|The American Presidency Project|
|• Robert Gibbs|
|Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs|
|September 28, 2009|
|James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:17 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: I have no announcements, so take us away.
Q: Thanks, Robert. Why does the President think a trip to Copenhagen is going to make that much difference? And what does he hope his appearance there will help?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously, I think he hopes that he can make a strong case for Chicago and America's bid for the Olympics in 2016. Obviously any Olympics showcases the country that those Olympics are in and there's a tangible economic benefit to those Games being here. And the President wants to help out America's bid.
Q: Did he get a hint that an appearance would help America's bid?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I certainly hope that an appearance wouldn't hurt it. But we have gotten no intelligence on it.
Q: Robert, what's the White House's reaction to Iran's test-firing of missiles and how will that affect the atmosphere for the October 1st talks?
MR. GIBBS: Well, a couple things. I mean, obviously, these were pre-planned military exercises. I think -- I would lump any of these into the provocative nature with which Iran has acted on the world stage for a number of years. I would point out that the reason that missile defense decisions have been made in the past couple weeks to change from something that dealt virtually only with an ICBM threat and dealt more with medium- to intermediate-range missiles I think was proven out in many of the pictures that you saw over the past few hours.
The decision that Secretary Gates and General Cartwright, the Joint Chiefs approved unanimously and forwarded to the President, which the President then approved, is something that deals with the exact threat of medium- and intermediate-range missiles that you saw Iran testing just today.
Q: So the second part of that question was how does it affect the atmosphere for the October 1st talks, and furthering on that, what specifically does Iran need to do on October 1st to fulfill the President's call that they come clean?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think first and foremost the P5-plus-1 strongly supports the IAEA's call for immediate and unfettered access to Qom, to the facility, to personnel, and to documents that are related to the construction of that facility. I think that's certainly what we would hope that Iran is willing to do to engage in full transparency and to demonstrate for the world that it will give up its nuclear weapons program and ensure that whatever it does is in the peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy.
Q: But is there anything specific that they can do on October 1st to demonstrate that?
MR. GIBBS: Sure. They can, as I just said, agree to immediate, unfettered access. I think that would be the least that they can do.
But, Jeff, keep in mind, this is an important day and an important week for the Iranians. They have decisions to make. They have one of two paths that they can take. They can continue the path that they've been on, even while the world has shown conclusive intelligence about a facility in Qom. Or it can make a decision to step away from its nuclear weapons program and build confidence in the world and enter into a meaningful relationship with the world based on their own security, but not based on nuclear weapons.
Q: Robert, back in June when you were asked about whether or not the deadline to close down Gitmo could be reached you said, absolutely. Over the weekend I'm sure you heard the Secretary of Defense saying that it's going to be tough. What happened?
MR. GIBBS: I would believe the Secretary, he always trumps me. (Laughter.)
Q: I'm sure he did. But what happened between the "absolutely" and "it's going to be tough"?
MR. GIBBS: I think we're continuing to make progress. I think we've had more and more people transferred out of Guantanamo Bay. I think first and foremost, Dan, look what you saw this weekend: You had Secretary Gates and Senator McCain both believing strongly, as the President believes, that we have to shut Guantanamo Bay, that it makes us safer, that it improves our image around the world. Obviously we've still got work to do, work that's progressing in reforming military commissions and in locating a permanent detention facility for those that would remain.
Q: So is the White House resigned now -- resigned to the fact now that that deadline cannot be met?
MR. GIBBS: Well, we're not focused on whether or not the deadline will or won't be met on a particular day; we're focused on ensuring that the facility is closed and doing all that has to be done between now and the 22nd of January to make the most progress that we can that's possible.
Q: One other question on the troops to Afghanistan. How close is the President to I guess reviewing his assessment strategy and then making a decision on whether or not more troops will be sent in?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think you've got good video from Secretary Gates on CNN just this weekend, who mentioned that this was going to be a very deliberative process on the President's part. I assume that any decision is a number of weeks away. I think you saw Secretary Gates say that a resource request that he gets will not be sent here to the White House until he believes and the President believes that we're in a position, having reached a consensus on moving forward, how best to resource that consensus.
Q: Robert, what can you tell us about the lobbying effort behind the scenes that the President has already started with the IOC?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't know that it's much behind the scenes if you're asking me about it. I think it's -- obviously the President has mentioned this in meetings when we were at the U.N. and at the G20. He's going to continue to talk to people, including in person in Copenhagen, in an effort to bring the 2016 Olympics to the United States.
Q: What's his best pitch? What is he telling them?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think, having spent some time in Chicago, I think it is a -- it's a perfect place to hold the Olympics. It is -- it offers a great place for the world to see. It offers all the amenities that one would want in the Olympics. And I think, far and away, it's the strongest bid of the four that are out there.
Q: What if he goes and he doesn't get it?
MR. GIBBS: Well, we'll -- you can call Tommy on Saturday -- (laughter.)
Q: You just told Dan that you're not focused anymore on a particular day with regard to Gitmo. So does that mean that deadline is now moot?
MR. GIBBS: I thought what Dan's question sort of was, were there a lot of people over here obsessing about whether or not that particular day was going to be met, rather than obsessing about getting it done. And that's what the purpose is.
Q: But if you're not focused on -- or obsessing, focused, whatever you want to call it -- if you're not focused on a particular day, there's no longer a deadline.
MR. GIBBS: No, that's not true.
Q: So it is a deadline?
MR. GIBBS: The deadline is still there. We want to get it done. I think Secretary Gates made a very compelling case of what happens in this town when you don't set a deadline: Nothing gets done. I think there's no doubt that were making significant progress, that there's bipartisan agreement that we need to get something done to close this facility; that it will improve our own security; that it will help our standing in the world. And that's what the administration is focused on.
Q: On sanctions with bite, as the President called them, do you have any commitments yet, have you made any progress over the last couple of days with Russia and China to support sanctions with bite? Because you can't get them without them, right?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Chip, we're focused on Thursday. We're focused on -- and understand this -- there has never been a stronger international consensus to address Iran and its nuclear weapons program than there is right now. You saw the comments last week; you heard directly from the Russian President about this. We are focused on the meeting on Thursday, and we hope Iran is focused on its obligations internationally. We're not going to get far ahead of ourselves as to what happens beyond that. We're focused right now on this meeting this week.
Q: But you do need Russia and China to support it. No matter how strong it is now, if you don't get them on board, it's not going to --
MR. GIBBS: And, Chip, two weeks ago no one ever thought we'd be where we were right now with an international consensus that something has to be done and that Iran has to live up to its international obligations.
Q: How concerned is the President that any sanctions with bite are going to end up biting the Iranian people harder than anybody?
MR. GIBBS: You're a couple of --
Q: But he's got to be thinking about this. I mean, if you're thinking about particular sanctions, they're going to hurt the Iranian people who have been through so much already.
MR. GIBBS: Again, I'm just not going to get into a lot of conjecture about what happens in --
Q: All right. One question on Copenhagen. The President said I think it was 12 days ago on the South Lawn, "I would make the case in Copenhagen personally" -- are you saying Copenhagen or Copenhagen, by the way, here at the White House?
MR. GIBBS: I say Copenhagen, but I'm not sure I should be the arbiter of --
Q: Okay, that's good enough for me.
Q: Denmark. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Denmark is good. Denmark is --
Q: The President said, I would make the case in Copenhagen-hagen personally if I weren't so firmly committed to making real the promise of quality affordable health care for every American. He sounded pretty clear that 12 days ago he was not going to go. What changed in the meantime? Is it health care that changed? Does it look like it's in better shape, or is it that this is in worse shape?
MR. GIBBS: I think the President believes health care is in better shape. I believe he felt strongly and personally that he should go and make the case for the United States, and that's what he's going to do.
Q: And he's not worried about health care, as he seemed to be just 12 days ago, suffering if he went?
MR. GIBBS: I think he believes he can do this and get back in time.
Q: Robert, a couple of topics, first Afghanistan. Tomorrow you guys are having a meeting -- the President is meeting with the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, General Petraeus obviously on Afghanistan. Is that where he's going to at least lay out a timetable for making his strategy review decision, sort of saying --
MR. GIBBS: No, I think I'll leave it at it's a number of weeks.
Q: Can you lay out a little bit of -- is tomorrow's agenda just hearing ideas? Is the President going to be talking? I mean, what is -- can you give a little more description?
MR. GIBBS: We're not going to have a meeting to set a meeting agenda. We're going through the process of assessing where we are, what's changed, what needs to happen, where we need to go. This isn't going to be finished in one meeting, it's not going to be finished in several meetings; it's not going to be finished in several meetings. But this is the beginning of a process for making some eventual determinations -- understanding that, as we've said before, the President came into office, he asked that our policy be reviewed; in late March, in the lead up to elections the President requested 21,000 additional troops be sent to Afghanistan. The end of that number is beginning to get to Afghanistan now.
But I think, again, as you heard Secretary Gates say over the weekend, in that time period we've had an election that has thus far been inconclusive and the United States does not pre-determine who that winner might be.
And secondly, Secretary Gates said that the assessment of conditions on the ground were worse than previously assumed.
Q: So citing the -- the President cited the election, the uncertainty surrounding the election, can you do -- can you fully carry out or at least roll out a new strategy before there's certainty?
MR. GIBBS: Well, that's one of the things that's going to be discussed over the course of the next several weeks.
Q: Is this a change you might wait to see --
MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about what may or may not. I think that's what the meetings are for.
Q: Your Secretary of Education today talked about the possibility -- or I guess in an interview over the weekend talked about the possibility of seeing the school day expanded, with shorter summer vacation. How can the federal government influence that?
MR. GIBBS: I would direct you to the Secretary of Education. Obviously, I assume there are incentives that can be given -- obviously these are state decisions, but there are incentives that could be given that you could test grants for all-day schools -- I'm sorry, year-round schools. You could do any of those types of things.
Q: And the President supports --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President has talked in the past about the fact that we have to try new things in education to ensure that we're doing everything we can to educate as best as possible the workforce for tomorrow -- whether that's -- the President was a big believer and a leader in the Illinois State Senate in expanding the number of charter schools, something that Secretary Duncan has done. And I think the President believes strongly in the education reform agenda and has somebody at the Department of Education that's implementing it.
Q: And then a New York political question. The White House clearly has some -- a lot of opinion about the governor's race. Does the White House have an opinion about the New York City mayoral race, would they like to see a Democrat win that?
MR. GIBBS: I haven't talked to anybody in political affairs about that.
Q: So there's no preference in who wins that? Do you want to see the Democrat -- there is a Democrat --
MR. GIBBS: Chuck, I said I hadn't talked to the political affairs office on that, so I'm not going to conjecture.
Q: I had another Copenhagen question, and I'll say "hagen."
MR. GIBBS: So that everyone is represented.
Q: Right. I wanted to ask, you know, when you look at the sort of picture here, you have a planeload of, you know, top level officials, the President himself, Mrs. Obama. The risks are obviously huge if he doesn't bring home the Games for Chicago --
MR. GIBBS: Call Tommy. (Laughter.)
Q: But to what degree --
MR. GIBBS: I appreciate getting into what happens on Saturday, but I don't even know what I'm going to have for dinner tonight.
Q: I understand. Okay, let's go forward then. So what degree is this pre-cooked in any way? Are there any assurances, anything --
MR. GIBBS: I think I looked back and addressed this not long ago.
Q: It just seems you folks are too savvy to do this with it being totally up in the air.
MR. GIBBS: I appreciate that. Thank you. (Laughter.)
Q: Is the Chicago Host Committee paying any of the costs for President Obama or Mrs. Obama to go to Copenhagen?
MR. GIBBS: I can check but I don't know the answer to that. I assume this is being handled as all presidential travel would be.
Q: On another issue. Is the White House hearing protests from any Polish or French or Swiss leaders about the arrest of Roman Polanski and the requested extradition?
MR. GIBBS: Not that -- not that I've heard. But I would direct you to State or DOJ for those specific questions.
Q: Can you confirm a recent report that the administration is looking to commit as much at $85 billion to help states give mortgages to low- and middle-income families?
MR. GIBBS: I do think there's a policy that is going to be rolled out on that. I don't think the number is quite that high.
Q: When do you think that's going to --
MR. GIBBS: Sometime I think later this week.
Q: What do you say to criticism that that money should be directed to small business and other areas of the economy?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the administration has and will continue to pursue strategies to enable credit to flow to small businesses. You know, I think -- I think there's not a whole lot -- I wouldn't put a whole lot of weight behind criticism about whether or not there's just one thing one can do to help the economy, or that we're one thing away from the economy doing what we all hope it will do.
I think the administration is focused on a level of things, not the least of which is small business. The President hears from small business men and women each day in letters, and particularly at the beginning of the administration in trying to get access to loans and capital to meet payroll and expand their businesses.
Q: Why do you think that money should go to low-income families specifically?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I'll let Treasury roll out their policy when they're ready.
Q: Robert, on Guantanamo, it also appears that the President has signed off on not seeking congressional authorization for a specific long-term detention law to fill the gap. Can you explain why that -- the President believes it's not necessary to seek that law, when he implied in the Archives speech that that decision should not be made by just one man, it should have congressional oversight and approval?
MR. GIBBS: As I understand it, based on -- based on where we are with the war, that there is existing authority.
Q: But in that Archives speech, the President left the direct implication that that authorization shouldn't be used as a blanket legal device.
MR. GIBBS: It's been a while since I read the Archives speech. I'd have to go back.
Q: And because -- because you're acknowledging that the deadline may slip, it seems like one of the things that is crucial to helping close Guantanamo, provide a legal framework for the long-term detainees who fall into the category the President has now discovered is extremely problematic, not only as a matter of law but as a matter of security. You don't find there's an inconsistency there, trying to find legal justification through Congress to hold them for a prolonged amount of time?
MR. GIBBS: No.
MR. GIBBS: Just as I explained, I don't -- the President does not believe that -- does not believe that there is an inherent use to this; that what has been approved by Congress is statutorily sufficient, and that we don't need an additional law.
Q: In that respect, you would agree with the previous administration?
MR. GIBBS: I haven't looked at the exact legal underpinnings of the previous administration.
Q: You just mentioned to Chip that the President believes health care is in better shape. Why?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the Finance Committee continues to make progress. I think soon they'll finish their work, and each of the committees that has jurisdiction of this legislation will have worked through their issues.
Q: I know every President tends not to speak to Congress on its procedures, but since the President talked about this when he was a senator and he's talked about it considerably as President, do you think the Finance Committee should allow a period of time for the public to look at the Finance Committee product before it votes on it in committee or should wait for a Congressional Budget Office official scoring of that underlying legislation?
MR. GIBBS: I'll let -- I'll let individual members and the committee determine that. I think since we're talking about this now for the -- we're talking about the committee process for the second week, there's been a lot of time.
Q: I want to make sure I understand the answer to Chip's question correctly. Are you saying that the difference between --
MR. GIBBS: He asked, like, four, so can you be more specific?
Q: Are you saying that the reason that he wasn't going to go to Copenhagen and now is, is that health care is in better shape?
MR. GIBBS: Well, no, I don't -- as I understand it, Chip asked me, that was one of the reasons that the President stated --
Q: It was the reason.
MR. GIBBS: -- and that while I believe that health care is in a better place, and I think he believes health care is in a better place, he also believes it's important for him to go and personally try to persuade the International Olympic Committee to pick the United States in 2016.
Q: I'm just trying to close the logic loop here. (Laughter.) So did anything else change --
MR. GIBBS: I thought I did with Chip, but go ahead.
Q: Okay. But did any -- so, are you -- so it's okay for us to infer, then, even though you're not going to say that's the difference between last week and this week?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I acknowledged to Major that -- and I acknowledged to Chip and I think to at least one other -- that I thought health care was -- so we can -- I'll go on background as a senior administration official -- (laughter) -- with intimate knowledge of the press secretary's thinking and say, yes, we think health care is in a better place.
Q: And how does he see going to Copenhagen as part of his core mission as President?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think everybody is proud of the Olympics. I think everybody is proud of the Olympics when they're in their country. It provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase the United States. It's, as I said earlier, a big economic benefit. Surely it's within the purview of the President to root for America, but maybe I'm wrong.
Q: Yes, but is there a fear that the delegation that was going was not going to be on par with the heads of state from the other countries going?
MR. GIBBS: No, I've said this many times in the past five years, and I think the President would agree that Michelle and Michelle alone is a powerful presence and will be a powerful voice for the Olympics coming to America. The President simply wanted to lend his voice, too.
Q: Then why do you need Oprah going, too? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Ask the Olympic Committee. (Laughter.)
Q: This is all about Tommy. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Right, Tommy on Saturday. (Laughter.)
Q: Robert, with respect to the Afghan election, you just said that the United States does not pre-determine who the winner might be. But the Secretary of State did say at a ministers' meeting apparently on Friday that the United States assumes it will be President Karzai and we'll be able to work with him if he does in fact emerge.
MR. GIBBS: Well, Peter, we believe we'll be able to work with whomever wins that election. It's not for the United States to either determine or pre-determine who the winner is or the outcome of that election. We obviously have -- there's an international commission looking at allegations of fraud; there's an internal Afghani commission that's looking at allegations of fraud. And the administration strongly believes that those should be looked at and evaluated.
Q: So do you assume then that Karzai will emerge from that process?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to make any assumptions about who is going to lead the Afghan people at the end of this election.
Q: Did the Secretary of State?
MR. GIBBS: Not the way I read that story.
Q: I'm sorry, one more question on Iran. You said a minute ago that the international consensus is stronger than ever. I wonder if you could tell us why you think that. I mean, the Security Council has voted several times for sanctions, they were not perceived to be effective, but they were unanimous. What's stronger today than in the past?
MR. GIBBS: I think what the President has been able to do through the policy of engagement is bring the P5-plus-1 to a point that it's not previously been. I think you saw what President Medvedev said on Wednesday. I think you saw the statements the past few days even from the Chinese about addressing -- that we needed to address the concerns of the Iranian nuclear program.
I don't believe that there's ever been as broad and as deep a consensus about addressing the concerns that we have right now. And I don't think the least of which -- look, I think what happened on Friday, the revelation of a facility that Iran had clearly long ago begun constructing, failed to live up to either its U.N. Security Council or its IAEA obligations that it had signed to let the world know that it had intended to construct a facility. I think we've made strong progress.
Q: You cite President Medvedev's comment, but his comment was sometimes sanctions are necessary -- the Russians have voted for sanctions three times, so how is that a different change of policy?
MR. GIBBS: I think again -- I think we are in a position to address the Iranian nuclear program if the Iranians are unwilling to live up to their obligations, unlike we've ever been before.
Q: Robert, I wanted to ask about Iran also, but specifically about the missile firings, the news of the day. You spoke of that as being part of a provocative pattern. What about the particular test that was done today was provocative? Elaborate on that if you would.
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I mean, again, I think it continues a -- again, a pre-planned exercise but obviously provocative in nature. I don't think it was intended to be anything otherwise. Again, I think it reinforces the decision that was made not too long ago to change the focus of our missile defense to ensure the security of our forces, the security of our military bases and the security of our allies more directly by exactly the type of machinery that the Iranians were testing.
Q: They say this is a deterrent -- you just don't buy that argument?
MR. GIBBS: I don't buy a lot of arguments.
Q: The First Family's Chicago ties, are they a factor in the decision to have both the First Lady and the President make this trip? And is there a feeling in the administration that it's a proper role for them to make this pitch than, for example, if it had been another city where they didn't have the same kind of long-standing ties?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I don't think that there's any doubt that the President is enormously proud of Chicago and would be enormously proud of the city hosting the bid. I think it's somewhat silly if it had been Los Angeles, I think the notion that the President would have done less because it was a different U.S. city just doesn't hold water.
Q: But, I mean, I'm just saying did they have, by virtue of being from Chicago do you think that they have maybe a special message that they can carry?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think there's no doubt. I think you'll hear directly from both the First Lady and the President about what they think the Olympic Games mean and how Chicago hosting those Games fits with what we all believe the Olympics mean.
Q: I saw some story about Angela Merkel and the upcoming Berlin Wall anniversary. Since the President is going to Copenhagen, is there also thought about him attending the Berlin ceremony? I don't even remember if this has been discussed or not -- is he thinking of going to that?
MR. GIBBS: I think the ceremonies are November 9th. I don't believe -- I haven't seen any scheduling information on that, so I don't -- I can check. It's not -- like I said, I'm still working on this week.
Q: Could you do a week ahead, also?
MR. GIBBS: Thursday we're going to Copenhagen. (Laughter.) I don't have the week ahead with me. I know that tomorrow obviously the NATO Secretary General is here. Wednesday the President will do -- will have an economic announcement in the area -- not at the White House.
Q: That's the housing --
MR. GIBBS: No. Thursday the President goes to Copenhagen and returns sometime on Friday, and I think we expect --
Q: Is the NATO Secretary General taking part in the Afghan meetings tomorrow?
MR. GIBBS: He's not in the direct meeting in the afternoon, but obviously as we go through the assessment of our policy, doing so with our important allies is crucial to this, and I expect that will be the focus of the President's meeting in the Oval Office.
Q: Can you tell us what the President is doing today?
MR. GIBBS: Working in the Oval Office.
Q: On what? I mean, what meetings?
MR. GIBBS: Let's see -- working on health care earlier, got his intelligence update. I haven't seen him in a couple hours, so I don't know what he's been doing. I assume he had lunch. But I don't have a tick-tock.
Q: Do we know for sure if the other world -- other three world leaders are going to this meeting, and did that play a role in Obama's decision --
MR. GIBBS: I have no knowledge of what the other three are doing. I don't know.
Q: The U.N. climate chief said today that time was running out quickly on the chance of getting a deal in Copenhagen in December. Does the President still believe that there is a possibility of finding a replacement to Kyoto by the end of the year, especially given what happened last week and the fact that there's not going to be a bill in Congress by the end of the year?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think a bill will be introduced in the Senate this week. I think obviously the House has taken strong action earlier in the year, this summer. I think obviously this was part of what the President did last week at both the General Assembly at the U.N. and the G20 in continuing to try to build consensus for this.
Look, obviously part of getting any agreement in December is going to be up to other developed and other developing nations and all of us working together. The President will continue with members of his administration to work toward that goal.
Q: On Copenhagen, is this more official or personal for the President, this trip?
MR. GIBBS: This is official, as the President of the United States representing the bid of the United States to host the 2016 Olympics.
Q: So is it more about the United States versus Chicago?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, it's about the American bid which is Chicago.
Q: Wait, one more. What other official activities will the President be doing while --
MR. GIBBS: I think if you saw the advisory that we e-mailed several hours ago, there's some meetings on there.
Q: Will he be meeting with the French President, as well?
MR. GIBBS: Meeting with?
Q: With Sarkozy, in reference to possibly Iran while he's there?
MR. GIBBS: Reference to Iran?
Q: Iran, yes.
MR. GIBBS: If I'm not mistaken, they talked on Friday.
Q: Thanks, Robert, if I could touch on two questions. First, on Friday, Congressman Patrick Kennedy had said with reference to the electronic health records that patients can opt out of having certain information on those, such as substance abuse, possibly abortions, or certain diseases. Does the White House agree with that, patients allowing opting out --
MR. GIBBS: I'm not a health IT expert. I would direct you to somebody -- I have no idea. (Laughter.) We'll take a crack at number two. Call Tommy. (Laughter.)
Q: Just the concept of allowing certain diseases or certain conditions not to be listed on the --
MR. GIBBS: I'm not a health IT expert, so I apologize.
Q: Okay, and just one more. The second one is the Border Patrol is reducing the number of agents along the Mexican border by 384 agents for fiscal year 2010. Could that be considered a risky move, considering that the DOJ said that there are certain parts that could be easily breached?
MR. GIBBS: I would have to get some information on the exact level of our engagement on the border.
Q: Just real quick on the closing of Guantanamo -- has Greg Craig been stripped of his responsibilities?
MR. GIBBS: No. Greg was in the Oval Office today talking to the President about --
Q: He's still leading that --
MR. GIBBS: There are number of people that are working on it, Greg being one of them, and talked to the President about Guantanamo earlier today.
Q: Chicago doesn't have a great record, especially recently, of spending public money. Is the President convinced that there are safeguards in place to make sure that money that goes to the Olympic bid will not be misspent? I mean, the City Council, for instance, has a pretty big oversight role in the way it's been --
MR. GIBBS: And I think obviously the onus is on the city to ensure that whatever money is used is spent wisely and efficiently. The President is going to make the case for the American host city -- for the American city of Chicago, which is the bid that this country put forward -- is going to go advocate in front of the International Olympic Committee for that bid.
Q: I just want to make sure, he's sure that the city is up to that task?
MR. GIBBS: Not only is he, but as is the U.S. Olympic Committee that picked Chicago over other cities.
I'll take one more.
Q: You mentioned Senator McCain's support for closing Guantanamo earlier. Senator McCain in the last few days has also accused the President of dragging his heels on Afghanistan; so has John Boehner. What's your message to them when they say you're just delay, delay, delay on Afghanistan? Why?
MR. GIBBS: You know, Bill, I -- this isn't in direct relation to any of those comments except to say the President is going to be very deliberative about this process. We have seen the movie before where you put a bunch of resources in a place and then you decide your strategy. I don't think the output that we've seen in those decisions has altogether been good for this country or for our military.
Instead I think the President wants to evaluate and assess where we are, what's changed in the past few months, what's needed and necessary as part of this strategy going forward, and then eventually we'll have a discussion about whether or not the resources that are there are adequate to the task of that strategy. We're going to be very deliberative. You heard the President say, I think quite clearly, that he owes it to the men and women in uniform and to their families that we take the time that's necessary to get this decision right.
I think -- and let me refer to one more thing that Secretary Gates said, I think it was on CNN, where he mentioned that -- this is somebody who has worked in, as you know, a number of administrations, in saying that our focus on Afghanistan is the most focused that he's seen an administration on dealing with Afghanistan and getting a strategy right since the 1980s. And I think that speaks volumes. And the President is going to do what is necessary to make sure that strategy is right.
|Citation: Robert Gibbs: "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs", September 28, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86697.|
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