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Barack Obama: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
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Barack Obama
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
April 28, 2009
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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:13 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS: Before we get started, let me read a letter that is being sent from the White House today to leaders in Congress and to the appropriations chairs on Capitol Hill. It's from the President:

"This week as reports of the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak around the world were made public, my administration has been carefully monitoring the situation, coordinating state and local responses, assessing the risks here in the United States, and cooperating with international organizations and health officials around the globe.

"Out of an abundance of caution, I'm asking Congress to include in the fiscal year 2009 supplemental budget request that I sent to you earlier this month an amount of $1.5 billion to enhance our nation's capability to respond to the potential spread of this outbreak. These funds should be provided with maximum flexibility to allow us to address this emerging situation.

"Among the uses of these funds could be supplementing antiviral stockpiles, developing a vaccine, supporting the monitoring, diagnostic and public health response capabilities, and assisting international efforts to stem this outbreak.

"Already state, local and federal public health officials are working day and night to respond quickly and effectively wherever cases of this flu may be found and to prepare the entire country for any potential progression of this outbreak.

"Thank you for your consideration of this funding request and your continued cooperation in protecting our nation's health and safety.

"Sincerely, President Obama."

And with that --

Q: Thank you. Two unrelated things. On the plane flyover yesterday, does the President think that it's an appropriate use of government funds --

MR. GIBBS: No.

Q: -- at this sort of belt-tightening times to update those promotional photos?

MR. GIBBS: No.

Q: Do you know how much was spent on that?

MR. GIBBS: I don't have an exact amount. Obviously I think there have been -- Congress has looked into the cost of operating Air Force One, and GAO reports that I would point you to.

The President has directed Jim Messina, the Deputy Chief of Staff here, to conduct a review as to how the decision was made to conduct the flight, to understand -- to understand, as I said, why that decision was made, and to ensure that it never happens again. And the President will look at that review and take any appropriate steps after that.

Q: I just have one other quick thing. Can you talk about what involvement, if any, the President had in Senator Specter's decision to switch parties?

MR. GIBBS: As I think many of you know, the President, based on a timeline that we provided, the President was receiving his economic daily briefing, and at 10:25 a.m. was handed a note. The note, as I think we -- read that Senator -- I'm paraphrasing, I don't have the exact language -- Senator Specter is going to announce he's changing parties. I think at 10:32 a.m. the President reached Senator Specter, told the Senator that after hearing the news that he was going to switch parties that he had the President's full support, and that he was thrilled to have him as a member of the Democratic Party.

Q: But what about in the lead-up to that, though?

MR. GIBBS: That's the first the President had heard that he was switching parties. I don't know what, if any, other discussions have had -- obviously, there are people here at the White House that have had long relationships with Senator Specter.

But I think Senator Specter made a decision today about how he can best represent the people of Pennsylvania in the United States Senate. He was a valuable ally in passing the recovery and reinvestment plan that's now the law of the land, and we're appreciative of his support.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Robert, just following up on your announcement about the request for flu money, does that indicate that the President -- a new level of concern by the administration about this? And what does the administration think about the possibility of this turning into a full pandemic?

MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously, as we have been since last Friday when the President began to receive regular updates on this, and as we denoted at our briefing on Sunday, the President is and the team here at the White House are concerned. The President has been -- continues to receive those regular updates from the Homeland Security Council. But in our opinion, this is about prudent planning, moving forward to ensure, as I said, that there are funding that can help defray costs for moving infrastructure around the country, to ensure that we have the resources if needed to produce additional antiviral drugs, to ramp up the production of a vaccine, and to ensure -- just to ensure that we have the resources that are necessary at a state, local and federal level to address the potential that this could become.

In terms of -- obviously, the World Health Organization makes certain determinations globally. CDC and DHS and others here in the administration continue to monitor what's going on. I think the latest number from CDC is 68 cases. And as the Director said, the notion that -- based on the incubation period that we're likely to see a greater severity is likely.

So, again, this is part of prudent planning that the White House has taken to look forward and be, as best as we can, prepared. As I mentioned, on Sunday we declared a public health emergency in order to hurry the resources getting to different parts of the country. We're releasing 12 million courses of antiviral drugs and key medical equipment to states based on the priority of where the cases that we're seeing are now. And again, CDC is providing -- continuing to provide information to health officials in order to make sure that they have what they need.

I would also repeat, as I've said a number of times to the public, if you're looking for information on this, the best resource is to go to www.cdc.gov and right there on the home page you can find a link to the information and also the link in Spanish, to ensure that everyone can understand it.

Q: One quick question on autos. There was the deal reached today with Chrysler's creditors, and I'm wondering if this deal is likely to be able to avoid bankruptcy, or is bankruptcy -- some kind of a quick bankruptcy is still going to be needed.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think obviously the developments of the past several days have been important steps to ensuring that we get a workable deal between Chrysler and Fiat. We're pleased at those steps. I don't want to prejudge the outcome. I know there is still some ways to go in these negotiations, so I wouldn't rule anything in or out. We're pleased with the steady progress that's being made, but mindful that we still have some ways to go in order to ensure that the merger gets done.

Yes, sir.

Q: I want to follow up on two of Jennifer's questions. One, when it comes to the Director of the White House Military Office, Mr. Caldera, does the President have any concerns that this decision he made, that he took responsibility for, indicates a lack of judgment that might make him improper to keep holding that post?

MR. GIBBS: Well, as you mentioned, Mr. Caldera took responsibility for this. I think it's been characterized that the President was furious upon learning of this decision. And that's why he's asked the Deputy Chief of Staff to undertake a review in order to understand how the decision was made and to ensure that it doesn't happen again, and based on that, will take steps from there.

Q: Okay. And then the other question about Arlen Specter. Some Democrats -- well, less than two weeks ago, Specter, when he was arguing that he was going to stay a Republican, was talking about how he was the only thing standing between an onslaught of "big Obama spending programs" passing into law, because he was the 41st senator, he'd block it. Now he is a Democrat. Is the President at all concerned that maybe there should be competition for that seat? And there's been talk that Governor Rendell is going to work to keep other Democrats out of the primary so that Specter runs unopposed. I'm not sure of the President's opinion about whether he should run unopposed or not, but is there concern that a "better" Democrat would be better for that seat?

MR. GIBBS: Well, let me just repeat what the President told Senator Specter this morning: that he has the President's full support; that he's thrilled that he's switched parties and is a Democrat; and we look forward to working as we have on the recovery and reinvestment plan with Senator Specter.

I think Senator Specter has said in his statement today that he's not automatically going to be a vote for any party. We've talked about it a lot in this room, that the President will reach out to members of either party or any party to gain their support, understanding that he's not likely to get a hundred percent support from anyone at any time. But I think the decision he made to represent his constituents in Pennsylvania is one obviously that we support, and we support Senator Specter.

Q: When you said earlier that the President -- this morning was the first time he heard that Arlen Specter was switching, that leaves open the possibility the President was informed in recent days that he was contemplating switching --

MR. GIBBS: I don't know any information other than what I've given out on that.

Q: Were any White House aides involved in any conversations with Specter or his intermediaries?

MR. GIBBS: I don't have information on that.

Q: And in terms of the cost of the plane incident yesterday, can you -- actually, you pointed to the GAO reports, but can the White House provide, you know, A, how much it did cost, since the President has been making government spending such an important priority; and secondly, a manifest of who else was on that plane? Were there any non-military people on the plane?

MR. GIBBS: I'm told that -- keep in mind this was a -- this was two training missions that, in the end, became a picture mission, which the President having quite clearly called today a mistake and one that he will ensure doesn't happen again. Because this was a training mission, the only people on that plane were Air Force personnel.

Q: So in terms of the cost, will you provide what the cost was?

MR. GIBBS: I would point to your reports -- I haven't been in a cabin -- there's not like a taxi meter, so I don't know how much --

Q: You can presumably figure out how much gasoline is used and --

MR. GIBBS: I would point you to those reports to give you a sense of how much the plane -- how much people have said it costs an hour to operate.

Yes, sir.

Q: Does the fact that there was no staff and no Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services mean that the response was in any way delayed or less sharp than it could have been?

MR. GIBBS: No. I mean, I -- Bill, I've addressed this now I think for the last two days. I mean, I would note that there are 65,000 career employees that make up the Department of Health and Human Services. There are about 155 political appointees, of which about a third have been nominated and confirmed. So I don't see that there's been any delay in the response or any difference in the effectiveness of that response.

We are exceedingly hopeful that by the end of the day, at some point there is a Secretary of Health and Human Services, we will -- she'll be sworn in and get to work on dealing with this flu outbreak and other topics that are of concern to the agency and to the American people.

Q: But if the response was effective, that kind of raises the question of what do you need them for in the first place.

MR. GIBBS: To provide a healthy answer to your questions.

Helen.

Q: We've heard a lot about --

MR. GIBBS: Can you get the crossword puzzle now? (Laughter.)

Q: We hear a lot about banking and being -- and Wall Street riding high. What about the hemorrhaging of jobs every day? What are you doing/

MR. GIBBS: Well, we have -- I could go through a number of the things that we've done in the administration to get the economy moving again, to provide, as I've said, a foundation for long-term economic growth, stabilize the financial system, to get banks lending to families and small businesses again. But as I've also said up here, Helen, I think it will be many months of hundreds of thousands of jobs lost until we see the economy fully turn around. That's what the economic team here fully expects, even as we hope to make progress.

Today there were some good statistics on consumer confidence that we are pleased about, but understanding that we've probably got many, many months of job loss before we see some job gains in this economy. The President is focused on ensuring that we do all that's necessary to turn this economy around, but understand that it will take some time.

Q: Are you satisfied with the commitment that you're getting from the banks?

MR. GIBBS: We -- look, I think in any economic downturn, you're going to see -- in any recession you're going to see a lessening of both the demand for and the supply of capital and credit. The President is taking steps to do what we can to develop programs to ensure, as he has, that small businesses are getting access to capital that they might need that they see restricted as a result of the constriction in capital and credit available. Obviously, there are steps that have been taken to keep families in their homes.

We're pleased with the progress thus far that we've made, but again we're working each and every day to do everything possible to add to those programs and ensure that we can get our economy back on track as quickly as possible.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Back to the Air Force One flyover. Mr. Caldera said he takes full responsibility, and I just wonder what that means as a practical matter. The President has said, we hear, that he was furious. Apparently this guy was chewed out by the Chief of Staff. But what does it mean as a --

MR. GIBBS: I have firsthand knowledge that the President was furious.

Q: Okay, fair enough. So he's furious, this was a mistake --

MR. GIBBS: I wasn't at the meeting, but I think we can all rest assured that we weren't at that meeting with the Chief of Staff.

Q: Right. So in any event, what's the practical result of his taking responsibility? Some have suggested he should lose his job.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that's why -- I think the President has rightly asked that a review of the situation and the decision-making be undertaken so that we can have a better understanding of why that decision might have been made.

Q: Is firing a potential outcome of that review?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't -- I think our course would be to conduct the review before something like that is determined.

Q: Okay, back to Specter. How -- substantively, how significant is this switch to the White House? Some have suggested that maybe this obviates the need for reconciliation rules for health care. He's always been a moderate senator, one you would court anyway. I wonder how significant you view this.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, there are obviously better political observers that you all will be able to get today. We are I think pleased that Senator Specter believes that going forward the Democratic Party can -- best encapsulates his views, is the best party to align himself with to represent the people of Pennsylvania. I think he mentioned in his statement the number of people that had switched their party registration in the most previous election. The President did well in Pennsylvania.

But again, I think we're heartened more by the fact that Senator Specter believes that the Democratic Party is the best place to represent the people he represents.

Q: Do you think it's a real change of heart, or is this more of a crass political calculation?

MR. GIBBS: I think, if you read his statement, he believes that the Democratic Party is the best party to serve the interest of the people that he represents and has represented for quite some time in the United States Senate.

Mark.

Q: You said you were pleased about Specter. Aren't you euphoric, ebullient? (Laughter.) I mean, if Al Franken gets in you've got a filibuster-proof Senate.

MR. GIBBS: I'll go with ebullient. (Laughter.)

Q: What did you say?

MR. GIBBS: I'll go with ebullient. Yes, I'll take it. (Laughter.) I think the President is quite pleased. That's the understatement of the day.

Q: Curb your enthusiasm.

MR. GIBBS: But, again, I think the -- to build off what I was telling Savannah, I think the President is pleased that the agenda that he's laid out and the places that he wants to take the country going forward -- to move our economy forward, to lay that foundation for economic growth, to make the investments that we haven't for quite some time -- that others agree with that as an agenda. And I think we're certainly pleased. I guess that also, Mark, answers the question about our outreach to the Republican Party in the first hundred days.

Q: To your knowledge were any promises made to Senator Specter?

MR. GIBBS: At the White House? None to my knowledge, no.

Q: Also, one more. What were you thinking when you said you'd give the press corps a strong A for the first hundred days? (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: Get back to me at the end of this. (Laughter.) No, I --

Q: You gave the President a B-plus. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: Well, you know, the President also asked me to review that. (Laughter.)

Q: Is your job on the line? (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I say this in all seriousness. This is not -- despite the fact that it's on camera, I'm not sucking up to people. I understand this because -- I understand what you have to do because when you're doing it, I'm doing it, as well.

We understand that the hours are not what we control. We may decide to brief you on a Sunday afternoon about what's going on about a flu outbreak; all of you have had to chase stories late at night when you might rather be spending time with your family. I have gotten to read my son less than I would like to. I think everybody recognizes the sacrifice that people that either work for this White House or work in this White House make each and every day, whether it's covering the President or working for him. And that's why I said that.

Yes, sir.

Q: Yes, back to the flyover. What was the -- who made the --

MR. GIBBS: I'm going down to a B-plus, just FYI.

Go ahead.

Q: Who made the decision, and what was the rationale for not informing the public?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the statement that was put out yesterday denotes that Mr. Caldera made the decision.

Q: Including not informing the public?

MR. GIBBS: I will -- I honestly don't know the answer to that. I can look into it. I know some, as I think some of the stories mention, there were people in the area that were notified of the existence of the flight.

Q: But those are the authorities, not the general public.

MR. GIBBS: Some of them -- right, right. No, I understand, I understand.

Q: Did it come out of the White House budget then, if Caldera made the decision?

MR. GIBBS: I think -- I don't know where the operating budget for Air Force One is. I presume it's out of the Air Force.

Q: And could I follow up on another --

MR. GIBBS: Sure.

Q: -- back to Specter. There's a number of reports -- I don't know if they're accurate or not -- that Rahm Emanuel had advanced notice or had some knowledge of Specter's decision to change. Can you --

MR. GIBBS: I don't know. I don't --

Q: -- knock that down or confirm --

MR. GIBBS: Rahm was in the economic briefing with the President when the phone call came. That's all I know about Rahm in terms of that.

Yes, sir.

Q: Any role for the Vice President in the Specter switch?

MR. GIBBS: I honestly don't know. I know that they are -- I know they're very close. I know they've had a relationship for many years in the Senate, worked together on the Judiciary Committee and worked closely in outreach as far as the recovery and reinvestment plan goes. I don't know the substance of particular conversations, though.

Q: This may be obvious, but I just want to nail it down. The description of Mr. Caldera's role suggests that no one, either Mr. Messina, Mr. Rahm Emanuel, the President, and I'm presuming you, had any knowledge of this. Is that correct?

MR. GIBBS: That is accurate.

Q: Okay, so it was really done entirely within that office and none of the broader senior White House staff was aware?

MR. GIBBS: That's true.

Q: So you know that Rahm was not aware?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: You just sort of glossed over that the first time.

MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, I don't think I did, but I --

Q: That was about Specter.

MR. GIBBS: That was about Specter. I agree with all the people that you listed, including myself.

Q: I just wanted to nail that down.

All right. You said yesterday that the White House and the administration don't want to be in charge of an auto company for an hour or a day. But can you tell the American people why they shouldn't feel like it is, particularly in regard to General Motors -- that it begins to feel and look with the replacement of senior executives, the majority share of stock, that it looks like the government is in charge of an auto company right now?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I said yesterday, Major, that this administration does not desire to or plan to run GM or any auto company on a day-to-day basis. The longer view of this is that these two companies, GM being one of them, asked the government for additional assistance as they had been given at the end of 2008 to continue functioning. And the President's auto task force determined that the viability plans did not meet the test of an auto company that could sustain itself without continued and repeated government assistance; that the President and his team decided that viability meant being able to operate without that assistance.

Management changes were asked for as a part of moving forward with operating capital to continue producing cars and keeping the company moving, and we're in the midst of -- I think we're almost at the end of one-half of the timeline for GM to resubmit a restructuring plan that does prove that they're able to move forward without government assistance. We think they're making progress and we continue to work with them, as we are pleased with the progress that has been made by Chrysler and Fiat, understanding that in both of these instances we've still got a ways to go.

Q: -- home initiative announced by Treasury today will have on ongoing efforts to stabilize and possibly rejuvenate the depressed housing market?

MR. GIBBS: Well, the initiatives to add to the program to make -- affordable home program I think is another continued step by the administration to do what we can, first and foremost, to ensure that people that have played by the rules but, in many ways because of what they owe compared to the decline in their housing value, are unable to get what many millions of Americans have previously taken advantage of in terms of government refinancing -- I'm sorry, not "government" refinancing, but refinancing.

So I think this just builds on what we think has been thus far a successful program. And we hope it continues to keep people where we want to see them, and that's in their homes. And hopefully we'll continue to take steps to stabilize home prices and start to fill up some of the several million homes that are currently vacant as a result of our economic downturn.

Mike.

Q: I know it's early, but on Specter, can you give us some assessment of whether you see any significant pieces of legislation or initiatives that you guys are trying to achieve in the coming months that significantly or -- you know, where the math changes -- card check legislation --

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think he addressed card checks specifically in his statement. But I mean, obviously, I think Senator Specter has had -- and he mentioned this in his statement as well -- he's had quite an impact on funding for the National Institutes of Health in his overall concern for health care.

Obviously he's played a very key role in ensuring that the President's economic priorities that we think best serve this country are moved forward as well. I think we are lucky to have his input and his leadership in our party.

Q: But does that -- does the math change because, you know, in theory he would vote whichever he was -- does the math change because he would no longer have -- you know, sort of moderate those positions?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I don't want to speak for Senator Specter. I think he's probably better suited to do that for himself, and I think he said as much today. There's probably people on Capitol Hill that can better address the day-to-day political calculus. And I think he said that he will continue to vote in the best interest of the people he represents, and we take him at his word and we're happy to have him as part of the team.

Q: Robert, what happened specifically between yesterday at this time when these questions were asked of you about the flyover, when you didn't have an answer and didn't seem to suggest it was that big of a deal, until the apology a couple hours after that --

MR. GIBBS: I don't think I seemed to suggest it was a big deal. I think it was safe to assume I was in greater possession of information about the involvement of people in the building a few hours after I took a few of your questions than I was during the taking of those questions.

Q: And on this review, how long is the period of this review and will the findings of this review be announced at their conclusion?

MR. GIBBS: I will talk to Counsel's Office. I think it wouldn't take more than a couple of weeks to figure out -- a week or so to figure out sort of all the back and forth.

Q: And will the findings be announced?

MR. GIBBS: I'll talk to Counsel's Office on that.

Ann.

Q: At the 100-days mark, what kind of a grade would you give the President on bipartisanship? Certainly his idea of bipartisanship isn't to have people change parties. How would you grade him on working with --

MR. GIBBS: Well, but I don't think we're sending anybody back, if that's your -- (laughter.) Look, I think on each and every issue the President has reached out to members of the other party.

Q: And how has he done?

MR. GIBBS: I think he has -- I think at every turn he's asked for their help and their support and asked for their ideas. On some issues we've seen big bipartisan votes; on others we've seen more partisan votes. I said here yesterday I'd let the Republicans delineate for you the thinking behind their strategy of the first 100 days.

I think if you look at both what the President and the team have achieved in the first almost hundred days it's something we're proud of, understanding that there's a lot of work going forward and that -- my sense is that whatever hundred-day mark we're at, 100, 200, 300, or so forth, that the next hundred days will be equally or more important than the previous.

The President takes the long view on all this, as he did during the campaign. He thinks the American people are focused on what our efforts are doing to produce jobs and stabilize the economy, not just on the 99th, or 101st, or 100th day, but each and every day.

Q: Is he dissatisfied with his achievement on bipartisan so far?

MR. GIBBS: No, I think he'll continue to work on it. I think he'll continue to have members of Congress down here to discuss the issues. I think he'll continue to reach out to the bipartisan leadership and see how we can work together to move things forward.

I will tell you, Ann, our goal is to get First Lady-type approval numbers. (Laughter.)

Q: Robert, can I follow up for just a second -- apologies to everybody else. Specter had said that Obama will campaign for him in the Pennsylvania primaries. Is that what "full support" means?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: And will he raise money for him elsewhere? Or what kind of -- can you elaborate on full support?

MR. GIBBS: If the President is asked to raise money for Senator Specter, we're happy to do it. If the President is asked to campaign for Senator Specter, we'll be happy to do it. As the President told Senator Specter on the phone, he has our full support, and we're thrilled to have him.

Q: Back to the flu money. I'm curious where the figure, $1.5 billion, came from. Is that like a summary of all the agency requests? Is that money -- how quickly is that money needed? Is this a worst-case scenario, or is this like a down payment, and then you maybe have to come back for more later?

MR. GIBBS: Well, this is a -- obviously, this is something that spreads across multiple departments and multiple agencies. There are a number of different, obviously, departments that have or are in possible need of funding going forward. As I said, anything -- could go for something as repaying for the defraying of cost to move diagnostic and screening equipment or public health infrastructure, the purchase of and development of more antiviral medication, or as we get into the development of a seed stock for a vaccine.

We're in a time in which the normal course of the flu season is winding down. I think you'd hear this from CDC and HHS officials, as well -- what sometimes happens with flu outbreaks is it -- you see a dwindling as you end the natural flu season, but can also see the very same strain come back again in the fall.

So this is money that will help bridge in many ways that gap as it relates to vaccines and antivirals and any other public health infrastructure that may be needed as -- out of an abundance of caution.

Q: There's no way of knowing at this point whether it's all you're going to need or --

MR. GIBBS: I don't think there is at this point. Obviously, the many branches and many departments in the government are monitoring throughout the day, each day, to figure out the course that this outbreak may take and what response will be necessary from federal, state or local officials.

Tom.

Q: Robert, two things. First, on Specter, does "full support" mean in any potential Democratic primary?

MR. GIBBS: Full support. Full support means full support. It's sort of awkward to campaign for him and then --

Q: And then on Chrysler, you talked about the hurdles that have been cleared. There seems to have been some significant progress made. Is the 30-day deadline firm, still holds?

MR. GIBBS: Yes, yes. I think we're making progress as we get to it, understanding, as I said, there are -- there's still issues left to be resolved. The progress is promising, but we'll wait and judge the outcome based on the end product, rather than sort of where we are on the 28th.

Yes.

Q: Thank you, Robert. What is the President's view of this Minnesota senate race? Does he expect to have a 60th Democratic senator, and when? And is he getting involved at all, or urging this to move forward any quicker than it can?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I'm not entirely sure exactly where we are in Minnesota. As I understand it, there's an appeal. I think the judges ruled in the last couple of weeks that the election was conducted fairly and that Al Franken won the most number of votes in that election.

We're hopeful that whatever process has to move forward will be done so quickly, that we'll have another senator from Minnesota, a full complement in the Senate. And I know, having talked to Senator Klobuchar a couple of weeks ago, based on caseload and casework, she's anxious to have a second senator as well.

Q: And the Democrats are urging Norm Coleman to step aside, perhaps, you know, to not let the legal thing work itself out. Would the President be willing to --

MR. GIBBS: I haven't spoken to the President on that. Again, I think the -- as I've said, the judges have ruled that the election was conducted fairly and Mr. Franken won the most number of votes and we're hopeful that we'll have a senator soon.

Q: Robert, the Supreme Court has upheld some FCC fines for the use of expletives on television. Is this -- does the President feel --

MR. GIBBS: I'm resisting the temptation to -- (laughter.)

Q: Feel free. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: How much, exactly, is the fine? (Laughter.) And I was going to say, and cable counts for what?

Q: Well, the Bush administration had sort of a zero tolerance approach. Does the President feel that the use of any expletives should be subject to fine, even incidental, not-scripted?

MR. GIBBS: I will -- "not scripted" expletives? (Laughter.) I'll check with both the President and Rahm on that. (Laughter.) See if you guys have -- anybody has got a cable outlet that somebody might want to book.

I honestly -- I have not talked to the President about the ruling. I mean, obviously the President -- one of the things that he touched on as a senator in the fall of 2005 was discussing the gratuitous violence, the gratuitous sex that you see on television and the concern that he had for families. I know he talked about it then, when you're watching television and your children are in the room and there's an obviously uncomfortable situation when you have somebody that's young in the room watching with you. So I think he has -- without having looked at the ruling and discussed it with him, I know he's always had concern about that kind of material on television.

Q: So is that something he would take into consideration in making appointments to the FCC?

MR. GIBBS: Let me check on that.

Q: Asked earlier about the behind the scenes on the Specter decision you said you didn't know -- didn't have any information about whether either the President or Rahm Emmanuel or Vice President Biden or anyone at the White House was involved and to what degree. Is that something that you would be able to find out and get back to us on? Or do you not know because that's not something that the White House is going to be --

MR. GIBBS: I have -- I know the Vice President is traveling today; I have not had a chance to talk to him. And I didn't ask the President.

Q: Should we wait for an update or --

MR. GIBBS: I can certainly check with a few people. Again, I think the decision that Senator Specter made today is not based on a conversation that he might have had here or with any other member of the United States Senate, but a conversation and a discussion that -- or a decision that he had to make with where he believes he can best represent the people of Pennsylvania that he represents.

Q: May I ask you a quick follow-up? Given the potential doors or windows that this opens for the Democratic Party or for the President's agenda, are you now working or is the Democratic Party now working what remaining moderate Republicans are -- Senators Snowe and Collins? And what do you think that Specter's departure says about the GOP's strength anymore as an opposition party?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I've said this before, I think others have said this before, that the Republican Party has to put together and put forward ideas and constructive solutions to the problems facing the people in America. The President has asked that -- has asked for their help and support, but believes at the same time they have to be willing to help on the other side. And I think you heard me and others say that you can't just be the party of no or the party of no new ideas.

The problems that face Americans are not party problems, they're American problems. And the President believes the best way to address them is working together.

April.

Q: Back on Specter. Does it raise any type of concern at all that he made the decision because of political survival, he wanted to survive politically?

MR. GIBBS: I have not paid attention to a lot of campaign races this year, and I would pose that question to Senator Specter.

Q: And also, on 100 days, another take on the 100 days, you know, in this short period of time, and it seems like it's been forever --

MR. GIBBS: Tell me about it. (Laughter.)

Q: Anyway, what have you learned? What are the lessons learned, or what are some of the things that you could have done differently within this 100 days to move forward into the next couple of years?

MR. GIBBS: Me or the -- (laughter.)

Q: Well, the White House.

MR. GIBBS: Let's narrow this question down a little bit. (Laughter.)

Q: Okay, all right.

MR. GIBBS: Could somebody move a couch and let me just sort of --

Q: No, the President -- maybe even you, reflections from you as well.

MR. GIBBS: Well, look -- Jake mentioned this -- I gave the President a B-plus.

Q: But what would you give a D or an F that you could improve on?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think -- not surprisingly, I doubt I'm going to enumerate them. But I think anybody is hard-pressed to look back over a significant period of time like 99 or a hundred days and think you wouldn't have done some things differently. I've mentioned a decision today that the President would have made quite differently than was made in this White House. I think it is safe to say that the President spends some time each day reflecting on what's been done here in the course of any given day, and has asked us and asks himself to figure out how he can do what he does better.

When the President was first elected to the United States Senate, I remember one of the very first staff meetings that we had. Then-Senator Obama said to all of us that were assembled that he knew that there were certain sacrifices in public service, that we could all figure out how to do something that gives us more time with our families or maybe earns us more in our paychecks, but he thought there were probably few things that we could do that were -- be more rewarding if we worked every day to help people improve their lives. I think that's what he gets up every day thinking, and thinks each and every day about how he can improve, making sure that that happens.

Q: Do you want to juggle less balls, maybe?

MR. GIBBS: Say again?

Q: Do you want to throw some of the balls out that you're juggling; juggling too many?

MR. GIBBS: No, I -- I have addressed this and I think the President will probably get a chance to address this tomorrow -- we don't have the luxury of picking the problems that we address that face this country or face the American people, because we're in a -- we're in a time period in which there's a lot on the American people's plate -- whether it's creating jobs; whether it's stabilizing the financial system; whether it's getting credit flowing; whether it's making a college education more affordable; whether it's cutting the cost for health care; finding a path towards true energy independence; making our nation safer; rehabilitating our image in the world in order to ensure that we have the greatest leverage and power to push the national interests of this country. I'm not sure which of those things you would decide as less important in that group.

The President has decided that those are the issues that face this country, and he's going to work every day to find a solution to move us a step forward toward reaching those goals.

Rich.

Q: Robert, back to Specter just for a second. Is it possible that if the White House wasn't overly involved in this prior to today, that at least the President, the Vice President, Rahm, others urged Senator Specter to switch parties?

MR. GIBBS: Without knowing specifically, I would hate to speculate. I think it's safe to say that anybody here would be happy to have anybody join the Democratic Party, and anybody join our effort to do many of the things that I just discussed with April in order to move our agenda forward, to make the lives of the American people better.

Q: And one quick follow. On his support during the primary in the campaign for Senator Specter, is there anything unusual about that? Would he do the same for any Democratic incumbent prior to the primary field being fleshed out?

MR. GIBBS: The President is -- the President tends to support incumbent Democratic senators in their re-election.

Thanks, guys.

END 3:00 P.M. EDT



Citation: Barack Obama: "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs," April 28, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86066.
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