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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 11, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Crawford Middle School
3:18 P.M. CDT
MR. SNOW: First we'll begin with the week ahead. The President will depart Crawford on Sunday and return to the White House via Marine One, after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base.
On Monday, there will be meetings with the Secretary of Defense and the defense policy program team, a lunch with experts on Iraq at the Pentagon; then to the Secretary of State and foreign policy team at the State Department, and he will make a statement at the State Department at the conclusion of that set of meetings.
Tuesday, the President will participate in a National Security Council and Homeland Security Council briefing -- that's at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean. He'll have a meeting with the counterterrorism team, attend lunch with the counterterrorism and homeland security teams, and also meet separately with the homeland security team.
Wednesday, the President will travel to York, Pennsylvania, where he will participate in a tour of Harley Davidson vehicle operations there; also participate in a roundtable on the economy and attend a Lynn Swann for Governor reception.
On Thursday he will sign the pension bill, HR4, the Pension Protection Act of 2006, and head at some juncture to Camp David, where, on Friday, the President will participate in a meeting with economic advisors, and at the conclusion of which there will be a press availability with economic advisors. He will spend the day Saturday at Camp David and return to the White House on Sunday, the 20th.
As you know, there's activity ongoing at the United Nations. The members of the United Nations Security Council, within the last few minutes, have received the language of a draft that's been worked out today that the United States, France, England, and others hope is going to provide the basis for a sustainable cease-fire and a lasting peace in Lebanon. The United States has been in contact with allies, particularly Israel and Lebanon. It is anticipated that there will be a vote, but probably not before evening, at the very earliest, on the resolution. But, obviously, now members of the Security Council are studying the resolution and there will be debate for some period of time.
Also, just for your edification, at some point we believe that there may be an advance call by the Secretary of State's office, somebody at State, doing a more detailed briefing. As I become aware of details on that, I'll let you know. There may be a call on that within the next hour or two.
And with that, I will take questions.
Q Is this now one resolution, Tony, instead of two? Are we combining it into one?
MR. SNOW: It's one resolution -- the way it's written right now, it's one resolution with mention of a second to follow.
Q So how is that split up? Is that still how the President described it, as the first resolution with a, I guess, the immediate cessation of violence, but then the conditions for a sustainable cease-fire is the second resolution?
MR. SNOW: Many of the conditions are also in there, but I think what happens is that the follow-on forces specify that there are conditions that sort of describe what would happen there.
Rather than getting ahead of it, I think probably the best thing -- hang on, let me just take a quick look here and see.
Q You can just pass that around. (Laughter.)
Q Yes, could you make copies? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Let's see here -- you know, I'll get back to you on that. But, I mean, it basically operates according to what we were saying before, which is it's laying out, as they say at the State Department, the modalities of how they're going to handle the security afterward.
In any event, some of these things are still in a bit of motion. And one of the reasons I don't want to get too far ahead is that they are debating it within the Security Council, so not each and every word is fixed. But, so far, there is a -- Ambassador Bolten had said he thinks they've been moving in the right direction. And I would expect there to be a little more detail available when people who had stayed up in New York are going to be ready to comment on it. And I think that's going to be fairly soon.
Q Can you characterize, Tony, your confidence today as opposed to when some of your other representatives have stood up there and told us we'd have a vote the following day and it didn't come?
MR. SNOW: Well, notice that actually, none of us have made a hard prediction, because it is diplomacy, and a lot of times diplomacy is a bit like a taffy pull, in that you think you may have something that seems to be right on the verge of being completed, and it just gets extended a bit. As the President has pointed out, diplomacy can be a little bit messy and unpredictable.
Having said that, there's a certain amount of optimism. I won't characterize it. I have spoken with Ric Grennell, who obviously works for Ambassador Bolten, and I've spoken with Sean McCormack, and I've talked to other people who have been involved in the diplomacy on this, and they all seem to think that things are moving in a very positive direction. But I would be loathe to make hard predictions because, sort of like the weather, I just don't want to try to do that. But, again, I think that there will be probably a little more detail available to you within the next hour or two.
Q Is Israel on board with this?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm going to let the Israeli government speak about it. The Israelis have been consulted on it. Let me put it that way.
Q Does President Bush hope that this will stop the expanded ground offensive that Israel has been talking about?
MR. SNOW: I don't think the President looks at this in terms of what the Israelis are doing. Again, it's very important to remember that the key concern here is that Hezbollah stop being the instigator of violence and instability in the region. Israel has acted in a manner that it says is necessary for its own self defense, but also, as part of a U.N. resolution, you know that there would be language where an international force would come in and the Israelis would withdraw.
You still have a situation in Israeli politics where I believe the Israeli cabinet would vote on it over the weekend. So rather than trying to prejudge or get myself involved in internal Israeli politics about what they are and are not saying, I will simply say that the United States is consulting with the Lebanese, the Israelis, and others, and believes that we've got the basis here for something to be very constructive toward getting at the goals that the President has stated from the outset -- which is something that's going to create a sustainable peace.
The resolution does, once again, make mention of the conditions outlined in Security Council Resolution 1559, among others. So this is an attempt now to try to take the words that were in 1559 and make sure that there are the assets on the ground to ensure that the government of Lebanon has full control of the territory and that Hezbollah no longer can operate as an independent force.
Q What's driving the counterterrorism meeting next week?
MR. SNOW: It's a regular meeting. I mean, if you go back and look through, the President regularly meets with advisors. And I think this is in no way related to the news that came out of Britain yesterday. This has been on the books for quite awhile.
Q The Democrats are yelling that you're trying to play politics with our security. And I'm just looking at a Harry Reid letter here in which he's pointing out a Dick Cheney comment, that victory would embolden the al Qaeda types.
MR. SNOW: That's true. I don't know how that's politicizing it. It sounds to me like Senator Reid is trying to accuse us of politicizing while he, himself, is politicizing the issue. I think the most important thing to do here is, rather than trying to play politics with it, and to try to see some sort of advantage or try to cast doubts on either the President or members of the other party, let's just ask a simple question: What's the best way to win the war on terror? The goal is to win the war on terror, and what are the consequences of losing.
General Abizaid last week -- I don't think anybody is going to accuse him of politicizing it -- said, if we walk out of Iraq, they're going to follow us. The fact is that the perception of weakness has always been -- and has been cited by bin Laden and others as an act of encouragement and inducement for people to commit acts of terror and to work more aggressively to kill Americans.
Now it's pretty obvious that when you have aircraft that are headed from Britain to America that there would be the anticipation of significant American casualties, should the alleged operation have taken place. The comments that this administration has been making, including me, have been aimed at simply trying to get people to think seriously about how do you achieve the goal of winning the war on terror. When you're in a war, the goal should not be how to get out; it should be how to win and then to get out.
And the President thinks about this every day. His advisors think about it every day. The stakes are enormously high and enormously important. And we hope that Senator Reid would seize this as an opportunity to work constructively within the administration. After September 11th, everybody said, yes, we want to win. And we certainly would like to rekindle that spirit of cooperation in a way that moves constructively, not merely toward going after al Qaeda, but also realizes that the war on terror is now something, and even then was something, that was spread across the world.
Remember, September 20th, 2001, the President, in a joint session to Congress said that there were 50 or 60 nations in which terror organizations had already set down roots. And we have begun to see some of the grim harvest of that in India, in Pakistan, we've seen it in Bali. You know the litany, it goes on around the world. And, obviously, there was an attempt now to take it over the high seas, as well.
So this is an absolute commitment on the part of this administration not only to win the war on terror, but also to look forward to a very positive end state -- which is not merely Americans returned home, but Americans returned home to a safer world in which democracy has begun to set down roots and to set an example in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian areas. We are confident that once it starts to catch on, everybody is going to want it.
Q Tony, could you give us a little more of a tick-tock about the White House's role in monitoring the investigation in Britain? I mean, I know you talked some about the President yesterday, but what about the NSC and some other --
MR. SNOW: I really don't -- I don't think it's appropriate to tick-tock all the things. I think it's safe to say -- and I'll go back to reiterate what I said yesterday, Mike, which is that in terms of detail, you've got to keep in mind, every day the President, as part of the PDB, gets many threat assessments and constantly receives threat assessments. And it's important for security and operational reasons not to go into who knows what, when, where, and why.
But we do feel comfortable in saying that there have been detailed briefings of the President about an impending operation in Great Britain, and those began Friday, continued through the weekend and continued on through the day before yesterday, when, in sort of mid- to late afternoon, the President was advised that the operation was going to move forward.
Q Is there a chance we might here from the President either tonight or tomorrow on this?
MR. SNOW: I don't think you're going to hear from the President tonight. If there is -- at least the plan is if there is a U.N. resolution passed today, that there will be a statement. Again, it appears now that the earliest time for a vote would be what I would just characterize as dinnertime, 6:30 p.m. or so. And that would be the earliest anticipated vote time. So unless you guys want to skip the lavish dinner that CNN has laid out for one and all, I think probably we can reach you through the magic of email with a presidential statement.
Q What about tomorrow?
MR. SNOW: Don't know. I don't anticipate anything, but, you know, I mean -- if you can tell me exactly what's going to happen tomorrow, maybe I'll be able to predict. But right now there's no anticipated presidential appearance. But I don't want to say -- I don't want to give you a hard "no," because lots of things could happen.
Q Can you flesh out Monday a little bit, where -- what areas are these experts coming from? Are they academics, are they military, are they --
MR. SNOW: Olivier, I don't have the list with me, so I don't know. I'll tell you how it normally works, which is that you get people who represent different points of view and take different angles on what's going on in Iraq. But without having seen the list, I don't want to prejudge it. But what you do have is a vigorous and interesting multifaceted discussion that involves people who have -- who have established credentials in the region and on the subject matter.
Typically what happens is they'll make presentations and the President will ask a lot of questions, and sometimes he'll invite people also to go back and forth. It tends to be interesting and vigorous, in terms of the conversations. We have, in a couple of cases, as you know, released the names of people involved, but generally have kept those secret simply -- "secret"-- we have not publicized them for the purpose that we really do want people not to be -- sort of have people say, what did you say, because that immediately colors the kind of advice that they may give. The President wants people to be completely honest and open with him.
Q But this -- I'm sorry, this is going to look like the Camp David consultations, the Russia consultations? It's that kind of outside expert conversation?
MR. SNOW: Again, I haven't seen the list, but I would anticipate that, yes.
Q How much detail did the Vice President have about the timing of what was going to happen in Britain on Wednesday, when he did that conference call with reporters?
MR. SNOW: He did not know.
Q He didn't know anything? Or he didn't --
MR. SNOW: He did not know that there was an operation that was to take place. There was no anticipation of an operation that day.
It's important to recognize that the comments that were made after the Connecticut primary were in response to the Connecticut primary, and they were not in anticipation of a British action. I can say that with absolute assurance not only with regard to me, but also the Vice President. That's why I mentioned the notifications took place after he had done his phone conference.
Q -- did say that he had been part of the briefings over the weekend.
MR. SNOW: Yes, but the briefings gave nothing about timing. They were general discussions of threat. There were -- well, I don't want to go into it, but let me just say that he had no reason to believe, I don't think -- and this is based on my conversations -- there was no strong reason, at any rate, to believe that something was imminent. And, therefore, that was -- again, for me, it wasn't part of my comments, and I strongly suspect it is the same. The email traffic I've seen with Leanne McBride backs that up, but you may want to call her just to get an accurate readout, because I don't want to put words in her or his mouth.
Q Tony, in terms of the plot, what's the President asking of his agency heads as of now? I guess, there are some reports that apparently there was no plotting in the U.S., but what is he telling Chertoff to keep an eye out for? What's he instructing TSA? How long is he willing to have this red alert in place? How long should we expect the toothpaste to be handed in and --
MR. SNOW: You're going to have to get somebody else to reveal state secrets; I'm not going to. That's all kind of sources and methods stuff. I do know that today I saw a press avail where Secretary Chertoff was saying that they're trying to figure out ways at least to make it a little more user-friendly at the airports, and reiterated that travel is safe.
But in terms of the President's precise instructions to people in terms of how to respond, we're simply not going to give that out. To give out information like that, among other things, gives people who want to do us harm things that they can work around, and we don't want to provide a road map to our own security measures.
Q How much of his day has been spent today, though, talking with Chertoff and talking with TSA and just kind of plotting out security measures?
MR. SNOW: Well, the President doesn't sit down and plot out in great detail what the security measures are going to be. That's one of the things that he delegates to Secretary Chertoff and others. I honestly don't know how much he's had in the way of conversation. I know that there have been operations, obviously, on multiple fronts today, not merely responding to the allegations out of Britain, but also looking forward to the United Nations resolution.
The President has been active on all those, and I will try to get a more accurate readout of precisely how the day has been, but I don't have any really firm information for you on that.
Q Tony, you were saying that Harry Reid was politicizing these arrests and Democrats are saying that the White House, President Bush is politicizing this. There's a bunch of issues coming up in Congress pretty soon. Is there a way to have this debate without it getting overwhelmed by politics?
MR. SNOW: Well, it strikes me -- by the way, I said, it sounds like Senator Reid, I believe, is politicizing, because, look, it seems to me that the name-calling doesn't get us anywhere, does it? It's getting kind of boring. And I think what you want to do here is answer the simple question: How do we make America safe, strong and secure? What is the best way to do that?
I think one of the things that came to the fore was that surveillance activity played a very important role in revealing what was going on in Great Britain. It is important to figure out how to do surveillance properly, how to be able to get information out of people who are threatening to do us harm, and it is important to use every asset at our disposal to fight the war on terror effectively.
I don't know, in today's congressional climate whether we can do this. I hope we can, because there have been times where Democrats and Republicans have worked together very constructively to get things done that are going to make it possible for law enforcement and other officials to be able to track down bad guys and to respond to them in a way that saves American lives, and also to discourage terror. That is the ultimate goal, and that's what the President has been pushing all along, and that's certainly something that we hope is going to continue to be the case.
Again, it's a political year, so I expect people to make statements. But I hope -- the most important statement people can make is to work together in harmony to demonstrate to the American people that all hands are on deck when it comes to fighting and winning the war on terror.
Q Can I follow on that? In terms of what would you -- what does the administration place as the number one priority in Congress, in terms of tools for fighting the war on terror? And did yesterday change the kind of momentum?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. Again, yesterday simply reiterated the importance of the approach that the administration has taken, whether it be with the Patriot Act and the Patriot Act extension; whether it be with various surveillance techniques, of which members of Congress have been made aware. I mean, a lot of these things are ongoing.
I think what it did was reiterate once again that members of terrorist organizations around the world have not given up. They haven't laid down their arms, they haven't decided that they're simply going to pursue a different calling. It is pretty clear that a lot of people have been inculcated with a political ideology that leads them to believe that they have a holy obligation to kill innocent people. And we have to work in every way possible -- through diplomacy, through law enforcement means, through public diplomacy, and every tool in the tool kit -- to make sure that we can make this a safer world by defeating terrorism and holding out hope to everybody for the gifts, the fruits of liberty.
Final note here: When I find out about any sort of phoners that they may be doing, or conference calls from State, what we'll try to do is just get everybody pinged and let you know, give you a number onto the bridge. I think it's going to work that way. Otherwise, we'll have to get somebody to do readouts. But I think that's probably the next step on the diplomatic track today -- and just to try to keep you all apprised as this thing chugs forward.
Q Would the call out news conferences by State be available for recording, or would they be backgrounders?
MR. SNOW: My guess is they're backgrounders. Secretary Rice is going to be doing some television appearances this afternoon. So there will be tape available to one and all, but it will be through various networks. So she will be making some appearances.
Q You said there's going to be something at Camp David with a press availability. Was that with the President?
MR. SNOW: That's economic advisors. It's the President and the economic team.
Q At Camp David?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Is that for the pool or the full press; do you know?
MR. SNOW: Yes, that's pool.
Q He said it was a press avail.
MR. SNOW: Yes, but that will be pool coverage --
MR. SNOW: Like a typical thing. We're not going to clear the full press up at Camp David. That would create the mother of all traffic jams.
All right. Thanks.
END 3:39 P.M. CDT