Press Briefing

July 31, 2012 | 44:49 | Public Domain

White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing.

Download mp4 (428MB) | mp3 (102MB)

Read the Transcript

Daily Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 7/31/12

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:46 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Here we go.  Here we go.

Q    How's camp?

MR. CARNEY:  I really can't talk about it.  (Laughter.) 

Q    About what?

MR. CARNEY:  I was asked about -- I took my son to his first overnight camp yesterday.  And it's a big moment -- you say goodbye.  He's very excited.  I'm sure he's having a great time and I'm not at all worried about it.  (Laughter.) 

Q    -- watching this now?

MR. CARNEY:  No, you can be sure no TV allowed, I hope. 

Aside from that, I will -- I'm sorry, Connie, what?

Q    -- the mother and father.

MR. CARNEY:  He's supposed to write every day.

But I have no other announcements.  But thank you for asking.


Q    Thanks, Jay.  A few topics.  Consumer confidence in July was better but not nearly at the level of a healthy economy, a healthy level of confidence.  Does the White House think that public attitudes about the economy are set now as to where they're going to be in November, or is there a sense that there's still time for things to move in either direction?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the way I would address that question, Ben, is simply to say that the President is not satisfied with where the economy is.  He knows that the American people, by and large, are not satisfied with where the economy is.  And that's why he's doing everything he can, and he is urging Congress to do everything it can, to take action to help the economy grow faster and to help it create more jobs.

We're in a situation now where Congress is about to leave town.  The House should act to pass the tax cuts for the middle class -- 98 percent of American taxpayers -- and do what everyone in Washington agrees should be done, which is to extend those tax cuts, pass that law, the President will sign it, and it will create certainty for 98 percent of the American people.  It will give the economy certainty and it will help the economy grow faster and create more jobs.

This is the President's central preoccupation.  And it is I think the central issue for the American people in this election year.  That's why he's focused on it and that's why he continues to believe that while there are great disagreements -- and he talks about the stalemate that exists here in Washington, a stalemate that the voters can settle in November -- prior to that, there are things that we do agree on that we can act on:  tax cuts for the middle class. 

I think Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette has announced his resignation today, and he talked about his frustration over the fact that Congress finds itself arguing over no-brainers like building roads and bridges.  I have no doubt that the Republican Congressman and the President haven't agreed on all the issues, but they agree on this one -- Congress should pass legislation, as the President outlined in the American Jobs Act, that would put construction workers on the job building roads, bridges, highways, ports, schools. 

This is the kind of thing that has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support.  It’s the kind of thing that pays benefits not just to the workers who are on the job, but to the broader economy in the near term because it generates economic activity, but also to the economy in the long term because better roads and bridges and highways, infrastructure helps our economy long into the future.  So this is, again, the President’s central preoccupation.

Q    We know that the President’s campaign is about to have a call about Governor Romney’s trip abroad, but I wanted to see if the White House had any comment about how you see the Governor’s trip as having gone, and whether it did anything to help or hurt his credentials.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think the campaign can handle some of that, and I think that the press will make its own judgments.  What I can tell you, having been both a reporter covering foreign trips by candidates as well as incumbent Presidents, and now as a staffer, I understand that these are high-stakes enterprises; that pulling them off is a lot harder than it looks; that they can be very tense, especially if they’re not going well, and -- (laughter) -- seriously, for reporters as well as staffers and the principal.  And I think one thing that the news reports remind us of is that when American Presidents, American senators and congressmen and would-be leaders go abroad, what they say is placed under a magnifying glass and it carries great impact.  And Presidents, senators, congressmen, former governors need to be very mindful of the impact because of the diplomatic implications of what you say overseas.

So without offering a broad assessment, which I’ll leave to the campaign, I think that it’s a reminder that this is a high-stakes situation; that the job of President -- even though the focus in this campaign and the focus of this President at this time is on the economy, the job includes as an enormous part of it the exercise of national security policy and diplomacy.  And it’s a very important part of the job, and getting it right matters greatly to America’s standing in the world and to the successful execution of American foreign policy.

Q    One other quick one on a very different topic.  The House is scheduled to vote on a bill that would ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  I’m wondering the White House’s position on that.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I haven’t spoken to the President about this particular piece of legislation, Ben, but the President’s position on a woman’s reproductive freedom is well known. 

I would note that, as I mentioned earlier, we’re on the verge of a recess here, and rather than focusing on controversial, divisive, social legislation, the House ought to be passing a tax cut for 98 percent of the middle class -- 98 percent of American taxpayers, for the middle class, that everyone agrees on.  That should be the focus of the House’s work right now.  That’s what the American people want.  It’s something that everyone agrees on. 

We can debate for the rest of this election cycle the merits of providing extended tax breaks to the top 2 percent of American earners, and that’s an important debate to have.  You know the President’s position; we know the other side’s position.  But here’s a situation where Republicans and Democrats agree -- and the President feels strongly about this -- that we should extend those tax cuts for the middle class.  And we should do that right away, and then debate about the issues that still divide us.

Q    Thank you.

MR. CARNEY:  Reuters, and then -- yes.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  House prices rose for the fourth straight month in May, and -- an indication that the market is gaining strength.  I wondered if it’s your assessment that the market has bottomed out, and how confident are you that the direction will continue?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would leave the broader assessments about the state of the market to experts who analyze that.  This President has been very focused on taking every measure available, both administratively and legislatively, to assist homeowners who, through no fault of their own -- they’ve been responsible, they met their mortgage payments, but they find themselves underwater -- helping them refinance.  That’s been a very important initiative that this President has pressed. 

And we’re very mindful of the fact that the collapse of the housing market has contributed mightily to the great recession and has been a drag on the recovery.  So we need to continue to take the steps necessary to assist responsible homeowners to keep making their payments, to stay in their homes -- and obviously there’s a virtuous cycle here hopefully that begins to take effect gradually that will help lift the housing market and, with it, create some economic growth as a benefit.

But this is still a difficult issue for many, many Americans who find themselves, again, through no fault of their own, they’ve been very responsible, but find themselves underwater with their mortgages.  And that’s why the President has been focusing -- focused on getting the kind of assistance to them so they can take advantage of historically low interest rates that Washington can help provide.

Q    Did the improvement in prices reduce the urgency of debt forgiveness from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have a specific reaction to that question.  I simply will say that we are far from where we want to be -- both broadly in the economy, as I was saying to Ben, but certainly in the housing market.  And I would -- I think it would be way premature to suggest that we don’t need to take more steps to assist homeowners.

Q    Just one other question.  North Korea has had some quite serious flooding.  There’s a U.N. team that’s on the way there to assess the needs and put together an aid plan.  Is the United States involved in that discussion?  Is there a plan to contribute humanitarian aid to North Korea if they need it?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t had any discussions about that issue here at the White House.  I would probably refer you to the United States mission at the U.N. or perhaps the State Department.  Obviously, for North Koreans who are suffering, our hearts go out to them.  But I don’t have anything specific on assistance.

Welcome, Nancy.

Q    Thank you very much, Jay.  You said that things can be tense when things aren’t going well.  Does that mean that the White House thinks that things for Mr. Romney on his overseas trip did not go well?  And is there anything that he said while he was abroad that was of concern to the President?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I’ll leave the assessments to the media and to others about his trip.  I was trying to make a broader point about the significance of foreign travel for Presidents, for would-be presidents, senators, congressmen, because of the weight of their words when they travel overseas and the impact it can have on the execution of U.S. foreign policy.  Now, I think there are a number of things that have been said about the President’s foreign policy record that are inaccurate and that I’d be happy to contest, but I think --

Q    Notably?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, look, I think we’ve talked about, on the issue of missile defense, it is very clear that this President has pursued aggressively the development and implementation of a missile defense program in Europe that includes, notably, an installation in Poland, and that, contrary to suggestions to the contrary -- contrary to suggestions from critics, the Russians continue to oppose and we continue to press forward with that missile defense program because it’s the right thing to do.  It’s based on tested technology, and it’s the most effective missile defense program in terms of combating the threat from Iran.  That would be one issue where some of the criticism was off the mark, to say the least.

Q    On birth control, your new mandate for insurance companies goes into effect tomorrow -- they have to add birth control coverage to their plans.  Obviously there are already a number of challenges from businesses around the country on religious grounds.  Some of those challenges have been upheld in state courts.  Are you concerned that this is going to become the new front in the war over the Affordable Care Act?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would simply point you to the President’s policy and the position that he oversaw and had developed that ensures that these important preventive services are available to all women and that also respects religious liberty. 

As you know, no religious institution, no university has to provide contraceptive services or -- and the President’s position was very clearly that there needed to be that respect for religious liberty that created that balance while ensuring that women get these important preventive services.  So we’re still implementing the rule, but I think the President sought and found the right position in terms of respecting religious liberty and making sure these services are provided.

Q    What do you think about these lawsuits that are going on all around the country?  How much does that hamper the administration’s ability to implement this rule?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to comment on specific legislation or broadly -- I mean, litigation or even broadly on it.  I can tell you that we’re moving forward to implement this important rule that will ensure that women across the country have access to preventive services.  It’s a rule that also makes sure that religious liberty is respected.

Yes, Ed.

Q    Jay, I don’t know if this is related to the Romney trip or not, but the President had a phone call yesterday with the Turkish Prime Minister and the White House put out a photo and the President was sitting at his desk on the phone and he had a baseball bat in his hand.  Or maybe you were traveling yesterday. But the official White House photo --

Q    Was it aluminum or wood?

Q    He had a baseball bat in his hand.  Do you know did he get that from a Major League player, or is there some sort of back story about the foreign policy approach or -- (laughter) -- he was holding a baseball bat.

MR. CARNEY:  He’s a baseball fan.  What can I tell you.  As I think he said, White Sox but also watching the remarkable Washington Nationals.

Q    Can you take the question?

MR. CARNEY:  I can find out, yes.  (Laughter.) [The President is pictured talking on the telephone in the Oval Office holding an autographed baseball bat that was given to him by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.]

Q    Perhaps it was a diplomatic gift?

Q    On the economy, there was a -- you talk a lot here at the podium about the President’s approach, the balanced approach, and how many Americans agree with that.  There was a Gallup poll in the last 24 hours or so that suggested that government corruption, job creation, other issues like that are far more important on voters’ minds right now.  And raising taxes was far down the list, I think around 8, 9, 10, in that range -- much further down the list.  How does that square with the claim that the American people support the balanced approach and that’s sort of what they want in this election year?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think you’ve mixed a bunch of different elements here.  I think the documentation and the data that shows support for a balanced approach is very conclusive.  What is also true is that the American people are principally focused on the economy writ large, and on job creation and their own economic situation.  It doesn’t mean that most Americans wake up every morning thinking about how to implement a balanced approach to long-term deficit reduction.  It means that they want Washington to work in a way that helps the economy, helps it create jobs, and demonstrates the capacity of its leaders here to get America's fiscal house in order. 

And when we talk about what's the right approach, overwhelmingly the answer is a balanced approach that includes significant spending cuts to discretionary spending; it includes entitlement reforms that, while saving money, also strengthen programs like Medicare and Medicaid; and it includes revenues.  And that is the conclusion not just of the President, but of every outside, independent, bipartisan commission that’s looked at this.  It's the conclusion of the so-called Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of United States senators. 

And we have so much work that’s been done on this that there's not a lot of mystery about what it would take to achieve the amount of deficit reduction that would get control of our fiscal outlook, in excess of $4 trillion over 10 years.  And it's clear that the only way to do that without putting undue burdens on seniors, undue burdens on people who have children with disabilities, undue burdens on the middle class, is to do this in a balanced way. 

And the roadblock since last summer has consistently been a refusal by Republicans in Congress in anything like the numbers necessary to agree to the basic principle that everybody ought to pay their fair share, and a willingness to see the United States default, a willingness to see taxes go up on the middle class, a willingness to see defense cuts that are far deeper than anybody here in Washington thinks are responsible, all because of the principal judgment that what needs to be protected is tax relief for millionaires and billionaires.  That's just, understandably, not a position that has a great deal of support among the broader American populous.

Q    Jay -- and part of me knows the answer to the question, but I feel like I have to ask it anyway.

MR. CARNEY:  I'll take it anyway.  (Laughter.)

Q    Everything is an extension now here in Washington.  And I know you just went through a litany of reasons and you say it is all the Republicans fault.  But you just talked about sequester, and there is a tour going around -- John McCain is leading a tour on sequester.  And everything is -- do you guys have any responsibility here of the fact that we live in a town that only passes everything by six-month extensions? 

You have a six-month extension on the budget.  Everything is about avoiding the next delay.  The sequester, everybody is finger-pointing now, but it's -- I mean, it is just a kick the can -- and I understand you just went through and said, hey, it's all their fault.  It's all their fault?  You guys have no responsibility on this whatsoever?  Should you be having more summits here?  Should you be forcing Boehner to just sit there and not answer you?  I mean, I guess is there a different way you guys should be going about this? 

MR. CARNEY:  It's a fair question about what is the best way to bring about the kind of consensus that has been lacking.  And what I think all of us here have learned, and certainly those of us in the White House have learned, in the last year and a half is that getting things through this Congress that enjoy broad public support but which are opposed by a particularly powerful wing of the Republican Party, especially in the House, requires taking it to the people.  It requires making the argument out in the country. 

And I think you know, because you covered it, that we have tried it all ways -- both ways, if you will -- and that includes lots of negotiations and sitting across the table with leaders in Congress.  And I'm not precluding that in the future, but what we need is a demonstration of a seriousness of purpose by Republicans in Congress and a willingness to accept the premise that there needs to be balance in this.  There needs to be a willingness to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more, so that the middle class doesn't get stuck with the burden so that --

Q    The last nine months you guys have had this sort of throw-up-your-hands approach.  You know what -- they're not willing to talk.  They're not willing to negotiate. 

MR. CARNEY:  But my point is that on a number of issues, including extension of the payroll tax cut, extension of unemployment insurance, including ensuring that student loans didn't double -- the rates didn't double for millions of young Americans across the country -- the President worked both here in Washington, but worked in raising the profile of these issues across the country.  And that had the effect, fortunately, of bringing about a vote in Congress that was the right one that broke the back, if you will, of what initially was opposition to the President's position.  And I think that's what we believe can bring about consensus here.

Q    Go back to the fundamental question:  Do you guys own any of this?

MR. CARNEY:  The President is President.  He has pushed a lot of policies.  He has implemented a number of policies, and very significant ones, that reversed the course economically that we were on in this country that was cataclysmic of economic decline that we hadn't seen since the Great Depression, of job loss that we hadn't seen in decades, and took other measures like what was considered political folly at the time to ensure that the American automobile industry was saved, as well as making sure that we didn't precipitate an even greater crisis by allowing the financial sector to collapse. 

I mean, these were not -- these were tough choices, but they were the right choices.  And the President is responsible for those decisions and he stands by them.  And he is obviously running on that record. 

Q    -- what we're facing now.

MR. CARNEY:  Look, he made -- this was part of the problem that we faced.  And I think you and others who are veterans around here understand the continuum that we're on here is that the President and -- not always with a great deal of alacrity -- his party has come along on these budget negotiations, on these debates about what the right course is on fiscal policy, and taken positions that represent real compromise.

Two trillion dollars in spending cuts -- that's a lot of spending cuts that this President signed into law.  He took positions on entitlement reforms that I’m sure there are members of his party would rather he did not take.  But he was willing to do that because he believed that the greater good would be served by a compromise with Republican leaders in the Senate and the House, and the economy would be served by a bargain -- a grand bargain last summer that would have locked in the kind of long-term deficit reduction that would be beneficial for the country. That's the position he continues to take.

And I take your point that there’s -- it’s frustrating that despite the overwhelming evidence that that's the right course of action, despite the demonstrated willingness of the President and Democrats to compromise and to come some distance towards Republicans, that there has yet to be in any significant numbers in Congress among Republicans a similar willingness to accept the principle that they're not going to get everything that they want, that they might reach a deal that could leave Grover Norquist unhappy.  But that is the only deal that's available that would protect the middle class, protect seniors, and ensure that our economy continues to grow.


Q    Speaking of budget cuts, can you talk a little bit about why the President is going back to the same area of Akron, Ohio, tomorrow that he’s visited before?  And in Mansfield, the local paper is reporting if President Obama has his way his Air Force One arrival would be one of the final flights into the Mansfield airport because the President wants to do away with the mission for the 800 guardsmen at the Mansfield --

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll have to take the question.  I’m not aware of that particular issue.  And in terms of why is he going to Ohio, I think --

Q    No, to that area of Ohio -- Mansfield and Akron.  I mean, he was just there on a bus tour.

MR. CARNEY:  There’s not an inch of Ohio that the President does not love to visit.  (Laughter.)  It’s a great state -- my wife’s home state.

Q    In terms of Mansfield, can we get you to take that question?

MR. CARNEY:  Sure.  I’m not aware of even the policy implications or what issue you’re discussing.

Q    It is a base -- or is a National Guard operation, Air National Guard operation.

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not sure what this is in reference to, but if this is in reference to defense cuts that are related to the sequester, I think it's worth going back and looking at the vote on the Budget Control Act and all the Republicans, including those who are running around leading efforts to undo that vote, who voted for it because they said -- this was not -- the President didn’t say, let's have a sequester.  He pushed a deal, a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would have resulted in all the positive benefits that I just talked about with Chuck.

The Budget Control Act was the result of a failure by Congress to agree to a balanced approach to deficit reduction, and it was the result of Republicans willing to play chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States, willing to risk default, some of them even seemed to anticipate with glee the prospect of default.  And the President could not let that happen to the economy, to the American people.  And thus we got the Budget Control Act, which, in something that was designed by -- or with leaders in Congress, a sequester was written into law that included cuts that nobody wants -- not the President, not Democrats, not Republicans.  And the whole point of it was to create a forcing mechanism so that Congress would do its job.  Congress still needs to do its job.


Q    Thank you, Jay.  The PNTR, the Permanent Normal Trade Relations for Russia has passed through a couple of key committees on the Hill.  And Speaker Boehner said that if the administration wants it to pass through the House then the President needs to be out there and argue for it personally.  So my question is very simple.  Does the President think that it's worthwhile to personally interfere in the situation and then do something about it?

MR. CARNEY:  The President has worked very closely, his administration has, with Congress on this matter and will continue to do so.  I'm not sure that there's any dispute over that.  And the President will instruct the members of his Cabinet and administration to continue to do that, and we hope for congressional action.

Q    And if there is no PNTR for Russia in two or three weeks, and Russia enters the WTO without the PNTR, what specifically do the American companies lose by it?  Because everybody knows that the American business lose -- but what specifically does it mean for --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, it's a good question and I confess it's outside of my expertise, so I'll have to take it.  But you can be sure that we're working with Congress on this matter.

Q    Jay, at the start of the briefing you were asked if the Romney trip has had any detrimental effect on foreign policy.  You eventually wound your way around to the missile defense comments and things like that.  Would you say specifically that that was detrimental to --

MR. CARNEY:  No, no, no.  There’s nothing that I can say that’s detrimental -- at least not to the President.  (Laughter.) But my point was that there were certainly things said about the President’s foreign policy record that were inaccurate or that we would contest.  And part of my job in speaking for the President is to contest inaccurate representations of his policy positions. So that was all.


Q    Jay, the White House and the Obama campaign have made clear they feel that Bill Clinton is a very good messenger for President Obama on the economy.  There’s now this ad out from the Romney campaign and the RNC using Clinton’s words where he said that Romney had a sterling business career.  So they’re trying to use your messenger as their messenger.  What’s your reaction to that?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would -- on a matter purely of campaign advertising, I think you should ask the campaign.  I can tell you that, as we’ve discussed here on several occasions, President Clinton’s experience in office, his economic record, and the fact that the marginal tax rates for the top earners in America that were in place under Bill Clinton are the ones that President Obama believes we should return to, because we cannot afford to give another tax cut to the wealthiest 2 percent.  Those rates were in place when we saw the greatest peacetime economic expansion in our history and we saw the creation of 24 million jobs. 

So it’s a useful piece of recent history to examine when we hear protests from Republicans about the calamity that would ensue if the wealthiest 2 percent in America were asked to pay marginal tax rates at the level that they paid in the 1990s -- because some of those very Republicans made the same predictions in 1993 and they could not have been more wrong.  The facts prove them utterly wrong.

Q    Is it detrimental to the President that this characterization of Romney’s career can be used, though, at a time when --

MR. CARNEY:  Again, that’s a pure -- I mean, you’re asking about a campaign ad that I confess I have not seen.  I think I know the comment you’re referring to and I know everything else that President Clinton has said about it, so I would refer you to him and to Chicago.

Q    Okay.  And then says that President Obama may be related to the first documented African slave in pre-revolutionary America -- a guy named John Punch, who was an indentured servant, who was sentenced to a life of slavery after an unsuccessful escape attempt in pre-revolutionary Virginia.  Is the President aware that has said this and does he have any reaction to it?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that sort of came out yesterday and, as you know, I was traveling with my son.  I haven't had that discussion with him.  I have no idea if it's accurate.  All I can tell you is it certainly reflects the remarkable nature of our country and the diversity within it.  But again, I can't vouch for the findings. 

Q    Can you ask him?

MR. CARNEY:  I might. 


Q    In Romney's speech in Poland, he said, "When economists speak of Poland today, it's not to lament chronic problems but to describe how this nation empowered the individual, lifted the heavy hand of government and became the fastest-growing economy in all of Europe."  And I wondered what you think of that assessment of the connection between lifting the "heavy hand of government," "empowering the individual" and fast economic growth.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would simply say that Poland's success have indeed been impressive.  And this administration has stood by our close ally, Poland, throughout the past three and a half years and worked with the Poles on numerous fronts -- both national security matters and global economic matters. 

I'm not sure what your question is in terms of the broader themes. 

Q    Well, the suggestion being that regulation impedes economic growth -- the opposite -- empowering the individual promotes economic growth -- and that Poland is an example of the kind of economic proposals that Romney would put in place if he were President. 

MR. CARNEY:  Well, here's what I would say -- and it goes back to the answer I gave Briana about the Clinton years.  This President believes deeply in the power of business in America to create jobs; the importance of making sure that regulations that are in place do not hamper economic growth and job creation, even as they ensure the protection of the American people, of the air we breathe, the water we drink. 

And I would say this:  What we know -- this is the beauty of the recent past here, and the stark clarity of the debate that we're having -- the rules that were in place in the 1990s, the tax rates that were in place in the 1990s, the rules and tax rates that were decried by many Republican leaders at the time had something to do with the greatest economic expansion and peace time in our history, had something to do with the creation of 24 million jobs over the course of 8 years.

We then tried the opposite approach for eight years; we had the slowest economic growth of any expansion in 50 years.  We had anemic job creation.  We had a situation that -- and if that weren't bad enough, then we had the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Everything that I have heard in this debate from the other side has been a call to return to the policies that we know from recent unhappy experience led to a very bad economic situation in this country -- particularly bad for the middle class.  Everything we know about some of the policies that are opposed by the Republicans is that they were in place in the 1990s when we saw significant economic growth and significant job creation, and a level of expansion for the middle class and expansion of middle-class incomes that we would very much like to see again and that this President is focused on every day.

So I think that’s the debate we’re having.  I think that's the debate that hangs over the kind of policy discussions that Chuck and I were talking about, and it is useful to have these two recent examples to compare.

There’s a record out there that exists, and it includes the last three and a half years.  Again, when this President took office, when he was sworn into office in January of 2009, the economy was in freefall, hemorrhaging jobs 750,000 to 800,000 a month, economic decline of nearly 9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.  That's the situation that we faced in 2009.  And using a new metric put forward by a leading Republican, if we measure this President’s performance after the first six months in office and his policies began to take effect, we think it shows sustained economic growth, sustained job creation.  Nowhere near where we need to be, but certainly a far better circumstance than the one we found ourselves in.


Q    Jay, now that it looks like the DNC will be adopting national gay marriage as part of their platform, will the embrace of that platform be a further evolution for the President on the issue of marriage equality?

MR. CARNEY:  I think you heard the President discuss his position and his personal view that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships and want to marry from doing so.  With regards to the DNC platform, I think that issue is still being worked out, and I would refer you to the DNC.

Q    But when the President did discuss that issue, his focus was still on states dealing with it, and this would be something from a national perspective.  Would the President, based on what he said in those interviews at that time, would he embrace a national campaign to promote marriage equality?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, you're conflating a bunch of things about a discussion at the DNC about a party platform to a national campaign.  And I would simply refer you to what the President has said and what his personal views are, and then to the DNC for what I understand is a process that is still developing as regards to their platform.

Q    Can I jump in here?

MR. CARNEY:  Sure.

Q    Now that we have -- I broke the news yesterday on how platform committee on Sunday said to include the marriage equality plank in the platform.  I’m wondering if now that that establishes -- there are several Democrats down ticket who do not hold the view that they support same-sex marriage including Jon Tester in Montana, Tim Kaine in Virginia, and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.  Does the administration believe that the adoption of that language in the platform should prompt these Democrats to reconsider a position as they pursue office?

MR. CARNEY:  I would refer you to the DNC, Chris.  It’s, again, as I just said, an issue that's being developed in the usual fashion as they work on a platform, and I would send you there for that question.

Yes, Olivier.

Q    Jay, there’s a new debate -- a renewed debate on Capitol Hill about the targeted killings policy.  I'm wondering whether as a matter of principle, you think that the courts, the Congress, or the American people need to bless or endorse this policy, or what will they have in judging the policy and letting it go forward?

MR. CARNEY:  There are aspects of that question that make it difficult for me to respond.  I can tell you that the President takes the national security of this country very seriously and the fight against al Qaeda very seriously.  And he pursues policies that best -- that he believes are the right ones to protect the American people, to protect our interests and Americans abroad. 

But I can't -- I think, broadly speaking in terms of some of these issues, you've heard John Brennan and others discuss them. But without a more specific question, I can't really address that from here.

Q    What's your reaction then to the legislative proposals floating around the Hill --

MR. CARNEY:  I haven't seen them, so I'd have to have something more specific. 

Q    How does the President stand on polygamy?

MR. CARNEY:  Kristen.

Q    How does he stand on polygamy?  Could you answer that question?

MR. CARNEY:  Kristen.

Q    So you want to dodge that issue.

Q    Jay, last week I asked you if the President supported the amendment to the cyber security legislation that's being supported by Senator Schumer and other Democrats that would limit the purchase of high-capacity gun magazines.  Have you had a chance to talk to the President about this and whether or not he supports it?  Last week, you didn't know.

MR. CARNEY:  I haven't spoken to him about it.  But I do know and have talked to him generally about his approach to this, which is that he believes we ought to take action on common-sense measures that protect the Second Amendment rights of the American people while making it harder for criminals and others who should not have weapons under existing law -- harder for them to obtain them.  And I think that any legislation that might emerge from Congress would have to -- would be viewed with those principles in mind. 

Q    Given the fact that the President talked -- spoke at the Urban League about the importance of having a dialogue, about cracking down on gun violence, has he moved any closer to deciding whether to hold any sort of gun policy event to open a dialogue about this any further?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I have no announcements to make in terms of his schedule or speaking plans.  But I would point you to the fact that he gave that address and to the fact that he spoke about the issue of violence at a higher level, that this is not just an issue of specific horrific incidents like that one that took place in Aurora, but the fact that we have levels of violence that are too high in many cities across this country, and that we need to address the problem from a variety of directions -- not just through legislation that relates to guns but through action that we could take and are taking in assisting local law enforcement, local government; action that we can take to ensure that teenagers who might be prone to or vulnerable to falling into gangs are instead in school or have summer programs that keep them off the streets.  These are the kinds of things that are part of a broader approach to dealing with violence.

Q    Well, I guess, what's the next step?  In addition to speaking about it at the union [sic] league, what's he --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don't have -- the President has directed his Department of Justice to continue to take action, common-sense action that makes enforcement of our existing laws more effective, prevents criminals and others who should not have weapons from getting them.  And he will, I'm sure, continue to hold the position that he talked about at the Urban League and talked about in Tucson and talked about in the op-ed that he wrote about the broader issues of violence and how we should address it. 

Thank you.

Q    Is the President watching any of the Olympics?

MR. CARNEY:  I think whenever he gets a chance.

1:31 P.M. EDT

Close Transcript