For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 15, 2007
President Bush Attends the Annual Peace Officers' Memorial Service United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. 12:38 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming, please be seated. Thank you. Thank you, Chuck. I have been here ever since I've been the President, in an event like this, and it's fitting because this is a really important day for our country. It's a day we remember men and women who fell in the line of duty. Each swore an oath to uphold the law. Each assumed the responsibility of protecting neighbors and communities. Each has earned a place in our nation's heart. We thank them for their lives of service and we pray to an Almighty God that He bring comfort to you during this time of sorrow.
I appreciate Chuck Canterbury, President of the Fraternal Order of Police. I thank the members of my Cabinet who have joined us today. I appreciate so very much Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for being here today. I thank Senator Leahy, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Minority Leader John Boehner and all the members of Congress who have joined us. I thank Aliza Clark, Jim Pasco. Father Vytas, thank you for your prayers. Appreciate Patrick Nigh, who sang the National Anthem; Lee Greenwood, friend of law enforcement.
I thank the police officers who are here. I am honored to be in your presence. I'm constantly amazed by your courage. I thank you for serving the United States of America. (Applause.)
To the moms and dads, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters who have got a hole in your heart today, I bring a collective hug from the people of the United States of America.
It takes a special kind of person to serve in law enforcement. Most people run from danger -- law enforcement runs toward it. You've chosen one of the toughest jobs in the world. And I suspect during times of dangerous duty or lonely patrols, it might seem like the only person you can depend upon is each other. A day like today I hope not only helps our families, but helps those who serve remember that a larger community here in this country stands with you, that we're grateful for your service.
We saw this gratitude last year in Montgomery, Alabama, as thousands of citizens mourned a young officer named Keith Houts. Keith was shot during a routine traffic stop. He held on two days before succumbing; he was 30 years old. As expected, police officers from across Alabama came to mourn him, that's what happens -- when a fellow officer dies in the line of service, the officers show up -- but so did citizens he never met. Thousands and thousands of citizens came to honor this good man. An overflow crowd attended the funeral; every church pew was filled. Mourners had to stand. An anonymous citizen paid lodging expenses for members of Keith's family so they could make it to service. The community embraced Keith's young widow, Ashley, who's here. She had been a wife just for 15 months. Ashley said this of her late husband: "I know what he meant to me, but it is important to know what he meant to everyone else."
We've seen similar outpourings of support in other places. Last year, in Fairfax County, Virginia, thousands of strangers lined city streets to bid farewell to two officers, Vicky Armel and Michael Garbarino. They were shot while doing their duty. Those who gathered along one of the funeral routes included all kinds of people -- total strangers paying homage -- a grocery store cashier, a fellow from Belgium was there; a local resident who told a reporter she wanted to thank the police who, as she put it, "worry so we don't have to."
We saw a similar scene in Colorado Springs after the murder of Kenneth Jordan. Cars stopped along the interstate, as drivers watched the funeral procession from railings and bridges. Children were waving flags in honor of a good man. One man brought his sons to pay tribute to an officer who he said "gave up his life up for us." Another held up a sign that read: "God bless you and keep you safe. Thanks so much."
That sign sums up the feeling of millions of our fellow citizens: God bless you and thanks so much. Laura and I feel the same way. You know, we shared the grief of the family of Steve Favela, a Honolulu police officer who died last year from injuries he suffered during a motorcade that was protecting us. His death is a reminder of the daily risks that each officer assumes.
I don't know if you realize this, but police officers are routinely named among America's most respected profession. And that's why strangers mourn for the loss of life and honor those who serve. That's why so many children choose you as role models.
With us today are young children who've lost their moms and dads in the line of duty. It's got to be awfully hard. The pain is fresh, and they feel that every time they come home, looking for a mom or dad they love. It's hard to understand the loss you've suffered, but hopefully today you leave with the sense that there are all kinds of people praying for you and honoring your dad or mom; millions of Americans grieve.
And I hope when you're older you'll come to this ceremony again, and find some comfort here. Perhaps you'll bring your own children, and share your memories of your parents and your pride in what they did. You can tell them your parents were great because of what they risked. You can tell them they served a cause greater than themselves.
We're proud of all our nation's fallen peace officers. We're sorry you're here, but now that you are, we care about you a lot. And we love you. We're grateful for what they have given us.
May God bless you all. May God bless those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. And may God continue to bless our country. (Applause.) END 12:45 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 15, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow White House Conference Center Briefing Room 1:05 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. Before we start -- been a lot of debate about the supplemental on Capitol Hill and we've talked about some of the funding dislocations that have been taking place. Let me just have a couple of note here.
First, tomorrow is going to mark the 100th day since the President asked Congress to provide funding for the troops. Because Congress has not sent an acceptable supplemental bill, the Department of Defense today is going to notify Congress of its intent to transfer an additional $1.4 billion from Navy and Air Force personnel accounts to fund ongoing Army operations in the war on terror.
The funding is going to last about a week. It is the fifth one -- fifth such transfer that has been necessitated because of the lack of supplemental funding: two have been necessary for Army operations; one is to procure mine-resistant ambush protection vehicles -- those are the V-shaped hulls; one to bolster the Iraqi security forces; and one to counter improvised explosive devices.
In addition, the Army has moved funding originally allocated to fourth quarter expenses into the third quarter; the Army operations and maintenance account, which is the principal account covering day to day operations, no longer has any funding available for the fourth quarter. Moving money around like this, as we've said before, creates uncertainty and inefficiency, and it ultimately costs taxpayers more money in the long run by wreaking havoc on existing funds and forcing, in some cases, people to make inefficient decisions in the long run about how to finance ongoing operations.
Q Does this problem make the President any more inclined to work with the Democrats in Congress, or negotiate with them on the terms that they're seeking?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, if you're talking about deadlines for withdrawal, no. The President has made it very clear here that he is not doing "deadlines-for-withdrawal," he is not going to do something that is going to tie the troops' hands. Democrats know what the base conditions are. And, furthermore, the President has been working with Democrats in Congress.
Terry, it is pretty obvious that in some cases members in Congress have known -- Democrats have known that what they're proposing isn't going to be passed, but they wanted to get it out there. Perhaps they are trying to do it for domestic political consumption. While they're doing that, the Pentagon has the real business of financing ongoing operations. It has required five transfers now in existing accounts simply to maintain ongoing operations or procurement against such things as EFPs or IEDs -- the things that are saving -- new technologies that can save the lives of people who are in harm's way.
So I would caution against saying the President is not willing. As a matter of fact, we have been talking about this from the very beginning and doing outreach to the Hill and continue to. The President is optimistic that the end result is going to be something that still meets those benchmarks of funding and flexibility.
Q Tony, the President --
MR. SNOW: Stay on the same topic?
MR. SNOW: Okay, go ahead.
Q To sum up, your description of Congress and some of the actions being taken -- would it be fair to say that congressional Democrats are being irresponsible on this?
MR. SNOW: I will let you play politics with it. I'm telling you what the description is. Let me also note something that does not seem to be open to analytical dispute, the idea of precipitate withdrawal -- it was described in the Baker-Hamilton report, the National Intelligence Estimate. The idea of simply saying at some early date we are simply going to get out -- that has been described as a policy that would have devastating consequences, creating a vacuum within Iraq, making it very difficult for the government to survive; also creating the possibility of a safe haven for al Qaeda within Iraq, creating opportunities for the terror network, and in addition, creating aftershocks in the war on terror that would make our lives less secure from a personal safety standpoint, economically. It would also weaken the United States diplomatically around the world.
In that part of the world, people who are going to help us are going to ask themselves, do we really want to stick with them if we cannot count on them. As General Petraeus and others have said, this debate, the very debate itself, has an impact on the way people are thinking, including in the Iraqi government. They want to know whether we are going to be there to pursue victory in Iraq. The President is determined to send the message, and to send it the proper way, by having full and flexible funding for the forces.
Q Senator Levin is proposing language that would allow the President to waive the troop withdrawal requirements. Now, Josh Bolten has been up there looking for common ground. Why isn't that common ground?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I'm not going to get into -- what I'm just telling you is, when you have a deadline for withdrawal, that's unacceptable. And it's unacceptable for reasons that have been laid out in the National Intelligence Estimate, Baker-Hamilton, and any number of other reports, including those who have been put together by Democrats in the national security community.
But Josh Bolten, I am not getting into any discussions behind the scenes, because we're not going to negotiate it from here. One of the things that has happened --
Q But --
MR. SNOW: No, Steve, one of the things that has happened is that both sides have been respectful of one another, in terms of not getting into the content of particular conversations. We're going to continue to abide by that. We simply don't think it's constructive for me to be handing out report cards about things that may or may not be discussed in those sessions. It's best to let Josh go ahead -- he's the President's guy -- along with Steve Hadley and Rob Portman, let those guys continue to have their conversations on the Hill, with the aim of getting a bill that gets our forces financed through the fiscal year.
Q What do you think you've just done?
Q To follow up on this, you're talking about -- five transfers, I think you said?
MR. SNOW: Yes, so far.
Q What is -- what in the Pentagon apparatus, though, is suffering as a result of this?
MR. SNOW: Very simply, if you no longer have funds available for the fourth quarter, you no longer plan on the basis of that. If you do not have -- the Pentagon doesn't simply sit around and come up with 58 different potential funding schemes. If the money is not there, you can't plan around it. And as a result, you are constrained in terms of procurement. For instance, if you only have money to a certain date, you either have to pull old procurement into future -- into present spending, you have to speed up schedules, or, in some cases, you have to shutdown production -- you have to shutdown production lines. You can't simply say, well, we think it's going to get passed in the future. You can't cut the checks, you cannot sign the contracts.
So it has real impact in terms of procurement, in terms also such things as handling the disposition of troops, moving forces around -- that's expensive business, too. If you don't have the financing to do that, it affects the way in which you handle the flow of troops in and out of the region. So there are any number of circumstances. Secretary Gates outlines them in more detail in a letter he sent last week to relevant committees, but it is significant.
Q Changing topics, Tony --
MR. SNOW: Let me exhaust this one first, Kelly. Helen.
Q You've already laid down a non-negotiable position, and you talk about, oh, we're not going to talk about it and all this. Is nothing going on? And do the American people have any say about this? They want to withdraw.
MR. SNOW: The American -- again, if you take a look -- for instance, if you want to live and die by the polls, Helen, 60 percent of the American public say, let's go ahead and fund them.
Q Okay. They also say, let's get out.
MR. SNOW: Well, they do want to get out, but they also want to get out under circumstances of victory.
Q Well, is the President listening to them?
MR. SNOW: Of course. And the President also -- you've got to keep in mind, being President is a listening exercise and a leading exercise. And as a leader, not only as a Commander-in-Chief --
Q Does he think they should abide by any of their will?
MR. SNOW: Yes, he does. But he also thinks that the will of the American people is to be safe and secure, and that's his foremost concern.
Q What is the total of the transfers, the financial cost of all the transfers in the last 100 days? And also, Tony, you talk about planning beyond the fourth quarter, and you said that production could be shut down. Could this ultimately -- if the stalemate were to continue for months down the road --
MR. SNOW: If the stalemate continues for months, the funds are cut off. You've got a military that's cut off, period.
Q Okay, a military that's cut off -- would that mean some of the military may be coming back home, because they're cut off?
MR. SNOW: Darling, you don't have the money to send them home. That also costs money. Total transfers right now $4.918 billion.
Q Four point nine --
MR. SNOW: It's not as if everybody just has frequent flier passes, say, hey, war is over, send me back for free. That also costs money. It literally affects everything, including the movement of forces in and out of the theater of battle.
Q So no hypothetical --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into a hypothetical, because --
Q No, but you did say that they were stuck there. There's no money to bring them back home, and then there's no money to fight the war, so what happens?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, that's not going to happen. You know that that's not going to happen, I know it's not going to happen, Congress knows it's not going to happen. They're going to get this fixed.
Q Going to the Attorney General and the U.S. prosecutors that were dismissed. Today Mr. Gonzales said that the recommendations reflect the views of the Deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty. He signed off on the names. Isn't the Attorney General effectively pushing blame to the official who is heading out the door?
MR. SNOW: No, because he supports all the personnel actions. There's nothing to blame.
Q Suggesting, though, that he was not a responsible party by saying he signed off on the names, they reflect the view --
MR. SNOW: Look, what he understands is he's delegated authority for people within the Department of Justice to make those decisions, which he supports, and he's simply stating how it worked in terms of the assignment of responsibilities.
Q Tony, following on that. Whenever the President has received criticism about the terrorist surveillance program, he has said, look, top Justice Department officials are monitoring this for abuses. Okay, very dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill today -- James Comey, who in 2004 was the Acting Attorney general, testified that when he raised objections to the terrorist surveillance program, that Alberto Gonzales, as White House Counsel, and the White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card, took this extraordinary measure -- they went to the hospital room of John Ashcroft to try to get him to override what Jim Comey was saying, about how this needs proper legal footing. So wasn't that an end run by the White House to try to get John Ashcroft to overrule James Comey?
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, you've got a representation of internal White House deliberations, and we simply don't talk about that and are not going to.
Q But he's testified on Capitol Hill. I mean, he --
MR. SNOW: I understand that, but --
Q All that "you have to tell the truth to the American people" -- he's testified about this now, it's public.
MR. SNOW: Let me give you a couple of things. Also, what had always been noted is the terrorist surveillance program was, in fact, something that was constantly reviewed by the Department of Justice at either 45- or 90-day periods, and furthermore was reviewed by the Inspectors General at the Department of Justice and at the National Security Agency. In addition, there was review by the FISA Court. The terrorist surveillance program saved lives, period.
Number two, those who had questions about the FISA Court sat down and worked with the administration last year, and we worked out legislation that I think has met any questions that anybody had. But the fact is, you've got reforms, and I'm not going to talk about old conversations.
Q But you had the Acting Attorney General at the time saying, in regards to what Inspectors General -- the acting -- chief law enforcement officer in the country is saying in 2004, I've got problems with this, and then you've got the Chief of Staff and the Counsel, Alberto Gonzales at the time, going -- and according to James Comey, they were trying to take advantage of a sick man who was in intensive care.
MR. SNOW: Trying to take advantage of a sick man -- because he had an appendectomy, his brain didn't work?
Q Yes, "I was very upset, I was angry." He was in intensive care at GW. "I thought I had just witnessed an effort" --
MR. SNOW: I --
Q -- let me just tell you -- "I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man." Okay? Did any White House officials come and try to take advantage of you -- I mean, that's really not applicable in terms of this.
MR. SNOW: You know what, Ed --
Q They were trying to take advantage of him, according to James Comey.
MR. SNOW: Ed, I'm just telling you, I don't know anything about the conversations. I've also told you the relevant thing, which is, you wanted to ask from a substantive point of view, were there protections in terms of the terrorist surveillance program -- the answer is yes. It had multiple layers of review, both within the Department of Justice and the National Security Agency. Jim Comey can talk about whatever reservations he may have had, but the fact is that there were strong protections in there. This is a program that saved lives, that is vital for national security, and furthermore has been reformed in a bipartisan way that is in keeping with everybody. And you can go -- frankly, ask him. I'm not talking about --
Q Last question. The Republican, Arlen Specter, not James Comey, reacted to this by comparing it to the Saturday night massacre during Watergate. Are you concerned about Republicans now comparing this White House to the Nixon White House?
MR. SNOW: What I'm concerned about is -- I'm not even going to get there. That's too tempting and probably not responsible on my part. I think what you really want to do is --
Q Oh, go ahead. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: That's my way of counting to 10. (Laughter.)
The fact is, you've got somebody who has splashy testimony on Capitol Hill. Good for him. We're not talking about internal deliberations.
Q Let me just read one other thing that Senator Specter said today about the Attorney General. He spoke about Mr. McNulty's resignation, and called it "a significant step and evidence that a department really cannot function with the continued leadership or lack of leadership of Attorney General Gonzales." That is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. How can he continue with that kind of comment?
MR. SNOW: He's going to continue, he's going to continue. We have faith in him. We disagree with Senator Specter, but we understand that he's got his concerns. Members of Congress are free to express them.
The fact is, if you take a look at personnel throughout the administration, we actually continue to recruit first-rate people for this administration, and Paul McNulty served the administration well. He's decided that it's time that he wants to move on. We thank him for his service, and we are sure that there is going to be a new deputy attorney general who is going to meet the same high standard. And we have full confidence in Alberto Gonzales.
Q Tony, on Wolfowitz. ABC was reporting that -- on Wolfowitz's future -- "all options are on the table," and second, that it's an "open question" whether he should stay. Does that reflect the White House views?
MR. SNOW: Let me explain. There are two separate things going on. Number one, there is an inquiry right now -- I believe Mr. Wolfowitz today is talking to the World Bank, presenting his side -- on personnel matters. And what we've said all along is, first, we do support Paul Wolfowitz.
But the second thing is, you need to separate these into separate inquiries, and a lot of times I think they get bundled together. He has made it clear that he made mistakes. It is pretty clear also that there were problems, in terms of communicating the proper ways of dealing with personnel issues -- as you know, originally he tried to recuse himself, then an ethics board said that he ought to get himself involved. The fact is that he made mistake; they're not, in our view, firing offenses.
Separately, at some point in the future, there are going to be conversations about the proper stewardship of the World Bank. And Mr. Wolfowitz, himself, says that what you need to have is a full, fair conversation about what is going to be best for the future of the Bank. In that sense, they say all options are on the table. This is not to leap to any conclusions, but to give you a statement of fact -- which is members of the board and Mr. Wolfowitz need to sit down and figure out what is, in fact, going to be best for this Bank to be able to serve as a venue for -- especially in the developing world -- for trying to address problems of poverty, and to try to create the proper kinds of hope and opportunity in the long run.
So what we're really talking about is, let us get through this original process because, again, not a firing offense; throughout, regardless, we have faith in Paul Wolfowitz. We do think it is appropriate for everybody to sit down after the fact, calm down, take a look and figure out, okay, how do you move forward.
Q Well, when this person says it's an open question whether he should stay, that sounds a lot different than what you've been saying here or what you said this morning.
MR. SNOW: Again, that's something that he is going to have to resolve, or members of the Bank are going to have to resolve; we support him.
Q What does the White House think would be the best thing for the Bank? I mean, you're aware of everything that's happened. Does the President think it would be the best thing for the Bank --
MR. SNOW: Again, it's premature. There are going to be conversations of this sort. Hank Paulson is in contact with other members of the board of governors at the World Bank, and we're not going to talk about discussions that have yet to take place.
Q Well, but the President has said -- beyond just saying that he should have his day in court, he's also said that he supports Wolfowitz --
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q -- is that still true?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q So then he does think he should continue.
MR. SNOW: Yes -- he supports him.
Q So then this person is not reflecting the White House view?
MR. SNOW: No -- again, there are going to be conversations about how you move forward. And you talk about any possible options in the future about how to maintain the integrity and the effectiveness of the World Bank. That's what they're talking about. They're going to leave all options -- Paul Wolfowitz is somebody who thinks that that is the proper way to proceed, as well.
Q But if they come to the conclusion that Wolfowitz should not continue, the President would oppose that, correct?
MR. SNOW: Well, let's just find out what happens when they have those conversations.
Q There's a report that the IAEA has concluded that Iran has solved its technological problems and is now enriching uranium on a far larger scale than before. Does that match what the U.S. believes it knows about the enrichment inside Iran -- hold on -- and, two, does it have any sense of urgency stepped up because of this report?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, I shouldn't laugh, but you're asking me to give you classified intelligence, and I'm not going to do it.
Q How about the urgency question?
MR. SNOW: The fact is -- we also have not seen the IAEA report. So that's -- we have to review -- let's be clear, the Iranian government continues to isolate itself with rhetoric that talks about the desire to create a nuclear program that is far more than necessary for having peaceful nuclear energy within the country, and is something that raises the spectrum, the fear that they're trying to develop nuclear weapons. That is unacceptable.
The P5 plus-1 have been very clear about that, not only in terms of laying out conditions where there are going to be sanctions against the Iranians, but also laying out a series of benefits that can be made available to the Iranian public that are going to serve not only as a reward, but an open welcome into the community of nations.
So, obviously, reports of this sort you're going to take a very careful look at. What is of paramount importance is that Iran not be able to destabilize an entire region of the world, a region that needs stability, not additional instability. And the only way you're going to do that is to make sure that they do not have the capacity to build nuclear weapons.
Q If this report about the IAEA report is accurate, it's clear that Iran continues to thumb its nose at the world, at the same time, the U.S. is now sitting down with Iranian officials in Baghdad. So even though that's just on Iraq, isn't that kind of giving Iran a pass and --
MR. SNOW: No. As you recall a year ago, there was also a Baghdad channel made available for dealing with Iraqi security issues, where the then Ambassador Zal Khalilzad was also empowered to talk with the Iranian officials on matters dealing with border security. It is not only not unusual, but it's not unprecedented. I've just discussed something that I think everybody in this room knows was the case last year.
Now what we're really doing is a continuation of policy that involves several things. Number one, using diplomacy as effectively as possible. The P5 plus-1 process is one where we're trying to use leverage -- diplomatic, economic, and otherwise -- to get the Iranians to realize that moving down the road toward nuclear development is something that is not good for them and not for the region. We're serious about it.
Number two, we also make it clear that we prefer diplomacy as the approach, hence the P5 plus-1, hence also using anything available to us to try to make it safer for the government of Iraq, and to make it possible for them to continue the hard business not only of fighting those within the country who have been trying to undermine the government, but those who are coming in from outside the country, and also those who are shipping weaponry from out of the country to try to destabilize the government.
The Baghdad channel that the President has authorized follows into that same sort of pattern. It does not in any way, shape or form confer upon the Iranians full diplomatic status, and it does not give them the things that they want, nor does it change the series of sanctions that have been ongoing, nor does it change ongoing diplomacy to firm up international resolve when it comes to the behavior of the Iranians.
Q But how do you sit across the table with the Iranians who are sitting there thumbing their noses at the U.S. and trying to discuss stability, when the question of stability surrounds the enrichment?
MR. SNOW: The same way you do it before -- you have -- again, what you're not talking about is enrichment. There are two different kinds of talks. One has to do specifically with what's going on in Iraq. Now, last time around, the Iranians, in fact, declined to participate. There seems to be some indication that they may be willing this time, but this is a conversation not about ancillary issues. They know if they want full diplomatic recognition how to get it. But if they, in fact, are willing to engage in constructive conversations about making Iraq a safer, more stable place, they can certainly have those conversations, and the President has made available the channel.
Q Tony, two questions. One, tomorrow Prime Minister Tony Blair comes to the White House, and whatever we are doing here in Washington, London or in New Delhi, terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, are watching, including this briefing. My question is that Prime Minister Tony Blair has been a strong supporter of global war against terrorism. So when he leaves office this time in the middle of his term, what message are we sending to terrorists, as far as fighting against terrorism globally?
MR. SNOW: I think it's pretty clear, if you take a look at the resolve of the British government, it has been firm. And I don't think it says anything about the resolve of the British people that Tony Blair has decided to move on. He's been -- what is it, third longest-serving Prime Minister in British history, I believe. He's certainly one of the longest serving. He's had an extraordinary tenure. That is something that happens in parliamentary democracies.
But on the other hand, what will happen is that the new government will have an opportunity to take a look, and if you think about it, Gordon Brown, what's one of the first things he did, in thinking about this? He came here and talked to our national security people. So Gordon Brown understands, if in fact he becomes the next British Prime Minister, and maybe I'm leaping to conclusions, that one of his solemn obligations also is to be a commander-in-chief and somebody who thinks deeply and thoroughly about the security needs of the British people.
Q On immigration. As far as the Washington Post editorial today, detailing immigration issue (inaudible), they are saying that the Post editorial made or break (inaudible) this time, as far as immigration is concerned (inaudible) the U.S. on Capitol Hill. How does the President feel about this editorial, if he has seen it, and how -- is he pushing on the Capitol Hill, because it may not go through if it doesn't go now, we're looking at maybe in the next --
MR. SNOW: Rather than playing the "if" game, Goyal, let me flip it around. There continue to be conversations about immigration involving Democrats and Republicans. There's a great deal of hard bipartisan work taking place. The President is apprised of it constantly. It is something he is profoundly committed to. One year ago today he went on national television and told the nation about his comprehensive approach to immigration reform, and that continues to be the backbone of his policy and really the template around which negotiations are taking place.
So rather than sort of talking about prospects if things don't turn out, I think there is a certain amount of -- what we're struck by is the determination and goodwill on both sides to try to get comprehensive reform done, and we're going to continue working at it.
Q Tony, on another issue, gas -- I know the President talked about gas prices yesterday, but are there any conversations around the White House in some of the closed doors that you've been hearing about possibly renewing the effort to go back into some environmentally -- seeing if Congress will allow the White House to look at some environmentally protected areas again to possibly tap for oil?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, look, the President, on a number of occasions, has talked about things like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and presented it with Congress, and there's been overwhelming opposition on the Democratic side. The question is, if you don't like alternative sources -- I'm sorry -- if you don't like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or alternative venues, if you don't like creating new oil refineries, if you're not sure whether you're going to support alternative fuel uses, how are you going to provide more fuel in a more environmentally sensitive way so that you can have economic growth and a clean environment at the same time?
Those are the balances the President has always kept at the front and center of his energy policy. His energy policy has always been an energy and environmental policy. Clearly that's going to continue to be the subject of debate. I think what's happened, April, is that the events of the last couple of weeks, where you have disruption in some of the refineries, highlights once again the importance of dealing with energy in a very comprehensive way -- look for all the sources you can get, and develop independence.
Second, develop new means and sources for the future, especially in terms of biofuels and alternatives that are environmentally friendly. The President has talked about nuclear power. Once again, a lot of people say, we don't want nukes, we don't want new refineries, we don't want ANWR, we want more energy. Okay, well, we're all ears.
Q But those are long-term. What about issues of, especially in Texas, uncapping some of the capped oil wells, working on possibly getting some of those --
MR. SNOW: April, decisions of those sorts are the kinds that are made by economic reasons. When it's economically feasible to uncap oil wells, they do it. You've seen it in the past when you've had oil spikes -- when it's not economically feasible, they're not going to do it.
Q Has the White House received any word about Jerry Falwell, who we understand --
MR. SNOW: No, we just -- no, we haven't. Obviously this is breaking news and we'll follow it, too.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Last week you said you would "check into the polygraph test of Sandy Berger." And WorldNet Daily is grateful for your willingness, and now asks, what did you find out as the result of your checking into the possibility of Sandy Berger actually being administered the polygraph he agreed to take to resolve the case of his removal of classified documents from the National Archives?
MR. SNOW: A thousand pardons, my homework is not in yet.
Q Okay. In view of the extensive media coverage, there are millions of Americans who are wondering, how does the President, as a devout Christian and faithful husband, believe that the Bush administration is rightfully serving this country and providing moral guidance to our young people by saying that it is not a firing offense for a man who boosted the salary of his mistress to head the World Bank?
MR. SNOW: Well, I believe what we are talking about here is so-called firing offenses in terms of personnel policies and communications. I like the fact that you presented it in a colorful and moralistic way, but I don't believe that those particular issues were the approximate issues before the World Bank, or before the President, or before the board of governors at the World Bank.
Q Can you confirm any plans for meetings in Baghdad with the Syrians along the same lines of meetings with the Iranians?
MR. SNOW: No, I can't.
Q Back on Comey's testimony, does the White House dispute his claim?
MR. SNOW: You've got to understand what you have are characterizations of conversations, the sort of which we simply don't talk about. So we will --
Q You've described his testimony as "flashy." I'm just trying to find out if it's accurate, if Card and Gonzales went to the hospital.
MR. SNOW: I understand that, and again, that's not the sort of thing that I'm at liberty to comment about it.
Q Is it accurate?
MR. SNOW: Again, you're just asking me to comment about it.
Q But aren't you trying to have it both ways? You won't comment on it, so that you leave some doubt as to whether it's true or not --
MR. SNOW: No, I'm not leaving doubt --
Q -- this man used to be your Attorney General. He was the --
MR. SNOW: -- attacking Attorney General?
Q "Acting" Attorney General -- pardon my grammatical -- but, Tony, he was your Attorney General. He was the President's man. He's not a Democrat, he was your man. And he's making these charges.
MR. SNOW: Okay, then I'm going to violate our rules on confidentiality of conversations?
Q It's already out there; it's public, he testified before the American people today.
MR. SNOW: I understand that, but I'm still not going to -- and his testimony can stand on its own.
Q Can I ask what the rule is on confidentiality? Because it's not really an internal White House discussion, it's a discussion with another agency -- isn't that a little different?
MR. SNOW: Again, this is conversations talking about with the White House counsel.
Q Tony, on North Korea, North Korea insists to have a North Korean fund with a BDA, be transferred only through the United States banking system, which is also subject to the (inaudible) by President Bush. What is your comment?
MR. SNOW: I am sorry, I did not understand the question. You're talking about the BDA money, the North Koreans want the BDA money, they do not have it; is that correct?
MR. SNOW: And they want it and therefore -- look, we think the North Koreans need to abide by the obligations of the February 13th accord, and we continue to believe that. Obviously, they're having some difficulty getting a hold of the BDA money; can't really comment on that. But their obligations are pretty clear under the accord.
Q Did this (inaudible) approval by the President of the United States?
MR. SNOW: The President of the United States doesn't have approval over bank transfers.
Q Tony, I know you said this was breaking news -- the Associated Press now is saying that Reverend Falwell has died. Can you comment a little bit about what he's meant to the political process, the Republican Party, et cetera?
MR. SNOW: No, I think at this particular point, rather than trying to do political encomium, the first thing you do is you pray for him and you pray for his family. If, in fact, he has died, he died suddenly, this is the kind of thing that is going to be a shock to those who love him and were around him. And I think the proper attitude at this juncture is to pass on our condolences and prayers, and we'll try to do the fixing place in history a little later.
Thanks. END 1:36 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 15, 2007
President Bush Welcomes Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden to the White House Oval Office 11:05 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. Prime Minister, welcome.
We have just had a wide-ranging, significant dialogue. We talked about a lot of areas of interest. Two areas that I think really will have a profound effect on our respective countries, as well as on the world, are the issue of climate change and trade.
Let me start with trade. The Prime Minister is very interested in the Doha Round. He's interested in U.S. strategies to achieve success in the Doha Round. I assured him that we're committed to achieving a world that trades more freely; that we recognize we have obligations to do -- to deal with our agricultural subsidies in order to move the Doha Round forward; that Sue Schwab is committed to working with our European counterparts, as well as President Lula of Brazil, Prime Minister Singh of India -- two countries that represent others involved in the Doha Round -- and we believe that it's possible, very possible that we'll be successful. And so we're moving forward optimistically on this issue.
Secondly, we talked about climate change. The Prime Minister is concerned about greenhouse gases. I share your concerns about this issue. We talked about how, on the one hand, we can work together -- as I understand, we're signing some agreements that have -- that move forward alternative energy proposals. I assured the Prime Minister that here at home, that I'm concerned about the environmental issues, as well as the national security implication for being too dependent on oil.
I shared with him my optimism about reducing U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years by promoting alternative fuels. I talked to him about our desire to work with Europe and China and India and Japan and Australia and other countries about an international framework that will meet the following objectives: One, economic vitality and growth; two, the advance of new technologies; and third, obviously, the effects that will have on reducing greenhouse gases.
The Prime Minister made this a center point of our conversation, and I fully appreciate and understand why. I appreciate the leadership you've taken on this important issue, not only in your country, but at the EU, as well. It's noticeable to me here in the United States, and I congratulate you for being the strong leader that you are.
All in all, we've had a wonderful discussion, and I welcome you here to the Oval Office.
PRIME MINISTER REINFELDT: Thank you very much. It's been great. Thank you.
Well, I feel -- will say that I pointed out the importance of President Bush's leadership on the Doha Round. There are too few in the world fighting for free trade, so we need the President on that. And I hope we could, during a very short span, bring this to an end.
And I was so grateful for the comments and leadership on the climate issue. It will be debated many years to come. So thank you very much for that.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir. Appreciate you coming. END 11:10 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 14, 2007
President Bush Discusses CAFE and Alternative Fuel Standards Rose Garden STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
ON CAFE AND ALTERNATIVE FUEL STANDARDS Rose Garden 1:21 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Good afternoon. I just finished a meeting with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Secretaries of Transportation and Agriculture, and the Deputy Secretary of Energy. Thank you all for being here.
We discussed one of the most serious challenges facing our country: our nation's addiction to oil and its harmful impact on our environment. The problem is particularly acute in the transportation sector. Oil is the primary component of gasoline and diesel, and cars and trucks that run on these fuels emit air pollution and greenhouse gases.
Our dependence on oil creates a risk for our economy, because a supply disruption anywhere in the world could drive up American gas prices to even more painful levels. Our dependence on oil creates a threat to America's national security, because it leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists who could attack oil infrastructure.
For all these reasons, America has a clear national interest in reducing our dependence on oil. Over the past six years, my administration has provided more than $12 billion for research into alternative sources of energy. I'd like to thank the Congress for its cooperation in appropriating these monies. We now have reached a pivotal moment where advances in technology are creating new ways to improve energy security, strengthen national security, and protect the environment.
To help achieve all these priorities, I set an ambitious goal in my State of the Union: to cut America's gasoline usage by 20 percent over the next 10 years. I call this goal 20-in-10, and I have said -- sent to Congress a proposal that would meet it in two steps: First, this proposal will set a mandatory fuel standard that requires 35 billion gallons of renewable and other alternative fuels by 2017. That's nearly five times the current target.
Second, the proposal would continue our efforts to increase fuel efficiency. My administration has twice increased fuel economy standards for light trucks. Together, these reforms would save billions of gallons of fuel and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions without compromising jobs or safety.
My proposal at the State of the Union will further improve standards for light trucks and take a similar approach to automobiles. With good legislation, we could save up to 8.5 billion gallons of gasoline per year by 2017, and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must take action under the Clean Air Act regarding greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. So today, I'm directing the EPA and the Department of Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture to take the first steps toward regulations that would cut gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, using my 20-in-10 plan as a starting point.
Developing these regulations will require coordination across many different areas of expertise. Today, I signed an executive order directing all our agencies represented here today to work together on this proposal. I've also asked them to listen to public input, to carefully consider safety, science, and available technologies, and evaluate the benefits and costs before they put forth the new regulation.
This is a complicated legal and technical matter, and it's going to take time to fully resolve. Yet it is important to move forward, so I have directed members of my administration to complete the process by the end of 2008. The steps I announced today are not a substitute for effective legislation. So my -- members of my Cabinet, as they begin the process toward new regulations, will work with the White House, to work with Congress, to pass the 20-in-10 bill.
When it comes to energy and the environment, the American people expect common sense, and they expect action. The policies I've laid out have got a lot of common sense to them. It makes sense to do what I proposed, and we're taking action, by taking the first steps toward rules that will make our economy stronger, our environment cleaner, and our nation more secure for generations to come.
Thank you for your attention. END 1:27 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 13, 2007
President Bush Celebrates America's 400th Anniversary in Jamestown Anniversary Park, Williamsburg, Virginia 12:02 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you, Justice O'Connor. Laura and I are really happy to join you today. This state is known at the "Mother of Presidents," which reminds me, I needed to call my Mother today. (Laughter.) I wish all mothers around our country a happy Mother's Day. And if you haven't called your mother, you better start dialing here after this ceremony. (Applause.)
We're honored to be in Jamestown on this historic day. We appreciate the opportunity to tour the beautiful grounds here. I would urge our fellow citizens to come here, see the fantastic history that's on display. I think you'll be amazed at how our country got started. And I want to thank all the good folks who are working to preserve the past for your hard work, and I appreciate the fact that you spent a lot of time educating our fellow citizens.
Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in America; it predated the Mayflower Compact by 13 years. (Applause.) This is a very proud state, and some people down here like to point out that the pilgrims ended up at Plymouth Rock by mistake. (Laughter.) They were looking for Virginia. (Laughter.) They just missed the sign. (Laughter.)
As we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown to honor the beginnings of our democracy, it is a chance to renew our commitment to help others around the world realize the great blessings of liberty. And so Laura and I are proud to join you. Justice, it's good to see you. There's no finer American than Sandra Day O'Connor, and I'm proud to share the podium with her. (Applause.)
We're also proud to be with Governor Tim Kaine and Anne Holton. I'm proud to call them friends, and I hope, Ms. Kaine, that the Governor recognized Mother's Day. Glad you're here. I want to thank Secretary Dirk Kempthorne of the Department of the Interior; Michael Griffin, the administrator of NASA; members of the United States Congress; members of the statehouse, including the Lieutenant Governor. I appreciate the Attorney General being here. I thank the Speaker for joining us. Most of all, thank you for coming.
I thank the members of the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission. Those are all the good folks who worked hard to get this celebration in order. I appreciate the members of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Laura and I saw members of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities digging in dirt. (Laughter.) It just so happened we wandered up, and they found some artifacts. (Laughter.) I appreciate members of the Jamestown 2007 Steering Committee.
The story of Jamestown will always have a special place in American history. It's the story of a great migration from the Old World to the New. It is a story of hardship overcome by resolve. It's a story of the Tidewater settlement that laid the foundation of our great democracy.
That story began on a dock near London in December of 1606. More than a hundred English colonists set sail for a new life across the ocean in Virginia. They had dreams of paradise that were sustained during their long months at sea by their strong spirit. And then they got here, and a far different reality awaited them.
On May 13, 1607, 400 years today, they docked their ships on a marshy riverbank. Being loyal subjects, they named the site after their King, and that's how Jamestown was born. Today we celebrate that moment as a great milestone in our history, yet the colonists who experienced those first years had little reason to celebrate.
Their search for gold soon gave way to a desperate search for food. An uneasy peace with the Native Americans broke into open hostilities. The hope for a better life turned into a longing for the comforts of home. One settler wrote, "There were never Englishmen left in a foreign country in such misery as we were in the new discovered Virginia."
Looking back, 400 years later, it is easy to forget how close Jamestown came to failure. The low point came after the terrible winter of 1610. The survivors boarded their ships. They were prepared to abandon the settlement, and only the last minute arrival of new settlers and new provisions saved Jamestown. Back in London, one court official summed up the situation this way: "This is an unlucky beginning. I pray God the end may prove happier."
Well, the prayers were answered. Jamestown survived. It became a testament to the power of perseverance and determination. Despite many dangers, more ships full of new settlers continued to set out for Jamestown. As the colony grew, the settlers ventured beyond the walls of their three-sided fort, and formed a thriving community. Their industry and hard work transformed Jamestown from a distant English outpost into an important center for trade.
And during those early years, the colonists also planted the seeds of American democracy, at a time when democratic institutions were rare. On their first night at Jamestown, six of the leading colonists held the first presidential election in American history. And you might be surprised to know that the winner was not named George. (Laughter.) A matter of fact, his name was Edward Wingfield. I call him Eddie W. (Laughter and applause.)
From these humble beginnings, the pillars of a free society began to take hold. Private property rights encouraged ownership and free enterprise. The rule of law helped secure the rights of individuals. The creation of America's first representative assembly ensured the consent of the people and gave Virginians a voice in their government. It was said at the time that the purpose of these reforms was, "to lay a foundation whereon a flourishing state might, in time, by the blessing of Almighty God, be raised."
Not all people shared in these blessings. The expansion of Jamestown came at a terrible cost to the native tribes of the region, who lost their lands and their way of life. And for many Africans, the journey to Virginia represented the beginnings of a life of hard labor and bondage. Their story is a part of the story of Jamestown. It reminds us that the work of American democracy is to constantly renew and to extend the blessings of liberty.
That work has continued throughout our history. In the 18th century our founding fathers declared our independence, and dedicated America to the principle that all men are created equal. In the 19th century our nation fought a terrible civil war over the meaning of those famous words, and renewed our founding promise. In the 20th century Americans defended our democratic ideals against totalitarian ideologies abroad, while working to ensure we lived up to our ideals here at home. As we begin the 21st century, we look back on our history with pride, and rededicate ourselves to the cause of liberty. (Applause.)
Today democratic institutions are taking root in places where liberty was unimaginable not long ago. At the start of the 1980s, there were only 45 democracies on Earth. There are now more than 120 democracies, and more people now live in freedom than ever before. (Applause.)
America is proud to promote the expansion of democracy, and we must continue to stand with all those struggling to claim their freedom. The advance of freedom is the great story of our time, and new chapters are being written every day, from Georgia and Ukraine, to Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon, to Afghanistan and Iraq. From our own history, we know the path to democracy is long, and it's hard. There are many challenges, and there are setbacks along the way. Yet we can have confidence in the outcome, because we've seen freedom's power to transform societies before.
In World War II, we fought Germany on battlefields across Europe, and today a democratic Germany is one of our strongest partners on the Continent. And in the Pacific, we fought a bloody war with Japan. And now our alliance with a democratic Japan is the linchpin for freedom and security in the Far East. These democracies have taken different forms that reflect different cultures and traditions. But our friendship with them reminds us that liberty is the path to lasting peace, and that democracies are natural allies for the United States.
Today we have no closer ally than the nation we once fought for our own independence. Britain and America are united by our democratic heritage, and by the history that began at this settlement 400 years ago. Last month some of the greatest legal minds in Britain and America, including Justice O'Connor and Chief Justice John Roberts, came to Jamestown to lay a plaque commemorating our shared respect for the rule of law and our deeply held belief in individual liberty.
Over the years, these values have defined our two countries. Yet they are more than just American values and British values, or Western values. They are universal values that come from a power greater than any man or any country. (Applause.) These values took root at Jamestown four centuries ago. They have flourished across our land, and one day they will flourish in every land.
May God bless you, and may God bless America. (Applause.) END 12:15 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 14, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow White House Conference Center Briefing Room 12:02 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Hello. One additional item before we get to questions. The President this morning had a call with Prime Minister Abe of Japan. Prime Minister Abe gave the President a readout of the Prime Minister's visit to the Middle East, including visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar.
They agreed that it's indispensable that governments support Prime Minister Maliki and his government as they work on Iraqi reconstruction. They also agreed that Iran must give up its nuclear weapons ambitions and stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq. They discussed the North Korean situation, agreed that it's regrettable that North Korea has yet to fulfill its commitments under the February 13th agreement, and that they look forward to seeing one another at the G8 summit in Germany.
Q The event today about CAFE standards, when did that get added to the schedule?
MR. SNOW: Today. I mean, we've been discussing it for some time, but we made it official today.
Q Well, I'm just wondering why -- sort of what's the thinking behind doing it today.
MR. SNOW: The thinking behind doing it today is we're ready. I mean, it's really pretty much that simple. The Supreme Court, in Massachusetts versus the EPA, had some things to say about the EPA and its role in dealing with tailpipe emissions under the Clean Air Act. And so there has been an interagency process underway, thinking about what the ramifications are.
The ramifications are that you can use regulatory means to go ahead and pursue some of the goals where -- that have been outlined in that Supreme Court opinion, and at the same time, also, it provides a way of advancing the goals within the context not only of CAFE, but also the 20-in-10. So there's -- if you're looking for a political calculation or some extraneous factor that prompted the timing, there is none. Basically it's ripe, and therefore that's why we're doing it today.
Q So he'll go beyond the State of the Union, with what he mentioned in the State of the Union as far as 20-in-10 today?
MR. SNOW: No, what he's going to do is he's going to encourage Congress to go ahead and enact what he laid out in the State of the Union in terms of 20-in-10. But again, you've got a somewhat different atmosphere now because the Supreme Court has said, in effect, to the EPA, you need to treat greenhouse gases as something to be regulated in terms of tailpipe emissions, under the Clean Air Act. There was an injunction to go ahead and do that.
Well, that obviously requires a certain amount of regulatory burden. What the President is now doing is saying to the relevant departments and agencies, you need to work together, because it's enormously complex in terms of jurisdiction and everything else. So he -- you'll have the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, as well as the Department of Agriculture working on this.
There will be a 2:00 p.m. briefing with the principals at those agencies, although Secretary Bodman is out of the country, so Clay Sell will be in his stead.
Q And one more. Over the weekend the Times reported that 100,000 to 300,000 barrels of oil are unaccounted for on a daily basis in Iraq. And I guess the question was raised, is this corruption, or is this miscounting.
MR. SNOW: We're aware of the study and I don't have a -- again, this is something that people are taking a look at, there's no clear answer for it.
Q Can you give us a picture of how the President is being kept in the loop on the missing soldiers in Iraq, and now that General Caldwell has spoken, what's the President's view is about who is detaining them?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, General Caldwell did not make any speculation along those lines, nor will we. The President is routinely briefed through the National Security Advisor and others about what's going on. So I mean, it's a routine briefing process. So he certainly is kept up to date on what we know. But also, in situations like this, we do know that you have some people whose duty status is unknown. They are the object of -- their colleagues are looking for them, and we really -- we're not at liberty to go beyond that.
Q The Vice President said in a question-and-answer on the record today, on the airplane, I guess, that he sensed a greater urgency in the Iraqi government than he had sensed before. We've been led to believe that they were pretty urgent about going forward for a long time.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q What does that statement say to you?
MR. SNOW: It says to me that they continue to think that there's a sense of urgency and they're redoubling their efforts.
One of the things he referred to, for instance, are some of the meetings recently between members of the Council of the Presidents and the Prime Minister. He talked about the Prime Minister's meeting, for instance, with Mr. Al Hashemi. I think what you see is the President noted in the State of the Union and elsewhere the American public's patience is not unlimited. Furthermore, I think it's clear to say that the Iraqi people's patience is not unlimited. You have seen there's political pressure also within Iraq to see more demonstrable political -- progress on political and other lines. And I think it's simply an acceptance of that reality on the part of the Iraqis.
Q But he didn't seem to get any real commitments on the part of the Iraqis. I mean, to say you get a greater sense of urgency at this time, months and months after we've been told by the President and others that they were committed to moving fast --
MR. SNOW: What the Vice President said is he's not going to tell you what were in those private conversations. He said that the reason they're private is that they are confidential. He did not say that he didn't see a difference. He simply wasn't going to read them out, anymore than he was going to read out his personal conversations with his meetings with heads of state elsewhere.
Q But do you think he's gotten commitments on not taking a vacation? I mean, why wouldn't he read that out? I mean, it seems like it's not there. He essentially said it's not there.
MR. SNOW: Well, no. I just -- no, he didn't say that. What he said is he's not going -- what he talked about was -- you've hit on one of the phrases -- a sense of urgency. He also talked about his conversations with people throughout the political spectrum. He thought that was useful, as well as meeting with commanders and officers, with their generals not present. So he met with a whole broad spectrum of people, trying to get a sense of what's going on.
I did not get from my reading of the transcript the interpretation you've tried to import. Again, what he's trying to do is to maintain a certain level of discretion because, as somebody who is the representative of the President of the United States, if he has things to say in confidence he's going to leave them in confidence. And so will I.
Q Let me use the famous Tony Snow, it's apples and oranges. I mean, he's talking about commitments and he's not talking about that he got any commitments. You're talking about whether he keeps some conversations private.
MR. SNOW: No, I think that would apply also to commitments. And furthermore, if you're looking for announcements, for instance, of the kind that you would like to have, or that you're referring to -- I'm sure we would all like to have some of those -- that is something that I think, out of respect for the Iraqis, they also have to be the ones making the announcements.
Q Tony, we have Vice President Cheney issuing a stern warning to the Iranians from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Today the Iranian President responds by threatening severe retaliation if the U.S. attacks it. We also have both the U.S. and the Iranians saying they are willing to talk to each other in Baghdad. How can you explain the contradictory, if not schizophrenic, state of U.S. diplomacy with regard to Iran?
MR. SNOW: Schizophrenic?
Q Certainly contradictory.
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. For one thing, what the Vice President -- the Vice President did not threaten to attack another country. So what you're doing is you're getting a reaction to a threat that was not made on the part of the Iraqi [sic] government.
Number two, U.S. policy has always been the same, which is to use the diplomatic pressure available to you to encourage good behavior on the part of the Iranians. Why? Because it is in everybody's interests that they step away from a nuclear program and reintegrate themselves into the broader community of nations. To do so they will need to step back from terrorist activities, or supporting terror activities, including in Iraq, but also to step away from nuclear activities that are seen as a threat by everybody in the region.
That is not schizophrenic. As a matter of fact, that is a fruit of multilateral diplomacy led by the United States with a broad coalition of nations that has been supported by Arab partners, as well as by our European allies and many within the United Nations. You also have a United Nations Security Council resolution.
When it comes to dealing with issues in Iraq proper, it is not unusual for the United States to say, we want to talk with neighbors directly about issues bearing only on Iraq. There was an opportunity to do that. The Iranians did not wish to have such conversations, apparently, in Sharm el Sheikh. The President has authorized a Baghdad channel at the ambassadorial level for conversations about having the Iranians step back -- to at least deal with our concerns with their support for activities that destabilize the government of Iraq. But they go no further.
This not only is not schizophrenic, it's perfectly consistent with American policy over recent months. But what we're saying is we continue to look for ways appropriately for diplomacy to succeed. We are not, however, going to, as a result of our concerns, grant to Iran full diplomatic status. That is something that has never been contemplated and never been offered. But it is not unusual to have conversations of this sort -- I've read it out on a number of occasions, there have been either at the ambassadorial or ministerial level conversations between the two governments since the President has taken office.
Q But what's the use of ratcheting up the temperature in the Gulf with that kind of symbolic threat, or warning, at least, of the -- when you want their cooperation in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think -- again, you read it as ratcheting it up. The Vice President was pointing out that under international law, you do, in fact, have the right of freedom of movement. That is of considerable concern because, as you know, the Strait of Hormuz is only 21 miles across at its nearest -- its narrowest. You have an enormous amount of the world's oil resources going through there. You want to make sure that people, in fact, have freedom of motion through those straits so that you do not have disruptions that can have some pretty significant economic consequences around the globe.
Q Tony, just to clarify, these three missing American soldiers in Baghdad, do we know if they've been kidnapped, or at this point, it's just missing, we don't have the status?
MR. SNOW: Again, we're not going to talk -- the duty status is unknown. We're not going any further than that. We're not going to discuss publicly anything else.
Q Okay. And over the weekend there was an Iraqi official who said he was talking to parliament -- he had an interview on CNN -- that perhaps they were going to go ahead and limit this recess from two months to perhaps a month to two weeks. Is that something that the Bush administration is aware of or --
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware of that specific statement. But again, we are certainly aware of the ongoing debate. Notice I've said on a number of occasions, wait until they have their debate. I think they understand that there is an expectation that they need to -- they've got some very important work that they need to conclude and they also understand that there are a lot of people in the United States who have real concerns about some of those earlier reports about a recess.
Q Tony, on the effect of the CAFE standards, is it the CAFE stuff that's going to be regulated that he's going to call for regulation, or does that involved Congress, as well?
MR. SNOW: Again, what you have is -- there are some opportunities -- not opportunities -- there are some requirements to do some regulation. There is a difference between what you can do with light trucks -- the light truck standard as opposed to at vehicular standard. And again, for much more precise discussions of these I'd refer you to the 2:00 p.m. call. But we're really talking about both on the CAFE side and on the 20-in-10 side, there is -- the President is going to ask people to look for ways on a regulatory basis to move forward with the goals of both programs, and at the same time, continue to encourage Congress to go ahead and act.
After all, this is a proposal that seems to give both parties what they say they want in terms of pursuing energy independence and at the same time pursuing a cleaner environment. So there ought to be a pretty good bipartisan basis for passing such legislation. We'll continue to work it.
Q And will the corporate average fuel economy number be raised?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'll defer all those technical questions to the guys who will be working it.
Q Tony, as the President has this energy event today, what's the administration doing about the current high price at the pump?
MR. SNOW: Well, there's a lot of things. Keep in mind --
Q Is this going to have some immediate effect?
MR. SNOW: No, it's not going to have an immediate effect. On the other hand, if you take a look at what the President has been proposing for a long time, this President had proposed an energy policy upon taking office, and it took years to get Congress to act on it. And even now we have no action on this.
The President has put together a series of proposals that allows, on the one hand, to pursue greater energy independence through 20-in-10. That is, substituting something other than petrofuels for -- in the gasoline supply in the United States, making the transfer to biofuels.
Number two, the President also from the very beginning has talked about the importance of increasing refinery capacity. All the news reports indicate that what we have right now are supply spikes that are due to the fact that there have been difficulties at refineries. Again, you go back and you look at the policy; if we had been at a point where people were building greater refinery capacity, you wouldn't have the kind of price spikes you have.
So the President has had an integrated energy policy from the very beginning that, in fact, would have addressed a lot of these things, and he continues to do this. He understands the energy business and so, as a consequence, is trying to come up with ways that give us greater independence and greater capacity and a greater ability to develop in a clean way. One of the other things, if you take a look at this administration's record, we have got -- what the President talked about was reducing the pollution intensity, the hydrocarbon intensity in terms of emissions. We've done a better job of that than anybody else in the world. We've put $12 billion into developing cleaner and cheaper and more reliable energy sources since the President has been in office; $35 billion into studies to take a look not only at the problem, but how to address it.
So he has taken a comprehensive look at this all along. Now, the President can't do it by himself, which is one of the reasons why he is saying, even though we've got regulatory authority to go ahead and do this, it's also important to get Congress to work legislatively to try to pursue these goals. So the President certainly, again, understands the complexity of the problem and has, interestingly enough, been proposing things all along that could have made this situation --
Q Is there anything the administration -- any part of the administration -- Energy, many agencies in the Department of Energy -- can do, or will do, to help ease these -- bring down these prices right now?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, the fact is you've got a global marketplace and if you're asking, is somebody going to put in price controls, no. What you try to do I guess in the short run is something that the companies themselves are going to have to do, which is restore refinery capacity and get the refineries operating at full tilt as quickly as possible.
What you also have to do in the long run, again, is not only to send a message, but also to encourage investors to start looking for other ways to meet our energy needs, not only on the vehicular level, but also at the industrial level. That has been the focal point of administration energy policy from day one, continues to be.
And perhaps this is one of those events that will get members of Congress to say, okay, let's go ahead and do this stuff, because it certainly offers a lot of promise. And I don't see anybody pushing back against the presumption that the kind of policies that the President has been promoting would, in fact, be very useful at a time like this.
Q Just one more. Has the war or any of the factors involved in this report that Jim mentioned had any effect on prices? What effect does it have?
MR. SNOW: It's hard to quantify. Keep in mind that in terms of global export terms, Iraq is still not a major player. You have others who are involved in this. And the prices of oil are being governed more by global demand than anything else. So if you ask people in the energy business, they will site factors, things that are responsible for price increases, including increased demand from China and India, as well as throughout the developing world. So the entire world is competing for this resource and it's that competition that tends to elevate prices.
Q Tony, two questions. One to follow. How does the -- (inaudible) -- of the U.S. feel in the -- (inaudible) -- that U.S. is looking for what they are not supplying to the U.S. as far as oil is concerned?
MR. SNOW: They seem to understand the necessity of doing it. I don't believe that that was really a focal point of the conversations, however.
Q And second, as far as I understand, at least one U.S. soldier is dead in Afghanistan and Pakistan area. And also scores of people died inside Pakistan. And the U.S. State Department is saying that this is an internal matter because there is a fiat going on inside Pakistan against Musharraf, and he might impose another -- again, martial law in the country. And U.S. stake is there in the area. How does the President feel about it?
MR. SNOW: Again, we are aware of some of the casualty reports that are coming out. We're studying them in terms of trying to read what's going on politically within Pakistan. That's -- you know me, Goyal, I'm not getting in there.
Q Tony, back to energy environment issues. Is the President still philosophically opposed to the notion of national mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions?
MR. SNOW: Again, the President's position has been pretty clear on this, and what he's really looking at is effective ways of trying to cut emissions. The market-based approach seems to work. Again, if you take a look at what the United States has done in terms of reducing carbon intensity, we've done a better job than anybody else in the world. So the President's position is still the same.
Q So the answer is, no, he's not interested in the approaches such as the allies seem to be interested in --
MR. SNOW: There are going to be conversations I'm sure about a whole variety of approaches. What the President has said all along is, let's figure out ways to engage and also invest in technology, because ultimately what you're really talking about is a change in technology not only in terms of what is affective as an energy source, but also how you utilize it. And that goes everywhere from clean coal to nuclear power to biofuels to hydrogen cells -- the whole bit.
So I think rather than trying again to jump into what is an ongoing set of conversations, I'm not going to advance the ball other than to remind you of the aggressive stance the President has taken, and also doing it in terms of outreach. He has discussed it with each of our key allies. And really the question is, do you try to set up a mandatory system, or do you try to set up an innovation-based system? The President prefers innovation.
Q Tony, for those of us who had a little trouble with Economics 101, what's the free market incentive for the oil companies, the refiners to do anything about it? It seems like whenever they have these -- problems with refineries, they just raise the price, profits remain healthy. Why should they do anything?
MR. SNOW: Well, on the other hand, when prices go up you also make it economically feasible for things that may not have been competitive in the past enter the marketplace and they become real competitors. So energy companies know that when prices change, so does the -- so do the underlying economic realities. And it certainly makes a lot of technologies that in the past may not have seemed feasible when you were talking about $15 a barrel oil -- some would fall within the realm of economic reality. So they also understand that there has to be
So they also understand that there has to be some competition.
Furthermore, if you're an oil company, and there is the ability to undercut you in terms of price, somebody is going to try to do that. That's the way the market works, as well. What you're assuming is that there is a perfect oligopoly situation where everybody is conspiring to drive up the prices. That, as you know, is illegal. And furthermore, this administration has done more in terms of investigating and, in some cases, prosecuting attempts to do that. There are regular reports to Congress in terms of what's going on in terms of the competitive environment within energy companies.
So to answer -- I'm going to answer yours with a combination of Economics 101 and, I don't know, Pre-Law 101, as well.
Q So for someone like the President who would like to see these two new technologies spurred on by economic incentives, high gas prices are a good thing?
MR. SNOW: No, the President is not happy about high gas prices, nor are the American people. Again, had the President had gotten his way in terms of new refinery capacity or the more aggressive exploration of alternatives, there, in fact, might be a situation where there would be some alternative to the situation right now, which is refinery capacity down, therefore, the gas prices are up -- lower supply, higher prices.
Q I remember that part.
MR. SNOW: Yes, I figured.
Q In the first 11 days of May, 234 bodies have been dumped around Baghdad, most likely by death squads. And in the first 11 days of April, 137 bodies were dumped around Baghdad, most likely by death squads. One of the key goals of the surge was to reduce the activity of death squads. It seems to be going in the opposite direction. What is the concern?
MR. SNOW: Well, there is always a concern about it. We have made that clear. On the other hand, the longer-term trends, if you take a look at the sectarian violence benchmarks, still generally are down, and considerably so. Nevertheless, you always have to be aware of that kind of thing and cognizant of it. General Caldwell mentioned that a little bit in the brief this week.
The fact is that you have to keep your eye on all the possible difficulties within Iraq. That would include sectarian violence -- al Qaeda violence still seems, by and large, the source of most of the death right now in the country. But you cannot sort of say, well, one source is down, so we're not going to worry about it as much. Instead, what you try to do is to continue working in ways that are going not only to reduce sectarian tensions, but also increase levels of sectarian trust.
We have talked a number of times about the improving situation within Anbar, and also efforts ongoing in Diyala to deal with al Qaeda terrorists who seem bent on trying to make their way into Baghdad to commit acts of terror. There have also been discussions of ways of going after those who are clearly involved in sectarian violence, whether they be Shia, Sunni, or otherwise -- as confidence-building measures.
So obviously, everybody on the ground is keenly aware, not only of the trends and statistics, but also the underlying challenge, which is not merely to get the numbers down, but ultimately the way you get the numbers down in the long run is to get the level of trust up so that individuals who may have gotten wind of potential attacks, or may know something, have some piece of actionable intelligence are going to think it's in their interest to go ahead and report the bad actors and stop the activities rather to let it proceed.
Q Are tactics changing to address the increased --
MR. SNOW: Again, tactics continue to change. Do not assume that people never shift their behavior; they do it constantly in response to the changing realities on the ground. They have to.
Connie, and then Les.
Q Thank you. A question on Jerusalem and a question on Hamas. Can you confirm or deny the report the U.S. is boycotting a 40th anniversary ceremony in Jerusalem --
MR. SNOW: I have heard no such thing.
Q Can you please check into it? It's been reported --
MR. SNOW: Okay, this again falls into one of these please let me know in advance, because it's just --
Q All right. And Hamas, on the cartoon, did you have any comment on this horrible anti-Semitic cartoon?
MR. SNOW: Keep in mind that the conditions always, for full recognition of the government, are the Quartet conditions, which is you have to renounce violence; you have to abide by prior international obligations; and you have to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. And those have been areas of concern that have -- that we have made clear with Palestinians for a very long time. We'll continue to do so as we work toward trying to have a two-state solution where both partners are agreed on those fundamentals.
Q Has the U.S. formally contacted --
MR. SNOW: Again, Connie, I'm not going to --
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. The Washington Post reports that the 400th anniversary of Jamestown yesterday had 10 years of planning, costs millions of dollars, was visited recently by Queen Elizabeth, and yesterday by the President and Governor of Virginia. But at that ceremony, I saw nothing of either of Virginia's U.S. senators, whose offices this morning repeatedly refused to explain why they were absent. My question, does the President know any reason why these two Virginia U.S. senators failed to show up for this national and Virginia event?
MR. SNOW: Les, I would have you ask them.
Q I've tried, but I just wondered do you know why --
MR. SNOW: No.
Q You don't know?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't.
Q Okay. Remembering Senator Webb's extraordinary rudeness to the President when Webb was invited to the White House last Christmastime, do you think Sunday's Webb absence was possibly more of the same?
MR. SNOW: We had a reception at Christmas where we welcomed new members of Congress, and the President was happy to welcome one and all. And we have had no further comment on that. By the same token, I will have no further comment on the crisp and tendentious question.
Q On the call with Prime Minister Abe, did you say who prompted it, how long the call was?
MR. SNOW: We'll pull together the numbers on it.
Q Also, I'm just curious, today is the first day that Japanese officials have stepped into the U.S. to audit U.S. beef companies. Did they discuss that at all, or do you know if the subject came up?
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware that they did. Obviously, that is one of the conversations that you have in the context of moving forward on Doha and also on bilateral trade. It is -- the beef discussions are -- frankly, if you want to do that, I would direct it to the Trade Rep's Office because Susan is going to have a much better handle on precisely the status of those conversations.
Q Tony, obviously immigration reform is very important to the President. Is he encouraged by the talks that are taking place with the Senate?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Yes, I suppose. Again, if you're looking for an adjective -- look, this is hard work, and both sides, right now, are working very hard to try to produce a bill that will get to where we want, which is to have comprehensive immigration reform. The President continues to be optimistic about the outcomes, and we continue to have Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and their staffers, and White House officials, working very hard on the issue.
Q Do you feel like they're close?
MR. SNOW: Again, I don't want to characterize. We certainly are hoping that we're going to get a bill.
Q Let me go back to Iran. Can you tell us what is the administration policy regarding regime change, and whether it changed or stayed the same in the light of these talks?
MR. SNOW: Again, what we have always said is that we hope the Iranian people are going to have the opportunity, as we think all nations should, to choose democratically their future.
Thank you. END 12:30 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release May 12, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Next week, the Senate will take up an important priority for our Nation: comprehensive immigration reform.
Over the past few weeks, leaders from both parties have met at the White House and on Capitol Hill to find areas of agreement and iron out our differences. These meetings have been productive. We've been addressing our differences in good faith, and we're building consensus. Both Republicans and Democrats understand that successful immigration reform must be bipartisan.
Democrats and Republicans agree that our current immigration system is in need of reform. We agree that we need a system where our laws are respected. We agree that we need a system that meets the legitimate needs of workers and employers. And we agree that we need a system that treats people with dignity and helps newcomers assimilate into our society. We must address all elements of this problem together, or none of them will be solved at all. We must not repeat the mistakes that caused previous efforts at immigration reform to fail. So I support a comprehensive immigration reform bill that accomplishes five clear objectives:
First, America must continue our efforts to improve security at our borders.
Second, we must hold employers to account for the workers they hire, by providing better tools for them to verify documents and work eligibility.
Third, we must create a temporary worker program that takes pressure off the border by providing foreign workers a legal and orderly way to enter our country to fill jobs that Americans are not doing.
Fourth, we must resolve the status of millions of illegal immigrants who are here already, without amnesty and without animosity.
Finally, we must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot. Americans are bound together by our shared ideals, an appreciation of our history, and an ability to speak and write the English language. And the success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society and embrace our common identity as Americans.
Coming together on a good bill that includes all five elements, we will make America more secure. We will make our economy more competitive. And we will show the world that America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time.
Reforming our immigration system is an important opportunity to show that elected officials in Washington can work together to find practical solutions to the problems that matter most. I thank the Senators who have been working hard on this issue. I am optimistic we can pass a comprehensive immigration bill and get this problem solved for the American people this year.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 11, 2007
President Bush Commemorates Military Spouse Day and Presents the President's Volunteer Service Awards East Room 2:57 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Welcome to the White House. Jeanine, thank you very much for kicking off with an important event here in the White House. Today, we honor six outstanding Americans who represent the very best of what volunteering means, and we honor the achievements of military spouses all across the nation. You cannot be a nation with a volunteer army unless you honor the military families, and that's what we're doing today. (Applause.)
I like to tell people that the strength of this nation is not our military -- although we intend to keep it strong. The strength of the nation is the fact that we've got compassionate, decent, honorable citizens who hear a call to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. And that's what we're here to honor.
Each of you is part of a legacy of service that harkens back to our country's earliest days. When Martha Washington -- the husband [sic] of the first George W. -- (laughter) -- organized sick wards for wounded soldiers and made visits to battlefields to boost the morale of the troops, she volunteered for a cause bigger than herself.
Through many conflicts, America's war fighters have counted on their spouses for love and support. Our communities have depended on your energy and your leadership. Our nation has benefited from our -- the sacrifices of our military families. Today, I've asked you to come so I can thank you on behalf of all the military families for your noble and needed service to the United States of America.
Not only am I saying it, but we've got some pretty distinguished group of folks who want to say the same thing. I will speak on their behalf, you'll be happy to hear: Secretary Bob Gates, Secretary of the Defense; Senator John Warner, Senator Craig Thomas, and Senator Mike Enzi; Congressman Chet Edwards -- who happens to be President George W. Bush's Congressman from Central Texas; and Congressman Bob Filner have joined us to pay tribute to our military spouses, and I'm honored you all are here.
I also appreciate our military leadership who have joined us today. I can't think, by the way, of many times here in the East Room of the White House that the Joint Chiefs have come to pay tribute. I really can't. We have met before -- we meet quite often, as a matter of fact -- but never in a setting where we're paying tribute to people such as yourself.
Before I begin with our military leadership, I do want to thank Pete Geren, Acting Secretary of the Army -- hopefully, permanent Secretary of the Army as soon as the Senate moves his nomination. Pete, thank you for coming.
Anyway, I do want to introduce General Pete Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Lynne; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, and his wife, Deborah; General Jim Conway, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, and his wife, Annette; General George Casey, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and his wife, Sheila. We appreciate you all coming.
I'm also proud that Mary Jo Meyers, the wife of General Richard Meyers, retired, United States Air Force, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is with us. And I appreciate Suzy Nicholson -- Suzanne Nicholson, wife of Secretary Jim Nicholson, who is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Thank you all for joining us. You honor us with your presence. (Applause.)
Pretty soon, we'll hear more about the President's Volunteer Service Award recipients. But I do want to thank your families for joining us. I thank members of the Armed Forces who have joined us today. I can't think of a more noble cause than for people to volunteer to protect our country in the face of grave danger. And it is a -- I marvel at how fantastic our military is. And the reason why it's good is not only because we're modern and well trained, but we've got such wonderful people who wear the uniform. And we thank you for serving, and I appreciate your families who have joined us, as well.
You know better than anyone that military service is a family commitment. As one wife in this audience recently noted, military spouses do not raise their right hands and take an oath of enlistment. Yet, their service begins as soon as they say two words: "I do." (Laughter.)
Military spouses enter into a life filled with uncommon challenges. One of the award recipients, Linda Port, has been a military spouse for nearly 21 years. Over that period, she has moved into and out of 17 different houses -- she has enrolled her children in nine different school districts. I see some heads that are nodding in recognition of what that means. This kind of life makes it hard to lay down roots, which is why it's so important that military families find strength and stability in each other.
Several of the spouses we honor today have made it their mission to build those needed networks of support. Linda worked as an advocate for 1,200 sailors and their spouses, so they could stay in contact during deployments. Michele Langford runs an association that works to unite Coast Guard spouses in her community. Cindy Beerky co-chairs the Patriot Family Readiness Group, which provides information and resources to approximately 500 military families. These initiatives are making a difference. They are improving lives. And we're all here to thank you for the care and commitment you have shown for others.
Many military spouses have the added difficulty of spending long periods raising their children alone. Being a parent is hard work under any circumstances -- just ask my mother. (Laughter.) Yet military spouses tend to have to go an extra mile. They raise their own families and they find ways to help others as well. Michael Winton has been the primary care-giver for his daughter while his wife serves in the Air Force. Yet he also found time to coach sports teams, work with Habitat for Humanity and Fisher Nightingale Houses, visit veteran centers, and volunteer for a program that helps kids develop a love of reading.
Denise Rampolla is another award example of the kind of person that we're honoring today. She appears to have worked with every civic organization in Cheyenne, Wyoming. (Laughter.) Listen to the list: the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, the Cheyenne Parks and Recreation Community, the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, the Laramie County Emergency Response Team, and Cub Scout Pack 112. (Laughter.) She's what we like to call a hard charger, she gets things done. Maybe we could use you a little more of you in Washington. (Laughter.)
Other military spouses have tackled personal adversity and used their experience to help others. Shannon Maxwell took on the role of care-giver when her husband, Tim, returned from Iraq with a severe head injury. Shannon took what she learned, got together with other military wives, and formed a support group to help our wounded warriors. They've raised over $400,000 to help injured service members adjust to new lives and new challenges. And we thank you for what you're doing, Shannon. And we also appreciate Tim for his service in Iraq; glad you're here. (Applause.)
This is just a sampling of the good and important work performed every day by military spouses all across the country. I want you all to know that your work is noticed, your work is appreciated, and your work inspires our nation.
Some of my most moving experiences as President have come during my visits with military families. Laura and I have had the privilege of meeting troops and their loved ones at bases all across the world. We've sat beside the bedsides of those who have been wounded in battle. We've met with wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, we have hugged the parents of soldiers lost in combat. In these meetings I have found that what motivates our service members most is their love for their families. Oh, they love our country, but they really love their families. You're in their prayers every morning, their thoughts every day, and their dreams every night.
Some time ago, a Naval aviator about to deploy to war wrote a letter to his fianc e. This letter may remind you of some of the letters you've received. His words back then were these: "For a long time I had anxiously looked forward to the day when we would go abroad [sic] and set to sea ... but you have changed all that. I do want to go because it is my part, but now leaving presents itself not as an adventure but as a job."
That letter was mailed more than 60 years ago, addressed to my mother from my father. Millions of similar letters have been written since that war. And most of you likely have one that is special to you that you keep close to your heart.
I know that nothing can compensate for the sacrifices you endure while your spouse is away. And so do a lot of people in Washington understand that. But you also got to know that our entire country stands with you -- we love you and we respect you. America has seen and survived many wars over many generations. What has remained constant is the love we have for each other, the nobility of duty, and the strength that our men and women in uniform find in their heroes who serve at home.
And so we honor you today -- whether you're in this room or around the United States of America. We thank you for your sacrifices. We thank you for supporting our Armed Forces. And we ask for God's blessings on you and your family.
And now I ask Lieutenant Colonel Floyd, to please read the citations.
(The citations are read.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. I wish Laura were here to have been able to greet you. She would be just as impressed as I am today by the wonderful stories and the great compassion of our recipients who, I know if they had to give a speech, would say they just -- they're just doing what they love to do, and they represent thousands who are doing the same thing.
We're honored that you've -- that you've joined us. May God bless you all. Thank you. (Applause.) END 3:16 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 11, 2007
President Bush Delivers Commencement Address at St. Vincent College Latrobe, Pennsylvania 11:24 A.M EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all, please be seated. Thank you for the warm welcome. Arch-abbot Douglas, Your Excellency, Jim and Mary Towey, members of the faculty, members of the clergy, moms and dads, and -- most important -- the Class of 2007: Thanks for inviting me; I am honored to be here. (Applause.)
Laura and I feel like we have a very special connection to St. Vincent College through the Toweys. We have come to know Jim and his family well during his time in Washington -- after all, he was the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. And now he's attained another high office. So today -- before his family, his friends and colleagues -- I would like to address Jim with two words he probably never thought he would hear from me: Mr. President. (Laughter and applause.)
I know he appreciates the importance I place on my speeches. He knows my style well. I want all of you to know I was very moved by a letter he recently sent me that invited me to this commencement. Here is what Mr. President said: "Mr. President, I believe that by hearing you speak, every member of the Class of 2007 will leave this campus with a priceless lesson about the importance of the English language." (Laughter and applause.) At least he didn't say, "I'm proud to welcome to the podium a man, the first President for whom English was a second language." (Laughter.) I did call him, I said what my speech ought to be about. That's what I asked him, what my speech ought to be about, Jim. He said, "About 10 minutes," so here goes. (Laughter.)
It's a proud moment for the Class of 2007. You're the largest graduating class in your school's history. You're the first class to take a mandatory course in Microwaving -- (laughter) -- a requirement that was imposed after you set off a record number of fire alarms while you were trying to make popcorn. (Laughter.) You cheered the Bearcats with the Carey Crazies. You walked through the lighted arches of Melvin Platz. Some of you are the first in your family to attend college. In a few moments, you will collect your degrees, the Ave Maria Bell will ring, and you will leave this campus with a lifetime of good memories. You've worked hard, and we're all here to congratulate you on a fabulous achievement. (Applause.)
I also congratulate the many people who helped make this day possible. These people include your parents, who paid your tuition and were patient -- even after the phone bills arrived. (Laughter.) I thank the people who have worked hard to make sure you leave with a sound and solid college degree -- and that's the St. Vincent's faculty. I appreciate very much the monks of the Arch-abbey -- the men whose prayers are surely responsible for some of the degrees being offered today. (Laughter.) And so I ask the Class of 2007 to continue to make these good people proud; to take what you've learned here into the world, and always live up to the high ideals that this college stands for.
At the heart of these high ideals is the name Benedict. Benedict was the saint who set down a practical guide for community life -- and helped save Western civilization. Benedict was the inspiration for the man who came to this country to plant these ideals in American soil -- and founded this college. And Benedict was also the inspiration for the Pope, who took his name in tribute to the Benedictine ideals of charity and community that he believes the world needs now more than ever.
These ideals of charity and community have a special resonance for Americans. From the beginning, America has offered the world a new model for strong community life. In the early 19th century, a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States. He was impressed by the way Americans came together in voluntary associations to help out a neighbor in need. And in his book, "Democracy in America," he wrote something that captured the spirit of this great country. He said, "When an American asks for the co-operation of his fellow citizens, it is seldom refused . If some great and sudden calamity befalls a family, the purses of a thousand strangers are at once willingly opened."
De Tocqueville saw the good heart of America back in the early 19th century -- and we continue to see the good heart of America in the early 21st century. We see it in citizens who responded to the worst atrocity on our soil with acts of selflessness and compassion. We see it in the historic new commitments our nation has made to alleviate poverty and suffering -- by feeding the hungry and fighting malaria and working to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa.
We see it in the volunteers who serve in our faith-based and community organizations -- good and decent folks who are living the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Today, more than 61 million Americans volunteer their time to serve others, more than three-quarters of our citizens give to charity. The volunteer spirit of America makes us unique, it represents the true strength of our nation, and it must constantly be reinvigorated and renewed.
And that's why it's vital for our country that our young people step forward -- and serve a cause larger than yourselves. When you serve your fellow citizens, you find benefits you'll never imagine. You discover that a caring person is sometimes all it takes for someone to turn their lives around. You see for yourself that kindness and respect make an enormous difference in a person's life. You learn to take the initiative, instead of waiting for a government to step in. You become more aware of others, a better man or woman to your friends and families, a better citizen of your country. You start to put your own difficulties in perspective. And soon you learn a great truth: that you always get more out of service than you give.
Your generation's willingness to serve will define the character of our nation -- and us older folks have good reason to be confident. Americans now in college are more likely to volunteer or become engaged in civic life than previous generations. Here at St. Vincent College, you have learned that service outside the classroom is as important as what you learn inside the classroom. The challenge for you is to keep this up as you begin your new careers, and your new families, and your new lives. So today I ask you to make service more than a line on your resume. Find a need that is not being met. Do your part to fill it -- make a difference to our country.
I'm pleased to see that the Class of 2007 is answering the call. In the graduating class today are five students who have volunteered to wear our nation's uniform. You knew the risks of serving in a time of war, and you have volunteered to accept those risks. You have chosen a noble calling. You will take your place as officers in the finest military the world has ever known. At some point, the lives of other men and women will be in your hands -- and they will need leaders of character and selflessness. As your Commander-in-Chief, I salute you for your service and I ask Almighty God to keep you close as you keep our nation safe. (Applause.)
There are many ways to serve our nation. Across this great land of opportunity we have citizens with great needs. And for every need, there is a path to service.
Some of you have chosen the path of teaching. We all know a teacher who has made a difference in our lives. In my case, I married her. (Laughter.) The First Lady showed me that teaching is more than a job or profession -- it is a vocation. When you make the decision to become a teacher, you know that your reward will be greater than money. It will happen in wonderful moments when you see a student grasp a difficult concept, or come alive during the reading of a poem, or discover how a work of history speaks to our time. To do this for even one child is special. To do this for hundreds of children over a career will bring you a satisfaction that few other professions can match.
The beauty of teaching is that its rewards can be found in any classroom. Some of you know this from your visits to St. Benedict's, an all-boys school in one of the poorest areas of New Jersey. For many of these boys, St. Benedict's is their only safe haven from the crime and drugs and hopelessness around them. Each Christmas holiday, several St. Vincent students spend time mentoring these young men.
One of your classmates, Anthony Fiumara, spent two breaks at St. Benedict's. Here's how he describes the experience: "I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. But my time at Saint Ben's showed me that a teacher could become more than a dispenser of knowledge. When I talked with the students about their dreams of attending college, I realized that as a teacher, I would be the one that would help them achieve their dreams."
Our nation needs more teachers like Anthony -- I'm so pleased that nearly four dozen members of this class have chosen to go into teaching. I thank you. And as you go forth, I ask you to set high standards in your classroom. Challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. Teach your students with respect. And always remember the ideals that attracted you to this noble profession.
Some of you may not yet have decided the best way to serve. It's okay. The government can't put love in your heart. But what we can do is when you find love and find the drive, we can help put it in action. And that's why I created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives that Mr. President ran. Through this office, we are helping to ensure that federal funds for social service go to organizations that get results -- even if they happen to have a crucifix or a Star of David on the wall. (Applause.)
We also established the USA Freedom Corps to help mobilize volunteers to bring the comfort and kindness of America to people both at home and abroad. Today hundreds of thousands of volunteers mentor children, they assist the elderly, they build schools and clinics, they respond to natural disasters. No matter what your interests, no matter what your skills, there is a place for every one of you to serve in our armies -- our nation's armies of compassion.
Even if you can't devote yourself to a career of service, you can make a life of service. We have that on good authority from one of President Towey's great heroes: Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa's whole life was dedicated to doing small things with great love. I'm pleased that Jim is taking a group of you to Calcutta later this month. I hope it helps inspire a new generation to carry on her good works. In almost every documentary about Mother Teresa, you see her going to the side of someone who is suffering terribly -- often about to die. She treats them with great gentleness, squeezing their hands, and whispering words of comfort. Their look of wonder tells you that these are people who may be feeling loved for the first time in their lives. As they look up at Mother Teresa, their eyes say: Here's someone who cares.
One of your classmates, Kara Shirley, knows what I'm talking about. Just two months ago, Kara went on a service project to Brazil, where she visited an AIDS clinic. The clinic was called Hope and Life. While there, she and the other students helped clean up after the patients, administer their medicine, and just sit by their bedsides holding their hands. One of these patients was a man who weighed just 70 pounds. When he was sent to this clinic, he had already been given his death certificate. But that only told the people at the clinic that this man needed even more love.
Here's how Kara puts it: "This man was so weak he could not even speak. But when I held his hand he turned his head, and you could feel the gratitude. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life -- and by the end of my time there, I didn't want to leave." Kara's gesture was a -- seemed like a small thing to hold a man's hand. But because it was done with great love, it helped fill a dying man's final days with dignity and grace.
I've met thousands of volunteers like Kara who serve their fellow citizens in many different ways. They put themselves in some of the harshest places in our country and in the world. Yet instead of telling me how hard they have it, they always tell me how fortunate they are.
You can know this joy in your own lives. All you need is a warm heart and a willing pair of hands. When Mother Teresa accepted her Nobel Prize, she told the story about visiting a nursing home. At first she was impressed by the home because it was attractive and well equipped. But she soon noticed that none of the residents were smiling, all were looking at the door. When she asked why everyone seemed so sad, one of the caretakers explained: "They are hurt because they are forgotten." They stared at the door in the hope that it would open and someone who loved them would walk through it.
My challenge to you today is this: Be the person who walks through that door. Be the face that brings a smile to the hurt and forgotten. Lead lives of purpose and character -- make a difference in someone else's life. And if you do, you will lead richer lives, you will build a more hopeful nation, and you'll never be disappointed.
My congratulations to you all. I ask for the Almighty God's blessings on you and your life. Thanks for letting me come and share my thoughts. (Applause.) END 11:42 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 10, 2007
President Bush Celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Presents the President’s Volunteer Service Award East Room 3:26 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming, and welcome to the White House. I'm glad you're here. Fifteen years ago, my dad -- or as we call him around the house, "number 41" -- signed a law designating May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This afternoon, Number 43 -- (laughter) -- has the honor of continuing Number 41's tradition. And we're glad you're here. (Applause.)
I thank you for joining me to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Across our nation, Americans of Asian Pacific descent are leaders in fields from education to business to government. Every day, Asian Pacific Americans make our communities more vibrant -- and this afternoon, we honor the many contributions that are made to our great democracy.
I want to thank Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, for being here today. Madam Secretary, we're proud you're here. Thank you for serving. (Applause.) A former member of my Cabinet, now retired -- well, not exactly retired -- (laughter) -- but a close friend, Norm Mineta, is with us. Thanks for coming, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.) You're looking pretty good. Yes, I see that. (Laughter.) I appreciate the fact that Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson is here. He cannot claim any Asian American heritage, but nevertheless, he is serving well. (Laughter.) Thank you for coming.
I appreciate the members of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders who are here today. Thanks for serving. Thanks for your good work. I want to thank the recipients of the President's Volunteer Service Award. We will talk about you all a little later on here. But we're honored you're here. I do want to thank the members of the Diplomatic Corps who have joined us. Ambassadors, thank you for being here. We're honored to have -- by your presence. I do want to thank World War II veterans and Japanese American veterans who have joined us today. We're proud to have you here, and thanks for this great example you've set for those who wear the uniform today. (Applause.) We're really glad you're here. (Applause.)
The story of Asian Pacific Americans is an important part of the American story. During the 19th century, Asian Pacific Americans endured great hardships, for example, to lay the tracks for our first transcontinental railroad. During times of war, Asian Pacific Americans have defended our Nation with honor and courage. And during times of prejudice, Asian Pacific Americans have overcome discrimination to build strong and lasting communities in our country.
Today, more than 15 million Americans can trace their lineage to Asia or the Pacific Islands. We see the influence of these Asian Pacific Americans across all our society. All you have to do is look to see the tremendous impact our fellow citizens are making. It's a great passion for art and music which brings new culture -- new life to our cultures. The love of learning has helped improve our schools, and raise the standards for all children. A commitment to innovation and free enterprise has helped strengthen our economy and created jobs. In 2004, I formed a presidential advisory commission to examine ways of expanding economic opportunities for Asian Pacific Americans -- and tomorrow I will receive the commission's final report, and I'm looking forward to getting it.
As Asian Pacific Americans realize the opportunities of our nation, they're also answering the call to give back to our communities -- and by doing so they create new opportunities for others. Men and women of Asian Pacific descent volunteer their talents and time to help their neighbors in a lot of ways. This afternoon, we honor six Americans of Asian Pacific heritage with our nation's highest honor for community service: the President's Volunteer Service Award.
The volunteers we recognize have set a powerful example for all Americans. They have served important causes -- from providing aid to victims of natural disasters, to sharing the joy of science with students, to raising money for libraries in far away lands. These acts of kindness have changed lives; they've laid the foundation for stronger communities. And they really speak to the strength of America. Our strength is not our military, although we'll keep it strong, and our strength is not necessarily the size of our economy, although we'll keep it robust. The true strength of the country lies in the hearts and souls of citizens who hear the call to love a neighbor and do something about it.
One of the honorees is a Virginia Tech student. I had the privilege of meeting Adeel Khan. See, Adeel is the President of the student government at Virginia Tech. He took office shortly before the terrible violence hit that campus. He's had what we call a difficult presidency. (Laughter.) And yet he understood the need for leadership. He's an impressive guy. He worked hard with classmates to organize a campus-wide vigil. He helped bring that important community together. He dealt with the tragedy the way you'd expect a leader to deal with tragedy. This good young man helped lead his fellow students in healing. And we know, as he did so, it helped heal the entire nation.
We see the true spirit of the Asian Pacific American community in the compassion and decency of citizens like Adeel Khan. We're grateful for the many contributions that Asian Pacific Americans have made to our nation. We're proud to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I congratulate all the honorees. And now I ask Lieutenant Commander Roncska to read their citations.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER RONCSKA: Angela An. The President's Volunteer Service Award to Angela An: From 2004 to 2006, Angela served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Secondary Education program in Bulgaria, where she taught English and Information and Communication Technology to students age 12 to 18 at school in a town -- remote mountain town. In addition, she helped to organize a summer leadership camp for 40 youth from throughout the country called Camp GLOW -- Girls Leading Our World. Angela is currently an active volunteer at Sunrise Assisted Living Facility, and helps deliver groceries for in-bound senior citizens with Food for All. (Applause.)
Anna DeSanctis. Anna DeSanctis. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Anna DeSanctis: Anna created the Odyssey Project where she raised more than $22,000 in 18 months to help create libraries in four orphanages in the region of China where she was born. The project allowed her to help children learn about the world through reading. The additional funds leftover by the Chinese social welfare organizations were used to construct water wells in two remote villages. (Applause.)
Kay Hiramine. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Kay Hiramine: In 2001, Kay launched Humanitarian International Services Group -- HISG -- a U.S.-based humanitarian NGO that helps to find and to mobilize resources to meet humanitarian needs around the world, and to respond to disasters and emergencies. In 2006, HISG's activities involved more than 60 nations and 120 projects worldwide, and sent over $8 million in donated humanitarian assistance. (Applause.)
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, HISG's team launched a private sector operation center in Houston that mobilized over 1,500 volunteers into the disaster zone within one month after the hurricane. (Applause.)
Adeel Khan. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Adeel Khan: In response to the tragic events at Virginia Tech on April 16th, Adeel has worked diligently to recognize [sic] Hokies United to promote school spirit and to help heal the community nationwide. Hokies United helped to organize a candlelight vigil at the university, which was attended by 40,000 students, faculty, staff and community members. Adeel serves as the president of the Student Body, is a member of the Student Alumni Associates, is treasurer of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, and is the office manager of the Collegiate Times Business Department. (Applause.)
Linda Uehara. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Linda Uehara: For over 40 years, Linda has been working with youth, families, schools and communities to promote and support safe and healthy lifestyles in Hawaii. In 2003, she was appointed by the Governor of the state of Hawaii to serve on the Juvenile Justice State Advisory Council, a group that affects services for about 1,800 youths each year. As a volunteer with the Hawaii Girls Court she co-facilitates Girls Street Smart, a life skills program for Asian and Pacific Island girls ages 12 to 18 years, and Girls Circle, a strength-based approach to honor gifts and talents, build healthy relationships, and address girls' needs. (Applause.)
Jonathan Wu. (Applause.) The President's Volunteer Service Award to Jonathan Wu: Jonathan established Science Alliance, a program that recruits high school honor students to work with 5th graders from 16 elementary schools on advanced science projects. The mentors and their "buddies" work together after school throughout the year learning about science, at the end of which all of the kids share their projects at a science fair extravaganza. Now in its third year, Science Alliance is currently providing valuable science training to more than 160 elementary school students. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming today. In our diversity we find our strength; in our hearts we find such wonderful compassion. Thank you all for setting a great example. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.) END 3:39 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 10, 2007
President Bush Participates in Briefings at U.S. Department of Defense The Pentagon 12:06 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I've just completed a meeting with Secretary Gates and General Pace and the members of the Joint Chiefs. I appreciate your hospitality. I really enjoy coming to the Defense Department to sit at the same table with these distinguished Americans. These folks are good, strategic thinkers. They're smart, they're capable, and we're lucky they wear the uniform.
I spent time discussing with them the needs of our military personnel as they carry out vital missions. The Joint Chiefs shared with me the latest developments and updated me on the troop rotations as they implement our new Baghdad security plan. They report that the three additional Iraqi brigades promised by the government are in place and are conducting operations in the Baghdad area. Three additional American brigades totally about 12,000 troops have taken up positions and are also conducting operations.
The Chiefs told me that the fourth American brigade of reinforcements has just entered Baghdad and its surrounding towns, and that the commanders expect the fifth American brigade to be in place by the middle of June. So it's going to be another month before all the additional troops that General Petraeus has requested are on the ground and carrying out their missions in Iraq.
American reinforcements in Baghdad, along with the Iraqi security forces, are now living and working with the Iraqi people in neighborhood posts called joint security stations. These stations are a place from which American and Iraqi forces act against terrorists and insurgents and death squads. And they patrol streets to build trust and increase local cooperation. In other words, there's active engagement by Iraqi forces and coalition forces in neighborhoods throughout Baghdad and the area.
And what happens with increased presence, there's increased confidence, and with increased confidence becomes increased information, information that forces can use to go after extremists, to bring down sectarian violence that plague the capital city of that country. The level of sectarian violence is an important indicator of whether or not the strategy that we have implemented is working. Since our operation began, the number of sectarian murders has dropped substantially.
As we have surged our forces, al Qaeda is responding with their own surge. Al Qaeda is ratcheting up its campaign of high-profile attacks, including deadly suicide bombings carried out by foreign terrorists. America responded, along with coalition forces, to help this young democracy, and a brutal enemy has responded, as well. These attacks are part of a calculated campaign to reignite sectarian violence in Baghdad, and to convince the people here in America that the effort can't succeed. We're also seeing high levels of violence because our forces are entering areas where terrorists and militia once has sanctuary. As they continue to do so, our commanders have made clear that our troops will face more fighting and increased risks in the weeks and months ahead.
As we help Iraqis bring security to their own country, we're also working with Iraqi leaders to secure greater international support for their young democracy. And last week, Secretary Rice attended an international meeting on Iraq and Egypt, and she briefed me and she briefed Secretary Gates -- there he is right there.
The meeting included representatives from Iraq's neighbors, as well as Egypt and Bahrain, and G8 countries, and the Arab League, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. It was a robust international meeting where Iraqi leaders expressed their determination to meet a series of benchmarks they have set for political progress. In other words, they have not only told me that they're going to meet benchmarks, they've not only told Secretary Gates that they intend to meet benchmarks, but they've also told the international community they intend to do so.
These benchmarks include adoption of a national oil law and preparations for provincial elections and progress on a new de-Baathification policy and a review of the Iraqi constitution.
The nations assembled in Egypt pledged to support Iraq in these efforts. In other words, the Iraqis said, we need help, and these nations pledged support. It's a very positive development. They're going to help Iraq secure its borders. They've said they will help stem the flow of terrorists into their country. They agreed to support the international compact established by Iraq and the United Nations so that Iraq can reform and rebuild its economy.
For Iraqi leaders to succeed in all these efforts their people must have security. That's why I made the decision I made. That's why we sent additional troops into Baghdad. But we need to give General Petraeus's plan time to work. There's a debate waging in Washington here about how long we're going to be there -- we haven't even got all our troops there. I still find it interesting that General Petraeus was given a unanimous confirmation vote by the United States Senate after he made clear his plan, and before the plan has been fully implemented some in Washington are saying, you need to leave. My attitude is, General Petraeus's plan ought to be given a chance to work, and we need to give the troops under his command the resources they need to prevail.
I met with congressional leaders to discuss the way forward last week. I fully understand Republicans and Democrats have disagreements. We should be able to agree that the consequences of failure in Iraq would be disastrous for our country. And they would be disastrous for our country. We should be able to agree that we have a responsibility to provide our men and women on the front lines with the resources and flexibility they need to do the job we've asked them to do.
I believe that leaders of goodwill can deliver to our troops, and we've got to deliver it soon. Time is running out, because the longer we wait, the more strain we're going to put on the military. All Americans know the goodness and character of the U.S. Armed Forces. They are risking their lives each day to fight our enemies and to keep our people safe. Their families are making tremendous sacrifices on behalf of our country. It's important for the people who wear the uniform and their families to know that as the Commander-in-Chief, I'm proud of the sacrifices they have made, and the American people honor their service to our country.
And now I'll be glad to answer a couple of questions. Jennifer, why don't you kick it off.
Q Thank you, sir. With some Republicans saying they need to see measurable progress by September, are you willing to reevaluate troop levels then, based on what General Petraeus says? And, also, are you willing to accept any consequences for benchmarks in the war funding bill?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I meet with a lot of people on the subject of Iraq. And I should; there's a lot of opinions on both sides of the aisle about this issue. My message to the members of Congress is, whatever your beliefs may be, let's make sure our troops get funded, and let's make sure politicians don't tell our commanders how to conduct operations; let's don't hamstring our people in the field. That's my message.
Their message to me has been, you know, don't you think the Iraqi government ought to do more? They recognize what I recognize, and these gentlemen up here particularly recognize, that without political progress it's going to be hard to achieve a military victory in Iraq. In other words, the military can provide security so a political process can go forward.
The two questions you asked, one was about General Petraeus's report to -- around September about what's taking place in Baghdad. My attitude toward Congress is, why don't you wait and see what he says? Fund the troops, and let him come back and report to the American people. General Petraeus picked this date; he believes that there will be enough progress one way or the other to be able to report to the American people, to give an objective assessment about what he sees regarding the Baghdad security plan.
It's at that point in time that I'm confident that the Secretary and the Joint Chiefs will take a look at what David Petraeus says and make recommendations about troop levels, based upon the conditions on the ground, which stands in stark contrast to members of Congress who say, we're going to determine troop levels based upon politics, or the latest opinion poll, or how we can get our members elected.
And the second part of your question was about benchmarks. Look, let me talk about this recent effort by Congress to fund our troops. The idea that the House of Representatives put forward is one that we will fund our troops by piecemeal. Secretary Gates was very strong about why that's a bad idea. And the American people must understand that if you fund our troops every two months, you're in a -- put in a position where we have to delay certain procurement, or that military contracts must be delayed -- there's a lot of uncertainty in funding when it comes to two-month cycles. So we reject that idea. It won't work.
I find it odd that the Congress is -- I find it ironic that the Congress is ready to fully fund unrelated domestic spending items, and only one-half of the money requested for our troops. They provide 100 percent of the money for the special interest projects that don't have anything to do with fighting the war on terror, and 50 percent of the money to go to those who wear our uniform. They got it wrong. They ought to provide 100 percent of the money for people who wear the uniform, and leave these special pork projects out of the bill. And so I'll veto the bill if it's this haphazard piecemeal funding. And I made that clear.
One message I have heard from people from both parties is that the idea of benchmarks makes sense. And I agree. It makes sense to have benchmarks as a part of our discussion on how to go forward. And so I've empowered Josh Bolten to find common ground on benchmarks, and he will continue to have dialogue with both Republicans and Democrats.
You know, this bill -- I believe we can get a good supplemental and I hope it's as quick as possible. The first blush is a bad supplemental coming out of the House. Nevertheless, there is -- the Senate will have a say and then there will be a conference committee, and hopefully we can move a good bill forward as quickly as possible. These gentlemen will tell you that the longer we wait, the more it hurts our military and the families.
Q Mr. President, with Prime Minister Tony Blair stepping down, are you concerned that British policy on Iraq could change significantly?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I'll miss Tony Blair. He is a political figure who is capable of thinking over the horizon. He's a long-term thinker. I have found him to be a man who's kept his word -- which sometimes is rare in the political circles I run in. When Tony Blair tells you something, as we say in Texas, you can take it to the bank. We've got a relationship such that we can have really good discussions. So I'm going to miss him. He's a remarkable person and I consider him a good friend.
I obviously look forward to meeting with his successor. I believe that the relationship between Great Britain and America is a vital relationship. It is a relationship that has stood the test of time, and when America and Great Britain work together, we can accomplish important objectives. We share common values. We share a great history. And so I look forward to working with Gordon Brown, who I presume is going to be the -- maybe I shouldn't say -- I shouldn't predict who is going to be in, but the punditry suggests it will be him.
I have had a meeting with him and found him to be an open and engaging person. It's amazing how people make all kinds of characterizations about people in the political process, and I found him to be a easy-to-talk-to, good thinker.
Q What do you think he'll do on Iraq? Do you --
THE PRESIDENT: I think -- look, I believe he understands the consequences of failure. The interesting thing about the Iraq debate, by the way, is I don't hear a lot of discussions about what happens if we fail. I hear a lot of discussions about maybe we can make good political progress based upon this issue, or let's just make sure that we constantly achieve -- make political hay based upon Iraq. I hear a lot of that. But there needs to be a serious discussion about what happens if we create a vacuum into which radical movements flow.
If you're worried about Iran, then it's really important that people understand the consequences of us leaving before the job is done. I am deeply concerned about what would happen in the Middle East should America's credibility be diminished as a result of us not keeping our word, as a result of us abandoning millions of people who are anxious to live in a stable, secure, free society. I worry about the signal it would send to al Qaeda. As I told you earlier, and as David Petraeus said -- let me put it in his words -- al Qaeda is public enemy number one in Iraq. Al Qaeda also should be viewed as public enemy number one in America.
And why do I say that? Well, al Qaeda attacked us once and killed thousands of citizens on our soil. I believe they want to attack us again. I believe failure in Iraq would only embolden al Qaeda further. I know that vacuums in the Middle East are likely to be filled by radicals and extremists, who, at the very minimum, would share a common enemy, the United States, and some of our strongest allies.
And so it's vital we succeed. The debate in Washington is, how fast can we withdraw, amongst some. The debate ought to be, what do we need to do to make sure that we not only don't fail, but succeed.
And so I believe Gordon Brown understands the consequence of failure. But I'm looking forward to working with him. I'm looking forward to working with the new President of France. I'm looking forward to working with a lot of people in Europe to not only achieve success in Iraq, but also achieve success in Afghanistan, another theater in the war on terror.
Let's see here -- Roger. Yes, Rog. I call him, "Rog."
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Good afternoon. You just mentioned the new leader of France, and I was going to ask you about him. Have you talked to him? Are you recruiting him as a part of the coalition? Any messages for him? And you sent Mr. Cheney to the Mideast to visit with the other neighbors. What specifically are the requests you are making of them?
THE PRESIDENT: Sure. First of all, Presidents don't recruit; the people elect a leader with whom I will work. And I had a -- I did talk to President-elect Sarkozy. I think it was at about 8:03 p.m. Paris time. He won at 8:00 p.m., and I called him shortly thereafter. And I'm so grateful he took my phone call. I had met with him before when he came over here, and found him to be a very engaging, energetic, smart, capable person. We will have our differences, and we will have our agreements. And I'm looking forward to working with him.
Vice President Cheney is in the Middle East. His first message to the Iraqis was that they have got to speed up their clock, that -- I agree with General Petraeus's assessment that there are two clocks, one ticking here in Washington, and one ticking there. And they must understand that we are very serious when it comes to them passing law that enables his country to more likely reconcile. And then he'll be traveling to talk to other friends in the area.
One of the questions that many ask is, do we understand the Iranian issue well? Do we understand the consequences of Iran having a nuclear weapon, which it looks like they want to try achieve -- to get. And the answer is, absolutely. And they'll find a stalwart friend in dealing with extremism in that vital part of the world. And the Vice President will lay out our strategy of convincing others to join us on this Iranian issue. He will point out to them that we have worked hard to convince not only the EU3 to join with the United States in sending a clear message, but also now Russia and China, and that we do have a diplomatic front. And we've got to continue to work together. We've got to work to keep it together, to send a focused, concerted message.
He will also remind people that success in Iraq will be important for dealing with Iran; that if we were to listen to some of the voices in Congress and withdraw before the job was done, it would embolden Iran. In other words, there are strategic consequences to what is being said here in Washington, D.C. about the Iraqi issue.
And so he's got to -- it's a vital trip, and I really appreciate him going. And it looked like he had a good stop yesterday. I haven't talked to him, but it looks like he's -- it looks like he had a good day yesterday and I'm looking forward -- he'll check in.
Q Mr. President, in your meeting with some moderate Republicans this week, in particular Representative LaHood, who, afterwards, said, "The way forward after September, if the report is not good, is going to be difficult" --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q -- those are his words -- are you perhaps facing an ultimatum on the war this fall with Congress?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, first of all, I appreciate the members coming down to the White House. We had a good exchange. It gave me a chance to share with them my feelings about the Iraqi issue. I spent time talking to them about what it meant to fail, and what it means when we succeed. They expressed their opinions. They're obviously concerned about the Iraq war. But so are a lot of other people.
I remind people -- I reminded them that last fall, late fall -- I had been one of these people that get endlessly polled -- you know, these surveys and the pollsters calling people all the time, it looks like -- and if they had asked my opinion, I'd have said, I disapprove of what was going on in Iraq. You could have put me down as part of the disapproval process -- and, therefore, had put a plan in place that would more likely cause me to approve of what's going on in Iraq. That's why I made the decision I made.
I explained to them why I made the decision I made. And I said, look, David Petraeus has got a plan, and members of Congress -- some members of Congress won't let him implement the plan. That doesn't make any sense, on the one had, for us to send him out with the unanimous confirmation by the Senate, and then to deny him the troops and/or the funds necessary to get the job done. And I reminded them that we ought the give David Petraeus a chance.
I did explain to them that General Petraeus has said he's going to come back and report to the Secretary and the Joint Chiefs and the White House and the Congress about whether or not the strategy that he thinks could work, is working. And at that point in time, we will respond accordingly.
As I told people, that decisions about the posture in Iraq needs to be based upon conditions on the ground. And no better person to report about the conditions on the ground than somebody who was there, and that would be General Petraeus. And at that point in time, upon the recommendation of the Secretary and the Joint Chiefs and General Petraeus, we will respond to what he says. So I said, why don't we wait and see what happens? Let's give this plan a chance to work. Let's stop playing politics. It's one thing to have a good, honest debate about the way forward in Iraq; it's another thing to put our troops right in the middle of that debate.
These troops deserve the money necessary to do the job. And our commanders need the flexibility necessary to do the job. And I believe this cause is necessary and it's noble. That's why I put those young men and women out there in the first place. It's necessary for the peace and security of our country. It's noble to have such amazing citizens volunteer to go into harm's way. And our Congress needs to support him. It's one thing to have a political debate or a debate about strategies; it's another thing to make sure that money gets sent to them on a timely basis. I repeat: This idea of funding our troops every two months is not -- is not adequate, and I, frankly, don't think it's right. They need to give these troops what they -- what the military has asked for them.
We can debate Iraq -- and should. There should be no debate about making sure that money gets there on a timely basis so our kids can do the job we've asked them to do.
I want to thank you all for your time. END 12:30 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 10, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow White House Conference Center Briefing Room 1:17 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Hello. Before we get to questions, let me read out a couple of foreign leader calls, and then we'll get to questions.
This morning the President spoke with Brazilian leader President Lula. He called in anticipation of the G8 meeting. They were discussing the agenda. They were also reviewing the status of discussion by trade ministers on the Doha negotiations. And they expressed their pleasure with increasing cooperation between the two countries, including the area of biofuels.
The President also had a conversation with Russian President Putin. They discussed Secretary Rice's upcoming visit to Moscow, as well as a range of important bilateral and international issues. And they talked about plans for next month's G8 summit in Germany.
Q Did they also talk about some of Mr. Putin's comments yesterday, that seemed pretty harsh towards the administration's foreign policy, comparing it to the Third Reich?
MR. SNOW: The Russian Foreign Ministry has called and had conversations with the embassy. And they've pointed out that he did not explicitly mention the United States, and they confirmed in a phone call that there's no intent to compare U.S. policies with those of the Third Reich.
Q What about these meetings with Republican lawmakers on the Hill? They were here on Tuesday, and you've been saying, well, there are a lot of other meetings that the President has with these people. But in general, what is the tenor of these meetings, then, and what is the President taking from them? Because he and the Vice President the last couple of days have been saying there's been progress on the ground; the Vice President was saying in Iraq sectarian violence is down. But somehow there's a disconnect. Republican lawmakers are saying, we're not seeing enough progress.
MR. SNOW: Well, a couple of things. Let me first give you a characterization of the meetings generally, and then we can start chipping away at specific concerns. What you end up having -- the meetings tend to be -- they're very interactive. The President comes in -- and I'll just describe in very general terms, because, again, I want to preserve both candor and confidentiality -- but he'll give his take on how things are going, and then he will invite others to give their takes. And everybody gets an opportunity to speak, and there's a lot of interaction, a lot of back and forth.
But without exception, the meetings have always been respectful, they have been -- and the exchanges, look, they're interesting. The President wants to hear what people have to say. And I think a lot of members, when they get into a situation like that, they're excited about the prospect that they do, in fact, have an opportunity to speak at liberty with the President, so they do it.
I'm sorry, now the second?
Q There seems to be a disconnect, though, because these Republican lawmakers are coming out of these meetings and saying the opposite, in some cases, of what the President and Vice President are saying about progress. They're saying, we're not seeing it.
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure it's the opposite. I think what they're expressing is impatience. And as the President pointed out today, yes, he's impatient, too. And he's made this point on a number of occasions. If you ask him the poll question, are you satisfied with what's going on in Iraq, the answer is no. So he certainly understands the impatience. And he also wants to hear what their specific concerns are, what ideas they may have. And often what will happen is that they'll also have more practical conversations about what's going on politically at the time.
But it really is wide open. And people talk about their personal experiences, they'll tell you what they've seen. But the point is, I'm not sure that there's a necessary disconnect, because what they want to see are results, and the President wants to see results.
Keep in mind that last year the President ordered a comprehensive review -- J.D. Crouch over at NSC helped put it together -- a big interagency review taking a look at all aspects of the policy toward Iraq, because the President wasn't satisfied, and he wanted to find a better way forward. And that included every dimension of our approach to Iraq, and every U.S. department, government and agency involved in Iraq, including the military. He has pointed -- he pointed out again today that General Petraeus, part of that, is in the process of implementing a plan. You really need to give it a chance to work before you give it a full assessment, but General Petraeus also is going to be reporting back to people so that they know what's going on, as well.
So I don't think impatience is new. It's perfectly understandable. And the express desire for results is something that everybody shares.
Q One last thing about -- in connection with the Vice President's trip. On board Air Force Two yesterday, senior administration officials said of the trip, and the message, "We've got to get this work done. It's game time." -- what does that suggest about the first four years of the war? Is it that the administration is just now saying that that was a scrimmage and now it's game time? What does that mean?
MR. SNOW: I think that's simply -- it gets back to what the President is saying. In some ways, there may be perceptions of two different clocks, Baghdad and Washington. The President said, you've got to speed up the clock. It is a matter of realizing that there have been a lot of efforts now. We've been working on this joint way forward in Iraq. You are getting results in a number of areas. We have been talking and working with the Iraqis on political, economic, and other reform.
As the President was pointing out, there are very key things that people want and expect to see, because you know it has to happen. If you want success in Iraq, you have got to have political accommodation, you've got to have the oil law, you've got to have constitutional reform, you've got to have the elections, you've got to have de-Baathification. All of those things are necessities; everybody knows it. It is tough to get to those points, but you've got to do it.
And so I think that was -- that was -- Jennifer, and then --
Q The President just said that he'd empowered Josh Bolten to talk to the Hill about benchmarks, negotiations on benchmarks and some sort of compromise there. Is he willing to accept some sort of consequences if benchmarks are not --
MR. SNOW: Yes, I heard you ask the question.
Q I'm asking you now.
MR. SNOW: What we're not going to do is do the negotiating for Josh, but he's talking with people. Keep in mind, benchmarks also are not new. The President talked about them in State of the Union. We talked about them in Amman in November. Secretary Rice put a list of 17 together in a letter to Senator Levin.
So you do need to have metrics, and Josh will be talking with people and we will continue to work with the leaders in the House and Senate to come up with something. The President, once again, expressing some confidence that we're going to get to the right place, but I'm not going to prejudge.
Q I mean, you said yourself it's not new, so why does the President even bother to say that he's empowered him to negotiate on this if he's not willing to show a little leg on what that means?
MR. SNOW: Well, he shows leg, just not to you.
Q Well, tell us about it. (Laughter.)
Q Tony, we've been hearing now, Republican officeholders who are publicly saying the President is running out of time. Does the President get that message?
MR. SNOW: The President understands their passions. The other thing they said is we see progress, we're with you. I mean, you've got to keep in mind, this is -- this is not ultimatums. This is an expression of a desire to see progress.
So you've got -- I think there's a temptation to say, by golly, do this or else. And I don't think the "or else" is necessarily part of it. And by the way, let me just stipulate, I'm walking a little tightrope here. I'm not going to respond directly to the meeting, but there have been plenty of other expressions of this publicly, as you pointed out.
The President is certainly aware of it, and it's important to get a sense of how members feel, what they feel about it, and also to share the President's view that, yes, of course you want to see progress, I want to see progress. And you have to understand the impediments, you have to understand what we think is necessary to give a sense of what we're doing, and at the same time also, to illustrate or to discuss also the dangers of not completing successfully the mission.
So all of those things enter into it. But the President certainly gets it, yes.
Q But if there's erosion from Republicans, doesn't that mean that the ultimatum is implied, or coming?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, and this is why I think it's premature to talk about an erosion. I'll refer again to what's going on presently in terms of politics in Washington. The President made it really clear: Any plan to cut off funding after 30 days, not going to happen. Any plan to revisit after 60 days, not going to happen. There, you've got Republican unity. The Republicans are united on this. And so what Republicans are saying, some Republicans, is, we want to see more. And the President said, yes, of course you do. And we want to see more, too.
So I think -- I think what you end up doing is, rather than speculating about what people may be saying in two to three months, as the President said, let the -- give the plan time to work. Give the plan time to get fully implemented. We're not even going to have the troops fully in field for another month. And so it's important to go ahead and do that.
And people -- look, people are going to keep a sharp eye out. There continue to be regular briefings out of MNFI. General Caldwell does them all the time, laying out metrics. I think it's important constantly to keep members of Congress briefed, to keep them up to date, to let them know what's going on. And obviously, General Petraeus, also, is tasked with coming up with a comprehensive and objective review, as well. So all those are important data points.
Q One last point. Aren't these public comments a sign the President is losing credibility with his own party?
MR. SNOW: No. And if you take a look -- all you have to do is take a look at the polling. You look at Republican support for the President, it still remains overwhelmingly strong.
Q So the President has drawn a couple of lines in the sand -- 30 days, not going to happen; 60 days, not going to happen. Attaching consequences to progress, is that not --
MR. SNOW: I'm just -- I'm saying I'm not going to get into discussions about benchmarks other than beyond what the President said today.
Q Let me ask you this, because the President also said -- the message seemed to be, give the plan a chance to work. If you talk to Republicans around town today, it seems to be the sense of, we're going to stay with you through September, and General Petraeus' report in September. Everything seems to be pointing to September. Isn't that a save the date card for the terrorists, guaranteeing a report in August?
MR. SNOW: No, only if somebody decides they're going to say, September is it. That's a very good question, because what you've highlighted, Jim, is something the President referred to today, because if you create expectations of cutoffs, or dramatic political shifts in the United States, what you do, in fact, is create political incentives on the other side. And that's why the President was talking about some of the ramifications, in terms of American credibility, based on the way people frame this --
Q September is not the --
MR. SNOW: Again, there's going to be reporting some time in the fall. What the President pointed out again today is, you have to base your decisions on facts on the ground. But rather than saying, September is the date -- look, we may be awash in good news, not predicting it, not being a rosy scenario guy, but there's a lot of news that will come to our attention over the next weeks and months, and so rather than sort of wading back in anticipation, and saying, we don't draw judgments, what members of Congress need to do and what generals do and what the President does is every day continue assessing what's going on and continue updating your view on how things are going, based on the ongoing evidence.
If you say September is it, you're right, you create a possibility that all the guys save up their cement trucks for August or September.
Q Tony, you mentioned the polls, and talked about the Republican support. All the polls also show that big majorities of the American public do not support the war. Have you heard the President talk about how difficult it is to fight a war or prosecute a war without the public's support?
MR. SNOW: The President understands the importance of public support. What's also interesting is that you see numbers coming up again on, do you think we're winning or do you think -- for instance, a pretty strong majority now, when asked, do you think we're losing, say no. That's an important data point. When it talks about, would you like the Americans to succeed, the answer is yes. So you always have mixed feelings.
Q They always say that.
MR. SNOW: But the point is that those, in fact, are things that reflect the thinking of the American people. As the President said, if you ask him, are you happy with what's going on, no. Would you like to home right away? Of course you would. But it is a difficult situation. The most important thing to do is to keep the faith with the people and American credibility by following through on the plan. And again, we are still in the mid-stages of implementing a plan, and rather than trying to -- it's like trying to grade your paper when you're not even halfway through the exam. You've got to be able to finish the basic work first, and let people assess exactly how the plan is proceeding and what kind of fruits it's bearing. That's only fair, and the President really asked people to be fair-minded. And I must say, members of Congress are going to approach it that way. They understand.
Q Tony, was there a sense from this meeting on Tuesday -- and you say you've had these meetings all the time -- that the tone was different? Because certainly what we're hearing from this group of moderate Republicans seems far more serious than what we've heard before, seems like they really put it to the President in ways they hadn't before.
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm going to refer you back -- this is where I've got to walk the tightrope. I don't want to get into specific characterizations of any given meeting, for reasons I've cited before. You want to maintain confidentiality. I'd refer you back to them, and say, was it cordial, was it collegial, was it honest, was it constructive.
Q Well, the President said it was cordial, I believe. But was there a different tone? That's what we're hearing. We're hearing from them that it was, that it was a real change in that meeting.
MR. SNOW: Again, this is why -- I think this may be different from what people had expressed themselves before the President. The President -- we have a lot of very honest sessions. This is not a sea change, it's not unlike anything we'd ever seen. The fact is, we get groups in -- Democrats and Republicans, insiders, outsiders -- you've been through this before -- who express all sorts of views to the President. The President is accustomed to hearing people being critical, also trying to be constructive. And I think you get both of them.
So, again, I want to avoid -- but, tonally, no, this was not something where -- people are being honest, but they are also being respectful. So I don't think --
Q Is there increasing frustration among Republicans, that you sense?
MR. SNOW: I think -- look, frustration is something that everybody has been sensing for a long time, including the President. So frustration is not a new feature, at a time when you want to make sure that you're doing the right thing and the plan is working, and they want to see data, they want to see evidence, and we agree with them. We're doing everything we -- let me move around because --
Q Just quickly, on Maliki. I mean, you keep talking about these benchmarks -- or not benchmarks, but September is a progress report, and you keep talking about David Petraeus. I mean, surely, the real brunt of this is going to be on Maliki, and whether the political things have come together. You say you want him to speed up. You said that before. You've used Congress -- oh, look, we can't get things through Congress very quickly. Then how do you think he's going to speed up if he hasn't done it yet?
MR. SNOW: Well, again --
Q We've heard this again and again. We've heard it from -- we've heard it from the President.
MR. SNOW: I know you've heard it again and again, and -- we've had some incremental progress, but we're not there yet: oil law, council of ministers before the council --
Q Not even close. I mean, time is running out there.
MR. SNOW: Well, let's see what they do. I mean, it's important -- look, all I can stress, Martha, is that I share the premise of your question, which is, it's important to get that work done.
Q Is the political -- are those far more important at this point than security, as a benchmark in September?
MR. SNOW: I think -- no, they're related. I think that you cannot separate all the elements. As the President was pointing out, if you have security you also have greater confidence for political cooperation. If you've got an economic stake, that feeds in both the political cooperation and security. I mean, all the pieces really are linked. You've got to address all of them.
The political piece undoubtedly important. You cannot single it out and say it's the most important because each and every one of these pieces really does have important ties to all the others, and you have to be working them all as hard and as aggressively as you can.
Q Isn't there a way that you can say in September, as you say from the podium often, if violence -- if there's an uptick in violence, if Jim's point comes to bear, then you can say, look, we expected an uptick in violence because we've got all these troops there -- that you can look at that measure in many different ways, but not the political progress?
MR. SNOW: Well, in other words, what you're saying is that the key political benchmark is a passed piece of legislation, that's your point, right?
Q A whole lot of stuff, yes. I mean, if we are where we are today in September --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to -- again, let's see where we are in September. But we want to see progress.
Q Tony, as this meeting has been reported, some of these lawmakers did say that if things still look bad in September, the President is going to lose more party support. Can the President keep soldiering on here and sticking to his own plan if he starts losing his own party's support?
MR. SNOW: You're assuming that nothing happens between now and September. As the President also said, wait until September. The premise of the question is nothing happens, therefore it all falls apart.
Q That's not the premise of the question -- you said that there were no -- that no consequences came up in the meeting, and apparently there was some sort of "if, then" formulation that was presented to the President.
MR. SNOW: Again, this is -- my hands are tied in trying to get into characterizing what people said. They're going to have to let their own -- they get to have their opportunity to characterize their comments. But I will remind you what I said earlier: There are both sides of the coin. There is, if nothing happens, people are going to think one way, and if you have progress, people are going to think another way. The whole focus of American policy is to be moving to create progress. And it has appeared in your newspaper and others that, in fact, there have been signs of progress. And members are also aware of this, and they want to see more.
And so what I would suggest is, rather than saying, what if, what if, what if in September, which is a totally unanswerable question -- that is a crystal ball question, and not being clairvoyant, I am unqualified to answer it. However, if you do, in fact, have evolving situations that allow you to judge the success of things, then we can talk a lot more reasonably about this when September comes -- which, of course, is the name of a famous rock song.
Q Is there a point when the President does become concerned with the political ramifications for the party? As I understand it, during the meeting there was an argument made that "our members are worried they're going to lose their seats," and that will be bad for the war policy overall.
MR. SNOW: What the President's main concern is, it's bad for the country if you have a vacuum. It is, in fact, it is something that the country simply must not permit to happen and cannot afford, which is a failure in Iraq that would create a vacuum that would empower Iran, that would give al Qaeda a staging ground, that would shred American credibility in the region, that would create economic consequences --
Q Who's the cause of all that?
MR. SNOW: Well, notice again --
Q Who went into Iraq and created this chaos?
MR. SNOW: Thank you. And so, to continue -- but as Helen has pointed out, without taking exception to any of those possible side effects, or those possible effects, that's what the President thinks about. The President is Commander-in-Chief, and he is President of all the American people. He understands the political concerns of people. But as Commander-in-Chief, his job, his solemn obligation really is one toward national security, and that is first and foremost.
He also understands successful policy is always going to be good politics. If you've got success, if you have things turning around, guess what's going to happen? Public opinion will follow. And therefore, he has to do his best -- and incidentally, it's one of the reasons why he invites people in with widely divergent views. You've got to do that. You have got to consider this from every angle, taking a look at as much different information as you can so you can do it right.
Q The Baker-Hamilton report called for a withdrawal of most troops by early '08. Does the administration consider that setting a surrender date?
MR. SNOW: What's also interesting is the Baker-Hamilton commission has a section in there on precipitate withdrawal --
Q And it is against that.
MR. SNOW: And it is against that, for many of the reasons I've said --
Q But it is separate from its call for the '08 withdrawal.
MR. SNOW: And the point is we -- again, I'm not going to entertain hypotheticals, except in this way: You may recall yesterday Secretary Gates also said that if, in fact, we get the kind of success we hope for, it is conceivable that there will be troops moving out. You may recall that he was talking about that. So anything that happens in terms of troop movements is a reflection not of somebody opening up the calendar and saying, oh, here's the day we do this, but instead, reflecting what's going on on the ground. And the entire motivation and aim of our forces in the field is to get us to the point where we can be moving back as a consequence of success.
Q To follow on that quickly. There are some Republicans circulating a letter, looking for cosponsors for legislation that would enact all 79 recommendations of that report. What would the President do with such legislation?
MR. SNOW: We'll see it when we get it.
I'm sorry -- Helen, and then to Mark.
Q The President emphasized September and he emphasized General Petraeus' report -- all week you moved away from September. Is it a real important date for us to decide things?
MR. SNOW: I think what the President is saying is --
Q Does he know that we have civilian rule in this country?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Do you?
Q I do.
MR. SNOW: Okay, good.
Q I'm not waiting for Petraeus.
MR. SNOW: Well, he does understand, however, that -- oh, so you're thinking what he's doing -- no, I'm not even going to get into that. What people want is a detailed accounting of what's going on in Iraq. And so --
Q But you guys set the date for September, you keep --
MR. SNOW: No, I think he actually -- General Petraeus originally mentioned that, and I don't want to try to -- he mentioned the month, and so --
Q Is it important, or not?
MR. SNOW: Look, what's important is for people to continue to take a look -- May is important; June is important; July is important; August is important; September is important. It's --
Q You're telling people to hold off on their opinions --
MR. SNOW: No, what I'm telling people is to keep their eyes open to the situation as it develops.
Q Back to benchmarks, Tony. Most of the lawmakers who advocate them say without consequences, benchmarks are meaningless, are just goals. Without saying which consequences he might be in favor of or against, does the President accept that there ought to be consequences?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to -- I'm not even going to bite on that.
Q You won't even say that he accepts the need for consequences?
MR. SNOW: I will leave the business of good-faith negotiating to Josh Bolten. He's having these conversations. I don't want in any way to impede or influence what's going on by a statement from the podium.
Q Tony, I'm just wondering, 11 Republicans come to the White House and tell the President that they're worried about the cost of his war on the party and on their ability to win reelection. How is that not a big deal?
MR. SNOW: What you're saying is you're surprised that the President is having candid conversations.
Q Not at all, that's not the question I'm asking.
MR. SNOW: It is -- look, let me, again, because I am constrained by the rules we set out not to respond to you directly --
Q But you're already in print saying this wasn't a "march to Nixon" moment.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q So how is --
MR. SNOW: Well, I was trying to be off the record because I was called out of bed. But, unfortunately, I wasn't completely --
Q Okay, so how -- again, but getting back to a conversation that's unfolding --
Q Are you out of bed now? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I'm on the record, I'm out of bed. (Laughter.)
Q How is this not a big deal to you?
MR. SNOW: Look, it's not a big deal in the sense that it's a candid exchange. But on the other hand, what you're asking -- for one thing, you've making a blanket assertion that I simply cannot respond to. But you had members of the House in, expressing themselves. That's good.
But the other thing is, if you take a look at the voting records of Republicans across-the-board on what's going on right now, it gives you an indication of how the debate unfolds. Do you think it's important to provide vital funding and flexibility for the forces? The answer is yes. Do you reject the Democratic alternatives? The answer is yes. Do you stand with the President on supplying this? Yes. If you see progress, will you support? Yes.
So all those things indicate to me a combination of two factors, number one, a real desire to see success, and number two, a real desire to see results. And so I don't see that as a big moment, it's not a watershed moment. The President had heard real criticism before. He's heard vigorous criticism before. It hasn't all been in the press.
Q You've got to consider the source. This isn't Maxine Waters here.
MR. SNOW: As I said, we hear it from a lot of people, Jim. It's new to you because we don't read out all these things. So I know it seems novel that members of Congress are coming in and giving --
Q What about the fact that they're leaking it?
Q It's also their leader saying it publicly.
Q What about the fact that they want everybody to know?
MR. SNOW: Some are talking, and some are not.
Q The President today said that some people are concerned about winning elections, with a bit of a tone of disapproval there, getting at Jim's question about is he concerned about the legacy of the party based on this war?
MR. SNOW: Again, the legacy -- you can't -- as a Commander-in-Chief, you have got to base your considerations on how to succeed. Good policy success is good politics, that's it. Your only option is to defend the national security. That's how he looks at it. He can't look at it any other way. That's the way he views the issue.
Q So how does the President respond when a member of his own party says in this meeting, my constituents want out of this war?
MR. SNOW: Again, I will not -- all I'll say is, when the President hears anybody expressing either what their constituents think or what they think, he listens respectfully. He will ask questions. He will try to probe what's going on, and they'll continue to talk things through.
Q What does it tell the administration when the former head of the Republican campaign committee goes on the air and says that in this meeting, the sense of the meeting was people saying, my constituents are saying they don't care if we lose this war, they just want out?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I think -- take a look, and I've been talking about what the polls are saying -- Americans do care, and the President does care. Still walking that tightrope, because I'm not going to respond even to stated quotes in the papers. It's important to realize -- the Americans really do understand, and the President does always make it clear, it is not a -- you don't walk away and suddenly peace breaks out. As I said the other day, you walk away, bin Laden doesn't become a flower child. You walk away, and as the Baker-Hamilton commission said, as the National Intelligence Estimate said, virtually every other careful study has said, you reap the whirlwind. So what you have to do is to make sure that as a matter of national security, you do it right. And that's why the efforts are on doing it right.
I suspect if you said to people, would you be happy if you -- the Baghdad security plan, or whatever, that stuff worked, the answer would be yes. As Helen says, who could say no to that? And so the focal point of administration efforts is, the whole aim is to make sure that we're doing the right thing, so that we move towards success.
Let me move around to some of the others. I'll get back to you.
Q Why are you walking the tightrope when there are so many people from your own party, on the record, saying such strong things?
MR. SNOW: Number one, I would say -- I would quibble with the number, "so many." I think it's five. Secondly --
Q That's half the people at the meeting.
MR. SNOW: Well, secondly, I still think -- we believe it's important -- number one, I know it's tempting to try to get people squabbling, but the fact is, on the key issue going forward, do you support the troops, how are you dealing with the present political circumstances, there's unity. There's also respect.
And the point here is that we really do offer those conditions. We want their candor, we grant confidentiality. People may speak out. I'm not going to break the terms of the agreement, no matter how weird it may seem when you have quotations in the paper.
Q I'm just wondering, when you said about if you pull out of Iraq, then bin Laden doesn't become a flower child. Do you think bin Laden is in Iraq right now?
MR. SNOW: No. But on the other hand, as General Petraeus said, al Qaeda is enemy number one in Iraq, and al Qaeda clearly is -- and the President --
Q The intelligence estimate said that sectarian violence is actually a bigger threat than al Qaeda.
MR. SNOW: Well, as the President -- but the National Intelligence Estimate, of course, is dealing with intelligence from last summer. And what you have had -- I guess last fall. Now what you're doing is you're projecting forward. You've had a Baghdad security plan unfolding, and as the President pointed out today again, the benchmarks -- I know you wanted specific ones -- but he pointed out that the kind of deaths that are consistent with sectarian violence are down. And they've been down on a fairly consistent trend line since the beginning of the enactment of the Baghdad security plan.
In a time of war -- I've made this argument before -- there are going to be times when -- you know, al Qaeda right now, as the President said, al Qaeda is surging. You've got al Qaeda trying to do what they can to foment sectarian violence again. They were able to light the fuse back in Samarra, February a year ago. They want to do it again. And so they're trying to use acts of violence to do it.
Fortunately, there has been some success in getting Sunni and Shia and others to step back from recriminations and to get the focus back on those who are trying to break the peace.
Q Bringing bin Laden into it, there have been a lot of security experts who have said that focusing on Iraq pulled you away from bin Laden, they've made that charge, and that you might actually have a better shot of catching bin Laden and more al Qaeda leaders by not focusing so much on Iraq now --
MR. SNOW: Well there -- this -- boy are we --
Q You just said, if you pull out of Iraq, he doesn't become a flower child all of a sudden --
MR. SNOW: I'll revisit -- it's an old question, but I'll revisit it, it's worth it, which is, we're doing more than one thing at a time. And there are considerable resources deployed in Afghanistan and in other missions. It is not an either/or situation. It is also the case that bin Laden understands that the economic and political benefits of having a staging ground in Iraq are considerable. Not only geopolitically does it help, it helps in terms of access to oil, and a lot of resources that are not available in Afghanistan --
Q But the President, himself, was talking about al Qaeda today in Iraq. Isn't it -- you're saying if you pull out, there will be a staging ground for al Qaeda in Iraq. Aren't you -- isn't the administration suggesting that you have a staging ground now?
MR. SNOW: Exactly, which contradicts your earlier question about why aren't you going after bin Laden. We're talking in circles. So I mean, the fact is, al Qaeda has made Iraq its central staging ground. We're taking them on there. And meanwhile, for those who say, well, why aren't you in Tora Bora or Waziristan, I'm not going to talk about operational matters, but it's not as if there are not -- we do not have the capability to pursue multiple military missions.
Q Well, what do you think would shift the President's opinion on the war? Is it just General Petraeus? Because when we talk about polls, and the majority of the American people, you say, well we don't govern by polls.
MR. SNOW: When you say shift his opinion on the war, do you mean, what would make him say, let's come home without victory?
Q What would lead him to that point?
MR. SNOW: I don't think the President finds it's acceptable. The President doesn't think, I want to figure out how to get out if we lose. In fact, his view is, I want to figure out how we return when we win. That is how you think about it.
Q Tony, this war is not popular in Britain at all. The President is losing his number one ally. What is this administration going to do to keep British soldiers in the southern part of Iraq? What is he going to do --
MR. SNOW: First, the British have already made commitments in terms of their troop levels. And those are decisions for the British government. The British government is not a subsidiary of the American government, it's a sovereign government, and they will make their decisions.
But what's also the case is that -- you may recall -- well, let me back up. You may recall that when the President came to power, there was some, wow, Tony Blair can't work with George Bush, he was such good friends with Bill Clinton. Well, in fact, they work very well together.
And as the next Prime Minister takes over, that Prime Minister will be faced with a series of real-world facts about security that are based on British national interest. And he will have to make the proper decisions. And there -- you find quite often in periods of transition that there is enormous continuity between governments, precisely because the facts automatically lead themselves to certain policy conclusions.
But I don't want to get into the position of prejudging what the British government is going to do. The President has mentioned that he's met Gordon Brown who, presumptively would become the PM, but we don't, certainly, want to be leaping to conclusions. He looks forward to working with him, and you can't really go much further than that.
Q But this administration likes to talk about lessons learned. Is there a lesson from what happened to Tony Blair and the Brits? They do not like the war, and he ultimately is leaving because of that.
MR. SNOW: I think Tony Blair is one of the great and most consequential Prime Ministers, and also longest serving Prime Ministers in the history of the U.K.
Q Longer maybe if it weren't for the war.
MR. SNOW: I think at this point, what you do is you not only celebrate his courage and his vision, but you also -- there's also a lesson that courage and vision serve the national interest, and I think rather than trying to leap to any further conclusions, you have to let a new government come -- basically, a new government come in, find its feet, and make its decisions based on the facts.
Q Thank you, Tony. Turning to the Fort Dix six, are they going to be tried as criminals or enemy combatants?
MR. SNOW: That's not a question for me. Direct it to the U.S. Attorney.
Q All right. The other thing about them, given their arrest and their background, is this going to in any way impact on the visa waiver policy that the administration is --
MR. SNOW: Again, the President's visa waiver -- that is a separate debate, obviously. The President has noted all along that when it comes to matters of border security and visas, you take a good hard look at national security, national security interests, and we continue to do it. What he's also trying to do is to come up with metrics that are going to permit us to have tamper-proof IDs, so you can know who's in the country, you can track them. So there are a whole series of things that are embedded in this, but -- and that debate is ongoing in the United States Senate.
Q I have a question about the phone call this morning with Mr. Putin. Did the President and Putin discuss the Estonian situation?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I'm not aware of it. I was not in on the call. I've got the points that have been read out. I don't know. It was a pretty short conversation. My sense is based on -- what I see here is the list, but I don't want to grant you an assurance that I can. I don't know.
Q Is the President aware of what the Russians are doing to Estonia?
MR. SNOW: The President is aware of significant developments around the globe.
Q Tony, two questions. One, today President will celebrate the issue of Pacific Heritage month, in East Room this afternoon. Is he going to talk about the contributions of Asians as far as fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere and --
MR. SNOW: No, I think what he's going to be doing is celebrating public service.
Q Second, can you confirm that President has spoken with the Prime Minister of India and there's a problem as far as U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement also, because --
MR. SNOW: No, Goyal, I read this out the other day. He did have a conversation the other day with Prime Minister Singh. And
they talked about working forward to conclude the deal. They're both in support of it and -- look, it's important for us, it's important for the government of India and we're determined to make it happen.
Q Is the President going to invite the Prime Minister to the White House sometime this year or next year?
MR. SNOW: I will not get into any sort of personal conversations of that nature.
Q Supposedly a letter has been sent by the Foreign Relations Committee to the Prime Minister of India, as far as this deal is concerned. If President is aware of this letter?
MR. SNOW: He may be; I'm not. Les.
Q Tony, thank you. The President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights said it was "reprehensible for the Reverend Al Sharpton to say, 'As for the Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways.'" And my question, does the President agree or disagree that this Sharpton statement was reprehensible?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. It probably came as news to Harry Reid.
Q Wait a minute. The Christian Newswire reports that some American Indian leaders have described Jamestown as "an invasion that led to a holocaust and an atrocity." My question --
MR. SNOW: Right, yes, I know --
Q -- does the President intend in any way to apologize for these allegations and to refrain from any mentioning of his and the Jamestown founders' Christianity when he speaks there on Sunday?
MR. SNOW: No, he doesn't. Let me back up a little bit on the Sharpton sort of bait, simply because I think -- let's be clear about what the President does believe in, which is respect for people's religious views and religious freedoms. So let's be clear about that -- other than trying to jump into an argument with Al Sharpton, which we're not going to do. We will go no further than that.
Q One more?
MR. SNOW: No.
MR. SNOW: You gave me two.
Q He had 10, up there on the front row. He had 10.
MR. SNOW: And most of them were topical.
Q On immigration reform, it's being taken up next week in the Senate. And the Majority Leader has said he'd really like to use the bill that was passed last year -- with bipartisan support as the starting point. What is the White House view of doing that?
MR. SNOW: It's kind of a placeholder, but we appreciate the fact that the Majority Leader is working with Democrats and Republicans to try to create an opportunity for a bipartisan bill to make its way to the floor. So there are -- this is one of those cases where, you know, you want to talk about the fact that both parties really are working together on working hard on something that is not only of mutual interest, but national interest. As a procedural matter, that's what he's really trying to do -- he's trying to create a placeholder so that those involved can have the time to be able to drop that other bill, and we appreciate it.
Q Thank you. END 1:57 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 9, 2007
President Bush Visits Greensburg, Kansas to Survey Tornado Damage, Offer Condolences Bay Street, Greensburg, Kansas 12:05 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: I bring the prayers and concerns of the people of this country to this town of Greensburg, Kansas. A lot of us have seen the pictures about what happened here and pictures don't do it justice. There is a lot of destruction. Fortunately, a lot of folks had basements here in this part of the world and lived to see another day. Unfortunately, too many died, and we offer our prayers and condolences to those who died.
I am struck by the strength of the character of the people who live here in the Plains -- people who refuse to be -- who refuse to have their spirit affected by this storm; as a matter of fact, who are willing to do what it takes to rebuild in a better way. America is blessed to have such people. And the people here will be -- will find they're blessed to have neighbors who care, a total stranger who will come and help them.
Our role as government officials is to work with the states and local folks to get whatever help is appropriate here, whatever help is in the law be here as quickly as possible. My mission is to -- today, though, is to lift people's spirits as best as I possibly can and to hopefully touch somebody's soul by representing our country, and to let people know that while there was a dark day in the past, there's brighter days ahead.
So I want to thank the Governor and I want to thank the Senators for being here. Most importantly, I want to thank the people of Greensburg and their neighbors for helping them out. God bless the people here. Thank you. END 12:07 P.M. CDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 8, 2007
President Bush Welcomes President Preval of Haiti to the White House Oval Office 4:45 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: I appreciate very much the President of Haiti joining us here in the Oval Office. Mr. President, welcome. I thank you for your courage. I thank you for having one of the toughest jobs in the world, and that is to bring prosperity and security to your country.
While there is still a lot of work to be done, there's progress being made on a variety of fronts. The security situation is improving somewhat, and the United States supports the U.N. mission in Haiti. The economy is improving, inflation is down, exports are up. Yet, there's still a lot of work to be done. And, Mr. President, I praise your efforts on establishing rule of law and routing out corruption. And the United States wants to help you.
The United States is proud to support the men and women of Haiti in a variety of ways. One among the most notable programs and one of which I'm particularly proud is our PEPFAR program, the program to help deal with HIV/AIDS. The President mentioned other ways that we can help -- in fighting drugs, drug traffickers. I was particularly pleased that he brought up the idea of helping the education system in Haiti. And I have instructed Secretary Rice, along with our Ambassador, to work with the government, see if we can help.
And, finally, the President was very concerned about the status of Haitians who are here in America. I assured him that I am working hard to get a comprehensive immigration bill passed out of the Congress this year. As a man who cares deeply about the people of Haiti, I am pleased that he has expressed his concerns. And I think, Mr. President, with hard work and goodwill, we can get a bill that will satisfy your concerns.
We welcome you. Thanks for coming.
PRESIDENT PREVAL: (As translated.) I thank President Bush for his invitation, and this was a chance for me to describe to him our situation and the expectations of the Haitian people.
The purpose of this mission was to explain the situation in Haiti, and President Bush noted with interest the points that were raised. I'm not going to come back to them right now, but I would like to thank the United States for the fraternal aid it has given Haiti. And I would particularly like to thank President Bush for the HOPE bill and for the efforts made for its reinforcing the judicial system, the police force, and also to help strengthen the Haitian state.
I also took this chance to express my condolences to President Bush and to the American people for the tragedy that you've been through in Kansas. Each time someone suffers, we all suffer. And I would like to ask President Bush to transmit in my name, and in the name of the Haitian people, our condolences to the American people.
Peace has been restored, and the conditions for investment are here. Haiti is awaiting American investors. We've opened a campaign to fight against corruption and contraband so that all can be on a level playing field and for conditions for competition to be right. Therefore, investors will not have to fear in terms of security or corruption, and they can come to Haiti, because what we need in Haiti are jobs.
And I would also like to thank the President for his assistance in the fight against the plague, which is the drug trade. Drugs in Haiti represent a force, and Haiti alone cannot fight against the drug trade. It always weakens the state, and corrupts the state. And it doesn't -- the drug trade does not function well with a strong state, or a healthy state. It tries to corrupt the police force, it tries to corrupt the judiciary, and the executive. And drug trafficking thrives in a weak state. Drug traffickers invest in weakening and destabilizing the state. And I would like to thank the President who, through the DEA, is helping us in this effort against the plague of drugs.
And I will end on a note of hope, because we have countrymen who are here illegally and are living in a difficult situation. The President has promised to work on an immigration bill that will help improve the lives of our countrymen here in the United States.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good job. Thank you, sir. END 4:56 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 7, 2007
President Bush Exchanges Toasts with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II State Dining Room 8:10 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Your Majesty, and Your Royal Highness, distinguished guests, Laura and I offer you a warm welcome to the White House. We're really glad you're here.
Tonight is the fourth state dinner held in Your Majesty's honor here at the White House. On previous such occasions, you've been welcomed by President Eisenhower, President Ford, and another President named Bush. (Laughter.) Over your long reign, America and Britain have deepened our friendship and strengthened our alliance.
Our alliance is rooted in the beliefs that we share. We recognize that every individual has dignity and matchless value. We believe that the most effective governments are those that hold themselves accountable to their people. And we know that the advance of freedom is the best hope for lasting peace in our world.
Based on our common values, our two nations are working together for the common good. Together we are supporting young democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together we're confronting global challenges such as poverty and disease and terrorism. And together we're working to build a world in which more people can enjoy prosperity and security and peace.
Friendships remain strong when they are continually renewed, and the American people appreciate Your Majesty's commitment to our friendship. We thank you for helping us celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. We're confident that Anglo-American friendship will endure for centuries to come.
So, on behalf of the American people, I offer a toast to Your Majesty, to Your Royal Highness, and to our staunch allies, the valiant people of the United Kingdom.
(A toast is offered.)
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II: Thank you very much, indeed.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Your turn, Your Majesty.
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II: Mr. President, thank you again for your warm words of welcome. Prince Philip and I are most grateful for your generous hospitality.
It is now 16 years since my last visit to Washington. In 1991, most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were just emerging from behind the Iron Curtain. Their people were rejoicing in the opportunities presented by their newfound freedom. At the time, your father, President Bush, saw the potential for what he called, a Europe whole and free.
It is never easy to give royal form to such hopes and aspirations. But here, in 2007, those aspirations have, for the most part, been fulfilled. NATO and the European Union opened their doors to friends across the continent, and both institutions have grown to encompass the great majority of countries in Europe.
Tonight I would like to recognize that steadfast commitment your country has shown, not just in the last 16 years, but throughout my life, in support of a Europe whole and free.
I grew up in the knowledge that the very survival of Britain was bound up in that vital wartime alliance forged by Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt. On my first visit to Washington in 1951, your predecessor, President Truman, welcomed me to the White House, and it was his administration which reached out to Europe through the Marshall Plan to help our tired and battered continent lift itself from the ruins of a second world war. In the years that followed, successive administrations here in Washington committed themselves to the defense of Europe, as we learned to live with the awesome responsibilities of the nuclear age.
Mr. President, for someone of my age, surveying the many challenges we face in this new 21st century, that is the inescapable historical context within which we live. My generation can vividly remember the ordeal of the second world war. We experienced the difficulties of those early postwar years. We lived through the uncertainties of the long Cold War period.
For those of us who have witnessed the peace and stability and prosperity enjoyed in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe over these postwar years, we have every reason to remember that this has been founded on the bedrock of the Atlantic Alliance. All the many and varied elements of our present relationship, be they in the fields of education, business, culture, sports, politics or the law, have continued to flourish, safe in the knowledge of this simple truth.
Today the United States and the United Kingdom, with our partners in Europe and the Commonwealth, face different threats and new problems both at home and abroad. In recent years, sadly, both our nations have suffered grievously at the hands of international terrorism. Further afield, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, climate change, or the eradication of poverty, the international community is grappling with problems certainly no less complex than those faced by our 20th century forebears.
I have no doubt, however, that together with our friends in Europe and beyond, we can continue to learn from the inspiration and vision of those earlier statesmen in ensuring that we meet these threats and resolve these problems. Divided, all alone, we can be vulnerable. But if the Atlantic unites, not divides us, ours is a partnership always to be reckoned with in the defense of freedom and the spread of prosperity.
That is the lesson of my lifetime. Administrations in your country, and governments in mine, may come and go. But talk we will; listen we have to; disagree from time to time we may; but united we must always remain.
Mr. President, I raise my glass to you and to Mrs. Bush, to the friendship between our two countries, and to the health, freedom, prosperity, and happiness of the people of the United States of America.
(A toast is offered.) (Applause.) END 8:27 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 7, 2007
President Bush Welcomes Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the White House South Lawn 11:07 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good morning. Laura and I are honored to welcome back to the White House Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. (Applause.)
The United Kingdom has written many of the greatest chapters in the history of human freedom. Nearly 800 years ago, the Magna Carta placed the authority of the government under the rule of law. Eighty years later, the first representative assembly of the English people met to debate public policies. Over the centuries, parliaments in Britain established principles that guide all modern democracies. And thinkers from Britain, like Locke and Smith and Burke showed the world that freedom was the natural right of every man, woman and child on Earth.
As liberty expanded in the British Isles, British explorers helped spread liberty to many lands, including our own. In May of 1607, a group of pioneers arrived on the shores of the James River, and founded the first permanent English settlement in North America. The settlers at Jamestown planted the seeds of freedom and democracy on American soil. And from those seeds sprung a nation that will always be proud to trace its roots back to our friends across the Atlantic.
Our two nations hold fundamental values in common. We honor our traditions and our shared history. We recognize that the strongest societies respect the rights and dignity of the individual. We understand and accept the burdens of global leadership. And we have built our special relationship on the surest foundations -- our deep and abiding love of liberty.
Today our two nations are defending liberty against tyranny and terror. We're resisting those who murder the innocent to advance a hateful ideology, whether they kill in New York or London, or Kabul or Baghdad.
American and British forces are staying on the offense against the extremists and terrorists. We're supporting young democracies. Our work has been hard. The fruits of our work have been difficult for many to see. Yet our work remains the surest path to peace, and it reflects the values cherished by Americans and by Britons, and by the vast majority of people across the broader Middle East.
Your Majesty, I appreciate your leadership during these times of danger and decision. You've spoken out against extremism and terror. You've encouraged religious tolerance and reconciliation. You've honored those returning from battle, and comforted the families of the fallen.
The American people are proud to welcome Your Majesty back to the United States, a nation you've come to know very well. After all, you've dined with ten U.S. Presidents. You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 -- in 1976. (Laughter.) She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child. (Laughter.)
You have helped commemorate both the 350th and 400th anniversaries of the Jamestown settlement.
Your Majesty, the United States receives with honor the sovereign of the United Kingdom. We welcome back to the White House a good person, a strong leader for a great ally. (Applause.)
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II: Mr. President, thank you for your warm words. This is my fifth visit to the United States. And I believe it is important to remind ourselves of the purpose of these occasions, which gives meaning to the ceremonial symbolism and the circumstance.
A state visit provides us with a brief opportunity to step back from our current preoccupations to reflect on the very essence of our relationship. It gives us the chance to look back at how the stories of our two countries have been inextricably woven together. It is the moment to take stock of our present friendship, rightly taking pleasure from its strengths, while never taking these for granted. And it is the time to look forward, jointly renewing our commitment to a more prosperous, safer and freer world.
Last week, I had the pleasure of sharing with you an extraordinary anniversary in our common history. It was a privilege to join the commemoration of the Jamestown landing by that small group of British citizens all those years ago. My two days in Virginia gave me a new insight into those events, which helped to shape this country's development and to lay the foundations of this great nation based on shared principles of equality, democracy and the rule of law.
And now in Washington, we have a further opportunity to acknowledge the present strengths of our relationship. I shall enjoy not only renewing old acquaintances and making new ones, but also recognizing the breadth and depth of the friendship we have shared for so long. We can celebrate the close and enduring associations which thrive between the United States and the United Kingdom at every level, be it government or corporate, institutional or personal.
This visit also gives us a window on the future, both the future of the United States and the future cooperation between our countries. I particularly look forward in the next two days to seeing at firsthand something of how the cutting edge of science and technology can take us to the next phases of discovery and exploration in human endeavor.
Mr. President, thank you for inviting Prince Philip and me to visit your country, to share in the commemoration of the Jamestown anniversary, and to have this opportunity to underline the extent of our friendship -- past, present and future. It is indeed a pleasure for us to be here in Washington again, and to be welcomed back to the White House. (Applause.)
END 11:15 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 7, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow White House Conference Center Briefing Room 12:45 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Good afternoon. We have one addition to what I read out this morning. The President had a secure video teleconference this morning with Prime Minister Maliki, 25 minutes with staff in, the remainder -- and I don't know how long that lasted -- was a one-on-one. I can tell you that at least during the conversations in front of staff the President congratulated the Prime Minister on the conferences in Sharm el Sheikh. The Prime Minister, in turn, thanked the President for his support.
Then they proceeded to talk about matters of mutual interest, both regional relations, and also outreach within Iraq. The Prime Minister is working with the presidency council to advance the political process in Iraq, including a lot of the legislation that we've been discussing over the last few months, but issues of communications and reconciliation were at the fore. And also outreach to groups within -- you may recall the Prime Minister went to Ramadi and there he met with Sunni leaders, and the Prime Minister reiterated his determination not only to continue the process, but to work for reconciliation within Iraq. So that was sort of the focal point of those conversations.
Q Tony, do you have any readout of what the Queen said to the President?
MR. SNOW: No. No, those are private conversations; we don't read them out.
Q Even on the podium, after the ad lib?
MR. SNOW: That was a good ad lib. (Laughter.)
Q Quality stuff. (Laughter.)
Q Does the President think his drop in the polls, to 28 percent, has anything to do with our occupation and escalation in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Actually, one of the interesting things is here's a poll where 51 percent of those who responded were either Democrats or -- self-identified Democrats or lean Democratic, as opposed to 34 percent Republican, lean Republican. So you've got a pretty good skew here. And the Newsweek polls do tend to be outliers in that sense.
Q Is that Newsweek?
MR. SNOW: Yes, that's the Newsweek poll. Look, the President certainly understands that Americans don't like war. He doesn't like war, either, but he also does not like the alternative.
Q Does he think it has anything to do with his policies, a drop like that?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I would counsel against this one, it was a pretty skewed set of response.
Q Tony, I know you said you can't give us the content of their actual conversations, but with Great Britain being our primary ally in Iraq, is it safe to say that might come up, that they might discuss it at some point during her visit?
MR. SNOW: Again, the Queen -- the Queen put it in a wonderful way: This is a time to step back and to take a look at the historic relationship between the United States and Great Britain. She talked about going to Jamestown last week. And she talked about the things that bind us, the principles and aspirations. And my sense is that there will be a lot of pleasant conversation. But, again, I'm not going to try and read out whether they get involved in geopolitics. I'll leave that to the Queen and the President to discuss. And, as usually happens -- especially in events of this sort, where the Queen does not play a political role in Great Britain -- we're certainly not going to draw her into such things. We're going to allow them to go ahead and have very pleasant conversations that reflect the long ties, the deep warmth between the two countries. It's a pretty cool day, you know? I think that the pageantry -- and there you saw the President joking with the Queen -- I don't know that a lot of people joke with the Queen, but the President did. It worked out just fine.
Q You have to say something once he implies she's over 200 years old. (Laughter.)
Q The governor of Kansas, in the wake of the tornadoes, has talked about the fact that she can't get equipment into the areas that have been ravaged because the equipment is now over in Iraq. What type of help is the federal government going to provide?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, take a look at whether such help has been requested. But what I would do is I would ask you to go ahead to DOD for really the specific answers about that. But there's been an enormous amount of help on the scene already, frankly, when it comes to what's been going on with the tornado. FEMA has certainly been actively engaged, and the administration is doing whatever it can. And if there's a need for equipment, it's going to be arrived -- it will arrive.
As you know, there are prepositioning points throughout the country for National Guard and other equipment in the case of emergency. So some of those plans, again, if called upon, are going to be put into motion. But I just can't tell you precisely how it goes. And in order to get -- the best way to get an accurate response is to call DOD on that one.
Jim. Did you have one? Victoria.
Q Given that, as you said, the Queen doesn't play a political role in Great Britain, was there a particular reason why the President gave such a political speech?
MR. SNOW: The President -- was it a political speech, or was it one, in fact, reflecting the closeness and the importance of principle?
Q It was a political speech. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: To you it was.
Q I think it was a political speech. It spoke a great deal about the war, the war on terror, the war in Iraq. The Queen's speech reflected something that was not political. When you compare the two, and the tone of the two, one was political and one was not.
MR. SNOW: As a matter of fact, if you take a look -- one, two, three, four, five, six, seven -- eight paragraphs, there are nine paragraphs -- I believe one referred to it, and there was nothing directly mentioning Iraq, although there was talk about democracy, liberty, defending liberty against tyranny and terror. It mentions killing the innocent to advance a hateful ideology, whether it's in New York, London, Kabul or Baghdad.
You may call that political, but that is, in fact, a reflection of what's going on the world. And we have seen evidence of that. And we've also seen evidence of terrorists to continue to do that sort of thing. You saw the Zawahiri tape over the weekend. Well, what did he talk about? He was celebrating in his own view -- what he said was celebrating terrorism. At one point he said, "Fie on moderation, I thank Allah for the bounty of extremism, militancy and terrorism and everything else we are labeled with." And he talked about that in some considerable detail.
What he tried to do is manipulate American political sentiments, a big, long section on Malcolm X that was designed to try to foment hatred within the United States. And he called for a rebellion by minority groups in this country. And at the same time, what he tried to do was to misconstrue democratic debate in this country -- small "d" -- in such a way as to try to take political advantage of statements that Senator Reid has made.
So what you have is you have a determined enemy that, in fact, wants to kill Americans. One of the things he expressed some unhappiness about is that he wants to kill 200,000 to 300,000 Americans. Now, again, if you think it is political to make reference to the fact that that is extremism and it is a live force in our lives and is a real consideration, then you so may label it. But on the other hand, there was nothing in here that tried to draw the Queen into any direct political conflicts in this country other than to remind and thank her for the support of the very principles that are the bedrock of the Anglo American system, which have to do with individual liberties, the rule of law and a long chain of events and innovations that stretch back from the Magna Carta to the present.
Q You would say it's not political.
MR. SNOW: No. No. I would say it is not political.
Q Thank you. Is the President happy with the election in France?
MR. SNOW: The President is happy with any democratic election. And he has congratulated President-elect Sarkozy and looks forward to meeting him at the G8 next month.
Q A follow-up on that. Tony Blair is scheduled to step down as head of the Labour Party later this week. Can you talk a little bit about the notion of -- the possibility of the French President-elect becoming the replacement for Tony Blair as the President's best friend in Europe?
MR. SNOW: I believe they represent different countries. (Laughter.)
Q -- best friend?
MR. SNOW: Again, this is -- this kind of trivializes a process that's going on. And I'm not -- we will have comments --
Q But the friendship between Bush and Blair was pretty important.
MR. SNOW: It was extraordinary. And it's very important to try to develop and deepen friendships. And whoever may follow Tony Blair as Prime Minister of Great Britain, we hope to have just as close a relationship. You may recall that there was some question early on, because Prime Minister Blair had such a close relationship with President Clinton, about whether he'd have one with President Bush. Well, he did. And why is that? Because of deep shared interests and values, precisely the sort of the thing that the President and the Queen both made mention of today.
What we're hoping for at all times is closer relations with all our allies.
Q Does it suggest -- given what Sarkozy has said about being there, being at the side when the U.S. needs help -- does that suggest that France might be more willing to do something in Iraq --
MR. SNOW: Again, I think it's very premature to judge these things. What it does mean is that in a hotly contested election with very high turnout, Mr. Sarkozy was elected President.
Q Can I follow up?
MR. SNOW: First, let me get up here and we'll --
Q If that's a follow-up, you can take --
MR. SNOW: Is it a follow-up, Connie?
Q Yes. I just -- on Sarkozy, did the President talk to him --
MR. SNOW: Yes, he did.
Q Okay. Did they speak about this climate change statement?
MR. SNOW: No, they -- it was just a very short two-minute congratulations, and congratulations on a successful free and fair election, and he'll look forward to seeing him in Germany next month.
Q Have they ever met?
MR. SNOW: I don't believe they have, but I'll check.*
Q Tony, back to the President's poll numbers. I know the President says again and again he doesn't govern by polls, and he doesn't really think about them. And yet the polls keep continuing to go down or stay level, they don't seem to rise at all. And he has made a determined effort to try to convince people, he's given many speeches about the Iraq war policy, global war on terrorism, nothing changes. Is he concerned about that, and do you look at ways to try to bring back the will of the American people?
MR. SNOW: I think, as Americans -- you know, what's interesting is that, for instance, you take a look at some of the debate over the weekend, and you've got -- there seems to be a mind-set sometimes among critics that they are not going to acknowledge changes on the ground. They quite often say, stay the course. Well, we do not have a stay the course policy. Or one in which they say, civil war, when the signals -- or the metrics for a civil war fortunately have been going down, but you do have al Qaeda activity.
The question is, why do we not simply give the Baghdad security plan a chance to work? There have been some encouraging early signs that we certainly don't want to oversell, but on the other hand, we don't want to ignore. And General Petraeus is certainly going to be talking about these.
If you take a look at reporting on your network and others, people talk about tangible changes, not only in places like Anbar province, but also in some places in Baghdad, some of the counterinsurgency efforts in Diyala. You do see that there is greater capability and, furthermore, encouragement, at least in the sense of the conversation today with the Prime Minister indicating that there is will and determination to make political progress.
When people start to see that happening, I think they're going to say, okay. Another thing that's going to be interesting is, there may be more opportunities to get -- I know that there's more embedding going on, so people are going to be able to get a better sense, once again, of what's going on, on the ground -- you've had an opportunity to do it in recent weeks -- to gather a fuller picture, because for instance, the headlines this week, eight Americans died, that is true; but on the other hand, you also had the fact that there have been very successful operations against bad guys, and you have had some pretty significant seizures, whether it be in weapons caches, or insurgents, or killers that they've gotten.
All of that sort of stuff also helps balance out the picture. In many cases, Americans don't get that other side of the picture. They're starting to get it in some of the briefings -- I know that the Pentagon is going to start posting some stuff on "YouTube." It's important to make sure that people are able to draw full judgments. And I think when they see that the thing that they most want, which is a competent military pursuing a noble mission, enjoying some success, doing it at personal hazard, and doing it in a way that is consistent with American principles, they're going to say, okay, this is what we want.
Q You don't think they've seen that in the past? I mean, this war has ebbed and flowed, and there certainly has been some good news over the years, and yet, the President's poll numbers are not improving.
MR. SNOW: I understand that, but the President also --
Q And you've tried to make a case over and over. He's tried to make the case over and over.
MR. SNOW: Yes. Well, you know what? Ultimately, again, if -- for instance, I would go back to the Zawahiri tape. What Zawahiri was recommending, for instance, at one point, he started laying out what his ambitions were. And his ambition was, what the President has talked about for some time now, which is a new caliphate, and a caliphate that would extend across much of the world, and it was going to be trying to place much of the world under the kind of oppression -- under the religious oppression that most Americans -- it's not even religious; it is the terrorist oppression that tends to misidentify itself as a religious movement, and to do it in such a way as to terrorize people into surrendering their freedoms.
Then Americans say, ah-ha, you mean Zawahiri really does mean that, that al Qaeda really does mean that. And it's important to realize that the threat is real and ongoing. The President cannot look away from that, and he does not look away from that. It is his obligation as Commander-in-Chief to do whatever is necessary to defend the security of this country.
And that means at times, when it is -- it means at times when people wish the threat were not there, when some political figures say, I'm not going to listen to it, they're telling me something I don't want to hear, I'm not going to listen to it -- and we've heard some of that in the debate. The President says, I have to, because his obligation is to do the right thing. And, sometimes, yes, it will be unpopular, but on the other hand, over time, as people begin to get a stronger sense of what's going on, and they do get a feeling for progress, you can assume that public opinion will follow.
And what's interesting is those who live by the polls better be careful, because if they try to get all their guidance simply from the poll questions, then all of a sudden it turns out that a lot of the things that have been stoutly opposed by some in the political class turn out to be things that have actually provided a basis for hope and success in Iraq -- they'll have to answer for that, too. Polling is not static, and neither are the issues.
Q Are you saying we want this war, the American people want this war?
MR. SNOW: No, the American people don't want this war, but they --
Q Well, you say the will -- they had the will?
MR. SNOW: Helen, the American people also do not want the Middle East in flames. They do not want millions of people dying. They do not want the economic dislocation, the geopolitical danger that would be ignited should, in fact, Zawahiri and others get their way. Americans still remember September 11th; they remember the fear it inspired --
Q But the Iraqis had nothing to do with it.
MR. SNOW: I understand that. But on the other hand, al Qaeda now has decided to make Iraq the central front. And it's pretty clear --
Q We decided that.
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. But --
MR. SNOW: We've gone through this many times.
Q Tony, two quick questions. One, elegant ceremony for the Queen I have witnessed in a long time. My question is that as far as Prime Minister Tony Blair step down as Prime Minister of England, do you think when Her Majesty was carrying any kind of special message from the British --
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to comment or speculate about conversations. But keep -- the President talks to Tony Blair all the time. I don't think he needs to have anybody channeling. And as far as trying to do retrospectives on the Prime Ministership of Tony Blair, let's just wait until he's made his announcements. We're not going to get involved beforehand.
Q Second, on Afghanistan. The Afghans are saying really now that the message for the President, that they are saying that they hope, after their freedom from the United States (inaudible), that the President or the United States has not forgotten them because of the attention elsewhere, and they are asking President's help because they feel that NATO so far has failed in many areas of Afghanistan as far as tapping down al Qaeda and Taliban.
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to get -- number one, that's too vague a charge when you label something to "the Afghans." Number two, the government of Afghanistan certainly understands our commitment. Part of the debate on the supplemental, keep in mind, was not merely about Iraq, but also ongoing operations in Afghanistan, including boosting presence there and boosting capability.
Q Tony, what are we to read into the Pentagon opting for "YouTube" as part of its communication?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. You'll just have to ask -- that was something they announced last week. I don't know.
Q We're you part of that --
MR. SNOW: No, but I think it's a good idea.
MR. SNOW: Because it's important sometimes to be able to get -- it's important to get images out that are going to portray a fuller picture of what's going on, on the battlefield.
Q What kind of images would you like to see on "YouTube"?
MR. SNOW: I'd like to see a little bit of everything, wouldn't you?
Q Is the White House going to use it, too, or are you satisfied with your own web --
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't -- we have no immediate plans for using "YouTube."
Q On Friday I asked Dana why the President opposes broadening the hate crimes law to cover gays and lesbians. She pointed me to the statement of administration policy saying: We would oppose it solely on the grounds it would federalize law enforcement of crimes already being addressed in the states.
Why is that okay in the case of race and religion, and not in the case of sexual orientation?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I don't think -- I think you're asking a question that's not relevant. The President of course believes in prosecuting crimes of discrimination against anybody. In fact, that is a proper responsibility of states, and many states have already enacted such statutes. And we have a Civil Rights Division to take a look into charges of discrimination on any basis. The fact is that you try to prosecute the laws so that in a society like ours, the law is equally applied to everybody.
On the other hand, if you try to -- what this law would do is create maybe an unparalleled increase in federal police power, and that is something that we do not welcome, especially because the states already have the authority to do this, and furthermore, we feel confident that the rights of all Americans are going to be protected. We have a -- our government is based upon equal protection under the law. If you suddenly start getting into sort of a situation where you start trying to tick off each and every class that may think it's aggrieved, what you're going to do is create an endless cycle where somebody else wants inclusion. But the fact is, the law already covers everybody.
So this should not be construed as an attempt to say that we do not care about acts of violence against individuals. We care about acts of violence against all individuals, and we think they ought to be prosecuted fully and completely.
Q Tony, I have a definitional question.
MR. SNOW: Oh, good.
Q Is it possible that some of what the colonists did might be construed by some as terrorism and insurgency?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, you'll have to ask them. (Laughter.)
Q Do you have their email? (Laughter.)
Q Funny man.
Q You were saying that Prime Minister Maliki is committed to making political progress, that he and the President discussed that. Can you outline, in any general sense, what the President conveyed to the Prime Minister about his expectations for what political progress is by this fall?
MR. SNOW: No, I'm going to -- no. Again, I'm going to allow the two of them to have -- they have private conversations for a reason, and many of those remain confidential.
Let me just tell you again what Prime Minister Maliki was talking about, which is to assemble the council of presidents, which do include members of all the major groups, and to sit down in a very practical way and say, let's get this stuff fixed. That was what he laid out. We'll also leave it to him to be a little more specific, because he is the Prime Minister, and it is certainly his prerogative to announce whatever initiatives he may be wishing to put together.
But, again, what you got was a very clear sense from the Prime Minister that it was important to be making progress. And I think he felt a little -- he felt somewhat encouraged by Sharm el Sheikh, because it does create even a better sense of confidence and standing, and it allows him to continue to move forward in a way that says, because a result of this -- as a result of the meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, we're going to be on sounder economic footing, we've got people who have made commitment, and we have people who are committed to the success of this country. And we now have to work together even more closely on things like oil law and constitutional reform and so on. So he mentioned a lot of that, but I don't want to get too specific beyond that.
Q Can I follow up? By the time that General Petraeus comes back to the President at the end of the summer/early fall, and says, here's where we are, can you say that the President feels confident after talking to the Prime Minister that there will be achievement to point to on the political side by that time?
MR. SNOW: Again, as The Washington Post pointed out this weekend, the Democratic Congress can't even meet its benchmarks. So what you have is a situation where I don't want to be prejudging what's going to happen, but it is very clear that the Prime Minister, and I think others in the Iraqi political system, realize that they want to get things accomplished. And it's not simply because of impatience in Washington, although that's clearly -- clearly exists, but because of their own national necessity. In order to succeed as a country, they have got to find a way to build that sense of shared economic obligation and cooperation through an oil law. They've got to deal with the constitutional issues to build greater confidence between groups. And the Prime Minister has made it clear that as the Prime Minister of all Iraqis, he is committed to defending the civil rights of all, and building on that. So I think that that's -- that was the tenor that was struck in the meeting.
Q I understand all that. I just am asking you --
MR. SNOW: I know, but I'm not going to tell you.
Q You cannot say today that the President feels confident that those things are achievable by the fall? I just want to clarify.
MR. SNOW: Again, no, because you're asking me a crystal ball question that I just think -- I'm not going to bite.
Q Who initiated the conversation?
Q Is Maliki confident?
MR. SNOW: Again, Maliki is determined. What you have is a situation where he is reaching out to the other major political leaders. They're going to sit down, they're going to talk it through. What he's doing is what leaders do, which is to try practically to work with everybody who is involved so that you can come to accommodation, and we'll just have to see.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Congressman Tom Davis and 17 other Republican House members have called on Attorney General Gonzales, Department of Justice, to administer the polygraph test that Sandy Berger agreed to in paragraph 11 of his plea agreement. And my question, could you give us a substantial answer to these Republicans' request of the Bush administration?
MR. SNOW: No. But I will study it.
Q At a press conference, Senate Majority Leader Reid, when asked about the Vice President's announcement that he changed his position on Iraq three times in five months, responded, "I am not going to get into a name-calling match with someone who has a 9 percent approval rating." And my question, what is the President's reaction to this, and does he believe that the Vice President's rating is really lower than the now Democrat-controlled Congress?
MR. SNOW: Again, I don't think the President -- President doesn't have a comment on either of those formulations.
Q Mr. Snow, (inaudible) democracy include the (inaudible) under threat by the military, in the light of the (inaudible)?
MR. SNOW: Run that last part by me again -- the democracy threat by military in what way?
Q It's under threat by the military.
MR. SNOW: I think that's probably an argumentative question and I don't want to get involved, as there's a debate about the presidency in Turkey -- that it is a democracy, continues to function as a democracy. And we will let the democratic process work itself out.
Q One question on the supplemental. Do you guys have any reaction -- the House leadership apparently is preparing some kind of bill that would give you guys half the money right up front, and wait for the other half for the President reporting on benchmarks and so forth.
MR. SNOW: Again, we've said that that sort of general approach provides a kind of uncertainty that really is not helpful to commanders. But on the other hand, I'm not going to respond in detail to every trial balloon, because we tend to get a lot. What we're doing is we're working with both Houses to try to come up with an acceptable way to provide a flow of funding that is going to enable the troops to have funding and flexibility, the phrase we've used many times. And at this juncture, you got to ask yourself what guarantee you have that, again, something is going to meet that deadline.
So I think the most important thing to do is to pass a supplemental that gets us through this year.
Q Did Josh go up to the Hill today to talk to Obey?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. No.
MR. SNOW: Don't know. We'll let you know.
END 1:10 P.M. EDT
*The President dropped by a meeting between National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Mr. Sarkozy at the White House Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 6, 2007
President Bush Discusses Tornado Devastation in Greensburg, Kansas Saint John's Church, Washington, D.C. 8:26 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Our hearts are heavy for the loss of life in Greensburg, Kansas. A tornado devastated that community. It just basically wiped it out.
I spoke to the governor and Senator Pat Roberts about the extent of the devastation. They said to me, it's hard to describe how bad this community was hit.
I declared a major disaster for that community, and I hope that helps. It's going to take a long time for the community to recover. And so we will help in any way we can. There's a certain spirit in the Midwest of our country, a pioneer spirit that still exists, and I'm confident this community will be rebuilt. To the extent that we can help, we will. The most important thing now, though, is for our citizens to ask for the good Lord to comfort those who hurt.
Thank you very much.
END 8:27 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 6, 2007
Statement on Federal Disaster Assistance for Kansas
The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Kansas and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding beginning on May 4, 2007, and continuing.
The President's action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in Kiowa County.
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Federal funding also is available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding in Kiowa County.
Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
R. David Paulison, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Michael L. Karl as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.
FEMA said that damage surveys have been scheduled and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are completed.
FEMA said that those who sustained losses in the counties designated for aid to affected individuals and business owners can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at http://www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time) Monday thru Sunday.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: FEMA (202) 646-4600.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 5, 2007
President Bush Discusses Physical Fitness Month, Encourages Americans to Exercise U.S. Secret Service Training Facility Beltsville, Maryland 9:19 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. This is Physical Fitness Month, and I'm with members of the President's Physical Fitness Council. Their job is to encourage all Americans, young and old, to exercise.
I love exercise. Today I'm going to ride with a group of friends on a mountain bike. But the message to all Americans is to find time in your schedule to walk, run, swim, bike, to take care of yourselves.
I appreciate Mike Leavitt, who is the Secretary of Health and Human Services, for joining us today. He knows what I know, that if someone takes care of their body through good exercise, that it is -- it's the beginning of really good health policy for the United States.
It doesn't take much time to stay fit -- 30 minutes five days a week; 30 minutes of walking, 30 minutes of running, 30 minutes of biking, 30 minutes of swimming on a regular basis will help deal with a lot of health issues here in America. I have found that exercise not only is a good excuse to get outdoors, it helps relieve stress, as well. And so, on behalf of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, I say to America, get outside, take time out of your life, schedule yourself, do discipline and exercise.
Thank you all for coming. END 9:20 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 5, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. At this hour, America's brave men and women in uniform are engaging our enemies around the world. And in this time of war, our elected officials have no higher responsibility than to provide these troops with the funds and flexibility they need to prevail.
On Wednesday, I met with congressional leaders from both parties here at the White House. We discussed ways to pass a responsible emergency war spending bill that will fully fund our troops as quickly as possible. It was a positive meeting. Democratic leaders assured me they are committed to funding our troops, and I told them I'm committed to working with members of both parties to do just that. I've appointed three senior members of my White House staff to negotiate with Congress on this vital legislation: my Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, and Budget Director Rob Portman. By working together, I believe we can pass a good bill quickly and give our troops the resources and flexibility they need.
Earlier this week, I vetoed the bill Congress sent me because it set a fixed date to begin to pull out of Iraq, imposed unworkable conditions on our military commanders, and included billions of dollars in spending unrelated to the war. And on Wednesday, the House voted to sustain my veto by a wide margin.
I recognize that many Democratic leaders saw this bill as an opportunity to make a statement about their opposition to the war. In a democracy, we should debate our differences openly and honestly. But now it is time to give our troops the resources they are waiting for.
Our troops are now carrying out a new strategy in Iraq under the leadership of a new commander -- General David Petraeus. He's an expert in counter-insurgency warfare. The goal of the new strategy he is implementing is to help the Iraqis secure their capital, so they can make progress toward reconciliation and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and fights extremists alongside the United States in the war on terror. This strategy is still in its early stages, and Congress needs to give General Petraeus' plan a chance to work.
I know that Republicans and Democrats will not agree on every issue in this war. But the consequences of failure in Iraq are clear. If we were to leave Iraq before the government can defend itself, there would be a security vacuum in the country. Extremists from all factions could compete to fill that vacuum, causing sectarian killing to multiply on a horrific scale.
If radicals and terrorists emerge from this battle with control of Iraq, they would have control of a nation with massive oil reserves, which they could use to fund their dangerous ambitions and spread their influence. The al Qaeda terrorists who behead captives or order suicide bombings would not be satisfied to see America defeated and gone from Iraq. They would be emboldened by their victory, protected by their new sanctuary, eager to impose their hateful vision on surrounding countries, and eager to harm Americans.
No responsible leader in Washington has an interest in letting that happen. I call on Congress to work with my Administration and quickly craft a responsible war spending bill. We must provide our men and women in uniform with the resources and support they deserve. I'm confident that leaders of goodwill can deliver this important result.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 4, 2007
President Bush Celebrates Cinco de Mayo, Discusses Immigration The Rose Garden 2:54 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Siéntese. Bienvenidos. Thank you for coming. Welcome to El Jardin de las Rosas. It's a great place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. As a matter of fact, I've been looking forward to celebrating this so much that we decided to have our own Cuatro de Mayo. (Laughter.)
Thanks for coming. Welcome. I'm honored to celebrate this important holiday with you all. On Cinco de Mayo, we remember our close friendship with Mexico, and we honor and remember the many contributions Mexican Americans have made to our nation.
I'm sorry Laura couldn't be here. She's coming back from having camped out in a national park with high school classmates. I'm honored to be here with the Attorney General of the United States, mi amigo, Alberto Gonzales. (Applause.) Y tambien, the Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez. (Applause.) Y su esposa, Edi. (Applause.) I'm glad to be here with Dr. Emilio Gonzalez, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Gloria. (Applause.) I appreciate my friend Emilio Estefan for arranging this entertainment here in the Rose Garden. I welcome the Ambassador to Mexico, Arturo. Bienvenidos. I'm glad you're here. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
As you can see, I'm standing up here with a mariachi band, initially from Monterrey, Mexico -- Los Hermanos Mora Arriaga. Welcome. (Applause.) Brothers and sisters -- I think you told me you had 13 brothers and -- 15 brothers and sisters. (Laughter.) We believe in family values. (Laughter.)
I want to thank those who wear the uniform of the United States. Thank you for serving. (Applause.)
Cinco de Mayo celebrates a great Mexican victory at the battle of Puebla. On May 5, 1862, an outnumbered band of Mexican soldiers held their ground against a professional European army. They triumphed against overwhelming odds. The victory inspired Mexican patriots in their heroic fight for liberty, and for democracy. Cinco de Mayo is a joyful day in Mexican history, and it's an important milestone in the history of freedom.
The people of the United States are proud to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with our Mexican neighbors. Our two countries continue to stand for the principles that the Mexico army defended at Puebla. We believe that democracy represents the true will of people. We believe that freedom is God's gift to every man, woman and child on the face of this Earth. (Applause.)
We believe that both our nations have a responsibility to share the blessings of liberty. The United States and Mexico are bound by strong family ties. Mexican Americans have enriched our culture by sharing their musical and artistic talents. They've strengthened our economy by opening new businesses and expanding trade. And they have made our nation more hopeful by leading lives of faith and family.
Mexican Americans have also defended the United States by wearing our nation's uniform. Today, Mexican Americans in uniform answered the call to advance the cause of liberty, and this nation is really grateful for your service and your sacrifice. (Applause.)
The patriotism of Mexican Americans reminds us that one of our greatest strengths is the character and diversity of our nation's immigrants. Immigration has made our land a great melting pot of talent and ideas. It has made America a beacon of hope for people in search of a better life.
In Washington, we're now in the midst of an important discussion about immigration. Our current immigration system is in need of reform. It is not working. We need a system where our laws are respected. We need a system that meets the needs of our economy. And we need a system that treats people with dignity and helps newcomers assimilate into our society. (Applause.)
We must address all elements of this problem together, or none of them will be solved at all. We must do it in a way that learns from the mistakes that caused previous reforms to fail. I support comprehensive immigration reform that will allow us to secure our borders and enforce our laws, to keep us competitive in the global economy, and to resolve the status of those already here, without amnesty and without animosity.
Comprehensive immigration reform is a vital goal for our nation, and it is a matter of deep conviction for me. I will continue to work closely with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to build a consensus for reform, so Congress can pass, and I can sign, a comprehensive immigration bill into law este a o. (Applause.)
The United States and Mexico share a great border, and we share a hopeful future. Tomorrow, people on both sides of that border will celebrate freedom and the courage of all who defend it. I wish you a happy Cinco de Mayo. Que Dios los bendiga a las Estados Unidos y tambien Mexico. (Applause.)
And now, Los Hermanos Mora Arriaga. (Applause.) END 3:02 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 3, 2007
President Bush Discusses Comprehensive Immigration Reform with Clergy in Washington, D.C. Asamblea de Iglesias Cristianas, Centro Evangelistico Washington, D.C 11:26 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank my fellow Americans for joining me today to discuss a very important issue, and that is immigration.
In my discussions I've talked to clergy that recognize that our country needs a comprehensive immigration reform, and part of that is to help people learn English. I've talked to people who work for corporate America -- Andy works for Marriott International, a corporation that understands that it's very helpful, it's in their interest to help people assimilate.
I've talked to Emilio, who works for the government, he's the head of the old INS, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. He has the opportunity often to swear in new citizens, and he sees the great -- the great hope that people have. I've talked to church workers who are reaching out in their communities to help people learn the benefits of the language, the English language. And thank you for tutoring and being kind.
I've talked to people that are raising families that have come from other countries, that are now U.S. citizens and understand the benefit of what it means to have learned English. Francisco said, when you learn English, doors open up for you. And I appreciate that beautiful sentiment, because it's true.
I strongly support comprehensive immigration reform. One aspect of comprehensive immigration reform is to help people assimilate into America. Part of that is to have a comprehensive strategy to help people learn the English language and to learn the history and traditions of the United States. Comprehensive immigration reform requires us to uphold law and enforce our borders in a humane way.
Comprehensive immigration reform means that you need a temporary worker program for workers who will be coming into our country. It's a program that treats people with respect, a program that helps meet the economic needs of our country. Comprehensive immigration reform means that employers would have to obey the law. Comprehensive immigration reform means that we've got to be humane about the nearly 11 or 12 million people who are already here. As I said in a speech down in Miami, we need to treat these people not with amnesty, and not with animosity. So it's got to be a rational way forward.
I'm looking forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans to get a comprehensive immigration bill done this year. We have a good chance to get it done. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand comprehensive immigration reform is in the nation's interest. And I'll continue working with members of Congress to encourage them to do the hard work necessary to make sure a system that is not working is reformed in a way that meets our national needs and listens to our national heart. After all, America is a land of immigrants. Immigration helps renew our soul. It helps redefine our spirit in a positive way.
And I'm so proud to be with you and I thank you for your time. END 11:29 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 3, 2007
President Bush Commemorates National Day of Prayer East Room 9:23 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. And welcome to the White House. I'm honored to join you for this National Day of Prayer. I'm sorry Laura is not here. She is camping in one of our national parks. (Laughter.) I appreciate the chairman -- Chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, Shirley Dobson. Thank you for your leadership on this important day. And I see you brought your husband, Jim. (Applause.)
The 2007 Honorary Chairman is with us, and that's Chuck Swindoll. Thank you, Chuck, for being here, and I'm glad you brought Cynthia, as well. Welcome. I appreciate the members of the Cabinet who have joined. I appreciate the members of the Congress. Thank you all for being here.
And the Mayor -- Mr. Mayor, thank you, sir. It's good to see you. Thanks for joining us. It means a lot that you're here. I appreciate Mayor Ron Rordam, Blacksburg, Virginia. Mr. Mayor, we're honored you're here. Thanks for bringing Mary. (Applause.)
Members of the United States military have joined us. Thanks for wearing the uniform. I appreciate those who are participating. Rabbi, thank you for your really kind remarks and strong statement. I am glad that one of my fellow Texans has made it. Mike, thanks for coming from Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas. And you married a woman named Laura. (Laughter.) Chaplain Houston Yu, Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. Proud to have you here. (Applause.) Bishop Coles, thank you for bringing Leona. Proud you all are here, too. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate the United States Army Chorus. By the way, Sergeant First Class Alvy Powell, friend of Presidents 41, 42, and 43. (Laughter.) The man has got some longevity. (Laughter.)
As Shirley mentioned, since the days of our founding, our nation has been called to prayer. That's exactly what our first President did, George Washington. "It's the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and to humbly implore his protection and favor." It's interesting that the first President said those words.
For two centuries, Americans have answered this call to prayer. We're a prayerful nation. I believe that makes us a strong nation. Each day, millions of our citizens approach our Maker. We pray as congregations in churches and in synagogues, and mosques, and in temples. We welcome people of all faiths into the United States of America.
We pray as families, around the dinner table, and before we go to sleep. We pray alone in silence and solitude, withdrawing from the world to focus on the eternal, spending time in personal recollection with our Creator.
We pray for many reasons. First, we pray to give thanks for the blessings the Almighty has bestowed upon us. We pray to give thanks. We give thanks for our freedom. We give thanks for the brave men and women who risk their lives to defend it. We give thanks for our families who love and support us. We give thanks for our plenty. We give thanks for our nation.
Second, we pray for the strength to follow God's will in our lives, and for forgiveness when we fail to do so. Through prayer, each of us is reminded that we are fallen creatures in need of mercy, and in seeking the mercy and compassion of a loving God, we grow in mercy and compassion ourselves.
We feel the tug at our souls to reach out to the poor, the elderly, the stranger in distress. And by answering this call to care for our brothers and sisters in need, our hearts grow larger and we enter into a deeper relationship with God.
Third, we pray to acknowledge God's sovereignty in our lives and our complete dependence on Him. This is probably the toughest prayer of all, particularly for those of us in politics. In the humility of prayer we recognize the limits of human strength and human wisdom. We seek the strength and wisdom that comes from above. We ask for the grace to align our hearts with His, echoing the words of Scripture, "Not my will, but thine be done." We ask the Almighty to remain near to us and guide us in all we do, and when He is near we are ready for all that may come to us.
Finally, we pray to offer petitions, because our Father in heaven knows our cares and our needs. We trust in the promise of a loving God: Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and ye shall find. Inspired by this confidence we pray that the Almighty will pour out His blessings on those we love. We ask His healing for those who suffer from illness, for those who struggle in life. We ask His comfort for the victims of tragedy, and that the injured may be healed and the fallen may find comfort in the arms of their Creator. We implore His protection for those who protect us here at home and in far away lands. We pray for the day when His peace will reign in every nation and in every land until the ends of the earth.
The greatest gift we can offer anyone is the gift of our prayers, because our prayers have power beyond our imagining. The English poet Tennyson wrote, "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." Prayer has the power to change lives and to change the course of history. So on this National Day of Prayer, let us seek the Almighty with confidence and trust, because our Eternal Father inclines his ear to the voice of his children, and answers our needs with love.
May God bless America. (Applause.) END 9:30 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 2, 2007
President Bush Discusses Iraq War Supplemental with Bicameral Bipartisan Leadership Cabinet Room 2:46 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I thank the leaders from Congress for coming down to discuss the Iraq funding issue. Yesterday was a day that highlighted differences. Today is a day where we can work together to find common ground. I will inform the Speaker and the Leader of our serious intent, and to that end, I am going to name my Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, along with Steve Hadley and Rob Portman to work with members of both parties to fund our troops.
I think it's very important we do this as quickly as we possibly can. I'm confident that we can reach agreement. I know that it's going to require goodwill, but we all care deeply about our country and care about this issue. And so I want to thank the members for coming down again. I'm looking forward to our discussions. I'm looking forward to what will be a constructive set of discussions and negotiation.
Thank you all. END 2:47 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 2, 2007
Press Briefing by Tony Snow White House Conference Center Briefing Room 1:03 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Fire away. Questions.
Q From his remarks this morning, the President didn't seem to be much in a compromising mood, still pretty critical of the Democrats. What's going to be his opening remarks?
MR. SNOW: Well, we'll let him make those to Democrats. Let me make a couple of points about -- it's interesting, it appears that the discussion about compromise is all the White House needs to compromise, it's never asked what the Hill is going to do. Fortunately, when there are talks today I think both sides are going to be working in a spirit of trying to get something constructive done. But as tempting as it may be, I'm not going to tell you what precisely the President is going to say. You'll have opportunities to hear from people who will have been involved in the meeting and they can give you their readout.
What the President is not in the mood to compromise about is an attempt to try to tie the hands of generals or troops on the ground. He's not in the mood to compromise about an approach that creates a sense of doubt among our allies, weakens the Iraqi government. Instead what he wants to do is to pull together a package -- and I think both sides want to do this -- that is going to make it possible to give the troops the full funding and also the flexibility necessary to create conditions that are going to -- of greater security and safety within Iraq, and at the same time, also, as you know, part of the funding here is for ongoing economic development efforts -- all of this is very important for building a secure and stable Iraq. That remains the ultimate endpoint, and anything that works against those goals is not going to be serving our national interest.
Having said that, the President certainly is going to be listening to members of Congress and their concerns. They have known for a long time that they are not going to be able to pass into law the measure that finally made its way up here yesterday. Now we've got to find something that will make its way into law and that will meet the basic requirements that the President has laid out. He will not compromise on issues that involve the effectiveness and the security and the operational ability of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Q Can I follow up on that?
MR. SNOW: Yes, sure, Terry.
Q Did the President read the bill before he vetoed it?
MR. SNOW: The President -- we have had plenty of time to review the bill.
Q Can you talk about the spirit of these meetings today, then? Is the spirit to compromise? I know you're saying you won't compromise on this, that or the other --
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way --
Q -- he's listening, but is he willing to compromise in some way to get this through?
MR. SNOW: The President is going to be working with Congress to get something done. Again, you may -- maybe I wasn't listening, but I haven't heard the question asked of congressional leaders. The fact is, both sides have to work together. You may describe it as compromise, you can describe it any way you want. There has to be a constructive effort to get a bill that is going to serve our national interest, meet the basic conditions the President has laid out, and provide the kind of -- the support that the troops need.
Q I'm sure our congressional counterpoints are probably handling that end of it, but can you tell us from the White House podium what spirit the President goes into these meetings with?
MR. SNOW: It's going to be -- it's going to be a spirit of saying, let's work together. It is not -- it is not going to be an antagonistic spirit. And the President does look forward to working with both sides.
Look, he said on a number of occasions in recent days, Martha, that he feels confident that we are going to get acceptable legislation out of this. How that takes place, we'll find out. But this is not going to be an antagonistic meeting where people are sort of glowering at one another. Instead it's going to be one where the President says, okay, let's work together.
Q We want to know if there's going to be any give, any give out of the President -- from the rule of the people to move out of this war.
MR. SNOW: Yes, we want to move out of this war by succeeding.
Q Violence escalating every day.
Q Tony --
MR. SNOW: Wait a minute, let me stop. Helen, the people have been -- if you take a look at what's been going on recently, there have been a number of al Qaeda attacks that had have the -- that have killed innocents --
Q Did every Iraqi attack --
MR. SNOW: No, but if you take a look at the MO of al Qaeda -- bombing attacks -- as a matter of fact, you've seen some reports, for instance, of Iraqis, even those who are opposed to the government, going after foreign fighters. There's a real and recognizable problem there, and it has to be dealt with. So those who say we need to fight al Qaeda, part of what we're trying to do is to build greater capability there.
Q We brought them into Iraq.
Q Tony, on that point, this morning the President said that al Qaeda seems to be a bigger problem than sectarian violence. That seems to fly in the face of what we've heard in recent weeks and months on the ground in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Well, you've got a shifting series of circumstances, Bret. If you take a look, for instance, what al Qaeda -- it's interesting, because it's impossible to segregate them entirely. You take a look at what happened at the Golden Mosque in Samarra -- very likely an al Qaeda attack that, in turn, spawned sectarian violence over the last year and some months. So al Qaeda's explicit goal, as Abu Musab al Zarqawi said many times, was to create sectarian violence, which was to try to use acts of violence that would set Shia against Sunni, and Sunni against Shia, and therefore, would destabilize the government and also create the opportunity to establish a safe ground for al Qaeda within the confines of Iraq.
So they're not neatly divisible. Having said that, you have seen, for instance, the signs of sectarian violence -- the kind of murders that were taking place within Baghdad, those are way down. General Petraeus has laid some of that out, as has the President. So there are some of the things that would be sort of signatures of sectarian violence.
But this is not to say that sectarian violence does not remain a concern, or that it is not something that is going to continue to be a problem. Of course, it will. But what you have seen is sort of a shifting of what's going on, but that is kind of normal in the course of war. There are different things that take place at different times, and a simple categorization of the violence is very difficult to make; things do continue to change.
Q If I could follow. You say you're not going to negotiate from this podium, but can you say that the President is willing to consider benchmarks with some punitive action if the Iraqis don't meet them?
MR. SNOW: I am not going to negotiate from this. Let me tell you, there are two -- let me give you two things to think about. Number one, it's very important to have metrics by which to measure success with the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government is not our enemy, it's our ally. We are here -- we want to support the Iraqi government and help it build capability so that it can handle security operations, economic development, diplomatic relations, political evolution, and so on. All those things are important. So the key is how do you work with them. And I think if you talk to Democrats, ultimately, the question is how do you build that capability and how do you put together the right set of policies so they're going to be able to move forward?
The second thing is that, again, I am not going to be telling you precisely what we're going to be discussing. But the President is looking for ways to --
Q Will he consider it?
MR. SNOW: The President will consider anything that anybody offers. The question is what will people have to say when they get there, and certainly he'll be fair. So, again, we're going to be listening to what everybody has to say. This has to be a constructive exercise. But, again, it also has to be one -- and respect shown on both sides, and also respect ultimately for the goal of trying to build conditions for a successful Iraqi government, along the lines where a lot of the basics everybody does agree on, including metrics, which the President laid out a number of those a while ago and you do need to find ways to be able to measure progress.
Q Tony, the President sort of framed the argument today saying, Americans don't have to choose between being in between warring sectarian sides in a "civil war" -- using that term -- instead, it's a fight against al Qaeda. Wasn't the whole point of the surge to quell the capital and really to diminish the sectarian violence? And now he seems to be saying the enemy is more al Qaeda, rather than --
MR. SNOW: But, again, as I pointed out just a minute ago, Kelly, what you've done is you've indicated that there has been some change in status on the ground since the new Baghdad security plan began to be implemented. And I think that's true. On the other hand, again, nobody wants to take victory laps. For instance, when it comes to sectarian violence, what did you see? You saw members of the Mahdi Army publicly laying down arms. You saw Moqtada al Sadr leaving Baghdad. You saw a series of very swift changes simply upon announcement, and there have been areas in which you have seen reductions in sectarian violence. That reflects the facts on the ground.
You've also seen an attempt by al Qaeda, in response to this, to put together, for instance, coordinated car bombings and the kind of thing, especially near holy sites, not only in Baghdad, but around the country, that probably ought to be construed as attempts to do what happened with the Samarra Mosque bombing, which is to reignite the sectarian tension.
So what the President -- the President is not shifting the analysis; the Baghdad security plan was there to try to learn from the mistakes that we made with the two Baghdad security plans last year. In other words, we didn't keep a 24/7 presence; we didn't move in quickly with economic development; we weren't as fully integrated on a 24/7 basis with Iraqi forces; we weren't the developing -- we didn't give the Iraqis a big enough chip in the game. All of those things are things we've learned from. And you've got David Petraeus, then, who also has considerable success -- he did it in Mosul with counter-insurgency, and is somebody who is our acknowledged expert on the topic.
So what you want to do is you want to keep in mind --
Q Tony, is it politically persuasive to say the enemy is al Qaeda and not getting in between sectarian groups?
MR. SNOW: The characterizations here are not part of a sales pitch, they're an attempt to try to reflect what's going on on the ground. General Petraeus, when he does this, is laying out what he sees. Now, it's entirely conceivable that a month from now you'll have sectarian problems. We hope not. But again, I think you're trying to use a political lens for statements that really are designed simply to say, look, we have shifting realities on the ground.
The President laid out plenty of evidence for that last week. And so has MNFI on a pretty regular basis. They try to do what they can to make the statistics known and the data available to everybody. So it's not an attempt to try to change the characterization for political reasons.
Q Can I just clarify, following Kelly's question, when the President laid out that construct in the speech today, the civil war-al Qaeda construct, it seemed that he was saying there is a civil war.
MR. SNOW: No, if you go back to the National Intelligence Estimate, what you had was -- again, look at what NIE said, which is that you have some clashes that are consistent with civil war, and inconsistent with the notion of a civil war. I am not going to get us back into that whole sort of debate about how you define a civil war. The fact is that we have a situation where we are working to develop for the Iraqis the ability to establish institutions and also conditions on the ground that are going to be conducive not only to creating a stable democracy, but giving people an active incentive to join in. But I'm just --
Q I don't want to go back there, either, except the fact that the President seemed to say it clearly today.
MR. SNOW: Again, it's -- the position -- it's just much more complicated than that.
Q Okay, let me follow one more time on the idea of -- the compromise, which you said the Democrats have not come out and said what they wanted, that everything seems to be us asking you what the White House is willing to do, but we're not hearing it from Capitol Hill.
MR. SNOW: I'm just curious from a questioning point of view that -- yes.
Q Well, there's been reporting and the Democrats said very clearly yesterday that the time to push troop withdrawal deadlines was over, but they were willing to do some work on benchmarks, attaching --
MR. SNOW: Okay, well again, we look forward to the conversation. I'm still not going to --
Q No, but wait a minute. They're being very clear about what they're willing to do and what they're pushing as far as an approach. And I think it's only fair that you give some indications as to whether or not that's something in the ballpark here.
MR. SNOW: The fact is that there have probably been four or five separate proffers from a number of individuals in the Democratic Party, none of which seem to reflect yet a consensus on the part of the party, which is one of the reasons we're asking the leaders in. So what you're asking me to respond to is one of many ideas that have been floated.
Again, I think it's more constructive -- let everybody have their conversations, and you're going to have to be patient. There are going to be discussions. People will be at the sticks today, they'll have comments to make. But I think what you're going to see is a good-faith effort out of the White House, and we think also that the signs we've gotten from Capitol Hill are a good-faith effort to try to get something done that will achieve the basic goals that the President laid out and will allow us to move forward.
Q Tony, I want to go back to the notion of al Qaeda versus sectarian violence. One of the things you and the President have cited is progress in al Anbar recently. That was taking place before the new strategy even began.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q So you keep trying to tie that in with the new strategy, when, in fact, it's really the long war strategy from before it even started.
MR. SNOW: All right, let me break this down for you. What's happened in Anbar, it's not -- what happened in Anbar is, Sunnis were tired of having foreign fighters come in and kill their people, and they decided to turn against them; God bless them. What has happened --
Q Right, and it happened months ago.
MR. SNOW: Okay, but since the beginning -- but my response was still germane about Baghdad, which is -- and you know the figures -- that the benchmarks for sectarian violence, the killings, where you had people going in and killing people wholesale, seemingly merely on a sectarian basis, you had individual murders and that sort of thing going on in areas of Baghdad, those numbers, fortunately, are down. But I do not want to, again, give the impression that we're trying to say, the sectarian violence is at an end. But by the measures that people have been using to gauge such things, they've been down.
Now, if you take a look at, again, the things that have been indicative and typical of al Qaeda activity, such as a single driver going in, blowing himself up, killing a lot of people, or on a timed basis, and the use -- foreign fighters being involved in these activities, those, in fact, have increased in recent weeks. That is primarily what we've been seeing of late. So all that's doing is reflecting as accurately as we can what has been going on on the ground.
Q But answer that question about al Anbar. I mean, the President, again, cited progress in Ramadi and al Anbar, because that seems where the most progress is, and that was before the new strategy.
MR. SNOW: Well, the strategy -- but on the other hand --
Q So what are we supposed to take from that?
MR. SNOW: What you're supposed to take is there's good news. Thank you for reporting it.
Q But it has nothing to do with the Baghdad security plan, but we keep tying it to it.
MR. SNOW: Well, Anbar is not -- no, no, it does -- actually, it does --
Q -- the progress, the real progress -- I saw last August.
MR. SNOW: I know, Martha. But also what you have seen is -- and you might want to call your buds, because a lot of people in Anbar do make this point -- when it was announced that there would be another 4,000 U.S. forces in Anbar, it did, in fact, have the effect of strengthening both the confidence and the resolve of the people there. There have been many attempts over time to try to roll back the progress that had been made there. As a matter of fact, that is not new. You've seen progress in places like Ramadi, and you've seen the resurgence of violence. In this particular case, you have seen an effective and extended period of success there that we hope will continue.
And it is worth noting that as part of the Baghdad security plan there was also a complement of 4,000 U.S. forces that would be there to supplement ongoing efforts in Anbar. You're right, the progress began before, but it has continued. And I think it is reasonable to argue that this will certainly help sustain the success. But also a lot of credit has to go to tribal leaders and also Iraqis in Anbar who have decided to lay down arms, or to go from being people fighting the government to folks who stand in lines and sign up to become members of the police forces, while others are trying to keep the peace.
Q Are there 4,000 more there? I don't know.
MR. SNOW: I don't know that all of them are there yet. I'll find -- you can actually call the Pentagon --
Q Are any of them there?
MR. SNOW: We'll find out.
Q The veto message the President sent up to the Hill argues that what the Democrats are doing is unconstitutional. How can that be unconstitutional when they seem to be exercising their power of the purse?
MR. SNOW: No, they're also -- but when you start getting into operational details that impinge upon the President's prerogatives as Commander-in-Chief, that does raise legitimate constitutional issues.
Q The President earlier today defined success in Iraq. He said, "Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our country that, as you know, have a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives, and that's what we're trying to achieve." What is the President talking about when he says there's parts in our own country where a certain level of violence that people will accept?
MR. SNOW: It means that you have places with high crime rates. And it is something that is quite often a fact of American life that we don't like and it is something that is a matter of constant and ongoing concern. But you could construe that as violence, and it is. If you take a look at drug-related violence that has wracked many of our cities -- and now, increasingly, in rural areas, as well as suburban -- that is a form of violence. If you read stories over the years that constantly take a look at murder rates and rape rates, and every time we come out with either the Bureau of Justice statistics or FBI with its reports, it's a standard part of reporting.
So what he's really talking about is that there's certain kinds of violence that do, unfortunately, exist in a society, but he was not arguing, for instance, that there are militias afoot or that sort of thing. He was simply saying, at some point, you need a level of violence in a society, crime or whatever, that is not going to be undermining your ability to have a functional democracy. And of course, the endless experiment within democracy is always to make it more effective and attending to the needs and safety of the people.
Q If the President is using that as an example of saying that the Iraqis, if they find a certain level of violence that is acceptable, that's defined now as success?
MR. SNOW: Yes, in other words, what he's saying is that if you can have a society that can function more or less normally, where you will have effective police forces that are able to dispense justice fairly, regardless of who you are; you have a growing economy; you have a rule of law; you have political institutions that reflect and protect the rights of all; you have a political system that is able to adjust over time and to -- amid compromise and full debate; you have diplomatic roots set down so you are a strong and functional player within the region. All of those are parts of being a successful state.
Q But the President -- he argued that this is about freedom, this is about democracy. But when the President defines success as a level of violence, where people feel comfortable about living their daily lives -- that bar is very, very low. That's much lower than a democracy or freedom agenda.
MR. SNOW: No, it's not. No, it's not. I mean, look, Washington for many years was the murder capital of the United States of America. I believe we are still able to do our jobs. Now, really what he's talking about -- he's talking about that. He is not talking about --
Q How do you define an acceptable level of violence? I mean, how can that possibly be defined?
MR. SNOW: That's a very good question. I don't have an answer.
Q Can I follow up on --
Q Excuse me --
MR. SNOW: I was going to recognize Sheryl, but, April, you'll be next.
Q When you talk about -- you said, operational details before, with respect to the President's assertion that what the Congress has done is unconstitutional. Are you saying that Congress does not have it within its purview to appropriate money and say what purpose that money can be used for, that they cannot say, this money will be used for support troops, as opposed to combat troops, for instance?
MR. SNOW: Sheryl, if there are attempts -- the President has -- the President needs the ability to operate effectively as Commander-in-Chief, and when people start trying to micromanage that legislatively, that raises constitutional issues.
Q So it's your position that it's unconstitutional then for the Congress to try to say what kind of troops --
MR. SNOW: I'll give you a general characterization --
Q -- the money can be spent on?
MR. SNOW: I actually think that this is a very interesting abstract question that's completely irrelevant because I don't think it's going to be a part of the conversation.
Q It is part of it because the Democrats want to limit the mission. They want to change -- they want to use this bill to change the mission and to move us away from combat troops and into support missions and other missions --
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure that that is -- we'll find out. We'll find as we go.
Q -- talking about what's acceptable in this country. It seems to be a wave of gang violence, as you said, in urban, as well as rural communities. Initiations are creating murders, gang violence itself -- and when you have community leaders to include, black leaders, say genocide of black -- black-on-black crime in urban America. What is acceptable about those -- and they are crippling communities.
MR. SNOW: And this is where -- you're getting into an apples and orange thing, but it's a very good question. Look, no level of violence in the abstract is acceptable. You want people to be able to live in a condition of peace. On the other hand, what the President is talking about is that there will be levels of violence in a society that do not, in fact, cripple the society's ability to function on a daily basis. That's merely what he's referring to.
He has also spoken many times and eloquently about the tragedy of violence within our cities. It remains a concern, and, boy, do I hope that the Iraqis will be in a position where they now can start worrying about those levels of concerns, as opposed to al Qaeda violence, or the possibility of sectarian violence within their boundaries.
Q Well, I hate to paint a drastic picture, but there is a drastic picture in this country. We talk about what's happening in Iraq -- curfews and things of that nature. We have people scared to leave because of sectarian violence and civil war in their country. You have people in this country scared to leave their homes, scared to go out at night because of violence, because of gang problems -- so, unacceptable may be something that --
MR. SNOW: Again, what we're trying to -- look, that's not acceptable; you understand that. What we're trying to do is to come up with a metric of saying, there's going to be a level of violence in a society. But I think you would agree, April, that if that were the kind of violence that were existing, say, in Baghdad, it would not be a cause to have extended American presence there. That's something that the Iraqis ought to be able to take care of.
Q And also on Sudan --
MR. SNOW: Yes, yes.
Q -- on the warrants for the arrests of -- the war crime arrests. Do you have anything -- what's the White House saying about that?
MR. SNOW: We very strongly support accountability for those who are responsible for Darfur, and we expect the government of Sudan to comply with the obligations under United Nations Security 1593 to cooperate with the ICC.
Q The President, in the course of this speech, said that casualties will likely stay high. He spoke of a systematic al Qaeda attack, the choice of responding to the -- he chose the article "the" not "a" civil war -- he said there's no easy way out. Why this grim tone to this speech today, heading into these talks with Congress?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think it's a grim tone. What the President is trying to do is be realistic. You got problems there. You have violence. For instance, if you recall in the State of the Union address, when we were talking about a way forward, it has always been known that when you go in and you're engaging the people who have been responsible for organizing violence, they're going to fight back. And, therefore, you have seen rising casualty rates within Baghdad. That is -- we predicted that from the very start. We have known that that is going to be the case.
On the other hand, there's also been a rapidly rising casualty rate on the part of the people who are responsible for the violence. What you have also seen is Iraqi forces not only more deeply engaged, but also more successful in going in and rooting out some of these cells, in going in and helping pacify various parts of Baghdad.
The President wants people to understand that a war is a tough thing, and furthermore, that one of the reasons why we need to support our forces fully is to go ahead and meet the threat now, rather than to allow it to worsen, and also to send a clear message to the Iraqi people, we know that you're facing difficulty, a lot of it is from foreign forces, and what we want to do is to make sure that you have the ability to enjoy the democracy that millions of Iraqis voted to put into place originally, knowing that there were going to be difficulties, knowing that there is always the possibility of sectarian violence, and also knowing that it is really important for the Iraqi people to be industrious and creative in trying to overcome those.
We saw today, for instance, the council of ministers has passed on to the council of representatives the draft oil law. That is something that they have been working on for a very long time. And that does not mean that you've got instant passage, but you're going to have -- you've got a process where people are working very hard to try to create incentives that reach past historic enmity and instead give people economic, social and political reasons to look at one another as -- not only as countrymen, but as people who have a stake in your success and you have a stake in their success.
Q Tony, sorry, just one more related question. For the first time, the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom has put Iraq on a watch list of countries where worship is under siege. Among other things, its report cited arbitrary arrests and torture and rape. Is this the kind of thing that U.S. troops are in the middle of here?
MR. SNOW: Peter, I haven't seen the report, so I can't comment on it.
Q First of all, welcome back.
MR. SNOW: Thank you, sir.
Q When President Bush made an announcement on mangoes from India, I was with him in India in Hyderabad. And yesterday his dream came true. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and Susan Schwab, the U.S. Rep, and also Ambassador Ronen Sen, they had a celebration yesterday at the Commerce Department by the U.S.-India Business Council. Mangoes from India arrived, and here is a basket for President Bush, and also for the First Lady mangoes from India. My question is that, what message does mangoes bring, as far as India-U.S. relations are concerned -- trade and other issues?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, it is my first mango-related inquiry. (Laughter.) Goyal, I think what you do see is constantly -- India is a very important partner for the United States. You saw the civil nuclear agreement, also agricultural cooperation. India is going to be vital part also in pursuing the Doha Round. So I think it, once again, reflects what we see, which is not only increasing closeness between the two governments, but also increasing interdependency.
Q Tony, back to success again for just a moment. Previously, success has been defined as Iraq defending itself, sustaining itself, and so on.
MR. SNOW: Governing itself.
Q Governing itself. And today we saw success defined as kind of a lower level of violence. Is there a difference?
MR. SNOW: No, this is not inconsistent. This is part of what we discussed before. No, it's not at all inconsistent.
Q Not a new definition --
MR. SNOW: No.
Q Tony, I've got a couple of questions. The first one is, does the President intend to move at all in terms of his position?
MR. SNOW: The President -- again, I know it's really tempting, "the President moved" -- I am sure that everybody is going to have -- when this is all done, I will allow each and every person to decide how much people have moved or boogied or done whatever they've done during the course of legislative compromise. But the fact is that there will be discussions that we think are going to lead to an acceptable measure that both sides are going to be able to take pride and credit. He's going to be listening and it is his determination to work with Congress to get something that's acceptable.
So my guess is, I will let other people do the definitional stuff later. Why don't we wait and see first what we see, in terms of the body language after today's meeting, and also what we begin to see in terms of cooperation on both sides and discussions -- Democrats, Republicans and the White House, together, House and Senate -- to try to come up with a measure that we hope very quickly can get passed into law, because there is a certain amount of urgency in getting this funding in the pipeline.
Q In his speech today, he was asked a question about the media and media coverage. And in his reply he referred to free speech. And then he said, "without glossing over the inherent dangers." What "inherent dangers" in free speech was he referring to?
MR. SNOW: That I don't know, because, frankly, I was not at the speech. And I'll get back to you.
Q Would you, please? It was interesting.
MR. SNOW: Yes, I'm sure it was.
Q I have a related one.
MR. SNOW: Okay. Let's try to keep this in sort of a related -- that's a good idea.
Q Thank you. You mentioned the need for metrics and ways to measure progress, but I'm wondering, is there also a need to find ways to hold people accountable for reaching those --
MR. SNOW: Do you think that it's a matter that the Iraqis do not want peace, do not want security? I think they do. So you can look at it one of two ways. Again, you can treat them as the wayward party that you're going to punish, or you can treat them as the partner you want to assist. And it is our desire, in every way possible, as constructively as possible, to help them go ahead and gain those capabilities. Does it mean that you might try to nudge them? Are you going to have conversations with them? That happens on a very regular basis.
But I think there's a characterization sometimes that tends to demean the government of Iraq, where people are laying their lives on the line and it's a very difficult business, and we want to see that government succeed.
Q Well, how is it demeaning? I mean, people love their children and children are given punishments. Why wouldn't we want to take some way to hold -- or would the President at least consider some way to hold the government accountable for reaching certain goals as a way to prod an ally?
MR. SNOW: Again, you can look at it two ways: Do you prod an ally, or do you weaken the government? Let me put it this way: There are some concerned within the region that the way -- when you frame a question that way, it says we have no faith in the government. Therefore, it creates difficulties within the country because partners to the coalition ask themselves, does this mean that the Americans are not going to help out? Are they going to walk away? Are they going to bail out? If you go back to -- and the fear of the United States doing what the Baker-Hamilton commission called precipitated withdrawal, is palpable. They want to know that we're going to help them succeed.
And so it's important to figure out how you frame it. I think Democrats and Republicans, again, have the same goal, which is, how do you get the Iraqis into a position as swiftly as possible that they succeed in doing these things they need to do? And that will be part of the conversation.
You will notice that I am not going to answer your question when it comes to the way in which you create those incentives. That is properly a matter for discussion between the people who are going to be around the table, and I'm sure they're going to have those conversations. But, again, what you want to do is to find a way to assist that government that does not undermine it, that does not undermine American credibility or prestige in the region, but instead helps to strengthen our interest, helps to strengthen our credibility and helps strengthen that government.
Les, I know that you're not going to be on this issue --
Q You do? How do you know?
MR. SNOW: ESP. Am I correct?
Q You're right. (Laughter.) Will you come back?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Thank you.
Q You said there's a certain amount of urgency in getting this done. Care to be more specific about what it needs to get done?
MR. SNOW: No, because, you know what, as I pointed out, for all the talk about benchmarks, Congress can't meet its benchmarks. If I set up a benchmark it's not necessarily going to be productive. I think everybody wants to get this done quickly. But, no, I do not want to -- I don't want to start the egg timer.
Q Congressional Research Service has said until July there is not really a problem with funding. Is that incorrect?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, if you talk to the Pentagon, there's already been -- it depends on how you define a problem. You've already got the situation where you have to start moving money between accounts. That is not optimal. And I think probably the best thing to do for our military is to go ahead and keep all parts of it fully funded. And that means going ahead and finishing up this emergency supplemental as quickly as possible.
Q "Not optimal," does that mean we're in a problem already, or is it just not optimal?
MR. SNOW: I'm saying that -- I'm not going to get into characterizing it, but I think you would agree that if you have a situation where you have to start moving between accounts, that's less good than one where all the accounts are fully funded.
Q Tony, a senior DOD official said that we have time until June. Is that true? Where there's some leeway for about a month?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to try to characterize exactly what's going on, other than we're moving money between accounts and that's not the way you want to run an operation.
Q So we should see the President standing firm for about another two to three weeks --
MR. SNOW: You'll see the President standing firm on principle throughout. Look, I want you to understand, because there's a tendency in Washington to say, this is a kind of a legislative chess game and we've got to do this, so this guy moves this far and this guy moves this far -- no. The purpose of this bill, it's an emergency supplemental bill to finance ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have to do that in a way that will allow you to conduct effectively ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is not a chess game. The people over there are not chess pieces. They are American citizens fighting for something that is very important for our long-term national security and our immediate national security. And, therefore, the idea of somehow saying, will the President sort of change in two weeks -- the conditions that he's laid out, in terms of providing funding and flexibility are not going to change. That's not going to change.
But on the other hand, you've got a lot of members who agree with him. Probably a majority. So here is a chance to answer a lot of concerns that members of Congress have about how we look at this, work collegially with members of the House and Senate, then provide the funding and flexibility.
Q So do you agree with the person from DOD that the hardship is worse in June, and that's when --
MR. SNOW: The hardship continues to get worse. We've already said that there's already been a transfer, it tends to accelerate the middle of this month and it will get worse as time goes on.
Q Tony, one of the Democrats' arguments is that the American people are on their side in this debate. I'm just wondering, how does the President, how does this White House balance or incorporate the will of the people at the same time as the President taking a principled stand?
MR. SNOW: Well, on the other hand, the American people also have said that if the veto is sustained, Congress ought to go ahead and pass the bill. That's the will of the American people. CBS, Axelrod. The fact is that there are a number of polls. But the problem a lot of times with the polls, it will take a cut at one little sort of a sliver of a much broader debate. And I think what the American people -- of course, the American people want the troops home. The President wants the troops home. Nobody likes a situation of war. But you also don't want a situation that's going to make this nation less secure in the short run or the long run.
Again, you take a look -- one of the things -- here is the National Intelligence Estimate: If coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly, this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance, have adverse consequences for national reconciliation. One of the things it also says in the Baker-Hamilton commission report is: al Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos -- which it judges likely -- the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return. Question: Would you like that situation? The American people would say, no.
The interesting thing about public opinion polls is that you can get people to respond to a headline. But the President can't respond to a headline. He has to respond to a war that has enormous complexity --
Q That he started.
MR. SNOW: -- and has a lot of different pieces to it. And, therefore, the real key is, as Commander-in-Chief his solemn obligation is to make this country safe and to fulfill our security interests, which is what he's going to do. And it's a lot easier, again, to sort of argue about a particular poll question. But there are real security interests that you have to deal with.
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Does the President agree or disagree with what page one of The Washington Times this morning reports is D.C. City Councilman Marion Barry's proposal to charge all U.S. citizens tolls if they come to our nation's capital? Or does he believe Mr. Barry should either pay his income taxes or go to prison, as prosecuting attorneys have asked?
MR. SNOW: Les, I'm going to send you Article I of the Constitution. You can sort of look through some of the executive powers and we'll get back to you. But that's --
Q Okay, page one of The Washington Post quotes President Reagan as describing Connecticut's former Senator Lowell Weicker as "a pompous no-good fathead." Does President Bush believe that President Reagan was wrong in this statement, or right, or will your refusal to comment leave everyone wondering?
MR. SNOW: C. (Laughter.)
Q What? C. You'll leave everyone wondering. (Laughter.) You're a funny man.
MR. SNOW: Suzanne, has a question. Let's --
Q The President said earlier today, he said, "Either we'll succeed or won't succeed" regarding the Iraq mission. And six months ago, he was asked, are we winning? He said, absolutely. And then it turned to, we're not winning, we're not losing. Now we're here at, we'll either succeed or won't succeed. It doesn't sound like a vote of confidence for the Iraqi -- what should the soldiers make of that statement?
MR. SNOW: I think the soldiers should make that they've got somebody who supports them. And they understand that the mission is not to leave, but to succeed and then leave.
Q But he says, we'll succeed or we won't succeed. He doesn't sound very confident in our ability to succeed.
MR. SNOW: What he's really talking about is the nature of political debate. Will the United States send a message that we are going to provide the support that will enable the forces to do what they want? As you know, Suzanne, again, the testimony General Petraeus has been giving indicates that there has been some marginal progress. He does not want, again, for people to reach too far in the analysis, but it's there -- not only in Anbar, which predates the Baghdad security plan, but within Baghdad proper.
The point is that the goal here is success, and the President -- success is still an Iraq that can sustain, govern, and defend itself. It's one where you will have levels of violence that will not jeopardize the ability of the government to function on an ongoing basis.
So, no, this is not a stepping back, this is not the President embracing gloom, but realizing that it is a complex situation that ultimately the American people -- and you have to understand what the military understands, which is it is tough business, but it is vital, absolutely vital for our long-term security. This is not -- this is a place where failure really is not and should not be an option.
Q Sustain, govern, and defend, could Iraq do any of those three now?
MR. SNOW: I don't think it is in a position independently to do the three at this juncture. That's one of the reasons why.
END 1:43 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 2, 2007
President Bush Discusses War on Terror, Economy with Associated General Contractors of America Willard Hotel Washington, D.C. 9:44 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all; please be seated. Steve, unlike you, I have trouble finding the front end of a front-end loader. (Laughter.) Thanks for having me. I'm proud to be here with the AGC. It's the oldest and largest construction trade association in our country. I understand I'm not the first Bush to have ever addressed the AGC convention -- a person I now refer to as "41" addressed you. (Laughter.) And I appreciated your hospitality to him then, and I appreciate your hospitality to me today.
I want to talk about -- a little bit about our economy and I want to talk a lot about our security. And I thank you for giving me a chance to come by. What I thought I would do is try to keep my remarks relatively brief and then maybe give you all some time to ask some questions.
First, I want to thank Steve. Steve is a Virginia Tech grad, and our hearts are still heavy as a result of that terrible incident there on the campus. And, yet, the amazing thing about that campus -- and a lot of other places around the country -- is we've got a great resiliency; people bounce back from tragedy. So, Steve, you can tell the Virginia Tech community we're still thinking about them and appreciate very much the great kind of strength of spirit there -- at least I saw that there in Blacksburg, Virginia.
I want to thank two members of the Senate who have joined us. First, John Warner, from Virginia. Senator, thank you for coming; ranking member of the House Military Committee -- Armed Services Committee -- he's a strong supporter of the troops. And I appreciate Senator Joe Lieberman. John is a Republican, Senator Lieberman is an independent. Joe Lieberman is one of these -- I would call him a unique soul who followed his conscience, stood for what he believed in, in the face of a political firestorm. And he proved that if you stand on conviction, the people will follow. And I look forward to working with these two really fine public servants to make the decisions necessary to protect the United States. And I'm honored you all are here and thank you for coming. (Applause.)
I like to be in the room of builders and doers and problem solvers and entrepreneurs. And I thank you for what you do every day. Your job is to improve infrastructure and provide work for people. Our job is to provide an environment so that you can build infrastructure and provide work for people. Our job is not to try to create wealth in government. Our job is to create an environment that encourages small businesses and entrepreneurial -- and entrepreneurs.
I believe this administration has done that, particularly since we cut taxes. You know, most small businesses and self-employed people, people in your line of work, or many of them, are not corporations. They've sole proprietorships, or subchapter S corporations, or limited partnerships that pay tax at the individual income tax level.
And, therefore, when you cut taxes, we not only -- individual rates, we're not only cutting them on the people who work for you or work with you, we're cutting them on you. And my attitude is the more money you have in your treasuries, the more likely it is you'll be able to expand. The more incentive you have to buy a piece of equipment, the more likely it is you'll buy one, which means that somebody is going to have to build it for you.
The best way to enhance pro-growth economic policies is to cut the taxes on the American people. And that's exactly what we did. These taxes are set to expire. In my judgment, if Congress really wants to create a pro-growth attitude for a long time coming, they ought to make the tax relief we passed permanent. They ought not to let them expire. (Applause.)
My attitude is this about the budget: The best way to balance the budget is to keep taxes low, encourage growth, which enhances tax revenues, and be wise about how we spend money. I worry about the attitude, don't worry, we're just going to raise the taxes on some to balance the budget. No, they'll raise the tax on some and figure out new ways to spend the money.
And we're proving that pro-growth economic policies with fiscal discipline can work. And our budgets are shrinking. The best way to keep them shrinking is keep the economy growing and be wise about -- and setting priorities with your money.
There's other things we can do in Washington. We've got to make sure health care is affordable and available, without inviting the federal government to run the health care system. Got to do something about these junk lawsuits that I'm sure you're concerned about. We've got to continue to invest in the nation's infrastructure. We also need an immigration system that upholds the rule of law and treats people with respect. We need an immigration system that secures our borders and meets the needs of our economy. As I said in the speech down in Florida the other day, we need an immigration system without amnesty and without animosity. In other words, we need a comprehensive immigration reform.
I want to thank you for the stand you have taken in working with Congress on comprehensive immigration reform. I join you. I will work with both Republicans and Democrats to get a bill to my desk before the summer is out, hopefully. And I thank the leadership in the Senate that's working through this issue. I want to thank Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona for working hard on this, Mel Martinez, Arlen Specter, Lindsey Graham. There's a series of senators who are working with Ted Kennedy, who is a strong advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. And I appreciate the leadership he's taken, along with Ken Salazar of Colorado.
We're making progress. There's a lot more work to be done, and your help is important. And so I want to thank you for coming up with a rational, reasonable, logical plan.
I want to talk to you about the other main issue we have here in America, and that is your security. The most important job we have is to secure the United States of America. That's the most important job of the federal government. You expect us to spend enormous amounts of energy protecting you, and that's what we're doing. I vowed to the American people we would not tire when it came to protecting you, and we're not going to. Matter of fact, I spend a lot of time thinking about this issue. I wish I didn't have to spend time thinking about the issue, but I do, because there's still an enemy out there that would like to do America harm. And, therefore, at this hour, we've got men and women in uniform engaging our enemies around the world. Our strategy is, we've got to keep the pressure on them. We would rather fight them there, so we don't have to face them here. (Applause.)
And the most visible and violent front of this global war is Iraq. And it's a tough fight. It has been a difficult year for the American people, I understand that. It reached -- last year was, this battle reached its most difficult point to date. The terrorists and extremists and radicals set off a wave of sectarian violence that engulfed that young democracy's capital. It threatened to destabilize the entire country.
So earlier this year I laid out a new strategy in Iraq. I named a new commander to carry it out, General David Petraeus. I want to give you some facts about the new strategy, and talk about why Iraq relates directly to the safety of the American people.
The most important fact about our new strategy, it is fundamentally different from the previous strategy. The previous strategy wasn't working the way we wanted it to work. It's interesting, they run polls -- and I accept that -- and it said, you know, we don't approve of what's happening in Iraq. That was what the poll said last fall and winter, you know. And had they polled me, I'd have said the same thing. (Laughter.) I didn't approve of what was happening in Iraq. And so we put a new strategy in that was fundamentally different.
First of all, Petraeus, General Petraeus is an expert on counterinsurgency, and his top priority is to help the Iraqi leaders -- who, by the way, were elected by nearly 12 million of their citizens -- secure their population. And the reason why is, is that this young democracy needed some time to make important political decisions to help reconcile the country. After a thorough review, we concluded the best way to help Iraq's leaders to provide security was to send more troops into the nation's capital, into the country; was to send reinforcements to those troops which were already there. And their job was to go after the extremists and radicals who were inciting sectarian violence. Their job was to help get Baghdad under control. And their job was to continue to train Iraqi forces for the day they can secure the country on their own.
Last week, General Petraeus came to Washington, and he updated me and he updated the Congress on the early stages of this new strategy -- and I repeat, early stages. He reminded us that not all the reinforcements he'd requested have arrived, that it's going to be at least until the end of this summer that he will know whether or not the new strategy has achieved successes.
And that means the strategy is in early stages. My view is the Congress and the country ought to give General Petraeus time to see whether or not this works. And it's interesting, he goes up in front of the Senate and gets confirmed unanimously. And he said, I need more troops, during his testimony; send me more troops and I will go implement a new plan. They said, okay, fine, we confirm you. And yet there are some doubts in Washington whether or not they ought to send the troops.
The troops are going, the strategy is new, and the General said, let's give it some time to work to see whether or not it's successful, and I'll be able to report back to the country by the end of this summer.
The most significant element of the new strategy is being carried out in the capital. The whole purpose is to secure the capital. My theory is, and it's a good one, is that if the capital is in chaos, the country can't -- it's going to be difficult for the country to survive.
The strategy is also being carried out in what's called surrounding belts. This is the areas that kind of arc around the capital, and it's a place where there's been a lot of planning and plotting and attacking. Three American brigades, totaling about 12,000 reinforcements, have taken up their positions in the Baghdad area. The fourth brigade, fourth of five, is heading into Baghdad this week. And the fifth is on its way. In other words, you just don't take five brigades and move them in overnight. There's a sequencing that has to take place, and that sequencing is now being completed.
The Iraqis, by the way, have increased their own forces. In other words, this is a joint operation. This is the Americans and coalition forces helping the Iraqis provide security so that the average person can live a peaceful life. That's what they want. And so we've got about a total of 80,000 combat forces now in the Baghdad area -- U.S., combined with the Iraqi forces. The position of the forces is shifting. We used to have our forces live in bases outside the city. They would go in at night or during the day and then leave and go back home at night. They did a fine job, as we expect our U.S. forces to do, the Iraqi forces would do so. And then when they would leave, killers would move back in.
And so now we've got American troops are now living and working in small neighborhood posts called joint security stations. This is what's fundamentally different from the strategy. Our troops, with the Iraqis, go into a neighborhood, and they stay. They operate side by side with the Iraqi forces.
What's interesting is, is that the plan, General Petraeus's plan, is to help build trust. And when you build trust, you end up getting people buying into a centralized government, a unity government, a country that is united. And not only that, you end up getting cooperation from people. Remember, most people want to live peaceful lives. I hope this make sense to you, because I firmly believe that Iraqi moms want their child to grow up in a peaceful world, just like American moms do.
And so we're seeing some gains. The interesting thing about this is that the nature of this strategy is that the most important gains are often the least dramatic. It doesn't generate much attention when violence does not happen. Instead, some important indicators of progress in the security plan are less visible. I would like to share some with you.
The level of cooperation from local residents is important. It's an indication as to whether or not we're making progress: our ability to take weapons off the street and break up extremist groups; the willingness of Iraqis to join their security forces is an interesting measurement. And, finally, it's important to measure the level of sectarian violence. If the objective is to bring security to the capital, one measurement is whether or not sectarian violence is declining. These measures are really not flashy. In other words, they're not headline-grabbing measures. They certainly can't compete with a car bomb or a suicide attack. But they are interesting indications. And as General Petraeus reported, these are heading in the right direction.
For example, General Petraeus reports that American and Iraqi forces received more tips from local residents in the past four months than during any other four-month period on record. People are beginning to have some confidence and they're beginning to step forth with information, information that will help them live normal lives.
Thanks to these tips the number of weapons caches that are being seized are growing each month. Better intelligence has led American and Iraqi forces in Baghdad and the surrounding belts to conduct operations against Sunni and Shia extremists. My attitude is, if murderers run free, it's going to be hard to convince the people of any society that the government is worth supporting. And, therefore, the Iraqis and U.S. forces and coalition forces are after murderers regardless of their religious affiliation.
American and Iraqi forces captured the head of a major car bombing ring recently, the leader of a bombing network with ties to Iran, members of a death squad that terrorized a Baghdad neighborhood, the leader of a secret militia cell that kidnapped and executed American soldiers. These are just some examples of what happens when you start to earn the confidence of the people.
Baghdad residents see actions, they grow more confident. Interestingly enough, General Petraeus reported that in his short time he's been there, and in the short time that this plan is being implemented -- remember, it's not fully implemented: three of the brigades are present, are in place; the fourth brigade has just moved into Baghdad and it will be in place relatively soon, and the fifth is on its way -- that in spite of the fact that we haven't fully implemented the plan, the number of sectarian murders in Baghdad has dropped substantially.
Even as the sectarian attacks have declined, the overall level of violence in Baghdad remains high. Illegal armed groups continue their attacks; insurgents remain deadly. In other words, as we report progress, it's very important for us to make sure that the American people understand there's still issues, there's still challenges. Illegal armed groups need to be dealt with, and we are.
The primary reason for the high level of violence is this: al Qaeda has ratcheted up its campaign of high-profile attacks, including deadly suicide bombers carried out by foreign terrorists. In the past three weeks, al Qaeda has sent suicide bombers into the Iraqi parliament. Or they send a suicide attack into an American military base. These attacks may seem like random killing; they're not. They're part of al Qaeda's calculated campaign to reignite sectarian violence in Baghdad, to discourage the Iraqi citizen, and to break support for the war here at home. This is what these murderers are trying to achieve.
I don't need to remind you who al Qaeda is. Al Qaeda is the group that plot and planned and trained killers to come and kill people on our soil. The same bunch that is causing havoc in Iraq were the ones who came and murdered our citizens. I've got to tell you, that day deeply affected my decision-making. And I vowed that I would do anything that I possibly could within the law to protect the American citizens against further attack by these ideologues, by these murderers.
And so while I'm talking about al Qaeda in Iraq, I fully recognize what happens in Iraq matters here at home. Despite their tremendous brutality, they failed to provoke the large-scale sectarian reprisals that al Qaeda wants. The recent attacks are not the revenge killings that some have called a civil war. They are a systematic assault on the entire nation. Al Qaeda is public enemy number one in Iraq. And all people of that society ought to come together and recognize the threat, unite against the threat and reconcile their differences.
For America, the decision we face in Iraq is not whether we ought to take sides in a civil war, it's whether we stay in the fight against the same international terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11. I strongly believe it's in our national interest to stay in the fight. (Applause.)
As you watch the developments in Baghdad, it's important to understand that we will not be able to prevent every al Qaeda attack. When a terrorist is willing to kill himself to kill others, it's really hard to stop him. Yet, over time, the security operation in Baghdad is designed to shrink the areas where al Qaeda can operate, it's designed to bring out more intelligence about their presence, and designed to allow American and Iraqi forces to dismantle their network.
We have a strategy to deal with al Qaeda in Iraq. But any time you say to a bunch of cold-blooded killers, success depends on no violence, all that does is hand them the opportunity to be successful. And it's hard. I know it's hard for the American people to turn on their TV screens and see the horrific violence. It speaks volumes about the American desire to protect lives of innocent people, America's deep concern about human rights and human dignity. It also speaks volumes about al Qaeda, that they're willing to take innocent life to achieve political objectives.
The terrorists will continue to fight back. In other words, they understand what they're doing. And casualties are likely to stay high. Yet, day by day, block by block, we are steadfast in helping Iraqi leaders counter the terrorists, protect their people, and reclaim the capital. And if I didn't think it was necessary for the security of the country, I wouldn't put our kids in harm's way.
We're seeing significant progress from our new strategy in Anbar province, as well. That's a largely Sunni area west of Baghdad. It's been a hotbed for al Qaeda and insurgents. According to a captured al Qaeda document -- in other words, according to what al Qaeda has said -- and by the way, in a war to protect America, it's really important to take the words of the enemy very seriously -- according to this document, the terrorists' goal is to take over Anbar and make it their home base in Iraq. According to the document we captured -- that is a document from al Qaeda, the same people that attacked us in America -- their objective is to find safe haven in this part of Iraq. They would bring them closer -- that would bring them closer to their objective, their stated objective, which is to destroy the young Iraqi democracy, to help them build a radical Islamic empire based upon their dark ideology, and launch new attacks on the United States, at home and abroad. That's what they've said they want to do.
Al Qaeda has pursued their objective with a ruthless campaign of violence. They can't persuade people through logic. They have to terrorize people and force people to try to allow them to impose their point of view. And not long ago, it looked like they might prevail in Anbar -- looked pretty grim, it really did. Then something began to change, because we were steadfast, because our troops and our diplomats are courageous people . Tribal sheikhs finally said, enough is enough. The local leaders said, we're tired of it. And they joined the fight against al Qaeda.
The sheikhs and their followers knew exactly who the terrorists were, and they began to provide highly specific intelligence to American and Iraqi forces. In asymmetrical warfare, you've got to have good intelligence in order to be able to deal with the enemy. In the old days, you could see platoons moving, you could see ships floating along, aircraft in formation flying to a location. In this war it's different. In this war you have to know specifically where an IED factory may be. You have to know in advance that somebody's getting ready to slide into society and kill innocent in order to achieve an objective. Intelligence is important. And so they began to provide intelligence, all aiming to secure their part of Iraq so they could live in peace.
They began to encourage their young men to volunteer for the security forces. The number of Iraqi army and police recruits in Anbar has skyrocketed. It's an interesting measurement, isn't it? There's a threat to the security of their people, the local leader said, why don't you join up to help defend us, and the number of recruits is significant.
Our commanders saw this as an opportunity to step up the pressure on al Qaeda. Our commanders made the recommendation from the field that they could use more troops to help secure Anbar. And so I ordered additional U.S. Marines and special operation forces to Anbar as part of our reinforcement package; 4,000 of the troops are going into Anbar.
Together, American and Iraqi forces are striking powerful blows. We've cleared out terrorist strongholds like Ramadi and Fallujah. We're there with the Iraqis so that they can't take those cities back -- "they," the enemy. American and Iraqi forces are operating in places that have been too dangerous to go before, and people are beginning to see something change.
In Ramadi, for example, our forces have seized nearly as many weapons caches in the past four months as they did in all of last year. We've captured key al Qaeda leaders. We're on the hunt. We're keeping the pressure on them, in Iraq and everywhere else in the world in which they try to hide. These al Qaeda leaders are revealing important details about how their network operates inside of Iraq.
Al Qaeda has responded with sickening brutality. They've bombed fellow Sunnis in prayer at a mosque. They murdered local residents with chlorine truck bombs. They recruited children as young as 12-years-old to carry out suicide attacks. But this time, the Sunni tribes in Anbar are refusing to be intimidated.
They are showing that al Qaeda's ideology lacks popular appeal and staying power. Ultimately, what matters is what you believe. The United States and our coalition and most Iraqis believe in liberty. Al Qaeda believes in imposing their dark vision on others, and are willing to use death and murder to do so.
I appreciate the determination of the Iraqi people. I appreciate their courage. I appreciate the fact that these tribal sheiks have stood up in Anbar, and we will stand with them. Our men and women in uniform took al Qaeda's safe haven away in Afghanistan, and we're not going to let them reestablish a safe haven in Iraq. (Applause.)
The military gains achieved by new operations are designed to give Iraq's government time to make political progress. We fully recognize that the military cannot solve this problem alone, that there has to be political reconciliation, and economic process -- progress.
You know, the Iraq government has been in office about a year. And they're beginning to make some progress toward political benchmarks it has set, political benchmarks I support. The legislature has passed a budget that commits $10 billion for reconstruction projects. That's $10 billion of the Iraqi people's money -- positive sign -- the assembly met, they appropriated money for the good of the Iraqi people. They spent $7.3 billion to train and equip their own security forces. The council of ministers has approved legislation that would provide a framework for equitable sharing of oil resources. We strongly believe -- by the way, both Republicans, Democrats, and independents -- believe strongly that a good oil bill will help unite the country. That's why it's a benchmark. And they're making -- this government is making progress toward an important piece of legislation that would help the security track progress, as well as the political and economic track.
The government has formed a committee to organize provincial elections. That's important. If you want people buying into government, there needs to be provincial elections, so that when the money is distributed from the central government, there's a representative government there to spend the money. Leaders have taken initial steps toward an agreement on de-Baathification policy. That's an important piece of reconciliation that we think ought to go forward. A committee is meeting with all major Iraqi groups to review the constitution. And there's a key conference tomorrow and Friday in Egypt, where Prime Minister Maliki will work to build greater support from Iraq's neighbors and the international community. It's in the world's interest that this young democracy survive. It's certainly in the interest of the neighborhood that Iraq be a country that can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself, a government which rejects radicalism. And it's in the world's interest.
And so Condoleezza Rice -- I talked to her last night on her way out of town -- is heading over to Egypt. And she's going to represent our country -- and she represents it well, by the way -- and will do so in Egypt. It's going to be an important international conference. And I'm looking forward to seeing the outcome of that conference.
Iraq's leaders still have got a lot to do, don't get me wrong. Yes, there's progress, but they've got a lot more to do. And the United States expects them to do it; just like I expect them to remain courageous, and just like they expect us to keep our word. What's interesting is, is that the Iraqis are making a calculation: Will the United States of America keep its word? Because if not, they want to do something different. And I think it's going to be important for us to keep signaling them as they make progress, we appreciate the progress; more to do, no question about it, and we expect them to do it, but they can also count on us to keep our word.
The stakes are high, really high in Iraq. General Petraeus is beginning to carry out the strategy, yet the Democrat leaders in Congress have chosen this time to try to force a precipitous withdrawal. In other words, I was presented a bill last night that said, there's a timetable, you had to leave -- start leaving by July 1st and definitely be leaving by October 1st. That didn't make any sense to me, to impose the will of politicians over the recommendations of our military commanders in the field. So I vetoed the bill. (Applause.)
That phase of the process is now over, and a new phase has begun. Later on this afternoon, leaders from both parties and both chambers are coming down to the White House. And I look forward to meeting with them. I am confident that with goodwill on both sides, that we can move beyond political statements and agree on a bill that gives our troops the funds and the flexibility they need to do the job that we have asked them to do.
As we move forward the debate, there are some other things that all of us in Washington should keep in mind. First of all, debate is good. I have no problem with debates. This issue of Iraq and this war on terror deserves a serious discussion across the United States. We don't agree on every issue, but one of the things I have heard here in Washington is that people understand the consequences of failure in Iraq. If we were to leave Iraq before the government can defend itself, there would be a security vacuum.
Extremists and radicals love vacuums and chaos. It gives them a chance to use their tactics, tactics of death, to spread their ideology. The more chaotic a region, for example, or the less control there is in a region, the more the state looks like a failed state, these people that attacked us on September the 11th can be emboldened, it will encourage them. It will enable them to achieve objectives. I'm deeply concerned about a vacuum in Iraq encouraging rival extremist factions to compete for power.
I worry about a situation where if radicals took control of a country like Iraq, they would have oil resources to use at their disposal to try to achieve their objectives. You can attack a nation several ways. One, you can get 19 kids to fly airplanes into buildings, or you can gain control of something a country needs and deny that country access to that, in this case, oil, and run the price of oil up, all attempting to inflict serious economic damage.
And by the way, an opportunity for radicals and extremists to gain resources would not only enable them to inflict economic damage, it would enable them to achieve other objectives. They'd have more resources at their disposal. All the radicals and extremists in Iraq don't want to attack America, I'm not saying that, but many do. And therein lies the danger to our country.
Al Qaeda terrorists who behead captives and order suicide bombings in Iraq would not simply be satisfied to see us gone. A retreat in Iraq would mean that they would likely follow us here. A retreat in Iraq would say to a lot of people around the world, particularly in the Middle East, America can't keep its word. It would certainly confirm al Qaeda's belief that we're weak and soft as a society. It would embolden them to be able to recruit. It would more likely enable them to find safe haven and sanctuary.
No responsible leader in Washington has an interest in letting this happen. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, there is no benefit in allowing a widespread humanitarian nightmare to consume Iraq. There would be no benefit in allowing chaos to spill out of Iraq and into the broader Middle East. There would be no benefit in emboldening Iran and endangering our allies in the region. And there would be no benefit in allowing the same terrorist network that attacked America on 9/11 to gain a safe haven from which to attack us again. Even if you think it was a mistake to go into Iraq, it would be a far greater mistake to pull out now. (Applause.)
This is a frustrating war. Nobody likes war. You know, I know full well how many Americans react to what they see on their TV screens. I wish there was an easy way out -- that's what people wish. But there is no easy way out. The easy road would be the wrong road, in my opinion. Leaving now would be short-term, but bring short-term satisfaction at the cost of long-term disaster. The outcome in Iraq will have a direct impact on the security of our people here at home. And no matter how tempting it might be, it would be unforgivable for leaders in Washington to allow politics and impatience to stand in the way of protecting the American people.
Success in this fight is going to be difficult. It will require sacrifice. It's going to require time. But for all the -- all we hear about the consequences of failure in Iraq, we also shouldn't forget the consequences of success. I share with people -- and I do this quite often -- but I find it incredibly ironic that during my time as President, certainly one of my best friends, and soon to be another best friend, are the prime ministers of Japan. I had a very close personal relationship with Prime Minister Koizumi.
And last weekend at Camp David, Laura and I had a chance to -- at the White House, and then eventually at Camp David, we hosted Prime Minister Abe. You know, my dad fought the Japanese. He was an 18-year-old kid, right out of high school, went into the Navy, was a torpedo bomber. Many of your relatives did the same thing. They fought the Japanese with all their soul and all their might in a bloody, bloody conflict. Japan was a sworn enemy of the United States of America. I doubt in 1948 or '49 anybody could have hardly predicted that a President would stand up and say, I have found that these two prime ministers of Japan are good to work with to achieve peace.
It's an interesting statement, isn't it, about the possibilities of liberty to change history. And so with Prime Minister Koizumi and Prime Minister Abe, we talked about security. We talked about working closely together to convince the leader of North Korea to give up his nuclear weapons ambitions and programs. We talked about helping the young democracy of Iraq survive in the midst of the Middle East. We fully understand that the long-term way to protect America is to defeat an ideology of hate with an ideology of hope. I learned firsthand the power of liberty to transform an enemy into an ally.
I firmly believe that a democracy can survive in the Middle East, and I believe it is a necessary part of laying a foundation of peace for generations to come.
Good to be with you. (Applause.)
Thank you all. Sit down. I'll take some questions. Yes, sir. You get to start since you're the boss. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. In May of 2006, my second cousin was on his second tour in Iraq. Corporal Cory Palmer, he's in the Marines, he was on patrol in a Humvee, and they ran over a roadside bomb. He and many others in that Humvee perished. What do I need to do, what does the media need to do to help you, so that my second cousin, and others like him, have not died or been injured in vain?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. The horrors of war come home to every -- to a lot of families in America. Yesterday I had the honor of meeting with moms and dads and wives, in this case, children, who have lost a loved one. And I've met with a lot of families, sadly enough. Most of the time, I hear that very question. Actually, it's not a question, it's a statement.
Here's what I've heard. One, my loved one died doing what he or she wanted to do. Two, do not allow that loved one to have died in vain. In other words, it is an interesting spirit amongst the -- now, listen, I visit with some who say, get out; I wish you hadn't have done this in the first place. But by far the vast majority reflect what you asked: What does it take?
First of all, it takes, in order to make sure your loved one didn't die in vain, is to have the will and determination necessary to succeed. One of the reasons I've come to speak to you is because I must continually explain to the American people the stakes in this war, the consequences of failure, and the consequences of success.
In order for me to do my part to make sure your second cousin and anybody else who lost a loved one in Iraq didn't die in vain, is to continue to take the case to the American people why what happens in Iraq matters to them.
Secondly, one way to make sure that your second cousin didn't die in vain is to remind legislators that regardless of their position on the war, that they have got to fund our troops, that they have got to make sure that -- (applause) -- without conditions of -- that say you've got to withdraw by a certain date.
Now, here's the reason that doesn't make any sense. I'm sure a lot of Americans know intuitively it doesn't make any sense for people on Capitol Hill to say, you must withdraw. The reason why is, first of all, we ought to rely upon conditions on the ground, and we ought to rely upon our military commanders and our diplomats on the ground to give us advice. It's the best way to conduct a war.
Secondly, imagine what a thinking enemy is doing when they hear timetables. Oh, you've got to be out by a certain date? Well, why don't we just wait.
Thirdly, what does it say to the Iraqis? Remember, there are a lot of people who basically wonder whether or not a coalition is going to stand with them as they make difficult choices. And if you're an Iraqi thinking, well, I may have some support, I may not, and if not, I better start hedging my bet. The government isn't quite ready to provide the security necessary for people to be comfortable with a reduced coalition presence.
And therefore -- and by the way, in order to make a unified government work, there has to be people willing to commit to that government. There have to be people willing to commit to civil society. Remember, these people are recovering from a brutal tyrant, and they have to make a -- they've got to commit in their soul that it's worthwhile, that this government is worthwhile. And they're not willing to make that commitment yet because they're uncertain about their future.
And so an artificial timetable of withdrawal is -- really affects the psychology of the Iraqis, as well. That's why I vetoed the bill. And I believe we can work together in Congress to get it done. I think that senators would tell you there's an opportunity. And first of all, they got to fund the troops, because the longer they wait in funding the troops, it's going to hurt our military. The military is spending money over in Iraq as we speak, and they need money. And if they don't get the money from the supplemental, they'll start taking it from accounts, which could affect readiness. And it begins to affect the overall strength of our military.
And that's one reason I keep explaining that to the American people, so that they understand that this -- the delays, they make nice politics in some quarters, but it's lousy for our military and the military families.
Anyway, good question, thanks for asking it. Yes, ma'am.
Q I'd like to know, like a lot of other people in this room, we have family members -- we have family members who are actively involved in the security of this country in various ways. From them, we've received positive information that we consider credible, who say about the success and the good things that are happening as a result of us being in Iraq. I would like to know why and what can be done about we, the American people, receiving some of that information more from the media, or (inaudible.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: If you're trying to goad me into attacking the media, you're crazy. (Laughter.)
It's interesting, people get their news all different kinds of ways. This is an interesting, different type of war. I mentioned asymmetrical warfare. That means an enemy can use inexpensive weapons to try to defeat expensive defensive armament. A car bomb, a suicide bomber, an IED, these are inexpensive weapons that help them achieve strategic objectives.
It's also different in that this is a volunteer army that we have fielded. And, therefore, the role of government is to make sure that our families are well-supported -- our military families are well-supported, that the veterans get everything they deserve, and that the health care is perfect as possibly can be. And we're working toward it.
By the way, I was proud of our Secretary of Defense the other day. When he found inadequate health care, he responded, because he knows -- and the Congress shares the same view -- is that when we have somebody volunteering to be in combat, they and their families deserve the best that we can possibly provide.
Thirdly, back to your question. You thought I was kind of doing one of these -- (laughter) -- Washington, D.C. dodges. (Laughter.) I talk to a lot of families who have got a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan, or anywhere else in this global war on terror, and they are in constant communication with their loved one. That's amazing, isn't it. You've got a kid in Iraq who is emailing mom daily, talking about the realities of what he or she sees. Information is moving -- you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it's also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets. It's amazing how many emails I see from people that are writing in what they think and what they hear.
We've all got -- those of us who believe that we're doing the right thing must continually speak. Joe Lieberman has been great about continually speaking about the consequences. (Applause.) Wait a minute -- you didn't give me a chance to say something nice about Chairman Warner. (Laughter.) He, too, has been strong. (Applause.)
It's just a -- I can't answer your question beyond that people just need to be -- the best messenger, by the way, for us is David Petraeus, because he's actually there in Baghdad, and Ryan Crocker who is actually -- he's the ambassador who is there in Baghdad. And freedom of the press is a valuable freedom here, and it's just something that we've all got to live with and value it for what it is, and just continue to speak the truth as best as we can without trying to -- without trying to gloss over the inherent dangers.
The interesting thing I find is that our -- as the president here mentioned, there have been multiple rotations. People have gone back to Iraq. In other words, they've re-upped. And the re-enlistment rate is high. People are signing up for the first time, as well. And it's just an interesting statement, isn't it, about the character of our military, a character which is -- says that we've got people willing to serve a cause greater than themselves.
I saw a Marine yesterday -- came out of Anbar. His brother, who was in the Army, was lost. And I was comforting his family as best as I possibly can, or could. And he said, we're making great progress in Anbar, I just wanted to tell you that, President. You know, is he the kind of guy that tells the President what he wants to hear? I don't know. All I can tell you is what he told me. And I told that to David Petraeus, who confirmed it.
But slowly but surely, the truth will be known. Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed. And the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives. And that's what we're trying to achieve.
I'm asked all the time about strategies. I liked what James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton reported back after a serious investigation of Iraq. I liked their ideas. And it's something that we should seriously consider. And their idea was, is that at some point in time, it makes sense to have a U.S. presence configured this way, embedded with Iraqi forces, training Iraqi forces, over-the-horizon presence to provide enough security to know that people will have help if they need it, but put the -- more onus on a sovereign government of Iraq, a presence to keep the territorial integrity of Iraq intact, a special ops presence to go after these killers who have got their intentions on America. It's an interesting idea.
By the way, in the report it said, it is -- the government may have to put in more troops to be able to get to that position. And that's what we do. We put in more troops to get to a position where we can be in some other place. The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear -- I'm the commander guy.
Q We're General Contractors of America, and what are we doing -- I don't hear anything about the reconstruction of Iraq. Could you fill us in on that? Are we doing enough, as general contractors? And we are at your disposal.
And second is a personal question. What do you pray about, and how we can we pray for you?
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. The first question, our reconstruction strategy initially was to do big projects, and then those big projects would be destroyed by the enemy. In other words, they blow them up. And it became very frustrating. And some of the big projects were successful; a lot of them weren't. So therefore we restructured, and we said that the best way to help the Iraq -- remember, Iraq has now put out $10 billion of their own money. So, step one, they're a sovereign government, and if we want to do business with Iraq, we can figure out how you can go do it -- business with Iraq. They're spending their own money. That's what's important to remember.
That's actually a hopeful sign, that they appropriated money in a constitutionally elected assembly, and hopefully that money is spent in a way that encourages all Iraqis to have some faith that the central government can function rationally. I guess what I'm telling you is, the security situation was such that it made the initial phases of our reconstruction not as effective as we would have liked.
Now we're giving reconstruction money to two different groups -- two groups of people, not different -- two groups. One, our military commanders. It's called CERF money. They go into a neighborhood in Baghdad that had been ravaged by sectarian violence, they bring order with the Iraqis, they stay in place, they gain the confidence of the people, and there is some reconstruction money to help provide jobs of cleaning up neighborhoods and rebuilding storefronts.
The other reconstruction money goes to what's called provincial reconstruction teams. These are teams of diplomats living out in the hinterlands, working with local folks to meet objectives of the local folks, so that the people begin to see that there is one, security; two, hope; and three, tangible benefits. And that's how we're using -- I'm not exactly sure what a proper role could be for you. The good news is I can find out pretty quick -- (laughter) -- "ly," quickly. (Laughter.)
The fact that you would ask the question, how can I pray for you, speaks volumes about the United States of America. I have been amazed by the fact that millions of Americans of all faith, all political backgrounds, pray for me and Laura. And it is unbelievably sustaining. It is comforting. It is humbling to be prayed for. Wisdom and strength, and my family, is what I'd like for you to pray for.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, we've got dueling questions. (Laughter.) You just lost, because he's got the mic. (Laughter.) It's the possession deal, you know? (Laughter.)
Q You talked about the terror of 9/11, and what I wanted to share with you, my wife and I had our first child two months after 9/11. We named her Grace, because we felt that the world needed some grace at the time. And what I wanted to (inaudible) is the fact that our appreciation and keeping my family and also the families of America safe for the past five years is (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Grace will live -- the question is, will Grace live in a peaceful world, today and tomorrow? Today, we will continue to stay on the pressure. And we're sharing intelligence and we're on the offense. And my attitude is, is that if the United States ever let up, it would embolden, it would send the wrong signal. So we're pressuring. And I'm -- I would hope whoever takes my place would have that same sense of urgency. You know, no matter what you may be hearing, it's -- people, when they get in that Oval Office and take a look at the realities of the world will, I suspect, subscribe to the -- that we just need to be not only vigilant, but pressuring.
You know, the interesting debate that we're now confronted with is this ideological debate about whether or not it's worth it to spread freedom. Should we spread freedom? Can the spread of freedom take root in dangerous parts of the world? And is it worth it? Does it make sense?
As you can tell, I'm a strong proponent of spreading freedom. First of all -- and I've got confidence that freedom can be spread in parts of the world where it may look -- may look difficult at this moment in history to see freedom take root.
I've got confidence for a couple of reasons. One, I believe in the universality of freedom. That means I believe everybody desires to be free. I don't think freedom is uniquely American, nor do I think it's uniquely Methodist. (Laughter.) I think it is universal.
I told you -- I also, obviously, believe in the universality of motherhood. I believe mothers in Iraq want their children to grow up in peace, just like mothers in America do. I also believe people in Iraq want to live in a free society. I wasn't surprised -- I was pleased when 12 million people went to the polls. That statement to me was: freedom.
Secondly, can it take hold in parts of the world that some suspect that it can't root? I would remind people, for example, of -- I mentioned Japan. There are other examples in our history. One of the unique aspects of my presidency is I can predict to you that -- with relative certainty that a violent part of the world, the Far East, is stable and headed in the right direction, absent one spot.
In 1950, that would have been a hard prediction to make. Shortly before 1950, I mentioned, thousands of U.S. citizens had died in a war with Japan, Mao Zedong was beginning an ascendancy where the form of government was repressed and that no such thing as a marketplace -- was repressive, and there was no such thing as a marketplace. And Korea had just been -- the Peninsula of Korea had just been torn asunder, where thousands of U.S. soldiers had died, as well.
Today, Japan, as I mentioned, is a strong ally, an important economic partner and security partner. South Korea is a strong ally, important trading partner and important security partner -- albeit their democracy went through a difficult period of time. Democracies don't emerge on a straight line. Neither did ours. Our great democracy enslaved people for a hundred years. All men were created equal, except some. We're reconfirming that belief that all men are created equal.
And so it takes a while for freedom to take root. It's hard work for societies to adopt the habits necessary for a free society to emerge. Interestingly enough, in China, there's certainly not a free society, but there is a free marketplace emerging. And in 1950, that would have been a difficult prediction to make.
And so I believe liberty can take hold in parts of the world, because history has shown it to be. Different time, no question; a different part of the world, no question. But if you have faith in the universality of freedom, and if you've seen history -- liberty take hold before, it should give us confidence.
Finally, it's necessary for free societies to emerge -- free societies in the image of a country's own history and tradition. And why is it in our interest that that happen? There is a root cause, there is a reason why 19 kids got on an airplane to come and kill us, and that is because societies in that part of the world have bred resentment and lack of hope.
I don't believe you can have a comfortable and secure society if half the people are not treated equally. There's something universal in our demands to be treated with respect. It matters what the form of government is, in terms of whether or not peace will emerge.
And so I believe that the liberty agenda, freedom agenda
can take root, and I know it's necessary to make sure Grace can live in peace. I think people will look back at this period of time and make one or two judgments. They'll either say, what happened to them in 2007; how come they couldn't see the impending dangers that the little Graces of America would have to live with; how come they couldn't spot the radicalism that would emerge even more violent than it had been; how come they couldn't see the fact that Iran would become emboldened if the United States of America didn't keep its commitments in Iraq; what was it that prevented them from recognizing that nations in the Middle East would tend to choose up sides and back violent groups in order to protect their own cells; how come they couldn't remember the lesson of September the 11th, which said, what matters overseas matters at home? Or they'll look back and say, they had faith; they had faith in the ability of liberty to transform a region into a region of hope that yielded the peace so little Grace can be amazed that this generation has done its job.
And those are the risks, and that's the task, and God bless you. (Applause.) END 10:53 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 2, 2007
President Bush Welcomes President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen to the White House Oval Office 11:44 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: It is my honor to welcome the President of Yemen to the Oval Office. I have gotten to know the President over the past six years of my presidency. I feel comfortable saying, welcome, my friend.
I had the privilege of calling President Saleh after the elections of Yemen. I told him, I said it was a remarkable occurrence that his great country had a free and open election. I've had a chance to congratulate him and thank him in person today.
We had a very good discussion about the neighborhood in which the President lives. And we spent a lot of time talking about our mutual desire to bring radicals and murderers to justice. And I thanked the President for his strong support in this war against extremists and terrorists.
So I'm glad you're here.
PRESIDENT SALEH: (As translated.) Thank you very much, Mr. President, for the good reception and hospitality, and also for the excellent and fruitful talks that we had. I'm very pleased for the limitless support by President Bush and the United States for Yemen in the field of combating terror. Yemen is an essential partner of the United States of America and the international community in combating terror. We will continue in this path, on this track.
We had the chance to discuss a number of issues with Mr. President, including a number of issues in the Middle East region, the Palestinian-Israeli problem, the situation in Somalia, the situation in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan. We found a complete understanding on the issues that we have discussed with Mr. President Bush. We also discussed the bilateral relations between Yemen and the United States.
I would like on this occasion to highly express my gratification and my appreciation for the brave position taken by President Bush since the first moment he took power in this country, since he expressed his belief in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, side by side with the state of Israel. And I wish that His Excellency would pursue his effort and will continue his effort in implementing the Arab initiative which was adopted in the summit of Beirut to maintain peace in the region. I am sure that adopting such initiative would end 70 percent of the problems in the region.
Of course, you will be in history if you can be successful in establishing the independent Palestinian state before leaving the White House.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Shukran. END 11:50 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 2, 2007
President Bush Welcomes President Uribe of Colombia to the White House The South Lawn 7:51 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's been my honor to welcome a true democrat, a strong leader, and a friend, the President of Colombia. We had a long discussion.
First, Mr. President, Laura and I remember fondly our trip to your beautiful country. It was my second trip to Colombia, my first to your capital, and it was a very special occasion. And we thank you and the First Lady for such gracious hospitality.
Secondly, we had a discussion today about an important vote that our Congress must take, and that is a vote to confirm a free trade agreement with Colombia. This agreement is good for the United States. It's good for job creators, farmers, workers. This agreement is good for Colombia. It's good for job creators, and workers, and farmers.
This agreement has strategic implications. It is very important for this nation to stand with democracies that protect human rights and human dignity; democracies based upon the rule of law.
So the free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru and Panama, these agreements are more than just trade votes. They're signals to South America that we stand with nations that are willing to make hard decisions on behalf of the people. The President is here to speak strongly about his record, and it's a good, solid record. I thank the members of Congress for giving him a hearing. We expect them to be open-minded, to listen to his record. And I urge the Congress to pass a trade agreement with Colombia and Peru and Panama because it's in our interest that they do so.
And so Mr. President, it's great to see you. Bienvenidos.
PRESIDENT URIBE: Muchas gracias, Presidente.
Good morning, distinguished journalists. I want to thank President Bush for the new meeting. It has been, as always, very constructive. This meeting has given my team and myself the opportunity to reiterate our commitment with democracy.
We have three main objectives in our administration: to consolidate democratic security, to create more and more confidence in Colombia for people to invest in our country, and to fulfill very important social goals, to fulfill social goals before the deadline of the social millennium goals.
Many people ask me why you call your policy on security democratic security? Because it is security with human rights, because it is security for all Colombians, because it is security for trade union leaders, for those members of the opposition, for those who agree in their ideas with my government, security for all Colombians.
During my five-year term, we have healthy elections, and Colombians have enjoyed effectiveness of our freedoms because of our policy on security. Before my administration, many Colombians had the idea that the only way for my country to reach peace, it was by private criminal organizations. Today, because of the efficacy of our administration, the vast majority of Colombians are convinced that we will defeat terrorists by institutional ways; that the only way Colombia has for the future is the way of our democratic institutions.
It is very important that the United States considers the necessity to advancing Plan Colombia. We haven't won yet in eradicating illicit drugs, but we are winning. And it is very important, the free trade agreement. I will explain in Capitol Hill, and I will explain to the American citizens the same I explain to President Bush this morning: The more our country can export, the better for my country to have high quality jobs, with affiliation to the social security system.
We are doing our best to defeat terrorists in a open country. Everyone in the world can go to Colombia, can oversight what our country is doing. And what our country does today is in favor of democracy.
I want to thank President Bush, his team, the people of Congress, and the American citizens for the help all of you have given our country. This integration is very important to promote democracy, to promote freedoms -- freedom, to promote social justice. This is -- these are our commitments.
Thank you President Bush.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Gracias, amigo. END 7:58 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 1, 2007
President Bush Rejects Artificial Deadline, Vetoes Iraq War Supplemental Cross Hall 6:10 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Twelve weeks ago, I asked the Congress to pass an emergency war spending bill that would provide our brave men and women in uniform with the funds and flexibility they need.
Instead, members of the House and the Senate passed a bill that substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders. So a few minutes ago, I vetoed this bill.
Tonight I will explain the reasons for this veto -- and my desire to work with Congress to resolve this matter as quickly as possible. We can begin tomorrow with a bipartisan meeting with the congressional leaders here at the White House.
Here is why the bill Congress passed is unacceptable. First, the bill would mandate a rigid and artificial deadline for American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq. That withdrawal could start as early as July 1st. And it would have to start no later than October 1st, regardless of the situation on the ground.
It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing. All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength -- and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq. I believe setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East, and send a signal that America will not keep its commitments. Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure -- and that would be irresponsible.
Second, the bill would impose impossible conditions on our commanders in combat. After forcing most of our troops to withdraw, the bill would dictate the terms on which the remaining commanders and troops could engage the enemy. That means American commanders in the middle of a combat zone would have to take fighting directions from politicians 6,000 miles away in Washington, D.C. This is a prescription for chaos and confusion, and we must not impose it on our troops.
Third, the bill is loaded with billions of dollars in non-emergency spending that has nothing to do with fighting the war on terror. Congress should debate these spending measures on their own merits -- and not as part of an emergency funding bill for our troops.
The Democratic leaders know that many in Congress disagree with their approach, and that there are not enough votes to override a veto. I recognize that many Democrats saw this bill as an opportunity to make a political statement about their opposition to the war. They've sent their message. And now it is time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds they need.
Our troops are carrying out a new strategy with a new commander -- General David Petraeus. The goal of this new strategy is to help the Iraqis secure their capital, so they can make progress toward reconciliation, and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and fights extremists and radicals and killers alongside the United States in this war on terror.
In January, General Petraeus was confirmed by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate. In February, we began sending the first of the reinforcements he requested. Not all of these reinforcements have arrived. And as General Petraeus has said, it will be at least the end of summer before we can assess the impact of this operation. Congress ought to give General Petraeus' plan a chance to work.
In the months since our military has been implementing this plan, we've begun to see some important results. For example, Iraqi and coalition forces have closed down an al Qaeda car bomb network, they've captured a Shia militia leader implicated in the kidnapping and killing of American soldiers, they've broken up a death squad that had terrorized hundreds of residents in a Baghdad neighborhood.
Last week, General Petraeus was in Washington to brief me, and he briefed members of Congress on how the operation is unfolding. He noted that one of the most important indicators of progress is the level of sectarian violence in Baghdad. And he reported that since January, the number of sectarian murders has dropped substantially.
Even as sectarian attacks have declined, we continue to see spectacular suicide attacks that have caused great suffering. These attacks are largely the work of al Qaeda -- the enemy that everyone agrees we should be fighting. The objective of these al Qaeda attacks is to subvert our efforts by reigniting the sectarian violence in Baghdad -- and breaking support for the war here at home. In Washington last week, General Petraeus explained it this way: "Iraq is, in fact, the central front of all al Qaeda's global campaign."
Al Qaeda -- al Qaeda's role makes the conflict in Iraq far more complex than a simple fight between Iraqis. It's true that not everyone taking innocent life in Iraq wants to attack America here at home. But many do. Many also belong to the same terrorist network that attacked us on September 11th, 2001 -- and wants to attack us here at home again. We saw the death and destruction al Qaeda inflicted on our people when they were permitted a safe haven in Afghanistan. For the security of the American people, we must not allow al Qaeda to establish a new safe haven in Iraq.
We need to give our troops all the equipment and the training and protection they need to prevail. That means that Congress needs to pass an emergency war spending bill quickly. I've invited leaders of both parties to come to the White House tomorrow -- and to discuss how we can get these vital funds to our troops. I am confident that with goodwill on both sides, we can agree on a bill that gets our troops the money and flexibility they need as soon as possible.
The need to act is urgent. Without a war funding bill, the military has to take money from some other account or training program so the troops in combat have what they need. Without a war funding bill, the Armed Forces will have to consider cutting back on buying new equipment or repairing existing equipment. Without a war funding bill, we add to the uncertainty felt by our military families. Our troops and their families deserve better -- and their elected leaders can do better.
Here in Washington, we have our differences on the way forward in Iraq, and we will debate them openly. Yet whatever our differences, surely we can agree that our troops are worthy of this funding -- and that we have a responsibility to get it to them without further delay.
Thank you for listening. May God bless our troops. END 6:16 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 1, 2007
President Bush Addresses CENTCOM Coalition Conference MacDill Air Force Base Tampa, Florida 12:45 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you all for letting me come by to say hello. I am proud to address the CENTCOM Coalition Conference. CENTCOM's Coalition Village is a welcome reminder that in the fight against radicals and extremists and murderers of the innocent, we stand as one. We appreciate your country's contributions to this enormous challenge in the 21st century.
I appreciate the fact that your work has helped to liberate millions of people. I appreciate the fact that your work has helped keep millions of people safe. And so I thank you for defending the security of the civilized world.
I appreciate the fact that Fox Fallon has taken on this very important command. I can remember visiting him on the Hawaiian Islands. He had a house that overlooked the Pacific. It was quite a luxurious place. I told him, though, Tampa Bay is a good place to live, and the mission is vital. And so I thank you for taking it on, Admiral.
I appreciate General Doug Brown, Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. I'm proud to be here with General David Petraeus, Commander, Multi-National Force, Iraq. I thank the coalition members here; I welcome the ambassadors who have joined us. I thank Dr. Rubaie, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of a free Iraq. It's good to see you, sir. Please give my very best to the Prime Minister. I thank the other Iraqis who are here with us. Thank you for your courage, thank you for your determination, thank you for making history.
CENTCOM has built an impressive record of achievement in a short amount of time. This command was established by President Ronald Reagan to deter a Soviet invasion of the Middle East in the latter days of the Cold War. That era is receding into memory, but it was a long struggle -- one of constant dangers and one of fierce debates. Victory often seemed elusive. Yet victory did come, because America and her allies stood firm against an empire and an ideology that vowed to destroy us.
Once again, history has called on great nations to assume great responsibilities. And once again, it is vital that allies, despite occasional disagreements, hold firm against vicious and determined enemies. We saw the action of this vicious and determined enemy here in America on September the 11th, 2001. Terrorists murdered citizens from more than 80 countries. Since that September morning, acts of terror have appeared in places like Mombasa and Casablanca and Riyadh and Jakarta and Istanbul and London and Amman and Madrid and Beslan and Bali and Algiers, and elsewhere. September the 11th was not an isolated incident. These terrorists bring death to innocents all across the globe. They bring death to commuters on subway trains, and guests who have checked into the wrong hotel, and children attending their first week of school.
Our main enemy is al Qaeda and its affiliates. Their allies choose their victims indiscriminately. They murder the innocent to advance a focused and clear ideology. They seek to establish a radical Islamic caliphate, so they can impose a brutal new order on unwilling people, much as Nazis and communists sought to do in the last century. This enemy will accept no compromise with the civilized world. Here is what the al Qaeda charter says about those who oppose their plans: "We will not meet them halfway, and there will be no room for dialogue with them." These enemies have embraced a cult of death. They are determined to bring days of even greater destruction on our people. They seek the world's most dangerous weapons. Against this kind of enemy, there is only one effective response: We must go on the offense, stay on the offense, and take the fight to them.
America is joined in this fight by more than 90 nations, including every country represented in this room. An era of new threats requires new forms of engagement, new strategies, and new tactics. So we have reinvigorated historic alliances, such as NATO, and formed new and dynamic coalitions to address the dangers of our time. Our broad coalition has protected millions of people. We have worked to stop the spread of dangerous weapons. We have taken the fight to the enemy where they live, so we don't have to face them where we live. This is a record that all our countries can be proud of, and the United States of America is proud to stand with you.
Working together, America and our allies have shared intelligence that has helped thwart many attacks. We uncovered and stopped terrorist conspiracies targeting embassies in Yemen and Singapore and ships in the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Gibraltar. We stopped a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for terrorist attacks. We stopped an al Qaeda cell seeking to develop anthrax. British authorities disrupted a plot to blow up aircraft flying over the Atlantic toward the United States.
Working together, coalition forces have captured or killed key leaders of terrorist networks. Philippine forces killed top leaders of an al Qaeda affiliate. Spanish police captured fugitives wanted in connection with the Madrid train bombings. Terrorist cells have been broken up by countries including Britain and Canada and Denmark and Italy and France and Indonesia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey. We must stay on the offense. We must defeat the enemy overseas, so we don't have to face them in our countries.
Working together, America and our allies have shut down funding channels and frozen terrorist assets, making it harder for our enemies to finance attacks. It makes it hard for the enemies to purchase weapons, to train and move around their recruits. The international community through the United Nations has imposed measures to identify terrorist financiers and prevent them from using international financial system to fund their acts of murder and terror.
Working together, America and our allies are training local forces to conduct counterterrorism activities in their own regions. We are helping key nations stop terrorists from establishing safe havens inside their borders -- including Indonesia and the Philippines and Yemen. The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership provides counterterrorism and military assistance to Chad and Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia. The East African Counterterrorism Initiative provides border security and police training to Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Uganda.
We're active. We're working together to make this world a safer place. Working together, our coalition is taking steps to stop terrorists from obtaining the world's most dangerous weapons. More than 80 nations have joined the Proliferation Security Initiative. We're working to stop shipments of materials related to weapons of mass destruction on land, at sea, and in the air.
Working together, America and other nations have acted boldly to confront adversaries who threaten international security. In Afghanistan, coalition forces drove the Taliban from power, removed al Qaeda training camps, and helped bring freedom to 25 million people. Since their liberation, the Afghan people have made enormous strides. Afghans chose the first democratically-elected President in their history. They've held free elections for a National Assembly. The Afghan economy has doubled in size. And more than 4.6 million Afghan refugees have come home. It's one of the largest return movements in the history of the world.
The Taliban and their al Qaeda allies are actively working to undermine this progress. They want power to impose their vision. Our coalition, led by NATO, is going on the offense against them. Coalition and Afghan forces have conducted dozens of operations over the past few months to go after enemy strongholds, including an operation launched this week targeting the Taliban in Helmand province in the south of Afghanistan. We've seized dozens of caches of weapons and ammunition and improvised explosive devices. We're making progress in training the growing Afghan National Army. At least 20 other nations are supporting efforts to rebuild Afghanistan. We appreciate these contributions. And we will stand with our partners and the Afghan people until this important work is done.
Just as America and our allies are standing together in Afghanistan, a determined coalition is committed to winning the fight in Iraq. Four years ago, we confronted a brutal tyrant who had used weapons of mass destruction, supported terrorists, invaded his neighbors, oppressed his people, and tested the resolve and the credibility of the United Nations. Saddam Hussein ignored every opportunity to comply with more than a dozen resolutions passed by the U.N. Security Council. So coalition forces went into Iraq, removed his vicious regime, and helped bring freedom to the Iraqi people.
In 2005, nearly 12 million Iraqis demonstrated their desire, their deep desire, to live in freedom and peace. Iraqis voted in three national elections -- choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world, and then electing a government under that constitution. In 2006, a thinking enemy, a brutal enemy responded to this progress and struck back -- staging sensational attacks that led to a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal in Baghdad.
As sectarian violence threatened to destroy this young democracy, our coalition faced a choice. One option was to help the Iraqi government tamp down the sectarian violence and provide them with the breathing space they need to achieve reconciliation -- provide them the breathing space they need to take the political and economic measures necessary to make sure our military efforts were effective. The other option was to pull back from the capital, before the Iraqis could defend themselves against these radicals and extremists and death squads and killers. That risked turning Iraq into a cauldron of chaos. Our enemy, the enemies of freedom, love chaos. Out of that chaos they could find new safe havens. Withdrawal would have emboldened these radicals and extremists. It would have confirmed their belief that our nations were weak. It would help them gain new recruits, new resources. It would cause them to believe they could strike free nations at their choice.
Withdrawal would have increased the probability that coalition troops would be forced to return to Iraq one day, and confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. Failure in Iraq should be unacceptable to the civilized world. The risks are enormous.
So after an extensive review, I ordered a new strategy that is dramatically different from the one we were pursuing before. I listened to our military commanders; I listened to politicians from both sides of the aisle. I made a decision. I appointed a new commander, General David Petraeus, to carry out this strategy. This new strategy recognizes that our top priority must be to help the Iraqi government secure its capital so they can make economic and political progress.
The Iraqis cannot yet do this on their own. So I ordered reinforcements to help Iraqis secure their population, to go after those inciting sectarian violence, and to help the Iraqis get their capital under control.
This strategy is still in its early stages. Some of the reinforcements General Petraeus requested have not yet arrived in Baghdad. He believes it will take months before we can accurately gauge the strategy's potential for success. Yet at this early hour, we are seeing some signs that give us hope. Coalition forces have captured a number of key terrorist leaders who are providing information about how al Qaeda operates in Iraq. They stopped a car bomb network that had killed many citizens of Baghdad, and destroyed major car bomb factories. There has been a decline in sectarian violence. And in some areas of the capital, Iraqis are returning to their neighborhoods with an increased feeling of security.
Terrorists and the extremists continue to unleash horrific acts of violence. Al Qaeda is playing a major role. Last week, General Petraeus called al Qaeda "probably public enemy number one" in Iraq. He said that al Qaeda has made Iraq "the central front in their global campaign." And that's why success in Iraq is critical to the security of free people everywhere.
There are those who say America is engaged in this fight alone. Each of you here knows better. The Iraqis are suffering a lot, but they're in this fight. I'm impressed by the courage of the Iraqi people. Today there are more than 30 nations supporting the operations in Iraq. I appreciate the 17 NATO nations that have contributed forces or been part of the NATO Training Mission to help train Iraqis. I appreciate Georgia's recent decision to contribute 2,000 troops.
America joins in honoring the coalition troops who have been killed in Iraq, and the others who have been wounded in combat. I want your countries to know that the sacrifices made by these brave soldiers are for a noble cause, a necessary cause, and we grieve for them as we grieve for our own. Your countries have risked too much and fought too hard for anyone to dismiss or disregard your contributions. Our nations are standing together in this fight, and I want your citizens to know that America is deeply grateful.
America is also grateful for the increasing contributions international organizations are making for Iraq's stability. On Thursday, the United Nations will host a conference in Egypt to sign an International Compact for Iraq -- an agreement that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform. Then, on Friday, Iraq's neighbors will meet to discuss ways to promote political reconciliation in Iraq, to promote stability in Iraq. These meetings will be attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and senior officials from other G8 nations. Iran and Syria have been invited to attend, and this will be an important test of whether these regimes are truly interested in playing a constructive role in Iraq.
Everyone in this room knows the consequences of failure in Iraq, and that we should also appreciate the consequences of success, because we have seen them before. Following World War II, many nations helped lift the defeated populations of Japan and Germany, and stood with them as they built representative governments from societies that had been ravaged and decimated. We committed years and resources to this cause. And that effort has been repaid many times over in three generations of prosperity and peace. During the Cold War, the NATO Alliance worked to liberate nations from communist tyranny, even as allies bickered, and millions marched in the streets against us, and the pundits lost hope. We emerged from that struggle with a Europe that is now whole and free and at peace.
We look back at that history and marvel at what millions of ordinary people accomplished. Yet success was not preordained, and the outcome was not certain. Only now we can see those eras with the proper perspective. I believe that one day future generations will look back at this time in the same way, and they will be awed by what our coalition has helped to build. They will see that we strengthened alliances, offered new relevance to international institutions, encouraged new forms of multilateral engagement, and laid the foundation of peace for generations to come.
These are difficult times. These are tough times. These are times of test and resolve of free people. These are times that require hard work and courage and faith in the ability of liberty to yield the pace we want. And so I thank you for your contributions. Thank you for standing for what's right. Thank you for helping the liberated. And thank you for working for peace.
God bless. END 1:07 P.M. EDT
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