Press Briefing by Tony Snow
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 8, 2007
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
12:50 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Hello.
Q Good afternoon.
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. The President tomorrow is going to be going to Greensburg, Kansas. He'll spend the bulk of the day, as you know, in Kansas, taking a look at the devastation in that town.
It's important I think not only for him to express his love and concern for the people there, but he does want to tour a town that in a matter of seconds was utterly obliterated -- 95 percent of the structures down, a dozen people died. And as often happens also in this country, people began responding very quickly, not only with love and concern, but help. And there have been aggressive and ongoing efforts to deal with health, construction, reconstruction and other problems in the area. And he will receive briefings from local officials, as well as federal officials on the scene, and get a full look at what's going on.
But that is something that obviously is very important and foremost in our minds as we get ready for tomorrow. And I just wanted to mention that at the top. Questions.
Q There seems to be a difference of opinion between the Governor and the White House about whether or not the Iraq war has drained off resources for recovery.
MR. SNOW: I think you guys are trying to pick a fight. And so we actually talked with the Governor --
Q You have?
MR. SNOW: -- just a few minutes ago -- Fran Townsend called the Governor just a few minutes ago. There are two separate issues. A number of states have expressed concerns about National Guard levels into the future, and they have talked about Iraq deployments; we're aware of those. It's one of the reasons why the President talked about expanding the military, in part to take pressure off National Guard units, and of course, National Guard expansion is part, also, of longer-term planning.
But as a separate issue, the question is, were resources available? And so Fran had a conversation and I'll just play out a little -- just repeat a little bit of it. Fran said that it was her understanding that we'd met every request the Governor had made, and had moved resources proactively into Kansas, into the region, to anticipate requests. We had a conversation this morning, for instance, about notifications and declarations. There were some conversations on Saturday prior to the Governor's officially requesting a declaration, and on the basis of those conversations, the federal government began moving assets into the region before paperwork was done, because it was important -- as a matter of fact, FEMA had resources moving in within a couple of hours.
So there was a very -- this is a success story in the sense that people were moving very quickly to get assets there. So, in response to Fran's question, the Governor said that she had what she needs. She did repeat her testimony that she's been raising the issue about DOD for a number of years in terms of National Guard deployments. When Fran again said, "Is there anything you need to respond effectively to this disaster," the Governor responded, "No. We could not have asked for a faster response. Dave Paulison was terrific yesterday."
Fran asked a third time, "I want to make sure that we're saying the same thing, is there anything else you need for a fast and effective response to the disaster?" And the Governor said, "We've got to get power and water running. I've got what I need. I've got your number, I won't be shy, I will call if I need anything."
And that's the way it ought to work. I mean, these are not situations you can anticipate, and there are, in fact, enormous resources available to the state if they do need them, in terms of 83,000 National Guard units, hundreds of trucks, thousands of lift vehicles, helicopters, any kind -- the kind of logistical support you may need -- meals-ready-to-eat, water, tarps, construction equipment, all of that.
The President also signed an emergency declaration that makes immediately available individual aid for people saying, my house is down, I need help; public aid, for instance, for the state -- if you need equipment, you can get it from private vendors, you can get it from non-profits, you can get it from other state and local governments. So there are a lot of resources available.
And the important question now is, let's figure out what people need and let's get it there, because there are still people who, in a matter of seconds, had their lives obliterated, and it's, I think, everybody's concern to try to do what we can to try to put it back together as quickly as possible.
Q Did you listen in on the call and take notes?
MR. SNOW: Fran took notes, and I'm giving you her readout.
Q And you said this morning that if you don't request it, you're not going to get it. Is there --
MR. SNOW: Well, it turns out I've had subsequent conversations, and what happened was, she actually did get -- there was not a formal request, but they'd had conversations. So on the basis of those, the government began moving things proactively.
The Governor was out of state when it happened, and it was -- it was difficult. We were working through staff to get in touch with her. It clearly was a priority to get things moving, and so people did get things moving.
Q The Pentagon said that I guess they've been in touch with 35,000 soldiers and Marines with the instructions to prepare for possible deployment in the fall. Does this indicate the surge will go well beyond --
MR. SNOW: No, it actually has -- no, it has nothing to do with the surge, actually. It's designed -- there were conversations before, as you may recall, about deployment times and how much time people would have off. This was part -- the President announced it in the State of the Union address as part of expanding the military. This is designed merely to give people the kind of predictability they need in terms of when the deployments are going to take place, and also when they're going to be rotated out. So it is not related to an assessment of the surge.
Q Does this have anything to do with shortening the amount of time in country for soldiers and Marines?
MR. SNOW: No, no. It's, again, this is part of the regular process now of trying really to make sure that you do have predictable deployments and also predictable time off between deployments.
Q Just back to the National Guard for a moment. You said it's a success story, they moved in quickly. But could you have gotten equipment there any sooner were we not in Iraq? I mean, could it have been closer, would there have been units that were closer, equipment closer?
MR. SNOW: I don't -- that's a hypothetical question that I'm not sure --
Q It's not hypothetical.
MR. SNOW: Well, it is -- let me put it this way. We have no indication that people did not get what they needed as soon as they needed it.
Q So they couldn't have moved in sooner had they --
MR. SNOW: Again, things were moved -- again, some of the things -- let me just give you a sense --
Q As quickly as they could now doesn't mean as quickly as they could were they not deployed.
MR. SNOW: Let me give you a sense of what's available in the state, because I think -- resources available: I already told you 83,000 National Guard units in the region, 99 bulldozers, 61 loaders, 246 dump trucks, 59 graders, 228 heavy expandable mobility tactical trucks, 2,243 2.5 and 5-ton trucks, 70 palletalized load systems. There's a lot of stuff available. So, again, I think this is one where the equipment was available and everybody was moving as rapidly as possible.
Q This morning you said the only thing the Kansas Governor requested was FM radios. Has she, in fact, requested more now?
MR. SNOW: I believe so. Let me take a quick look. I think there are a couple of other items that have been requested and supplied. Let's see, the state has requested a mobile command center, an urban search and rescue task force, a mobile office building, 40 two-way radios, and coordination calls between Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma, to determine if they need extra Black Hawks; Kansas has six, Texas and Oklahoma have offered to make available another five to six if necessary. So those are the things that the state has requested, that FEMA has provided.
Q And if the Governor repeats her concern that she's expressed for many months about National Guard units to the President, face to face, what will his response be?
MR. SNOW: Well, the response will be -- again, what you're doing is you're taking a separate issue about National Guard deployment and how that works into national security concerns, and this particular case. Was there anything she needed that she didn't have? And the answer she gave to Fran was, no. And she praised Mr. Paulison, Administrator Paulison on the swift response.
I think you've got to step back and realize that there are plenty of times to talk about this, but the real focal point is the devastation in Greensburg. And I think when you get to a situation like that, I think the President and the Governor and other politicians and citizens, my guess will be sufficiently struck by the enormity of what they see and the incredible devastation. You really -- your natural inclination is, we can talk about these things, but let's get our job done here first.
Q But it is just such an event that causes people to recall the other role of the National Guard, which is to help with these types of --
MR. SNOW: Well, keep in mind, but there are -- but it was there. I mean, resources were there. There are 6,801 available non-deployed National Guard units in Kansas alone. There are a number of resources available in Kansas alone. So again, I think what you're trying to do is to sort of create a source of friction that is inappropriate for this particular story.
Q I'm not trying to do that. The Governor has said she didn't have all of the equipment and that she was concerned about the personnel.
MR. SNOW: And again, when you're talking about the availability of literally tens of thousands of personnel, and thousands of vehicles, and people willing to deploy them -- and it's not merely, by the way, it's not merely the National Guard in surrounding states. You have EMS, you have fire departments, you have private vendors. The President signed a declaration that made private help available immediately -- just writes the check, boom, you just -- have them do it, we'll write the check for you. So we did everything possible to make available any resource necessary.
Q Tony, looking beyond this Kansas situation to the evolving tornado season and the hurricane season coming, does the administration feel that with all of these Guard units deployed, that there are enough resources for coming big disasters?
MR. SNOW: We certainly hope so. Again, you don't want to make predictions, but on the other hand, there is an enormous amount of planning going on so that you have the flexibility. A lot of things have been pre-positioned, both for tornado and hurricane. It is a subject of continuous planning.
Q But those are FEMA resources. What about the Guard itself?
MR. SNOW: The National Guard also -- the National Guard -- if you take a look at the way the National Guard units are dispersed, you still have considerable strength in each state, and also you still have the ability of governors to seek assistance from neighboring states.
So -- let me put it this way: Everybody is certainly doing their very best to make sure that the assets and the individuals and the planning and everything that are necessary -- there are also planning requirements for states, when it comes to putting together their plans, and they're supposed to report to us so that we can coordinate with them on the steps that may be necessary. But nobody can ever predict how, when or where something like this is going to strike, but it certainly remains a priority.
Q To what extent are disaster -- potential disaster needs taken into consideration when deployment numbers are --
MR. SNOW: Again, I think, look, potential disaster -- you keep trying to say, if we're going to have National Guard units in Iraq protecting Americans you're not going to be able to deal with disasters here at home. The fact is you do have, as I just pointed out, more than 6,000 available units, and there's only 566 deployed right now in Kansas -- 6,800 available. So there are, in fact, large amounts -- large numbers of individuals and equipment available.
Furthermore, again, you do have plans on how you get assistance from other states and certain units that can provide logistical support. For instance, the FM radios we were discussing today came from Kentucky. So you do have plans and you do figure out ways to share. You have conversations about the helicopters with the states of Oklahoma and Texas. Again, I'm not sure if they're going to need them; if they do, the conversations are ongoing.
Q Tony, how much is the disaster response effort impacted by the war?
MR. SNOW: I think they're separate issues. The war --
Q Aren't they shared resources?
MR. SNOW: They're shared resources, but on the other hand, it is not something that you can't -- just as in a time of war, the Pentagon plans for more than one conflict at a time, you have to be able to do more than one thing at a time. So the fact that you have people deployed in a time of war to protect Americans is important; but at the same time, you also maintain your capability of dealing with domestic concerns.
Q There is no impact?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know how you measure. How would I measure -- I'm not being snarky in giving -- I just don't know how you measure that.
Q You look at the available equipment and you see how much of it is overseas.
MR. SNOW: Well, the fact is, again, taking a look at what you're talking about, in many cases, vital equipment for Kansas -- they have more than 100 percent of their National Guard requisition in Kansas now, including 2.5-ton trucks, and 5-ton trucks and a lot of that stuff.
There are a number of things that are appropriate for a time of war that are not necessarily going to be helpful to you in a time of rescue. Also keep in mind, it is not solely a National Guard responsibility. And in a time like this, again, great American tradition, pulling together assets from a variety of different sources so that you respond to the needs and you get to the site what you need. And in this particular case, people responded swiftly.
And the Governor and others -- if you look at some of the immediate responses, people said, yes, they were pleased with the response. And the most important thing to do is to continue working with the Governor and with authorities in Kansas to help these people.
Q Shift to Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Any more on this? Okay, shift to Iraq.
Q Can you update us on any White House-Hill negotiations planned? And also, are you going to be able to head off that developing bill by Democrats in the House --
MR. SNOW: Am I going to be able to head off?
Q Head off, derail, oppose --
MR. SNOW: I don't -- again, members of the House -- we made it clear that the idea somehow of doing a short-term supplemental, we think it's bad management. It's kind of a start and stop measure. It denies commanders and forces the kind of predictability they need to be able to plan effectively. It also does not give General Petraeus the ability to implement fully the plan that Congress authorized and voted for him to go ahead and work out within Baghdad, within the Baghdad security plan and elsewhere.
A couple of things to note. Number one is you get into a situation like this where you do not have predictable funding. It means that in some cases you're going to delay deployments. It's enormously expensive to move forces around, so it means that not only would you delay deployments in some cases, you also may have to prolong tours at the same time. You interrupt purchasing; you interrupt planning; you interrupt contracting. It may be that, in fact, you can only buy small pieces of what in a larger bid would be the kind of vehicles like the V-shaped hulls that a lot of people think are going to be effective in saving lives against EFPs and other devices.
So what it does is it denies you the ability for the long-range planning and procurement necessary and it creates instability and uncertainty in daily operations that really is not consistent with a fully effective military operation. It affects procurement schedules; it affects cost containment -- all the sorts of things that Congress wants to look at.
We think it's best to go ahead and get us through this fiscal year. That at least gives you the kind of predictability you need. Members of Congress will continue to have debates, we'll continue to work on Capitol Hill, but our goal is pretty clear here.
Q That would provoke a veto if it came down --
MR. SNOW: Again, you're assuming more than I'm willing to assume.
Q Prolonging tours? They may have to prolong tours? You just prolonged tours -- your Pentagon just prolonged the tours to 15 months. Are you saying that if they do this short-term bill it may be even longer than 15 months?
MR. SNOW: I'm just saying -- you have to ask yourself what the unintended consequences are of cutting off funding and making it impossible to do things that are expensive, but planned -- like moving people in and out. I'm just saying that is one of the possible outcomes.
Q So a possible outcome is tours longer than 15 months?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, Martha. You have to talk about particular units.
Q It was Petraeus, himself, who set the September deadline.
MR. SNOW: Let me warn against this --
Q Isn't that a benchmark to stop the killing?
MR. SNOW: What he's saying is he is going to give a report in September. Please avoid the idea that Iraq is like Oz, and one day it's going to be black and white and the next day you're going to wake up and it's color. It's a war. And it is something where progress is something that our people are devoted and dedicated to achieving, but it is not something that appears with a snap of a finger.
On the other hand, you also have to ask yourself: What are the costs to national security, what are the costs to the region, what are the costs to the world of failing to complete the job? The Baker-Hamilton commission was very clear on this, and analysts in both parties have been very clear on this. So the question is how do you put together an effective strategy so that you can have a successful democracy in Iraq.
General Petraeus is going to be reviewing the stages of the Baghdad security plan and he's going to report back to Congress. It is not a deadline. It is, in fact, what you would expect in a time of war, which is to try to get full information so that people can make informed judgments about how to proceed.
Q When does the President want to end this war?
MR. SNOW: Yesterday.
Q Can I follow on that? There's an article today saying that members of Congress -- a Washington Post article saying members of Congress, both Democrats and at least some Republicans, are looking at September or October as a time frame where they feel they should see some of these benchmarks being approached or reached, should see progress; otherwise they may reconsider how their funding the war, may attach these strings. Is that reasonable?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to say it's reasonable, I'm not going to say it's unreasonable. You're asking me to respond to people expressing opinions who are permitted to do it. What we've always said is, let's see what happens. Shouldn't we be trying to analyze the evidence and see what happens? And I think at this juncture, the Baghdad security plan is still -- it's not in its early stages, but it's in its middle stages. And it's important to allow General Petraeus and also the commanders on the ground to continue to do what they think -- not only the commanders, but the Iraqis. The Iraqis are playing -- part of this is to have the Iraqis play an increasingly visible and important and assertive role in taking care of their own security. So let's see how these things do play out between now and the fall.
Q But would Congress be justified in --
MR. SNOW: Look, I'm not going to play should have, would have, could have, but, of course, they're going to look at it.
Q Do you still view this as a long war, Tony? The war in Iraq is a long war, given you have an insurgency, sectarian strife, al Qaeda presence? Do you view it as a long war -- is that Dave Petraeus's mission?
MR. SNOW: Dave Petraeus's mission is to build the kind of capability so that the Iraqis can assume responsibility for their security. I don't think there's any doubt, Martha, that even with the Iraqi government in place, fully responsible for these things, there will be continued attempts to destabilize. All you have to do, again, is look at the statements of Zawahiri and others -- they want Iraq. They want Iraq for theirs. They want to do whatever they can to shake it up. And meanwhile, the Iraqi people are standing up against it. They are -- innocent civilians are being blasted to smithereens. So there is considerably going to be conflict. And I'm not going to get out the crystal ball, but it is certainly a war in which our walking away is not going to turn Osama bin Laden into a flower child.
Q Where is he?
Q Is there anything you can tell us about the talks, any progress, or -- Roger's question --
MR. SNOW: No, we just -- we continue to do it. Again, I'm not going to -- we're proceeding in a spirit of trying to get stuff done.
Q Tony, on the World Bank, you have a report ruling that -- out of a Bank committee that Wolfowitz broke the rules barring conflicts of interest. You have board members, at least privately, expressing questions about his credibility in running the Bank. When did -- what does the President think about Wolfowitz's ability to continue effectively running the Bank as these questions remain?
MR. SNOW: Well, Hank Paulson, the Treasury Secretary, is our governor on the World Bank board, and he's the one who is dealing primarily with these issues. The President has expressed his support for Paul Wolfowitz. But if you want to get into the nuts and bolts of those kinds of conversations, you need to talk to Treasury.
Q Just to follow up on that, does there come a point when the administration has to say that Wolfowitz's credibility is in question -- hampering his ability to do the job?
MR. SNOW: Again, I refer you to Treasury on that, but that's kind of a hypothetical debating point question that does not lend itself --
Q That sounds like distancing.
MR. SNOW: No, I've said exactly the same thing all week, I've used exactly the same formulation: The President supports him.
Q Does the administration still have the same confidence it had two weeks ago?
MR. SNOW: Yes, it still has confidence.
Q I guess the question is with those allegations coming out of this report, how can the President continue to support Wolfowitz? And are you aware of any efforts to forge a compromise, perhaps the Europeans bringing something to the table?
MR. SNOW: Again, talk to Treasury. They're the ones who are fronting this.
Q Tony, on immigration, there is a concern on --
MR. SNOW: I was going to you, but -- apparently the first row thinks the third row doesn't count. Let me proceed. Go ahead.
Q Apparently, there's concern on the part of some on the Hill that the President's immigration reform proposal reflects a change in immigration philosophy in the United States from a more family-based immigration philosophy to a more skill and merit-based. Apparently, there was a hearing today and Kennedy was saying it would be a huge mistake to make this change. And --
MR. SNOW: The change is what?
Q Well, apparently, when it comes to, say, legal immigrants would lose the right to petition to bring adult children and siblings to the U.S., limit -- their ability to talk to parents would be limited, temporary workers couldn't bring family members at all. Can you elaborate on that? Is it a change in philosophy?
MR. SNOW: No, what the President has been trying to do is to pull together immigration reform that once again pulls -- that unites a number of very important strands and traditions in the United States of America. One is respect for the rule of law. Number two is openness for people who want to be American citizens, and make the American Dream open to those who want to work hard and play by the rules.
Number three is to deal with the thorny situation of 11 to 12 million people who came here illegally -- how do you deal with their status in a reasonable way? How do you also create a temporary worker program that does not, in fact, create an inducement for moving here illegally, but creates an orderly flow back and forth, and still holds open to those who would be temporary workers the possibility, should they want to go through the regular system, of eventually becoming citizens?
So there are a whole series of concerns. We're aware of Senator Kennedy's concerns and that has been a topic of conversation and negotiation. We've been working with him and we'll continue working with members of both parties because the President is deeply committed. I'm not going to get in, once again, to sort of dealing with issues that are still under conversation.
In a bill like this you're going to have to look for ground that's going to be able to attract enough votes to pass and, at the same time, achieve your major goals and objectives. And the President is committed to that, and Senator Kennedy knows it, and they've had some very good conversations.
Q If I could follow on Keith's question. I know you don't view September as a deadline. But given some of the comments from Republicans talking about looking for a Plan B if there's not progress then, given that the fiscal year is over and there will be some funding decisions, how do you not look at that as an important moment for a time when support could go in one direction or the other?
MR. SNOW: Well, the question there is -- you need to ask that to members of Congress, too, because at that point you begin to look very carefully at the issue of if you leave, how do you make America safer? How does that make America one tiny bit safer? How does that avoid creating a vacuum in Iraq that could kill hundreds of thousands, if not more? How would that kind of a situation not unleash economic chaos that would affect the United States, Asia, Europe, most of the world? How would you do that in a way that would not allow Ayman al Zawahiri, who was gloating about such a possibility in the most recently released tape, to proclaim victory and use that as a way of recruiting new terrorists?
So people who also take a look at these questions at such a time will have to ask, what are the consequences of the action; what is our strategic goal in Iraq? And the strategic goal is to build a democracy that not only become an ally in a war on terror but becomes, by example, a complete rebuttal to the ideology of hatred that's been spread by Zawahiri, bin Laden and others. Those are serious questions that members of Congress will have to face, as well.
Of course they're going to be looking at what's going on on the ground, and they should. They also ought to be willing to take a look and say -- and acknowledge progress when they see it. This is going to be a time when members have to be very serious and sober about their judgments. I mean, that's how the system works.
Q We do have a moment of full appropriations decisions. I mean, couldn't some of the funding decisions be pretty critical, in terms of which way the war goes at that point?
MR. SNOW: Of course, of course. I don't expect the Iraq debate to go away. The Iraq debate is, I'm sure, going to continue to be vigorous and heated, especially as we move toward the presidential primaries. But again, a lot of times -- facts are funny things, and sometimes they can support your position and turn around, and either good news or bad news, depending on how you view it, can force you to adjust your view of things.
Q You're moving the bar.
MR. SNOW: No, I'm not moving the bar at all.
Q It doesn't sound like there's any way, over the next two or three months, whatever happens in Iraq with the surge, that the administration's position is going to be adjusted at all.
MR. SNOW: Well, you mean, leave?
Q No, I'm not saying leave, but --
MR. SNOW: The administration say --
Q I think the American people have been sort of expecting, based on what was laid out, that you'd have this summer, you'd get to, say, the fall, you'll have these reports from Petraeus, there would be some evidence collected, and then maybe the administration will be making adjustments. But it doesn't sound like, from what you're describing today, that there's any way you're going to see any real major --
MR. SNOW: Define adjustment.
Q How about you define adjustment?
MR. SNOW: You asked the question. I'm trying to figure out what the question is.
Q So what can happen, what information can you get in the next couple of months that would make significant changes in course in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I think you -- again, don't expect Oz, expect a war. And you look for incremental changes that are indicators. Now, you've seen -- perhaps you've been reading the stories about Anbar; maybe not. That's a significant change in a province -- and also what's gone on in Diyala. You've seen stories about Baghdad neighborhoods; that's significant. It's not determinative, it is not conclusive, but furthermore, if you begin to see --
Q I'm seeing an incredibly deadly week of American soldiers -- of military dead.
MR. SNOW: What you're saying is --
Q My point is this -- my point is if you are seeing these things happen, for instance, over the course of this weekend, and the administration, every time they're asked about it, says, it's going to take a couple of months, don't make any judgments -- I'm just asking, at what point is it fair to make a judgment?
MR. SNOW: Well, Jim, but --
Q You're saying September is not --
MR. SNOW: Notice what you did. You referred to body counts. What you've said is, anytime al Qaeda can blow up a truck, they win. And the President --
Q But, Tony, notice what you did. You never have to answer the question as to what's significant --
MR. SNOW: Now I will continue to do my analysis. What you totally avoided was the analysis of real changes on the ground, including more effective activities against al Qaeda, including the demobilization in some cases of the Mahdi Army, or certainly a reduction in there. You have ignored -- you have refused to talk about the changes in the metrics on sectarian violence. So what you're saying is, if you can get al Qaeda to blow up a concrete truck nothing has changed, even if you have peaceful neighborhoods, even if you have jobs, even if PRTs are setting up operations, even if the sheikhs are cooperating in Anbar, there's no change, when, in fact, there are a whole series of changes, but the one thing you're looking at is the concrete truck.
Q What I'm asking is, is what is a reasonable period of time for the American public to expect for there to be enough evidence, enough reporting back so that the administration may say, you know what, this surge that was announced in January is either, A, working, or B, not working?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what you've -- we've already given you some measures of progress. Again, it's -- I think what you're looking for is a snap, boom, it just changes. It doesn't change in a time of war. What happens is you not only have shifting conditions on the ground, but people in Iraq are making judgments. And partly they're making judgments on how we respond.
For instance, if you're a tribal sheikh and making the decision, do I take the leap and support the Americans, I think they're bailing out, or not? On the other hand, if I think that they've got a mission here they've committed to, yes. So there are a whole series of different things that play into this.
But we've offered metrics. I mean, we have offered things that allow you a basis of judgment. And the American people will have to take a look at it. What I would encourage you to do, though, is not only look at the bad guys when they commit acts of terror, but look at what's going on with the military operations. Go and take a look at the kind of metrics that you got yesterday -- or I guess on Saturday, from Bill Caldwell, when he talked about discovery of IED caches -- actually EFP caches -- the apprehension of terrorists. Take a look at what's going on on the ground; take a look at what goes on in neighborhoods -- because if you want to measure progress, you've got to report it. And in fact, the data are out there, but if all we're going to talk about is EFPs, then you're allowing bin Laden to govern the terms of this debate, as opposed to --
Q Where is he?
MR. SNOW: -- wish I knew -- as opposed to taking a fuller look at what U.S. forces are going to do. And I think it's one of the reasons why it's useful for General Petraeus to give that kind of a comprehensive report.
Q We're now at the point where we can have an incredibly bloody weekend in terms of troop count, and you can say, you know what, that's really not the most effective, accurate thing to point to.
MR. SNOW: Well, apparently, success doesn't work for you. So I don't know --
Q That's not what I'm saying at all.
MR. SNOW: It is, it is -- I mean, of course -- look --
Q Tony, I think we're looking for metrics. You're saying, Jim or whoever, is not looking at the good news. And I think we're all looking in part at the good news, but we're looking at other metrics, as well.
MR. SNOW: Well, of course.
Q And if you're going to say now, look, we have all this success, then what are you going to say different in September?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, let's take a look at what happens. Let me give you a couple of things --
Q -- the metric that you're telling us we've done this, we found caches -- I mean, they've found a bazillion caches, they've found all kinds of people --
MR. SNOW: Two days ago you and I were talking and you acknowledged significant changes in Anbar province. You said, that was before the surge, but you acknowledged that there was progress, and that is part --
Q And I'll acknowledge now. But there are greater metrics, and if you're going to stand there and say there's good news/there's good news.
MR. SNOW: Are you certain that the targeted al Qaeda attacks are a change in the greater metric? Or do you have underlying realities that indicate greater confidence on the part of the Iraqi people to step forward? For instance, you had the Prime Minister today, in response to yesterday's bombings in Ramadi, saying, we are going to step forward and we are going to compensate the victims. Now, that may not seem like a big thing to us, but you understand the politics of Iraq. Reaching out to a Sunni population after such a thing is an important act of political reconciliation.
I'm saying, look, what we're doing now is we are talking at such a level of abstraction that it's almost as impossible to give a good answer as it is to ask a good question. We're going to have to figure out -- we will have specific things to talk about, in terms of political accomplishments and neighborhood safety and job creation and all those kinds of things. Those are the kind of metrics that people are going to have look at. And they're going to have to ask the converse question: Do you leave because it's tough, or do you stay precisely because it gets tougher if you go away? Those are the kinds of balances you have to make.
Q Can I try to get at the essence of the question, which really is, is the President's commitment open-ended, or is there some point at which there is not enough progress that he would withdraw militarily?
MR. SNOW: Again, I want you -- the way you look at the question -- what you're saying is: What's it going to take for you guys to leave? I think that's the real question here: What's it going to take for you to leave? Is that correct?
Q No, the question is -- let's simplify it completely and say: Is the President's military commitment to this fight open-ended, or not? Yes or no?
MR. SNOW: No, of course not. But on the other --
Q We're talking about the surge, Tony, specifically by the September date, the surge, not --
MR. SNOW: You'll have a report in September, and then we're going to be able to assess it. Do you not want to know -- because at that point we -- I think we're -- we believe that the last brigades will be getting in and probably be fully operational within a month or so. That now gives you an opportunity to see them in action working with the Iraqis, and it does give you a reasonable time to be able to assess what's going on.
Q Other topics?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, this is so much fun.
Q If the consequences are so bad -- if withdrawing, the consequences are so bad, why isn't the President's commitment open-ended?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, it's one of these things where ultimately the President's commitment is to building capability on the part of the Iraqis. What you're assuming is that the United States is the only partner here. It's not. The people who are dying in greater numbers are the Iraqis. The people who are signing up in greater numbers are the Iraqis. The people who are submitting a greater percentage of their gross domestic product are the Iraqis. These guys are putting their lives on the line. They need to know that we support them, and they do.
Q Do you have any update on the arrests in New Jersey, and has an order gone out for stepped-up security at military bases here?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, I know nothing about military security and probably wouldn't be at liberty to tell you. Secondly, as I said earlier, the U.S. Attorney will be having -- Chris Christie will be having a 2:30 p.m. scheduled press conference. It's probably the best time to try to get data on that. We've given you all we know.
Q Does the administration have a position on certain states that are trying to divest themselves from governments that engage in terrorism, such as --
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware -- again, we believe in federalism, and the states can do what they think are necessary.
Q Tony, thank you. I have two questions, based on the belief that the President would like to support any reasonable procedure that would reduce federal spending and the national debt. First, on Sunday, The New York Post noted that since the bulk of public broadcasting income is not from its viewers but from the federal budget. My question: Does the President believe the Post was wrong or right to contend to get government out of the broadcasting business once and for all?
MR. SNOW: I don't believe that's an issue before the President right now.
Q That's part of the budget.
MR. SNOW: I know, but I'm not sure -- perhaps there is a move afoot of which I'm unaware.
Q Okay. The Post also noted, back when there were only three broadcast networks and a few UHF channels, PBS arguably presented a valuable alternative; not so in today's 1,000-channel communications universe. And my question: Why does the President believe there should be any government subsidies to PBS?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, Les, that is -- it's a charming question. It is, again, I don't think --
Q I thank you for your appreciation --
MR. SNOW: Yes, but it's -- (laughter.)
Q Forgive me if you've already answered this question, but the Iranian government is supposed to take a two-month vacation. Is there any progress --
MR. SNOW: You're talking about the Iraqi government. There's conversation about it -- as I've said, let them work it out. I know they're having conversations.
Q Isn't it critical that they are --
MR. SNOW: As I said, legislative processes work on. We're talking about -- we're now discussing a date that is still seven-plus weeks out. When we get closer, we'll deal with it.
Q Thank you.
END 1:28 P.M. EDT
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