The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Barack Obama
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
August 31, 2009
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:40 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back. Just one quick scheduling announcement. On Tuesday, September 15th, the President will address the National AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh. And with that -- hold on. Divert the cameras over here.

Q: When did you say?

MR. GIBBS: Tuesday, September 15th. Big month for Pittsburgh.

Fire away.

Q: Is the President still asking Israelis to stop all settlement building in the territories, the Palestinian territories?

MR. GIBBS: Obviously I think the President's views on this have been made clear. There's been no directional change from us, and I think the -- I do think that Senator Mitchell, former Senator Mitchell has had productive meetings over the past few weeks and is going back soon to the region.

Q: Javier Solana says he thinks that the two sides can come together during the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York in September. What would be the reason for optimism that the two sides are ready to come together when there's been no real -- do you guys have information about movement, progress, a reason that he would be optimistic?

MR. GIBBS: We, as I've said here before, believe we've seen progress. We continue to encourage --

Q: In what form, though, I guess?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I'm not going to get into every discussion that we've had with either side, but we're certainly hopeful that we can continue to make progress, and if that happens in New York, we would be quite happy.

Q: Has the President seen the McChrystal report yet?

MR. GIBBS: No, it's my understanding that the report is working its way up the chain of command like it normally does. I believe it has been delivered to the Pentagon.

Q: How much up the chain of command does it have yet to go?

MR. GIBBS: Well, there's the regional commander at Central Command. He's the combatant commander. It will go to Petraeus. Petraeus -- it will go to the Pentagon. And from the Pentagon, it will come here. And each step along the way, commanders and policymakers will add their comments to the strategic assessment that General McChrystal has made.

Understanding that -- I think there's broad agreement that for many years our effort in Afghanistan has been under-resourced politically, militarily, economically. The President asked for a review of our policy. The President authorized additional security forces into Afghanistan in the lead-up to elections, and appointed a new commander that is coming back with an assessment that I know many are eager to see.

Q: Is he, the President, willing to consider more troops for Afghanistan? I don't know that this report --

MR. GIBBS: Let's read the report before we --

Q: Well, I don't know that this report is going to get into that specifically --

MR. GIBBS: No, this report --

Q: -- but it might come down this fall.

MR. GIBBS: This report is an assessment of where we are and what in his assessment needs to change. Any resource -- specific resource recommendations, I'm told, will be made in the coming weeks, but are not a part of this report.

Did you have a follow-up on something?

Q: I did. We talked with Israeli President Shimon Peres today and he indicated the meeting will take place on the sidelines of the UNGA opening. And he also suggested that there's likely to be a suspension of Israeli settlement activity to facilitate the meeting. Is that your understanding?

MR. GIBBS: I would not contradict your interview with President Peres, but -- we're certainly hopeful that progress is being made, and that we can see that progress continue in the near future.

Q: Let me ask you on another matter -- the Jerusalem Post conducted a survey and found that only 4 percent of Jewish Israelis consider President Obama to be pro-Israeli. Does that trouble you in any way?

MR. GIBBS: I haven't seen the poll.

Q: Robert, what do you say to Bob Dole, who's got this op-ed today, saying he thinks the President sort of needs to refresh the health care debate, and specifically, needs to put a plan on the table?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President has outlined a series of proposals and principles that he thinks ought to be included in health care. And we'll continue to see if we can make progress as it relates to that.

Q: Right, but on the specific plan aspect, Dole is saying that the President is not a commentator, he's the President of the United States, and shouldn't just be commenting on what Congress is doing. Shouldn't he -- in the estimation of Dole and others who have said this in Congress -- maybe a more active role?

MR. GIBBS: Well, he's talked with many members of the Finance Committee and members of Congress in the House and the Senate. I think to characterize the role that the President is playing as inactive would be inaccurate.

Q: Okay. Well, he doesn't seem to be active on health care right now. Is he -- I mean, he's going to go on to Camp David --

MR. GIBBS: You mean, like, right now?

Q: Well, he's golfing right now, I guess so --

MR. GIBBS: If he hits Marvin with a golf ball, I guess he'd become more active in health care. (Laughter.)

Q: Okay. What's the calculation then, since he's golfing, he just came back from vacation, he's going to Camp David for more vacation -- when is he going to get back into this debate?

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, Ed, the President did some meetings today that included discussions on health care. I assume he'll continue to make calls throughout the week, judging and assessing where we are. I don't -- I think that just because the President just might be doing something else doesn't mean he's not focused on health care reform.

Yes, sir.

Q: A couple of questions, Robert. One, just teeing off of Ed's question about health care, have you guys seen this fundraising letter from Senator Chuck Grassley in which he goes after -- "The simple truth is that I am and always have been opposed to the Obama administration's plans to nationalize health care … I'm deeply concerned about rising health care costs … but the reality is…" -- it just goes after President Obama and Democrats' effort on health care reform.

MR. GIBBS: I have not seen it.

Q: It would seem to belie any indication that Senator Grassley is actually a partner with the administration or with Senator Baucus in creating the plan that you guys would support. Are you still firmly committed to working with the three Republicans who are still in the negotiating phase?

MR. GIBBS: I'll say this, Jake. The President is firmly committed to working with Democrats, Republicans, independents, anybody that wants to see progress on health care reform. I will say this. I haven't seen the contents of that letter. Certainly, I think the radio address over the weekend by Senator Enzi repeating many of the generic Republican talking points that Republicans are using that have bragged about being opposed to health care are tremendously unfortunate but in some ways illuminating. It appears that at least in Senator Enzi's case, he doesn't believe there's a pathway to get bipartisan support, and the President thinks that's wrong. I think that Senator Enzi has clearly turned over his cards on bipartisanship, and decided that it's time to walk away from the table.

I think what somebody has to ask Senator Enzi and ask others, every member of Congress, is, are you satisfied with the way the system is working right now? Are you satisfied that premiums are doubling every nine years? Are you satisfied that out-of-pocket expenses are skyrocketing? Are you satisfied that small businesses are dropping their coverage? Are you satisfied that every day 14,000 Americans wake up and find themselves without health insurance coverage? I think many may believe that we can't afford to do anything. I think this President believes we can't afford not to.

Q: Well, let me ask you, are you satisfied with the ability that the White House has shown in getting that message out, as opposed to what the opponents of health care reform are saying? Have you guys been doing --

MR. GIBBS: Notwithstanding Ed's question about what the President is doing right now.

Q: Do you think -- I mean, we've all now -- the congressional recess has been going on and some of us have left Washington, D.C. Do you think you're doing a good job in getting the message out as to what health care reform should be?

MR. GIBBS: I think we looked at and we discussed when we last met in here -- I think the President has made progress on turning around some of the very specific yet untrue allegations about this bill. It doesn't help -- I'll give you, Jake, it doesn't help to have Republicans who say they're for bipartisanship and say they're at the table to try to find a solution repeating Republican Party talking points about what they know is not true in the bill. I don't think that's helpful and I think that it's unfortunate -- again, it's tremendously unfortunate that it looks like Republicans are stepping away from seeking a bipartisan solution. I think that's -- it's bad for this town, but it's much worse for this country.

Q: And last, I just wanted to know if you have any comment on remarks that former Vice President Cheney made yesterday. I just think it's -- about the preliminary review of whether CIA officers broke any laws: "I think it's an outrageous precedent to set to have this kind of intensely partisan, politicized look-back at the prior administration." He said it would create a chilling effect at the CIA and that the actions are not making the country safer.

MR. GIBBS: Yes, this is the same song and dance we've heard since literally the first day of our administration. So I don't have a lot to say. I think the Vice President -- if you watch some of his interview -- was clearly -- clearly had his facts on a number of things wrong.

Q: Such as?

MR. GIBBS: The notion that somehow this White House is going to be making interrogation decisions, not the High-value detainee Interrogation Group that's stationed at the FBI and will be -- have participants from all different intelligence and law enforcement agencies within our government -- which has allowed people like Fran Townsend to compliment the creation of this group, somebody who, as you know, is tasked with homeland security in the previous administration. I think what was also illuminating, Jake, were Senator McCain's comments yesterday about whether -- the impact that these enhanced interrogation techniques that the President looked at and has now outlawed, the effect that they've had on our standing in the world in our foreign policy.

I think -- he certainly doesn't agree with us on every issue as it relates to this; I understand that. But I thought, given his experience, I think they are tremendously illuminating. I will add this. I'm not entirely sure that Dick Cheney's predictions on foreign policy have borne a whole lot of fruit over the last eight years in a way that have been either positive or, to the best of my recollection, very correct.

Q: If the President outlawed all this torture, why does he continue the retentions and --

MR. GIBBS: Rendition?

Q: -- how does he think this can be monitored, being thousands of miles away from the treatment of the prisoners?

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I do think it's important, Helen, to reiterate, as I just said to Jake, the President viewed -- after a review of enhanced interrogation techniques, came to the very same conclusion that Senator McCain said yesterday --

Q: But he hasn't illuminated it, when you send them to black sites.

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, there are -- based on the President's executive order, there are no American-run black sites anymore. There are -- there's an outlawing of the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. We follow the Geneva Convention. We follow the Army Field Manual. We're going to close Guantanamo. And we're going to repair the image of this country and make this country safer.

Q: And detainees are not sent to other places?

MR. GIBBS: Detainees are not sent to other places to be tortured. That's the policy of this country.

Q: To be interrogated?

MR. GIBBS: Well, some may go to other countries to face charges that they have in those countries, but they're not shipped in the dark of night to be tortured.

Q: I believe it was March when the President announced his new strategy in Afghanistan and since then things have only gotten worse. This July and August I believe have been the two worst months in terms of U.S. fatalities. Obviously it takes a long time to implement a military strategy, but after six months not only are things not stabilized but they're worse -- they've gotten worse during that period of time. Is this an early sign that his strategy is not working?

MR. GIBBS: No, Chip, we under-resourced Afghanistan for the better part of a decade. Okay?

Q: But now he's sending in additional troops and it's getting worse.

MR. GIBBS: Well, and not all those additional troops are there. The assessment that is coming back is part of what a new commander does when they go to a region when they're newly assigned, as the President has General McChrystal to this region.

But understand, Chip, we are not -- the President, whether it's the economy, health care, or anything, isn't going to -- we're not going to make -- we're not going to see the entire thing turn around in a few months, after years and years of neglect. You can't under-resource the most important part of our war on terror, you can't under-resource that for five or six or seven years -- whether it's under-resourced with troops, whether it's under-resourced with civilian manpower, whether it's under-resourced with economic development funding -- and hope to snap your fingers and have that turn around in just a few months.

I think that what the President enunciated throughout the campaign and actualized as part of this administration was to change our direction in Afghanistan, to understand it was the central focus; that in Afghanistan and in the hills separating Afghanistan and Pakistan were those again plotting to do us harm, and that for far too long we've ignored that with the resources that were necessary to deal with the size and the scope of the problem that existed there.

Q: But as bad as it was when he came into office, it has become significantly worse since he announced his plan.

MR. GIBBS: It is a challenging place. We are forever indebted to the men and women who serve there, and particularly those who sacrifice and make the ultimate sacrifice. I think the General's -- we'll see the General's assessment when it gets here. The President is focused on ensuring that we meet measurable benchmarks and that we disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies. It's going to take some doing. It's going to take more resources, which the President has dedicated to this problem.

But understand, Chip, this was under-resourced, under-funded, under-manned and ignored for years and that's not going to change overnight.

Q: Is it possible that you're simply losing control in Afghanistan and it's going to continue to spiral out of control?

MR. GIBBS: I think based on reports from what General -- based on some initial reporting that I've seen of General McChrystal's report, he says the situation is quite serious but the war is indeed winnable.

Yes, sir.

Q: How long does it take for this report to get to the White House?

MR. GIBBS: I don't know the answer. I think that --

Q: Days?

MR. GIBBS: It's a better question for the Pentagon. Again, Chuck, this comes up traditionally through the chain of command --

Q: You guys haven't inquired to find out what point it's going to get here?

MR. GIBBS: There's no FedEx tracking number to the -- no, I mean --

Q: I know, but I mean, I guess my point is when does this report get on the President's desk?

MR. GIBBS: I assume it will be sent over by the Pentagon and Secretary Gates. That's a good question for the Pentagon.

But again, the President has continued to do briefings with Ambassador and former General Eikenberry, with General McChrystal, with others that are involved -- General Petraeus, Ambassador Holbrooke and others -- that have been involved in this policy. What the President is going to want to do is review the report and then discuss and talk with all of those that have equities in it to get their viewpoints and to ensure that each and every person is heard on this, and that's what the President intends to do.

Q: Going back to health care, rather than responding to Dole, how about responding to Chris Dodd who yesterday said he wants the President to come back and "really frame this for us."

MR. GIBBS: I think the President will continue throughout this month to frame what's important about getting health care reform done, doing it in a way that's deficit-neutral, doing it in a way that improves the quality of care, doing it in a way that changes the amazing amount of resources that it takes to provide right now 46 fewer million people that need health care with something that's more expensive than any other country in the world. It's strapping our economy and budgets.

Q: So he is going to -- I guess this is something that -- Chris Dodd is somebody who's in charge -- one of his -- it's his committee, along with Senator Kennedy -- that they got through one of these bills. And he's asking for more --

MR. GIBBS: He got through that bill --

Q: He's asking for more presidential leadership.

MR. GIBBS: He got that bill through with over 200 Republican amendments, and the President will continue to work on and discuss health care.

Q: And that is -- I mean, is it something that he will wait until he gets the Finance Committee bill, or --

MR. GIBBS: -- just did an interview with ABC.

Q: Was just going to do that. But is it something that he's going to do with a couple of speeches before he gets a Finance Committee bill? And by the way, when do you expect a Finance Committee bill?

MR. GIBBS: That's a good question for the Finance Committee. It's a good question, again, for Republicans -- again, I haven't seen Jake's letter -- I won't characterize it as Jake's letter -- Senator Grassley's letter --

Q: I'd point out The Washington Post reported it first.

MR. GIBBS: There you go. Mr. Fletcher thanks you for the shout-out. (Laughter.) I do love how they always put "airgrams" on these things like somehow the plane just landed at Des Moines Airport --

Q: When was the last time you got an airgram. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: Maybe they've got our report. But it's a better question for -- Chuck, I think it's a better question for those Republicans that have made the type of comments that we've seen over the past couple of days that appeared to be --

Q: But what about, I mean, Max Baucus? I mean, he has not let you know, hey, I'm going to have a bill for you on September 15th.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think his deadline --

Q: That is something -- is that still the deadline?

MR. GIBBS: The deadline is, best I understand it, is September 15th.

Q: And there's no reason to think he won't see his --

MR. GIBBS: It's a better question for them.

Q: Can I just follow up on his -- there just seems to be no sense of urgency on the McChrystal report. It's, well, we'll get it when we get it.

MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, no.

Q: More Americans are dying than have died at any point in this war.

MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, no, don't misunderstand the fact that -- again, Chip, the report has to go through the chain of command. The report will be commented on by those that are in the theater, right?

Q: Can't the President say, I want it on my desk by Wednesday?

MR. GIBBS: And we may have it on our desk by Wednesday. I think to assume that because we haven't gotten a report from the Pentagon the President doesn't believe this is a serious problem I think is an unhealthy thing to insinuate.

Jon.

Q: On health care, Senator Hatch walked away from negotiations in the Finance Committee already. You said that Senator Enzi has showed his cards and he's not interested in a bipartisan solution. What are you saying about the prospects for a bipartisan solution? Are Republicans negotiating in good faith now?

MR. GIBBS: Again, I think that's a question you should ask them, Jonathan. I think, again, some of the comments that have been made, it certainly seems to suggest I think to anybody that reads them that they seem to be less interested in the bipartisanship they talked about only a few weeks ago -- only a few weeks ago.

Q: And could you say what you think of the kind of gloom in the last week about the forecast for next year's election, more than a year away, and the sense that somehow the --

MR. GIBBS: It would be like -- Jonathan, it would be like me predicting who was going to win the World Series not in a few months, but in a year and a few months. I'll let -- the extremely smart prognosticators that always predict with unfailing accuracy the brilliance by which Americans will render their opinion in more than a year, I will leave them to their stately craft.

Yes, Mark.

Q: Robert, does the White House now believe, or suspect, that Scotland released al-Megrahi because of an oil deal between the UK and Libya?

MR. GIBBS: I don't -- I don't know the answer to what caused Scottish or British officials to make the decision that they did. Mark, as you know, this administration weighed in repeatedly with those officials in saying that this person should serve his sentence in its entirety in the location that he was at that time, which was Scotland. And we believe -- we continue to believe that is the case, and continue to believe that this was the wrong decision. The motivation for the British is a question for the British.

Q: Do you know when the last time President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Gordon Brown? Has it been since the release?

MR. GIBBS: No, they've -- I want to say it's probably been a month or a month and a half. But we can certainly check it. They have not spoken since the release.

Q: Just to follow up, is there any -- you say that it's a question for the British government, but is there any official -- will the U.S. government have any official sort of -- trying to investigate, trying to figure out how this happened beyond just asking questions of the British government?

MR. GIBBS: Chuck, I don't know -- I'm not a -- I don't know Scottish law.

Q: Arlen Specter.

MR. GIBBS: I tossed that soft ball out for you guys. I just know what the administration did in weighing in and what the administration has continued to say about the actions. But I don't -- beyond that, don't have anything for you.

Roger.

Q: On the Japanese elections, Japan wants closer relations with China and Russia. Is the U.S.-Japan alliance going to change as a result?

MR. GIBBS: We believe that we have always had a strong relationship and that that relationship will continue regardless of who is -- what Japanese government is in power. I think obviously there are a great number of regional issues that we've discussed many times in here, particularly the actions of the North Koreans, that might lead the Japanese to seek better regional ties from their allies. We wouldn't certainly begrudge that, and believe that the relationship will continue in a strong way.

Q: But the new leader, though, says that he wants to move Japan away from U.S. dependency.

MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't --

Q: How can there not be some change?

MR. GIBBS: I don't know what dependency he refers.

Q: Do you expect any change we might see as early as the G20 in Pittsburgh?

MR. GIBBS: None that I'm aware of, no.

Mr. Baker.

Q: The AP is reporting that Governor Blagojevich's new book says that Rahm Emanuel asked him to see if they could have a placeholder appointed in his House seat so that after two years as White House Chief of Staff he could go back and win the seat again and pursue his ambition to become Speaker. Can you tell us if that's the case?

MR. GIBBS: I have not -- I barely cover with Rahm what's going to happen the rest of the week. I have not talked to him about that nor have I -- I've not seen the book by the indicted former governor of Illinois.

Q: And is this something that ever came up in the transition that you're aware of?

MR. GIBBS: No, not that -- I do not remember any discussion about that.

Q: On Afghanistan, the previous President often said he had a policy of deferring on issues of troop levels to his commanders. You could argue about whether he always fulfilled that, but is that a policy that this President supposedly has or does not have?

MR. GIBBS: Well, as I said to Chuck, I think the President wants the report reviewed by those in the chain of command and then will want to review with that chain of command what they see and hear in this report. I think one of the hallmarks of what this President has always believed in when it comes to making these decisions is that all of those involved should have a seat at the table and that the President should, and will, listen to their opinion.

Q: The last President always said basically if a commander asked for it there's nothing he wouldn't get. Is that --

MR. GIBBS: -- that was sitting on General McKiernan's desk -- or General McKiernan had written a request for more troops in Afghanistan for more than a year before we got here. So I don't know whether that's -- I'm not sure that's a standard by which to measure that.

Q: Is that the policy of this President?

MR. GIBBS: I think the President is anxious to continue discussions about Afghanistan, to see what General McChrystal -- again, a commander that he was supportive of putting in place in a very dangerous and challenging part of the world -- see what he has to say about going forward, and decisions about troop levels and further resources will be made when that comes.

Q: As a natural disaster, the fires north of Los Angeles are reaching kind of staggering proportions. Is there any need for the President to get involved in a federal effort? Does he get any kind of updates on those fires?

MR. GIBBS: I can check. I assume that he gets a regular -- we all get regular updates on these types of news events and these types of disasters. I assume as part of his daily briefing this morning he was briefed on the situation and local, state, and federal response.

Yes, sir.

Q: Robert, former Senator Bradley had an op-ed over the weekend where he suggested that --

MR. GIBBS: Busy former senators. (Laughter.)

Q: -- including tort reform might help to win Republican support for health care reform. Is that something the administration sees some merit in?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, I would point you to what the President talked about in front of the AMA.

Q: He was a little -- it's a little hard to say, exactly, where -- how far he was willing to go in his AMA speech.

MR. GIBBS: He's willing to write an op-ed.

Q: He's a former senator.

MR. GIBBS: Voilà. (Laughter.) That seems to be a good business these days. I mean, again, I think there's at least a healthy amount of evidence that in many states that have seen caps like this you haven't necessarily seen decreases in insurance costs.

I think, again, the President is willing to consider any number of approaches, but there have to be people on the other side of the table to respond to those gestures. I'm concerned -- I think a lot of us are -- that people in those chairs seem to be leaving more rapidly than the American people want them to.

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Robert, if you put health care aside for a minute, are there bright spots on the legislative calendar that the White House is looking toward? How is the climate change bill going from the White House's perspective right now? And anything else that you --

MR. GIBBS: I don't -- in all honesty, I haven't heard an update yet on where energy legislation is in the Senate. Obviously, Christina, I think a very important date coming up in mid-September marking in many ways I think the date that most Americans in their mind begin to see the real impacts and effects of the deteriorating financial crisis with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. I think a major push from this administration and I think from members on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill will be efforts to reform the regulatory mechanisms by which our financial institutions have to operate. I think that will be a very important part of the legislative agenda moving forward in the fall in strong hopes that by the end of the year we have new rules of the road going forward so that something like this doesn't happen under the same circumstances again.

April.

Q: Robert, a couple things. Katrina. Has President Obama talked with anyone in New Orleans, as we're around the anniversary time of four years?

MR. GIBBS: I don't know if the President made any specific calls last week to New Orleans.

Q: Okay, and also back on McChrystal. During the campaign for the Oval Office there were reports that U.S. troops were tired and what have you. What other reports is this White House getting on troop strength, their attitudes and things of that nature right now as we're constantly talking about putting more troops over in Afghanistan?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think there is no doubt that we have a military that has been called to a lot of things in a short period of time; that it has strained our military, it has strained relationships with soldiers and their families. We've seen -- I think the President talked in many ways about this in Phoenix when he spoke there about ensuring that we protect those that protect us; and that Secretary Gates has outlined a speeding up of the expansion of our armed forces in order to meet the commitments that we have around the world.

I think obviously one of the things that this President talked about a lot before the campaign, during the campaign, and certainly implemented afterwards, is withdrawal of our troops from Iraq as a way of lessening the burden that we see going on in our military.

Q: And also -- last question -- Senator Kennedy's letter to the Pope where he says, "I'm committed to doing everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country," what has the President said about that? What is anyone around the White House saying about this, especially at a time when the words "choice" and "competition" are at the forefront instead of what it used to be, access for all?

MR. GIBBS: No, I -- choice and competition is one aspect of what one has to have in an insurance market to ensure that those that don't have access to affordable insurance have that ability to get it. You can't have access without that choice and competition in a market that's dominated by one insurance company. I can assure you the President shares the late senator's goal of ensuring that every American in this country has access to affordable health care coverage. That's strongly in our interest.

David.

Q: Two quick questions. Is the White House preparing to push for the creation of a financial product safety commission this fall? Is that what you were referring to in part in your goals?

MR. GIBBS: I was referring to a larger financial regulatory reform. I know obviously part of that is a consumer -- something that will take up the tasks of and be the advocate of consumers. That obviously will be a strong push of this administration.

Q: And then, secondly, going back to Afghanistan, how would you define "winnable" as it relates to Afghanistan?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President and his advisors have talked about disrupting, dismantling, and destroying al Qaeda and its extremist allies. We have to ensure that there are -- while there are those currently plotting to do our country harm, that we don't provide them a safe haven to do that; that we have a government in Afghanistan that is self-sufficient, that we have a security force in that country that's able to deal with the challenges that are presented to it. And I think, obviously -- going back to April's question -- our commitment can't be forever.

Q: -- not militarily? It's not -- a win is just not militarily?

MR. GIBBS: No, no, no. If you don't have a country that has the governmental institutions to provide for its citizens, that is what ultimately creates lawless or ungoverned areas that can spawn the type of extremist activity that we see in Afghanistan.

Q: But how can you say the commitment is not forever if you set up those goals? Maybe it will take close to forever to reach those goals.

MR. GIBBS: I don't think it will take close to forever. But I don't know what year that would be.

Q: Robert, can I follow on that?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: On Wednesday, the administration is going to host a clean-energy economy forum in Saginaw. And I was wondering a couple of things. One, why did you choose Saginaw? What does the administration hope to accomplish with the forum? And also, how are the stakeholders being chosen? It was interesting that it's invitation only. I mean, if you're trying to get people aware of the President's --

MR. GIBBS: I will -- let me find some information out about the forum and get stuff back to you.

Thanks, guys.

END 2:17 P.M. EDT

Citation: Barack Obama: "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs", August 31, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86578.
 
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