|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 4, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:51 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: Hello. A couple of business items before I take your questions.
As you now know from wire reports, Harriet Miers has tendered her resignation as White House Legal Counsel, effective the 31st of this month. She informed the President yesterday, and he has regretfully accepted her resignation. We have copies of her letter available in lower press if you need to get copies.
Q Why is she leaving?
MR. SNOW: She's been here for six years. It's hard duty. Yes, it really is.
Q So have some other people.
MR. SNOW: I know. Well, as I told you guys, one of the things that -- look, Harriet is a very special person in this White House. She is beloved not only because she is a really good human being, she's an extraordinarily wonderful human being, but also somebody who is a very careful and scrupulous lawyer, a ferocious defender of the Constitution, and somebody who was also deeply loyal to the President, and just somebody who is a delight to work with. So it is one of these things where everybody really -- it's very bittersweet, and you can get that from the tenure of the -- tenor of her note. She has decided that it's time to move on. She and Josh Bolten have had a series of conversations in recent days about this, and she made her decision yesterday.
Harriet, with great regret, and a lot of people are going to miss her -- we are fortunate that she's going to be around until the end of the month. We do not have a successor. The search is, obviously, on. And one of the things that she has cited -- she told senior staff today that she wants to stay around until the 31st to make sure that she can do everything in her power to make sure that the transition within the office is smooth.
Let me also add, I have nothing further to add today in the way of personnel announcements. No details. And for those who are speculating about any others within the White House proper, I am aware of none and expect none. So just trying to take care of those questions before they arise.
Q Is it White House burnout? Is that what you're just clearly saying, White House burnout, after six years?
MR. SNOW: No, I'm just -- I'm not going to do a shorthand for it. I just think, again, Harriet has decided it's time to move on. And I'll let you -- her letter is pretty eloquent, and I'll let you read it. And if you have further questions, call me on it.
Also, the President today had about an hour-and-forty-five minute secure video teleconference call with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq. It was scheduled for an hour, went for an hour-and-forty-five, about half of which were the two leaders simply talking one-on-one with their translators.
They discussed the current situation in Iraq, including the execution of Saddam Hussein. The President congratulated the Prime Minister on the decision to -- perhaps, congratulations is probably not the proper term to use. But he expressed that it was the right thing to do to investigate the taping and behavior at the execution of Saddam Hussein. And the Prime Minister agreed and said that the political parties were pained at the filming and the release, and they were taking a look at punishing those responsible.
They also noted that Saddam was a tyrant who killed hundreds of thousands. And the Prime Minister noted that the most common reaction in Iraq was jubilation that Saddam was no longer around, and also the end of any kind of excuses for people who may hold out that, well, maybe Saddam will come back.
It was expected that there would be small groups of Saddam supporters who would, in fact, demonstrate. And so that was not unexpected. However, there has been, according both to our folks over there and also to the Iraqis, no increase in violence as a result of the execution.
They also spent a lot of time talking about the way forward in Iraq. The President did not unveil a new way forward. He -- this is, again, another consultative phone call. And they talked at great length about the most important thing, which is winning. And they define winning the same way, which is to have an Iraq, where the Iraqis themselves can sustain, govern, and defend themselves, where they can handle the security operations. But also there were conversations about economics. For instance, the international compact. There was a lot of talk about political reconciliation and the importance of that.
The Prime Minister stressed his determination to go after anybody responsible for violence. That would include not only insurgent groups and Saddam loyalists, but also militias within Iraq. And he expressed confidence that his government is gaining greater capability -- not only on the military side, but the governance side. And so that was kind of the general gist of the conversation.
They also talked about the Prime Minister's plans for accelerating the reconciliation process, some conversations about important pieces of legislation that may be voted soon. And they're trying to work toward a more stable trajectory within Iraq this year, and obviously they'll talk again when they see fit.
Q Did they talk about the merits of increasing U.S. troops in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: They talked about various -- the one thing they -- they were talking about the importance of having sufficient force within Baghdad to create a stable situation within the city.
Q And did the President suggest that he was inclined to send more troops to Baghdad?
MR. SNOW: The President and the Prime Minister exchanged ideas, but I'm not going to get into details at that level.
Q Did the President press the Prime Minister on dealing with the Shiite militias?
MR. SNOW: No, because it was unnecessary. The Prime Minister talked about that without -- he brought the topic up. Now, I can't tell you, Bill, what the two of them discussed privately because they've literally -- everybody out of the room but the principals and their translators. And they had a very long conversation. I don't know if further conversation about that arose when the two of them were talking.
Q Well, does the President believe that progress is being made in eliminating the hold of the militias?
MR. SNOW: He thinks it's important to take on the militias, and that's a point that he made very clear. And the Prime Minister --
Q Yes, but does he think --
MR. SNOW: Well, at this point --
Q It doesn't appear that any progress has been made.
MR. SNOW: Well, the Prime Minister -- again, I'm not going to be -- I would refer you to people in Baghdad at the embassy or even in the Iraqi government for trying to characterize the situation on the ground there. I think it's not something I'm equipped or prepared to do.
Q Did the President say he was disturbed by how the execution was carried out with --
MR. SNOW: No, he simply said --
Q -- people shouting Moqtada?
MR. SNOW: No, he did not go into that detail. The President has not watched the tape.
Q So he said nothing about that?
MR. SNOW: What he said is that -- he did not talk about the optics, he simply said that it was the right thing to do, that there was concern in this country and around the world about it, and that he thought that the Prime Minister was doing the right thing by taking a look at it.
Q Did he say he was disturbed at all by what happened, and that it said anything about the efforts the Maliki government is making for national reconciliation?
MR. SNOW: No. But, again, the Prime Minister made it clear that he was unhappy with what was going on, and he also made it clear that he considers reconciliation, as I said yesterday, a very important objective and a very important -- it's a necessity. And he talked about ways in which they're continuing to pursue reconciliation within Iraq.
Q Tony, can we just -- as long as we're on personnel changes, The New York Times which you referred us to yesterday --
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q -- said a couple of days ago, that General Casey's departure might be accelerated by the President. Is that true?
MR. SNOW: As I said, I'm not prepared to discuss any other personnel matters today.
Q Is he happy with what General Casey is doing?
MR. SNOW: He respects what General Casey has done. And again, I'm going to -- we will be happy to discuss other personnel matters at another time.
Q Would he like him to stay until summer?
MR. SNOW: Thank you, Martha.
Q I have another personnel question.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q Can you address reports --
MR. SNOW: Am I staying? Hope so.
Q Can you address the reports that Ambassador Negroponte is moving to Deputy Secretary of State?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Okay. (Laughter.) Has the President been pleased with Ambassador Negroponte as DNI?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q How so?
Q Tony, did the other executions -- pending executions come up in the phone call?
MR. SNOW: No, they didn't, Steve.
Look, John Negroponte has come in as the first head of DNI, and he's done a very effective job of organizing and working within a brand new intelligence apparatus. He's done a terrific job. And the President, obviously, sees him five to six days a week with intel briefings and the like, and the two of them have a close and respectful relationship. And the President is very impressed with the work he's doing.
Q Tony, follow up to that?
MR. SNOW: Look, let me just -- I know you're all going to try to pull the tails about these stories, and I'm just not in a position to do it.
Q Do you want to comment -- there's speculation that the reason that Mr. Negroponte is going to move over to State is because Dr. Rice will leave in several months and that he's in a position to take over. Do you want to say anything about it?
MR. SNOW: No. But let me just -- let me try to do this. This will be some subtle body language that should help you on this. You ready? (Head and eye roll.) (Laughter.)
Q Anything on Maliki wants out? There were rumors --
MR. SNOW: No. There was -- there was no discussion of that and no indication at all -- thank you, Helen -- no, there was no indication at all on his part of any desire. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister -- and this continues a trend that we've seen -- is showing greater and greater confidence not only in the mission, but the leadership in the government. And what you see is somebody who, with each subsequent meeting, I think has a greater sense of command and authority when he's talking about these matters. So, no, we did not get any sense of that at all.
Q Tony, changing topics for a moment.
MR. SNOW: Wait -- is this same topic, or --
Q No, different.
MR. SNOW: Okay, then we'll --
Q On the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, the President had a signing statement. And it says, "and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection" -- and this is in reference to times when mail, domestic mail can be opened. Is the President trying to assert the same sort of authority that he asserted for the NSA eavesdropping program?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, what's described as an eavesdropping program was a surveillance program that was narrowly targeted on al Qaeda or affiliated members overseas having conversations with individuals that one had reason to expect might be involved in such activities here in the United States. So eavesdropping gives the sense that it's -- there's kind of a random notion to listening in on innocent Americans. And that's clearly wrong.
Secondly, there is nothing new here. What the President is arguing -- what the signing statement indicates is what present law allows, and making it clear what the provisions are within present law in terms of dealing with some of these items.
Q There are some legal experts who've looked at this and say that the exigent circumstances portion has always been in law.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q If they feel that there's a bomb in the letter, some danger.
MR. SNOW: Correct.
Q But what's new is the need for physical searches specifically authorized by foreign intelligence collection. And people we've talked to say there is no law that specifically deals with that aspect. So I'm wondering if the President views his executive power as he did in the -- I'll use your words -- terrorist surveillance program is the same here when it comes to mail in the United States?
MR. SNOW: Again, it says "physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection." What the experts seem to have bracketed out is the specifically authorized by law as it applies to that provision. All this is saying is that there are provisions at law for -- in exigent circumstances for such inspections. It has been thus. This is not a change in the law. This is not new. It is not as was described in one paper a "sweeping new power" by the President. It is, in fact, merely a statement of present law and present authorities granted to the President of the United States.
Q But he feels necessary to state it.
MR. SNOW: That often happens. You find that within signing statements, as I've said many times, these are either designed to clarify the law, or if they're constitutional problems, to try to elicit, A, what those problems may be so that the White House and the executive branch may effectively execute the laws that have been passed by Congress.
Q Is it a constitutional problem?
MR. SNOW: No, this is not a constitutional problem. I've just laid out the general benchmarks. This is one of them, trying to make absolutely clear what present law permits.
Q On another subject, Iraq plans. Has the President signed any order calling for additional U.S. troops?
MR. SNOW: No, he hasn't.
Q And is it accurate -- is the White House position that he still has not taken an official position on whether or not he's sending more U.S. troops?
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q And where is the President in terms of the process? You said he has more consultations --
MR. SNOW: Yes, I think we're getting pretty close. Yes, there are still, I think, a few consultations ahead. But I think the President is -- I hate to be -- this is terribly vague, but he is narrowing down. I think he has a pretty clear sense of where he wants to go, but he also still wants to make sure that he's looked at this from every angle, and that he's done the consultations. He's been thorough in his consultations. And so we're not there yet, but I think it's getting pretty close.
Q Does he have a deadline, Tony?
MR. SNOW: No. No.
Q And when the White House does these courtesy calls to members of Congress, is there going to be some sort of process where you'll brief the media at the same time? Do you know -- have you figured out how that is going to work?
MR. SNOW: No. We will try to make notifications -- I think one of the things -- a lot of times, this, for instance, is the case sometimes with personnel matters -- it's important to make sure that members of Congress are apprised early on. Members of Congress don't like to be reading about leaks in newspapers, they want to be consulted and informed in due time. And so I think that's one of the things -- members of Congress especially on key committees will certainly be the first to be contacted. But we, I promise you, will not leave you out.
Q Can you tell us if it's primetime?
MR. SNOW: No, I can't. No, I can't.
Q I mean, if it's such an important speech that the --
MR. SNOW: I understand. We'll release details when we're ready.
Q Back to the consultations. Is the White House still consulting with members of --
MR. SNOW: Well, today -- frankly what we're doing today is we're standing back. The new Congress just began business a little more than an hour ago, and I think this is a day when the new leaders are, rightfully, getting a lot of attention. And so --
Q -- consulting tomorrow, then?
MR. SNOW: There will be some consultations, and I don't know what the precise schedule is, but my guess is there will still be some more discussion.
Q Tony, can you discuss what's going to be on the agenda tonight with Merkel? Is it going to be Iran sanctions or --
MR. SNOW: No. I don't want to say "no" so directly because it may come up, but there are a whole series of things that are likely to arise. Chancellor Merkel is in a unique spot, as President of both the G8 and the EU this year. And so there are a series of conversations -- a lot of it is going to be on economics. Recently, with Secretary Paulson, she discussed the transatlantic economic partnership; the idea is to integrate the EU and U.S. economies more thoroughly on issues like regulation, standards, international property, other issues. Obviously we're interested in trade.
The Chancellor has -- apparently, there have been some news stories that the Chancellor might want to talk about global warming and climate change in a post-Kyoto environment. The President has been pretty forward-leaning in conversations with Chancellor Merkel and others about his support for being able to supply energy needs in a way that's friendly to the environment and does not raise problems with global warming.
Among other things, he's talked about nuclear power, clean coal technology. The President has committed $11 billion in clean-coal tax credits. He's talked about multilateral and -- multilateral cooperation on renewable energy sources. And I've been present when he's talked about that with leaders in Europe, and he continues to do that.
On the international front, there are a host of issues: Israel and Palestine is one; Syria, Lebanon, another; Iran and Afghanistan, clearly, are going to be on the table, as well as relations with other nations. So Doha Trade Round might come up, as well.
It's hard to say -- you know what's interesting is because the President and Chancellor Merkel have such a close relationship, my guess is this is going to be a bit like the meetings with Tony Blair or Koizumi where they tend to sort of assume -- they're going to go from topic to topic, and they're going to talk about whatever is top of mind.
You're smirking. I don't like that. Don't go there. Don't go there. (Laughter.)
Q Will they take questions after?
MR. SNOW: There will be -- yes, there will. We'll have a two and two.
Q Tony --
MR. SNOW: Yes, go ahead.
Q Two questions. One, what President think about Reverend Pat Robertson who said that U.S. might be again attacked middle of --
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware that the President has given it a lot of thought.
Q Second, as far as this new Congress is concerned, there will be -- the President might bring out, again, this immigration bill. There's a call from the battered women around the country -- there are so many battered women in the name of immigration. What President do you think that he will have some better system as far as those battered women in this country?
MR. SNOW: What kind of -- about battered women. Well, A, it's against the law, B, it's --
Q They bring them here, promise them green card or citizenship or visa, and then they are -- become battered women.
MR. SNOW: Goyal, my friend, they come here as a green card and then they're battered, is that what you're saying? So people who come here unbattered and --
Q People bring them here and promise them --
MR. SNOW: Well, look, you have a President who has been pretty outspoken on the abuse of women around the world, whether it be for sex trafficking or abuses against women within this country. So without having any specific idea of precisely what you're trying to get at, within American law that's illegal, and it's something that the President finds especially offensive and obviously it ought to be prosecuted.
Q Just to follow, but they're not getting much out of this -- justice or help -- because what they are doing --
MR. SNOW: Goyal, you have just asked me a global question about a theoretical universe for which I have no specific incidents to respond to, and therefore, I can't give you anything other than an answer that's so general it's not going to satisfy you. So if you can come up with something more precise for me, I'd love to help. Obviously the issue of battered women is something that, rightfully, outrages everybody.
Q Back to the Maliki conversation. Although you've told us the President has not seen the video, he has been fully briefed on the nature of the concern, about the taunting, things that were said --
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Does he believe that the way that was handled is in any way an example of the Maliki government not having control over the institution --
MR. SNOW: No. No, and I think what you're seeing is the Prime Minister asserting control immediately, because he clearly was unhappy with it, as well. And he made it absolutely clear -- the phrase he used, again, I think is -- he said it was pained, the government was pained, and that they were going to punish those responsible. That seems to me to be the reaction of somebody who was surprised by what he saw and unhappy upon seeing it.
Q Does the President see that as a setback to the forming of institutions that are necessary --
MR. SNOW: Again, if you take a look at what's been going on, the Prime Minister indicates that there does not seem to have been a rise in acts of violence or other sorts of activities within Iraq as a result of this, but he also understands the importance of reconciliation. And one of the interesting things is this does remove one of the arguments people have made, about what if Saddam comes back.
It also creates -- not the video, but the fact that in that part of the world, a tyrant who killed hundreds of thousands with impunity and never was punished, to see a man brought to justice, granted the trial that he would not grant his fellow citizens, given an appeal that nobody ever got, and getting treated -- and being able to have full access to law, and being lawfully executed after legal processes that had passed international muster, that's a powerful signal that the rule of law does apply within Iraq.
Q Concerns are not about Saddam's conduct. It's about the carrying out of justice in the final moments --
MR. SNOW: And the point I made yesterday is that there is -- at least among the American press, the fascination with the final moments and the relatively less description of the first 69 years.
Q It's not about Saddam.
MR. SNOW: There's -- well, no, of course, it's about Saddam.
Q It's not about Saddam. It's about the carrying out of justice, and was he subjected to circumstances that are not in line with what the U.S. is hoping Iraq will do in an execution?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, look, the Iraqis have made that point, Kelly. How many times do I have to point it out? The Prime Minister is unhappy with it.
Q But you resort to talking about Saddam. And our questions are really about the President's view of how this was handled.
MR. SNOW: I know. And as I've told you, the President thought it was appropriate to do a review. And the Prime Minister is doing a review. And I think we leave it at that.
Q Tony, on Maliki -- really quick -- you said that the President did not lay the new way forward out in this call.
MR. SNOW: Right, right.
Q Will the Prime Minister be consulted before the President lays out his new way forward?
MR. SNOW: Well, look, they talked about a lot of ideas. And I don't want to give the impression that the President didn't raise some things that are on his mind, he did. But on the other hand, anything that is going to take place will be in cooperation with the Iraqis, because one of the key elements of anything is transferring authority to the Iraqis. And we've talked about hastening their authority within combat units.
Q But this was the last call before the speech?
MR. SNOW: Maybe, maybe not.
Q Also on Maliki, you said that they talked about the importance of having sufficient force within Baghdad. Do they agree on what that level of force is, or the --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into specific conversations about what they did -- the most important take-away is that they both have the same definition of victory, and they both have the same determination to win. And that was something that was, I think, reassuring to both because it gives them the ability now to work together and figure out practically the best way to achieve their goal.
Q In looking for a new White House counsel, how big a factor will the prospect of Democratic investigations be?
MR. SNOW: Well, look, you've seen, David, this week we have spent a lot of time talking about the importance of cooperation. And we still do. And we think there is an opportunity for this Congress to do a lot. And if some members within the Democratic Party decide that they want to engage in political acts of that sort, we will certainly be prepared. But in the case of Harriet, she's been here six years.
Q I'm not talking about any replacement, although this town is full of lawyers who specialize in dealing with --
MR. SNOW: We're not interested in acts of provocation. We are working on cooperation and trying to figure out ways in which this Congress and this President can reassure the American public that Washington, D.C. can sometimes be a place of accomplishment.
Q Let's put it this way, what do you think the President will be looking for in a new lawyer?
MR. SNOW: Well, why don't we just find out when you hear the new lawyer, and then I'll let that person's qualifications speak for themselves.
Let me get -- yes, Mark.
Q Back to the -- just to follow on Roger's question. What I think he was getting at is the phone call -- the next phone calls that lawmakers get on Iraq, will they be to inform them on the plan, or is it still --
MR. SNOW: I think there are still going to be some conversations. I think -- yes.
Q -- out their views at this -- even at this --
MR. SNOW: There are going to be some discussions.
Q Tony, two questions on Iraq. Since the President hasn't called or ordered any troops, does this mean he's going to overlap troops, sending in troops early and keeping -- holding troops that are already there? Don't laugh. It's a real question, Tony.
MR. SNOW: I know, but what you want me to do is spread out the map and show you all sorts of plans, and I can't do that, April. I just can't talk about operational matters. I will leave that to the President.
Q Is that in play, though? Is that one of the options --
MR. SNOW: I'm not even -- look, they've tried it, you've now tried it. I just -- I can't be in a position of trying to tell you what operational matters are. I'll leave that to the President.
Q Next question on Iraq. The handlers of the hanging, has it been concluded that this was a Shia lynch mob, because they had no allegiance to Iraq? In their statements, what they were saying, they were not talking about Iraq. They were talking about al Sadr's father. And it's --
MR. SNOW: Who was -- who was killed by Saddam Hussein.
Q But it wasn't about Iraq.
MR. SNOW: I -- April, I don't even -- I'm not sure I can understand the question, therefore, I can't answer it.
Q Has it been proven that this was a Shia lynch mob that killed Saddam Hussein?
MR. SNOW: No. But again, I would refer -- this is -- these are questions most properly raised with the Iraqi government, which is conducting its own investigation. But for me to render a summary, let alone inflammatory comments about what went on would be inappropriate.
Q Did you at least watch the tape where they were making the comments?
MR. SNOW: I have -- I've seen that part, yes.
Q You mentioned one of the topics tonight is Kyoto Protocol?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Well, only Australia and the United States have not signed off on that. And given the reports that are coming out about global warming happening quicker than initially anticipated, many scientists are saying even the Kyoto Protocol is not tough enough, and that the timetable in that is not soon enough. So given that, is the White House at all at least reconsidering its own timetable on when --
MR. SNOW: This administration has been very aggressive -- I'm sorry, go ahead, Paula. I just wanted to go ahead --
Q No, I mean is the White House at all reconsidering its own 2012 timetable as perhaps not being soon enough to have a turning point in greenhouse gas emissions?
MR. SNOW: Look, what you're talking about is a global problem. And one of the weaknesses in Kyoto was the fact that a number of key players, especially key consumers of carbon products, were not even involved or anticipated. And therefore, whatever "progress" you have may be spoiled by developments elsewhere in the world. And what you need is something that's going to be a little more effective on a global scale.
The United States has been leading the way in terms of dealing with emissions problems and continues to. And the President has been the most forceful advocate in the history of this country for looking for alternative fuel sources. The previous administration did submit Kyoto to a vote. It lost by 95 to nothing, and at that point was dropped.
This administration believes that it's important to try to find ways of cleaning the environment without wrecking the economy. And that is not, in fact, a false choice, it is the fundamental choice. And with the emphasis on innovation and using market forces -- and certainly there are powerful incentives for people to do things cleanly -- we will encourage every development we possibly can.
Q So with respect to environmental and economic consequences, as you know, Prime Minister Tony Blair backed the Stern Report, which predicts dire consequences in both the environment and the economy, if this is not turned around.
MR. SNOW: I know, Paula. And now you're getting into a scientific debate where we can swap sources and neither of us will have the acumen to be able to back it up. There are plenty of people who will -- there are plenty of assessments on the Stern report, for and against. And I must freely confess it is beyond my competence as a humble press secretary to try to pretend that I'm an effective scientist on this. I think we're chasing our tails on this one.
The President does care about the environment, has been active and aggressive on it, and has been talking with European allies about such things as clean coal technology, about renewable fuels, biofuels. He has talked about any number of -- clean coal, the nukes, the whole bit. And certainly those are areas of concern. They're going to continue to be. Look, we want to find an environmentally responsible way to have green economies throughout the world so that you can have freedom and you can have your --
Q One follow-up, though. Why does the Prime Minister feel the United States needs to take the lead?
MR. SNOW: The United States is taking the lead.
Q If I could follow up on that, on Paula's. In the wake of the Wall Street Journal's --
MR. SNOW: Phone call. Oh, I'm sorry, it was a teleconference.
Q In the wake of the remarks Prime Minister Maliki made in the Wall Street Journal in that interview, do you know whether he and President expressed -- exchanged any -- how long did the Prime Minister --
MR. SNOW: No -- Helen asked that question -- no, it not only didn't come up, it really -- Prime Minister Maliki did not, in any way, shape or form, act like somebody who's weary of his job. As a matter of fact, as I said, this is somebody who seems to be getting a greater sense of command and confidence with each passing meeting, and it was something that the President did comment on after the meeting. So, as I said, the two of them felt comfortable enough that they booted the rest of us out of the room for half of it. So I think there's now one of those levels of confidence the President has with a number of leaders where he feels that the most productive conversations sometimes are the ones that they have one-on-one.
And I really -- I got no sense at all of that. It did not come up, nor did the circumstances or the tone of the conversation seem to reflect it.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. There's a news report quoting the Secretary of HUD, Jackson, as saying that "Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Julian Bond have created an industry. If we don't become victims, they have no income. White folks have nothing to do with the fact that seven out of every 10 black children born in this country are born out of wedlock and we have more black males in prison than we do in college." And my question: Does the President disagree with this statement by his Secretary of HUD?
MR. SNOW: Don't know, but one of the things he did talk about is the importance of building within all Americans a system where you have fewer out-of-wedlock births, because the research is pretty clear that when you do have intact households you have better results and fewer problems in the long run with children; that everybody deserves access to a first-rate school; that there should not be schools -- public schools should be of high quality, no matter how much your parents may earn; and that the most important way to dignity is through work, which is an attitude that has been shared by Democratic and Republican administrations.
Q The top of page one of this morning's Washington Times has a headline, "Cindy Sheehan routs the Democrats; House Majority Leaders run, hide." Do you, as the President's Press Secretary, believe that this headline is inaccurate?
MR. SNOW: Lester, I find it entertaining.
Q Tony, the German Chancellor says she wants to call a Middle East Quartet meeting as soon as practical, and says she has Russia's support for that. Does she have the United States' support for that?
MR. SNOW: It will be discussed. I'll give you a readout. I mean, I think one of the things that we want to do is to encourage in every way possible effective movement toward a two-state solution. The Quartet conditions are the backbone of that, obviously, making sure that you've got a Palestinian negotiating partner that renounces violence, that believes in meeting all treaty obligations, and acknowledges Israel's right to exist. Chancellor Merkel has spoken with the leaders in the region. And so I think we'll have to find out what she has to say.
Q Subtle body language on Negroponte stepping down as DNI?
MR. SNOW: I will not engage in subtle body language, but you guys may see more of me off camera.
Q Just to follow on Negroponte. We didn't see him in Crawford participating in that meeting with the President.
MR. SNOW: Yes, don't read -- that's reading too much --
Q Did he participate at all with the National Security Council meeting with the President when he was talking about his new Iraq strategy?
MR. SNOW: I was not party to the meeting. I don't know. That was last week you're talking about?
MR. SNOW: Gordon, was -- do you know if --
MR. JOHNDROE: He's been in a number of them.
MR. SNOW: Yes, he's a regular actor. I think -- let me put it this way. Any attempt to read presence or lack thereof at Crawford into any kind of assessment of John Negroponte as DNI Director is not only a stretch, it's just going down the wrong road.
Q Well, not too much like a commentary on his abilities, but just whether or not -- I mean, the head of intelligence, it would have been important to have him in that meeting --
MR. SNOW: But he is -- look, he --
Q -- you had the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State. Does that, in some way, reflect a diminished role for the intelligence community, and --
MR. SNOW: No, by no means at all. Keep in mind that the Director of National Intelligence is in briefing the President on a daily basis and has the trust and confidence of the President of the United States. So, no, I just -- like I said, you're barking up the wrong tree on that one. I know a lot of people have been trying to read something into it. But, no.
Q Tony, there hasn't been a deputy since May of 2006 at DNI.
MR. SNOW: At DNI or --
Q I mean at --
MR. SNOW: At State?
Q No, no. At -- under Negroponte at DNI.
MR. SNOW: Oh, okay.
Q When Hayden left for CIA, there was a vacancy there.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q You're not going to talk about personnel announcements today, but is there a concern --
MR. SNOW: I'm especially not going to talk about that one, because I don't know--
Q -- is there a concern about leaving posts vacant before the confirmation is completed?
MR. SNOW: I said, stay tuned.
Yes, April. Last one.
Q Is this nation ready for a black or female President, be it Democrat or Republican?
MR. SNOW: Of course. (Laughter.)
END 1:28 P.M. EST