For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 10, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:40 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Welcome, everybody. I'll begin with the bupkis list from this morning; then we will get to the issues at hand.
In response to Helen's question about India's missile test, India has actually had a nuclear program -- it embarked upon a nuclear power program in 1958, and has had nuclear devices since 1974. It began testing missiles in 1983, and had the first successful launch in 1988. Whatever one may think, India has embarked upon a nuclear program.
Now, there is a significant difference and a noteworthy difference between India and North Korea. India has pursued its program in such a way as not to be a threat of provocation to its neighbors. In that regard, it informed the United States in advance, and as it has by agreement, also notified the Pakistanis. It did it in a transparent and non-threatening way.
North Korea, meanwhile, not only defied the express wishes of its neighbors and others in the neighborhood, it also fired missiles as a provocation, without warning, to others, and therefore, has created the diplomatic activity that you now see.
So those are the significant differences between the two.
Q If they had notified the U.S., would it have been okay?
MR. SNOW: No, because North Korea also had said that it would, in fact, adopt a moratorium. Keep in mind, in -- last September 19th, the North Koreans, at the six-party talks, said that they would break down their nuclear program. They would dismantle the nuclear weapons program, while retaining the right, in their words, for a peaceful civilian --
Q And we said we would supply them --
MR. SNOW: Excuse me, excuse me -- and the second thing they said is that they would have a moratorium on missile firings. They also committed to come back to the table. They have refused to do so, primarily because of a dispute about money laundering that had to do with counterfeiting U.S. currency for uses in drug and arms markets.
Let me continue on some of the other questions from the bupkis list this morning. Steve Dinan wanted to know about the point at which we we're going to cut the federal budget in half. Steve is not here -- well, I'll give it to the rest of you. That was back in February of 2004, when there was a projected $521 billion deficit, and so we're looking at the halfway point of that.
Next up, Basayev -- we still have not been able to confirm the death of Mr. Basayev. On the other hand, he was a terrorist; he laid claim to a number of high-profile terrorist attacks, including the 2004 attack on a school in Beslan. He was designated a terrorist by the United States, under Executive 13224, and by the United Nations pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267.
Let's see -- in response to the World Cup question from Victoria, the President did watch part of the World Cup and he will pass on congratulations to Prime Minister Prodi when they meet at the G8.
You probably know, a few minutes ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the U.N. Security Council would, at least for a while, suspend consideration of a Japanese-sponsored resolution with regard to North Korea. Chinese government officials, as I've told you for several days, are dispatching a high-level delegation to speak with the North Koreans in hopes that the North Koreans will achieve the goal that everybody is committed to, which is, again, as I've mentioned, having the North Koreans dismantle their nuclear weapons program and cease missile firings, in addition, returning to the six-party talks.
Q What did India say its reason was for firing a nuclear-capable long-range missile at a time when this is under such suspicion?
MR. SNOW: It didn't do it, but one of the things it did do, Helen -- this was not seen as a provocation by the United States or the Pakistanis. Both of them would have reason to do it. Nor has it precipitated the kind of diplomatic concern --
Q So why did they do it?
MR. SNOW: Let me continue. They are -- they keep their secrets pretty clearly, and they didn't make any public explanation to that. On the other hand, you will note that there has not been the kind of diplomatic response or the kind of concern expressed by its neighbors, as there has been to the firing in North Korea of its missiles.
Q No, no, wait a minute. Why did they do it?
MR. SNOW: Why don't you ask them?
Q I can't ask them, but I can certainly see our acquiescence in a very contradictory way.
MR. SNOW: You may think it's contradictory, Helen. You're wrong.
Q I'm not. (Laughter.)
Q Is China taking the kind of role that the U.S. has wanted them to take?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, again -- I love that laugh. That was so good. (Laughter.) I completely lost my train of thought. Kelly, you're going to have to -- (laughter.) That was really good. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q Do you view this sort of adjustment in the approach to North Korea as China stepping up in a way the U.S. wants them to?
MR. SNOW: We think it's a constructive step that the Chinese are willing to go ahead and really commit to trying to get the North Koreans to abide by the agreements they made last September 19th. So it's a -- we view, we regard it as a positive development, yes, the Chinese stepping forward.
Q Japan has also been at least floating the idea of a preemptive strike on North Korea's nuclear launch capabilities, or their -- at least their launch capabilities, even though that's in contradiction to their constitution. Since the U.S. has taken preemptive action, would the President support that idea?
MR. SNOW: I think -- let's put it in context -- I believe that Mr. Abe said that they would have to seek constitutional changes; they would not try to be extra-constitutional. But it is worth considering what a nuclear North Korea might mean in the region, because other nations may feel compelled to try to defend themselves by whatever means necessary. We're committed to the aim of having a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, and one of the reasons is that it would avoid having an arms race in the region. So I think one of the reasons why the Chinese are concerned about this, and it's a very reasonable concern, is that they also share our view about the importance of a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula.
What you're seeing here -- and we talked about this a little bit this morning -- preemption is not merely a military doctrine, it's also a diplomatic doctrine. And in this case, we are engaging in preemption at the diplomatic level by working as aggressively and assertively as we can with our allies to get the government in Pyongyang simply to abide by its past promises. It seems that that is a government that is going to do a lot better for itself and its people if it simply goes back to what it promised to do last September 19th.
So you have the Chinese involved, the Japanese involved; you have the Russians, the United States. You have all of the parties to the six-party talks but the North Koreans. And there has been talk, even, of a five-party talk at some juncture. The point here is that the United States has managed to get a coalition where everybody now is assuming responsibility for working with each other, and also pressing the North Koreans vigorously to avoid having the kind of consequences we've been talking about.
Q What's the difference in terms of the pressure the White House feels that it's under to resolve the issues in North Korea and Iran, versus the pressure in 2002 during the State of the Union, when the President talked about the need to go to war in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Well, what's happened -- I'm not sure that you feel pressure, except in the case of Iran [sic] you had a nation that had already spurned 17 separate United Nations resolutions, the United Nations Security Council voting 15-0 on a resolution, saying to Iran [sic], cooperate or face serious consequences. You had -- I believe it was 72 votes in the United States Senate. So the point here is that --
Q Were you just talking about Iran, or Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Well, you were just asking about Iraq, right?
Q Yes. I thought you said, Iran. Okay.
MR. SNOW: You know, I may have screwed up. I meant Iraq. Helen has got me so befuddled today. (Laughter.) The point is that --
Q The resolutions never said, "war."
MR. SNOW: Thank you. The point is that there had been longstanding diplomatic efforts to try to get Saddam Hussein to make good on his promises. We don't want to go to war. I mean, that should be obvious to everybody. But on the other hand, it is also absolutely important for the North Koreans to stop engaging in this kind of provocative behavior, not only for their good, but for the good of their people.
What you have now is something that you haven't had before, at least for this administration, which is the unity of people in the neighborhood, working as one to try to get the North Koreans to step down. This we see as a promising development.
In 2002, the President made the axis -- made his announcement in the State of the Union speech. That was also the year in which the United States disclosed that the North Koreans had, in fact, been lying about their nuclear program. They had concealed a covert nuclear development program. At that point the United States began working diplomatically with the allies, and in 2003 you've got the six-party talks. So what you see here is the pressure of events, but also the opportunity to get people to work together.
In the case of Iran, when the Iranians started talking a little more assertively about developing a nuclear program, the United States, again, went to work. You have not only the EU3, but you've got the Permanent -- the P5 plus one, you've got the IAEA -- you have an expanding group of nations that also share an interest. This is how diplomacy ought to work, and we certainly hope diplomacy is going to succeed in both cases. That, obviously, is going to be a major topic when leaders meet next week at the G8.
Q Okay, just one quick follow-up. When you hear from your allies on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who were in favor of the preemptive doctrine, and they are critical of the administration, they think the administration is not doing enough in terms of North Korea and Iran, essentially continuing the Clinton administration policy on North Korea, for instance -- what's your response? What do you tell them?
MR. SNOW: Well, this is not the Clinton administration policy. I understand what the Clinton administration wanted to do. They wanted to talk reason to the government of Pyongyang, and they engaged in bilateral conversations. And Bill Richardson went with flowers and chocolates, and he went with light-water nuclear reactors, and he went with promises of heavy oil, and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan, and many other inducements for the "Dear Leader" to try to agree not to develop nuclear weapons, and it failed. But there was, at least, a good-faith effort on the part of some very smart people to use that as an approach.
We've learned from that mistake. One reason not to go bilateral with the North Koreans is what we're seeing right now, which is that you need to have concerted pressure, especially from those who have very close and ongoing ties with the government of North Korea so that you can get results. So this is not a continuation of the Clinton program.
Furthermore, I would point out to those who are concerned about what is going on, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, the United States and Japan -- there are eight parties right now, there are eight co-sponsors of this U.N. resolution. They haven't backed it off, they haven't taken it off the table. What they're trying to do is to allow the Chinese to go ahead and make it work so the resolution does not become necessary.
Q A couple of questions on Iraq. A weekend of violence again that's raised the specter of civil war there. Does the U.S. recognize this as a threat? And what, if anything, will they do, will the U.S. do to stop that trend?
MR. SNOW: Well, we went through this. This is a kind of a nice conventional wisdom story. But I'm -- we're still trying to figure out what the figures are over the weekend. There have been news stories that have gone from 11 to 50 in terms of the number of killings. It is obvious that there are people in Iraq who are trying to make the government fail, who do not want to see democracy succeed.
But I would also put you -- direct you to comments made today by Major General Thomas Turner who gave an interview, pointed out that in a number of other places in Iraq, especially in the north, where you had similar concerns not so long ago, suddenly people are more worried about economic development than security.
It is obvious that for many people, they believe that if you can disrupt Baghdad, you can kill democracy in Iraq. It is also obvious that it is U.S. policy and also the policy of Prime Minister Maliki that that is not going to happen; that they will bring the resources to bear to make sure that everything from roving gangs to insurgents who are determined to incite sectarian strife, that they do not succeed.
So it's a little difficult at any time to extrapolate from a single event. It is obvious, however, that there are some who are going to persist in committing acts of violence until they are stopped forcibly from doing so. And we support their forcibly being stopped so that, in fact, you can have civil society take root in Iraq, and that this government can succeed.
Q Also on Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q A follow-up on that.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Iraq's human rights minister has said that Iraq will ask the United Nations to end the immunity from local law for U.S. troops, and this is, of course, is following the charges being brought against six former and current soldiers for the rape-murder.
MR. SNOW: Right, understood. That again is a bilateral -- that is a matter of bilateral agreement or an ongoing agreement within Iraq and, obviously, that is something that people are going to be visiting in days ahead. Let me just say -- and this is an important point -- you will note that already military officials here in the United States are trying to get evidence in the case, and they are going to render indictments where they think they are appropriate, and they will go ahead and try to convict, and they will let the courts do their work. It is obvious that this is not a government that looks the other way when members of the military commit crimes.
On the other hand, the President is not in a position to speak -- you've heard me mention many times about command influence -- so we cannot speak about particular cases. We also understand Prime Minister Maliki's concerns, and we want to make sure that he is fully informed, and also that he is satisfied, regardless of what the treaty situation may be on these issues, that justice truly is being done and that he can make that demonstration to his people, as well.
Q How would the U.S. respond to any effort to lift that immunity?
MR. SNOW: You're playing the hypothetical game. Not going to go there.
Q Senator Lindsey Graham has said that the commissions at Guantanamo, as the President envisioned them, need to be reined in. Does the President believe that these commissions need to be reined in, or is he simply going to ask Congress to codify what he issued by executive order?
MR. SNOW: What's going on right now, Sheryl, as you know, is a lot of people are still trying to parse what the Hamdan decision meant and didn't mean. And Senator Graham is being particularly helpful in that regard, as are a number of his colleagues. What we've always said is that we want to proceed to try to find justice for those at Guantanamo in a manner consistent with the decision in the United States Supreme Court. And depending on how you may characterize the previous commission's proposals, we are studying carefully how to make it consistent with the Supreme Court, and Senator Graham is doing the same.
Q Can I just follow up on that? Is there a plan to move these detainees or do anything else with them, other than keep them in a holding pattern while Congress is deliberating?
MR. SNOW: Where would you move them?
Q I don't know; I don't know what your plan is.
MR. SNOW: Well, the one thing -- we are not going to move them into places on American soil and to the civil justice system. These are people who were picked up off a battlefield. And many of you have been down there. You see the extraordinary measures that are taken not only to deal with their physical needs, but also their spiritual needs. And this is a facility at which there is extreme care taken to try not only to bring them to justice, but also to treat them humanely. So, no, there are no plans at this point to move them into another facility except to the extent to which we are able to repatriate those who might, in fact, be tried and cared for elsewhere.
What we do not want is what amounts to a catch-and-release program for terrorists. It is time now to make sure that terrorists no longer have the opportunity to kill innocents, and at the same time, that we proceed in a manner that's consistent with our principles. The Supreme Court decision, now, has forced everybody to try to figure out exactly what the justices had in mind and how best to carry it forward.
Q Are they in a holding pattern, then, until Congress acts?
MR. SNOW: They are in a holding pattern to the extent that those who are not being repatriated are going to be staying there; you're absolutely right.
Q What does the administration plan to do to step up enforcement of sanctions against Cuba, the economic sanctions?
MR. SNOW: Well, what you're seeing right now is -- I'm not sure that there is any attempt to step up economic sanctions. Economic sanctions have been in place against Cuba since 1961.
Q -- to that end --
MR. SNOW: You know what, I know the report came out today, and I'll get you guidance later in the day, Mike. I've been focusing more on North Korea. But I'll get you a good answer on it.
Q Tony, what do you say to the thesis advanced on the cover of Time Magazine and by some of the President's critics, that the days of "cowboy diplomacy," the President's doctrine of preemption are dead; that he heads to the G8 summit Wednesday a weakened President, now pursuing diplomacy as the strategy of last resort?
MR. SNOW: Well, it appears to me that the people at Time Magazine have just awoken to things the President has been doing for years. Welcome, Time. The diplomatic activities I've been talking about long predated -- but apparently reporters at Time weren't asking about it -- but as a matter of fact, the United States has been working a diplomatic track on Iran. It's been working a diplomatic track on North Korea. And it worked diplomatic tracks on Iraq and Afghanistan.
I think there's a misconception that preemption means war. It doesn't. Preemption means stopping somebody before they can do you harm. There are diplomatic ways to do that, and that is always preferable to using major force. And so there is no change. The idea -- was the President a cowboy when he put together the six-party talks? Was he a cowboy when he helped -- when he was supporting quietly the efforts of the EU3? Has he been a cowboy in trying to assemble the largest international coalitions ever to go after misbehavior on the part of individual actors? The answer is that this is a President who has always seen diplomacy as the first and most important step to take in trying to prevent people from behaving badly.
Q Thank you, Tony. Turning to this hemisphere, Mexico's President-elect Felipe Calderon made a startling statement last week in which he attacked the border security measure passed by the House, saying that more troops on the border or an extended fence would not solve the problem of illegal immigration. And he also indicated that he stood as -- where outgoing President Vicente Fox did on illegal immigration in the United States.
MR. SNOW: Which would mean he's against it.
Q Which would mean he's against it, but in terms of having more people come over, was in favor of it.
MR. SNOW: Well, a couple of things to note. First, in the President's conversations with President Fox -- and I will not try to prejudge anything he may say to President Calderon because he hasn't been sworn in -- he said that the United States was going to do what was necessary to maintain its security, and that included enhanced border security. So --
Q This is the President talking to Fox?
MR. SNOW: This is the President talking to Fox, and I've reported this conversation to you before. We appreciate that politicians may have things to say in their homelands, but what this President has is an obligation, a constitutional obligation, to make sure that there is security at home. So he has pursued that by dispatching National Guard forces to assist those working in the Border Patrol. This has freed up at least nearly 200 Border Patrol agents already to spend more time literally walking the borders. We have also allocated $1.9 billion to a combination of methods -- fences, technological means, and forces -- to slow the tide of people coming into the United States. As you probably know, John, immigration into the United States across the Mexican border has actually been declining since the year 2000, and is down dramatically in the last few months, so it's working.
So the President not only believes in border security, but he's also made a point that if you want borders to be secure and you want to put an end to illegal immigration, you got to set up a temporary worker program. There are a lot who come, work, go back. As a matter of fact, by Michael Chertoff's reckoning it could be 40 percent to 50 percent of all those who cross the border go back. You set up an orderly temporary worker program, you not only reduce the pressure for illegal immigration, you make it much more easy to secure your borders in a regular, enforceable and predictable manner. And that's one of the things we want.
Q All right, then what do you think -- or what does the administration say about a foreign politician denouncing domestic legislation in the United States, and particularly Calderon's denunciation of stronger border security and an extended fence?
MR. SNOW: Last time I checked, Calderon did not have any official authority over the activities of the United States government.
Q Can I follow up on that?
MR. SNOW: Yes, very quickly. Sure.
Q The call the President made to Calderon to congratulate him, that means that the U.S. government already recognized him as the President-elect of Mexico? Can you explain what --
MR. SNOW: Well, I believe the electoral commission had, in fact, declared him President. And according to the laws of Mexico, at this point, he is President. Should there be a recount, should there be another adjustment, should there be a change, then the President will acknowledge that, as well -- Mexico, obviously having the ability to decide who, as a result of transparent elections, is the President of the country.*
Q Tony, many experts now see the prospects of sanctions against North Korea to be pretty dim, and the diplomatic way forward is to have North Korea sign on to yet another moratorium on firing missiles and agree to six-party talks again. Is the President confident that, after 12 years of thumbing its nose at other agreements, that North Korea can act in good faith now?
MR. SNOW: You're assuming way too much, Brett. What you're doing is, you're sort of throwing your arms around the conventional wisdom that says that the Chinese and the Russians don't want anything to happen. Don't accept that. At this point --
Q -- think sanctions are possible?
MR. SNOW: Well, let's put it this way: There is a resolution on the table at the United Nations in the Security Council. It has been reported that a pretty sizeable majority of the Security Council supports it. It is very clear that the Chinese take seriously the need for the North Koreans to get back to what they did -- what they promised on September 19th of last year. Furthermore, they now need to show something. Their word is not -- they not only have to commit to doing it, they have to take positive actions, especially in terms of taking down the nuclear program.
So you put all that together -- I am not willing to buy the premise that diplomacy is dead. Nor am I willing to buy the premise that the Chinese and the Russians are unwilling to go forward. I think it is -- for reasons that I pointed out earlier in my answer to Kelly, there are a very strong reasons for the Chinese to want to ensure that the North Koreans do not proceed with something that could, in fact, unleash a series of probably unwelcome consequences, not only on the Korean Peninsula, but throughout the region in terms of military responses by sovereign nations.
Q I don't think anyone is saying diplomacy is dead, but they say that diplomacy hinges on North Korea agreeing to do something again, after 12 years of agreeing to do something --
MR. SNOW: Well, yes, but let's first see what happens. Keep in mind, it's not 12 years. The agreement we're referring to was September 19th of last year, by which you --
Q I'm going back to '94.
MR. SNOW: And I'm glad you did, because in 1994, that's the time when the United States tried on a unilateral -- on a bilateral basis, sitting down with North Korea. Bill Richardson went there, did his best, and he thought he had a deal, and he didn't.
And this is a time when you have to make it verifiable, but also that neighbors have to have a stake in it. This is not one where the United States can or should go it alone. You have to have the people who have the most influence to bear on the North Koreans, assuming responsibility for ensuring that the North Koreans stop behaving the way they are, in an unacceptable manner.
And nobody disagrees about the fact that it's unacceptable; and nobody disagrees that the North Koreans need to dismantle the nuclear program; and nobody disagrees that they need to stop firing the missiles. What has happened -- words alone won't be -- will not be enough, Brett. You're absolutely right about that, so it's an important point to make.
Q Just on another topic, quickly, the 45-day cooling-off period regarding the files seized by the FBI from Representative Jefferson's office is now over. What happens now?
MR. SNOW: Well, those records -- a couple of things. Talks are still ongoing between the Department of Justice and the House of Representatives, and they seem to be making considerable progress. Meanwhile, the judge in the case has maintained the same sort of standards for custody of the documents. They're still under lock and key in the custody of the Solicitor General.
So as legal deliberations move forward, both sides also -- or as the court case moves forward, both sides also are engaged in active negotiations. So we'll all hear at about the same time what they do. But the fact is there has been no change in the status of the documents. And, furthermore, it does seem that both sides are working together, trying to produce an acceptable -- result that's acceptable to both.
Q I don't know if you saw Congressman Hoekstra's comments over the weekend, but is the administration doing enough to brief Congress about secret programs?
MR. SNOW: You know, what's interesting is, Congressman Hoekstra, in the same thing, said that he's satisfied with the briefing now. I think there was a case in which the Congressman was unhappy about not being briefed. We have made it our view that they should always be briefed when appropriate, and there was a case where he thought that they should have been informed. And so, again, I think what you see -- quite often there are conflicts between Capitol Hill and the White House, as you know, and we've been working with Congressman Hoekstra, and furthermore, again, reading deeper into his answers, he seems satisfied with the steps that subsequently have been taken.
Q Why did a whistle-blower have to finally alert them, and will he be tried for treason?
MR. SNOW: That's almost a Lester question. Speaking of which --
Q Thank you, thank you. I'm honored. Tony, you were mentioned by The New York Times' Frank Rich, in yesterday's article --
MR. SNOW: Was I really? Oh, I missed it.
Q Yes, indeed, by name. It was a headline, all the news that's fit to bully. He charged that you, Tony, are, "insulting, for your official White House line, 'the Journal was merely following The Times.'" I have two questions. Do you or the President take seriously this, "insulting charge," coming from this New York Times person?
MR. SNOW: Frank should speak to his editors, and then get back to us on the characterization.
Q Do you or the President take seriously Mr. Rich's contentions of a, "Get the press lynch mob," and, "lynch mobs' efforts to single out The Times," or do you recognize this as quite obviously desperate extremism trying to ward off an indictment?
MR. SNOW: I want you to read those again. That's so delicious, I want to hear it again.
Q We'll do it. We'll do it. Do you, or the President, take seriously Mr. Rich of The Times, contention of a --
MR. SNOW: No, not the whole thing, just --
Q -- or do you recognize this as quite obviously desperate extremism trying to ward off an indictment?
MR. SNOW: No, I see Frank Rich enjoying his first amendment options, which he does in a way that many of us consider quite enjoyable. (Laughter.)
Okay, let's see, Victoria.
Q I have two. This week, as you know, the House Armed Services Committee, Senate Judiciary and Senate Armed Services Committee are holding hearings on bringing the Gitmo suspects or detainees to trial as a result of the Supreme Court hearing last week. Is there anything that the administration or the President would want to say to them on the eve of the hearings as they go into deliberation?
MR. SNOW: I think this is -- no, in a word. We've obviously been in contact with members of the Senate, and these are important hearings. What the Supreme Court has said is that Congress needs to authorize a way forward when it comes to the proper dispensations of the cases of those at Guantanamo. And therefore, Congress has an important role to play and the Senate is stepping forward and holding hearings and mulling options. You know, all help is welcome. And I think what people of goodwill need to do, and that's what we're seeing on Capitol Hill, is to find a way, consistent with national security, to bring to justice people who were plucked from the battlefield, people who were not representatives of any duly constituted army, who do not represent any nation state, and who have vowed to kill innocents -- how do you bring those properly to justice?
In some cases, it means repatriating, and in some cases, it's going to mean finding a proper way acceptable to the Supreme Court to conduct trials. So we welcome those hearings, and obviously we're going to work with Congress as it moves forward.
I think -- Victoria, I think there's a lot of head-scratching going on. And people really are trying to figure out what is it -- what exactly does the Supreme Court opinion imply about the way in which we can proceed forward. And I expect the hearings to be quite constructive.
David. Oh sorry, go ahead.
Q In the wake of the alleged atrocity at Mahmoudiya and all the others that we've been hearing about, are we taking any extraordinary measures to win the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq and the rest of the Arab world? Because the Arab media is all over this --
MR. SNOW: The Arab media --
Q -- worse than we did before.
MR. SNOW: The Arab media are all over it. I think the thing you do, number one is, you bring to justice those who are guilty of breaking laws. And certainly this is not a government that condones rape, murder, or the abuse of human rights. The second thing you do is you stay the course. And you allow the government of Prime Minister Maliki to create a functioning and successful democracy. And over time, what happens is media stories that may be negative, slowly are not -- are not going to be able to turn the tide of developments that in the long run are going to provide prospects for peace, hope and prosperity for people who in the past have not had the kinds of blessings that we take for granted. That's how you do it.
Q So we're not putting people out there?
MR. SNOW: And so we're not what?
Q So we're not specifically putting people out there, getting people out to be interviewed?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of. That right now is more properly a Pentagon question and I'd direct it there. They may have some public diplomacy initiatives. I'm not aware of them right now. I know that, obviously, we've got General Caldwell out every day doing briefs.
Q Okay, one more on Mexico and the timing of the call to Calderon. The President has had his own experience with disputed elections, and Vicente Fox is saying now that he won't meet with either candidate until things are worked out. Why not wait? I mean, why --
MR. SNOW: Because that was -- at least there was the perception that there had been an official determination that Mr. Calderon was the winner.
Q Is that still the perception?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know. We'll go back and fly-speck it for you, and I'll get you an answer.
Q Tony, there's been general condemnation, criticism of the Israeli moves into the Gaza Strip from most of the countries, except the United States. Why is the U.S. mum on --
MR. SNOW: The United States has always said the same thing. There has also been universal condemnation of the kidnaping of the Israeli soldier. And we have urged and continue to urge the Israeli government to proceed with moderation. But we have also been clear that the party that began this were those who kidnaped the soldier and those who also kidnaped a civilian and murdered him, and that that is unacceptable. And we are hoping that not only the soldier gets returned, but that we can find people of goodwill on both sides, that there can be a party on the Palestinian side to negotiate in good faith with the Israelis along the lines that we have always outlined, and we'll continue to.
Q Thank you. The Congress is trying to decide whether to order bilingual election ballots in as many as 31 states. In some of the states, as many as five languages are involved. What is the administration's position on having bilingual --
MR. SNOW: Sarah, what's going on, the President has said that he wants to see the Voting Rights Act renewed in its present form. In the present -- you already understand what's going on in the present form. There are bilingual ballots printed. There are a number of people in Congress who disagree, and they have -- there will be votes on those issues, and we'll see what happens in Congress.
I believe so far one has failed. But Congress does, in fact, have the opportunity to take a look at the legislation. We have an opportunity to look at what they have when they're done.
Q Tony, before my question, I just wanted to thank the President -- July 6th was a historic day in the East Room of the White House. And I think you will agree with me the President did have a warm welcome for the Canadian Prime Minister. And also, I'm thankful to my colleagues here in the White House in honoring Indian Americans from the U.S. and Indians in India -- the President really brought me to the global stage. And I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
The question is here that as for the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement is concerned, the Congress is debating, and two committees of the House and the Senate already last week passed a resolution. And -- speaking to Indian-American groups here in the -- region. And also, this morning, Heritage Foundation -- think tank, they also agree and supported the agreement. Do you think President is going to meet with the Prime Minister of India at the G8 in Moscow? And is he going to discuss --
MR. SNOW: I don't -- Goyal, I don't know. As you know, there's considerable speculation about bilateral meetings. You mean in St. Petersburg.
Q I'm sorry, yes.
MR. SNOW: And, frankly, I'm not -- we know, obviously, the bilateral meeting with President Putin. I'm not going to confirm or deny any others.
Q Just to follow that, do you think just missile tests by India is going affect at all on the Capitol Hill, or --
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I don't think so. Again, the auspices under which is was conducted, making sure that everybody was notified in advance, are the sort of things that provide reassurance to people on the Hill.
Q The U.S. was notified in advance.
MR. SNOW: Yes, it was. The U.S. was notified in advance.
END 1:17 P.M. EDT
* While we understand that challenges have been filed, The President called Felipe Calderon last week to congratulate him on the announcement by Mexico's Federal Election Institute that he (Mr. Calderon) had received the largest number of votes.