For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 27, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:39 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Feeling nostalgic?
Q Are you?
MR. SNOW: Our last on-camera briefing at this lovely facility.
Q Do you like it here?
MR. SNOW: I like it here, but only because of the company. So I will be happy -- (laughter) -- so I will like it when we're in Room 450 and I'll really like it when we're in the new briefing room.
Q So while you are trying to get the Senate to pass this immigration bill, the House Republicans say they want no part of it. The House Republican Conference voted 114-23 in opposition to the Senate bill. So where does this go?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, let's try to get this thing through the Senate first. There were also some 70 Republicans who were not part of that vote. I think if we get the Senate bill passed, which we feel confident we will, it creates an opportunity for people to spend a lot of time talking about what the bill does and does not do, and frankly, how it also addresses a lot of the concerns that House Republicans have, such as how can we trust you to enforce the borders? What do you have here that creates credibility in a system that in the past has not been credible in enforcing borders, or trying to hold to account those who crossed over the border illegally? What do you do about employers?
In other words, there are a lot of very practical questions that are of concern, and I think it gives us an opportunity to spend time talking with House members, and also making clear that we share not only their concerns, but reassure them we share their goals in a lot of ways, in terms of border security, in terms of restoring the rule of law, in terms of making sure that citizenship means something. All of those elements are in place. So -- and finally this: If House members do, in fact, have concerns with things that they think can be used to improve the bill, to strengthen it, they're going to have an opportunity to do it, because whatever happens in the House will move from subcommittee to committee to the floor, and offer a chance, I think, for a very full and detailed debate.
Q So you don't see this as a setback to hopes for the bill?
MR. SNOW: No. I mean, we understand --
Q -- when there's an overwhelming majority of House Republicans who voted are against it?
MR. SNOW: An overwhelming majority of those who voted. But there are going to be opportunities to speak to them and to hear their concerns. There are going to be some who are not going to vote with us, we understand that. But on the other hand, we believe, on a bipartisan basis we'll be able to put together the vote -- well, we hope that in the House we'll be able, on a bipartisan basis, to put together the votes we need. But it is going to require a lot of conversation and a lot of opportunities for us again to talk about what the bill does and does not do, because, frankly, there have been characterizations out there that don't reflect what the bill does, nor do they reflect the thinking of the administration.
Q Can you set a picture for us about how the President is making his personal outreach? Is he making the calls from the Oval Office? Is he offering members anything new or trying to pitch this in a new way?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to -- what I will say is that he is making phone calls and will continue to be making phone calls. There have been opportunities also to speak individually with members, and we'll continue to do that.
And the President does that -- he does it on immigration; obviously, we do it with Iraq. So it's the normal practice -- sometimes he'll do it from the Oval, sometimes he'll do it from the residence, sometimes from the small office -- it sort of depends where he is at the time, but he makes sure that he is -- there will be continued outreach, but I'm not going to go into details about how, who, what, when, where, why.
Q And is the outreach going to extend to Senators Lugar and Voinovich for coming to the White House and talking about some of the concerns they've been expressing?
MR. SNOW: Well, we certainly are going to have conversations with them. We're going to be talking to them. You know, it's interesting, because I've been going back again over the Senator Lugar speech. Really, when you take a look at it, the one thing he rules out very quickly is the idea we just get out -- don't fund the troops, don't have precipitant withdrawal. What he's really talking about is the over-the-horizon strategy -- and the President has used that term before -- that once you have created the space in which the Iraqis, in fact, have stepped up, they've made the political progress, they've made the military and training progress, where do you go? And you get to the point where U.S. forces withdraw -- again, over the horizon is the term the President has used -- and it sounds like that's a lot of what Senator Lugar is discussing, as well.
We think it's important to allow the Baghdad security plan to work. But if you take a look -- and what Senator Lugar is trying to figure out is what configuration is going to be conducive in the long run to success, and also build a greater -- bipartisan support.
Q Tony, on Blair's appointment as Quartet envoy, why does the President believe now, after so many failed or stalled initiatives toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians, that Tony Blair is the man who can now carry this forward?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, ultimately, this is going to be up to the Palestinians and the Israelis. An outside politician is not going to be the person who creates peace or a settlement in the Middle East.
On the other hand, Tony Blair is not only enormously capable and well-respected as a world leader, he is somebody who has personal skills that are going to be able to get people to talk with one another. And, frankly, the President is delighted that the Prime Minister has agreed to lend his considerable talents and energies to the task of trying to advance the peace process.
But, as we've said, people are going to have to be making choices and they're going to have to make choices in the direction of peace. And obviously the first step is getting people on the Palestinian side to adopt the Quartet principles.
Q On the President's speech today, does the President believe that moderate Muslims are going to stand up and speak out against extremists? Because, to this point, it seems either they have been intimidated or perhaps indifferent.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I think you've seen a number -- you've seen moderate voices coming forward and especially -- take a look at what's going on, for instance, in Iraq right now where you have leaders -- Sunni and Shia now really focusing a lot of their efforts and also their rhetoric on al Qaeda. When you're talking about an organization that is trying to use Islam as a shield for terrorist activity, al Qaeda really is your perfect example of it, and you do see people standing up for it.
Obviously, what you want is, the dialogue continues for people to speak out more forcefully against the abuse of a religion of peace for those who want to use it as a shield for terror that that religion does not condone.
Q What is the horizon of this administration to stop the killing in Iraq? And does the President have an exit strategy over and beyond "you guys in Iraq, shape up now," the collaborators and so forth who were with us and supposed to carry out our mission?
MR SNOW: What the President -- I think what you -- you focus on exit, Helen. The thing that we're trying to focus on is success.
Q I think that these Republicans are focusing on exit.
MR SNOW: Well, take a look again at what Dick Lugar talked about. Dick Lugar did not talk about exit. What he talked about is reshaping the way the forces are. But the one he rejected is exit. What he is talking --
Q He said that this is the word and that's another story. They are talking about exit.
MR SNOW: No, what he's talking about is a strategy for pulling people, again, over the horizon. Take a look at the speech and also his public statements and you're going to find that what he's not talking about is getting out. What he's trying to come up with is a way of engaging regional powers and also Iraqi powers and the allies in such a way that has to deal with the ongoing problems they've had in terms of violence, but also build the institutions that are going to be absolutely necessary to have a safe and free and democratic Iraq.
Q Tony, can you go back to Tony Blair? How can he hope to make any progress while the West Bank is in one set of Palestinian hands and Gaza is in another?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, the first thing you do is you start working with the Palestinian government. President Abbas has appointed a Prime Minister; that is the government, it's a constitutional government, you begin working with them. And the other thing you do is you continue to pour in humanitarian aid to people who need it, and you send a strong signal to Hamas that the way of terror is not going to do it.
Again, Tony Blair is not the person who comes in and says, aha, I will solve it. It's going to be up to the Palestinians. And it's going to be up to Palestinians to say to Hamas, sorry, the way of terror is not, in fact, in the best interests of the future of this country.
Now, Tony Blair is going to have the opportunity to work with and in support of those who support democracy and peace in the region, and that's what he does. He's not Superman, he doesn't have a cape. He's not designed to be doing that. What he is designed to do is to work as an aggressive facilitator between the Quartet and interested parties to try to look for ways to make progress where in the past we have not seen the kind of progress we'd like.
Q Is there any thought to going ahead and attempting a peace with the Palestinian government whose writ right now only runs in the West Bank?
MR. SNOW: Again, at this juncture I leave any of those decisions -- that is a tactical question that I leave to -- now, the one thing we've said is that we believe in -- we're not talking about -- what you're really discussing would be a partition, and we're not talking about a partition. We think that the Palestinian area encompasses Gaza and the West Bank, and that's got to be part of the solution.
Q Tony, could I go back to the hedge fund question of this morning, briefly? You said -- your response was this administration is not predisposed to a tax increase.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Is that predicated on the fact that it would hurt capital formation --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not -- I was not addressing specifically -- I gave you a very general answer for a reason. We're going to take a look at what Democrats have to offer. As you know, we already have a couple of veto threats out on that energy bill. We'll take a look at tax provisions, as well, but I'm not going to get into that --
Q There is a Ways and Means bill that would raise those tax rates to as much as 35 percent -- from 15 percent now. Does your general comment apply to that --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to give you -- I gave you a very general comment. Let's see what the House does and then we will give you a specific comment.
Q But you're not inclined to be in favor of any tax increases?
MR. SNOW: We're not inclined to be in favor of tax increases.
Q Tony, back on immigration. Some are saying it has to be done, all of it has to be done by August -- July-August. Others are saying at the end of the year. When does this have to be done before it's the death knell for immigration, comprehensive immigration?
MR. SNOW: Boy, what a negative way of framing it. First, I think as a practical matter, you're not really talking about July or August, simply because for something to work its way through the House is going to take some time. So if you get a Senate bill, then you move to the House -- you're talking into the fall, anyway. What we're working toward is, again, getting through the Senate and making a vigorous case to the American people -- Democrats and Republicans -- for this to succeed.
Again, April, you take a look -- everybody agrees that it's a problem that has been unaddressed for 21 years; needs to be addressed. Everybody agrees on the importance of border security. Everybody agrees on the importance of restoring the rule of law. Everybody agrees that citizenship ought to mean something.
We think that this bill, when people do have a chance to look at it -- I'll give you an example. A lot of folks say, well, why don't you go ahead and take care of border security? Well, you take a look at the triggers, we're talking about a $6 billion investment over a three-year period, unparalleled in American history, that is the most aggressive, the most assertive, the boldest and most ambitious proposal anybody has put forward. And yet, a lot of times folks say, oh, well, I didn't understand that, how do you prove it to us? Well, the answer is we say that by the end of next year, we have to meet these triggers. It's one of those things where I've said before, don't trust, verify.
So a lot of times, there have been expressed concerns and qualms that we think are actually answered by the legislation. People in the Senate and also here in the White House, we have worked to address concerns of conservatives, especially dealing with the White House, about a lot of items in the legislation, and we think that these are strong provisions that are going to help us with security, and help us also with our long-term economic progress, and do it in a way that is consistent with our traditions and will make us proud.
Q Tony, worst-case scenario, let's say it does not work out in the fall, let's say --
MR. SNOW: But, April, you know I never answer questions like that. I don't even want you to --
Q You've answered a couple of "ifs" recently, so --
MR. SNOW: Well, no, but I don't do "what if X, Y, and Z don't happen between now and the end of the year." We think it's --
Q I'm still going to ask the question, okay?
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q Okay, what if the worst-case scenario, it doesn't work out in the fall as the White House hopes, what about next year? Is there hope next year, at the beginning of next year, possibly?
MR. SNOW: Again, I think it's important to get it done this year. April, to say, oh, yeah, we'll do it next year, immediately the headlines springs up, "White House writes off immigration" for the -- we're not going to do that. We're not writing off immigration reform. It's important, it's vital, it's important for the country. The President has shown real leadership on this. He's taken a lot of heat from a lot of people, but he believes very strongly that this is the right way to proceed. And we are going to continue to work hard to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes law.
Q You don't want to get mixed up in immigration and election-year politics at all, do you?
MR. SNOW: What we want to do is get it done.
Q Why did 62 die for lack of detention, according to The New York Times?
MR. SNOW: More than a million people have been detained in those times. You obviously regret any time somebody dies in detention, and you take a look at ways to make sure that, if it's preventable, it is.
Q Tony, can you preview for us President Bush's meeting this weekend with President Putin, some of the issues that they're looking at addressing?
MR. SNOW: Again, we'll have some opportunities -- there will be some opportunities --
Q We won't have you on camera, though, so we kind of need a little --
MR. SNOW: Again, what you are going to have is the kind of exchanges that you would expect. There are a whole series of issues that are of concern to the two nations, and it is likely that they're going to come up. Again, if you're expecting some sort of grand initiative, a bold announcement -- no. This is a consultation between two leaders of very important nations on a host of issues that would include North Korea, that include the Middle East, that include Iran, that include the ongoing challenges that are being faced throughout the region. We're going to talk about -- I'm sure there's going to be an opportunity to discuss the future of missile defense, and all those things. You would expect them to come up.
But I would caution against expecting grand, new announcements. This is, in fact, an opportunity for two leaders to talk honestly and candidly with one another, and they get to -- they're the ones who are going to control the agenda.
Q Let me just follow up on missile defense. The last time these two met missile defense was the principal thing they talked about. The proposal that Putin made at that meeting, is that still being seriously considered by the U.S. government?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to -- what the President -- the President was encouraged that President Putin thought it was important to talk about missile defense, recognizing that if somebody -- if a hostile power, a rogue nation gets the capability of putting nuclear weapons on a missile, everybody in Europe and Asia is going to be in jeopardy, and it is important to provide that kind of a shield for the Europeans, as well as throughout the region.
And this is why the President is heartened by President Putin's acknowledgment of the fact. I'm not going to get into any particular details. I'll leave that for the two of them to discuss.
Q A lot of experts have said since then that really this facility that he offered is not appropriate, it's not going to be terribly useful --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to get into assessing it. I'll let them have their conversations. One of the things that has happened is that individuals on both sides have been tasked to take a good, thorough look, which you would expect them to do.
Q Can you characterize the significance of being at Walker's Point for this kind of a visit, with the President's father also in attendance? Can you --
MR. SNOW: I just think it's an acknowledgment of the importance of the relationship, and also I think the importance of having an atmosphere that is going to be conducive to relaxed, but candid discussions of important issues.
Q Is the former President going to be involved in the conversations?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so, but I don't know.
Q Tony, you talked about the recent arrival of troops in the surge, and you also talked about the late start of the surge, how it's just got underway, and you've got two months basically until September. Are you really setting us up for that to be laying the groundwork for support for a report from General Petraeus saying that there hasn't been very much progress?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Are you expecting there to be very much progress?
MR. SNOW: Again, you'll have to take a look, but, no, this is not a way of setting up a lack of progress. We're 12 days into the most ambitious military operation really since the intense combat hostilities, and you have seen reports from General Petraeus and General Odierno and others about significant actions on the part of our forces at Baquba, obviously in Anbar, and in Baghdad, as well.
I would expect there to be a progress report about what's going on and what we've achieved not only militarily, but also what sort of things have been accomplished on the political side and the economic side. It is not merely General Petraeus, but also Ambassador Crocker who are going to be contributing to the report. What we're trying to condition people for is a report that is going to tell us what has been happening. Again, 12 days in to the most significant military action in a very long time, and at the same time, just now getting all of our forces into place -- it's worth giving people a granular look, a detailed look at what has been accomplished and what will have been accomplished by the date.
Q Is it your view that September is too soon for such a report?
MR. SNOW: No, look, we have agreed to make reports in July and September; we're going to do it.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. First, in just the past few weeks, there have been reports of China-made toys being recalled because of dangers of lead paint, China-produced food with contaminants, and even China-produced honey laced with a drug. And now it's being reported that Chinese-made tires are probably faulty and dangerous. What is being done to crack down on what appears to be a concerted effort to dump damaging or dangerous Chinese products on the American public?
MR SNOW: Well, those are your conclusions, Les. That is --
Q No, no, that's a world --
MR SNOW: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. What would you -- what you have done is you have insinuated a conspiracy to dump these things on the American marketplace. Obviously, when you have problems with the safety of things, you deal with it, including the recall of 450,000 tires.
Q Okay. This morning's Washington Post headline "After Speech, Aides Scramble To Cover Bush's 'Amnesty' Slip" -- while we realize that anybody can make mistakes, can you tell us, just for human interest sake, which aide scrambled first, and did the President commend him or her for being alert, or not, and what was his reaction?
MR SNOW: I did, and I don't discuss --
Q You were the first one?
MR SNOW: I believe so. I mean, look --
MR SNOW: -- the President misspoke. It was a -- you recall we issued a statement by the Press Secretary. What was interesting is that Fletch wrote that story; meanwhile I was getting a lot of people saying, what took you so long? So we were getting it from both sides. The fact is that anybody who knows what the President's policy is knows that that was a slip of the tongue. It was overplayed on Drudge. We thought it was important to go ahead and puncture that balloon, which we did, and to move on so that people who actually knew the issue could discuss other things.
Q Thank you.
MR SNOW: You're welcome.
Q Thank you.
MR SNOW: You're welcome, as well. (Laughter.)
Q Possible presidential candidate, Fred Thompson advocates putting a blockade around Iran. What would that accomplish? And isn't a blockade an act of war?
MR SNOW: I would refer all questions to Fred Thompson's policies to Fred Thompson.
Q Thank you.
MR SNOW: Thank you.
END 1:00 P.M. EDT