It's gagle time again.
Looks Like Someone Has Been Ignoring The Advice of the Commanders on the Ground
Q General Casey testified today that securing Baghdad would take fewer than half the additional troops that President Bush has proposed, and he said that he had asked for two brigades, based on the recommendations of his subordinate commanders. So how did we wind up with five additional brigades?
MR. SNOW: Well, the President has talked with -- you also know that General Casey supports the plan. And the plan is to bring in five brigades into Baghdad, and also another 4,000 Marines into Anbar, not only to take care of immediate security concerns, but to make sure that we have adequate force structure as the Iraqis begin bringing brigades into each of the nine districts of Baghdad, and the Americans also into those nine districts, in support, that we have adequate resources and forces to deal not only with the media, but also potential threats to security.
Q But why the disparity in numbers? When he's talking on the Hill about asking for two, and the President asked for five?
MR. SNOW: Well, there were a number of conversations, and the President, after talking with General Casey and other commanders, came to the conclusion that he preferred to have five brigades into Baghdad and 4,000 Marines into Anbar. And again, what General Casey was talking about is some suggestions he'd made earlier. The President has made his decision, and it does reflect the wisdom of a number of combatant commanders. And again, it does have the assent of General Casey.
Q Let me get one more. General Casey, do you think that he's kind of been all over the park on this? He's first of all, said that additional troops weren't warranted, and then he went along with the President, and now he's saying this?
MR. SNOW: No, I think what you've had is you had a shifting series of circumstances within Baghdad.
Q Can I just go back to the question about General Casey and the brigade, saying he felt fewer than half of what the President has planned were needed. You say he supports the plan now. He says he does, but it seems like a very diplomatic way to say, not really, and I don't have to be there to carry it out. So who did the President rely on heavily when he made these decisions? The commander on the ground did not, it appears, agree with the President's bigger, larger plan for more brigades. The commander of Central Command apparently did not. So the President relied mostly on outside people, or the people who he was trying to get to go in --
MR. SNOW: I've often been asked about internal deliberations, and I've always given the same answer, which is, I'm not going to characterize them. It is worth noting that General Abizaid and General Casey, both of whom you've described as being in opposition to the plan, publicly have supported it. And so I'll let you --
Q But what he said today didn't quite fit that, Tony.
MR. SNOW: I'd refer the questions back to him and I let him clarify.
Obseesion Continues in Extended Text...
Pony Walks The Saint McCain Tightrope
Q Back to Casey and his questioning today. Senator McCain was pretty scathing in questioning Casey's credentials and saying all these mistakes were on his watch and he should take responsibility for them. You're just saying that you think the President takes responsibility for that --
MR. SNOW: I know he does.
Q -- does that mean Casey is off the hook?
MR. SNOW: No, look, the President is not in the business of putting his commanders on the hook. He's the Commander-in-Chief, and he has said -- he said it yesterday with The Wall Street Journal -- I'm the Commander-in-Chief; I do not want you second-guessing people who have been carrying out my orders.
And so the President says he takes -- the President takes full responsibility for what has not worked, and he understands that he is going to be held accountable for what happens in the way forward. That's what happens when you're a Commander-in-Chief, you have to make decisions.
Q So Senator McCain was off base --
MR. SNOW: No, don't try to -- Senator McCain is -- in the process of advising and consenting on a nomination, is certainly free to ask tough questions and to express his opinions. I'm telling you what the President's view is. I am not going to try to get caught in a fight with Senator McCain, whom we respect and who has been very supportive of the President on the way forward.
David Gregory Transgresses The Unwritten Law: Thou Shalt Not Question The Chimpster's Credibility
Q Tony, on that -- the resolution. So you've got more Republicans and Democrats coalescing around some language which at its core opposes the troop increase. You've made the argument about what message that kind of resolution would send. That's an argument. People will agree or disagree with that. What will the President do when there is an actual resolution?
MR. SNOW: The President will continue to exercise his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief and do what he thinks is going to be best for American security.
Q But isn't there -- when this resolution comes to pass in whatever form is final, isn't there a realization on the part of the President that he's effectively lost the public and then lost Congress, and so the answer to the question of, give it more time, is essentially, why should we trust you, Mr. President, to mend this thing?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't, because, again, there are a number of things being floated around, including language that says the finances to support troops in the field. There is a general recognition among members of Congress that we can't afford to fail in Iraq. And there is fairly significant agreement that that means Iraqis able to handle their own security. So I think there's still a basis for further discussion on this.
Also, Americans want to see results and they do want to see an improvement in conditions in Baghdad. I don't think you should take public opinion as something that is chiseled into stone. This is something that can change, based on the realities on the ground.
Q Fair enough. But there's still a realization that if his request was for patience and allow this to work, the answer, at least where public opinion is today and where congressional opinion is -- if we get this resolution, is, we don't trust you to carry it out.
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that's right. I'd take a look -- well, well, based --
Q You can make an argument, but I mean based on what? What would you --
MR. SNOW: Based on -- for instance, if you take a look at when people got a chance to listen to him at the State of the Union address. You've seen the flash polls, and they indicated the people did think, okay, we get it. I think that there is still a basis for the public wanting to see success in Iraq.
Q Just one final one on this. You make assertions about the public gets it, the public wants this based on I don't know what --
MR. SNOW: No, I mean, we've done --
Q And what I'm -- the question is, do you think the American people and Congress trust the President to fix what's wrong in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: I think the American people want to see results. I think -- I don't know how you say -- let me explain why I think trust is a little loaded. The President is a man of his word, and he's a man of honor. And trust is often associated with that. Do Americans have absolute confidence that what we have laid out is going to have 100 percent chance of success? No, they want to see results. So I think the reason I'm reluctant to answer the trust question is that that bears on character. And I think people do, in fact, trust the President's character.
Q I'm using it in terms of track record.
MR. SNOW: Well, that's why I'm -- I'm taking issue only with that particular term. But the fact is, you got a skeptical public. Absolutely. And it's got a right to be skeptical.
Not To Be Outdone By Gregory, ABC's Martha Raddatz On False Progress and the Fantasy Land Occupied by the White House
Q Tony, you talk about progress over there with the Iraqis. And on the surface it appears that way. But General Casey in his testimony said some of the ministries are so corrupt, they won't make any progress. You talk about al Sadr telling his followers to lay down their arms. He's done that so many times before. And whenever he wants them to pick them up again, they do.
MR. SNOW: Well, yes, and that bears on what I was just talking about, Martha, which is there's a different approach. In the past, you would have forces going in by day and out by night. And that's not a very effective way to deal with militias that are gathering up arms. The Prime Minister has made it real clear that anybody who is trying to build up armaments on the sly is going to be operating outside the law. The difference now is that you're going to have Iraqi brigades with U.S. battalions in support in each of the nine districts.
Q In Sadr City.
MR. SNOW: In Sadr City.
Q Including patrolling, and how big a presence?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I don't know exactly how the map carves up Sadr City, but it's certainly going to be at least one of the districts and perhaps maybe even falling within more than one district. And so you're going to have an Iraqi brigade and you're going to have U.S. support.
Q But you've got 2.5 million people in Sadr City.
MR. SNOW: I know.
Q And you're talking about a brigade with support from Americans?
MR. SNOW: Yes. Again, I'll have to go back -- and you've probably seen the maps, as well. Let's go back. We'll take a look at -- if you want an operational description, it's where I talk about --
Q I don't want an operational -- but when you come up and you say, it's great, he's going back to the political process, he's asking people to lay down their arms. But you've got 2.5 million people and you've got a brigade, and you've got somebody who has broken their promise a zillion times.
MR. SNOW: I believe also that I have said that it's a very tiny down payment on progress that people expect to see. You've also seen one of his key lieutenants arrested -- not released. These are signs that something different is going on.
Now, I trust that you and everybody else will keep a watchful eye on what goes on in Sadr City. And I think if you want to get into operational detail, it's probably better to talk to the Pentagon about that.
Q I'm not getting into operational details.
MR. SNOW: Let me -- well, you were asking an operational question, how are you going to deal in Sadr City. Now as for the corruption question --
Q But that's the way you answered it, so I get to ask the questions.
Paging Senator McCarthy
Q Tony, yesterday Dana said these resolutions send mixed signals to our troops and our enemies. Should we really be so concerned that the misunderstanding of the exercise of our form of government by the enemy would cause us to not pass resolutions?
MR. SNOW: Well, if one came to the conclusion that it emboldened an enemy and placed people in harm's way and increased the risk. It's something -- look, the thing is, when you talk about this, you're trying to read states of mind. And these are things that are important to keep -- at least to consider when you're doing these things. As you know, and I've said many times, Osama bin Laden thought the lack of American resolve was a key reason why he could inspire people to come after us on September 11th. I am not accusing members of the Senate of inviting carnage on the United States of America. I'm simply saying, you think about what impact it may have.
Q It seems as though you're suggesting that the Senate should not pass this kind of resolution because in fact it would somehow embolden the enemy.
MR. SNOW: I just don't know. I don't -- I'm saying that that is something that they'll have to consider. And I'm sure they are.
Pony Blow Gives The Surge 1.333 Friedman's
Q Tony, what's the earliest date on which it would be fair to gage whether the new way forward is working or has worked?
MR. SNOW: It's a tricky question and I can't give you an answer. I'll tell you why it's tricky. One of the reasons we have resisted strict timetables is because you do then create sort of an invitation for those who would undermine the government to kind of sit it out, to melt away to the periphery, to try to build strength and organization. That's something you have to be concerned about.
So -- but what we have said is that people are going to need to see progress. I won't give you an absolute timetable, but obviously the next six to eight months are going to be times when people expect to see something happening. But I would be very wary about trying to assign a specific date to it.
Q And what will the administration do if, after eight months, it's not working?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you don't talk about "what if" -- what you're asking is, what happens if a program that hasn't even begun doesn't work? We spent a lot of time thinking through this program precisely because we thought it did work. And we hope we will never get to the point where we have to ask the follow-up.
Q Is six to eight months the timetable the administration is working with on when another look at it might have to be taken?
MR. SNOW: You take a look at it every day. This is not something where -- look, we want to see results, but the other thing that's going to happen is that there will be constant communications on the ground. How do you see it? What's going on with the Iraqi forces? What's going on inside the country? What does intel tell us about -- are people filtering out to the north, are they filtering to the south? It's a war-time situation. So real-time intelligence and nimble response on the basis of that intelligence is always going to be important.
Q Eight months from now would put us at October, and that would --
MR. SNOW: Okay, nine months -- then we get to November.
Q Wait a minute. But you're saying, between six and eight months we can kind of gage to see if it's working. And then in November, that's a month away -- do you have enough time to change -- to put the Iraqi security in total control within that small window?
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, what I'm saying is this is a time for -- between now and then, April, in the next few months we're going to see increasing numbers of provinces going over to Iraqi control. This is not something where everything gets stacked up with November 1st as sort of the beginning date. A lot of these transfers of authority are going to be taking place during the course of the year.
Now Speaking for the Iraqi Prime Minister - Pony Blow!
Q Prime Minister Maliki seems to resent the new order to kill, capture Iranian agents in Iraq. And how is the President respond or react to Maliki when he talks about the United States -- with the regime of Iran, and he literally said, take your issues and fight outside Iraq?
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure he resents.
Q He literally said that, we know there are issues between the United States and Iran, and they shouldn't be solved on the ground of Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Right, but -- and we agree. But when there are Iranian agents trying to destabilize the government of Iraq, I believe that the Prime Minister also believes in protecting his own government from foreign incursions, and he's talked about foreign fighters. I believe he's talking about something far different.
Your Daily Les: Even Les Kinsolving Is Cracking On Joe Biden
Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. Since the President told Fox News yesterday that he is "impressed" by Senator Obama, who he finds "attractive and articulate," surely you can tell us, Tony, what the President thinks of a widely reported page 1 quote of Senator Biden that Senator Obama is "clean"?
MR. SNOW: No, I can't. But thank you. I haven't talked to him about it. It's just -- I don't know.
Q Well, Senator Obama said yesterday that "Senator Biden certainly didn't intend to offend. And I'll leave it at that."
At which Senator Biden called Obama "a superstar, the most exciting candidate from either party in decades, he's fresh, he's new, he's smart, he's insightful, a very special guy, who is like catching lightning in a jar. I think he's great. I think I'm better."
And my question, does the President --
MR. SNOW: Whoa, wait a minute -- all that, and he's better?
Q Yes, right, right, and he's better.
MR. SNOW: Wow. Well, you need to call him and ask him how he'd describe himself.
Q He says he's better.
MR. SNOW: But what's better than lightning in a jar? (Laughter.)
Q Fireflies in a jar.
Q White lightning in a jar. (Laughter.)
Q White lightning in a jar. Does the President recognize this hilarious contradiction as the indication of a preface to another Biden withdrawal, as he did in 1988?
MR. SNOW: Oh, my goodness. Let the candidates make their cases to the public. The public will decide.