Aboard Air Force One
En Route Chicago, Illinois
10:46 A.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: How are you guys?
Q: How are you?
MR. GIBBS: Good. Fire away.
Q: Does the President think the Iranian election was run fairly and that the announced results are accurate?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't have a lot to add to what -- the statement that we put out this weekend and what Vice President Biden said yesterday. Obviously we continue to have concern about what we've seen. Obviously the Iranians are looking into this, as well. We continue to be heartened by the enthusiasm of young people in Iran.
But I think what's important is the concerns that we have about their nuclear weapons program, and the concern we have about their support for terror isnít any different than it was on Friday.
Q: Does the margin of victory announced for Ahmadinejad seem reasonable or plausible to the White House?
MR. GIBBS: I think there are a number of factors that give us some concern about what we've seen.
Q: Is the President open to including changes to medical malpractice rules as part of a health care overhaul this year? Does he think that's going to be something that needs to be addressed?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think he will -- as I told many people, he will mention this as part of the speech today. It's a very small, short part of the speech. There arenít specifics. So I think the notion that somehow -- if you thought this was a speech on medical malpractice, you would -- that would be wrong.
Q: -- take away from the fact that it's a small part of the speech that he is not as committed to malpractice reform as he is to other things?
MR. GIBBS: No. This isn't a med mal speech and that's not what he's come to talk about today.
Q: Aside from the speech, is he open to the idea of setting caps on --
MR. GIBBS: You'll see from the speech what he's going to talk about today. The President, as a member of the Senate, worked on a number of different proposals that can bring relief from the cost of medical malpractice that don't necessarily involve that.
Q: What's he going to tell the trial lawyers?
MR. GIBBS: About?
Q: About medical malpractice reform.
MR. GIBBS: The same thing he tells the doctors.
Q: -- are skeptical. A lot of these guys I talked to over the weekend at the AMA are very skeptical. What's the victory today? I mean, how does -- what does he take away from his push today?
MR. GIBBS: This is about talking to the doctors, but also talking to the American people. I think you can understand, having covered politics, as well as all of you can, things get said in public to maintain your negotiating leverage, and things get worked on in a large table to make progress.
We're very enthusiastic about where we are in this process. I think the President will outline a strong case that health care reform is not only necessary and needed but can't wait. It can't wait for the millions of people that are being crushed by skyrocketing health care costs. Our federal budget deficit can't wait as Medicare and Medicaid -- the costs of Medicare and Medicaid skyrocket.
So I think he'll outline the case for necessary and needed reforms. But, again, this is just part of the process. We understand, as I said, what some people may say in public is different than what we see as progress toward real reform.
Q: Is there something in it for the doctors?
MR. GIBBS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, look, I think you're not -- understand that health care reform is not just something that the President sees as a phrase or a hope. The goal is -- and I'm sure -- I know doctors share this, too -- doctors want to practice medicine, right? They don't want to be insurance administrators. They don't want to spend a huge portion of their time filling out forms. They want to treat patients; they want to provide the best quality of coverage; they want to do so in a way that's affordable. That's why people get into practicing medicine. And I think those are all goals that are shared by the President.
Why do we as a country spend twice as much per capita as some countries do on outcomes that aren't as good? I think those are concerns that are shared by both entities, both the President and doctors. That's why we're optimistic that health care reform is truly possible this year.
Q: Is he going to push members of his own party about medical malpractice reform?
MR. GIBBS: He's going to push members of both parties on all aspects of what it's going to take to get reform through Congress and to his desk this year.
Q: Does the President agree with Director Panetta's assessment that Vice President -- former Vice President Cheney almost wants another attack to happen?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I'm not going to get into motivations. That's not what our business is. The President's concern is keeping the American people safe. We've had policy disagreements, but I think what is true for anybody is doing what's -- doing what we need to to keep the American people safe and secure. That's what the President is working on every day.
Q: The AMA said last week that they were not against all kinds of public plans, but some kinds. Is he going to go into some detail today about what he sees as sort of a workable public plan?
MR. GIBBS: The President will obviously talk, as he did last week in Green Bay, about the benefits of choice and competition; the need to ensure that there is an affordable option for those that are getting the opportunity to get affordable health care. The President has always seen that as an important part of reform. And I think that's what -- the case that he'll outline today, making sure that we have a public option that gives people greater choice, that brings competition to the insurance market is one that I think the President believes quite strongly.
Q: -- to get to that point?
MR. GIBBS: There are a lot of different ways to get to all these points. That's why you heard the President in the campaign talk about having a big table with lots of chairs. I think this is another stop on the big table tour.
Q: Does the President think that, when the doctors are saying that a public health program will run private insurers out of business, does the President agree with that assessment?
MR. GIBBS: I think you should see what -- I don't know which one you're referring to. You should look at what the AMA put out after the so-called story about their opposition. I don't think doctors are going to say that a public option would do that, since obviously that's a healthy part of our health care system.
Q: Robert, the President says that he wants to get $75 billion in savings from Medicare prescription drugs over 10 years. The pharmaceutical industry says that doesn't necessarily have to come from lower prices for medications. Do you know of some other way to get to that target without lower prices?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't want to speak for them. I know what the President has outlined. I know what Peter and Nancy-Ann talked to you guys about in preparation for the Saturday radio address.
Again, I think the President believes strongly that reform can't just -- if "reform" is simply perpetuating over the course of 10 more years the way we've delivered medicine, the way we've practiced medicine, the way we've paid for medicine over the previous 10 years, then we're not getting reform.
I think that's why the President has outlined a series of proposals, including the ones he added to this Saturday, that not only make it affordable -- make reform affordable, but also change in a positive way how we deliver health care and how we do it in a way that's best for the American people.
Q: Does he think Medicare should negotiate more strenuously with the pharmaceutical companies for better prices?
MR. GIBBS: I don't want to get into negotiating here, but obviously we're working with all entities, including the pharmaceutical industry, to bring about reform.
Q: On the Netanyahu speech yesterday, the administration sort of welcomed the things that he had to say about a separate Palestinian state, but the Palestinians have pretty firmly rejected it. Did the President really get what he needed from Netanyahu in order to push the peace process forward?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think the government -- the Netanyahu government took a big step forward yesterday in acknowledging for the first time the need for a two-state solution. I think the President believes that there is a long way to go and many twists and turns in the road to get there, but is pleased thus far with the progress that's being made. And I think yesterday's speech certainly is a big part of that.
Q: Is he going to be able to do something to get the Palestinians on board? What is he going to do --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think we're working and discussing with all involved how we can move this process forward, how we can create a two-state solution whereby Israel and the Palestinians live side by side in peace and security. I think what Mr. Netanyahu said yesterday is an important part of that reform.
Q: Thank you.
END 10:58 A.M. EDT