For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 17, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En route Andrews Air Force Base
3:12 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Let's see, the only developments -- the administration has released a statement of administration policy expressing a veto threat about H.R. 810, the stem cell bill, that has been cleared and published while we've been in the air. Other than that --
Q What was that?
MR. SNOW: The stem cell bill, we've got a formal veto threat out for it in the form of a statement of administration policy.
Otherwise, I'll just throw it open to questions.
Q When does Condoleezza go to the Middle East?
MR. SNOW: Not determined yet.
Q This week?
MR. SNOW: Not determined yet; we'll let you know.
Q After Thursday's U.N. meeting?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'll let you know. I was just in the room with her -- she doesn't even know yet.
Q What was the President's reaction when he found out the microphones were on during the conversation with Blair?
MR. SNOW: He sort of rolled his eyes and laughed.
Q Rolled his eyes and laughed?
MR. SNOW: Yes. I mean, you know -- actually, his reaction first was, what did it say? So we showed him the transcript, then he rolled his eyes and laughed.
Q Does he feel like he has to explain anything to Kofi Annan about the --
MR. SNOW: No, because what's happened here is that -- and Richard has heard this already -- is that you get a slice of a conversation that was a carry-over from previous conversations, and all the President was saying is that he wants to make sure that the sequencing is clear when it comes to action with regard to the situation in the Middle East.
The first thing you've got to do is address the root causes. Hezbollah is firing rockets and has kidnapped soldiers. They need to return the soldiers, they need to stop firing the rockets. At that point, then you can proceed to talking about a ceasefire. And if you look at the G8 statement, the sequencing is in there, so look at the bullet points. So the President was really reiterating.
When it comes to Kofi Annan, he has -- he likes Kofi Annan and he is not only happy to work with him, but has been supportive from the very start of the U.N. mission to the region. In point of fact, Condoleezza Rice worked with Secretary General Annan to help put this together, so we are supportive and grateful for the help that the U.N. is trying to provide. You know, one of the options is to have a stabilization force that would involve the United Nations in Southern Lebanon, but that is something yet to be determined. The group that has been dispatched by the Secretary General is due to return to New York Thursday with recommendations. And we're going to be working with them.
Q -- now on troops there is undecided?
MR. SNOW: Yes. I think that there have been statements elsewhere -- well, we'll wait and see. I think it's awfully premature to be talking about U.S. troops, but I just -- I don't know. I don't want to get into making characterizations here because it's way over my --
Q I didn't hear what the question was.
MR. SNOW: The question is talking about troops. Let's just wait and see what the U.N. has to recommend and the -- as I said, well, and the means by which they hope to achieve it. We'll see.
Did I dance well enough on that one?
Q Yes, I was going to say -- (laughter.)
Q So what about troops?
MR. SNOW: We have lots of them. They are elsewhere.
Q Is that a problem?
MR. SNOW: No, no. I'll tell you what, that is not the problem. The problem is that you have a terrorist organization in Hezbollah that is financed by Iran, that is housed in Syria, that has been making threats of total war and seems to believe that its fortunes rise when other people's misery flares up. And it is absolutely not a function of whether the United States has troops in the region. The problem is that you have financiers and backers who have permitted this situation to get to its present state.
Q The conversation that was recorded on the microphones -- Tony Blair seems pretty intent on the force. Is the President more undecided about --
MR. SNOW: NO, no, they were talking about U.N. -- how do I put this. I think you guys are trying to build a notion of armies marching in and trying to fight Hezbollah, and I don't think that's at all what people have been discussing at this point. What they're looking for is a stabilization force to try to be able to support the Lebanese army. The Lebanese army clearly is not capable at this point of keeping peace in Southern Lebanon.
But I would caution everybody to wait until there is a proposal on the table before you start characterizing what kind of force and under whose auspices. I don't think anybody knows that yet.
Q Has the President made any leader calls?
MR. SNOW: Not today. He's been around a few leaders the last few days.
Q Is the President speaking to the NAACP on Wednesday?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q He's not?
MR. SNOW: No, not on Wednesday.
Q Is he speaking this week.
MR. SNOW: Don't know yet. We'll announce when we announce.
MR. SNOW: Hey, if I've got to watch my words, you've got to watch yours. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Tomorrow, you mean for us? I don't know the schedule tomorrow -- do we have a schedule? Josh will grab the schedule. And we'll both gaggle and brief. We may do the brief a little later for some of those among us who want to sleep in -- we'll do the brief a little later for some who may be coming in a little late tomorrow. But we'll do the gaggle just to figure out what you guys need for the day.
Q On that open mic situation, is the deployment of forces the thing he was most concerned about being misinterpreted about?
MR. SNOW: No, I think there was a misinterpretation -- I honestly don't know. What the President was simply saying is they are concerned of the staging of how you deal with the situation. I mean, it is clear that you're going to have to deploy different things at different times. But the first thing, job number one -- I think the confusion he was worried about is not force, but ceasefire, to do a ceasefire without Hezbollah having returned soldiers or stopped firing rockets is as, he put it just a few minutes ago, to paper over the problem. You've got to deal with the root causes first.
Q A comment on the President's use of a word that some people might consider to be an expletive?
MR. SNOW: Not unless you've never used it.
Q Damn. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Okay.
END 3:19 P.M. EDT