Press Briefing by Tony Snow
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 26, 2007
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:38 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. We open with a bit of good news: The Iraqi Council of Ministers had passed -- or has approved the hydrocarbon law, which will be passed on to the Council of Representatives at sometime in the near future. The Prime Minister has given his benediction to it, as well.
And with that, we'll have questions.
Q You said this morning that you hadn't had a chance to talk to with the Vice President or his people about what he said to General Musharraf. Have you been briefed on that?
MR. SNOW: Well, actually, what I said, too, is that the precise nature of his comments and the tenor of comments to the President would be the sort of things that would be confidential. What I feel comfortable in doing is reiterating again what the Vice President -- I guess that's redundant -- reiterating that the Vice President on his trip to Pakistan is doing what Secretary Gates did, and what we typically do, which is to talk with the Pakistanis about the best way of working forward in the war on terror; going after al Qaeda; supporting them as they deal with provinces -- as the President said, some of them are worse than the Wild West, very difficult situations. We know the Taliban is trying to gear up for a spring offensive, and we intend to be working with the Pakistanis to become increasingly effective at dealing with those threats.
Q Do you think that General Musharraf is keeping his commitments to go after the Taliban --
MR. SNOW: I'd frame it in a different way, he is doing --
Q Well --
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure how exactly one would -- the question, "keeping commitments," it is not something where he lays out goals and timetables, but he is committed, in fact, to trying to defeat al Qaeda. And there have been a number of efforts, and they're still working on them, to deal with this in a variety of ways. Number one, you obviously have the intelligence/military piece, where you are going after targets. Number two, you also have the matter of economic development in some of the provincial areas, and there have been attempts to deal with tribal leaders on that. There is also increasingly close cooperation on the intelligence front between the Afghans and the Pakistanis. There are the relations between the governments and working in a coordinated fashion, especially in trying to stop cross-border incursions from terrorists.
So all of those things are ongoing. And, again, those would be the typical subjects that the Vice President would discuss, and I'm sure that they went into some detail about the ways in which they intend to move forward.
Q Tony, results matter, as The Times indicated quoting a senior administration official anonymously today. And the bottom line is this administration is only letting Musharraf know that he could lose a very sizeable foreign aid package because he's not producing. True?
MR. SNOW: Well, the President not so long ago -- it was a couple of weeks ago, as a matter of fact -- was talking about a number of recent events in which the Pakistanis, in fact, were very helpful in going after the Taliban. And he pointed out that even though there is not a Taliban spring offensive yet, there have been aggressive actions going after terrorists within Pakistan -- in one case, some were chased across the Afghan border, there they met with resistance; when they came back into Pakistan they were also met by actions by the Pakistanis.
I'll let others answer questions about what they think the political atmosphere here is in the United States. But, obviously, there's a lot more to do on this front. And when you have a meeting with a President, like President Musharraf -- who absolutely understands the al Qaeda problem; he has been, on multiple occasions, a target of al Qaeda assassination attempts, and he understands that there have been an al Qaeda presence within his country -- that it's important to figure out how to be most effective in that. So they continue to work on being more effective going after the bad guys.
Q If Musharraf -- and this is kind of well out on the table -- I mean, there's political difficulties dealing with this part of the border region, this lawlessness -- the President describes it as the "Wild West." There's been a deal that Musharraf made with some of the tribal leaders there. Why doesn't the United States military, in concert with its allies, if it thinks that al Qaeda is reconstituting, take direct military action?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I would leave that -- I would let military officials answer a question like that.
Q But why -- I'm sorry, just one more. Why dance around so much on this issue when you're certainly not doing anything to knock down the idea that this administration, this White House, is sending a tough message to the Musharraf government today, correct?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I just -- I'll let others characterize. We have not been saying it's a tough message. What we're saying is, we're having -- the Vice President is meeting with President Musharraf because we do understand the importance of making even greater progress against al Qaeda, against the Taliban. It is important not only for the safety and security of people within Pakistan, but obviously within Afghanistan, as well. And it's an important element in the larger war on terror.
Q Does the President feel that President Musharraf has been aggressive enough in living up to the commitments that he made?
MR. SNOW: Again, I think -- Jim, you act as if -- a question like that seems to presume that everything is predictable; you do a certain amount of things, and you'll get a predictable result. You're dealing with an unpredictable enemy. President Musharraf certainly has been responding to a changing threat and to changing conditions, and we are going to support him on that. Do we --
Q But the question --
MR. SNOW: No, the question -- I'm sorry, then I'll let you go back at me. I think the appropriate question is, is he doing what he can, is he committed to winning? The answer is, yes.
Q The question is, is the President satisfied?
MR. SNOW: The President -- as long as you have terrorists at large in the world, the President is not going to be satisfied. And I daresay President Musharraf is not satisfied.
Q The question is, Dick Cheney --
MR. SNOW: What you're trying to do -- I'm not going to answer a question --
Q I have a very simple question; there's no trick question to this. The Vice President was in Pakistan, he was meeting with President Musharraf. There are media reports that he was saying, expressing the administration's dissatisfaction with the way that President Musharraf has conducted incursions or overseen the border regions. Is that the message that the Vice President was delivering?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to try to convey precisely what the Vice President said. The President made it clear a couple of weeks ago, President Musharraf is committed to winning this, and we are committed to working with him in this war on terror. We're not going to be -- we're often asked to give out report cards on other heads of state. I'm not going to play.
Q But you give out report cards on Mr. Maliki all the time.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, quite often you guys will ask us, are you satisfied with X, Y, and Z, and we talk about how we're working with them.
Q Can you talk about the aid -- part of the Vice President's message, I know it was just referred to in David's question, about the potential for aid being cut off by the U.S. to Pakistan?
MR. SNOW: No, because what you're speculating about is congressional action. I'm not going to talk about that.
Q Do you believe that Congress is thinking about --
MR. SNOW: No, I'm not going to speculate about that, nor am I going to talk about the tone, tenor, or precise content of what the Vice President had to say to President Musharraf. When you engage in conversations with sovereign heads of state in situations like that, you do it on a confidential basis, knowing that you're going to be able to have the benefit of full honesty, and at the same time, you're going to be more constructive in working together.
Q Tony, you seem to make a differentiation between what Musharraf is doing in going after al Qaeda and the Taliban. Do you think he has done more in going after the al Qaeda than he has in going after Taliban? Which is more difficult --
MR. SNOW: I can't -- Martha, that's a much better for you to pose to military authorities or intelligence authorities.
Q No, it isn't, Tony.
MR. SNOW: No, it is.
Q You keep saying this to me. I know you love to kind of blow me off by saying that, but you said it. I didn't say it; you said he's going after al Qaeda. Going after Taliban is a much more difficult problem for Musharraf, given the political situation there.
MR. SNOW: No, I think, again, if you take a look at what I just referred to -- and I'm not blowing you off, and this is not an attempt to dismiss the question. What you asked was a compare and contrast question about the difficulty of taking on al Qaeda and the Taliban. Number one, they are not entirely separable.
Q Politically it's more difficult. Politically it's much more difficult for him to go after the Taliban than al Qaeda, because of the domestic politics.
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into Pakistani domestic politics. It is essential to go after both.
Q Can you then assess the situation on the ground, as far as Pakistan is concerned? Do you believe they're setting up more training camps, al Qaeda, the Taliban? What do you think is happening?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into missions, nor am I going to get into intelligence assessments. I can't.
Q How about this, Tony -- the deal that President Musharraf signed with the tribal leaders last year, did that lead to a strengthening of al Qaeda? Did it do the opposite that we wanted it to?
MR. SNOW: Hard to say. This is something that still falls into that -- one understands the logic; it does not appear at this point that -- again, I don't want to -- let me -- I am going to tiptoe --
Q It is not clear at this point that --
MR. SNOW: That I'm going to finish that sentence. (Laughter.)
I think if you take a look at it, there's sound logic to what the President is trying to do, which is to figure out a way to work with tribal leaders to create economic opportunity, because they're -- again, as you have in many places, a lot of the difficulty you have is that terrorists tend to exploit lack of economic opportunity, hardship, their infrastructure problems -- there are a whole series of things that one needs to deal with. And he and President Karzai are both trying to figure out a way to work forward on that.
But it's also clear that you still have levels of activity there that are unacceptable, and you need to continue working on that. I think it's maybe a little too early to give a report card on the working with the tribal leaders.
Q What's the purpose of the Vice President's trip, swing through these countries?
MR. SNOW: Well, he's visiting a number of important allies.
Q And what is he doing? I mean, is he carrying --
MR. SNOW: He's having conversations. He's had conversations with Prime Minister Howard; he has spoken with President Musharraf; he had a stop in Oman. I mean, these are things that you do. A Vice President is somebody who, serving as the President's designee and representative, is speaking with important allies in the war on terror.
Q They are rare trips for him. He doesn't travel that much.
MR. SNOW: Well, he's traveling this week.
Q Does he have a message for these people?
MR. SNOW: Well, if he does, it is not one that -- he will deliver it to them.
Q Don't you think we think we ought to know?
MR. SNOW: No. I mean -- and I'm not being glib about this -- what I'm telling you is the general message is, yes, we support you and we want to help you in the war on terror. But a lot of times the desire is for very long readouts of the candid conversations the Vice President may have with other leaders, and we do not give those out and other administrations do not give those out.
Q I don't want a readout, I just want to know what you're telling them.
MR. SNOW: What we're telling them is we're supporting them in the war on terror, and we look forward to working with them in each and every way possible to be more effective in going after those who are trying to contribute to a global terror network that is determined not only to destroy democracy in that region, but also wants to come here.
Q Tony, this was an unannounced and sudden visit by the Vice President after Secretary of Defense Gates was also there. And the message was clear, the same message, but I think the President frustrated because after six years, billions of dollars has been given and President trusted the military government of General Musharraf to fight and support war against terrorism -- ongoing war on terrorism. And so far, there has been, as I've been saying for the last number of years, that revolving door in Pakistan by the military government because at night they support the al Qaeda, and during the day they claim to support the United States. So far, they have arrested only the innocent -- I mean, just common people from the streets and put them in jail. But not the al Qaeda --
MR. SNOW: Okay, Goyal, you're sermonizing. If you can -- if you can convert that into a question, I would be grateful.
Q The question is, Tony, that so far, we have not seen the results that American public and global leaders, that they have not arrested the top leaders in Pakistan. They are still in hiding. And also, yesterday --
MR. SNOW: Let me stop for a second, because this is -- the President has referred to this in the past. People will make an allegation like this. The answer is, do you know where they are, because President Musharraf has said, you help me find where they are, I'll go after them. President Musharraf has demonstrated the willingness to go after leaders of the Taliban and al Qaeda, and there have been a number of operations within Pakistan.
Again, he of all people certainly understands the dangers and the menace these people pose. So while it is certainly not unprecedented for people to make accusations to him, he has made the point that if somebody has actionable intelligence, pass it on and he'll act on it.
Q Just to follow that, yesterday, the highest U.S. military official (inaudible), he was speaking at the Rotary Club, Army General Peter Schoomaker. And he said that, do we want to catch Osama bin Laden? And if we do, what will we do with him?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what was --
Q He said that Army may not be interested in catching Osama bin Laden, a (inaudible) al Qaeda leader, because he said if we catch Osama bin Laden tomorrow, what will we do with him?
MR. SNOW: Well, that's a new one.
Q He was (inaudible).
MR. SNOW: No, I just -- I'll let Pete -- you'll have to ask Pete Schoomaker about the remark.
Q Tony, can you explain again how the 2002 congressional authorization for war in Iraq, how is it still operable, as the White House said on Friday, when major portions talk about weapons of mass destruction, and the title of the resolution even says, "War Against Iraq," and now we're working with Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Well, as you know, if you go and take a look, there's also an extended conversation about the global war on terror and the fact that there are terrorist elements that the previous government had supported. As you also know, the United Nations Chapter 7 language on this talks about dealing with the security and stability of Iraq, and that the MNFI, the multi-national force in Iraq, is there to secure the stability and security of Iraq. Therefore, it is certainly still operative, not only within the terms of the original resolution, but also in terms of the enabling legislation, if you will, through the United Nations.
Q Why not get rid of the language -- why wouldn't you support getting rid of the language that doesn't apply anymore?
MR. SNOW: Because it has been clear -- I don't want to lean too far forward on this. A number of people who have sponsored changes or amendments have said they want to do this in order to have the ability, themselves, as members of Congress, to manage ongoing military operations. Senator Levin yesterday said on, "Meet the Press," that part of it was to, "tie the President's hands." We think that's inappropriate. Also, we do think that what everybody ought to do is go ahead and support General Petraeus, who all the members -- no member of the Senate voted against, because he says he needs the ability to move forward.
Now what it appears -- and, again, correct me if I'm wrong -- I have not heard anybody say that they want to amend the resolution so nothing will change. Instead, amending that language seems to be a device by which members of Congress, themselves, would try to get involved in micro-managing the activities of military officials. Now what happens is, they think they're tying the President's hands, but as a former military guy, you know that the people whose hands end up being tied are the folks who are in the theater of battle themselves.
One of the keys to the President's new way forward is to make sure that we have flexibility in forces. We're not only reinforcing forces on a new kind of mission with new rules of engagement, but also realize and recognize the need for flexibility in moving around and dealing with shifting challenges. If one is busy trying to parse a congressional resolution, rather than knowing that a general does, in fact, have full command and doesn't have to worry about being second-guessed from Washington, it makes a big difference.
Q Tony, do you agree with the Vice President's assessment last week that the British pullout in Iraq shows success on the ground?
MR. SNOW: Here's what he was talking about: What he said was that in certain parts of the south in Iraq, you have now the ability to transfer primarily security operations to Iraqi forces. The combat footprint of the Brits is the same as it was, they still have the same combat capabilities. But they have been able to move out a number of people who have been involved in stationary guarding activities, and allow the Iraqis to stand up and take responsibility for some of those.
That has always been the aim on both sides, is to figure out ways to build greater capability on the part of the Iraqi fighting forces, and to hand it over to them. It is also important to note, as the Prime Minister and others have said, that this does not mean that the Brits are, in fact, slackening in their commitment to contributing to security. As a matter of fact, they talked, among other things, about the ability to remain flexible even in some of those places where the Iraqis are now engaged in guard activities.
Q Do you also agree with the Vice President's assessment that the Democratic calls for a pullout in Iraq -- U.S. pullout -- validates the al Qaeda strategy?
MR. SNOW: Yes. What he was saying was that the al Qaeda strategy has been to use acts of violence as a way to weaken will in the United States and to move out short of having success. Now I think the question -- really what the Vice President was merely doing was reiterating what's in the National Intelligence Estimate, and also the Baker-Hamilton commission.
I would guide you to the section there where it talks about precipitant withdrawal, which is not three to six months, but 12 to 18 months. That was regarded as the kind of thing that would create a power vacuum that would unleash incredible sectarian violence, could lead to much greater bloodshed than we now see in Iraq, would create levels of instability that not only would create opportunity for terrorists, but also for Iran and others, and therefore would be unacceptable. What the Vice President merely was reiterating is the consensus view of the intelligence community and of the Baker-Hamilton commission.
Q Do you see a contradiction at all in the fact that when the Brits pull out, it's a success on the ground, that's why they're pulling out; when the Democrats call for U.S. troop pullout, it's, well, the job is not finished, they want to help al Qaeda.
MR. SNOW: No. Maybe I didn't explain it clearly enough. The Brits were pulling out a small number of forces precisely because they were able to transition authority to the Iraqis and they had succeeded. This was not withdrawing on a time line; this was not saying, we're going to leave no matter what. The goal of the Brits is to win. And the goal in some of these resolutions is to leave. There is a difference.
Q But did you consider having the Brits redeploy to Baghdad then to help out, since they're part of the coalition?
MR. SNOW: No, but on the other hand, what you have seen is the Brits also being helpful in Afghanistan, and other partners who have been in Iraq -- for instance, the Danes. They had some of the presence that also is going to be moved out in some of those guard positions. They're actually moving more forces into Afghanistan than they're withdrawing from Iraq.
So you've got to keep in mind, it is a global war on terror, and people continue to use assets and to deploy assets in theaters of battle outside Iraq. So if you narrow your focus simply to Iraq, you lose sight of the fact that these nations are making sincere, significant and continuing contributions in a number of theaters.
Q Can I just follow one point about the Vice President's comments, because the President said again today he's not questioning the patriotism of those who disagree. But isn't it disingenuous to go out there and say that when you've got a Vice President saying that the Democrats are basically validating al Qaeda strategy?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q And at the same time you guys say you want an honest debate about this out there -- that's an honest part of the debate?
MR. SNOW: No, actually, it's a little surprising that -- number one, the President has made it clear that he doesn't impugn patriotism. What he impugned was an idea, a bad idea. And if in taking on a bad idea, somehow you suddenly get accused of being the bad guy, that's not a way of having an open debate, that's a way of shutting off debate and saying, we don't want to talk about this.
The fact is you do have to talk about what the consequences would be, David, if the United States -- that United States Congress --
Q But you argue this point as if there's no other consequence. In other words, you guys -- you -- the Vice President makes it seem as if there's only one alternative. And Democrats say, wait a minute, this is a failed strategy and they keep asserting what the alternative is, but they've made faulty claims before. So what I'm getting at is, this administration has consistently equated critics with supporting terrorists, even after they said they weren't going to do that anymore.
MR. SNOW: No, no --
Q And that's what the President -- that's what the Vice President is saying.
MR. SNOW: No, what you've just done is you've twisted it, and this, I think, is what some of the President's critics have also done. We're trying to be very careful here. Just because we disagree with you does not mean we don't think you're patriotic. Just because we think that an idea may have bad consequences and adverse consequences for American security, it does not mean that the people who are trying to come up with those ideas do not have the noblest of motives.
We think the ideas have bad consequences. And, furthermore, in this case -- again, I refer you back to the National Intelligence Estimate, and also the Baker-Hamilton commission, which came to precisely the same conclusion. This was framed in a way that was not designed to be ugly to Nancy Pelosi or anybody else -- and I must say that the personal insults tend to flow in the direction of the President and not from the President. We do not believe engaging in mud slinging and name calling toward other -- to people on either side of the aisle.
But it is important to understand, David, that as part of the robust debate about what happens, you do have to be honest about what you think the consequences of the other people's ideas are. And that's what the Vice President was doing, and I think I've pointed out a number of times now that it certainly has pretty distinguished support, both from the intelligence community and Baker-Hamilton.
Q Going back to Pakistan. Is a U.S. desire, an administration desire to allow U.S. troops into those cross-border areas --
MR. SNOW: That's --
Q -- one of the components of Cheney's visit?
MR. SNOW: Peter that -- again, I'm not going to get into operational details, and anything like that would obviously be something that would have to be done with the consent, cooperation of another government, of a sovereign state. But I just -- I'm not going to talk about operational details.
Q Well, is the administration disappointed that Pakistan, over these years since 9/11, has refused to allow that?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not -- that's -- I'm not going to get into that. That involves matters of intelligence and operations that I'm just not free to comment on.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two domestic. The Washington Post headline reports as follows --
MR. SNOW: -- pay taxes on them? I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. (Laughter.)
Q "Clinton Fights to Keep Impeachment Taboo: Campaigns Know to Expect Swift Reprisals for any Hint of the Scandal." And my question -- first question -- does the President believe that if any Republican candidate were to agree to such censorship of important American history, that the bulk of American voters would not be outraged?
MR. SNOW: The President has already said he's not going to play pundit-in-chief on this race, that applies to this question. Let's try number two.
Q All right. Certainly. The (APPLAUSE.) quotes Governor Mitt Romney in Merrimack, New Hampshire as saying that he, "relishes the furious infighting that has consumed Senators Clinton and Obama," and "It's great, isn't it? I love to see it when it happens on the other side." How can we interpret a refusal by you to comment as anything other than the President's sharing Governor Romney's expressed delight?
MR. SNOW: Nice try. I'll refer you to the prior question.
Q Oh, no. Wait a minute. That's --
MR. SNOW: No, we're just -- we're not commenting on the Democratic race. Period. We're not commenting on comments about the Democratic race. We're not commenting on comments about comments about comments on the Democratic race. We're not even talking -- commenting on Republican comments about the Democratic race.
Q You mean he's not going to have anything to do with this coming election; is that what you're saying?
MR. SNOW: I didn't say that. I just said at this --
Q Well, when does he start having something to do with it?
MR. SNOW: Not today. The President is not going to get himself involved in the primaries. Look, he's already said it, Les. When there's a Republican nominee and there is a race, then the President will do what the party or nominee think are appropriate.
Q Well, I'm delighted to hear that.
Q Tony, I'll ask you about something else you haven't been commenting on, the Libby trial. Libby's fate is now in the hands of the jurors. Throughout the investigation, the press and the trial, the President and the Vice President have said they will not talk about it. But the trial has not exactly put this administration in a flattering light, and I think many Americans are wondering if we're going to hear from the President and the Vice President when it's over.
MR. SNOW: So on a day where there has been one juror removed from having seen too much or having read news coverage about the Libby trial, you would like me to comment on it?
Q No, I'm asking you if we can expect to hear -- when a verdict is in, will we hear from the President and the Vice President, especially about issues of declassifying documents for the purpose of defending the administration?
MR. SNOW: Well, you have just jumped to a conclusion, but I believe that when you're talking about a previous declassification, it did, in fact, make available information, which is what normally you ask us to do, and it's what we've been doing with the last NIE, for instance, declassifying the key judgments, and we did it with the one before.
Q Tony, a follow-up on that somewhat. Is the White House happy that the trial is continuing? The judge could have totally taken it into another direction. I mean, it looks like there could be light at the end of the tunnel very soon.
MR. SNOW: Please, I'm not answering any questions --
Q It's not about the trial, per se, but it's about the fact --
MR. SNOW: I know, but I'm not even going to ask [sic] meta-trial questions, there's no profit in it.
Q Tony, on Iran, previous sanctions apparently didn't work in slowing down Iran's nuclear activities. Now there's talk of tightening or adding more sanctions. Why does the White House believe that's going to result in --
MR. SNOW: Well, first, I would resist drawing too many conclusions about the success or failure of sanctions. The United States continues to work with its allies on finding ways to make it clear to the Iranians that if they continue along a path that could lead to nuclear weapons, that they're going to pay a cost, and it's an unacceptable outcome to the international community.
Now that the Iranians failed to meet last week's deadline, there are ongoing talks in London. And I'll leave it to Nick Burns and the people who are involved in those talks to discuss what steps they may have in mind for moving forward. But as we saw in the case of North Korea, concerted diplomatic activity and pressure on the government of North Korea did bring the North Koreans back to the six-party talks. And we look at that as a possible template.
The other thing that we offer to the Iranian people is, upon suspension of enrichment and reprocessing, what you do have is a lot of things that are going to be very good for the people of Iran. This is more an extended hand than a slap, in the sense that we are saying to them, you're going to get everything you want -- you're going to get the ability to have civilian nuclear power; and you say you don't want weapons, we can make sure of that; and at the same time, we can also help you develop an economy that is consistent not only with the historic pride of the Persian people, but at the same time, also reflects the fact that the American people love the Iranian people and we want to have closer relations with the Iranian people. But what does stand in the way is the issue of potential nuclear weapons.
Q Are you saying there are some unseen successes in the sanctions --
MR. SNOW: I'm just -- I just warn you against drawing over-broad conclusions.
Q I want to go back to the trial. The trial and the leak issue has been an albatross around this administration's neck for so long. Why not say whether this administration is happy that the judge is allowing the trial to continue, the deliberations to continue --
MR. SNOW: Because it's inappropriate to comment on an ongoing --
Q No, it's not.
MR. SNOW: Yes, it absolutely is.
Q If it would have been a mistrial -- if there was a mistrial and they started everything over again, Cheney and Libby could have testified if they chose to. Their names are still on the list. So why not --
MR. SNOW: What you are asking me to do is to render, just what do you think about a judge's decision?
Q Are you glad that the light is coming at the end of the tunnel, it looks like --
MR. SNOW: You know, I'm just not going to talk. I know it's deeply frustrating, but it's utterly inappropriate.
Q No, it's not. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Yes, it is.
Q According to Pakistani wires, Musharraf told the Vice President that the problem for -- or the blame for the resurgence of Taliban lies with the Karzai government, and it's in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan. Do you share this assessment?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into it. It is clear that both parties not only have responsibility for working on the issue, but also working together. It's one of the reasons the President brought both of them together last -- or earlier this year -- no, sorry, it was last year, thank you. At any rate, I'm not going to --
Q Are you satisfied with the pace of the deBaathification review, and the time it's taken Prime Minister Maliki to deliver?
MR. SNOW: I think it's presumptuous to try to express satisfaction or any sense of judgment on a legislative process. Here in the United States we demonstrate each and every year that legislation can be long and sometimes messier than you might like. What is heartening for us is that the government is committed to deBaathification reform. We think it's an important element in reconciliation.
More importantly, the hydrocarbon law, which really is the key linchpin in trying to move forward, because it does give everybody a shared economic interest in working together, a version has now been passed by the Council of Ministers. We have not seen it, so I can't characterize the text, per se. But that is a hugely important step, and it will go before the Council of Representatives, the parliament, very soon. That being done, then the Iraqis can turn to other things, such as constitutional reform, election reform, and deBaathification reform.
Q The President and his Cabinet met with the nation's governors today, to talk about certain issues. And the governors are expressing concern over SCHIP and over No Child Left Behind, maintaining flexibility -- with the former, making sure enough money is available. Has the administration heard anything from these concerns that it is willing -- that it can take into account?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what's interesting is, first, on No Child Left Behind, the governors expressed support, I believe unanimous support for No Child Left Behind, in terms of supporting its reauthorization. We believe in flexibility, too. The President's SCHIP reform not only gives states $5 billion extra to deal with issues of health care for children, but it also refocuses the program on children. That was its original aim, and in some states it has now come to provide health care for others.
When it comes to providing that health care for others, the President has the Affordable Choices program, which I think is -- my guess is a lot of the conversation today was also explaining how that works, because the hallmark of that is precisely to provide flexibility to governors, so they're going to be in a position to put together a pool that will enable them to offer private health insurance to those too poor or too sick to be able to afford health care on their own.
Q There are states where health care is more expensive than others, and if the administration is saying let's only provide enhanced reimbursement to states that have a 200 percent of poverty limit; other states where they reimburse more, they provide the program to more kids -- wouldn't the administration's policies, in effect, remove those kids from the program?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to get in the weeds. The key on SCHIP reform, first, is go back to the point I made earlier, which is it refocuses it on poor kids. There are a number of other programs with generous reimbursements for adults. And so what we're doing is we're reaching out and trying to deal with both problems.
Q Thank you.
END 1:12 P.M. EST
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