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.