Transcript: White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on 'FNS'

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The following is a partial transcript of the June 10, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Well, joining us now to discuss immigration and other key issues is the White House press secretary and our old friend Tony Snow.

And, Tony, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY TONY SNOW: Good to be back. Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: Before we get to the news, let's talk about what everyone said they were really interested in when we told them you were coming on. How are you doing?

SNOW: I'm doing fine. About a little more than a quarter of the way through chemo treatment for cancer again. Good news is CAT scans seem to indicate it's working. I'm feeling great and very excited.

WALLACE: One of the things that amazed all of us was how quickly you came back to work, and you're continuing to work even while you're on a chemo regimen.

One, isn't the chemo awfully tough on you? And two, how is the stress of dealing with all of us?

SNOW: Well, I've been dealing with you guys for 28 years, so I'm used to that stress. As far as the chemo, I take it on Friday afternoons. And for about a day I'm kind of woozy and green, and then after that, I'm fine. So it really doesn't interfere too much with work.

The great thing about medical progress and medical science when it comes to cancer, Chris, is that they're getting agents that are more and more precise, that go after the bad cells and not every cell.

So it tends, at least in certain treatments, to be a lot less aggressive in terms of knocking you down than it used to be. And so I think — as you know, I worked through chemo last time when I was here at FOX and doing it again and delighted to be doing it.

WALLACE: Well, I just want you to — I know that you feel very deeply in the power of prayer, and I want you to know there are an awful lot of people here who are praying for a full and quick recovery and best of luck.

SNOW: Thank you, buddy. And I'll second that motion. You know, it's one of these things where a lot of times your faith gets tried in interesting ways and it always comes out stronger.

WALLACE: All right. Let's get down to business. What does the president think is the status of immigration reform now?

SNOW: I think what you see in immigration reform right now is that we had a debate going on on the Senate floor where people were issuing amendments and really having a pretty thoughtful debate about how to try to take a bill that had been negotiated between Democrats and Republicans with assistance from the White House and the administration — and they've been trying to revise it and improve it.

Well, we got about two-thirds through the process, and the — it failed what's called a cloture vote. And one of the reasons it failed that vote is that you still have a dozen or so amendments that deserve to be heard. And our view is if those can be heard, you're going to get a bill.

The interesting thing, Chris, is sort of the core elements of the plan all have been approved by votes of 60 or more before the entire U.S. Senate.

So I think what you do have is a situation now where people of good will — conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican — want to go through, roll up their sleeves and finish up the business of taking a good, thorough look at the measure.

So our sense is if majority leader Harry Reid brings it back up, which he should, and permits a full debate, which would follow what happened last year under similar circumstances, we're not only going to get a bill, but we're going to get a better bill, and it's going to be one that answers the express objections of a lot of people and, I think, provides a way of answering skeptics on issues like security.

What are you going to do about security? Prove it to us. What are you going to do to make sure that rather than having amnesty that you replace it with something that really lifts the requirements for citizenship? How are you going to make us safer, better and more prosperous?

WALLACE: I want to talk about the Democratic side of it in a minute. But the president is going to Capitol Hill Tuesday to talk to Senate Republicans. What's he going to say to them to try to get more of them to support the bill?

SNOW: I think one of the things you do in this is you listen. And I think one of the concerns a lot of people have, at least around the country, is they say, "Look, how can we trust you guys to enforce this? You had a border that's been open for 21 years. How can we trust you?" And I think that's one of the critical questions on security.

If you take a look at the bill, it is the largest investment ever in border security, not only in terms of border patrol agents and technical means, but also really providing the wherewithal to make sure that we have continuous vigilance at the border and continue to improve.

For instance, one of the things in the bill now is mandatory funding, taking all the fines and revenues generated with regard to border security and making sure that money is available at all times, for further use of border security and border efforts.

The other thing is that the original law passed in 1986 was a joke when it came to employers. Basically what that bill said is, "OK, if you broke the law, you got amnesty. And by the way, if you continue to cross the border, don't worry about it. It's not a crime. It's a civil infraction, and there's no punishment for it." That's pretty good inducement for people to cross.

As far as employers, it said, "You don't worry either. We'll slap your wrist with a small fee." So what this bill says is harsh punishments for employers. Employers have real reasons to get on board.

And furthermore, we have a mechanism now for knowing who the illegals are, where they are, whether they're working, whether they're breaking the law. And if they're not working and they're not obeying the law, they get sent out.

WALLACE: Senate Democrats say that it's the Republicans' fault that this bill was pulled this week. Here's what Senate Majority Leader Reid said. Take a look.


SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: The headline is going to be, "Democrats Vote to Continue the Bill. Republicans Vote Against It. The President Fails Again."


WALLACE: How do you respond to that, first of all? And what do you make of the fact that Senator Reid said he had to pull the bill, but on the other hand they took Friday off and they're going to spend all day Monday — the Senate is — debating a vote of no confidence in Alberto Gonzales?

SNOW: Well, it's interesting, because my understanding is they could wrap this up in two days. So you take Friday and you take sort of the purely symbolic vote on Alberto Gonzales, and you could have this thing done.

So I think, again, rather than doing finger pointing, if Harry Reid is committed to this — and this is an historic bill dealing with a problem that a lot of people think has to be solved, and it's got to be solved in a smart way — why not go ahead and set aside those two days for debate?

I think you're going to find the Republicans and Democrats are willing to do it. And again, as I mentioned, Chris, we're two-thirds of the way through having this process of looking at amendments.

A year ago we had a very similar situation. It failed the cloture early on. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, then Senate majority leader, brought it back up. All the amendments got heard. You got a bill passed.

I think there's a precedent for being able to do this. And I think rather than trying to look for blame, maybe Harry Reid can look for some credit by bringing it back up and getting it voted on.

WALLACE: By the way, and real quickly, on this vote of no confidence on Gonzales, if you get a number of Republicans joining in a vote of no confidence, will that shake the president's determination to keep Gonzales on the job?

SNOW: Not a bit. Purely symbolic vote.

WALLACE: And no effect on the president.

SNOW: No. I mean, what you've got here is — well, here you have a Senate that's had a great deal of difficulty delivering on any of its promises.

And furthermore, it is perfectly obvious that the president has the right to hire and fire people who serve at his pleasure. Nobody's found anything untoward in terms of what happened.

Therefore, as a consequence, there's an attempt to sort of pull this thing like a piece of taffy and looking if there's any political advantage in it. There's not.

So what we'll end up having is people burning off a day expressing their opinions, and then we'll have an opportunity to move on.

But do people really think that that exercise is more important than dealing with a problem that's been building for 21 years and has become for many people the most compelling and important issue in American domestic politics?

WALLACE: Let's turn to another big issue, Iraq. Here's what President Bush said yesterday about his decision not to renominate General Peter Pace as chairman of the joint chiefs. Take a look.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think the fact that Secretary Gates made the recommendation not to move forward with a renomination speaks to the U.S. Congress and the climate in the U.S. Congress.


WALLACE: Does that mean the president is now giving Carl Levin, chairman of Senate Armed Services, and the other Democrats a veto over his nominations?

SNOW: No, I don't think so. But on the other hand, what the president does realize is that the American people are getting a little sick, seeing the kind of nasty gridlock.

You know, you just mentioned a vote of no confidence. The American people have issued a vote of no confidence in Congress and in the Senate. I don't know if you saw it, but Harry Reid's approval rating was 19 percent.

What folks want to see is somebody thinking seriously about how to proceed with this war in Iraq, and Pete Pace is a guy who spent 40 years serving his country nobly and well. And it's a shame that he's not going to be able to serve a second term.

WALLACE: So why not have the fight?

SNOW: Because at this point having a fight really is not going to serve the purpose. We're blessed, as Secretary Gates said, to have a deep bench at the Pentagon.

And rather than going ahead and trying to add more acrimony, what you end up doing is you bring Admiral Mullen up. And this is a guy who not only understands what's going on within Iraq and within the larger war on terror, but also understands what's been going on in the Pentagon, which is the fact that you have interoperability of forces.

Interestingly, when asked what his first concern was, the naval veteran did not say the Navy and the Marines. He said the Army.

So you have high quality people who are certainly going to be able to step up. But I also think that General Pace and Admiral Giambastiani — they deserve a lot of credit.

It's interesting to me that members said, "Well, yes, we do admire them, but we were still going to start looking backward." It's not a very constructive way, because, frankly, we've got to look forward toward victory.

WALLACE: The president has been taking fire recently from Republicans not only running for president but even thinking of running for president. Here's a sample.


REP. TOM TANCREDO, R-COLO.: I have been so disappointed in the president in so many ways. We've lost credibility — the way we bungled Katrina.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: This war was very badly mismanaged for a long time.



NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't think that he drives implementation and looks at the reality in which he's trying to implement things.


WALLACE: What does the president make of all the criticism? And when you combine it with his failure to move more Republican votes on immigration reform, is he now a lame duck?

SNOW: No. And first let me question that last premise when you're talking about moving Republican votes.

As I pointed out on the core issues, you've got 60 votes, and a lot of Republicans — a lot of people voted against proceeding because they were not given the opportunity by the Senate majority leader to continue the debate.

I mean, theirs was a procedural thing, saying, "Let's finish the debate. Then we'll have the vote."

So I think, actually, on the issue of immigration, what you've seen is presidential leadership on a tough issue, on a bipartisan basis.

What you have here are people running for or thinking of running for president. What always happens when you have a presidential election campaign? Everybody tries to provide some differentiation between themselves and the guy in office right now.

WALLACE: But let me just hold that up right there, because we asked Newt Gingrich about this last week, and he said...

SNOW: Yes, he got a little unhappy about it.

WALLACE: Well, he said in 1988, no Republicans were trying to differentiate themselves from Ronald Reagan.

SNOW: Well, no. Look, there was a little differentiation when you talk about kinder and gentler. There was, in fact, a differentiation in terms of the style, because George Herbert Walker Bush is a different kind of guy than Ronald Reagan was.

And in point of fact, you always look for your own ways, sort of identifying the way forward. What's interesting here is if you ask members who are — people who are running, would you or would you have not taken on the war in Iraq, they'd say yes.

Would you or would you have not decided to go ahead and tackle the tough issue of immigration? My guess is that you would say yes.

What's happening is that George W. Bush is now in a position where we've been faced with some awfully tough issues — the war on terror, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We also have to deal with a situation where we have a growing economy despite September 11th, corporate scandals, two wars, oil shocks, Hurricane Katrina. All of those things would have knocked a lesser economy down. And we have prosperity.

So ask them would you differ on the economic policy — probably not. Would you differ on the judges? Probably not.

It's always easy at a time like this to point out that the president has tackled tough issues which are always going to be unpopular because they're hard.

But on the other hand, it's going to be up to — what he has determined to do as president is to build institutions and powers and abilities that are going to make the job of the next president a lot easier.

WALLACE: Finally, we've got a couple of minutes left, and let's go back to one of your practices when you were on this side of the desk, which is a lightning round, quick questions and quick answers, Mr. Snow.

SNOW: We'll see if I'm up to it.

WALLACE: All right. If the judge sends Scooter Libby to jail pending appeal, will the president step into this case?

SNOW: Well, that's up to the president. And I'll let him announce it if and when he decides to do so.

WALLACE: Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has called for a freeze in deploying a missile defense system in Europe pending negotiations with the Russians.

Is the president going ahead with plans to deploy or will he consider a freeze?

SNOW: Well, number one, deployment is something that's not going to take place for a while. What we're talking about is the best way to protect Europe.

What's interesting is in the G-8, everybody thought that we were going to have this Cold War fisticuffs between the presidents, Putin and Bush. And guess what happened? President Putin came and said, "No, I've got different ideas on missile defense." That is a very important step forward.

The two heads of state are going to be meeting in early July in Kennebunkport. No doubt that's going to be part of the conversation.

Frankly, we are encouraged by the fact that the Russians now are talking about figuring out a way to provide a missile shield that will discourage rogue regimes from loading nukes onto missiles and aiming them...

WALLACE: But you don't regard this Azerbaijan idea as simply an effort to complicate and basically block it?

SNOW: No, I think what you — we've had a couple of ideas that have been — Azerbaijan, and you also had the idea of perhaps Iraq or other places as staging grounds. It's important to sit down and listen to what everybody has to say.

WALLACE: Tony, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you again for working on a Sunday, and all the best to you.