At the outset, as you can tell if you read on through, it was Helen Thomas swinging her iron skillet at another press secretary's head that sparks the fire. Enjoy this slice and we will move on to more fun and games in today's post-Memorial Day press washing:
Q Why did the President pick a man who is so contemptible of the public servants in Washington to be his Domestic Advisor -- saying, "People in Washington are morally repugnant, cheating, shifty human beings"? Why would he pick such a man to be a Domestic Advisor?Okay, stop laughing. Really, this is the type of person the W, Rove and Co. loves. But, this man sounds like a raw, stinging nettle sandwich to me.
MR. SNOW: You meant contemptuous, as opposed to contemptible, I think.
Q Pure contempt.
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure it's pure contempt. I know Karl Zinsmeister pretty well, and he is somebody who expresses himself with a certain amount of piquancy -- you're perhaps familiar with that, aren't you, Helen? And so, as a consequence, from time to time he's going to say -- he'll have some sharp elbows.
Q If this is his attitude toward public servants --
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think it's his attitude toward public servants -- it may have been toward the press. Just kidding. No, I -- look, if you look at the bulk of what Karl Zinsmeister has done at The American Enterprise and elsewhere, I think you're going to find somebody who's done some pretty meaty and interesting research on a variety of topics. The reason he's being brought in is that he's --
Q Do you agree with his assessment of Washington?
MR. SNOW: I'm not -- there's one sentence the guy wrote, and perhaps you may recall -- yes?
Q Arrogant, morally repugnant, cheating, shifty -- come on.
MR. SNOW: That's a lot in one sentence, isn't it? He just packed it right in.
Q So what is the attitude toward --
MR. SNOW: The attitude is we're glad to have a guy on board who has breadth of knowledge, who has breadth of interest and of experience, and is going to bring --
Q No tolerance for other human beings.
MR. SNOW: Helen, tell you what, why don't you get to know Karl, because I think you're going to find out that to judge somebody --
Q Bring him on. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: -- on the basis of one sentence is probably a little unfair.
Q How could it be unfair?
MR. SNOW: He'll charm you.
But what of today's announcement by Secretary Snow?
Q I don't want to get in the way of this. (Laughter.) Let me ask you about this morning's statement and announcement of the President's choice for the new Treasury Secretary. The President called it a hopeful time, and listed some economic statistics that makes the administration's case for the economy being in good shape. If the economy is humming along so well, why the need for a change?Sounds like more rats off the currently sinking good ship America the republicans have filled full of leaks, if you ask me. As to why some one would want to join up is beyond me as well. Getting folk to "volunteer" for the privledge to serve in the remaining years of the W, Rove and Co has got to be as hard as trying to get the right-wing faith-based apologists to sign up to go serve in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Because the outgoing Treasury Secretary, John Snow, had made it clear that he wanted to move on. So if you have somebody who is vacating -- if you've got somebody vacating the office, you need to fill it.
Q So if he didn't want to leave, he would still be serving, it would have been fine with the President if he rode it right on out to the end of the term?
MR. SNOW: I am not going to try to prejudge that because I honestly don't know the answer. But it's pretty clear, and I think many people in the room had gotten wind of it, the Treasury Secretary was eager to leave and move on to something else. I honestly can't tell you, Jim -- you're asking me a hypothetical question for which I don't have an answer, and I'm not sure there is an answer.
Q So Washington's most repeated rumor, that the administration wanted Secretary Snow to go, was sort of baseless and just --
MR. SNOW: Again, I just -- you're asking a guy who has jumped in midstream, and I can't give you any kind of answer on that.
Except, you do have to think about what this Paulson character has to gain if he is able to swindle the American people out of their social security dollars. Take a look at the shining qualification that Mr. Snow-job points out before making the leap that Paulson is perhaps the one person singularly responsible for keeping our economy rolling:
Q Well, on that point, it's well-known that the White House senses that the President is not getting enough credit for good economic facts. Why does he need a guy like Hank Paulson now?Keep it humming along for whom? Oddly, this qualification has me thinking, "Gee, what kind of crook did they get to take over this job?" Anybody out there read Liars Poker?
MR. SNOW: Well, you don't bring in a Treasury Secretary as a PR man, you bring in the Treasury Secretary as being one of your key economic aides. I'll just repeat what he said -- although he does say he's a chief spokesman, he also says "a leading force on the economic team." You want somebody who's capable. And I think you can agree that the chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs Group would probably fall into that category, somebody who is familiar with the workings of the economy and how to keep it humming along.
Q Right, but I mean, the reality is, as the President pointed out, he does need a PR guy. He needs somebody to be able to sell it. He needs that on a number of fronts right now. So what does this change mean? Why does he need --
MR. SNOW: What this -- well, you missed the earlier question, which is he's coming --
Q I'm sorry --
MR. SNOW: Well, no, no, no. It's in response to filling a vacancy. What you do in a situation like this is that you reach out and try to get the best person you can get. Now, judging from the early returns, you've got Democrats and Republicans all thinking it's a sensational choice. You look for the best man for the job, and I think the President feels that he got that.
Of course, it is getting harder to snow the American people because they are paying attention (well, okay, some of us are paying attention). Just ask yourself the following: What is the difference between why Snow left his job and what W, Rove and Co said were the reasons for his departure? Which one seems more plausible, that he resigned or he was fired? Either case, why change now?
Q I'm a little bit confused on the tick-tock. You said that the job was offered to Mr. Paulson on May 20th, and they accepted the process on the 21st.It's all about the politics and mid-term elections, isn't it? Some how, the W, Rove and Co has to turn around it's poll numbers before the Americans cast our most valuable polling mechanism know as the vote.
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q So we're talking more than a week ago. The President last week, when he was asked if he was -- how he was going to deal with Mr. Snow, said, well, I guess -- he said, he's going to offer his resignation to me, and then went on to say he's a -- good job. This was something that was in play obviously before that, so in terms of its filling a vacancy, which is how you characterized it a minute ago, it wasn't a vacancy, it was switching a person, wasn't it?
MR. SNOW: No, he said, he's not talked to me about resignation. That does not mean that there were not other discussions. I mean, it was artfully worded. But on the other hand, the one thing you do not want to do in a situation like this is to start speculating about changes before the changes are ready to be made. Those do have impacts on markets, and you have to be responsible and cautious in the way you deal with them. Again, at that point, Hank Paulson -- you've got to make sure that you've got all the clearances taken care of.
Now we move on in the news laundering. Here's an interesting situation: You have a sitting president - supposedly the leader of the free world - entertaining the King of Jordan and claims it was a "private" affair. Since when do two heads of state meet over caviar and vodka shooters and not discuss anything of import worthy of reporting to the American people? Shouldn't we rise up an suggest he not have these kinds of meetings for his personal gain in our Whitehouse and at great taxpayer expense?
Q Tony, the President met last night with King Abdullah of Jordan, and I wonder, did the King push him at all to have more direct talks with Iran?See now, further down in the transcript we get a glimpse of the real reason Paulson was hired. My prediction is that we all need to keep a sharp focus on the prize. In other words, keep your eyes on the "privatization of social security" as a good thing agenda item pushed by the W, Rove and Co. Like some one (was it Deep Throat?) once said, "follow the money:"
MR. SNOW: It was a private dinner and we've got no readout for you on that.
Q Why was that not put on the schedule, or why didn't you alert anyone?
MR. SNOW: Again, it's a private dinner and I'm not in a position to give any kind of a readout on it.
Q You had said that the Treasury Secretary is a key economic advisor, not a PR guy. The economy is doing so well. Can you name a specific policy that the new Treasury Secretary will advise on?Incidentally, does anyone listen to the presidential speechifying any more? Is it me or am I the only one who thinks these PR junkets are a complete waste of taxpayer dollars?
MR. SNOW: Number one, you've got -- let's let the Treasury Secretary be confirmed before we start talking about policies that will be pursued. That would be presumptuous. And number two, as I've said a number of times, I'm not going to engage in market-moving speculation from the podium. Obviously, a number of issues will arise during Senate confirmation, and we'll have to see what they say, but the most important thing is he's going to be the point man for the President's economic policies.
Q What can we expect on the immigration speech coming up on Thursday? Will the President be making any suggestions on how the two chambers might bridge the wide gaps?Well, it's with great dissapointment that I report to you that Mr. Snow-job finally blows his cover as some one of substance when he starts to shovel the company line by flogging the Nine Eleven Monkey after Helen trots out her cast iron skillet one more time:
MR. SNOW: I think what the President is going to do, once again, is to reiterate the five principles he laid out in his speech before the nation, and encourage Congress to approach this in a comprehensive manner. That, in and of itself, does provide a basis for both sides to negotiate. So what you will see is the President, now, taking the next step. We have always said, let's wait until the Senate gets a bill done. Now the Senate has a bill done. It's time to figure out ways -- you're absolutely right -- to get both houses to work together, but to do it in a comprehensive manner.
Q Tony, General McCaffrey has been somewhat critical of not only troop deployments in Iraq, but also the leadership of Secretary Rumsfeld. Was that subject raised in the meeting?Is Tony the Snow-job an insensitive prick, not much different from the kinds of folks the W, Rove and Co. like to hire for work in our Whitehouse (see the opening salvo in this post)? Who is doing the "hopscotching" here? Why anyone follows these leaders-by-faith-rather-than-fact is beyond me.
MR. SNOW: No. And what's also interesting -- because I spoke with the General a couple of weeks ago, he dropped by my office and spoke, and he's put together a paper, portions of which have been published -- at this point, he's not ventilating any agreements or disagreements with the Secretary of Defense. He's actually highly complimentary of what's going on there. But he also has some practical concerns, especially as regards to --
Q -- today?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what?
Q Has he read the papers today, if he's complimentary --
MR. SNOW: I'll get to your question, because it's a good one to take up, but permit me to finish -- because I do like the question, Helen.
But he's been complimentary of the men and women who are doing the fighting. And as a result -- and, also, some of the developments he sees on the ground. General McCaffrey, he had some disagreements about what happened in the immediate aftermath in the spring of 2003, but I think you're going to find that he's been quite supportive.
Now, Helen, as to your question, nobody expects the war is going to be easy, and one of the things that is very obvious is that the President takes this very seriously, and so do the people in that room. You had a number of former military officers who do not take lightly the loss of life, or property, or anything else in Iraq. And it's, frankly, one of the points, I suppose, of pride in the United States of America that we really do care about this. We care not only about our people, but also the people in Iraq, and that did come up.
Q So why is the killing going on?
MR. SNOW: Because it's a war, and unfortunately, that's what happens in wars. If there were some -- if there were some way --
Q Why does he think we're going to win?
MR. SNOW: Because -- a couple of things. The President has faith in the power of freedom, not only as an idea, but also as a guiding principle. He also has faith in the men and women who are doing the fighting. Anybody who saw the speech that he gave yesterday at Arlington understands that he not only has faith, but a deep respect and admiration. He gets choked up every time he talks about it, because these are young men and women -- like the group at West Point -- these are all people who decided that they would go to the U.S. Military Academy after September 11th, 2001, knowing that it would be a time of war, possible peril to them, and they did it.
Q But Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
MR. SNOW: Are we going to just hopscotch across these? I mean, the point here, Helen, is real simple.
Q You're making points that --
MR. SNOW: I'm not making points about --
Q We all know they're serving with great faith. The problem is, this killing goes on for three years and the President still cannot give a basic reason why we're there.
MR. SNOW: Yes, he can, and he's made it many times.
And again, we see the W, Rove and Co. modus operandi exposed - something I suggest you need teach your children the antithesis well - lying is a justified means if you deem that the outcome of answering truthfully may or may not hurt some thing. Who was it that said you can't predict the future...could it be, perhaps, the president on more than one occasion?
Q Just one other follow-up on Carl about Secretary Snow. When the President was asked, when he was standing next to Prime Minister Blair, and millions of people watching, he was telling the American people that "I've got no indication the Secretary is going to resign" --And finally, another means by which we can assess the quality of the human beings in the W, Rove and Co: What is it exactly that they regret? Dead GIs? Dead Iraqi Civilians? Nope, none of these tings. And, if they could have one, what is it that they would do differenlty if they could have a do-over? Forgedabout it: In fact, the President has stipulated in public that if he was given a do-over, knowing now what he knew then, he would ivade Iraq because it was worth it.
MR. SNOW: No, no. Here's -- "No, he has not talked to me about resignation." I mean, it was very carefully worded, but, again, what you didn't want to have, I think, is it appearing at a time when you don't have -- when you haven't finished doing your clearances for the Treasury -- the person you want to fill that position. You don't want to have chaos in the markets. It was --
Q He's already offered it to somebody, he's got to have had -- I mean, you offer these positions all the time and wait for FBI background searches that sometimes take a long time. I mean, the Supreme Court nominees take six weeks, but you still announce to the public when you pick somebody.
MR. SNOW: But, you know, again, Hank Paulson, at that time, you don't announce somebody that hasn't been pre-cleared; you haven't finished the clearance process, you don't announce it, period. I mean, it's just not --
Q If not even announcing him, you could have at least -- you could have been direct and said, we're expecting --
MR. SNOW: With all due respect, I think there was some concern, again, about how something like that affects the markets. If you have uncertainty for an extended period of time, which would have been at that point four or five days, I think that is something that you've got to worry about and you've got to be responsible in dealing with it.
What exactly do the W, Rove and Co regret? Getting caught with their pants down. I suggest they need to get used to being exposed in this way.
Q Tony, on his joint news availability with the British Prime Minister, the President said he regretted Abu Ghraib, and, yet, no one was killed at Abu Ghraib. And we are on the edge here, apparently, of seeing the worst massacre since My Lai back during the Vietnam years. What kind of damage control are you and the President getting ready to put forward? And the second part of the question is, did the discussion of Haditha come up at that experts meeting today?Whew, that was a doozy of a press "briefing," wasn't it? Hence my secondary title.
MR. SNOW: Second question first, Haditha did not come up at the experts. You don't do damage control; what you try to do is find out what the facts are. And that's what's going on right now at the Department of Defense. And rather than trying to leap to any conclusion from the podium, let's all wait. We're all going to see this, and we'll all be able to draw conclusions and we'll all be able to learn from it. But I don't even want to get into discussing such things as damage control. I think it's all premature.
Q A follow-up. In addition to the President obviously being concerned and watching the outcome of the investigation -- and there are two, as we understand it, one for the possible killing, and two, about the possible coverup -- what is his personal mood as he talks to you and the other staff members? I mean, is this --
MR. SNOW: We have not -- Ken, we need to find out what the facts are. So there have not been any long talks about this particular thing. Everyone wants to find out what happened. I mean, that's the first thing, you want to find out what happened. And that's true for everybody. I mean, we've all seen sort of the same stuff leaking out. But keep in mind, you're getting little pieces here and little pieces there. We're going to get a full picture, and then my guess is that you'll get -- I'll be able to give you a pretty clear readout on where the President thinks we ought to go.
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