By: E&P Staff
At his briefing today, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was naturally peppered with questions about President Bush’s upcoming speech to the nation about his plans for (it seems to be an open secret) sending more U.S. troops to Iraq. Snow wouldn’t quite admit that this was indeed set in stone but sparred with reporters over why the president thinks the public will find this appealing.
Snow held out hope that the Democrats would come to their senses about opposing this but admitted it could even be a battle royal. But what about calls for the Democrats to halt the build up by denying funding? Snow admitted congress had funding control but also pointed out that the president could ultimately do what he wants. “You know, Congress has the power of the purse,” Snow said, then added: “The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way.”
In a separate discussion, Snow suggested that contrary to virtually all research and polls on the subject, Iraq is not uppermost in the minds of most Americans. In fact, he suggested, the GOP losses in November might have come mainly because of corruption charges, not the war. Here are the relevant excerpts.
Q Do the Democrats or any of the opponents have the executive authority to stop anything that the President is going to present? In other words, is he going to need to ask Congress to approve something?
MR. SNOW: Well, ultimately, anything you do has budgetary implications. I think there was a question earlier today, are we seeking resolutions, and that sort of thing — and I want to wave you off of that. What you do have, though, is basically budget is policy. So Congress is going to be engaged in the appropriations and authorization process and, you know, through those, they’re going to be debating a lot of things. And so that’s sort of par for the course.
Q But in terms of anything out of the Pentagon — the troops, deployment, any of the programs we initiate – the President, alone, has the authority to —
MR. SNOW: You know what, I don’t want to play junior constitutional lawyer on this, so let’s wait until we see what happens, if you have specific questions about constitutional authority. But, you know, Congress has the power of the purse. The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way.
Q The President, obviously, though, did not read what happened November 7th as a mandate to start bringing troops home.
MR. SNOW: The President believes that — if you take a look, Jim, at the elections, you can read any number of messages — I mean, when people were asked in exit interviews what was their top concern, Iraq was number four, corruption was number one. And guess what? You had 10 members of the Republican caucus who had problems, and they all lost.
So you can read a lot of results. There is an understandable — people don’t want to be at war; we don’t want to be at war, the President doesn’t want to be at war. But the fact is you’ve got a situation where terrorists and a terror network is determined to try to do whatever it can to destabilize this country and other parts of the world —
Q But the President is comfortable, then, with saying to the American people, I saw what happened November 7th — actually, you’re upset about corruption?
MR. SNOW: No, I think, Jim, people would be a lot less upset if he didn’t take seriously his obligations as Commander-in-Chief.
Q I guess the challenge would be who besides the President thinks that the war is winnable at this stage?
MR. SNOW: I think millions of Americans believe that this war is winnable, and I think, furthermore, that it’s important to rebuild the sense of political unity. One of the things the President has often said is, the only way we lose if we lose our will. And it is clear that there have been political debates in this country.
And it’s also interesting because, again, I’ve heard a lot of Democrats saying, we want to succeed in Iraq. And, therefore, the question for them is, that’s great, we agree, so let’s find out what your ideas are, if you think you’ve got a different or a better idea; let’s find out how you’ll support the military in this endeavor. That’s worth doing. And, frankly, done the right way will reassure the American people that all of Washington is serious about doing the right thing and doing it in the right way. And so we’ve got an opportunity here I think of getting thoughtful debate.