By: E&P Staff
At another contentious daily briefing at the White House today, as the election rhetoric heats up, Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked about charges and charges by Vice President Cheney and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), which culminated today with Rangel calling Cheney an S.O.B. in the New York Post.
Snow suggested that “”Charlie”” Rangel and other Democrats have an “”anger management problem.”” He also ripped Sen. John Kerry for bleak statements on Iraq, and boldly predicted that the GOP would carry the elections, not what everyone believes.
The briefing ended with a tough exchange over whether the White House was charging that insurgents in Iraq were carrying out violence to help the Democrats win next week — and how the president could possibly offer “”assurances”” of victory in Iraq.
Sen. Kerry later responded, saying, ?This is the classic GOP playbook. I?m not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium.?
The two relevant extracts follow.
Q Tony, since you reacted to Senator Kerry’s comments, I wonder — Charlie Rangel, another powerful Democrat, this morning in The New York Post, is calling the Vice President an SOB, says he is misrepresenting his position on tax cuts or tax increases. I wonder if you will react to that. But, more broadly, since most people are predicting either Democrats take back Congress, or the Republicans keep it with very thin margins, with this kind of rhetoric flying around, what kind of hope does the President have that he’s really going to accomplish very much in his final two years when all the dust has settled?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think what’s going to happen is when you get a Republican Congress in defiance of all predictions, Democrats are going to have to ask themselves the question, which is, do you want to play a constructive role? In many ways, the strategy has been to create a failed government by obstructing everything the President wants to do, with a couple of noble exceptions like the ports bill, which was important. But there has been a deliberate obstructionist approach on the part of Democratic leaders in both Houses.
As far as Charlie calling names of the President —
Q The Vice President.
MR. SNOW: — the Vice President — I’m sorry — in a year in which, again, on these key issues, the Democrats don’t have a plan, it does appear that they have an anger management problem. But on the other hand, I asked the Vice President about it today and he had a big hearty laugh. He knows Charlie.
Q You said earlier in response to Bret’s question that you thought Senator Kerry should apologize to troops.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q I wondered, do you have the same feeling about — in Illinois, when [Republican] Pete Roscam told [Democrat]Tammy Duckworth, who, as you know, had lost her legs in Iraq, that she would cut and run from Iraq, and then apologized when he realized that she physically couldn’t run? Should he apologize to her? And should — in Pennsylvania, when Sherwood told Chris Carney, who had worked, as you know, in the Pentagon pre-war, that he had helped make a false case for war, directly criticizing his military service — should Sherwood and should Roscam also apologize?
MR. SNOW: What you’re trying to do on the Tammy Duckworth case — and first, the President thanks everybody who served, and that would include Tammy Duckworth. What you’re doing is you’re trying to take a common figure of speech and twist it into a personal insult, and I don’t think it fits in that case. And I don’t know about the Sherwood thing. I mean I just can’t help you with that.
Q Tony, when the President and Vice President talk about how insurgents and volatile forces are watching this election, is there an inference there that they would hope Democrats prevail?
MR. SNOW: Well, I don’t — you know, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that. He’s not trying to —
Q Are you guys polling in the Tora Bora Mountains or — seriously.
MR. SNOW: That’s a good line.That’s cute. That’s why I didn’t answer the question. I don’t have a clue. I mean, I’ve said many times I’m not going to know the thoughts of them, which is why I didn’t take that extra leap, Dick.
Q But if you assert they’re influencing — influencing to what end?
MR. SNOW: Influencing?
Q The election process. You’ve said it. The President and the Vice President have said it.
MR. SNOW: Now you’re getting into a separate issue here, which is terrorists who have committed certain acts of terror may try to influence elections by, among other things, shaping media coverage, so that we have a concentration not on what American men and women have been achieving in Iraq, but instead, acts of violence that give the appearance of defeat at a time when, again, to repeat what General Casey said, they have not lost a single engagement, and there has been — at least according to the Prime Minister, considerable progress within Iraq, which is why the war is more popular in Iraq than it is in the United States. So to that — in terms of a — but that’s as much a discussion of propaganda as a tool in a time of war is anything else. Go ahead.
Q A tool to what end, though? Are you suggesting by discussing this now over a period of days that that influence is intended to unseat Republicans?
MR. SNOW: No, I’m suggesting that that influence is designed to try to weaken American will to finish the job.It’s a separate and unrelated item in that sense. But what is — what I’m also saying is, don’t you think Democrats — and a number of you have written stories about this — don’t you think, on this issue that they consider of such paramount importance, that they ought to be able to get their act together long enough to come up with a plan? If it’s that important, you got to figure out what you’re going to do?
Q — the President have a plan?
Q Tony, let me just ask your plan about this idea of — I believe it was called withdrawal without assurance of victory in Iraq, which I think was the summary of the Democrats’ position. And it gets back to this notion of this being a referendum, because isn’t what the President putting forward — is to stay without an assurance of victory in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, it’s to stay with a determination of victory.
Q There’s no assurance of victory in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Well, Jim, are you saying that you don’t think our troops are going to be able to complete the job?
Q I’m not saying — it doesn’t matter what I’m saying. It only matters what you folks are saying.
MR. SNOW: Okay, here’s — let me put it this way. If you’d asked the same question in World War II, people would have looked at you like you were crazy, because even when times looked toughest, there was a national determination to win.And there is a national determination to win in Iraq. And so the assurance I’m giving you is based on the quality and determination not only of U.S. forces, but also the Iraqis who are fighting with them. And the question is not if, but when.
Q But why isn’t it a fair reading of this, if the President is going to throw the idea out that what Democrats are doing is advocating leaving without an assurance of victory, why isn’t it a fair reading of the situation to say, on one hand, you have leaving without assurance, and on the other hand, you have staying without an assurance?
MR. SNOW: Because to leave is to create a vacuum and there is really not much doubt of what the result is going to be. To stay, with victory as your determination, ensures that you’re going to have the ability over time to do what you want to achieve. It seems to me that you’re trying to draw — let me get to the back rows a little bit first, and then we’ll get back up here….
Q When you were talking to Jim about assurance, the Democrats don’t have assurance of victory, that implies you can assure victor in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way. The President is confident of victory. Look, in a time of war — I love this. Would you have asked, would somebody have said, Lincoln, will you assure victory; Roosevelt, will you assure victory?
Q You just said the Democrats can’t assure victory.
MR. SNOW: No, what I’m saying is the Democrats — by saying that their primary mission is to withdraw from Iraq without an assurance of victory means that you set in place conditions that could create absolute chaos in the region and around the world. The President is determined, knowing the quality and the courage and the ingenuity and the ability of American forces working with the Iraqis, who become more capable with each passing day, that they’re going to get the job done. He knows it’s going to be tough. But on the other hand, the way you win is you stay determined and steadfast to the goal. And at the same time, as we’ve been through many times in recent weeks, you remain nimble about the changing conditions on the battlefield.
Q Well, we’ve also been through many times that the assurances from the administration at the very beginning of the war were that it would be — we’d be greeted as liberators in Iraq, that it would be almost a cake walk, and that didn’t turn out to be true. Isn’t that why people have questions about your assurances now? You’re assurances at the beginning of the war have not come true.
MR. SNOW: Let me make the point again. If you leave without victory, you create conditions for defeat. If you stay and you’re determined to win — I’ll let you ask the question. Have some of your guys in Baghdad ask our forces, do you think you’re going to be able to finish the job? My guess is their answer is going to be, yes.And beyond that, we’re engaging in chin pulling that’s going to get us chasing around a tree for the rest of the —
Q — Democrats like Murtha have said they feel — actually, they praise the soldiers and say that they’ve done their job, but that the rest of it in terms of the strife among Iraqis can’t —
MR. SNOW: Again, I’ve asked you to ask the soldiers what their view is. A lot of these people have re-upped two and three times because they think they’re involved in something special. And I dare say CNN gets the kind of mail that we get, which are a lot of people frustrated because their side doesn’t get told. We get pictures of people getting killed, but we don’t get pictures of people doing their jobs.