White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked this afternoon if President Bush had any reaction to the death toll for U.S. troops in Iraq reaching 2,500. Snow responded: “It’s a number.”
Snow added that the President “feels very deeply the responsibility for sending men and women into harm’s way, and feels very deeply the pain that the families feel.” To illustrate, Snow reminded the press corps of when “you had this crowd of servicemen and women who were cheering loudly for the President, and he got choked up.” Watch it:
Q Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the President on that?
MR. SNOW: It’s a number, and every time there’s one of these 500 benchmarks people want something. The President would like the war to be over now. Everybody would like the war to be over now. And the one thing that we saw in Iraq this week is further testimony to the quality of the men and the women who are doing that, and the dedication and determination to try to ensure that the people of Iraq really do live in a free, effective democracy of their own creation and design.
Any President who goes through a time of war feels very deeply the responsibility for sending men and women into harm’s way, and feels very deeply the pain that the families feel. And this President is no different. You’ve seen it many times. You saw it, you saw it when he was in that ballroom, Terry, and you had this crowd of servicemen and women who were cheering loudly for the President, and he got choked up. So it’s always a sad benchmark, and one of the things the President has said is that these people will not die in vain.
And part of what happened this very week when the President went to Baghdad, and he sat down with the Prime Minister and he sat down with the cabinet, and he sat down with the President and Vice President, he sat down with the national security team, and he sat down with the leaders of all the major political parties, what he saw now is that after all of this, what you have in Iraq is a freestanding government that has been elected by the Iraqi people. It has a Prime Minister who is going to be there for four years, who is determined to act as a Prime Minister, who is determined to lead, who is setting priorities, and he’s somebody we can work with. You have a Minister of Defense who has significant experience and is already working with his colleagues, not only here at the Pentagon, but also General Casey and others in the field. The President understands that those deaths cannot be in vain, and you’ve got a government now that can help ensure that that is not the case.
Q Was he told about the benchmark, the President?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know. I’m sure he will hear about it.