Exclusive! Tony Snow Talks With Bill O'Reilly

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 28, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: The top story tonight: an exclusive conversation with White House spokesman Tony Snow, who's now a big kahuna after working at FOX News all these years.

You know, the worst thing about this is I can't call you Snow anymore. I can't call you Snow. And I have to say Mr. Snow, and "Your Dignitary," and "Your Excellency."

And — all right, on the radio today, I said what do you want me to ask Mr. Snow. And everybody laughed. But everybody is angry. And they said if President Bush thinks The New York Times action and other newspapers was despicable, if Tony Snow is telling people this might endanger their lives, what the deuce is the administration going to do about it?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Well, look, there are a whole number of options right now, but the Bush administration, the president is not in a position to ask for investigations. The president's not in a position...

O'REILLY: He can't call Alberto Gonzales and say check it out?

SNOW: No. No, as a matter of fact, it's entirely improper. And if the news — the president's trying to mount investigations of the press, that simply would be inappropriate.

I'll tell you what the president's done. He's expressed his feelings about it. He described the story as disgraceful. And what has happened, and you're absolutely right, is we now have this vigorous debate in the United States...

O'REILLY: Right.

SNOW: ...about what the public's right to know is. And when it comes into conflict with the efforts to protect the American people, do you have an obligation as a responsible press outlet not to print the news? There's a long history, especially in times of war...

O'REILLY: OK, but.

SNOW: ...when news organizations have decided not to proceed.

O'REILLY: OK, this is interesting to me. You're telling me that President Bush can't call the attorney general of the United States and say, look into this because I want to find out who the leakers are?

SNOW: That is correct. It's not...

O'REILLY: The leakers?

SNOW: ...something the president does. This is — what's interesting here is that there is a process for going ahead and doing investigations. The president doesn't initiate it. Instead, what could happen is that the referring agency, such as the Treasury Department, would have that option.

O'REILLY: Secretary Snow, right.

SNOW: Secretary Snow. Or others may initiate legal processes within the Department of Justice. It's not going to happen out of the White House.

O'REILLY: Well, what about the leakers? I mean, doesn't this disturb the president that you've got people in the CIA and the NSA calling up The New York Times and blowing covert programs in a time of war? You see, the executive — he's the commander in chief. If you've got treason within your ranks, it would seem to me the commander in chief has a responsibility to root it out.

SNOW: Well, and I don't want to — how do I do this — I don't want to tip my hand or I don't want to tip anybody else's hand, or I don't even want to imply that things are going on...

O'REILLY: But don't you understand that people want these questions answered?

SNOW: Of course they do. But you also have to understand, Bill, that when you have legal processes, where you have — referrals and that sort of thing, those are usually done in a way that doesn't — you don't take out an ad and say we're doing things. I honestly don't know if there's an investigation going on.

O'REILLY: Well, Congress has called for an investigation.

SNOW: Congress has called for it. Other people...

O'REILLY: So I mean, we know that's going on.

SNOW: ...have made their views known.

O'REILLY: Did you know that in Europe today, a group called Privacy International has filed complaints in 32 countries against these certain countries for helping the USA track terror money? Did you know that?

SNOW: They have been making statements in recent days. And...

O'REILLY: Did you know the ACLU's filed suit?

SNOW: The ACLU and others are trying to file suit. And it's going to be interesting because one of the things about The New York Times story, Bill, is that it acknowledged that there was firm legal basis. We're trying to take a look.

O'REILLY: Right.

SNOW: Furthermore, Congress on a number of occasions has said to the White House, you need to be aggressive in going after terror monies. As a matter of fact, one of the things that they have asked the Treasury Department to do was to monitor all international transactions, therefore going further than the Swift program.

The New York Times itself, shortly after September 11th said you must go. [It said it in an] editorial. It said you have to go aggressively after terror.

Suddenly, the administration does it. And the response is, well, you know, we don't know that we should trust the administration.

O'REILLY: Yes, they don't trust you guys. They think you're the bigger danger to the country than the terrorists. You know that.

SNOW: But the president has a solemn obligation as commander in chief to try to protect the American people.

O'REILLY: All right. So you don't know what's going to happen to The New York Times or the leakers? You don't know?

SNOW: I don't know.

O'REILLY: OK. Guantanamo Bay.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: Our people say the Supreme Court's going to say no military tribunals. Got to try them in civilian courts. You ready for that?

SNOW: You know, we are ready for any number of responses from the Supreme Court. But rather than trying to predict what the court's going to.

O'REILLY: No, but are you ready if they rule that way? What are you going to do?

SNOW: Yes, well, what the president said all along is we're waiting for this position of the Hamden case, which is.

O'REILLY: Coming in tomorrow.

SNOW: ...we think.

O'REILLY: They say.

SNOW: Perhaps, yes.

O'REILLY: Right.

SNOW: So I mean, they said it was coming in today.

So we'll find out when it's coming in. Either way, when the Supreme Court comes up with a decision, it will then allow us to figure out how to proceed with cases in Guantanamo, either through military commissions or if necessary, through criminal courts, but it does...

O'REILLY: Would you move the criminal courts to Cuba?

SNOW: I doubt it.

O'REILLY: So you'd bring these guys all to the United States?

SNOW: I don't want to prejudge exactly how we're going to do it, but those.

O'REILLY: You're dancing a little here, Mr. Snow.

SNOW: Of course, I'm —well, the reason I'm dancing is the last thing you want to do is to start giving definitive statements about things that may not ever take place.

O'REILLY: All right. But certainly, you have to plan for those things.

SNOW: Of course you do.

O'REILLY: In Iraq, do you believe, by the way, that the president's poll numbers are driven down by Iraq? Is that the main thing or are gasoline prices the main thing?

SNOW: I think, you know, right now probably Iraq is something that weighs on people's minds. It weighs heavily on their minds.

But I also think in recent weeks, they've started to see glimmers of hope. You got a new Iraqi government..


SNOW: We went to see them. And suddenly, these people begin to see, number one, that the president's in there, not simply to sort of slog, but to win. And number two, that the Iraqi government shares that goal. I think you're starting to see people.

O'REILLY: But is it Iraq or gas prices that are driving his numbers down?

SNOW: Don't know, don't know.

O'REILLY: You guys do internal polling

SNOW: Of course we do internal polling. But on the other hand, one of the things President has said...

O'REILLY: You're not going to tell me, are you?

SNOW: No, because you know what? There's no clear way to separate them. There — you cannot do a poll and say which one of these has more...

O'REILLY: Can't break it out.

SNOW: Can't break it up. But I'll tell you what....

O'REILLY: ...FOX News/Opinion Dynamics does.

SNOW: Well, I'll tell you what. The two issues are related in the following sentence.

O'REILLY: Right.

SNOW: As the war on terror proceeds, you've noticed that there's a lot of anxiety right now about what's going to happen to oil supplies in the Middle East.

O'REILLY: Oh, absolutely.

SNOW: As a matter of fact, experts will tell you that there's probably 50 percent of the price of oil right now.

O'REILLY: ...is anxiety.

SNOW: ...is anxiety.

O'REILLY: All right, we got to take a break. Am I being respectful enough?

SNOW: You're being shockingly respectful!

O'REILLY: All right, I call him "Mr." ... We'll have more. And we're going to get into Iran, Iraq, the border — the border — big one — with Tony Snow when we come back.

And our billoreilly.com poll question is asking you who's the real villain in the terror money story? The New York Times, the people who leaked the story, or no villain at all? We'd like you to select one on billoreilly.com

Later on, are people like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt using humanitarian acts to overcome bad publicity? Coming up.


O'REILLY: We continue our conversation with White House spokesperson Mr. Tony Snow! There he is.

You know, Juan Williams is like giving me all kinds of stuff — you better get Snow!

Now, listen, it disturbed me when the generals in Iraq said we flooded Baghdad with 80,000 troops, all right, and we still can't control the chaos in Baghdad. You know, what is the essential problem there?

SNOW: The essential problem in Baghdad is that you have sectarian strife. You have people who want — they understand that in Iraq, if you can keep the capital unstable, you can.

O'REILLY: Right.

SNOW: ...if nothing else.

O'REILLY: That's the game.

SNOW: ...you can control international perceptions of what's going on in Iraq.

O'REILLY: Right.

SNOW: I mean at the same time.

O'REILLY: But can't 80,000 coalition troops.

SNOW: It's 50,000. It's 50,000 Iraqi forces.

O'REILLY: And 30...

SNOW: ...no, 7,200 coalition forces in support right now.

O'REILLY: Should we move more in?

SNOW: That's for the generals on the ground to decide.

O'REILLY: Because they said even with all of this manpower, it's still dangerous.

SNOW: Well, what they've said is that in two weeks, there have been some good signals, kidnappings going down. But let's face it. There's still a lot of violence.

The president makes an important point, which is that terrorists understand that a single act of violence can shape public perceptions. In a certain sense, if you blow up somebody in the marketplace, you get to define victory in terms of those deaths.


SNOW: Meanwhile, if you go in and you clean up four out of the five neighborhoods, that doesn't count.

O'REILLY: Care to make a prediction in six months what we're going to be looking at in Iraq?

SNOW: I don't want to make a prediction. Well, I'll make this prediction. I think what you're going to see is Iraqi forces becoming more and more trained, better equipped...

O'REILLY: Security better?

SNOW: You know, I hesitate to try to make predictions just because I don't have the military expertise.

O'REILLY: How much time do you think you have? You know, that's really the key. As you've mentioned, the Zarqawi thing gave you momentum in Iraq. You got a little momentum back. OK, but how much time do you think you have?

O'REILLY: Hard to say. Let me phrase it a different way and try to twist the question a little bit. I think you've already seen in Methana Province the Iraqis taking full control of security there. You've — the Iraqis have said they think they're ready to take over three or four other provinces.

If you begin to see the kind of domino effect where one by one, the Iraqis are taking full control of the provinces, and furthermore you get not only credible military but credible police, and the police are a huge part of the problem because there have been corrupt police in Iraq.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

SNOW: If you have people in a place like Baghdad who trust the local Iraqi police, they're going to tell on the bad guy.

O'REILLY: Yes, they'll get the bad guys out if they don't think you're going to get the.

SNOW: Those are the kinds of moves to look forward to. Now General Casey has said the 2006 job number one is training up the police forces. And that, I guarantee you, will continue into the next year.

O'REILLY: All right, now, the border.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: President Bush has been reluctant to send the National Guard [down to the U.S. Mexican border]. He finally sends 6,000. You should send 50,000. 50,000 then secures the border. Why is he reluctant to send the Guard down there?

SNOW: He's not reluctant to send Guard. As a matter of fact, if you take a look at what's going on.

O'REILLY: But 6,000's not enough, is it?

SNOW: 6,000 Guard units right now are taking on support roles so the border patrol agents can go ahead and do their jobs.

O'REILLY: Why not 50,000? If you have...

SNOW: Because you don't need 50,000. You've been along parts of that that border.

O'REILLY: All of it.

SNOW: There are parts on that border. There are long stretches, in some cases hundreds of miles that are completely impassable. There are mountains, they are desert. And you're not going to need a border patrol agent every three feet.

O'REILLY: So you think you can secure that whole border with 6,000 Guard and the border patrol you have now?

SNOW: No, no. As a matter of fact, what you do is you use a whole array of things. In some places you're going to need fences. In some places, you're going to need border patrol agents and some of these God forsaken places I've been telling you about, technical means. You can use unmanned.

O'REILLY: Yes, we know. All right, here's another question from the radio listeners.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: What took President Bush so long to do this?

SNOW: President Bush has actually been beefing up border patrol for a considerable period of time. What's interesting is that a number of good stories have been taking place underneath the radar screen that people aren't aware of.

For instance, illegal border crossings have been going down since the year 2000. Number two, the border incursions, which have garnered so much attention, those have been going down since the year 2002.

If you take a look at the crime rates for illegals, they're lower than the U.S. population at large. And the unemployment rate is lower. So you do have a problem with illegals, but you also have had progress on securing the border. And now what we're doing...

O'REILLY: Is the president aware of how much anger there is over this issue?

SNOW: The president knows a lot of people are angry, but the president also understands that people want to solve the whole problem and not just parts of it.


SNOW: Let me give you an example.

O'REILLY: I got to take a break. So hold it.

SNOW: I'll hold it, Mr. O'Reilly...

O'REILLY: And then we'll come back — and you can give me the example, Mr. Snow. We'll wrap up our chat with Tony in a moment.


O'REILLY: In the last few minutes, we have — I'm sorry in the last few minutes we have to spend with White House spokesman Tony Snow, I want to ask a couple of questions about himself.

But you want to say something about the border, but I just want get this out. There are people who believe the reason President Bush has been more aggressive on the border is he doesn't want to lose Hispanic votes. And the reason the Democrats haven't been more aggressive on the border is they want illegals to come in to vote for them. Isn't there a political component to this?

SNOW: There's a political component because a lot of people care about it. But the interesting part about this is the president's doing what he thinks is right. If you had gone around and said to people, well, what do you think a Republican president ought to do, it may not have been what he did.

O'REILLY: No, it wouldn't. He's more in line with McCain and Kennedy than he is with the House Republicans.

SNOW: But he's doing what he thinks is right. Now, here's two quick points. Number one, when it comes to comprehensive reform, you take a look — you know, we've mentioned polls a number of times. That's a 70 percent issue on each and every major aspect of the president's plan.

When it comes to border security, the president has spent already this year, $1.9 billion, which is what the House in its bill was going to spend over five years on border security.

O'REILLY: All right.

SNOW: So the question is, who's more serious? And the president wants to work with the House and Senate and get this thing done and get...

O'REILLY: It's hard to believe that many "Factor" viewers actually like you and want to know about you. So I have to ask these questions in our last segment.

First of all, you know that the White House press corps — a lot of them fear you because you make fun of them.

SNOW: You know.

O'REILLY: But that's good!

SNOW: You know what happens is I get along with — when I make jokes from the podium, you'll find people out there laughing. You know, last week with Helen Thomas, I said.


SNOW: .Helen, stop pestering the teacher. She will laugh


SNOW: She had a good time with it.

O'REILLY: But they don't want —they know you're quicker than most of them. And they don't want you to embarrass them on national television. That's a huge advantage.

SNOW: Well, one of the other things.

O'REILLY: A huge advantage.

SNOW: One of the other things is it's our view that you give them more information. You're going to get better stories. The fundamentals on this administration.

O'REILLY: Oh, yes, you're a straight talker, but you're not taking any guff. And that's good.

Now I want to ask you about your health.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: I mean, you had a terrible bout with cancer. I want to show the picture. And Tony underwent chemo. And you beat it. Has this — you're working 13 hours a day at least.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: Is this impacting your health?

SNOW: No. My oncologist had a great line when I went in, because I asked him. I said is this going to hurt my health. He said "No, it's not going to make your cancer worse, but it may give you heartburn."

O'REILLY: Is that true?

SNOW: I don't get heartburn, but the cancer's not worse.

O'REILLY: How about your family? How are they reacting to this change of life?

SNOW: You know, at first, they were — they thought they'd never see daddy, anymore.

O'REILLY: You have two kids, right?

SNOW: I have three kids.

O'REILLY: Three kids.

SNOW: And they were worried that they wouldn't be able to see me. Now in my previous life, I was working six days a week. I get weekends off. It's a family friendly White House. When I can get out earlier, I do. You know, it does have the added benefit that...

O'REILLY: All right, so you're around weekends.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: ...for the family.

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: But you're in the office about — before 6:00 a.m. every morning, right?

SNOW: Yes, but I was before when I was doing talk radio.

O'REILLY: Oh, you weren't in the FOX News office at 6:00 a.m.! Don't give me any of that. I could barely get you at 6:00 at night.

SNOW: That's because I was in here at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. Are you kidding me? We had our first staff meeting at 6:30 every morning.

O'REILLY: And then the White House, you have to stay till like 7:00, right?

SNOW: Yes, depending on the day, depending on what we have to do.

O'REILLY: Do you mind? I mean, that kind of...

SNOW: No, you know.

O'REILLY: It's a fun job for you?

SNOW: It's more fun than I've ever had in any other job. And I loved my previous work. But I got to tell you, it's stimulating. It's busy. You've got important issues. You're dealing with a fascinating time in history.


SNOW: And I'm working for a president I really like and admire on issues where I agree with him. And I just.

O'REILLY: And you stick up when you don't agree with him, right?

SNOW: Yes.

O'REILLY: ...behind the scenes.

SNOW: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: You're not going to tell me, but you do.

SNOW: No. And everybody else does, too. I mean, this is a White House where you get very interesting and stimulating exchanges. But there's no doubt who the boss is. And when he makes a decision, you file in behind and you follow him.

O'REILLY: All right, Tony Snow. Thanks for coming in. We really appreciate it.

SNOW: Bill, thanks.

O'REILLY: All right.

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