|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 8, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:16 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: Hello. I just learned an interesting factoid, apropos of Black History Month. On this day in 1944, Harry S. McAlpin became the first black reporter admitted to a White House press briefing, representing the National Negro Press Association, in 1944.
Q Now do you want to bust on the White House Correspondent's Association, on what they offered him?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so.
MR. SNOW: I'll let you take that up.
Q Wasn't that the same reporter that was thrown out of the Senate press gallery? I believe he was.
MR. SNOW: I'll let you recall that from your memory, Les; I don't know. (Laughter.)
All right, also this: President and Mrs. Bush will travel to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico from March 8th to 14th of 2007. The trip will underscore the commitment of the United States to the Western Hemisphere and will highlight our common agenda to advance freedom, prosperity and social justice, and deliver the benefits of democracy in the areas of health, education and economic opportunity. Many more details forthcoming in the days ahead, but there you have that.
And I'll be happy to take questions.
Q You called the Pelosi plane issue a "silly story" this morning. Shortly thereafter the RNC put out a statement saying -- calling it "Pelosi's power trip" and that she's "non-stop Nancy seeks flight of fancy." Are you calling that --
MR. SNOW: Well, I'll reiterate our position. The question -- the RNC has put out a statement on Speaker Pelosi and travel arrangements, and I'll just repeat our position, which is, as Speaker of the House, she is entitled to military transport, and that the arrangements, the proper arrangements are being made between the Sergeant of Arms office in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Defense. We think it's appropriate, and so, again, I think this is much ado about not a whole lot. It is important for the Speaker to have this kind of protection and travel. It was certainly appropriate for Speaker Hastert. So we trust that all sides will get this worked out.
Q So, Tony, is it inappropriate for the RNC then to make an issue out of this, and say -- I mean, ridiculing her as "non-stop Nancy, flights of fancy"?
MR. SNOW: Jonathan, you know what my position is. I will let you draw whatever conclusions you may, but our position is pretty clear on this one.
Q Senator McCain had some harsh comments about General Casey today. And among other things, he said that lawmakers were promoting a general who has pursued a failed policy. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. SNOW: Well, the President supports General Casey. That's why he has nominated him to become the Army Chief of Staff. We understand that there are members of Congress who do have disagreements. But we support his nomination and hope that it will be voted on successfully, that he will approved today by the United States Senate.
Q Can I also ask you about Iran, as well? Do you have any response to the comments from Iran's supreme leader, talking about attacking interests around the world --
MR. SNOW: I believe the Ayatollah was referring to, if the United States attacked -- let's see, I have said it, the Secretary of Defense has said it, the President has said it: We're not invading Iran. So I think this is -- he's spinning a hypothetical about something that is not contemplated.
Q Why did he have to say it?
MR. SNOW: Why did he have to say it?
Q No, why do you have to say it?
MR. SNOW: Because you guys kept trying to report that we were doing it, and we kept saying, no, we're not.
Q -- forces in your backyard, aircraft carriers, missiles, submarines?
MR. SNOW: Yes. That's correct.
Q Does that give you a little pause --
MR. SNOW: I don't think so.
Q -- as an American?
MR. SNOW: It doesn't give me pause. It gives me reassurance to know that we were able to deploy people.
Q You don't think we should be worried about that?
MR. SNOW: No.
MR. SNOW: Because we quite often deploy carrier task forces all around the world.
Q Two task forces in their backyards?
MR. SNOW: I don't believe it's their backyard. I believe it is the ocean that also encompasses a whole series of other nations. It is not as if they are parking outside of Iranian ports. As a matter of fact, as you know, the area of passage through the Straight of Hormuz is quite narrow -- 21 miles -- and we are talking about deploying through an area where -- that includes a number of key allies, including the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, and others.
Q Thank you, Tony. A follow up question. Is the military satisfied with the clarity of the guidance they're getting as to how to deal with the Iranians in Iraq, or the members of the IRG that are coming across the border?
MR. SNOW: Is the military satisfied? I would -- you'll have to ask the military about that. They have rules of engagement. But as you also know, John, we are not from the podium going to be describing in any detail any particular orders given to people in the field. The President has said that we will do force -- we will protect our forces in the field. I will go no further than that.
Q Can I go back to the Pelosi issue? The Republican National Committee is putting out press releases. Is the RNC now beyond the President's purview? If you think it's a silly story, is there -- they're able to just operate if they want to attack like that on their own?
MR. SNOW: Well, apparently they did this time. (Laughter.)
Q Two quick questions. As President speak on homeland security today -- you're worried about the homegrown terrorists and some of them may have connection outside of the country, or -- mosques around the country, here in the U.S. What's the President's position as far as we still live under the threat of terrorism even though we haven't had any major attack after 9/11?
MR. SNOW: No, that's precisely why he's visiting the Department of Homeland Security. You cannot try to live under the illusion that the war on terror is confined to Iraq, or even that region of the world. It is a global war on terror, as the President made very clear on September 20th of 2001. And it requires activity by every department and agency of the federal government in trying to deal with challenges as they become appropriate. It's why we have the Patriot Act. It's why we have the Terror Surveillance Program. And it's why the President has tried to do everything he can lawfully to find out who's on our soil trying to kill our people and to conduct the proper kind of surveillance and give law enforcement officials the tools they need to track down and apprehend folks who are trying to kill Americans before they have a chance to do so.
Q -- still calling on the global war on terrorism as far as to the top al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden?
MR. SNOW: Well, that's certainly part of it. But as you know, also what's happened is that a lot of that original organizational structure of al Qaeda has been significantly degraded. However, what we've seen are the splintering into a number of autonomous, independently acting groups that are committing acts of terror. And that also raises the challenge of finding -- the ability to gather intelligence to track the changing nature of the terror threat.
Q You said this morning that you all were taking essentially a hands-off, sort of interested observer approach to the Iraq debate on the Hill --
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Why is that? I mean, there may be some sense of inevitability about what's going to happen there, but that's never stopped the White House before from getting very involved in debates that are --
MR. SNOW: This is a little unusual. This is a non-binding resolution where people are trying to speak their minds on an issue. And it's appropriate to let them go ahead and work through it. This is not something where the White House is in a position, or ought to be in a position to try to tell people exactly how they ought to frame it; instead you have members of Congress who have been trying to have an open debate about this, and to offer different views and different ways of expressing their concerns about the war.
Americans are concerned about the war. The President is concerned about the war. Nobody is happy with the way the situation is today. And therefore, the key challenge is to move forward in a way that leads towards success.
Q But is there a sense of, maybe, resignation that you just have to let this one go --
MR. SNOW: No --
Q -- because the White House has never stayed out of a battle like this before --
MR. SNOW: Have you ever seen a battle like this?
Q On other issues --
MR. SNOW: On a resolution, on a non-binding resolution, where people are trying to make a statement? I don't think -- I think it would --
MR. SNOW: No, I think it would be difficult to draw a parallel. But this is an expression of opinion on the part of members of Congress. And therefore, it is appropriate to let them go ahead and express it. You don't want to -- this is not something where you negotiate and say, Senator, that's not your view. It doesn't work that way. I mean, a lot of times when you're dealing with a piece of legislation, you can sit down and you can try to work with folks. As a matter of fact, we made it clear to members of the House and Senate that we do want to work with them and share our views. But on something where they're trying to express their views, they're their views.
Q But every vote is an expression of opinion. I mean, by that argument you could say --
MR. SNOW: Come on, Jennifer, no --
Q -- we should never try to convince someone to vote a way that they don't --
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, but when you're talking about the difference, for instance, on Social Security, or health care, or energy, you're dealing with specific provisions that have policy implications where an administration will be called upon to enact that law. This is different. It's a non-binding resolution that we think members ought to look at carefully to see what kind of message they're sending, but on the other hand, we don't think that it's appropriate to say, don't express your views. They've decided to do so, and it's appropriate.
Q Well, would you concede that the White House has an interest in the outcome of this debate, particularly in that it may hold the President's policy up to further criticism?
MR. SNOW: We understand -- I'm sorry, would I concede?
MR. SNOW: No. Lousy verb. I think --
Q It was deliberate.
MR. SNOW: I know. That's why I pointed it out. I know you choose it carefully. (Laughter.) This is great, he keeps the poker face longer than anybody on the front row. (Laughter.) In any event, actually, what's interesting is members, I think, are stepping back and they're thinking, okay, what message do we want to send, and how do we contribute in the long run to success of the mission in Iraq. We think it's going to be a healthy debate.
Q Well, you say it's non-binding, but you have seven Republican senators now threatening to slow down the legislative process by attaching their measure to any bill that hits the floor. So clearly the White House must take -- must be concerned beyond that this is just a non-binding vote because it now has other consequences.
MR. SNOW: No. These are seven senators who, the other day, also voted against cloture because the cloture resolution didn't -- the resolution that was being sought for cloture didn't permit the free expression of views including their own.
This is -- you know, this is a process question involving members of the Senate. We are talking about something that is not going to happen this month. It gives members on both sides, in both parties, an opportunity to work through this. And I think rather than trying to squeeze a view out of the White House about what's likely to happen in three weeks, talk to the members. I think they're working that through, and I think it does have to do more with procedural matters within the United States Senate.
Q Tony, let me go --
MR. SNOW: Peter, and then --
Q Just going back to the Pelosi story for a moment, just to clarify, is there no message coordination between you guys and the RNC?
MR. SNOW: There is from time to time, yes. But in this particular case, we've got a clear view.
Q Would it be correct to put it --
MR. SNOW: Would --
Q No, would it be -- it just seems that you're at such odds on this. Would it be correct to say that --
MR. SNOW: Well, why don't you -- why don't you call the RNC and ask what the view is.
Q Oh, absolutely.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q But as the President's spokesman, are you unhappy about this, disappointed that it's come out this way?
MR. SNOW: I emote constantly about it, but I won't share that. That's private --
Q Pardon me?
MR. SNOW: I was being a smart aleck. (Laughter.) Look, my view is it's important to clarify the President's position on this, and the President's position is that Speaker Pelosi, because of an agreement that was made, I think wisely, of necessity after September 11th, has access to U.S. Department of Defense transportation, under suitable rules and guidelines, and that is going to be negotiated between DoD and the Sergeant at Arms, and that's as it should be.
Q The President is headed to DHS today, Secretary Chertoff on the Hill today and tomorrow, and the committee he will face tomorrow, the Chair of the committee describes the morale at the DHS as appalling and is very critical of cuts in first responder programs and budget increases for first responders, and security programs for aviation and mass transit that he considers totally inadequate.
MR. SNOW: Sorry, who is the source of this? Who is the source of the characterization?
Q Bennie Thompson.
MR. SNOW: Who does not work at the Department of Homeland Security.
Q But he's homeland security chairman.
MR. SNOW: Yes, I know. He's making a characterization. He'll be able to ask Secretary Chertoff about that. Fact is, the people who work at the Department of Homeland Security have an enormously difficult task. They work at it. And I'm not going to characterize morale. I mean, I think what he's talking about are grants that are awarded and continue to increase in terms of the amount of money that we're allocating to them when it comes to dealing with first responders.
Q -- some of those grants were cut?
MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, there's a process. Some of the grants to different areas -- last year, we were under fire because they went down for New York. They're back up for New York this year. The fact is that there is a formula for trying to apportion those based on need and appropriateness. You do have to make some choices with the scarce resources available to you.
Q One follow up on that?
MR. SNOW: Well, first -- yes, go ahead.
Q A recent OMB survey came out, ranked 36 federal agencies, and homeland security -- the Department of Homeland Security came in 36th out of 36 on job satisfaction, 35th on leadership and management, 36th on results-oriented performance, and 33rd in talent management. Does that raise concerns about the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to protect homeland security?
MR. SNOW: I think the most important thing to do is constantly to work -- every department and agency, Jonathan, worries about its effectiveness and constantly strives to improve. And that's going to be true at DHS as well as anybody else.
Q You're not concerned, the President's not concerned?
MR. SNOW: Wendell, I didn't raise it with him today.
Q Tony, somewhat going back to you opening with the minority -- well, the Black History Month factoid, do you think in February 2007 that this country is hyper-sensitive when it comes to minorities to include -- not just saying minorities in race, but minority in gender? Look at the Nancy Pelosi issue right now, do you think that this country is hypersensitive about that because of her gender?
MR. SNOW: I believe women are a majority in this country.
Q Yes, but who runs Washington? How is Washington --
MR. SNOW: No, no, actually, April, I don't think that has anything to do with the fact that the Speaker is a woman. I think we've grown up a lot as a country when it comes to minorities over the decades. We have a way to go. That's the way it works in this country. The one thing you can always be sure of is that we try to get it right and we try to make sure that over time, we acknowledge the equality of every human being not only before the law, but before God, and try to respect their individual dignity.
Q Well, Ms. Pelosi just came out saying that she would like to be afforded the same --
Q Mrs. Pelosi.
Q Mrs. Pelosi, thank you so much, said that she would like to be afforded the same items that her male counterpart received. And she brought into the issue of gender into this whole --
MR. SNOW: I spoke with her office earlier today on this, if you're talking about the flights. We're supporting them, and I'm not going to get into characterizations about it because, frankly, in this particular case, it certainly plays no role in our calculations.
Q Do you think that at this stage --
MR. SNOW: I'm not -- I'm not going to --
Q But wait a minute --
MR. SNOW: But you're asking me for a chin-pulling, metaphysical judgment on --
Q Do you think that this nation is hypersensitive when it comes to issues --
MR. SNOW: Hypersensitive, in and of itself, is one of those things that almost -- no, I think what it is is we've got a nation that's determined to make things better, and that's one of the glories of being an American.
Q Tony, any readouts from the meeting with Amine Gemayel this morning?
MR. SNOW: No. We'll get you one when we have one, but I don't have one.
Q Tony, Hamas and Fatah have reached a deal, apparently forming a government of national unity. Will the U.S. support such a government? Will it resume its aid to the --
MR. SNOW: We're going to have to see. At this juncture, as you know, there are very preliminary reports, and we have not had -- we have not had any opportunity to study what may have been worked out there.
The one thing that we have always said, and will continue to say, is that it's important to have a government that will be a full negotiating partner with Israel, and therefore, will abide by the Quartet conditions, which are a renunciation of violence, an agreement to all prior treaty obligations, and an acknowledgment of Israel's right to exist.
So those are the key pillars of our view. But I cannot at this -- it's just too early to give you an answer on it.
Q On this Iraq debate, you say that President Bush or his aids spoke with Mitch McConnell or Judd Gregg about their legislative strategies?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so, but I just don't know. I can't tell you. But look, on something like this, we are certainly keeping an eye on it. But members of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, they're grown ups. They can -- they can deal with their own issues on this. We are keeping an eye on it. But again, I think any notion that the White House is somehow trying to micro manage that is something that I think senators would find unwelcome, and you would have heard about.
Q It must be the reverse. I mean, what Gregg proposed is something the White House looked like they would be comfortable with, maybe you called over there.
MR. SNOW: Well again, I'm not going to characterize, but we've got an eye on all of them. We're certainly -- we're staying informed about it, but on the other hand, as you see with what happened last night, I'm not sure a lot of members of the Senate know that the letter was coming out from the seven. They've got their strong feelings, and they're going to proceed as they feel appropriate.
Q Tony, the President had groups of senators down to the White House for a reception a week, or 10 days, or so ago. Wasn't that, at least in part, trying to express influence over the --
MR. SNOW: No. I was in the meeting. I guarantee you, members there were expressing their concern about Iraq. There was -- as well as a number of other issues. This was not an attempt to sit around and strategize about resolutions.
Certainly the topic came up, but again, it's just -- this is not one where if the White House is trying to dictate language -- these are senators. Senators have their own sense of pride and their own obligations to be working through these things, and these are unique because these are resolutions that have to do with the sentiments of the senators themselves. You can't dictate that.
Q Does the President think that the role of the Commander-in-Chief is so powerful that he can ignore the will of the people as manifested in the election and also in Congress?
MR. SNOW: Helen, if you can find somebody who says that they want us to fail in Iraq, then perhaps --
Q That's not the question. I --
MR. SNOW: No, what you asked was a very vague question about the will of the people.
Q It's not vague.
MR. SNOW: Yes, it is, because if you want to talk --
Q I want you to -- do you think the power of a Commander-in-Chief is so all powerful that he can ignore the people?
MR. SNOW: The President never ignores the people. And that's why it's a tendentious assumption on your part that somehow the President runs roughshod over the will of the people. But he does have an obligation to keep the people safe --
Q -- ignored --
MR. SNOW: No, he doesn't -- if you get a non-binding resolution, he certainly is not going to ignore it. But on the other hand, he's going to do what it takes to keep you safe, and everybody in this room safe.
Q That's not the question.
MR. SNOW: Oh, yes, it is. Au contraire, Helen.
Q It is, is he going to ignore --
MR. SNOW: I got to tell you, you've got to understand in this particular case, when the President is thinking about national security, he understands the importance of opinion. He shares people's opinion that what's going on is --
MR. SNOW: What do you think --
Q -- responded to it?
MR. SNOW: He's responded to it. He's responded to it by laying out a new way forward --
MR. SNOW: Well, it will be interesting. Let's see how the debate unfolds and let's also see how facts on the ground unfold in Baghdad.
Q On North Korea, there are reports there may be an agreement coming in the six-party talks. So I'm wondering what you think -- what's your feeling, are you optimistic we'll get an agreement coming out of that? And secondly, the reports are that some kind of an agreement where North Korea would suspend activity at its Yongbyon nuclear plant in exchange for easing some of the financial --
MR. SNOW: I'm unaware of all of those at this point. Let's not negotiate from the podium, let's see what happens. We have always -- our view is that we need to return to the September 19th agreement, which includes the suspension of all enrichment and reprocessing activities, and that they need to sit down and they need to deal with us. So let's -- that is what we're hoping. We know at this point the Chinese, I think, are going to be putting an offer on the table, but it's really not fruitful to be trying to speculate about possible proffers. Let's see what happens at the table.
Q But as a principle, would it be appropriate to ease any of the financial measures that the U.S. has imposed on North Korea for anything short of a full dismantling of that nuclear program?
MR. SNOW: Again, as a principle -- we've already laid out what our principle is, which is the September 19th accords. In terms of trying to get into what may be going on in the negotiations, it's also, as a principle, not wise to get ahead of yourself. But let us -- what we have made clear is that the action that's been taken financially has to -- involves criminal activity in terms of counterfeiting U.S. currency.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. News reports last week listed two days in which 70 Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians in the Fatah-Hamas killings of each other. Since they have continued killing each other, along with many Israeli civilians as they can, why is U.S. money by the millions being still sent to what is hardly a government as much as a conclave of competing terrorists who refuse -- still refuse, as I understand, to recognize Israel?
MR. SNOW: Well, to the extent that there is aid, it is going to forces that are actually trying to put an end to violence rather than to foment it.
Q Okay. The Democrats, along with some Republicans in the Senate, apparently are planning to express their dissatisfaction with attempts to bring about victory in Iraq by opposing more U.S. troops being ordered there. And my question: What is the alternative if winning isn't pursued and defeat isn't acceptable?
MR. SNOW: You're asking me -- this is actually even more chin-pulling than the earlier inquiry in the sense that you're asking me to respond to something that has not formally been proposed. The President has made it clear, we've got forces going into the field --
Q Are you saying --
MR. SNOW: You know, it will be interesting, I don't have the crystal ball. Members of Congress have a very serious -- they're going to have some serious decisions to make about whether to continue their support for forces in the field. A lot of people pointed to what General Pace had to say yesterday -- one of the most important things he had to say is that the measure the troops are going to use about whether they're supported is whether their activities are going to continue to be supported by members of Congress when these things come up for a vote. And I'm not talking about a resolution, I'm talking about continued funding.
Q The House Ways and Means Committee has indicated that they're planning to advance the minimum wage bill that has a small amount of small business tax breaks in it, sizably less than the Senate. Is there any set amount that you want to see? Would that be acceptable?
MR. SNOW: Again, abiding by my rule expressed earlier to Jonathan, I'm not going to negotiate against ourselves up here. We're going to have to see what comes out of a conference. We do think it is a welcome sign that the House is considering relief for small businesses because they're the providers of the bulk of minimum wage jobs, and you want to make sure that the businesses are still around to provide those jobs so that people can get their first jobs and start moving up the economic ladder.
Q And also, the White House yesterday issued an open letter on climate change --
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q -- and in it there is cited a National Academy of Science study, but it doesn't include in it part of the National Academy of Science conclusion that the verdict is still out to the extent that natural greenhouse cycle contributes to climate change, versus the human generation --
MR. SNOW: Are you talking about the 2001 report?
Q Right. I'm talking about the reference in the open letter to the President's speech, which doesn't include -- in fact, it doesn't even include one sentence in the paragraph it is cited.
MR. SNOW: So you're saying that we didn't heavily footnote the President's speech. I think if you go back and take a look at the status of science in 2001 -- I'm sorry, that was a cheap shot, and I apologize. You go back and look at the state of science in 2001, both with the National Academy of Sciences and the IPCC, you find that there was considerably more uncertainty about the nature and causes. In fact, go back and look at the 2001 IPCC report, and you will find that human activity is seen as likely, as opposed to very likely in the more recent report, and the percentage of likelihood was considerably lower than it is today.
What the President was calling for in 2001 is good science. And over the first six-plus years of this administration we've committed, as I pointed out yesterday, $9 billion to climate change science, which is more than any other country on Earth. And it is largely as a result of that research that the IPCC issued its findings.
Q But my question is also in reference to what you said yesterday, which is that you said in 2001, the President said, human activity is a significant factor, when in fact, as you just said, the verdict was still out on that.
MR. SNOW: Yes, but what he did, it still said -- here's what it says: "The National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity." You're right. He didn't use the term significant. He used the term "in large part."
Q Yes, but you also in that paragraph did not include what was in the President's speech which, prior to the sentence he read -- and this is what they're referring to -- an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Yes, but this gives the impression that what you're referring to is that it's the actual increase of surface temperatures of the Earth that is in large part due to human activity, when in fact, in his own speech, that reference to increase --
MR. SNOW: No, Paula, you're trying too hard. You're trying too hard. If you look at the quote that we -- here's the President's full quote: "There is a natural greenhouse effect that contributes to warming. Greenhouse gases trap heat and thus warm the Earth because they prevent a significant portion of infrared radiation from escaping into space. Concentration of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, have increased substantially since the beginning of the industrial revolution. And the National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity."
It then goes on to say that the science is unsettled and it is less settled today in large part because we've ponied up the money and we've funded the scientific research to try to get at it. What the President was talking about back then and continues to talk about is putting money behind good science.
Q Thank you for putting that full paragraph into the record.
MR. SNOW: Yes, happy to do so.
Q Can I ask you about FEMA, specifically the idea of cutting 14 percent from FEMA's budget? What is the administration's thinking on that?
MR. SNOW: Look, I'm going to have to go back. Are we talking about 14 percent straight cut, or 14 percent against the baseline?
Q Well, it's the $800,000 -- I'm sorry $800 million.
MR. SNOW: Okay, I don't know. Neither you nor I know enough about this one right now. Give me a call and I'll get you an answer. I don't have a good FEMA answer on me right now.
Q Can I just clarify something on Pelosi? You said you spoke with her office today and then "we're supporting them," supporting the Speaker's use of a military plane for transportation?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Or their desire to fly -- that she be able to fly nonstop?
MR. SNOW: Their argument is -- all they're doing is -- the Sergeant at Arms is conducting negotiations, and everybody else seems to be getting knitted up against this. I'm not going to get into middle of negotiations about the way it works. When Tom Foley was Speaker, he sometimes used military transport and stopped in North Dakota, but that doesn't mean -- I think this is something that the Sergeant at Arms and DoD have to work out.
Q It's probably North Dakota.
MR. SNOW: I know. He was --
Q Tom Foley?
MR. SNOW: Yes, I know. He was from Washington state. He had to stop to get gas so he could complete the journey.
Q So what was your phone call about?
MR. SNOW: Just to -- just making sure that they understood what our position was on this, which is that the Speaker of the House deserves DoD transport.
Q But not necessarily a nonstop flight --
MR. SNOW: Because this thing came out shortly before the press conference. I spoke to them considerably before.
Q But she doesn't necessarily have -- she's not necessarily entitled to a nonstop flight to California.
MR. SNOW: Well, you've got to take a look at -- you've got a whole series of craft. And not every one is available at each and every time. You're talking about a limited fleet. The jet that Speaker Hastert used probably gets you about halfway across the country. They got G-3s and G-5s that can get you all the way. There's a 757, but the Vice President usually gets that one. So you've got to keep in mind that it's -- sometimes there are -- the craft will be available, and sometimes they won't be. And I think, again, everybody is busy trying to pick a fight on this one. Let the Sergeant at Arms and DoD work through this, and then everybody can make their final commentary.
Q Tony, as President travels to the neighboring countries, immigration will be the major topics of his trip.
MR. SNOW: The South America trip? No.
Q Well, because in the past Mexico has -- immigration issue will be solved, illegals in this country -- but where do we stand as far as the immigration issue is concerned because I'm sure this will be a major topic also in the coming elections as in the past?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me correct. For instance, in Brazil, we'll be talking about energy independence, and we'll be talking about trade. In Uruguay, it's a reciprocal trip, and they'll do bilateral issues of interest. In Bogota, we're going to talk about President Uribe's commitment to battling narco-terrorism.
and also improving the lives of the Columbian people. When we're in Guatemala, they're going to reemphasize the close relationship between the countries. And obviously in Mexico, we're going to be supporting the President's efforts to address poverty, income equality, law -- restoring law and order, fighting the common threats of drug trafficking, and strengthening the economic relationship.
So those -- I think to deal with this as strictly an immigration trip is, I think, to underplay the significance of the trip, because there will be a lot of discussions of trade. And things like addressing poverty, income equality, drug trafficking, law enforcement, those all have a role also in dealing with the immigration problem.
Q But don't you think he will -- immigration in Mexico, particularly because Mexico has a major role. More illegals are from Mexico in this country --
MR. SNOW: The numbers have been going down pretty significantly in the last year. We continue to be committed to having the borders where -- to securing our borders, and at the same time, dealing with the problem of those who have come here illegally, and what you do --
Q Should price be, or cost be an element in deciding which airplanes might be available to the Speaker? Because as you -- well, it costs more --
MR. SNOW: This is -- Ann, this is not a negotiation. What I -- please ask the Sergeant at Arms and ask the Department of Defense. I'm not getting -- this is not our negotiation. They're dealing with it.
Q -- what are you supporting --
MR. SNOW: The fact that the Speaker is entitled to a Department of Defense aircraft pursuant to an agreement that was made after September 11th.
Q But an airplane at any cost, security at any cost?
MR. SNOW: Again --
Q You don't think cost should be a factor?
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware that this is the primary concern at this point. I don't believe she's asking to be sent on -- you know, in the space shuttle. (Laughter.)
Q Would you like her to be put on the space shuttle, Tony? (Laughter.) I didn't hear an answer to that.
Q The 757 costs more to operate than the Gulfstream --
MR. SNOW: Well again, that's almost all -- that's more likely going to be set aside for the Vice President. What I was trying to do is to give people a sense of the variety of aircraft that are available, and it's a fairly limited fleet. So that's all I was trying to do there. I believe I noted at the time that the Vice President almost always has access to the 757.
END 12:48 P.M. EST