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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 18, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Greensboro, North Carolina
11:09 A.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Today's schedule: We're heading to Greensboro, North Carolina, first, for a lunch with community leaders. They include Senator Richard Burr; Bob Brown, Chairman and CEO of B&C Associates; Tonya Cockman, President of Clear Defense, LLC; the Mayor of Greensboro, Keith Holliday; President of High Point University, Dr. Nido Qubein; Emery Rann III, who is executive director of Mediation Services of Forsyth County -- that would be the county in which Winston-Salem is located -- and Jeff Young, President and CEO of HDM Furniture Industries.
Then there will be a trip to the Waldo C. Falkener Elementary School. It's a magnet school, and the President -- it's a No Child Left Behind event. The President then will make No Child Left Behind remarks at the Falkener Elementary School. Then off to the Victory Junction Camp, Incorporated. That's in Randleman, North Carolina. It's run by Kyle Petty and his wife, Pattie, in honor of their son, Adam, who was killed six years ago in an accident. But it deals with chronically ill kids and it's a good event.
At 4:25 p.m., George Stephanopoulos of ABC News will be conducting an interview with the President. And at 6:20 p.m., a closed press Republican National Committee dinner at the home of Louis DeJoy, the CEO of New Breed, Incorporated. Return to the White House at about 8:50 p.m. tonight.
Q Why all of a sudden are we having this push on education?
MR. SNOW: It's not all of a sudden, it's the first initiative the President had, but it's always important to remind people what you've been doing. Education is important to a lot of folks. And I think, at a time when, at least for me -- we've got a lot of parents who are sitting around evaluating what's going on at the schools -- it's important to remind them that you've got a President who's pushing for higher standards and more resources.
Q Tony, it seems like, though, this is, in a way, laying the groundwork for next year. No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization. Can you talk specifically about what the President wants Congress to do, and is he sort of making plans about if he has a Democratic Congress, or if he has a Republican Congress?
MR. SNOW: No, he's not making plans based on whatever may happen in terms of partisan breakdowns. He still thinks he's going to be dealing -- and I do, too -- with a Republican House and Senate. But in any event, No Child Left Behind is something that had bipartisan support and no doubt will continue to. And he's eager to have it reauthorized.
Q Democrats are very upset about this bill. They feel that it's not been funded, that they were kind of snookered by it. So what is he doing to address that?
MR. SNOW: He thinks that it will get reauthorized. And he'll be happy to deal with people in the next Congress when the time comes. He's certainly not going to -- we're not going to negotiate at this point.
Q Tony, does the deaths of 10 U.S. soldiers in Iraq today cause the President to rethink his strategy there?
MR. SNOW: No, the strategy is to win. The President understands not only the difficulty of it, but he grieves for the people who have served and served with valor. But as everybody says, correctly, we got to win. And that comes at a cost. And God bless the men and women who have risked their lives going into hostile areas because they do believe in the mission.
Q Tony, is Muqtada al-Sadr our enemy, or our ally, or something else?
MR. SNOW: Well, he is a factor in Iraq. He is somebody who obviously has adherence, and it's interesting -- the most important thing, I think, if Muqtada al-Sadr wants to play a constructive role, is to make sure that -- to cooperate with Prime Minister Maliki in dealing with militias.
I'm not going to characterize al-Sadr. He's clearly a player in Iraq, and we hope he'll play a constructive role.
Q Is it more important to engage him through Sistani, the Grand Ayatollah?
MR. SNOW: Look, I'm not going to engage in strategic speculation about how best to do this, mainly because Muqtada al-Sadr deals with Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is also Shia. And you look at any possible ways to try to proceed, especially along the reconciliation track.
We talk all the time about the strategies and the tactics for achieving the goal of victory in Iraq, and one of the key elements is going to be reconciliation. This is one where Ali al-Sistani clearly has played a constructive role. And Prime Minister Maliki has done some outreach and I know he has contact with Muqtada al-Sadr. And I think it's best left to them to figure out how best to deal with each other.
Q What about Syria and Iran getting involved? The Syrian Ambassador was on BBC today, saying, look, these aren't just insurgents as the Americans describe them; we see them as terrorists, and we see it in our interest to try to end the violence within Iraq. Is there any outreach to take them up on their offer?
MR. SNOW: One of the things we've said repeatedly to the Syrians and Iranians is, stop fomenting terror. If they do that, that's welcome. We'd be very happy for them not to foment terror. But it certainly doesn't change our diplomatic stance toward either.
Q -- being offered in good faith then? Is that what you're saying?
MR. SNOW: It's a public statement. Let's see what happens.
Q Can I ask about North Korea? How concerned are you that the punitive measures in the resolution, the U.N. resolution, aren't going to be carried out by countries like China, specifically?
MR. SNOW: We're not concerned because it's a Chapter 7 resolution. It's binding on the parties.
Q -- there have been expressed messages from China --
MR. SNOW: You've got Secretary Rice over there talking to people about the practical ways to enact it. And the Chinese took the important step of joining us in a Chapter 7 resolution dealing with North Korea. So there may be conflicting stories, but the one thing that's pretty clear is that the five parties other than North Korea in the six-party talks are more unified than ever in their approach toward North Korea. And part of what happens is, when you get a resolution like this, then comes the practical matter, how do you enact it? That's what the Secretary of State is doing this week.
Q Tony, the President -- Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison told the Dallas Morning News that the situation in Iraq is now chaos and that it's time to consider dividing the country into semi-autonomous regions. Having it come from her, does the President think it's time to consider such a notion, an ally like that?
MR. SNOW: The President has considered it. The fact is we consider all options and ideas. In his conversation with Prime Minister Maliki earlier this week, the Prime Minister described partition as not only undermining the government, but also providing encouragement to terrorists. And so we appreciate Senator Hutchison's thinking through the issue, but we respectfully disagree.
Q You're not even considering partition?
MR. SNOW: We have considered partition. Again, you consider every possible option. But we've also determined that it is not, for a series of reasons, I wise option for the stability of Iraq or for the region.
Q Can I go back to Sadr for one second? In early August, when our forces moved against Sadr leadership, killing three people, I think it was, Maliki said it was a "shameful act." Does the President believe that it was a shameful act?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to engage in the sort of backing and filling on something that happened a few months ago.
Q But it does relate to the key player in the Iraqi coalition. This guy holds 30 seats in the Iraqi government, and he's made war on the Iraqi army from time to time.
MR. SNOW: What's interesting is that he's also said recently -- he's talked against militia violence. And according to the Prime Minister's calculation, one-and-a-half seats are held by those who actually do militias. So did he --
Q -- believe that?
MR. SNOW: Look, I'm going to let the Prime Minister do the -- he probably knows more than you and I about the composition of his own parliament.
Q I would certainly hope so, but not presume so.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I'll let you pick fights with the Iraqi government. I'm not going to do it.
Q Tonight's fundraiser, it's a closed fundraiser. Is this the last of the closed fundraisers? You had said last week you thought they were --
MR. SNOW: I've got to find out. I don't know. I just -- I don't know. One more time -- I don't know.
Q Any hints about next week's fundraising schedule?
MR. SNOW: Let me find out. Well, it's interesting, I think -- one of the things we have found out is, because of McCain-Feingold, you can't do soft money like you used to, to underwrite rallies. So what ends up happening is, in a lot of cases, people do have to pay money to attend these because it costs a whole lot of money to get the President in. But there will be lots and lots of public events. I promise.
Here's old Zinsmeister, ladies and gentlemen.
MR. ZINSMEISTER: How are you? Good to see you.
MR. SNOW: Thank you.
Q The shift in space policy -- can you describe that? And will it allow for weaponization of space?
MR. SNOW: It's not a shift in policy. This was announced in July, but apparently just discovered by some people. The notion that you would do defense from space is different than the weaponization of space. So I think what you have is a revisitation of a lot of old arguments in this case. We're comfortable with the policy.
Q Can I ask you about the election again? The Vice President, yesterday, said that he thought there was a good chance that the Republicans would hold the House. Is there any change -- where is the administration getting all the confidence that you are going to hold the House? And wouldn't it be wise to start considering some options if Democrats take it?
MR. SNOW: We're confident we're going to hold the House because we think we have better candidates and better arguments. And in the last two weeks of a campaign people focus on that. And the President is going to make it clear to Republicans that he not only thinks they're going to win, he's going to help them win. And that's what you do at the end of a campaign. The most important thing now is to try to get people to focus on substantive issues, including the war on terror, and the economy, and education, and energy, the things that are of concern to them. But also, you're going to have a lot of local races that are governed by local concerns, and the President will do whatever he can to help local candidates, as well.
Q The Vice President seemed a little less emphatic, though. He said, there's a good chance they'll hold the House. Has his confidence diminished at all?
MR. SNOW: I think you're over-parsing.
All right, guys. We'll see you on the road.
END 11:20 A.M. EDT