|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 4, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En route Waco, Texas
1:52 P.M. CST
MR. SNOW: Let me begin just with a couple of details; we will get you the readout on the President's meeting with the family of a fallen sailor in a minute.
As for the First Lady's birthday -- President Bush gave Mrs. Bush a triple strand, amber-colored, citrine necklace -- don't ask me, I don't know.
They're going to be celebrating her birthday with Lois and Roland Betts, Regan and Billy Gammon, Debbie and Jim Francis and Nancy and Mike Weiss.
For dinner, enchiladas, two kinds of tamales -- tamale one, bean and cheese; tamale two, chicken jalapeno and tomato. In addition, chili rellenos, guacamole, rice and beans and birthday cake for dessert. For other details, please contact the First Lady's press office.
Q What do you think about Richard Perle, who was one of the staunchest supporters of the Iraq war, coming out and saying that, you know, if he were to go back, he wouldn't do it?
MR. SNOW: Well, a couple of things. First, you've already had David Frum coming out and saying that Vanity Fair completely took out of context what he said and twisted a discussion of what he described as looking for the best way to win the war, into something far more fatalistic. We'll have to let Richard Perle and Ken Adelman make whatever comments. But if the quotes are accurate, it means that they're at war with the advice that they gave some time ago.
Q Tony, what about the editorials coming up at in the Times -- Military Times Newspapers -- Army, Air Force, Marines and so on?
MR. SNOW: A number of things. I mean, observation number one is everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. And as a factual matter, the editorial -- which is a uniform editorial that I guess all the papers are being told to carried -- is just -- it's a shabby piece of work. I'll run through some of it for you.
The other important thing to note is this -- although these are Army Times and the Military Times, they're a Gannet publication. A lot of people are thinking, aha, what you have are a lot of military people in open revolt against the President, when, in fact, you've got a lot of Gannet editorial writers, which would be thoroughly consistent with USA Today and the rest of the Gannet chain, which I think, if memory serves, does not have a single strong conservative editorial page in the entire chain.
Hang on a second, I've got a printout of it, because I went through the thing. Give me a moment. The editorial, for one thing, makes the allegation that -- it says, "One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld." That's just flat not true. And what they do is they revert to cheesy old partisan talking points about "mission accomplished," which, as you recall, was referring to the mission of the USS Abraham Lincoln and the President, on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, talked about a long, hard fight to come, and so on.
But maybe the worst is this, it says, "A new course of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning." It then goes on to site General John Abizaid completely out of context, when he said before Congress -- he said, "I believe the sectarian violence probably is as bad as I've seen it. It's possible that Iraq could move toward civil war."
The following month General Casey said -- let's see, a couple of things. First, he said that, "A, I think we can prevent a civil war. Secondly, things in a counter-insurgency environment, as you well know, take time to mature militarily and politically, and we're confident that with the measures we're taking now we can be successful."
General Casey also said recently, "The situation is hard, but Iraq is not a country that's awash in sectarian violence. I think it's important to remind people that 90 percent of the sectarian violence in Iraq takes place in about a 30-mile radius from the center of Baghdad, and, secondly, that 90 percent of all violence takes place in five provinces."
There is also the notion in here -- in this editorial -- let me get this a little neater, because I keep flipping back and forth. Here we go, sorry. Here's another one, "Despite the best efforts of American trainers, the problem of molding a viciously sectarian population into anything resembling a force for national unity has become a losing proposition." Again, dramatically at odds with what we've been seeing on the ground in Iraq, especially with a unity government that is making aggressive moves toward tamping down sectarian violence and also building a sense of national unity -- yet, 12 million people vote.
So what you have in here is sort of a caricature -- just today, almost in direct defiance of what the editorial is asserting, you had militias going in -- you had Iraqi police going in and, according to one report, taking down 53 al Qaeda members. Now, that's precisely the sort of thing that we've been talking about from the beginning, which is training up and making battle capable not only the Iraq security forces, but also Iraqi police forces.
Q Has the President seen or been told about the editorials?
MR. SNOW: He's been told about the editorial.
Q His reaction?
MR. SNOW: His reaction was just to sort of shrug it off. I mean, he understands what editorial writers sometimes do, and in this case, they're grandstanding. The notion that somehow, as the editorial says, that this is not intended to influence the elections -- you've got to be kidding me. I mean, if they didn't want it to influence the elections, they could have published it Wednesday.
In addition, they clearly skipped school last week when General Caldwell was giving the weekly briefing, talking about the metrics in Baghdad and around Iraq. And I had laid that out before in a press briefing, as well.
Q We know what the President said in the interview with the wire services last week, and that was he was doing a fine job. But couldn't things change after the elections, depending on how they go?
MR. SNOW: The President is Commander-in-Chief. At any time he can make military decisions, and will do so; but he's expressed his confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld. I mean, look, the more important thing in this editorial is just the fact that it gives the false impression that there is this -- Americans are going to read this and they're going to say, oh, the Army Times is against this and the Navy Times and so on -- that somehow that there is a reaction against the President by military personnel. This is by editorial writers who work in Arlington, Virginia.
Q A couple of questions about Colorado. One, what's the President's position on the two measures that are on the ballot on gay marriage, the constitutional amendment and the one for rights for gay couples?
MR. SNOW: Don't know. I'll find out.
Q And, also, what's the White House response to this ad that was in the Greeley paper this morning that accused the President of trying to start a fight with his father back in the 1970s, I believe, and criticized the Vice President for his hunting accident?
MR. SNOW: Kind of snarky and juvenile. I'm not sure they did their cause much good.
Q Has the President talked at all about being on his last campaign and how it feels to be out again on the trail?
MR. SNOW: I know you guys are desperate for, you know, the President sort of putting on the spurs and walking off into the sunset, but there's also a 2008 campaign to come and two more years of this presidency. Trust me, you guys need to strap on your running shoes, because it's going to be a busy two years.
Q He actually seems as if he's got an awful lot of energy. I mean, is he energized by this and feels like it's going well and optimistic coming into the election?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Absolutely.
Okay. Just a read out on the family of the fallen soldier. The President met with the family of Petty Officer 2nd Class, Navy Seal Danny Dietz, of Littleton, Colorado. He was killed on June 28, 2005, while conducting counter-terrorism operations in Kunar province, Afghanistan. The President went in with members of the Dietz family -- the father, Danny Dietz, Sr., Cindy Dietz, Tiffany Bitz, the sister, and Eric Dietz, the 20-year-old brother. Eric ran the Marine Corps Marathon on October 29th in honor of his brother, Danny. They went into a room together and it was a completely private moment, no staff present.
Anything else we need here?
Q Any plans for tomorrow morning, like church or anything?
MR. SNOW: Good question. Okay, so we've got two on my to-do list, we have the two ballot initiatives -- yes, the bupkis list includes two Colorado initiatives and the morning schedule.
Q And is there going to be any sort of response to the Saddam trial tomorrow? Are you planning anything on that?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. We'll let you know if and when we have a response. I think the most important thing to note right now, even before, is that Iraq has an independent judiciary. We talking about an Iraq that can sustain, defend and govern itself, and you see -- we've seen progress when it comes on the military side, not only the Iraqi security forces -- this very important police operation today -- but also an independent judiciary. These are things that are absolutely vital to building a democracy that will not only sustain itself, but have the faith and support of the populous. So that's what I can say about it right now, in absence of any verdict. We'll let you know tomorrow if we have anything to say.
Q The possible timing of this, just before the elections -- some people might be skeptical of that?
MR. SNOW: Are you smoking rope? (Laughter.) Are you telling me that in Iraq, that they're sitting around -- (laughter) -- I'm sorry, that the Iraqi judicial system is coming up with an October [sic} surprise?
MR. SNOW: A November surprise? Man, that's -- wow.
Q Do you fear that there may be violence and that there may have to be some reaction to that?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to get into discussions like that, because I'm not sure that that kind of speculation is fruitful.
Q Thanks, Tony.
* * * * *
MR. SNOW: I've already got the answers for the bupkis list. As regards the Colorado state whatever -- the President does not respond to issues and referenda regarding states other than Texas, so no official positions.
As for tomorrow morning, it is their wedding anniversary -- number 29, I believe -- so the President and First Lady will be spending that together tomorrow morning; no official activities. Down time until we depart early tomorrow afternoon.
END 2:10 P.M. CST