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Newsman to Tony Snow: 'Don't Point Your Finger At Me!'

Editor And Publisher | September 6 2006

NEW YORK A not especially eventful press briefing at the White House today turned rancorous with NBC's David Gregory telling Press Secretary Tony Snow, "Don't point your finger at me," and Snow accusing the newsman of being "rude" and delivering Democratic talking points.

Earlier, speaking to reporters, Snow, continuing the administration's media focus on the war on terror, accused "some in the Democratic Party" of saying "we shouldn't fight the war" and "we shouldn't apprehend al-Qaeda" or even "question al-Qaeda."

Snow got into a tussle with Gregory after the NBC journalist told him, in a lengthy remark, that the public may wonder why the president's statement and report today on the war on terror did not admit more failings on the administration's part. Snow observed that he had nicely summarized "the Democratic point of view," and Gregory took exception to this.

This exchange followed.
*

Q Actually, Tony, I don't think that's fair, if you look at the facts. If you look at the facts.

MR. SNOW: Well, I do, because -- no, because, for instance --

Q No, no, no. No, I don't think you should be able to just wipe that, kind of dismiss the question --

MR. SNOW: Well, let me --

Q It's not a Democratic argument, Tony.

MR. SNOW: Let me answer the question, David.

Q But hold on, let's not let you get away with saying that's a Democratic argument.

MR. SNOW: Okay, let me -- let's not let you get away with being rude. Let me just answer the question, and you can come back at me.

Q Excuse me. Don't point your finger at me. I'm not being rude.

MR. SNOW: Yes, you are.

Q Don't try to dismiss me as making a Democratic argument, Tony, when I'm speaking fact.

MR. SNOW: Well, okay -- well, no --

Q You can do that to the Democrats; don't do it to me.

MR. SNOW: No, I'm doing it to you because the second part was factually tendentious, okay? Now, when you were talking about the fact that it failed to adapt, that's just flat wrong. And you will be -- there has been -- there have been repeated attempts to try to adapt to military realities, to diplomatic realities, to development of new weapons and tools on the part of al Qaeda, including the very creative use of the Internet. So the idea that somehow we're staying the course is just wrong. It is absolutely wrong.

*
Elsewhere, Snow denied that the president's statement and report today on the war on terrorism were political in any way. "I think it belittles it by trying to dismiss it as politics," he said. But later, when a reporter asked, "But you don't disagree that he's trying to frame the debate for what is an important political choice?", Snow replied: "Absolutely. Of course, of course."

He also said there would be no troop withdrawals in Iraq any time and reiterated the president's strong support for Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld. President Bush "would love to see members of both Houses of Congress returning to that sense of cooperation we had after September 11th."

Here is an excerpt from Snow's remarks:

"There have been some in the Democratic Party who have argued against the Patriot Act, against the terror surveillance program, against Guantanamo. In other words, there are some people who say that we shouldn't fight the war, we should not detain -- we shouldn't apprehend al Qaeda, we shouldn't detain al Qaeda, we shouldn't question al Qaeda, and we shouldn't listen to al Qaeda. In other words, they're all for winning the war on terror, but they're all against -- they're against providing the tools for winning that war.

"And we think it's a perfect opportunity for Democratic leaders to say, no, we are serious about winning the war. We have now reiterated some of the basic precepts of administration policy and also the policy put together by generals over the months of the engagement in Iraq. And we look forward to working with members of Congress to figure out how best to prevent terrorists from coming here, but, more importantly, how to defeat terrorism.

"Finally, one other point, which is, there is a reiteration of a call to replace or have Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stand down. The President strongly supports the Defense Secretary. It's not going to happen. Creating Don Rumsfeld as a boogeyman may make for good politics, but would make for a lousy strategy at this time. And, furthermore, if you listen to the speech that Secretary Rumsfeld gave last week, it was not only thoughtful, but comprehensive about trying to frame the ongoing war against terror, and also the war going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"So this, again, is something that the President would love to see members of both Houses of Congress returning to that sense of cooperation we had after September 11th, where the real goal was not to try to hand out pink slips at the Pentagon, but instead to win the war on terror in a way that is going to make not only America safer, but also the rest of the world safer so that democracy can take firm root throughout the globe."


 

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