Aboard Air Force One
En Route New York, New York
9:02 A.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: What's going on, guys?
Q: Good morning.
Q: Didn't expect to you see until the second leg.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I was told by popular demand I should come back on the front leg.
Q: Robert, can you tell us a little bit about today? Was the President invited to go to this memorial?
MR. GIBBS: We were invited by CBS to speak at Mr. Cronkite's memorial service, and the President, understanding the role that Mr. Cronkite played in our country and in journalism, was happy to accept.
Q: Switching to a foreign policy question, Iran is scheduled to turn in a package of proposals today to world powers on its nuclear program and other challenges. Do you have any comments or thoughts about that?
MR. GIBBS: Not on the front end. Let me see when that happens and what response we'll have for you guys on that.
Q: Is there anything specific that you would like to say that you need to see from Iran in that proposal?
MR. GIBBS: I think Iran has to live up to its responsibilities and end its illicit nuclear program. That's not just the opinion of one country; that's the opinion of the world. I think -- let's hope we see progress on them doing that.
Q: Is tonight's speech finished? Is he still working on it?
MR. GIBBS: He's still working on it.
Q: What's the process there? Is it bouncing off ideas off other aides? Who is kind of involved in the drafting?
MR. GIBBS: -- a dart board and -- no, he came back from Camp David Monday with many handwritten pages of notes that he gave to the speechwriters. He got another draft incorporating more edits last night, and worked on it with the speechwriters before he left this morning. So my sense is he'll be tinkering with this some this afternoon, but my sense is this thing will be locked sometime this afternoon.
Q: And is it still about 35 minutes, half an hour?
MR. GIBBS: I need to check on that. (Laughter.)
Q: Do you anticipate a embargoed copy at a certain time or --
MR. GIBBS: That's certainly our hope, yes. I think we will be able to get you guys something obviously before the speech starts.
Q: Robert, is the White House watching the OPEC meeting today?
MR. GIBBS: I'm sure somebody is. (Laughter.) I have to admit I haven't -- I've been worried about health care today.
Q: Is there anything that we didn't know yesterday that you can tell us about -- (laughter) -- about tonight's speech? Has anything changed substantively overnight? And do you have any update for us once the speech is done on vote schedules, now that Baucus is going to have something out?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me -- look, in terms of vote schedules, obviously, I mean, the President continues to talk with Democrats and Republicans; talked with Senator Baucus yesterday and hopes that the Finance Committee can get something done in a bipartisan way. I think Senator Baucus has been working with this group of senators for almost a year on getting something out of the committee. Not long after the election, the committee put out its policy white paper on health care reform last November. So obviously we're hopeful that something can get done in that committee. That would obviously be an important milestone in this reform.
The President, I think, has a few main goals tonight: to speak clearly to the American people about what's in health care reform; for those that are fortunate to have insurance, to demonstrate for them that his plan will bring them security and stability; and for those that don't have health insurance, that we'll provide an affordable way for them to get accessible insurance.
Q: Will he use the word, "trigger," and does he think that that's a good compromise?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the President will talk tonight about the public option and about the necessity for choice and competition, but I don't want to make all his news now. Then what will we do later tonight?
Q: Do it all over again. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: But he's looking forward to it and I think it's a good opportunity to once again talk directly to the American people about how important health care reform is and why we have to get it done this year.
Q: Anyone interesting flying back with you or flying out with you today?
MR. GIBBS: Marvin Nicholson is here --
Q: And you.
MR. GIBBS: -- Reggie Love -- no, no -- Ben Finkenbinder is here. No, this is a -- it's kind of a scaled-down crew today. It's a scaled-down group.
Q: A question about Friday and the 9/11 anniversary. You said yesterday that the President was going to have meetings at the Pentagon. Is that the sum total of what the administration is going to do to mark the anniversary?
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no. He will -- as we said several days ago in the morning gaggle in my office, that he'll go to the Pentagon, visit with families of loved ones that were lost there, visit the memorial, and speak about what the day means and the sacrifices of thousands, not just at the Pentagon, but in Pennsylvania and certainly and most obviously in New York.
Q: Robert, I have one last follow-up. Yesterday I asked about the President's reaction to the WTO ruling on Airbus and Boeing. Have you had a chance to get the --
MR. GIBBS: I thought somebody got back to you on that, but let me check on that. I thought Ben LaBolt did, but I will -- or he had some stuff on that, so let me check on that.
Q: Will you tell us on the way back in case anything happens between now and then?
MR. GIBBS: I will be happy to.
END 9:08 A.M. EDT