|The American Presidency Project|
|• Robert Gibbs|
|Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs|
|May 28, 2009|
|James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:54 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: One quick announcement before we get started. The United States will host the next G20 summit, September 24th through the 25th, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
MR. GIBBS: Did I get a little murmur there? That's -- there's a Terrible Towel back there somewhere, wasn't there? There you go.
At the Pittsburgh summit, President Obama will meet with leaders representing 85 percent of the world's economy, take stock of the progress made since the Washington and London summits, and discuss further actions to assure a sound and sustainable recovery from the global economic and financial crisis.
Q: Why Pittsburgh?
MR. GIBBS: At the conclusion of the meeting in London the group had to make a decision about where the next summit would be. Because a lot of people will be in our country for the U.N. General Assembly meeting, the President offered to host the next meeting; the group agreed with that, and we identified Pittsburgh as a good place to do that.
MR. GIBBS: I think it's an area that has seen its share of economic woes in the past but because of foresight and investment is now renewed -- giving birth to renewed industries that are creating the jobs of the future. And I think the President believes it would be a good place to highlight some of that.
Q: Isn't it unusual to have two meetings in here?
MR. GIBBS: For the G20? This is -- they were going to do this at some point in the next -- after London, so it's not --it's on the regular schedule of things.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the concern among several -- many people in the abortion rights community about Judge Sotomayor, and I'm wondering if you can respond to that and talk about -- I know you said there was no litmus test and no demand of an answer when the President interviewed her, but did he talk with her at all about her views on the constitutional right to privacy, sort of talk around the issue at all with her?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously -- and we talked about this throughout the process -- the President obviously is familiar with the Constitution and the teaching of constitutional law. In their discussions they talked about the theory of constitutional interpretation, generally including her views on unenumerated rights and the Constitution and the theory of settled law.
He left very comfortable with her interpretation of the Constitution being similar to that of his, though the bulk of the conversation was about her approach to judging.
Q: Can you put that into non-lawyer language since I'm not a lawyer? Does that mean that he feels comfortable --
MR. GIBBS: You should have seen the language that I had earlier. (Laughter.)
Q: Let's progress a little bit further. Does it --
MR. GIBBS: Stare decisis was in the original --
Q: I mean, would unenumerated rights be sort of code for the right to privacy, since it's not enumerated in the Constitution?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think there was, as I said a minute ago, a general discussion about the constitutional interpretation, about how one viewed the document, and the President left very comfortable with the fact that -- she says a similar interpretation that he does.
Q: Does that mean he feels comfortable that she believes in a constitutional right to privacy?
MR. GIBBS: I think he feels comfortable with -- comfortable that she shares his philosophy generally on the Constitution.
Q: Does he think she should be asked about these issues at her hearing, whether she -- she should be asked about how she would rule?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that the President was careful not to, as previous Presidents have been careful not to ask and I think others have been at hearings careful not to, ask specifically how one might rule when a case comes -- in a case that could come before the Supreme Court. So, again, I think the President felt comfortable with -- generally with her view and with, again, with her approach to judging.
Q: People on the Hill are saying that the President plans an announcement on Monday on GM. Can you confirm that? And is he going to announce their bankruptcy filing, or is he going to leave that to the company?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the company will handle whatever announcements have to be made by the company on whatever day that happens. It's not my job to prejudge or speculate on what the endgame of this might be. I do expect that whatever happens as a result of the restructuring process, that the President will make comments on that presumably on Monday.
Q: Okay. And just shifting gears a little bit, on the Cairo speech, you've been very careful to say that the President is not going to lay out a Middle East peace plan --
MR. GIBBS: Right.
Q: -- but what is his message going to be there and how is it going to be different from what he said in Turkey? His speech in Turkey was reaching out to the Muslim world and he did talk about his support for a two-state solution. So how is this going to be different?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think, again, obviously there will be aspects of some of what you've heard. I think there will be -- we were in meetings about this last night, and I know the President has spent time over the course of the past week with his speechwriters, but a draft has not yet been birthed to the point of -- that he's had a chance to look at it. So I don't want to get ahead of that process.
Q: Will he meet with Ayman Nour in Cairo when he goes there?
MR. GIBBS: I have not seen the specific schedule yet.
Q: A couple questions, one following up on Jennifer's question. During a Democratic primary debate, November 15th, 2007, then-Senator Obama said, "I would not appoint somebody who doesn't believe in the right to privacy." And yet you're telling us right now that he has a general comfort with her view on the Constitution, but not necessarily with that quote -- not necessarily with the right to privacy?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, let me be specific that he was not -- he did not specifically ask, as we've stated for the past several days, but as I just said I think he feels -- I know he feels comfortable generally with her interpretation of the Constitution being similar to that of his.
Q: Well, does that mean that when he said "I would not appoint somebody who doesn't believe in the right to privacy," he didn't mean it?
MR. GIBBS: I think -- again, Jake, I think he feels comfortable with where she is.
Q: All right. So to follow up, I looked at your "100 days, 100 projects" booklet yesterday and the very first one says, "Using $27 million of Recovery Act funding, a public housing development in D.C., the Regency House, has undergone a green retrofit. As part of this upgrade, the building installed solar panels, a 'green' roof, a rainwater collection system, energy-efficient lighting, as well as water-conserving toilets, showerheads and faucets."
But when I called the D.C. Housing Authority, they said only $59,000 was spent of stimulus money, not $27 million, and of the seven things mentioned, only two of the seven were actually --
MR. GIBBS: I think the mistake in that one as you blogged about earlier took a series of different projects in a cut and paste into one.
Q: Okay, so it wasn't as clear -- it wasn't as accurate as it could have been?
MR. GIBBS: I think that's accurate to say, yes.
Q: Okay, thanks.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.
Q: I just want to follow up again on the abortion issue and privacy. Mark Knoller yesterday asked you a question about what the President may have said on the campaign trail. You said you would look that up.
MR. GIBBS: I think Jake helpfully did that for us all today.
Q: Right, I mean, this one was a little different than the one that Jake presented here, but it was talking about the campaign promise -- the President made it a campaign promise about this issue. And the President said at this event in Florida that he "will stand up for choice." He says, "I'm a President who understands -- who understands that five men on the Supreme Court don't know better than women and their doctors and their pastors." He goes on to say that, "that's why I'm committed to appointing judges who understand how law operates in our daily lives."
So if the President is talking about it in these terms on the campaign trail, why wasn't it important for him to ask her about where she stood on abortion?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President believed it was exceedingly important to get her views on how she interprets the living document of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Q: But on that one question, why wouldn't he bring that question up? I mean, you've said for the last couple of days that he didn't ask the question.
MR. GIBBS: Right, because I think he feels comfortable in asking her to describe the way she interprets, to describe her views on that. He felt comfortable that they shared a philosophy on that interpretation.
Q: On another issue, "don't ask, don't tell," when is the White House going to push Congress to repeal "don't ask, don't tell"?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think we've done this answer a few times. It is something the President supports. He does not think the policy is working in the national interest, and he's working with the Joint Chiefs, the Pentagon and others to bring about a change in that policy.
Q: On that issue, you actually mentioned the words --
MR. GIBBS: Which one?
Q: -- on the same issue, on the Roe v. Wade privacy issue, you mentioned stare decisis. That actually -- and I understand it's a legal term and maybe it would take some explanation -- but if they talked about stare decisis in the context of unenumerated rights and perhaps even the right to privacy, that might have given us a lot more information about what went on in this meeting. So could you go back to that legal explanation?
MR. GIBBS: Let me tell you, Chip, I'm not going to get deeply into all the conversations that the President has had in private with prospective nominees.
Q: But you said the President has been careful, and you're right, Presidents have been careful and they've been careful on the Hill, too, not to ask -- well, they ask, but they don't get answers -- on cases that come before the Court. But asking about a right to privacy and whether you agree on the right to privacy in the Constitution is not asking about a particular case that might come before the Court. I don't understand why you can't simply confirm that he did what he said he was going to do during the campaign, which is appoint somebody who believes in a right to privacy.
MR. GIBBS: Well, Chip, I feel comfortable with -- as the President feels comfortable with her philosophy, I feel comfortable with my answer in having answered your question.
Q: Would it be possible to get that stare decisis quote that you were talking about earlier?
MR. GIBBS: I don't believe there was a stenographer in the meeting with --
Q: Well, would you go back to them and -- I mean, if they were willing -- that sounds like it went further than what you're talking about -- than what you're giving us now.
MR. GIBBS: In what way?
Q: You were talking about stare decisis in the context of unenumerated rights; that's like big code for not overturning Roe v. Wade in the eyes of many.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I would refer you to what I said.
Q: All right, well, we'll switch topics then.
Q: April. (Laughter.)
Q: April, please. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I can't be associated with that, April. That was Mark -- (laughter) -- that was not -- I was going to wait at least 10 minutes before I -- go ahead, I'm sorry. (Laughter.)
Q: On torture photos, to bring up that topic again, there are reports that I believe began in the Daily Telegraph in Britain about General Taguba saying that there are photographs of rape not just at Abu Ghraib but at half a dozen U.S. detention facilities. And there is some confusion right now as to whether those may be the photos that the President said he's not going to release. Are they?
MR. GIBBS: I don't think there's confusion. I think the Pentagon has been very clear in a statement saying that the story is not true.
I will speak generally about some reports I've witnessed over the past few years in the British media, and in some ways I'm surprised it filtered down. Let's just say if I wanted to look up -- if I wanted to read a write-up today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champion's League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper. If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I'm not entirely sure it would be the first stack of clips I picked up.
Q: So are you saying that the report is completely false?
MR. GIBBS: I would refer you very closely to the statement that DOD put out that the article is wrong and mischaracterizes the photos that are in question.
Q: Can you just state that are no such photos in the photographs that the President has chosen not to disclose?
MR. GIBBS: As the statement says, none of the photographs in question depict the images described in the article. Again, I think if you do an even moderate Google search, you're not going to find many of these newspapers and truth within, say, 25 words of each other.
Q: Just to pick up on what Chip was saying, what I think everyone is getting at is, the President, you're saying, is comfortable that she believes in a right to privacy and shares that view that he holds, and yet --
MR. GIBBS: What I said is comfortable with her interpretation and the way she interprets the Constitution.
Q: Right. But I still think what people are wondering is why -- it strikes -- it comes across as a little bit of artifice, or people talking in code or talking around this issue. And yet you're saying he's comfortable that she shares his views. I guess, what would be wrong with him asking, hey, do you believe the Constitution encompasses the right to privacy?
MR. GIBBS: Again, I think, as Chip noted that -- my statement in saying that many past Presidents have not done that. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss some set of precedent in order to discuss the Supreme Court, but I'm simply telling you what the President did in those meetings.
Q: There's a difference between asking somebody how they would rule on a case that might come before the Court and how one views whether there's a right to privacy -- that's a matter of judicial philosophy --
MR. GIBBS: And the President is comfortable with her judicial philosophy.
Q: How comfortable with it if he doesn't want to ask the point-blank question that would elicit her views?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think he feels comfortable in being able to talk to her about her judicial philosophy, the way she interprets the Constitution. I'm not burdened by the knowledge of being a constitutional law professor, but obviously they're having discussions and I feel comfortable relaying to you that he feels comfortable.
Q: Can I try it a different way? Is the President --
MR. GIBBS: Sure. (Laughter.)
Q: Is the President at all concerned that she could be part of a 5-4 majority overturning Roe v. Wade?
MR. GIBBS: I haven't talked to him about that.
Q: Could you?
MR. GIBBS: He's in California or somewhere over the continental United States.
Q: One more time, and then I have to ask you a Germany question. (Laughter.) You mentioned settled law.
MR. GIBBS: Yes. I'm going to get into settled answers in a minute.
Q: Was the issue of settled law in the context of Roe versus Wade?
MR. GIBBS: Jonathan, I was -- not only was the stenographer not in this, I was not in that interview either. So I have --
Q: But you said back to back, they talked about unenumerated rights and the concept of settled law, which everyone understands to mean Roe v. Wade, the super precedent, and unenumerated rights referring to the right to privacy. So I think that's why everyone is wondering if there was some talking around this issue.
MR. GIBBS: I'm simply conveying to you what was discussed. The President feels comfortable with her interpretations of the Constitution.
Q: Is there any chance you could go back to those lawyers and recreate what they were telling you about stare decisis and unenumerated rights?
MR. GIBBS: I will endeavor to see if they're likely to give me anything more, and I'll predict that the chances of that are somewhere between slim and none.
Q: Do you doubt that she'll be asked on the Hill?
MR. GIBBS: Do I doubt she'll be -- I don't know what she'll be asked on the Hill. Obviously she -- we believe that when the Senate gets back next week -- I don't have specific information yet on her appointments, but I assume she'll start those visits sometime relatively early next week.
Q: Long-term interest rates spiked yesterday very dramatically. The spread between short-term interest rates and long-term interest rates are now actually at a record. And Treasury has a fairly significant auction next week on long-term loan bonds. How worried right now is the administration and this White House that the pressure is now on you -- upon you to come up with a credible plan for bringing down the deficit, and the Fed no longer has the power simply to keep buying up these bonds?
MR. GIBBS: Jonathan, the President feels very comfortable with a budget that cuts the deficit in half in four years. He feels very comfortable that we have a credible plan to finally get our fiscal house in order, and that we're going to take the steps necessary to do that.
One of those big steps is grappling with the enormous and ever-rising cost of health care. One of that is to lay the strong foundation for job growth. And the President believes that his economic plan to help the economy recover and spur economic growth, which you know will help our budget deficit and ultimately our debt, as well as the steps that are being taken to get our fiscal house in order, demonstrate the real concern that he has about our long-term fiscal standing.
Q: A Treasury official from the Bush years said that your plan amounts to, if we spend more on health care, we'll spend less on health care, and compare that to if we cut taxes, we'll get more tax revenue.
MR. GIBBS: The President, as you know, met with industry officials that pledged to cut $2 trillion from health care spending. I think if you ask a governor, or a Medicare -- somebody that works on Medicare, or a Medicaid commissioner if reducing the rate of spending growth on health care will help budget deficits, I don't think it takes a calculator and a math degree to figure out that that will make significant progress.
I think the President feels very comfortable with the steps that the administration is taking to get our fiscal house in order and understands how important it is for our long-term growth.
Q: Robert, at least four of the ambassadorial nominees the President announced yesterday were big-money raisers for his campaign. Is that changing the way Washington works when he makes appointments like that?
MR. GIBBS: Mark, I think you may know that the President was asked in the transition and said there will be some -- let me quote him -- "political appointees serving abroad. It would be disingenuous for me to suggest that there are not going to be some excellent public servants, but who haven't come through the ranks of civil service."
I think yesterday we rolled out a number of both career and non-career ambassadorial appointments. I think you see a group of committed individuals and proven professionals that are eager to serve their country. Some of those individuals were fundraisers; some of those were career ambassadors; some of those were people that left either teaching or some other thing like that -- like Miguel Diaz to become our ambassadorial appointment to the Vatican, somebody who has a distinguished record -- or a Congressman like Tim Roemer, who has served on the 9/11 Commission and with some distinction in Congress, to be our ambassador to India. So I think the President was exceedingly forthcoming in that in January.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, ma'am.
Q: Two questions. First, to follow up on the Cairo speech, I understand you said you don't want to get out in front of the speech, but could you speak generally about what President Obama hopes to accomplish?
MR. GIBBS: Well, nothing more to add than what we were talking about when we announced it -- that the President, during the campaign, talked about and will give a speech about what he believes American outreach has to be to the Muslim world. Again, we'll have some time to get into what's in the speech, but the reason I don't want to get ahead of it is I want to make sure that the President is comfortable that he's had a chance to work on it. I'm sure that's part of what they're doing on the plane right now.
Q: Thanks. And second, does the administration have a sense as to whether China is ready to cut banking ties with North Korea, as the U.S. and Japan are pushing?
MR. GIBBS: I know that actions surrounding infrastructure at both banks and ports is part of discussions that are being had in the process of dealing with the reaction to North Korea's actions over the past few days. The Chinese have been helpful in those discussions, but I don't want to get ahead of where the U.N. might be or where the individual government might be. But I think they -- I would characterize overall their actions and their reaction to the events of the past few days as being very helpful.
Q: Does the administration want China to go beyond words of condemnation, though?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that's exactly what the countries are working on right now.
Q: Robert, I just want to make sure I'm not missing what might be an obvious step in this process, the conversation with Judge Sotomayor. I understand the President didn't ask her opinion or thoughts on Roe v. Wade, or the underlying abortion rights embedded in the privacy rights of the Constitution. Did she volunteer an opinion or an evaluation of her thoughts on that to the President without him asking?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q: So what would be the source then of the comfort on this question? If he didn't ask and she didn't volunteer, what's the source of the comfort?
MR. GIBBS: The general -- as I said earlier, the general way in which she interprets the Constitution.
Q: So it has nothing to do with a conversation in particular about privacy rights?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know how many different times I can say this --
Q: No, I just asked if she volunteered; you said no. You said he hasn't asked. So apparently, taking your words, there was not a specific conversation about privacy rights. And I'm just asking --
MR. GIBBS: I said that three days ago.
Q: -- what's then the source of the comfort level?
MR. GIBBS: And I repeated for about the eighth time in a very short of period of time, their general conversation about their philosophy, their approach to the Constitution, and her approach to judging.
Q: A couple days ago you said you would check and see if her questionnaire -- the status of her questionnaire. Do you have an update on it?
MR. GIBBS: I don't believe it is finished yet, but I will get something on that in the next hour for you, I promise.
Q: Okay, great. Two quick policy things. We had a conversation yesterday about closing Chrysler dealerships. A gentleman named Leonard Bellavia, who has deposed Chrysler executives on behalf of some dealers, told Reuters, "It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers. It really wasn't Chrysler's decision. They're under enormous pressure from the President's automotive task force."
MR. GIBBS: Under enormous pressure?
Q: To close dealerships that Chrysler itself, according to this man who has deposed Chrysler senior executives on behalf of dealers --
MR. GIBBS: In the absence of seeing -- since we're talking about the law, I obviously haven't seen what affidavit he refers to. The President's task force on autos did not pick individual dealerships. It hasn't -- it isn't involved in picking what plants may or may not be closed. That's not the job of the President's auto task force. That's the job of the individual car company. They've got to figure out in their newly restructured world, based on the market, what their central supply chain is. And I think those are the decisions that they made.
Q: Related to that, there is some concern in the blogosphere that -- of the Chrysler dealerships being closed -- a disproportionate number appear to be dealerships in which the operators contributed to Republicans, and hardly any in which contributions to Democrats have been closed down. I'm not saying the White House knows anything about this. I'm just asking, would you be concerned about any taint of politics whatsoever in any of these decisions?
MR. GIBBS: Look, again, Major, let me reiterate that we don't make those decisions, okay. Chrysler makes those decisions. So I'm sure you can send Chrysler the address of the blog that you refer to. I don't know whether that report is accurate, but I can simply say that since my first answer was we're not involved in making those decisions, I would think your question would be appropriately dealt with by the company that is.
Q: Has the White House encouraged Congress to look at a value-added tax for health care reform?
MR. GIBBS: I saw that article and that's not something that I understand is under discussion.
Q: And you don't encourage Congress to do that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, my role is not to encourage or discourage Congress.
Q: Robert, do you know if anyone other than the President in the White House asked the Judge any questions relating to abortion or the right to privacy, or these issues? And -- wait, I'm not -- different question.
MR. GIBBS: Oh, good. I'm sure this will change the whole answer. Go ahead.
Q: -- and whether the reports that were generated -- we've seen 30-, 60-, 70-page reports that were generated for the President on each of these nominees -- whether they came to any conclusions or made any recommendations about what they believe, based on their sort of investigation of her background, her position might be on these issues?
MR. GIBBS: I have no reason to believe that if the President didn't ask, that others did. And I don't know -- if they didn't ask, I'm not sure how they could have put it in a report based on their not asking.
Q: There was an investigation done of her background. They could ask other people, talk to people about what -- you know, sort of what her views are generally on --
Q: She does have more federal judiciary experience than any other nominee in the century.
MR. GIBBS: I am glad that after countless number of times of saying it, it seeped in. I'm hoping we have the same sort of luck with my previous answer.
Q: Back to North Korea, Robert, and the North Korean alert and the U.N. command going on alert. Has the President been in touch with the commanders in the Far East? Can you gauge for us the level of concern about this, or does he think this is more of North Korea's typical rhetoric and bluster?
MR. GIBBS: Well, in terms of -- I'm not going to get into defense posture. I think if the Defense Department wants to add to that, I would point you to them.
Look, the President obviously has been involved in and updated on these situations for quite some time. Again, I think as General Jones said yesterday, this is what the North Koreans said they were going to do, so we're not surprised that the North Koreans decided to do what they said they were going to do. We obviously -- look, there's obvious -- obviously we have concern, but at the same time, we continue to believe that their actions are simply hurting themselves; that we'll take and do whatever is necessary, but I think that the North Koreans are obviously desirous of -- through bluster and threat -- international attention.
Q: Back on ambassadorships. Traditionally, the post in Paris and London do go to personal friends of the President, as opposed to career diplomats. What are Mr. Rifkin's qualifications to be ambassador to France? Does he speak French? Is he a close personal friend of the President?
MR. GIBBS: He does, and is a friend of the President. I think the President saw him in the last few days. Again, as I said -- and I'll be happy to give you a bio for --
Q: We've got the bio you put out, but it doesn't address that.
MR. GIBBS: Doesn't address?
Q: His specific qualifications.
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think there are -- as I said a minute ago, there are both career and non-career people that are appointed --
MR. GIBBS: I think that Mr. Rifkin is somebody obviously who has a strong professional background, desires to serve this country, and the President believes he'll be good as the next ambassador to France.
Q: And Mr. Sussman for Great Britain or for the United Kingdom is -- what his --
MR. GIBBS: He speaks English. (Laughter.)
Q: Given what you've said about --
MR. GIBBS: I had too, right? (Laughter.)
`Go ahead, I'm sorry.
Q: Given what you said about keeping Judge Sotomayor's previous remarks in context -
(cell phone rings)
MR. GIBBS: Is the ice cream truck here? I'm sorry. (Laughter.) Go ahead, I apologize.
Q: For example, the YouTube video of her remarks at Duke and the speech at Berkeley -- has the White House considered releasing those full YouTube videos to urge people to watch them in context, for example, on whitehouse.gov, or transcripts as Judicial Confirmation Network is challenging you to do?
MR. GIBBS: Go to Google, type in a couple of key words, hit enter, it pops up.
Q: We could also get, let's say, this briefing on video by doing that, but you guys post it on the White House YouTube --
MR. GIBBS: But I think the implication in your question, and I think the implication in the interest group making this, is that somehow these are some top-secret documents that are contained in some undisclosed location in or around the grounds of the White House. If you go to newyorktimes.com, and you're a moderately good Googler like my five-and-three-quarter-year-old son, I have a sense that you and the interest group can find exactly what it is that they're desirous to see.
Q: And is that what you're encouraging the American people to go look at it in context --
MR. GIBBS: Sure. Once the vault gets dug up from the front yard -- this I think is symptomatic of exactly the type of game that you have already seen and that you're likely to see. If somebody can find it on YouTube, if somebody -- I don't doubt that -- they produced a commercial, if I'm not unfamiliar with this, that has some of this stuff in there.
Did we somehow give them the secret document in order for them to make the Internet commercial, so that they can then put out a press release asking us to release the secret document that they used to make the commercial? This is the sort of semantical dance that professional interest groups play that pop up like dandelions after a spring rainstorm when there's a confirmation upcoming. Again, I think somebody with a dial-up Internet account can find said secret documents.
Q: Two quick questions, neither of them are about Judge Sotomayor. First one, on "don't ask, don't tell," you've said several times the President is working with Congress and the Joint Chiefs to review the policy and overturn it. But I spoke with the chairman of the subcommittee that has the bill now, H.R. 1283, last Friday, and based on what they told me, it doesn't sound like that's going to come up for a vote anytime soon, maybe sometime next year, in 2010. And Admiral Mullen doesn't seem to be in any hurry to overturn the policy either. So given that the President -- if the President feels that the policy makes us less safe, is there anything that he can do to move it along?
MR. GIBBS: Well, we are working with Congress and people like --
Q: -- long time, though.
MR. GIBBS: Well, it's been noted to me in here that sometimes the legislative process doesn't move that quickly.
Q: The original question, though, was why not then put a moratorium on "don't ask, don't tell"? And if --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I've answered this before, that the President and the legal team here believe that in order to have a durable solution to this, legislation is the only way to go.
Q: And my second question, about the abuse photos, not withstanding the British press, there have been -- the account that they use matches the descriptions that have been put out by other journalists over the years. Is it possible now that if a belief emerges that we have -- that the photos do contain that sort of activity, that that might be worse than releasing the photos?
MR. GIBBS: I don't -- come again with that last --
Q: If people start to think that these photos have -- feature sexual abuse --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I could see how people might be deceived by reporting that doesn't happen to be factual, but I --
Q: -- there have been prior reports of this also.
MR. GIBBS: I have a feeling that some of what you're reading in the British papers is based off of something that has appeared before. Again, I hate to lend any more credibility to nonfactual reports --
Q: What do they show? What do the photographs show?
MR. GIBBS: I have not seen all of the photographs, but I can tell you, as the Department of Defense can, that what is depicted in the article and what is depicted in the photographs are not the same thing.
Q: Robert, simply, granted the abortion issue didn't come up in the President's meeting with Judge Sotomayor, what leads you to believe that her decisions or her thought process is consistent with the President's, as we see this opinion from the Mexico City case? I mean, that dealt with funding, U.S. funding. That had nothing to do with an actual decision on abortion. So what leads you?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I'm not -- I have not read that particular opinion. It didn't lead me to believe that; it led the President to believe that.
Q: Did he read the opinion?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know exactly what he did or didn't read. Based on his teaching of the Constitution, though, I think he feels -- I know he feels comfortable with where she is.
Q: Well, within her six hours when she was here at the White House, what staffer talked to her about the issue of abortion? Because he feels the way he feels --
MR. GIBBS: I think I answered this. Did Mike -- did you try this one? Yes.
Q: But I'm going back to it again.
MR. GIBBS: I would refer you to the answer I gave two rows earlier.
Q: You can answer it again.
MR. GIBBS: I think I said, correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Shear, that I'm under no belief that anybody here asked her what the President didn't --
Q: You said you have no reason to believe that anybody talked about it. (Laughter.) But why can't you say nobody talked about it?
MR. GIBBS: Because I said I have no reason to believe. Have I asked for a complete download of all seven hours? Unfortunately, it's not on YouTube.
Q: And that's another thing. You're downing -- you're downing -- you keep talking about YouTube, but this administration loves the Internet and loves using YouTube, so why do you keep jumping on YouTube?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not -- (laughter) -- wow.
Q: The weekly address is on YouTube, okay?
MR. GIBBS: And that's apropos of what?
Q: And why is your five-and-a-half-year-old Googling? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Five-and-three-quarters.
MR. GIBBS: The Wall Street Journal, of course. (Laughter.)
Q: No, seriously, in your attack of us, you guys -- in the fact that we were reading Youtube and things of that nature, you guys are using it, too, so you can't do that.
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no. (Laughter.) My complaint isn't with the medium of YouTube. April, just because I don't like certain radio personalities doesn't mean I've thrown away my radio. Just because I don't agree with somebody on the news doesn't mean I've packed up my television. My complaint isn't with the medium of YouTube. My complaint is with, as I've said on any number of occasions, the fact that YouTube, that particular YouTube clip YouTube has posted by individuals that I'm familiar with -- and whoever posted that clip posted however many seconds -- six, eight, 10, I don't know the exact number -- but they didn't post the full clip, and there's no context.
I haven't thrown away my computer just because I didn't think that context -- that clip put everything accurately in context. I think you're conflating -- I think you're comparing apples and bowling balls.
Q: Thank you, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: Let me take -- I'll take Michael, one more.
Q: On the detainee abuse photos, one more question. The President believes that everything depicted in the unreleased photos has been fully investigated and appropriately prosecuted on the actions in those photos?
MR. GIBBS: I believe -- I will go back and ask. I believe that -- and I just don't have this in front of me -- that all of the photos that are part of the pending court case have to do with potential detainee abuse through the end of 2004; that as a result of the investigations that is where the photos came from, that they had been looked into, yes.
END 2:35 P.M. EDT
|Citation: Robert Gibbs: "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs", May 28, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86237.|
© 1999-2011 - Gerhard Peters - The American Presidency Project