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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 19, 2007

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room

12:25 P.M. EDT

MR. SNOW: Hello, all. Three items to open up, and then I'll be happy to take questions.

First, the House is going to be taking up a war supplemental spending bill -- a couple of notes on that. It is a withdraw-the-troops bill, not a fund-the-troops bill. It requires the Iraqi government to meet certain conditions or benchmarks; but even if the benchmarks are met, it would require the withdrawal of U.S. troops and forces without regard to whether we're making progress against the enemy. It would also force failure of the mission in Iraq and forfeit the sacrifices made by our troops.

Now, the responsible thing to do for Congress right now is to send a bill that provides for our troops, gives General Petraeus the funding and flexibility he needs to get the job done, and to remove purely domestic spending items from the package. These should be taken up in the normal appropriations process. Just for a little context, this would include $74 million for peanut storage costs -- there are many more than these, I'm just giving you some highlights -- $283 million for the milk income loss contract program; $500 million for emergency wildfire suppression, even though the Forest Service right now has on hand $831 million for this purpose; $400 million for rural schools; $10 million for the International Boundary and Water Commission -- that's a U.S.-Mexico commission for Rio Grande flood control and rehabilitating the flood control system.

As the bill is presently constituted, the President would have to veto it. Democrats know that. So our view is that we ought to just go ahead and sit down and negotiate a responsible bill now.

On Banco Delta Asia, a note on North Korean Banco Delta Asia. The Treasury action against the bank has now been completed. BDA's days as a front company for illicit activities is over, its time is over. The U.S. achieved its objective of protecting the international financial system against a front for illicit activity. Our action also put on notice other financial institutions around the world that there will be crippling consequences if they facilitate weapons proliferation or other illicit financial activity.

Finally, the President did speak today to Indonesia President -- let me try that again --

Q Yudhoyono.

MR. SNOW: Yudhoyono, thank you -- Indonesia President Yudhoyono. They discussed their mutual hope for a positive ambitious outcome from this week's meeting of the G-33 trade ministers in Jakarta. President Bush and President Yudhoyono also talked about U.N. Security Council efforts, including the current draft resolution designed to address Iran's continued failure to respond to concerns from the international community over Iran's nuclear program. Indonesia, as you may or may not know, is a new non-permanent member of the Security Council.

Questions.

Q You said this morning that you hope that -- the White House hopes that Alberto Gonzales stays as Attorney General. Your comment has been seen as a rather tepid endorsement. Has he --

MR. SNOW: No, I didn't --

Q Has he offered his resignation?

MR. SNOW: No, he hasn't. Let me -- a couple of things. And the President has not spoken to him since he spoke to him in Mexico. What I was trying to do is, you ask a hypothetical question about things that are going to happen over the next two years. None of us knows what's going to happen to us over the next 21 months, and that's why it's an impossible question to answer: Will somebody stay throughout? However, the reason I said, we hope so, is we hope so. He has the confidence of the President. But I do not -- as a pure and simple matter, nobody is prophetic enough to know what the next 21 months hold.

Q And there's backing away from him?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q There's full confidence?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q The President said he needed to go up to the Hill to explain what happened. Has he been able to contain the political damage from this?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. You'll have to ask members of the political classes. I think what's going on right now is that the Department of Justice has said that it will supply materials and also witnesses for House and Senate committees. And they've been very forthcoming. It has been our hope that members are going to behave responsibly. There, I think, have been some attempts to try to draw conclusions, at the same time members also say they don't have evidence. It's important for people to examine the data and to handle it fairly.

Q Tony, the President made it sound like -- last week in Mexico -- that the Attorney General needed to get up to the Hill and make it right, needed to fix it. There seemed to be a great deal of urgency in what the President was saying --

MR. SNOW: Well, Jim, the Department of Justice also has been busy trying to do document production, and frankly, on a lot of that stuff I'll direct you to the Department of Justice for fuller answers. But let me just note that they're going to be producing documents that they think are going to be fully responsive to the requests and needs of people on Capitol Hill. I think you do that as a first step. And, again, they've made a very generous offer, in terms of making people available for the committees.

I think it fits into that general -- what you want to make sure that you do is that you have your materials ready so that rather than sort of searching piecemeal through it, you put everything together and make it possible to have a fruitful discussion.

Q Anything more on White House aides, and whether they're going to be testifying? You said you'd have something.

MR. SNOW: No. Fred Fielding will be going to the Hill tomorrow and he will be speaking with Senator Leahy, Representative Conyers, Republican leaders on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. I think there's been sort of an expectation of brinkmanship, when, in fact, they haven't really had those conversations. So Mr. Fielding offered to meet last week with Senator Leahy, but Senator Leahy was unable to see him. So what Fred Fielding will be doing is going up to the Hill and, in a spirit of cooperation, trying to work with members to come up with a way of getting them the information they need -- as we've said a number of times now -- in a manner consistent with presidential prerogatives.

I'm not going to be able to give you an answer, because that's Fred's to do. And I'm certainly not going to conduct negotiations in advance with members of House and Senate.

Q But off camera this morning you said you'd have something firm at noon. It sounds like you still don't have anything.

MR. SNOW: Well, and that's what I have -- no, because, again, I said --

Q But you said that.

MR. SNOW: And I'm giving you something firm, which is, Fred is going to be going up there and talking.

Q We knew that already. That's not new.

MR. SNOW: Well, I know.

Q We knew that on Friday, that he was going up to the Hill. You, yourself, said at 9:00 a.m., we will have something firm at noon. Where is it?

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm telling you what it is. Well, Fred -- (laughter) -- Ed, Fred, whatever. (Laughter.) Ed's badgering the witness here.

Ed, I think I tried to make clear just a moment ago, these are conversations, these are attempts to talk and work out something reasonable. It is not -- we're not issuing ultimatums. What we are doing is having conversations. And that is precisely what it is.

So, again, I know there's been an expectation of brinkmanship that there's going to be an answer -- but the fact is, there hasn't even been a question. So when you're talking about -- a number of people have made public postures, but we think it is important for both sides to behave responsibly on this and they're going to have conversations.

So in that sense, Fred has been thinking carefully through the positions and he now is satisfied that he's ready to go up and make his presentation. On that sense it's firm. But it's not going to be firm for you, in terms of an answer about particular individuals or particular processes. But it is firm in terms of now having, to the satisfaction of White House legal counsel, worked through some of these complex issues so he's now in a position to speak with members of the House and Senate.

Q It's actually not correct to say that there has not been a question. In fact, there have been letters issued seeking the voluntary testimony of at least three White House officials -- Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, the former counsel, and her deputy, Bill Kelley. So when Fred goes to the Hill tomorrow, having already met with Conyers and Schumer last week, will he come with an offer of what the White House is prepared to do, or is it just more talk?

MR. SNOW: Well, I think having a constructive conversation is not "just more talk." This is an attempt to work through, in a constructive way with members in the House and Senate, ways again to get them the information they need. Again, what I'm suggesting here is that there is -- we want to make sure that people are responsible about trying to get the facts and to draw conclusions based on the facts. And at this time, there have been some attempts, I think, to reach conclusions in advance.

Q But you've got a subpoena vote looming on Thursday in the Senate. And they're waiting to hear back on what the White House's offer is and whether they will voluntarily testify.

MR. SNOW: Again, I think what you're doing is --

Q Is there going to be an answer to that --

MR. SNOW: Well, I will let Fred -- Fred is going to have his conversations with members tomorrow. I'm sure the topic will come up.

Q But --

MR. SNOW: Look guys, you're not going to get an answer on these from me. This is what Fred does.

Q But it seems we're reaching conclusions. Wouldn't it help, if White House aides have nothing to hide, come forward and tell what they knew, when they knew it, and clear the whole thing up? You're putting out documents. Why not make --

MR. SNOW: As I've said before -- first, let's put this in perspective, please. The President does have the authority to hire and fire people who serve at his pleasure -- political appointees. And while we know that there are some questions that people have, the Department of Justice, which conducted the review, has offered to make available all documents and individuals. That seems to me to be a pretty forthcoming offer.

So at this juncture -- and I'm going to let Fred -- I'm not going to get into the position of trying to explain to you or to make predictions or to tell people what's likely to happen, because I think that's best left -- and, again, it's in the spirit of not trying to issue dicta from this podium. Fred is going there to try to have constructive talks.

Q You seem to be trying to insulate the White House. You keep saying the Justice Department is making people available, but White House people have been implicated in these emails, as well. So it's one thing to put up Justice officials. What about the White House?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, the White House made available those emails.

Q What about the officials, I'm asking.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, that's a question that has a lot of complexity to it, Ed. You know that, and that's why I'll leave it in the capable hands of Fred.

Q It's not an offer. He's not going -- necessarily going up there tomorrow with an offer. He's just going up there to have constructive conversation?

MR. SNOW: I'm not telling you -- look, I'm not -- again, I'm letting Fred conduct the conversations, and I'm not in a position to tell you what he's going to be taking.

David.

Q The White House has been clear that politics didn't play a role in the firing of the seven or eight U.S. attorneys. And, yet, Senator Feinstein has highlighted, in the case of Carol Lam in San Diego, an email from Kyle Sampson to the White House Counsel's Office saying, one day after she filed indictments against Republican lawmakers -- this is a paraphrase -- we need to do something about her now. Is that appropriate? Is that not political in appearance?

MR. SNOW: Again, I'm going to let Kyle Sampson refer to that. If you also take a look at emails in your possession, you'll find as early as January 2005, there were expressed concerns about Carol Lam. But having said that, those are issues properly addressed to the Justice Department and to those responsible.

Q Well, but, Tony, if I can just follow, because this is -- it's not good enough to say, well, Justice Department officials will be made available, and so forth. You say, put it in perspective. Part of that perspective is the question of independence, the judicial independence -- Justice Department's independence from the White House. And this is the White House Counsel's Office and political advisor involved in conversations about attorneys. And in this case, a direct communication about, "we need to do something about her now."

MR. SNOW: But, again, you're referring to a Kyle Sampson memo. What I'm telling you is, I'm going to -- Kyle Sampson and others are going to have to answer the question what they meant by that, because I don't know. We don't have the context for it. But what I tell you, the implication in your question is that suddenly she becomes a concern on this date -- which I believe is in, like, May of 2006, something like that. We have documents that, again, have been made public already that have people expressing concern about her in January of 2005. I'm not sure --

Q So no political interference in this particular firing?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: Yes. And by the way, let me also, just one addition -- I apologize, Connie -- there's also been a conversation -- what I think had been announced were plans out of Los Angeles to take a look at something, that may or may not have flowed out of the Duke Cunningham case, but in fact, would not have been, as I understand it, in Carol Lam's province to do the prosecution. Another U.S. attorney would have handled that case.

Q Do you know if any of these dismissed prosecutors were given letters of recommendation from the White House? At least one said he asked for it.

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I do know, again, the email trail indicates that one had asked for one -- not from the White House, but from the Attorney General. I don't know whether they received them or not.

Q What are the marching orders for a Republican-appointed prosecutor or a U.S. attorney?

MR. SNOW: Well, we went through this the other day. The marching orders are pretty simple, which is, do you job, follow the policies and priorities of the department. It is -- when the President thinks about loyalty, he understands that service is an honor and it's one that comes with the responsibilities to the American people. And in the case of U.S. attorneys, it's to maintain -- it's to prosecute violations of the law and, in addition, also make sure that there are certain areas of emphasis within different districts -- you've got 93 districts across the country, they're going to have -- certainly going to have different priorities -- make sure that you're also following the policies and priorities.

It does not mean that those two are necessarily inconsistent. In other words, you're doing a corruption investigation, that certainly doesn't render it impossible for you to do other things that may fit into a different list of priorities in that particular district.

So what we want people to do is to enforce the law vigorously and well, and in keeping with the public interest and public trust.

Q Tony, how do you respond to senators who are asking, since Karl Rove is making speeches on this topic, why can't he come to the Hill and answer questions about it?

MR. SNOW: I understand, and, again, I'm going to leave that to Fred. As you know, Peter, conversations like this involve some fairly complex issues and I think Fred Fielding is the man to be dealing with that, and not me.

Q Why is he using this tactic of sort of preemptively giving his -- explaining his case, laying it out in friendly audiences --

MR. SNOW: I believe Karl was answering a question. This wasn't preemptively, it was answering a question from a student at Troy State University.

Q He doesn't have to answer it.

MR. SNOW: Well, he did.

Q A new USA Today/ABC News poll of Iraqis around the country, where six in 10 people are saying their lives are going badly, only a third saying things will get better next year. What is the administration's reaction to this?

MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, there was also a British poll at the same time that had almost diametrically opposed results. I think -- we understand that there are difficulties in Iraq. We understand also that there have been an enormous number of things that are probably worth recalling on this 4th anniversary -- among other things, the fact that the Iraqis have now held three elections, sometimes under very difficult circumstances. And, furthermore, that an Iraqi democracy is standing up and meeting a lot of the challenges that are facing it.

On the security side, we have a new Baghdad security plan, where the Iraqis have already brought three divisions into Baghdad. They've been working with the coalition forces also to put together, as you know, in each of the nine -- actually, 10 districts within Baghdad, you have a number of offices that are going to be stood up to try to deal with security concerns. About half of those are already up.

Iraqis are now planning and conducting a number of important security operations around the country. We've seen a lot of that, especially in Anbar Province. We have seen in recent weeks some important military action, whether it be on arms caches, bomb-making facilities; rounding up of at least 700 -- more than 700 Shia militants; also Sunni radicals have been rounded up.

You see the Iraqis taking vigorous action on the political front. During the legislative break, the Council of Ministers -- basically the cabinet for Prime Minister Maliki -- went ahead and adopted an oil law that guarantees the equitable distribution of oil revenue around the country. That is now to be taken up by the parliament.

The Prime Minister today, in his conversation with the President, also made it clear that they are determined to move forward on other reforms that are very important in terms of building confidence among the Iraqi people: deBaathification reform, electoral reform, constitutional reform, and the sort. You also have, in addition -- I'm trying to lay this out because there's a lot going on. And we had the Iraq conference last month, where you had 13 nations talking about matters of security. We've had the U.N. Secretary General asking more than 90 nations to participate in the Iraq Compact, which has to do with economic relations.

So there are a lot of things going on. Secretary Gates said yesterday, so far, so good. But we're still at the beginning stages, and it's impossible to provide an absolute, ironclad analysis. We understand that with an enemy determined and nimble, they are going to try, wherever they can, to commit acts of violence that are going to raise doubts.

So you're talking about one political poll -- one poll that's been taken; there is another. What we do understand is that the most important thing for the Iraqi people is the ability to live in freedom, to enjoy peace, and have the promises of prosperity. And those are the aims of U.S. policy.

Q So, Tony, you don't believe that this poll is accurate? It doesn't tell --

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know.

Q But isn't it rather devastating to have these kinds of figures coming from the Iraqi people, themselves, despite the progress you continually cite?

MR. SNOW: Martha, as I said, it's a little difficult to assess how the polls work. I know your network did the poll --

Q But you've done polling, right?

MR. SNOW: -- and I said and another network. You know, there was a British poll with twice the sample that reached a different conclusion.

Q That was some time ago.

MR. SNOW: So the point is, we understand that there are challenges, but --

Q But this is beyond challenges. It's the Iraqi people, themselves, are feeling they don't have security -- and you can go through all those poll numbers -- isn't that devastating, four years into the war?

MR. SNOW: No. No. Devastating? No, what it is, is -- I'll tell you what it indicates is that, again, you have an enemy that tries to use acts of violence to shape public opinion and to try to influence the course of American policy and perhaps even Iraqi perceptions.

But we also understand that the benefit of democracy and also the benefit of having a reasonable expectation that you'll be able to chart your own future, have a job, own property, be able to live in conditions of security -- those are certainly important to Iraqi people and it's one of the reasons why the President said we need to find a better way forward. It was clear that the kind of violence that was going on in Baghdad, in particular, but in other parts of Iraq after the Samarra mosque bombing were simply unacceptable.

You also recall that a little more than a year ago the President thought we would be in a position to be announcing the withdrawal because things seemed to be going well, before the Samarra mosque bombing, and so did Democratic and Republican members of Congress who came back and said the same thing. The fact is that we found -- in 2005, there was a lot of success; in 2006, terrorists fought back; and in 2007, we now have an adjustment on the part of the United States government, on the military sides, but also on a lot of different levels, understanding that the Iraqis want the same thing we want -- and I don't think you have to consult a poll on that -- which is that they want security and peace.

Q When did the President decide he would make the statement this morning? It wasn't on the schedule.

MR. SNOW: I believe over the weekend.

Q So how would you characterize his frame of mind right now?

MR. SNOW: Determined. When it comes to Iraq, you have to be focused, you have to be determined, and at the same time, you have to be realistic about the challenges and make sure that you're getting as clear a view of what's going on, and at the same time, everybody also is trying to respond as quickly as possible to a changing situation -- keeping in mind the much broader framework that Iraq not only is a central front on the war on terror, there are other pieces in the war on terror.

But also one of the lessons we learned in recent months is that you do have to go ahead and do the follow-on operations simultaneously with the cleanup. In other words, while you're holding a neighborhood, you have to be creating economic opportunity -- which is why we've got a lot more money going into provisional reconstruction teams, through the State Department, and the Pentagon is helping in the early stages.

You know that you have to provide not merely peace in the neighborhood, but you've got to provide opportunity. That's one of the lessons we've learned.

So what the President -- I think the President is determined. He understands --

Q Is he optimistic?

MR. SNOW: I don't know if he -- I think "determined" is the proper term to use.

Q I guess what I'm wondering is, it's now been month after month of the President advocating a policy that poll after poll shows is extremely unpopular.

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not -- I'll let you read the polls. But I think -- look, if somebody has a poll that says, do you want Americans out tomorrow? Do you want to be able to come home tomorrow? The answer is, yes. Of course. Everybody wants them to come home tomorrow.

Q It's an unpopular war. We don't have any --

MR. SNOW: Well, all wars are unpopular, Jim.

Q You don't think this war is -- at this point, are we debating about what the American people think about this war?

MR. SNOW: You know, it's interesting because depending on the questions you ask. Again, if you ask a question, do you think it's important to succeed? Yes. People agree with that. Do they think that you ought to seek victory. If you ask, if the alternative is creating a power vacuum that will encourage terrorists and also creating a launching pad for terror, people don't want that.

So, again, a lot of times you can frame questions in different ways. But let's be honest -- people don't like war. But on the other hand, people also don't like terrorists on our shores, they don't like a strengthening capability among members of the international terror network, and the President has to keep all those things in mind. And he does and constantly --

Q But he's as resolute as ever that --

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q -- one day he will be proven correct?

MR. SNOW: Yes, he's resolute in making -- again, let me repeat, and this is one of the reasons why this supplemental debate matters -- if the United States demonstrates focus and resolve and determination, it can win, as the President said. And that's why it's important. It also -- you have to send the message to the terrorists that you're focused, determined, and resolved, and you're determined to win; you have to send it to our allies; you have to send it throughout the region. People really do look at this as a showdown between terror and democracy. And, therefore, it is absolutely vital.

The failure to finish, the failure to provide resources for reinforcements, and also the mission, is the sort of thing that is going to allow terrorists to sit back and wait, and it also is going to undermine confidence in other allies in the region, in the United States, and that's something that we cannot afford.

Q The President talked to General Petraeus this morning.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q The initial surge was 21,500. Now we're almost up to 30,000. Has the General decided whether that's enough U.S. troops?

MR. SNOW: I think the General is -- first, we're sort of mixing apples and oranges. We were talking about 21,500 in terms of combat forces, where you also now have this supplementary forces -- support forces that have been requested. But I think you have to leave it to General Petraeus to try to assess the realities on the ground. That is what we've been saying all along. General Petraeus decided that he needed a little more support after he got there. I can't -- I'll have you direct comments or questions to him.

I think at this point, what you do, again, is the same thing we've been talking about, which is to figure out what resources you need to get the job done. We have had preliminary -- again, the very early indications have been fairly positive. Obviously, you still have opportunities for terrorists to commit acts of violence trying to derail things. But it's very important to continue to work the mission. And General Petraeus, himself, has said that he's not sure that he's going to be in a position to analyze fully whether he thinks this particular constellation of policies and forces are going to succeed in the mission until, maybe, June. Keep in mind, Bret, that probably the last brigade I think goes in, in May, or late April.

Q So how do you respond to lawmakers who say this is kind of a hidden increase of troops? You know, that the big number was 21,500 in the headlines, and then -- or in the spotlight, and then we end up with a lot more?

MR. SNOW: I don't think there's anything hidden about it. We've been very open about our requests.

Q Okay. Can you provide a little bit more color to the teleconference this morning between the President and Prime Minister Maliki?

MR. SNOW: No, unfortunately, it started early. It started while we were doing the gaggle. So I was not a participant this morning. So I don't have any color for you.

Q Tony, two quick questions. One, (inaudible) about terrorism. According to the India Globe's India edition, Osama bin Laden celebrated on Saturday his 50th birthday, if anybody knows about this, because -- and apparently, that means he's alive and he isn't wherever he's hiding in that area.

And, second, two ambassadors from India and Pakistan were speaking here about -- also on terrorism. Ambassador from Pakistan said that as far as terrorism is concerned, he said it's related to poverty, if there's not poverty there is no terrorism. But the ambassador from India, he said that as far as terrorism is concerned, it's mixing two things. He said they are using terrorism -- terrorists are using religion in the name of terrorists, and has nothing to do as far as poverty, but based on religion. Where do we stand on this issue regarding terrorism?

MR. SNOW: Look, I think --

Q Repeat the question. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: I think both sides have -- there are legitimate points to be made on both sides. The most important thing is that India and Pakistani forces, especially in border areas, work together on a whole host of the issues that they talked about before, including economic development in the tribal areas, as well as trying to shut off the borders and prevent the movement of terrorists across those borders.

Q How about Osama's 50th birthday?

MR. SNOW: I'm not --

Q Leahy said yesterday he was ready to issue subpoenas and stuff. Has Fielding laid out any position on subpoenas --

MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to --

Q Have you drawn the line on that?

MR. SNOW: That's another way of asking me what Fred is going to say. I'm going to let Fred say it.

Q Tony, the President says today that Congress has a responsibility to get this bill -- the supplemental -- "to my desk without strings and without delay." Is it the President's belief that Congress cannot attach strings to the way, or conditions to the way the money is used?

MR. SNOW: What he's saying is that if they attach strings, he will veto it.

Q But he's saying it's their responsibility to pass it without strings.

MR. SNOW: Right. And because he believes that that is fundamental to succeeding in the mission in Iraq.

Q Tony, can I ask about the string that's in the House bill? September 2008, is their deadline. The President said today, don't judge my plan in days, don't judge it in weeks -- but months we should know whether it's working. Eighteen months in the future seemed a pretty far period of time.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, the concept of trying to create withdrawal without reference to the conditions on the ground, the President considers that irresponsible.

Q Does that mean that the -- and I know we've gone over this before, but it seems like the message today is the same. Is this not an open-ended commitment?

MR. SNOW: No, it's a commitment to win, that's what it is. It's a commitment to succeed.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: There's no such -- no. Let me put it -- when you talk about an open-ended commitment, it gives the impression that the United States is the only player here. In point of fact, a lot of what we're doing -- and I've already mentioned some of this to you -- is to build up Iraqi capability. You now have nine of ten Iraqi divisions assuming responsibility for operations. We continue to work on improving the quality of police forces. We are working on the economic side. And, furthermore, we've said to the Iraqis, you have to step up. If you take a look at their budget, they've got a $40 billion budget, and about half of it is involved directly in matters of concern to us -- $10 billion for reconstruction; more than $7 billion directly for security operations.

In other words, the President has said on a number of occasions, the Iraqis have to demonstrate the willingness politically, and also by their actions, to show that they are making not merely good faith, but vigorous efforts toward building the capacity that will enable them to assume full responsibility for their future.

Q But isn't the message, at the same time, don't worry if you don't meet the benchmarks, because we're going to be there as long as it takes?

MR. SNOW: No, the President has made it very clear to Prime Minister Maliki he understands the political atmosphere. But, frankly, that's not been the situation. What you're assuming is that the Iraqis haven't been acting -- in point in fact, they have. And it is important that they continue to move along the lines that we have been discussing, moving forces into Baghdad or moving them into other theaters as necessary, or redeploying within the country; making sure that you're continuing to build up, especially on the police forces, the credible ability to enforce the law so that everybody -- Shia, Sunni, Kurd, whoever you may be -- can have the assurance of equal treatment under the law, the economic pieces and so on.

So all of those are also things that the President has been very direct in speaking with the Prime Minister. Again, I wasn't in on today's conversation, but I've been on prior, and he's very direct about it, and frankly, the Prime Minister has been stepping up.

Q Tony, you've said that the President retains confidence in the Attorney General, but is he fully satisfied with the job that the Attorney General has been doing? Does he think that Gonzales maybe needs to be more involved in some of the day-to-day decisions --

MR. SNOW: I'm not -- I'm not going to parse that.

Q Why not? I mean, why --

Q Parse away.

Q Is he --

MR. SNOW: Because it's such a vague question that I'm not sure it's answerable.

Q Well, what's vague about, you know --

MR. SNOW: Is there something you don't like about management in some area and some --

Q Well, okay, let's be more specific. Has he told him that he -- specifically, Gonzales -- has he expressed any unhappiness to him with how he's doing the job, or say that he needs to improve something?

MR. SNOW: Again, that's too vague. I'm not --

Q That's not vague.

MR. SNOW: Sure it is, it's a fishing question. I mean, the fact is the President has said he's got confidence in the Attorney General. The other thing he -- and I heard him say that. Furthermore, he's also said that on this issue, it's going to be important, he said it publicly, that the Attorney General explain what went on in the process.

Q Tony, it seems there was a time when the President came close to guaranteeing victory in this war. Today he said that it can be won. Asked if he's still optimistic, you said he's determined. Is his optimism down from what it was?

MR. SNOW: No, it's not. But the reason I -- the reason for the formulation is you've got a political debate in this country, and part of the political debate hinges upon whether Congress is going to provide the flexibility and funding necessary to succeed. And it is a very high-stakes debate. The President has already laid his marker.

So, no, he -- in terms of his optimism, no, but at the same time, he understands in the political environment, first thing you've got to do is to make sure you have the funding and flexibility in place so General Petraeus can proceed along the lines laid out, not merely the Baghdad security plan, but also integrated security activities within Iraq. And keep in mind, all this also is taking place in the context of a larger build-up of the Marines and the United States Army forces, which the President had recommended in the State of the Union address. So there are a lot of different pieces going on.

Q With the funding and flexibility, is he guaranteeing victory?

MR. SNOW: Again, I think at this particular point, the President is not issuing guarantees, but he is confident that if we stay along the course and we maintain our focus, we can win.

Q Thank you, Tony.

MR. SNOW: That is not a back-off. I mean, it's simply a statement of his belief.

Q Does it guarantee defeat if he doesn't get the funding and flexibility --

MR. SNOW: I don't believe the President is in the business of making guarantees. But what he is saying is that if you said the argument -- and we've laid out some of the consequences of the argument of saying, get out regardless of the conditions, and he does think that that is deeply dangerous for the United States.

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Yesterday's New York Times Magazine had a 19-page cover story headlined, "The Women's War," which reported, "Many women have reported being sexually assaulted, harassed and raped by fellow soldiers and officers." My question: Does the President, as Commander-in-Chief, believe that this horror could be avoided if females were not sent into combat zones?

MR. SNOW: I missed that piece and I'm not sure the President saw it, Les.

Q All right. You can look for it, will you?

MR. SNOW: All right.

Q Thank you. In the 1987 Washington summit's first one-on-one session, when the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev contended that a congressional proposal to build a fence along the Mexican border was as bad as anything the USSR had ever done in the Berlin Wall, President Reagan replied -- and this is a quote -- "This is hardly the same thing as building a Berlin Wall, which imprisoned people in a social system they didn't want to be a part of." My question: Does President Bush believe that President Reagan was right -- (laughter) --

MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, I was working on the -- (laughter.)

Q Keep going or repeat it again --

Q -- on the last question? I'll be glad if you want to answer the last question.

MR. SNOW: It will take a little while. Les, come on. You ask me a question that pertains to news and I'll be happy to --

Q Well, this is news. Does President Bush believe that President Reagan was right, and that Mexico's President Calderón is wrong to compare our border fence to the Berlin Wall?

MR. SNOW: What the President has said is that the United States is determined to do what is necessary for border security. And he's also working with President Calderón on a series of issues of mutual concern to make sure that we have security and we also --

Q How does he feel about Calderón's comparison of this wall to the Berlin Wall, is my question, Tony.

MR. SNOW: I don't have an answer for you, Les. Thank you.

Q You would like to evade?

MR. SNOW: No, it's just -- you're bringing in Ronald Reagan and you're doing all this stuff and it's --

Q Why not bring in Ronald Reagan? Are you opposed to Ronald Reagan, or what?

MR. SNOW: Love the man, but, frankly, it just meanders too much.

Q Tony, you mentioned that those who serve at the pleasure of the President are expected to do their job and follow administration policy. Well, does that extend to the scientific community? Because there was a congressional hearing again today in which the White House was criticized for politicizing any findings that they don't support --

MR. SNOW: And I would suggest you take a look at Jim Connaughton's testimony there, because those accusations are baseless. In point of fact, this administration has pursued sound science and pumped more money into environmental research than any administration in American history, and taken more aggressive action not only in acknowledging the reality of climate change, but also trying to deal with it in a constructive way. So rather than trying to use kind of a portmanteau complaint, Jim really does go through in very great detail -- because these are all arguments that have been retailed in the past. And, furthermore, he has, in I think about 45 pages of attachments, direct responses and the record on those issues. So I would direct you to that stuff.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: All right, thanks.

END 1:07 P.M. EDT