For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 10, 2007
Press Briefing by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:42 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: I forgot one schedule update that I needed to give you this morning, so -- sorry, I should have done it before I came out here. On Monday, October 15th, the President will leave Crawford and travel to Rogers, Arkansas. He'll have a full day of events there, and he will underscore the importance of pro-growth economic policies and spending restraint to ensure continued economic prosperity and lowering of the federal budget deficit. We'll have details on that trip for you later today.
Q Whole day of activities?
MS. PERINO: He'll have several different events. So we'll get those for you.
Q The President said today that the Armenia genocide resolution was not the right response to the historic mass killings. What is the -- what does he consider to be the correct response?
MS. PERINO: One thing the President has done every year since he got here is issue a presidential message. This year it was on April 24, 2007. And one of the things the President said in it -- and I quote -- is that "I join my fellow Americans and Armenian people around the world in commemorating this tragedy and honoring the memory of the innocent lives that were taken. The world must never forget this painful chapter of its history." The statement is much longer than that, but the President believes that that is the way to deal with this historic tragic situation.
Q What does he think, in real terms, the consequences of passing the resolution would be?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think you also heard from Secretary -- the President and Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates heard from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and Admiral Fallon this morning and they got an update on it. We've obviously heard from the Turkish government over time that they do not want to see this resolution passed in the House of Representatives. It's come up over the years. But also, right now we have 160,000 of our troops in harm's way in Iraq, and Turkey has been a very valuable ally and their strong reaction -- negative reaction -- about this resolution is what caused the President to come out today and ask members of Congress to oppose it.
Q What do we think that Turkey will do?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that's a hypothetical and I'm not going to comment on it. I'd refer you to the Turks for any comment that they want to make on it. I just know that Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates felt strongly enough, after hearing from the commanders on the ground, that they needed to go and make a public statement asking Congress to oppose it.
Q Is Turkey blackmailing the United States?
MS. PERINO: Absolutely not. I think that they've made their position very clear over the years. And the President has also, through presidential messages, made it clear how we feel about the Armenian people, and understand the heartache and frustration that they feel about what happened in 1915.
Q Turkey has not shown hesitancy in the past to influence United States' thinking by either allowing troops to come through or there's landing rights issues. There's lots of ways in which they can influence. So if the war on terror -- they know their role in the United States war on terror, and they're saying, don't do this, what else are you supposed to make of it?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that they are making their points clear, just like we make our points clear to other governments, as well. And we do believe that the Turks and the Armenians should have a discussion and work this out amongst themselves. And they are having discussions. We've encouraged those and I think that's the -- where it is best dealt with. The United States House of Representatives has a lot of business before it, including passing any of our -- or getting conferees appointed to the appropriations bills so that we can actually get the budget underway. So there's a lot of work that they could be doing rather than this.
Q One last follow. In terms of understanding sort of the power of the word "genocide," what is the biggest problem the Turks have communicated that they have an issue with it being called a genocide as opposed to a tragedy?
MS. PERINO: I'll have to refer you to this Turkish government for that. I don't -- I'm not going to speak for them.
Q A question on FISA. The President said even though the bill currently before Congress isn't finalized, he was concerned and he said there are deficiencies in it. Is there some specifics that you want to point out?
MS. PERINO: Sure. There's a couple of things. First of all, the law that the Congress passed last August put a six-month sunset on the bill. The President said that we would -- we had to have the closure of the intelligence gap. So we said that we were willing to go forward with the bill for a six-month period because we had to -- we had a situation in which we really needed to make sure that we were gathering all the intelligence that we could get. But we said that we would revisit this in the fall.
The President has said one of the things he has to have is permanency. You want the intelligence community to know that they're going to have these tools and the flexibility they need to protect the country. This bill that the Democrats have put forward only gives you a one-year extension; actually, I think it goes through December 2009. That is not permanent. And this is a debate that the President thinks we should settle here and now.
And in another case, it does seem to take one step forward and two steps back, injecting the court into the application process even further than they already are, which the individuals that are looking at this legislation say is very burdensome and is actually getting us back -- putting us back into the box that we were in, making the process so slow that you're not able to deal with the urgency of the threats.
There is also another piece of it, which the bill does not take into account, which is the President has asked for legal protections for those companies who are believed to have helped the nation after September 11th, and he wants retroactive liability protection from civil lawsuits for those companies. So those are just three of the areas that the President would like to see changed in this bill.
Q But if I could follow, critics would argue that the privacy of some American, perhaps, was compromised in the days after 9/11 and, therefore, this -- we want to be careful about how far we extend this sort of protection.
MS. PERINO: The President has taken very seriously the issues of how do you protect the country, as well as preserve the civil liberties of Americans. And that's -- it's not just the President that's taken it very seriously, but everyone in the administration, including the intelligence community, as well as Congress. We all want to preserve the civil liberties that we have inherent -- the inherent right we have in our Constitution for it. This is the deal that the government has with the American people.
And the civil liberties are protected. They were protected prior to the Protect America Act; they're protected in the Protect America Act; and going forward, I'm positive that when the President signs the bill that civil liberties will be preserved, as well.
Q Why do you say that?
MS. PERINO: Toby.
Q Back on Turkey.
MS. PERINO: Okay.
Q Turkey's Prime Minister today confirmed that his government is drawing up plans to authorize a military incursion into northern Iraq to go after the Kurdish rebels. Would the United States support that type of operation?
MS. PERINO: We have said that we want to work with the Turkish government and the Iraqis, the Iraqi government, to eradicate the terrorist problem there in northern Iraq. We do not think that it would be the best place for troops to go into Iraq from Turkey at this time. We think that we can handle this situation without that being necessary.
Q Dana, the President gave a little thumbs up about the First Lady's op/ed in The Wall Street Journal today. What's the White House view -- talk a little bit about the President feeling that she's an asset on this issue, in terms of speaking out, not holding back, and being very forceful in saying that the regime must step aside.
MS. PERINO: I think that Mrs. Bush -- well, first of all, she has been interested in this issue on Burma for a long time, and she explains today in the USA Today interview that when she first became First Lady, she anticipated that she would mostly be dealing with domestic issues, like education and helping children make sure that they are reading at grade level.
But this is an administration that has faced the threat after 9/11 and additional foreign policy matters that has really grabbed on to her heart. And on Burma, Mrs. Bush has, one, last year at the United Nations, hosted a meeting in which she tried to shine a light on this issue, to pay attention to this issue, to let the Burmese people know that the American people really care about what they are going through. And she has taken a great interest in it.
And in addition, she's done some other things, too, in other parts of the world. She's traveled to Africa and highlighted the President's emergency program for AIDS relief. She talked about education while we were down there and all the work that we're doing through our various programs in Africa. And then next week she travels to the Middle East, where she'll focus on breast cancer awareness, education again, and public diplomacy. Not to mention what she's done in Afghanistan, for women there. So the President, of course, sees Mrs. Bush as a tremendous asset and a very good spokesperson on some of these issues.
Q But if it's okay for her to obviously speak out, call it the way she sees it, why is it not okay for the U.S. House, in terms of Armenia, to say, this is the way we see it; we see it as genocide? Why can't they go on record and say it if the majority --
MS. PERINO: I don't know if I could -- well, I don't know of a phrase that would make anything more different between apples and oranges, but I think that is completely different. The President and Mrs. Bush are together talking about what we need to do in order to make sure that Burma gets to return to a peaceful transition to democracy. And there are several things that we'd like to see Burma do: They need to release all the political prisoners, stop killing monks, stop taking people out of their homes in the middle of the night, release Aung San Suu Kyi. And if they can meet some of those actions we wouldn't have to go through the U.N. Security Council or through our own unilateral means of looking at additional sanctions. And the President and Mrs. Bush are united on this issue. And I think that's just totally different than talking about the U.S. House of Representatives.
Q You're talking about killing of monks -- I mean, this is killing of hundreds of thousands of people, and the House wants to go on record.
MS. PERINO: But the President has been on record. He's been on record every single year through a presidential message. I encourage you to read it. It's quite long; I won't bore -- I won't read it all for you here. But the President understands that the Armenian people feel very strongly about it. And if you read his statement, he does, too. He just does not -- he opposes a resolution in the House of Representatives on it.
Q Back on Turkey and the PKK. The State Department concedes the recent cross-border attacks by the PKK. Members of the Turkish parliament say what they want to do is simply apply the President's policies in fighting terrorism. Mr. Bush, of course, has said that he is fighting the terrorists in Iraq so that we don't fight them here. They say likewise, they want to fight the PKK in Iraq, so they don't have to fight them in Turkey. So why are they wrong?
MS. PERINO: Well, I'm -- well, what we are saying is that we think that we can help them, along with the Iraqis who are committed to eradicating terrorism, as well. And that includes the PKK, not just al Qaeda.
Q One on Burma. Dana, over 20 former heads of states, Prime Ministers and Presidents, they have written a letter to the Chinese President asking him to put pressure on the Burmese government dictatorship and generals. And it was led by the former Prime Minister of Norway. Is President joining them on these global leaders to put pressure, bring democracy back into Burma?
MS. PERINO: I haven't heard about that specific effort, but I'll check. Obviously we're working closely with the U.N. Security Council and other countries around the world who have stood up.
Q And second, quick one. There are demonstrations in Tehran, in Iran for democracy, and there were a lot of arrests, and students were protesting against the present government and President. Where do we stand as far as the freedom of democracy in Iran is concerned?
MS. PERINO: Obviously, the people of Iran deserve better than the regime that they have, and we stand with those who are standing for freedom and their right to a free speech and assembly.
Q Yes, thank you, Dana. Two questions. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox confirmed the existence of a plan, which he said was conceived with President Bush, to create a new regional currency in the Americas. And my question: Does the President believe that this Vicente Fox statement on Larry King Live was incorrect or correct?
MS. PERINO: I know of no such discussion, but I will tell you that there is no plan underway to create such a currency.
Q All right. In his meeting with Al-Arabiya reporter Nakouzi, the President said he believes all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian or other religion, prays to the same God. And my question: Does he know of any Muslims who agree with what Christians believe is the Son of God's statement, "No man cometh unto the Father but by me"?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on that one. Obviously I'll let the President's comments on Al-Arabiya, on the transcript that we've released, for people to check that out themselves --
Q But, I mean, it leaves a puzzlement here --
MS. PERINO: -- and move on.
Q It leaves a puzzlement, you want to move away from --
MS. PERINO: I don't think there's a puzzlement.
Q You don't?
Q In February of 2000, candidate George Bush, according to the Armenia National Committee, said the following: "Armenians were," -- candidate Bush said, "Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension." They say he has broken his promise to label the atrocities as genocide when he became President. What has changed since 2000?
MS. PERINO: The President believes that the proper way to address this issue and express our feelings about it is through the presidential message and not through legislation, and that was what he was describing today.
Q But he does consider it genocide, and called it that in 2000.
MS. PERINO: I was -- I didn't read all of the President's messages over the past seven years, but I would refer you to those.
Q Is it just the word "genocide" that he does not want applied to it now?
MS. PERINO: What he wants is -- no, what he wants is for the presidential message to be the thing that stands for the American response to this, not legislation passed by the House of Representatives.
Did you have one, Mark?
Q Yes. Back to the FISA court and the role of the -- what's being marked up and Foreign Affairs specifies is FISA court. They're still going to look at procedure, they're not going through and issuing individual warrants. So what's so burdensome about the FISA court looking at the procedures that you apply --
MS. PERINO: Well, what I can tell you is that experts in the field of intelligence, lawyers, have been looking at this legislation proposed by the Democrats. They've gone through it with a fine-tooth comb. They say it will not work. And the President is going to have one test for the Director of National Intelligence; he'll ask him, does this bill meet the criteria that you need in order to keep the country safe? And if it does not, then the President won't sign it. If it does, he will. And while the bill is in markup, the President will let them hash that out, and when it gets to the floor, hopefully those things will be taken care of.
One of the things that we agreed to in the August bill was that the FISA court would be able to check off on the procedures. We think that that's the appropriate way to do it. We don't think we need to go back and change that.
Q -- different time horizons, I gather --
MS. PERINO: I think there's a lot more involved. It's much more strict and much more cumbersome in the legislation that the Democrats have put forward. That's their objection.
Q Yesterday President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea and President Bush had a telephone conversation. President Roh Moo-hyun had explanation about termination of Korean War. Do you think the -- (inaudible) -- of summit talks will be had within this year?
MS. PERINO: We'll have to see. The President has said in Australia, at the APEC meeting with President Roh, that it will depend on North Korea's actions. And if we can get to the point where they have met their obligations under the six-party talks, then we'll talk about moving forward to a peace treaty.
Q Does the President view the Lieberman-Kyl resolution as an invitation to attack Iran?
MS. PERINO: I am not familiar with the Lieberman-Kyl resolution, so can I --
Q That's the resolution condemning the Revolutionary Guard as terrorists.
MS. PERINO: I'll have to look into it and get back to you. I don't know about it.
Q Thank you.
END 1:02 P.M. EDT