White House: It's "silly" to ask whether Bush was right on North Korea

Tony Snow says presidents deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Published October 10, 2006 7:08PM (EDT)

When a foreign power claims to have detonated a nuclear weapon -- when that foreign power is one that the president of the United States singled out as a member of the "axis of evil" four years ago -- it might strike you as not entirely unreasonable to wonder whether the president's strategy for dealing with that foreign power has been the right one.

Unless you happen to be Tony Snow, that is.

A reporter asked the White House press secretary today if there's anything the president thinks he should have done differently with respect to North Korea. "Oh, my goodness," Snow responded. "It's a silly question."

As members of the White House press corps howled in protest, Snow said that any answer he might give would be translated into headlines saying that the Bush administration had admitted to making mistakes. "I have said this repeatedly from this podium," Snow said. "You need to give presidents the benefit of the doubt when national security is involved."

An incredulous David Gregory asked Snow if he really thinks it's unfair "to ask for some accountability as to what happened." Snow's response: "David, the accountability lies in North Korea, not in Washington."

Funny, but that's not how John McCain sees it. He says it's all Bill Clinton's fault.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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John Mccain R-ariz. North Korea