White House Reaction to ‘Wash Post’ Series on Walter Reed: Ask the Pentagon About It

By: E&P Staff

At today’s briefing for reporters, White House spokesman Tony Snow was pelted with questions about the Washington Post’s probe of conditions for veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which ran on the front page on Sunday and Monday.

Snow refused to confirm that the president knew much about the conditions at Walter Reed beforehand, and did not say exactly what he was doing about it. He suggested reporters call the Pentagon.

Occasionally, Snow’s office puts an asterisk in the transcript of a briefing next to one of his tentative responses, with a footnote update below. Today an asterisk appeared at one of the points where he said he did not know when the president knew about the conditions at Walter Reed. It seemed like a damned if you do/don’t situation: Either admit the president was completely in the dark or that he knew something and didn’t do anything about it.

The footnote today reads: “”The President first learned of the troubling allegations regarding Walter Reed from the stories this weekend in the Washington Post. He is deeply concerned and wants any problems identified and fixed.””

Here is an excerpt from the transcript.

Q The administration’s mantra for a long time has been “”support the troops.”” What is the reaction, then, when you read this series of stories in The Washington Post about troops coming home from Iraq, Afghanistan and being treated so poorly, apparently, based on this long investigation?What’s the President’s reaction?

MR. SNOW: There are a couple of things. First, it’s not a mantra. I would really choose words carefully. It’s a commitment to support the troops. And the President, as you know, has visited the wounded many times at Walter Reed and we are concerned about it. And the people who —

Q Were you aware?

MR. SNOW: We are aware now, yes. And I would refer you to the Department of Defense, which I know is taking a very close look at it, too.

Look, the men and women who have gone and fought for our country over there, they deserve the best care.

Q So why has that not been guaranteed, then?

MR. SNOW: I’m not sure that — you know, when you find a problem, you deal with it.

Q So you’re saying the President learned about this from The Washington Post?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know exactly where he learned it, but I can tell you that we believe that they deserve better. And, again, Ed, this is something where I’d suggest you give DoD a call, because I know they’ve taken a good, hard look at it.

Q Tony, can I follow on that? As Bob Dole might ask, where’s the outrage?

MR. SNOW: There’s plenty of outrage.

Q Is there?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q So the President responded how when he learned about this? What, specifically — did he order something to be done?

MR. SNOW: What I’m suggesting — there’s a reason I’m suggesting — DoD is the proper place in which we’ll be taking care of these issues. And I would refer you to them for comment.But this is something that’s going to have to be an action item.

Q But is there any evidence that it was even looked at before the paper printed its two stories?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Then tell us about that evidence.

MR. SNOW: That’s why — again, I would refer you, Bill, to the Department of the Army, which runs the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This is the place where if you want to get —

Q That’s just an easy way for you not to have to talk about it.

MR. SNOW: Well, it’s also a way of pointing to the proper authorities, which is what you would want.

Q The White House doesn’t want to be on record with a more emphatic expression of amazement and upset about this?

MR. SNOW: No.David asked where the outrage — of course there’s outrage that men and women who have been fighting have not received the outpatient care — if you read the stories, there are many who are happy with it, some who are unhappy, and it’s important that we show our commitment to the people who have served. I don’t know what more you want me to do.

Q What is your reaction of Major General Weightman, who is the Commander at Walter Reed, also says in the bottom of the article on Sunday in The Washington Post, said that he’s concerned and that they’re bracing for, “”potentially a lot more casualties,”” people coming to Walter Reed because of the surge. Does that cause the White House to think at all about that policy, because you have the Commander of Walter Reed —

MR. SNOW: There are a whole series of things, and, again, this is why you need to talk to people who are in the chain, because —

Q But this he said on the record.

MR. SNOW: I understand, Ed. But there are a series of things. First, for Walter Reed, what you end up having is treatment of people who are wounded — and also this is Bethesda, as you know, different sorts of injuries are treated at the two facilities. And many of those people are there for months. And this story deals with outpatient care after that treatment, right?So it’s important, I think, to understand that you’ve got to be prepared for all things that are going to come your way, including getting the piece right when it comes to outpatient care, and continuing also to do well by inpatients.

But, again, I know you want me to — I’m simply not going to go beyond what I know. And in this particular case, the people who do know the facts and do know what’s going on, and do know how the investigations are proceeding are the guys over at DoD.

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