Tony Snow--Dick Cheney--waterboarding--a Dunk In The Water

Tony Snow was trying to dance around the fact that Dick Cheney is all for water-boarding no matter how he tries to spin it. Trying to frame water-boa

TonySnow-Dunkinthewater.jpg Tony Snow was trying to dance around the fact that Dick Cheney is all for water-boarding no matter how he tries to spin it. Trying to frame water-boarding as a dunk in the water is not fooling anybody, Tony.

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Q To say that Vice President Cheney doesn't make mistakes like this, he did go up and curse a senator to his face on the Senate floor, and accidentally shot his friend, so he's not perfect.

I guess Cheney does make mistakes after all..

Here's what Cheney said---and here's Snow covering up for him.

Q Tony, your argument that Vice President Cheney didn't know that he was being asked about water boarding or wasn't being asked about water boarding and didn't intend to give an answer that suggested he was saying the United States uses water boarding, it doesn't follow when you read the transcript and it doesn't follow sort of common sense.

Q How can you really make that argument?

MR. SNOW: I'll tell you what he said. He was asked the question, "You dunk somebody's head in the water to save a life, is it a no-brainer?" And also, if you read the rest of the answer, he also -- the Vice President, who earlier had also been asked about torture, he said, "We don't torture."

Ful transcript below the fold

Q He was asked about a technique, and he responded to a technique, and said that he agreed --

MR. SNOW: No, he was not asked -- he was not asked, no.

Q Informally, he did.

MR. SNOW: No, informally doesn't work.

Q It does in the context of a radio interview --

Q You're quibbling over semantics, to borrow your phrase. You're quibbling over semantics.

MR. SNOW: I know. But, no, I think -- I actually think --

Q He's in a conversation with a radio audience to speak to the American people.

MR. SNOW: I understand all that.


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Q It doesn't have to be legally precise. The Vice President understood what the questioner was asking.

MR. SNOW: I'm telling you -- and I will tell you once again -- the Vice President says that he refers to the fact that when you're questioning people, you don't torture. You obey the law, and you protect the American people. We're not going to go any further.

Q Tony, is it not possible that the two are not mutually exclusive? In other words, that the Vice President does not construe water boarding as torture, and therefore, to him --

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no --

Q -- it's the same sentence --

Q So he does construe water boarding as torture?

MR. SNOW: No, what he does -- he doesn't talk about water boarding. And he also -- what he does say is that the techniques that the Americans use do not qualify as torture, and he is not going to talk about specific techniques.

Q So we know from this that a "dunk in the water" does not qualify as torture, right? And the Vice

Q Tony, your argument that Vice President Cheney didn't know that he was being asked about water boarding or wasn't being asked about water boarding and didn't intend to give an answer that suggested he was saying the United States uses water boarding, it doesn't follow when you read the transcript and it doesn't follow sort of common sense.

MR. SNOW: Well, I'll tell you what he --

Q How can you really make that argument?

MR. SNOW: I'll tell you what he said. He was asked the question, "You dunk somebody's head in the water to save a life, is it a no-brainer?" And also, if you read the rest of the answer, he also -- the Vice President, who earlier had also been asked about torture, he said, "We don't torture."

Let me give you the no-brainers here. No-brainer number one is, we don't torture. No-brainer number two: We don't break the law, our own or international law. No-brainer number three: The Vice President doesn't give away questioning techniques. And number four, the administration does believe in legal questioning techniques of known killers whose questioning can, in fact, be used to save American lives. The Vice President says he was talking in general terms about a questioning program that is legal to save American lives, and he was not referring to water boarding.

Q Then how can you say that he's not referring to water boarding, when it was very clear, when you look at the whole context, not only that specific question --

MR. SNOW: Does the word --

Q -- but the one before?

MR. SNOW: Did the word "water boarding" appear?

Q It came up in the context of talking about interrogation techniques and the entire debate that has been conducted in this country.

MR. SNOW: I understand that. I'll tell you what the Vice President said. You can push all you want, wasn't referring to water boarding and would not talk about techniques.

Q Let's back it up here for a second, because what we're saying is -- and I've got the transcript -- "Would you agree a dunk in water is a 'no-brainer' that can save lives?" Vice President: "It's a 'no-brainer' for me." Tony --

MR. SNOW: Read the rest of the answer.

Q What could "dunk in the water" refer to if not water boarding?

MR. SNOW: I'm just telling you -- I'm telling you the Vice President's position. I will let you draw your own conclusions, because you clearly have. He says he wasn't talking --

Q I haven't drawn any conclusions. I'm asking for an explanation about what "dunk in the water" could mean.

MR. SNOW: How about a dunk in the water?

Q So, wait a minute, so "dunk in the water" means what, we have a pool now at Guantanamo, and they go swimming?

MR. SNOW: Are you doing stand up? (Laughter.)

Q I'm asking -- well, let's start with something basic. Dunk in the water refers to what? If it doesn't refer to water boarding, tell me what it could possibly refer to?

MR. SNOW: No, because the transcript is there. You read it, you interpret it. I'm telling you what the Vice President says. He says he wasn't referring --

Q What other way is there to interpret this?

MR. SNOW: What you're saying is the Vice President is wrong in reporting what he says. I'm sorry. I'm telling you what the Vice President says. I can't go any further, and I'm not going to engage in what-could-he-mean because he said what he meant. He said -- he said he wasn't talking about water boarding.

And furthermore, what you didn't read was the rest of the answer, which I asked you to do --

Q Which says what?

MR. SNOW: Where he talks about -- we don't torture, we obey the laws, and that sort of thing. And it also came up regularly within the context of that conversation. So I know it's inviting to say, "The Vice President confirms water boarding. He's talking about water boarding." Just -- it's not there.

Q One follow on this, because what you said in the morning was, "You think Dick Cheney is going to slip up on something like this?" Is it possible that he's not slipping up at all --

MR. SNOW: No.

Q -- but that he's winking to the base and saying --

MR. SNOW: No.

Q -- "of course we water board, and of course we'll do anything we need to to get the information because he knows that what they do --

MR. SNOW: I think you just won the cynical question of the year award. No, I don't.

Q How is that cynical?

Q No, no, no. There are more.

Q I'm a rookie. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Jim, you can bang away as much as you want. I'm telling you what the Vice President's -- I talked to Lea Anne about it. She says no, he wasn't referring to water boarding; he was referring to using a program of questioning -- not talking about water boarding.

Let me put it this way. You got Dick Cheney, who had been head of an intelligence committee. He's been the Secretary of Defense. He's been the Vice President. He's not a guy who slips up, and he's also not a guy who does winks and nods about things that involve matters that you don't talk about for political reasons. Sorry.

Q Why did the Vice President then, when the inference was clearly there from the questioner, who more than once referred to a dunk in the water --

MR. SNOW: I believe that his office is --

Q Let me finish. He, in the questioning, talked about how his radio listeners believe that this is a useful tool. "If it takes dunking someone in order to save lives, isn't it a silly debate to even be questioning that?" The Vice President says, "I do agree," later says, "That's been a very important tool that we've been able to secure the nation" -- referring to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

If the Vice President is so careful, why did he allow himself to answer a question in which "dunking in the water" was a part of that question?

MR. SNOW: The answer -- look, he was answering a question. And also as you know, he went on to talk about torture. Look, I've said what I'm going to say on it. I can't -- I really -- what you're asking me to do is to deconstruct something. I've asked what he meant. I've told you what he said he meant. I can't go any further than that, so you can ask all the whys and wherefores. But I want you to think -- let's go back to the "no brainer" part here.

The Vice President is not somebody who's going to reveal techniques. He's been in this business for a very long time.

Q He was asked about a technique, and he responded to a technique, and said that he agreed --

MR. SNOW: No, he was not asked -- he was not asked, no.

Q Informally, he did.

MR. SNOW: No, informally doesn't work.

Q It does in the context of a radio interview --

Q You're quibbling over semantics, to borrow your phrase. You're quibbling over semantics.

MR. SNOW: I know. But, no, I think -- I actually think --

Q He's in a conversation with a radio audience to speak to the American people.

MR. SNOW: I understand all that.

Q It doesn't have to be legally precise. The Vice President understood what the questioner was asking.

MR. SNOW: I'm telling you -- and I will tell you once again -- the Vice President says that he refers to the fact that when you're questioning people, you don't torture. You obey the law, and you protect the American people. We're not going to go any further.

Q Tony, is it not possible that the two are not mutually exclusive? In other words, that the Vice President does not construe water boarding as torture, and therefore, to him --

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no --

Q -- it's the same sentence --

Q So he does construe water boarding as torture?

MR. SNOW: No, what he does -- he doesn't talk about water boarding. And he also -- what he does say is that the techniques that the Americans use do not qualify as torture, and he is not going to talk about specific techniques.

Q So we know from this that a "dunk in the water" does not qualify as torture, right? And the Vice President is saying we're not involved in torture, and a dunk in the water is a "no brainer" for him.

MR. SNOW: Okay, and I will let you --

Q Is he saying --

MR. SNOW: I will let you deconstruct. The text speaks for itself. Let's change --

Q Did you talk to him?

MR. SNOW: No, I didn't. I talked to Lea Anne.

Q You had a cut-out.

MR. SNOW: I had a cut-out?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: I'll be happy to talk to him. Okay, I'll talk to him for you, okay? Everybody happy?

Q Yes.

Q Will you tell us what he says? (Laughter.)

Q -- when he says "dunk in the water," that's a serious question. You can't just sort of beg off and say, I'm sorry, I'm not going to deconstruct it.

MR. SNOW: No, but, Jennifer -- Jennifer, you've listened -- there have been statements out of that office for two consecutive days that say they don't talk about water boarding, they don't talk about torture, they don't condone torture. They're not going to talk about techniques.

Q All we're asking is, what's a "dunk in the water"?

Q He agrees with it. We want to know what that means.

MR. SNOW: All right.

Q If he agrees with a "dunk in the water," then --

MR. SNOW: All right, talk about a dunk in the water.

Q But you need to deconstruct it, not us. That's why we're asking you.

MR. SNOW: Okay, well, I've told you what deconstruction I've had. Yes, Anne.

Q Tony, this administration has, indeed, talked about specifics, including after Abu Ghraib, President Bush condemning that kind of behavior.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q And he did talk about specifics, saying that was not --

MR. SNOW: Wait a minute, he was talking about -- he was talking about specific breaches of the law. He was not talking about lawful techniques, which we will not disclose for obvious reasons of security.

Q To say that Vice President Cheney doesn't make mistakes like this, he did go up and curse a senator to his face on the Senate floor, and accidentally shot his friend, so he's not perfect. (Laughter.)

Q He never slips up?

MR. SNOW: No, I mean, it's just -- that's -- that's a great line, but it's not germane. Yes, Helen.

Q Is the emphasis on "we don't torture" when we send captives to notorious places that do torture? Does that absolve you?

MR. SNOW: No, it's -- as we've said many times, when we move people to another place, we have to have assurances that there will be no torture, and the treatment will be in accordance with international law.

Q Why do you send them there? Why? Why don't you keep them in your own captivity?

MR. SNOW: Well, wait a minute, I thought you guys wanted to close off Guantanamo. The only way you do that -- we quite often try to repatriate people to places --

Q No, this was going on before you even had any intention, or you certainly don't now.

MR. SNOW: Let me just make it clear again. We don't condone torture. We don't participate in torture. We don't do torture.

Q How can we believe you when there's so much indication otherwise? Cheney went to the Hill to convince them they should not vote for a ban on torture.

MR. SNOW: Well, the people on the Hill have expressed their will, and furthermore, the administration has always said that we don't conduct acts of torture. And we don't condone torture.

Q I think the larger issue is credibility -- yours and the White House's. We're talking both in this instance and yesterday about very clear -- about specific language where you refute the semantic differences within the language and refuse to acknowledge what's very clear.

MR. SNOW: No, I can understand that people will look at this and draw the conclusions that you're trying to draw, as for yesterday. Those are two entirely different issues, and I think I've explained that on the issues of Prime Minister Maliki in the United States, we're playing off the same playbook.

I understand this. We will try to deal with it. I think you guys are -- maybe it's the end of the week. You're getting whipped into a frenzy.

Q Do you have contempt for the American people, do you think they don't understand?

Q That's not fair.

MR. SNOW: No, what I'm saying -- no, I think it is because you guys know Dick Cheney. You know the issue. I will go back and I will try to find some language for you.

Q We don't know him.

Q That's a logical fallacy.

Q Will he disavow dunking people in water as a part of the robust interrogation --

MR. SNOW: I think what he will disavow is torture, and he will not talk about specific techniques.

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