Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Good Questions

Someone in the White House press corps raised some very good questions at yesterday's press briefing:


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?


Q You don't see hypocrisy there?

MR. SNOW: No, because you're talking about apples and oranges. If you take a look at --

Q Really?