Barack Obama photo

Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton

August 18, 2010

Aboard Air Force One

En Route Miami, Florida

2:29 P.M. EDT

MR. BURTON: Okay. Thank you all for coming. Go ahead.

Q: I have a question on Pakistan. A State Department official, a deputy special representative for the regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that the flooding there and the crisis there is a long-term crisis that's going to get worse. How concerned is the administration about how this will affect --

MR. BURTON: Well, this catastrophe is one that's on a human scale and widespread, and the United States is doing everything that it can to help the country of Pakistan. We've given them tens of millions of dollars in aid. U.S. helicopters and C130s are there delivering hundreds of thousands of pounds of food and medical supplies.

Tomorrow Secretary Clinton, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will be up at the U.N., focused on this issue as well, where they'll be talking more about the needs. We're responding to all the requests that come in from the Pakistani government. We're working with them and NGOs on the ground to ensure that we're doing all that we can to help them out.

Our relationship with Pakistan is one that's more than just about fighting armed extremists and we're hoping to help them where we can.

Q: Just one follow-up to that. There was an article last week about how many of the charity arms of some of these violent extremist groups have come in to fill the void, to get supplies much faster and relief much faster to the Pakistani people. There's concern that that could win over people to their cause. What is the response of the administration?

MR. BURTON: Well, I think that this is an ongoing humanitarian crisis. We're responding very quickly, as are our international partners. I'm confident that we're going to do what we can to help those folks out.

Q: The U.N. said that aid to Pakistan is flowing a lot slower than it did for Haiti and other disasters. Is the President thinking about going before the American people like he did with the Haiti case, to make an appeal for more aid?

MR. BURTON: Obviously Secretary Clinton has done that, and we're responding as quickly as we can to their requests as they come in so that we're doing what's possible to help the folks who are most in need. Like I said, this is ongoing and we don't even know the full scope of the disaster just yet. But you can bet that the United States is going to continue to do its part to help those folks that have been so terribly affected.

Q: Any chance that the President might add Pakistan to his Asia trip now?

MR. BURTON: I haven't heard any discussion of that.

Q: Bill, the President talked again today about how a lot of people are still hurting and there's more work to go in the economy. Does he have any concerns at all about at least the perception of taking a 9, 10-day vacation in an affluent part of the country at a time when a lot of people are hurting?

MR. BURTON: Well, I don't think there's an American person who doesn't know that the President is working hard to do everything possible to get this economy back on the right track, to move initiatives through Congress that are going to help businesses right away to create jobs and to make our economy even stronger.

The President -- any presidential vacation -- whenever you talk about a presidential vacation you ought to put the word "vacation" in quotes because you can bet that there will still be work that he's doing every day. He'll continue to get his daily intelligence brief from John Brennan who will be there. He'll be getting constant updates on what's happening in the economy and other issues.

But I do think that just like a lot of American people, the President is taking a little time with his family to recharge his batteries. As you know, he's really into batteries. We spend a lot of time at battery plants. (Laughter.) And he'll be spending a lot of time doing that this weekend.

Q: Is he staying at the same place he did last year?

MR. BURTON: We're not going to announce where he's staying until he gets there for security reasons. But he's renting a house.

Q: It will be announced when he gets there?

MR. BURTON: Yes. Of course, you'll all be there.

Q: Would you say he really needs a vacation?

MR. BURTON: I would say that -- you guys have seen him out on the trail this week. I got a lot of questions this week on whether or not the President enjoys being out on the campaign trail. I think that seeing him at some of these fundraisers, you know the answer to the question. He's clearly having a good time talking directly with the American people about the choice that's before them this November when it comes to the midterm elections. And he's got a lot of hard work to do this year, but he does look forward to the time that he's going to be able to spend with his family.

Q: Brennan is going with him tomorrow?


Q: Will there be more campaign trips like this one after his vacation?

MR. BURTON: Yes. (Laughter.)

Q: Anything locked in yet?

MR. BURTON: Nothing locked in that I know of. I know they're still putting together the schedule.

Q: I heard you say earlier nothing tomorrow morning before leaving?

MR. BURTON: Yes, there's no events tomorrow before leaving.

Q: In Florida, is the President going to sort of put to rest any of the questions about whether or not the White House is fully behind Kendrick Meek at this event? What kind of things are we going to hear from him there?

MR. BURTON: I can't control whether or not people ask questions about the President's strong and unwavering support for Kendrick Meak. He's said that he is his candidate. Florida Democrats know that he is his candidate. He's been down there. He's raised money for the Florida Democratic Party. He's introduced Meek at events as the next United States senator from the state. So given all that, I don't know that people will stop asking questions regardless of what he does.

But Kendrick Meek will be involved in the event today and you will hear from him.

Q: Do you guys envision this as the President's, like, full embrace of Kendrick Meek? I mean, he hasn't done something like this for him before.

MR. BURTON: I think that the President has fully embraced Kendrick Meek. We envision this as going down and helping out Florida Democrats.

Q: Can you say anything about the parent company to Fox News donating to the Republican Governors Association? I mean, the President is raising money for governors on this trip. You guys have obviously had back-and-forth with Fox News. And their reasoning for donating is -- insinuates that Democrats are anti-business, which is something that the President has been talking about.

MR. BURTON: Well, I'm sure it creates a lot of questions. I've seen the report, but I don't have any particular comment on it.

Q: Do you have anything on the fundraiser tonight? Is it all going to Sink, or is it being split --

MR. BURTON: I think it's being split by -- but you should check that with the contact I gave you for Florida.

Q: And there will be nothing on Cuba?


All right?

Q: Do you have a reading list for us?

MR. BURTON: He has not decided yet what he's going to be reading.

Q: Seriously?

MR. BURTON: Seriously.

Q: You could make some recommendations?

MR. BURTON: I sure could. Why? Have you written a book? (Laughter.)

Okay, everybody take a seat and buckle in.

END 2:37 P.M. EDT

Barack Obama, Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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