Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
Aboard Air Force One
En route Rome, Italy
8:53 A.M. (Local)
MR. GIBBS: What's going on?
Q: How you doing?
MR. GIBBS: I'm good. How are you guys?
Q: Just hanging out.
Q: A couple questions on the G8.
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q: Did you have any opening statements for us?
MR. GIBBS: No, I have no opening statement.
Q: Do you have a closing statement? (Laughter.)
Q: "Thank you very much." (Laughter.)
Q: First off, a question on food security. There's been a bunch of numbers going around about what the U.S. is proposing on a fund for food security. Can you tell us what those numbers are? Is it about $15 billion that you want the G8 to support?
MR. GIBBS: Let me get -- let me get one of these guys to get a final number for you. I haven't seen the numbers bounce around, but let me get a final --
Q: That would be great if we could get that.
Q: Could you walk us through how the President has been briefed on the situation in China now? When he was asked about it, you said, you know, he -- and then also in the bilat with Hu, where do we stand on that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, it's our understanding that he's gone back to China, so it appears as if he won't be there to meet with the President. But we will have a delegation meet with their delegation. I think that delegation is likely to be led by General Jones. But I want to double-check that. That's the last I heard.
Q: Can you just determine if, like, the President has been -- has he been briefed? What are his thoughts?
MR. GIBBS: They are continuing to look at the situation. He's gotten most of his information obviously in his daily intelligence brief. So I have not gotten the download from him on that.
I came back during the only part of the flight that was bumpy. (Laughter.)
Q: Yes, that's what we said right before you came back here.
One more G8 question, also on numbers. Can you say whether the U.S. is decided or is going to support limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think the biggest -- the biggest thing that surrounds all of this as it relates to global warming and climate change are the big steps that the House took only a week or so ago to put our country strongly on record as taking bold action against forces that are changing the temperature and the environment of our planet. Obviously the President has talked about a great deal about this during the campaign.
There are important -- there's important progress that we can make as a part of this in creating a market for clean energy jobs, incentivizing those jobs, and using that as part of the foundation for long-term economic growth rather than having what the President has talked about, the sort of boom and bust cycles of the economy or have the economy as it has been -- have the growth of the economy largely predicated on personal consumption.
So I think we've taken a strong step forward.
Q: In the G8 perspective -- I understand that that's Obama's position, but what about the negotiating parts here at the G8? What is the administration's position going to be on that two degrees Celsius goal?
MR. GIBBS: Let me get a little bit better guidance on that, except, again, I would say that I think our biggest contribution to this is the steps that were taken by the House to put us strongly on record on this.
Q: Does the President view the European proposal as politically plausible in this country?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think we've all seen that in -- that this is not the easiest thing to do. I think part of that is because you've seen opponents of taking strong action on global warming take a lot of license with the impacts of any proposal. I think the legislation that came out of -- it's always -- I'm always amused to find that the CBO is the credible agency, if you will, of record -- until they're not. And in the case of the climate change legislation, remember the CBO came out and said that the cost for a family in 2020 would be approximately $170.
Now, only a few days before, when the CBO was talking about health care, it seemed like many people thought the CBO was written on a stone tablet -- until they got this report and many questioned the CBO. So I think in many ways, some of the difficulty in this is getting around what you hear from opponents that think we don't need to take any action, that we don't need to change anything that we're doing, or that we don't need to lay that long-term foundation for clean energy jobs.
But I think -- the President has talked about this for several years, and we've made I think some bold steps in Congress to get something to the President's desk this year.
Q: Robert, let me go at that a little bit differently. On climate change, how would the President define success at this G8? I understand your position about what the House has done and trying to have momentum. But how do you define success?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think in many ways success for us is going to be getting something through Congress and to his desk that puts in place a system, a market-based system that lessens the amount of greenhouses gases in the air. Look, that's going to be the true measure of things.
Q: Not what happens in this summit?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, obviously we're here to discuss the importance of it. We're going to work with -- because I think it's important to understand that we're not going to make progress globally until all of us are acting. But I think our greatest contribution to this is getting a policy in place that will change the course of what we've been doing. I think that's going to be a big focus.
Q: Do you have any details about who the President will be meeting with on a bilateral level beyond what you've already stated on China?
MR. GIBBS: We'll walk you guys through the schedule probably a little later tonight, because, like I said, some things are changing because of that meeting. So we'll bring you guys up to speed on that.
I know today, obviously we're going to land, he's going to up meet with President Napolitano, before we go to the helicopters up to the site. There's a working lunch with Prime Minister Berlusconi. They go into meetings after that. And then later in the afternoon he and Prime Minister Berlusconi will talk with some emergency workers and survey a little of the areas that was damaged heavily by the earthquake.
Q: On climate change, the Europeans are concerned the U.S. is pursuing a separate agreement with China on -- that would work outside a global agreement. Is that something the President is pursuing?
MR. GIBBS: That's not something I'm aware of, but I can check on it.
Q: Is the Secret Service at all concerned about earthquakes?
MR. GIBBS: In general or in Italy? (Laughter.)
Q: In Italy, yes. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I mean, look, I have not heard any concern expressed. Obviously we wouldn't do anything that -- because they wouldn't let us do anything that put anybody in danger. And obviously there's plenty of planning -- plenty of planning on what to do if by chance something were to happen.
Q: Expectation that there's going to be a G8 statement on Iran, and if there is, what is the President looking for to be in that statement?
MR. GIBBS: One of the things that we'll do -- we'll probably have more information on that a little bit before dinnertime tonight, and our hope is, because we have Under Secretary of State Bill Burns with us, that we can -- because he's been so heavily involved in this, that he can walk you guys through what they're working on. But it's still a little bit of a work in progress, so let me wait and we'll give you guys a better (inaudible) today. That would come out -- I think we will have a good sense of what's in it by sometime a little later on today. So hopefully by dinnertime Italy time, we'll have a chance to walk you guys through all that and give you some updated information.
Q: Who all is on the trip -- who all is on the trip? Jones, Axelrod, Burns, Mr. Gibbs -- who else?
MR. GIBBS: Mona is here. Let's see, I'm trying to go through. Obviously Denis McDonough, Mark Lippert from NSC. I don't know --
MR. GIBBS: I don't know if we're going to pick up others. I know obviously McFaul and some guys are now dropped off the trip because the Russia section is over. We didn't pick up anybody specifically, though, on this flight.
Q: No players to be named layer?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: Real quickly, on the tour of the earthquake area, are you aware if Italy is asking the United States to help with aid in the recovery?
MR. GIBBS: If they are?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I know of. I mean, obviously when this first happened, we reached out to the Italian government and I think made some contributions. But I don't think there's a pending request that I know of.
Q: I know I might get crosswise with you on this, but is the White House considering a second stimulus?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I would say -- I'll repeat what I've said and I think the President and Vice President have said, and I think the President said this yesterday, he's not ruling anything out, but at the same time he's not ruling anything in. Obviously we passed a hefty recovery plan that implements over the course of about a two-year period of time, and we're on track with that implementation.
And I think that were it not for -- were it not for this recovery plan, you would see states in a much, much more difficult place with far deeper holes to dig out of in terms of state budget deficits. You'd see states planning for having far fewer teachers in the classroom coming this fall. You'd have less police and fire on the job. You'd have even greater job loss. And you'd have people with less money in their pockets because the tax cuts that they're getting, they wouldn't have gotten.
So we're focused on the implementation of the first bill, and understand and acknowledge that adding jobs is going to take some time. Remember, if you're a business you're going to want to see several things happen before you decide to expand. The first is you're going to want to make sure that you have access to the credit that you need. That's why the administration focused on ensuring that businesses have access to that credit, that we stabilize the banking and the financial system.
So I think if you go back and look at the history of virtually every economic downturn -- and again this is as deep an economic downturn as we have seen since statistically since World War II and, probably when you add in all the financial meltdowns of last fall, easily since the Great Depression. Creating jobs happens at the very end, and that's what we anticipate will likely happen this time, though there are lots that we can do to get the economy back on track while we're working for creating jobs.
Q: I know you're -- were it not for the stimulus, why are you allowed to answer questions with hypotheticals, but we can't ask them?
MR. GIBBS: No, that's not a hypothetical.
Q: If the stimulus -- if the stimulus were not passed, then where --
MR. GIBBS: -- jobs. Let's be very clear, let's be very clear. It is not hypothetical to say teachers wouldn't be laid off. It is not hypothetical to say the states that are receiving $144 billion in Medicaid and education aid is hypothetical. That's money that's going out the door. There's 1,900 construction and infrastructure projects that are putting people to work. That's not hypothetical.
I can send you -- I could create some jobs at Bloomberg by trying to unstick your e-mail by sending you all the press releases that go out about all of these so-called hypothetical projects.
Q: That's a good shot. (Laughter.) I mean, I want the record to note that that's an exceedingly good shot by Robert Gibbs. I don't know why he confused Bloomberg and Reuters, because Reuters was clearly asking the question. (Laughter.) Just for the transcript.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, we'll note those changes on the transcript.
Q: Thank you for clarifying that Hans, of Bloomberg. (Laughter.)
Q: On the environment, what's the President's take on the state of the global economy, and is he looking for having action from other leaders in terms of the stimulus --
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think when we came to the G20 in late March, I think there was -- there seemed to be more of a debate internationally about the direction that countries should take. I think in many ways that debate has largely ended. You've seen many of the countries that were seemingly critical of action that we were taking or the Chinese were taking, now in some ways follow through their own stimulus and recovery plans.
Look, I think one of the things that is clear, even more clear today than it was even in March or certainly in January, was the economic picture that we were dealing with just in America with the financial collapse, what became very clear at the end of that fourth quarter and the beginning of the first quarter of this year was it affected not just our economy, not just our financial sector, but that the deepening recession spread -- had spread throughout the world.
So I think the President took swift action. Many other economies and countries, to help their economies, took swift action. So I think in many ways we are -- we're sort of past those spring debates. I think -- and obviously, look, different countries have put emphasis on different things. There's been a big focus for us on the financial system and I think in many ways that's led to a bit of a stabilization in our economy.
But I think obviously a lot of this is going to be discussed throughout the next several days to ensure that we're all doing what we have to do. I mean, I remember -- I forget, this would have been probably the end of that week after we saw the market -- when we saw Lehman go under, so like September 15th -- and I remember the President saying -- I think we were in Miami for a campaign stop and one of the things he said is that -- and he was referring at this point to the G20 -- which was that we all have to take action, that we're all going to have to work together because -- and it's a little bit like climate change. If some countries do stuff and others don't, the overall global impact is ultimately diminished.
And I think whether it's climate change or whether it's focusing on economic recovery, each of these will be topics for the leaders to discuss to ensure that we're all taking steps, that we're helping the emerging markets that create export businesses for countries around the world, and that we're looking for continued economic indicators that things are leveling off before they start to hopefully improve.
Q: But for the moment he's satisfied that enough has been done, at least in this interim period?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. But, again, we're going to -- we continue to watch what's going on. The reason I say we don't rule it out or rule it in is -- I mean, I think the bottom line for the President is, if there are steps that he thinks and his team thinks need to be taken to improve our economy, we won't hesitate to do that.
Q: When he meets the Pope, Robert, do you think there's going to be frank discussion of their differences on things like abortion, gun control, gay rights, or is it mostly a courtesy call from your view?
MR. GIBBS: I think there will be frank discussion. I think -- I mean, I think that there's a lot that they agree on that they'll get a chance to discuss. We know the Pope has been keenly aware of the President's outreach to the Muslim world. The Pope shares the President's view on reducing the number of nuclear weapons. So I think there's certainly a lot of common ground.
And I actually think even in the issues that you mentioned where there isn't total agreement, I think if you go back and look at what the President said at Notre Dame, there's -- even if we don't see eye to eye on everything, there are steps that can be taken on a number of issues that will show progress, whether it's on something like unintended pregnancy or adoption -- some of those things that I think the Pope and the President will get a chance to discuss, and I assume it will be a very frank conversation.
Q: Will there be an announcement coming out of that, you think, from that meeting -- new initiatives or efforts?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know that there will be new initiatives or new efforts as much as -- hopefully we'll get a chance to talk to him about -- the President will get a chance to talk to the Pope about some of those things I mentioned and get his thoughts and input on their implementation and their impact. Obviously he's somebody that gets to see a lot of the world and I think getting his continued support for these efforts is obviously important.
Q: Thank you, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: Thanks, guys.
END 9:13 A.M. (Local)
Robert Gibbs, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/286295