|The White House
President George W. Bush
|Print this document
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 17, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
1:52 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. Questions.
Q Can you tell us a little more about the meetings? I understand the President met with some Republicans who have already been to the White House.
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I haven't seen any with the President. There is supposed to be a meeting about 3:20 p.m. with some House members. There may be some members in and out, who will be meeting with other people within the White House. On the President's schedule is only the meet with House members.
Q And if he talks to these people, what will his message be to them?
MR. SNOW: Well, you've got to keep in mind, we've been talking all along about consultation with members of Congress. It does not end with discussing the way forward, it continues. And a lot of members of Congress, at this point, I think are still trying to figure out what are all the parts of the plan, how does it work; they've got questions and they have concerns. The President wants to hear them. He wants to address whatever concerns they have. And it fits within the larger framework, really, that began right after the election, when the President said that he intended to remain in close contact with Democrats and Republicans, and would be interested in talking with them about a whole series of issues -- Iraq, obviously, being one of them.
Q Tony, you said earlier that if the House or Senate passes a resolution against the troop build up, it's certainly their right to do that.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q I'm wondering, though, if that happens -- and we know the theme of opposition to a troop build up -- will that effect the White House's thinking at all? In other words, does it matter to the White House if that should happen?
MR. SNOW: Well -- how would you describe -- I mean, asking if it matters is an awfully broad question.
Q Will it have any effect on the President's thinking or policies going forward?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what it does is it reveals -- I think in this -- let me flip it around, Ben. The question is, what impact, what effect do members of Congress wish for it to have. We're deploying five brigades to Baghdad. We're deploying 4,000 Marines to Anbar. And the purpose is to create the kind of security that will enable the Iraqi government to continue with the political and economic and diplomatic measures that are going to be necessary to take firm root as an effective, social standing democracy.
So I think rather than asking how we're going to respond, we already know that in the days and weeks and months to come we're deploying forces to Iraq -- but a lot more than that, because there is also a very important diplomatic component that involves State Department personnel and provincial reconstruction teams, and also now they're working more closely together in what they call provincial support teams with military units. We have aggressive diplomatic efforts ongoing; Secretary Rice is in the region, has been in the region.
So you have to be careful not to view this in isolation. I know that it's very tempting to think that Iraq is strictly a military operation. The generals have said all along, the President has said all along, this is not something that will be won strictly by military means. However, it's also clear that you're not going to be able to take those next and vital steps until you have the security situation in Baghdad -- when you have conditions where people are worried about their safety and security on a daily basis, you can't proceed effectively -- at least we don't think -- in finishing up all the important political and economic business.
You have a follow.
Q Yes, just to follow. You said earlier that the President is going to continue to meet with members of Congress. So if that's the framework, and one chamber or both passes a resolution saying, we've heard the President's plan, we don't support it, and you're considering the views of Congress, wouldn't that then somehow affect the decision-making?
MR. SNOW: No, as you understand, members of Congress do not -- at this point, the President has obligations as Commander-in-Chief and he will go ahead and execute them. He takes into account their views. And, also, you might ask, will members of Congress do something; will they listen? How will this inform their views? And in a lot of cases there was considerable discussion about what the President's plan meant before the President's plan was presented. And I think it's safe to say at this juncture there are a lot of people who still don't know a lot of the nuts and bolts.
I think it's probably sensible for members of Congress, again, to think about what message resolutions would send, but also, to answer the other question, if, as most have said, they are in favor of supporting the troops and having success in Iraq, then part of the conversation ought to be if they don't support the President's plan, what is theirs? Because it would seem to me that you have a real obligation to this country, if you've got a better way to accomplish those goals, which we all want to achieve, then we do want to hear them.
Q Tony, some Democrats are speaking out about a plan, their plan, specifics are Senator Clinton saying this morning that she supports putting a cap on the number of American troops in Iraq as of January 1st, and then a phased redeployment, first out of Baghdad and then out of Iraq, to put pressure on the Iraqi government. What's the response to that?
MR. SNOW: Well, a couple of things. Senator Clinton said a number of things, and I'll go through a couple of them. First, the idea of placing a cap on troops, it -- well, what it does is something that no Commander-in-Chief, I think, would want to have, which is it binds the hands of the Commander-in-Chief and also the generals, and frankly, also, the troops on the ground in terms of responding to situations and contingencies that may occur there. To tie one's hand in a time of war is a pretty extreme move.
Also, the idea of redeploying raises the risk of what the President referred to yesterday as "fast failure," in the sense that if you do not have that security in Baghdad, you have to be very careful, because security in Baghdad clearly is a concern to all the Iraqi people. Even in places where there are not high levels of violence, there is still anxiety because the situation has not been rectified there.
The other thing is, it raises the question, in terms of the Iraqis, will they take us at our word when we say we support them? And will it, in fact, make it easier for suitors, whether they be Iranians or al Qaeda members to say, well, look, you can count on us, we're going to be around? That is not a flip concern. It is something that you have to take into account.
There are a number of things, though -- it's interesting, because we see coming through some of these critiques actually areas where we agree. And it may be because, as I said before, people have not had an opportunity to take a full look at the President's plan. For instance, today Senator Clinton on national TV was talking about placing conditions on Iraqis, as you just mentioned, to place pressure on them. The President made it very clear that the American public has limited patience when it comes to Iraq. And we do expect to see things happening.
We understand that despite the conditions of violence, it's important to go ahead and continue on the political track where it's possible. Within the last 24 hours, there has been progress on the hydrocarbon law. And the hydrocarbon law may be one of the most important in terms of building a basis for national agreement because it allows all Iraqis -- regardless of whether there's any oil in their province or not -- to share in oil and natural gas revenues. Also there appears to be progress toward reforming the de-Baathification laws, which have denied full participation in the political and economic processes to people who held a Baath party card simply because that was a condition of peaceful employment as teachers and civil servants in a time of Saddam Hussein.
Also she had talked about the importance of a regional conference. And we couldn't agree more. She said that the administration has refused. And in point of fact, not only have we been instrumental in forwarding the Iraq Compact, which brings together countries throughout the region, just yesterday, Secretary Rice was in the region for a meeting of the Gulf States, plus Egypt and Jordan -- the GCC plus two.
Among other things, they talked about in a joint statement that they welcomed a commitment by the United States as stated in President Bush's recent speech to defend the security of the Gulf, the territorial integrity of Iraq, and ensure a successful, fair and inclusive political process that engages all Iraqi communities and guarantees the stability of the country. We couldn't agree more. It's important to get the region involved. We've been doing it over the past week not only with regard to Israel and Palestine, but also with Gulf neighbors being involved in the future of Iraq. So it's interesting, if you take a look, if you look at some of the critiques, in some cases, maybe they don't take into account what we actually are doing or what the Iraqis are doing.
Q Just to follow real quick, Senator Clinton also said that the President is asking to move troops from Afghanistan to Iraq.
MR. SNOW: No, that's just not the case. As a matter of fact, the Department of Defense has already published the deployment schedule. They did it last week. There will not be any direct move, just shipping people from one theater of battle to the other.
Q Tony, can I follow up on the resolution? Senators Biden, Levin and Hagel this afternoon will unveil the language in their resolution, specifically saying troop build-up is not in the national interests. What's the White House reaction to that? And the fact you have a Republican cosponsoring this resolution?
MR. SNOW: Well, keep in mind, it's a Republican who has been a critic from the beginning and he's free to be one. But the fact is, we do believe it's in the national interests, strongly in the national interests, and we believe that failure in Iraq -- if we do not succeed in Iraq, it would be devastating to the country. The President has made it absolutely clear that he would not deploy additional forces if he did not think, A, it would lead to success or create conditions for success, and, B, if it were not absolutely in our national interests. You do not commit blood and treasure, members of people's families all over this country -- and it is the President who has met with dozens, if not hundreds, of families and feels very personally the sacrifice that those people have given.
He would not make that commitment if he did not believe firmly that it was absolutely in the interest of this country, and, furthermore, although it's an ancillary consideration, but an important one, it's also in the interest of a lot of countries throughout the world.
Q Tony, members of Congress that are here, being told by the President or by members of the administration that when it comes to a vote on a resolution that there's no such thing as a pre-vote. In other words, they make a vote, and if it could only played poorly in Baghdad or Iraq --
MR. SNOW: You know, that may come up, it may not. Typically, Jim, in sessions like this -- without characterizing what we actually say -- there's a lot more give and take. The President will express what he thinks about what's going on. I think in a lot of cases, though, the more important part is listening to what members have. Quite often, you'll have people who have come back from recent trips to the region, they'll be sharing their observations. So there's a lot more give and take than that.
But it is, as I've said before -- and this is a question -- I'm not going to try to answer it for you from the podium, but what signal does it send to the Iraqis, in terms of our steadfastness? What does it say -- does it make the troops feel better about their support from the United States? Everybody says they support the troops. And the President has made it clear, if you think it is important to criticize me, the President, he says, make sure you do it in a way that doesn't hurt the troops or weaken the troops. He wants people to take that into account.
I will not answer questions about whether I think this does or does not. These are considerations of people who do it, who proceed with the resolution will have to make. And perhaps there's language in there that will express the way in which, A, they wish to succeed in Iraq, and, B, how that will reflect their support for troops. I'll leave that to them.
Q But when you have Republicans coming to the White House, having to be told, look, guys, there's no such thing as a pre-vote --
MR. SNOW: No, you've just presumed -- we do not come -- they're not being called in to be lectured to. This is a conversation with members of Congress. And, trust me, a lot of -- members of Congress are not bashful about letting the President know what they think, and that's important. But it's also important I think for the President to say, look, here's what my policy does. It's important for people to consider all the pieces, because, again, look at what Senator Clinton was talking about -- we share her goals on political reconciliation, it didn't seem reflected in some of the comments. We absolutely agree about the importance of working together with allies.
So there may be some disconnects that we can start trying to address in explaining how the pieces of the President's plan fit together.
Q Is there a growing sense of concern with the administration that you're losing Republicans in the Senate and the House, and the speech just wasn't enough to convince them?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. I think you -- if you want people to -- number one, I don't think people are going to make snap judgments on the speech or on the policy. And we'll continue to consult --
Q It's been a week.
MR. SNOW: Yes, but you know what? I'm just -- we have people who, at this point, I think still may not have had an opportunity to take a look at all parts of it. It's highly complex. And we feel that this is a time to continue the conversation.
We also think it's important that the American people continue to get an opportunity to hear what the President has to say and how the plan works, and get a chance to gauge, also, what's going on with the Iraqis. One thing that comes through in a lot of the conversations is a sense that we're not sure that the Iraqis are stepping up. The President says, we believe they have to, they will, they need to. And we've also mentioned ways in which people will be able to gauge that.
There's a clear sense that a lot of the concern sometimes are less what the American military capability than whether they think the Iraqis are going to step up. It's a concern we share, but on the other hand, the President feels pretty confident based on what he's seen and what he knows that they are. And when that does happen, it becomes apparent to people. My guess is it will have some political impact, as well.
Q Would the administration agree to a referendum in Iraq to see what the people really want?
MR. SNOW: No.
MR. SNOW: The federal Constitution does not permit for such referenda.
Q Why? We are a conqueror. We should be asking the people, do they really want us there.
MR. SNOW: Helen.
Q Yes, sir.
MR. SNOW: Do you believe -- well, no, you will scold me for asking a question, so I will not. I will phrase my question in the form of an answer.
Q You know, best defense is offense, is that your whole approach?
MR. SNOW: No, my --
Q I'm asking you a very --
MR. SNOW: No, my approach is to -- well, you're asking a simple question that actually has some fairly complex precedents in the terms of the advisability or possibility of a national --
Q You keep saying that they want us there --
MR. SNOW: Helen, Helen, Helen.
Q Put it to a test.
MR. SNOW: Helen, no war is popular. No war is popular.
Q That's not the answer.
MR. SNOW: If you had done -- no, it is -- no, that is an absolutely accurate answer.
Q Nobody wants --
MR. SNOW: If you had asked in 1864 -- I'll go back to the Civil War -- the referendum would have failed and Abraham Lincoln would have failed.
Q How do you know that?
MR. SNOW: Go back and read, just a little history will tell you.
Q Who won the war?
MR. SNOW: You had Republican senators trooping up to the White House telling the President that he needed the cut a separate deal, that he needed to dispatch emissaries to speak with Jefferson Davis and his heirs and assigns.
Q -- the Civil War?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm just telling you -- I'm trying to make the larger point, and it is getting sort of ludicrous, about the fact that wars are, of course, unpopular, but the important thing to understand is --
Q A referendum is ludicrous?
MR. SNOW: No, no, I'm saying that when we get too deep into historic analogies -- but if you'll permit me to finish an answer, I will let you ask a follow-up question. The point here is that the President understands that a war is unpopular. He also understands that it's necessary. And you can frame questions in a lot of ways -- if you did a referendum to say, will Americans -- do you want to succeed in Iraq; do you want democracy in Iraq; would you like terror on your shores; do you believe that al Qaeda wishes to kill Americans, and if it does, do you want to fight them there or here?
Q Do you want an American military occupation in Iraq. That's the question.
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, you may ask it. Thank you.
Q Tony, back to this idea about the message that a lack of support, I guess, of the President's plan would send, have you heard anything in recent days that sends a message to troops that members of Congress are not supporting them?
MR. SNOW: It's just interesting how members of -- again, troops may have their own feelings on how this proceeds. What we want to do is to have a full, respectful and thoughtful debate about how you win in Iraq. And we want members of Congress to participate in that.
Q And you're not seeing that? Is there anything you're not seeing that's not thoughtful, that's not --
MR. SNOW: No, what we're not seeing so far -- and, again, it's a little early -- is, if not this, what? What is the alternative plan that will guarantee --
Q Well, you're hearing some pretty solid things today. But I guess I want to go back to this message that you're giving members of Congress, the President is, and that you just said, they should think about what message they send.
MR. SNOW: Well, let me -- because I'm constantly being asked, what message does the President get. It's probably worth asking, what message does Congress intend to give, and who does it think the audience is? Is the audience merely the President? Is it the voting American public? Or in an age of instant communication, is it also al Qaeda? Is it Iraq? Is it players in Iraq? Is it U.S. troops? Is it people in the Gulf who want to understand whether the United States is, in fact, a partner upon whom they can depend for security even in trying times?
All those are questions that deserve to be raised. I don't think there are illegitimate questions. And all I'm saying is that those are things that members ought to take into consideration.
Q But by even raising it and saying al Qaeda is -- I mean, aren't you saying that members of Congress are somehow aiding the enemy?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Can I do one more follow-up just to something you said on the PRTs?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q You talked about this plan, and you talked about the plan for security, but we have this other plan lately -- the PRTs, provincial reconstruction teams, they've had a horrible time in trying to fill those positions, even the small number they have over there now. Secretary Rice, I think, acknowledged that many, many, many months ago, that it was a terrible problem trying to fill those positions. How on earth do you expect that you can do this with any timely relevance?
MR. SNOW: Well, that's a question that I'll pitch over to State.
Q But you're talking about it, Tony. I mean, you're up there saying we've got --
MR. SNOW: I know --
Q -- this going, we've got that. I mean, they couldn't fill them before.
MR. SNOW: Well, they're filling them now. And, again, Martha, that really is a nuts and bolts question that you're -- you can push me on it, but you'll actually get a better answer out of State.
Q Tony, what is the thinking behind the Justice Department's decision to put the warrantless wiretapping program under the authority of FISA?
MR. SNOW: What's going on actually is the National Security Agency conducted the Terrorist Surveillance Program. And in 2005, long before the existence of this program was known publicly, there was the thought that perhaps one ought to see if it is possible for the President to continue to exercise his constitutional ability to protect the American people and to place it under the FISA statute.
Now, let's back up a little bit, September 11, 2001, we have the attack on the United States. Congress grants authorizing language that says to the President use "any necessary means." That would include trying to figure out if people are on our soil trying to kill us. Pursuant to that authority, the President authorizes a surveillance program.
But what's happened is that the FISA Court, itself, also had not been presented with a situation quite like this. The FISA Court has published the rules under which such activities may be conducted. I think it's a way of clarifying, I think to the satisfaction of a lot of people, how these things ought to proceed with the engagement and supervision of the FISC -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And what we've done in the last week is we've been notifying, first the Intelligence Committees at the end of last week, and then the Judiciary Committee today.
What happens is that the program pretty much continues -- the program continues. And the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has put together its guidelines and its rules, and those have met administration concerns about speed and agility when it comes to responding to bits of intelligence where you may be able to save American lives.
It's also one that means that this is not -- this is surveillance in which -- well, I'll read you from part of the letter that went to Senators Leahy and Specter today. It says, "Where there is probable cause to believe that one of the communicants is a member or agent of al Qaeda or an associate terrorist organization." That's one of the most important things. One person on American soil, one person on foreign soil. One probable cause to be suspected as a member of al Qaeda.
So we are satisfied not only that it meets the conditions of national security, but in this case, also, I think answers -- even though we've been doing this long before the criticisms arose, has the ancillary benefit of being able to deal with political objections a number of people have been raising, you need to do it within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And now I think everything is done under FISA. The President will not reauthorize the present program because the new rules will serve as guideposts.
Q Well, the President has always argued that -- I mean, he has the ability, he has the authority not to --
MR. SNOW: Yes, and he still believes that.
Q -- not to use FISA to get authority, because it was too cumbersome or it took too much time to get information about a possible terrorist attack. So what has changed? What has happened since then?
MR. SNOW: We can't tell you -- what has been going on is there's been a lot of work over a two-year period to try to address those speed and agility questions. And to the satisfaction of the head of the National Security Agency and the Director of National Intelligence, as well as the President and the Justice Department, these new rules effectively address those concerns.
Q Could I follow up on that, Tony? So if it took two years of work to address those speed and agility questions, why couldn't that work have been done initially, when this program was first created?
MR. SNOW: Look, at this particular point -- it's a good question. The fact is, it's been going on for the last two years.
Q Tony -- and also to follow up on that -- so you said the President will not reauthorize the present program?
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q In other words, we now have a new program called --
MR. SNOW: No, you have the same program it operates under, but it's really a matter of your legal authority prior to that. It was presidential order. Now, in this case, the program continues, but it continues under the rules that have been laid out by the court.
Q So it's not -- it is not operating under presidential order anymore? It's operating under --
MR. SNOW: Well, as this order expires, I don't exactly how the handoff works, but he will not reauthorize it, so that there will be no doubt. I don't know at what point this takes effect. My guess is it took effect some time last week, but I'm not sure.
Q And as you know, there have been a number of efforts on Capitol Hill, and notably Senator Specter has been pushing for legislation -- is it your view that these new rules make those efforts moot, there's no need for legislation now?
MR. SNOW: I'd address that to Senator Specter. He is one of the people who is being briefed on this today.
Q But I'm asking you what the President thinks? Does he think there's no more need for legislation?
MR. SNOW: The President -- again, let's -- again, this measure began, Sheryl, long before there was a political controversy. And this is the culmination of a lot of hard work over a couple of years. I think the question, rather than what does the President think Senator Specter is going to do, I think it's probably a lot easier, rather than trying to bounce the question off the President's brain, just ask Senator Specter.
Q No, Tony, the question isn't what does the President think Senator Specter is going to do. The President came out in support of Senator Specter's bill, so the question is, does the President now believe that that bill is no longer necessary?
MR. SNOW: Well, we will see, but we think it meets the concerns of members of Congress, which is the point I tried to make earlier.
Q Tony, I'd like to go back to the theme of losing Republicans for a minute. The Miami Herald reports this morning that Sunbelt delegates to the Republican National Committee, including Texas, intended to vote against Senator Mel Martinez for general chairman. The Washington Times is claiming that these Republicans have enlisted the aid of a certified parliamentarian to aid them in stopping Senator Martinez from becoming general chairman. Does the White House have any reaction?
MR. SNOW: We're pretty confident Mel Martinez will become general chairman.
Q Well, I mean, specifically a reaction to the sort of revolt from the grassroots and the implications of losing the Sunbelt.
MR. SNOW: Well, you've got to keep in mind -- I'm not sure you lose the Sunbelt. You have a handful of people who have expressed some concerns, and we will continue to address those. But on the other hand, I don't know that you call it a revolt every time you have people who disagree. We think it's democracy, even with the Republican National Committee. And people are certainly free to disagree. And quite often what it does is it provides a much better basis for moving forward, because you've aired your disagreements, you've addressed people's concerns, and you can move forward.
Q A quick follow-up. You're not concerned about the message that it sends to Latino voters and Latinos in those areas?
MR. SNOW: Which message?
Q That he is unacceptable for a chairman because of his perceived pro-Latino stances?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I think I've already -- Mel Martinez is somebody who clearly enjoys the support and confidence of the President. And it will become clear that he enjoys the support and confidence of the Republican Party. Once again, when you see members of the Democratic Party disagreeing with party orthodoxy on something, I seldom hear people call it a revolt and ask if large numbers of the voting populace ought to recoil in horror as a result of people having expressed their opinions.
Q I'd like to get you to elaborate on why you consider Senator Clinton's call for a cap extreme? I think you said the words a pretty "extreme move." Even Gates last week -- Defense Secretary Gates last week suggested you might not send the troops that you offered if the Iraqis don't step up to the plate.
MR. SNOW: Well, but that's different than saying you're going to have a cap. The idea of having something that is designed to bind the hands of the Commander-in-Chief or the commanders in the field, is just unusual in a time of war.
Q What makes you call it "extreme"? It's a political position --
MR. SNOW: No, that would not be -- and my guess is Senator Clinton would resist having that described as a political position because it, in fact, is a condition that involves an assessment of what it takes to succeed in the field. It's really a military decision -- or it's a piece of military analysis. And it's one where we think it's always important in a time of war to make sure that the Commander-in-Chief, the commanders in the field, and the people in the field have the flexibility to respond as circumstances require.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. First, WorldNetDaily's Jerusalem correspondent reports Secretary of State Rice telling reporters that the United States will ensure that weapons and the $86 million provided to militias affiliated with Fatah will not be used to attack Israel. My first question, how does the President believe this is possible when the military wing of Fatah is al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which together with Islamic Jihad has taken responsibility for every suicide bombing in Israel in the past two years, including the killing of U.S. teenager Daniel Wultz?
MR. SNOW: I believe Hamas has been fairly actively engaged, Les, in acts of terror. The other thing is --
Q I agree. So has Fatah.
MR. SNOW: Prime Minister Abbas has made it clear and guarantees what we think are sufficient and clear that it is his desire to try to be able to negotiate with Israel effectively toward a two-state solution. And as you know, the United Nations right now is providing humanitarian aid that is supposed to be used, and is guaranteed to be used by audits and other follow-ups strictly for humanitarian purposes. That's how we would expect this aid to be spent.
Q How can the Bush administration, which says it is opposed to terrorism, give $86 million, plus weapons, to any organization led by Abbas, who just told a rally in Ramallah that Palestinians should stop shooting each other and "direct our guns against Israeli occupation," who funded the 1972 Munich massacre of Israel's Olympic Team and wrote a thesis denying the Holocaust?
MR. SNOW: Again, Les, if you'll take a look at developments in recent days and conversations, the real key is to look for folks who are going to be committed to negotiating with the Israelis. And the Prime Minister has been -- I'm sorry, the President, President Abbas, has been -- well, I'm not going to get into the internal politics because that's the sort of thing that can get misquoted.
Q Do you think he has changed in the last week, since he --
MR. SNOW: I think that it is important -- we believe that President Abbas is somebody that is determined to try to work toward peace in the region, and we're going to try to facilitate that.
Q Tony, what are the thoughts of the White House (inaudible) about Jim Langevin inviting Michael J. Fox for the State of the Union address, putting the stem cell debate square, front and center in front of the President the night of the State of the Union?
MR. SNOW: It's the first I've heard about it, so there's no official response. Look, we understand that -- no President has spent more on stem cell research. We're absolutely committed to it. There's quite often a regrettable implication that in opposing stem cell research -- which, in the President's view, involves the taking of a human life -- that he shut off stem cell research. As a matter of fact, we've spent unprecedented amounts of money looking at all forms of stem cell research and, as was widely reported, there is some sense that maybe amniotic stem cells may also have the pleuropotent potential that people talk about regarding embryonic stem cells.
There have been enormous strides made using adult blood cord and other stem cells that have helped extend people's lives and shown great medical promise. Furthermore, the President has not outlawed, as often as seemed to be alleged -- he's not outlawed embryonic stem cell research. States have set aside money for doing it. Individuals continue to provide venture capital for it. But the President believes that American taxpayers should not have to make the fateful decision of asking themselves, does this come at the price of a human life, when you have non-controversial ways that have shown demonstrated promise that can benefit from federal funding, whereas the others continue to receive plenty of funding.
Q But do you think that the State of the Union is the place for Michael J. Fox and Congressman Langevin to advocate, by their presence, embryonic stem cell --
MR. SNOW: Well, look, April, I'm not going to try to give lectures on etiquette. Members may invite whomever they wish. And the President understands that all these are important issues, and they're important to us, too. We want to get them right; we want to have a debate; and we want to try to move it from the level where people try to describe as heartless a President whose heart is absolutely in saving lives through stem cell research.
Q And a follow up. You say --
MR. SNOW: Okay, let's --
Q Okay, I understand. I understand. You continue to say you want debates on all -- on many issues. But will you listen to the words of the opposition? That's the question.
MR. SNOW: Yes. And will the opposition listen to us? That's also the question. When the opposition says that we're opposed to stem cell research, it is wrong. And when the opposition says the President does not care about stem cell research, it is wrong. And this is the only President in American history who has ever made available for researchers embryonic stem cell lines, which he did back in 2001.
So the question also is whether people will look at what the President does and not only give credit, but at least acknowledge what has been done by this federal government in trying to unlock the potential of stem cells to save human lives.
Q The Treasury today announced it's delaying a program that would collect data on financial transactions across borders. To what degree does the White House consider this a setback?
MR. SNOW: It's not. My understanding is this is primarily over technical issues. This is not a setback, it's just a matter of trying to make sure it gets done right.
Q And also, the energy bill, you put out a policy statement today, there's a veto threat on it just solely related to spending threshold. Is there any other provision in that bill that would draw a veto?
MR. SNOW: Well, the statement of administration policy outlines what the conditions for a veto would be.
Q May I ask just one more question?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q On carbon emissions, I have the administration's position against mandatory caps, but what is your position against carbon emissions (inaudible)?
MR. SNOW: Again, the President is going to lay all this out. I'm not going to -- the temptation is going to be, let's float a different carbon idea every day between now and the State of the Union. Rather than doing that, why don't we -- why don't we make a little deal, which is, one, the President announces his policy -- and I will tell you it's an integrated energy and environmental policy. When the President does talk about it, then ask me about specifics, rather than what if about this or that that's being floated about.
I've got to move very quickly.
Q A clarification, real quick?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Yes.
Q On the FISA move, rolling the terrorist surveillance program under the FISA Court. You're suggesting that this is a voluntary move by the administration, not an action that's tied to federal court action, or --
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no, no. No. No. As a matter of fact, it may be interesting to see how it plays out in federal courts, but no, this is not a response -- again, Bret, this has been going on for two years.
Q But if it has been going on for two years, why wouldn't you say that during the hubbub when we spent a week dealing with this, instead --
MR. SNOW: Because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court does not like to have its business discussed in public, and only because of the public revelation of the terrorist surveillance program are we announcing this at this juncture. Typically, they are properly very protective of things that go before them. And as a result, we don't talk about them.
And, yes, it's an example of a case where we take hits for doing what's right, rather than getting credit for what seems to be expedient.
Q But what's different here with the NSA program now? I mean, why are you doing it now? What's changed that this is now acceptable --
MR. SNOW: The court has put -- the court has drafted regulations for the program. I mean, this -- the court now has issued an order that governs these sorts of activities, so it's really timed to what the court has decided and promulgated.
Q And it has nothing to do with acknowledging any action on the Hill or --
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court sits around and goes --
Q But you -- but you saying, okay, they're going to have oversight here --
MR. SNOW: No, this is a result of the order having been completed by the court.
Q Does that mean you don't have to get warrants, then? Or you do have to get warrants?
MR. SNOW: No, you look at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- the court now will review all such activities.
Q Thank you. On NIH and NCI budget, will those budgets be increased in real terms in the future years? It's my understanding that the money in the last few years has gone primarily to security, rather than research or patient care.
MR. SNOW: Connie, I cannot -- number one, we haven't released a budget. What I can say with full confidence is the amount of money going not only to the National Institutes of Health, but also the cancer center -- the Cancer Institute, have been increasing. And today we saw some incredibly heartening evidence of what went on. Look, I'm an example. Somebody at NIH put me in touch with people who saved my life.
So the fact is that we really -- we strongly support what they're doing. Overall funding for the NIH I think stood at something like $15 billion in 1993; by 2008, it will be up to close to $28 billion. Where we can save lives through innovation and research, we are committed to doing everything in our power to do so.
All right, very quickly, and then --
Q Just back on FISA, I mean, obviously, there are going to be some people who look at the timing of this, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is supposed to go before the Senate Judiciary tomorrow. I mean, people are going to see this as, like, look, politically motivated --
MR. SNOW: But, again --
Q -- that he would take a hit tomorrow, that he would be beaten up over this, and he announces today --
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think so. Number one, notifications began late last week. Number two, it's the FISA Court, which is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has done -- what you're doing is you're accusing that court of engaging in political activity to, what, bail out the Bush administration? I don't think so. They look at their business as being national security, and they are very professional, and also -- they are determined to protect what they see are their responsibilities under statute. So I think it's a real stretch to try to say that that court somehow is engaged in a politically timed activity.
I don't think -- what I think will probably happen is that members, probably as much in closed session as open session, will probably wish to talk about what we have -- the readout we've gotten, at least out of the Intelligence Committees, is that members are very happy with what they've seen. It could be the case that the Attorney General will go up there, people will say, wow, that's great. Now, they may say, why didn't you do it before? They may ask many of the questions -- the process questions that you're interested in. But it also may be the case that they're going to say, we're glad this happened.
Q Why the timing of the announcement today, though, before he goes before the Senate Judiciary? It was made earlier, why not announce it earlier?
MR. SNOW: You mean why didn't we do it Friday, instead of today? I don't know. You try to do due notification. We know that members of the Intelligence Committees have been notified, and this is the time for notifying members of the Judiciary Committees.
END 2:30 P.M. EST