WASHINGTON (CNN) - White House spokesman Tony Snow was left a bit verbally singed Friday after suggesting to reporters that Iraqi lawmakers - under fire in Washington for failing to make progress on meeting political benchmarks - were taking August off to escape Baghdad's scorching summer temperatures.
Asked by ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz during a press briefing if Iraqi officials were planning to take August off, despite another progress report due in September, Snow said, "It looks like they may, yes, just like the U.S. Congress is."
Pressed as to whether American officials had tried to talk Iraqi leaders out of their vacation, Snow said, "You know, it's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August. I'll pass on your recommendation."
"Well, Tony, Tony, I'm sorry," Raddatz replied. "There are a lot of things that happen by September, and it's 130 degrees for the U.S. military also on the ground."
"That's a good point," conceded Snow, who also noted that "it's 130 degrees for the Iraq military."
Snow went on to say "the Iraqis understand the importance" of making political progress, although he insisted that September's assessment by Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, is a report and not a "deadline."
Snow also said reporters should not assume that just because Iraqi lawmakers are in recess in August "that nothing is going on."
"Let's see what the parliament does during the course of this month. Let's also see what happens, because quite often, when parliaments do not meet, there are also continuing meetings on the side," Snow said. "There will be progress, I'm sure, on a number of fronts."
He also noted that the Iraqi parliament has "set a higher bar for their legislative accomplishments than we do because they're trying to operate on a basis not of a simple majority but consensus."
"It's probably a wise thing to do at the outset of a country that has been driven by strife for so many years. It's a tough business."
An interim progress report released Thursday found that Iraqi lawmakers had failed to make satisfactory progress on several key pieces of legislation, including division of the country's lucrative oil revenues and the political reintegration of people associated with deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party.
Critics in Congress, including an increasing number of Republicans, have expressed frustration that Iraqi leaders are moving forward too slowly as U.S. casualties continue to mount - frustration that's likely to increase if the Iraqis take August off as planned.
Later in the press briefing, Snow would not bite when asked if President Bush himself had suggested to the Iraqi leaders that their August recess was unwise.
"I'm not going to pass on the confidential advice the president gives the prime minister," Snow said.
If the Iraq government wants to take a few weeks off because of the summer weather, then our troops should stand-down for the same period of time. Who knows what might happen.