|The American Presidency Project|
|• Barack Obama|
|Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs|
|June 17, 2009|
|James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:15 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: All right -- get semi-organized. Ms. Loven.
Q: Thank you. The President said yesterday that it wouldn't be right to be seen as meddling in Iran's internal politics. Iran said today that's exactly what Washington is doing. Do you have a reaction?
MR. GIBBS: Well, we understand that -- I think that accusation has been made by the Iranians about several countries. I think the Canadians were also part of that. I think the President has been clear that this is a vigorous debate in Iran between Iranians about their leadership while, at the same time, the President has strongly maintained that there are universal principles such as demonstrating in peace and not feeling threatened. The President will continue to express those concerns and ensure that we're not meddling, as the President has said.
Q: Switching topics. There's a same-sex benefits announcement this afternoon. There are a number of folks who feel like this is too little too late. Can you talk about why people should see this as more than kind of an empty gesture or just a symbolic move on his part?
MR. GIBBS: This, I think as you'll hear the President say later today, believes this is a matter of fairness. The President is committed to ensuring that fairness, as well as working on and fulfilling other promises that he's made in the campaign around things like DOMA and "don't ask, don't tell."
Q: But wouldn't it also be fair to extend benefits such as the right to have health insurance -- a health insurance plan or pension plan?
MR. GIBBS: Well, that requires not an executive order or presidential memorandum but a change in the law.
Q: And is he going to push for that?
MR. GIBBS: That's -- part of what he's promised on repealing DOMA would have an impact on that.
Q: Back on the Iranian complaint of U.S. meddling, the President said very clearly he does not want to be seen as interfering in the post-election situation there, and yet he then went on to say he felt that the -- he could see that the Iranian people were dissatisfied with the results of the election or the way it had been conducted. At the same time, the State Department has asked Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance to enable the anti-government activists to continue communicating the way they have. Is the President not trying to have his cake and eat it too on this?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let's be careful -- I just want to be careful. I think there were -- I think an employee in some discussions with Twitter about the importance of social networking and maintenance. But there were networks in this country last night that were reporting the government's use of Twitter. So I think you're going to have a hard time making the case that somehow this was done in some way as a bias.
I think the President has rightly observed what has happened and the events that the world is witnessing, while understating -- underscoring, as he said, the universal principles that he believe are important. And I think many believe -- many from both sides of the aisle believe he struck the right tone in this.
Q: Does the President agree or disagree with those who say that there should be a full-on total recount of the vote?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, this is a debate that is being had by the Iranians about who they're going to choose.
Q: Does the President stand by the legal brief that the Justice Department filed last week that argued in favor of the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Jake, as you know, the Justice Department is charged with upholding the law of the land, even though the President believes that that law should be repealed.
Q: I understand that. But a lot of legal experts say that the brief didn't have to be as comprehensive and make all the arguments that it made, such as comparing same-sex unions to incestuous ones in one controversial paragraph that's upset a lot of the President's supporters. Does the President stand by the content, the arguments made in that brief?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, it's the President's Justice Department. And again, we have the role of upholding the law of the land while the President has stated and will work with Congress to change that law.
Q: Okay, and just one other question. Senator Claire McCaskill yesterday expressed concern about the way in which President Obama fired the Inspector General of the Corporation for National and Community Service, saying that it did not abide by the law that McCaskill wrote and President Obama, as a senator, co-sponsored, in terms of giving Congress 30 days notice.
Do you think that the White House handled the firing of Inspector General Walpin appropriately and according to that law? And if so, why is the author of the law incorrect?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I would direct you, Jake, to the letter that Senator McCaskill received last night addressed to Senators Lieberman and Collins, which outline exactly the reasoning for the board's -- the bipartisan board's request to change Inspector Generals.
Q: Right, I've seen the letter. The law that McCaskill wrote --
MR. GIBBS: I'm not familiar with that part of what she's saying. But again, I'd point you to the letter.
Q: Okay, well, the law says that the President needs to give 30 days notice to Congress before an Inspector General is terminated. So that letter came, whatever, five or six days after he was terminated.
MR. GIBBS: Again, I'll check into that. I mean, again, the board's action was precipitated by a meeting that happened on May the 20th.
Q: In terms of the timing for the President signing the memorandum, was there any pressure at all on the White House from gay rights groups, and especially in light of the language that Jake was referring to?
MR. GIBBS: No. This is -- that was something that the White House and OPM have been working on for quite some time.
Q: So the White House hasn't been feeling any pressure, even beyond just signing this -- pressure in general from gay rights groups?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I would say there are any number of interest groups that express their concerns and opinions. We respect those. I think the President has outlined a series of very ambitious legislative proposals that he will work with, in some cases, the Pentagon, and with Congress on on "don't ask, don't tell" and other things that he hopes will become law.
Q: On Iran --
MR. GIBBS: Ann, you got a follow-up --
Q: A follow-up on that. Does the President support any change in the law that would allow him to -- allow federal employees to get more substantial medical benefits or retirement benefits that --
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think part of that is involved in the repeal of DOMA that would cover that.
Q: And his position is?
MR. GIBBS: He has advocated since his Senate primary in early '04 on behalf of that.
Q: And will he propose that officially as President?
MR. GIBBS: He is supportive of that, yes.
Q: Yesterday you pointed out that the administration obviously receives intelligence on what's happening on the ground in Iran, but are you also keeping a close eye on some of the pictures that we're seeing via Twitter and YouTube, as well? Is that a source of information for the White House?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. I think it's -- well, I think it's a source for the White House. I think it's also a source for the media that we see here at the White House. I think obviously, as I said yesterday, I think as the President has now said on two or three occasions, that the world is watching the outpouring that we're seeing, and is heartened and has been heartened since the election of the enthusiasm that you see particularly in the youth of Iran.
Q: Do we care what happens in Iran? And does both sides -- are they both planning to continue nuclear -- their nuclear development?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously we care about --
Q: The outcome.
MR. GIBBS: Of the election? Well, as I said yesterday, Helen, I think regardless of -- and I think the President certainly said this, as well -- regardless of who emerges from this election, there are still two principal national interests that this country has relating to Iran. First is their pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and second is their support and sponsorship of terror.
Those are causes and concerns, as I said, that we had the day prior to the election and in the days after the election. I would also say that the President remains committed to engagement and understanding that the principle of national interest that I talked about, the sponsorship of terror and the pursuit of a nuclear weapon, are in many ways policy aspects relating to foreign policy and national security that are controlled by the Supreme Leader, who is likely to be the same regardless of who wins the election.
Q: So why are we worried?
MR. GIBBS: Why are we worried --
Q: At all?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously we have --
Q: And how do you know they sponsor terrorism? What is terrorism? I mean, we're in two countries.
MR. GIBBS: Well, we can get into a long discussion about the definition of this. I think this one is fairly well held.
Q: You mean you oppose the status quo?
MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry, I don't understand.
Q: Sponsoring terrorism and terrorists -- the American revolutionaries were called terrorists.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think, leaving aside whatever moniker might have been affixed several hundred years ago --
Q: Not that long.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I will -- I think there's a fairly well held definition of what that means today.
Q: Following up on her question. Yesterday the President, and you mentioned -- the President addressed this yesterday -- in one of the interviews yesterday, the President said the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, in terms of their actual policies, may not be as great as has been advertised. Is that U.S. policy, that there's not really much difference between these two candidates and that there's no preference for one over the other?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think I was asked in this room prior to the election whether this country had a preference. And we're not going to get involved in picking candidates in elections.
Q: But he did get involved in a way in saying that. What was he trying to say by saying that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think he was saying exactly what I've said the past two days, and that is, regardless of the outcome of what we're seeing, the United States still has two principal national interests as it relates to the Islamic Republic of Iran: the state sponsorship of terror and the support of terror, as well as their pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
I don't think that's likely to be markedly changed, even throughout this process. And it's something that still obviously is a principal concern of our country and something we'll pursue.
Q: You said not going to be markedly changed -- you mean no matter who is elected here.
MR. GIBBS: Right. And I'm echoing what he said in there, as well as, I think, underscoring that our principal national interest, as it relates to Iran, regardless of the outcome, are still going to be the same.
Q: Is this another way to phrase that, to say it doesn't really matter who wins this election in Iran?
MR. GIBBS: No. Again, I'm not going to get involved and our government is not going to get involved in picking a candidate. Obviously there is international concern for the way an election was conducted, and it's being looked into, and certainly, we believe, rightfully so.
But at the same time, again, there are principal national interests that we had as a country Thursday, we had before the polls opened -- the moment before the polls opened and the moment after the polls closed. Those remain.
Q: No preference? No preference?
MR. GIBBS: It's just not the policy of this administration to pick the leaders of other countries.
Q: One other question. What is the timeline on DOMA and "don't ask, don't tell"? Can you understand the frustrations of gay and lesbian groups who feel like you're slow-walking these issues?
MR. GIBBS: Well, of course I can understand their frustrations. That's why the President is committed to changing both DOMA and "don't ask, don't tell," which have been, respectively, the law of the land since 1996 and 1993, I believe. Obviously they've waited a long time for policies that are either not in our national interest or hurtful to be changed.
We are working on a large amount of things. The President added financial regulation to that large plate of things just this afternoon and this morning. But it is a priority of the President to get done.
Q: Robert, on that topic, yesterday, Senator Reid said he'd welcome a legislative proposal from the White House on "don't ask, don't tell" -- "welcome a legislative proposal from the White House on repeal so as to provide clear guidance on what the President would like to see and when. With presidential leadership and direction, I believe we can find the time to get repeal done in this Congress," not this session, but this Congress. Is the President --
MR. GIBBS: What you just referred to. (Laughter.)
Q: But does the President feel that that's -- that being supportive of repeal is enough, that he doesn't have to send something up to make it clear to Congress what Reid is asking for. He says he wants to know what the President wants and when.
MR. GIBBS: Well, and we are, as I've stated multiple times in here, working with members of Congress, as well as with the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military to get something that represents durable change. We're going to continue working on that and we're pleased that this is a priority not just of the President's but of those in Congress, and we're hopeful that something can get done.
Q: Thank you, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: You're welcome. (Laughter.)
Q: There have been reports -- in fact, at a meeting I was at just before I came here, a U.S. senator referred to them -- that the photographs that are the subject of such --
MR. GIBBS: Okay, I'm sorry -- the topic of the meeting you were at.
Q: Right. The photographs of the interrogation of detainees were -- some were taken not at Abu Ghraib, not at Gitmo, and not at anyplace but on the battlefield and --
MR. GIBBS: Are you talking about the 44 photographs involved in the ACLU litigation or are you talking --
MR. GIBBS: Okay.
Q: Would you comment on that?
MR. GIBBS: Where they were taken?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know the location of each and every one of the photographs. Obviously I think -- and I'm not even sure if it's just one area or one country. I know that -- I think the President's views on this in ensuring for national security reasons that those photographs aren't released and he intends to make good on that.
Q: Would you at least rule out that any were taken on the battlefield?
MR. GIBBS: You know, I -- let me check. Let me be honest, I don't know if I can provide that information, but I can certainly check.
Q: The other thing I wanted to ask was, have you or anyone from the National Security Council or President Obama been in touch with President Carter prior to and after the meetings he held in the Middle East this week?
MR. GIBBS: I can check. I don't know if --
MR. HAMMER: The meetings were prior, not necessarily directly before.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I don't think we've had meetings related to that. I don't know if they've spoken -- they may have spoken around -- President -- former President Carter may have spoken with people here in and around the speech in Cairo, but I don't know.
MR. GIBBS: Let me go to Mr. Knoller if he has a question.
Q: I'm good.
MR. GIBBS: You're good? All right, there you go. (Laughter.)
Q: Earlier today, Senator Baucus announced a delay on health care for one month, which of course is July. Is the White House disappointed about this? Cause to redouble efforts? What are your thoughts?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't know if they were specific to the point of pushing it through another month. I think there have been reports that some people thought that's what they heard. I think they advocated -- or Senator Baucus advocated wanting to get a bipartisan solution that contained -- that had a bill that contained cost-saving measures that would be paid for. I think all of those are goals of this administration. The President I think has laid out a timeline to get this done this year, and thinks that we're on course to do it.
Q: So no setback?
MR. GIBBS: No, I don't think so. And, you know, I think in many ways the developments that we've seen in the past maybe 12 to 24 hours actually make the President's case even stronger. Yesterday and in a number of newspapers this morning, there were stories about the Congressional Budget Office stating that there have to be some -- well, one, health care has to be paid for, which the White House has said a number of times. They also said that making some of the decisions would be difficult; I think history certainly proves that to be correct. But lastly they outlined a series of steps that they say have to be in health care legislation because they have to address the long-term costs of programs like Medicare, right? This is on the front page of some of the newspapers today.
They talked about creating accountable care organizations, bundling payments to hospitals and other providers, providing additional information about treatments' effectiveness, expanding the use of preventative and wellness services and primary care, reducing annual updates in Medicare's payments to reflect expected productivity gains, and combined increased discretion to change Medicare with a fallback if savings are not obtained.
All of those principles are principles that the White House has either advocated directly in the past few months or the President specifically spoke about at his AMA speech on Monday -- leaving aside that some people said the speech lacked detail.
I think it's pretty clear that we completely agree with the notion that, as you've heard the President, you've heard Peter Orszag, you've heard me talk about from up here, we have to have -- we have to bend the curve on health care costs. The President completely agrees with that and is pleased that CBO thinks that too.
Q: Can I follow up on the AMA?
MR. GIBBS: Sure.
Q: The President actually told the AMA that "there are some countries where a single-payer system works pretty well." Do you know what countries he was referring to or what he was talking about?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know exactly the countries. I think you could -- I think if you talk to people in the countries that have those systems, they'd think their health care is pretty good.
Q: Would you know specifically, though -- Canada, Britain --
MR. GIBBS: Canada, Britain, maybe France. I don't know the exact countries, but, again, I think -- I don't think the President is going way out on a limb that some people in other countries have a health care system that they like, just as Americans like the health care that they have.
Q: Robert, just to follow up on Jake, was the White House unaware that it needed to inform Congress 30 days in advance about Mr. Walpin's intended firing?
MR. GIBBS: I need to look at what Ms. McCaskill said regarding that. I just don't have that with me.
Q: But it's -- number one, it's the law of the land, and number two, Senator Obama voted for it. I'm just wondering if the White House was aware of that -- regardless of what Senator McCaskill said.
MR. GIBBS: Well, since the question came based on what Senator McCaskill said -- and I haven't seen that part of it -- let me, as I just stated twice, check on that.
Q: Okay. The letter that was sent out last night was regarded by Mr. Walpin as "a total lie." And -- that's what he told us -- and he said it was unnecessarily personal and accusatory. And I wonder if you felt there was anything the White House wanted to say about that letter and the contents thereof in response to that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think this was -- let me read the first sentence of the second paragraph. "Mr. Walpin was removed after a review was unanimously requested by the bipartisan board of the Corporation." These were views that were held by many people as part of that board, and certainly the administration stands behind what's in the letter.
Q: Following up on that, why not leave it at that and why did the White House feel it necessary to say he was disoriented and confused?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I have occasion to watch FOX every now and again, and I think there have been commentators that surmised that maybe we needed to be more specific about the reasons. I think members of Congress have asked for that, and I think it's detailed in the letter.
Q: Since you brought up the AMA speech, the President repeated, as he has before, that if you like your health care, you get to keep it; if you like your health plan, you get to keep it. Is the White House, therefore, then, open, in the statutory language of whatever emerges from Congress, to have something that monitors that and perhaps has a sun-setting or evaluation period to make sure that if people are losing their health care, there is some re-look or the legislation is reopened to stop that process from happening?
MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry, losing their health care?
Q: If they're knocked out of their private system, as the CBO has suggested might be a consequence of a public option. If in fact the White House, as the President has said, doesn't want people to lose their health care if they like their doctor and like their health plan, would it be open to legislative language that would constantly monitor that?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know where --
Q: And intervene if, in fact, that phenomenon is occurring?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know where the committees are in that specific --
Q: They're not anywhere. I'm just asking if the White House would be interested in making real what the President has said quite publicly is the goal of this?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think you can assume that the President's plan will adhere to the principles that he's enunciated. I'll repeat again what I said yesterday, Major, that if you have a public option that presents choice and competition competing with other plans, you're going to have -- you're going to drive down costs, right? If you go look for gasoline and there's three gas stations on the corner, and one is selling gasoline for 15 cents less, I bet if you go back in a couple hours all three gas stations are going to be selling gasoline for about 15 cents less. Choice and competition in the marketplace are hallmarks and principles that the President wants to see and I think many members of Congress have said they want to see in health care reform.
Q: So the White House would not object to trying to figure out a way to make sure that that is achieved legislatively.
MR. GIBBS: Regardless of what passes, I assume that there will be a hefty amount of coordination and insurance that -- or assurance that there is an evaluation of what happens to ensure that we don't have any unintended impacts as part of the legislation. I think that's in many different proposals passed on many different topics.
Q: Thanks, Robert. We heard the President say yesterday he's going to pursue a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. You reiterated today the goal of preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Has the administration asked the Israeli government to acknowledge its nuclear program and sign on to international nuclear nonproliferation protocols?
MR. GIBBS: I can check with NSC. I don't know the answer to that.
Q: Okay. And on -- just one more time on DOMA, "don't ask, don't tell" timeline, does the President want to see that overturned in this Congress? I mean, is there a plan to do that in this Congress?
MR. GIBBS: I think, as Senator Reid said, it's something we can do in this Congress and it's something that the President is working with members of Congress, working with -- on "don't ask, don't tell," working with the Pentagon to ensure that that happens.
Q: Has the Pentagon (inaudible) the issue?
MR. GIBBS: No, I think we're working through a process.
Q: Can I go back to Chip's question on what you said about Ahmadinejad and Mousavi and what President Obama said yesterday about there not being much difference between the two of them, particularly when it comes to support for terrorism and Iran's nuclear program? Doesn't that just largely miss the point? I mean, that's not what these Iranian elections were about; they're about exercising democracy. And those people in the streets aren't in the streets because they care about the nuclear program. So doesn't that sort of make it seem as if we're seeing this whole protest and this democracy protest as going on through the prism of an American -- America's lens only?
MR. GIBBS: No, I think, again, the international community has rightly expressed concern for reports about the way the election was conducted. Let's not conflate with what we were also talking about, the notion that the interest of this country, as it relates to -- our principal interests, as it relates to Iran, are about the issues that I've laid out and that the President has laid out. But I don't think that -- and I don't really understand the premise of the notion that we're looking at these protests only through the two security interests of this country.
Q: Because you keep saying that. He said that, and you've said that several times. Let's not forget, these guys are both the same. So the implication seems to be, so, it doesn't really matter what's happening right now; it's all about the nuclear program.
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, the United States has national security interests. Those national security interests, as I've said now many days, aren't different than they were before the election and they're not different now. That's what -- look, this is not an election that involves solving all of our security interests, right?
Q: No, it's not -- it has nothing to do with us. That's my point.
MR. GIBBS: Right. So acknowledging that and understanding that our interests are the same doesn't necessarily conflate that we're only principally looking at the results and what is going on on the streets each and every day as about that. Our interests are the same, because our concerns about Iran are the same.
We also, again, have concerns about -- internationally have concerns about how the election was conducted and reports about that. I think the President has been -- has talked about in many interviews, in the message to the -- directly to the people of Iran, and certainly in his speech in Cairo, walked through a series of things that he hopes and believes that the Islamic Republic of Iran will do in order to meet its responsibilities and its obligations, and we'll continue to do that.
Q: Can I just follow up --
MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.
Q: Thank you. Can you confirm that German Chancellor Merkel is coming to the White House next Friday, I think on June 26th, like her spokesman said -- Monday already? And what are they going to talk --
MR. GIBBS: I can confirm that.
Q: You can?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: What are they talking about? Because they just met two weeks ago in Germany.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think many of the issues that were covered are of continued importance. We have upcoming -- there's obviously the upcoming G20 summit in the United States, the agenda with which will be important to both countries; continuing to evaluate where our economies are and the steps that are taken to ensure international financial stability.
Obviously I think Iran will be a topic of discussion, both what's going on in the streets, as well as our national interests and the national interests of Germany. I think there was discussion when he met with the Chancellor about progress around energy and climate change, as well as the detention facility -- closing the detention facility in Guantanamo. So I think that's just a few of the things that will be on the docket.
Q: Thank you, Robert. This is the second time you've picked me.
MR. GIBBS: There you go.
Q: On North Korea. North Korea seems to be ready to test fire new long-range intercontinental ballistic missile soon. Do you think what North Korea's intention is?
MR. GIBBS: No, let me -- in speaking -- without getting specific about -- without getting specific about what we might see in their actions, we've seen over the past several months the North Koreans say they are going to take provocative actions, and they have taken provocative actions. They have done exactly what they said they would do.
The international community and this government have consequently done exactly what we said that we would do, and that is to seek new sanctions at the United Nations Security Council, the hard work of Ambassador Rice and many others in getting through a unanimous resolution that deals with our great concern about the proliferation of weapons from North Korea.
I think they're going to continue to take and we think they're going to continue to take provocative actions. What those actions are I don't know particularly. But their steps and their actions continue to isolate themselves from the world. They further walk away from the obligations and responsibilities that they themselves signed up for.
The President spoke yesterday about the fact that the North Koreans, he believes, have a different path. And he hopes that they'll return to the path that they were on in taking steps to denuclearize the Peninsula.
Q: Thanks, Robert. The Government Accountability Project recently released a 53-page report on racial discrimination at the World Bank. I'm curious if you've read it, do you plan to read it, if you're interested in it, and also if you've discussed a possible change of leadership at the World Bank with the President?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know the degree to which the report has been examined. I personally have not seen it, so I would hesitate to comment on it.
Q: The President's Commission on White House Fellowships that you guys announced today, how were those members chosen, and will they receive compensation for their work?
MR. GIBBS: I believe it's not compensated but I will check on that. I don't know.
Q: And if I'm not mistaken, you guys still haven't nominated a Surgeon General candidate. Is there a reason for the delay or should we expect at some point, given the swine flu and some of the things that --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think principally what we've seen related to H1N1 -- obviously we talked about the primary directive there is with the Department of Homeland Security and the Secretary of Homeland Security, and underneath -- and part of that the Centers for Disease Control. I don't have a status update on a Surgeon General.
Q: Robert, going on a whole 'nother topic, Father's Day is this weekend. The fatherhood initiative last year was a big brouhaha over President -- well, then-candidate Obama's message to fathers, particularly black fathers. What's the message this year and what is he planning on doing?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know what his plans are exactly on that day. Obviously there will be events here. I think he'll speak to the responsibilities that all fathers have. I don't remember particularly the brouhaha that --
Q: He went to a black church, talked about how black fathers should wise up and take care of their children, and then all the comments from Jesse Jackson -- that brouhaha.
MR. GIBBS: I forgot the brouhaha. (Laughter.) That happens when many brouhahas encompass your life over the course of that year. I will tell you this, April, that I have heard some variation of that speech on responsibility -- particularly as it relates to fatherhood -- I heard some strain of that the first event I ever went to then-state senator Barack Obama with in April of 2004. So his message of responsibility is one that I trust he gave long before I met him and will continue to give, regardless of the brouhaha-ing.
Q: Thank you, Robert. Back to DOMA and "don't ask, don't tell" -- I've got a few questions -- but I've talked to a number of congressional staffers, none of whom say that these issues are anywhere on anybody's radar on the Hill. There's still no Senate bill for repealing "don't ask, don't tell." There's certainly no DOMA bill in either the House or the Senate. As you guys have done with health care reform, with the stimulus package, with immigration reform, will you identify Senate sponsors and move forward -- I mean, not Senate sponsors but congressional sponsors, for both of these bills, and move forward with them?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I will reiterate the President's commitment to getting this done. I can talk to Congressional Affairs about meetings. I don't know who they've talked to or who you've talked to. Again, I know the President continues to be committed, as he was as a Senate candidate, as a senator, as a presidential candidate, and now as President, to repealing both of those -- both those acts.
Q: A follow-up on the earlier question about the State Department and Twitter. You said there was one employee who did one -- I wasn't quite sure, can you detail that? And yesterday I asked if the White House had been involved and you said you'd check on that.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, I think there were certainly reports today of -- and I would direct you to them and to transcripts yesterday from the State Department regarding discussions about Twitter maintenance.
Q: Any White House involvement?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I know of.
Q: Okay. And then secondly, on a separate issue, the Obama administration has so far opposed releasing Dick Cheney's interview with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald on the leak case and is making the same arguments that the Bush administration made, even though Patrick Fitzgerald has said that it wasn't confidential and there are no law enforcement reasons to withhold the release of that interview. Will the administration stand by this position and stick to the Bush --
MR. GIBBS: This is part of the FOIA litigation, am I correct?
Q: Yes, it's part of a -- CREW has sued for it. And you have inherited the suit and are making the same arguments against withholding it.
MR. GIBBS: Let me check on the status of that. I would -- I assume that's come to DOJ -- is that where the FOIA comes from?
Q: It's in court now, yes.
MR. GIBBS: I mean, I would -- I assume DOJ is conducting that review. I don't -- I will check on the status, but I don't have anything on that.
Q: Thanks, Robert. Did the President see the Justice Department brief defending DOMA before it was filed?
MR. GIBBS: I can check on that. I don't know the answer to that.
Q: And I know Jake asked about the inflammatory language that he -- that some critics see used in that brief. Does he endorse that language, did you say?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me -- before I answer the follow-up to the first question that I would check on, let me get an answer to the first question.
Q: Let me ask you one other thing. Going back all the way to the then-state senator's 2004 convention speech when he talked about the importance of one America not being divided up into ethnic groups, et cetera, Judge Sotomayor has actually spoken about the superior perspective that she brought, based on her Latina -- being a Latina woman. How does he square that, the nomination --
MR. GIBBS: I think we covered this a couple weeks ago. You may have missed that one. I think, as I've talked about up here and as she's said, she talked about the richness of her experience and how that affects the way she sees things, just as Justice Ginsburg, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Justice Alito have described.
Q: Yes, Robert, you said you would see if there was a length of the review of the White House visitor logs. I wonder if you've been able to do that. And separate from that, given how many times Senator Obama spoke out about secrecy, why not just implement your own policy? Or is your policy the same as the Bush administration's?
MR. GIBBS: Having been in meetings about this yesterday, we are working on the implementation of that policy.
END 2:56 P.M. EDT
|Citation: Barack Obama: "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs", June 17, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86294.|
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