|The American Presidency Project|
|• Barack Obama|
|Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs|
|April 30, 2009|
|James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:54 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon. I know you've probably got a lot of questions today. I want to start, though, by bringing you up to date on some information. I just sent most of you all an email on this. We've learned that an individual who traveled to Mexico City to support the U.S. delegation that accompanied the President to Mexico City came down with flu-like symptoms associated with his work in Mexico. Three members of the individual's family tested positive for Type A influenza, and tests are currently underway to determine if they contracted the 2009 H1N1 influenza strain. Individual family members suffered mild to moderate symptoms, received no medication, were not hospitalized, and have recovered.
I want to give you a quick timeline on some of this information and then after that we'll have plenty of time for questions. This individual was the lead advance for the security detail of Energy Secretary Chu. The individual traveled to Mexico in advance of Secretary Chu's visit, arriving there on April 13th. He began to feel ill on April 16th, developed a fever on the 17th. He returned to the United States on April 18th.
The following day he visited his brother's home, where he likely spread the virus to his nephew. On the following two days, April 20th and 21st, the individual went to work at the Department of Energy. A co-worker that rode in a car with him developed flu-like symptoms, but subsequent test results are negative. Over the course of the 20th and 21st, the individual's wife and young son developed flu-like symptoms. On the 24th, the individual visited his family physician and related his travel history. The doctor did not prescribe antiviral drugs, did not perform tests on the patient.
The following day, April 25th, the individual and his wife and son visited an urgent care facility, where they were administered rapid flu testing, and tested negative. The individual followed up with the Anne Arundel County health authorities, and on April 28th the individual's wife, son, and nephew tested probable for H1N1. They had tested positive, as I said, for influenza A; the subtype is unidentifiable. That's where the letters and numbers H1N1 come into effect.
Further testing is being done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the nature of the outcome. The original patient tested negative likely because so much time had elapsed since the onset of his own symptoms that they would not show up in the test. As I said, all four individuals experienced only mild symptoms and all four have recovered. This person has been cleared to go back to work by doctors and is back working today.
That's a short tick-tock. I know you probably have other questions, and I'll be happy to answer as many of those as I can.
Q: Thanks, Robert. I assume that the reason you disclosed this is because doctors and officials think that this probably is a case of the swine flu virus?
MR. GIBBS: Well, we felt the need to disclose the probability of this. I think you've heard the President discuss over the course of the last few days whether there are confirmed or suspected cases and we thought it was important to disclose that information -- again, understanding that the individuals that were involved have recovered and are fine.
Q: One of the questions -- well, I asked about quarantine and obviously that's a more controversial, difficult decision to make -- maybe comes later in this outbreak process, I don't know. But I'm just wondering what the discussion is like here about when you might use that kind of -- when you might take that kind of step. The President seemed to suggest that right now the responsibility is mostly on individual people to essentially quarantine themselves.
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously, as you know, the President is receiving regular updates on this information. Let me add a few things to the timeline that I should have. Secretary Chu has not and did not experience any symptoms. Because he is asymptomatic, he has not been tested and there are no plans to do so. The same is true -- the President, as I've said here many times, has not experienced any symptoms and doctors see no need to conduct any tests.
In terms of -- I want to put it in a broad brush of other steps that might be taken. Obviously events change quickly and the President and the team at CDC, HHS, DHS, Homeland Security here, are monitoring the situation. And I think as the President said, we will take any step or precaution necessary to ensure the safety of the American people.
Q: Well, considering that one member of the advance team has turned up to -- you know, has developed symptoms and been infected, isn't there any further actions being taken to look at the entire group that went and -- to make sure that the President is completely --
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, let's understand that we are now almost twice the limit removed from a symptomatic window that one would see for incubation. So anybody that went on the trip, anybody that went in support of the trip, it is highly, highly, highly unlikely that -- I think we're now 13 -- yes, 13 days ago this morning the team left Mexico -- again, in excess of almost twice the limit on the window. If you haven't felt any symptoms, there's no need to test you.
Again, if you -- the same advice that others have given to the general public remain very much in accord with what we would tell anybody here and what we would tell staff, which is, you know, if you feel sick, stay home; go see a doctor; take precautions. But if you're asymptomatic, there's no reason to believe that there's anything other than the fact that you don't have it.
Q: I have a question and a follow-up. Do you have any idea how this individual may have contracted --
MR. GIBBS: No. No, it's -- again, without knowing the precise time at which he began to feel ill on the 16th -- we didn't land until the afternoon of the 16th, it's -- based on the fact that there's an incubation period, you know, it's likely he began to get sick before -- days before the team landed on the day of the visit.
Q: And my other question has to do with remarks that Vice President Biden made this morning on television. Representatives of the travel industry have accused the Vice President of coming close to fear-mongering because of his comments, and I'm wondering if you wanted to clarify or correct or apologize for the remarks that he made.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the -- what the Vice President meant to say was the same thing that, again, many members have said in the last few days, and that is, if you feel sick, if you are exhibiting symptoms, flu-like symptoms -- coughing, sneezing, runny nose -- that you should take precautions, that you should limit your travel. And I think he just -- what he said and what he meant to say.
Q: With all due respect, and I sympathize with you trying to explain the Vice President's comments, but that's not even remotely close to what he said. He was asked about --
MR. GIBBS: I understand --
Q: -- if a member of his family were going to --
MR. GIBBS: Jake, I understand what he said and I'm telling you what he meant to say -- (laughter) -- which was that if somebody is experiencing symptoms -- and you heard the President say this last night -- if somebody is feeling sick, if somebody is exhibiting symptoms of being sick, then they should take all necessary precaution. Obviously if anybody was unduly alarmed for whatever reason, we would apologize for that and I hope that my remarks and remarks of the people of the CDC and Secretary Napolitano have appropriately cleared up what he meant to say.
Q: Robert, on Chrysler, the President seemed very confident that they were going to emerge from bankruptcy, be healthier, more viable. Where does he get that confidence when immediately industry analysts are saying it's going to be very hard to find a bankruptcy judge to deal with some of this and --
MR. GIBBS: The case has already been assigned to a bankruptcy judge.
Q: No, find a -- not just find one, but find one that's willing to take some steps with the bond holders, for example, that will make -- you know, there's all kinds of details here that have not been fleshed out. And so how does he have confidence in that, number one. And number two --
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me answer the first one --
Q: -- Americans have not been buying Chrysler vehicles for a long time. So how do they turn around all of a sudden?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let's not generalize. I mean, obviously I've mentioned in here that you have -- you've had a dip in the number of autos purchased. I'm sure you've had a dip in the number of VCRs purchased, or DVDs -- I'm showing my age, aren't I? We still have those videos that my son watches on occasion.
You know, we're seeing a general economic recession where the demand for virtually every good is down. So people aren't buying --
Q: But Chrysler has not been selling a lot of cars for years. It's not just the last six months.
MR. GIBBS: Neither is Ford or Toyota or GM or any number. I mean, look, I'm not up here to go through the monthly sales figures of the auto industry; we all know those. But I think I would push back on some of the reporting that I've heard and some of the characterizations relating to this deal. You have 80 percent of the United Auto Workers who took some significant sacrifices to ratify this deal. You have the major debt holders of the company who have signed off on parts of this agreement. You had the former owner relinquish its stake in this company.
So I think the reason the President expressed hope last night was the notion that we had made great progress with a vast majority of the stakeholders that he talked about regularly as a part of this process. As the President mentioned, there are people that decided they would take -- decided they wanted to take less of a sacrifice than other debt holders, than the workers, than former owners. They tried to, in a sense, play chicken with the government for a better deal and nobody blinked.
So that's why the need remains for a quick, structured bankruptcy that the President is optimistic about and believes will put Chrysler on a path toward viability that does not need continued assistance from the federal government in order to do well.
But your broader point, Ed, is, again, the demand for virtually everything is down because of an economic recession. We did see some positive consumer spending numbers within the numbers that were released I guess yesterday on quarterly GDP numbers. Look, the President has taken steps to get the economy back on a road to recovery where we think we'll see increased auto sales and increased consumer spending on a number of things.
Q: Could you walk us through the President's involvement and role in making the decision on the Chrysler bankruptcy, where he was, and when he made the decision -- any tick-tock you can give us on that?
MR. GIBBS: You know, I don't have a ton of tick-tick on it. I know the President was -- look, the task force has been working for the last -- well, for the last month, and particularly in the last several days I think there have been announcements that there were agreements between the auto company and the union, agreements between the auto company and major debt holders, that have shown steady progress. The President got -- continually got updates as part of his economic daily briefing, as well as other meetings to bring him up to speed on where the restructuring plan was. And he got several updates throughout yesterday and today. And I think he said -- as he said last night, was hopeful, and I think that information was based on briefing that he got throughout the day and they were moving in the right direction.
Q: When exactly did he make the decision and where was he, what were the circumstances, do you know?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know the exact time in which any decision might have been made. I can see if there's some clarity on that. I don't know if there was a moment --
Q: Anything we can get on that. And also, he did sound a little peeved at these people who, as you said, were playing chicken with the government. How peeved was he?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think you saw it in what he said. And what he said throughout this process is that those involved in, stakeholders involved in this negotiation were going to have to understand for the greater good of seeing Chrysler go forward that we were all going to have to make some sacrifices. Workers made sacrifices, ownership made sacrifices, a majority of the debt holders made sacrifices, and some decided they wanted to get a better deal. Again, I'd reiterate that I guess they thought somebody was going to blink and it didn't happen.
Q: Just to tie up one quick loose end. Did the President interact at all with this individual who had the swine flu?
MR. GIBBS: No. The President -- this individual was -- this individual never flew on Air Force One. The individual would have been at the working dinner on the night of -- I said Thursday, Friday -- Thursday night the 16th. He was asked specifically if he ever came within six feet of the President and the answer to that was no.
Q: Okay, but he did interact with Secretary Chu, presumably?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, and like I said, was at that dinner, but not close enough to the President.
Q: Okay. And here's my real question. Back to the bankruptcy thing.
MR. GIBBS: That can count as a real one. (Laughter.)
Q: Okay. I don't want it to go on the tally, though. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: That's all right. As you can see from last night, we didn't keep a good tally. (Laughter.)
Q: Yes, exactly. It seems like a lot of the bankruptcy deals premise on this notion of a 30- to 60-day bankruptcy and I guess my question is, given the obstinance you've described of these creditors, what gives you any assurance that this can be done in 30 to 60 days? Those creditors will walk into bankruptcy courts, they'll have rights, they'll have an opportunity to litigate, market test that Fiat deal, say that liquidation would be more beneficial. I mean, this could stretch out months.
MR. GIBBS: When you mean beneficial, beneficial to whom?
Q: Well, to the creditors. I think it's part of bankruptcy law that if you can get more in liquidation, the judge can't rubber-stamp another deal. So I guess what I'm saying is, why do you think it's going to be quick?
MR. GIBBS: Because we feel confident that a majority of the stakeholders, a vast majority of the stakeholders are onboard with a deal that we think is in the interests of all of those involved. And we think we can convince -- that a judge can be convinced of that.
Q: If it goes on beyond the 30 to 60 days, is that financing enough?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let's not get 61 days into the equation, and we'll have any number of opportunities to do that as we get closer. Again, we feel confident that the structure of the agreement, the sacrifices that have been made by the vast majority of those involved in the operations of Chrysler, give this deal an excellent chance of working.
Q: Is the President trying to influence the bankruptcy judge in terms of vis-à-vis how those creditors are treated?
MR. GIBBS: I assume judges make opinions based on what's their reading of the law and not based on what any individual said.
Q: Well, do they think the judge can be convinced and the President --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, obviously -- I mean, I think it's safe to assume that we will present a case and render an opinion as to why we think the deal is workable, why we're confident that a majority of the stakeholders involved are onboard, and why we think it's in the best interests of all those involved.
Q: Real quick, did the President talk to the Vice President about his statements on the Today show?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I know of.
Q: And would you characterize his reaction? Because he's been so careful about calibrating the --
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I don't -- I don't think they talked, so it'd be hard to characterize the conversation.
Q: Just a quick clarification on the security detail. Yesterday there were reports from public health service -- public health officials in Maryland that there was a case in Anne Arundel. Was that referring to this or are you giving us a new case?
MR. GIBBS: Without providing names, that's the case I'm talking about.
Q: Okay. And you said that if anyone was unduly alarmed by what the Vice President was saying we would apologize for that. Is that an apology -- are you apologizing for it? And is there any thought about the Vice President perhaps apologizing?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President -- I think the Vice President put out -- office of the Vice President put out a statement. I'm apologizing to those that were unduly alarmed, in case people saw it and weren't alarmed and wouldn't necessarily denote wanting an apology from me.
Q: Just to clarify your responses to Chip's question. Did the President actually have to sign off on every facet of this Chrysler deal?
MR. GIBBS: I think that -- well, it's the President's Auto Task Force. It's --
Q: I mean, I thought maybe perhaps the Treasury Secretary -- but the Fiat part, the bankruptcy part, the GMAC --
MR. GIBBS: Well, he's the -- obviously the Secretary -- the Auto Task Force is largely housed in the Department of Treasury. He would have I guess line authority on all this. But obviously -- the President, I think you saw from his comments, thinks the agreement is a good agreement.
Q: But I guess to follow up on his follow-up -- (laughter) -- did the President just rubber-stamp a decision that was made at the Treasury Department, or was he presented the facts and then -- loaded question, I know --
MR. GIBBS: No, it's just funny.
Q: -- but did he come in and get a presentation of the facts and say, here is what I'm going to do?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the President has been involved throughout this process for many, many months, involved in the determinations of the original plans, how to structure the next steps in terms of 30- and 60-day deadlines; has spent quite a bit of time in the intervening 30 days listening to aspects of the deal, and I can assure everybody that if the President didn't agree with this, I doubt he would have gone out there and said what he said today. The President agrees with this deal. The President thought the agreement was a good one and in the best interest of all those involved.
And I'll say this -- I don't think this was a done deal 30 days ago. I think the Auto Task Force team deserves a ton of credit in bringing two would-be partners together, working individually and collectively with all of those stakeholders and doing something that many people might not have thought was going to happen. I forget the exact percentage that people put on this happening in a meeting that we had a little over a month ago, but as somebody said, these type of things rarely get better as time goes on, meaning the chances for them happening. I think they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for working with all of those involved, and I think people that were involved and took sacrifices in order for a company to move forward in a viable way deserve a lot of credit, as well.
Q: Who said that -- "these things rarely get better as time goes on"?
MR. GIBBS: One of the members of the team that advises the President.
Q: Robert, a two-fer as well, but back to the individual on the security detail. Did he fly back commercially or --
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: Okay. And who did he fly -- who was the carrier, and what was the route?
MR. GIBBS: It was a United flight to Dulles.
Q: Okay. Have they notified the passengers who were on the same --
MR. GIBBS: That's a question we were checking on when I came back out here; I don't know the answer to it.
Q: Do you know the flight number, do you have that?
MR. GIBBS: I don't. That's not information I've been given.
MR. GIBBS: Hold on one second, I'll come back --
Q: He wants to follow up on H1N1 --
MR. GIBBS: Go ahead, do you want to follow? Yes, sir.
Q: I know you just said that the Mexican government has been so transparent with information. But is there second-guessing that probably they knew something that they didn't tell you?
MR. GIBBS: I don't have any information related to that. I've made representations and I think we've released statements on information based on what we've gotten from the Mexican government.
Q: I'm reclaiming my time. (Laughter.) Paul Volcker --
MR. GIBBS: The gentleman from Washington. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Oh, Seattle.
Q: Paul Volcker said yesterday that he didn't think a second stimulus would be necessary. Does the President share that, given where unemployment is at?
MR. GIBBS: I've not spoken to the President recently on second stimulus. I mean, obviously we're in the process of working to get the first money out the door as quickly as possible, to do it in a way that's transparent but gets the money out to the projects that need it the most quickly. I think we'll have a better chance of evaluating where we are in the economy, but there's no plan currently for a second stimulus.
Q: Do you know if Volcker has communicated that to the President as chairman of the Recovery Board?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know if he communicated that with the President or not.
Q: Robert, I'm wondering if you can help me understand why the President is mad at the hedge funds. Does he believe they are doing something that they don't have a right to do in this negotiated process with the future of Chrysler, and that they might feel that 29 cents on the dollar isn't such a good deal for them, and they would be within their rights to pursue their interests in the bankruptcy court?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not sure the President's problem with them is based on their rights. I think the President's problem with them is based on the notion that, as he said and as many members of the team have said, and as many members involved in this agreement have done, which is make sacrifices in order for the company to move forward.
There are those that decided that those steps could be taken, and there were those that decided they would -- given your ratios -- ask for more than twice that amount. I think the sacrifices that have been made by all those involved haven't been made by all. That's why the President made the comments that he did. But again, I'd reiterate the President believes this is a good agreement.
Q: When you said that nobody blinked, it might sound to some that the outcome the administration would most prefer from the bankruptcy proceeding is to give those who thought somebody might blink punishment -- less than they were seeking. Was that the outcome that you would like to see and should anyone looking --
MR. GIBBS: I don't want to prejudge the outcome except to say that there were offers on the table that we thought and others thought were fair and I think they had every ability and right to take them.
Q: Following up on Ed's question. I know the President doesn't want to be in the automotive business and everyone can understand why. But there was a previous merger with Chrysler and a very well known world-dominating brand, Daimler -- that didn't work out for all sorts of reasons -- clash of cultures, design, engineering, things didn't match up. Why is it that a brand name that has less clout within Europe and the U.S. market, Fiat, is going to work when Daimler-Chrysler didn't?
MR. GIBBS: Two reasons. One, they have expertise in restructuring that we think and that others think make this a viable partnership. And secondly, their expertise and know-how in the creation and the manufacturing of more fuel-efficient engines, which -- to build off of Ed's question on car sales -- I don't think it's altogether surprising that Hummer is not a dealer -- a brand name that's likely going to survive this economic downturn. It didn't necessarily do so well during $4.50 a gallon gas either.
The President talked about in his remarks and has said on any number of occasions over the years that what we have to do is we have to have American auto companies that are building cars that American consumers have a demand for and want to buy. And I think the example with Fiat provides expertise in that area.
Q: Is that a manufacturing move to put those cars on the market in the hopes that they will purchased?
MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry?
Q: Is this a manufacturing move -- I mean, Fiat gets more percentage of the company if it meets some thresholds. One of them is introducing this fuel-efficient technology. The second is introducing a 40-mile-per-gallon vehicle. It might look to some as if the government is not just suggesting, but creating equity for Fiat by producing a certain kind of vehicle for a market.
MR. GIBBS: Two responses. One, I think the President was pretty clear that Fiat can't take a majority ownership in a merged company unless or until American taxpayers have been paid back in whole. Two, regardless of why, the President and I think a vast majority of the public believes that more fuel-efficient automobiles are in the best interest of this country. Whether it lessens the demand for oil and gas and makes us less dependent on foreign oil, whether they emit less harmful pollutants, I think that many involved both at a government and a private sector level see the strong desire for more energy-efficient automobiles.
Q: Thank you, Robert. Two questions. What appeared to be --
MR. GIBBS: Can I just interrupt and -- you have fit right into the second row by starting with two questions. (Laughter.) I just -- go ahead.
Q: Well, it was a vacant seat.
MR. GIBBS: But I notice if you sit in the fourth row, you tend to probably only ask like one question. (Laughter.)
Q: What appeared to be 90 reporters attended last night's presidential press conference, but only 13 of the 90 were allowed to ask questions, which the President took 45 minutes and 24 seconds to answer. And my question --
MR. GIBBS: Can I correct the premise of your question?
Q: Yes, of course.
MR. GIBBS: I don't have a full transcript in front of me, but I think on a number of those occasions multiple questions were asked.
Q: Yes --
MR. GIBBS: Thirteen people asked questions. Thirteen people asked an unnumbered --
Q: That's right, 13 out of 90.
Q: The same question was asked twice. (Laughter.)
Q: Do you and the President believe that television networks will continue covering these 13 only selected questioners in advance presidential speeches, or do you think they may join FOX in refusing?
MR. GIBBS: I have enough trouble speaking for this government without getting into trouble speaking for a network. I think I would ask those individual networks. I think your question mischaracterizes what happened last night. I think, Lester, you saw, if I'm not mistaken, the President answer questions about the flu, which you all have asked today; the President was asked about Notre Dame, Lester, as you have asked about --
Q: And he didn't take one -- he did not even mention Notre Dame, did he, in his answer -- a very good question.
MR. GIBBS: I know -- I want to give Ed credit for asking a good question, one in which you built on in this very room.
The President was asked about Pakistan. The President was asked about Iraq. The President was asked about the economy. The President was asked about a lot of those -- the President was asked about the Republican Congress -- many of the same questions that I get and many of the same interests that you all have. I think the President addressed many of the cares and concerns on behalf of the American people and was glad to do so.
Q: The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights president, William Donahue, noted, in the House Judiciary Committee, an amendment to H.R. 1913, the Hate Crimes Bill, which amendment would have excluded pedophilia, was voted down 13 to 10, while another amendment to bar prosecution based on religious beliefs was also defeated 11 to 8. And my question: Does the President believe pedophilia should be a legally protected sexual orientation, and that religious beliefs opposing homosexuality are not protected under our Constitution's freedom of religion?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not familiar with the amendments, Lester.
Q: Will you get back to us on that? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: All right.
Q: Robert, when did the President himself become aware of this -- the incident of the lead advance person for Secretary Chu becoming infected? And what other advance people, from which other agencies and departments were traveling with Secretary Chu? Obviously Secretary Clinton -- or Secretary Clinton was on the trip, and others.
MR. GIBBS: The initial -- let me describe a little bit about how the initial information came into the White House. Yesterday, Dr. Kuhlman, who works in the White House Medical Office, was talking with Dr. Besser from the CDC. Dr. Kuhlman was -- developed the pandemic flu plan for the White House several years ago, as many states did, around the avian flu. They were discussing in general the flu virus. Dr. Besser asked Dr. Kuhlman if there was anything he could do. Dr. Kuhlman said, can you keep me up to date on cases in the capital area. Dr. Besser said, we're following some probable cases in Maryland that might include a Department of Energy official.
Dr. Kuhlman called the Department of Energy and then ultimately called this advance -- lead advance security detail individual. And we've spent the last many hours sort of piecing a lot of this stuff together and informing those that were on the trip. Those calls began mid-to-late afternoon yesterday.
I talked specifically with the President about the information this morning. I would have to go back and look at notes in terms of what, if anything, before that -- I know we discussed -- I discussed with him the nature of our release of the information.
Q: And who from other agencies?
MR. GIBBS: I will go back and see what other information -- what other agencies sent people on the trip. In talking with the doctor this morning, he said that -- I'll be a little careful with this, and you'll see why in a minute -- there were general warnings that were given out that we might experience gastrointestinal difficulties, so people that came back from the trip that were experiencing any kind of illness can go see the doctor. He believes that approximately 10 people came to see him that may have experienced something approximating a flu-like symptom. None of those people, though, came back with any positive test.
So nobody else that we know of is experiencing symptoms or has gotten sick.
Q: Let me come back to the bankruptcy filing. I thought the President had said repeatedly that he was not going to put billions of taxpayer dollars into a company if all the stakeholders didn't come to the table. But all the stakeholders have not come to the table. There's still a holdout group. Yet we still have -- we have now $3.3 billion of taxpayer money that's going to cover Chrysler during the bankruptcy period. Hasn't he changed his mind here?
MR. GIBBS: No, Mark, he's come to the determination that this is an agreement that helps get Chrysler back on a path towards viability and one that has done so without continued government assistance. I think if you go back and look at the President's remarks about 30 days ago, you'll see that the President discussed in those remarks that we would do everything in our power to deal with individual stakeholders, but that bankruptcy might still be an option, it might still be a possibility. That's the point at which we find ourselves today.
Would we like to have announced an agreement with a hundred percent of those stakeholders rather than some vast, vast majority? Sure. But the President believes that we have a good agreement.
Q: Is that $3.3 billion at risk in the bankruptcy filing, the additional money -- the additional money that's going into Chrysler?
MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry, you mean --
Q: Well, if the company is ultimately liquidated, if the bankruptcy judge throws everything out.
MR. GIBBS: I won't entertain hypotheticals any more than I did for Savannah, so we'll wait on that.
Q: Does the President have any thoughts on the fact that British troops are formally being withdrawn as of today, Robert, and that the partnership now that PM Brown has expressed is between himself and the -- the British and the Iraqi government, as well -- equal partnership?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I have no specific reaction. I know that maybe -- (loud cheering) -- apparently there's a reaction just outside the building. (Laughter.) Wow, I don't know what's going on out there -- oh, it's the bike thing -- that's right. I was like, wow, what's going on out there? It's the Wounded Warriors bike event.
I mean, I think the President addressed Iraq last night and the concerns that we continue to have despite the fact that even with what we've seen in the newspapers recently there is -- we're still at vastly less violence than we've seen earlier in this process. We're pleased that Chris Hill is in Iraq and look forward to continued and sustained political progress and keeping of the time table that the President and the Joint Chiefs outlined.
Q: Robert, can you talk a little bit about the incubation period for the swine flu? How confident is the government that that's going to remain the same? Obviously the President is out there asking people to go to the doctor if they feel sick. What are your thoughts on that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I would encourage you to ask the same question of doctors at CDC, but that information comes from them and my sense is they don't have any scientific evidence to believe it's different than that. And again, I think it's important to understand that this individual -- when he began to feel ill and now or I guess -- what's the date, the 28th -- as I said, he is listed as suspected of having subtype H1N1, but because the virus has run its course and he's recovered and now back to work, it doesn't show up on the test. So I think that gives you a sense that the incubation period is a fixed number.
Q: And will you guys be alerting the passengers on that flight, that United flight?
MR. GIBBS: I don't -- one of the things that was left sort of undone when I came out was figuring out the -- I don't know legally what procedure all of that -- all of it encompasses, but obviously we'll do everything in our power to ensure that what can be done to alert them will be done.
Q: Robert, this White House doesn't get off the message very often.
MR. GIBBS: Thank you.
Q: How was it that the Vice President's message veered off so radically this morning? Does he get briefed before he goes on television to talk about -- (laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: Do you brief him?
MR. GIBBS: I did not talk to him this morning, no.
Q: So what happened?
MR. GIBBS: I think he said something on TV differently than what he meant to say.
Q: And just to follow up on that, did you -- did the White House Press Office consult on the statement that came out from the Vice President's Office about that?
MR. GIBBS: We saw the statement before it was put out. That's not highly unusual. The Vice President's Office recognized the need to put out a statement quickly and ensure that people had all of the relevant information that they needed.
Q: Do you think it misrepresented what the Vice President said?
MR. GIBBS: I think the Vice President misrepresented what the Vice President wanted to say, and what he meant to say was what others have said recently.
Q: Robert, the President said last night with respect to the enhanced interrogation techniques that we could have gotten this information in other ways. How does he know that?
MR. GIBBS: Without getting specific, I think that's in any number of intelligence reports.
Q: Meaning that -- I mean, if they got the information one way -- and they got it that way -- how can you know that you would have gotten it a different way?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I'd -- because of the information, I'm not going to get into some of it.
Q: Okay. Just a question that was asked last night and not exactly answered, if he did have a high-value -- if the United States had a high-value al Qaeda suspect and they needed that information, would he rule out using different techniques for --
MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals like you did.
Q: Robert, the President last night talked about the Recovery Act so far has -- already has created or saved 150,000 jobs. Yet the net job loss is over a million in that time frame. How do you get to the 150,000, and does it suggest that it's possible that at the end of this you could have reached your goal and the country could still have a net job loss?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. I will get you the paper that was created by the Council of Economic Advisers on the statistics being compiled. The note says -- well, the figure denotes that unemployment would be that much higher had the 150,000 jobs saved or created not been done so during the time period in which those employment figures were released.
Q: But how -- first of all, how do you get -- come up with 150,000?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I'll get you the -- you have to carry numbers and I'll get the CEA to --
Q: That comes from CEA?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: And it is possible -- you could save 3.5 million jobs at the end of this period and we could end up with 8 million more jobs lost?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I'm not an economist. I don't prepare the Department of Labor's employment statistics on a monthly basis. So it's hard for me -- and I wouldn't predict job loss in the months going forward except to say I think it will be quite some time before we see months where we don't have extensive job loss. I've said that on many occasions.
I think some of the statistics and information that we gave out during this debate denoted that the President -- the President and his team made estimations, for instance, on both employment and in demand growth of what would happen with and what would happen without a recovery and reinvestment plan. And we have always said that the downturn in job loss and the downturn in retracted growth and lessening demand would be far more extensive without the recovery and reinvestment plan than -- would be greater without it than if we had passed it, and which we did.
Q: Well, is his figure based on a formula then or is it company by company? Did they go in and say, well, Caterpillar saved 1,000 jobs --
MR. GIBBS: I will -- we'll put out some paper to give you a sense of --
Q: I have a follow on that just more generally. So the 3.5 million saved or created, that's only within the confines of the economic recovery package -- that's a closed system?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, that's the way we've talked about the bill, yes.
Q: Robert, thank you. A couple of Presidents of UAW locals have supported the President, but they say they have been called upon, their workers have been called upon to make multiple sacrifices --
MR. GIBBS: And they have.
Q: -- whereas Wall Street executives who drove the economy in the ditch have not been called upon to make similar sacrifices, in their view. They say there's a double-standard. Are they right?
MR. GIBBS: No. I think you can point to companies that predate our administration that have seen their leadership and the composition of their boards change. I can probably pull you quotes from banks that haven't necessarily thought some of what has been done some of their leadership thought was altogether helpful.
But I think, as the President said last night, we -- he's anxious to envision a time in which the government is not part of the banking system, not part of the auto system, not part of any insurance company -- but ensuring adequate rules of the road that give the American people confidence that what we've seen happen over the last six to nine months -- or, actually, going back quite further than that -- doesn't happen again.
Q: And a clarification of what you said about the President and Senator Specter. As I understood it -- and correct me if I'm wrong; I know you will -- (laughter) --
MR. GIBBS: Fret not.
Q: -- the President only learned of Senator Specter's decision on Tuesday morning, but Vice President Biden had been having multiple conversations with him. Had the Vice President kept the President in the loop or what?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know whether they had specific conversations about that or not.
Q: Back on the swine flu issue, as you prepare for possibilities of a pandemic, you know, there's expected to be a hard-hitting impact on insurance companies. Is this White House working with the insurance companies to possibly continue to fund, you know, the medicines and supplies and even some sick days off, because we know some of the insurers are having problems right now financially?
MR. GIBBS: I have not talked with the economic team about whether -- about their evaluation of insurance companies in this time period. I know the President has talked about -- you heard the President talk about, yesterday before going to Missouri, having families make plans for schools that might close. But I will go and see if there's any specific planning that's being done as it relates to insurance companies.
Q: What about liability protection for the manufacturers of a vaccine, should one be developed?
MR. GIBBS: I can certainly check on that. I know that they're working on, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, working on a seed stock for the development of that vaccine.
Q: But beyond that, the questions that we just asked, you'll get back?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
END 2:43 P.M. EDT
|Citation: Barack Obama: "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs", April 30, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86077.|
© 1999-2011 - Gerhard Peters - The American Presidency Project