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Watch Snow Squirm

Posted on Feb 22, 2007
Tony Snow

The long-dormant White House press corps has shown signs of life in recent months, including Monday’s briefing when reporters refused to allow press secretary Tony Snow to dodge and divert their questions about the Army hospital scandal.

Watch it

Transcript (from Alternet):

Q The administration’s mantra for a long time has been “support the troops.” What is the reaction, then, when you read this series of stories in The Washington Post about troops coming home from Iraq, Afghanistan and being treated so poorly, apparently, based on this long investigation? What’s the President’s reaction?

MR. SNOW: There are a couple of things. First, it’s not a mantra. I would really choose words carefully. It’s a commitment to support the troops. And the President, as you know, has visited the wounded many times at Walter Reed and we are concerned about it. And the people who—

Q Were you aware?

MR. SNOW: We are aware now, yes. And I would refer you to the Department of Defense, which I know is taking a very close look at it, too.

Look, the men and women who have gone and fought for our country over there, they deserve the best care.

Q So why has that not been guaranteed, then?

MR. SNOW: I’m not sure that—you know, when you find a problem, you deal with it.

Q So you’re saying the President learned about this from The Washington Post?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know exactly where he learned it, but I can tell you that we believe that they deserve better. And, again, Ed, this is something where I’d suggest you give DoD a call, because I know they’ve taken a good, hard look at it.

Q Tony, can I follow on that? As Bob Dole might ask, where’s the outrage?

MR. SNOW: There’s plenty of outrage.

Q Is there?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q So the President responded how when he learned about this? What, specifically—did he order something to be done?

MR. SNOW: What I’m suggesting—there’s a reason I’m suggesting—DoD is the proper place in which we’ll be taking care of these issues. And I would refer you to them for comment. But this is something that’s going to have to be an action item.

Q But is there any evidence that it was even looked at before the paper printed its two stories?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Then tell us about that evidence.

MR. SNOW: That’s why—again, I would refer you, Bill, to the Department of the Army, which runs the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This is the place where if you want to get—

Q That’s just an easy way for you not to have to talk about it.

MR. SNOW: Well, it’s also a way of pointing to the proper authorities, which is what you would want.

Q The White House doesn’t want to be on record with a more emphatic expression of amazement and upset about this?

MR. SNOW: No. David asked where the outrage—of course there’s outrage that men and women who have been fighting have not received the outpatient care—if you read the stories, there are many who are happy with it, some who are unhappy, and it’s important that we show our commitment to the people who have served. I don’t know what more you want me to do.

Q In December NPR ran a series looking at the quality of mental health care for Iraq veterans who have returned, showing that it’s shocking how little care is provided to them. And several congresspeople—Obama, Boxer and Bond—sent a letter to the Pentagon, which you’re referring us to, asking for an investigation, which they have not agreed to conduct. So you’re referring us to the DoD, but they’re not acting quickly on this. So does the President want them to act quickly?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, you’ve asked me about two separate stories.

Q It seems there’s a problem that’s endemic to the system.

MR. SNOW: Well, rather than leaping to a conclusion, as I said, I would suggest you call them, and then we can talk about it later.

Q Off camera this morning you said that you would have something at noon; you said, I’ll talk about it then. And now you’re not really—

MR. SNOW: Well, that’s because—again, I think that you may see some activity on it. And at this point I would refer you to the Department of Defense.

Q Is the system working?

MR. SNOW: Well, I’ll tell you what—is the system working? Yes. Is it working perfectly? No.

Q It’s good enough?

MR. SNOW: No, I said, it’s not good enough. I just told you it’s not working perfectly. But there are also thousands of people who have been through the system who have been cared for. But it is important that we maintain a commitment to following up or providing the treatment that these men and women deserve.

Q Do you think the President is going to say something about this later?


Q You responded to me a moment ago that the administration was aware of this before the articles appeared in the paper.

MR. SNOW: That is my understanding. But, again, this is something that’s an action item over at the Department of Defense and, in particular, the Department of the Army. I am not fully briefed on the activities or who knew what, when. And I suggest—

Q Was the President aware of it? Was the White House aware of it?

MR. SNOW: I am not certain—

Q May I follow on—

Q What is the President’s—

MR. SNOW:—when we first became aware of it.* Now the President certainly has been aware of the conditions in the wards where he has visited, and visited regularly, and we also have people from Walter Reed regularly over to the White House as guests, sometimes in fairly large numbers. So as I said, the President is committed—committed to these people, committed to men and women who have served. We need to make sure that whatever problems there are get fixed. I couldn’t be any stronger or plainer about it.

Q Has he given any new orders?

MR. SNOW: No. At this point, Helen, I think the most important thing—the way this would work is the Department of Army has its own investigation about what’s going on at Walter Reed. They will be taking action. The President certainly wants to make sure that, as I said before, whatever problems there are get fixed.

Q On Walter Reed, a lot of the veterans, the medical community, the doctors, the neighbors who have worked at Walter Reed are very upset about this move, pending move to Bethesda. In light of everything that’s happening, does the administration still support uprooting—

MR. SNOW: The Department of Defense has made the decision to consolidate the treatment facilities at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

Q Is there any chance of a second look? Some of the facilities at Walter Reed are brand new.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I’m just going to refer you to that. This is—all of a sudden people are trying to open up different avenues of inquiry. The fact is that those changes have, in fact, been decided upon by the Department of Defense. I am not aware of any decisions to change.

Q To clarify, were these—any actions that the Pentagon has taken, these action items, were they done on its own, or did they do this in response to some order from here?

MR. SNOW: Again, I’m not aware that anybody has—look, when you have a problem like this, the imperative is to fix it. I’m not sure that you have to issue orders; there are people there who know if they’ve got a problem they need to fix it. So I don’t think that—I will try to find out for you, but I’m not aware that the President has cut any special orders. But I will try to get for you additional information.

Q I think what we’re—

MR. SNOW: I know what you’re trying to do, you’re trying to get a tick-tock on what did he learn and how did he respond and who did he call.

Q Yes, we’re trying to determine if someone here built a fire under someone over there to do something.

MR. SNOW: You know, that’s assuming that people there are callous about the fate of the people who are serving.

Q It isn’t—

MR. SNOW: No, I think it is. When you say “light a fire,” it’s as if, you know, you find out that there’s a problem and you don’t move quickly to try to correct it. My sense is that there’s plenty of fire for trying to get it right. But this is why I’m telling you if you want a more direct answer about this, you do need to talk to the people at the Department of the Army—

Q But, Tony, when you read—

MR. SNOW:—who are at the ground level involvement here.

Q—an account that says a commanding general, quotes a commanding general as saying, well, gee, we ordered repairs done, but they weren’t done—you’d think they would have known this hadn’t been accomplished.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, that’s why—you’ve just made my point, which is you need to get back to them, and I will also get back for you with a tick-tock about what’s going on at this end.

Q It’s not just—you’re describing kind of a cold, detached bureaucratic process. We all know how this works. Something like this, this kind of story gets people’s attention. You are now—

MR. SNOW: Well—

Q Wait a minute. You’re now in the PR business, you know if something like this happens it’s at odds with the commitments you make; the Commander-in-Chief might well stand up at a meeting and say, darn it, let’s get to the bottom of this now and let’s get answers. And this happened over the weekend, and you’re saying you think the White House knew, but you’re not sure; you’re not sure when the President knew or if he said something to somebody. It just seems like you should have those answers.

MR. SNOW: Okay, but you also—fine, I’ll try to get them for you. But when you talk about cold detachment, I don’t think saying that if it needs—

Q You’re calling it an “action item”?

MR. SNOW: Well, yes, because what I’m telling you is that it is something that falls under the providence of the Department of the Army. Therefore, if you want the detailed answers about who knew what, when and how it’s been handled, you do need to ask them, because they’re going to have the information, David.

I can tell you that the President feels passionately about them, and you should have no doubt about it—you’ve been at enough events where when he looks these people in the eye there is a commitment, a strong, profound emotional commitment to the people who serve this country. And it is one where the President is committed to doing right by the men and women who serve. There should be no doubt about that.

Q But, Tony—

MR. SNOW: Wait, wait. In that case, what I’m telling you is let’s sort through the facts. I know that what you want is for me to tell you more than I know right now. So you keep at it—

Q But it would not be unreasonable for you or the President, through you, to express some kind of outrage over what has happened up there.

MR. SNOW: Well, it’s also a matter of trying to figure out precisely what has happened. You have news stories, it is important to investigate. As you know, the most important thing is to fix a problem, correct? And there is absolute determination to fix the problem. The President is somebody, again, whose passion for these forces should never, ever be a topic of doubt on the part of the forces or the American people.

Q Right, but Tony, when you say he looks in the eyes of the families—but what if the bureaucrats on the ground are not actually following through on the commitment you say he has? Doesn’t he have a duty to follow through and say, what—

MR. SNOW: That’s why I’m asking you to direct your questions to the people who are in direct line of responsibility for this, who are going to have more information on this than I do right now.

Q What is your reaction of Major General Weightman, who is the Commander at Walter Reed, also says in the bottom of the article on Sunday in The Washington Post, said that he’s concerned and that they’re bracing for, “potentially a lot more casualties,” people coming to Walter Reed because of the surge. Does that cause the White House to think at all about that policy, because you have the Commander of Walter Reed—

MR. SNOW: There are a whole series of things, and, again, this is why you need to talk to people who are in the chain, because—

Q But this he said on the record.

MR. SNOW: I understand, Ed. But there are a series of things. First, for Walter Reed, what you end up having is treatment of people who are wounded—and also this is Bethesda, as you know, different sorts of injuries are treated at the two facilities. And many of those people are there for months. And this story deals with outpatient care after that treatment, right? So it’s important, I think, to understand that you’ve got to be prepared for all things that are going to come your way, including getting the piece right when it comes to outpatient care, and continuing also to do well by inpatients.

But, again, I know you want me to—I’m simply not going to go beyond what I know. And in this particular case, the people who do know the facts and do know what’s going on, and do know how the investigations are proceeding are the guys over at DoD.

Q I think that’s part of the question. It doesn’t seem like—beyond what you know, it doesn’t seem like you’re asking that many questions to find out. I mean, you have a limited knowledge about the situation.

MR. SNOW: It’s because they’re working the issue, and I’m telling you, those are the people to talk to, the DoD.

Q—I mean, you keep putting me off on other people—

MR. SNOW: I know.

Q This is a commitment the President has made, you said, to the families, right?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q So why isn’t the President, why isn’t his staff saying, let’s get to the bottom of it now?

MR. SNOW: We are trying to get to the bottom of it, and the people who are responsible for getting to the bottom of it work on the other side of the river.


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By Chaseme, February 25, 2007 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Is the honeymoon over for W?

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By Tobiaz, February 25, 2007 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Comment #54885 by LG “The “troops” primarily vote republican.”

My son reminded me last election cycle. “I’m Democrat Mom, most of us folks over here are.”

“Then how come the perception is the Military always votes republican?” I asked.

“That’s the second big lie,” he responded.

“What’s the first?” I asked.

“The notion that we all stand around the president and cheer because we love him!” He answered.

(Ever hear of a Command Performance?)

Comment #54833 by ChicagoGuy “Snow is saying that it’s the Army’s fault”

Isn’t that really what they always do? If we criticize them, they twist it to have us criticizing the Army. If we find fault with their gross incompetence in running the war they started, they twist it to have us blaming the Army. Truth is, they are a pack of cowardly wimps who never experienced the discipline and guts and loyalty required to be in the Army!

Couldn’t qualify if they tried!

I think we should make military experience, REAL military experience a requirement if you want to be president. Not so much because it would make a man/woman think twice before they sent the military into harms way, although if they had that experience they would. But because having been in the military they would know what REAL self-control is, REAL courage is, REAL self-respect is. And they would know what respecting and valuing others REALLY is.

We need to STOP putting pampered politicians with un-earned money and un-earned power into the White House!

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By Louise, February 25, 2007 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“This is one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in a while. And simultaneously it’s one of the most optimistic.”

Yes it’s refreshing to see Main stream media grab and hold on. And yes, the bloggers deserve much credit for lighting a fire under them. Reality say’s we’ll never see a fire under the Bush.

The disgusting part about all this is Macho Man frequently drags these folks out for ‘show and tell’ in one of his ego photo ops, but doesn’t care enough to go inside the hole and see what they live like. More offensive, when he heard about this why wasn’t he live on the nations networks demanding change? Why wasn’t he publicly acknowledging some level of anger, or at least awareness?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pictures of wounded laying in cots. Wards built for five holding twenty. Small screens offering no privacy, or perhaps the comfort of seeing others sharing your pain. Dirty floors and dirty toilets. The smell. That ugly paint on stained and cracking walls. Is it green? Cant tell. Doctors and Nurses who care, but can do so little. Waiting to die. And many finally do. Walter Reed, Vietnam era.

We’ve come a long way since Vietnam. We can save more lives, but we still can’t take care of them after we do.

Why wasn’t there adequate planning ahead to make sure these folks were going to be properly housed and cared for? Why wasn’t a plan put in place to handle the volume? Why do these people have to fight for treatment and benefits and everything else they have paid such a high price to get?

Snow, “we’re working the issue” Who’s we’re? “the people responsible for getting to the bottom of it work on the other side of the river”

Oh that explains it! The president cant get to the other side of the river.
[Where’s George Washington when you need him? He knows how to get across.]

Why, oh why?
Why are we even in this mess?

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By Dale Headley, February 24, 2007 at 9:59 am Link to this comment
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Let’s quit pussyfooting!  George Bush, Dick Cheney, et al, see our troops as nothing more than cannon fodder in their quest for oil and power.  Not for a seond does Bush lose a bit of sleep thinking about the plight of wounded veterans, beyond their value in a photo op.

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By robert boldt, February 23, 2007 at 2:13 pm Link to this comment
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Every chance Bush gets he goes on and on about how he is the Commander in Chief until that title has lost it’s true meaning.If in fact he is the CIC WHY DOESN’T HE GET OFF HIS DEAD ASS AND DO SOME COMMANDING?

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By Steve Hammons, February 23, 2007 at 4:49 am Link to this comment
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Maybe the press is finally getting enough courage to push the issue of how US troops and vets are being treated, and what is happening to them.

Even the jaded Washington press corps might feel something for the troops who have lost limbs, beein terribly burned and have sustained serious brain injuries from IED explosions.

The question was asked shortly after the Iraq invasion began and is being asked now: Can Americans and the US media honestly face the terrible damage done to our troops by the Bush-Cheney-neocon-war profiteer cabal?

For more on this, see:

“Are the U.S. media and public ready to deal with the troops severely wounded in the Iraq war?”

Steve Hammons
American Chronicle
October 30, 2005

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By Matias, February 22, 2007 at 11:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Tony Snow should be horsewhipped. Slime must be his middle name. A slicker pig you are not likely to find…bigger yes, but slicker, no. Why does the press corp even go to the White House? I think an amazing statement could be made if a press conference was called, and no one attended.

I won’t say what should become of the rest of the thugs driving this train-wreck.

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By grant, February 22, 2007 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment
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“the people who are responsible for this are on the other side of the river”

so, basically, what he’s saying is that the president, the administration sees that there is a problem.  but it’s out of there hands - not their jurisdiction.  they’ll sit there till those other guys get their act together.  not their problem. 

what else do you expect from a guy who sat around for 15 minutes in a class room, hiding with children, after he learned that the country he is supposedly in charge of has been attacked? 

the whole fucking lot of em, chicken hawks who like to pass the buck.  pure filth.

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By Ben, February 22, 2007 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment
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Anyone who thinks Bush, Cheney or Snowjob give a crap about ‘the troops’ as anything but props for their political use and cannon fodder for their war profiteering needs to get a grip on reality. Tax cuts for the rich, lies and spin, and the troops and poor be damned is the rule they live by.

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By Quy Tran, February 22, 2007 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Before becoming the White House press secretary you should know how to spit out then suck back

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By Tom Joaquin, February 22, 2007 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Related information regarding PTSD

For cite links, go to:

Playboy Magazine’s site contains an excellent, recent article on the Bush administration’s efforts to minimize the existence and human costs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) left untreated in troops returning from Iraq.

Mental health problems tend to be easy to ignore. There are no physical scars, or missing limbs. The public prefers to believe troops come home healthy and heroic, and the government is happy to encourage those beliefs. As a result, the long term costs of untreated PTSD are played down in both the press and in the federal budget.

War is a Racket, a short work written by former General Major Smedley Butler in 1935, contains a powerful description of Butler’s observation of the emotional damage caused by war :

  Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

  Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face”! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more. So we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.

  In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

Smedley ButlerSmedley Butler served in the Spanish American War, the Boxer Rebellion, the first World War and in US military actions in Honduras, Haiti and Veracruz, Mexico. He was awarded two Congressional Medals of Honor. After leaving military service he became a strong critic of the US administration and it’s willingness to use war to benefit industry.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, February 22, 2007 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I predict Mr. Smooth will be gone before long, mainly because even he isn’t willing to pay the price necessary to cover his boss’ ass.  In a posting I made many weeks ago, this is exactly the kind of Q-ing I thought was needed.  If Snow isn’t gone, then the White House will either more closely censor or otherwise control questioning or stop holding conferences altogether.

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By rodney matthews, February 22, 2007 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It must be hard being a Bush press secretary when you have to lie to the American people everyday.

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By LG, February 22, 2007 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Most interesting.
The “troops” primarily vote republican.
The press is labeled as “liberal.”
The press still looks out for the welfare of the troops better than the Republithugs.

Regretably, the wounded troops may become the staunchest anti-Repulithugs.

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By, February 22, 2007 at 6:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It seems that George Bush has a lot in common with Catherine the Great. Catherine road thru a village that had been carefully chosen to look prosperous and the people had even been given new clothing to enforce the impression (which clothing was removed after the drive thru). Now we know that George Bush always goes to affairs that are hand picked and stage managed to avoid his having to deal with any real opposition or real truths. The fake concern at New Orleans, comes to mind. Why would we think that George Bush is plugged in to the quality of care of the wounded soldiers by his visits? When we look at it, he never sees the real thing on anything and that brings us to the mess in Iraq and his seeming wish to increase the casualties?

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By ChicagoGuy, February 22, 2007 at 5:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In essence, Snow is saying that it’s the Army’s fault and they, the Army, are not taking care of their own. Again, Snow is playing the blame game and pointing fingers away from the real culprits. As a Vietnam vet, I find this whole situation deplorable. You do not send our men and women into harm’s way and then ignore an issue such as medical assistance they badly require. I cringe every time I hear bush called commander-in-chief.

Maybe it’s time to have each State in the Union bring their own troops back home for medical attention and not allow this dysfunctional administration to partake in any decision-making that could hinder the well being of those who truly need our support and attention. You really want to support our troops? Then give them the respect and assistence they truly deserve.

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