Press Briefing by Tony Snow
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 7, 2007
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:24 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: One addition to the schedule for tomorrow. Tomorrow the President will travel to the Department of Homeland Security and visit the Nebraska Avenue complex. He'll receive a briefing from Secretary Chertoff and other senior-level employees on their priorities and efforts to guard against the threat of terrorism and keep America safe.
As you know, the global war on terror is a struggle against terrorists who are threatening the entire civilized world. While men and women in the military are fighting abroad we've got to make sure that we continue to fight them at home. And the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security are essential in that fight. So we hope to have pool coverage at the end. We'll give you details on coverage as they become available.
Q Tony, the President said in his speech on the 10th that America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced. How do you follow through on that pledge if Iraq is not meeting its own target dates for certain pieces of legislation, they're not supplying troops into Baghdad at the numbers that were expected? What does the White House do to follow through?
MR. SNOW: I think the most important thing to do is to keep in mind what is, in fact, going on. For instance, yesterday, I think the Prime Minister stood up before everybody and said, "I call on you quickly to finish the preparations so we don't disappoint people." He also made the point that either we win or -- "Either we all win or we all lose. The whole world is watching us and expecting us to win."
I think at this point, to try to start rendering summary judgment at the very beginning of an effort by the Iraqis not only to deal with matters of legislation, but also economic development and getting forces on the ground, and for that matter, getting their headquarters and command stood up, is a little premature. The other thing we've said is if it takes a couple extra days or weeks at one end or another, we're going to understand that.
It is clear that there are very serious and good-faith efforts to deal with all the things you've been talking about, Jennifer, including getting the legislature, the council of representatives to conclude business on an oil law, and also to move on such things eventually as the de-Baathification statute, or de-Baathification reforms. So those continue to be priorities. But I think it's simply too early at this point to start drawing conclusions.
The Iraqis are continuing to move forces toward Baghdad, but this is an ongoing process. And there's going to be a requirement to, not only on the military side, put people in place to assess what's going on in neighborhoods, to work on plans, to work on the unity and the cohesiveness of U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Let me just read you something that General Petraeus said the other day, because I think this helps put in perspective the fact that these things don't happen overnight, it does take time, and there are a lot of logistical considerations to take into account. And he said, "It will take time for the additional forces to flow to Iraq, time for them to gain an understanding of the areas in which they will operate, time to plan with and get to know their Iraqi partners, time to set conditions for the successful conduct of security operations, and of course, time to conduct those operations and build on what they achieve."
So all these are still really in progress. But as we've said all along, over time, within the next couple of months, we'll be able to get a firmer sense of how the Iraqis are doing and how the plan is proceeding.
Q What will happen then?
MR. SNOW: Well, we hope that we'll be able to report success.
Q But even that drawn-own process doesn't do much to address the lack of security for the people who are needed to rebuild Iraq in places outside the Green Zone. And as you know, there's difficulty getting those people to go there.
MR. SNOW: Yes, there is, absolutely. We're in the process right now of working on building up the provisional reconstruction teams. The State Department pretty much has its commitments now made. Their team leader positions are pretty much filled. The President, in the Cabinet meeting the other day, made it clear to members of the Cabinet that we need to be able to get people in place, and we've also talked about a civilian corps that would be able to provide some of the services we need.
Force protection is clearly a priority, not merely for the military, but for the people working on the PRTs. But the Department of State, the Department of Defense and other departments, other Cabinet-level departments and agencies, are working toward getting them staffed up, because there also is a significant return, once you do start creating economic opportunities and jobs. And I know you've seen some of the research on it, which indicates that it does have a significant impact on reducing violence. You have a situation where once you do have the ability, first, to clean and hold neighborhoods -- or clear and hold neighborhoods, it does then give you the opportunity to follow on.
What we are not doing is putting provisional reconstruction teams in hot zones. But the plan is, you go in, you go in with force, you stay in on a 24-7 basis, you clear the neighborhoods, you also work on developing the trust and confidence of those -- then you start flowing in with the forces that do the economic support. So we're keenly aware of the security challenges.
Q You've got a chicken-and-egg question here. I mean, you can't get people in there because it isn't secure.
MR. SNOW: Well, keep in mind, the security part is the first -- as I just explained, when you're working with the U.S. and Iraqi forces going in district by district, you do the clear and hold; and then at that point you start bringing in the other infrastructure, the provisional reconstruction teams.
Q And that's taking a lot of time, a lot more time than people --
MR. SNOW: Well, it's still worth doing. It's an important piece.
Q What can you tell us about the helicopter that was shot down?
MR. SNOW: Not much. I'd refer you to DOD.
Q Was it shot down?
MR. SNOW: Again, preliminary reports indicate mechanical, perhaps. But again, I just -- I don't -- we don't have firm word on it. And the place to go for a real answer is the Department of Defense.
Q Tony, are you concerned about these reports that a member of the Iraqi parliament, Dawa party member, ruling coalition, appears to be the same guy that was convicted of those embassy bombings back in '93?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, the one thing we've made clear with the Iraqi government, and the Prime Minister has made clear, is that you have a situation now where you have a government that's committed to peace. And people who are operating outside the law committing acts of violence, you're going to need to deal with them. But I'm not going to render judgment on the story.
Q Tony, this may seem demeaning, but it's obviously a serious question. This NASA scandal is huge all over the world. Is the White House going to ask the NASA for any more transparency in the oversight and selection of astronauts in light of this unfortunate --
MR. SNOW: I know it is the most salacious story, but I'll refer it all to NASA, much to the consternation of all in this room.
Q Well, even the oversight of the way they select, and then they continue to monitor their astronauts --
MR. SNOW: Again, Connie, I'm just -- NASA has the answers and the responses to this, and I'd direct you to them. I'm not going to grandstand on that story.
Q Tony, as far as terrorism, the President going to talk tomorrow. I'm frustrated, as many Americans, that it's been a long time, five years, for General Musharraf to respond not to support the terrorism. So much has been written on this issue
-- clearly indicates also that he is not questionable as far as the support in global war on terror with the United States. Do you think the President is frustrated? Or he still has faith and trust in General Musharraf?
MR. SNOW: I haven't had a "pick on Musharraf" question since you've been gone. No, look, President Musharraf is an absolutely essential ally in the war on terror. He has, himself, been the object of a number of assassination plots. And he is somebody who is serious about helping, and has been a considerable help, and we continue to work with him.
As we've said before, also, when it comes to cross-border incursions, people making their way into Afghanistan, it's very important to deal with it. And I believe he's had some public announcements this week about his determination to try to foil that. So I think it would simply be misstating the facts to say he hasn't been active. He's been very active.
Q Tony, I'm curious about this Centennial Parks Initiative. This is a time of very tight budget constraints; even programs like Children's Health Insurance got only the smallest of increases. I'm wondering what brought on this sort of sudden bout of conservationism and a big increase for parks.
MR. SNOW: Sheryl, you haven't been watching. You're talking about a $1-billion federal increase with a $1-billion matching grant. By the way, your characterization of CHIPS, the budget right now is $5 billion. It's going to be increased by -- we're putting $4.8 billion into it over the next five years. That is not an insubstantial increase. As a matter of fact, it's a significant one. Furthermore, there is a real focus right now on making sure that you're dealing with poor Americans.
Q -- talking about the parks --
MR. SNOW: No, the first thing we've got to do is to talk about the assumption of the question, because it was an argumentative assumption that I think is worth at least trying to pick apart, as well.
The President has been committed to conservationism since the beginning of this administration. Last year, for instance, we set aside the largest natural wildlife reserve on the face of the Earth. This is not new. Just as many people have been saying, wow, isn't the President -- isn't it nice that the President has finally agreed that global warming has manmade components, only to find out, because we've been telling you, that he first started talking about it in June of 2001.
There's been a lot of misreporting, or perhaps it just hasn't -- perhaps folks have not taken notice of the fact that this is an administration that's been keenly committed, both to environmentalism and conservationism from the start. This is important -- this is also a plan to work on the national parks over a 10-year period. So what we're talking about is $1 billion over 10 years for the centennial of the U.S. Park Service, which will -- it seems to me that that's a pretty reasonable down payment.
Q Well, you raise that point about reporting on the President's environmental record. People are starting to say, is George Bush waking up to the environment?
MR. SNOW: Well, the fact is -- actually, the question is, are reporters waking up to his five-year record? The answer is, the long national slumber may be approaching an end.
Q Is there any concern that U.S. and Italian relations are going to be hurt by the Italian judge charging an American soldier with homicide for that --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to talk about any particular judicial activity, but I will note that we continue to work closely with our allies. And many of our -- throughout Europe, our allies continue to supply important aid and assistance in the war on terror, and that's going to continue.
Q Lawmakers have been going after Secretary Paulson up on the Hill in the hearings the last few days on the budget, particularly the AMT fix, saying that the administration has used the revenue after '08 to balance the budget. Do you think that's a fair criticism?
MR. SNOW: No, because what we've said all along -- there are a couple of things going on. First, as some people in this room are suddenly finding out, the alternative minimum tax is a way of declaring working people rich and raising their taxes. I know a number of you have suggested in recent days that you're starting to feel the bite of the AMT.
There are a couple of things that we've tried to do. Number one is to put in a patch not only for this year, but for next year, which gives us 20 months to figure out what's going on. Also, this is a patch that means that nobody who has not been previously affected by the AMT will be affected, because in the past, other people woke up with the unpleasant surprise that, lo and behold, they were going to get socked with a tax that was once designed to be reserved for the rich, but increasingly is, in fact, hitting middle-income American families.
Now we have 20 months to work with Congress. And our rules are the same as they are in the rest of the budget deliberations, which is that we still want revenue-neutral solutions to this. This is something that is going to have to be the product of legislative deliberation. And both parties now have, as I said, 20 months to work through how best to do this. This is an administration that believes in cutting taxes, and that includes on people who have suddenly been socked with the alternative minimum tax, and we look forward to working with Congress on it.
Q But, Tony, if the administration believes in cutting taxes, why didn't the administration propose a legislative fix
MR. SNOW: Well, I think you understand, what's happened is it's a pretty hot topic and a lot of members of Congress, I think, at this point, are going to want to talk it through. So let's see what members of Congress have. What we're doing is we're trying to be deliberative. We have now created and opportunity -- we've basically created a space, a 20-month space, in which members of Congress can avoid trying to sort of score quick political points and instead do something that's responsible, because millions of Americans now have suddenly become alive to the fact that this is a tax increase that's been sort of snuck in.
And by the way, a few years from now, if Congress does not extend tax cuts that are now in effect, they're going to have a similar unpleasant surprise when tax cuts expire. So the President has, in fact, been talking with Congress about a series of things: holding taxes down, extending tax cuts, working on the AMT, and also the kind of budget discipline that's going to make it possible for us to do this without raising taxes on Americans.
Q Just one question, though. Do you acknowledge that just the one-year fix, and nothing -- and being silent in the off-years helps show a balanced budget by 2012?
MR. SNOW: No, what it means is it gives us the basis for working forward on it. Obviously, this is part of the balanced budget, but what I've just told you is the principle of revenue neutrality remains in effect.
Q I had a couple questions on -- the first being a response to what you just said a moment ago. Are you saying, then, in terms of the President's position on greenhouse gas emissions, that five years ago you said with 90 percent certainty -- contributes to greenhouse gases --
MR. SNOW: What you're talking about is having the President, five years before the fact, read out something that was in a draft report in the year 2007 at the International Panel on Climate Change. What he said was that global warming exists and humans are significant contributors. That's what he said. Since then, what has this administration done? Well, we have spent more money on technology and also research than anybody else -- $9 billion on basic scientific research strictly into global warming, which very likely is more than the rest -- any other -- the rest of the world combined.
In addition, $29 billion total on technology. What happened, for instance, in the previous administration is that there was talk of Kyoto, which would have been economically ruinous and would have thrown a lot of people out of work. The President, instead, has aggressively pursued ways of trying to clean the environment that don't have to make people lose their jobs, and in effect -- and at the same time, proceed on all the major areas where pollution is concerned.
You and I have talked before about industrial pollution. We've got clean coal technology programs. We have alternative fuel programs for auto emissions. We're talking about nuclear development, which is now championed by, among others, Greenpeace. The fact is no administration has been more aggressive, no administration has put more money into research, and none has been more committed to basic peer review research on climate change than this one. And that one you can look up and we'll be -- I'm sure Jim Connaughton has already supplied you with plenty of data on it, but if not, he will be happy to do so.
Q Well, in respect to opposing views, companies such as -- Energy, Whirlpool, are coming out and saying we need mandatory federal constraints --
MR. SNOW: Well, they're talking about carbon caps.
Q -- is the administration meeting with these groups at all, these groups that believe that mandatory -- whether it's a carbon tax, or --
MR. SNOW: Yes, as a matter of fact, if you'll recall, one of the first trips -- it may have even been the first trip right after the State of the Union was to DuPont, which was one of those companies.
Q Greenpeace has signed on to nuclear?
MR. SNOW: I think there's some Greenpeace people who are certainly advocates of nuclear power. Why? Because it's clean and it provides for energy.
Q I'm sorry -- did they discuss greenhouse gas emissions at that event?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know. Paula, we constantly have conversations with people on this, as well as with scientists. And I think what you're trying to do is to lend the impression that if a President does not meet with people who are corporate leaders, that somehow that issue goes unexamined within the administration. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Again, think about what happened. In the Clinton administration they went -- they talked about Kyoto and did nothing to get it passed, knowing what kind of a ruinous economic impact it would have. What we did is instead, we said, we believe in the goal -- and early on, the President talked about the linkage between climate change and the human elements -- and began to proceed on the most aggressive program of research and technology ever, when it comes to this.
And furthermore, on the negotiation side, not only are we talking about follow-on negotiations when it comes to climate change with our allies, we've also been dealing with the developing world, which was not at all included within Kyoto, offering them technology, and really taking the kinds of steps that demonstrate real seriousness, not simply giving the speeches, but walking the walk.
So the idea that somehow we are -- that we don't understand the arguments, or we're not contemplating or taking serious the arguments about carbon caps -- of course, we are. I would point out that the carbon -- that there is a carbon cap system in place in Europe. We are doing a better job of reducing emissions here.
Q Thank you. Tony, an advance team is reportedly on his way to Central and South America to prepare for the President's special trip there next month. Is he going? And what about a stop in Puerto Rico? No President has visited there in more than 50 years.
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to comment on unannounced trips.
Q Does the President think it's a good idea that Speaker Pelosi have a large government military jet available to her to back and forth to California?
MR. SNOW: After September 11th, the Department of Defense -- with the consent of the White House -- agreed that the Speaker of the House should have military transport. And so what is going on is that the Department of Defense is going through its rules and regulations and having conversations with the Speaker about it. So Speaker Hastert had access to military aircraft and Speaker Pelosi will, too.
Q Does the United States have moral obligation to refugees from Iraq? And if so -- refugees from the war in Iraq, which there are now a couple million almost in Syria and Jordan -- and if so, why have we accepted so few?
MR. SNOW: Well, I don't know if you saw this, Wendell, yesterday, but the Secretary of State has, in fact, announced the creation of a working group on the problem. I don't know if it's a moral obligation, but it is certainly an obligation that we think is important to take up. I think to the extent that we believe there's a moral obligation to reach out to those who have been displaced around the globe -- and the United States is usually the first to the scene -- we certainly are interested in trying to work with regional partners to deal with those who are there. We're also trying to work with the Iraqis to create better conditions on the ground. But it is a problem. And as I said, the Secretary yesterday announced a program for addressing that and will continue to do so.
Q That does not indicate that we would accept any more than the --
MR. SNOW: I just don't --
Q -- the tiny handful that we've accepted in this country.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I would refer those issues over to State. That is -- no, I would. If you want an answer to it, call them.
Q Let me try and bring it home here.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q Gerald Ford made a commitment to accept Vietnamese refugees. Is the President willing to make the same commitment?
MR. SNOW: As I said, I would refer -- right now this is being done in a working group at State. And so we're not in a position to make any announcements at this point of that sort. But why don't you give them a call? They may be able to -- literally be able to give you better context and texture about this.
Q I just want to make clear something about 2001. Wasn't this President's position then that, yes, he acknowledged there is global warming, but there's too much scientific uncertainty as far as how much of it was human-generated?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, go back to the statement. He talked about -- there was a certain amount of uncertainty about the percentage that is human-generated, and there continues to be controversy in scientific circles. But what the President said right then and there was that human behavior was a significant contributor. I don't know how to make you happy. When he says exactly what you've been wanting him to say, it turns out he's been saying it actually over a six-year period, I think you'd say, okay, I need to give him credit. And instead what you're saying is, well, golly, didn't he say what the IPCC said in 2007? I mean, come on, give us a break here.
Q -- on global warming, do you have any reaction to some apparent comments by Al Gore in Spain in an interview, where he suggested that the administration is paying scientists to dispute the global warming findings --
MR. SNOW: The reported remarks by the Vice President that the United States -- that the government is going out and paying money to those who dispute climate change research is just breathtakingly silly. I think maybe what he's done is he's mixed up a story about a think tank in Washington with government policy.
As I've said, this administration has spent more money than his administration and any other administration when it comes to doing serious, peer-reviewed scientific researches on the nature, causes and extent of global warming, and also has spent far more money on technology to try to ameliorate it without throwing people out of work.
The President really does believe that it is important to address climate change, and, incidentally, to address issues of pollution, as well, on the industrial side, on the transportation side. And that is why he laid out a whole series of initiatives in the State of the Union address. Those really build on the efforts -- and, again, just to reiterate, $9 billion for basic research when it comes to climate change, and $29 billion total on that research, plus technological innovation designed to make sure that Americans do get -- that we address carbon emissions, we address issues of pollution and, at the same time, we do it in a way that continues to make economic opportunity possible for everybody.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Thank you.
END 12:48 P.M. EST
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