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'Warm Milk' at Breakfast with Tony Snow

From NBC's Elizabeth Wilner
Spokesman Tony Snow typically doesn't brief the White House press corps on days when President Bush is on the road -- like today.  But Snow took the opportunity posed by his relatively free morning to sit down with other political reporters at Washington's famed Monitor Breakfast, which can be a somewhat more civilized forum than the White House briefing room due to the absence of TV cameras.

Snow addressed all the news of day.  Any further response to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez calling Bush a "devil?"  "None," he said flatly.  What's the status of the negotations over detainee trial and treatment policy?  "Ongoing," Snow said.  When pressed for details, he begged off by comparing the situation to "warm milk," in that whatever he told reporters at the briefing "will turn into yogurt by the time I get back to my office."  He did dispute suggestions that Republicans are fighting amongst themselves over national security: "They agree on the goals.  They disagree on the means."   He said it's "clear" that there won't be a comprehensive immigration reform bill in this session of Congress, but that "the President's a patient guy."  And he responded to suggestions that the Administration is somehow manipulating gas prices ahead of the midterm elections: "How do you manipulate global markets," he asked, given "the gigantic and complex forces that are involved in setting oil prices?"

But he also offered some insights into White House thinking for the coming six and a half weeks before the midterm elections -- and for the final two years of Bush's term, in which he predicted the Bush White House will be "more aggressive than we're used to seeing" from presidents in their last two years.  Why?  Because, Snow said, Bush has a vice president with no presidential ambitions, meaning there will be "no degree of separation" between Bush and Dick Cheney as there was with then-President Bill Clinton and VP Al Gore, and the White House can push harder for what it wants.  Asked if that push could be made more difficult by the loss of one or both houses of Congress in November, Snow repeated Bush's line that he's not going to entertain that prospect because it won't happen.

And by way of measuring how often President Bush will be on the road campaigning in the weeks ahead, Snow said he "won't be doing a lot of on-camera briefings in October."