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White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on the fate of the milbloggers, and another round of the border fence game.

Friday, May 4, 2007
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HH: Joined now from the White House by Press Secretary Tony Snow. Tony, great to have you back. Welcome back. How are you feeling?

TS: I’m feeling great, Hugh, thanks.

HH: To the extent that you’re comfortable, what’s ahead for you? Do you have a lot of treatment ahead? Or are you just back…

TS: Well, I got eight sessions of chemo. I’m going to do my first one tomorrow. But for those who think that it’s like pouring battery acid through me, no. Fortunately, I think this going to be a little kinder and gentler. What I’ll do is every other week, I’ll go in for about, I don’t know, I’m not quite sure yet, because I haven’t done it, but probably two to three hours getting an infusion of some chemo agents. And then the main agent, I’m actually going to take it in pill form over the next week. And I’ll take one in the morning, one at night. And according to my oncologist, it really shouldn’t slow me down much. I’ve been through this once before with kind of a rougher batch of chemicals. The great thing is, you know, the longer you wait, the kinder they get, and also the more effective. So basically, we’re going to do eight chemo sessions, and then after that, if everything…if we hold serve, then we’ll just do a maintenance chemo about once a month just to make sure we’ve got this thing stopped.

HH: Well, great news, and continued prayers for your complete recovery, Tony. I’m sure you’ve gotten an outpouring of support, and I know you recognized that when you came back. So let’s pretend you’re just back on the job, and nothing happened, and then go right at you with a couple of hammers. Did the Pentagon brief you, Tony, on the new milblogging policy, or the new new milblogging policy that they put out today?

TS: Well, I’ll tell you what I do know about it. I’ve gotten a couple of points, and people need to sort of contact the Pentagon for further…but what they’re trying to do is they’re taking a look at things that may bear on operational security. And the way I understand it, this is not a carpet bombing on milblogs. But instead, what they’re trying to do is to make sure that people, while they’re putting up blogs, do not in fact reveal things that affect operational security, and therefore the safety and security of themselves, their colleagues, ongoing operations, future operations, Iraqi forces, and so on. Furthermore, when it comes to e-mails, personal e-mails are not affected, only those that are put in public forums. A lot of this stuff is already contained in Army regs about what you can and can’t post. So that’s kind of the general notion here, but there’s an assurance here that it is not a blanket prohibition on milblogs. And I’m not even sure that this thing has fully taken effect yet. There’s been an announcement about it, but I’m not sure that they’ve actually implemented it.

HH: Are you aware of any specific breeches of operational security brought about by milblogging, Tony?

TS: No, but you know what? I don’t check that stuff, Hugh. Look, I cannot…let me put it this way. If somebody does have a breech, I don’t have any problem with the Army doing what happens always in a time of war, which is doing the kind of censorship that’s designed to save lives. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t know that stuff. Come on, I’ve got plenty to do as I am in my present job. I suspect the best place, really, to direct those questions would be over to the Pentagon.

HH: All right, now let’s talk about the debate tonight.

TS: Do we have to?

HH: Yeah, we do…

TS: Well, I know you’re there, so I’m sorry, let’s talk about it.

HH: It’s said that Mitt Romney talked with the President yesterday. True?

TS: I don’t know. I’m not aware of it.

HH: Yeah, that’s in the blogs this morning, so I was wondering if they were…

TS: Oh, well then, it must be true.

HH: …a debate prep already occurring there. Okay, if you don’t know that, I’ll skip on…the Tenet book. Have you read it yet?

TS: No.

HH: Have you opened it yet?

TS: No. Will I read it? No.

HH: Did you check the index…why not?

TS: Life’s too short.

HH: What’s the official reaction…

TS: I don’t…I’m just not interested in reading it.

HH: What’s the official reaction to some of the allegations he makes?

TS: Well, I’m not…you know, what’s interesting is…you’re going to have to give me an allegation.

HH: Richard Perle was at, he saw Richard Perle on the day after the attack…

TS: Well, I mean, you’ve already seen the response to that, which is it was physically impossible.

HH: And Senator Shelby said the same thing.

TS: Yeah.

HH: What is the estimate, though, of the motive behind such wild misstatements of fact?

TS: The fact is what we’ve basically said is look, Director Tenet did a good job as CIA director. It’s a tough job, it was tough times, and obviously, we’ve needed to do a lot of reforms. The thing that’s been most surprising, I suppose, is the fact that he thought he was being set up as a scapegoat, you know, the slam dunk stuff, because that’s certainly not the way anybody around here read it. I wasn’t here at the time, but I’ve talked to a lot of the principals. You know, he thought the intelligence was strong. Well guess what? So did Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. She thought the same thing. Vast majorities of both Houses thought the same thing. So did all the intelligence communities around the world. So everybody agreed on it. They all thought it was a slam dunk, and well, guess what? It wasn’t. So I don’t…that part is a little baffling, but the fact is, you know, Director Tenet is free to write a book, and there are plenty of people out there sort of picking it apart, and looking at all the various things he has to say, but the President’s view is he thanks him for his service.

HH: Is the President disappointed that former members of the senior staff are writing books like this during the war?

TS: Well, he’s the CIA director…look, he’s got the right to write a book. I mean, look, on the other hand, Hugh, for all of those who say that the administration was doctoring intel, oops, guess what, that’s not vindicated, or that there were orders to try to slant the intelligence, he knocks those down. So the only comment we make, because we don’t want to be in the position of trying to censor books at any time, there is a process, the NSC did read the book in advance, and did not think that there was a compromise of any vital national security secrets. And Director Tenet’s going to have to deal with the reaction to his book.

HH: We have one debate coming up tonight, but the Democrats had a debate on Saturday. All blasted the war, Tony Snow. Did the President watch it? Did he have a reaction?

TS: No and no.

HH: Okay. Every interview, I ask you about the border fence. Now I want to stipulate to save time that the virtual fence is a wonderful thing…

TS: Right.

HH: And we don’t need a double fence along the whole border. Now how much is under construction, Tony, of the double border fence?

TS: Well, I mean, what they’ve got is they’ve got a phased building where they’ve basically got this thing phased out over the next three years. And if you want to get the exact mileages, I would recommend calling the Department of Homeland Security to get a read on it.

HH: You know, we try that, Tony Snow. We try that like once a week. We try Chertoff, we try the border…

TS: Really?

HH: No one has a number.

TS: Okay, well, we’ll try to get some numbers for you.

HH: Is it a big secret? Or is there a website or…

TS: No, no. I mean, members of Congress are briefed on this. I can’t…I’m surprised your buds in Congress haven’t told you. I’ll try to find out.

HH: So it’s not a shell game?

TS: I’ll tell you what you do. I’ll tell you what you do. This next time we do this, you just give me a general reminder before we come on, and we’ll play the fence game one more time, and I’ll have some data for you.

HH: All right, now let’s go from the fence game to the immigration bill. Where is it?

TS: Well, it’s being discussed right now, and there are…basically, we have been working on building consensus among Republicans, and also finding Democrats we can work with to get the thing passed.

HH: And who is part of that coalition?

TS: Here’s…you know, one of the little secrets about doing negotiation, I know you know how this works, because we’re going through this for the most part, when it comes to the vagaries of the negotiations about the bill, the emergency supplemental on the military, we’re really not go into talking to who’s speaking with whom, because that renders you less effective. But there are very conservative Republicans involved in key positions in the conversation.

HH: We’ve got one minute left, Tony Snow. Tom Tancredo just walked in front of us here in the Green Room. Is he going to be happy with whatever comes out of the White House?

TS: I don’t know.

HH: What do you think the odds are?

TS: I don’t know. I’m not going to play.

HH: (laughing) Okay, Tony Snow, it’s great to have you back at work.

TS: (laughing)

HH: Thanks for talking…I’m looking forward to round 4 of the fence quiz the next time we talk.

TS: (laughing)

HH: I’m finally going to get a mileage and a map. Thank you, Tony Snow.

TS: There you go, Hugh. Thanks.

End of interview

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