For Immediate Release
October 31, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
10:43 A.M. EST
MR. SNOW: On today's schedule, the President had a phone call at 7:45 a.m. this morning with President Lula da Silva of Brazil -- a brief conversation, about five minutes, very friendly, the President congratulating President Lula on his recent election victory. The two of them also talked about issues of mutual interest, which include energy, biofuels, and trade. And they both said that they'd like to get together sometime soon. So, more on that when that is put together.
He's had his normal briefings, obviously the meeting with the envoy to the Sudan, Andrew Natsios. At 11:05 a.m., he's going to be doing an interview with regional television media: Alison Burns of Cox Broadcasting; Morris Jones of Sinclair Broadcast Group; and Melissa Charbonneau of the Christian Broadcasting Network.
He departs the White House to Perry, Georgia. At 5:00 p.m. Eastern time he'll be making remarks at the Georgia Victory 2006 rally. Governor Sonny Perdue will do the introductions. It's also going to be in support of congressional candidate Mac Collins, and he'll return to the White House at 8:10 p.m.
In addition, to help with your planning, the President will travel to Missouri and Iowa on Friday for campaign rallies. Details TBA. And I think that -- questions.
Q Did the United States offer to roll back sanctions on North Korea for money laundering and counterfeiting in order to get North Korea to come back to these talks?
MR. SNOW: No. As Secretary Rice said, issues like that may be discuss-able at some future time, but, no, there have been no offers. But let me also say that the President -- what you've got here with the North Koreans agreeing to return to the six-party talks is a vindication of the strategy the President has adopted. You'll notice who made the announcement -- the Chinese.
The President has said, against criticism from those who have said you just need to engage on one-on-one talks with the North Koreans -- said, no, you have to bring in the people who have the most leverage and influence over the North Koreans and their behavior. The Chinese, having talks with the North Koreans, have persuaded them to come back to the six-party talks. But it would not have been possible for the additional unity and determination supplied by the Japanese, the Russians, and the South Koreans.
I'm sorry, I just saw these. These are -- (laughter.) Here I am talking matters of war and peace and I'm looking at these things.
Q That would be for staff.
MR. SNOW: I'll hand those out to you. Go ahead, I'm sorry.
Q What did we tell them about the sanctions?
MR. SNOW: We didn't tell them anything. We're not negotiating with them at this point. What we're doing is -- now that you've got the process ready for the six-party talks, the President has said, look, we're happy that the six-party talks are going to resume; it's important to ensure that the North Koreans abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions and treaty obligations.
This is very good news. This is a real step forward. And also what it does, one hopes, in the fullness of time, is that the North Koreans will renounce all nuclear programs in a verifiable way; you'll avoid the threat of an arms race in the region; you'll avoid the threat of having a destabilized Korean Peninsula. You're going to have the opportunity for the North Koreans to take advantage of economic, political, and cultural offerings that have been made by the other parties to the talks. There's a way forward now and we're going to continue to move --
Q That's been there for a long time.
MR. SNOW: It's been there for a long time, but --
Q So what's new?
MR. SNOW: What's new is that the North --
Q Is there a carrot that brought them back?
MR. SNOW: No, I think what the carrot is that the Chinese made it pretty clear that they're very unhappy with the way the North Koreans have been behaving. Now, I don't want to tell you what went on behind closed doors because I don't know. The Chinese have been engaged in the negotiations. The good news is that the North Koreans have agreed to what we've been talking about all along, which is a return to the six-party talks. And Secretary Rice has said that she hopes that that commences before the end of the year.
Q But what are we going to make of the Japanese Prime Minister -- I guess the quote is that Tokyo "does not intend to accept North Korea's return to the talks on the premise that it possesses nuclear weapons." Is that an accurate quote?
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know if it's an accurate quote, and I'd just have to refer that to diplomats. You raise that with State; I don't know.
Q But is it your sense, what you understand, that everyone is on board with the six-party talks?
MR. SNOW: Well, that's the way it works, so --
Q Well, I mean, apparently, there's --
MR. SNOW: Well, again, that's why -- you've got a fractional news story that I haven't seen, so I'd just be making it up, and I don't want to do that. I'll try to find some direction for you. Or give Sean McCormack and the guys at State a call, they may have better guidance.
Q One quick follow-up. Tomorrow the President has no public events at all? There's not going to be any addition to the schedule?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, the President has got some ongoing meetings that are obviously very important. And we'll read out any public events that may occur later.
Q Sounds like something is cooking there.
MR. SNOW: No, not really.
Q Tony, on Iraq, can you wrap up Steve Hadley's trip, what was accomplished, and address the continuing part of the story that there's a possible rift between the President and Maliki?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. Let me start with the second half first. Let's see, we've now had the Prime Minister saying there's no rift, the President saying there's no rift, the National Security Advisor of Iraq saying there's no rift, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq saying there's no rift, the U.S. National Security Advisor saying there's no rift, and my telling you, on the basis of my observation of the secure conference call the other day, that there's no rift. So there's no rift. Now, I mean, I don't know how many more people you can marshal, but it seems that all the people who've been in the room and have been in critical positions are saying that.
What Steve is doing is paying a visit and assessing the situation, also talking with the Prime Minister.
I think -- again, let me stress the thing that has been most impressive to us, which is the assertiveness of the Prime Minister when it comes to wanting to take over important security operations within Iraq. We could not be happier that we've got a Prime Minister who is a man of action and man who is making decisions. That is absolutely essential for the future of Iraq.
And he's not simply doing it on the security side. He's been very aggressive in recent weeks, as I've pointed out on the political side, reaching out both to Shia and to Sunni. He's been very aggressive on the economic front, and he was giving a readout of economic success in the country. So he understands that to be a Prime Minister means more than simply having to be a commander-in-chief. It means to be a unifying force in a country where a lot of people are yearning to have a free and democratic society. They expressed that with their votes last year.
So, far from having a rift between the two sides, what you have is precisely what the President hoped he would see when he first met the Prime Minister, which is somebody who is willing to make hard decisions, who is willing to lead, who is assertive and also pretty clear-eyed about the challenges that await him.
Q If I could follow up, on the campaign trail, Senator Kerry was in Los Angeles and speaking to some students, saying if they were able to navigate the education system, they could get comfortable jobs, but "if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." Can you react to that?
MR. SNOW: Yes, I'll actually give you a fuller quote. He said: "You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
It sort of fits a pattern. You may recall that last year Senator Kerry -- on CBS's "Face the Nation" -- accused U.S. soldiers of terrorizing kids and children in Iraq; and recently also described troop concentrations in Baghdad as "having failed miserably."
What Senator Kerry ought to do first is apologize to the troops. The clear implication here is if you flunk out, if you don't study hard, if you don't do your homework, if you don't make an effort to be smart and you don't do well, you "get stuck in Iraq." But an extraordinary thing has happened since September 11th, which is a lot of people -- America's finest -- have willingly agreed to volunteer their services in a mission that they know is dangerous, but is also important. And Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who have given their lives in this.
This is an absolute insult. And I'm a little astonished that he didn't figure it out already. I mean, you know, if I were Senator Kerry -- I mean, you've seen me, I say something stupid, I apologize as quickly as possible. And this is something for which he ought to apologize. Meanwhile, it's probably reasonable to ask some of the Democrats -- ask a Jim Webb or a Tammy Duckworth, both of whom are citing their military record -- okay, what do you think about it, what do you think about this quote? Do you agree with him? He was your presidential nominee. And as for the notion that you can say this sort of thing about the troops and say you support them, it's interesting.
Q Does the President owe the Democrats an apology for saying that the terrorists -- that they will appease the terrorists?
MR. SNOW: No. Let's take -- you know what's interesting, Helen, and I've said this before --
Q How bellicose was he?
MR. SNOW: I don't think it's bellicose. Look, let's listen to what the Democrats -- or let's think about what Democrats are doing in this election campaign. When it comes to winning the war on terror, what is their plan? They've not said. They have talked about withdrawal --
Q -- 101 in Iraq --
MR. SNOW: -- they've talked about a whole series of things, in terms of complaining -- looking back over their shoulders and complaining about past decisions. But when it comes to the key issue, how do you achieve victory -- they say they want to achieve it, but they won't tell you how. They will tell you what they oppose what the President is doing. They oppose the Patriot Act; they have opposed the Terrorist Surveillance Program; they oppose the program by which we detain, question and bring to justice the worst of the terrorists. So they have opposed all of those things, so we know what they oppose, but we don't know what they're going to do.
Q How does the President propose to win? How does the President -- 101 in October dying --
MR. SNOW: The President understands that it is difficult. This is a man who signs each and every condolence note. He is absolutely aware of the human cost. And he grieves for every family and every person that we've lost. But on the other hand, he also knows two things. First, as General Casey said last week, there is not a single military engagement that we have not won, and we don't give our soldiers credit for that.
Secondly, he also understands that if we were to walk away short of victory it would give terrorists the opportunity to turn Iraq into a stronghold in which they would have access to the world's second largest reserves of petroleum; that they would be able to use oil as a political weapon against the United States, Europe, Asia, could pit the industrialized nations against one another; they could also work in concert with Iran and Syria, which have been active supporters of terror; they no doubt would try to go after Israel, after the Arabian peninsula, perhaps after Egypt.
In other words, the consequences of walking out and leaving a failed state are absolutely catastrophic, and the President understands that. But he also understands the promise of a democratic Iraq. And if you take a look at what's happened -- the Prime Minister, being assertive about what he wants to achieve -- and there has been progress, economically and politically, throughout much of Iraq, not ignoring the difficulties especially around Baghdad and the fierce fighting -- you take a look at that, the promise is if you have a democracy, and when you have a democracy that stands up in Iraq, that sends a powerful message.
Helen, you and I have been students of the region long enough to know that everybody is watching -- everybody is watching. And the way they see it in the region is either terrorists win or democracy wins. And the President is absolutely determined that democracy wins.
Q How would you judge the Maliki government's decision to remove the checkpoints in the al Sadr neighborhood in Baghdad, which, as you know, is a very troubled place where the militia of Muqtada al Sadr is viewed as having more strength than perhaps the U.S. forces and the Iraqi forces? Is that not a setback today?
MR. SNOW: No, because, again, checkpoints -- to deal with checkpoints does not necessarily change the situation in terms of how you deal with Sadr City. The Prime Minister has also said on a number of occasions, if you look at Sadr City, in his opinion, 90 to 95 percent are people who support the mission and they're opposed to terrorism. And so he has also said that the Iraqis, themselves, are going to be most capable of gathering intelligence going after them.
There are a number of things going on in Sadr City. What he did not say is, let's not continue going after terrorist organizations. As a matter of fact, the other day, when he was walking through and describing his own view of his responsibilities as commander-and-chief -- and I want to quote it correctly -- he made it clear that a fundamental part of that is fighting terror, including militias and including separatist terror groups. He said that "joint efforts continue to pursue terrorists and outlaws who expose the lives of citizens to killings, abductions, and explosions." Abductions also would include a U.S. serviceman.
So the Prime Minister, now on -- I don't know -- three or four occasions at least in the last week, in talking about security, has made it clear that sectarian violence, whether it be through militias or whether it be through Saddam loyalists or others, is not something he's going to accept. As a matter of fact, what he said in a conference call the other day is that he wants the ability to respond more swiftly and more precisely to things as they come.
Q Tony, more on this non-rift with Maliki.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q How can you say there's not a rift at all? I mean, that's the impression you're leaving -- when, as Kelly points out, he has one opinion about how to conduct operations in Sadr City, U.S. commanders have another opinion about how to conduct operations in Sadr City -- why is that not a rift?
MR. SNOW: Because -- is every time somebody has a discussion about how best to proceed, is that a rift, or is that a -- actually, a discussion about how best to proceed? I mean, I think what you're trying to do --
Q Well, it's words, not actions. I mean, are his actions what you want?
MR. SNOW: Yes, his actions -- again, the Prime Minister, if you take a look at what he's been doing, he's been very assertive and aggressive. For instance, I've already mentioned a number of times the demobilization of a Shia police battalion --
Q I understand that, but I'm going to go back to a question I've had in the past -- are you completely satisfied with what Mr. Maliki is doing as far as actions in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Look, what do you mean by completely satisfied? Every single act at every single time --
Q Well, you say there's no rift --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into the rift creation business. As you understand and the President said, and President Maliki understands, there may be times when, on small details -- this is the Prime Minister's words -- on details they may disagree. But on the overall plan for proceeding and how they do it, they do agree. Now, there are going to be times when they disagree on particular actions. For instance, last week, when you had the strike in Sadr City, which he had approved of, which he had known about, but he was not informed at the time that the action took place -- he was unhappy, and he should have been. It wasn't a rift, but it was one of those things where you work together and you try to fix it.
Q Well, are you in this difficult position where you do want to make sure that Maliki doesn't, as the President said, dawdle, and yet you don't want to hit him too hard? I mean, can you explain sort of what position you are?
MR. SNOW: The position is we're actually gratified that you've got an Iraqi Prime Minister who is being very assertive about this stuff. I mean, I really think -- look, for instance, over the weekend, or maybe it was yesterday, there were a whole series of stories that were citing somebody "close to the Prime Minister" who, in fact, wasn't part of any of the discussions about how we're proceeding. And he was painting a dire picture of how the Prime Minister was standing up to the Americans. It's not true. The fact is, if you talk to General Casey -- I've listed all the people who've talked about this -- they're working closely together and they get more closely knitted together with each and every day because they've got the shared mission and they also understand the importance of winning in Baghdad and eventually creating that Iraq that can sustain, defend, and govern itself.
Q So he gets final word? I know it's a sovereign nation. If the military decides they want to put checkpoints up in Sadr City to make things better for the people of Sadr City, but Maliki says, no, no, no -- it's his final decision?
MR. SNOW: No, you operate cooperatively. As you know, under the U.N. agreement right now, the multinational forces in Iraq make military decisions. But they're certainly going to do those in concert with Prime Minister Maliki.
Q That's not a military decision, is it?
MR. SNOW: That's a military decision, but I'm not aware that people have dug in their heels on it.
Q Back on North Korea for a second.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q You've been portraying this announcement today as a big step forward, a big move. But why should anybody believe that this time around North Korea will be any more serious about doing something about its nuclear program?
MR. SNOW: Well, the President --
Q Have you received any indication of what they said about why they're coming back to the talks?
MR. SNOW: No. Look, it's pretty clear -- when your number-one trading partner and your number-one supplier of energy comes to you and has a frank discussion, the contents of which I don't know, and out of that comes an agreement to engage in the six-party talks, you'll have to draw your own conclusions.
Here's what the President said. I think it's reasonable to say trust, but verify, because he has said that he wanted to thank the Chinese for encouraging the meeting that got the agreement to the six-party talks -- to get the six-party talks restarted. But he also says, we'll be sending teams to the region to work with our partners to make sure that the current United Nations Security Council Resolution is enforced, but also to make sure that the talks are effective, that we achieve the results we want, which is a North Korea that abandons nuclear weapons programs.
So, look, this is a step forward. Is it an absolute, lock-dead guarantee? We'll find out if the North Koreans are going to make good on their word. What you're doing, of course, is expressing the very kind of skepticism we've had in the past, which is why we've talked about the importance of having verifiable activities on the part of the North Korean government. That has always been one of the preconditions for six-party talks. And again, this is -- this I think is a very important reaffirmation of the way the President went about it.
Q There were also, a couple of weeks ago, reports that people were seeing some movements over in North Korea that might indicate that they were going to do another nuclear test. Have you heard anything more lately about that, whether they've stopped?
MR. SNOW: That would be certainly inconsistent with an agreement to return to the six-party talks.
Q Have you heard anything, though, in terms of whether that activity has stopped?
MR. SNOW: Even if I had -- look, we don't talk intelligence. Come on, you know that, Toby.
Q Tony, since you reacted to Senator Kerry's comments, I wonder -- Charlie Rangel, another powerful Democrat, this morning in The New York Post, is calling the Vice President an SOB, says he is misrepresenting his position on tax cuts or tax increases. I wonder if you will react to that. But, more broadly, since most people are predicting either Democrats take back Congress, or the Republicans keep it with very thin margins, with this kind of rhetoric flying around, what kind of hope does the President have that he's really going to accomplish very much in his final two years when all the dust has settled?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what's going to happen is when you get a Republican Congress in defiance of all predictions, Democrats are going to have to ask themselves the question, which is, do you want to play a constructive role? In many ways, the strategy has been to create a failed government by obstructing everything the President wants to do, with a couple of noble exceptions like the ports bill, which was important. But there has been a deliberate obstructionist approach on the part of Democratic leaders in both Houses.
As far as Charlie calling names of the President --
Q The Vice President.
MR. SNOW: -- the Vice President -- I'm sorry -- in a year in which, again, on these key issues, the Democrats don't have a plan, it does appear that they have an anger management problem. But on the other hand, I asked the Vice President about it today and he had a big hearty laugh. He knows Charlie.
Q You said earlier in response to Bret's question that you thought Senator Kerry should apologize to troops.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q I wondered, do you have the same feeling about -- in Illinois, when Pete Roscam told Tammy Duckworth, who, as you know, had lost her legs in Iraq, that she would cut and run from Iraq, and then apologized when he realized that she physically couldn't run? Should he apologize to her? And should -- in Pennsylvania, when Sherwood told Chris Carney, who had worked, as you know, in the Pentagon pre-war, that he had helped make a false case for war, directly criticizing his military service -- should Sherwood and should Roscam also apologize?
MR. SNOW: What you're trying to do on the Tammy Duckworth case -- and first, the President thanks everybody who served, and that would include Tammy Duckworth. What you're doing is you're trying to take a common figure of speech and twist it into a personal insult, and I don't think it fits in that case. And I don't know about the Sherwood thing. I mean I just can't help you with that.
Q What happened -- to what extent will what happens next Tuesday be a referendum on the President and specifically the war?
MR. SNOW: I think you're going to find out it will be interesting, Peter. Look, what you've got -- in any congressional election you have 435 referenda on House seats, and you've got 33 referenda or 34 on given years on Senate seats. We're going to find out. I think -- I'll tell you -- let me put it this way: The President has made clear and will continue to make clear his determination to win the war on terror of which Iraq is the central front. And I think people are -- again, they're going to ask themselves, what are you going to do? You ask Democrats a simple question: What's your plan? Okay, you complain. What's your plan? What are you going to do to win?
It's an important contrast to make. But on the other hand the President also has the positive message on the other side because he says, here's the plan to win, and here's what's going to happen when we do win. And it creates an entirely changed nature of the region, because democracy will, in fact, catch on in the region and you will have closer relations. Democracies, by their natures, not only are not warlike, but are more inclined to work together on cooperative efforts like free trade and so on. So I think it's -- I'll tell you what, let's ask the question on Wednesday, and we'll try to do the after-action reports. But I --
Q Well, you've been --
MR. SNOW: Yes, and you know what's interesting is -- of course, look, I'm dealing with self-selected audiences. I've talked to Republican faithful, so these are obviously people who support the President. But I will tell you that their enthusiasm for finishing the job in Iraq -- people understand that it's tough; they understand that it calls upon a nation's patience and its willingness to sacrifice in a faraway place. It has always been hard business, and in every war in American history, the public has recoiled, understandably, at the cost of engagement, especially far away. But they understand also the importance of finishing the job.
And on other issues -- I mean, when it comes to taxes, going back to the Charlie Rangel question -- I mean, Charlie, a month ago, had given the impression that continuing the tax cuts was off the table, and apparently took a different position over the weekend. But those are legitimate issues. Ask yourself, do you really think -- are Democrats going to extend -- are they going to put a permanent end to the marriage penalty? Are they going to get rid of the death tax? Are they going to deal with a number of taxes that have been trimmed under this presidency? Or are they going to let them just sort of pop up again in the dead of night with no vote from Congress?
Those are important issues, and the President is certainly willing not only to take his position on it, but to clarify the differences between the parties.
Q When the President makes a comment on Iraq like the one he made last night in Texas, doesn't he, in effect, make it a referendum on the war? Despite those 435 --
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know. Look, it's interesting because it may be it will also -- Democrats have obviously made it a key issue for them. And having made it a key issue, you would think that they would tell you what they plan to do. And they haven't. And that also is an issue. So it may be a referendum on the Democrats approach to the most important issue in terms of our strategic interests.
Q Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said that basically if there's not an international collaboration on changing global warming, there will not only be irreversible environmental damage, there will also be economic damage to the extent -- I think he called it devastating -- to the scale of -- or what happens in world wars. So my question is, does the administration still maintain that its climate change policy is based on not only sound science, but sound economics?
MR. SNOW: Yes, and as a matter of fact, also aggressive activity on the environment. Let me recite a little bit. In 2002, in February, the President committed to cutting greenhouse gas intensity, how much we emit per unit of economy activity by 18 percent. Well, guess what. The intensity declined 2 percent in 2003, and another 2.5 percent in 2004. They're ahead of goals. We're cutting back.
One of the things the President has been talking about, and you've heard a lot of times, Paula, is getting rid of America's "addiction to oil." Well, how do you do that? Well, you innovate your way out by finding energy sources that, in fact, do not contribute to climate change, that cannot be construed as contributing to global warming. He's talked about ethanol, he's talked about nuclear, he's talked about biodiesel, and he's talked about the importance of being aggressive in terms of innovating our way out of it.
You've had the Energy Policy Act of 2005; $5 billion in tax incentives for clean energy systems and highly efficient vehicles. You've had the Advanced Energy Initiative -- that's a 22 percent increase in Department of Energy research funding. You increase CAFE standards for SUVs. There is $25 billion on climate change programs, by far the most in the world, that include: Climate Science Program, $2 billion a year; Climate Technology Program, $3 billion a year; Climate Vision, 15 industry sectors cutting emissions; you have climate leaders -- more than 70 companies cutting emissions. And what's interesting is we've also been working with our allies on ways to do the same sort of thing.
So the President has, in fact, contrary to stereotype, been actively engaged in trying to fight climate change and will continue to do so.
Q One area that is notably absent and that even Shell Oil and other major players are calling for is global mandatory emissions -- trade program, that unless you do this on an international basis, it's not in the long-term economic interest of the United States, which seems to be one of your arguments, that somehow it benefits the United States in the long-term.
MR. SNOW: Well, actually, what the United States has done is we've actually taken the lead on those kinds of innovations, such as the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which involves working together with China, India, Korea -- South Korea -- Japan and Australia. You've got a methane program, 17 countries working to capture 50 million tons of methane emissions. You've got an international partnership for hydrogen energy. You've got Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, which deals directly with what you're talking about. And there's also a global nuclear energy partnership.
So, look, the President is eager to find any ways and obviously believes in market-based solutions, because what they end up doing is making use of people's natural incentives for doing well by doing the right things.
Q One last follow-up. With respect to oil and the addiction you say the United States has for oil, in the months leading up to the war and afterwards, when asked if this war was all about oil, the administration always denied that was the case, but now, inserting into a lot of these speeches, the President is emphasizing the need to preserve the oil reserves over there and that not to do so would be a very devastating impact on Iraq. But wouldn't it also be a devastating impact on the United States, which relies on oil?
MR. SNOW: not necessarily, because Iraq is not a significant source of oil production for the United States right now. The reason the President talks about the importance of maintaining the Iraqi oil fields is that it offers an opportunity for literally a common pool of wealth that will be used -- he encourages it being distributed among all Iraqis so that they're all going to have a shared economic and financial interest in the success of the country. He looks upon this as a common resource for the Iraqi people. And he makes the very reasonable point that you want the Iraqis to be fully invested, again, literally and figuratively, in making sure that democracy works. And that's a very powerful way to do it.
Q Two things, one on North Korea and the other on Sudan. When did the President decide to pull apart the issue of nuclear weapons and counterfeiting? Because from that podium, he said they were issues that went together. And now you're saying that he's going to deal with the issue of money laundering later.
MR. SNOW: No, I said if it comes up -- Secretary Rice said it could come up at a future date in a forum at the six-party talks. It has not been severed. What's your second question?
Q So if they go into these talks, these upcoming talks that you're looking at, they will deal with both issues at the same time?
MR. SNOW: I don't know how they're going to stage it. That's a question, really, that you need to ask State. They're going to be able to answer that technical question; I can't.
Q And on the Sudan, Muslim peacekeeping forces, did the President and Natsios talk about that at all?
MR. SNOW: You know what, I wasn't in the meeting and I didn't get a more detailed readout. I'll find out for you. Do me a favor and just ping me on it, so I do remember. Actually, can we take a note here?
Q But, also, some of the critics have said that if there is, indeed, an all-Muslim peacekeeping force, that it would be biased towards Khartoum. What is your thought about that?
MR. SNOW: Well, the one thing that the President made clear -- and let me just pull up some of the comments he made when he was speaking with Ambassador Natsios -- is that the government in Khartoum needs to understand how serious we are about getting peace for the people in Darfur. He said, "The people who have suffered in Darfur need to know the United States will work with others to help solve the problem." And, "The government of Sudan must understand that we're serious -- when you deliver a message to them on behalf of our government" -- he was saying to Andrew Natsios -- "that we're earnest and serious about their necessity to step up and work with the international community." This talks about, the President also had mentioned a credible international peacekeeping force. As you know, he just got back and what he said is that Andrew Natsios has been there for 10 days. And unfortunately, but to nobody's surprise, there is a grim report about the human condition there. And the President is outraged about it and he believes the international community needs to step up, and he believes that the government of Sudan needs to do it, as well.
Q Tony, you mentioned that the President will go to Missouri on Friday. Will he do anything with Senator Talent?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. He's certainly going to be campaigning for him. I'll find out.
Q But it's intended to be for his Senate campaign?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Obviously, for all candidates, but a close and highly watched race down there is Jim Talent. I was campaigning for him there yesterday.
Q Does the President have a feeling about the Michael J. Fox ad, which has been so much in the news in that race and in others?
MR. SNOW: No, I have not heard him talk about it. But it's interesting, let's make a couple of important points when it comes to stem cell research. Any stem cell research that takes place in the United States today is a result of a decision the President made in 2001, to be the first to make available 60 then-existing stem cell lines involving embryonic stem cells. He said at the time also that he believed that those stem cells, the collection of such cells involved the taking of a human life. He did not think it would be appropriate for the federal government to engage in something morally controversial, but he would not outlaw it, and in fact, would permit private investment, which is going on in some places.
Meanwhile, the United States has the most robust program in investigating the promise of adult and blood cord stem cells, which so far have demonstrated far more promise in dealing with real conditions than embryonic stem cells, which to date at least have not yielded the results that many people would like to see them produce. So when it comes to the issue of stem cell research, there has been no party and no President who has stepped up and made possible more research and encouraged more research than George W. Bush.
Q But beyond that, does he feel that the Fox ads are inappropriate?
MR. SNOW: Again, he just -- I haven't heard him talk about it, don't expect to hear him talk about it.
Q Will he talk about stem cell research if he campaigns with Jim Talent?
MR. SNOW: Well, we'll find out. It's -- look, it's an issue, and I've just given you the position. And also the question is, will you talk about the record of the administration in trying to assess the truth or the veracity of charges that are leveled against members of the Senate --
Q -- going to talk about the record, I would say that those 60 lines didn't materialize.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, at least 21 of them are involved in active research right now, and you know it.
Q Tony, what's the decision-making process on where the President is going to go, leading to Election Day? Why is he going where he's going? And second, have we seen the stump speech, or is it going to continue to evolve and perhaps become even more aggressive?
MR. SNOW: We don't believe in staying in the same place, so the President will continue to sharpen his message. He's going to places where he can make a difference. You know, for all the, "President Bush is not going to go to contested districts" -- well, let's see, he's in Mike Sodrel's district, which is a very close district. He's going down to Mac Collins's district, a close race, today. He was in Texas yesterday, close district. He's going to be in Missouri, you've got a close Senate race.
The President knows that when he gets there -- and some of you have been there. I think there were a lot of people maybe astonished by the boisterousness of the responses that he's seen in Statesboro and in Indiana and elsewhere. Where people see the President, his passion, his commitment, and his determination, it does make a difference, and it sends a powerful message not merely to Republican partisans, but also independent voters. And more people are going into the undecided category these days because they're scratching their heads and asking the question, who is going to be serious about the future?
So these are going to be events that will be important for those candidates, but it also sends a message nationwide about a President who has a very aggressive view not merely of the next seven days, but the next two years.
Q Is his schedule going to be heavy on contested districts and states?
MR. SNOW: I think so. I mean, I can't give you a full readout of the districts, but so far, yes.
Q There are reports out of Colorado that he'll be there over the weekend. Can you confirm that?
MR. SNOW: No, I can't. Again, I'm still -- look, a number of these things are still in process and we're nailing down final details on a number of them. When I'm in a position to do it --
Q Tell us a little more about that process.
MR. SNOW: You're going to have to call the political office. They're the guys who are working a lot of that out.
Q Has any candidate told him to stay away?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of.
Q In his campaign speech, he's being very clear about kind of linking a vote for the Democrats to the insurgents and how important it is, therefore, to vote for the Republicans. And in a TV interview in the last couple of days, Vice President Cheney was even more blunt about this. Is it the position of the President that, in fact, the Democratic Party is the party of the insurgents and the party of al Qaeda?
MR. SNOW: No, it's the position of the President that the Democratic policies -- he doesn't think for a minute the Democrats are sitting around saying, "go, bin Laden." People understand -- but what he does think is that the policies are simply flat wrong. And if you think through them, you come to the conclusion that the idea, for instance, of withdrawal without any recognition of conditions on the ground, withdrawal without an assurance of victory in Iraq is a recipe for the kind of disaster I outlined before. That's an important distinction to make.
In that sense, yes, it would be good for terrorists because they would have safe haven in Iraq. On the other hand, what he's not saying -- and I'm glad you asked the question -- he's certainly not going to accuse people of running around with "I love bin Laden" t-shirts. It's important to know that people -- you can be patriotic, but you can also be wrong on something very important. And the President hasn't questioned the patriotism of Democrats, and he's certainly not going to accuse them of climbing in bed with bin Laden. But he will be clear that if you follow these policies, or, as I've been saying, really the lack of a policy to its logical conclusion, it could get you in real trouble.
Q Tony, when the President and Vice President talk about how insurgents and volatile forces are watching this election, is there an inference there that they would hope Democrats prevail?
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't -- you know, I'll let you draw your own conclusions on that. He's not trying to --
Q Are you guys polling in the Tora Bora Mountains or -- seriously.
MR. SNOW: That's a good line. That's cute. That's why I didn't answer the question. I don't have a clue. I mean, I've said many times I'm not going to know the thoughts of them, which is why I didn't take that extra leap, Dick.
Q But if you assert they're influencing -- influencing to what end?
MR. SNOW: Influencing?
Q The election process. You've said it. The President and the Vice President have said it.
MR. SNOW: Now you're getting into a separate issue here, which is terrorists who have committed certain acts of terror may try to influence elections by, among other things, shaping media coverage, so that we have a concentration not on what American men and women have been achieving in Iraq, but instead, acts of violence that give the appearance of defeat at a time when, again, to repeat what General Casey said, they have not lost a single engagement, and there has been -- at least according to the Prime Minister, considerable progress within Iraq, which is why the war is more popular in Iraq than it is in the United States. So to that -- in terms of a -- but that's as much a discussion of propaganda as a tool in a time of war is anything else. Go ahead.
Q A tool to what end, though? Are you suggesting by discussing this now over a period of days that that influence is intended to unseat Republicans?
MR. SNOW: No, I'm suggesting that that influence is designed to try to weaken American will to finish the job. It's a separate and unrelated item in that sense. But what is -- what I'm also saying is, don't you think Democrats -- and a number of you have written stories about this -- don't you think, on this issue that they consider of such paramount importance, that they ought to be able to get their act together long enough to come up with a plan? If it's that important, you got to figure out what you're going to do?
Q -- the President have a plan?
Q Tony, let me just ask your plan about this idea of -- I believe it was called withdrawal without assurance of victory in Iraq, which I think was the summary of the Democrats' position. And it gets back to this notion of this being a referendum, because isn't what the President putting forward -- is to stay without an assurance of victory in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, it's to stay with a determination of victory.
Q There's no assurance of victory in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Well, Jim, are you saying that you don't think our troops are going to be able to complete the job?
Q I'm not saying -- it doesn't matter what I'm saying. It only matters what you folks are saying.
MR. SNOW: Okay, here's -- let me put it this way. If you'd asked the same question in World War II, people would have looked at you like you were crazy, because even when times looked toughest, there was a national determination to win. And there is a national determination to win in Iraq. And so the assurance I'm giving you is based on the quality and determination not only of U.S. forces, but also the Iraqis who are fighting with them. And the question is not if, but when.
Q But why isn't it a fair reading of this, if the President is going to throw the idea out that what Democrats are doing is advocating leaving without an assurance of victory, why isn't it a fair reading of the situation to say, on one hand, you have leaving without assurance, and on the other hand, you have staying without an assurance?
MR. SNOW: Because to leave is to create a vacuum and there is really not much doubt of what the result is going to be. To stay, with victory as your determination, ensures that you're going to have the ability over time to do what you want to achieve. It seems to me that you're trying to draw -- let me get to the back rows a little bit first, and then we'll get back up here.
Q Thank you, Tony. Several members of Congress I spoke to on the Republican side say whether or not they retain the majority in the House, Speaker Hastert will not remain in his position. And they said the Speaker has talked about being the next ambassador to Japan. Has the White House had any discussions with him about that?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of. That's the first I've heard about it. Yes, I'm speechless. That's a new one on me, John.
Q Tony, two questions. On Sunday, Tim Russert asked Maryland's Republican U.S. Senate nominee Michael Steele, are you running as a proud Bush Republican? Steele replied, and this is a quote, "I'm running as a proud Republican." My question: What is the reaction of the head of the Republican Party to this deletion of him by nominee Steele, who had no such deletion regarding his endorsements by Don King and Mike Tyson?
MR. SNOW: What you -- you forgot Russell Simmons. (Laughter.) You got to finish your endorsement. Look, I'll tell you what -- a couple of things. Number one, the President understands politics and he also wants Michael Steele to be the next senator from Maryland and he's confident he's going to be it. I'm campaigning for Michael tomorrow. So it's not like we're doing anything we can to hide our support for him.
Q The Chairman of the Senate Democratic Campaign said he is confident of a Democratic takeover of the Senate on November the 7th, and the election is a referendum on George Bush. How does the President react to this chairman's predictions?
MR. SNOW: With anticipation of November 8th.
Q On North Korea, you also noted that the President said today he'll be sending teams to the region.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q What are the role of those teams and how early could they be sent?
MR. SNOW: We'll be making appropriate announcements at the appropriate time.
Q There are reports that it may be in a month.
MR. SNOW: Well, it's -- look, the Secretary of State has said that she'd like to see talks commence before the end of the year. That's two months. So, I mean, we're working quickly to try to get the process back up and going.
One in the back and then we'll go ahead and --
Q Is the President concerned about the close ties between Prime Minister Maliki and Muqtada al Sadr might hinder a tough stance against the militias, especially the Mahdi Army?
MR. SNOW: No, the President understands, first, that Muqtada al Sadr is part of the government; secondly, that the Prime Minister has made clear the necessity of dealing with key players on both sides. As you know, he met with Muqtada al Sadr and Ali al Sistani a little more than a week ago; they had a reconciliation conference with Sunnis in Saudi Arabia. And furthermore, the Prime Minister has also met with a hundred Sunni leaders, tribal leaders, working on the issue.
If you're going to be the leader of Iraq, and you're going to deal with sectarian issues, and you're going to deal with militias, you're going to have to do the sort of things that Prime Minister Maliki has been doing. I think it shows that you've got a politician who's realistic about how to proceed.
Q Tony, some of Senator Kerry's people are saying that Senator Kerry was not talking about the soldiers when he made that comment, but, in fact, was talking about the President.
MR. SNOW: We're deporting high school students to get stuck in Iraq?
Q I'm just telling you what Senator Kerry's people are saying, that he was talking about the President, not the soldiers -- that if he had done his homework, we wouldn't be stuck in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Okay. A, he -- I'm sorry. Tell them to try version 2.0.
Q When you were talking to Jim about assurance, the Democrats don't have assurance of victory, that implies you can assure victor in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way. The President is confident of victory. Look, in a time of war -- I love this. Would you have asked, would somebody have said, Lincoln, will you assure victory; Roosevelt, will you assure victory?
Q You just said the Democrats can't assure victory.
MR. SNOW: No, what I'm saying is the Democrats -- by saying that their primary mission is to withdraw from Iraq without an assurance of victory means that you set in place conditions that could create absolute chaos in the region and around the world. The President is determined, knowing the quality and the courage and the ingenuity and the ability of American forces working with the Iraqis, who become more capable with each passing day, that they're going to get the job done. He knows it's going to be tough. But on the other hand, the way you win is you stay determined and steadfast to the goal. And at the same time, as we've been through many times in recent weeks, you remain nimble about the changing conditions on the battlefield.
Q Well, we've also been through many times that the assurances from the administration at the very beginning of the war were that it would be -- we'd be greeted as liberators in Iraq, that it would be almost a cake walk, and that didn't turn out to be true. Isn't that why people have questions about your assurances now? You're assurances at the beginning of the war have not come true.
MR. SNOW: Let me make the point again. If you leave without victory, you create conditions for defeat. If you stay and you're determined to win -- I'll let you ask the question. Have some of your guys in Baghdad ask our forces, do you think you're going to be able to finish the job? My guess is their answer is going to be, yes. And beyond that, we're engaging in chin pulling that's going to get us chasing around a tree for the rest of the --
Q -- Democrats like Murtha have said they feel -- actually, they praise the soldiers and say that they've done their job, but that the rest of it in terms of the strife among Iraqis can't --
MR. SNOW: Again, I've asked you to ask the soldiers what their view is. A lot of these people have re-upped two and three times because they think they're involved in something special. And I dare say CNN gets the kind of mail that we get, which are a lot of people frustrated because their side doesn't get told. We get pictures of people getting killed, but we don't get pictures of people doing their jobs.
END 11:29 A.M. EST