*made up number – lost count long ago… (partial transcript)
Gregory: As you well know, this is not a campaign season about whether America is a great place or not, right? I mean it's a lot more substantive than that and it has to do with the path that this president took the country after 9/11. Now when a Republican leader of Congress says 'I wonder if democrats are more interested in protecting terrorists than they are in protecting the American people.' [ed note: actual quote is 'I wonder if they're more interested in protecting terrorists than they are in protecting the American People.' This was said by John Boehner in response to what Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Tuesday that Bush was “more consumed by staying the course in Iraq and playing election-year politics.” source] As a spokesman for the President, do you think that it's your duty to say that's out of bounds, or not?
Snow: Frankly again, this is one of these things. I haven't even seen the Boehner statement. But let me make a larger point. When people call the President a liar or a loser – that happens -there have been all sorts of names and smears aimed at the President and he understands and is a big enough boy to deal with that. The other thing is that in this present political season unfortunately there will be a lot of it. There will be some name calling. You know what? I think you and I agree. Let's figure out what the substantive issues are, let's get past the name calling, and let's get down to it and let's talk about it.
Gregory: But this is important because as a matter of fact the Vice President said over the weekend to Tim Russert that the sort of debate we're having in this country about withdrawing troops from Iraq emboldens the terrorists. Now you have a Republican leader of Congress saying the Democrats may be more interested in protecting terrorists than the American people. Does the President agree with that?
Snow: The President, What you've done is you've taken two things. Let's focus on what the Vice President said which is that withdrawal from Iraq would embolden the terrorists. And it's true. Osama Bin Ladin has made it clear. And one of things he says is that if the United States is pushed from Iraq it will be to the eternal humiliation of the United States. So it is clear that from the standpoint of Bin Ladin, who in the past – you've quite kindly corrected me on a misstatement back in August when I got it wrong – Bin Ladin drew the conclusion when we left Somalia that the Americans didn't have what it took to stick it out. See, that's the way that the enemy is looking at this. So as an objective statement about the way in which Bin Ladin views the United States, that is a true statement. I'm not going to get into trying to characterize what John Boehner said.
Gregory: You certainly would get into if somebody accused the President of being a liar. You want to let a statement like this stand from a Republican leader of Congress?
Snow: You're presenting me with a statement that I haven't seen. I'll tell you what. I'll get back to you on it.
Gregory: It's been out for a couple of hours. I think you've had ample time to see it. Let me ask you this final point. Can you describe how it's possible to oppose the President on the war in Iraq without emboldening the terrorists?
Snow: There are probably… Yes, absolutely. There are ways to do it but also if you say we need to leave, right now, without preconditions, and I'm not sure anybody says that but I give you a hypothetical, that would embolden the terrorists. If the end result was that we left Iraq and we did not have an Iraq that was able to sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself that would embolden the terrorists. If the terrorists have the ability, if the terrorists draw the conclusion that they can use political means – because they defeat us militarily, so it has to be a political battle – if they can use political means to drive us from Iraq and make Iraq a place from which – like Afghanistan before – they can mount terrorist attacks and set up their own headquarters and this time have in addition, oil as a weapon, then that, in fact, is the kind of situation that we can't let stand. But there are ways of disagreeing. You can disagree over a lot of things. If you share the objective, of having an Iraq – this is what's kind of interesting about the debate last night because if you look at the President's speech, he talks about an Iraq that's going to be able to be democratic. I don't know that that's controversial with anybody. An Iraq where Iraqi forces are going to be able to defend Iraqi ground. I don't that that's controversial. I think those are the things. So to answer your question – I want to get back to this – to answer your question, it is possible to disagree, but on the other hand, if you are proposing a position that says to Bin Ladin in effect 'Iraq is yours' then that is not the kind of thing that I think is going to lead to victory.
Gregory: Do Democrats want to protect terrorists more than the American people? What do you think?
Snow: Again, you know I know you think that in the last hour – I had an hour to prepare because we had long meetings –
Gregory: Forget about what Boehner said. I'm putting the proposition to you. Do you have an opinion on that topic?
Snow: Do I think, no I think…
Gregory: Democrats are more interested in protecting the terrorists than the American people. What do you think?