I've been at some pains to say in the last few days, it's not a political speech, it's not trying to draw political distinctions or issue calls to action.However, if you have a look at the president's speech, I think it was. What say you?
Now have a look at how Tony tries to defend himself and his president:
Q Was the President's speech last night political?Where the disagreement lies is how to win the war on terror, not if the Dems are hard or soft on terrorists? Moreover, it is not helpful when one person who suggests it is healthy to debate but then goes ahead and bends the truth, how can there be a good faith discussion about anything?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q How can you say that?
MR. SNOW: Because, I'll tell you -- how can I not?
Q Because -- Tony, you were here Friday.
MR. SNOW: What was the political statement? Tell me what the political sentence was. Give me the sentence.
Q I'll tell you exactly what it was. It was a crystallized greatest hits of the eight-day period in which he made four speeches where he laid out his philosophical underpinnings about the war on terror heading into the election. And he boiled it down, crystallized it and laid it out last night on network TV for 17 minutes. And it was in direct contrast to what you came in here and told us Friday.
MR. SNOW: No, that's not in direct contrast.
Q Yes, it was. You said Friday that there would be no drawing of lines, distinctions between Democrats and Republicans --
MR. SNOW: And there wasn't.
Q -- it would focus on unity.
MR. SNOW: There wasn't.
Q Was it a speech about unity, or was it a speech about a proposal about Iraq?
MR. SNOW: It was speech about -- let me -- out of the entire speech -- well, let's take a look at the Iraq section.
Q Let's do that.
MR. SNOW: Let's have some fun. (Laughter.) If you look at the Iraq statement -- let's back up. We're in a war on terror right now -- I'm going to start at the back and move forward, because the back end is something very important, which is Osama bin Laden, mastermind of September 11th, the person that many people talk about and still have concerns about, calls this fight, the fight in Iraq, "the third world war." And he says that, "Victory for the terrorists in Iraq will mean America's defeat and disgrace forever."
We are in Iraq. It is now seen as the central focal point of the war on terror by the very people who mounted September 11th. If the President of the United States, in talking about September 11th, did not make reference to the plans and the strategy and the beliefs of the very people who mounted September 11th on the anniversary of that date, it would have seen as dereliction. And you guys would have been out here just clubbing me like a baby seal, saying, why didn't --
Q No, I think it would have --
MR. SNOW: -- let me finish and then you can come back -- saying, why on earth did you -- why didn't you talk about Iraq; I know why it is, because the President is being political and he understands that Iraq is unpopular.
Last week the question was: Isn't it true that he wants to talk about the war on terror instead of Iraq. If this is supposed to be political, according to the calculus that is constantly presented to me, it's kind of a weird way to do it.
Instead, what the President was making reference to after September 11th -- the war on terror didn't end on September 11th, it began. It lifted the veil to us on a world that we didn't know existed, that we have to respond to. And it is also a real fact that the war in Iraq is clearly part of that war on terror, and where we proceed with it.
Q You've got to stop right there, because that --
MR. SNOW: Why do I have to stop right there?
Q Because that is the central point that will be debated in the next eight weeks between Democrats and Republicans. That will be in large part what the midterm elections are decided on.
MR. SNOW: I agree.
Q Okay, So if the President takes time in a speech that was advertised by you at this podium on Friday as being non-political and no drawing of distinctions --
MR. SNOW: I said it was no drawing of partisan lines.
Q -- and he gets up last night and lays out his case, and essentially it is an advertisement for the next eight weeks --
MR. SNOW: What you're saying is he shouldn't have talked about Iraq. Is that what you're saying?
Q I'm saying that it wasn't consistent with what it was billed.
MR. SNOW: No, I disagree, and I'll tell you why. Throughout the day, by the way, you're getting an interesting contrast.
You had Congressman Moran going at a memorial service in Arlington and bashing the President. The President never once talked about a Democrat by name yesterday, never once said, my policy is this, their policy is that, they're wrong, I'm right.
What I told you was there would be no drawing of partisan distinctions, and there wasn't. And furthermore, if you look at the section, what part of this -- this controversy -- "Al Qaeda and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East." That's not offensive. How about, "We're training Iraqi troops so that they can defend their nation." Both parties support that. "We will not leave until this work is done." Quick show of hands for everybody who wants to leave until the work is done.
The point is that the use of the term "partisan" I think is being now tossed around as a way to fend off the debate or say, how dare the President talk about it. I guarantee --
Q No, because it was. This was supposed to a pause in all that, for 24 hours.
MR. SNOW: And it was. But if you look at it, what the President is explaining -- and everybody in vast majorities of both Houses of Congress agree, it was important to go ahead and address the issue of Saddam Hussein. And you have wide support in both Houses of Congress. Both Houses of Congress agreed to going into this war. We're there. We have to deal with it. For the President to ignore it -- let me -- I'll give you anecdotal evidence. Yesterday morning, we're in a firehouse in New York, talking with a lot of people who lost friends and buddies. Later in the day we went to Shanksville, and the President worked a long semi-circle of grieving family members. At the Pentagon there is -- as you saw, it was a very emotional meeting with family members. Not one said, don't fight, give up, quit, get out.
But the President did not want to try to turn this into a Democrats versus the Republicans thing, but you cannot talk about the war on terror without talking about Iraq. And furthermore, you can't talk about September 11th, especially when Osama bin Laden, himself, says, Iraq is at the center of all this -- without mentioning it.
What he tried to do was to lay it out in as neutral a way as possible and explain why he did it. And furthermore the question was, why are you there? This was the question that he answered.
This was not an attempt to stir the hornet's nest. Meanwhile, Senator Levine, before the speech, on Lou Dobbs hammering the President. You had people, as you all know, had their talking points out, accusing the President of being partisan the instant the speech was over. There was no talk out of the White House yesterday of Democrat versus Republican.
And, furthermore, a good 90 percent of the speech has to deal with the things that draw us together, including many of the sections -- many of the sentences on Iraq were expressions of things that are utterly uncontroversial with both political parties.
Q But, Tony, when the President said yesterday that the worst mistake -- talking about Iraq, that the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorist would leave us alone. Who is he referring to, though? Isn't he suggesting implicitly that --
MR. SNOW: No, he's not --
Q -- that's what his critics believe?
MR. SNOW: No, he's making a statement. Look, here's the question that people will ask, should we leave right now or not? Under what conditions should we leave? The President says he wants to get out, everybody wants to get out. The question is, under what conditions?
No, what he was actually doing was summarizing testimony that General Abizaid had given, and what General Abizaid has told him directly, which is, if we leave they will follow us. That's what he was trying to do. He was repeating what he's heard from the key General in the war.
Q But he said the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out the terrorists would leave us alone. Has someone suggested that they feel the terrorists would leave us alone if we left Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, what he's trying to do is to repeat to you exactly what the terrorists think. That sentence is not an attempt -- look, I have a feeling that some people may feel pain because they think it's pointing to them. It's not pointing to them, it's pointing at the terrorists. It's pointing at the terrorists who, again, want to engage in the fantasy -- they've learned the hard way once, and let's pray they don't learn the hard way twice -- they don't realize that we love our liberty and we love our country. And if they strike, we're going to strike back. That's what that's all about. That's as much a warning to terrorists as anything else. It's not a desire to start pointing fingers at members of Congress.
Q Tony, when he says, let's put aside our differences, what is he referring to? Is he referring to Iraq or something else?
MR. SNOW: Look, I think it is perfectly possible and laudable -- getting back to David's question -- people can disagree about Iraq, they can disagree. But let's do it in a way where we keep our eye on the ball, which is to win the war on terror and do it in a constructive way to figure out how best to get the job done. If somebody wants to do it, that's fine, but don't start finger-pointing and all that kind of thing. I think the most important challenge facing the American people right now is to realize that it's a long war. And one of the key calculations of bin Laden and others is we'll run out of patience -- we won't, but that's their calculation.
And what the President -- look, it would be great if both political parties right now would start realizing that the national interest is to win the war on terror and to present a united front. It's not likely to happen in a political year. There are going to be disagreements. It's been that way in every war and in every administration, but we'll get through it.