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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 2, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:35 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: All right, hello. Sorry for the delay, I will explain that momentarily.
The President's schedule today, let's see, normal briefings in the morning. He had a wildfire briefing about 9:00 a.m. He met with the Special Envoy for Sudan at 9:25 a.m. Then a meeting with the Prime Minister of Turkey, which actually went an hour over -- I'll read that out in a moment. An elm tree planting on the north grounds. He'll depart the White House in a bit and attend a Heller for Congress reception in Reno, Nevada, later today, and spend the night in Stockton, California.
Tomorrow the President will sign S. 260, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act. The sponsor is Senator Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma; the House version, sponsored by Richard Pombo, of California.
The President also had a phone call this morning, from 7:39 a.m. to 7:56 a.m. -- that would be 17 minutes -- with Russian President Putin. He called President Putin to discuss a range of issues -- the President did place the call. They agreed on the need to maintain the united position of pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, and they also discussed recent tensions in Russian-Georgian relations.
As far as the meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan, Turkey is a very important and valued strategic ally and partner and the two leaders have a close working relationship and a good personal relationship. They talked about a lot of things, including EU accession, which the Turks want, as well as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Darfur -- I think I've covered the ground, but they covered a lot of stuff.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q Tony, is the administration satisfied with the way the House Republican leadership is dealing with the Foley matter? And what did you mean when you said there have been scandals, more than simply naughty emails on the Hill?
MR. SNOW: No, no, I said there's a lot of gossip, as you know. Gossip flows freely about members, and rather than retelling it, I was simply citing a fact of life. I believe maybe even some has come to your attention once or twice, Tom.
But having said that, look, this is an awful and disturbing story. And anybody who sends children, young people to Capitol Hill for the privilege of becoming pages ought to be assured that their sons or daughters can learn about the noblest traditions of American politics and not about something else.
I am told that Speaker Hastert will be doing interviews today and he will be able to go through that. So as far as answering particular questions about who knew what, when or what they knew or how they're going to deal with it, I'll refer those questions to the Speaker.
Q But has the President heard any explanation from the Speaker, or anyone in the senior leadership, as to why they did not act earlier? And why, for example, no FBI investigation before this, when most of this was known months ago?
MR. SNOW: The FBI at this point is still trying to figure out -- considering a preliminary investigation to find out whether any laws were broken. As far as who, what, when, where why, I think what you need is the facts. We have impressionistic stories; we need to find out what it is that people knew at various times. And, again, I'll refer you to Speaker Hastert for that.
Q But there is a risk that by taking this wait-and-see approach that it leaves an impression that the White House thinks that the conduct of the Speaker and other leaders was sufficient.
MR. SNOW: Well, we don't know what the conduct was, and we don't know what they knew. So what we're not going to do is to leap to judgment without finding out what the deal is. I mean, I called over to the Speaker's office -- the question is, what exactly did they have. And the Speaker has turned over emails and documents to the Justice Department, which they are reviewing. And not having seen the documents, I'm just unwilling to try to characterize what he knew or when, and, again, I think the appropriate person to answer that is the guy who knows, which is the Speaker. He's coming out today.
But let's make it clear, when you have allegations of this sort, for any parent, and for most decent people, they're horrifying. There's no excuse for that. But now the question is, how did they do it -- I mean, what did they know about it, and what sort of measures will the House of Representatives be taking, and if there are legal steps, one presumes that the proper and duly constituted legal authorities will follow through on them.
Q But even on a gut level, if the Speaker was aware that there were overly friendly emails, are you satisfied that he allowed Representative Foley to continue to work in areas like the Missing and Exploited Children?
MR. SNOW: Again, I've got to find out what he knew. There have been characterizations of what "overly friendly" means, and I think rather than getting myself into the position of second-guessing, I really would rather know. Now it may be that at some point we'll come up and --
Q Did the President know -
Q But, Tony --
MR. SNOW: No, the President does not have --
Q But Tony --
MR. SNOW: Let me just finish answering the question. Not having seen it, it places us in a peculiar situation. I think people are trying to put us in a box, and say, you know what, unless you come out and you condemn Denny Hastert, you're saying that this behavior is acceptable. It's not. Let's get that part clear. Let's also be clear that people who have the privilege of working in government ought to hold themselves to higher standards. The House is responsible for enforcing its standards. That has always been the case. And Denny Hastert will come forth, he'll tell you what he knew, and I think everybody will be in a better position to render judgment at that point.
Q Tony, do you think Americans should be confident sending young people to Capitol Hill, given what you do know? And I know you don't know everything, but surely there's been some communication. And it's these overly friendly emails, which have been out --
MR. SNOW: I think --
Q How can Americans feel confident that they can send their young people to the Hill, if that's what happened?
MR. SNOW: Look, I agree, Martha. You're not getting me to --
Q But I mean more so the investigation, or people saying, it's okay, they were just "overly friendly emails," even though he asked for a picture.
MR. SNOW: I think -- you know what, I think people need to find out what the -- first, Representative Foley has resigned. Second, the House is going to have to figure out how to respond to this. Third, you're absolutely right, the American people need confidence that this sort of thing is not tolerated, and that affirmative steps will be taken to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's a Capitol Hill matter right now. For those of us working in the White House, we're horrified when we hear stories like this.
Q Is that the President's view?
MR. SNOW: Yes, absolutely.
Q But if the House leadership essentially dismissed something like overly friendly emails and didn't investigate further, that's acceptable?
MR. SNOW: As I said, let's see what the documentary trail is. You're asking me an impressionistic question. Until I have more data -- no, and I'm serious, because --
Q Do you know anything from the Speaker, does the White House have any --
MR. SNOW: I had a brief conversation today with the Speaker's office, and I was told the Speaker will answer the questions. Wait until the Speaker answers the question and come back.
Q But did you get them answered? Because we're not going to be able to come back today and talk to you.
MR. SNOW: You can -- well, no, I'll be on the road today. Let me put it this way -- let me just be clear, once again. I thought I was clear, but I'll be clear again. Young men and women who are sent to Capitol Hill -- let me repeat myself -- for the privilege of serving in our government ought to be exposed to the noblest traditions of American government, and not to the kind of behavior that was outlined in the emails, period, exclamation point. Put the exclamation point before the period, just for emphasis.
Q -- sending overly friendly emails.
Q Should that have not happened in the Republican leadership so much earlier? If you're calling this horrifying, these allegations are horrifying, and it comes out now -- it seems that there is somebody who dropped the ball in there, whether you know who, what, when, where and why, exactly now. Somebody is --
MR. SNOW: Then you've drawn that conclusion.
Q Tony, what does the President know? What does he know about the emails? Has he spoken to the Speaker, actually spoken to Hastert?
MR. SNOW: I do not believe he's spoken to the Speaker -- look, the House has to clean up the mess, to the extent that there's a mess. The President is not responsible for going back and conducting his own personal investigation on this. The House has an obligation, and House members, I think, are talking pretty vociferously about this on both sides of the aisle.
Let's figure out what the facts are, let's figure out what people are doing. I know everybody wants a rush -- to come in with a conclusion, a rock'em, sock'em conclusion. The behavior was reprehensible. I don't know how much further I can go. I know that you want me to come out and have a definitive statement, but I think as reporters, you understand that perhaps before one draws a definitive conclusion about how one ought to talk about the Speaker, Republican leadership, we need to see the documents. I haven't seen the documents; to the best of my knowledge the President hasn't. Speaker Hastert will be available, he'll be able to answer the questions.
Q Did Mr. Rove or the political arm know about this?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Should voters, in the election a month from now, hold the Republican Party accountable for not just one, but four members of the senior leadership in the House resigning in the last year?
MR. SNOW: I'm going to let voters decide that.
Q I've --
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, Goyal, is this on this topic? Okay, let's exhaust all this, and then we'll go.
Q Tony, the Republicans are facing this scandal, plus the administration is having to cope with these new allegations about the mishandling of the Iraq war that have come out in Woodward's book. Is there any concern in the White House that a sort of perfect storm is starting to build as you -- only weeks before the midterm elections --
MR. SNOW: No. I think a lot of people want to fabricate a perfect storm. Mark Foley has got to answer for his behavior, right? Now this does not affect every Republican in the United States of America, just as bad behavior on the parts of Democrats in ages past has not been a reflection of their entire party. These are things that happen, and they need to be addressed and the individuals responsible. If you try to paint it with a broad brush, I think you run the risk of tarring respectable people who are living decent lives and serving their country well.
As for the Woodward book, you tried to slip a fastball past there, but the fact is that there have been plenty of disputations about the book, and we'll let people draw their judgments there.
But I'll tell you this. This is an administration that believes in maintaining high ethical standards, and believes that we ought to be setting an example, and, at the same time, also has been pursuing an enemy in Iraq and around the world since September 11, 2001, and has absolutely no intention of standing down.
As for many of the statements, Condi Rice has come up to dispute some, Andy Card has been out. A number of other players have come out -- the First Lady's office. And you know what? You've got a lot of juicy gossip in the book, and people will have all the time they want to go through it. But the fundamental question about whether the President is "in denial" -- flat wrong, absolutely wrong.
Q When will the President come out and actually say that?
MR. SNOW: Why does the President -- he's not going to come out and say, oh, by the way, I'm not in denial. How stupid is that, to have a President coming out and say, I'm sorry, I'm not beating my wife anymore?
When you're faced with charges that are either, in some cases baseless or out of context, you don't dignify them with a response because you dig a hole for yourself. Come on, you know better than that.
Q On the Woodward book, you dealt with it a lot on Friday, but Democrats are focusing on this meeting in July 2001, allegedly between the CIA director and Secretary -- now-Secretary Rice. Are there other meetings about the terrorist threat that happened that did not get to the 9/11 Commission? That is the question.
MR. SNOW: Well, they're, first, taking a look at the documents right now. And, secondly, I think you may be hearing from some people in the meeting who are -- Condi Rice has already disputed the account, and I think others in the meeting may be prepared to dispute it as well. What appeared in the book simply does not comport with their recollection.
Okay, go ahead.
Q Tony, going back to the myth that you're disputing, myth number three, back to that question -- how can you dispute it, when in August 2001 there's a document that was declassified by this administration, "bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S. and" --
MR. SNOW: Oh, you're talking about the PDB.
Q Yes, I am.
MR. SNOW: You're talking about the PDB that was discussed ad nauseam before the 9/11 Commission and had a general characterization as some of the things bin Laden may do. It is something that the administration obviously pays attention to.
Let me make a simple point, April, which is that administrations -- and I've said this about the prior administration -- if somebody presents you with a compelling piece of evidence that says American lives are going to be at risk, you don't sit around and say, oh, it's inconvenient, I'm going to ignore it.
Condi Rice, I think, was pretty vociferous on that point yesterday. And it's grossly irresponsible to assume that anybody in a position of power and a position of responsibility is going to look askance at such things. As you know, you can go back and look at the PDB, and it is something that talked in general terms about something that may happen.
Q Tony, I'm sorry, this is not general. It says, "Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York." Is that --
MR. SNOW: Understood.
Q -- just vague?
MR. SNOW: No. But it also does not say that people -- if you recall, April, before September 11, 2001, when somebody mentioned hijackings it meant taking a plane, taking it to another place and trying to hold up people for ransom. It did not mean flying an airliner into a building and killing 3,000 people.
I am not going to sit up here and tell you everything this administration or prior administrations may or may not have done. But the second-guessing game gets a little bit silly when, once again -- and what I'd have you do is go back and read through all the 9/11 Commission stuff, because a lot of people are trying to grandstand, rather than realize that people --
Q But, Tony, it's not silly when you're talking about people's lives, thousands of lives were lost --
MR. SNOW: Absolutely.
Q -- and it was a month before, there was a lot of chatter leading up to 9/11. And some people want to know why was it not placed as a high priority to move -- to make a movement so that even if it was vague, as far as hijackings, you could have at least been looking at the airports in some kind of way, or the Transportation Administration could have been doing something in relation to this possible hijacking.
MR. SNOW: I appreciate the second-guessing. The fact is that this administration realizes that the preparations this country had made before September 11th were inadequate. It happened. And it happened as a result of people who were trying their best to secure the country having not been apprised of all the facts -- in the Clinton years, and in the Bush years, and in years before. This is not a threat that simply materialized a month before September 11th.
As a matter of fact, the videotape that came out the other day had bin Laden and his guys -- Mohammed Atta and others -- posing for the cameras in the year 2000, before the election of George W. Bush. And the 9/11 Commission, itself, says that the attacks were years in planning.
Please, feel free to second guess. Everybody feels horrible about September 11th, but the other thing that's important is to understand in the wake of September 11th we learned to take the terror threat with utmost seriousness and we need to continue to do so today.
Q But, Tony -- and this is my last question -- I understand you keep talking about the Clinton administration, but let's talk about August 6, 2001, this administration, this PDB. Let's talk about why it was not placed at a high level. Why not?
MR. SNOW: It's a presidential decision brief, for heaven's sake, it goes before the President. What higher level do you have? Members of Congress --
Q Well, why wasn't it acted upon?
MR. SNOW: Precisely what piece of actionable intelligence is there?
Q Department of Transportation, you could have gone the gambit, CIA, FBI, you've could have done a little bit more.
MR. SNOW: Okay. Again, thank you for the second-guessing.
Q I just want to follow up. My question -- mine's not second-guessing of September 11th, it's about the 9/11 Commission. Now you have commissioners outraged, they say that they didn't know about this meeting. You're saying that the meeting did take place --
MR. SNOW: The meeting did take place.
Q -- but it's out of context in the book?
MR. SNOW: Yes. And I will --
Q And is there a reason why, I guess, the 9/11 Commission didn't know about the meeting? That's the bottom-line question.
MR. SNOW: The answer is, I don't know. And people are taking a look at all the documents to find out what was reported and what was not to the 9/11 Commission. As a matter of fact, there's a trip to the Archives right now to try to sort through all that.
Q If there were other meetings, will you let us know about those, if they didn't get to the 9/11 Commission as well?
MR. SNOW: "Other meetings" regarding what? The fact is that this is a meeting, as I've just told you, was mischaracterized, at least in the opinion of people who attended it. Therefore, they are not likely to be able to come up with other mischaracterized meetings. This is an administration that went to extraordinary lengths and went through two different commission hearings -- actually three different commissions that have been involved in the matter of global terror, and will continue to do so.
And we would also encourage people to look forward, as well as back, because right now there seems to be a lot of attention to going back and looking at old meetings that began after January 20, 2001, and to realize, as the President has been stressing, is that there is an ongoing terrorist threat, and we need to take it seriously. It is not something that has gone away, and the President remains committed to it.
Helen, I've jumped past you several times, it's your turn.
Q That's all right. It's in the context of the book, but is Henry Kissinger a regular advisor to the President? And did he tell the President to stick it out, and that any withdrawal would be like eating peanuts?
MR. SNOW: No. As a matter of fact, Henry did not talk to Bob Woodward. I spoke with Henry on Friday. So there are some second- or third hand recollections. Dr. Kissinger appears fairly -- he appears from time to time. I don't want to say "fairly regularly," but he's been in the White House, as have Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton and any number of people, in contrast to those who say the administration sort of puts on blinders and puts wax in its ears. Dr. Kissinger comes in quite often -- it's when he disagrees with the administration on policy. He told me, what's the purpose of coming here when I already agree.
But he is somebody whose counsel is valued, but he is not a surrogate for anybody in the administration, nor are the advisors that have come in at various junctures, whether they be scholars or military experts, or people from Iraq, or various sectarian groups. They've all been in, and they all help the President try to shape, in as comprehensive a way, his view of what's going on, on the ground, so that he can be most effective in trying to move forward.
Q Did he urge the President to stay the course?
MR. SNOW: The President -- no, stay the -- I'll tell you what --
Q Stick it out, I think were his words.
MR. SNOW: No, I didn't ask him about the phrase. I'll tell you what he told me, and I'll just repeat it that way. He said that he supports the overall thrust and direction of the administration policy.
I think what -- he had a line in an op-ed piece which ended up being quoted, but -- what was it -- "Victory is the only exit strategy," I think. I'm paraphrasing. That was an op-ed piece that he wrote, and that is his view. But then, again, victory was the only exit strategy after the Civil War, and after World War I, and World War II. Typically, in a time of war, that is the exit strategy. That's when you know it's over and you can move forward.
Q I wanted to return to Tom's first question. What you said exactly was, "There have been other scandals, as you know, that have been more than simply naughty emails." And my question is, do you think that "simply naughty" in any way describes or captures --
MR. SNOW: No, I really don't. You're right. That may sound a little bit too glib. I think I've already said -- I've used the words "horrifying," "appalling," "disturbing," fill in the blanks. It's absolutely inappropriate.
And thank you for that, because I'd only get socked with that later in the day. Go ahead, Goyal.
Q Two questions. One, there's another book General Musharraf has written, it's now President had a hand on (inaudible) and said there is a lot of stuff about 9/11 and also (inaudible), including the famous one that U.S. --
MR. SNOW: All right, Goyal, I'm just going to stop you. We haven't read the book yet. We did hear about it in the press conference, but I don't think the President is going to be doing book reviews on President Musharraf. He is satisfied that President Musharraf is a very important ally in the war on terror. They're continuing to work together.
And also the President is working both with President Musharraf and President Karzai to make sure that they can address problems along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Q Second on, as President talking human rights in Iran. There's a story here, horrible story, and hundreds of people --
MR. SNOW: Which paper is that?
Q India Globe.
MR. SNOW: Oh, okay. Yes.
Q Hundreds of people watching on the streets of Iran. The eight-year-old boy, he stole a piece of bread, and his hands were -- he was crushed by a heavy truck, and hundreds are watching. And this is a time for the Muslims, a holiday that's giving and loving. I mean, talking about human rights in Iran, can you answer how President can answer this eight-year-old boy was crushed under the truck and hundreds are watching there?
Q Secretary Rumsfeld said today -- or yesterday, that he got a call from the President, and I'm curious. Obviously, there is a lot about this in the news, but what specifically prompted the President to make the call?
And, secondly, with all this stuff with Andy Card discussing the possibility of his tenure, did the President talk to Secretary Rumsfeld at all during that time, late '04 and into '05, about any of this stuff, any of these concerns that were being raised?
MR. SNOW: You know, I -- look, they talk regularly. Did they put their feet up on the table and say, Don, a lot of people want you to resign, or want me to fire you -- I don't know if they had that conversation.
What the President does know is that there has been a lot of speculation prompted by the Woodward book. But you can't -- look, Don Rumsfeld is a guy who has ruffled feathers because he has been, in many ways, one of the most transformational leaders at the Department of Defense in a very long time.
The constant complaint inside the building has been, the generals always prepare to fight the last war. Don Rumsfeld began by trying to transform separate military services that, in previous times, have been loathe to work together at all times. And he stressed interoperability and joint operations. He beefed up special operations. He ruffled a lot of feathers.
And, as a result -- again, I'll defer to Martha, my expert on this, but there are certainly a lot of people in the building who are very unhappy with what he's tried to do. The people who are not unhappy -- and when he came in he started talking about something that, at that juncture, was relatively unknown. It was called asymmetrical warfare, which is exactly what we're facing in Iraq today and generally in the war on terror.
So I think what the President simply wanted to do is, given all the press attention and everything that's been going on, to say, Don, I still have faith in you, and I support you.
Q Tony --
Q -- according to Card, was raising the possibility of moving Rumsfeld out in November '04 because he was trying to transform the Army? I think it had something to do with Iraq more specifically.
MR. SNOW: I'm not -- I'll let Andy answer the characterizations. I'm not sure he's characterized it -- what Andy was doing -- and there had also been suggestions, as you know, of replacing "the entire National Security team." You do that sort of thing at the end of a term.
What you want to find out -- you want to make sure that everybody has got fresh legs for a second term. And the President, you know, took a cold look at it, and still supports Don Rumsfeld.
Q Did Karl Rove run afoul of any White House ethics policies when he went to a basketball game with Jack Abramoff?
MR. SNOW: According to Karl -- and, again, we're still looking through all this -- he paid for any and all tickets. If you pay for a ticket, and you have a pre-existing social relationship, as everybody in this room knows, the pre-existing social relationship rules. But as I said on Friday, we are looking very carefully through all of it.
I don't want to be presumptuous about doing it -- the laws are actually fairly complex in sorting through this stuff, and the Office of Legal Counsel and others have taken a good, hard look.
Q But even if he paid for it, he was using one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington like a valet service -- here, I'll go get you some tickets. I mean, is that permissible?
MR. SNOW: Again, what the characterization -- he was using it as a "valet service" -- that's colorful, that's good, that's really good.
Q That's why people read my column. (Laughter.)
Q Tony, much has been made about President Bush's relationship with Prince Bandar, who was the former Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, in the book, specifically saying that it was his father who recruited him to act as some sort of advisor, quoting the President, telling him, "I don't have" --
MR. SNOW: You mean, President Bush 41, who had recruited Bandar to be an advisor?
Q Yes, that's what Woodward alleges, saying that Bush said, "I don't have the foggiest idea about what I think about international foreign policy; my dad told me before I make up my mind, go and talk to Bandar." What is the relationship, what -- does that sound accurate? Is that true that he acted as some sort of advisor?
MR. SNOW: Prince Bandar, for a considerable period of time, was the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, and would obviously be somebody with whom one would have a conversation, and to that extent, would be an advisor just as Prince Turki, who is now the Ambassador to the United States, and would be considered an advisor as well. We had the Ambassador of Turkey in today. We have ambassadors in all the time. So it's not unusual at an ambassadorial level to do that.
But, again, the quote has been cobbled together in such a way as to make it sound like the President just fell off the turnip truck, and this is a President who has been deeply engaged, and very smart about the people he's dealing with, and also tries to be just as realistic in his assessments of foreign heads of state and others in trying to form judgments, not merely of their positions and their history, but also their character. You may recall last week the President said before the meeting with Presidents Musharraf and Karzai, he wanted to see the body language; he wanted to see how the two men were interacting, so he could form a judgment about how they best could work together, or how they better could work together. So just to give you a little more context on the way the President approaches these things.
Q Can I follow up on what you were answering to Brett's question earlier?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q You said you had gone back to the Archives --
MR. SNOW: No, somebody -- I was told that over at State they're looking -- they're going to take a look at the Archives and find out what was provided and whatnot.
Q And then what will happen to the information you may or may not be able to recover?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't even know what the information is -- let me put it this way --
Q Let me finish. Can you say that if you do recover some information, that you'll make it public?
MR. SNOW: Yes. And, furthermore, if somebody comes out and says, I was in the meeting and it's baloney, and I was in the meeting and it's baloney, and I was in the meeting and it's baloney, that will also be made public.
Q And can I --
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, I'm cutting her off. I'll get to you, Les.
Q I wanted to follow up with one other thing. You were talking about having to try to make the highest ethical standards in the executive branch. In the past couple of weeks, you know that individual overseers -- whether it's IGs or the House Government Reform Committee -- have indicated that in four, at least four separate executive departments there have been problems with conflicts of interest in grant-making. My question is, is the White House, is the Chief of Staff concerned enough about the performance in the executive branch that this is a maybe endemic problem, that there needs to be some more oversight at the White House level of what the executive branch is doing?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, but I doubt it. Les.
Q Tony, two questions. Nearly a thousand people inside and around a Catholic church in Harford County, Maryland, on Saturday for the funeral of Petty Officer David Roddy, who was killed in action in Iraq, which funeral was threatened by potential disrupters from Kansas, who never showed up. And my question: Does Petty Officer Roddy's Commander-in-Chief commend those many who attended carrying U.S. flags as a dissuasive to those who threatened to disrupt?
MR. SNOW: The President is not going to get into jostling over a funeral. The President instead --
Q He's concerned about this, of course.
MR. SNOW: Let me finish, because it's the kind of question that is wonderful and delicious, but he's not going to get into traveling bands from Kansas trying to attend a funeral in Harford County, Maryland.
What he does believe is that the men and women who are serving this country right now on a voluntary basis are second-to-none. And the sacrifices that they make merely going into the theater of battle are absolutely -- they're awesome to contemplate. And those who give the ultimate measure are people who deserve to be remembered, and remembered not only fondly but admiringly. And, furthermore, those who have been injured in battle have their own fight, in some cases, that will last the rest of their lives. He feels for them, he visits them, he cares about them. And I think that's the appropriate context. And I think it's probably more respectful to the servicemen who died than trying to talk about a political fight.
Q Does the President support Republican Congressman Todd Akin adding language to the National Defense Authorization Act, which guarantees the end of current regulations in the Navy and Air Force, which, in Akin's words, "prevented chaplains from praying according to their faith and conscience"?
MR. SNOW: The President has made his comments clear on freedom of faith.
Q Thank you, Tony. Last time, President Bush and South Korean President Moo-hyun Roh had summit talks -- (inaudible) --
MR. SNOW: That wasn't my reading of the meeting. As a matter of fact, President Roh had said that there had been some action taken against North Korea, which was breaking news, in the conversation afterward. And I was in the meeting, and it was -- it was a meeting where the two were cordial and working together. President Roh, during the balance of his time in office, has a lot of important concerns, probably chief among them trying to make sure that North Korea does not nuclearize the Peninsula.
Q Tony, there might be a runoff election in Brazil. Does the President have any favorite candidate?
MR. SNOW: If the President doesn't endorse a Republican primary, he's certainly not going to endorse in -- (laughter.)
Q Tony, given the scandals in Congress and possible ties between Abramoff and the White House, as well as the focus now on the strategy behind the Iraq war, what are the chances of any kind of domestic agenda being carried out at all, either in Congress or at the White House?
MR. SNOW: Okay, let me address, first, the scandal. You've got one person who behaved badly. There are 434 others in Congress.
Q -- close to the Abramoff scandal.
MR. SNOW: The Abramoff scandal is what? Jack Abramoff ripped off a bunch of people, he's breaking rocks for breaking the law, and he apparently got nothing out of it. So to my -- no, to the extent that there are data available, the data indicate that Jack Abramoff, when he was trying to make contact with the White House -- and lobbyists do that, you know -- he got nothing out of it. Now, as you also know, the vast bulk of lobbying in this town goes elsewhere.
So what you're trying to do is draw a conclusion: Jack Abramoff, evil; talked to the White House, therefore White House evil. I'm not accepting the premise, because this is somebody who was well known to many people in Republican circles, who had made phone calls, who had asked for things, and he didn't get them.
Q Excuse me, first of all, an assistant to Mr. Rove apparently got something out of this.
MR. SNOW: Well, there are -- we are taking a look. As I said, we're taking a very careful look at what was in the House report. And without my trying to play junior lawyer here, when the people have finished taking a good hard look at it all, we'll let you know what they found out. That's an important concern, and it's worth looking into.
Q My question was on the domestic agenda and whether or not that's been blown out of the water.
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what?
Q My question was on the domestic agenda, and whether it's been blown out of the water --
MR. SNOW: No, and I'll tell you why. The domestic agenda -- you know what's interesting right now is that there seems to be an attempt to substitute the politics of personality for the politics of ideas. And there are important ideas right now at work in America about whether or not you want high taxes or low taxes; whether you think that more extensive government programs are better than less extensive government programs; how you want to -- what the proper conduct of the war is. Those are things that people are going to be concerned about, as well. And instead what you get is, again, trying to go through and say, man, Abramoff really disappointed us, he didn't get anything. Let's keep trying for it.
Well, you know what? This is a town where there are constant --
Q He got hard time.
MR. SNOW: Yes, he got hard time.
So the point here is that the President feels confident in a domestic agenda for the simple reason that there is important business: extending tax cuts, dealing with entitlements.
One of the things that the President strongly believes in is making life easier for his successor, whoever that may be, by tackling hard issues that everybody knows needs to be addressed -- hard issues such as Social Security and Medicare, because they're going to bankrupt the country. So the President wants to go ahead and deal with it so that the future President doesn't have to deal with the political heartache, and at the same time, can move ahead on a more satisfactory basis to deal with other issues.
So the answer is absolutely we think we can move forward with the domestic agenda.
Q Excuse me, though, with respect to taxes, the trifecta bill would repeal or at least reduce the estate tax -- minimum wage, which is tied with that, as well as extenders, as far as it's being reported, that is not going anywhere after the recess. Are you predicting that it will?
MR. SNOW: I am telling you that there are two more years in this administration after the new Congress has been seated, and in those two years, the President intends to be aggressive.
Q But I'm asking about the lame duck session.
MR. SNOW: That's not the way you framed the question. You asked about the President's domestic agenda, and I gave you an answer that deals with all of it. As far as the lame duck session, we're going to have to see what Congress is of an attitude to do.
Q Really quickly. On today's meeting with the Turkish Prime Minister, did the President and the Prime Minister discuss the PKK and Turkey's recent comments that they may cross into Iraq and strike PKK --
MR. SNOW: They did not talk specifically about that. They did talk about the organization formerly known as PKK. It's got a new name now, I've forgotten what it is.
MR. SNOW: Thank you. Our Turkish reporter does know -- and they talked about the fact that it appears that some of the PKK offices are going to be getting shut down within Iraq, and so they did have an extensive conversation, but they did not talk specifically about what you mentioned.
Q About cross border --
MR. SNOW: That's correct. That's correct.
Q At this meeting of the Turkish Prime Minister and President Bush -- how to accelerate Turkey's accession to the European Union?
MR. SNOW: Don't know. That is a matter, as you know, for the European Union. The Prime Minister pointed out they're working through stage one, that has to deal with certain applications. They're moving on to stage two, and working through various things they need to work through with European officials, and the United States is going to support them.
Q Thanks, Tony.
MR. SNOW: All right. Thank you.
END 1:12 P.M. EDT
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