|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 5, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:19 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: All right, welcome. A couple little items of housekeeping. First, the off-the-record. The President went to the Dunkin' Donuts at the Potomac Mills Mall.* There we were taking a look at a program that is designed to help employers determine whether the employees are legally immigrants to the United States of America.
Interestingly enough, the two guys who own that and other Dunkin' Donuts and other branches are Iranian Americans. The district manager was a Guatemalan American, and the person running it is a Salvadoran American. So what you ended up having was, as the President said, a pretty good example of what happens in America as people come here seeking opportunity. So he was taking a look at the Basic Pilot program, which has been adopted by that company as of the 1st of July, which is a way of accessing Social Security and other information to make sure that people are, in fact, American citizens.
Also, since our morning meeting, a couple of other diplomatic developments, of which I'm sure you're aware, on the North Korea front. Secretary of State Rice has been meeting this morning with Abdullah Gul, the Foreign Minister of Turkey. They will have a working lunch. After that she'll be sitting down with the National Security Advisor of South Korea; Steve Hadley also meeting today with his counterpart from South Korea. In addition, the United Nations Security Council has been in an emergency session and will return after lunchtime to an emergency session, as they continue to figure out proper responses to North Korea's provocations of yesterday and today.
That sort of closes it up. Terry.
Q Could I ask you about China's reaction? They say that North Korea's launch was regrettable, but they indicate that they would -- that they favor something weaker than a condemnation, a condemnation that Japan has offered.
MR. SNOW: Well, a number of people have been talking about different options, and as Ambassador Bolton just said, at this point, nobody is going to announce anything. What they're doing is working together both within the United Nations Security Council and also the parties of the six-party talks -- which reminds me, Chris Hill -- once again, there's been another schedule change -- Chris Hill will be leaving this evening. We do know that he will be meeting with his counterparts from Russia, China, Japan and South Korea. I do not know for certain exactly what the itinerary is. That will be announced a little bit later. But I promised you that, so we do know that.
Q Well, does it appear that there is a lack of consensus?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. If you take a look at all the statements, everybody regards it as a clear provocation. The end state is pretty clear: What you want is a North Korea that renounces nuclear development, that returns to the table, that no longer engages in this kind of activity, this kind of provocative activity. And you also have got to keep in mind the Chinese specifically asked the North Koreans not to do this; the Japanese specifically asked the North Koreans not to do this; the South Koreans specifically asked them not to do this; the Russians, the international community. You had continuing efforts to try to reason with the government of Pyongyang, and there will continue to be those efforts.
And the one thing that Ambassador Bolton said, and it's been our policy all along, is that we do not act unilaterally, parties do not act unilaterally. They will act in concert. And that's how we will continue.
Q Tony, all of this brings up the question of how you reach North Korea. If you have their loan-trading partners asking them not to do something and they do it, what can you sketch out as a sort of a general range of options to --
MR. SNOW: I really -- Jim, I don't want to get into general ranges of options. As you know, the Japanese have already taken a couple of preliminary steps, and they've announced those earlier today. No North Korean ships are going to be able to come into Japanese ports. They're not going to permit transit into Japan from North Korea for diplomats and others. I honestly don't know -- I think that they're discussing a whole range of things.
You point out -- one of the most important things to remember is the situation in North Korea. We don't want to punish the North Korean people. They've been punished enough by their government. Here you have a nation where as many as 2 million people starved in the last decade. You have a nation, the infrastructure of which, was largely built in the period of 1910 to 1945. You have a government that commits regular human rights abuses; that rather than having an economy, draws its income from arms sales and also trafficking in counterfeit currencies and drugs. This is -- meanwhile, you have at least a third of the budget is spent on military expenditures. You have the "Dear Leader" living in splendor while many of his people live in squalor.
The question of how you get through and how you influence that behavior is something that everybody in these talks is taking very seriously. I don't have an answer for you right now. I'm sure that they are trying in very practical terms to figure out the best way to have influence on that government, or to have influence with people who are going to have influence with the government.
Q One follow.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Last week in the East Room, the Japanese Prime Minister said that he'd been in consultation with the President in talking about what they would do should the North Koreans launch, hoping they wouldn't.
MR. SNOW: Right, right.
Q Now that they have, can we get a little more detail on what that conversation was all about?
MR. SNOW: No, it's -- the President has had a number of general conversations. I was not in there -- there was one small restricted meeting. I have a feeling that some of those details were discussed in that restricted meeting of which I was not a party, and I have not gotten a readout on anything specific.
But I know that what has been discussed -- and there was extensive diplomatic activity before this. As I said this morning, it was anticipated that something like this might happen. So there were ongoing efforts by the United States and its allies, A, to try to avert this and, B, to start gaming out some things that would happen. As I said earlier today, given what happened -- I don't think anybody had a specific scenario for seven missile launches on the 4th and 5th of July -- but I am wary of trying to get into sort of specific things that the leaders may have discussed. I think right now, as Secretary Rice has said, and also Ambassador Bolton, all parties now are trying to figure out realistically how to make a positive difference through diplomatic means.
Q Tony, if I could just -- it's probably similar to your question, as well -- but you've been talking about this for a month. You anticipated this launch for a month, whether it was one missile or whether it was 10 missiles. And yet you still don't have a clear idea of what options there are. Why not? Or you just don't want to discuss it.
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't want to discuss anything that is going on behind the scenes because part of what's going on is that the parties through the six-party talks are now working to come up with something in unison.
Martha, as you know, it's an enormously -- you've got a society that is anything but transparent. You have a society that already runs the kind of economy that I've described and subjects its people to human rights abuses. And so you do have the practical issue that has been discussed much, but now it has been joined for people to figure out how to move together. It is not like you have a simple off-the-shelf, let's go to option C, surely this will make a difference. If we had had something that simple, it probably could have been deployed effectively to have prevented the launches.
Q Did you at anytime think that they were backing off? Or this entire month, were you quite certain they were going to launch? I know it's not a transparent society, but --
MR. SNOW: I cannot speak -- I know that there was always the hope that they would not launch. But when you do this, when you're looking at a situation like this, you always have to anticipate that something may happen. And that is what's going on. And I must say, even now there is continuing analysis of the launches and the telemetry from the launches to try to figure out what one may be able to determine about the aims and intents of those launches themselves. And the experts over at DOD and at NORCOM and other places are still trying to go through that.
Q But can I just get one definitive, then? North Korea launched seven, or possibly more, missiles in the last 24 hours.
MR. SNOW: So far, we only know seven, yes.
Q What's the U.S. response?
MR. SNOW: The U.S. response is we're working with our allies to figure out how to try to get North Korea back to the table, back to the six-party talks, and to figure out some way to establish their credibility so we can move forward.
Q -- each government involved in this has issued a statement calling it a provocative act, whatever -- how important is it to have a united statement condemning what has happened here?
MR. SNOW: Well, inasmuch as you're operating as five parties in six-party talks, it's something that we very much expect to have. You expect to be speaking with one voice -- not five, not 10, not 15. It's also one of the reasons why, within the confines of the Security Council, there's also a very strong effort to reach consensus on how to proceed.
Q Tony, it was four years ago that President Bush labeled North Korea a member of the axis of evil. But under the President's watch, you have -- North Korea has increased its nuclear arsenal. You've got it abandoning the six-party talks, and now these missile tests are going on. What do you say to Americans, how do you convince them that this is not a policy that is basically a failure?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me -- it's an interesting question.
Q What can you point to that actually shows that any of the U.S. objectives have been met?
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way. Let me quibble with your assumption beforehand. North Korea also had talked to the previous administration, which had put together an agreed framework that was designed to ensure that there would be no nuclear development. It was this administration that discovered that nuclear development and brought it directly to the attention of the North Koreans. It was this administration that also, working with our allies, brought the North Koreans to the table for the six-party talks.
Is it going to be possible for a policy or a President to try to make a leader who seems determined not to care about his own people, and also to defy the will of his neighbors and the people of his neighborhood -- is there a simple policy option that will change that? I don't know.
But to say that somehow the policy of this administration has made a tangible difference for the worse in North Korea I think is not accurate. Furthermore, this is North Korean government that's been behaving much the same way for a very long period of time. And what the United States has done is create within the neighborhood a kind of diplomatic consensus that did not previously exist, and also now has a unity of purpose among the members of that community to try to make sure that North Korea's ambitions, whatever they may be, if they're hostile, get bottled up so that it is possible for that region to enjoy security and peace.
Q Just a follow-up here.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q While the behavior of those involved in the six-party talks has changed, they've gotten more aggressive toward North Korea, how has the six-party talks -- that process -- changed Pyongyang's behavior? We haven't seen a change in --
MR. SNOW: Let me back up. I would hesitate -- you've just described the behavior of people who have been offering diplomacy as aggressive. Wrong. The people who are practicing aggression are the people who are firing missiles into the sea.
Now, in this particular case, again, when you build international consensus of this sort and you have the chief trading partners and those who are -- do a great deal of commerce with the North Koreans involved, that's an important step. And whether -- at some point things are going to change in North Korea. We don't know how, but we do know that it is absolutely imperative on the peninsula to build the basis and the prospects for peace. And if you have a man --
Q But if we --
MR. SNOW: Look, what do you want me to say? Do you think that there is some special way to sort of send a secret message and Kim Jong-il suddenly is going to practice rationality. If so, we'd love to hear it, and we'll accept all suggestions.
Q Do you have any plans to have the President reach out to his counterparts in an effort to forge this --
MR. SNOW: The President has spoken in recent weeks with these counterparts. What we're doing right now is conducting negotiations at the appropriate -- and that is the diplomatic -- level. Secretary Rice now has spoken with the other four parties, her counterparts in Japan, Russia, South Korea and China within the last two days. We also have Chris Hill, who is going to be going directly to speak with this counterparts there, to make an appearance in the region. So I think you've got very aggressive diplomacy before and, now, after the fact, and we'll continue to do that. Let me say "assertive," since I quibbled with "aggressive" a moment ago -- assertive diplomacy.
Q On that line of questioning, you've gone out of your way to point out that the President has not called world leaders today, and in fact, his NSC briefing was on Cuba. Do you think that the North Koreans were trying to get this to a presidential level?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, but if that was their desire, they failed. If it was the desire of Kim Jong-il to turn this into a two-party negotiation or standoff between the United States and North Korea, he blew it. Instead, what has happened is that the United States continues to work with its allies in the region, including those in the neighborhood who have profound and vested interest in their own safety and security to work with the United States to try to come to a happier resolution.
Q If I could follow real quick. Have you heard concern from allies, including China, that if there are harsh sanctions, that perhaps this regime would crumble, and that would not be a good thing for the region?
MR. SNOW: I have not been privy to any of those discussions, Brett, so it would be presumptuous of me to say. I am sure that people are discussing any and all scenarios trying to figure out the proper way forward. But I honestly don't have an answer to your question.
Q Do you have any expectation that there would be any additional launches that might be imminent?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I'll go back to what Steve Hadley was saying yesterday, which is that there appear to be at least potentially a launchable -- a small number also of Nodongs and scuds, the shorter, medium-range missiles, that may or may not be launched. We don't know. But there is not immediate expectation -- again, we're watching this with interest and keeping on top of it. But there certainly is the potential there. We don't know if they're going to act on it or not.
Q And what's the minimum threshold that you want to see come out of the U.N. Security Council?
MR. SNOW: I don't think you talk about minimum thresholds, because I don't even know how you measure it. I don't quite know what the question means. I think what you are going to see -- it's not even minimum threshold, it's a necessity, which is the kind of diplomatic consensus that is going to make it possible to put whatever appropriate pressure on the government in Pyongyang to try to make sure that it steps back from these acts of provocation, it steps back from being an arms supplier to terrorist regimes -- including Iran and Syria -- that it steps back from the use of drugs and counterfeiting and arms proliferation as a way of making money, and that steps back from making life miserable for its own people while the small elites live in relative luxury.
Q Thank you. Tony, my question is on Cuba. Why did the NSA meeting -- NSC, excuse me -- meeting this morning focus on Cuba? Is there anything new about Castro's health, or is the administration conducting a new policy towards Cuba?
MR. SNOW: None of the above. It was a regularly scheduled meeting. As you know, the State Department has been producing a report -- it produced one a couple of years ago, and it was for the purposes of reviewing that and they were going through it. I suspect -- and I apologize, I had asked -- I had told you that I was going to see some guidance on what, if anything, they discussed about Iraq at that meeting and I did not get it, so I will attach it to the transcript, any additional information that I may get.
Q May I ask another question?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q North Korea. Congressman Brad Sherman of California says unless China agrees to stop shipping petroleum products to North Korea, sanctions against North Korea will not work. Is the military option still on the table?
MR. SNOW: Well, we thank Representative Sherman for his input.
Q Tony, as diplomacy is being sought by this administration and around the world as relates to North Korea, a senior administration official here said in recent weeks that all options are on the table. Does that put this administration in a precarious position if it comes to military might? Because many have said the U.S. military is stretched too thin right now with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
MR. SNOW: No. Again, we have been -- we leave all options available in all circumstances because that is the way you do this. You do not conduct -- you don't negotiate against yourself. On the other hand, it is the clear interest of the United States -- and I think the movements of Chris Hill, the meetings of Secretary Rice, the ongoing operations or the ongoing consultations at the United Nations make it very clear that the United States is interested in diplomatic resolution here.
Q Well, how would you classify the U.S. military might in Asia right now, in that region?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into classifying because you're trying to lead me down a path I simply --
Q No, no, I'm not leading you. If that is an option that is still on the table among many --
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you're taking a month-old quote from a senior administration official.
Q That's not a month-old quote.
MR. SNOW: Two-weeks old?
Q Yes, two weeks.
MR. SNOW: Two-week old, okay. So the point here is that as we take a look at this, diplomacy is what we're talking about right now.
Q But that administration official also said that military might in that part of the world is robust. But you still say that --
MR. SNOW: The U.S. military might globally -- the United States has a robust and mobile -- robust and mobile military capabilities. But again, I want to steer you away. There are attempts to try to describe this almost in breathless World War III terms. This is not such a situation. This is a situation in which people are working with a regime in North Korea, trying to reason with a dictator, to step back from provocative activities. That is the most important thing.
Q Tony, the President seems to be putting out a renewed push for immigration, since there is activity, obviously, in Congress right now in terms of hearings. What is the President's -- where does he want to see this bill go in the next two weeks? Is he still optimistic he's going to get a bill --
MR. SNOW: I think determination is probably the more appropriate way to describe the President's view on immigration, which is he wants comprehensive reform. You saw a little piece of it today with the Basic Pilot program.
One of the complaints about immigration has been that people get here illegally, they get to work, they're either exploited by employers or they're breaking the law. And one of the key gaps in immigration law in recent years has been that there has been no good way to verify the status, legal or illegal, of people who have come across the borders.
Now with Basic Pilot, that is one of the devices by which employers not only can ascertain the legality of the people that are working for them, but also by which prosecutors can go after those who knowingly hire illegals. And if they don't have the ability to step forward with proof, they're going to face a different set of circumstances in a court of law than they've been facing previously.
Previously, you got fines. Now what you have are criminal sanctions and forfeitures, which really do raise the level of punishment much higher. And that has been the case for the last two years. That's a switch that this administration made a year ago before a lot of these debates heated up. It's a way of trying to make things credible in terms of not only figuring out whether employers are behaving properly, but whether people are here illegally.
Q Do you accept the premise that was set forth here that the missile launching is bait because they want one-on-one talks? And if they did, what would be the objection? Surely the other five members would not object to the U.S. keeping them informed.
MR. SNOW: As a matter of fact, if you think about it, the other five would object, because they -- the other four, frankly, because you have four plus North Korea. Let me --
Q -- they trust us.
MR. SNOW: Of course, they trust us. But on the other hand, it is their neighborhood, and they are the ones -- the missiles all landed in the Sea of Japan. The Japanese have an interest in it, the South Koreans have an interest in it, the Chinese have an interest in it, the Russians have an interest in it. So the key here --
Q I'm saying --
MR. SNOW: No, what you're saying is, set them aside as negotiating partners.
Q No, I'm saying --
MR. SNOW: Sure you are.
Q -- be a basic spokesman for the other five countries.
MR. SNOW: The other parties have long agreed to working as a unit, because when somebody tries to divide off -- and we've seen a little bit of this with Iran -- when you try to --
Q No, we have --
MR. SNOW: Please, let me finish, and then you could do the follow-up.
Q -- not at war with North Korea.
MR. SNOW: Okay, let's -- to continue, when somebody tries to drive a wedge in a negotiating -- in a coalition, the idea is not to strengthen it, but to weaken it. And the United States is not going to permit its ability to negotiate as part of a team to be weakened. Nor are we going to allow the Chinese voice to be weakened, or the Japanese voice to be weakened, or the South Korean or the Russian voices to be weakened. As a result, there really is strength in numbers as people with differing relations -- some official, and we, obviously, not official -- with the government of North Korea, can work together to figure out the smartest and best way to achieve what we hope will still be a peaceful and happy result.
Q I think they would trust us to negotiate and have their input.
MR. SNOW: They may trust us, but they have already agreed upon the formulation and we agree with it, too.
Lester, is this on North Korea?
MR. SNOW: We'll save it. Let's do North Korean questions and --
Q North Korea has fired multiple missiles at the time of the United States Independence Day celebration. Why do you think North Korea did it on Independence Day?
MR. SNOW: You must ask the "Dear Leader." He alone knows why this happened on the 4th of July. Many people have noted the timing and we have, too, but the idea of somehow trying to be able to read his thoughts, we're unable to do it. So I don't have a good answer.
All right, anybody else on North Korea? Okay, Lester.
Q Yes, two questions, Tony. National security studies professor Bob Zelnick of Boston University has just detailed the 1942 Chicago Tribune's reporting of the top secret U.S. breaking of the Imperial Japanese code, which came only months after President Roosevelt, during a news conference, awarded the Iron Cross to another reporter after The Tribune published another top secret contingency plan for getting U.S. troops to Europe. And my question: Has President Bush considered any al Qaeda or other terrorist group award to The New York Times, or does he believe the Attorney General is preparing legal action against that newspaper?
MR. SNOW: We will leave awards to the journalistic community, which will come up with what awards and plaudits they deem appropriate. As for --
Q Do you think that President Roosevelt was wrong?
MR. SNOW: As for prosecutions, that is something that independent prosecutors must decide. The White House is not going to hand down an edict saying "investigate this." You leave it in the hands of independent investigators and prosecutors to come to their own determinations.
Q But you're not suggesting that President Roosevelt was wrong to pin the Iron Cross on that reporter, are you?
MR. SNOW: I'm just not interested in even talking about it. (Laughter.)
Q Financial Review Magazine recommends that the White House pull the credentials of The New York Times, while nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas recommends that you "refuse to speak with Times reporters on grounds that they can't be trusted." Since Cal Thomas quotes you, Tony, admiringly, could you tell us why The New York Times was invited to the dinner for Japan's Prime Minister, when almost all of the rest of the White House reporters were not invited?
MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, those are hot tickets and David Sanger has a long history with the Japanese, he even speaks fairly passable -- according to him; I don't know -- (laughter.) Do you think Sanger's Japanese is okay?
Q He says his wife's Japanese is much better than his. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Okay. And, frankly, what Sheryl and Jim and the White House correspondents -- we think they do their jobs; they do it fairly, they work hard and they try to get it right. So I'm not going to kick them out and I still love Cal.
Q Tony, on another subject. President Bush, in 2000, attended the NAACP convention and he said civil rights would be the cornerstone of his administration. And in 2006, he has an invitation -- he's been invited, verbally and by letter. Has the President, indeed, lived up to his promise of making civil rights the cornerstone of this administration? And is he going to address the NAACP?
MR. SNOW: Civil rights has been an ongoing interest and, as you know, April, heck, I've told you I'd let you know -- and I'll let you know. (Laughter.)
Q -- House Majority Leader John Boehner that it may be necessary to hold a vote on the minimum wage so that the Democrats don't use it against the Republicans in November -- this is what Boehner has said.
MR. SNOW: We'll see what happens. If there's a proposal that arrives at the White House, we'll analyze it and the President will make the appropriate determination.
Q -- do you think that it might be necessary?
MR. SNOW: I'll leave that to Representative Boehner. I'm not going to make the political judgment on that. That is his view; I don't know if he's right or wrong.
Q One other quick question. What has been the President's reaction to the death of Ken Lay?
MR. SNOW: I really haven't talked to him about it. I'll give you my own personal reaction, which is when somebody dies you leave behind those who grieve and I think they deserve our compassion. But I don't know, what do you think would be the appropriate thing to say?
Q I don't know. I don't know him. The President was his friend, not me.
MR. SNOW: No, the President has described Ken Lay as an acquaintance, and many of the President's acquaintances have passed on during his time in office. Again, I think -- it's sort of an interesting question, but not answerable by me.
Q Tony, could you describe what the President would consider in the form of a trigger for immigration legislation? Would he be willing to consider having Congress pass an enforcement-only bill first, and then maybe next year coming back for comprehensive legislation?
MR. SNOW: I don't think that fits the description that we have talked about. "Comprehensive" means addressing all parts, and this administration already has dealt with the issue of immigration, especially border security. Neither am I going to negotiate against myself or against the President's interest from here.
Congress has an obligation to act on this. Members of Congress continue to tell us that this is a top priority for them. If you ask the American people, do you want a comprehensive plan that addresses all of the aspects of immigration, or do you just want to do one now and wait until later, the overwhelming answer is, do it all now. That's the President's view. We'll have to see what happens as members of the House and Senate -- keep in mind, they have not yet even appointed conferees on the matter. But to the idea, will he accept enforcement only and then something later, I'm not going to get into doing negotiations. His position has been clear, which is he wants comprehensive. It's not comprehensive to do one thing and say do something else later.
Q But his Legislative Affairs Director said that the President is willing to look at a trigger. I'm just trying to figure out what --
MR. SNOW: A trigger -- keep in mind that a trigger is something that also -- if you pass a bill that says you've got all these things together, and you have made your -- you have made a commitment to working on these issues, and that is an ironclad commitment to moving forward, obviously, we are interested in looking at any and all propositions that will lead us to doing that effectively.
As a number of people have said, in some ways you have a staggering anyway of what you can do because it takes time to develop some of these things such as biometric IDs. Border security, as I've pointed out -- and I've pointed a number of times -- we've spent $1.9 billion right now which, to remind people for the umpteenth time, is what the House of Representatives proposed spending over five years. So when you want to ask who is serious about border security, it's the President, who has not only put money, but assets on the border immediately. But he wants comprehensive reform. He wants comprehensive reform this year. And he looks forward to working with the House and Senate and is interested in entertaining any ideas that will lead us effectively toward that goal.
Q And just one more. As suggested by an anonymous source in The New York Times story who suggested that he ultimately would abandon a path to citizenship --
MR. SNOW: I believe that was an "anonymous source close to the White House." Apparently not close enough.
Q Tony, on Gaza, do you have any insight into the situation now in Gaza? Is Egypt helping the U.S. and Israel try to locate the soldier? And does the U.S. think Israel should release some Palestinian prisoners?
MR. SNOW: Our position has been clear from the beginning, and I will repeat it. I'm not going to talk about what behind-the-scenes diplomatic initiatives may be taking place because to do so compromises the effectiveness of any ongoing things. But the United States will welcome any help, especially because the first priority -- and something that everybody in the neighborhood agrees -- is to return the kidnapped Israeli soldier.
The Israelis have already made it clear that they have no intention of engaging in prisoner swaps. The other thing that's happened is Hamas apparently now is developing a new weapon, a two-engine rocket, which continues to be in escalation. And the threat -- it's already hit the city of Ashkelon and a school there yesterday. So it is important, once again, to stop the attacks, to stop the terror, and in the best of all possible worlds, create a negotiating partner in the Palestinian Authority who agrees with the preconditions that long ago were set by the Quartet, which is to acknowledge Israel's right to exist --
Q Which Israel?
MR. SNOW: Which Israel -- thank you. Israel's right to exist. Also to renounce terror, which clearly has not been the case when you come up with new generations of weapons. And finally to abide by prior agreements. It would be that Israel.
Q Tony, two on immigration. Was this morning's doughnut run a direct response to the notion that the President may be wavering on comprehensive --
MR. SNOW: No, actually, this was planned last week, so this is not a reaction to anything. What the President is really trying to do in a number of ways -- and you will see this -- is to illustrate what you mean by comprehensive reform. Again, the President talks about immigration also being a reflection of the soul. You want to make sure that in this country you have safe and secure borders. You also want to make sure that this remains a land of opportunity. You have two Iranians who own a number of business enterprises in this area. The district manager is Guatemalan; the fellow who runs it is a Salvadoran; they have a number of people who have come from other lands seeking work in the United States through legal means. And that is the way it is supposed to work.
And so what the President is doing is -- in some ways, this provides not only answer but illustration to those who say, well, wait a minute, you let employers get away with X, Y, and Z. Now there are increasingly effective ways to determine whether people are here legally, and therefore, increasingly effective ways to go after employers who break the law.
Q All these people you mentioned came here legally?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Last week, after meeting with the President, Representative Pence said the President seemed particularly interested in his plan which includes something -- a departure from what the President has been proposing, where people would have to return to their home countries before coming back. Is the President interested in that kind --
MR. SNOW: Actually, the Pence proposal is not that they return to their home countries, but that there would be just across the border a series of centers where people could go and they would fill out appropriate paperwork, but also there would have to be employee sponsors to bring them back into the country.
Is it an interesting idea? Yes. Representative Pence -- you would hardly expect him to say the President yawned and fell over in complete stupefied boredom, but -- (laughter) -- but point of fact, the President -- he's interested. The President is not going to be in the position right now of saying this bill or that bill. What he's interested in is comprehensive reform, and anybody who comes up with proposals that are going to be able to break the gridlock, those are going to be welcome. So the President will look at any and all proposals.
But it is now the business of Congress to put together conference committees and to put together comprehensive reform. And at that point -- obviously, we're in constant conversations. Going back to Sheryl's piece today, you also had Senator Specter talking about comprehensive reform. There are numerous discussions going on between members of the House and the Senate, let alone within the House and Senate caucuses, and within and between parties to try to do this. There are a lot of very bright people in Washington trying to figure out how to get this done.
Q But the concept of having to leave this country to, in effect, get right before you can come back is acceptable to the President?
MR. SNOW: It's interesting to the President.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: All right, thank you.
END 12:55 P.M. EDT
* Potomac Yard