Barack Obama photo

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney

September 07, 2012

Aboard Air Force One
En Route New Hampshire

10:50 A.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY: Thank you for joining us as we make our way to New Hampshire first and then Iowa.

MS. PSAKI: And then Florida.

MR. CARNEY: And then Florida. That's right, all in one day. I hope you all enjoyed both the Vice President and the President last night as much as we did -- at the end of a terrific convention, I think. I'm sure Jen will have more to say about that.

Before I turn it over to Jen, I wanted to tell you, to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the President, the First Lady, and White House staff will gather on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday morning to observe a moment of silence.

Later that morning, the President and First Lady will travel to the Pentagon Memorial. On Tuesday afternoon, the President will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and visit with wounded warriors who are being treated at the hospital, and with their families.

Also on Tuesday, Vice President Biden will travel to Somerset County, Pennsylvania, to attend the Flight 93 National Memorial commemorative service to honor the passengers and crew who died there 11 years ago.

On Tuesday morning, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will travel to New York and attend a memorial service at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

MS. PSAKI: I'll just say -- and I'm sure there will be, of course, questions about the convention -- but we were just chatting with the President before we came back here, and our collective view as a campaign and his view is that he did exactly what he came to the convention to do last night, which was to bring the choice into focus for the American people, to lay out the path forward, talk about not only where we've been and remind people of the challenges we've gone through, the tough choices we needed to make, the individual people who were impacted, but also lay out a path forward on.

And we know now that for the next 60 days, the American people can look back at this speech and they'll know this is what the President's path forward is.

Also, for three days of this convention, you could feel a palpable enthusiasm in the convention hall, and that's something we came out -- I think we all came out, including the President, feeling really great about. From the First Lady's speech, where she made a personal and passionate pitch to the American people on why they should send her husband back, to President Clinton's detailed rundown of why on policies that impact the middle class the President is better, to the President's final homerun last night.

So we feel great about it. We're energized and excited about it, and we hope that the people of North Carolina are as well coming out of it.

MR. CARNEY: Questions.

Q: Jay, did the President see the jobs report last night before he spoke? Does that -- might explain the more somber tone that he took for the speech?

MR. CARNEY: Jim, we don't discuss private meetings and private conversations the President has. We follow traditional -- regular procedure in terms of having him informed about monthly economic data like the jobs numbers. I can tell you that the speech was very much as it had been prepared prior to any information about economic data -- because the whole point that the President made and has been making as a matter of policy is that we need to continue to build on the progress that we have seen, progress that now amounts to 30 straight months of private sector job creation -- 4.6 million private sector jobs -- steady economic growth, more than half a million manufacturing jobs, and we've seen progress in areas like reducing our dependence on foreign oil, doubling our production of renewable energy.

But we're not there yet. And that was the essence of the President's message -- we have to keep moving forward; we can't move backward. And I think that the jobs numbers that we heard this morning reinforce what the President was discussing last night in his speech to the convention.

Q: Jay, those jobs numbers also show, though, that they're readjusted downward for June and July by, I believe, 43,000 jobs. That suggests that the trajectory wasn't exactly what had been projected last month. What does that say about where the numbers are going?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I can tell you two things. One is, we just learned today that we've had 30 straight months of private sector job growth -- 4.6 million private sector jobs. There are revisions to these figures, as you know. The collection of economic data is an imperfect science and there are revisions all the time. A year ago today, we received a jobs report saying that that month, in August in 2011, zero jobs were created. After revisions, that figure is now closer to 85,000 jobs, positive, created.

So we look at trends. We look at the progress we're making. We look at the things that we need to do to continue to keep the economy growing. It is just a simple statement of fact, according to economic analysts, experts on the outside, that if all of the provisions of the President's American Jobs Act, which he put forward to Congress a year ago tomorrow, had been approved and not blocked by Republicans in Congress, there would be 1 million more people at least working today -- 1 million more jobs, many of them teachers, firefighters, police officers.

And if you just focus on the teacher portion of that, think about the compound benefit of having those teachers back in the classroom for our children and for our economic growth. And the President spoke passionately about that last night, too, when he talked about the foundational importance of education to our economy.

Q: Jay, what's the status of the sequestration report that was due to come out today?

MR. CARNEY: I think I saw something here. The President signed into law the Sequestration Transparency Act, as you know, which requires the administration to report to Congress on the cuts required by the sequester in the event that Congress fails to act on balancing deficit reduction. Given the time needed to address the complex issues involved in preparing the report, the administration will be submitting that report to Congress late next week.

But let me just tell you that no amount of planning changes the fact that sequester would have devastating consequences. And that's why it is time for Republicans in Congress to stop putting our nation at risk for these cuts because of their insistence on preserving a trillion-dollar tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. It's just another example of -- in some ways, similar to what we experienced last summer -- where Republicans' insistence that millionaires get a tax cut blocks the kind of common-sense compromise, kind of common-sense progress that we can make if the Republicans would simply abandon their maximalist position, all of which is based on, as the President said last night, this notion that the singular prescription for any economic ill is more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

Q: Do you have a date for late next week?

MR. CARNEY: Late next week. That's all I have.

Q: When you said it's complicated, isn't it complicated for -- isn't a month -- haven't you had a lot of time to put it together? What is it that's so complicated that it requires an extra week?

MR. CARNEY: There are a lot of factors involved in preparing a report like this, and that's why we'll be releasing it next week.

Q: Jen, can you talk about the Republican reaction to the jobs report? I know, if it's not celebratory, they see validation for their argument that, okay, you can't blame the President for the recession, but you can blame him for the sluggishness of the recovery.

MS. PSAKI: A couple things. One is, Jay touched on the impact the American Jobs Act would have -- 1 million jobs -- if Congress would move forward and act; if Mitt Romney and his team would get behind ideas that have traditionally had support from Republicans in the past: investing in infrastructure, helping small businesses grow and prosper, keeping teachers in their jobs.

Instead they've opposed that, as you know, and also they've put out a budget that private sector economists -- or they support -- that private sector economists have said would also -- could cost 1 million jobs. So that leads us to the conclusion that in the next year alone, President Obama's plan would produce 2 million more jobs than Mitt Romney's plan. So it's tough to see how they can be making the argument that they have a better plan.

I'll also say I noticed in their statement that they referenced last night was like a party and today is like a hangover -- I'm getting it a little wrong. If you go with Mitt Romney's and his team's approach to the economy, their approach is like going back to the hair of the dog, as they say in the bar scenes, and going back to the same policies that led us to the crisis that we've been going through to begin with, that has not worked. And we know they haven't worked because we've seen this movie before. And he had the opportunity to lay out his plan last week and really just didn't do that.

Q: Jen, are you saying the hair of the dog is not effective?

MS. PSAKI: I think it's a personal thing. It may work for you; it may not work for everyone. (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY: I think the point is if you find yourself with a problem you don't go back and do the thing that created the problem.

If I could add as a matter of economic policy and data, the current recovery, which is a recovery from the worst recession that we've seen in our lifetimes, from a cataclysmic economic free fall that was occurring when this President was sworn into office, has produced on average over the last 30 months, or during this period of recovery, 155,000 jobs per month on average. The previous recovery under President George W. Bush produced on average 66,000 jobs per month.

We are not where we need to be. The President made that clear last night; he makes it clear all the time. The hole dug by the Great Recession is very deep and we're still pulling our way out of it. But because of the President's policies, because of the actions that Congress took with saving the auto industry with the President, with passing the Recovery Act and other measures, because the President was able to work with Republicans and get extension of the payroll tax cut as well as other measures, we continue to move in the right direction.

And if Republicans would simply drop their insistence that millionaires and billionaires must have more tax cuts and must have them at the expense of the middle class and at the expense of seniors, we will be able to get a lot more done. We'll put more people back to work. We'll put more teachers in the classroom, more firefighters and police officers on the job, construction workers building schools, roads and bridges.

And I just think that that comparative is helpful. It's not where we need to be, but under the previous administration, recovery -- another way of looking at it is, over the course of recovery under George W. Bush, at this stage in the recovery, there were 2 million fewer jobs created under Bush than have been created thus far under President Obama.

Q: Romney's campaign has 15 ads up in eight states now. What's the Obama's campaign's response to that? Do you have anything comparable sort of going up now, post-convention?

MS. PSAKI: I won't preview our ad strategy before we're ready to announce something. So that's probably what I have to say. We will be going up with new ads in the coming weeks, I'm certain, and as soon as we have details to share we'll let you know.

Q: So obviously today he has these two events, and tomorrow there's the Florida bus tour. In Florida, is the focus going to be primarily on Medicare, or is it going to be more broad-based? And can you talk a little bit about the decision apparently to have Charlie Crist campaigning with the President -- what do you see as the advantages to that?

MS. PSAKI: So let me take the first one. I think you'll hear -- obviously what the President talked about last night was very consistent with what he's been talking about for months, but you will hear some themes weaved through his remarks over the next couple of days, so he does talk about health care. He does talk about Medicare often. But he will be continuing to make the broad pitch to the American people, to the people of Florida this weekend on Saturday and Sunday, as to why they should send him back for another four years.

Part of that is certainly health care. But there are a number of other issues that they're focused on, and you should expect that he'll touch on many of them that he touched on last night in his remarks this weekend.

Q: And then your second question was about Crist.

MS. PSAKI: For any of you who saw Charlie Crist deliver his remarks, I mean he made a very powerful case for why, politics aside, the President is the right person to lead the country moving forward in Florida. He has a strong approval rating across Florida with a number of demographic groups, and he's somebody who we expect will be out there. I don't have any specific scheduling notes for you about that.

Q: And Sunday, with the President both days?

MS. PSAKI: I don't know. I will check that for you and let you know which -- I don't know for sure, so let me double-check what the plans are with his appearances, and I'll get them back to you before the flight ends.

Q: Secretary Clinton released her decision about the Haqqani network. What was the White House input on that?

MR. CARNEY: I believe an announcement regarding that issue is forthcoming. It has not been formally released. I refer you to the State Department.

Q: It came out while she was in the air.

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think it was coming out at 11:00 a.m. actually. But -- what I can tell you -- what was the actual question, why the timing?

Q: What was the White House input on that particular decision?

MR. CARNEY: The White House input -- well, the President makes foreign policy decisions, but this is a process that's run through the State Department. The Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2012 requires the Secretary of State to report to the Congress on whether or not the Haqqani network should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization. That report is due by September 9th. Today, as you know, is September 7th. I would refer you to the Department of State for further questions on the status of the report.

Separate from the report, as you know, we've taken steps to degrade the Haqqani Taliban network's ability to carry out its acts, including drying up their resources, targeting them with our military and intelligence resources, and pressing Pakistan to take action.

Q: Why are Iowa and New Hampshire the two states that you chose to focus on coming right out of the convention? Should we read anything into these being the two specific stops today, not Ohio or Colorado?

MS. PSAKI: Clearly, both Iowa and New Hampshire have important roles in the President's journey to the White House, and we expect they'll both have important roles in his journey back to the White House -- or his continued journey in the White House.

We're obviously also spending time in Florida this weekend -- two days in Florida. As you know, there are a handful of states where we expect this election will be decided. These are three of them. I can promise you we'll be back to Ohio in short order. I don't have an exact day for you, but I'll also say that they're all three places that we wanted to make we -- the President wanted to make sure he could come back to the states, give people the opportunity to hear from him directly on the choice they're facing, hear from him on some of the themes he talked about last night, and remind them of the pivotal time we are in the election, just less than two months out.

Q: Do you expect to do any campaigning in North Carolina? I think the last event he held there, aside from the convention, was April 24th.

MS. PSAKI: I don't have a scheduling update for you on that or any specific announcements to make. We have said, of course, that because of the unfortunate change we had to make with the stadium move, that when we're there next we're going to make sure we invite the people who were unable to attend to attend. So we'll look forward to that. And as soon as we have a date, we'll make sure you guys know.

Q: Do you have details on where President Clinton is going to appear for you next? And how often do you think he'll be on the trail for the President?

MS. PSAKI: Well, judging from his amazing speech on Wednesday, which we knew he would deliver, and the incredible response that was well deserved, we'd love to have him out there as much as he's available. I believe he's going to be in Ohio and Florida -- let me double-check this for you -- Ohio and Florida next week. Beyond that I don't have any specific scheduling dates for him, but he's been an incredible advocate for the President for quite some time.

Obviously, the speech he gave on Wednesday made a very powerful case to the American people and to the middle class as to why the President was a better choice. It probably makes the Romney team feel a little bit sheepish that they've been holding him up as somehow being a validator of theirs given that he gave a speech reminding -- telling people how the President was a better choice.

So we're looking forward to having him out there. I think he will be out there, and I think it's clear people are looking forward to seeing him more.

Q: What was President Obama's reaction to Clinton's speech? What did he say about it?

MS. PSAKI: He thought he gave a great speech, that he made an incredibly strong argument, that you can hear, as I mentioned earlier, kind of the palpable, energy and enthusiasm in the hall that night. That's something that's great to feel. The President certainly felt that, as well.

Q: Will we see the two of them on the trail together?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any specific dates for you on that, so I don't have any updates on that. I do have two anecdotes we can tell you guys about, both from last night. Before the President went out on stage, he was backstage with his family, and his daughters were kind of -- I had never seen this movie, but reenacting a Hannah Montana moment where they kind of said, go, get 'em, baby, as he was going out on stage. And I think that he really enjoyed that. It made him laugh, and it just kind of reminded him of what's important and what this is all about.

And then he went back to the hotel last night after the speech, and a number of their friends and close friends had flown in from all over the country, and they were all there. And so they stayed up for a while with them chatting. And I think it was really a nice end to the evening.

Q: -- the friends and who was there?

MS. PSAKI: I mean I don't have a list, obviously, of his friends or a number, but several from around the country came -- a number of the friends you've seen out there traveling with him on the trail, close friends from Chicago.

Q: Kind of a policy question on the speech last night. You guys laid out a couple of new goals in the speech about a million jobs, manufacturing jobs, cutting tuition increases in half and so on. But those basically build on policies that he has already enunciated. Does the President feel that a convention speech is not a place to lay out new policy, or that he feels kind of boxed in by the politics not to be able to lay out new policy ideas?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I would just say that I -- I would argue that you heard a lot about policy from the President last night. As far as nomination acceptance speeches go, it was very focused on the policy areas where, as President, he put an emphasis on areas like energy and education, manufacturing, and he did lay out new goals related to some of these areas.

And I think that, judging from the response in the hall, and the response that we're told by your colleagues around the country, that hearing about those policy goals, the American people -- the American people, when they heard about those policy goals, welcomed them.

It's certainly the case that the President believes we need to continue moving in the direction we're moving in terms of growing the economy and creating jobs. So on energy, for example, being more aggressive about our goal in reducing our reliance on foreign imports is directly related to the successes that we have seen in the past three and a half years when it comes to reducing imports, when it comes to doubling our production of renewable energy and reaching levels of production of natural gas that we've never seen before in history, and most importantly, in a rule that was finalized just last week, new fuel-efficiency standards, which will save 12 billion barrels of oil -- all of these policies have created a foundation for energy security, which is economic security, which is national security -- that are extremely important to this country in the 21st century.

MS. PSAKI: And I'll just add -- I was just going to add that the President didn't want this to be a State of the Union address. But at the same time, we're not going to throw out good ideas just because they're hard and we haven't been able to get them done yet.

So you heard some ideas and some goals that you heard before last night that he remains doggedly committed to. And you heard some new goals that, as Jay mentioned, we can -- he could put out there because of the progress we've made. And Jay talked about why we can talk about reducing -- how we kind of upped our goal on reducing oil imports by half when the earlier one was by a third by 2025.

But also, on manufacturing, we wouldn't be able to -- he wouldn't be able to set a goal of 1 million manufacturing jobs if he hadn't made the tough choices about the auto industry, if he hadn't made decisions to invest in worker retraining. So these are goals that we know tough choices will need to be made to achieve them. Even on the fiscal goals, obviously eliminating capital gains and getting rid of some of these tax loopholes we know is a challenging thing.

But he is going to keep fighting for these goals. And what he really wanted to come out of this evening was a path or an understanding -- to give the American people a path forward, an understanding of what his path forward was, so that when they say, okay, we know where we've been and what we've done, which you laid out, we know that tough choices need to be made, but how do we build on that and how will he build on that? And that's the question he wanted to answer.

Q: A question on the jobs report, which is what is the President's message to the people who have sort of dropped out and taken themselves out of the running for now? And how does he -- out of a job right now -- and how does he prevent the numbers -- I'm not saying that they should dampen people's enthusiasm, but how does he prevent them from dampening people's enthusiasm coming out of this convention?

MR. CARNEY: Well, on the first question, I think that we've seen -- again, you have to look at trends. And you have to look at the progress that we've made, which, while not fast enough, has been steady and in the right direction. There are elements that go into the figure on participation in the labor market that if you're so inclined are worth looking into, including retirement and going back to school. It's not all about discouraged workers. In fact, I think the number -- I think I have this right -- the percentage or number of discouraged workers went down a little bit.

But, look, it points out the overall fact that we need to move forward, that the recession that we all experienced was unlike anything we've ever lived through and it's impact on American families across the country was in many cases very severe. What we simply cannot do is go back to the policies that led to the problem in the first place -- this is the hair of the dog solution. It's just not the right answer to our economic problems. It's not -- whether it's deficit reduction, or economic growth, or job creation, or health security, the answer to all of those problems is most assuredly not more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

And one of the things that we heard President Clinton explain in a way that only he can, the kind of policies that were in place in the 1990s, including the tax rate for higher-income Americans that President Obama believes we should turn back to, produced a remarkable period of economic growth -- more than 23 million jobs, a situation where our deficits were eliminated and he passed on to his successor, George W. Bush, budget surpluses that were predicted to last as far into the future as we could see.

Eight years later, the President -- this President inherited from his predecessor the largest deficit in history, an economic calamity; the prospect of a great industry, the American automobile industry, liquidating; substantial more job loss associated with that; the potential for global collapse of the financial market. I mean, I think it could not be clearer what -- where we need to go and where we cannot go.

Q: Jay, those surpluses in the Clinton era were produced by higher taxes on everybody, not just the top earners. The President still not -- doesn't favor increasing taxes as Clinton did for all taxpayers?

MR. CARNEY: That's exactly right. The middle class has seen its economic situation worsen for a number of years prior even to the recession that the President talked about a lot in 2008. Middle-class incomes were stagnating or declining. And his goal, as he's said all along, was not just to bring us back to where we were before the recession, but to extend the middle class, provide it more economic security, provide more avenues into the middle class for those striving to enter the middle class -- and that remains his goal.

But right now when you're talking about a balanced economic policy, he believes firmly that we need to extend tax cuts for the middle class because they need it to help them make ends meet, and because the economy benefits from tax cuts for those middle-class wage earners; that every economist whose opinions are worth the paper that his Ph.D or her Ph.D is printed on will tell you that tax cuts that go disproportionately to the highest earners are not beneficial to the economy. They do not promote economic growth because those earners are much less likely to pump that money directly back into the economy.

Q: Does that mean the President has decided to extend the current payroll tax cut as well?

MR. CARNEY: The payroll tax cut originally and through its extension was a temporary measure. And as you know, when it comes to the middle-class tax cuts, the President believes we should make them permanent -- on the so-called -- the tax cuts under President Bush for the middle class, for the 98 percent.

The payroll tax cut was a temporary measure, and we'll evaluate the question of whether we need to extend it at the end of the year when we're looking at a whole range of issues, obviously, that will need to be worked on to ensure that we continue the progress that we've made.

Q: Speaking of the end of the year, you talked about sequestration earlier. Is the White House initiating or holding talks with people on the Hill right now to try to avoid this becoming a last-minute, end-of-the-year crisis?

MR. CARNEY: Jeff, as you know, bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which included within it the so-called sequester. The sequester was designed to be so unsavory that neither side would ever want to see it become law. And therefore, it was designed to be a forcing mechanism to force Congress to do its job.

Thus far, Congress has not done its job. But you know as well as I do that the only obstacle to Congress doing its job has been the adamant refusal by Republicans, especially House Republicans, to accept the simple notion that we cannot afford additional tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires; that we need to deal with our fiscal challenges in a balanced way with the kind of balanced approach that the President put forward and that he recommitted himself to last night; an approach that's modeled after the so-called Bowles-Simpson Commission that reflects the principles of every bipartisan commission and every bipartisan group of legislators that has addressed this problem. The maximalist position of Republicans that they would rather see draconian cuts in domestic and defense spending than ask millionaires and billionaires to pay another dollar in taxes is simply unacceptable, I believe, the President believes, to the vast majority of the American people. It's bad economic policy. And we remain confident that we will be able to work this out, but it requires the Republicans acknowledging the simple fact that everyone has to do their fair share so that everybody gets a fair shot, and everyone has to play by the same set of rules.

Q: Isn't it in the White House's interest to be working on it now? That's my question.

MR. CARNEY: I think the fundamental issue is -- we are working on it now. We know what the proposals are and so do the Republicans. I think the question ought to be addressed to leadership in Congress, Republican leadership in Congress: Are you prepared to let the sequester take effect with the consequences of draconian cuts in national -- cuts far deeper than this President supports, and they say Republicans support, in the name of maintaining a tax cut for millionaires and billionaires? That's the question.

Because if they move off that position, compromise is possible. And that has been the debate we've been having over our fiscal challenges for a year and a half at least now, as you know. And the stumbling block has always been that refusal to accept the notion that we have to take a balanced approach.

It was reflected during the Republican primaries when every would-be President in the Republican Party raised his hand and said, I would refuse a deal that called for just $1 in increased revenue for every $10 in tax cuts. And that's a wildly out-of-balance proposal, but they wouldn't even accept that.

So that is so far out of the mainstream, it is so far from the Bowles-Simpson commission, the Domenici-Rivlin commission. It's irresponsible and it's not supported by this President or by the majority of the American people.

Q: You talked about September 11th, and I know there's some travel next week. Do you have any other details on the week ahead?

MR. CARNEY: I do, I do. At least I think I do. Yes, I do. On Monday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Tuesday, to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, as I said before, the President, the First Lady, and the White House staff will gather on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday morning to observe a moment of silence. Later in the morning, as I said, the President and First Lady will travel to the Pentagon memorial. In the afternoon, the President will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and visit with wounded warriors who are being treated at the hospital and with their families.

On Wednesday, the President will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, and Denver, Colorado, for campaign events. The President will remain overnight in Jeff Mason's home state.

On Thursday, the President will travel to Arvada, Colorado, again paying homage to our current Reuters pool member. The President will return to the White House that evening.

On Friday, the President and First Lady will welcome the 2012 US Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and remarkable success in this year's Olympic Paralympic games in London -- Olympic games which were masterfully conducted by the British.

Q: Any travel next weekend?

MR. CARNEY: I don't have any more scheduling information for you.

Thank you all very much.

END 11:26 A.M. EDT

Barack Obama, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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