Press Briefing by Tony Snow December 4, 2006
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 4, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
1:06 P.M. EST
MR. SNOW: Questions.
Q So how is the President going to sum up his reaction to all these reports that he's going to get this month? How are we going to find out what he thinks of the Iraq Study Group, the NSC? How will that evolve and --
MR. SNOW: Well, we'll let you know. I mean, at some point he'll make his views known. I don't know exactly how, when or where.
Q An address to the nation?
MR. SNOW: I honestly don't know.
Q Tony, do you expect him to decide by the end of the -- I mean, you said weeks, not months -- is this by the end of the year, you're saying?
MR. SNOW: There are two conditions that have to apply. First, he has to be able to see all the finished work product, and you have to have time to study and take a look through it. So, you know, I hate to be vague about it, but I'm going to be vague about it. As Steve Hadley said, "weeks, not months." Obviously, the President wants to look through this. He has said on a number of occasions over the past month, month-and-a-half, things are not doing well enough, fast enough and we need to find ways of doing a more effective job of helping the Iraqi government stand up and be able to meet its basic obligations.
So I can't lay out a communications plan for you, but we will certainly get to these as quickly and as thoroughly as we can.
Q And on Wednesday, I mean, the administration has been talking to members of the Baker-Hamilton group -- is there going to be no reaction to any part of it on Wednesday?
MR. SNOW: We'll have to see. I mean, I'm sure I'll get asked about it, because I'll be briefing on Wednesday. But we have not seen the full report. We have seen press reports, we have gotten some sort of notion about what may be in it. But I think, again, without having seen the full report it's both -- I think it's unfair to try to do a full characterization of something people spent months on, to do a snap reaction.
But, again, we'll get -- we will get reaction quickly, as well -- but, again, I think it's important to take a good, thorough look at it. And I'm sure, as I mentioned in the gaggle this morning, that copies are going to go around and we're going to let different people in the administration take a good, thorough look at and we're going to task it out so that it gets the serious reading and reviewing it deserves.
Q But don't you have a pretty good grasp of what it --
MR. SNOW: No, not really. I mean, it's --
Q Not you, but, I mean members of the administration.
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. Really, it -- people have notions of what may be included; nobody knows for sure. We're going to find out Wednesday morning; members of the commission are going to come in, they're going to present the report and they're going to brief on it. And at that point, we then will have a work product we can contend with.
So, no, I don't -- and I talked with Steve Hadley about this, this morning -- nobody really has a detailed fix on exactly what's going to be in the report.
Q Just on this -- how we're going to cover things. Will the President have some message after his meeting today with al Hakim?
MR. SNOW: If nothing else, we'll get a readout. Right now it's a pretty restricted meeting; there are going to be four a side. But I am going to get a readout. And either Gordon Johndroe and I will be able to give you -- I don't know if the President will have a statement on it. It's --
Q It's not for camera --
MR. SNOW: He may have a statement on camera at the very end. I'm not sure; it may just be photos for pool. But one way or another, we will get you a readout, because that's important.
Q I have a question about the Rumsfeld memo. At the time when he was saying to the President, in this memo, that things aren't working in Iraq, the President was saying two things publicly: One, that we're winning in Iraq, absolutely; and he was also lashing Democrats, saying that criticism was not a plan for Iraq, and that we -- the administration -- have a plan for victory in Iraq. So why wasn't the President leveling with the American people?
MR. SNOW: Actually, at the time that this came --
Q Why wasn't he saying publicly what top members of this administration who were running the war were saying privately?
MR. SNOW: Well, there are a couple of things. First, at that very time, he was actually saying, things are not getting well enough fast enough. That was a formulation he was using at the time. If you take a look at the Rumsfeld memo that was printed in The New York Times, what you end up having is what the President I think has made it clear that he wants, which are people thinking creatively and exhaustively about ways of getting better results in Iraq.
And this is not -- other than at the very beginning, he says, clearly U.S. forces -- it's not working well enough or fast enough, what they're doing. That is a phrase that the President had adopted and had been using. And I don't know whether it comes from Secretary Rumsfeld or from the President. And then you have a list of options.
So I don't think you've got a case where the President was saying one thing and advisors were saying another. What the President was saying is that you've got a sovereign government with the government of Prime Minister Maliki that is pursuing what it needs to pursue, but obviously needs to be doing so more effectively and more rapidly. And that would include security. It would include reconciliation. It would include economic measures. It would include things like the hydrocarbon law. So certainly we weren't trying to wrap it up into a neat little bundle, because it's a very complex situation.
Q But doesn't it strike you that at the same time that you and others in this administration were accusing the likes of John Murtha of cutting and running by suggesting redeployment of forces to the periphery of Iraq or to nearby Kuwait, that the Secretary of Defense is suggesting similar options?
MR. SNOW: What Mr. Murtha had suggested was -- he was never quite that specific, and I think I'd let him speak for himself, but I believe when he came on "Meet the Press," he was talking about redeploying to Okinawa. What you have in here is a description of possibly having forces --
Q But that's not the -- he talked about redeploying to Kuwait. You say you don't want to talk more, but you're not talking accurately.
MR. SNOW: No, here's what he says, is, "You can withdraw forces from vulnerable positions -- cities, patrolling, et cetera -- and move forces to a quick reaction force status operating from within Iraq and Kuwait." Now, it is one of many options that are described here. What it means is the administration is trying to take a look at every suggestion, as I think would be incumbent.
Q Wait a second. You're not really answering the question. You're trying to parse what Murtha's position was.
MR. SNOW: No, I'm not --
Q Wait a second, let me just finish.
MR. SNOW: Okay.
Q Isn't it striking that this administration was accusing the likes of John Murtha and other Democrats who suggested course correction, including phased withdrawal, of cutting and running --
MR. SNOW: No, let me --
Q -- at the same time that the Defense Secretary was suggesting just the same option?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q You don't see hypocrisy there?
MR. SNOW: No, because you're talking about apples and oranges. If you take a look at --
MR. SNOW: Yes, really -- because there is no suggestion in here that things be done without regard to developments on the ground. What the President has already said is, what you try to do is, obviously, we want U.S. forces to be withdrawing based on what is going on, on the ground in Iraq. And there is still a significant difference.
Now, I think what's interesting is that we have now gone from an election season, where there was some criticism of the White House, to one in which Democrats are going to have responsibility in the House and Senate. And as they take a serious look at the business of going ahead and building up a government of Iraq, so that you have a democracy, so that the United States has the kind of victory that the President has discussed -- which is an Iraq that can defend, sustain and govern itself, and can be an ally in the war on terror -- I think you're going to see people working more constructively. And a lot of the kind of rhetoric that got heated up during a political campaign, including those who had been saying some pretty tough stuff about the President. I think that's going to give way to what we hope will be constructive efforts to get the job done.
Q So this White House is playing it straight with the American people?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Tony, I'd like to follow up on the al Hakim meeting, if I can, for just a second.
MR. SNOW: Yes, sure.
Q U.S. intelligence and military sources have him intimately connected to death squads, he is closely tied to Iran --
MR. SNOW: "Intimately connected" with death squads? In what sense?
Q Well, that he was responsible for the --
MR. SNOW: That he was giving orders?
Q Yes, it could be giving of -- when death squads began to emerge, there are intelligence sources that say he was if not running the show, very closely connected with the policy of implementing it. So that's number one. Number two, he's closely tied to Iran. So what's a guy like this doing in the Oval Office?
MR. SNOW: Well, there are a couple of things -- and we addressed the Iran question in the gaggle this morning. This is a man who spent 20 years in Iran when Saddam Hussein was in power, but he's also made it clear that he sees himself as an Iraqi leader, not somebody who is beholden to Iran.
As regards the issue of militias, certainly they're going to be discussed in the meeting with the President. What Mr. al Hakim has also done is he has talked about the importance of reconciliation within Iraq. He leads a parliamentary bloc that includes 128 members of the Iraqi parliament. And what the President is going to talk about -- I believe the meeting ought to be starting any moment now, and that's why we'll give you a readout on it -- is the importance of reconciliation, of finding people who will be moderates -- Sunni, Shia, and otherwise -- who are going to be able to work constructively toward a government that's going to be operating in conditions of peace.
What you have is a man who has had a number of discussions with this government and continues to, and the President has had conversations with him, and has met with him once before, who represents the largest single -- I believe it's the largest single Shia bloc within the Iraqi parliament. He is a significant force in Iraqi politics, and he's somebody who can play a very constructive role, and we hope he will.
Q Is the idea to perhaps build a relationship with someone who can be prime minister if Maliki fails?
MR. SNOW: No. No, it's to develop a relationship with somebody who is a significant player. We support the Prime Minister. And this is not an attempt to hedge bets or to play one person off another. Just as the President will be meeting with the Sunni Vice President of Iraq in the near future, that is also not an attempt to hedge bets. It is, in fact, a way to have as many discussions with people who are in significant roles within Iraq as possible so we can figure out how we can best help.
Q But you're comfortable with the guy you're having a discussion with today not being another militia leader? You're not talking to him because he's a rival of Sadr? And you're comfortable that he is not involved with the death squads in --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get up here and characterize intelligence. I'm going to tell you that militias continue to be a concern, and we share Prime Minister Maliki's view that there should not be armed organizations outside the government itself. That would include militias. We don't think militias are proper.
Q Tony, give me a sense of what reports the President is expecting over what period of time on Iraq, and the relative import he attaches to them. Because lately we've been hearing suggestions that the Iraq Study Group report is not what many people have come to think of it as -- some sort of --
MR. SNOW: Well, it's interesting, Wendell, because there are a lot of people -- there are a lot of expectations. I think it's unfair to heap too many expectations or too few on the Iraq Study Group. These are serious people who've spent a lot of time studying it. I'm not going to try to assign either timetables or weights because you do have to take a look at the work product.
But you know that there is an ongoing review by Pete Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. There's an ongoing review at the State Department. There's an ongoing review being coordinated by Steve Hadley. And there is the Baker-Hamilton report. The President also has been in consultation with Prime Minister Maliki. He talks with a number of people, and there have been outside experts in on a regular basis. So having said that, I know that each of these is going to be taken seriously. But, I mean, in terms of trying to come up with some fanciful way of weighting things we haven't seen, I think that would probably be improper.
Let me put it this way: The President will take all seriously, because as Commander-in-Chief it's his obligation to do his very best to get the job done properly, as well and as quickly as possible. And, therefore, he is going to look seriously at all the contributions and thank those who've contributed.
Q All come to fruition this month?
MR. SNOW: Don't know. Don't know. Again, I don't know what the deadlines are. If there are, the President wants them quickly. But we don't have -- I don't have a date of delivery for you on these.
Q So it's possible the Joint Chiefs' report might not come until next year?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I will simply repeat what Steve Hadley said, "weeks, not months." And I cannot give you an absolute date. But as soon as those become available, we'll be happy to pass them on. We really don't.
Q Ten Americans were killed Sunday in Iraq, or on the weekend. Is there any impact on the President? Does it affect him at all that there's a growing consensus in Iraq and America to get out now?
MR. SNOW: Well, it's interesting -- I don't know if there's a growing -- what we hear from the Iraqis is, we want to have the capability so that the Iraqi security forces can assume the lead. And it is also the case that they say that they need more. And we are working with them --
Q You're hearing that from people who want to stay in power, believe me --
MR. SNOW: No, wait, look --
Q -- not the people.
MR. SNOW: I don't know, Helen. It's very difficult.
Q The --
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, let me back up. The President is somebody, as I've said many times, and you've seen it, who grieves the loss of anybody over there, and this is not something where, as Commander-in-Chief, he wants anything other than success and to bring everybody home safely.
On the other hand, this is a mission where we will and we must succeed. And the President understands the difficulties of war, and he also understands the toll it takes on a public. But as you've heard him say many times, if you look at this -- what's going on in Iraq, and if the United States leaves, it creates an even greater opportunity for terrorists to kill Americans, to kill people around the globe, and to spread oppression, then we not only will have created -- we not only will have left things in a position where we're going to have to go back, we also will simply have stepped away when we knew we had an opportunity to stop terror before the terror network was able to get access --
Q They're not operating in Iraq. It's, really, the people are against our presence.
MR. SNOW: People don't want -- let me put it this way: The Iraqi government has said many times that they want to be able to assume responsibility as soon as possible, and we want them to do it, too. We want American forces back as soon as possible, under the proper conditions, and I think Iraqis agree. What we hear a lot from Iraqis is, we do want you to go, but don't go until the conditions are right. And we agree.
Q A lot of the Democrats are saying they hope you will nominate someone for the U.N. who can gain bipartisan support. Is that what your plans are?
MR. SNOW: We think John Bolton -- John Bolton had more -- look, there were more Democrats who were going to vote for John Bolton than Republicans who were going to vote against -- there were 58 announced votes in his favor. That's bipartisan. And John Bolton was a successful U.N. Ambassador, and we grieve the fact that he was not rewarded for his success and honored for it.
And we hope that -- we think that this represents, in some ways -- rather than getting into that, let me just put it this way: If bipartisanship is to succeed, perhaps we ought to make sure that people who serve their country ably and well are sent the signal that your services will be treasured, because when a John Bolton, after the kind of success he's had as a U.N. Ambassador, cannot get out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that sends a discouraging note to anybody who wants to serve their country.
So the President will continue to look for people of quality, but I'll tell you what, John had an extraordinarily successful tenure, and this will disrupt our diplomacy at the United Nations to a certain extent, until we find somebody in his stead. And we hope the Democrats and Republicans will join together in allowing the President to put forward somebody who will represent American interests as ably as John did.
Q How quickly will he move to --
MR. SNOW: Don't know. I mean, that's the President's call, not mine.
Q Tony, can I get back to the Rumsfeld memo?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Rumsfeld says in the memo, advising the President, "announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis."
MR. SNOW: That's one of the options.
Q Right, this will give the U.S. the "ability to readjust and move to another force, if necessary, and therefore, not to lose."
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Does the President typically get this kind of advice from Rumsfeld, to do one thing, but tell the American people he's doing something else?
MR. SNOW: No. Again, if you take a look at this, this is illustrative options and this covers a whole lot of ground. And the President can sort through it. I think Secretary Rumsfeld was musing, but you'll have to ask Secretary Rumsfeld what he had in mind.
Q You don't see this as duplicitous in any way?
MR. SNOW: You know, I'll let you characterize it. What he was doing was laying out options.
Q Well, how does the White House characterize it? To say to tell the American people one thing and to do another --
MR. SNOW: Well, the White House characterizes it --
Q -- how is that not duplicitous?
MR. SNOW: Again, if you take a look -- Suzanne, you read through every one of these, correct?
MR. SNOW: And you understand that there are a whole series of options, some of which probably reflect the thinking of Secretary Rumsfeld and probably some of which don't; correct? And you understand that these are options that may represent the views, including of people on Capitol Hill, Democrats with whom he may disagree. These are not recommendations. These are options. These are illustrative options. These are ways of looking at things. And I will leave it at that. You will note that these are not recommendations by the Secretary of Defense. You're treating it as a recommendation.
Q But the option -- just listen to the language of the option -- "announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis." Is he suggesting that whatever the approach is, we're going to call it one thing, but it's another? Is that --
MR. SNOW: No -- I will let the words speak for themselves, because, honestly, I have not spoken with the Defense Secretary about what he meant by specific bullet points on this and, therefore, I'm going to have to leave it to him.
Q Can we come back to the reviews that are being done? You've spoken of the Pentagon, Pace's review, State, Steve Hadley's review. He's met with Maliki. Those are -- the others are under the President's control. He could set a deadline. Is there some reason that he hasn't?
MR. SNOW: Well, he's asked them to get it done quickly. If you're worried about whether there's foot-dragging, no, there's none. But, also, it does take time to get things done, and quite often people say, we need a little bit of time to finish up this piece of business, or that. You want to make sure that you've got the best work product you can. It does not mean that this thing is going to be delayed forever and ever, but --
Q The signals that you're sending is, you know, wait, there's no urgency here, we can take --
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no. I don't think we have ever said there's not urgency. There's not a panic, but there is certainly a sense of urgency. And I think the President has been pretty forward-leaning on that for some time, and clearly, so has the Defense Secretary. So, no, there's absolute urgency here -- but, again, let me say there's a difference between urgency and panic. You want to make sure that you are making the right moves for the right reasons. This does not mean that people can go and take a long break and get back to us later.
Q Tony, has the President ruled out the idea of meeting with al Sadr?
MR. SNOW: I don't know.
Q And can you answer sort of head on the question of, is this meeting with --
MR. SNOW: By the way, I'm not -- it's the first I've heard that that has even been suggested.
Q Well, I guess maybe I should have asked it another way. Would the President entertain a meeting with al Sadr? Is that something he has any interest in doing?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, at this point, I don't know. I don't know.
Q And can you answer head on the question --
MR. SNOW: By the way, I don't know if al Sadr would also be willing to entertain the option. It's a very interesting question; we'll go back and muse on it in a few minutes.
Q Is this meeting with al Hakim intended to reduce al Sadr's influence within the government by persuading Hakim to throw his support behind Mr. Maliki?
MR. SNOW: No, I think what it's designed to do -- look, Moqtada al Sadr belongs to a party that has 30 seats in the parliament and has some ministers. It, too, ought to have a vested interest, and we will assume it does, of the success of the Maliki government. What the President is trying to do is to talk to significant leaders and make the case that it's important for people to build together across sectarian lines, to take the measures necessary for national reconciliation, for economic development -- we talked a lot, for instance, about the importance of the hydrocarbon law -- and to take the other steps that are going to be necessary to give Iraqis a shared interest, and an urgent shared interest, in the success of this government.
Now, you asked this morning about the genesis. This actually originally came up shortly after the Samara mosque bombings, when the President had a conversation -- this obviously predates my coming to the White House, but, apparently, the President made the offer back then that when Mr. Hakim came to Washington he would like to see him. And so this is the fruition of that and subsequent conversations.
Q Can I ask you one follow-up? On the memo -- or the reports, all these various reports, wouldn't you agree that by having so many different reports available to him, the President, in essence, has given himself cover to do pretty much whatever he chooses, by saying --
MR. SNOW: Are you saying by doing a thorough job, that's giving cover?
Q I'm saying that he can, at the end, when he has all these reports on his desk, he can say, well, I'm choosing this one, and --
MR. SNOW: No, the President --
Q -- that the net effect of these reports gives him flexibility to act?
MR. SNOW: You don't understand the President. The President doesn't look for cover. What he looks for is information to help formulate the best judgments about how to move forward.
At this particular time, it's a matter of great national interest to try to make sure that the next steps are the right ones, done in the right way. And, therefore, he is soliciting as much information and as many views as he can to try to come up with the best judgments about the ways to make sure that we address the changing nature of the situation in Iraq, and do it in such a way that you're going to have better battlefield capability, that you're going to have the Iraqis more capable of assuming greater security responsibilities, that you're going to have the economic growth, that you're going to be able to put together the pieces that in the long run are going to lay the foundation for real success in Iraq.
That is a complex business, and it is not something that you ought to try to get from a single source. And as you've seen from things that have appeared in the paper, the President is inviting people -- as Steve Hadley said, "open the aperture," try to come up with as many different views on this as possible, be creative, be venturesome, look at the problem from different angles, because it is clear that things were not getting well enough fast enough, and therefore you need people, you need the best abilities of the folks who are best prepared and have the most knowledge in the area.
Q Tony, two quick questions.
MR. SNOW: Wait, is this on Iraq, or is this going to take me --
MR. SNOW: Let me do the Iraq questions first, and then we'll go --
Q Iraq. With all signs that Bob Gates will be confirmed as Defense Secretary, will he be able to put his own imprint on the Pentagon's report on Iraq policy, or is this an ongoing thing that has already been --
MR. SNOW: Well, Pete Pace is -- I don't know about that, but Pete Pace is the one who has been tasked to do it. That's a good question, but I don't have an answer for you because, frankly, again, you get back to the question of deadlines.
We are assuming that the Senate -- we are hoping -- I'm not saying "assume" -- we are hoping that the Senate will be able to wrap up deliberations and confirm Bob by the end of the week. But I honestly don't know what the pace of General Pace's work is, so I don't know if there's even going to be a position to weigh in at some point.
Clearly, Bob is going to have a say about what goes on. And I'm sure some of those questions are going to arise in the course of both the public and the classified testimony this week.
Q What does the President see as his first order of business once he is confirmed?
MR. SNOW: Bob Gates? I think the first order of business is to continue working on building up our defense capability, not only in terms of dealing with the ongoing situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but continuing the business of transformation into a world that is much different, and the challenges are much different than they were even five years ago.
Q Iraq. You said earlier, referring to Democrats, that you're going to see people working more constructively --
MR. SNOW: I said, we hope we are, yes.
Q Okay. And that these are constructive efforts to get the job done. I guess I'm wondering how is that going to manifest itself? And are you having conversations now with Democrats about these kinds of issues --
MR. SNOW: Well, there will be conversations with Democratic leaders between now and the time the new Congress seats itself. And there have been conversations going on. I will not characterize them, but, of course we're going to be talking to leaders -- Democratic and Republican -- of the next Congress.
Q Do you foresee some kind of event coming up where you get together with them?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. Democrats also have to finish getting themselves organized and ready. And the reports we've gotten, as you've gotten, is that the beginning of January they plan to begin business immediately. So I have a feeling that they'll be in town a lot, and there will be plenty of opportunities to talk.
MR. SNOW: Yes, okay.
Q One of the things we heard last week was about speeding up the training of the Iraqis and how that was going to take place. Why wasn't it already going full-speed ahead, given that they --
MR. SNOW: Well, it was. But we're also trying to build increased capability in terms of embeds. And also you look at the Rumsfeld memo, there are also maybe new ideas of figuring out not merely embedding American forces with Iraqis, but Iraqis with American. I think people are looking for ways to try to do this. Also, there has been training of the trainers taking place, and that will continue to go forward.
Q So was that not happening before?
MR. SNOW: It was happening before. And it has been something -- if you go back and look through transcripts, we've been talking about this for quite a while. But we do want to try to figure out how to accelerate it, so that means trying to get more people in a position where they're going -- capably -- not merely to be training Iraqi security forces, but also -- and this continues to be an area of concern, and it's one where we've gotten some help from allies -- the police forces. Because the police forces have, as you know, been a source of concern, will continue to be. So there's training going on, on both of those fronts.
Q How about one on Bolton?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Isn't this an example of the system working exactly as it should? There are enough senators who didn't like his performance, who didn't want him in place. They were able to block him.
MR. SNOW: Well, Ken asked that question this morning. I suppose if you decided that you wanted to shut down the government because you just didn't -- regardless of the success or failure of the person, you wanted to make a point to the other side, that could be seen as "a success of the system." Procedurally, it's how the system works.
But the American people are going to ask themselves, do we really want a system where a guy has gone through and he has led successful diplomatic efforts in dealing with North Korea, in dealing with Iraq, in dealing with Lebanon, in dealing with Darfur, and has managed -- has been a highly capable, competent and effective and sometimes very creative diplomat working with other countries, building large coalitions, as well as coalitions within the U.N. Security Council, people are going to say, why didn't that guy -- they didn't like him, why? What was it about his performance that they didn't like? Here's somebody who said, I care about the United Nations, and therefore it's important that this institution reform itself, because it is no secret that here in the United States it is not held in as high regard as it used to be. And the United States is a key contributor -- the key contributor to the United Nations.
The American people are going to ask themselves, wow, why didn't they confirm him? So whether that is a -- whether that is a sign of the system succeeding or failing, I will leave it to other people to say. We think that John Bolton richly deserved full confirmation as ambassador, and we're saddened by the fact that he didn't get it.
Q And why did they not confirm him in your view?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to try to characterize. You may ask them.
Q Where's the success in Darfur, North Korea, Iran?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me put this way, Wendell: Before you did not have -- as far as the six parties -- the Chinese and the South Koreans taking the kinds of positions they have had. When it comes to Iran, you did not have the kinds of coalitions -- including the Russians -- working with us on Iran. When it came to Darfur, the United Nations itself was not willing to step up. Now there is United Nations participation.
So I would argue, Wendell, that the United Nations is not necessarily a place whereby passing a resolution you are going to wipe a problem away; but what we have done is we have created coalitions where parties that in the past have not been full shareholders and stakeholders in what was going on, they now are. And so you have increased and increasingly constructive participation on the part of our allies on issues of key international concern.
And if you believe that diplomacy is the proper way to go, you want that. You want the people who have clout. You want the people who have the closest relations. You want them to step up and assume some responsibility, and they've done so.
Q But success means -- Tony --
MR. SNOW: Go ahead, April.
Q But success for Bolton, wouldn't that constitute the fact that there are solutions to these situations, not just movement on the measuring stick, but total success in the direction of Darfur?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me put it this way, April: I don't know if anybody knows the solution to success in anything, whether it be television ratings or anything else. It's a very complex world out there. So what you end up doing is you try to put together -- you're not going to have success in the form of a resolution. What you are going to have is the development of a kind of diplomacy that draws into the diplomatic process people who in the past have not been fully engaged -- I know that was kind of artless -- not been fully engaged. And, therefore, what you've done, I think, is you've created -- I hate to use the term -- more assertive and coordinated diplomacy. And that's an important thing. The United Nations is a place where you do diplomacy.
To get the United Nations to step up and take some -- take a role in Darfur, that is a step forward. It is not a solution. Ultimately, the solutions to a lot of these problems lie in the hands of people who are on the ground in the various places. In Darfur, the jinjaweed have to assume some responsibility for what goes on in Darfur. It is not simply going to be done out of writ in New York. But based on what the United Nations does, John Bolton was highly successful.
Q Has this administration changed the definition of success?
MR. SNOW: No. Have you? What is -- what is your definition of diplomatic success?
Q I'm listening to what you're saying here and then going back a couple of weeks ago, when you said, "We're winning but we haven't won." And now you're saying, what is it, we're more assertive, we've coordinated diplomacy --
MR. SNOW: I didn't want to use the word "robust" again.
MR. SNOW: "Doonesbury" is going to beat me up again. (Laughter.)
Q Okay, all right. But the definition, it seems like you're re-crafting how a win is perceived, how success is --
MR. SNOW: No, we're talking about diplomacy, April. We're talking about diplomacy. We're talking about the limited horizon within which the United Nations can operate. And within that horizon, John Bolton was highly successful. I would argue during his tenure there -- I would guess that if you asked people going in, especially those who've been skeptical, whether he had achieved one, let alone all of these things, they probably would have told you, no.
Q Well, can I ask you about the Supreme Court now?
MR. SNOW: No, wait and I'll get back to it.
Q Iraq? Tony, back on Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Yes, Iraq. Let's finish Iraq, and then we'll get back to others. Yes.
Q Although we're not talking with the Iranians, the Iraqis are. And there have been a number of visits. Prime Minister Maliki, President Talabani met both with Ahmadinejad and with al Khamenei, do we get any feedback on that? Are they telling us anything about what the Iranians are thinking, since we don't know ourselves?
MR. SNOW: What do you mean we don't know? We've got a pretty clear idea. It's not like President Ahmadinejad has been bashful about his views. But on the other hand, we understood --
Q -- other statements, private conversations with regard to Iraq?
MR. SNOW: I don't know -- if there was a conversation of that sort, it would have been in the one-on-one session between the Prime Minister and the President, and I don't know what they said. When it comes to those kinds of talks, we fully expect Iraq to be holding conversations with its neighbors. It's incumbent upon it to do so. But I don't know if there is any readout or assessment.
But, I mean, we made clear our view of what the Iranians should do. Let me put it this way: The characterization we did get was that the Iranians need to play a constructive role, not a destructive role, when it comes to enabling the Maliki government to succeed. And I mean, I can't go much -- I know that's kind of boilerplate, but that's basically as detailed as anything I heard. But it doesn't -- I cannot tell you that there weren't more substantive conversations, but if they were, they were between the two heads of state.
Q Tony, on Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Iraq.
Q Is the status quo approach on the table, or is that the one approach the administration has determined is not the way to go?
MR. SNOW: We've never had a status quo approach. This whole stay the course/status quo idea -- I know that the President had used the "stay the course" locution, but there's never been a status quo. I believe what we've said many times, Ken, is that the status quo, in fact, is not acceptable, and that there do have to be measures where you find ways to make reconciliation a reality within Iraqi life, that you find ways to tamp down on sectarian violence, that you find ways to isolate, disable and disarm militias and violent factions so that you have the basis for a stable democracy.
That is not a status quo -- the only thing that hasn't changed is our determination that we help the Iraqis build a government that can defend, sustain and govern itself. That hasn't changed. That's not status quo; that is the end state that we pursue. But on the other hand, you are constantly changing the way you go about it because the situation always changes. The enemy adjusts; you adjust. And that's the way --
Q Do you believe that all these exercises will lead to, by someone's measure, a significant change in approach?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. But what I will do is I will let you draw judgments after the President has made clear what changes he intends to make.
Q I have one on Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Okay, yes.
Q On Tony Blair's visit -- on Iraq -- is he invited at this time because he contributed to the report? And will he be getting an advanced assessment of the report?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, run that by me again.
Q You announced Tony Blair is visiting on Thursday. Is he going to get an advanced copy of the report --
MR. SNOW: Well, we're not getting an advanced copy, so I don't suspect he will.
Q Is his visit at this time -- announced --
MR. SNOW: No. This has been something that they've been wanting to do for some time. November sort of got knocked off the map because we were on the campaign trail the first week; we had a week back in town, then we were in Asia; then we were back in town for four days; then we did Europe and the Middle East. So that kind of cut down on the available time. Once you get into next week, once again you have pretty full social schedules and otherwise for both the President and the Prime Minister. This became the week that offered the very best opportunity for the two to meet. They've been trying to get together for some time.
Q Can we assume the future of troop deployment is the major part of the talks, though?
MR. SNOW: No, you can't. I wouldn't make any assumptions. I'll let the two heads of state characterize whatever. I mean, I think Iraq is going to be a big part of it; Afghanistan -- as you know, there was a conversation about Afghanistan at NATO last week. But the Americans and the Brits have a lot of other common concerns, including Darfur, a lot of diplomatic efforts, concerns about Iran.
So all of these things -- and I've been in on a handful of these discussions; they tend to be pretty freewheeling and pretty honest, and so it's not -- I don't think that there's an agenda that, this time we're going to concentrate on X. What they do is they sit around and they talk very honestly and openly about all of these issues, and I would expect the same thing to happen this time.
Q Any meals planned? Any lunches, dinners --
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm sure he will be fed. We're hospitable that way. In fact, we're going to feed you guys before too long. (Laughter.)
Q Any press avail?
MR. SNOW: I suspect so, but I'm not sure. I mean -- and I don't know how broad or how narrow.
Q Talking about Afghanistan and NATO --
MR. SNOW: Wait a second. Are there other Iraq questions? Okay, go ahead.
Q (Inaudible). My question is, is he going to carry maybe some message from the top leader from Iran to President Bush?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. Again, our -- I just don't know. We're going to give you a readout. I will get it from National Security Advisor Hadley, and you can either contact me or Gordon Johndroe in the next few hours and we'll try to -- one way or another, we'll get you a readout on the message -- I mean, on the meeting. I'm not anticipating such a thing, but rather than trying to rule something out, you never know what's going to happen.
Q Tony, talking about NATO and Afghanistan, if the President has seen today's Washington Post and The Washington Times, they are saying the same thing I've been saying for the last three years, since President Karzai also told President Bush in the White House, especially Mr. Fareed Zakaria, of Newsweek, he's pointing out that there are problems in Afghanistan because -- and NATO is also saying -- that terrorism or Talibans are coming across the border from Pakistan. He's pointing out clearly to General Musharraf in Pakistan all those problems in Afghanistan, to then comparing with Iraq and Afghanistan, the future will be very dark as far as Afghanistan is concerned.
MR. SNOW: Well, look, we continue to take a look at what's going on in Afghanistan, as well. When President Musharraf and President Karzai were here, there were considerable conversations about border security. And they've agreed to work on it, and it is an area of concern, and it does need to be addressed.
Q Tony --
MR. SNOW: Two questions. (Laughter.)
Q Two questions.
MR. SNOW: First. (Laughter.)
Q The Washington Post published --
MR. SNOW: The Ho Chi Minh pictures --
Q Yes. And I'm just wondering they also had a letter from Anne Jacoby, the wife of an Army officer who served in Vietnam, saying she was horrified to see the President smiling as he stood up there, which was disrespectful of those Americans who served so bravely against hideous atrocities sanctioned by Ho Chi Minh. And my question, she asked, where were the President's advisors when he was allowed to be seen in that photo op?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me just -- I don't want to pick a fight with Ms. Jacoby, so I will not. But the President was meeting with the elected leaders in Vietnam in their chambers, each of which featured some statuary that involved Ho Chi Minh.
The other thing I would point to Ms. Jacoby is she would have been moved by the fact that tens of thousands in Saigon, and maybe hundreds of thousands in Saigon, and at least tens of thousands in Hanoi lined the streets when the President came. This is a country that loves Americans, that is eager for free markets, and for closer contacts with the United States of America. And that, in fact, what has happened -- I forget who did it, but somebody wrote an op-ed piece saying, the United States won. And in a sense, if you take a look at the battle between communism and free markets, you're going to find that the desire for freedom and entrepreneurship is very strong in Vietnam. And those of you who were on the trip, saw pretty good evidence of it.
Q WorldNetDaily quotes two Republicans, Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo as saying, the President of the United States is an internationalist who believes that America is an idea, not an actual place defined by borders. I mean, this is where this guy is going. And another reelected Republican, Ron Paul, of Texas, denounced plans for the proposed NAFTA super highway. And my question, what is the President's comment on these two statements by reelected Republicans?
MR. SNOW: Well, I would be surprised if he knew about either of them, therefore, I would not -- no, I'm serious, Les. This is not the sort of thing -- let me see, what has the President been doing? Oh, yes, he's been spending a lot of time thinking about the war in Iraq. He has completed two significant foreign trips. I'm not sure he's had time to review the in-box. And, frankly, I don't know if either forwarded their thoughts to the White House, but I will assume on the basis of your question, they have been forwarded herewith.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Okay, thank you.
Q Wait a minute, hold it, Supreme Court.
MR. SNOW: Supreme Court, go ahead.
Q Thank you, yes. The President has been touting the greatness of Brown versus the Board of Education results from the Supreme Court, the ruling from the Supreme Court many years ago. But now he is siding with parents against race preferences for school placement. And some are saying that could actually narrow Brown versus Board of Education.
MR. SNOW: That's for the courts to decide. But as you probably know, some parents have sued because of the way in which students have been characterized. In the case of Seattle, students are lumped into two groups: white and nonwhite. And in Louisville, into black and other, which hardly seems consistent with either the attitude or the direction of Brown versus the Board of Education.
No Child Left Behind is designed in a color-blind way to say that our schools ought to be providing first-rate educations to everybody, period. The President has talked about being far more honest about both the virtues and shortcomings in schools, and making sure that everybody has access to a first-rate education.
One of the interesting things is one of the results and one of the fears in at least one of these cases is that in Seattle, it may be the case that a black student would be denied permission to transfer from one school to another, where his or her parents may want to go, because that would disrupt the racial balance, whereas the white student would have an opportunity to do so. That also seems to be something that may raise questions of fairness.
So it's worth taking a look also at the details of the plans involved here, but the President certainly remains firmly committed to the goals of Brown versus the Board. And this is one of these issues quite often where the issues of racial preferences come up that that flies in the face of Brown versus the Board. And, therefore, I'm not sure it's going to provide the kind of result you want.
So this is not one of these things where the President is trying to stand in the way of opportunity. As a matter of fact, the President has argued repeatedly, April, that people ought to have the opportunity for better educations. And he sometimes has been resisted by leaders who may, in fact, be party to part of this debate. I don't know. But the fact is that when you have a program that denies somebody the right to transfer -- on the basis of their race, not on the basis of their need or their personal concerns -- and that is the concern both in Louisville and Seattle, it seems to me that you do not have a triumph of color-blind equality. But in fact, you have just the opposite.
Q But, Tony, it's said that this could have far-reaching ramifications, the fact that it could affect issues of performance matching anything with a race preference as it relates to --
MR. SNOW: Well, we don't see it that way. But I tell you what, for more nuanced views, I would refer you to the Office of the Solicitor General, because they're the ones who make arguments in these cases.
Q Thank you.
END 1:50 P.M. EST