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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
July 23, 2007

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
James S. Brady Briefing Room

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12:26 P.M. EDT

MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. First we'll begin with an announcement about the President's health. Microscopic evaluations of the polyps discovered and removed during the President's colonoscopy confirmed the preliminary diagnosis, tubular adenoma. There were five such polyps. The President's next colonoscopy should be in three years; the rule of thumb is if you have more than three such polyps you do your surveillance periods for three years.

As you know, most colon cancer arises from polyps. The progression generally takes very many years. Two-thirds of all polyps are adenomas, the vast majority tubular adenomas. These were relatively small polyps, a centimeter or so. They represent the various -- the very earliest cellular changes. Left untreated, they can progress to larger, more advanced lesions and a small percentage could become cancerous. Once a polyp is diagnosed and removed, they cannot become cancerous.

So the President is in good health, there was no reason for alarm, fairly routine diagnosis and also procedure and, again, he will next get a colonoscopy three years hence.

Q Could you make that a little bit simpler? I don't understand all those medical words you used. Is there any trace of cancer?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q They're benign?

MR. SNOW: Correct.

Q Okay.

MR. SNOW: A tubular adenoma is a small -- it's just a garden variety polyp.

Q So it's just a small growth, he had --

MR. SNOW: Correct.

Q -- five small growths and they're all benign?

MR. SNOW: All benign. All removed.

Q And it's three years, you don't have to worry until three years from -- would be the follow-up?

MR. SNOW: Yes, just because you want to make sure -- when you have the growth of polyps you want to just be very careful to keep your eye on what develops so that the patient, in fact, get into the position where you have to worry about. So three years now.

Q Well, also, it was a five-year span between the 2002 -- and now you're moving up to three?

MR. SNOW: It's because there were five polyps. Kind of the rule thumb is if you've got three polyps or fewer, you do it every five years; if you have five polyps -- more than three polyps, you try to examine every three years. It's the way it is; it's the way they do it.

Q The fact that they found five polyps, is that troubling?

MR. SNOW: No. It's not unusual, trust me, to find polyps.

Q Does the President have any exit strategy planned ahead for -- your administration is not well known for planning ahead, but are there any contingency plans? And also, does he read newspapers? Today in The New York Times it showed an Iraqi woman weeping -- she lost seven members of her family from American air strikes. So how long does this go on?

MR. SNOW: The President reads the newspapers. He also thinks ahead. But on the other hand, what we're trying to do is to work on conditions to create the possibility that there will be no violence in the future, or certainly greatly reduced violence in the future in Iraq, and that the Iraqi people will be the masters of their own destiny. That continues to be what we hope for, to make sure that that is a nation that can enjoy freedom, peace and democracy.

Q Why are we bombing them?

MR. SNOW: We are not bombing -- we do not -- no nation has spent more money or expended more effort to try to protect innocent civilians in this country, using technologies that are specifically targeted toward military targets. We grieve every time anybody is caught in harm's way, innocent people are caught in harm's way. One of the differences is al Qaeda targets innocents on purpose, as a matter of politics. The United States certainly does not.

Q Can I ask one more follow-up?

MR. SNOW: You certainly may.

Q What's your definition of "insurgent"?

MR. SNOW: What is my definition of "insurgent"? Insurgents would be those who are doing what they can at this juncture to try to use violence to bring down the Iraqi government.

Q Are the Iraqis?

MR. SNOW: Some are.

Q All of them?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q Why would they be insurgents in their own country, then?

Q Anything to announce about the British Prime Minister visiting?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q How hard is the administration working right now to get Osama bin Laden? I mean, is it a focus to get him? The President has made different comments over the years about how hard you're focused on him. How hard are you focused on him right now?

MR. SNOW: I don't know how you measure that. It is a constant focus and it is certainly something where we continue to have assets looking for bin Laden. Honestly, Ed, it's -- again, I don't know how you answer a question "how much/how little." You constantly have people who are on the lookout. On the other hand, you also don't want to go into too much detail, precisely because you don't want to tip your hand. But it has been and remains a top priority.

Q But if it's a top priority why has it taken 10 months for the administration to realize that President Musharraf's plan was not working?

MR. SNOW: Well, for one thing -- why does it take 10 months? The fact is that you are working with the sovereign government of Pakistan, which had a plan to reach out to tribal leaders. And over time it became clear that what was happening is that it had been abused by members of the Taliban and al Qaeda to find safe haven. I mean, I think when that becomes -- when that becomes obvious, then you deal with it. I think the Pakistanis have done the same. You now have 80,000 troops in the region. You've seen them moving in, you've seen them taking casualties. So it also relies on collaboration and assessment involving the Pakistanis.

Q But if you had a constant focus on bin Laden, wouldn't you have realized it sooner, that this plan on the ground is not really working; in fact, it's helping to create a safe harbor?

MR. SNOW: Again, Ed, I don't know where you come up with -- I don't know how you decide what the tipping point is. There were a number of efforts going on. You may have people who have given encouraging signs and don't follow through on them. The fact is that we've made our determinations and the Pakistanis have made their determinations and they've adjusted.

Q The Pakistani Foreign Minister yesterday --

MR. SNOW: Okay, let's hold it -- this becomes like 15 questions, so if we could sort of narrow it down. But continue.

Q The Pakistani Foreign Minister yesterday seemed concerned that Bush administration officials are leaving the door open to military strikes within their borders.

MR. SNOW: I think it's important that -- and I'm glad you asked the question, because I think there has been this notion afoot, or at least an attempt or an inclination somehow we're going to invade Pakistan. We always maintain the option of striking actionable targets, but we also realize that Pakistan is a sovereign government and a very important player in the war on terror. Not only has Pervez Musharraf twice faced direct threats from al Qaeda, but also Pakistan, itself, has been a very important ally in trying to interrupt plots, to go after al Qaeda activists. The bomb plot in 2006, to bomb airliners making their way overseas toward the United States, very well could have been more deadly than September 11th. It was the result of intelligence generated in Pakistan that that plot was thwarted.

So the Pakistanis certainly are valued allies and, again, they have also been taking a lead and moving aggressively into the areas and trying to deal with the problems.

Q He's asking you whether we're going to go in there.

MR. SNOW: I understand that.

Q Why don't you answer him?

MR. SNOW: I did.

Q Tony, when you talk about actionable intelligence, though, you've got a safe haven there, people who want to attack the United States. Why not be aggressive? Why not go after them?

MR. SNOW: Well, the fact --

Q Why wait for the Pakistanis --

MR. SNOW: Because Pakistan is a sovereign government, and furthermore, we've made it clear that we will offer whatever assistance, technical and otherwise, they have. I outlined a lot of that during a briefing last week. What you're asking is, does the United States need to take unilateral action. We are working in coordination with the Pakistani government.

Q But they've got a safe haven there, with the Pakistani government supposedly --

MR. SNOW: Understood.

Q -- looking at (inaudible). And the President has said for years he would go after anyone harboring terrorists.

MR. SNOW: Again, we still maintain our position. We retain the option of acting on actionable intelligence. But we also retain the option of working with our allies to do the same.

Q So we clearly haven't had any actionable intelligence in the 10 months they've built up the safe haven.

MR. SNOW: You're assuming that there hasn't been any action that has been taken. I just don't want to try to get into characterizing.

Q But there have been some mixed messages between Washington and Pakistan, because you've been saying that the peace treaty with the tribal leaders hasn't worked, and you've said that you support what Musharraf is doing now, but the Pakistan government is trying to revive the truce that you admitted doesn't work.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, they've been trying to revive it, but on the other hand they have also been surging troops into the area to try to deal with the violence problems. Look, if there's a peaceful way to get things done, you always prefer that to violence. But, in fact, as you saw with the news overnight, that there have been some engagements, as terrorists are trying to maintain their hold in the area. And it's important to deprive them of safe havens.

Q But doesn't their effort to revive it maybe dent some of your confidence in their commitment to (inaudible).

MR. SNOW: No, it does not.

Q Tony, heading into the talks tomorrow in Baghdad between the U.S. and Iran, has this administration seen any change from Iran since the last talks in May?

MR. SNOW: Let's just put it this way: This is an opportune time, at the invitation of the Iraqi government, to revisit commitments Iran has made, saying that it believes in trying to stabilize Iraq. We have seen signs that we think need addressing. You have seen Quds forces support within Iraq. You have seen the importation of EFPs. You have seen weaponry making its way into Iraq. Those certainly do not help for the stability and security.

So the purpose of these talks is to sit down and express concerns, and to see if there is some way to work forward toward providing real security for the Iraqis. The Iranians have said that they want to contribute, and we will see what they have to say.

Q So the hope is that they get it this time?

MR. SNOW: Well, we'll see.

Q Will there be talk about the four Iranian American scholars and activists that are being held?

MR. SNOW: No. The conversations are restricted to security matters within Iraq proper. That is the channel that has been opened up. This is not a way of broadening diplomatic contacts between the nations.

Q And about the five Iranians being held inside Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, what we're talking about are those who have been trying to destabilize Iraq. That is going to be a topic of conversation.

Q Tony, two quick questions. One, as far as Osama bin Laden and safe haven in Pakistan, I've been saying this for the last five years, and now the authorities are agreeing what I have been saying for five years --

MR. SNOW: Oh, that's a relief.

Q -- that Osama bin Laden (inaudible). And I also told again and again of the (inaudible) same thing two years ago, last year. My question is that now when we know, and we knew where he is, so why they are not -- why the U.S. military is not getting into those areas where nobody can get --

MR. SNOW: Goyal, if you can give us the coordinates, pass them on, and we'll have somebody act on the intelligence.

Q Second --

MR. SNOW: Very quickly, yes.

Q India has a now new female President. Any comments on that?

MR. SNOW: It's obviously an historic moment for India, and congratulations.

Q Any reaction to what it seems to be on Wednesday will be a vote in the House Judiciary to issue contempt citations to Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers?

MR. SNOW: Well, we'll see. Once again, what we have said -- there are a couple of things. Number one, we continue to offer a way of accommodation for the House and the Senate, and we've made it clear in the past that we would certainly be willing to cooperate with them.

We have also -- ultimately what happens is, if, in fact, there is an attempt to try to put together a contempt citation, that goes to the Department of Justice. And the Department of Justice will make a determination on merits. Now it is important to note that certainly the tradition when it comes to dealing with such matters has been one in which, for separation of powers reasons, the Justice Department has, in fact, been reluctant to do such things, and furthermore, members of Congress, themselves, have said as much.

Here's Senator Leahy in 1999 -- (laughter.)

Q Nicely done.

MR. SNOW: "The criminal contempt mechanism -- see 2 U.S.C. section 192 -- which punishes as a misdemeanor a refusal to testify or produce documents to Congress requires a referral to the Justice Department, which is not likely to pursue compliance in the likely event that the President asserts executive privilege in a response to the request for certain documents for testimony."

So in point of fact, Senator Leahy I think is familiar with a lot of this. He has also said in the past -- this would be in May of 2000 -- when it came to the possibility of bringing contempt citations against the Attorney General, "There is no justification for such an action. Moreover, as a procedural matter, holding the Attorney General in contempt of Congress will require a trial on the Senate floor. This is a spectacle that would consume a good part of time that could otherwise be used on legislative matters. Obviously the majority can set its own priorities in this election year, to legislate or hold another Senate trial to end the 106th Congress as it began. In my view," said Senator Leahy, "such a spectacle would be an embarrassment to this institution."

Q Tony, you're able to make this argument and illustrate it because you can refer back to a transcript, obviously.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q That seems to be the sticking point between the two sides, is having a transcript. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so, but that's very cleverly wrought. (Laughter.) But the fact is --

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: But the fact is what we have made available are all witnesses and all facts. And these are people who will be testifying and be under a legal obligation to testify truthfully. It does not seem to me that that is any barrier at getting at the facts or getting at the information Congress needs to do its review. And we have -- we've been very forward-leaning in making available to Congress key documents, thousands of pages of documents, as well as individuals who may be involved to answer questions for as long as members of Congress may wish.

So, again, what is it that Congress wants? If you want the facts that enable you to make the determinations on the merits of whatever your suspicions may be, we're making them available.

Q One follow-up, because it does seem to be the area of sticking point. I have not understood this about the transcript debate, because when the question is asked, you say, look, they're still under obligation, legal obligation to tell the truth, whether there is a transcript or not, whether there's an oath or not. In that case, following that logic out, why ever put anybody under oath, or why ever have a transcript? I mean, in a normal criminal proceeding you're still under obligation to tell the truth.

MR. SNOW: Well, Jim, I don't think this is a normal proceeding. Do you? I mean, this is a situation --

Q (Inaudible) for having even more (inaudible).

MR. SNOW: No, I'm not so sure. Once again, if you take a look, there have been thousands of pages, there have been a number of people who have testified, including -- openly -- and it seems now that we have a fishing expedition that's woefully short on fish. It is an opportunity -- we have said we will make whatever facts are available to you -- whatever facts you need, we'll make them available to you, and that ought to render a basis for judgment. This is one of these things where Congress can gets its facts and do its due diligence without having to get to this point, and we continue to hold open the possibility of accommodation. This is something that we think best serves the interest of the public.

And furthermore, we're in a situation right now where there's a whole lot of business that Congress needs to get done, and we've seen a number of these things going on. It seems to me it would be a lot more constructive to find a collaborative way for Congress to do a full investigation, get all its questions answered, and at the same time, as Senator Leahy pointed out in 2000, be able to move forward on things like the appropriations bills.

Q Can I follow on that?

Q Do you --

MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what?

Q Can I follow on that?

MR. SNOW: Yes, you may.

Q You were ready with Senator Leahy's quotes. Do you think the quotes which you drew from him are analogous circumstances, you draw parallel between the request in '99 and --

MR. SNOW: Yes, because it deals with procedural matters under which you have a referral. I mean, that particularly -- that quote particularly applies to what may or may not happen.

Q So the point -- so you agree that it's unlikely the Justice Department would pursue this?

MR. SNOW: Well, if precedent is any guide, but, again, you have to leave that up to the Justice Department. They have to make the final determination on this. So I do not want to vouchsafe for what may come out of Justice, but certainly there is a long series of traditions that's consistent with Senator Leahy's quote.

Q Any reaction to the gap in fundraising between Republicans and Democrats in this cycle, and is there anything that the White House plans to do, or that you're planning to do?

MR. SNOW: The President will be happy to be supportive of -- to do whatever he can for Republican candidates. But as you know, we've also been standing back from making any comments about the general political campaign of 2008.

Q The Charleston visit, can you tell what the President wants to say to the troops?

MR. SNOW: Well, he'll be talking about the war on terror. So this will be a conversation about the war on terror and who we're fighting and what challenges we face.

Q Tony, there was the veto threat from OMB today, this time on the transportation appropriations bill. There has been a number of them on appropriations now. Do you have a count on how many veto threats there are on appropriations bills?

MR. SNOW: No, I don't. No I don't. But, I mean, we've had a number of veto threats based on a whole series of considerations, quite often having to do with spending or moving beyond what the President's bright lines are. In some cases, there have been strong policy differences. So it really depends on the bill.

Q What accounts for the differences, though, this year versus '01 to about '05, when there were no threats at all?

MR. SNOW: Well, for one thing, you not only have different leadership, but you also have a different working relationship with members of Congress. There were opportunities --

Q What does that say about that relationship?

MR. SNOW: Well, what it says is the President has tried to reach out to Democrats, and at this juncture the negotiations have not always produced the results that the President considers acceptable. Having said that, we'll continue to have conversations with leaders of the House and Senate.

Q Tony, what do you hope to see from tomorrow's meeting with the King of Jordan?

MR. SNOW: Well, we will have to see. I'm not sure we've even acknowledged when we'll be meeting, but we have --

Q It's on the week ahead.

MR. SNOW: We have? We finally acknowledged, okay. (Laughter.) Thank you. Thank you for catching me up on that. Look, it's an important chance for the President to sit down with somebody who is a key ally in the region, particularly as we are working again toward trying to find a way to empower a Palestinian government that can meet the Quartet principles and provide a basis for working with Israel, so that you can have a democracy in the region and fulfill the promise of democracy for the Palestinian people.

King Abdullah has certainly been a very valuable and forceful ally in that, and I'm sure the conversation -- there will be plenty of conversation about that. Whether it turns to other topics will be up to the King and the President.

Q Let me try this meetings tomorrow again, one more time. Is there any reason to believe that Iran will suddenly change the way it operates, in regards to Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, we're just going to -- I understand that. What you're asking me to do is to prejudge a meeting that hasn't taken place. I'm not going to do it.

Q Judging by the last meeting, going into this meeting, you're hopeful?

MR. SNOW: Well, what we're doing is, we've -- the Iraqi government has invited both parties to come together and to talk about this. We have said that we would respect those requests. It's important for the -- it's also important to work the diplomatic channel whenever you can. And so we will do it.

Q Tony, follow-up. There's a new poll out, CBS/New York Times poll. And both the President and Congress have about an equal -- they register about equally in terms of disapproval in the handling of the war. One thing that people seem to agree on together is that the funding of the war should continue only with a timetable; nearly two-thirds feel that way. But this continues to be something that the President won't entertain, is that correct?

MR. SNOW: What we've entertaining right now is we are entertaining the process that was put in place by Congress a couple of months ago, which is, they funded the new way forward, the surge, which has produced some significant results on the battlefield. And we are hoping that we're going to see some concomitant results in the political sphere.

Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus will be issuing a report, again pursuant to that legislation, that's due September 15th. I think the first thing to do is to figure out, when you have a brand new operation underway, how's it doing. I think the American people want to know that, as well.

Q I asked the President about this directly, and he said that he was not open to the idea of timetables, essentially. So is that still an accurate --

MR. SNOW: The President's position remains the same.

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Reuters reports that New Haven, Connecticut will begin issuing to illegal aliens city ID cards to allow them access to city programs and to open bank accounts. My question: What is the President's reaction to this municipal --

MR. SNOW: Lester, let me lay down a general rule, which is: The President, because of federalism reasons, does not talk about state, local, county, municipality, Cub Scout, Girl Scout, or other resolutions --

Q But these are illegal aliens.

MR. SNOW: -- that might have great provocative power in the larger press. It's inappropriate for him to do so. So if you want to ask about the President's position, it really ought to be something that's directly under his purview.

Q Senator Hillary Clinton said, "Senator Kerry and I were shocked at Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman's widely reported statement that premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq." And my question: Was the President also shocked, or was he grateful to Mr. Edelman?

MR. SNOW: Well, Secretary Gates has since talked about the importance of trying to work with members of Congress to get us in the right place. And I'll refer you to his comments.

Q But the President has no comment on this?

MR. SNOW: No.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: We got the pull. Anybody else who has questions, come on up.

END 12:48 P.M. EDT