|The White House
President George W. Bush
|Print this document|
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 22, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:48 A.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: A couple of things up top. As you probably know, Senator John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, have announced that she has a recurrence of cancer, and that they will still continue a full and vigorous campaign. First, our thoughts and prayers are with Elizabeth Edwards.
Also, as somebody who has been through this, Elizabeth Edwards is setting a powerful example for a lot of people, and a good and positive one. She has been on top of diagnosis and follow-up. When you have cancer it's very important to keep checking. She's being aggressive. She's living an active life. And a positive attitude, prayers, and people you love are always a very good addition to any kind of medicine you have. So for Elizabeth Edwards, good going; our prayers are with you.
Now to politics. The House of Representatives is considering an emergency supplemental appropriations bill. The one they're considering has zero chance of being enacted into law; it's bad legislation; the President is going to veto it, and Congress will sustain that veto.
The bill is fatally flawed in several ways. Number one, it ties the hands of our generals. It does so by putting politicians and staffers in charge of the kinds of things that need to be determined on the battlefield -- everything from deployment schedules to dwell times -- thus denying commanders the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to the changing realities on the ground. We think that's inadvisable. It also would withdraw U.S. troops regardless of conditions on the ground in Iraq if events did not meet a pre-ordained time schedule being placed forth by members of Congress. As we've said, that is a formula for failure. Among other things, it allows an enemy to adopt a "wait it out" strategy, and also sends the wrong kind of signals to our allies.
In addition, it also imposes a time line on Iraqi forces and would cut them off at precisely the time that we are trying to build capacity on the part of the Iraqi forces so they can assume increasing and ultimately total responsibility for security operations within their own country.
Secondly, it weakens our effort at sustaining the peace. Part of the President's plan for Iraq and the way forward, involves not merely military action, but also the ability to create opportunity and hope for Iraqis. How? By going into neighborhoods and saying, we're going to help build jobs; we're going to help build civil institutions. We learned in the first Iraqi plan that, in fact, if you simply create a vacuum -- you have peace, but you do not have opportunity to follow on -- sooner or later, crime and terror tends to fill that vacuum.
So the President has announced a number of things. Today he met with members of provisional reconstruction teams -- actually, leaders who are going to go there. And it was an extraordinary meeting because you had many people with significant diplomatic experience -- indeed, many people who have returned from retirement because they love the idea of helping build democracy in dangerous parts of Iraq.
These were programs that they ask for volunteers -- the State Department, the Defense Department, USAID -- and in every case, they were overwhelmed by the number of people who volunteered, and we got to meet people who are going to be helping man up the first 10 of these provisional reconstruction teams in such areas as Baghdad and Ramadi.
Having noted that, this supplemental appropriations bill actually cuts funding for these very people. For democracy- building efforts, it cuts that by $40 million. It cuts $100 million out of efforts to build local governing capacity. It builds -- it cuts jobs programs by $30 million, and I just mentioned the PRTs -- provisional reconstruction teams -- cuts $33 million out of that, and another $20 million out of programs for the rule of law.
Now, while cutting this funding for peace and prosperity, here's what this bill -- and this is a emergency supplemental military bill -- here are some of the items in there: $60.4 million for salmon fisheries; $74 million for peanut storage; $100 million for citrus assistance; $120 million for shrimp and menhaden fishing; $400 million for rural schools; and $500 million for a firefighting fund that already has an available balance of $831 million. These may be priorities, but they are not part of an emergency supplemental for the military.
Finally, this: The clock is ticking. Money is going to run out for our forces in Iraq sometime next month. The money is running out, and meanwhile, you have people on Capitol Hill trying to buy or cajole votes for a bill that's not going to pass. The Speaker is busy working some of her members and they're also trying to twist some arms.
Our suggestion is, please get this done as rapidly as possible, because day after day, the money is running out like sands through an hour glass. And if you want to support our troops, get them the money they need when they need it.
Now, we hope Congress will go ahead and vote on this stuff, because if you take a look at the calendar now, the next few weeks, you will notice that I think a week from Monday, houses of Congress start breaking for their Easter or spring break, depending on how you want to define it, and you do not have all of Congress back until the 16th of April, I believe. I think that's right, isn't it -- 16th of April? In any event, there's a very real chance that money for the troops will run out while members of Congress are on vacation. Is that the message you want to send to men and women who are putting their lives on the line?
So I think it's important to go ahead and move on for this. The President has made it clear that this needs to be a bill for the military. All the other stuff can be folded into budget bills which also are being offered up. This is an emergency supplemental for the troops and military operations.
It's also a chance -- we've said this before, but we're serious about it -- a chance to work together. We can figure out how to solve the military piece; all these other things we'd be happy to debate -- in fact, the debate on those begins almost immediately. So there you have it. And the Senate also, I must say, has now said it is going to consider precisely the same bill. So this is basically a wheel-spinning exercise so that people can make a rhetorical point at a time when the real point is, if you want to support the troops, let's get the money in the pipeline in time.
Q Can I just ask on that, before we go to other things? When you said the cuts that it makes, is that cuts from existing spending --
MR. SNOW: That's cuts from our request.
Q Oh, from your request.
MR. SNOW: No, these are requests that we had made.
Q Okay. Is the position still that there must be no strings attached, that all these -- the peanut storage and the rest of it -- need to be out of a bill like this?
MR. SNOW: Well, I've told you what our position is. And the President -- we have put out a supplemental -- I mean, a statement of administration policy. We think that this is inappropriate. What we want to do is to make sure that the funds have -- that our commanders have the funding and flexibility they need. That is the paramount consideration.
Q I'd like to ask you about the standoff between Congress and the White House on the testimony of aides. The Senate Judiciary Committee has now followed the lead of the House, and they have voted to authorize subpoenas. What now?
MR. SNOW: That's a good question.
Q Is this headed for the courts?
MR. SNOW: You'd have to ask Congress. I think what the House and Senate have both done is to go through the step of authorizing subpoenas but not issuing them. As I have mentioned before, the conversations, at least the readouts I've gotten from Fred Fielding, about his discussions with members of Congress, they've been respectful and collegial. And I have noted -- I think maybe I'm being too optimistic, but I've noted that there's been sort of a moderation in some of the rhetoric in the last 24 hours.
I think everybody realizes that the end product of this inquiry ought to be the truth. And we have offered a suggestion that we think allows everybody to get at the truth and to get all the answers.
The phone lines are still open, and at this point, I'm not aware of any conversations that Fred may have had. But we certainly are not averse to hearing from members of Congress, and, if nothing else, explaining more fully what our position is and why we think it's appropriate.
Q So you're inviting conversation, dialogue, compromise?
MR. SNOW: I'm just saying we're not averse to it. It's certainly appropriate.
Q If the phones lines are open, what are you willing to compromise on, in terms of your initial --
MR. SNOW: Well, this is -- this initial position is a significant compromise in this sense: We could have said no, we're not going to do it, we're not going to share White House deliberations, and we could have cited any number of legal precedents.
What we have said instead is that we're going to help you assemble every document and every -- and make available every individual, both at the Justice Department and the White House, you need to hear from. And you'll be able to measure every single data point, every single communication. If you look at the letter Fred sent, it talks about every communication with Capitol Hill, with the Justice Department, with anybody on the outside. That enables you to put together a pretty extraordinary record and try to assemble the facts.
It also makes available all the people in the decision-making loop in the Justice Department. They're certainly free to get asked about any interaction they may have had with the White House. Plus, we have said, you're going to have an opportunity to interview the key members of the White House, and get factual answers to your questions.
So that, in fact, is -- the point I was making. I think Ken was -- Ken Herman was making fun of it, the "extraordinary generous offer" -- but, you know, it is, and it's one of these things that is designed not in an effort to have a confrontation with Congress, but to show cooperation and good will, because we believe it's also important to get all the facts out.
Q You say the phone lines are open. On the other hand, you have two -- I understand the White House position, but it's -- on the other side, you have Justice sort of calcified --
MR. SNOW: I think members are still thinking this through. I don't think members are all that eager to have a big fight either. We don't want a fight. So I think one of the things you need to look for in the next couple of days, or maybe even a few more days, is let people think this through. This is not something that's going to be decided overnight. You have had comments from -- you've had some very good quotes from Senator Leahy and Representative Conyers that are kind of piquant, but at the same time, you've also had expressions that they don't want to move quickly or rationally, and I think that's right.
Q You're sounding much more possible --
MR. SNOW: That's because I think --
Q -- compromise --
MR. SNOW: No, I think we've got a really good offer, and I think as people begin to look at it --
Q It sounded like there's a possibility for some compromise here between the White House and Capitol Hill.
MR. SNOW: No, we already -- we started with the compromise, and now we want to get members of Capitol Hill to join us.
Q Arlen Specter suggested another version of the deal today, which is -- he said, "Testimony that would be open to the public with a limited number of senators, and with a transcript, but no oath."
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't -- again, our offer is our offer, and we know that Senator Specter has tried to play a constructive role here.
Q Wait, wait, wait. Is that a, no?
MR. SNOW: Wait, wait, wait -- it's a, no. (Laughter.)
Q But why? You say you're open to compromise, and what way do you indicate --
MR. SNOW: No, I didn't. I didn't say we were open to compromise. I said, we opened with a compromise.
Q And there's no further compromise from there? How is this not a showdown if you're not willing to compromise further?
MR. SNOW: Well, because -- well, wait a minute, the question we're asking is, will members -- the real question -- let me put it this way: Our goal is to make sure all the facts get out. Does our proposal allow all the facts to get out? The answer is, yes. Does our proposal enable Congress to get at the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? The answer is, yes. Will the American people be able to have an answer that indicates precisely what went on in making these decisions and be able to have confidence that they were appropriate, they were -- within the President's authority, they were the right thing to do? The answer is, yes.
Q The cameras weren't on this morning. You came and said one of the big stumbling blocks is you don't want to see Karl Rove with his hand up in front of a bunch of cameras flashing.
MR. SNOW: You bet.
Q You don't want the --
MR. SNOW: While the cameras are on, I'll say the same thing.
Q So then, your concern is about a public spectacle.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q So if there's no oath, what's the problem?
MR. SNOW: What do you mean? There's -- you still have the public spectacle.
Q If it's behind closed doors, what's the problem?
MR. SNOW: The thing that we have said all along is, we think that you ought to have the ability for members of Congress to get information in a way that also does not create precedence, and is going to have a chilling effect for presidential advisors to be able to give their full and fair advice to the President of the United States. We think that the compromise we shaped enables us to fulfill that obligation to the President, and to the public in terms of first-rate advice from the White House and the people working in the White House, and at the same time, allows Congress to do what it has to do, which is conduct oversight. There is nothing that says Congress has to have television; it says that Congress does have oversight responsibilities and needs to get at the facts.
Furthermore, the people who are first and foremost in the decision loop here, the folks at the Department of Justice, they aren't going to be out. I mean, they're going to be out, they're going to be testifying, they're offering all their documentation, as well.
Q They get to be in public, but you want your guys behind closed doors.
MR. SNOW: There are -- in this particular case, the Department of Justice -- the Congress does have legitimate oversight responsibility for the Department of Justice. It created the Department of Justice. It does not have constitutional oversight responsibility over the White House, which is why by our reaching out, we're doing something that we're not compelled to do by the Constitution, but we think common sense suggests that we ought to get the whole story out, which is what we're doing.
Q Tony, you just said a moment ago you don't want a fight, but this morning you compared this drama, or whatever you want to call it, to "Boston Legal," "Law & Order." You've used words like "show trials," "klieg lights," "partisan fishing expedition." It seems like you have been spoiling for a fight, and you've been poisoning the well with that kind of rhetoric at the start, before --
MR. SNOW: Do you think that some Senate Democrats, when they talk about crimes, have been poisoning the well? I'll tell you what I was talking about, Ed. That was a rhetorical question, I apologize -- I know that's a sore spot. But the fact is, what I was talking about was a spectacle. And I still hold my characterizations of those things. The question is, do you want to have a dignified process, one that is going to demonstrate that in Washington senior political officials of both parties can act like grownups and get the nation's business done, so that you can conduct a good-faith inquiry into an issue that's interesting and important to people, and at the same time, also make that pivot to working on things like funding the troops.
And I got to say, there are a lot of very constructive conversations going on right now about substantive matters that the President laid out in the State of the Union address -- education, immigration and energy right up at the front of that. So I think this is an opportunity to do those things. So those comments I've made were specifically targeted at the seeming hubbub designed to get certain White House officials -- usually Karl -- out in front a camera so that you can sort of create a sensation. What we'd rather do is just find the truth.
Q Why haven't you moved on the transcript issue, though, then? This morning you were saying off-camera that you don't need an oath because if someone says something that's not true, they still could be prosecuted if they lie to Congress, essentially.
MR. SNOW: Right. Well, again --
Q If there's no transcript, what U.S. attorney can actually go through and see what they said, if there's no record?
MR. SNOW: I will let you -- you're asking a legal question that I would refer you either to the Department of Justice or to prosecutors, because they know the law. As you know, Ed, anybody who testifies before Congress, anybody that talks before Congress, is under an obligation to tell the truth, and if they don't, they're liable to legal punishment.
Q If they don't have a record of it, how would a U.S. attorney know how to prosecute it --
MR. SNOW: U.S. attorneys have been able --
Q -- you trust people's word.
MR. SNOW: I'm not a prosecutor, but I think you'll find that plenty of prosecutors out there will tell you how to get a conviction without a transcript.
Q Tony, will this President --
Q -- dodging the oath because of the legal consequences?
MR. SNOW: We're dodging the oath because -- well, I'm not going to say we're dodging the oath, because that -- (laughter.) Yes, I know, kaboom, steel trap closes. No, it's -- this is not a notion of dodging. It's simply, we don't think it's appropriate.
Q Appropriate doesn't set the scene.
MR. SNOW: The scene?
Q People are seeking the truth.
MR. SNOW: That's right, and we're making the truth available. And that's why we're kind of confused, because it seems that people are more interested in sort of seeing White House officials with their hands up being hectored, and I don't think members of Congress --
Q Why do you say that? Why don't you think they really want to know --
MR. SNOW: Why don't you -- okay, I'll tell you why, because there is so much speculation about this. I opened up the newspapers today, and there are pictures of Karl Rove, many people saying, we need to -- the purpose here is to find out what happened, what the truth is.
Q How about that?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q So Tony, this President for years has used the Constitution as his backdrop. He said, look, this is my right under the Constitution.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q This government was founded on a series of checks and balances. Why not, if you're going to say you're using the Constitution, just apply what she's using there to what this government was founded upon: checks and balances --
MR. SNOW: What actually --
Q -- and one legislative body checking another legislative body, and having a top White House official testify under oath.
MR. SNOW: Well, we are an executive body, not a legislative body. And secondly, we have, in fact, said, what we're going to do is bend the rules in favor of Congress on this part, because we are going to give the --
Q There are checks and balances, correct?
MR. SNOW: What we are doing -- yes, but you're mixing --
Q Not necessarily.
MR. SNOW: Well, yes, look, again, there's a legitimate oversight of the Justice Department and the decisions that went into this, and what we've said is since there were conversations and communications between the White House and the Justice Department, you ought to be able to see them all -- every one, every single -- every single communication available to the American public.
Therefore, that -- you're talking about transparency. That's the kind of transparency that you don't normally get. So we have made an offer not only to do that, but to say to members of Congress, you want to talk to our guys, you can. And they are going to be compelled legally to tell the truth. But furthermore, the President is going to tell them to tell the truth because it's in our interest to make sure that the whole truth gets out.
Q But do you agree that transparency is something that this administration shuns?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't agree.
Q Okay, when it was time for the Vice President to give up the list of names of his energy council --
MR. SNOW: Well, as you recall, April, that was, in fact, a separation of powers case that the Vice President --
Q I understand --
MR. SNOW: -- won precisely because of the checks and balances you've talked about.
Q But secrecy, secrecy --
MR. SNOW: Well, wait a minute. You can't have it both ways. You've just talked about constitutional prerogatives --
Q I'm saying how this White House seems to run from transparency.
MR. SNOW: No, we're not running.
Q Then you had the 9/11 Commission, we're having conversations, nothing under oath. And now this.
MR. SNOW: Well, wait a minute. The 9/11 Commission, number one, was authorized by Congress and signed by the President and supported by the administration. What we were trying to do was, again, to avoid the kind of precedent that we're talking about now, which is to bring senior aides up under oath. So what you ended up having were, in fact -- I think they were categorized as briefings. They used that particular -- they used that formulation for precisely the same reasons I'm talking about now.
So I don't think this is a matter of transparency. This is a matter of trying to have -- what do you mean? Condoleezza Rice was on there and she was facing tough questioning from Richard BenVeniste --
Q But certain people -- the Vice President and the President would not testify under oath. You had "conversations" at that time. And there's a --
MR. SNOW: Yes. That's perfectly appropriate.
Q You used the word "avoid." There is an avoidance, it seems, of this administration to sit down and talk on the record, under oath, about critical issues.
MR. SNOW: What you're saying is that every time somebody wants to try to mount a charge you ought to be able to get hauled up and testify under oath, with a presumption of criminality, rather than a presumption of goodwill. I'm not going to buy that.
Q Was it criminal, 9/11 -- was that criminal?
MR. SNOW: No. What I'm saying is that the 9/11 Commission, we participated fully.
Q Tony, I spoke to a top Senate Republican aide recently, and he said that he thinks that this debate over the subpoenas, is a distraction in some ways from what they believe Democrats are trying to raise taxes by $900 billion this week. Do you guys share that opinion?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to try to read -- I'm not going to try to assign motives. We'll have plenty to say about the budget, because you're right, it has major tax increases and spending hikes, and we don't support what we've seen of the budget proposals.
First thing we really want to deal with is get the supplemental out of the way. Democrats have had a tough time. They have learned that governing is a lot tougher than complaining from the sidelines. And the Senate has yet to come through with a resolution expressing condemnation. But I also think that they're beginning to realize that what the President offered, in terms of constructive cooperation on big issues, that's good for them. We've been saying this all along, but all of a sudden you realize, you know what, people want us to do our business. They want us to do it in a way that actually reflects well on the ability of people who have differing political views to get important business done. So I don't want to try to assign motives.
Q You keep mentioning -- there's sort of a pathological obsession with Karl Rove. Is that accurate to say?
MR. SNOW: I'm not -- again, there's certainly a lot of people who seem to have Karl on their mind a lot.
David. I'm not -- David.
Q I'm not thinking about Karl, I'm not thinking about Karl at all.
MR. SNOW: Okay, Karl on the mind. David.
Q I'd like to ask a question about the war spending bill. Part of this debate is the assertion by you and others, and including the President, that a date certain for withdrawal of troops would lead to chaos, accelerated violence, regional conflict in Iraq. Why should Americans trust your assumptions about the outcome of troop withdrawal, based on this administration's record of assumptions and the way things played out in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Okay, don't trust our assumptions, take a look at the record itself. What you have found is that there's been a determination on the part of the terror network to try to make a couple of cases: Number one, you can't rely on the Americans. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, as well as Abu Musab al Zarqawi, have tried to make the point that the Americans, they really can't take the heat, they're going to get out, and when they get out, you go in and you take over. And that is a case they make in recruiting, and it is a case they also make in trying to wage acts of terror against neighboring states and to try to weaken the will of those who have been supporting us in the war on terror. So don't take our word for it, take their word for it. And the President read out some of those back in September.
Secondly, if you try to think strategically about what this says, if you have a date certain regardless, succeed or fail, what it says to those who want to commit acts of terror is, put your feet up, go ahead and try to build up arms strength and go try to do this, that or the other, try to get yourself organized, wait it out, and when the Americans leave, you hit and you hit hard. That would make common sense. And I think you're going to find most military folks agree with it.
What you pointed out, David, is that in a time of war, nobody is a perfect predictor. But on the other hand, what you have to do is to make sure that you're not weakening your hand by doing something that almost immediately could be construed as a rhetorical victory for the enemy, and ultimately as a strategic victory for the enemy, because you get -- take a look at what happened as the new Baghdad plan came out. You saw many terror figures getting out of Baghdad. You saw that there was a change in the attitude and behavior of a number of people, including perhaps Muqtada al Sadr.
What you have seen, is, in fact, there -- people take seriously the focused application of American force. And as a result, they behave differently. And even though it is -- certainly, as Helen was just pointing out, not perfect in Iraq, there has been some improvement, and we hope it continues to improve. So those are the kind of considerations that go into that.
Q Tony, I want to go back to the offer on the U.S. attorneys. I'm not clear about something now. Is the White House offer on that, is that non-negotiable?
MR. SNOW: We're not negotiating. This is our offer. This is our position.
Q Okay, so there will be no negotiating on that offer, is that correct?
MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of. But the other thing we can do -- see, what happens is, a lot of times, people are trying to characterize the offer, but haven't looked at it. And if your concern as a member of Congress is, will I get all the facts? We're going to answer your question. We're going to tell you what all the facts are. We're going to let you draw a full and fair conclusion about what's going on.
And therefore, if that is the real aim of a congressional investigation, to find out what happened and to be able to assess it, and if necessary, take action. We're going to give them everything they need.
Q Can I just follow up? I mean, "not that I'm aware of" is not a -- is really not a line in the sand. I mean, are you --
MR. SNOW: Okay, line in the sand. That's a -- that's our position.
Q Democrats are defying the President in the standoff over the firing of U.S. attorneys. They're also showing a readiness to defy the President over Iraq war emergency funding. Now, with all this bad blood that's developing, what are the chances for this President to stave off lame-duck status and push his -- get his agenda unstuck?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'd turn it around. Congress has to pass something. They haven't done it yet -- haven't been able to pass an anti-war resolution. I think this is an opportunity for them to show they can get something done.
Now, they know for a fact -- this may be defiance, but it's a kind of defiance that doesn't help you, because they know for a fact that these bills aren't going to become law. They still have to -- they still have to put together a law that will get passed.
So the question is, is it so important to you to make a rhetorical point with a law that will never see the light of day, that you are willing to risk the fact that the money is going to run out on the troops while you're still doing this? Or do you want to, in fact, demonstrate real support for the troops? I don't think that is a sign of White House weakness.
Furthermore, politicians in this town -- you know, they've got a pretty good sense of how the business works. And they also have the ability quite often to set aside whatever disagreements they may have on some issues to work together on others. Look at No Child Left Behind. You had Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush working together. There are a number of issues on which the President has made common cause with Democrats and Republicans, and frankly, what we're offering is a good deal for both parties on really serious issues.
Now, if the American public sees that all Congress can do -- all that's going to happen in Washington is squabbling over things while the funding runs out for troops -- while we don't get things done on energy independence, while we don't reauthorize No Child Left Behind, while we don't move on immigration -- they're going to say, why did we bring you here? There's a powerful incentive for members of Congress to work with us, and a powerful incentive for us to work with them so we get important stuff done. And again, I've been in a lot of these meetings, and they have, for the most part, been very respectful and constructive, and I do think things are going to get done.
So I would -- I would avoid trying to read too much into
a day's news.
A friend of mine, years ago, said, Washington is a town where the urgent overwhelms the important. And quite often we get a sense of urgency about the news of the day, and we forget that ultimately the people brought members of Congress and the President here to do work, and not to squabble.
Q Tony, Iraq -- the Maliki government, according to an official of the Ministry of National Dialogue, has been holding indirect discussions with insurgents for the past three months. Is our government aware of that?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. And I apologize, I had told you I was going to try to get an answer. You were kind enough to email me before. I will get you an answer on that. I think I probably know what it is, but I don't want to guess.
Q Tony, there's been a lot of congressional hearings on global warming, as you know. And one other proposal that keeps coming up is this idea of a moratorium on your coal-fired power plants because they emit a lot of carbon. And the answer or the proposal is to hold the moratorium until you have the technology to capture and store. You have put a lot of faith in technology. Is there any willingness to consider this idea?
MR. SNOW: Paula, I don't know. What you are asking is, are we going to stop generating electricity or -- the President -- let me refrain it, but try to be responsive. The President has put a lot of money into clean coal technology. We think that it is absolutely important because, you're right, coal-fired plants right now are polluters. China is building one a week. And we think it's important, for the sake of the United States and the rest of the world, to help clean up the environment by having a clean-coal technology that has the capability, effectively, of reducing greenhouse emissions to zero. And it is a priority item. And take a look -- it's been a priority item for the President for a long time.
The President has also talked about nuclear power as also a non-polluting form of energy that we think holds a great deal of promise, for allowing people to keep their jobs and have their clean air, too. So what we're trying to avoid are attempts to force people into a false tradeoff, which is, you've got to give up your job to have clean air. We don't think you have to do that. We think that you can keep the economy going at full-speed and, at the same time, continue to clean the air -- which is why, incidentally, the United States has a better record in cleaning the air than any other major industrialized country, the EU. It's because we continue using technology -- and not just because of government dicta; people like you and everybody else, we like clean air. It's something that everybody wants.
And there are profits aplenty to be made by folks who figure out how to generate energy and do important economic activity without pollution.
Q Are you then saying that there are jobs to be made in technology, rather than job losses?
MR. SNOW: Yes, which is precisely why Congress ought to pass the President's energy plan, because, if you take a look at it, what we're really trying to do, for instance, is generate technological capability when it comes to biofuels, biodiesel, ethanol and other fuels that, in fact, are not only renewable, but clean.
Q Tony, you've expressed concern about Democrats running around with transcripts, say, of Karl Rove's interview and in front of cameras and creating a public spectacle. How could it possibly be a public spectacle if oaths are taken privately, behind closed doors?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you're -- there are two different issues. Number one, what we're trying to do is to say, we don't like the precedent of also treating this like -- these ought to be interviews. This should not be a deposition; this should not have a feel of a trial. These are people who are going to come here and give you the facts you need. Furthermore, everybody knows that the way the law is written, you're compelled to tell the truth. So we see that as an unnecessary add-on and one that we don't think adds anything to the content that members of Congress are going to receive.
Let me reiterate the key point. Members of Congress are going to get every shred of information they need. We think it's a good thing; we want them to know the truth, and we've come up with a way that we think not only befits the dignity of the White House, but also could give people a refreshing sense that, hey, we can look at a tough issue without engaging in trench warfare.
Q Can you tell us, when did the Department of Justice brief you on the gap in the emails? Was it after or before --
MR. SNOW: I have actually not been briefed by the Department of Justice. And I would suggest --
Q That they told you --
MR. SNOW: No, I actually have not spoken directly with DOJ. But I'm glad you asked. You really need to ask them about it. The answer we have gotten is that the documents that have been provided are fully responsive to the request from Congress. But if you want a detailed answer, you really need to go there.
Q No, that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a time line of when you got the answer that you've gotten, whether it was before or after the story broke in the press.
MR. SNOW: Well, it would have been yesterday, so it probably would have been after. Yes, it would have been after.
Q Can I just follow with a clarification of what you're saying?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q With the offer that's been given to Congress -- because Congress is asking for additional documents from the White House voluntarily -- is the President interested, separate and apart from the interviews, in producing those documents from the White House to external sources? In other words, would that take the temperature down --
MR. SNOW: We already have it in writing. I'll just read -- what it says here is, we would provide communications between the White House and persons outside the White House concerning the request for resignations of the U.S. attorneys in question, and communications between the White House and members of Congress concerning those requests.
Q I'm just asking, is that only active if they accept the offer, or will he do that as --
MR. SNOW: I think at this point -- look, what you're asking us to do is negotiate against ourselves. We made our position clear. If --
Q No, no, no --
MR. SNOW: This is the offer. I'm not qualifying the offer.
Q I'm just following on what you were saying about the production of the Justice documents was designed to be helpful and voluntary because it was everything that Justice had, to be responsive to the request. There's an additional request: We'd like to see information from the White House. And the President has said, I'd like to do that -- this is what I'm offering; I'd like to do that. But he's not going to do that voluntarily, separate and apart from the deal. In other words, you could gather all that now, give it to them, and maybe it would help.
MR. SNOW: Maybe. I'll take it under advisement. Thank you.
Q But you're saying he's not doing that.
MR. SNOW: I don't know, that's not --
Q I'm asking the question, you have not --
MR. SNOW: No. No. No.
Q Okay. The second question I have is, do you have anything new on when Mr. Gonzales might appear, to help his case, on the Hill?
MR. SNOW: I think that's -- I believe -- I don't think he schedules himself. I believe that Houses of Congress do that.
Q So there's nothing new on that. And the second element of that is, would it be helpful if the Attorney General came to this room or the Justice Department and actually just sat and took every question he could get?
MR. SNOW: You're going to have to ask the Attorney General how he --
Q I'm asking whether you think --
MR. SNOW: I know, but that's -- I'm not speaking for the Attorney General, I'm speaking for the President.
Q Tony, two quick questions. One, as far as human rights in China is concerned, people fighting for democracy are being jailed, and (inaudible) is fighting here, according to Washington Times. What are we doing as far as human rights and democracy in China?
MR. SNOW: Well, Goyal, you know our commitment to human rights and democracy remains strong throughout the globe.
Q And second, as far as the Iranian nuclear issue is concerned, again the President of Iran has said that those who are against our nuclear program will be punished severely. What --
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what you've found, with the success of the international community working together with North Korea, getting the North Koreans to return to the six-party talks, allowing IAEA inspectors in, they've certainly promised a number of things, including shutting down Yongbyon in the near future. This is the approach we're taking, which is why we've been in discussions. The P5 plus one have already come up with agreement on a U.N. Security Council resolution, a follow-on resolution with regard to Iran. We're talking it over with the full Security Council.
That's really the way you deal with this. We understand that there are some people in Iran who are going to issue public statements. Our public statement to Iran is simple: we're here to help the Iranian people. We're here to help the Iranian people get nuclear power if they want it, to help them get greater closer economic and cultural ties. The one thing that we also think is in Iran's interest is not to have a nuclear weapons program.
So that's really -- our position remains very clear on that. But it's one, really, of outreach of the Iranian people.
Q I have one more just quickly. As far as this drugs and homelessness is concerned, including in the Asian community, this week there was a spiritual leader from India -- in Centreville, Virginia. What he said that he congratulated President Bush also, but he said that what I am requesting him is that education is the key to get all these problems, including people who get into terrorism and all that, and also -- one Indian medical doctor who's also homeless here and Oprah also had a special program on homeless. So when President do you think --
MR. SNOW: The President made it clear recently, when he spoke on Wall Street, and also every time he advocates for No Child Left Behind that education is vital. Is it the cure-all? No. But it is certainly an important element in separating those who succeed from those who do not -- not only economically, but in terms of their personal lives.
But having said that, there are any -- what you've raised are a whole series of complex issues that you can't raise -- that you're not going to solve with a simple federal program. But education is an absolutely vital element.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. The Washington Times published Purdue law professor, Louis Beres, and Israeli Major General Isaac Ben-Israel's statement that Israel has the right guaranteed to all states to act preemptively when faced with nuclear assault. And my question: Does the President agree or disagree with their writing that this is affirmed in international law?
MR. SNOW: The President is not commenting on op-ed pieces. Next.
Q They all -- well --
MR. SNOW: I know -- I know, it's a good question. And it's -- you know, it's got great concern, but you know what? You ask me questions like this, I can't give you answers. And you know what? Why do you do this? Give me a question that -- rather than asking an argumentative question about something that raises a provocative issue, or give me a head's up, and I'll try to do it. But we go through this. I love you. But you've got to help me out here. (Laughter.) I mean, it's just -- you know.
Q But these were statements by these --
MR. SNOW: I know, and you think the President should respond to every statement made in every newspaper in the United States of America?
Q No, I just want to know. If you don't want to respond, that's fine. Could I just follow this up with the second part of it? They also write that the right to such preemptive action is also affirmed in the September 20, 2002 American policy codification of the national security strategy of the United States. Are they wrong in this?
MR. SNOW: No, we have a national security strategy, and I'm glad that they have read it.
Q Thank you.
END 1:26 P.M. EDT