind everybody that it is the responsibility of Hamas to return the Israeli soldier. That's how this all got started. We have also been encouraging Israel from the very beginning to practice restraint and continue to do so.
But obviously, people are moving toward addressing the humanitarian situations, and furthermore, there at least has been -- we were encouraged at the end of last week, when Israel decided not to proceed with what had been at least seen as possible combat operations, ground operations in northern Gaza.
We continue to watch it very carefully, and we hope that there is going to be -- that both sides can return to peace and security or moving toward peace and security as rapidly as possible. That has to begin with the return of the Israeli soldier.
Q: Tony, are you concerned about the Mexican election, and what it might mean if there's a real problem down there, what it might mean for democracy down there?
MR. SNOW: Could you tell me what that question means? I mean, that sets a new record for vagueness. (Laughter.)
Q: They both claim to be President -- we've got two guys claiming to be President of Mexico, and there's talk about possible violence over the election, and that kind of thing.
MR. SNOW: David, here's what -- the Mexican government has announced that there will be -- that they will declare a winner we think on Wednesday, and at that point, the President will congratulate the winner.
We are going to work with the government of Mexico. It's an ally and neighbor, and obviously, we've got a great number of shared interests, and we'll continue working with the Mexican government. But at this point, like everybody else, when it comes to gaming out who's going to win and who's going to lose, we'll wait for the Mexican government to go ahead and the election commission to make the announcement on who won and who didn't.
Q: What if we've got two guys both claiming victory?
MR. SNOW: Well, I believe the election commission is the one that's going to announce who wins. I think we've had situations here where people have -- there have been multiple claimants to victory.
Q: Also on the elections, what happens at this juncture to U.S.-Mexican cooperation on smuggling and so forth? Has there been an interruption so far in this program?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q: Do you plan to announce bilateral meetings of the President in the G8, including the bilateral with President Putin?
MR. SNOW: I think when we have got a schedule firmed up, we'll let you know what the bilats are, sure.
Q: More business from last week. I can't believe it, I'm going to actually ask a Goyal question, about the sale of the F-16s to Pakistan -- (laughter) -- the President's views on that, and what it means for the Pakistanis? I assume this came up -- I know it came up in March when we were there.
MR SNOW: Like a Goyal question, you need to call me earlier with these questions so I can give you an answer, because that one I'm just not prepared for. I'll give you -- we'll put it on the bupkis list, and I'll give you an asterisked answer, but I don't have an answer for that.*
Q: Another G8 housekeeping question, Tony. With this disjointed week, the holiday, and then the travel late in the week, when do you all plan to do some pre-briefs on the --
MR. SNOW: I'll get to you. I'm sure we're going to -- we're obviously going to try to get something this week, I think. I'll talk to Steve Hadley, and we'll get you -- I'll have you scheduled as soon as I can on that. Because, obviously, I believe the press charter leaves a week from -- it leaves Tuesday and we leave Wednesday. So we'll try to get you something, sooner rather than later, just because of the crunch in time. I don't --
Q: It should be Thursday.
MR. SNOW: I hope so, yes, but I don't --
Q: Is the President away Thursday night for his birthday? The week ahead schedule has him remaining --
MR. SNOW: Yes, we will be overnighting in Chicago on Thursday -- when we have the full retinue of events available to you. The President -- the birthday celebration is going to be in the Residence on the 4th. So that's when there will be the birthday party, and the family celebration and all that.
Q: Any other public events that -- staff-related, or things --
MR. SNOW: For the President -- no, no.
Q: -- that we would be covering, in honor --
MR. SNOW: No.
Q: When is the actual birthday?
Q: The 6th.
MR. SNOW: It's the 6th. Ow, I hurt myself. I shouldn't try to be so dramatic. (Laughter.) These things are harder than I thought.
Q: Gaggles, or microphones? (Laughter.)
Okay, let's see.
Q: A Shiite leader called for the amnesty to include insurgents in Iraq involving attacks against United States. Is that something the White House would support?
MR. SNOW: Run that by me again?
Q: Al Hakim, who is a Shiite leader in Iraq, he called for the national amnesty to include insurgents that were found to be involved in attacks --
MR. SNOW: We're not going to -- at this point, we're not going to insert ourselves into ongoing deliberations on the part of the Iraqi government. We support the Prime Minister's attempts to try to build national reconciliation, and we realize it already has led to certain types of amnesty. But rather than getting into particulars, we're going to let the Iraqi government work through that.
Q: Do you have any conditions to the kind of amnesty --
MR. SNOW: We don't set conditions. That's the position -- the Iraqi government has the responsibility for proceeding forward with its own amnesty.
Q: Do you support amnesty to include people involved in insurgency --
MR. SNOW: Again, we're not -- to say, "do we support or not support" would indicate that we have an official role in it, and we do not, and therefore I'm not going to get into characterizing a position. The position is that we trust the Iraqi government to do what is going to be necessary to create national unity and reconciliation, and to consolidate and move forward with its democracy.
Have you ever explained why Casey's recommendation for a draw-down on troops was not announced, or not even revealed until after the debate on the Hill?
MR. SNOW: Because General Casey provides lots of different scenarios, and we never announce them. I mean, in a time of war --
Q: This is one scenario that he'd given quite before the debate, maybe a week or so.
MR. SNOW: Well, this is a scenario that was leaked. Somebody had leaked it. But we don't leak each and every piece of advice or every scenario the General --
Q: You're saying it should have come out, though, at that time? It should have been a part of the debate?
MR. SNOW: No, no. When you're talking about the debate, which debate are you talking about?
Q: I'm talking about the debate on the Hill, and so forth, where you accuse everybody of cutting and running if they want to pull out of the --
MR. SNOW: Wait a minute. I don't believe that phrase has ever been used from this podium. People have -- no, I mean --
THE PRESS: Hmmm. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: You better go back and check your notes. (Laughter.) Okay, by the present -- by the present occupant of this podium.
Q: It was being mulled around, certainly this -- you keep talking about recommendation from the ground, and the military.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q: You had a recommendation and it didn't come up on the Hill.
MR. SNOW: No, no, no. The important -- we did not have a recommendation. We had an option. And that's -- that's a very important and critical -- if General Casey says, got to pull them out, got to do this, then the President has made it clear.
Q: He is never going to say that to the President.
MR. SNOW: Sure he is. If he gives military advice and he says, Mr. President, we need to do this --
Q: He will never say, "got to" to his Commander-in-Chief.
MR. SNOW: Okay, "Sir, I strongly recommend that we do this." The President has said that he will -- he has to have trust in the person who is running the operation in Iraq, and that is General Casey. And he has made it very clear that when General Casey makes a specific recommendation, especially something like that, he will be inclined to follow it.
Q: Was that a recommendation?
MR. SNOW: No, it was an option. It was a scenario. It was not a recommendation.
Q: What were the other options?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to tell you. Again, it gets to the point
Q: What's the difference?
MR. SNOW: The difference is, the President -- I think this helps answer Helen's question. We've talked all along about conditions on the ground, what happens if these various sets of conditions apply. And we've also made it very clear that at some point, American forces are going to be leaving and Iraqis will have sole responsibility for safety and security within Iraq. That has always also been a goal. It involves not merely military forces, but police forces. So all of those things in play, if General Casey were to say, okay, sir, the time is right now, based on the conditions on the ground to start moving brigades, or whatever, then the President has been pretty clear that he very likely would follow that advice. It has not risen yet to the point of advice, it's a scenario. There's an option.
Q: Why wasn't it in the mix on the debate.
MR. SNOW: Because it is inappropriate for a Commander-in-Chief to start saying, here are the scenarios my General has laid out before me. It is highly unusual in a time of war --
Q: Why not?
MR. SNOW: Because you do not have perfect transparency in terms of your tactics or your options because to do so is to signal to the people who are fighting you ways in which they may adjust their tactics, as well, in order to make life more difficult not only on the ground for you, but for the people for whom you are fighting.
Q: It's very crucial debate on the Hill what was going on.
MR. SNOW: No, no -- there's -- I'm sorry you missed it last week, but there are some very significant differences between what General Casey had been describing and what was being laid out in some of the resolutions on the Hill.
What we saw, and some of the things being debated in the House and Senate, were timetables. Whether you call it a phased withdrawal or whatever, it is, you move troops out according to a schedule. That has never been this administration's position. The goal of many of those being debated in the United States Senate and the United States House was not victory, but withdrawal. What we have said is, victory is the goal. You do withdrawals only consistent with conditions on the ground. There is no discussion of conditionality, in some of those resolutions. Instead, they're simply based on timetables. One set of -- one debate was based on a calendar, the other was based on conditions on the ground. And I dare say there's a very significant difference between the two.
Q: Two quick ones. Suzanne asked whether you were satisfied that Israel's actions thus far fit your definition of restraint and your definition of avoiding unnecessary damage. Is that the case? Are you satisfied?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to characterize it. I think -- I'm just simply going to repeat what we've been saying here. I'm not going to advance the ball for you.
Q: All right. And are you -- is the United States satisfied with the size of the NATO force in Afghanistan?
MR. SNOW: Is the United States satisfied with the size of the NATO force in Afghanistan? At this point, the NATO force in Afghanistan has enjoyed considerable battlefield success. It obviously has been getting tested by the Afghan forces. At this point, I'm not aware that there's been any -- perhaps you can help me out -- but I'm not aware that there's been any expressed discontent with the size of NATO forces.
They're getting tested out, and they have responded to the test, but this is something that we had expected. In fact, I believe I mentioned it even before the transition began to take place, that one would naturally expect that kind of testing on the part of the Taliban and insurgent forces.
Q: Tony, on the birthday events of the 4th, will those of us in the great unwashed masses get to hear the President speak or visit with him at all during the evening events?
MR. SNOW: Probably not. I don't think we have -- we don't have any scheduled public events, no. This -- it's no Madison Square Garden. It's going to be family and friends up in the Residence.
Q: Marilyn Monroe won't be here singing? (Laughter.)
Q: Elvis. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Ouch.
Q: Is the President going to come out on the balcony and speak?
MR. SNOW: If he does, it is a -- if he will, it will be a surprise to me. There's certainly nothing --
Q: Any photo release?
MR. SNOW: Good question, we'll find out. My guess is that -- huh?
Q: How many guests?
MR. SNOW: I don't know.
Q: You've obviously knocked out one major area in U.S.- Canada relations. What's on the agenda for the upcoming meeting?
MR. SNOW: Well, continuing with the U.S.-Canadian relations, obviously we'll be talking about continuing matters of border security and national security. Trade is always at the top of the option. And as -- there's continued wrangling over the Doha Round. We want to make sure that that also proceeds. We're still trying to get success there, as well.
Q: Are you aware of any international guests that may be coming over for the President's birthday?
MR. SNOW: No, no. It's been described as friends and family. I will try -- if I can find any international guests, I will let you know.
Very quickly, we have Jessica in the back.
Q: Just following on your discussions on the Mexico election. Can you give us a little more sense, is the White House at all concerned that this could become a protracted runoff between the two men --
MR. SNOW: Why don't we just wait and see what happens Wednesday rather than trying to -- I mean, the --
Q: We want to worry.
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, I'll tell you what. Let it be reported that there is concern on the part of the press corps, but the White House -- (laughter) -- but the White House is still confident in the ability of the electoral commission to declare a victor.
Q: The White House has no concerns about the possibility that --
MR. SNOW: Again, what the President will do is congratulate the victor and move forward.
Q: Tomorrow, what about tomorrow's speech? Do you have anything on tomorrow?
MR. SNOW: Tomorrow's speech -- tomorrow's speech before forces at Fort Bragg will be to thank them for their duty, to cite some of the circumstances in which a number of those who have fought have operated. There will be a story, for instance, of a fellow who is an amputee, who is actually returning to active combat. We will talk to those who have -- about those who have sacrificed their lives. And the President will reiterate the determination to win in Iraq and on the war on terror.
And to avoid a further revolt from the first row, I will continue to sort of informally gaggle up here. We've got everything else covered?
Q: Will you be with us and playing the crowd tomorrow on the South Lawn?
MR. SNOW: Will I be with you? I'll be around tomorrow.
Bill -- sorry, everybody. We'll do an asterisk right now. G8 briefing Thursday at 3:00 p.m. So thank you, Fred.
END 10:55 A.M. EDT
*On June 28 the Administration notified the U.S. Congress of its intent to sell F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. The proposed sale includes 18 new F-16 aircraft with an option to purchase another 18 new aircraft, a support package for up to 26 used F-16s, a munitions package, an upgrade package for Pakistan's current fleet of 34 F-16s, and logistical support.
Pakistan is a Major Non-NATO Ally, which has cooperated closely with us in the Global War on Terror. This proposed sale demonstrates our commitment to a long-term relationship with Pakistan. The proposed package is valued at approximately $5 billion. The Administration has been consulting with Congress on this sale since the spring of 2005.
Tony Snow, Press Gaggle by Tony Snow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273092