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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 1, 2006

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room

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12:08 P.M. EST

MR. SNOW: Hello. I am available for questions. Let's go to questions.

Q Is the President going to keep mentioning Kerry in future campaign speeches?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I mean, the President is going to talk about a lot of things. He may talk about Senator Kerry, but more importantly, what the President is going to talk about is the importance, as people get ready to make decisions on Election Day, about the difference between the two parties -- and I've mentioned this a number of times.

When it comes to fighting the war on terror, Iraq in particular, but elsewhere, you've got two different approaches. The President has been taking on the practical business of fighting a war on terror in such a way as to put together the political, economic, and security pieces in Iraq, and also creating the possibility of liberty, freedom and democracy in the region, which is ultimately going to crush out terrorism.

On the other hand, Democrats made a deliberate decision; they simply weren't going to make constructive comments in this election cycle about it and, instead, were going to stand on the sidelines and jeer at the President and call him names. That's an important difference and distinction between the two parties because, as people ask the question, who is serious about this, there's going to be a pretty telling contrast.

Q Can I just follow on that? Do you feel that Senator Kerry offered a sufficient explanation and apology in his appearance this morning?

MR. SNOW: You're talking about the Imus appearance? Two words, really -- two words were sufficient to convey an apology: I'm sorry. And he hasn't -- I think Senator Kerry is -- I think he's insistent on pointing fingers at the President, or whatever, rather than simply saying -- look, it's real simple; you and I and everybody in this room have said things that we didn't intend to say, and when it offends people, you say, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say it, I'm wrong. And he hasn't done that. All he has to do -- it's really easy -- say, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend the troops. But instead there's always, I'm not going to apologize for going after the President. Fine. But there are troops out there who are clearly unhappy.

You've seen it today. You've got a number of Democrats who are stepping up, saying, he needs to apologize. So don't take it from me, take it from members of his own party.

Q Does the President actually believe that Senator Kerry intended to criticize the troops?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. Intention or not, as you've seen it, when you say things publicly, you've got to answer for them. I've had to do it; you guys were pouncing on the Vice President last week over something. Senator Kerry's words were pretty straightforward, and if you listen to the tone of voice in which he said them, it's hard to construe them as a joke. He didn't sound like he was trying to make funnies. But again, look, this is simple. There was an insult delivered to troops, whether it was intended or not, and the way you clean the slate is say, I didn't mean to say it, I'm sorry.

Q But there's been a lot of dissection of this, including by you, frankly, yesterday, who described this as a pattern. So it seems to me that it's important as to whether the President believes that he actually meant to malign the troops -- because, as you've heard, Senator Kerry said he didn't mean to and he claims the President knows he didn't mean to.

MR. SNOW: You know, I don't think it really matters what the President thinks Senator Kerry intended to say. What matters is what Senator Kerry needs to say for members of his own party, to the American Legion, to AMVETS, to a number of other organizations who have come out and simply said, you need to apologize for what you said. It's not hard: I'm sorry. I mean this is helpful advice: Just say, I'm sorry, I messed up, please forgive me.

Q Tony, last week the Vice President -- when we went after the Vice President on exactly what he said, nobody said, I didn't mean to say that. The Vice President didn't say that.

MR. SNOW: No, but you said, what did you mean to say; why did you say it? And, again --

Q Haven't had a clarification on it.

MR. SNOW: You did. The Vice President actually talked with reporters about it.

Q Let me ask you this, though, because in reading the transcript, it's pretty clear Senator Kerry was in the middle of going after the President when he said this. Do you agree with that?

MR. SNOW: No, I don't, because if you look at it -- look, he had the warm-up period where apparently he was trying to tell jokes. And then he said, let's talk about education -- and you have the transition. Now, usually when somebody says, let's talk about education, that doesn't mean that he's ready to fire off the rib-ticklers. It means that it's time to start talking about a serious topic. And if you listen -- Jim, have you looked at the tape?

Q Sure.

MR. SNOW: I mean, does it look like he's trying to tell a joke?

Q -- obviously, it's a nebulous thing to figure out. You can read the transcript, which he obviously dropped what it looked like in the prepared remarks should have been, "Just ask President Bush," assuming these are correct, the prepared remarks. But he was saying, the President lives in a state of denial. And then he goes to another one where -- that he obviously botched. My question is, is there a difference in your mind -- because the AMVETS and the American Legion, everybody who is calling for Senator Kerry to apologize, would be, if, indeed, he maligned the troops. If he was just going after the President, that's a different story.

MR. SNOW: Okay, real simple question. Do the following words malign the troops? "You know, education if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make the effort to be smart, you can do well, and if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." Those are the words. That's not the intention. We're sitting here trying to do mind-reading. We're not playing the "what if" game. Do those words insult the troops? Apparently, troops believe so.

And again, how hard is this? You say something, it's not what you meant to say, you apologize. You say, I'm sorry. And instead, he's coming out and accusing Republicans of dirty tricks. This is helpful advice. We're trying to help you out. We're throwing you a lifeline, buddy. Just say you're sorry. It's not hard. (Laughter.)

Q Lifesaver Tony Snow.

Q One follow on that --

Q We believe that.

Q Have you thought about --

MR. SNOW: Compassionate conservative. (Laughter.)

Q Have you thought about sending Senator Kerry a gift basket? (Laughter.)

Q Tony, a Kerry spokesman put out the prepared text as apparently he was supposed to say it. He also put out -- or they also put out a quote that said -- about Kerry not choosing to go on the campaign trail for a number of stops, saying, "We made a decision not to allow the Republican hate machine to use Democratic candidates as proxies in their distorted spin war."

MR. SNOW: Yes, look, they're committing acts of hate and accusing us of being hateful. I'm not trying to be hateful to John Kerry. I like John Kerry. When I was at FOX and at "FOX News Sunday," we had a perfectly cordial relationship. I keep saying, this should not be hard. Everybody in public life has had an occasion where they've said something they wish they could take back. So what you do, is you simply apologize. And instead what this -- it's sort of emblematic of the approach that's been taken in this election, which is, well, we won't deal with the substance, we will call Republicans names.

We didn't say it, we didn't arrange the press conference, we didn't tell him to call Imus. I mean, all these are things that Senator Kerry decided to do. And it seems to me -- I don't know how much simpler this can be. This is one of these things that happens.

Q What impact do you think it will have on the election in six days? And what are you telling Republican candidates to do with it?

MR. SNOW: I'm not telling Republican candidates anything, as far as what to do with it. You have heard me talk in recent days about how important it is to get people to focus on substantive issues. And again, it's striking that in the war on terror -- winning the war on terror, Democrats have decided they're not going to tell you what their plan is. It's the most important issue; why not tell you what the plan is? There are clear differences when it comes to dealing with the economy. Those are things that people are going to care about. I don't know what impact this is going to have. I'll leave that to pollsters and others who are making prognostications.

Q Would you call this an unnecessary distraction from talking about the issues?

MR. SNOW: I'd call it -- look, I don't know. You're asking the questions. You decide -- you ask me whether you think it is. I mean, it's -- look, it's one of those issues that I think in some ways -- the troops need to understand not only do we support them, but most of the people who are on the battlefront today volunteered for service knowing what they were getting into, and knowing what the cause was. You can't say, I support the troops, but I hate the cause, because that's why they signed up. And you've got men and women who are risking their lives for what they consider a noble cause, which is not only defeating al Qaeda and defeating terrorists abroad, but also creating conditions that are going to allow people in that part of the world to brush aside terror as an unnecessary distraction to building a better life through free and democratic society.

Q Last thing. Following on Jim's question, do you think that the President believes that Senator Kerry was somehow minimizing troop sacrifice in Iraq by this statement?

MR. SNOW: Again, I think Senator Kerry's statement is what it is. I haven't heard the President try to characterize it that way, and I don't think he would. Again, this was a statement that seemed to talk about the nature of the troops: "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." I mean it's -- I mean the statement is what it is. I don't think it's necessary to try to expand it.

Jessica.

Q Tony, two questions. First, we haven't heard Rush Limbaugh apologize directly to Michael J. Fox, but the President has accepted his apology. Why is that acceptable and John Kerry's comments today --

MR. SNOW: A couple of things: Number one, Rush Limbaugh is not the head of a political party, nor was he a former presidential nominee. The second thing he said, if I got it wrong, I apologize. That's what he said, so he's saying that if the facts were wrong --

Q And John Kerry has said, I botched the joke, which is, I got it wrong.

MR. SNOW: Okay. But you know what? If you're a troop in Iraq, if you're somebody serving in Iraq, and you've heard this, do you really think, oh, he botched the joke? Why don't you just say, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, guys. I'm sorry.

Q The President sat for an interview with Rush Limbaugh today. Why hasn't he called on Rush Limbaugh to make that same kind of apology to people who have Parkinson's disease?

MR. SNOW: Because, again, he's made the -- Rush Limbaugh has made his comments -- I love the diversion, but we're talking about -- there is a difference between -- okay, the apology came. Rush has said, if I got it wrong, I apologize. So he's asking -- he's saying if he got the statement of the facts wrong, he apologizes.

My question is, why hasn't Senator Kerry just said I'm sorry? I mean that, to me, seems to be a much simpler and more direct question that has to do -- and furthermore, why won't anybody on your team simply say, okay, we've got to win, here's how we plan to win? Just give a plan.

Q May I ask you about a plan to win then?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q There is a report in today's New York Times that Central Command had drawn up an analysis showing that the U.S. and Iraq is one step closer to chaos -- the situation in Iraq is one step closer to chaos. This was drawn up before the President said in his last press conference, "We are absolutely winning." Was the President aware of this report saying Iraq is closer to chaos before he told the nation we're winning?

MR. SNOW: I don't think he was, but you know, what you're probably not aware of is that these are done regularly, and that was a snapshot taken at the height of the Ramadan violence. If you got the same report last week, you would have found out that national sectarian incidents from the 21st to the 27th dropped 23 percent; casualties nationwide dropped 23 percent; incidents of sectarian violence in Baghdad dropped 23 percent; sectarian killings in Baghdad dropped 41 percent. You had a snapshot at a single point when it was violent.

What the President understands is that in a war on terror where we have not lost a single combat engagement, he's made the point, the only way we'll lose is if we give up, if we walk out before the job's done. He's got confidence in the troops. He's also got confidence in the fact that the Iraqi people, out of their own self-interest, know that they have to tamp down sectarian violence, and they got to go after al Qaeda, which is busy trying to foment the sectarian violence because they understand that if you get a failed state in Iraq, they have a launch pad.

Q But just to be clear; what the commanders on the ground tell the President, "in the large picture, we are stepping closer to chaos," he believes that can also be a picture of winning?

MR. SNOW: Yes, because -- you know what the President understands -- do you understand, Jessica --

Q "Closer to chaos" is the same as winning?

MR. SNOW: No, because what you have just done is you've attached your interpretation to a single chart. It doesn't say devolving into chaos. And furthermore, I've just told you, since then, you've had a pretty dramatic reversal. Does this mean that now that you've had national sectarian incidents, casualty from sectarian violence, incidents of sectarian violence in Baghdad all down 23 percent, and the deaths and casualties down 41 percent, that you do a victory lap? No. It's a war, Jessica, and sometimes things get worse, and what you do is you adjust to make sure that you win.

Q Tony, you may just want to correct one thing. You say that John Kerry is the head of a political party; that's obviously wrong.

MR. SNOW: Well, he was the titular head. That's right. Howard Dean is the head of the party.

Q -- because he doesn't head anything anymore.

MR. SNOW: That's true; you're right. Howard Dean is. I stand corrected.

Q Isn't the administration and the Republicans trying to exploit this Kerry flap to turn the focus away from the handling of the war in Iraq, which does not reflect necessarily well on the Republicans, and towards the President's insistence that the Democrats can't be trusted with national security?

MR. SNOW: No, actually, the people who have been diverting attention on this is John Kerry. Again, John Kerry called the press conference yesterday. It was colorful, it was kind of cool. You know, he calls it; he calls Imus today. I mean we're not the ones who've been fanning the flames on this.

Q The President just hammered this home standing at a rally in Georgia.

MR. SNOW: The President made a comment about it. But the idea -- I think that you will have to concede that the great passion and temper on this has been coming from the Kerry camp and not the President's camp.

As for the war on terror, as I've told you before -- as I've told you before, we're not only happy to talk about what's going on in the war on terror, we're also happy to talk about what's not going on. You see, the President understands the fight. You've got a military component. You've got to do that. When the President proposed the Patriot Act, which, among other things, allows local police departments to know on the basis of intelligence gathered abroad that there's a terror cell in your neighborhood, the President proposed that. Democrats voted against the act.

When it came to the Terrorist Surveillance Program, pretty simple -- you got a terror cell here in the United States talking to their terror masters abroad, and we wanted to find out what they were talking about -- the majority of Democrats say, we don't like the idea. When it came to a program that would take the worst terror masters off the battlefield, put them in confinement, question them -- detain them, question them, bring them to trial, a majority of Democrats voted against it.

So the question is, okay, you're against all those things; many of you did not vote to finance the war -- before you were against, and all that -- then the question is, what are you for? How do you intend to win this thing if you don't want to be listening to terrorists, if you don't want to be detaining them, if you don't want the Patriot Act? What on earth do you want to do? And that ought to be a central question in this debate: What's your plan. And when it comes --

Q Instead, you and other Republicans are gleefully jumping on these comments by Senator Kerry.

MR. SNOW: I did not bring Senator Kerry up once in any of these briefings; you did.

Q Tony, but the Vice President -- you just released a short time ago excerpts of what he's going to say six or seven hours from now, and he's going to jump on John Kerry.

MR. SNOW: I haven't -- I actually haven't read his comments. You can read them out or show them to me. I haven't read them yet.

Q But basically, when you cited the Vice President before as an example, what he said last week about a dunk in the water, some human rights groups interpret that to mean, the Vice President -- they interpret it that the Vice President was condoning water boarding and that he was condoning torture. The Vice President came out, spoke to reporters, and said, that's absolutely not what I meant. He never apologized to anyone if they took it wrong, or anything like that. And you basically said, look, people took it the wrong way, he did not condone that. John Kerry is now saying, that's not what I meant. Why won't you take him at his word, like you wanted the Vice President --

MR. SNOW: I'll tell you what I did, is I actually took the Vice President at his word and recited it verbatim. The question you've got to ask is, why are you trying to explain it away rather than ask the simple question?

Q I'm not trying to explain it away.

MR. SNOW: Well, it's --

Q You cited the example of the Vice President, and said, "last week you all jumped on him."

MR. SNOW: What did I do? I read the Vice President's exact words. And I'm reading -- look, Harold Ford has come out today and said, please -- I don't think he said, please -- but he said --

Q The Vice President's own words were -- he was asked a question about a dunk in the water, is that okay --

MR. SNOW: Then he said it's a no-brainer. And then he's explained that, and I read back the words precisely. So I've read back the words. Why doesn't Senator Kerry, rather than saying, I meant to put in the word, "us" -- and you try to put in "us" here, left out the word "us" -- and if you don't -- if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq. Where does "us" fit in? You don't "us" get stuck? I don't understand. It just -- it doesn't scan here.

Q We're not here to explain his words. But you were saying the Vice President --

MR. SNOW: It's up to him to explain his words. And so what they've done now is said, he didn't say what he meant to say. Fine. Then just get out and say, I messed

-- not merely that I botched a line, follow it up, because apparently a lot of people are pretty ticked off about this, Ed. And what they say is, it came across as an insult to us, and the way you deal with it when you make an insult, just say you're sorry.

Q Another subject, today you put out a pretty tough statement about the Sinioran government, saying that Syria needs to watch it, essentially. How concerned are you that there is an effort to topple the Sinioran government, the democracy there?

MR. SNOW: We think it's important -- let me put it this way -- we are committed to the success and the stability of the Siniora government and we want to make it clear to everybody in the region that that's a priority. The President talks often about the importance of a young democracy in the region -- young democracies. Lebanon is clearly one, Iraq is another that we're absolutely committed to, because we understand, again, the power of an example is something that everybody in that region is looking for. And if you have the example of a stable democracy that's able to fend off terror -- in the case of Lebanon, from Hezbollah -- then you have an opportunity to create an entirely different set of circumstances in the Middle East, all of which are going to be good for us.

Q We're interested in the good parts of democracy, but why did you put out the statement? Are you concerned there have been reports about arms smuggling and whatnot?

MR. SNOW: Well, let me just say --

Q Are you concerned about it being toppled?

MR. SNOW: No, we're just -- we're making it clear to everybody in the region that we think that it ought to be hands off the Siniora government. Let them go about and do their business.

Q Tony, two questions. First, you say that you want to see Democrats offer -- engage in a more substantive way on Iraq.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q And yet when Democrats do that, their ideas are either rejected out of hand, as was the case with Biden's idea of partitioning Iraq, or in the case of Murtha, he had Republican members of Congress effectively accuse him of being a coward and say that the idea doesn't reflect reality. So when you have substantive proposals, redeploying troops is a substantive proposal, partitioning the country is substantive.

MR. SNOW: Okay, well, let me put it this way --

Q Why not engage? Why dismiss it out of hand?

MR. SNOW: No, we didn't dismiss it out of hand. When it came to Jack Murtha, when we talked about what they called phased redeployment, we made the point that if you leave in Iraq without reference to the conditions on the ground, that's the same as walking away from the fight and leaving a vacuum that could be very dangerous. That's a serious argument. And when he said that his phased redeployment would be to Okinawa, we pointed out that that puts ships at a very great distance away from the action. So the point here is that we did take them seriously.

When it came to Senator Biden talking about partitioning -- I gave you the reasons for that. This was not dismissed out of hand.

Q -- dismissed it as a non-starter. How is that --

MR. SNOW: But then -- were you here when I also talked about the reasons why it would be a non-starter? Okay, so that was a substantive response. And look, Joe Biden is a guy that I consider a serious guy. So the answer is, we haven't dismissed them out of hand, but that, to me, also does not seem to answer the question -- and here's the thing, I've been pretty precise about it -- what's your strategy for winning? What's your strategy for victory? And neither of those are addressed by the proposals you just mentioned.

Q Arguably, partitioning Iraq so that parts of the country can stabilize and govern themselves is a strategy.

MR. SNOW: How do you have -- but as I've pointed out, look, I'll be happy to have the debate, but the fact is the Iraqis -- this is a way of saying to the Iraqis, you know that constitution you just did, we're not going to pay attention to it. What it shows is disrespect for the Iraqi people who have selected a constitution, who have elected a government, who have identified themselves as Iraqi citizens, who are embarked upon programs of national reconciliation -- the Prime Minister, you've heard me say, has been very active on this -- of security and economics. In other words, it's a way of saying to them, sorry, we're going to dismiss your efforts.

We believe that the best way to preserve that democracy is to give it the ability to stand up, and at the same time, provide conditions both in terms of reconciliation and economic opportunities that are going to give people a reason to buy in vigorously to the success of the country. So it seems to me that we have responded, and we've tried to be thoughtful in responding to these things. But again, ask yourself, is that a formula for victory, or not? And I don't see that as a formula for victory.

Q Can I follow up --

I'll get back to the front row. I've promised to move things around. Okay, Connie and then David. Go ahead.

Q Tony, thanks. You haven't said much about Israel and the Palestinians lately. Have you given up on any Palestinian state in the foreseeable future? And is the U.S. still giving humanitarian aid to the Palestinians?

MR. SNOW: I'll double-check. I think we still are. But, no, we're committed to a Palestinian state. We think that it's absolutely essential that you have democratic states -- Palestinian and Israel -- standing side by side.

But on the other hand, you still have the fundamental preconditions for that Palestinian state, which is that you have to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, you have to renounce terror, and you have to abide by prior treaty obligations. We continue hoping that Prime Minister Abbas -- or President Abbas is going to be able to have a government organized that will be able to pursue those goals. And we've also noted, the President has noted that at a time -- it was kind of curious where they seemed to be getting closer to working out something with the Olmert government, you had the kidnapping of two different Israel soldiers, one in Gaza and one in Lebanon. So those are sources of concern, but we remain committed to those goals.

Q And on Lebanon, the Hezbollah leader said that there are some U.N.-mediated talks underway possibly to free the two Israeli soldiers. Is the U.S. involved in this at all?

MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of, but I don't know.

Q I want to take you back to your Lebanon statement here. You said that there was mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments and Hezbollah and their allies are trying to topple the government. But the rest of the statement doesn't describe what that evidence is. The only thing it goes on to describe is an effort to stop formal approval of the statute on the international tribunal, which is quite different than toppling a government.

MR. SNOW: That is correct. And, David, as somebody who at least I think spends a fair amount of time talking to people who handle classified information, you will understand why we do not necessarily go into greater detail about those. It serves a diplomatic purpose, and an important one.

Q I can understand that, but at the same time, you're making a fairly serious charge that two governments are seeking to overturn the government of a neighbor. And it would seem to me that that would require at least some characterization of the evidence in declassified form. Could you tell us any more about it?

MR. SNOW: No, but thanks for the advice. We'll pass it on.

Paula.

Q I have a question on higher education funds --

MR. SNOW: Can I --

Q No, this is related to your brouhaha. Please.

MR. SNOW: Okay, I just -- okay, please, go ahead.

Q Isn't the actual issue here that higher education, access to higher education is really becoming more and more unreachable for the middle- and low-income students, and because of that -- because of that, many of them feel they have no other way of getting an education, job training, access to college, unless the state -- unless they go into the military?

MR. SNOW: No. What you've just said is, if you've got -- if you're poor and you can't get an education, go into the military. The military has always been certainly a ladder of opportunity. But if you take a look at the data, you find out that more of the people who already have college degrees are joining the military. So what you've conflated here is a fact -- the price of -- the cost of higher education, and the President is concerned about it, he's made no bones about that. But, no, it's not the high cost of college that's driving people into the military. You know what it is? It's a sense of calling. They feel that they're -- yes. Believe it or not. They may disagree with you on --

Q Follow up, please.

MR. SNOW: Yes, please.

Q The College Board put out a study last week, and in that study it said that the cost -- the rising cost of tuition is making it virtually impossible for many low- and middle-income students to either start college, or if they're enrolled in college, they either can't go four years, they opt for two years, or they just can't go. Now, this whole issue about -- making an effort to be smart -- isn't this really the issue of, if you're not smart enough to get a merit scholarship, and you can't afford to go to college like your wealthier counterparts, then what other option do you have for education?

MR. SNOW: Paula, number one, you don't want to get yourself into the business of trying to interpret this, because Senator Kerry --

Q You are.

MR. SNOW: No. No, as a matter of fact, I'm saying, here's what Senator Kerry said, he's got to explain it. I don't think he was making a comment about his desire for more Pell grants. So -- I mean, these are important issues. The President has increased Pell grant funding. He believes in this stuff, and he thinks it's important for everybody to have access to education.

David.

Q I just want to go back to this, because you made two separate charges in this briefing. One is that Democrats don't have a plan for Iraq. And then you said a moment ago that they don't have a plan for victory. So if the standard is a plan for victory, nearly every public measurement of -- every measurement of public opinion in this country indicates that the public doesn't believe the President has a plan for victory. And the reality is that whether it's partition, whether it's phased troop withdrawal, or troop withdrawal begins by the end of this year, this is an either strategic or tactical suggestion, based on how you define it so we don't have to define it here -- but it's about salvaging the policy. So, what I'm getting at is, how can you have it both ways?

MR. SNOW: I'm not trying to have it both ways --

Q Well, you say that's not a plan, but clearly it is a plan insofar as it is a suggestion about how you change it either tactically or strategically.

MR. SNOW: Well, no. When you're doing strategic or tactical changes you do it based on realities on the ground, not on a desire to go. And the signal difference is, when you're talking about phased redeployment, that makes no reference to conditions on the battlefield, and no reference to what's going on.

The President has been absolutely clear: You don't do that. You don't walk away from people that you've been working with. The other thing is that we have seen -- and it's a little glimmer, but it's something worth taking note of, which is we have been training up thousands and thousands of Iraqi troops; they are now fully in control of two provinces, others to come shortly; 13 of the 18 provinces generally peaceful and doing well. But we also understand especially the concentration of violence around Baghdad. What have you seen there? You've seen the Prime Minister being far more assertive about the need to go after them. When he was in the secure video conference last week with the President he was talking about the need to be able to hit quickly and precisely, with the best possible intelligence, for the people who are -- going on.

Now, this is what we want, ultimately. The purpose of this war is not for the United States to win it, but for Iraq to win it. And we are continuing to train, we're continuing to work with them on economic solutions, we're continuing to work with them on the business of getting the international community to get in -- that's the Iraq compact. We've also been working with them on the business of political reconciliation. All of those are important pieces, and we're doing everything we can to help them out. But again, the stark difference is -- if you're talking about phased redeployment, it means we're trying to get out. It looks like you're trying to save face rather than finish the job.

Q But in point of fact, one of the leading Democratic proposals relies upon measurements of political progress on the ground, which, incidentally, is very close to what this administration's policy is, which is benchmarks by the Maliki government. So where's the difference?

MR. SNOW: Well, what's interesting -- you're talking about the most recent Biden proposal that was in a couple of weeks ago? Yes, I mean, on that one, he actually -- he sort of agrees with us on everything but whether to break it into pieces. And it was interesting because in many ways it's an affirmation of the approach the President is taking.

Q So do you stand by the idea that they don't have a plan? Do you think that's a fair or really substantive charge?

MR. SNOW: Yes. Ask yourself, is there a substantive Democratic plan for dealing with these things. That is, the Democratic leaders have said, this is our position. This is what we'll do. And you found sort of scattered suggestions, but you don't have any cohesive policy when it comes to dealing with Iraq.

Goyal.

Q A question on the President's global war on terrorism. After General Musharraf was at the White House -- lectured from the President that he has to do more --

MR. SNOW: He got lectured, is that what you said? No. The President doesn't engage in lectures. They had a conversation. Go ahead.

Q -- but back in Pakistan he ordered -- to go after madrassa. And what he said, that it was based on U.S. intelligence. Now they are thousands of people in the streets of Pakistan and they are chanting anti-American slogans. Is the President satisfied what General Musharraf has done, and now the President concerned about --

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way -- and I took this up yesterday. There was a strike, and it was intended to go after al Qaeda, and the Pakistani government did it on the basis of intelligence that it had gathered, and we support them in this.

The other thing you got to understand is that a tactic of the Taliban, or al Qaeda, or people on both sides of that border who are trying to commit acts of terror, are going to do everything the can to create carnage and kill civilians. We know that. We've seen that in the last couple of weeks in Afghanistan, as well. We understand it. It makes it tough. And President Musharraf is showing determination, and it is in a situation that certainly has its political perils, and it requires courage and determination on his part.

Q Just to go back to the Kerry thing. The President said in Georgia that -- he said, "The members of the United States military are plenty smart." That was after Kerry said he wasn't talking about the United States military in his remarks. Doesn't that have to mean that the President believes that Kerry is lying when he --

MR. SNOW: No, he was referring to Senator Kerry's statement. Again, Senator Kerry --

Q But he has to be interpreting it in a way that Kerry has clearly said he did not mean it -- he has to be saying that Kerry is lying.

MR. SNOW: What Senator Kerry said is, I believe, that he forgot a word. Then you try to put the word in, and it doesn't work. And then he said, no, I really meant to insult the Commander-in-Chief in a time of war. That's probably not an argument he wants to make either in terms of support for the troops. But the President is referring to what he said and what Senator Kerry, when it came out, said, I apologize to no one for it. Now, it seems to me that all he has to do is take back the statement.

Q It just seems very clear. The Vice President, in his prepared remarks, said that Cheney {sic} took a swipe at the U.S. military.

MR. SNOW: You mean Senator Kerry.

Q Kerry, that Kerry took a swipe. He clearly has said that. I mean both of them must be thinking that he's lying, basically calling him a liar by --

MR. SNOW: No. I think, look, Senator Kerry, as I pointed out yesterday -- look, Senator Kerry's problems are with fellow Democrats and servicemen and women. That's who his problems are with. And it's a pretty easy matter to remedy. In 1971 -- now, Senator Kerry served with valor. I mean you get a Silver Star, that's important. But then he came back, and he accused some of his fellow Vietnam vets of committing atrocities. Last year, he was talking about U.S. forces going after children in -- let me see if I can find the precise quote here. Let's see. I don't have it with me. I read it out yesterday. But he was talking -- oh, here is what he said. He said that they were terrorizing kids and children in Iraq. You know, I mean there are -- servicemen and women just want him to say, look, you got me wrong; I'm one of you, I served, I did my time, I got a Silver Star, forgive me for saying what's wrong.

Q Two questions on Iraq. Is the decision about whether to possibly add 100,000 Iraqi troops to the rolls over there gone to the President's level? If so or not, what does he -- how important does he think that is?

MR. SNOW: Well, we think it's important to get sufficient troops on the ground in Iraq. I don't know if we've got a magical number, but that certainly seems within the ballpark, and it may even be higher. The real key is to continue to create professional, capable Iraqi forces that are going to be able to deal with the military issues. And as I've talked before, Craig, also you've got the affiliated challenge, or the related challenge of training a police who are equally professional.

Q Are you saying it could be higher --

MR. SNOW: I don't know. That's a question for General Casey, and also for the Iraqi government.

Q Second question is, how much does Maliki's decision to take down some of these checkpoints raise the question of whether he is, or is not, cracking down on these sectarian militias -- that are really the major problem?

MR. SNOW: And they continue to be. What happened is -- and this is one thing that I'm afraid we didn't explain as we should have -- the Prime Minister, Zal Khalilzad and General Casey all agreed that they were going to take down some of the checkpoints. There was a real concern that for a lot of Iraqis trying to get to work, they had to wait two or three hours just to get through a checkpoint, and it was becoming a real problem for a lot of people. And so it created avenues for people to get in and out and get to work.

Now, as for dealing with specific terror areas -- and also Prime Minister Maliki has said that he believes that only about 5 percent of those in Sadr City are supportive of and/or are responsible for violence. So what you have to do is you have to go after them. We're continuing to go after them. So there is no slackening of the desire to go after the people who are creating violence. But also there's a pretty keen understanding that in a city of 4 million, you got to make it possible for people to get to work.

Q Does that mean Casey and Khalilzad agreed with the decision?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q And do you agree with the 5 percent number?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I will defer to Prime Minister Maliki who lives in Baghdad.

Q Tony, I have two. The first one is, what is the status of the kidnapped American soldier?

MR. SNOW: We are still looking for him.

Q And the second one is, on the Kerry thing, in the event that he apologizes, will the President give the command as head of the Republican Party for the attack dogs to be called off?

MR. SNOW: I think Harold Ford will stop without a directive from the President.

Q What about the Republican attack dogs?

MR. SNOW: It's interesting, "attack dogs" is kind of a loaded term, Victoria. I think what you might want to say is, will people accept his apology. Let's see what happens.

Q What do you think? Do you think Republicans will accept his apology?

MR. SNOW: You know what, let's see -- first, ask if I -- he has to apologize. You know, we always play the hypothetical game, but let me put it this way -- people are pretty forgiving when somebody says, I messed up and I'm sorry.

Q Tony, in the days leading up this election, many people are likening it to a football game: the pressure is on and both sides are cracking. Last week, the Vice President; this week, you have Kerry. What are the stakes?

MR. SNOW: Look, the stakes are a couple of things. How you approach the economy is clearly one of them; what do you think you ought to do to keep the economy growing; how do you approach the war on terror? Democrats have, as a matter of policy, been trying to resist what the President does. You know, I went through the Patriot Act, the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the detainee act. Those are all important matters, and it's going to be interesting -- look, you know, what we hope happens after this is that tempers cool and people will realize that the problems we face are not going to go away. You're not going to wish them away. You're going to have to deal with them practically and we're going to have to deal with them together.

Q Tony, let's talk beyond dealing together. Let's talk about the stakes for the Republican Party. How tight is it for the Republican Party leading into it?

MR. SNOW: How tight is it? Look, this is a close election. It's why everybody is busily engaged in doing everything we can to support Republican candidates. No question about that. And I think Democrats will tell you the same thing. It is a tight election, and it's one that we think is important because the President does need people who are going to support him as he does a number of things, whether it be on the economy, on the war on terror, on judges, on education, on energy. This is a President who's been an activist President on the domestic side. He's been taking on things that people want addressed and we intend to do that straight through to the last day of this administration. But it certainly would be better to have more friends that foes on Capitol Hill.

Q Will cool heads prevail in the days leading up to -- cool heads prevail, no more controversies, you think?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't make them up, I just deal with them.

Q Tony, quick question.

MR. SNOW: Speaking of controversy, what are you going to throw at me? (Laughter.)

Q The President -- first question: The President has expressed reservations about human egg farming and cloning embryos for research. What is his opinion of the Missouri plan to allow these procedures through a state constitutional amendment?

MR. SNOW: What the President has said is that he does not believe that federal money ought to be used for embryonic stem cell research that requires the destruction of the human life. He also understands that there is considerable debate about this, and he has not stood in the way of people who want to do private investment. And there are a number of states that are doing investment in it, as well.

It's worth pointing out, once again, that in the areas that have shown by far the most promise and actually have demonstrated the ability to deal with degenerative conditions -- and that would be adult blood cord stem cells. We continue to have a vigorous funding program and will continue to because the President, like everybody else, wants to figure out if there's some way to unlock the promise of these -- to deal with awful diseases like Parkinson's and others.

Q Yesterday you told us you would be speaking at the Michael Steele U.S. Senate Campaign in Maryland, which I subsequently learned is scheduled tonight at 6 p.m., "somewhere in Potomac," with no address available because it is barred to media, this in the last week of the campaign. And my question: Why are you, as a wonderfully available and receptive presidential press secretary, participating in this censored-from-all-media event in one of the 13 original states which voted for freedom of press?

MR. SNOW: You know, remember the statement, Les, a man's home is his castle? Apparently you wish to storm the castle.

Q Can I follow up on that?

MR. SNOW: Yes, go ahead.

Q Just for one second. You are going to be at the Steele fundraiser tonight, and apparently it is closed to the press because of the campaign's decision and the people at the house. But if you could tell us, then, what message do you bring to people like that --

MR. SNOW: Oh sure.

Q -- people at these fundraisers? And also, will you talk about John Kerry tonight?

MR. SNOW: Not unless I'm asked. I mean, what I intend to do -- you've seen it, you've seen plenty of tapes of these -- is that I give a positive message about what the President is doing and what it promises for a better America. And that's what I continue to do.

I am not going to be inserting any comments about Senator Kerry. I think it's -- look, I think it's absolutely important in motivating people. You've got plenty of folks who can tell you the negative consequences; let's talk about the positive consequences. And that seems to me, quite often, to be a more powerful incentive to become active in politics and to feel good about it.

So you've seen the speeches -- a lot of them have been televised -- and it's pretty much the same thing, and it's going to be the same thing that I've been delivering around the country. Yes, there will be a couple of modifications because Mike is an old friend of mine, and I think very highly of him, and I certainly will lend my warm personal regards to him, as well.

Q Can't we hear --

MR. SNOW: No. It's a closed event.

Q Can you touch on what was discussed or accomplished in the meeting between President Bush and Secretary Rice --

MR. SNOW: No. The President -- I think he's probably finished the meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld now. No, as you know, we don't talk about the internal deliberations. And this is a regular meeting with the Secretary of State and the President, and we're not going to read it out.

Q Can you confirm that North Korea came up?

MR. SNOW: No, I can't. I was not in the room.

Okay, thank you.

END 12:50 P.M. EST