Tony Snow's September 1, 2007 Press Briefing

I got a glimpse in the future of a press conference at the White House. This one comes from early next month.
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I got a glimpse in the future of a press conference at the White House. This one comes from early next month.

Here's the transcript:

Room 450
Eisenhower Executive Office Building

MR. SNOW: ...And with that I'll open the floor for questions.

Q: Here we are, the first day of September and this was the month we were given to look at progress on the surge, and now that it's September, does the White House feel the surge is working?

MR. SNOW: Well, first of all, I'm not entirely sure where this idea of evaluating the surge this month came from. It doesn't make sense from a military standpoint to assess a military surge so soon after it's begun. It's really too early to tell whether or not the surge has worked. That being said, July and August have seen reductions in American casualties, so, all indications I've seen, and this is what the President thinks, the surge is probably working.

Q: But July and August have traditionally have had lower rates of casualty, some attribute that to the heat, and, even so, what about political progress made in the last month.

MR. SNOW: I've not heard that assessment of the casualty rates in those months; it's certainly something we'd look into. As far as political progress, you know that the Iraqi parliament has only reconvened from their summer break today, so political progress is still, we hope, and certainly the President feels, is on the horizon.

Q: But you've said that September would be the benchmark for Congress to--

MR. SNOW: --I don't think we've said that. Like I said before, the President feels it would be a mistake to gauge this military strategy so quickly after its implementation.

Q: But if the surge isn't working, are there plans for a cutback in troop--

MR. SNOW: --We don't discuss strategies, you know that.

Q: But the White House said, "in September we'd have a bigger...a better picture of..."--

MR. SNOW: --Again, I'm not sure where you've gotten the idea that we'd be evaluating the success of the surge in September. September, as I've said, as the President says, is an arbitrary and premature benchmark for evaluating progress. When there's political stability in Iraq, we'll know the surge has worked. Not before then.

Q: So the White House denies offering September as--

MR. SNOW: --That's all I'm going to say about the arbitrary September date.

Q: So, despite the fact that the President is not looking at the September date, the majority leader and others have said that this was what they were looking to, there's been, and you've said, no political progress since the surge--

MR. SNOW: --There has been political progress. Just not in August, while the Iraqi parliament was on recess.

Q: --they'll be acting on the September benchmark. What happens if Congress demands a phased pullout of the troops.

MR. SNOW: First off, I don't think Congress would legislate our defeat in Iraq. I know some of them would like to, but I don't think there is political will in the country to have Congress legislate failure. I just don't see it happening.

Q: But if they did....

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into hypothetical scenarios, we don't, the President doesn't, believe that could or will happen so we're not going to comment on that scenario.

Q: Others have insisted that in order to perpetuate the current level of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, reinstating the draft might be in order.
MR. SNOW: The President is not willing to reinstate the draft. It's just not on the table.

Q: But military leaders including generals have expressed concerns about the breaking point of the military personnel that have spent so much time overseas fighting in this conflict.

MR. SNOW: That's simply just not the case. We're very proud of the job the troops are doing and don't feel that they're at a "breaking point" I think is what you called it. Our forces are stronger than ever and will continue to do so and will continue to do so voluntarily.

Last question, Helen.

Q: With minimal, if any, political progress being made in Iraq, with American casualties mounting, how does the President expect the American people to allow Congress not to stop this war?

MR. SNOW: (laughs.) I knew it would be bad luck calling on you last. But, I believe, the President believes, that history will look back at this conflict and see that we did the right thing and the American people will be proud of what we've done. Those who write the history books will understand what we were doing even if the American people and the Congress are too short-sighted to.

Thank you.

(Bryan Young blogs daily at "This Divided State")

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