|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 16, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
11:11 A.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: A number of things to do here at the top. First, the President's day. Let's see, he's just concluded a policy time. He is going to be going to York, Pennsylvania, for a tour of a Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations facility. There will be a roundtable with employees on the economy, an interview with USA Today, a statement to the press pool. He will attend a Lynn Swann for Governor reception -- that will be expanded pool -- and arrive back at the White House at about 7:20 p.m. this evening.
In addition, you probably know that United Airlines Flight 923 was diverted on its way back to Washington-Dulles from London's Heathrow. It landed in Boston. Apparently, there was a determination made by senior cabin crew and pilots about an unruly passenger, but the flight landed without incident. The Department of Homeland Security will have further developments as people continue to assess the situation.
The President today granted pardons to 17 individuals, none of whom are still serving time, but these are largely for people who have served their time and this helps expunge their records.
Also, the President is going to welcome Roh Moo-hyun of the Republic of Korea to the White House on September 14th. The alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea is deeply rooted in common values and common interests. Together the two countries have stood against common threats and worked for the promotion of democracy, free markets, and universal human rights. President Bush looks forward to reviewing with President Roh progress and relations since their last bilateral meeting, on issues including our free trade agreement, negotiations in the six-party talks. The two leaders also will discuss critical regional and global issues, including winning the war on terror, stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and promoting an open international economic order.
There have been a number of allegations in the last few days by Democrats -- and I'll just read you one from Senator Harry Reid yesterday. "Five years after 9/11, al Qaeda has morphed into a global franchise operation. Terror attacks have increased sharply across the world, and the President has shut down the program designed to catch Osama bin Laden." This has become a fairly common refrain, so I thought I would take a couple of minutes to knock it down.
It's flatly untrue. Now, what has happened is that the CIA, in response to exactly what Senator Reid was talking about, a more diffuse al Qaeda, has, in fact, reshaped its unit dealing with al Qaeda to reflect that diffuse threat. But the notion that the President has shut down a program designed to catch Osama bin Laden is utterly without foundation. It was a reorganization, not a reduction, in effort and commitment.
The CIA's efforts to locate bin Laden and other senior al Qaeda figures has not been downgraded. To the contrary, it remains fully committed to locating bin Laden and his collaborators, and is devoting more resources, not less, toward the effort. The decision to reorganize, as I said, reflected changes in al Qaeda. And it's important to note that the effort to capture bin Laden is continuing unabated, and that the CIA's most experienced personnel working this issue remain fully engaged in the fight.
Some of the people making the allegations about the bin Laden unit know perfectly well what the facts are, and you do, too.
One other note: A number of newspapers today had -- or a couple, The New York Times and L.A. Times -- had pieces about the President's meeting the other day with Iraq scholars. Just a couple of nits to pick with the Times piece -- and I have spoken with the notetaker in the meeting, I was in the meeting, I've talked to others in the meeting and I've talked to all four scholars today, and all, to a person, take exception to a verb or variations of that verb that appear a number of times at the top of the piece, which is that the President is "frustrated." He's "frustrated" that the new Iraqi government and the Iraqi people have not shown greater support for the American mission. All the participants said that that did not reflect the meeting they attended.
"A sense of frustration on the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq, generally" -- again, all of those in attendance said that that did not reflect their characterization. And a paragraph that said, "The President expressed frustration that Iraqis have not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States has made in Iraq and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd." That was unanimously rejected, as well.
Now, as I've said in the past, we tend not to go into detail about what these conversations -- what the people discuss, and I will continue to do that. Obviously, they're free to discuss what they had. But there were two pieces, and one I think did more -- at least reflect in accordance with my notes -- and I tried to be careful about this and tried not to ask leading questions, but I did talk to the four scholars and four others who were involved in the meeting, and all shared the same reflections, and their notes reflected these same points of view.
And with that, let's go. Jennifer.
Q Thanks, Tony. Is the White House or the President frustrated that the Lebanese government is not requiring Hezbollah to move their arms out of the south?
MR. SNOW: Well, no. I would hesitate to leap to conclusions about what the Lebanese government is and isn't doing. Prime Minister Siniora will be, in fact, delivering a speech I think tonight on the topic. And you've got to understand that right now you've got a new situation; the Lebanese armed forces are still preparing to begin to move south and it is going to be their job eventually to make sure that Hezbollah is disarmed and is no longer functioning as an independent militia. And we expect that to happen, but it's going to take some time.
You've seen all the stories about people simply -- right now trying to assemble the UNIFIL force. And that will take time, not merely because nations have to make contributions, but specific kinds -- task-specific delegations of troops. For instance, some are going to be doing customs, some are going to be doing mine removal, some are going to be doing operations in support of the armed forces and so on.
It requires a bit of time to get all those pieces put together. But it's important to realize that the Lebanese government will be in charge if disarming Hezbollah, and we expect that to happen. The Lebanese, with U.N. help, will be working on the border. As I said, that's a customs function. And the business of reconstruction also has to take place. And that is going to be the primary focus of what the Prime Minister has to say to the country -- at least according to our understanding.
Q You said you expect that to happen, you expect the Lebanese government to disarm Hezbollah. But do you feel confident, does the White House feel confident that there's the will within the government to do that?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to get too much into conversations we've had, but the general answer is, yes, that the Lebanese government understands the importance of making sure that you don't have what amounts to a de facto competitor in the form of Hezbollah operating independently.
I think one of the things to note is that for the last 30 years, there has been little or no Lebanese armed forces presence in southern Lebanon. It's been either Israelis or Hezbollah. And it's going to take time for the forces, once again, to be able to move there and to get the lay of the land and be able to operate effectively. And that's one of the reasons why also we deem it necessary and appropriate to have UNIFIL forces assisting.
Q Judging by reports today and yesterday, Hezbollah has already moved in on the reconstruction front, and moved in, apparently, with the backing of a great deal of Iranian money. And what their intention is, according to one story -- and this is a quote from one of their leaders -- "to complete the victory." Now, they were very good at delivering social services before the fighting began. Presumably they intend to do it since. How do you manifest the presence of the Lebanese government under those circumstances?
MR. SNOW: Well, it's pretty easy, actually. In terms of completing the victory, again, if you take a look at things that have come out in terms of the public reaction to Hezbollah, it has -- I think victory is going to be, at the very best, a highly contentious term. You've got Hezbollah that willingly placed at risk civilians, their homes and other things. And so they come in, they invite billions of dollars of destruction into Lebanon knowingly, and now they're saying, oh, we'll give you a little tiny, itty-bitty, fractional, tiny sliver of that money back in terms of cash payments. I'm sure the people will accept the cash, but they're probably not all going to be all that deluded about the nature of the people who are delivering it.
Meanwhile, it's also worth noting Hezbollah is apparently getting $150 million, $200 million from Iraq. Right now, the U.S. and the international community --
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, Iran, thank you. The U.S. and the international community already have pledges of $425 million and more to come. The United States is going to have -- is going to participate in a humanitarian donors conference on August 31st. There's also considerable talk about reconstruction. The fact is, it's important to get Lebanon reconstructed. And if I were Hezbollah, I'd do the same thing. If I had just caused the wholesale destruction of portions of a country, I think I'd try to improve my public standing, too, and spread around a little money, and that's exactly what they're doing.
Q But you're talking about timing here. This is like getting the streets plowed in Chicago after the snow falls. This is delivery of services. And they're going to be in there -- apparently, they are already -- while we're talking about donor conferences.
MR. SNOW: Well, actually, no, the United States has contributed $30 million so far, and $24 million of it is already in place. It's there. We got 24 million bucks that are on the ground immediately. And I think what you're -- the donor conferences are in addition to the $425 million that's already being pledged and distributed. Again --
Q Can you get the stuff on the ground?
MR. SNOW: Yes. I mean I've just told you, the United States out of its opening contribution -- by the way, Secretary Rice, I think it was in -- well, it was in an op-ed piece today, announced that there are going to be an additional $20 million, and that's just the beginning of humanitarian assistance. But, yes. But again, the longer-term question, Bill, is not the race to -- Hezbollah can spread around money, but it is not going to be able to delude people into the fact that they were firing rockets out of homes and they were placing people at risk. This is one of these questions that you sit back and see how things shake out, and see whether Hezbollah is embraced as an organization that reflected Lebanese needs, or Iranian orders.
Q Can you tell us how the President was notified about the airline incident? And was there an air marshal on board? And when he talks about vigilance, apparently some of the other passengers tried to get involved to try to quiet the situation -- is that the sort of thing the President would want people to do?
MR. SNOW: Well, I honestly don't know when the President was notified because I was getting ready for this briefing, and this news has just gone down in the last hour. The best thing to do is what I did before -- Homeland Security is going to have details on this, and I'd refer to them.
The important thing -- we've always talked about the importance of vigilance. When you had the shoe bomber incident, as a matter of fact, it was passengers who played an important role. Apparently, you had an agitated passenger. We'll find out who this person was, what he or she may have been trying to do. But I don't want to get too far ahead of the facts. The facts, at least as I have them, are still pretty sketchy. There have been reports, but I think our people are really trying to confirm everything. Later in the day, they'll probably have a lot more detail available for you.
Q On homeland security, after the thwarted terror plot last week, there's a growing chorus of top Democrats specifically criticizing the administration for skimping on technology designed to detect explosives at airports five years after 9/11. What's the administration's response?
MR. SNOW: It's simply not true. The administration has devoted considerable resources. It's interesting that every time we have a success, Democrats come out and complain. Now, I don't quite understand that, unless they're seeking desperately some political advantage out of a success story. What they ought to be doing is saying, good, let's continue to work together to make it better. And I think that's an important tone to strike. But I'm kind of at odds and ends to try to figure out why we have a lot of second-guessing going on. It seems to me -- just as I was pointing out earlier, with these allegations about the bin Laden unit, a lot of people who are making these comments know exactly what the facts are. And I understand that it's a political year, and we get accused of politicizing when stuff like this is thrown our way. What I would suggest is that those who are interested, please come up with a credible, specific proposal upon which people can act. We are all for doing everything we can to make the homeland more secure. And I think all Americans would appreciate that.
Q Is there a civil war going on in Iraq? And is the President frustrated with the lack of American public support for Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, number one, there is not a civil war going on. I was on the phone earlier today with Major General Caldwell in Baghdad --
Q One hundred people a day?
MR. SNOW: He understands. And the other thing that's happening is that there has been -- there has been some improvement at least in the situation on the ground, slightly. Yes, you have a number of sectarian violence operations going on, but you've also seen now in targeted neighborhoods in Baghdad, there has been a notable decrease in violence in three of the neighborhoods that have been targeted in the last week, and that's obviously a promising sign; that's not a victory lap.
Prime Minister Maliki today went outside the Green Zone to talk about Iraqi forces -- to talk to Iraqi forces, not only to thank them for their efforts, but to encourage them. And it's significant to note that the one thing he said was that Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Sunni, Shia and Turkmen should be united with each other to form a country united to defeat terrorism. And I think what you saw there, at least according to General Caldwell, was a very passionate speech delivered by the elected head of Iraq.
Everybody knows that sectarian violence is a problem, and that extremists, especially in the Sunni and Shia camps, are doing everything they can to disrupt it. And we're keenly aware of that. For those who argue that the administration does not react, as a matter of fact, there is constant adjustment in terms of strategy and tactics to meet that challenge, because it's a very real challenge. And it's one that Prime Minister Maliki is working with our forces in the field to try to deal with, because he has to. And we know that, we understand it. We also understand that those who want Iraq to fail as a democracy will do everything they can, they're going to do everything in their power. And what we have to do is to demonstrate the determination and commitment to see it through.
As the President has said -- the President knows the capability of our forces, and he knows the decency of the American people, and he knows that people do not want us to walk away from something this important. As far as public opinion polls, I've addressed it many times. He's aware of polls, but he's also more keenly aware of his constitutional obligations, and he takes that first, and if it means taking a PR hit --
Q He doesn't think he needs the support of the American people on the Iraqi endeavor?
MR. SNOW: I think what's going to happen, as people learn more and more -- as you saw just last week, there was an 11-point pivot just on the basis of the fact that things that people had not seen in terms of behind-the-scenes operations to thwart terror, suddenly said, oh, boy, we do have something -- boom, 11-point jump. I think as people begin to see more --
Q I'm talking about Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Well, as people begin to see more of what's going on -- and Major General Caldwell is doing detailed briefings -- and one of these days maybe will bring some of the slides and things that he has -- giving you a better sense from ground level what's going on. I don't think -- I think the American people see headlines, they hear about these appalling acts of violence, and they are rightly concerned. What they don't see are the operations ongoing, the apprehensions of terrorists, the seizure of weapons caches, all of which are going on on a daily basis.
Q Is everybody a terrorist who opposes our presence in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, but somebody is a terrorist who kills innocent civilians to try to make a political point.
Q The First Lady is making three campaign stops today. Why is the --
MR. SNOW: Is Holland interrupting you?
Q It's okay when he interrupts. He's allowed.
MR. SNOW: Okay, go ahead.
Q Why is Mrs. Bush campaigning more this year than ever before?
MR. SNOW: I think, number one, she understands how important these midterms are. And she likes doing it. I think she's become very comfortable going out, delivering speeches. And she believes firmly in what her husband is trying to do as President, and she's offering whatever support she can.
Q Is she more effective at delivering certain messages than the President, in his view?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't think I'm the one to say, sir, is your wife better at delivering a message than you? Maybe you could do that, but I'm not going to do it. (Laughter.)
Q But certainly the President's advisors have a view on where she's effective -- she's going to different states than the President goes to. What's the strategy behind her --
MR. SNOW: It's interesting, because when we do scheduling meetings, we just do presidential scheduling meetings. And so there may be, at some level, people talking about parsing these. I honestly don't know and I'll try to find out. But I am not aware that it really is that kind of mission-specific. And a lot of times you've got differing requests. As you know, the Vice President is also giving more speeches than he tends to give. I'm not getting a lot of Vice President questions. But the fact is, this is a very important midterm and you're going to have key members of this administration out, speaking, trying to talk about the President's message and his record, and trying also to support Republican candidates in the House and Senate.
Q Do you think the First Lady is essential to a Republican victory?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, but I think she's certainly helpful.
Q If the President is not frustrated by the situation in Iraq, what is he?
MR. SNOW: Determined.
Q Is he -- does he feel like the Maliki government is doing an effective job?
MR. SNOW: He feels like the Maliki government -- look, you've got a government that is brand new. As I told you, today you had the Prime Minister going outside the Green Zone, addressing forces, Iraqi forces in Baghdad neighborhoods. This is a guy who has a series of challenges before him with his government, and the President is impressed not only by his determination to get the job done, but the fact is that he is working aggressively to do these things. We don't expect him to be an overnight success in dealing with all these problems; nobody can be. But the President certainly supports Prime Minister Maliki.
And the frustration angle is just one that just doesn't -- when you're facing a situation, you don't sit around and get frustrated. You figure out how to get the job done. And I've said it many times, and I'll say it because it's true: The President is somebody who's intensely practical about these things, and not somebody who sits around and goes, "Nnnnyoo!" -- I can't wait to see you how you transcribe that. (Laughter.)
Q Do that again.
Q Who is one of those people?
Q Rove. Rove does that.
Q Yes, he does do that. (Laughter.)
Q Are there such people? (Laughter.)
Q Tony, on the United Airlines flight, you said it's an unruly passenger. Anything at all to suggest terrorism?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to -- like I said, I don't want to run ahead of facts. DHS I know is accumulating that stuff. I'd much rather hand it off to them because, obviously, as we were all heading over here, they were still off-loading passengers from the plane, so I have a feeling they're going to do some interviews and take a look at stuff. A couple, three hours we ought to have just a much better picture.
Q Was he an unruly, posed a threat -- I mean, was he a threat, or just unruly?
MR. SNOW: I think it was a she.
Q And can I ask another one, about what Bill was asking about earlier, with Hezbollah? You said we have to kind of see where things shake out, but wouldn't you concede that time is really of the essence, that as people are going back and looking for help, that's an opportunity for Hezbollah to reassert itself?
MR. SNOW: I think Hezbollah is going to do everything it can to try to mount a PR offensive, because people in Lebanon know what the deal is and what Hezbollah is going to try to say is, okay, well, we've stopped being terrorists now, we're going to be humanitarians. It's important for everybody to be humanitarians; it's also important for Hezbollah to stop acting as a terrorist organization, taking orders not from the Lebanese people, but from people in Tehran, and to step up and take a political path.
Look, if Hezbollah decides to be peaceful, political, tries -- disarms, goes in and abides by U.N. Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701, that's great. That's good news, that's not bad news. That is something devoutly to be wished. But it is going to be up to Hezbollah to take those steps. And if it doesn't, then the business of disarming is going to have to proceed.
Q On the same question, what we've been hearing from the administration from the start was that whatever solution came to pass had to address the root cause of the problem. Pushing Hezbollah back -- a lot of us took it to mean disarming. I'd have to parse the language, but --
MR. SNOW: No, disarming is part of the deal.
Q So in terms of that, is it possible that the solution that we now have will not bring that to pass? And then, the second part of that question is that the logic of what you're saying is one thing, but is the U.S. doing much to tell the Lebanese people its view of the conflict and Hezbollah's role in the conflict?
MR. SNOW: I think we've been awfully clear about it, and I dare say a lot of people in Lebanon share that point of view. In terms of is this particular formulation or group of forces going to be successful in disarming, we hope so. I don't have the crystal ball, but that is what this is designed to do, is to place on the ground forces that will be credible.
Again, there are also going to be pressures on Hezbollah. There are pressures being brought to bear on Syria and Iran, and I think it's safe to say that Hezbollah also is being offered a choice here, which is to take a peaceful path, or to try to rearm. One of the other challenges, as you know, is trying to secure the border with Syria to make sure that armed shipments can't get through, and also to take a look at the ports. So all these are pieces of the equation. One of the big wild cards here is how Hezbollah and how its present and I hope soon to be previous masters respond to this. And as the situation changes, you may have to adjust.
Q But the picture out of Lebanon right now, and it's a picture that's three days out, okay, but it's certainly, Hezbollah declared victory, they're rebuilding, they seem to have popular support. It's not a picture that one may have expected to see at the start of the conflict. Is the administration confident that it will still get the end result it wanted?
MR. SNOW: The end result we want is a peaceful, democratic Lebanon. I mean, again, if you have Hezbollah turning peaceful and everybody loves it, that's fine. As long as Hezbollah decides to be democratic. But the point is it's been a terror organization. Hezbollah suckered a lot of people, including journalistic organizations in this room, because it ended up being able to stage photographs. Remember Anderson Cooper getting up there saying, every single thing we go to is getting staged here. You've had news organizations having to pull photographs because they were bogus. They have done a masterful PR campaign, no doubt about it. The question is --
Q Will the U.S. do a masterful --
MR. SNOW: What we're going to try to do is simply demonstrate our goodwill by pushing for humanitarian and reconstruction aid, and also continuing the diplomatic work of making sure that there is a prospect -- every possible prospect, and one that we are determined to see succeed, of the democracy in Lebanon standing up and being able to assert a full sovereignty throughout the Lebanese countryside.
And again, the Lebanese armed forces have not been a presence in that part of Lebanon for a long time. It's going to take some time to make that transition. Hezbollah, good, bad, or indifferent, is a much more familiar presence in that area right now. But the familiarity, in some cases, I think, I dare say, will also bring contempt, and has.
Q Tony, Secretary Rice gave an interview this morning where she said that the U.N. troops going in would not have the job of disarming Hezbollah, that would be left to largely a political process with the Lebanese government. I want to be clear: Do you folks envision that anyone has the job of physically taking arms away from Hezbollah fighters, whether that's the Lebanese army --
MR. SNOW: We're going to have to see if it comes to that. I mean, again, we're hoping that the political process works. If it has to come to that, one presumes it will. But I don't want to prejudge.
Q What is the political process. The Lebanese government sitting down with Hezbollah and saying --
MR. SNOW: No, part of it is the Lebanese government
-- again, you're going to have 15,000 UNIFIL troops, as well -- going to be moving 30,000 or so troops into that part of the country. That's a pretty significant presence. And it is going to be the job of those forces to either reason with, or deal with Hezbollah on the arms front.
The other thing is, at this point, even though Hezbollah is running around saying, we won, we won, you and I don't know what those bunkers look like; you and I don't know what the arms caches look like; you and I don't know what the Katyusha rocket sites look like; you and I don't know how many Zelzals are still there. We simply don't know. So Hezbollah dealing with a total vacuum of information is doing what it has done before, which is playing a good PR game. The important thing is to have effective forces on the ground to persuade it to play not a game of peace, but actually pursue peace.
Q You actually raise a good point: Does the United States have an assessment of how well-armed Hezbollah remains? I don't think they've fired --
MR. SNOW: I think we are -- well, they fired at least one. You know what, that's an intelligence question I don't feel comfortable trying to address from here.
Q Is there much discussion of trying to strengthen the Lebanese government in various ways, militarily or --
MR. SNOW: There is already -- we're already supplementing the Lebanese armed forces, and we'll continue to do so. And, yes, absolutely. I talked to Secretary Rice earlier today, and she stressed that the $50 million is the beginning of a long-term and serious commitment to the government of Lebanon. I don't know what will be announced when, but the fact is, absolutely, we're committed to the success of the government.
Q How much --
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I honestly don't know.
Q Can I follow up on that?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q There seems to be a Catch-22, though, that while the Lebanese government we're trying to elevate is busy fixing roads and bridges in the country, they don't have the kind of walk-around money for social services that Hezbollah has down in the south.
MR. SNOW: Well, I just told you, we're talking already of commitments that are double what Hezbollah has. And one --
Q I'm talking about services --
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, I'm talking about international commitments. The Saudis have made commitments, the Iraqis have made commitments, we've made commitments, strictly on the humanitarian side. There is a separate pot of money that is also being discussed for reconstruction. That is going to be the topic of the August 31st meeting. So, yes, there are humanitarian commitments. But, again, Hezbollah can spread out all the walking-around money it wants, but people also remember who is putting rockets in their living rooms.
Q What's the White House's reaction to the offer by Jesse Jackson to go over there and try to get involved and negotiate a prisoner exchange?
MR. SNOW: Sometimes a picture says a thousands words.
Q Tony, talking on terrorism, celebrating India's 60th independence anniversary, the President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam, he said that as far as terrorism is concerned, to eradicate it from society, a global unity needed, and terrorists don't go without any planning and --
MR. SNOW: Okay, but what's the question?
Q My question, also in London, Muslim experts are saying that the reason for all these terrorists are they are being misled by the older mullahs in the mosques, and educated -- same thing goes here in the U.S. as far as those mosques are concerned.
MR. SNOW: Okay, just -- Goyal, thank you. Look, the war on terror takes many forms. There is propaganda, there is education, or the attempt to steer people. And you're right, a number of mosques around the world have served as places of incitement. But in the end, it is our confidence that not only the battle of ideas -- and it's very important to wage that battle of ideas, and we will do it, and we intend to do it -- but also the battle of results. To have a democracy that allows people to have sovereignty over their lives is something that we think is so powerful, and that the yearning for freedom is so natural, that that is going to send a powerful signal throughout the region. People are going to want more of it. And that's why the President is determined to stay the course.
Q Back on Hezbollah and Lebanon and Israel. Is there concern by this administration that France and some other international countries are slow in responding to putting an international force together for the U.N.?
MR. SNOW: No, as a matter of fact, the French, Italian, and Turkish governments are meeting today in Lebanon -- the foreign ministers -- talking about these issues with the government of Lebanon today.
Q But France is supposed to lead and they're not really happy about it, and they've got to go -- they're supposed to announce it tomorrow, but still they're not coming out and saying, we're going to do this --
MR. SNOW: No, friendship -- you're probably less high on your call list than the Prime Minister of Lebanon. And so what's -- (laughter.) So what's going on here is that, again, there are active and ongoing discussions, but as I've mentioned at the outset, this is not simply, give me 5,000 guys with boots on. I mean, you got to have people who have distinct chores and distinct tasks. And that does take a little time to sort out. It's going to take time to get the force fully deployed. But the French have --
Q The French are out, but they're dragging their feet --
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that's the case. I wouldn't share your characterization. You've got me up here defending the French. It's global news. (Laughter.)
Q Back on Richard's issue with Jesse Jackson, does the administration not want Jackson to get involved because it could cause problems?
MR. SNOW: No, the United States has duly appointed and delegated and congressionally confirmed diplomats. They're the proper people to handle this work.
Q Tony, there's a reassessment now by the Olmert government in regard to their situation in the region after the cease-fire. The Defense Minister yesterday said that there would be a rethinking in trying to create a Syrian track to try and resolve some of the problems with Syria. Some people are talking about the possibility of a regional solution -- and things like that, in which all the relations of Israel, with their Arab neighbors, can be at least put on the track to a resolution. Would the U.S. also be in favor of this kind of solution? Would that affect the U.S. relationship with Syria? Are we prepared to try and bring them into the planning --
MR. SNOW: It's up to Syria to demonstrate goodwill. We've got a charg there, for the bazillionth time. They've got an ambassador here. And we have always talked -- I've tried to frame this over and over as something that requires a comprehensive look, because to look at Lebanon in isolation is to fail to see what happened with Hamas and the Palestinian areas, where it appeared that Prime Minister Olmert, working with President Abbas, was getting close to trying to work out a deal not only on a prisoner release, but moving toward having a two-state solution in the area. All of that important for -- if you have stable democracies in Lebanon and in the Palestinian areas, it simply is going to make it a lot easier for Israel to build closer ties throughout the region.
So I think it's perfectly natural to support a regional solution, but you have to address, again, root causes. And Syria right now is a big part of that problem, and Syria does have to go ahead -- if it wants to be part of the discussions, it has to demonstrate that it's willing to be part of the solution.
Q Tony, I wonder if you found any examples of other Republican Presidents not endorsing Republican candidates?
MR. SNOW: We've got to pull that out. We pulled it yesterday. I'll get it for you.*
Q Thank you.
Q Beginning in April, Tony, there was talk that the President would meet with the Big Three automakers about some of their concerns -- legacy costs, health care costs, currency manipulation. I'm wondering, with the President's emphasis on the economy and what's ahead in the next year, is that meeting back on the schedule?
MR. SNOW: It's not yet back on the schedule. This has been the event that -- this has been the most benighted event I've ever seen in my life, because it's ended up getting swamped by events on a number of occasions. In one case, one of the participants prematurely announced something that hadn't fully been put in place. But, yes, it's not on the schedule, but it's something we intend to go forward with.
Q So we should expect it in the next couple of months?
MR. SNOW: I have no earthly idea. I really don't.
Q So it's a scheduling conflict issue, it's not that the President --
MR. SNOW: The President is not snubbing the Big Three, they're an important part of the American economy.
Q Next month the South Korean President is here. Do you know what the status of his visit? Is it a state visit or a business visit?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I'll find out. I honestly don't know. All I did is I gave you the readout today. We've had our official announcement. Fred, do we know if it's a state visit, as opposed to an official visit?
MR. JONES: We'll have to find out.
MR. SNOW: We'll have to find out.
Q So if Hezbollah disarms and turns peaceful, the United States will lift its designation of them as a terrorist organization and recognize it as a legitimate political entity?
MR. SNOW: Let's wait and see what happens. I mean, good consequences tend to flow from good actions. We've always said that. When we've talked about the Iranians and the nuclear issue, we've said, there's a way forward. In dealing with the North Koreans, we've said, you come to the table there are going to be good consequences. So good behavior also ought to be rewarded. But I'm not going to try to answer hypotheticals, beyond giving you a very hypothetical formulation.
Q Are you commenting on Iran's international holocaust cartoon contest?
MR. SNOW: No, and I -- no, I'm not.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: All right, thank you.
END 11:45 A.M. EDT
* Some examples: In 1970, President Nixon took a neutral position in the US Senate race between Sen. Charles E. Goodell (R-NY) and challengers Rep. Richard Ottinger (D-NY) and James L. Buckley. In 1980, Republican officials refused support for Rep. William Ford's (D-MI) Republican opponent Gerald R. Carlson. In 1981, President Reagan promised not to campaign in the home districts of Democrats who voted for his tax cuts. One year later, the White House produced a list of 20 Democrats who the President and Vice President would not campaign against that cycle. In 1990, Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown denounced Rep. Gus Savage (D-IL) and pledged to not fund his reelection campaign. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush refused to endorse Louisiana Gubernatorial candidate David Duke.