You Can Quote Them on That, Maybe

By Al Kamen
Friday, July 7, 2006

On-the-record comments from top White House officials have been precious few throughout this administration. Lately, though, national security adviser Stephen Hadley , legislative affairs chief Candida Wolff and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and his deputy Joel Kaplan all have talked on the record.

Credit for this welcome development is being given to White House press secretary Tony Snow .

Hadley and Snow held a typical telephone "backgrounder" conference call on Korea on Tuesday with White House reporters.

After a while, the Associated Press's Deb Reichman issued the standard press plea: "We've got all these 'senior administration official' people talking here," she said. "Is there any reason why you can't be on the record? You're the national security adviser."

"Tony?" Hadley asked.

"No, it's fine," Snow said.

Excited reporters jumped in as Hadley, Snow and deputy press secretary Dana Perino thought a bit more about it.

"Well, Tony, I think you need to make a decision," Perino said. "You started off as a senior administration official; I don't know if you want to change that."

"I think we can let Snow be a senior administration official," a reporter piped in, "but this is a serious diplomatic issue -- "

"Yes, I think that's fine," Snow said.

"Let's do that," Hadley agreed.

On the other hand, yesterday we find two senior administration officials briefing a roomful of reporters about what these unnamed officials called "backsliding on democracy" in Russia. (Russian officials, in contrast, were on the record when they briefed reporters.)

Seems the Russians aren't the only ones backsliding.

Snow, Live and Uncensored

Speaking of quotes, Snow is the featured story this month for Cincinnati Gentlemen, a year-old publication that says it's "Cincinnati's Lifestyle Magazine for Men." A caricature of Snow is on the cover, which says: "From Cincinnati to '1600.' " The headline goes on to say, "He Speaks For The White House; He Talks With Us."

Actually, Snow, a hometown boy, was still at Fox News on April 3, when he gave a 2 1/2 -hour interview to the magazine's editor, Greg Hoard . That may be why he seemed so candid in his comments. Our favorites:

On the Middle East: "You've got a lot of these sheikdoms and monarchies that simply can't stand. Saudi Arabia is going to collapse. That's going to be a big problem."

On former president Bill Clinton : "Bill Clinton settled for being popular. In that sense he was more student council president than American president and it's a real shame. What a waste of talent."

On Hillary Rodham Clinton : "Hillary? Hillary doesn't connect with people."

On National Public Radio, which Snow has worked for: "One of the problems with NPR is that there is so much political correctness that if you've got a name that looks like it was made up by Rudyard Kipling , you've got a better chance of getting hired. I'm a white guy named Tony Snow for heaven's sake. That's as white as it goes."

Where Have We Seen Him Before?

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Back on Dec. 9, the Army News Service, part of the Army public affairs operation, published a story on its Web site headlined: "Coalition forces keep streets of Iraq safe." The article says soldiers search for weapons and insurgents. "The searches are thorough, yet the Soldiers still respect people's rights and property."

There's a picture of a soldier, identified as Pfc. Steven Green, about to fire his shotgun to blast a lock off the gate of an abandoned home.

The Army apparently discovered this week that this was the same Steven Green cashiered for a personality disorder and now charged with raping and killing a young Iraqi woman and killing her parents and little sister in March.

The December story is still on the Web site, but the picture has been removed and the text has been expanded to fill in the gap.

An Army spokesman said yesterday that officials removed the photograph from the story to make it easier for people to find Green's picture on the Army Web site.

A posting on the Daily Kos blog provided a cached version of the original story.

[Caption for Image: The article remains online, but an Army spokesman says Pfc. Steven Green's photo has been removed to make his picture easier to find elsewhere. Green was charged this week in the deaths of four Iraqis.]

Wanted: Guide to Baghdad

Another excellent job opening in Baghdad. The Agency for International Development is looking for an "escort assistant." The pay's only $35,000 to $45,000 a year, but you can get housing allowances, danger pay and "Payments during Evacuation/Authorized Departure."

You basically pick up cargo, employees, bigwigs or others without IDs at entries to the fortified Green Zone and ensure "quick and effortless entry/exit and movement" of people and shipments.

But it's not a cakewalk.

Applicants "must be able to clearly judge emergency situations and make quick decisions to take care of her/his own security and the security of the escorted individuals. The incumbent must be flexible and expect to work long hours beyond the established work-schedule." Could cut into party time.

Hear No Nukes, See No Nukes

There was a big meeting of intelligence community folks Wednesday at the CIA on Iran, its missiles and other issues. Given North Korea's missile launches the day before, a colleague asked one participant why they didn't convene to discuss North Korea.

"That's the way the bureaucracy works," the participant replied.

Well, according to national security adviser Hadley, the lunatic North Korean regime, with nukes and missiles, is "not a threat."

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