As in don’t know bupkus (also spelled bupkis) about what is going on…
A Yiddish word used by new White House Press Secretary Tony Snow today….
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 17, 2006
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:32 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Okay, let’s begin. Welcome, one and all. Good afternoon. For those of you who weren’t here, we have coined the term “bupkes list” for items that the Press Secretary may not have had complete and full answers for during the gaggle. So, in response to this morning’s bupkes list, who is —
Q How do you spell “bupkes”?
MR. SNOW: Bupkus — b-u-p-k-u-s.
MR. SNOW: Thank you, corrected, e-s.
First: Who is doing the briefings in the National Security Agency? That is already out and about now, but it’s General Keith Alexander; the NSA Director is doing the briefings on the Hill.
As far as the RNC Gala speech tonight, what points is the President going to make. He is going to — because the question was, is this a rah-rah speech. And the answer is, no. The President is going to make the argument that elections are about ideas, and he is going to remind people of some of the big ideas. Number one, winning the war on terror — big idea. Second, maintaining the strength and integrity of the economy. Certainly, he is looking forward in the next couple of hours to signing the Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005, extending the tax cuts. That is an important part. Keeping the economy competitive — that is an important part. Having an aggressive agenda to keep the growth path continuing is important. He will talk about education. He will talk about energy independence and innovation. He will talk about health care, and, of course, he will talk about values.
In response to the question of whether Governor Napolitano will be with us tomorrow in Yuma, Arizona, the answer is, yes.
And finally, on the background question, has the President, in relationship to the immigration bill, called anybody other than Senator Frist and Speaker Hastert, the answer is, no.
And with no further ado, let us go to questions. Terry.
Q Senator Sessions has offered an amendment to the immigration bill today for more fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border. Is that an amendment that the administration supports?
MR. SNOW: We’re not going to comment at this point on any particular amendments. What we’re happy about is the fact that the Senate seems to be moving with considerable dispatch toward putting together a comprehensive approach to this. And as you know, Terry, there are a bunch of amendments that are going to make their way. So rather than commenting piecemeal, I think when the whole package is put together, obviously, we’ll have a strategy for talking with the House and Senate about our longer-term objectives.
Again, what the President was talking about is border security. And I think an important thing to remember is that the border security initiatives that the President assembled are designed to put on the ground what is needed at particular places. Some places are going to need fences; some places where you’ve got rough terrain, maybe you simply use technical means for observing the border; some places you’re going to have border guard. In other words, you try to target the appropriate resources at the places where they’re needed. And fences, clearly, as the President stated Monday night, are part of the picture.
Q Is General Hayden briefing the Senate Intel and House today?
MR. SNOW: No, it’s — again, my sense, at least the readout I have is that General Alexander, the current Director of NSA, is doing the briefing.
Q Okay, but the briefing is the full Senate —
MR. SNOW: The full Senate Intelligence Committee and the full House Intelligence Committee — the full Senate today.
Q This seems to be a bit of a departure from what we were previously led to believe. What’s behind “the more, the merrier”?
MR. SNOW: What’s behind — how about “the more, the better informed”? As Senator Roberts said earlier today, he thought it was an uncomfortable situation in which you would have seven members fully briefed on the program as they’re getting ready to do confirmation hearings, and eight members not briefed. There was a strong sense that everybody needed to be read into the program to do what they needed, in his opinion, to do to have a full and appropriate confirmation hearing for General Hayden. And we agreed with him.
Q This wouldn’t be happening without the linkage of General Hayden’s hearings starting tomorrow?
MR. SNOW: I’m not sure, but this is a response to a direct request both from the House and Senate Intelligence Committee chairmen.
Q I want to ask you the same question about conservatives that I posed yesterday, because the President said that his approach to this is to lead; that’s how you bring conservatives around. Well, he said the same thing about Social Security, and they didn’t come around. He lost that issue among conservatives. There’s been, frankly, and even more —
MR. SNOW: Well, first let me say —
Q Well, I’ll just finish my point, which is, there’s been a more vociferous outcry on issues that are well-known to the President in terms of what conservatives oppose about this immigration idea. So what specifically is he prepared to do to bring them around, other than to lead on the issue?
MR. SNOW: Well, the general — the use of the catch-all term, “conservatives” about particular issues, I don’t think allows me to give a specific answer, because, as you know, David, on any given issue, you’re going to have shifting groups of people who are for and against. Also, on Social Security, it seems to me that there was wide-spread apprehension on the parts of all members of Congress to take it up in a comprehensive way at this time.
Q But the Republicans control Congress, so they could —
MR. SNOW: Well, there are a few Democrats aboard, too, as you are aware, and they also have the ability to shape debate on particular issues.
But let me address what you were just talking about. Karl Rove was on the Hill today. Karl came out and he said that his meeting with the Republican Caucus in the House of Representatives was “hopeful, optimistic, and positive.” The meeting there — and I’d seen some talk that maybe this was going to be a highly contentious meeting — the readout I get is that it was not at all. It was respectful; people were obviously having exchanges of views on things. But I also think, what members of the House appreciate is that the President said, okay, this is where I stand. It gives people a basis from which to proceed, because the House and Senate — provided the Senate does pass a bill — are going to have to sit down and reconcile their differences. The President can play a very important role on that.
As I said to you yesterday, do not assume that all positions are absolutely chiseled in stone. For instance, on the issue of border security, as I’ve pointed out a number of times, the President is actually taking a more aggressive approach on border security than the House of Representatives, itself, took — this is the Republican-led House of Representatives — getting border agents and more border agents to the site, getting more technological apparatus, getting more resources to the border more quickly. So I think that is the sort of thing that is going to answer a lot of the complaints we have heard from some of the Republican Caucus on Capitol Hill. I think we all need to step back and wait and see how this debate proceeds.
Q But what you’re describing and the notion that this was a hopeful and positive meeting —
MR. SNOW: Well, it’s not my notion, it’s what Karl said.
Q Okay. But, I mean, maybe it was a terrific meeting. As far as I can tell, that has not stopped Republicans, particularly in the House, from going gangbusters against this President before they’ve had a chance to read everything, as you say they should do.
MR. SNOW: Well, as I pointed out — I mentioned this yesterday, and for — let me see if I can find my quote, because I pulled it out. Chuck Hagel, as you may recall, made a fair amount of news over the weekend when he first said that — let’s see — “Well, I want to listen to the details and I want to listen to the President,” said Senator Hagel — he said this on “This Week” on a competing network. But I would say this: I think we have to be very careful here. That’s not the role of our military, that’s not the role of our National Guard.” That’s what Senator Hagel said on Sunday.
After the President’s address, here’s what Senator Hagel said, after having a chance to read and review it: “I support everything the President said tonight.” It’s a change. I think a lot of times when people have an opportunity to look at these things — there are going to be some people, David, who are just going to disagree with the President completely and totally on this. That’s how democracy works. We don’t have a problem with that. But I think also, a number of people who have expressed skepticism, I think, once they took a fuller look at all this are going to say, okay, this addresses our concerns.
Q Is there any change in the status of Karl Rove contemplated in the near future — status in the White House?
MR. SNOW: Not that I know of, Helen, no.
Q Going back to the intel briefings that are happening today. Previously, Alberto Gonzales said that this is one of the most classified programs, perhaps the most classified program in the United States government, and that is why no more than the gang of eight can be briefed. What’s changed?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, what’s changed is, as I tried to explain, the dynamics of having hearings — and I suppose you could say, to a certain extent, General Hayden’s appearance has been a driver here, because the committee chairs have said that what they want to make sure is that people are fully briefed on this, and they want to make sure that the committee members are fully briefed. So we’re responding to the requests from Chairmen Roberts and Hoekstra on this issue.
Q So had they asked sooner, the President would have considered it?
MR. SNOW: Don’t know. That’s a big “if,” and I’m not going to get into that.
Go ahead, Steve.
Q You described Karl’s meeting, but what did he tell the House members?
MR. SNOW: Well, what he was doing was running through — and I was not there, Steve, so I’m not going to try to pretend that I have a seance on this — but the readout, basically, is he was listening to their concerns and he was also expressing his views. Karl, of course, is somebody who is deeply conversant not only with the general overview of the President’s approach to immigration, but also has a pretty good sense of a lot of the fine details. So there’s a lot of give and take. I’ll let House members and others who were involved in the meeting give you a better take.
Q Was he invited up, or did the President send him up, or how did that — how was that arranged?*
MR. SNOW: Don’t know. We’ll attach that as a footnote. I don’t have an answer for you.
Q Tony, two quick questions. One, this is Asian Heritage Month, which the President already celebrated in East Room last week. In talking about the people — who come from India, and the Prime Minister of India is also one of them — and they are about 100 of them in the U.S. military fighting for America and, of course, for us all. And one of them died in Iraq, laid down in Arlington Cemetery. My question is, what they are saying — they gathered about 1,000 of them last week in this area — that they are being discriminated by the U.S. army, that they cannot wear turbins and they must —
MR. SNOW: Okay, I’m going to have to refer matters — I’m going to have to refer matters like that over to the Pentagon. I don’t have an answer.
Q One on immigration — I’m sorry. One on immigration. My question — what I’m suggesting — that if President can look back, he said that we have stopped terrorism by keeping terrorists beyond our borders where they came from who are training them, they are now there. Why can’t we do the same thing with illegal immigrants, if we bring all those factories from China and put them back to Mexico, and then they will have jobs and they won’t come across the U.S. border illegally here.
MR. SNOW: You’re suggesting that we take factories from China and place them in Mexico?
Q Yes, because in China, we are losing —
MR. SNOW: I think that’s beyond the powers of being Press Secretary and even the President.
Q Tony, yesterday, the President was asked by Terry about the surveillance program. He said, “The program he’s asking about is one that’s been fully briefed to members of the United States Congress and both political parties. They are very aware what is taking place.” It’s something he said over and over.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q Why — if that was true yesterday, why would you need to brief more people — if they were fully briefed already, if Congress really has been —
MR. SNOW: No, no, no. He’s talked about — and we’ve already been through this — it was a gang of seven or a gang of eight depending — so not everybody on the Intelligence Committee was fully briefed in on this. And so what’s happening now is that the full memberships of the Intelligence Committees — this is not the case that every member of Congress is going to get a full briefing on this. Instead, it’s being limited to the appropriate jurisdictions.
Q — has really been fully briefed, because some Democrats have complained that they have not been fully — even the gang of eight — that they were only given limited details, they really were not fully briefed, and that the President has not been telling the truth on that.
MR. SNOW: Neither you, nor I have sat in on the classified briefings. Here’s the key. Every — why don’t we find out what happens at the brief; if somebody comes out and says they weren’t fully briefed, then I’ll go back and find an answer for you. But this all seems to be characterizations and people’s characterizations of conversations and it’s very confusing.
What precisely is it that I can help you with on this?
Q If the President keeps saying that the key members of Congress have been fully briefed — he said that yesterday, right?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q What has changed today that he has to fully brief more people?
MR. SNOW: What has changed — okay, in other words, why is it that we’re briefing all of the Intelligence Committees rather than part? Again, I’ll refer you back — because the committee — it was in the judgment of the committee chairs that all of their members needed to be briefed so that you didn’t have to get into the position of compartmentalizing the hearings with General Hayden, and so on. What we’re doing is we’re taking up the advice of the committee chairs and following their recommendation.
Q Some of these leaders have been asking for the briefing for months now. And there’s — and Pelosi has been asking for it, Jane Harman has said that she hasn’t been given as much detail as she’d like.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q And now, suddenly, what’s changed that the President is now responding to the committee chairs?
MR. SNOW: Jessica, how many times do I have to answer the same question? I’ve answered the same question the same way eight times now. It’s not going to change.
Q But until now, no one behind that podium has ever said, well, we’ll deal with the committee chairs. They said it was at the discretion of the President who he’s going to brief.
MR. SNOW: The President has used his discretion to respond to the concerns of the committee chairs. (Laughter.)
Q I’m trying to figure out why Yuma. The border is, what, 2,000 miles, and Yuma is about as far as you can go short of San Diego. What is there that’s special about that?
MR. SNOW: I don’t — look, no matter where we would have chosen on a 2,000-mile swath of border, you would have said why there. (Laughter.) Because it’s a really good spot. (Laughter.)
Q Does the fact that Governor Napolitano —
MR. SNOW: No, it really doesn’t have anything necessarily to do with Governor Napolitano, although we are very happy to have her joining us. But in any event —
Q The President had a reason to pick it.
MR. SNOW: Say what?
Q He must have had a reason to pick Yuma.
MR. SNOW: Go talk to the advance people.
Q No, no, no, it isn’t made by the advance, they just advance.
Q A couple of follow-ups. On the NSA stuff, General Hayden last week, according to Senator Durbin, suggested that there may come a day when FISA might be altered so as to accommodate the terrorist surveillance program. What’s the status of the administration’s consideration of that?
MR. SNOW: I think it’s really premature at this point. That was a conversation between the two of them. It was the opinion of General Hayden, at least as conveyed to us through Senator Durbin. If and when such a thing should be ready for consideration by the Congress, we’ll be able to talk about it in some detail, but that’s what it is. You’re just reciting a conversation.
Q On the immigration front, last night Senator Bingaman’s amendment passed that substantially shrinks the size of the proposed guest worker program.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q What does the administration, having put forth a statement of administration policy that suggests that it supported the McCain-Kennedy approach to guest worker, think about its reduction?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think, as we’ve said all along, what we’re going to do is we’re going to keep an eye on what’s happening. The President wants comprehensive immigration reform. And obviously, Carl, between now and anytime that the Senate passes a bill and then it goes to conference, there are going to be lots of conversations about what we deem appropriate. And I think we’ll express our views there. But right now the most important and I think heartening thing is that the Senate has moved with considerable dispatch to go ahead and try to provide what the President has been talking about, which is a comprehensive approach to immigration reform.
Q Tony, has there been further discussions with the border state governors? And does the White House have any indication about how much they will go along with the National Guard plan?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me reverse the question, Jim. What we’re talking about is using National Guard to free up Border Patrol agents. Now, the governors all have the option of saying yes or no. They have the ability. If the governors choose not to have National Guard forces to come in and relieve Border Patrol, who otherwise would patrol the border, that’s their option, and it’s entirely at their discretion. Nobody is going to twist their arm and say, you must take National Guard troops, you must deploy more Border Patrol agents to the border.
My sense is hearing — Governor Richardson has said he wants more Border Patrol agents. We’re granting his wish. Governor Schwarzenegger has expressed a little bit of concern about National Guard units who otherwise would do combat being moved to other roles. Well, we’re not proposing that. What we’re talking about is people doing things for which they’ve been trained, and that would be engineering, surveillance, transportation and the like.
So I think in many ways, at least based on the public comments, a lot of these concerns have been addressed. But, obviously, there are a lot of very practical questions, hard, practical questions the governors are going to want to ask and considerations they’re going to want to have answered, and we will work with them continually.
Q Is that process going on now? And has the President, himself, called any of them yet?
MR. SNOW: I do not know if the President has called any of them yet. I know that there has been considerable work at the staff level.
Q What would the President say to some of these House Republicans who are saying, look, I think it’s going to be a very tough election year for midterms, gas is at $3, Iraq is Iraq, and now you’re asking me to do something that to a lot of my folks who voted for me last time and the time before that sounds like amnesty — why should I go along with you on this?
MR. SNOW: Well, this is one of the glories of democracy — we now get to make the argument. Because a lot of people have been saying “amnesty.” Now, as I pointed out yesterday and I think it’s worth going back through — it’s not amnesty. I mean, if you say to — no, you roll your eyes, but let’s think about it. Amnesty means, sorry, no harm, no foul, no crime, go about your business. In this particular case it is: You’re going to pay fines, stiff fines; you’re going to pay taxes; you’re going to have to stay continuously employed; you can’t break the law; you have to learn English. Now, you have all those.
Then after you’ve achieved all those things, you get the right to go to the back of the line. You’ve got 11 years of probation, maybe more. In that probationary period, you have to keep a job, you have to keep your nose clean, you have to learn English, you have to go through the bureaucracy, you have to pay the fees that attend going through. So you put all that together, it’s not amnesty. The people who will go through that process are going to have to go through some of the most expensive and the longest tracks towards citizenship anybody has ever faced. But linguistic precision is important here, because when people say it’s amnesty, it’s not. Period.
Q But you know the argument —
MR. SNOW: I know the argument, and I’ve just given a rebuttal. One of the things — this rebuttal has not been offered until the last few days. Now we have our chance to respond to the amnesty argument, and that’s the answer.
Q Another crack at why we’re going to Arizona tomorrow. Immigration is a big part of the political scene out there. You’ve got a Republican Senator who’s considered vulnerable, a couple of House seats with Republicans. Is the political climate one of the reasons that the President is going to go down there tomorrow?
MR. SNOW: I hate to profess ignorance. I honestly don’t know. It’s — I don’t know. I’ll get you an answer, but my sense is that what we’re doing is we’re going down to a state where you’ve got more border crossings than I believe any other state, where it is a hot issue. Why not go to a place where it’s important? You’ve got a governor who’s been engaged in this. It’s a good place to do it. Again, anyplace we would have done this event, people would asked political questions, they would ask the “why here” questions; those are always going to attend. What the President really wants to do is to find an appropriate place to lay out what he wants to do with immigration, and he’s going to have an opportunity to meet with Border Patrol agents. He’ll have the Chief of the Border Patrol with him. And I think that also gives him a chance to talk in practical terms of the people who are going to be on the front lines to trying to make the borders even more secure in the future.
Q Tony, would the President be willing to guard the White House with the same level of security he wants to use to guard the U.S.-Mexican border, without walls, without complete fences, and with insufficient armed services — armed personnel?
MR. SNOW: With all due respect, the White House is a little different than a 2,000-mile border.
Q I understand that, but —
MR. SNOW: So the answer would be, no.
Q Okay. And can we — well, thank you. (Laughter.)
Q He’s flabbergasted. (Laughter.)
Q Tony, I had a question about the economy. We had a new inflation number out this morning —
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q — and you have said that inflation is not a concern, and yet the stock market today and the bond market are saying, yes, it is a concern. Who do we trust?
MR. SNOW: Well, I’m not — did I say inflation wasn’t a concern? I think what we said —
Q John Snow said earlier today that it was well contained, and yet the stock market and bond market are both down sharply today because of inflation concerns —
MR. SNOW: Okay, well you’re play off Secretary Snow against the markets. I have to refer that back to Secretary Snow. You can get his response to it.
Q Well, I mean, in this case, if the administration is saying that inflation is not a concern, and the market is saying it is, who are we to believe?
MR. SNOW: Let me make the broader point, because we’re going to have a tax extension ceremony signing — tax extension bill signing a little later today. What this administration is committed to is continuing on the growth path. We had 5.7 percent increase in real wages in the last quarter. We had 4.8 percent economic growth. We had 3 percent productivity growth. You’ve got an economy that is moving briskly forward, more rapidly than the rest of the world.
So if you’re trying to get me to respond to a snapshot of the market in one day, I’m not going to get myself involved in trying to talk about confidence, whether inflation is a concern or not, because as I’m sure you’re aware, comments like that from this podium have a tendency to move markets and do that sort of thing. I’m just not going to be drawn into it.
Q I understand that you’re — the figures on the economy, but are you concerned that it’s over — that this economy could overheat?
MR. SNOW: We went through this yesterday, and the baseline argument is, am I concerned that there’s going to be too much prosperity? I am not going to get into a discussion about proper inflation rates and that sort of thing, because, frankly, to do so is not something that’s appropriate for me to do from this podium.
Q Can I go back to the NSA briefings that are going on May 17, 2006? Is the briefing going to be limited to the program that the President has publicly acknowledged? Or is it going to be the entire scope of NSA surveillance? Will the people who are briefed get the full picture of what is going on?
MR. SNOW: Permit me to turn to my trustworthy assistants.
MS. PERINO: Full terrorist surveillance program.
MR. SNOW: Full terrorist surveillance program.
Q When these briefings are done, they won’t be able to say they’ve been blind-sided by —
MR. SNOW: That is your characterization. Well, look, you never — I don’t want to predict what a member of Congress will or will not say after coming out of a hearing.
Q Has Karl Rove spoken to you about the CIA leak case?
MR. SNOW: No, he hasn’t.
Q Has any member of the administration spoken to you about the CIA leak case?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to tell you. (Laughter.)
Q Has any White House lawyer spoken to you about the case?
MR. SNOW: Again, I just — didn’t I just tell you that I’m not going to tell you who I’ve spoken with?
Q I’m just asking.
MR. SNOW: I know. Good questions. (Laughter.)
Q Tony, a couple of questions on immigration. It can be argued that comprehensive immigration reform, no matter what form it takes, the final form is really going to be an exercise in futility until Mexico does something to actually seal its borders and take care of its economy. What is our government doing to get Mexico to do that?
MR. SNOW: Well, I told you — we have worked with Mexico through the North American Free Trade Agreement to try to enhance prosperity in Mexico. The President also spoke over the weekend with President Fox about the importance of working together on measures to secure the border, and also to make sure that we try to deal not only with border crossing, but also with crime in and around the border area.
I don’t know how much further I can go than that, but that’s — these are ongoing efforts. I mean, if your idea is sort of, snap, suddenly Mexico solves the problem, it doesn’t work that way.
Q It doesn’t work that way, but I’m also wondering about some of their actions that seem to encourage people to cross the border and treat us almost like a dumping ground for their social problems, i.e. giving them maps on how to cross the border, which they did a few months ago, and now the latest threat is to sue us in U.S. courts if the National Guards happens to apprehend any of their nationals —
MR. SNOW: You’re leaping to conclusions. The dumping ground remark, I think, is one with which — I’ll let you stick with your characterization, but I think you’ve got to be careful about how you characterize these things. I’m also not going to try to get into presumptive arguments with members of the Mexican government about lawsuits that may or may not be filed at some point in the future. As you know, people in politics say many things — we’ll have to see what happens. If that issue arises, we’ll address it in due course.
Q Tony, thank you. I’ll try to not to chirp. The Post said I chirped yesterday. On Somalia, is the United States working with warlords? Does the United States — does the Bush administration consider the Somalia government to be responsible for specific genocide against African Christians in Darfur?
MR. SNOW: I’m going to be very precise about this, and I will give you — because this is one of these things where I want to be careful how I parse it. First, the President has said that his primary responsibility as Commander-in-Chief is to keep the American people safe. That’s a solemn task. The second thing is, you’ve got instability in Somalia right now, and there is concern about the presence of foreign terrorists, particularly al Qaeda, within Somalia right now. In an environment of instability, as we’ve seen in the past, al Qaeda may take root. And we want to make sure that al Qaeda does not, in fact, establish a beachhead in Somalia.
Now, the problem we’ve seen before in ungoverned — these are problems that we’ve seen in other ungoverned regions in the past. The terrorists are going to seek to take advantage of the environment and use that kind of chaos in order to put together camps and, therefore, mount operations around the world. The United States — we will continue to work with regional and international partners wherever we can to crack down on terrorism, and also to try to prevent its rising.
In the long run, the answer to your concerns is an effective, functional government of Somalia, which, obviously, we do not at the moment have. The United States strongly supports the transitional federal institutions in Somalia because they are trying to re-establish a functioning central government within Somalia that can bring the Somali people out of the period of civil conflict. As I said, I am going to be very careful with the way I say it, and I will say no more.
Q I appreciate that. One more thing on the genocide, though. Does the President —
MR. SNOW: As I said, I’m not going to make any further comment on Somalia.
Q What are you really saying?
MR. SNOW: Every word will be in the transcript, every, single one.
Q Does the White House have a position on whether earmarks should be identified by individual lawmakers?
MR. SNOW: At this point, once again, guidance from the bench —
MR. LISAIUS: We’ve been clear on our position on earmarks, and we’ll be happy to follow up on that right after this.
MR. SNOW: Okay, in other words, we’ll give you a footnote on that.
Q On Karl’s meeting on the Hill this morning, do you know if there were any questions or concerns from the House Republicans there about Karl’s potentially precarious situation here?
MR. SNOW: His potentially precarious situation? In other words, whether they were talking about the special counsel?
Q And whether he’s going to be around for the elections, and in what capacity?
MS. PERINO: In the meeting today?
MS. PERINO: No, it was about immigration.
MR. SNOW: No, it was about immigration.
Q No concerns were raised by them?
MS. PERINO: No.
MR. SNOW: Dana was there for every moment of it, so you have a full and complete readout.
Q Yesterday you were asked a question about D.C. voting rights. And in the past when I’ve asked your predecessors these questions, they’ve said the President is against voting rights, it’s in the Constitution, D.C. doesn’t deserve voting rights. I notice — were you sending a signal?
MR. SNOW: No, I wasn’t sending a signal.
Q Has he changed his position on that issue?
MR. SNOW: There are — the President hasn’t changed his position.
Q Tomorrow there will be a mark-up on the Davis bill. There also will be a mark-up promise in Judiciary. Both committees have hearings. If it should pass the House and pass the Senate, would the President sign the bill?
MR. SNOW: Well, if and if — get back to me when.
Q Would the President veto the bill?
MR. SNOW: If and if — get back to me when.
Q And final question. Why — I’ve asked the question to your predecessors, I’ll give you a shot at it — why is the President for democracy in Baghdad, but not right here in the Nation’s Capital?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, it’s an argumentative question, and based on what you’re — there are many interpretations of that the Constitution does and does not permit. And rather than argue — I believe there are elections in the District of Columbia, are there not?
MR. SNOW: So that would qualify as —
Q But the delegate has no vote in the national election.
MR. SNOW: I know, but you just argued that there was no democracy in D.C., and you just said —
Q Not full democracy.
MR. SNOW: Full democracy, okay. Well, that’s — that, as you know, is a much thornier question, and I’m just going to leave it at that.
Q There have been news reports this week that the FBI is using the Patriot Act to obtain phone records of journalists without their knowledge and without judicial oversight. And as a former journalist, are you at all concerned about this sort of intrusion on press —
MR. SNOW: I would be concerned if there was grounding to it. There have been reports, but once again, it has referred to the NSF program, which is strictly concerned with foreign international counterterrorism. I’m sorry, the pieces just don’t add up.
Q I have a question about very high gas prices. As you know, the President plans to meet with the leaders of the big three auto companies on June the 2nd. And my first question is, what’s the purpose of that meeting? And my second question is, does the President have any plans to meet with the leaders of big oil here at the White House?
MR. SNOW: Big oil?
Q Leaders of the big oil companies.
MR. SNOW: The President has talked repeatedly about his interest in trying to chart a path toward energy independence, and he’s going to talk to all parties involved in that. There are many technological issues in play, but as you also know, we tend not to announce greatly in advance items that may appear later on the agenda. The reason you’re asking me about the automakers meeting is that that was postponed precisely because we’re going to Yuma tomorrow. So I’m not going to jump the gun and tell you what may or may not happen in future events here at the White House.
Q Last week, Senator Sam Brownback mentioned the United States should pursue the human rights issue based on the model of — will the United States bring the six-party talks on this issue in the future?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, I appreciate Senator Brownback’s long commitment to human rights. And secondly, I’m not going to say in advance what they’re going to be bringing before the six-party talks.
Q Can you tell us, any more hints about tomorrow, the event itself, who else might be there, what he’ll do —
MR. SNOW: Well, I know we’ve got some members of Congress traveling with us. The President is going to be on the border in Yuma. I did a readout this morning, and you can go back and look at the gaggle transcript if you want, but he will be there, he’ll be meeting with Border Patrol agents. We will also have, as I mentioned, Chief Aguilar of the Border Patrol along, and there will be medial avails and he’ll have some comments again about the war on terror.
Q Tony, there was a very cordial meeting recently between President Bush and Julian Bond. Julian Bond extended the olive branch and asked the President to attend the upcoming convention of the NAACP. What is the President’s —
MR. SNOW: Well, there’s no decision on that. Are you talking about at the Correspondents dinner, when they had a moment?
Q Yes. Yes.
MR. SNOW: Because I saw them in the corner of the room. I mean, it was just nice to see them conversing with one another and have smiles on both of their faces. But at this point, there’s no determination, April.
Q So how does he feel about Julian Bond now?
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to get into the President’s thoughts, either way, about Julian Bond. But, thanks.
Q Did you mean the war on terror comments?
MR. SNOW: What did I say?
Q You just said war on terror comments at the border.
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, I’m sorry, I’m sorry — immigration. Thank you very much.
Q Congress will be considering its second tax extension bill after the one signed today. They’re considering attaching this to pension reform. Does the administration think it should stand alone?
MR. SNOW: I think what the President wants is to make sure that the tax cut provisions are extended. He’s made it very clear. I don’t want to get into process right now about how that may be achieved. It is very obvious it is very important to the President to make sure that we get extension of all the cuts that have been enacted into law.
Q I just want to follow on Senator Hagel’s before and after comment, because it strikes me that that’s a bit more reflective of what we’re seeing in the Senate — it’s wrong to suggest that they would play ball on this sort of comprehension idea of immigration, something close to the President’s. But that’s so much different than what you see in the House, which seems to be saying: enforcement, illegal entry only — I don’t want to hear about guest workers and temporary. So who is the before and after in the House?
MR. SNOW: Well, this is why I think it’s going to be interesting, because you had a long meeting today — or you had a meeting, I don’t know how long — how long was it, Dana?
MS. PERINO: About 30 minutes.
MR. SNOW: About 30 minutes. So he had a 30-minute meeting with members of the House. You know, let’s just wait and see. As I mentioned yesterday, you’ve got a big proposal with a lot of parts in it that members of the House and Senate have to take a look at. I mean, I think what you’ve seen is a number of members of the House who originally were prepared to say there’s no border security. Then they look into it — well, there is. There’s border security here.
Q I read a lot of blogs yesterday. I talked to a lot of people yesterday. I didn’t hear one person from the House saying, he got it, he finally got it, and now we can play ball with him.
MR. SNOW: Well, there are 435 members of the House. I did not have a chance to ask each and every one of them, or, for that matter, any. But I think the key here is — as I mentioned, the President is going to be saying tonight at the RNC Gala, politics is about ideas. And I think members of the House — I don’t want to betray confidences, but I think that you’re going to find that members of the House — yes, just between you and me? (Laughter.) That works at that network, doesn’t it? (Laughter.) Just between you and me — it took him about 20 seconds to figure that one out. (Laughter.)
I think Republicans are happy to see the President stepping up and leading on this one. And I think what you’re going to see is that they are going to take a good, respectful look at what he has to say. And whatever come before I think is now going to be shaped by the fact that the President of the United States and the leader of their party has had some very bold things to say about immigration. I think they’ve got to take that seriously, and I think they will.
Q Tony, a quick follow on tax reconciliation.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Pelosi and Reid’s office has just put out a statement pre-slamming you. It says, “Democrats to slam Republican tax cut on middle class families.” And they go on to describe it as “a tax cut in the wrong direction, eliminating tax deductions that help students pay for college in order to give massive handouts to big business and multi-millionaires.” Your reaction, sir?
MR. SNOW: My reaction, sir. Well, let’s see, as we get ready with a flourish here. Look, it is pretty obvious that the tax cuts — at least it’s obvious — let me change that. Since the tax cuts were enacted, what have we seen? We have seen the American economy zooming upward. We have seen prosperity extended through all levels of our economy. We’ve seen $800 billion in the pockets of taxpayers. As I pointed out before, you’re familiar with the growth statistics.
Now, I’ll put that up against any talking points or prebuttals that anybody else has to offer. I’m not going to pick particular fights with the Democratic leaders of the House or Senate, but I think the economy right now is a pretty strong hand to play. And I think that the tax cuts have played a role in making that economy strong.
Q Tony, quick question. Yesterday when the President met with Australian Prime Minister, did the issue of U.S.-India civilian nuclear came up, or not? If so, what their discussion?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, it is not up to me to talk about the private discussions between the Prime Minister and the President.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: All right, Steve, thank you.
Q Scott always did. It’s okay. (Laughter.)
END 1:12 P.M. EDT
*Karl Rove was invited to speak by the House Republican Conference.