|The American Presidency Project|
|• Robert Gibbs|
|Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs|
|October 9, 2009|
|James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:12 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: All right. I don't have a week ahead yet, but we will put it in the guidance that will go out a little bit later on this afternoon, so we'll get a chance to do that then.
Take us away.
Q: On the Nobel Prize, did anyone in the White House, including the President, know that he'd been nominated?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I could find, no.
Q: So this was a total surprise?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. Absolutely.
Q: Can you walk us through -- you got the call, or -- how did he get the word?
MR. GIBBS: I was notified by -- we got e-mails, we got notified by the Situation Room, I got calls from reporters.
Q: From the Situation Room?
Q: From us?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the Situation Room sends out news updates on -- throughout -- we got emails at 3:00 in the morning from those guys on activities throughout the world. And about 6:00 a.m., I called the President to tell him that he'd won, and I think it's safe to say he was very surprised.
Q: You've done this before. Are you the designated waker?
MR. GIBBS: I don't think anybody wants the job. (Laughter.) I just figured it would be easiest to do.
Q: What was his reaction?
Q: Robert, what exactly were his words?
Q: He was sleeping?
MR. GIBBS: I believe he was asleep, yes.
Q: What was his reaction?
Q: What did he say, exactly?
MR. GIBBS: He was just very surprised.
Q: Did he scream, did he -- (laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I don't know if he did. He did not scream, that I could hear. (Laughter.)
Q: Did he know he'd been nominated?
MR. GIBBS: No, not that I'm -- not that I know of.
Q: Do you know who nominated him?
Q: Since there's so much talk of war now, will this have an impact and make him seek peace more?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, Helen, I would point you to what the President said today. Obviously we've got -- the President and his team have worked since the very beginning of our administration to work toward bringing peace to the Middle East.
Q: With more war that's going on.
MR. GIBBS: Well, we have these disagreements, you and me, Helen. (Laughter.) But obviously I think -- the President mentioned both his hopes for and work for peace in the Middle East, as well as the commitments that he has as Commander-in-Chief to protect the American people and to prevent the spread of the type of violent extremism that we see in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Q: But we're conducting wars there. Is he trying to find a way to peace?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, Helen, we've done this before. There are people --
Q: Don't say we've done this before. I'm asking you a question.
MR. GIBBS: I understand. There are those that sit there in that region of the world and actively are plotting and planning to do America harm.
Q: How do you know that? And what are we doing to them?
MR. GIBBS: One, I watch the news. And two, I get that from the intelligence briefings.
Q: The Republican National Committee has been less than magnanimous about this. The Democrats are now comparing their reaction to the Taliban. What do you think of that? And how does this complicate the domestic political situation for the President?
MR. GIBBS: How does what complicate --
Q: How does the idea of him winning this prize, if at all?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know that it complicates the domestic political situation. I have not --
Q: Does it raise expectations too high? Does it contribute to the perception that he's, you know, all expectation and no results yet?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think, as the President said today, this is a -- this announcement today represents not the achievements of one person but the hopes of millions and millions throughout the world of the life and the world that they want to live in -- whether that's a world without nuclear weapons; a world without the spread of weapons of mass destruction; a world with peace in the Middle East; a world that addresses climate change. I think all of those things are what millions throughout the world hope that -- hope that can be achieved, but understanding, as the President said today, that can't be achieved by one person. It has to be achieved through the collective action of the world. And that's what he'll continue to work on.
Q: To that point, there are those who are already saying that what happened today, the President winning this prize, highlights criticism that the President so far has been more talk than substance. How do you respond to that? Because he got this so early in his presidency.
MR. GIBBS: Again, I'm not going to parse the words of the President. I think one of the reasons obviously highlighted by the committee is that through engagement, through a renewal of American leadership, we can help lead the world to do many of the things that the President has outlined. I don't think that's a bad thing. I think that's actually a very good thing. I think America having that place in the world that can lead us to do the types of things that the President has outlined on weapons on mass destruction, on nuclear non-proliferation, and on issues of peace and climate change, are aspirations held by many.
Q: On Afghanistan and the meetings that have been ongoing -- today is the fourth of the planned meetings -- can you give us a sense of where the ball is? Has it moved throughout the meetings? Are we at a different place today, or will be in at different place today, than we were at the last meeting and the one before? I mean, is the ball actually being moved closer to that point where the President is getting what he needs to make the decision?
MR. GIBBS: The President has been getting what he wants and what he needs throughout the process.
Q: So is the ball being moved through meetings? I mean, when they sit down today, will they be at a different point?
MR. GIBBS: Well, you know, I got to tell you, I think it was reported somewhere today, I forget where, that -- and I concur with this -- that there have been all these conjectures about where different people are about different decisions on resources. I have not actually heard anybody in the meetings intone their opinion on that yet. So it's fascinating for me to watch the back-and-forth on something that we certainly haven't seen in the meetings.
Today's meeting will focus primarily on Afghanistan. We'll spend quite a bit of time going through, with General McChrystal, his assessment. And I think that's the basis for what we'll do today.
Q: I guess I'm trying to get a sense of progress, though. Is there like a -- for lack of a better explanation, a checklist where you can say, okay, we've made it to this point, we --
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think that there's obviously in each of these an agenda where we're going through, again, as we've talked about, understanding and enunciating clearly the goal, the strategy to accomplish the goal, and ultimately we'll get toward -- get to discussion decisions about resources needed in order to implement a strategy to meet that goal.
Q: Will the resource issue come up in this meeting today?
MR. GIBBS: I think it very well could, but I don't know that it -- I think obviously the assessment is something we'll spend quite a bit of time on.
Q: Will we get a readout on the meeting afterward?
MR. GIBBS: Likely so, yes.
Q: The President in his statement today said, "I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of these transformative figures." Did he consider turning it down?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I know of.
Q: Money -- $1.4 million. Has there been any discussion -- I know it's early -- any discussion of what he would do with that?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I know of. But, again, Chip, let me point out -- let finish the thought that the President had that you mentioned: "But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build -- a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents."
Q: Following up on the political question, I think the point a lot of your favorite people, pundits, have been making is that the response to this has been like this. I mean, most Democrats have praised it, and most Republicans have said, you have got to be kidding me -- Ronald Reagan didn't get one, but Barack Obama, nominated 12 days after he was sworn in, gets a Nobel Peace Prize. And the fear among some, even some Democrats, is that this is going to widen the partisan divide and make things even more difficult to accomplish on every front.
MR. GIBBS: I'll leave the pundicizing to the pundits. The notion that somehow this is going to more greatly divide America, you know, I think it should be mandatory that pundits spend a certain amount of their days each year outside of the friendly confines of the viewership of the Washington, D.C., media market.
I think people -- I think people believe that, again, what this represents -- renewed American leadership in order to make our country safer, and to live up to our own ideals and the ideals that many in the world want to live up to -- it's a good thing, it's an important thing. I don't think it's a partisan thing.
Q: And one last question. A lot of people think it is a partisan thing, because Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and now President Obama have all received awards for work on --
MR. GIBBS: I don't know what party Teddy Roosevelt was in, but I don't think it was Republican -- or Democrat.
Q: I know, I know. Whatever.
MR. GIBBS: He got it, just, you know, I --
Q: But Ronald Reagan, could I just ask you to respond to that? The man who helped bring the Cold War to an end did not --
MR. GIBBS: But let me just do -- but let me do this -- but let me do this, Chip. I'm not a member of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. I hate --
Q: But the argument is --
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, no.
Q: -- it's an organization that supports liberal causes.
MR. GIBBS: And I hope you can get somebody on the phone at this hour in Oslo. I'm not a member of the committee, and I'll let you do that. The notion that this is -- somehow widens the partisan divide I think demonstrates what's wrong with pundits and instant analysis of what goes on in our society.
Yes, here comes another pundit question. Go ahead.
Q: The President seemed to hint -- he talked about other -- he talked about an example of a woman who marches alone for certain causes. It sounds like he's going to probably bring a delegation of other Americans with him or something like that. Is that -- should we assume that that's what he tries to do as a way to share the award?
MR. GIBBS: I think, obviously, at the end of his remarks he is talking about all of those that either throughout this year, or all previous years, have worked to bring peace and justice to the world. I don't know the logistics, obviously, heading into that, but obviously, what the award represents, in terms of, as he says, justice and dignity.
Q: In the remarks, he referenced the fact that he is the Commander-In-Chief of two wars, and didn't say the word "Afghanistan" again, and he called it the theater. Just where is the war? The war is in Afghanistan? The war is -- I mean, I guess is there -- is it fair to say there are -- is there a geographic boundary?
MR. GIBBS: Well, if I said the war was in Pakistan, we'd be making news now, wouldn't we? (Laughter.) I don't want to --
Q: Okay, I understand that. But what are the geographic --
MR. GIBBS: Maybe we should step back on this whole Afghanistan/Pakistan thing and --
Q: But in all fairness, is that part of the strategy, trying to figure out what is the -- is there no geographic boundary to this war?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, obviously, there are violent extremists that are in different places all over the world, in places like Somalia, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I think obviously what the President believes, and what the President set out strongly in that goal in the March speech earlier this year, was the goal of disrupting, dismantling, and destroying al Qaeda and its extremist allies. Obviously we're involved in a fight with the Taliban to ensure that anybody that would want to provide al Qaeda with a safe haven with which to plan and execute attacks on our homeland and on our allies -- I'm looking at the statement. He says, "ending one war responsibly and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary." I think he's talking about Iraq and Afghanistan, but I may have lost the allusion.
Q: But at the National Counterterrorism Center, he did -- I mean, there seems to be -- he's avoided naming the country, per se. Is that -- is it --
MR. GIBBS: No. I said this the other day. I've gotten -- I don't know what percentage of the questions this week have been on Afghanistan and Pakistan. This notion -- we tell you everyone who is in these meetings -- I think this notion that somehow we're avoiding the use of the word is a semantical thing that I can't understand.
Q: So today you said you're going to go through the McChrystal stuff. Where are we in the process? Are we getting into -- I'm not getting into the whole baseball metaphor, not asking what inning we're in, but are we getting -- now we've passed the middle of this process, are we getting toward the end? I know, that's usually Chip's question.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I know.
Q: It's the only one he'll answer. (Laughter.)
Q: Okay, fine, what inning are we in? Are we --
MR. GIBBS: No, no. Look, again, I --
Q: How close are we to a resolution?
MR. GIBBS: I still think we're probably several weeks away. I don't -- I mean, obviously, I think the President feels like the discussions are going well. We've dealt with the broader region. We focused Wednesday on Pakistan, today on Afghanistan. I don't have an agenda for upcoming meetings, but --
Q: How many should we expect next week?
MR. GIBBS: I think there could be more than one, but right now I think one is planned.
Q: What day?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know the day yet. They're working on the schedule.
Q: I have a question about the stimulus. Is the administration satisfied at the rate at which money is flowing from the federal government to the states and then down to the contractor level?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. We're ahead of -- we're ahead of where we'd thought we'd be. And we're ahead of the -- we're ahead of the goals that we had set originally in moving money out. Obviously, some of the money -- there's roughly -- there's several different -- there's basically three different buckets, right? There's -- they're largely roughly equal. There's a tax relief that will be paid out over the course of a two-year period. There is state and local aid, primarily things like FMAP, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and things like that. And then a third bucket of project money, I know just this week, the 8,000th highway project, money was obligated for that.
So the team met with the President yesterday as part of his economic daily briefing to go through where we were on disbursement, and we're ahead of schedule.
Q: Just that third bucket. What does it mean? The obligation has gone out, but when does it hit somebody's paycheck?
MR. GIBBS: Well, there are a lot of different terms. Basically when money is obligated, say, from the Department of Transportation to you as a roadbuilder, right, payments come at different stages but an obligation is the project is going to be funded, you're going to begin to hire contractors, you're going to begin to hire more workers to complete a project. The physical, final payment sometimes takes place, depending on the type of project and the agency, at the conclusion, but at this point the money has been obligated and you can begin to make plans for hiring workers to do that.
Q: Robert, when you broke the news to the President this morning, you said he was very surprised. Do you have a quote for us?
MR. GIBBS: No. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, why not?
Q: Did he say, "Who is this really?" or --
MR. GIBBS: Inexplicably, they just put me through, so it's --
Q: You didn't go through the switchboard when you called?
MR. GIBBS: I went through the -- there's a line for us to call in the Situation Room.
Q: One more -- I've got one more question for a colleague pegged to the signing of protocols tomorrow between Turkey and Armenia. During the campaign, Senator Obama said that -- he characterized the Turkish massacre in 1915 as genocide, and he said he would continue to use that word. But when he was in Turkey in April, he didn't use the word "genocide." Has he changed his mind about genocide? Does he not want to antagonize Turkey by using that word?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me go through a couple things. One, I believe the Secretary of State will attend those signings that you mention. I think it's important that -- obviously the President spent part of that trip in the evening working with the two sides in order for each of them to understand mutually their interests in doing this. And I would just point you to what he said in the press availability after the meetings in Turkey where he noted that his campaign position had not changed.
Q: A couple quick questions on the Nobel. Have you heard from the President's immediate predecessors? If not, is it to be expected?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of. I don't know --
Q: Is it good form?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know -- not that -- I have not -- at least when I came out here, I had not seen e-mails about calls.
Q: What about Bill Clinton?
MR. GIBBS: I haven't --
Q: The awarding of the prize usually inspires some happiness, glee. Given what the President said today, I'm just wondering, after the news landed here, were there any admonitions here from high up to, like, slow it down, keep it down, and there will be no celebrations, or were there celebrations?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think we obviously are enormously proud of the work we're trying to do every day. Like I said, the President was surprised, very humbled by the selection by the committee. When we saw him this morning, we of course congratulated him.
Again, I think that I'd point you to what he said, that -- and not just what he said at the beginning but the notion that he hopes that what comes of this is galvanized action on behalf of the entire world to make good on the ideas and the ideals that we've talked about. And I think that's important going forward, and I think we'll continue to use avenues as a chance to do that.
Q: No high-fives or fist bumps that you saw?
MR. GIBBS: No, no.
Q: Congratulatory phone calls from --
MR. GIBBS: He had -- I talked to him at 6:00 in the morning, so I think he had already heard or seen enough from me in the morning.
Q: How about phone calls from overseas from other world leaders?
MR. GIBBS: He talked to the -- yes, he talked to the Norwegian Prime Minister, which is a customary thing. I have not heard of other calls. But let me check after this and see what else. Yes, sir.
Q: We're ahead of where you thought you'd be, in terms of disbursing stimulus funds. Are you ahead of where you thought you'd be in job creation?
MR. GIBBS: I think we're -- I'd have to go back and look at the last report, but I think creating and saving jobs is about where they thought it would be, given the amount of economic output that would come from the funds that had been obligated and disbursed. Obviously we saw in the GDP numbers that were released for the second quarter, independent analysis talked about the fact that the GDP itself had been lifted by the spending in the stimulus bill.
But as we've talked about, Wendell, throughout this week, and even when we discussed this piece of legislation when it was being voted on in Congress, the estimates at that point were about a $2 trillion dip in overall output over that two-year period of time. Obviously since the formal recession began, we have seen somewhere between 8 million and 9 million jobs lost -- that's dating back to December of 2007. So obviously we have continued work to do to improve our economy to the point that the President talks about where people that want to work can find jobs.
Q: A couple other things. Does the President support an extension of the supplemental jobless benefits?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, and I meant to do this for today and I didn't get sort of where we are on -- obviously we're supportive of extending that. There are different proposals in the House and the Senate, but I haven't gotten any clarity from -- I forgot to talk to Leg Affairs on this today.
Q: What about the tax credit for first-time homebuyers?
MR. GIBBS: I think the economic team is continuing to look at that.
Q: The President talked about this prize as a call to action and said that it has given momentum to past movements that have won, people that have won. Have you given any thought yet to how you can use this prize on behalf of your foreign policy agenda?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think there's no doubt that in -- I think just the notion of increased engagement as -- it's not just a means -- or it's not just a -- engagement isn't an end, it's a means to an end. I think you heard the President talk recently about the initial steps that we were -- that we're cautiously pleased by in dealing with Iran. Obviously what has been done in the Security Council to bring the numbers along unanimously to confront North Korea has been important. And I think -- we will certainly continue, as we move forward throughout the year, obviously our hope before the end of the year, when an agreement expires, that we'll have an additional agreement with Moscow to further reduce -- jointly further reduce our nuclear arsenals and get closer and closer to the promise of a world without nuclear weapons. Those are just a few of examples that I think we'll continue to push on. And hopefully, this will give lift to some of them.
Q: Just a quick follow-up, is there -- not domestically, but abroad is there a sense that -- a fear that there perhaps may be a backlash? There are some big egos out there; they've have been overlooked.
MR. GIBBS: I don't --
Q: It could complicate an agenda that really relies on cooperation.
MR. GIBBS: I don't believe it would, and I think the President talked today about the notion that regardless of who gets this award, it's shared by those that have a vision for dignity and justice throughout the world.
Q: Robert, just a couple more award questions. To be clear, will the President go to pick up the award in person?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: He will?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: It's given in Stockholm, I believe. When is that?
MR. GIBBS: Oslo.
Q: Oslo? It's given out in Oslo? I thought there was a dinner at Stockholm.
MR. GIBBS: There is.
Q: But then the award is given out is Oslo.
Q: Dinner is in Stockholm, the presentation in Oslo.
Q: I see. So will he go to both the dinner and the presentation? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I don't know whether -- I don't know -- I have to admit, I don't know about the dinner, but I think the acceptance in Oslo.
Q: Okay, and then --
MR. GIBBS: My first reaction was, it's not Copenhagen, is it? (Laughter.) I'll just now deal with the remaining questions, and then we'll --
Q: You brought it up.
MR. GIBBS: What's that?
Q: You brought it up.
Q: Seriously, we have some questions on that.
Q: Will this change any --
Q: Can I have another --
MR. GIBBS: I'll come back to you, Sheryl.
Q: Will this change -- because at the same time will be the climate change summit in Copenhagen. That's pretty close.
MR. GIBBS: It is, both calendar-wise and geographically. David, I'll give you the same answer that I gave last week when we were coming back from Copenhagen, and that is no final decision on that has been made. At this point, there is some discussion about adding a heads of state portion to the meeting, but at this point it's not a heads of state meeting. So I think we're certainly waiting on some of that as we move forward. That's not -- I think you heard the President say clearly today the importance of the issue of addressing climate change and the need for, again, the world to act collectively in order to make progress on an issue that threatens the health of the planet.
Q: A couple other questions. Will he have the other Americans who won the Nobel Prize to the White House? There have been some winners in science and medicine. Does he expect to --
MR. GIBBS: We talked actually about that some earlier in the -- early in the week about doing calls and such and maybe an event would be an appropriate thing, too. I don't have any updates on that.
Q: Robert, since I asked you about this issue on Wednesday, the Catholic bishops have sent out another letter yesterday in which -- sent another letter to Congress -- and you said on Wednesday that the Hyde amendment would prevent abortion funding through the health bill. The Catholic bishops have repeatedly said that the Hyde amendment would not apply to the health care bill and yesterday in the letter that they sent to Congress they said that if language expressly prohibiting abortion funding is not added to the health care bill, they will vigorously -- "vigorously oppose" -- that's a quote -- the bill. My question on that, does the President support the bishops on this? And to eliminate this as an issue, will he call on Congress to have an explicit prohibition of abortion funding?
MR. GIBBS: My answer isn't different than it was on Wednesday. There may be a legal interpretation that has been lost here, but there's a fairly clear federal law prohibiting the federal use of money for abortion. I think it is -- again, it's exceedingly clear in the law.
Q: But the Hyde amendment is only for direct appropriations for HHS, and that's --
MR. GIBBS: Again, I think that law is exceedingly clear.
Q: Robert, two quick questions. One, President Obama has mentioned Mahatma Gandhi several times in his speeches. So that means now he is in the rank of Mahatma Gandhi working for peace, and because of this Nobel Peace Prize, he will work harder than ever for the global peace, including in the Indian subcontinent?
MR. GIBBS: Obviously, without getting into a lot of details, there -- I think it goes without saying that India is an important ally. We will have before -- after we get back from our trip to Asia, an important event here at the White House -- the President's first state dinner. And obviously we continue to be very engaged with the Indians to bring about peace in obviously an important region of the world.
Q: And second, as far as the meeting with the Dalai Lama, presidential delegation was in India at the Dalai Lama's headquarter and the President had sent the delegation -- can you talk about more the delegation, what happened and what did --
MR. GIBBS: Let me get for you a readout from those that went there. I'll get that.
Q: Robert, the White House earlier circulated a poll showing that the United States' standing in the world has improved dramatically since the President was elected. Can you talk about what this prize says about that, and also about what it says about President Bush's standing in the world?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I'll leave the latter question to the myriad of pundits, and reiterate what I said earlier, and that is that having -- reestablishing our leadership in the world through reengaging the world in active diplomacy on issues like nuclear non-proliferation, on climate change, on peace in the Middle East -- that is a good thing both here for our safety and security, and it's a good thing for the world in the ideals that we hope to achieve and that are shared by billions on the planet. And I think it is -- it's something the President is enormously proud of.
Q: One other just quick follow-up, though unrelated. The Taliban has put statements on Web sites, they've -- representatives have been on news broadcasts, apparently trying to influence the decision-making process that the President is going through. Does he see these statements and videos? And how does he evaluate their meaning?
MR. GIBBS: Not that -- I haven't seen them, so I'm not aware of them.
Q: In terms of the President's speech on Saturday night to the LGBT community, I'm just wondering in terms of new things -- I mean, recently, this week, there was the announcement of the openly gay ambassador. It looks like hate crimes protections will be extended to LGBT folks, and reach the President's desk in the next week or so. Is there anything new besides those developments that the President might highlight within his speech?
MR. GIBBS: I think he'll talk about a range of issues. I think one that you just mentioned, though, I don't want to zoom past that one that quickly. Obviously --
Q: The hate crimes part?
MR. GIBBS: -- hate crimes protections are long overdue, in the President's opinion, believes that their passage represents an important step, and looks forward to, when that legislation gets to his desk, signing it and making that the law of the land. I think that's certainly part of what he'll discuss on Saturday night.
Q: Is the President himself working on the speech?
MR. GIBBS: He is, yes, absolutely.
Q: May I?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.
Q: Thank you, Robert. I think around the world his speech is taken as a symbol of peace and the prize is taken as a symbol of peace. When we listen to the President, when we listen to you now, you give us the reassurance, but it is in caveats. We talk about the peace in the Middle East, we talk about justice and stability, we talk about everything -- we do not talk about peace in general as a whole. Can you give us a reassurance that the United States will not break peace on its own? It's obvious the United States will do everything in its power to prevent peace being broken by others, including India, including Tehran, including somebody else. Will you not be breaking peace by yourself, no matter what?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, obviously I think the President is -- has worked each and every day on issues like the Middle East in an effort to bring greater peace and stability throughout the world. He has talked about, in different speeches throughout his career, steps that have to be done to protect this country. But I think everybody, regardless of who you are in this country, wants to see peace not only throughout here but throughout the world. And I think that's important for the President.
Q: Robert, this is a man of peace now through the Nobel Prize -- (laughter.) Sorry --
MR. GIBBS: I might have attached that earlier, but if you want to do it now, that's -- did you run from somewhere?
Q: Oslo. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I noticed your boots were a little -- (laughter.)
Q: Anyway, he's a man of peace now, but how can this administration handle or deal with the fact that some are questioning he's now a Nobel Peace Prize winner and then he's trying to send or thinking of sending troops to Afghanistan?
MR. GIBBS: Well, as I just mentioned, there are actions of necessity that will be and are taken by this country to protect our homeland. There are -- the discussion that will be had today is about a very dangerous region in the world, and there are steps that have to be taken to ensure that we are not attacked and that our allies are not attacked. Those are steps, again, the President mentioned quite clearly in his speech. Those are steps that he'll make not lightly as Commander-in-Chief, but he will work every day to protect our homeland.
Q: Because of that question, do you look at this win as a double-edged sword?
MR. GIBBS: I guess there's many ways at which you could look at it. I don't necessarily -- I don't know what the other edge is.
Q: The other edge -- people are saying, how can you turn down a man who's won a Nobel Peace Prize, be it domestic policy issues or foreign policy; but then at the same time, you can have this situation --
MR. GIBBS: I can trust you, when the President walks back over to the Residence, whatever humility was lacking will be restored.
Q: I think you may have covered this, but just a clarification. In the assessment meeting today about Afghanistan, you said you're going to go over McChrystal's report. Will they go over specific questions about specific troop levels?
MR. GIBBS: Let me -- I might have been careless in the phrasing of that. I said that -- I need to make sure that I'm -- the bulk of the meeting will be spent on his original. I don't know whether the resource request that is related to that initial assessment is something that we will get to or how much that we'll get to -- into in depth, but it certainly could come up today. It has not come up in earlier discussions.
Q: Can you just talk about -- since we're on troop requests, can you talk about the report about -- that the troop request was as many as 60,000?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to get into that and I would -- I don't believe everything I see on TV.
Q: So you're saying that number is not right?
Q: The Nobel Prize Committee said specifically that it also values his efforts in the climate change policy. Do you think that the prize will give new momentum to the climate bill? And does it increase the chance that he won't be -- or won't come empty-handed to Copenhagen?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think that obviously we're continuing to work on, in conjunction with Congress, ensuring that we're continuing to make progress on that important legislation. Some legislation has now been introduced in the Senate. As I mentioned here a couple weeks ago, it's now through the House earlier this summer.
So I think it's important for the world to understand that the United States is taking, granted, long overdue but important steps to ensuring that we're part of that solution. But I think as the President said earlier today, the problems that he outlined and the challenges that we have are not going to be solved by one man, they're not going to be solved by one nation, unless or until other developing nations -- the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians -- also come to that larger table with solutions that are not just voluntary but that embody, again, international collective action to address that issue.
Obviously the President has staked -- has promised and staked his belief that it is important to do this, and we will continue to work on it through the end of the year. If it happens, we'd certainly be proud to do that and go to Copenhagen with it.
Q: Robert, I understand -- I realize the meeting was still going on when you came out, but do you have anything on the meeting with Senator Webb, how it came about? Did he request it? Is Afghanistan the topic?
MR. GIBBS: I was told it was a general meeting. Again, I think the President has used meetings throughout the last many months to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan. I will try to get a better readout. Obviously his views on those issues and his expertise on them are very important.
Q: Robert, a question about local politics, if I may, a topic that you've addressed before. Just for the sake of clarity, can you say who exactly the President supports in the mayoral race up in the city?
MR. GIBBS: New York City.
Q: Yes, sir. (Laughter.)
Q: New York-centric over there. There's more than one city. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I was poking him just a little bit to see what --
Q: "The city." (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I noticed I phrase the question --
Q: No, Miami. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: You guys call yourselves what, "The U" now? That's a little -- that might be a little much for most college football fans. (Laughter.)
Getting back to the serious, Ken, the President is the leader of the Democratic Party, and as that, would support the Democratic nominee. The President obviously has had a chance to, throughout campaigning and in his time both as a candidate and as a President, to meet, know and work with Mayor Bloomberg, and obviously has a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done as well.
Q: But he supports --
MR. GIBBS: He, as the leader of the Democratic Party, supports the Democratic nominee.
END 12:57 P.M. EDT
|Citation: Robert Gibbs: "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs", October 9, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86738.|
© 1999-2011 - Gerhard Peters - The American Presidency Project