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
October 30, 2009
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:47 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS: Good afternoon. We'll try to do this quickly so we can get to afternoon meetings with the Joint Chiefs. But let me start out with giving you guys a quick rundown of the week ahead.

On Saturday, tomorrow, the First Family will welcome more than 2,000 local area children from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia schools, and their families for trick-or-treating at the North Portico for Halloween. In addition, the President and First Lady and the Vice President and Dr. Biden will host a Halloween reception for military families and children of White House and White House residence staff.

Q: What are they coming as?

MR. GIBBS: All sorts of things.

Q: What time is that, roughly?

MR. GIBBS: I think it's 7:00 tomorrow night.

Q: Is the President going to dress up?

MR. GIBBS: I have not been told the First Family is going to dress up, but I will endeavor to check.

Q: That's not a denial, then?

MR. GIBBS: No, it's not. It's not. (Laughter.)

Q: Coverage on it? Pool?

MR. GIBBS: I don't know if there's pool or not, to be honest with you.

Q: Just walk up to the front door, ring the bell and say, "trick or treat."

Q: So we are not invited?

MR. GIBBS: You can't -- you're a little old for this I think; I'm just saying.

On Sunday the President will travel to Camden and Newark, New Jersey, to attend rallies for Governor Corzine. On Monday the President will attend the second quarterly meeting of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board here at the White House.

On Tuesday morning the President will meet, as we announced yesterday, with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany -- again, here at the White House. Later the President will meet with His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew here as well. In the afternoon the President will participate in the U.S.-European Union Summit with the Prime Minister of Sweden, Frederik Reinfeldt, President of the European Commission Josť Manuel Barroso, and the European Council High Representative Javier Solana.

On Wednesday the President will participate in a credentialing ceremony for foreign ambassadors. Later he will travel to Madison, Wisconsin to discuss strengthening America's education system.

On Thursday the President will host the White House Tribal Nations Conference. The event will be held at the Department of Interior and each of the 564 federally recognized tribes has been invited to send a representative. The President will deliver opening and closing remarks at the ceremony. And in the afternoon the President will meet with President Ian Khama of Botswana here at the White House.

The only guidance for Friday is that the President will attend meetings here at the White House.

Mr. Feller, take us away.

Q: Sure. Thanks, Robert. A few questions on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Does the White House think it was appropriate for Secretary Clinton to be as blunt as she was towards Pakistan in the comments she made about Pakistan's unwillingness to find terrorists within their borders?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, we've been in ongoing conversations with the Pakistanis about ways that they can address and go after violent extremists in their country that threaten both Pakistan and the United States. So I don't -- I think the remarks were completely appropriate.

Q: You think they were completely appropriate?

MR. GIBBS: Mm-hmm.

Q: There's no chance of that undermining the effort going on here for a new strategy or revamped strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan? You talk a lot about partnerships, but then you have those -- that kind of sort of calling out of a partner.

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, obviously in those relationships, we expect that both sides, I think -- both sides would expect the others working constructively to address concerns in that relationship. Obviously the United States has great concern about extremists in Pakistan. And we will continue to -- continue to discuss with them what can be done. And those remarks were appropriate.

Q: On the meeting today -- which one are we up to now?

MR. GIBBS: Seventh.

Q: Seventh?

MR. GIBBS: That sounds right.

Q: What's the -- how would you frame the mission and the expectations for today's meeting, from the President's perspective?

MR. GIBBS: Well, you know, the President asked to meet with the Joint Chiefs, the second time he's met with them as a group. The first time was, I think, in the first month of the administration. Obviously, these are folks that represent all branches of our armed forces, and I think we'll -- the President wants an opportunity to talk to them about General McChrystal's assessment. Obviously they're -- being in charge of their branch, these are the men who are required to provide trained and equipped soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen for missions both in Afghanistan, Iraq and throughout the world.

Q: Are they talking about specific troop numbers today, Robert?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, we're going to go through -- we'll go through the region and talk about General McChrystal's assessment, and as we talk about the assessment I'm sure the resource request will be part of that discussion.

Yes, sir.

Q: When the American people hear the White House say that the recovery package has created 650,000 jobs, a million jobs -- first of all, could you explain the difference between the claim of 650,000 and the million jobs? And second of all --

MR. GIBBS: Let me start with that --

Q: Okay.

MR. GIBBS: -- 640,329, based on the reportable data from projects that have been funded through September 30th by the recovery plan. The data that we received back was to measure direct job impact from that project money, right? So the direct jobs in that is, again, 640,329.

The statistics do not measure indirect jobs that may be created through those projects. Let's take an example. If we fund a road project and, Jake, you're hired to help lay the pavement on a new widening of an interstate, what's not counted is whether Bill gets -- his job gets saved at the asphalt plant that produces the material that ultimately is used in that project. The figures also don't include money that has gone out through tax cuts and other parts of the bill that are not examined in this report.

Q: And the 640,329 directly saved or created -- right, saved or created?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: How credible should the American people consider these numbers, given that in many cases they're rough estimates and there has been some reporting problems in the past?

MR. GIBBS: Well, there were -- there was a reporting problem with one of the contracting numbers because that paperwork went up quite quickly. They've had a chance to go through the numbers over the past couple weeks and address any confusion or errors. This is paperwork directly from a project that money has been appropriated for. So I think the American people can have confidence in it.

Q: The -- and then switching subjects for one second, the President signed a homeland security appropriations bill that contained a provision allowing the Secretary of Defense to block the release not only of these other detainee abuse photographs but other ones that -- future ones that may exist. How is that consistent with the promise of transparency? Not so much the decision the President already announced about those specific detainee abuse photographs, but this kind of blanket power that is now vested in the Secretary of Defense?

MR. GIBBS: Well, the blanket power is based on the Secretary of Defense telling the Commander-in-Chief that the release of these photos would threaten the safety and security of American soldiers. I doubt seriously that Secretary Gates -- I know that Secretary Gates won't -- and I would assume that any future Secretary of Defense is not going to abuse that privilege. To say to somebody that the release of this would harm our men and women who are protecting our freedom is not a -- not something that you would trigger lightly. And it's narrowly written to assure that our men and women are protected, just as incidents like this are investigated.

Q: But I am hard-pressed to imagine any Secretary of Defense approving the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs because releasing those photographs, any general would argue, put American lives at risk, and yet it can also be argued that releasing those photographs stopped a horrific pattern of abuse that was going on at American prisons throughout the world. So if this law had been in effect back then --

MR. GIBBS: Well, first of all, I have not heard Secretary Gates make this argument. I think going backwards into a big hypothetical is --

Q: I'm trying to explain why it is that so many people feel like --

MR. GIBBS: No, I understand.

Q: -- a blanket protection is blanket ability to just cover up any --

MR. GIBBS: But let's talk about the protection going forward rather than generalizing in many ways about something that you haven't had a discussion with the Secretary of Defense about in the past.

Q: But President Obama has just given Secretary Gates power that did not exist before to block the release of any prisoner abuse photographers. And I think there are --

MR. GIBBS: That -- hold on, hold on, well, let's -- let's make this -- not just block any prisoner photographs. Block prisoner photographs that the Secretary of Defense has deemed threatens the safety of men and women in our uniform. So let's broaden the -- let's make sure we understand what the definition is. This isn't -- this is -- this is a trigger that the Secretary of Defense has to determine and that -- before it can be triggered.

Q: Well, let me put it this way. Let me ask this -- ask it this way. Does President Obama think the release of the Abu Ghraib photographs put American lives at risk?

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, you're going back into a generalization of hypotheticals.

Q: But this is what you're giving -- this is what the President just gave his Secretary of Defense the power to do.

MR. GIBBS: I have not talked to him about those specific photos, nor have I talked to Secretary Gates about those specific photos.

Q: Do you think it's an unrealistic fear that people might have, that of the -- if a similar circumstance were to present itself, the judgment might come down against releasing, which in the eyes of many people had a remedial effect on that very problem?

MR. GIBBS: This administration takes seriously, I think, based on what we have released publicly, detainee abuse and the conditions with which detainees are held -- right? We've taken a lot of grief for that. But what the President determined is that we are not going to put, through that, our men and women in harm if the Secretary of Defense determines that something like that could do that -- just as the regional commanders communicated to the Secretary of Defense that's what these type of photos could do.

But Major, I'm -- again, I'm happy to talk to the Secretary of Defense about this, but I would not want to generalize, going back, by using the word "could" so many times.

Yes, sir.

Q: Are you -- do you think that the stimulus is doing what you expected to do up to this point, or did you expect more jobs to be saved or created?

MR. GIBBS: No, I think we're on track with what we estimated would likely happen. I think yesterday's figures denote that we have seen a growth in our economy, particularly if you look at -- well, we haven't had a growth like we had in the previous quarter in more than two years. We haven't had any positive economic growth in more than a year. So I think for those that have said the stimulus or the recovery plan aren't working, you're hard-pressed to back that statement up with the figures that have come out in the last couple of days.

Q: But in terms of the number of jobs, the 640,000 saved or created --

MR. GIBBS: Direct jobs for the 47 percent that was required to be examined by the independent board through this date.

Q: So is that where the administration saw it at this point? I mean, when you're sort of looking --

MR. GIBBS: That's approximately -- the million jobs saved or created has us on track to where we thought we'd be.

Q: And then back to the meeting again today -- so one of the questions that's being looked at is -- with these military leaders -- do you have the personnel to potentially match 40,000 going into Afghanistan?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that force strength, the health of the force, is certainly a topic that will come up. Their views on the assessment will come up. What I mentioned, which is I think also what your network is reporting, that's statutorily what the Joint Chiefs have purview over.

Q: Are you maintaining that the figure of a million, more or less, jobs is reached by counting the indirect jobs that flow off the 600-and-some-odd thousand?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think through a combination of the indirect jobs as well as the percentage of the act that has not -- that is not measured through this report, yes.

Q: Your own material yesterday suggested that it was a percentage not yet measured, the half of the money not yet spent, or at least not recorded.

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, there's about 47 percent of the total number is examined by law in this report. This report --again, required by the statute -- measures direct jobs from these -- from projects. It does not count money that goes from tax cuts, money that would go from other -- or go to recipients through other safety networks.

Q: You're making these jobs that you say have been counted so carefully sound like a scientific, actual -- a number that can be observed scientifically.

MR. GIBBS: At 3:00 p.m. you'll be able to observe it holistically on your computer.

Q: Each one of these so-called saved or created jobs represents a concrete new job or saved job?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: Or two part-time jobs, right?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: Or two part-time jobs?

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: Your critics don't believe that it's possible to count anything like that.

MR. GIBBS: Our critics didn't think the recovery plan would help the economy grow, but I think the critics -- if you put 50 cents in the newspaper machine and pull the arm, you'll see that our critics haven't been so right.

Q: Seventy-five cents.

Q: It's a dollar for --

MR. GIBBS: Seventy-five -- well -- (laughter) --

Q: Where are you buying your papers? (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: Don't worry, there's a payment that goes along with that for the recovery plan to --

Q: Just keep buying.

Q: Look it up online.

MR. GIBBS: Jeff has had nothing to say during this interplay, so we'll -- (laughter.)

I'm sorry, Helen, go ahead. Do what?

Q: And many others. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: Yes, ma'am.

Q: A fellow Nobel, Krugman, who is a columnist with the New York Times. He said -- he said conservatives don't want Americans to have universal health care, and they don't want the President to succeed. Does the President agree with that report?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, Helen, the President has said on a number of occasions that he does think some of his critics in Congress on health care have decided that they want to play a political game rather than one that addresses the problem that we've dealt with for decades, and that is health insurance reform, absolutely.

Q: Why doesn't he go after them, then? Call them what they are?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President has done quite a bit of that. That's been happening throughout this process.

Chuck.

Q: A few things. One, is it fair to say the strategic review in Afghanistan is winding down?

MR. GIBBS: I think it is nearing its -- I think it's nearing its conclusion, yes.

Q: Okay.

MR. GIBBS: I've seen -- I've gotten --

Q: Everybody has got to --

MR. GIBBS: Well, no, I've gotten a couple questions today about whether -- people have stated that this is the last meeting.

Q: It's not the last meeting, is that correct?

MR. GIBBS: I have certainly not been told that it's the last meeting.

Q: But there's on other meetings scheduled?

MR. GIBBS: Not currently.

Q: Is there likely to be one next week?

MR. GIBBS: There could be, yes.

Q: On Iran, it seems as if there are reports that the deal that the negotiators agreed to, as far as on nuclear fuel, has been nixed by the government itself. How concerned are you that the Iranian government is not negotiating in good faith?

MR. GIBBS: Well, we have yet to see, and we await the details of their response to the IAEA. We've seen the same reports you have, but we have yet to see a detailed response --

Q: When do you expect this detailed response?

MR. GIBBS: We are in constant contact with the IAEA in order to get that.

Q: Is there a -- I mean, is the President going to say, you know what, if we don't get it here, then we're going to think about the next step here, we're going to think about sanctions, or we're going to do something else?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I would simply say that the President's time is not unlimited. This was not about talking for the sake of talking. This was about reaching an agreement that just a few weeks ago seemed to be something that the Iranians wanted.

Q: On H1N1, is there anything that you guys, looking back, could have done differently to have sped up this vaccine?

MR. GIBBS: Well, let me say I think we have -- the numbers that I got earlier today I think there are now 26.2, I believe, million doses that are now -- have been now made available.

Q: And there was supposed to be over a hundred million.

MR. GIBBS: Right. Well, we have -- obviously had problems in the delivery of the vaccine from manufacturers. The 26.2 million, though, is 3 million more than we had just two days ago.

Look, I think it's accurate to say the President has been and is frustrated with ensuring that this vaccine is delivered on time, and won't be satisfied until those that want to be vaccinated from HIN1 have the opportunity through the vaccine to do so.

Q: Anything the government could have done differently?

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think we have -- the manufacturer -- the manufacturing of the vaccine, which certainly takes about six to nine months, in this case is taking closer to six months. But it hasn't been as fast as we were told, or as fast as we had hoped. But we'll continue -- I know that John Brennan and others meet daily on this topic to ensure that we have the vaccine that we need as quickly as possible.

Q: Was it a mistake believing the private sector on this?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think we certainly had hoped that their predictions on this would be correct.

Yes, sir.

Q: Two quick questions. Is General Jones's trip to Russia, to Moscow, a sign that the negotiations on the START follow-on treaty are on schedule, or that they are at some kind of impasse?

MR. GIBBS: No, General Jones is back from that trip today and will participate in the meeting this afternoon in the Situation Room. We think the talks are progressing as we had hoped for a treaty that expires the 5th of December.

Q: So you think you'll make that --

MR. GIBBS: We believe so, yes.

Q: Okay. And anything more on the meeting of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board?

MR. GIBBS: I don't have a topic that I can -- we can see if there is a little bit more detail going forward.

Yes, sir.

Q: Robert, do you have an estimate of what the cost per job of those 640,000 would be?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't and I think the economists would tell you, Mark, that there's still investment in those jobs that is being made. The projects -- I think on the form there's a part that denotes that there's still a certain amount of investment in this project that's yet to be spent out. So I'm not sure you can make a one-to-one math conclusion on that.

Q: Do you know if the President has begun reading or intends to read the House health care bill?

MR. GIBBS: I don't know the answer to that, but I can ask.

Q: Is anyone in the White House reading it, all 2,000 pages of it?

MR. GIBBS: All 1,990 -- I can assure you there are many people that are studying it, yes.

Q: You've said that the President's decision on Afghanistan would be weeks away. Is that still correct and are you still sticking with that? Does that mean that he will not be deciding it before he leaves for Asia on November 11th?

MR. GIBBS: I haven't gotten any greater guidance than a week, so I'll stick with that.

Q: Before, during, or after?

MR. GIBBS: I can narrow it down to either before, during, or after.

Q: It would still be coming after the election, though, right?

MR. GIBBS: It certainly could come earlier, but I don't anticipate that it would.

Q: The New Jersey election or the Afghan election? (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: I assumed Afghan, but a fairly good question.

Q: For the record, I was asking about the Afghan election.

MR. GIBBS: Okay, all right. Let the record reflect.

Q: Let me follow up Chuck's question on H1N1. With whom or what is the President frustrated with about the vaccine?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President is frustrated that all those who want to be vaccinated thus far haven't had an opportunity to do so. We had hoped that the vaccine would, as we had been told, be here faster. It has not. But the President believes that, and the team believe, they're making progress. I noted that there's 3 million additional doses of the vaccine than there were just two days ago. And we're working with state and local authorities to ensure that there are -- all that can be done is being done to ensure the speedy delivery of that vaccine.

Q: Is it a bureaucratic breakdown or a vaccine production breakdown?

MR. GIBBS: I think the -- I think right now -- again, we'd hoped that what the manufacturer had said in terms of getting the vaccine here earlier would have been true.

Q: To follow up on the election question --

MR. GIBBS: The New Jersey one or the Afghan?

Q: New Jersey one. (Laughter.) It's been reported that the President's pollster, Joel Benenson, is taking an active role in Governor Corzine's campaign.

MR. GIBBS: I think he works for him.

Q: Yes. Does that in any way elevate the stakes for the White House in that election or in Tuesday's results generally? Do you see anything coming out of results Tuesday that could assist or in any way undermine what the White House is trying to accomplish legislatively on Capitol Hill?

MR. GIBBS: Based on Joel's participation in New Jersey?

Q: Based on whatever election results. There is some speculation if Corzine doesn't win, things don't work out for Creigh Deeds, Bill Owens doesn't win in New York 23, it could put a damper on things for the White House in a political environment where people are suddenly nervous about maybe short-term political prospects as opposed to larger legislation aims the White House is pushing.

MR. GIBBS: Look, I think we continue to take the long view on what's going on in Washington and throughout the country. We'll have time to dissect whatever those results are on Tuesday. But I don't think it portends -- quite honestly, whatever the results are I don't think they portend a lot in dealing with the future. I saw that somebody -- I think somebody had mentioned that if you lost either governorship it would impact -- in 2001, if I'm not mistaken, in Virginia and New Jersey, a Democrat won in either one of those, I don't think anybody thought that when they looked at the election results in 2002 they thought that President Bush was significantly hampered by that.

Q: A couple Recovery Act questions. If you look at the 643,000 jobs --

MR. GIBBS: Six hundred forty thousand, three hundred and twenty-nine.

Q: Directly created.

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: Roughly that's at a pace of about 80,000 per month. If you single out since the act was signed on February 17th, not counting February but counting the months since -- would that be a fair --

MR. GIBBS: Well, I trust your math --

Q: Okay.

MR. GIBBS: -- but other than that, I can't speak to --

Q: And yet on a monthly basis, about 500,000 or more Americans are filing first-time unemployment, for benefit claims.

MR. GIBBS: I would say this. We're happy it's not 580,000. Right?

Q: You'll take what you created?

MR. GIBBS: Well, the President is obviously not satisfied that anybody that wants to find a job in this country can't. And there are a lot of people that that applies to, unfortunately. But I think we saw through GDP growth a positive improvement that we think is the beginning of better things. But I don't think there's any doubt that if you can look at this plan and say, without it we would have lost -- you would have had 80,000 additional people every month applying for unemployment benefits, yes. Not only are you not paying out those unemployment benefits, but that person has a job. So I think that's actually a good way of discussing the multiplier effect, indirectly, of jobs saved or created.

Q: Last one on stimulus, then I'll let it go, I promise. Vice President Biden just said a moment ago that all of the GDP growth, or virtually all of it, can be attributed to Recovery Act spending.

MR. GIBBS: I think a lot of it, yes.

Q: When we were discussing with you the Edmunds.com situation yesterday, you pointed to 1.66 percent of that 3.5 percent GDP growth as attributable to car sales --

MR. GIBBS: Yes.

Q: -- Cash for Clunkers. Now, Jared has told me that your analysis for the stimulus and its economic benefits doesn't count Cash for Clunkers spending. It only counts Recovery Act spending.

MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry, the analysis for today? Yes, because as you -- Jared will tell you, as I would too, that Cash for Clunkers was funded out of a separately --

Q: Right.

MR. GIBBS: Right.

Q: So my question is, how do we reconcile these two? If Cash for Clunkers was 1.66 of the 3.5, and all the Recovery Act spending is responsible for the 3.5 GDP growth, I don't see how those two things can both be true. If the Recovery Act is responsible for all of the 3.5 GDP growth --

MR. GIBBS: Well, here's what -- let me go back to what you said a minute ago --

Q: -- Cash for Clunkers was responsible for half of that --

MR. GIBBS: If we didn't have the GDP -- if we didn't have the Recovery Act, our GDP would probably be, what, somewhere near flat, right?

Q: That's what you say, okay, right.

MR. GIBBS: I think that's how I'd measure it. Without it, we would be basically middling along. We, through the Recovery Act, have seen positive economic growth, and that's a good thing.

Q: I know, but yesterday you said in defense of Cash for Clunkers almost half of the 3.5 percent GDP growth was attributable to Cash for Clunkers.

MR. GIBBS: I didn't say that. That's just the figures based on the GDP itself, yes.

Q: But that's not Recovery Act spending.

MR. GIBBS: No, it's not Recovery Act. It's part of the plan that the President has put forward in order to help the economy grow.

Q: But if half the GDP number didn't -- is Cash for Clunkers, how can it be -- I'm still trying to figure out how the Recovery Act can be responsible for all the 3.5 percent GDP number --

MR. GIBBS: I'll go back and look at the math figures on this. I think what's undeniable, Major, is that the recovery plan is helping the economy grow, right?

Q: I'm just asking.

MR. GIBBS: Well, so am I.

Q: Okay.

MR. GIBBS: What did you come to the conclusion?

Q: It may be 3.5, it may be -- the difference between 3.5 and what 1.66 --

MR. GIBBS: Is the economy growing for the first time --

Q: -- which you said was attributable to Cash for Clunkers.

MR. GIBBS: Is the economy growing for the first time in a year, based on your assessment of the figures?

Q: Sure.

MR. GIBBS: Okay. Thank you.

Q: Can we get a blackboard in here, please? (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: I'll have to get some math teachers as well.

Yes, sir.

Q: And some coffee. (Laughter.) I'm just tired.

Q: That was anything but boring. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: All right, settle down.

Q: What exactly has the President taken away from all these meetings that he's had? This is the seventh one he's had, today. If you could shed some light on what he's -- how he's processing this, how he's keeping this -- what does he talk with his other advisors about after he comes out of these meetings? And ultimately, have you decided -- and how will you have him explain this to the American people?

MR. GIBBS: Let me take the second one. We have not, in all honestly, had extensive conversations about that yet. I do believe, without getting into specifics, I think the President strongly believes that it's important for the American people and for the international community to know his reasoning behind whatever decision he makes, and to clearly explain our goals and objectives in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and the region as a whole.

So I anticipate that whatever form it ultimately takes, the President will use the occasion to explain some of that to the American people so that they understand his decision-making and his thought process.

In terms --

Q: A TV address or something, to the nation?

MR. GIBBS: Again, we haven't gotten into broad specifics on that yet.

On the first part, Jeff, you know, look, I think -- I don't -- I used to have it calculated, I should just go back and do it, the number of hours that he has spent in these meetings is probably now -- well, at the end of today will probably be getting close to 20 direct hours of his time. The group -- the principals that meet with the President additionally take time to get the material ready, and are prepared to answer questions for the President, probably at least twice as much of that of the President's time the principals have spent.

So obviously we -- the President and his team have spent a pretty big chunk of time evaluating very, very closely each of these individual countries, their relationship together and their impact on the region.

At the conclusion of these meetings, he generally is off to the next thing. I think he has spent quite a bit of time after the meetings back in the office -- back in his office, probably primarily in the Residence at night, going back and reading through his notes, as well as -- notes that he's taken on the meetings, and oftentimes will come out with questions that the team will prepare the answers for, for the next meeting.

Q: Can I ask, if possible, how have these seven meetings not created the need for an eighth and a ninth and a tenth? At what point does he stop these meetings, announce a decision, and fine-tune after that?

MR. GIBBS: Right. Look, the President has certainly told all of us that we were going to go through an extensive and exhaustive review, but Jeff, I can assure you that he knows and the team know that you cannot and we will not meet in perpetuity on this. But the President believes that we're still -- we're still assessing the information that he needs to make that final decision.

Yes, sir.

Q: Just briefly to follow on that, there was a report that he'd asked for a problems-by-problems breakdown of the Afghan leadership. Are there other outstanding things like that that he still wants to come back to him to -- before he can make a decision?

MR. GIBBS: I don't know what that list would be. That certainly, as was talked about in the Post, was something that the President had asked be created because in all honesty, less because it had anything to do with resource requests for those individual provinces, but as we wind down our commitment ultimately in Afghanistan, we're going to have to transfer the security, the economic development, the civilian nature, the governmental function both in Kabul and throughout the country to entities in Kabul and in these provinces. And the President wants, as we're beginning or as we're going through this assessment, to begin to think about what structures are in place and what structures have to be strengthened in order to eventually transfer that core responsibility to Kabul and provincial government.

Q: Understanding that, are there any other things that he's asked --

MR. GIBBS: Nothing that -- nothing that come to mind right away, but maybe there may be some stuff today. I don't know.

Ann.

Q: Early yesterday morning when he was in Dover and met with the families, the families said that he asked, is there anything we can do for the families. And the mother of -- Dona Griffin, a mother of the last of the dignified transfers, said that she told the President, "Don't leave our troops hanging." When he walks into the Situation Room right about now, does he have any sense that the time he's taking to make these decisions is leaving those troops hanging?

MR. GIBBS: Again, to go back through what's happened, the President believed that additional forces were needed in March and he added them to get us to a point where we could evaluate the outcome of the election. That obviously has been delayed a little bit, but he believes this is a point in which it's necessary to fully assess where we are. I don't believe the President thinks -- I know he doesn't believe that this assessment is in any way doing that. I think he understands and I think, as you heard him say yesterday in the Oval Office, I think his commitment, particularly after going to a place like Dover, is to understand the full cost of the war.

Q: What did he think when -- how did he respond when she said --

MR. GIBBS: I have not talked to him about the individual comments that -- conversations that he had with the families.

Thanks, guys. I'll go this meeting.

Q: Is the President rooting for the Phillies or the Yankees?

MR. GIBBS: I don't know the answer to that one. Probably I would -- I'll say I think the Phillies because of Plouffe, but I don't know the answer.

Q: Is he watching the World Series?

Q: Robert, I was going to ask you India is on -- India is on high red alert and --

MR. GIBBS: This would be a long answer so I got to run to this meeting.

Q: Thank you, sir. Have a nice weekend.

END 1:34 P.M. EDT

Citation: Barack Obama: "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs", October 30, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86839.
 
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