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White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on Iraq, the House Democrats, and immigration before he goes off to camp on Monday.

Friday, March 23, 2007
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HH: We begin with White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow. Tony, all your friends are aware you’re going to have some surgery on Monday. Prayers for your speedy and quick return to the job. What’s that all about?

TS: Well, Hugh, since I had cancer a couple of years ago, what we do is very regular cat scans and other things, just to make sure nothing’s going on. We’ve noticed a little, small growth down in the pelvic area, and rather than messing around and saying golly gee, what is that, let’s see if it gets bigger, we’re just going to take it out. The good news is, so far, pet scans and blood tests and MRI’s and everything else indicate that there’s no spread of cancer to organs or anything else. And we honestly don’t know what this is. I mean, it could be everything from a blob of fat to something bad. And at this juncture of my life, it’s my view to be aggressively cautious. That’s the term I used when I told the press, and just cut it out. And the surgeon I have is an extraordinarily good surgeon, is also going to do exploratory. He’s going to look around and check the neighborhood and make sure everything’s clean. And sometime Monday, I’ll know exactly where we stand and where we go.

HH: And you’ll be recovering for a couple of weeks?

TS: Yeah, at least, because it involves cutting through muscle and stuff, so…I had somewhat similar surgery, actually worse with the cancer, a couple of years ago, so I expect to be probably, you know, bedridden for, or at least in the hospital for maybe a week to ten days, probably another couple of weeks just recovering and getting strength back, and being able to walk, and letting everything heal up a little bit. So I’m thinking three to four weeks probably before I’m back on the job, but you kind of play that stuff by ear.

HH: Well, I know millions of Americans will join me in praying for a quick recovery and a completely good bill of health, Tony Snow. I also…if you’d timed this better, you could have been home for the whole NCAA tournament, instead of just the Final Four.

TS: Well, exactly right. Well, I’ve sort of timed it pretty well, because we get through, of course, this weekend, where you get down to the Final Four. So we’re now at the Elite 12.

HH: Yeah, you’re doing pretty good. You get a lot of good games in there.

TS: (laughing)

HH: Well, all kidding aside, you know, yesterday, I talked to Howard Fineman, a cancer survivor, about Elizabeth Edwards. You’re also a cancer survivor…

TS: Yeah.

HH: Were you surprised by their decision to just move forward and fight in, and at the same time, carry on a campaign?

TS: No, because you know, this is one of these things that people don’t understand how far cancer treatment has progressed over the years, and I think one of the things I’ve said a couple of times about Elizabeth Edwards is this is great, because the chief thing you face, especially when you first get a cancer diagnosis, is absolute paralyzing fear. And your fear can kill you. But on the other hand, your hope and optimism can save you. And Elizabeth Edwards is going to have to go through a fairly complex regimen, dealing with bones and organs and a lot of other things, but she’s going to do it, and they’re going to maintain an active life. And I think for a lot of people out there who have cancer, or have loved ones with cancer, they’re going to look at that and say hey, you know what? You can still embrace life, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.

HH: All right, let’s get a few good Tony Snow quotes to carry us over for the next three to four weeks then. Any doubt in your mind the President will veto this House bill if it makes it in that condition to his desk in under a minute?

TS: Not a bit.

HH: Okay.

TS: He will veto it.

HH: Okay. And do you expect the Senate to strip the retreat provisions from the bill?

TS: You know, I’m going to leave that to the Senate. Here’s the problem that Congress has right now. They’ve wasted a whole lot of time debating a bill that they know is not going to go anywhere. Meanwhile, the money starts running out for the troops on April 15th. Starting April 15th, there are a number of consequences, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates laid them out yesterday, that range from reducing some of the basic support for troops and families here on American soil to things that may be a little more dramatic, including making it more difficult to rotate replacements in, or to repair tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles and necessary military equipment. If you really want to say you support the troops but you’re not going to help replace the equipment that keeps them alive, that’s not much in the say of support. So Democrats are going to have to make the decision, are you going to step up, fund the troops, and also take the handcuffs off, because it’s not…what they’ve also done is try to put handcuffs from generals on down to privates, by trying to put together a series of conditions they have to meet. In other words, they’re not answerable to generals, they’re answerable to junior staffers on Capitol Hill. That is no way to run a war. They’re also short sheeting the Iraqi military, and they’re taking hundreds of millions of dollars away from the efforts to go ahead and build jobs and prosperity and stability in the neighborhoods that we’re clearing out right now. I mean, that is a recipe for absolute chaos, and anything like it is going to get vetoed by the President.

HH: Any doubt in your mind that when you come back to work in three, four weeks, that Alberto Gonzales will still be the Attorney General?

TS: No, I think he will be.

HH: Now how about the executive privilege claims? Is the President for turning on this?

TS: You know, at this point, what we’re doing, I don’t want to leap into conversations about what may happen if you get testimony. We made a pretty clear offer to Capitol Hill. And if you think about it, it is, we’re going to make available to you every key player and every key fact. You’re going to know exactly what happened, in the process of coming to the conclusion for the Constitutional exercise of a president’s ability to remove people that serve at his pleasure. And based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s absolutely nothing in the way of improper behavior. Therefore, do people really want to have a Constitutional showdown over something like this? What the President’s not going to do is have a show trial where the main attraction is trying to see if Karl Rove gets led up on Capitol Hill in manacles.

HH: Have you, though, gone through the timeline, because you have to move to quash subpoenas at some point, once they’ve been delivered. Have they been delivered, and how quickly…

TS: No, No, no, and members of Congress have made it clear that they’re in no rush, which I think it prudent on their part. They’ve got to think this thing through, too. We have made an offer that’s highly unusual, because we have said we will make available all communications bearing on this issue from the White House to anybody on the outside, which is all you need. If you’re trying to figure out what role did the White House play, well guess what? You would have to make that role known by communicating with somebody else. Those communications would be made available to Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. So you’ll have all your questions answered.

HH: So no delivery of subpoenas yet?

TS: No.

HH: And you don’t expect them to be delivered soon?

TS: No.

HH: All right. During your recuperation time, are you going to be giving any consideration to, if in the event he does retire, John Warner, you might run for the Virginia Senate seat?

TS: No, no, no. You know, people have been trying to do that to me. No, I’m not running for the Virginia Senate seat, and you don’t even have to put an asterisk by it. To quote my old boss, George Herbert Walker Bush, not going to do it.

HH: Okay, wouldn’t be prudent. Now the British have had fifteen of their sailors captured and kidnapped, really, by Iranians earlier today in Iraqi waters, transported to Iranian waters. Any update on that, Tony Snow? And what has the United States communicated to Iran?

TS: No, and as you know, we don’t have diplomatic relations with Iran, but we stand by our British friends and allies.

HH: All right. Now the last subject before you go off to your surgery and your recuperation…

TS: Before I go off to camp?

HH: Yeah (laughing), before you go to camp. I know that that’s going to hurt.

TS: (laughing)

HH: That’s going to sting a little bit, isn’t it? Just don’t let anyone bounce anything on you.

TS: No.

HH: The President has got unique leverage in this immigration debate. They can’t get a bill without him, he wants a bill, Kennedy wants a bill, a bunch of people want a bill, but he can get a lot out of this, including security for the border fence, including no citizenship for people who enter illegally and don’t return to their country. And he can get some stuff outside the immigration arena, maybe even the tax cuts. Has he got a strategy here, Tony Snow, to use his leverage perhaps for the last time in his legislative time?

TS: I don’t think it’s the last time, but we have been very active on the immigration front. I’m not going to say what’s going on, but I can tell you that there seems to be emerging a very strong Republican consensus. And you know, we know that we’re going to need Republicans and Democrats working together. This is really important to the President, as you know very well, and we are very actively engaged in it. These are…a lot of these conversations are taking place behind the scenes right now. You know, when they’re ready to come out in public, they will.

HH: Will the outlines of that fence still be there? And will they be guaranteed? Because a lot of people are afraid it will be regularization, with which I am perfectly comfortable, as I think most, the vast majority of Americans are, in exchange for border security and other things, but they’re afraid that the tablecloth’s going to get pulled out, and the china with it.

TS: No, look, I mean, security’s a huge part, and the President is absolutely committed to it. And it’s not just fence. You also have to realize in some places the fence doesn’t make any sense. We were down in Yuma earlier this year, and in Yuma…no, I guess it was last year. We were in Yuma last year, and one of the things they pointed out to us, even though they have three layers of fence there, and it’s appropriate, they’re pointing out to the mountains and saying you don’t need a fence there. What do you need? Well, you need surveillance. So you really do match the technology to the terrain, so that what is appropriate, you put in. You also have some problems, Hugh, with some folks, for instance, in Texas, who don’t want the fence…putting a fence on their property. So you’ve got some interesting, you’re going to have some interesting clashes between property rights and security issues there as well. So what we’re trying to do is work through them, but again, match the technology to the terrain, and that is precisely what we’re doing, so that we make sure that our border becomes more secure. We’ve already seen some pretty good results, not only fewer border crossings, but you’ve also heard some employers already saying wait, we’re not getting some of the people we had in the past. Well, yeah. And that means that you have less illegal immigration, but you’ve still got a big problem. That was a pretty active conversation, topic when we were in Mexico and in some of the other Central and South American countries last week or the week before.

HH: Well, Tony, we’re out of time. Tony Snow, good luck on Monday with the surgeon. We look forward to talking to you upon your safe and quick return to the White House where you’ll be missed. Tony Snow, thanks.

End of interview.

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