6/13/12: White House Press Briefing

6/13/12: White House Press Briefing


Mr. Carney:
Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. Thanks for being here. Before I take your
questions, let me give you a little readout. President Obama spoke separately
today to European Council President Van Rompuy and Mexican
President Felipe Calderón to discuss the economic
situation in Europe as well as preparations for the
June 18th-19th G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. This continues the President’s
close consultations with fellow leaders about the
global economy. President Van Rompuy agreed
on the importance of steps to strengthen the resilience
of the eurozone and growth in Europe and globally. President Calderón discussed the
agenda of the Mexican presidency of the G20. In both calls, the leaders
agreed to work closely together toward a successful
summit in Los Cabos. And with that, I’ll
take your questions. The Press:
First on the President’s
economic speech tomorrow, can you tell us
what’s new in the speech? Reporting so far suggests that
it’s a lot of the same things we’ve heard before. Why package it this way? And will there be
something new to it? Mr. Carney:
I’ll say a few
things about that. It is a campaign speech,
as has been reported, so I would refer you to
the campaign for more details about it. I can tell you that the
President believes that this election is a fundamental
choice between two very different visions for
how we grow the economy, create middle-class jobs
and pay down our debt. The other side’s plan is a $5
trillion tax cut that explodes the deficit while gutting the
investments we need to grow. The President’s plan is to pay
down our deficit in a balanced way, a way supported by the
majority of the American people, while still investing
in education, energy, innovation and infrastructure. And I think that the President
will discuss that tomorrow. But I won’t get into details
previewing the President’s speech, because we certainly
want you to listen closely when he delivers it. The Press:
And on Iraq, we’ve got car
bombs killing more than 60 people today — sounds
like 2006, not 2012. How concerned is the President
about the slide in violence toward Iraq? Do you consider it on the
way to being a failed state? And separately, are you
considering pulling the nominee of the U.S.
ambassador to be — nominee to be ambassador
Brett McGurk? Mr. Carney:
I’ll start with the second part. The President has nominated
Brett McGurk to be ambassador to Iraq for the United States. We believe that our nation
will be greatly served by his experiences in Iraq, and we look
forward to the Senate’s advice and consent on his appointment. With regard to the violence,
we strongly condemn the recent attacks in Iraq. The targeting of innocent
civilians and security forces is cowardly and reprehensible. We offer our condolences to
the families of the victims, and support the continued
efforts of Iraqi government forces to bring those
responsible to justice. I would simply say that it’s
important to remember that while we have seen that extremist
groups in Iraq are still able to use violence and cause harm, we
believe their capabilities have been diminished in recent years. Also, Iraqis continue to reject
extremist tactics in support of peaceful methods of
resolving their disputes. There have been occasional
periods where there have been increases in violence, but
overall violence is greatly decreased from the time
period that you referenced in particular. Also I think worth noting is
that Iraq hosted — Baghdad hosted an important series of
negotiations not that long ago, and their ability to do that in
a secure way demonstrates the progress that they’ve made
in that country and in their capacity to provide security
in a place like Baghdad. Reuters. The Press:
Jay, the Secretary of State
has accused Russia of providing attack helicopters to
Assad’s forces in Syria, and Russia has accused the
United States of supplying arms to the rebels. I wonder if you could explain
how President Obama and President Putin will
address this in Los Cabos, how serious a strain it is
to U.S.-Russia relations, this issue. Mr. Carney:
Sure, a couple of points. One, we do not and have
not supplied weapons to the Syrian opposition. You know our position on that,
and we’ve made it very clear. That position has not changed. What Secretary Clinton said was
a continuation of what we’ve been saying, which is we have
been expressing our concern about the provision of arms and
weaponry to the Assad regime. This is not new, but it is an
issue that we have discussed with the Russians and we
obviously view with some concern because it enhances Assad’s
capacity to wage war — or wage violence upon his own people,
which is what he’s been doing. So we are engaged with the
Russians on this issue, as you know, and we obviously
have some differences with the Russians on this issue. Where we broadly agree I
think and where the entire international community agrees
is that we need to create a situation that allows for a
transition in Syria during what remains a window
of opportunity here, but a closing window
of opportunity, to achieve that transition
before the situation devolves into a broader
sectarian civil war. So we are continuing to engage
with our international partners in different forums
— the United Nations, the “Friends of Syria” and
elsewhere — to isolate and pressure Assad. We take new steps regularly with
our partners to do that through sanctions and other means to
help prop up — or stand up the opposition, help
it organize itself, provide it nonlethal assistance
and humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. And we’ll continue to do that. Meanwhile, the situation in
Syria is obviously terrible. Assad’s brutality
is unacceptable. He will go down in history as
a tyrant who will be loathed by generations of Syrians who are
the victims of his brutality. The Press:
Will the President be
speaking with his Russian counterpart about the attack
helicopter issue ahead of the G20, or will that wait until — Mr. Carney:
Again, I would just say that
the issue of helicopters is part of a broader concern
that we’ve expressed and will continue to express as we
discuss with the Russians and others about next steps that
need to be taken to help bring about the political transition
that is so essential for the future of the Syrian people. I am sure that Syria will be
a topic of discussion both in bilateral meetings as well
as more broadly at the G20. But I don’t have anything
specific in terms of what will be on the agenda in
that specific bilateral. Yes, Jake. The Press:
To follow up on the
question on McGurk, the letter from the six
Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
is pretty specific about their issues. They say he lacks — McGurk
lacks the leadership and management experience necessary
to lead America’s largest embassy in one of the most
volatile — the world’s most volatile regions. Members also have further doubts
that stem from his role in the botched 2011 status of forces
agreement negotiations. Furthermore, senators are
concerned by a report that some Iraqi political groups have
stated they will not work with McGurk if confirmed. And finally, the public release
of information detailing unprofessional conduct
demonstrates poor judgment and will affect his credibility
in the country where he’s been nominated to serve. These are pretty
serious concerns. Do you just dismiss them? Mr. Carney:
Well, I would simply
say that we believe that the United States will be
greatly served by Mr. McGurk’s experience in Iraq,
which is substantial. And some of the points that
you raise go to differing views about Iraq that have very little
to do with our proposed nominee and just a difference
of opinion. There are some who believe we
should still be at war in Iraq. There are some who believe the
President should not have ended U.S. involvement
in the war in Iraq. The President simply disagrees. He made a commitment
that he would do that; he made a commitment that
he would withdraw U.S. forces, that we would get out of
the war in Iraq more responsibly than we got into it. And he has fulfilled
that promise. So there are elements of that
letter that have to do with a broader disagreement and — The Press:
Well, let’s forget
the ones about — Mr. Carney:
But in terms of Mr. McGurk,
the President supports his nomination. He put him forward. He has a great deal of
experience in Iraq not just in this administration but
in the prior administration, and thinks he will serve
ably as ambassador. The Press:
There’s been a couple
ambassadors that have had to step down — Luxembourg and
the Bahamas — and there have been State Department
reports suggesting dysfunctional leadership. Are you at all concerned that
the emails that came out last week indicate a certain lack of
professionalism by Mr. McGurk? Mr. Carney:
I don’t have anything
more for you on that particular issue. The State Department is probably
the best place to go for that. I can tell you that the
President put forward this nominee because he is qualified
for the job and will serve ably when he’s confirmed. The Press:
One other question
about the economy. James Carville, in an interview
and also in a memo that he co-wrote with Stan Greenberg,
expressed concern that the President, when he talks about
how the economy is improving, risks leaving the impression
among voters that the economy is doing well. And I know that —
I’m sure you disagree. I just wanted to give you
an opportunity to respond. Mr. Carney:
Sure. I would simply say that
every time the President speaks about the economy it is about
the need to continue to help it grow, to continue to
help it create jobs. What we all know is that this
country has been through the worst economic cataclysm
of our lifetimes. That is what was taking place
in 2008 when the last election happened, and in January of 2009
when President Obama was sworn into office. And that has — stopping that
cataclysmic economic slide, that decline, reversing it and
beginning to climb out of the hole that the recession dug
for this nation has been the principal mission of
this President and this administration. He never fails to talk about the
fact that we have much work to do, as you heard him say on
Friday and as he says every time he discusses the economy. And I’m sure he will discuss it
in those terms tomorrow when he speaks about it in Ohio. Look, we are highly cognizant of
the fact and understand deeply the fact that the American
people are still hurting. This economy and the recession
that we went through resulted in something on the order
of 9 million jobs lost. We saw, recently in the survey
by the Federal Reserve about the wealth of the median American
family being devastated by the recession — devastated. From the fourth quarter of 2007
until the first quarter of 2009, we saw a 40-percent
decline in median wealth. That’s a fancy way of saying
that the bottom fell out and the American people paid a huge
price for the recession and the policies that led
up to the recession. And it is the central mission of
this President, this presidency, this administration, to put in
place the policies that will help us grow, will
help us create jobs, and do it in a way that builds a
foundation for the economy that is not shaky, that is not
constructed out of the insubstantial stuff of housing
bubbles or tech bubbles, or financial industry bubbles,
but is built on investments in education, in innovation, in
infrastructure, in energy. And that’s been his objective,
and that encapsulates the policy approach he’s taken as
it regards the economy. The Press:
Jay, there’s a new global
attitudes project survey out by Pew that finds vast
majorities in places like Britain and France and
Germany say that China, not the United States,
is now the dominant global economic power. I’m going to assume
you disagree, but could you flesh out
a little bit why that perception is incorrect? Mr. Carney:
Well, I’m not an economist,
but I know that every economist would tell you that the economy
of the United States is still the largest in the world,
that the standard of living in the United States is still
higher and the highest in the world, and higher than certainly
the standard of living, on average, in China. But I think public opinion I’m
sure is shaped by the extremely rapid growth that’s taken place
in China over a number of years, which has been substantial, but
has also — and has done great things in terms of lifting
the Chinese out of poverty, but there are still hundreds of
millions of people who remain in poverty in that country. And that is why it is so
important that China as well as countries around the globe —
major economies around the globe need to take the necessary
actions to continue economic growth and continue
job creation. That will be a subject of
the G20 Summit in Mexico in the coming days. The Press:
And can I follow
up also on Iraq? You talked about the President’s
decision to end the war there and how that had some
disagreement on Capitol Hill. Does the administration support
repealing the authorization for the use of military
force in Iraq? Mr. Carney:
I haven’t had that question. I haven’t looked into it. I think that we ended the — the
President ended the war in Iraq. He brought our troops home. Through the remarkable service
and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, as well as
our civilian personnel in Iraq, Iraq has an opportunity
for a much better future. And we remain engaged in Iraq;
obviously it’s an important country in the region and an
important ally going forward. But as I was saying in answer
to the question earlier, there are those who argue here
in Washington that we should not have withdrawn forces from Iraq,
that eight years wasn’t enough, that we should continue
to have U.S. troops there. The President disagrees. Norah. The Press:
On Syria, does the White
House believe that Syria is in the midst of a civil war? Mr. Carney:
What we believe, what the
administration believes is that the situation
there is deteriorating. It is deteriorating quickly. It is horrific what Assad
is doing to his own people. And the window of opportunity
to bring about a transition to a democratic future for Syria
is closing, and will close. And if it does, the
chance for a broader, sectarian civil war in Syria
will be enhanced greatly. Defining the terminology now, or
debating the terminology now is far less important than making
sure that we’re taking actions collectively to bring
about that transition. And that requires the
cooperation of nations around the world, nations on the United
Nations Security Council — that goes to what I was discussing
earlier about our regular conversations with the Russians
and the differences we have with the Russians about the Assad
regime in Syria and how to bring about a transition there. But we are continuing to work on
that issue for the very reasons that I think prompted
your question. The Press:
France says it; the U.N.
Peacekeeping Chief says it. How can you say that Syria is
not in the midst of a civil war? Mr. Carney:
I think that it is largely
irrelevant to have a debate about terminology. What we know is that if
we don’t act quickly, if we don’t come together —
at the United Nations Security Council, at other forums,
through the “Friends of Syria” and elsewhere — to help the
Syrian people bring about the transition that they deserve, we
will be in a situation — or we will likely be in a situation
where Syria is experiencing a sectarian civil war that could
spill beyond its borders, that could destabilize
the region, that could involve other
countries in the kind of proxy conflict that can be very
damaging not just to the region, but to the world. So all of those reasons I think
further explain why it is so essential that the international
community act and unite around the notion that there
needs to be a transition; that that transition cannot
include Assad because of what he has done in this past
year to his own people. He long ago gave up his
opportunity to be a part of that transition. He will go down in history
as a brutal tyrant, someone who murdered
his own people, and therefore has no place
in the future that the Syrian people desire and deserve. The Press:
The Russian Foreign Minister
has rejected the U.S. claim that they are providing
new arms shipments to Syria. Do we believe he’s providing
new arms shipments to Syria? Mr. Carney:
Again, I can just answer
in the way that I did moments ago, which is to say
that this has been an issue that we’ve discussed openly as
well as privately in the past. The relationship that the
Russian government has with Syria is a longstanding one, and
we simply have a difference of opinion about circumstances
now with regards to Assad. But the provision of armaments
and weapons has been something that we’ve discussed with the
Russians and that we consider to be a problem. I don’t have specifics
on arms shipments and the timing of them. But overall it’s an issue — The Press:
The Russians, as you know,
have said that they’re just continuing what were
previous contracts for arms, and that the stuff that
they’re providing Syria is not the stuff that’s
involved in the conflict that’s going on internally. You patently reject that. You say that Russia is
sending new arms shipments that is fueling — Mr. Carney:
Those are your words, Norah. I’m using mine, which is to
say that Russia has provided arms to Syria. I think nobody
disagrees with that. Those arms have and can be
used in an offensive way; have and can be used by —
and are being used by the Assad forces to bring about
the violence that they’re perpetrating on
their own people. And that’s simply a fact. I’m not here to — The Press:
From a policy perspective,
we’re asking Russia to end those arms shipments, or
are we not asking them? Mr. Carney:
We strongly believe
that arms shipments to the Assad regime are the wrong
thing to be doing and that that only heightens the violence
against the Syrian people. And it’s part of a broader
perspective that we have that we’ve made very clear that we
do not believe that any kind of support for the Assad regime
right now is helpful because of what Assad is doing
to his people. And again, we’ve been very
transparent about that. It’s part of the kind of
relationship that we have with Russia where we can openly
discuss our differences as we work together on
areas where we agree. And this is something that we’re
continuing to discuss with the Russians as the world
watches what Assad is doing. And one of the points that we
make and that I’ve made here — The Press:
I don’t understand why you’re
not saying from the podium, Russia must stop. Mr. Carney:
We believe that everyone
should stop providing — everyone who is providing
weapons to the Assad regime should halt the provision of
those weapons because it only — as we’ve said, providing more
weapons only further militarizes the situation. So I think I’m being pretty
clear, Norah, about that. And we continue to discuss with
the Russians as well as others the steps that need to be
taken to bring a halt to this appalling violence against
Syrian civilians and to usher in a period where the future
is brighter for Syria, where the possibility of a
democratic political transition exists, which is what the
Syrian people deserve. The Press:
Two quick questions on
events today — the meeting this afternoon
with President Peres. He’s expected — we expect him
to bring up this request on this Jonathan Pollard matter,
the convicted spy, to ask for clemency. We know there’s been some
support from a few members of Congress for the idea of
commuting his sentence to time served, 27 years. Regardless of whether you’ve
received the letter or request or petition or not, what is the
administration’s response or stance on a Pollard issue? Mr. Carney:
Sure. Our position has not
changed and will not change today. And I would simply remind you
that Mr. Pollard was convicted of extremely serious crimes. The Press:
The other one is, tonight at
this dinner where of course, President Peres will be given
the Medal of Freedom — I understand you guys aren’t —
are you going to be releasing the list of attendees in the
interest of transparency? Mr. Carney:
I’ll have to get back to you. I’m not sure. Yes, Ed. The Press:
A couple issues. One, David Maraniss
has a book coming out. Have people here had
a chance to read it? Any reaction at all to it? Because excerpts have come
out, obviously, beforehand. Mr. Carney:
I don’t — I can’t
speak for everyone. I have not had a
chance to read it. I’ve read the excerpts,
I’ve read about it, but I have not read it in full. The Press:
So what’s your
reaction in general, and do you think it will have
any impact on the campaign, just looking at the
President’s life, an author who — highly
respected, et cetera, who spent a lot of time — Mr. Carney:
Well, I don’t have a — I don’t
want to provide a book review here from the podium. The President — the story of
the President’s life has been told, and not least by the
President himself in his own memoir. Whether a book of that nature,
the impact it has is sort of not for me to decide. But again, I haven’t read it. The Press:
Last night at one
of the fundraisers, the President was saying that
President Bush built in what he called a “structural deficit”
that extends for decades. And he cited tax cuts,
prescription drug plan that was not paid for, wars
as well not paid for. What does that mean, though,
when he says “structural deficit” for decades, since
the tax cuts, for example, were going to be expiring at the
end of this year so you could actually get deficit
savings from that? The President has wound down the
war in Iraq — you’re getting savings from that. I’m trying to understand why
this is going to continue for decades if some of that
money is coming back. Mr. Carney:
Well, one I think is the
Medicare prescription drug benefit that you correctly
mentioned was unpaid for and is the kind of thing that goes
on forever because it’s an entitlement and contributes —
because it was unpaid for in the beginning and because the
authors of the provisions of the previous administration did not
see fit to provide funding for it — in fact, I think there
was a very prominent official in that administration,
this very White House, who was on the record saying
that deficits don’t matter. So that contributes to the
deficit that we have today. You know, Ed, that —
what the history is here. January of 2001, when
that transition happened, CBO and every economic analyst
out there said that the United States had a budget surplus, and
that surpluses would continue as far as forecasters
could foresee. Eight years later, when the
next transition happened and President Obama took office,
those surpluses had disappeared entirely, and he was
handed the largest deficit in American history. Something happened. And we know a lot of what
happened in terms of the explosion of deficit spending,
and it was two massive, unpaid for tax cuts that largely
benefited wealthiest Americans — not the middle class that
during that time period saw its incomes stagnate or shrink. We saw two wars that were never
paid for in the budget proposals of the incumbent administration
or by the Congress. And that contributed
mightily to the deficit. We saw the Medicare prescription
drug benefit unpaid for. That contributed to the deficit. And that would be hard enough
for any new administration and government to contend with —
a situation where surpluses disappeared and what
materialized instead was the largest
deficit in history. But in addition to that, that
was nothing compared to what else the country was
facing in January 2009. As you know, it was an economic
crisis the likes of which none of us here had ever seen before. There were headlines every
day about the possibility of a global economic collapse. Headlines every day about people
— prominent people suggesting that banks should
be nationalized, that we might see a situation of
25 percent unemployment in this country — something we
hadn’t seen since the 1930s. That is the environment that
this country was in economically when President Obama
was sworn into office. And that is why, as
I mentioned earlier, his focus has been so narrowly
keyed into the measures that we can take to grow the
economy and create jobs. And that is a long-term
project when you have a crisis like this. When you see a financial
collapse like we saw, recovery takes time. And you need to do
not just one thing, but many things to
help the economy grow, many things to help it
create jobs — large things, medium things and small things. And that’s why the President has
put forward so many proposals that do that. Some of them have passed, and
they have had a positive impact, but not enough of them have
passed and that’s part of the debate that we’re
having right now. For example, one of the weak
spots in our economy has been in the area of state
and local government, where budget constraints have
forced decisions upon officials in states and localities
to lay off teachers, to lay off firefighters
and police officers. We’ve also seen a situation
where because of the collapse of the housing market that
contributed so mightily to the decline and median wealth for
the average American family, it has meant that construction
workers are not on the job. The President put
forward measures that would address that. And Congress, unfortunately
— Republicans in Congress — refuse to adopt them. The President still believes
that we can take that action now and put folks back to work in
a situation where the economy still needs help. The Press:
Last thing. When earlier Anne asked about
whether there will be anything new tomorrow, you didn’t seem to
shoot down the idea that there will not be anything new in
the speech tomorrow in Ohio. Obviously, we will wait and
see exactly what he says. But if he gets out there again
tomorrow and says that he inherited this, as you just
mentioned — which he did in early 2009; it was all falling
apart — do you worry, though, that when people
are still hurting, they feel like they’ve heard
this before and they feel like he’s got nothing new to help
them deal with the struggles in their lives? Mr. Carney:
Well, I’ve said often, Ed,
in recent days and weeks, that the President is constantly
tasking his economic team and others to put forward ideas that
could help grow the economy, help it create jobs — whether
they’re ideas that would require congressional action or ideas
that the administration could take through executive action. And he will continue to do that. He recently put forward a set of
ideas that Congress could act on that build on the measures
he proposed last fall. Congress should
act on all of them. And I think it’s worth noting
here that we always have these debates and we’re having one
now in Washington about, well, the President and Democrats
have their proposals, Republicans reject them, and the
Republicans have their proposals and they blame the President and
Democrats for rejecting them. What do we do in that situation? Well, we turn to the referees. We turn to the outsiders, the
independent analysts — in this case, economists —
and see what they say. And the same economists who have
looked at the economic proposals put forward by the President —
that have yet to be passed by Congress — and the economic
proposals that House Republicans in particular tout say, on
the House Republican side, some of them would actually do
near-term damage to the economy. Some of them might, in the
out-years and down the road, have positive economic impact. None of them would have
near-term, short-term, positive economic impact —
positive effect on growth, positive effect on job creation. Those are the referees, right? What do they say about
the President’s proposals? Those elements of the American
Jobs Act that the President put forward, that Congress refuse
to pass because they were protecting — they didn’t want
to pay for by asking oil and gas companies to give
up their subsidies; didn’t want to pay for it
by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay a little
bit extra — those provisions, as judged by outside economists,
would create roughly a million new jobs; would put a
million people back to work, and a lot of them teachers and
fire fighters — real folks who are still hurting. And that’s the debate. And that’s the judgment
of outside referees. So it’s not just a
question of, well, there’s a lot of gridlock
and everybody is saying, do what I say. It’s a question of what would
be good for the economy. And I think one of the reasons
why Congress has acted on some of the things that the President
has put forward is because he’s gone out into the country and
taken his case to the American people, and the American
people have, in turn, pressured Congress
to take action. That was the case with
the extension of the payroll tax cut. It was the case with
the extension of unemployment insurance. And hopefully it will be
the case going forward, because we need to take action. And the American people
expect the folks they send to Washington to work on their
behalf and not sit around and make predictions about what will
be helpful for their electoral prospects in November. Yes. The Press:
Thank you, sir. I’ll give you a second
to catch your breath, because I’m going to
go back to Syria here. (laughter) Mr. Carney:
Appreciate that. The Press:
So Russia — you have alleged,
the American government has alleged — is sending
attack helicopters in aid of the Assad regime. You have called what’s going on
there a brutally unacceptable series of events,
including the killing. So my question is, is Russia
complicit in the killing of some 10,000 civilians? Mr. Carney:
That is not what we’re saying. We are simply saying that it is
well known that Syria and Russia have an arms-supply relationship
that goes back a half century, including providing
arms and helicopters. A change in that relationship
will only happen in the context of a larger Russian decision to
join the international consensus on Assad’s departure. And that was the point I think
I was trying to make to Norah, which is that the whole issue
of supplying arms is but a small part of the broader discussion
we’re having with the Russians, which is to take a different
view of the situation in Syria and a different view of
Assad’s responsibility, and the need for Assad to not
be a part of Syria’s future. The Press:
I mean, but that’s
all well and good. But considering the
urgency of the situation, are the — I mean, calling
them out for sending attack helicopters is, in the
context of this diplomacy, probably somewhat extraordinary
given the circumstances. But you frame it in the
context of what — a long-term relationship. There are 10,000 people who
have already been killed over the course of the
last year in Syria. What else can you do to
convince Russia to stop aiding that regime? Mr. Carney:
Well, we have regular
conversations with the Russians. I’m not going to get into
the details of private, diplomatic conversations, but
we’re certainly having them. But we’re also very clear, as
we were when Russia vetoed a resolution, an anti-Assad
resolution at the United Nations Security Council, that we
disagree on that matter and that’s why we’re
having this discussion. The Press:
I just want to come back
to the issue that broke late Friday — and forgive
me if this was brought up earlier in the
week; I wasn’t here. First of all, there are some
calling for a special prosecutor in the leak case —
your reaction to that. And second of all, was there any
communication between the White House and DOJ prior to the
Attorney General’s announcement on appointing
investigators, the U.S. attorneys? Mr. Carney:
I think I gave a response to
this the other day in terms of the call by some for
taking that action. We don’t believe
that’s necessary. This administration takes
the leaking of classified and sensitive information
very seriously. The President spoke to that
himself in the briefing room here just last Friday; made very
clear his views on the matter. And as for the investigation
that is underway, that’s a DOJ operation
and I would refer you to them for details. I am certainly not aware
of any such discussions. This is an action taken by
the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. The Press:
Can I follow up on Syria? Did Secretary Clinton go too far
in the accusation she made — Mr. Carney:
Secretary Clinton made clear
what we’ve been saying, which is — and which I just
said — that the issue of provision of arms is but a part
of a broader discussion we’re having with the Russians
about Assad and his future, and what he’s doing to the
Syrian people right now. The fact of the matter is Assad
will go down in history as a brutal tyrant. And our argument has been — to
the Russians and others who have supported that regime in the
past — that it is a wrong thing to do to continue that
support because of what he has perpetrated in this past year. And we’ve been very
clear about that. The Press:
She made a very specific
allegation about a particular kind of weaponry that could
be used in a particularly brutal way, and it obviously
has antagonized the Russians. Was that the intention of the
administration to get that out there and provoke a response? Mr. Carney:
Look, I think we’ve been
very clear about — as I’ve said a few times now —
about our concern about Syria, about the escalation
of violence there, and our position that everyone
should take steps to reverse that process and to pressure
Assad to cease and desist, and to eventually give up the
power that he does have so that the Syrian people can enjoy the
transition that they deserve. I think we obviously
use diplomatic language appropriately, but we have been
pretty blunt about this and that’s because the
matter is so serious. Christi. The Press:
Thank you, Jay. Does the President still
believe the economy is pointed in the right direction? Mr. Carney:
I think the President
believes that we have made progress. The President believes
that we have made not nearly enough progress. It is an incontrovertible
fact that an economy that was shrinking, contracting, at 8.9
percent in the final quarter of 2008, has, for the past I think
11 quarters or something like that, been growing. There’s been positive
economic growth. It is a fact that an economy
that was shedding jobs at a rate of 750,000-plus per month when
President Obama took office, an economy that went through a
recession that cost 9 million jobs has been creating jobs now
for however many months — 27 months; 4.3 million is
what the statisticians and economists tell us. And that is obviously pointing
in a better direction than the direction the economy was headed
when the President took office. We need to continue to grow. We need to continue
to create jobs. We need to continue to take the
measures necessary — like the ones I was just describing to
Ed — that would have a direct, immediate impact on economic
growth and job creation this year, right now, because we are
still not where we need to be. And then we need to continue to
make the investments necessary to ensure that we grow in
following years so that America is as strong in the 21st century
economically as it was in the 20th — stronger, even,
in the 21st century. That is all what we need to do. And that’s what is embodied in
the President’s vision for the steps we need to take to build
our economy in the future. But there is no question that
we are a long way from where we need to be. The hole was deep, and we
are only part way out of it. That’s why this debate
is so important, because I’ve expressed my
surprise in the past — having watched a few of these elections
in the past and observed them from your perspective
— that in this process, the folks who are contending for
office and want to oppose the President have — very few of
them have ever put forward an idea that says, you know what,
let’s do something new because what was tried by the
Republicans from 2001 to 2008 sure didn’t work. Does anybody argue
that it worked? And yet, what we’ve seen
proposed is the very same policies and then some. There’s nothing — there’s no
sort of alternative idea being proposed, unfortunately,
by Republicans. And I think that is part
of the debate that we’ll have in the fall. The Press:
So what’s your take on why
the “doing fine” comment took off like it did and provoked
the response that it did? Mr. Carney:
I think we live in
an environment — The Press:
Do you think it’s just
a bad choice of words? Or — Mr. Carney:
I think we live in an
environment where stuff gets shot around really quickly
and reacted to really quickly. I think everyone here —
I think you were here; I can’t remember — but most
folks who were in this room understood the context,
understood the context within all of the speeches and comments
and remarks the President has made about the economy. And he was making, I think,
an objectively obvious point, which is, compared to a
situation where so-called public sector workers — and
that sounds very bland and bureaucratic, but we’re talking
about teachers and firefighters and police officers — have
been laid off in droves, and compared that to a situation
where the private sector has created 4.3 million jobs, the
public sector is an example of weakness by comparison. But he certainly does not
believe and has made clear in every policy proposal he’s put
forward and every speech he’s given on the subject that we are
anywhere — we are where we need to be in the private sector
or in the whole economy, and that’s why we need to
take action to continue to help the economy grow. Remember, the proposals that
are on the table that the Republicans have yet to pass
include extension of the production tax credit for
businesses to help them grow and hire. They include proposals to
help homeowners refinance, which would inject more
money into the economy, into the private
sector to help it grow, to help small businesses and
large businesses hire and grow. The President has taken an
approach to economic growth and job creation that has
been focused principally on the private sector and
it will continue to be. The Press:
And he does make
that point a lot. Mr. Carney:
Remember, I think it’s
now 18 small business tax cuts that he’s signed into law. The Press:
And almost every time the
President speaks about the economy he starts by talking
about how terrible things are and how much more
needs to be done. But I’m just wondering — what
you’re saying today sounds like things you’ve said before and
the things the President has been saying for a long time. I just wonder if you have
a sense of why that is not connecting, and why that
— why people don’t seem to see that message. Mr. Carney:
I think people
are still hurting. I think the economy
has not recovered, and it’s not where
it needs to be. We are still emerging from a
terrible recession that saw the loss of 9 million jobs
that, in a short period, as elucidated by the
Federal Reserve report, from the fourth quarter of 2007
to the first quarter of 2009, all of it within that period, a
40 percent reduction in median household wealth. That means average
Americans saw their wealth, principally in their homes, just
collapse in that period from the fourth quarter of 2007 to
the first quarter of 2009. That is a terrible situation. And it I think highlights the
kind of economic situation that we saw ourselves — we
found ourselves in, in 2008, and that this President
confronted when he took office in 2009. And if I may, it elucidates why
we cannot sensibly adopt the policies that helped create a
situation where median household wealth dropped 40 percent
in a little over a year. That was terrible for
the American people. So why adopt policies
that say, you know what, let’s let the financial industry
write its own rules again. Let’s repeal Wall Street reform. Let’s let credit card companies
have their way with consumers. Health insurance
companies, go for it, take advantage of people again
— because it worked so well in the first decade of this year. Yes. The Press:
My name is (inaudible) I am
correspondent from the SKY TV of Greece. About the economy, I
know your concerns about the European economy. And I have two short questions. The first question is that we
know the President — American President has stressed out the
necessity for Europeans to visit — to design a policy
to promote growth, rather than austerity measures. What I want to know is
whether the United States, as a major contributor
to the IMF, would support the new elected
Greek government in their efforts, in the Greek
efforts to convince, to persuade Europeans and
the IMF to ease the austerity measures and to boost — to take
steps towards growth — towards boosting growth. This is my first question. And the second question is, what
do you respond to those saying that Greece should sacrifice
itself by departing the eurozone in order to rescue
the euro currency? Thank you. Mr. Carney:
Well, I’ll take the
second one, first. The President himself
addressed this on Friday, as did the members of the G8 in
their communiqué coming out of that meeting, which is that they
believe that the Greeks should stay in the eurozone; that, as
the President said here at this podium on Friday, their
circumstances will be worse — they will be worse off if Greece
were to exit the eurozone. That’s his view. It’s the view of the G8. On the broader issue that
you mentioned in your first question, I think, again, that
was reflected in the statements coming out of the G8, the fact
that everyone was in agreement that there needs to be a focus
on economic growth and job creation in the near term. The President has said that the
approach that he believes is right for America is a helpful
guide to I think an approach in Europe and elsewhere, which is
growth and job creation in the near term with — while putting
measures into place now that will help control debt and
control deficits in the medium and long term. It is important that Europe
undertake the kinds of reforms that have been adopted. We have said that all along. It is also important that Europe
take action to increase growth and increase job creation,
and both are important. And the emphasis I think that
was reflected in statements coming out of the G8 reflect
the President’s views on this balance between growth and jobs
on the one hand, and austerity, or so-called austerity,
on the other. The Press:
Thank you. Mr. Carney:
All right, thank
you all very much. Appreciate it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *