Tony Snow: Not 'the beginning of the end' but 'the beginning of the beginning of the surge'
White House press secretary Tony Snow appeared on several network news shows on Tuesday, as part of what has been described as "a bid to stem a growing Republican revolt over Iraq strategy" and to counter an upcoming progress report on Iraq that is expected to "conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform."
According to the Associated Press, "One likely result of the report will be a vastly accelerated debate among President Bush's top aides on withdrawing troops and scaling back the U.S. presence in Iraq. The 'pivot point' for addressing the matter will no longer be Sept. 15, as initially envisioned, when a full report on Bush's so-called 'surge' plan is due, but instead will come this week when the interim mid-July assessment is released."
CNN News asked Snow, "Is this week going to mark the beginning of the end of the Iraq War?" Snow's response was, "No. It really marks the beginning of the beginning of the surge."
Snow told CNN that the final forces for the surge only got into place two weeks ago. He also downplayed the importance of unmet benchmarks, saying "Benchmarks are not a device for trying to figure out how to get out of Iraq. They're a device for figuring out how to succeed in Iraq."
ABC News asked Snow more directly whether President Bush will comply with a law requiring him to change his strategy in Iraq if progress on any of the benchmarks is unsatisfactory.
"Let me first push back on this 'panic mode' thing that I've heard reported on this network," said Snow, referring to an ABC News story that the White House is panicking over a flood of Congressional GOP defections on Iraq. "That's bunkum. That's just flat wrong."
Snow also claimed that the interim progress report on Iraq, to be sent to Congress in a few days, will describe differing degrees of progress on various benchmarks. He said that would be "a pretty honest way to look at the picture in Iraq, rather than trying to spin it up into some drama, where all of a sudden people are defecting and things are falling apart and the dam's bursting. This is a war."
It was not clear whether these remarks by Snow were meant to describe the state of things in Iraq or among Congressional Republicans.
When asked how much longer the president can "hold on in the face of" the war's growing unpopularity, Snow insisted, "The War on Terror is not going to go away just because it's unpleasant."
The following video is from CNN's American Morning and ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast on July 10.