ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Even though Democrats passed the war funding bill last week, they sent it to the president today. That's the day, four years ago, that President Bush rode that jet fighter onto the aircraft carrier off Southern California and he spoke beneath the banner that read: mission accomplished.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and her allies have prevailed.
(Soundbite of crowd cheering)
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
NPR's Don Gonyea was covering the president then, just as he is today.
And Don, how time flies. How does the White House view that moment onboard the aircraft carrier today?
DON GONYEA: Well, I can tell you they are still trying to explain that moment. That task has fallen in the past several days to Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino. At first she said, well, the president was talking about this one very narrow thing, about the toppling of the Iraqi government, the toppling of Saddam Hussein. But she goes on by acknowledging that, and here I'll read you a quote. This is from Dana Perino. "Yes, the banner said mission accomplished, but that was only talking about this one ship that had been deployed for a very long time."
The ship, of course, was the USS Abraham Lincoln. I guess all I can say is it's never a good thing when you're still trying to explain something four years later.
BRAND: Yeah. And so the Democrats have had this bill in hand since last week and obviously they want to send a message by sending it to the President today. Where, physically, is it, first of all?
GONYEA: It is still on Capitol Hill, and I can tell you that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually has possession of it, her office does. The bill is being enrolled today. And enrollment is a ceremony whereby a bill that has passed in identical form both the House and the Senate is certified by both chambers - I can tell you it's also printed on parchment paper - and it is then sent to the president. So it's, you know, if I can paraphrase or quote the great Stevie Wonder here, it's signed, sealed and delivered today. Delivered, of course, to the White House, where this one will actually face the veto.
CHADWICK: Well it will, Don. But Mr. Bush isn't there to get it today, is he?
GONYEA: He knows it's coming. Let's say that. But he's down at U.S. Central Command - it's generally referred to as CentCom - in Tampa for his annual visit. That is where the commanders who oversee the Iraq war, and other operations around the world, meet and are stationed. And they are briefing him on where things stand in Iraq today. They're talking about that, you know, the latest influx of new troops and how that happens to be working. So that's what's he's doing.
CHADWICK: So when he does get it, what's the plan? I mean, the Democrats have waited for this symbolic moment - is the White House going to try some reverse symbolism here, a ceremony of some kind to veto this?
GONYEA: You know, right now the White House won't talk about logistics of any kind of a veto ceremony. In fact, there's some sense that they won't actually have a big ceremony at all, that the president will, in effect, just kind of, you know, sign it behind closed doors and kick it to the curb, but giving it all the respect that is due. That could happen later today, tonight or tomorrow. We do know the dance begins again when the House and Senate leadership from both parties come back to the White House tomorrow.
CHADWICK: The story is not going away.
GONYEA: That's right.
CHADWICK: NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea. Thank, Don.
GONYEA: A pleasure.
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