|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 16, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:30 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: I feel so loved.
Q Welcome to the White House Press Office.
MR. SNOW: Thank you very much. Well, it's good to be here. Thank you one and all.
Very quickly, as you know, President Bush today met with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia. The two of them shared their thoughts about the global war on terror. They have taken your questions. And they had very warm and cordial meetings, as they look forward.
Also, a scheduling note, of which I'm sure many of you are aware: We had placed on the schedule a bipartisan meeting with members of the United States Senate regarding the immigration bill. That has been canceled, for the simple reason that members of the Senate are today working on the immigration bill. And since that was one of the chief action items -- the chief action item in the President's speech last night, he thought it best not to get in the way of the United States Senate as it continues to do that business.
And with no further ado, we'll take questions. Terry.
Q In his news conference with John Howard, was the President giving kind of a back-handed confirmation of the stories that the NSA is compiling telephone --
MR. SNOW: No, he wasn't. If you go back and listen to the answer he gave you, he was talking about foreign-to-domestic calls. The allegations in the USA Today piece, which we'll neither confirm or deny, are of a different nature. So, no, he was not giving a back-handed confirmation.
Q Well, he said they're very aware of what is taking place, and he said the question he's asking about has been fully briefed to members in the United States Congress.
MR. SNOW: Well, what he's talking about is that all intelligence matters conducted by the National Security Agency -- and we've said this many times -- have been fully briefed to a handful of members of the Senate Intelligence and House Intelligence Committees and to the leadership.
Q So he's neither confirming or --
MR. SNOW: He's not -- no, you're not getting any advance on previous news on that question.
Q -- the President talked last night about a rational middle ground dealing with 11 to 12 illegal immigrants who are here --
MR. SNOW: -- 11 million to 12 million.
Q -- 11 million to 12 million. What he calls a rational middle ground you know well conservatives, particularly in the House, who have passed a very tough bill on this the President presumably doesn't like -- they call that amnesty. Now, what specifically is the President going to do to breach this divide?
MR. SNOW: I think -- look, one of the things that's interesting is a lot of people have reacted to the President's proposal without having had time to evaluate it. This is an enormous and a complex series of proposals, and anybody who went to the briefing today in 450 I think gets an appreciation of that.
House members have expressed a number of differing concerns, and different House members have expressed those concerns. I think the most important thing to say is that the President is looking for a practical way, consistent with the American spirit, to make sure that we handle border security, we handle interior security, that we go ahead and deal with a number of the chief concerns on immigration that we have always had. And what he's really -- he's going to wait for members of the House of Representatives to have a chance to look over the proposal.
I'll give you an example. A lot of talk about border security. Under the President's proposal, over the span of the President's proposal, he would commit more Border Patrol agents and more assets to the border than even the House of Representatives have proposed, itself. I think that addresses that specific concern.
And I think as the conversations continue, members of the House are going to be able to express themselves, but the President was speaking last night to the American people about an issue that is of enormous importance to him. You see it every time he talks about it. This is an issue for which he has real passion, and he's decided that in this issue, he is going to demonstrate leadership by saying exactly what he wants. That's what he did last night.
Q But what he said today was, "Let's not get emotional about this and forget who we are."
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Is that what we should look for? Because these aren't new issues, Tony, and the House knows what everybody is talking about, which is a path toward citizenship for those who are here illegally, and they don't like it. It's not just about border security, they're saying that that's amnesty. The definition has not changed in their minds over time, they don't have to read the President's speech to learn about it.
MR. SNOW: Well, what's interesting here is I -- don't leap to conclusions, David, about what the House of Representatives is likely to do. Amnesty, at least to me, means, as it did in 1986, all sins are forgiven, you've got a clean slate, go about your business. In this particular case, what -- the President is taking issue with the description of amnesty for a pretty good reason. He said, you will pay fines, you will have a criminal penalty; you will also have to pay taxes; you will also have to keep your nose clean, you can't break the law; you will also have to stay continuously employed. During that time, you will have to pay your taxes, you will have to have a secure, tamper-proof identification. And when all of that is done, you get to go to the back of the line, and you wait, what, 11 years or more for a chance to become a citizen, at the end of which you have to have a command of English, as well, to be able to become a citizen.
Now, with all those benchmarks, it is hard to square that with the idea of amnesty. You've got a lot of things you have to do, and in addition, the people who would qualify under that would still have to pay all the fees and go through all the steps that those who otherwise have placed themselves in line to become citizens, that they've had to go through.
Q The President -- just to follow on this -- that still doesn't address the issue that these people are here illegally, according to people in the House who wanted to --
MR. SNOW: Well, they are here illegally. The President acknowledged that.
Q So what specifics is the President offering? He attempted to reach out to both wings of this debate, and in doing so, he's put himself in a middle course. Now, hasn't he attached all of his political capital to an issue that may very well be DOA? And what specifically is he giving the House to move the issue?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, what the President is trying to do -- it's a middle course, but it's also -- it's a leadership course. If the President wanted to appeal to certain basic political constituencies, maybe he would have given a different kind of speech. But what he gave is a speech he believes outlines the proper parameters of a reasonable, practical -- and solution that is also consistent with American ideals. The President often talks, for instance, about what immigration has done historically for the United States.
He understands that we have a problem. We've got 11 million or 12 million people here illegally. But as he noted last night, you can't round them all up and deport them. What do you do? You look for a practical -- as he described it, a rational middle ground for dealing with that problem. And that is something the practicalities of which are very complex, and he hopes to work it out both with the House and the Senate.
And interestingly enough, you will find that some of the people that you've already described have said, no, we never intended to deport everybody. That's not what we're talking about at all. I believe what the President did was lay down benchmarks that now invite both parties and both houses of Congress to roll up their sleeves and get working to try to get something done.
Q The President today denied he'd ever broken the law in terms of wiretaps. He also indicated that anything that was looked into, any calls, had some sort of foreign aspect either to or from. And he has said he's always obeyed the law. Are all of these stories untrue that we've been reading for the last several days that millions of Americans have been wiretapped?
MR. SNOW: Well, let's --
Q Are the phone calls turned over to the government?
MR. SNOW: Okay, let's try to segregate the stories here. What he's said about the terror surveillance program is that these are foreign-to-domestic calls and they were all done within the parameters of the law. He has not commented on the --
Q He, himself, has said he didn't obey that law.
MR. SNOW: No, he didn't. What he said is that he has done everything within the confines of the law. The second thing is, you're mentioning a USA Today story about which this administration has no comment. But I would direct you back to the USA Today story itself, and if you analyze what that story said, what did it say? It said there is no wiretapping of individual calls, there is no personal information that is being relayed. There is no name, there is no address, there is no consequence of the calls, there's no description of who the party on the other end is.
Q Privacy was breached by turning over their phone numbers.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you are jumping to conclusions about a program, the existence of which we will neither confirm, nor deny.
Q Why? Don't you think the American people have a right to know --
MR. SNOW: Because -- what's interesting is, there seems to be a notion that because the President has talked a little bit about one surveillance program and one matter of intelligence gathering, that somehow we have to tell the entire world we have to make intelligence gathering transparent. Let me remind you, it's a war on terror, and there are people -- I guarantee you, al Qaeda does not believe --
Q He doesn't have a right to break the law, does he?
MR. SNOW: No, the President is not talking about breaking the law. But al Qaeda doesn't believe in transparency. What al Qaeda believes in is mayhem, and the President has a constitutional obligation and a heartfelt determination to make sure we fight it.
Q -- to obey the Constitution --
MR. SNOW: Absolutely right.
Q -- the Fourth Amendment --
MR. SNOW: Absolutely right, and he believes in obeying it.
Q You might repeat the same thing, but why not declassify this? I mean, the President did talk about the surveillance program a day after The New York Times broke that story. This would seem to affect far more people, and it did sound like the President was confirming that story today. He was answering Terry's question --
MR. SNOW: Well, if you go back -- if you go back and you look through what he said, there was a reference to foreign-to-domestic calls. I am not going to stand up here and presume to declassify any kind of program. That is a decision the President has to make. I can't confirm or deny it. The President was not confirming or denying.
Again, I would take you back to the USA Today story, simply to give you a little context. Look at the poll that appeared the following day. While there was -- part of it said 51 percent of the American people opposed, if you look at when people said, if there is a roster of phone numbers, do you feel comfortable that -- I'm paraphrasing and I apologize -- but something like 64 percent of the polling was not troubled by it. Having said that, I don't want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program -- the alleged program -- the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.
Q But there are polls that show Americans are very concerned about it.
MR. SNOW: The President -- you cannot run a security -- you cannot base national security on poll numbers. As the President of the United States you have to make your own judgments about what is in the nation's best interest.
Q You just brought it up, though.
MR. SNOW: Well, I did bring it up because what you were talking about is how people were concerned about privacy issues, and I tried to relate to you what happened. It was interesting, when people were given the specifics in that story, they did not seem to be terribly troubled.
Q We are now.
MR. SNOW: Well, that may have more to do with the way it's being spun than the way it's actually -- go ahead.
Q The news coming out today is as part of the incentives for Iran to cease its enrichment program, that Britain, France and Germany are prepared to offer Iran a light-water reactor. Has the United States signed off on this program? What do you think about that?
MR. SNOW: The United States has been pretty consistent in saying that Iran needs to renounce nuclear ambitions when it comes to a nuclear weapon. We have also said repeatedly that peaceful civil uses of nuclear power for electricity generation, that's perfectly appropriate. The key here is if Iran agrees to the stipulations that the United States and the international community have made -- which is to back away from any potential nuclear -- the creation of nuclear weapons -- that's a development we would welcome.
Q So you support the light-water reactor?
MR. SNOW: I think the United States -- let me just make it very general -- the United States is aware of and supports the continuing efforts of the EU3 to work -- am I getting it wrong? Okay. Thank you very much. In any event, the EU3 to make sure that Iran does, in fact, pursue peaceful, and strictly peaceful, applications of nuclear power should it do so.
Q Do you have any reaction to Governor Schwarzenegger's comments that the border state governors were not consulted about the President's immigration proposal, about the troops on the border, and that they don't like the idea?
MR. SNOW: Well, governors are going to have different opinions. And I think also, as people again begin to be read into the program, let's see what they have to say. Obviously, we take seriously what Governor Schwarzenegger has to say about the issue. There was consultation on the staff level, and I guarantee you there will be consultation on the principals level, as well.
Give you another example. Governor Richardson of New Mexico has been saying that he would like to see more Border Patrol agents placed on the border. Well, guess what -- that's the heart and soul of the President's proposal.
So I think what's going to happen is that there will be continued dialogue with the governors and with staffs. You've got to keep in mind that as the Commander-in-Chief of California, in effect, Governor Schwarzenegger will have the opportunity to request National Guard support to free up Border Patrol agents to work on the border. In addition, there are provisions within the President's proposal to do things like a high-tech fence along highly-trafficked areas. Duncan Hunter, who has been very conservative on the issue over the years, supports the President's ideas. I think this is one of these things where, again, let's see what happens as they read into the details.
Q The White House has not reached out to him specifically before the President made --
MR. SNOW: The White House -- there was consultation between the White House and gubernatorial offices. I'll just leave it at that.
Q One thing, in talking to House Republicans, that really troubles them about the "path to citizenship" part of the debate over immigration is that -- is the sticking point on whether illegal immigrants who wish to be citizens would be forced to leave the country, then get back in line. It seems to me the President supports at least allowing a certain pool of illegal immigrants to go through the citizenship process without having to physically leave the country. That's accurate, right?
MR. SNOW: Walk me through that again -- what you're talking about -- look, there are a series of proposals that -- what the President did not do is commit himself to specifics about how people would enter the path to citizenship. As you know, that is a topic of debate right now before the United States Senate, and I guarantee you it's going to go to conference. So this is one where the President, I think, is willing to work with willing members of Congress to come up with a solution.
Q Have you heard him talk specifically about this notion of -- he's talked about treating illegal immigrants who have been here longer who have roots differently. Would that include not requiring them to physically leave the country --
MR. SNOW: As I said, at this point that's a level of operational detail I'm not willing to address right now.
Q Tony, the President laid out this plan last night to bring the National Guard in, up to 6,000 troops. But back in December, his own Homeland Security Secretary, I think on a program you, in fact, were guest hosting, said this is not a plan, "the National Guard is really, first of all, not trained for that mission."
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Why has the White House changed its position in the last few months, first of all? And second of all, does the administration regret not moving quicker to deal with this border security --
MR. SNOW: Keep in mind, the original proposal was for National Guard members to do law enforcement activities. And there is no sense that the National Guard is going to be doing that. Instead, what the President is saying is, we're going to make National Guard units available to do non-law enforcement tasks, such as doing various kinds of construction, doing surveillance, doing intelligence work, which would permit Border Patrol agents -- who sometimes have to do other things -- to go ahead and work on the border. There's also talk of freeing up people who are at desk jobs within the Border Patrol who have been trained to do law enforcement to do so.
The difference between then and now is, as Secretary Chertoff was saying, National Guard personnel are not trained to do law enforcement. Instead what the President is trying to do is to take the people who specifically trained to do this particular kind of law enforcement and get them out there, get the assets on the border as quickly as possible.
Q Tony, it sounds as though the President did not talk to any of the border state governors, himself, is that correct?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to engage in on deliberations. I honestly am not sure. I know for a fact that there was staff contact. I don't know if the President called the governors.
Q How about with the Hill? Did the President -- or was it all left to the staff?
MR. SNOW: There, again, I'm not going to get into what the President did or didn't do.
Q Thanks, Tony. You just a second ago said you guarantee it's going to go to conference. So you already know that the Senate is going to pass this?
MR. SNOW: Okay, you know what, I was being presumptuous here. (Laughter.) But I think that there is -- again, I think there's a good chance -- if you talk to people on the Hill, it looks as if the Senate has put together a series of rules. But you're absolutely right. I overstepped and should not be making predictions about what the Senate will do, and we'll leave it to the senators, themselves.
Q The President has talked a great deal in the context of global policy of the concern about an emerging sense of isolationism and protectionism. Can you talk about his concern that some of the criticism from the right on a guest worker program and a path to citizenship foments that isolationism and protectionism with his own party?
MR. SNOW: I think what the President was trying to do last night was, once again, appeal to people's sense of who we are as a country, which is a nation of immigrants. As he said, there's a way to talk about border security and being a nation of immigrants in a way that fits together. He was not trying to point fingers at either party, or at either house of Congress. What he was trying to do was show leadership on the issue and to do it in a practical, principled and idealistic way.
Q One last question if I can. The definition of comprehensive immigration reform that the President demands, does it have to include a path to citizenship?
MR. SNOW: Does it have to? The President laid out exactly what he thinks is necessary, and keep in mind, Carl, what he was saying is you cannot do one thing at a time. You have to do it all at once, or it all falls apart.
Q The initial reaction at the House yesterday was largely solely about the National Guard elements, and either ignored or derided the elements of a path to citizenship or a guest worker program. As you know, the Senate is also taking up amendments today that would largely change very, very fundamentally the Senate bill that the President prefers. Would he veto a bill that emerged either without the guest worker program or without the path to citizenship?
MR. SNOW: I think it's -- two things; first, I'm not sure I would share the characterization. You just gave a global view of how 435 people might regard a highly complex bill, and I think you can agree that there's a pretty wide spread of opinion.
Q -- (inaudible) --
MR. SNOW: No, I think so. The second thing, it's highly presumptuous to talk about veto threats and that sort of thing when we haven't, as Carl just pointed out, even got a Senate bill.
Q Hold on, Tony. The Speaker did totally ignore the path to citizenship. His statement in response had only to do with border security.
MR. SNOW: And as I said before, David, give members of the House time to digest what goes on. They have talked about one element. As the President pointed out, there are five separate elements.
Q Tony, first of all, welcome and congratulations.
MR. SNOW: Thank you.
Q My question, going back on immigration. I agree with the President that you cannot deport 12 million-plus and also not allow amnesty. But they are taking a lot of -- from people who are legally in this country, paying taxes, they are here for five or 10 years, still waiting for a green card or citizenship, and these people will get automatically from illegal to legal status. What is the future of those people who are still waiting --
MR. SNOW: Those people are -- look, those people are ahead in line. As the President said, nobody is going to be able to jump over those who have been waiting legally in line.
Q You said today and you said yesterday, also, this will free up some Border Patrol agents. Do you have a number of how many would actually be shifted to the border?
MR. SNOW: You know what, rather than have me fake it, I will get a precise number to you -- (laughter) -- because I'll tell you what we have said -- and here in the front row, if anybody wants to provide a precise number -- I know that we said a number of thousand people in desk jobs are being moved. The precise complement on the border, itself, I'll find out.*
Q Tony, I'm curious, why won't you comment at all on the USA Today story, or at least talk in a limited way about how average Americans' phone records are handled by the National Security Agency?
MR. SNOW: Because it's inappropriate.
Q Tony, has there been contact with other governors to see -- in other words, will we start to see some governors coming forward soon to say, I support the President's plan --
MR. SNOW: Well, we've only had Governors Napolitano and Perry expressing support for it, so if you're talking about the border states. And, again, I think based on the comments Governor Richardson made, there is certainly an attempt to address the specific concern about Border Patrol agents. The answer is, this is an issue, obviously, of broad and deep concern and the administration is going to reach out to people all around the political system; we do it, and do it right.
Q Tony, last night Roy Blunt in the House leadership issued a statement saying he still had serious concerns after the President's speech. What's the strategy, what's the White House strategy going forward on how to bring some of these folks around?
MR. SNOW: What I think I've said before is that members of the House -- Roy Blunt said that he was concerned about border security. Now, as I pointed out, the President's own proposal over the length of the proposal actually places more assets on the border than the bill for which Representative Blunt has already voted. So I think there is a serious attempt to address that concern.
As far as outreach, there are going to be different ways to reach out to members of Capitol Hill. I can't tell you exactly how we're going to deal with Roy Blunt or Denny Hastert or anybody else. But I guarantee you, the President knows that this is an issue of sufficient concern that he is going to pay heed to friends and allies on Capitol Hill.
Q Can I look ahead to tomorrow's tax bill signing? The President for many months now has been describing an economy firing on all cylinders. Does the economy still need that much stimulus, or does it not have more -- avoid the danger posed by the continuing large deficits, not greater at this point?
MR. SNOW: Are you suggesting that we have too much prosperity?
Q I am not suggesting, I'm asking.
MR. SNOW: Well, it seemed -- you're talking about too much stimulus. If you take a look at the revenue numbers that are coming in -- you just talked about deficits -- the revenue numbers are coming in in such a way that the deficits are, in fact, below estimates. I think if you want to have tax revenues coming in and gushing -- the President is committed to a path of growth. He has made it clear that he wants to make permanent all the tax cuts that have been enacted for the simple good reason that it's good to have people employed, it's good to have people making more money, it's good to have productivity up, it's good to have the most vigorous economy on the face of the Earth, and he wants to continue it.
Q Has Karl Rove told the President that he will resign if he is indicated in the Valerie Plame affair?
MR. SNOW: I am not going to comment at all on Karl Rove and his private communications with the President, nor am I going to comment on what may or may not happen.
Q Shouldn't America's immigration problems be solved in context with other countries such as Mexico? What is the President doing to convince such countries as Mexico to curb illegal immigrants from crossing the border into the U.S.?
MR. SNOW: Well, the President is going to do American domestic policy, and he's not going to presume to speak for foreign leaders. He did have a phone call with President Fox, and the two of them talked about cooperating on trying to clamp down on illegal traffic between Mexico and the United States on drug and human trafficking, and try to maintain the sanctity of the borders.
Q Tony, the President used new language today in actually making the case for immigrants to become U.S. citizens. And one thing he said is we're a nation of immigrants, but he went on to say we are not going to discriminate against people. There are some who see this debate, particularly the emotional rhetoric in talking about Mexicans, illegal immigrants as having racial or even racist overtones. Does the President agree with that? And what did he mean when he said today, we are not going to discriminate against people?
MR. SNOW: Well, Suzanne, I think I will not try to improve on the President's words from today.
Q Hi, Tony. Welcome, and nice, nice and zippy. A couple of personal questions. You've made a lot of -- (laughter.) What are your personal goals, what do you hope to achieve here? Will you continue to televise these briefings? And would you put into English the phrase, "hug the tar baby"?
MR. SNOW: Well, when we hug the tar baby -- we could trace that back to American lore. I don't see it as a personal sacrifice to answer a call from the President of the United States to come and serve, I consider it an honor. That still gives me chills. I go out at the end of that lawn, I look back the pillars, and think, man, I'm working here. I don't know if you ever do this, but if you don't, I suggest you do. It's an astounding thing. And whatever the citizens and you may feel about your particular state in life, this is a very special place to work.
What was the second part of the question?
Q Will you continue to televise the briefings?
MR. SNOW: I have made no decisions about whether or not to televise. I am sure that the TV people here would have absolutely no problem with us going dark. (Laughter.)
Q What kind of timetable do you have for a comprehensive bill? I mean, when would you have to have it in your hands, because --
MR. SNOW: You're talking about immigration?
MR. SNOW: Again, this is one where I've already overstepped my bounds by presuming to predict a Senate vote. I'm not going to go any further. I think the President would like to see action.
Q Does the White House have a notion on the percentage of these Guard troops that are already in the four border states, versus how many might have to come from --
MR. SNOW: I'll refer technical questions like that back to the Department of Homeland Security. I do not have the breakdown. I know that they were briefing on that earlier today.
Let me go back over here --
Q Tony, what's the message to Salvadorans or Mexicans who are headed north as we speak, when they hear the President speaking of tolerance, and might have tuned out for the rest of it? Is it, turn around and go back?
MR. SNOW: What the President wants is an end to illegal immigration, and at the same time, some sort of resolution, some practical way of dealing with the fact that you have 11 million people who have come here illegally, many of which -- many of whom have set down roots, are working and paying taxes. The message is: Obey the law.
Q Tony, just so you can run the full gamut, Rebecca Cooper, with ABC7 News.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Could you update us on where President Bush stands on giving the District voting rights in the House, now that Chairman Tom Davis is pushing a bill that would give the District voting rights?
MR. SNOW: That is an issue -- why don't we wait and see what happens first. If Representative Davis has success, we will be able to formulate a position.
Q Second question, why did you choose to wear the yellow bracelet today? What's the importance to you?
MR. SNOW: I had cancer last year. And having cancer, it's one of these things -- thank Terry Hunt for having provided -- I lost my old one when I was in the hospital having my last cancer surgery. It's going to sound stupid, and I'll be personal here, but -- just having gone through this last year -- and I said this to Chris Wallace -- was the best thing that ever happened to me. It's my Ed Muskie moment. (Laughter.) I lost a mother to cancer when I was 17, same type -- same type, colon cancer. And what has happened in the field of cancer since then is a miracle.
I actually had a chance to talk today with Lance Anderson [sic] about this. You know, it's one of these things where America -- whatever we may say about a health care system, the technologies that were available to me that have me standing behind the podium today, where a doctor who said, you don't have to worry about getting cancer, just heartburn, talking to these people -- (laughter) -- that's a wonderful thing. And I feel every day is a blessing.
Q Tony, going back to Peter and Suzanne talking about race, some are questioning if this guest worker program is divisive. It pits people with color against black Americans. And Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas says that black Americans need to be brought to the table when you're talking about this issue.
MR. SNOW: I don't precisely -- I don't understand -- I don't want to be foolish, but how on earth would it pit willing workers --
Q Okay, then according to the President's proposal those who -- employers are allowed to give jobs to immigrants, those jobs from people -- it keeps giving those jobs to people -- the immigrants because others won't take those jobs. Others -- and some are saying those others are African Americans.
MR. SNOW: No, you know --
Q Vicente Fox said that.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I'll let President Fox defend his comments. I'm just not going to go into that.
Q Don't you think that African Americans -- and not just African Americans, but black Americans need to be brought to the table? Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee is making this request.
MR. SNOW: She's a member of Congress; of course, she's at the table.
Q Tony, three quick things. First of all, welcome aboard.
MR. SNOW: Thank you.
Q Secondly, the beautiful woman in the yellow blouse with the Spanish accent is my wife, Sarah Scott.
Q Oh, God. (Laughter.)
Q Thirdly, like the little old grandfather in the movie Moonstruck, I'm a little confused. Under posse comitatus, if governors call up the National Guard, they are allowed to actually engage in police activities. And there are trained units in the National Guard, trained MP units. Why aren't they being used that way?
MR. SNOW: Well, two things. First I think I called Lance Armstrong, Lance Anderson. So let me first apologize to him for that.
Secondly, the President has made it clear he wants people whose full-time job is law enforcement at the border to handle the full-time job of law enforcement at the border. If you spend time deputizing people who later are going to have to go on to other things, you have failed to achieve your long-term objective, which is to strengthen our ability to patrol the borders and to try to shut down illegal immigration.
Q Tony, a lot of people that have been looking at the immigration issue for a long time say that the President is wasting his time talking about border patrol, that it's an issue that he'll never gain -- this question of temporary workers is something that he'll never convince the hardcore conservatives about, no matter how long he talks about border patrol. What can he do to talk directly to the more moderate doubters in the Senate and the House about this temporary worker --
MR. SNOW: Look, every aspect of this program is something in which the President deeply believes in. I think you've just made the case for leadership here. The President is not sitting around doing calculations about how you get a vote here or there; he's talking about a comprehensive solution. And I think what he will end up doing is talking with members of both parties, of all ideological stripes -- because the idea somehow that there's one group of people and only one group of people -- labor, also, has had problems with the idea of trying to deal with these.
I think the President is looking for a way to reach across both parties, to have bipartisan cooperation on building a solution that is going to be reflective of American ideals and contemporary realities.
Q Tony, as the only other talk radio host in this room, I'd like to ask you as a former colleague a brief, one-part question. (Laughter.) Congresswoman Maloney of New York and 43 others in the House have written the President, and this is the fourth time with no response from him, to ask, is the President opposed to contraception or not?
MR. SNOW: Well, thank you, that's -- (laughter) --
Q Thank you?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q How does he stand?
MR. SNOW: The President does not share his private correspondence with members of Congress or others, and so I don't have an answer for you, Lester.
Q The President last night said that there would be help for state and local governments in funding this program. Will the state and local governments be asked to kick in?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q And what are the funds that he's talking about?
MR. SNOW: There are two different types of accounts that were mentioned. One is called 287G; the other is called Stonegarden. Basically, what they do is they provide reimbursements for targeted apprehension and detention. In other words, you've got a certain operation you want to do, you need to call upon local law enforcement, which knows the area, which knows the terrain, which is going to be helpful. You do that and you do the reimbursement. State and local governments are going to be asked to pony up additional funds.
Q So they would be held harmless --
MR. SNOW: Correct.
Q Tony, the President called for a civil tone in the immigration debate. I wonder, is he concerned that by characterizing those who oppose a path to legalization for illegal immigrations as people who want to deport aliens that he's going to further inflame --
MR. SNOW: No, I think what he was trying to do was to talk about the two poles of the debate. You can't deport millions, and on the other hand, you don't grant amnesty and say we just forget about it. What you have to do is to come up with a rational middle ground. I don't think he felt that he was going to offend anybody by doing it. What he was trying to do is explain to the American people what the two poles are in the debate and how he intends to be in the middle.
Q Tony, Fox News, and specifically "The O'Reilly Factor," has aired video of the Mexican military assisting coyotes smuggle people across the border. How could the President call Vicente Fox in Mexico an ally in this immigration issue with corruption that extends all the way to the military?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to get into -- let me just review what I said before, which is that the two Presidents, in their conversation over the weekend, talked about the importance of border security, about fighting crime, which includes human and drug trafficking, and doing it in a way that's going to be cooperative. The President has already said, Mexico is not our enemy. And he certainly is committed to having secure borders and credible border enforcement.
Q Tony, the Heritage Foundation has done a study on the Senate bill and concluded it would authorize legal -- not illegal, but legal -- immigration of 100 million over the next 20 years. The math seems pretty simple, five times 20 is 100 million. Is that a level of legal immigration that the President would support?
MR. SNOW: Before you do the -- you're talking about a Heritage Foundation study that talks about a Senate bill that may or may not be passed in its present form. And you also have the dangers of trying to do straight-line projections where human beings are cussedly unpredictable. We are talking a look right now at the methodology of the Heritage study, so I don't want to -- I don't want to get too deep into the details. But we are taking a look at it. I mean, those are serious allegations.
But, again, what the President has talked about is figuring out a way to guarantee national security, to strengthen national security by, A, going ahead and securing the borders; B, doing interior enforcement; C, doing assimilation, and making sure that we have a solution that's going to hold up over time. And finally, the last piece of the guest worker program is designed to make sure that people have a legal path, and a predictable legal path, for getting into the country, and after that, using that as a way to try to prevent the kind of scrambling over the borders that we've seen.
Q But -- does he think there should be a legal --
MR. SNOW: I don't think -- I'm sorry, what?
Q What is the appropriate number of legal immigrants coming into this country?
MR. SNOW: That is something that Congress decides every year.
Q Tony, you've been asked several questions about the NSA. The President was asked about his NSA programs. The President was asked about it this morning. On Thursday, however, isn't General Hayden going to have to be a little more forthcoming in public about these programs if he's going to become the head of the CIA?
MR. SNOW: General Hayden I don't think is under any obligation to spill the beans in terms of national security in a public forum. I think the members who are going to be holding hearings understand where to draw the boundaries. There will be some tough questions, I am sure, that are asked behind closed doors, and those with appropriate classification will be able to see -- receive differing levels of detail. But, again, the idea that somehow you talk about all aspects of National Security Agency activities in an open forum is absolutely inappropriate.
Q He didn't ask that.
MR. SNOW: Well, that is what he asked.
Q Tony, Senator Grassley has introduced legislation that would waive the penalty for Medicare recipients who don't sign up for the drug benefit. Would the President be open to something like that?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, that's a bill that was dropped in the hopper just a couple hours ago, and just as we've said that members of the House and Senate take a good look at the President's proposals, we'll take a good, careful look at that.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: All right.
Q Just thoughts on your first day, Tony, some final thoughts on your first day?
Q Yes, welcome.
Q How hard is it?
MR. SNOW: I love it, this is great. Thank you.
END 1:10 P.M. EDT
* National Guard support will enable us to move more than 500 Border Patrol agents from jobs in the back office to the front lines.