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Hannity

White House Press Sec'y Tony Snow on Bush's War on Terror Report

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 5, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: The White House released an updated report on the War on Terror today. And just a few moments ago, I spoke with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Let's talk about this 23-page terrorism strategy update. Among the things the president is saying, and this report is saying America is safer, but we are not yet safe. The U.S. and our partners will continue to pursue a significantly degraded, but still dangerous, Al Qaeda network.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, absolutely. Look, Al Qaeda is degraded but we found out a couple of weeks ago that it's also literally deadly serious as the United States, Great Britain, Pakistan and others manage to foil what may have been the largest and most deadly plot yet to try to kill people using airliners. So Al Qaeda is still at it.

What's happening, Sean, is that Al Qaeda adjusts. We've had successes. They're trying to adjust strategy and tactics. And we have to adjust accordingly.

Now what the president did today was he released a document that's really kind of common sense. If you're going to fight terror, you're not going to fight it the same way you did a ground force in World War II, or for that matter as did you in Vietnam. You're going to have to come up with new tactics and strategies to guys who live in apartments, hide in caves, or dispersed around the globe.

So what do you do? You ask the very simple and basic questions. How do you win this war?

Well, No. 1, first, you don't give them any place to hide. You deny them safe haven. You deny them money. You go ahead and wage war against them wherever possible to try to crush them, to prevent them from killing others.

But the other thing you try to do is make sure that there's no market for them. Ultimately, if you've got a globe that is united with the belief in and love of democracy, there's not going to be any room for terrorists. Nobody's going to want to be a terrorist.

HANNITY: Yes.

SNOW: So you work on that angle as well. Ultimately, of course, the goal is democracy.

HANNITY: Tony, one of the things, and the last number of days the president, the vice president, Donald Rumsfeld, our secretary of defense, they've all made the case, and they're using the analogy of World War II and appeasement. Is there appeasement going on in the War on Terror?

SNOW: I think what's happening is appeasement is something that's important to realize when you're trying to pull together coalitions around the globe and within the United States.

That the point the president's trying to make is if you make nice to these guys, all they're going to want to do is to kill you. If they can think it's easier to kill you, they're deadly serious about what they're doing.

In today's speech, the president cited the examples of Hitler and also Lennon, who were dismissed as cranks and crack pots at the beginning of their reigns of terror and tens of millions died.

So I think the most important thing is to send a message to everybody Al Qaeda is serious. That's really what's really at the heart of this whole argument about appeasement.

But furthermore, the president wants to make it clear that you're not going to win a war by walking away before the job is done.

HANNITY: Tony, I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt.

SNOW: Go ahead.

HANNITY: But with 63 days out from election, Tony, and the bottom line is is that in part, this election is going to be won or loss. Republican, Democrat, on the issue of safety and security.

And is it fair, is it accurate, is it right to say that, for example, on issues involving national security — be it the NSA Surveillance program, the data mining program, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay — that Democrats are weak on issues involving national security? Is that the legitimate way to position this issue in an election year?

SNOW: Sean, I'm going to give you an artful dodge but I'm also going to help you frame it. I'm not going to take on specific Democrats here.

But it is true that there are some people in the political opposition who didn't want to finance the war, didn't want to support the Patriot Act, opposed that the terrorist surveillance program, opposed to in Guantanamo, you put it all together, and what do you have?

You have people who didn't want to fight the war, didn't want to apprehend the terrorists, didn't want to detain the terrorists, didn't want to try the terrorists, didn't want to listen to the terrorists. That's no way to win a war on terror.

You've got to be serious about it. And one of the things that we are going to be doing in the days ahead is laying out the nature of the enemy, which the president did today, citing bin Laden, Zawahiri, Zarqawi and others. But also, giving people a real sense of what we're trying to do, the tactics and strategies we're using. And we're going to be inviting people to join us. Because tomorrow, the president is going to be talking about our response to the Hamdan decision where they said that you can't keep things the status quo at Guantanamo unless you consult Congress.

What do you mean consult Congress and offer people on both sides of the aisle a chance to make a constructive difference?

There's going to have to be a conversation about surveillance. Then get a chance to make a constructive difference.

But you're absolutely right. In the War on Terror, the people are going to decide who's serious, who's going to be better for their safety and security in the long run. It is a huge and vital and central issue.

HANNITY: A lot of smart Republicans, people you know, Charlie Cook, Bob Novak, Paul Wyrick — strong staunch conservatives — are predicting that Republicans will lose the House this election cycle in 63 days.

One of the issues that keeps coming to the fore, Tony, is the issue of immigration. And there seems to be a divide in the Republican party of this.

If we can't have consensus on guest worker programs and amnesty, why doesn't the president say fine, for the time being, let's secure the borders first. Why not do that one thing? How can you say you're being tough on the war on terror if our borders are still vulnerable five years after 9/11.

SNOW: Well, wait a second. The president actually operated a lot more aggressively than either House and Congress proposed.

We've already got 6,000 National Guard units out supporting the border patrol. There were 9,000 border patrol agents when he took office. There are 12,000 now. We're looking for 18,000 to be.

HANNITY: I agree, but.

SNOW: You've seen illegal immigration decline during recent months. You've also seen the approach to illegal immigration chance.

So that for instance, when you catch an employer breaking the law, you don't just slap him with a penny finding. You go for asset forfeitures. And you go for criminal penalties.

The fact is, the president is doing the border first. And what's interesting to me is a lot of people say this is the most important issue there is.

Well, OK, we've already started doing the border first part. Let's do the rest. The president wants Congress to comprehensively do it right.

HANNITY: All right, we've got less than a minute. But you would agree that when you look at the different bills, the Senate bill, the president's position, amnesty guest worker, that there is a divide within the Republican party.

You're not saying that the border is as secure as it should be five years? You're not saying there's anywhere near done. Do you? Because the president's not saying that.

SNOW: Well, there are two things. You just used the term amnesty. There's no amnesty that the president believes in. You know it and I know it.

The second thing is that has been an attempt, I think, to win a political argument with a label. But the second thing that's going on here is that the president understands that while there is still an illegal immigration problem, it's a lot less dire than it was.

And you and I have had this conversation before. If people are worried about 11 or 12 million people running around illegal in this country, you're telling me you want to wait a year, two years, three years, five years before doing something about it?

We're already taking measures when it comes to employers. We're already taking measures when it comes to trying to identify them. Coming up, we'll tamper proof ID cards.

The fact is that a lot of this stuff is going to take time to implement. Let's go ahead and get the building blocks in place right now. We'll continue to deploy forces to the border. And at the same time, we'll be able to deal with those issues that really have proved vexing to people all over the country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: All right, we're going to have more of my interview with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow in just a moment.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We now continue with Sean's interview with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Here we are, all these polls, all these smart conservatives. I mentioned them earlier, Novak, Wyrick, Cook and others, say the Republicans most likely would lose the House. And the Senate is even in jeopardy. Why is that the case, in your view?

SNOW: Well, actually, Novak doesn't say that. What he says is that there are a lot of seats in play. I think.

HANNITY: Well, he actually says pretty clearly that if the election were held today, they'd lose about 29 seats.

SNOW: Well.

HANNITY: Twenty-five, I think, is the number.

SNOW: Yes, a lot of these things are in play. Look, people can flip a coin and try to make their decisions.

The fact is, we are now beginning campaign season. We're going to be talking about important issues. People are going to be focusing on it in ways that they haven't. And I think they're going to be drawing comparisons between the president and also between leaders in the House of Representatives on the Democratic side.

And they're going to have to make choices. Who's better for the economy? Whose proposals make more sense when it comes to national security? Who is more likely to win the war on terror? And, yes, who's more likely to be effective in Iraq?

So all of those issues are coming into play. And you and I have both seen political seasons where nobody in September had any clue what was going on in November, including in the year 1994. Novak ended up being awfully right before the election. But two months out...

HANNITY: It's hard.

SNOW: Newt Gingrich himself had no clue what was going to happen.

HANNITY: You know, one of the great advantages for the Republicans, especially in the House they had the ability more than the Senate to do this, they can literally define the agenda in the next 19 days.

One of the criticisms today — and 19 days to go, they're worried about a horse protection act, rather than port security, military tribunals, the surveillance act. Maybe we should have a vote on even the War on Terror or the original vote or controlling the borders or keeping God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Shouldn't they be taking those issues to define the differences between the two parties?

SNOW: Well, look, you can do symbolic votes. Frankly, one of the things we're pushing for, we've mentioned immigration already. But we're going to have to deal with the issue of what do you do with detainees? That's important. That is hugely important. And the president is going to talk about it tomorrow. Everybody ought to listen in.

You've got to deal with the issue of how is it that we're going to listen in on people who are having conversations right now in this country with people overseas belonging to terrorist networks and who want to kill us? How is it that you're going to try to make sure that the economy remains strong?

You know, for all of the concern about the economy, we've got the strongest economy in history. We have more Americans working than ever.

Milton Friedman made the point last week that all the sort of doom and gloom is completely unmerited at this point. Here's the United States. We've absorbed a War on Terror. We've absorbed the largest natural catastrophe in our nation's history. We've absorbed September 11.

We're growing like gangbusters. And you know why that is, Sean? That's because there's something special about Americans. And it's time to remind the American people that we are people who are capable and always do great things. And rather than sort of listening to those who want to portray us as a failing nation, let's try to remind people of their successes and how you build on them.

HANNITY: You know, it's funny you say that. I've been saying on my radio show as often as people will listen, when it comes to judges, the economy, tax cuts, War on Terror, sometimes we forget our successes in life. And maybe that's the mission of Republicans as they head into this election, this mid-term election.

Let me ask you a quick question. It was in The New York Times over the weekend that the special prosecutor in the leakgate case, Fitzgerald, that he actually was telling Richard Armitage not to let anybody know that he was the person responsible for giving this information out about Valerie Plame.

It raises the question both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post are suggesting — that the president pardon Scooter Libby. Is that discussion ongoing? And do you think the president should and will?

SNOW: As much as I would love to talk about the issue, it's still a matter of ongoing — there are ongoing legal cases, including those involving Scooter Libby. And I'm afraid my hands and lips are tied on that one.

HANNITY: All right, last quick question. Joe Lieberman and your take on what that represents for the Democratic party, a guy that agrees with them 90 percent of the time and was thrown out in the primary?

SNOW: Well, it's going to be interesting again. Democrats are also going to have to offer affirmatively what they intend to do to win the War on Terror.

The one thing, you know, it was interesting there was a letter that came out over the weekend where they said you've got to do four things. Three out of the four we're already doing. And the one we're never going to do.

HANNITY: Yes.

SNOW: And that is the idea of "strategically taking people out of Iraq and putting them some place else." I believe Rep. Murtha suggested Okinawa, which, believe it or not, is about as far away from Iraq as Bangor, Maine.

The point here is that they have to have something affirmative and serious to offer, not merely in terms of getting troops out, but getting them out under conditions of victory.

HANNITY: All right. Do you like your new job? That's the most important question I ask you.

SNOW: Love it.

HANNITY: All right, Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary. It's good to see you, Tony.

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