By: E&P Staff
At today’s meeting with reporters at the White House, the major topics for Press Secretary Tony Snow, as expected, were the pending release of the Iraq Study Group’s report — and today’s surprise, the admission by Robert Gates, at his confirmation hearings as new Pentagon chief, that the U.S., indeed, is losing the war in Iraq.
Snow said that, as far as he knows, the president has not backed away from his recent statement that the U.S. is actually “”winning”” in Iraq. He also suggested that Gates, elsewhere in his testimony, seemed to say that maybe we weren’t losing and we weren’t winning.
Here are the relevant portions of the transcript.
Q Can I just also come back to what Steve was asking about. Gates was asked an up or down question, is the United States winning —
MR. SNOW: Right, and then he was asked a follow-up question, as well.
Q Yes, I understand that. But he did say — “”Are we winning?”” His answer was, “”No.”” The last time the President was asked, it was, “”Absolutely, yes.””
MR. SNOW: What I would suggest is, number one, I know that you want to pit a fight between Bob Gates and the President. It doesn’t exist.Read the full testimony and you’ll see.
The second thing is that it is really important to realize that there’s a lot of stuff going on. I’ve already referred to a couple of them. You’ve got the Prime Minister moving aggressively on a number of fronts, in terms of building Iraqi capabilities. He’s dealing on a regional basis with his neighbors. He is talking about a reconciliation conference this month.There has been also a great deal of work on the Iraqi economy….
You put all that together, and what you have is an Iraqi government that is also very actively engaged in trying to build the capability. So there are a lot of things going on here.
Q If the President were asked that same question today, would he say, absolutely, yes?
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to tell you what the President would say, but you can look at the President’s answer and you can look at Bob Gates.What I would also suggest, though, is you take a look at the Gates testimony, and you see if that’s consistent with what we’ve been talking about, because what you’re going to try to take is that one little question, rather than taking a fuller look at —
Q These are questions that Americans typically ask.
MR. SNOW: That’s right, but the other question that Americans might want to ask is, is it a static situation, and do you see progress on the part of the Iraqis, and do you see a concerted effort on their part to be serious about winning and governing? That’s an important thing to, and it’s also important to note that the Iraqis —
Q Tony, does —
MR. SNOW: I’ll finish here in a moment. It’s not a filibuster, but I’m trying to wrap up the answer – that, in fact, you see also the increased willingness and success in actions, for instance, against al Qaeda in Anbar and also within Baghdad. There are a lot of things going on.
So when you ask a steady state question, you’re trying to treat it as a portrait in an unchanging situation. In fact, it’s a pretty dynamic situation. There are a lot of things going on, a lot of things that the Iraqis themselves say give them heart and confidence and determination.They know something.
Q Does the President today believe that we are winning in Iraq? It’s a very straightforward question.
MR. SNOW: I know, but I did not ask him the question today. The most recently asked, he said, “”yes.””
Q Okay, so that might change from day to day. So it may have changed —
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t —
Q — he may no longer believe that we’re winning the war in Iraq. You don’t know.
MR. SNOW: I have no reason to think it changed, but also, again, go back and take a look at the broader answer that Bob Gates gave and ask yourself, is this consistent or inconsistent with what the President has been saying? I think you’re going to find it’s very consistent.