A Teleconference with Tony Snow

Today, I was pleased to get an opportunity to get in on a teleconference with Tony Snow. Here’s the rundown (Keep in mind that everything that follows is from my notes. So, it’s notes, not quotes)….

Tony’s Opening Statement

Bush is going to veto the Iraqi supplemental bill.


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#1) The idea of establishing timetables handcuffs the generals.

#2) It doesn’t give the troops the flexibility they need on the ground.

#3) Lots of pork.

#4) The debate is doing enormous damage to American credibility around the globe. The Iraqi government, the Iraqi military, the Iraqi military and people, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and all our friends in the region oppose a timetable. On the other hand, Al-Sadr, Iran, and Syria, and Al-Qaeda support the Democratic position on timetables.

While it’s popular to argue that a timetable moves the Iraqis along, it actually sends a message that you can’t count on the Americans, so instead, you should look to Iran or Al-Qaeda for support. This bill has also made the Iraqi government uncertain about moving down the path of national reconciliation because they can’t be sure if America will be around long enough to help and so therefore, they’re being encouraged to look to the bad guys for support because they will stick it out.

We already know that we could see cataclysmic violence, strengthening terrorist networks, and big economic consequences if we fail. But, if we succeed, we show that terrorism has failed. If we allow the Iraqi nation to work, we have struck a great blow against terrorism. So, there is a big upside to winning as well as a huge downside to losing.

This debate is having huge consequences in the region. When the Iraqis know that we may not back them, it tends to make them reluctant to move away from sectarian loyalties. Also, Baker Hamilton said that we shouldn’t have a timeline.

The Q&A Session

Q: When will the President veto the bill?

A: At 6:10 PM. It will be formally submitted tomorrow and the veto will be sustained.

Q: How are the troops affected by the lack of funding?

A: It’s not hurting the troops currently. We have been shifting money around for it. In two weeks, it will become more problematic though.

Question from Erick Erickson: Why isn’t the White House willing to aggressively fight? How will the White House fight back?

A: The President has been saying that he would veto this bill for 3 months. There is only so much we can do to fight back.

Q: Are you going to accept benchmarks?

A: We’re not going to leak anything early, but we have to have a bill that won’t hamper our ability to fight or hamstring the government in Iraq. If the Democrats support the troops, they shouldn’t pull the rug out from under them or put them in fetters, they should give them what they need to achieve victory.

Q: Can you comment on George Tenet’s book?

A: I haven’t read it yet, but he’s not saying we lied or cooked intelligence.

Q: The Iraqi Parliament is planning a two month vacation in July and August. That seems like a bad idea. What are we doing about it?

A: We are in discussions with them about that, which are for the most part private, but we feel they should continue working.

Question from me: Do you think Harry Reid’s comment that the war was lost boosted the morale of Al-Qaeda and do you think it would be appropriate for him to resign his leadership position over his comments?

A: The 2nd part is up to Democrats, but it probably had a lot of people scratching their heads. Our troops are signing back up in record numbers and they say they are seeing a lot of improvement in Iraq.

Q: What else can bloggers do about the pork?

A: Continue plunging into details and tell people about it. You can’t make some of this stuff up.

Q: Democrats believe they have public opinion behind them on Iraq and isn’t political pressure going to continue to build on the Bush Administration to fold?

A: The media doesn’t give the public the full picture of what’s happening. It’s important to broaden the focus so that the American people understand the full picture. They think we just have troops walking around getting killed. The troops are doing a lot of good, a lot of noble work.

Follow-Up Question From Me: Doesn’t your previous answer to the question I asked about Reid show Erick was right, that the White House doesn’t fight back? You basically gave Harry Reid a free pass for saying the war was “lost.”

A: We have to negotiate with Harry Reid. It’s not smart to beat him up because we have to negotiate with him. Some people are willing to hurt the troops if they can get to the President at the same time and we don’t want to make the same mistake in the other direction.

Another Question from me: Yesterday in the Washington Post, this was said about Iraqi generals being pulled from duty for doing too good a job of stopping Shia militia groups, “Their only crimes or offenses were they were successful” against the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia, said Brig. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commanding general of the Iraq Assistance Group, which works with Iraqi security forces. “I’m tired of seeing good Iraqi officers having to look over their shoulders when they’re trying to do the right thing.” What are we doing about this?

A: We are concerned about it. The Iraqi people have to know they’re getting justice. They won’t have a successful society if people think they will get a pass for their religion or if they will be persecuted for it. So, we’re concerned about it.

Q: Andrea Mitchell said that we were causing problems by embargoing Cuba. What do you think?

A: We don’t speculate about post Castro-Cuba other than saying that the Cubans need freedom. We don’t want to help their economy, but their economy has been a basket case for almost 50 years because of socialism, not because of the US.

Summary: As per usual, Tony was a great spokesman for the President and #4 in his opening statement, about how the wishy washy behavior of the Democrats is causing problems in Iraq was well said.

However, I found what he said about Harry Reid to be a little disturbing. Basically, as I understood Tony’s answer, the White House doesn’t plan to fight back against Harry Reid and the Democrats because they have to work with them on legislation. Of course, Harry Reid and Company have to work with George Bush, too, and that has never stopped them from kicking W. in the rear every chance they get. At some point, I’d think the Bush Administration would get tired of being attacked, humiliated, and slandered, but I guess their capacity for mousily absorbing abuse is endless.

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