The Washington Post reported that North Korea’s apparent nuclear test “may well be regarded as a failure of the Bush administration’s nuclear nonproliferation policy.”
Today, a reporter asked if President Bush believes he has made any mistakes with respect to North Korea. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow responded, “Oh, my goodness…it’s a silly question.” Later, he called the question “gratuitious.” Snow explained that “you need to give presidents the benefit of the doubt when national security is involved.” Watch it:
To learn about Bush’s record on North Korea, see our timeline.
QUESTION: Looking back, is there anything that the president would have done differently? Does he believe he has made any mistakes in this region?
SNOW: Oh, my goodness.
QUESTION: It’s a fair question.
SNOW: No, it’s a silly question.
SNOW: Yes, it is, because…
QUESTION: You just talked about…
SNOW: Well, let me ask you, give me some characterization of what you might think, because what typically happens is that any answer to that question is spun into: President made mistake, regrets.
What you do as president of the United States — and I have said this repeatedly from this podium, and you need to give presidents the benefit of the doubt when national security is involved — is the very best, in their judgment, of what they can do.
Now, what will happen is over time you find out, Hmmm, that data point wasn’t right. We need to adjust. So for every adjustment, sure, in perfect hindsight you would want perfect information and therefore perfect policy.
But instead what you do have in this administration and in prior administrations is a full-on effort to do what you think, based on the intelligence and the facts available to you, that’s going to be the most effective way to secure the safety of the American people.
QUESTION: The notion that that’s a silly question, when you have a president who draws a red line three years ago and says, We will not tolerate nuclear weapons, and now you have a country that just tested a nuclear weapon, you don’t think it’s fair to ask for some accountability as to what happened and whether there were mistakes made?
SNOW: The accountability lies in North Korea, not in Washington.