Tony Snow tells CBS anchor, 'I hate to tell you ... you can't have your own facts'
On Tuesday, the major networks each interviewed White House Press Secretary Tony Snow about the failure of President Bush's immigration bill, asking Snow directly whether Bush was now officially a lame duck.
Snow insisted to all of them that Bush had been the "dominant figure" at the recent G8 conference and will be pushing strenuously for his immigration, energy, and education legislation. He claimed to CBS that many Republicans voted against the immigration bill only because the Democratic leadership had not allowed them to debate amendments.
However, when Snow said of Bush to CBS's Harry Smith, "He goes to the G8, leads the way on climate change," Smith broke in to object: "I think that's following on climate change. ... These other countries have set the table for this for years. The president is late to this table."
"I hate to tell you," replied Snow. "No Harry, you can't have your own facts. We've got a better record than the rest of the world... What you're arguing is that you regulate your way in. It never works, hasn't. What the president says is, use technology as the way of doing it and, guess what, everybody agreed."
According to a Reuters report on the G8 conference, "President George W. Bush's plan to combat climate change got a cool reception on Friday in Europe, where the European Union's environment chief dismissed it as unambitious and the 'classic' U.S. line."
The following video is from NBC's Today Show, ABC's Good Morning America and CBS's Early Show. All were broadcast on June 12.
Excerpts from transcripts:
MS. ROBERTS: Tony, we just heard what Senator Barack Obama had to say about the president. So let me ask you, is George Bush a lame duck president?
MR. SNOW: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I mean, just take a look at what's been going on in the last couple of weeks. The president just came off a very successful meeting at the G8 where the United States led the way on climate change, led the way on development, drew Russia into conversations about missile defense in Europe, had the highly successful meetings throughout the region.
Meanwhile, back here at home, what are we doing? We're still in the middle of an immigration debate that we feel confident is going to yield an historic and important vote and an important piece of legislation. Congress today is going to take up energy legislation. And you've got a president actually who laid out a fairly ambitious agenda at the State of the Union address featuring immigration, energy, No Child Left Behind. We're likely to get all three this year. That's hardly a lame duck presidency.
Now, if Senator Obama doesn't want to act on that, then he's going to have to explain to the American people why he thinks important problems are the kinds of things we can shove off for a couple of years. Meanwhile, while I actually think a lot of people are very busy doing some very important and constructive work.
MR. SMITH: For more on the president's Capitol Hill visit, we turn now to White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.
Tony, good morning.
MR. SNOW: Good morning, Harry.
MR. SMITH: We just heard in this report from Joie Chen 38 Republicans voted against this immigration bill. Any real chance of getting any of them to change their minds?
MR. SNOW: Yeah, there is, because if you take a look at the vote last week, it wasn't necessarily on the immigration bill. There are some people who are opposed to it, but also a fair number of Republicans weren't happy because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not want to continue the process of debating a lot of amendments. So you have people like John Warner and others saying, "Well, wait a minute. This is the Senate. We need to have a full debate."
I think what you're going to find, Harry, is that the Senate Republicans are going to put together a package of amendments. They're going to present them to Democrats, saying, "This is what we want to debate." And we seem to be getting some signals out of the majority leader that he'll go ahead and make that debate possible. Therefore, we feel pretty confident we're going to get passage.
MR. SMITH: Doesn't the president have to convince those people who are so adamant about this that he may be right?
MR. SNOW: Yeah. Look, there are some people who are not going to be persuaded because they disagree with him. But there are also a lot of people right now who are saying, "Well, who's right here?" And I think that's one of the reasons why you have political debate in this country.
You're absolutely right. We're going to continue to present our arguments to the American people and explain exactly what this bill says, what it does, and why it answers people's qualms about security; provide security first; why it restores rule of law and why it makes citizenship special.
MR. SMITH: But the other question that comes up, then, is if the president can't get this done, in which he has placed so much of his own prestige and will and everything else, does this not show that he's a lame duck?
MR. SNOW: Well, think of it -- let's flip it around. The president just came back from a G-8 session where, you know, when everybody went they said, "Well, here's George W. Bush. The whole world's against him on climate change." Guess what: He goes to the G-8, leads the way on climate change, leads the way on development, leads the way on AIDS --
MR. SMITH: No, I think that's following on climate change. He's following on climate change.
MR. SNOW: No, no, I don't think so, Harry.
MR. SMITH: These other countries have set the table for this for years. The president is late to this table. You can't flip that around.
MR. SNOW: I hate to tell you -- no, Harry, you can't have your own facts. We've got a better record than the rest of the world. We have more rapid rate of improvement --
MR. SMITH: And it should have an even better record than we already have, and you know that.
MR. SNOW: No. What you're arguing is that you regulate your way in. It never works; hasn't. What the president says is, "Use technology as the way of doing it." And guess what: Everybody agreed.
Now, when it comes to domestic policy, the president laid out a number of key items in the State of the Union address. Immigration is one of them. We feel pretty good about that. They're debating energy right now, and he's been able to implement a fair amount of that by executive order. No Child Left Behind; that's got bipartisan support.
What I think you're going to see is big, major legislation being passed in the seventh year of a presidency. That's not a lame duck.
MR. SMITH: Okay.
MR. SNOW: What you have is a situation of a lot of political contentiousness.
MR. SMITH: All right, we'll see.