|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 20, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
1:08 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Welcome. Just a quick announcement, then I'll be happy to take questions.
President Bush will host NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the White House on October 27, 2006. The President looks forward to reviewing with the Secretary General the work underway for the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, next month, to strengthen and transform the alliance to meet the key security challenges of the 21st century.
The President and the Secretary General will also discuss the wide range of issues on NATO's agenda, including Alliance efforts to promote democracy and freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Darfur.
Q The President says he's constantly changing tactics in Iraq. The Democrats say he should change course. Are the two sides using different words to say the same thing?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. Are you referring to the letter that came out today?
MR. SNOW: Yes, I've got the letter here and, no, I think there's a difference in approach, because when Democrats talk about changing course here, here's the strategy they propose -- they say they've outlined it a couple of times: One is for the United States to leave, "phased redeployment" means get out; secondly is to move to "more proactively pressure Iraqi leaders to disarm the militias and develop a broad base and sustainable political settlement," which is what the Iraqis do; and then, finally, to convene an international conference to deal with constitutional and other issues. In other words, cut and run is now being augmented by "walk and talk."
Because, in this particular instance, there's nothing particularly new here. What you have is a lot of criticism. The President understands the difficulty in a time of war. And he also understands that what you do is you adjust tactically. I was talking today with General Caldwell, and the way he describes it, the military term of art is you "work the plan." And if things are not achieving the objectives as you wish, you adjust and you work the plan. And he says they're continuing to work the plan in Baghdad and elsewhere. Those are the kinds of tactical adjustments.
What the President has made pretty clear is that there are a handful of things that he has ruled out. He is eager to hear about other ideas; but leaving is not going to work, and partition is simply off the table.
So you've got some things that the President has said he is simply not going to do, but he is also always open to ideas and suggestions, and he consults regularly with his military. As a matter of fact, there's a scheduled meeting, a planned meeting tomorrow where he'll be talking to General Abizaid and Casey and others as part of a regular consultation process.
Q In person?
MR. SNOW: No, it's a SVTS.
Q On the partition question, you said yesterday it was a non-starter; today you said the President doesn't want to think about it. You have prominent Republicans like Senator Hutchison and Senator Santorum saying that it should be looked at. Why does the administration --
MR. SNOW: It has been looked at. It has been looked at.
Q Why is it not -- why is it a non-starter?
MR. SNOW: It's a non-starter because you don't want to recreate the Balkans. What you have is -- within Iraq there is a sense of national identity, and it was expressed at considerable risk by 12 million Iraqis last year. They made it clear that they consider themselves part of a nation. And the idea of breaking them into pieces raises the prospect in the south that you're going to have pressure from Iran on the largely Shia south; you're going to have difficulties in the north with the Kurds, with the Turks and the Syrians, who are worried about a greater Kurdistan; and then if you have in the middle a Sunni population that has been cut out of the prosperity by oil to the north and south, you have a recipe for a tinderbox.
It makes a lot more sense to continue, rather than saying to everybody, go to your separate corners and be different people, to build on the sense of Iraqi identity that was expressed by people who went forward and voted, which is an -- at times when a lot of people were saying, they aren't going to vote, the Sunnis aren't going to participate -- remember all these predictions that were made last year? They turned out not to be true.
And so it makes perfect sense to try to work with the Iraqis for what they want, rather than to insist that they follow a path that people in Washington may think is more politically convenient.
Q Just to follow on that, pressed on the Balkans issue, Balkanizing Iraq, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said, well, the Balkans appear a lot more safe than Iraq is right now.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, we stand by our position. We love and respect Senator Hutchison, but on this one we just disagree.
Q Abizaid and Casey are coming in for a meeting tomorrow --
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, it's a regular -- it's what they call a SVTS. It's a secure communication. This has been on the schedule for weeks.
Q It was not in response to --
MR. SNOW: No, it's not in response to news stories, it's not in response to anything else. It's a regular consult that happens at fairly regular intervals.
Q Let me ask you a question to make sure that I have my arms around -- we've been talking tactics and strategy and objectives. Let's get it on the table, and for purposes of future discussion, even, have an understanding of what we're talking about. Strategy, as I understand it, is how war is conducted, it's a plan of action.
MR. SNOW: That's going to fall more -- let me explain --
Q And tactics are how you implement that, right?
MR. SNOW: Let me try to explain the terms I'm using the way I've used, because it's given us all plenty to talk about the last two weeks. So I will assert press secretary's privilege to define the terms of the debate, and then we can talk about it.
Let's first set the goal, what do you want to achieve. You want to achieve as a goal an Iraq that can sustain, defend and govern itself. What is the strategy? The strategy is to use not merely military force, but other means at your disposal to create that secure Iraq. That includes a security component -- military, police, and so on. It includes a political component -- a government that is able to govern, and at the same time, also draws in parties from all over the country who are invested in it.
A third part is an economic component, because that is also going to be absolutely necessary to say to some who have gone into the insurgency, because they think they have no prospects, no, you've got prospects here. So the strategy is to use all three of those means to bring about the end, of an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself.
On the tactical side, you're going to have all three meshing together in different ways, because they do intersect. For instance, when you're dealing with oil fields, you do have security concerns. You have political concerns, as well. We've encouraged the Iraqis to treat that as a natural resource to be shared by all. So that is how -- so you've got goals, strategy, tactics.
Q Okay, and that's the Snow definition --
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Webster's has "tactics" as: the way you implement strategy.
MR. SNOW: Well, Webster's and I agree on this one, Jim. (Laughter.)
Q Okay. And I'm sure that comes as great comfort to Webster's.
MR. SNOW: Old Daniel has been gone a while, but I'm sure his heirs and assigns are happy.
Q Here's the question -- under these definitions, is --
Q It's Noah.
MR. SNOW: Oh, that's right, Noah, thank you.
Q Noah Webster.
MR. SNOW: Noah, thank you. I'm glad I'm here. You guys keep me honest. I'm sorry, Jim.
Q I should have gone with Funk and Wagnall's. (Laughter.)
Under this term, is the President, right now, entertaining a change in strategy?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Flat out, you reject it, there will be no change in strategy?
MR. SNOW: Again, strategy is, you want an economic component, a political component and a security component. You're talking about what I refer to as tactics --
Q I'm talking about policy --
MR. SNOW: The policy is pretty straightforward: You use those three components to try to achieve the end. What you're talking about is tactics, which are the means by which you get those strategies enacted, correct? The tactics are, for instance, how do you deal with a certain neighborhood in Baghdad, what's the proper way to secure that? That's a tactical issue. How do you try to reach out to build political accommodation between Sunni and Shia? That's a tactical issue. How do you try to secure the oil fields in such a way as to increase revenues from the oil fields to build a sense of prosperity? That's a tactical issue. Those are not strategic concerns. The strategy is the big-picture pieces that I outlined.
Q Yes, and what you're telling me is in the strategy, in this big picture, he's entertaining no change.
MR. SNOW: No, what I'm telling you is, tactically, you adjust all the time. He is entertaining no change in believing that you can't do it militarily alone, you can't do it politically alone, can't do it economically alone. And on that, I guarantee --
Q He can't do what?
MR. SNOW: An Iraq that can sustain, govern, and defend itself -- goal. Goal, strategy, tactics. Now, let me just -- and on that point, I think you'll find Democrats and Republicans generally will at least agree that you cannot do it strictly through military operations, you need a political component, you need an economic component. And, indeed, all three are mentioned in this letter to the President today.
So at the strategic level, people really do agree. Now the question is, how you implement those strategies? And on that, there's wide disagreement.
Q Tony, what is James Baker doing? What are they looking at, if not trying to change the strategy? It almost seems like you're changing the definition of strategy to fit tactics in the middle --
MR. SNOW: No, what I'm trying to do is to come up with some way in which you and I can talk the same language so that we don't all go cross-eyed in total bewilderment and confusion. And so perhaps -- look, you guys, why don't you email me the labels you want me to use for these various groupings that I've given to you.
Q I just want to know, James Baker is using -- will look at strategy, and you're saying you're going to listen to James Baker and Lee Hamilton and this bipartisan report --
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what they're talking --
Q -- then what's strategy in your definition?
MR. SNOW: I think they will agree with what I described as "strategy," which is --
Q But you just said you're not even considering a change in -- no, Tony, sorry.
MR. SNOW: No, that's because I'm not going to -- we are not going to change our belief that you require -- this is the strategy -- this is the strategic picture that requires an economic, political and security component. And I guarantee you people on that commission agree. So what we're talking about they describe as strategy, I'll describe as tactics. Sorry, we're talking different languages; I'm trying to harmonize for the purpose of answering your question.
Q Okay. So James Baker is doing what the President says he relies on his generals to do, which is tactics.
MR. SNOW: Well, I think he's really -- the generals also engage not merely in -- yes, to some extent, yes; but the generals also have a much more detailed ground-level view of how to achieve these things. Maybe we need to come up with a fourth label.
But Secretary Baker and Lee Hamilton and others are going to take a close look at ideas that they think are going to be more effective to achieve that strategic goal of an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself, and govern itself, and to do so in a way that involves security, economic and political components.
I think all of that is agreed upon. So now the question is, what is your mid-level goal? They're going to take a look at the various goals and try to proceed. I know, we're getting into a linguistic swivet here.
Q I know, I know. But it's like we're changing the goals -- it's almost like you're trying to hide behind the term "tactics" to change strategy.
MR. SNOW: No. No. Because I think the strategy is real clear. You try to use all three of those modalities to achieve an end.
Q Can we talk about -- speaking of generals, General Caldwell, yesterday -- you said you called him right before you came out here.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Why is that?
MR. SNOW: Because I try to touch base with him. I actually --
Q Every day? Do you always, every day, or just when he says something that you may not agree with?
MR. SNOW: No, I actually -- no, I didn't say anything -- he didn't say anything I disagree with. I mean --
Q You said he was misquoted.
MR. SNOW: No, I quoted him. I said he was quoted somewhat out of context. I didn't say he was misquoted. And I read the full quote yesterday so that people can decide.
Q You did say it was misquoted.
MR. SNOW: Well, he was quoted out of context. Okay, well, then I was wrong. He was quoted out of context. But the other thing is General Caldwell knows better than I what the situation is on the ground, so I rely on him to try to provide data. In fact, he's putting together some data points, because I know there's a lot of interest in trying to figure out metrics for it. He's working that up and I hope to have some of that for you Monday.
Q Do you have an idea of the metrics so far? Do you have an idea of how the indicators are going in Baghdad about how things are going? What's your assessment based on what you talked with General Caldwell?
MR. SNOW: Let me -- I'll get back to you Monday, because I think what you want to do is to have an assessment with a sufficiently good timeline that you can draw conclusions that are defensible. He's working on that. Give me until Monday and I'll bring back the homework for you.
Q Tony, going back to the strategy, is it still open-ended at this point? Is the President still opposed to any kind of phased withdrawal, and also giving the Iraqi government a more specific deadline of when they need to get things going?
MR. SNOW: Two things. Number one, the President has made it clear that he is not going to do a phased withdrawal just for the hell of doing a phased withdrawal.
Q But if that's a recommendation that he hears from commanders and --
MR. SNOW: He hasn't heard that from commanders. If he'd heard that from commanders, then he would think about it. But the notion is -- he does believe in a phased withdrawal if the conditions on the ground are suitable. And he's always said that; at some point we're going to bring folks home, and we hope sooner rather than later.
The President doesn't like being in this war. Nobody likes being in a war. But you also understand that if you walk out before the job is done, you create incredible instability in the Middle East, you buy more difficulty for you here at the United States, you'll add aid and comfort to people who think that they will be able to attack Americans with impunity here and around the world. You make the world a less [sic] dangerous place by walking away before the conditions are right for doing so. However, when the conditions are right, you bet there's going to be a phased withdrawal. But it's not on an artificial timetable.
As far as talking with the Iraqis, we consult with them. General Caldwell, General Casey, General Abizaid, Zal Khalilzad, members of the administration consult constantly. I mean, the Iraqis don't want us around any longer than we want to be there ourselves. They also want to have the ability to sustain, govern, and defend themselves without outside help. So it is certainly in their interests to do it as quickly as possible. They've got every motivation to do so, and we understand that and we'll do everything we can to assist them.
Q Is General Abizaid going to be meeting with the President in person, either today or tomorrow?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so.* I think this is -- can we double check? But I think it's by SVTS. I think this is by secure communications, it's a video conference.
Q Do you have an update on Amarah, on the situation?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't. They're still trying to collect data and trying to assess exactly what the situation is.
Q Can I ask you something about what the President said today at The Mayflower? He was talking about the terrorists trying to influence public opinion, filming their atrocities, he said, emailing messages and video clips to Middle Eastern cable networks like Al Jazeera and opinion leaders throughout the West. Why the mention of Al Jazeera? And to whom was he referring when he talked about "opinion leaders" in the West?
MR. SNOW: Well, your network has shown pictures of snipers hitting Americans, which was used as a propaganda tool, so the fact is that -- it shows real sophistication on the part of these guys, because it creates the impression that Americans are sitting ducks, and that these guys are capable, when, in fact, while you have a capable enemy, they're dying in much greater numbers and suffering much greater damage. Now I know that's hard to -- as General Caldwell said yesterday, you can have this carnage and progress existing side by side. Unfortunately, the pictures are all moving in one way.
The President was referring to the attempt to take images like that and use those as a way of not only -- of trying to break the will of the American people. It's not going to work.
Q Does the President believe it's wrong for CNN to show that?
MR. SNOW: No, we're not -- I'm just telling you what happened. Those are editorial judgments, and I'm not going to tell you what you do and don't run. This is a free country.
Q But by mentioning this in a --
MR. SNOW: Well, because you asked the question. You asked who I was referring to.
Q Well, by the President raising it, I'm saying. By the President raising that issue, is he sending a message that he thinks it's wrong for networks to air that?
MR. SNOW: No, again, I'm going to let -- the President, I think, is smart enough not to tell television networks what they can run and can't run. But all we're doing is making it clear what's going on. I think, perhaps -- I'm sure the editors are savvy enough to know that when they get a video like this, it's designed less to give you a full and complete view of what's going on in the country than to create a sense of triumphalism for the killers of Americans. That's the intention of that. I think that's hard to dispute. That's the only point.
Q On the Abizaid meeting, is he in Iraq or is he in D.C.? Or where is he going to be, do you know?
MR. SNOW: I think he's --
MS. PERINO: He's in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: He's either in Iraq or he's at Central Command or in Doha. My sense is he's probably in Doha, Casey is probably in Iraq, and the President will be in the White House.
Q Okay. And do you have any plans for a readout? Is this tomorrow, did you say?
MR. SNOW: No, no. This is a meeting where they talk about on-the-ground tactics and ongoing intelligence. It happens quite often. You now know they're meeting. But, no, we're not going to spread out the map and let you look at all the dots on it. That's just not going to work.
Q But you don't think he's coming here, Tony?
MR. SNOW: I don't think -- I'll find out for sure. This is asterisked. I don't know, but I'll find out.
Q Thank you, Tony. At the gaggle this morning when you were asked about the President's closed appearances on behalf of Republican candidates, you just said that's the way it is in the land of McCain-Feingold. Now, I wonder, are you saying that the campaign finance laws limit the President from larger and more open things? Would you elaborate?
MR. SNOW: I think what happens is, now when a President goes someplace, it's got to be paid for, and it can't be paid for out of party coffers because of restrictions on soft money. So what happens is the people there --
Q Or state party coffers.
MR. SNOW: Either, is my understanding. So what has to happen is, people have got to pony up the cash to pay for the fairly heavy delivery costs of Air Force One and the entourage that goes with it. So it costs money, and people do have to pay. It sometimes suppresses turnout when you've got to pay a lot of money or pay money for it.
I'll tell you what we'll try to do is -- because I don't want to pawn myself off as too expert on McCain-Feingold or federal election stuff -- we'll try to put together a brief summary, and we'll get it out so that you can -- at least we can point to what the legal provisions are and the implications.
Q Tony, when was partition last seriously considered? And what about changes to the way the federal structure of Iraq is created? You've stopped short of partition, but --
MR. SNOW: Well, there's a federalism --
Q -- it just gives the region more and more autonomy.
MR. SNOW: Well, there's a federalism debate ongoing in Iraq, and we certainly support the debate. That is a far different thing than partition.
Q Sure, but they're on the same spectrum, in the sense that you're giving these regions more autonomy, more control --
MR. SNOW: Yes, well, that's -- I mean, that's part of the reasonable and ongoing debate about what's going to work best for an Iraqi democracy.
Q And when was partition last seriously considered?
MR. SNOW: I don't have a date. But the fact is --
Q Pre-war, post-war?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I mean, this is one of these things where I think the arguments are pretty clear on behalf of partition.
Q Two questions. Thank you. In connection with your mentioning they are suffering great damage, The Wall Street Journal claims that a report from Johns Hopkins of 655,000 Iraqi war dead is bogus. My question: Is that the case? And, if so, how many Iraqi war dead are estimated by our Commander-in-Chief?
MR. SNOW: Number one, I'm not going to give you an estimate, and number two, the same organization has used the same methodology to almost universal criticism. But I will let the people who handle statistics give you a more definitive analysis of it.
Q One network, WorldNetDaily, quotes two newspapers, AgapePress and The Washington Blade, reporting that at the swearing in of Mark Dybul as an AIDS Ambassador, Secretary of State Rice referred to the mother of a gay partner as, mother-in-law. And my question: How does this adhere to the President's belief in policy that marriage is between one man and one woman?
MR. SNOW: The Secretary said what she said, and she was showing due deference to the people involved.
Q I just wondered if you could clarify the dates of the (inaudible)? Initially, (inaudible) was said it was basically for a regime change -- I mean, a question of regime change whether or not to go in. And then it moved to (inaudible) -- and the goal post changed to weapons of mass destruction --
MR. SNOW: Well, actually, Paula, I would take --
Q -- freedom and democracy. I'm just wondering which one it is.
MR. SNOW: Well, go back and read U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. That will give you a pretty good take on it.
Q On Iraq, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, stated yesterday, "Under today's circumstances, it is impossible for the United States of America and Iraq to open the a front against the PKK and fight with them. Turkey should show us understanding because it is extremely difficult to pull the military forces out from the southern and central parts of the country to the northern part and fight there."
MR. SNOW: Shorten it up. What's the question about the PKK?
Q The question is, since Mr. Zebari is (inaudible), how do you respond (inaudible) --
MR. SNOW: Number one, there has been a move to shut down PKK offices within Iraq, and we're going to let the Iraqi government handle that.
Q Has the situation in Iran become more dangerous in recent days? The leader is saying that Israel should not exist. And has Iran become stronger during this (inaudible) --
MR. SNOW: No, I think what's going on -- I mean, it's not the first time that Ahmadinejad has made such comments about Israel. Meanwhile, there is ongoing diplomatic effort, reflected in comments by Mr. Larijani the other day, to make it clear to the Iranians that the international community, including some of their friends and neighbors, do not want them to develop nuclear weapons. So that's -- not particularly, no.
Q We talk about winning and victory, and you're talking about an Iraq that can sustain, govern, and defend itself. Would you consider a victory for Iraq that can do those things where there was not a democracy, if they're not actually able to sustain a democracy?
MR. SNOW: Democracy is the goal that we have for the Iraqi people. But, more importantly, it's the goal they themselves have set. You're going to have to ask them whether they're -- having risked their own lives and blood in support of a democracy, whether they want to give it up. And so far the pretty clear answer is, no.
Q You said the election is evidence of a desire on the part of the Iraqis for nationhood. Is that necessarily inconsistent with the possibility that in the interim the Iraqis have become disenchanted with the failures and shortcomings of the Maliki government and they no longer have the same attitude about nationhood?
MR. SNOW: That is the kind of question that is probably unanswerable because it requires -- you're going to have to be, A, asking the Iraqi people. But you've got a Maliki government that is a little more than four months old, and I think it is probably reasonable to suspect that that government needs time to get settled, as it has been doing. We think they've been doing a good job. And so you can speculate all you want.
The most important thing is, on three different occasions now, contrary -- predictions to the contrary notwithstanding, the Iraqi people have voted in ever greater numbers, first for a constitution and then for an elected government. So I don't see any reason to think that suddenly they're going to say, nope, we don't want this anymore, we want despotism.
Q Why won't our government give us an estimate of the Iraqi civilian deaths?
MR. SNOW: It's very difficult to come up with totals. What happens is we've left that to the Iraqis who, in fact, have been providing, through the hospitals, their own estimates.
Q Tony, can you say a few words about the new Bush space policy that was released, strangely enough, on a Friday afternoon before Columbus Day, on the website of the Office of Science and Technology --
MR. SNOW: You mean the strategy that, strangely enough, was announced in July?
Q No, it was put on the website on the weekend of Columbus Day.
MR. SNOW: Okay. What do you wish to know? Not that I'm very good at it.
Q It's about a 16-page document and NASA is mentioned in one sentence, and the gist of it is, we're going to protect our space assets, which seems to be self-evident. Why was it necessary to issue such a statement? Is there a shift now in terms of how we use space more towards security military --
MR. SNOW: No, and I would -- honestly -- the answer is, no, but I'd refer questions to NASA, where you're going to get people who know a lot more about this than I do.
Q Can you tell me who had an input in the policy? How did that --
MR. SNOW: I have no idea. I'll try to find out for you.
Q On Amarah for a second --
MR. SNOW: Okay, go ahead.
Q It's the second city in the last couple of days that had either been under American or British troop control and had been turned over. What does what's happening in Amarah tell you or suggest to you about the possibility of being further away from the sort of stand/up, stand/down, in terms of Iraq --
MR. SNOW: That's a good question, and I don't know. I mean, I think -- again, that's the kind of question that people on the ground will ask themselves, and it's the right question to ask. But on the other hand --
Q It doesn't seem to suggest very good things for the --
MR. SNOW: No, but on the other hand, if every time you see somebody engaging in a counterattack that suddenly is seen as a failure of policy, there may be other things going on that don't get quite as much publicity. And this is why I'm going to try to put together some metrics for you, that give you a view that there are all sorts of things -- there are some things that are going on that are positive within Iraq, some that are negative, and some that are temporary.
And I am still trying to find out, because our guys literally do not have a full read on what's going on in Amarah. So we're going to try to -- so rather than trying to leap to a nationwide conclusion based on what's going on there, we're going to try to figure out what the fact are, and then I'll be happy to entertain questions about what conclusions we can draw.
Also, we're going to be trying to get some of the people in Iraq also to be speaking out more and giving operational details so that those questions are answered by people who are a lot closer to them.
Q Does the President think something like Amarah is done by the insurgents to actually influence the elections in this country?
MR. SNOW: Again, there are many theories about what's going on. I think -- they don't put out press releases, so we don't know what is inspiring them. We just know that you've got to beat them.
Q Tony, a couple of minutes ago, you said one of the goals in Iraq is to prevent civil war. Can you take a minute and give us the definition that the President is working with? Because he continues to say it's not at that state yet; lots of analysts do say it's at that state. What's the threshold that the administration is working with --
MR. SNOW: I think the general notion is a civil war is when you have people who use the American Civil War or other civil wars as an example, where people break up into clearly identifiable feuding sides clashing for supremacy within Iran.
Q And there's nothing on the ground that the President is looking at that he thinks is a prospect --
MR. SNOW: At this point, you do have a lot of different forces that are trying to put pressure on the government and trying to undermine it. But it's not clear that they are operating as a unified force. You don't have a clearly identifiable leader. And so in this particular case, no.
What you do have is a number of different groups -- you know, they've been described in some cases as rejectionists, in others as terrorists. In many cases, they are not groups that would naturally get along, either, but they severally and together pose a threat to the government.
Q When the President talks to Abizaid (inaudible) tomorrow, or routinely when he talks to them, how does he explore with them this question, the question about what the conditions are, is anything getting closer to that, or how do they read that?
MR. SNOW: He asks them.
Q He does ask them directly?
MR. SNOW: I'm not in on the meetings. I've been on many other meetings with the President. I can tell you that he asks very direct questions about that. But, honestly, I'm not going to get a precise readout of the questions he asks. But based on my experience with the President, in situations that are similar, he is very direct and he wants to find out what's going on, and he doesn't want people giving him a rosy picture.
Q And one last follow-up. Would we naturally assume that if those conditions were met, if he heard that from the generals on the ground, that that would be one of the things that would alter the strategy or tactics?
MR. SNOW: The strategy is going to be the same, which is an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself. You cannot have a failed state in Iraq. It would be catastrophic.
Q So anyone who thinks that those conditions would propel the United States out faster or withdraw faster would be wrong?
MR. SNOW: Again, short of -- the conditions are going to be an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself. And it's very important to realize that the United States is going to do everything possible to help the government. Rather than -- because I can see where this question would go, and I'm not going to go there, because it's the kind of hypothetical that can be twisted into talking points, and I think it's probably -- it's provocative, but it's an unfair question to ask at this juncture.
Q We have a little over two weeks to go until Election Day, Tony. How do you see the landscape right now for Republican candidates in the House and the Senate? And I'm curious as to whether you're seeing anything differently in your travels on behalf of candidates that differ with public opinion polls which show Republicans in not such a great state?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think you've got -- look, in a midterm election, races are local, quite often governed by local issues. There are going to be some places where it's really tough for Republicans, where they're going to be toast. There are also going to be places where Democrats are toasted.
What you do in a midterm election is that you try to take a reasonable look at each and every one of the districts, and what the prospects are. What we find is the Republicans, contrary to popular opinion -- and the RNC has put out a press release on this today -- are highly motivated, and they are determined to try to help Republican candidates win. And we feel pretty confident about the prospects. But do we think it's easy? No. I mean, this is a tough election, and it's a tough election where you've got very strong opinions around the country.
One of the key elements and one of the things that gives us comfort is, you've got a President who is showing leadership and telling people exactly what he wants to do. And quite often the opposition is telling them -- complaining about what the President has done, but not saying what they want to do. And when you are facing a challenging world, and also when you want to try to build on an economy that's performed absolute miracles in the last five years, you probably ought to ask yourself, what are they going to do? And we think that when people ask those questions, it's going to be good for Republican candidates.
Q Do you notice any difference when you go out on behalf of candidates around the country, something different than I'm reading or seeing when I read opinion polls?
MR. SNOW: Well, look, I am speaking to a pretty self-selected audience, so I'm speaking to Republican activists who are coming out to hear the press secretary. They're pretty happy to see me. But on the other hand, I don't think anybody -- again, don't think you want to try to use that as your one and only focus group. But even so, they understand it's a tough race and they understand that they're going to have to get their people out, and they're going to have to get people motivated, and they're going to have to get them positive.
And I think it's important to realize that there's a positive core to the message, which is, you do have to have somebody who has got an affirmative approach not only to fighting in Iraq, but the larger war on terror, which is something that is of concern to everybody; who has sensible and strong ideas about the economy, he wants to make sure that people have money in their pockets; who was talking today about Medicare, which, surprise, surprise, thanks to market-based initiatives have been saving people a lot of money and providing coverage; he'll be talking about energy innovation -- everybody agrees about that, but he's the guy talking about exactly how he wants to innovate.
So you've got a President who is actively engaged and positive and optimistic about what this country can achieve. That's a pretty good message.
Q Thank you.
Q That same motivation is there among Republicans that existed in 2004?
MR. SNOW: I wasn't there in 2004, I was on your side. Come on up and you can ask.
END 1:43 P.M. EDT
* General Abizaid is in town and will meet with the President this afternoon