• White House Gaggle 18 January, 2007

    Originally appearing at Talk Radio News Service White House Gaggle 18 January, 2007 By Dheeraj Chand President’s Schedule President Bush had his usual morning meetings and briefings this morning. Throughout the day, he will be giving interviews with different regional media outlets. The President is headed to Camp David on Saturday, coming back to D.C. on Monday. The Regional Media Interviews Press Secretary Snow was asked which regional media outlets would be given interviews. He responded that the major ones were Tribune, Cox, Sinclair and others. He did not clarify the length of the interviews or the subject matter. Maliki’s Statements on U.S. Funding Asked about Maliki’s comments to the press that the United States government didn’t give enough money to Iraqi troops for guns, bullets and other supplies to accomplish their tactical objectives, Snow disputed that characterization of the remark, saying that it was one comment taken in isolation. Both Prime Minster Maliki and President Bush are very serious about a secure Iraq, Snow continued. Hussein Hanging Press Secretary Snow said that President Bush was not insulting the government of Iraq during his interview with Jim Lehrer, and that the disagreement over the hanging of Saddam Hussein was just a disagreement between sovereign governments. Agenda for the Weekend Snow said that the agenda item for now is continuing work on the State of The Union. President’s New Strategy Asked whether or not the White House regards Iraqi P.M. Maliki is fully on board with the President’s new strategy, Snow enthusiastically responded, "Oh, yeah!" He then said that the situation in front of us is that a foreign head of state wants to take responsibility for political, diplomatic and security issues of his state, just like any other leader. They’re moving ahead as we speak, making progress towards critical legislation like the hydrocarbon law, de-Baathification, etc. Republican National Committee Asked again about the RNC meetings taking place, and the anger of Sunbelt and southern border states with the appointment of Sen. Mel Martinez, Snow retorted that he is certain that the RNC is going to ratify Martinez and Duncan. He responded to the specific complaints about Martinez, that he is perceived as being pro-immigration, by saying that the President is aware the that the GOP functions as any political party does, with agreement and disagreement, and will move forward with great leadership. Senate Activity Snow said that the White House does not yet have a statement of administrative policy on the Senate Finance passed small business tax cuts. Responding to questions about the veto threat on the energy bill because of tax increases and spending cuts, Snow said that the President doesn’t care for tax hikes. One of the great miracles of modern times, the robust economy in light of historically unprecedented shocks, is largely due to strategic tax cuts, and as a general policy, this administration doesn’t care for tax cuts.

  • White House Gaggle 17 January, 2007

    Originally appearing at Talk Radio News Service White House Gaggle 17 January, 2007 By Dheeraj Chand President’s Schedule President Bush had his usual meetings and briefings, and will continue to do so through the day. The President went to the National Institute of Health labs today in Bethesda, Maryland, to attend a roundtable discussion on cancer prevention. In attendance were also Secretary Leavitt from the Department of Health and Human Services and several prominent oncologists. At 1.15 p.m., the President is meeting with a group of Republican legislators to discuss Iraq. President Bush’s Recent Interviews Asked about why the subject of Iran has not come up in any of the President’s recent interviews, and whether or not this was the result of a White House ban on the topic, Press Secretary Snow categorically stated that this was not the case. He said, tongue in cheek, that the White House would never dare dictate to Jim Lehrer or CBS News what they may or may not ask. Sentiment on Iraq Snow was asked whether it is the case that the President agrees that he and his advisors messed up when he says that he agrees with public sentiment that things are not going well in Iraq. He responded that the President agrees that the Baghdad security plan didn’t work as planned and that it is time to try new things in order to secure a free, stable and democratic Iraq that will be a valuable ally in the global war on terror. Maliki Government Relations Snow said that he is unsure of the last time that there was any diplomatic communication between the United States and the Maliki government, and that he’d imagine that it went through the normal diplomatic channels. The Cancer Roundtable Snow said that as a survivor of cancer himself, he is very moved by the President’s commitment to this issue, and that the reason that President Bush is focusing on this issue today is that there has been a lot of progress in the field and that it’s important to focus on programs that are doing well. He would not comment on funding priorities or the impending State of the Union, but he did say that the President is hopeful that the combined efforts of public and private sector actors would help the lives of the American people. Oppositional Congress Snow backed away from as many questions about the non-binding "Sense of the Senate" resolution as possible. He reiterated that Congress should ask itself what message it is sending with such a resolution. Then, when asked what he thinks that an appropriate role for Congress would be, if passing resolutions of disagreement is seemingly inappropriate. Snow responded that as far as passing resolutions goes, they’re free to do what they wish, but that they should be mindful of the message. Each branch of government has different responsibilities, and the courts have been very consistent in ensuring that executive power remains with the executive branch. Snow clarified that the concerns that Congress should be mindful of are the following: First, the U.S commitment to success and peace for Iraq, second; that those who commit acts of violence in Iraq are mindful of our commitment, and third, that our international allies know that we remain committed to these goals. He said that he couldn’t comment on threats to cut off funding, as those bills don’t yet exist. Israel/Syria Press Secretary Snow had no comment for the second day in a row on the Ha’Aretz story claiming that the United States squashed an agreement of understanding between the governments of Syria and Israel. War Protests Responding to the protests of active-duty soldiers on Capitol Hill yesterday, Snow said that he understands that all wars are unpopular with some people, but that one could sense the overwhelming support of the armed forces by the high re-enlistment numbers and the thousands of people joining up for their first tours.

  • White House Gaggle 5 January, 2007

    Originally appearing at Talk Radio News Service White House Gaggle 5 January, 2007 By Dheeraj Chand President’s Schedule The President had his regular morning briefings, and will have his regular meetings throughout the course of the day. He will record the radio address this week on the subject of the budget. He will also continue his congressional outreach meetings during the day. Personnel Changes Asked whether or not the personnel changes reflected the President’s opinions on how the war in Iraq has proceeded and his opinions on the prior staff’s competence, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow replied that there are no implications and no one should make any inferences about President Bush’s pleasure or displeasure. They have needed a Deputy at the Department of State, but they were more concerned with finding the right person than they were with merely filling the slot. Snow went on to discuss the qualifications of Admiral McConnell, citing his experience, creativity, intelligence, management capacity and his extensive contacts and good relations with the intelligence community. Asked whether or not the personnel changes in the intelligence, diplomatic and military are part of President Bush’s Iraq policy-making process, Snow reminded the press that he was not going to comment on the nominations and appointments until after the President had announced them. He did, however, discuss John Negroponte’s vast diplomatic experience. He also clarified that Harriet Miers was not fired, and that she had resigned. Meetings with Congress Press Secretary Snow opted not to name which Representatives and Senators would be meeting with the President over the course of the day, although he did say that these meetings would continue over the weekend. He also declined to comment on what the President and legislators would be discussing. Relationship with an Opposition Congress When asked what kind of bills the President would veto, Snow replied that it would be irresponsible and dangerous for him to threaten a veto on bills that haven’t been filed, yet, and tantamount to tossing a gauntlet to Congress.

  • White House Gaggle 15 December, 2006

    Originally appearing at Talk Radio News Service White House Gaggle 15 December, 2006 By Dheeraj Chand Special Notes Today was Deputy Press Secretary Tony Frattow's first gaggle. He was formerly press spokesman at the Department of Treasury. Chatter in the press room said that it was comparable to Scott McClellan’s. The President’s Schedule President Bush had a foreign leader call with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah. They discussed the general political climate and circumstances in the Middle East, their mutual hopes for a two-state, peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Bush expressed his regret that outside actors are interfering with the Iranian nuclear proliferation issue. He had his daily briefings at 7.30 a.m. After his briefings, he’ll be recording his weekly radio address. The topic is the economy, and we can expect that there will be a strong message to Congress on the subject of earmarks. At 8 am, there will be an hour long ceremony for recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Frattow joked that Tony Snow was excited about the ceremony, as it would give him a chance to discuss "guitar pickin’ and slingin" with B.B. King. After the ceremony, the President will be at the Pentagon for a full armed services review. Week Ahead On Tuesday, December 18, there are no public events. On Wednesday, Bush will sign the tax extenders package, which also has all kinds of other legislation attached to it. He will also sign HR 6407: The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. On Thursday, there are no public events. On Friday, President and Mrs. Bush will attend a holiday service project at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He will then leave for Camp David, where they will spend Christmas. They will leave for Crawford, TX, on the 26th of December, returning to D.C. on the New Year. The Pentagon Ceremony During the Q&A, Frattow informed us that Bush was expected to praise Rumsfeld at the ceremony, and to thank him for his six years of service and vision in restructuring and modernizing the military. The Iraq Body Count Helen Thomas wanted to know if the President was made aware with any regularity of the number of Iraqis who were injured or killed. Frattow had no answer. Secretary of State Rice’s Statements about Syria Frattow clarified that Secretary of State Rice said nothing new about the United States’ diplomatic position towards Syria and Iran, and that furthermore, the White House was not going to comment on specific recommendations of the ISG. The Iraq Study Group When asked about Bush’s plans to learn more before the Iraq policy speech, Frattow told us that there were no public events, but that Bush met with his military and diplomatic advisors with great frequency. The White House had no information on what other allied governments think of the Iraq Study Group’s report, but Bush and Blair have discussed it. Saddam Hussein’s Nephew Saddam Hussein’s favorite nephew escaped from prison this summer, and now wants to lead the Baathist rejectionists in Iraq. The White House had no comment on this. Governor Bill Richardson Frattow didn’t know that Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) was meeting with North Korean officials, and as such, had no comment. Same-sex parenting When asked whether or not Bush had flip-flopped on the issue of same-sex parenting, Frattow said that he had no idea on previous statements, but that the entire White House was happy for the Cheneys. He then tried to avoid the question by saying that the President believed in marriage being a unique institution between a man and a woman. When asked whether or not Bush had flip-flopped on the issue of same-sex parenting, Frattow said that he had no idea on previous statements, but that the entire White House was happy for the Cheneys. He then tried to avoid the question by saying that the President believed in marriage being a unique institution between a man and a woman.

  • The Best and The Brightest: The Wrong Immigration Crackdown

    Notate bene this originally ran in 2005, but very few people know about it, so I am moving it to the front page for a little while. -dx Originally printed in The Providence Journal. The Best and The Brightest: The Wrong Immigration Crackdown AUSTIN -- Immigration is the most explosive issue in U.S. politics. While the controversy rages over how to deal with the problems created by illegal immigration, legal-immigration issues are in danger of being derailed in the frenzied political atmosphere. On Sept. 15, the State Department released a shocking document that was barely noticed. Innocuously entitled "Visa Bulletin for October 2005," this document would normally be of interest only to bureaucrats and immigration lawyers and their clients. But this particular bulletin announced a five-year ban on all EB-1(3) petitions from people born in India: a radical change in policy that will badly hurt the U.S. economy and our diplomatic relations with a nuclear power and key ally in the war on terrorism. An EB-1(3) visa is a petition that lets someone who works as an executive for a foreign branch of a multinational company immigrate to the United States to continue his or her job. The visa is normally used as a way of bringing talented employees from abroad to continue their professional development at the higher levels of management in the United States. This is one of the most difficult immigration petitions to seek. It is used by firms who are capable of retaining expert counsel to navigate the process, which includes demonstrating the existence and viability of the company and the business necessity of the employee. Such executives help develop these businesses in the United States, contributing to the local economy and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for American workers. In fiscal 2004, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, 38,443 employment-based visas were issued to people of Indian birth, of which 8,363 were for managerial, executive or professional careers. The rest went to craftsmen, artisans, educators, and other workers. Unfortunately, the Immigration Service doesn't publish the number of petitions denied or pending, so we have no way of knowing how many businesses have been frustrated in their efforts to bring their top employees to the United States. The new ban means that all petitions filed after Oct. 1 will have to wait five years to be considered. This is sheer lunacy on the part of the State Department. While a fierce controversy rages over immigration in this country, these are people who, we can all agree, should be welcomed with open arms. They are the best and brightest, coming here to work for established businesses that are prosperous enough to have multinational operations. They are at the top of their fields, and work tirelessly to expand their companies here. Telling companies that they can't bring top executives home to corporate headquarters is a senseless policy, which will inhibit the growth of thousands of major U.S. companies and offer one more incentive, along with burdensome taxes and regulations, for corporate flight to offshore havens. On the diplomatic level, we know that economic relations are an essential component of strong international alliances. After a mixed bag during the Cold War and the early Clinton years, India and the United States have finally built a fledgling level of trust, due largely to economic interdependence. When large sums of money move back and forth between two countries, the two governments have to work together. This association is strengthened by the personal and cultural ties that develop as the populations of both countries become more aware of and connected to each other through commerce. Economic and cultural ties to India, the world's largest democracy, and the region's one stable democracy, can only advance strategic U.S. interests in Asia. We don't know why the U.S. State Department has made this decision (it has kept its internal deliberations private), but keeping highly skilled and educated people out of the country is no way to help the American economy. Immigration is a complex and emotional issue, but even in this politically charged environment, highly skilled corporate executives should be immigrants whom everyone can support. To advance the economic, diplomatic, and security interests of the United States, this misguided policy should be reversed. Dheeraj Chand is president of Desis for Texas, a political-action group promoting the interests of South Asian - Americans.