As to Victoria's question -- I don't see her here, but she had asked if there were any gay participants in the meeting with the President and the answer is, no...Can anyone say, "GOP wasting taxpayer dollars to play politics with America's gay population?"
...Q Can you stand there and say with a straight face that there is not a political dimension to this?
MR. SNOW: Of course there's a political dimension to it. There's going to be a Senate vote on it, for heaven's sake. There's naturally -- there are political dimensions on both sides. This is an issue -- and we talked about this, this morning -- that I think is of keen interest to a lot of people. And one of the interesting aspects is that there -- it's still -- the amendment still permits states to consider arrangements and institutions for same-sex couples that would not be called marriage. The President feels strongly that marriage is an institution, has a fixed meaning that ought to be honored in American law.
Let's have Helen Smack Tony the Snow-job all over the place with her cast iron skillet questions and watch him dance. Enjoy:
Q Just as the war in Iraq is escalating, and there are so many issues on the table, the President spent two days on this gay marriage. Isn't that a bit frivolous?So, who's rights are violated by this new constitutional initiative?
MR. SNOW: You're assuming, Helen, that he's spent each and every moment. Today he's met with two heads of state, he's had a half-hour phone conversation with another head of state, he's meeting with a delegation from China.
Q Well, there are real issues that affect every American, and that isn't one of them, but war is. And why isn't the President dealing with this at all? Who's problem is --
MR. SNOW: Are you assuming that the President is not dealing with -- again, the President, believe it or not, he can deal with more than one issue at a time, and I've tried to make it the point --
Q Is he concerned about the escalation of the war in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: The President is concerned about the successful conclusion of military action in Iraq, so that the people of Iraq, who are right now, as you know Helen, they're just now going back and unearthing a mass grave from the time of Saddam Hussein. They're concerned about building a democracy that is free and stable. So the President is committed to that task and seeing it through.
Q You don't do it was a barrel of a gun.
Q There are more than 8,000 same-sex couples that have been married in Massachusetts. What threat do they pose? And what is the President's message to them?
MR. SNOW: They don't -- this is not a response to a threat. This is merely a matter of trying to clarify what marriage ought to mean under the law. As you know, the people of Massachusetts also by referendum define marriage as being between a man and a woman. And the supreme judicial court decided to throw it out, and it remains a matter of contention.
I don't think people look at this as a threat. It is trying to clarify what is an important and contentious cultural and legal issue.
Q Would this -- let me just follow up. Would this to become a constitutional amendment, what legally then happens to those 8,000-plus same-sex couples? Are their marriages annulled?
MR. SNOW: That would have to require keener legal expertise than mine. I don't want to try to --
Q So the President doesn't know what would happen to them?
MR. SNOW: No, the press secretary doesn't know. (Laughter.)
Q You mentioned the President was actually concerned about other issues besides this one.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Oil prices are continuing to go up on the statements by Ayatollah Khamenei about cutting off oil supplies if the U.S. made a wrong move. He wasn't talking about, as you said earlier, a theoretical U.S. intelligence -- any wrong move is what he's speaking of. What's the reaction to that?
MR. SNOW: The interpretation I saw -- well, let's -- okay, what would constitute a wrong move. It appears that the United States -- and what's interesting I think is, as I've said a number of times, and I think as diplomats recognize, there are going to be any number of statements coming out of Iran. I would caution against leaping to conclusions until the leadership in Iran has actually had an opportunity to look over the packages of incentives and disincentives offered by the EU3 with the support of the United States. It's easy to make comments into a vacuum. And my sense is that, again, the Iranians are going to realize that this is a serious offer. And it's an offer that offers great promise for them, and offers great promise for the region. But it's going to take some time.
There are also lots of different political undercurrents in Iraq -- in Iran. We know that any politician is going to have to deal with those, as well. But I would say what I said at this morning's gaggle, which is counsel patience, let people look at it. I understand why commodities markets may be unsettled by a comment like that, but over time if this succeeds, the commodities markets are going to be very happy, and so should we all be.
Q Tony, I just want -- on gay marriage again, you are almost portraying the President as being a passive participant in this, that the Senate is acting, so he's speaking out.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q At the gaggle you suggested the media is over-hyping this issue. Conservatives like Tony Perkins are saying it was the President who brought this up a lot during the 2004 campaign. Wasn't he hyping it then? Why now is he so passive?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to characterize -- I don't think it's passive. Again, the President has made clear what his views are. But this is one where -- I'm trying to figure out exactly how one decides when one is active and one is passive. Here what you're saying is, wait a minute -- Helen just hit me with, he gave a radio address, he's talking to these people, how can he spend so much time on it. You're saying, how can he spend so little energy on it.
Q That was her question, not --
MR. SNOW: I mean, the fact is that the President is making a position clear on an issue of concern.
Q All in a point of view. (Laughter.)
Q But you were saying before, as well, you know, it depends on the public interest. On Social Security reform he gave speech after speech; he decided, this is what I'm going to do, I'm using my political capital on this. In 2004 he let conservatives believe he would use political capital on this issue. Instead, it looks like he's going to do a radio address on Saturday, he's going to speak today, and move on.
MR. SNOW: Well, we'll let them draw their appropriate conclusions based on their interaction with the President.
Q But then why is he not -- bottom line question, why is he not using political capital on this, then?
MR. SNOW: Why is he not using political --
Q Yes. I mean, if he's made this a big issue in 2004, why is he not using political capital? Why is it not that important to him? Is he scared?
MR. SNOW: Again --
Q Why isn't he doing more on this?
MR. SNOW: Why is -- exactly. It's a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation, Ed. (Laughter.)
Q So what are you doing here? (Laughter.)
Q It's not up to us. As the President said over and over -- the President said over and over, on Social Security --
MR. SNOW: A schwing.
Q Over and over on Social Security, the President said it's not up to the Democrats, it's not up to the media -- it matters to me.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q So at what point is -- that's what I'm trying to -- why on gay marriage is it not that important?
MR. SNOW: You mean, why on traditional marriage?
Q On the issue of gay marriage, yes.
MR. SNOW: It's the issue of traditional marriage. This is the Family Marriage Amendment. And the President has made clear what his views are. I think you look at the whip counts, we look at the whip counts. You've got to find out what you think is possible in this political environment.
Q Following that --
Q Tony, you talked on the issue of civil rights as it relates to this marriage amendment. Will there be a civil rights violation for gays if the amendment does go through? Was that reflected --
MR. SNOW: A civil rights violation for gays? No, the President has made it clear, he wants people to be able to live their private lives as they see fit.
Q Wouldn't that --
MR. SNOW: What do you mean, a "civil rights violation"? Do you mean that it would be a violation of civil rights to be gay?
Q No, no, no, but it would -- would gays be able to file civil rights lawsuits because they are not allowed to marry? Civil rights issues -- you tried to get into the definition of civil rights, and wrongs against -- knowing wrongs against a group, okay, that group would be, indeed, wronged, they feel, if they are not allowed to marry in this country.
MR. SNOW: April, as you know, that's a very contentious legal issue which I cannot decide up here. Obviously, anything that would happen would be heavily litigated, and we would have to see how the courts came out on it.