Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"What's An Appropriate Way To Dissent"?

TPM Cafe
By Greg Sargent (bio)

In today's press briefing, David Gregory pointed out that Dems opposing this or that aspect of President Bush's war policies have long been painted by the White House as friends of the enemy. He then asks the key follow-up question: "What's an appropriate way to dissent?" It's a good question, and Snow has a fair amount of trouble coming up with an answer to it -- at first he appears to start denying that this charge has ever been lodged at Dems before cutting himself off.


rare editorial comment:

Tony Snow does momentarily demur to Mr. Gregory's suggestion that Mr. Snow meant to say (in earlier remarks that we don't get to hear) that the ramifications of the expression of political opposition to the troop increase are to send a bad signal to the enemy and to the troops. Mr. Gregory suggests that this is just more of the same rhetoric as the pre-election blatant accusations by the Administration that political supporters of troop withdrawal were supporting terrorists.

Mr. Snow protests that all he was saying was that opponents of the troop increase need to consider the ramifications of expressing political opposition; that they ought to think it through; that they have a calculation to make.

In other words, Mr. Snow is trying to say that his previous remarks were neutral. He said that Mr. Gregory could go back and look at the transcript, but there was no direct ... ah ...
Mr. Gregory: But aren't you suggesting that there's a negative ramification?
Mr. Snow: I'm suggesting that they need to think it through.

So: I'm suggesting that Mr. Snow needs to think it through. What he seems to want to do instead is to think it up to a certain point and then stop short. Then wave back at the transcript which nobody would ever actually look at ... ah ...


Q So when do you think General Petraeus will be on the ground in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Well, we'll find out. As you know, that's -- the President is not in a position to dictate the calendar to Capitol Hill. But we hope that Capitol Hill -- and I think we feel confident that the Senate is going to look at this pretty quickly; they understand how important it is.

Q Okay. The sense in the Senate, this non-binding resolution, perhaps, that's going to move forward this week -- can you give a White House take on what that means, if the votes are there, that --

MR. SNOW: Well, look, they're claiming the votes are there. Again, the question you have to ask yourself is, do you understand what possible ramifications are? In an age of instant and global communication, what message does it send to the people who are fighting democracy in Iraq? And, also, what message does it send to the troops?

But, you know, the House and Senate are going to do whatever they do. What the President is determined to do is continue moving forward in a way that creates conditions for success in Iraq, which means an Iraq where the Iraqis are going to be able to keep the peace themselves, they're going to have a functioning and effective democratic government that provides political protections for all, economic opportunities for all, and a reason for Iraqis to pull together.


Q Can I just follow on that, because in the run-up to the campaign in the fall, if you were a Democrat who supported troop withdrawal, then you were branded -- from this podium and by the President -- as basically supporting terrorists; that if you made that statement, then "the terrorists would win and the U.S. would lose." That's a direct quote from the President.

Then there's an election where the American people, the President acknowledges, speak out against the war. Democrats get power, they're making a move to send a political statement that says we're opposed to this troop increase. And you're saying now the ramifications of that are is that it sends a bad signal to the enemy and to our troops.

So what is an appropriate way to dissent?

MR. SNOW: No, I said, you just take a look at what ramifications they may have. That's all I'm saying. I said that they have to make a calculation. I don't -- you can go back and look at the transcript, but there's no direct -- there's --

Q But aren't you suggesting that there's a negative ramification?

MR. SNOW: I'm suggesting that they need to think it through. And it is certainly appropriate for people to dissent. There's going to be a lot of dissent, we have acknowledged that all along. And, as a matter of fact, it's important to debate this and also to debate the proposition if, as most Democrats who have visited the President and most we've heard from, want to succeed in Iraq, if you think there's an alternative way to do it, you can really help your country by putting it forward. Because the President has invited all points of view, and we understand that in the process of winning in Iraq you have to have public support, it is helpful to have political unity and it is essential to have a full and informed public debate.

Q Just to be clear, do you believe that a non-binding resolution that opposes a troop increase, does that provide comfort to the enemy?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I think -- the question again is, does this send a signal that the United States is divided on the key element of success in Iraq. And I will let members of Congress express themselves, because I'm sure they're going to say, no, we're committed to success, and then they can elucidate on that point.

Q Doesn't the President acknowledge that the country is divided and --

MR. SNOW: The President of course -- yes, absolutely.

Q One final one on this. What role do 2008 politics play in the maneuverings on both sides in this debate?

MR. SNOW: You know, that's probably better to ask people who may have aspirations for 2008. I think --

Q You're a seasoned --

MR. SNOW: Yes, I know, I'm a seasoned wise man. (Laughter.) I actually think it's a little early for 2008 to figure large in this. I think some people are sort of making statements within their caucuses. But, for instance, when you're talking about this debate about a resolution, I think that happens in absence of a 2008 debate. This is something that a lot of Democrats feel strongly about, including -- and the people who have been in the forefront of this are not people who are running for President.

I think presidential politics obviously is going to grow larger, in terms of its influence on the debate, both with Iraq and domestic policy as we get toward the end of the year and as we really get toward the primary season. But at this point, I don't think it's a huge factor.


Q To what extent does the President stand before Congress next Tuesday, a week from tonight, and say to them, you haven't thought this through, a resolution on Iraq would not be helpful? And what portion of the State of the Union does he have to address to Iraq?

MR. SNOW: I'll let the President -- you'll hear the State of the Union in a week. Iraq, certainly, is going to figure into it.

But, look, we are very serious about trying to work with both Houses of Congress. And so I think the message is, let's figure out how to work together around the common goal of success. And to say, you know, we are working here not merely because, you know, Americans certainly want to succeed, but the costs of failure in Iraq are enormous, they would haunt not only this, but future generations, they would extract enormous costs, not only in terms of blood and treasure, but also our possible economic security in the future. And it is important to acknowledge and figure out how best to deal with this threat now, before it metastasizes into something far worse.

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