At the White House press briefing this afternoon, Dana Perino said that the United States would "continue to urge" Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to "declare that the elections that were scheduled for January are actually going to take place in January, on time."
Perino promised reporters that they'd be hearing more from the president in short order, and they did. Bush spoke to the press briefly after meeting at the White House with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And in doing so, he seemed to back away from the goal that Perino had set for Musharraf just hours earlier.
The president said he'd asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to call Musharraf to tell him "that we expect there to be elections as soon as possible." Bush also said he had asked Rice to tell Musharraf to "remove his military uniform."
If the president's words sound like something less than a show of strength at a time of crisis, that's because they are. Musharraf ignored the Bush administration when Rice asked him late last month not to take the steps he's now taking, and the White House plainly feels compelled to continue providing aid to Pakistan anyway.
More from the president: "Previous to his decision, we'd made it clear that these emergency measures were, you know, would undermine democracy," he said. "Having said that ... President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals ... he understands the dangers posed by radicals and extremists. After all, they tried to kill him three or four times. And our hope is that he will restore democracy as quickly as possible."
A reporter asked Bush what consequences Musharraf will face if he doesn't take the Bush administration's advice. "It's a hypothetical question," the president said. "I certainly hope he does take my advice and the advice of the prime minister of Turkey and the advice of a lot of other figures. And so that's all we can do, is continue to work with the president as well as others in the Pak government to make it abundantly clear the position of the United States. And then, obviously, we'll deal with it if something other than that happens."