Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:57 A.M. EDT
Q Hey, welcome, welcome. So happy to see you.
Q Only 27 minutes late.
MR. CARNEY: And only five minutes after the two-minute warning. (Laughter.)
Q It’s Friday, you can go easy.
MR. CARNEY: Well, that’s why I scheduled this early and -- for an earlier time. And starting, still, earlier, but not as early as we’d hoped.
With that, I don’t have any announcements to make, so I’ll get right to your rapid-fire questions and we’ll move quickly on this gorgeous Friday through the daily briefing. Thanks for being here.
Q Thanks, Jay. A couple of topics. I wanted to ask about the President’s meeting with the Senate Democrats. Before I jump in, is that meeting still going on?
MR. CARNEY: It just ended moments ago. It was -- I don’t have a broad readout for you, but it was a good meeting, with Senators Reid, Durbin and Schumer. And obviously they discussed the American Jobs Act, plans that the Senate leadership has to move forward on that with a vote next week.
Q Can you give us a sense of whether the goal of that meeting was to dig into how the Democrats are going to get this passed? I mean, specifically, was the President looking for some sort of assurances that the millionaire tax would be enough to get together the votes needed?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to get into too much detail about the meeting, but I would say that they did focus on the American Jobs Act. The President is very pleased with the fact that the Senate is going to take it up. We’re absolutely confident that the overwhelming majority of Democrats will vote for the American Jobs Act, both in the Senate and, if they get a chance to vote on it, in the House.
What will be surprising if this comes to pass is that so few Republicans will vote for it, in spite of the fact that everything in it -- every provision within it is the kind of thing that Republicans, as well as Democrats, have supported in the past, and in spite of the fact that it’s entirely paid for so it will not add to the nation’s deficit.
And it’s surprising, too, if that comes to pass, given that the American public so strongly supports the provisions of the American Jobs Act and is demanding quite clearly that Washington take action on its number-one priority, on the people’s number-one priority, which is to do something about the economy, to get it growing, and to get hiring accelerated.
Q Jay, was Senator Murray here?
MR. CARNEY: She wasn’t. She was not here. I don’t think she was able to make it.
Q Jay, one other economic question. The President said yesterday in his news conference that the jobs act is an insurance policy against, as he put it, a possible double-dip recession. And I wanted to follow up on that. Understanding that you want passage of this bill, is the White House genuinely concerned at this point that the economy is headed towards a double-dip recession?
MR. CARNEY: We do not believe that it will happen. But there is no question that the economy has slowed; growth has slowed and job creation has slowed. Employment is still too weak, and it is, I think, obvious to everyone, virtually, that we need to take action to improve that situation.
The American economy has faced a number of substantial headwinds this year, as we’ve discussed, which has affected forecasts as well as real growth and real job creation from what economists expected it would be this year -- prior to the Arab Spring, prior to the terrible earthquake and tsunami and its impacts in Japan, and prior to the situation in Europe, which obviously has also had an impact on the American economy.
So it is simply the smart thing to do to take action that’s paid for that includes both investments to put construction workers back to work, teachers back to work, first responders back to work, and tax cuts for every American who gets a paycheck, for small businesses, tax incentives for businesses to hire veterans. All of these things make eminent sense and, as you know, outside economists have judged the package -- the American Jobs Act -- to be very beneficial to the economy if it were to pass.
As I think the President mentioned yesterday in his press conference, it would be interesting to see what those outside economists would say about the Republican job proposal, such as it is, that we’ve put forward -- that they’ve put forward. And I think many of you probably read in the paper today that the Chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers said of the Republican proposal that while the Republicans have reasonable ideas, he believed that the proposals “would have little immediate effect relative to a plan that stimulates aggregate demand; that is, a plan like Mr. Obama’s.” The chief economist at Moody’s Analytics similarly said that the Republican proposals, rather, are generally good longer-term economic policy, but they won’t mean much for the economy and job market in the next year.
Now, I know we’ve said that -- again, you may agree entirely with what is contained within the so-called -- the Republican so-called jobs plan. Even if every idea within it is good, there is no doubt that those ideas do not have an impact on the economy today. And everyone agrees, I think, that we need to take action to do something about the economy today. Because what -- is the answer that Washington should just wash its hands of the problems that we’re facing, that we should do nothing? And if so, explain why. So that’s the President’s position, and it’s why he believes so firmly that Congress needs to take action on the American Jobs Act.
Q Last quick one. The unemployment rate has now been at about 9 percent for two years or more. Is this -- and projections from the White House itself keep it at that rate through 2012 -- is this the new normal?
MR. CARNEY: Well, economists should evaluate that in terms of the economic models that underlie what drives unemployment. But I will simply say it is not an acceptable level as far as this President is concerned.
We are emerging from the worst recession since the Great Depression -- catastrophic contraction of the economy, catastrophic job loss, the likes of which most people alive today have never experienced. And the hole created by that terrible recession is deep, and we have climbed part of the way out of it, but we have further to go. And that’s why, again, the President believes we cannot sit pat and do nothing in the face of an economy that’s not growing fast enough and in the face of, as you say, unemployment that is far too high.
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Two questions -- one on foreign policy and one on politics. Is the United States changing its policy towards Myanmar, considering relaxing your -- U.S. sanctions on the country also known as Burma?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to take that question or direct you to the State Department. I don’t have anything for you on that.
Q New York Times story this morning on it. On politics, has the President commented or chatted with you or any of his advisors this week about the Republican field after Governor Palin and Governor Christie have both decided not to run?
MR. CARNEY: Not much. The -- (laughter) -- well, I’m not going to stand up here and say that conversations like that never happen. But the President is extremely focused on the business at hand, which is that we need to take action to help grow our economy, put people back to work. That is his focus. And as he said yesterday, it really is kind of nutty to say, well, you’re out there campaigning, as if there was something wrong with campaigning for a piece of legislation that would help grow the economy and put people back to work. So the answer is, yes, he is going out across the country to talk about the very thing that is on most Americans’ minds, the very thing that worries them the most, the very thing that they think Washington needs to do something about.
And he is explicitly saying if you think Washington needs to take action, if you think that the proposals that the President has put forward are the right ideas, then let your voice be heard in Washington with your representatives and senators. So that’s what he’s focused on.
And as he said yesterday, he would be elated if rather than doing nothing Congress was aggressive about doing something on this most urgent priority.
Q Even with that focus, which is -- which you’ve said before and which he talked about yesterday, he must have an eye on the potential candidates he’ll be running against next year. What --
MR. CARNEY: Look, there are people who are working on that for him. He has a campaign. He doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, I promise you. I spend a lot of time with him, and I know that for a fact.
What we do know is that there will be a nominee from the other party chosen through its primaries and caucuses, and when the time -- when that happens, then that nominee will be running against the President in the 2012 election. But that is a -- still quite a long time off from now. And that as we say about other things -- whether it’s tsunamis or the Arab Spring -- we focus here on the things that we can control. We need to take action on the things that we can control. How the primary process shakes out in the other party is not something that we spend a lot of time on or even thinking about because it’s not something that we have any particular role in.
I’m going to mix it up a little bit. Yes, Voice of America.
Q Thanks, Jay. You probably heard some of Mr. Romney’s comments on foreign policy; among other things, called -- said that the President has had three feckless years of policy, profoundly mistaken view. I think -- to just jump to the end of it, he said, “eloquently justified surrender of world leadership is not leadership.” I wonder what your view’s on that.
Also, on Afghanistan, he said he would undertake a complete review of policy, one that is -- force decisions that would be free of politics. So I wonder what the reaction --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I suppose he has to say something, and the fact is that this President’s record on foreign policy and national security policy is excellent. And I suppose what might be interesting is if Mr. Romney, Governor Romney were to debate the highest elected Republican in the land about the President’s success in foreign policy. He said, and I quote, “I’ve been very supportive of the President’s decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think so far the President has done just fine. When you look at the prosecution of the war effort against the enemy in the tribal areas, there’s clearly been more done under President Obama than there was under President Bush in terms of a more aggressive effort focused at them.” So said John Boehner, Speaker of the House, highest elected Republican in the land.
Jake. Were you -- sorry.
Q Yes. I wanted to ask you a question about Romney’s comments as well. He specifically said, “If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I’m not your President. You have that President today.” Without reading the quote on Iraq and Afghanistan, if you could address the idea that -- this is a common theme the Republicans are making, that the President does not believe in American exceptionalism, does not believe America should be the strongest nation on Earth, is ceding leadership --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think, Jake, they have to say something. And it doesn’t make any sense, because from the moment Barack Obama became a national figure, it was based on the idea that America is the exceptional country around the world. That was the essence of the speech that he gave at the convention in 2004 that put him into the public consciousness.
It is something he repeats all the time. He ends many speeches -- I hear him say often that this is the greatest country in the world. He believes that, and he lived it. He has lived it.
Separately, his record on foreign policy and national security policy speaks for itself. We are stronger, we are safer, we have taken the fight to our principal enemy with a level of aggression and success that is unprecedented. We have improved our relationships around the world with our allies and our partners. And we have made great strides in engaging with the Far East, for example, with the Pacific region in a way that was neglected prior to this administration.
I think we have every reason to be quite proud of the record that this President has on foreign policy and national security matters.
Q Can I ask a question about jobs? This is another disappointing jobs report for the President. If the economy does not significantly improve by next year, can President Obama be reelected, and does he deserve to be?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, I think that the jobs report actually was better than expected, but as we’ve said and others have said already this morning, it is far from good enough.
Q But it’s below the rate of population growth.
MR. CARNEY: No question, no question. And that’s why we need to do something about the economy and job creation. That’s why the President is out there every day talking about the need to pass the American Jobs Act. And if others have better ideas, or good ideas that will help the economy grow and create jobs now, as opposed to some time in the future, then he wants to hear them and he’s eager to have conversations about it.
Q But haven’t Boehner and Cantor requested a meeting with the President, and he hasn’t responded?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President has met with them -- I mean, I think any American who has watched this President engage with members of Congress of both parties during the time that he’s been in office understands well that he has made every effort to consult with, cooperate with, negotiate with Republicans in Congress, and he will continue to do that.
The President has put forward a plan. Again, it was designed with the idea that it would be filled with things that have traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. It is a plan that is paid for, so it is not an issue of contributing to our deficit. And he believes that Congress ought to act on that plan.
The Republicans have put forward a plan, as you know. Elements of that plan that this President believes are completely meritorious, he has supported and, in the case of patent reform, signed into law, and looks forward hopefully to signing into law the free trade agreements, as well as TAA in the relatively near future. Those are important things that will not have an immediate impact on jobs but are important and he supports them.
What we haven’t seen yet from the Republicans are jobs proposals that -- or proposals that have an immediate impact on economic growth and jobs. The idea that deregulation is the answer to our economic woes is just unfounded, as many economists and economic advisors -- I mean, senior economic advisor to President Reagan and President Bush 41 made that case clear based on the data, based on the information from the private sector just the other day.
Q I understand you’re wanting to change the subject, but the question was --
MR. CARNEY: Your question is, can he get re-elected? Absolutely.
Q Can he get reelected if the economy does not significantly improve? And does he deserve to?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. And here’s why, because what the election will be about is whose vision for America’s future is best, whose ideas for moving America forward are best? And what we confidently believe is that the American people will see in President Obama’s vision for the future the right answers.
What we also believe is that if the Republican nominee, once he or she emerges, runs on the proposals that have been generated so far, which are essentially mirror images -- or not mirror images, but exact replications of the policies that got us into this mess, the American people won’t think that is the right answer.
What we don’t need to move forward is to reach back to implement the things that got us into the mess. One perfect example of this that’s moving right now with regards to the President’s nominee to be a consumer watchdog, to look out for consumers who have been in the past taken advantage of by financial institutions, the efforts by Republican -- the explicit determination by Republicans to prevent that nomination from being approved and basically to roll back all of the Wall Street reforms that this President fought hard to put into place.
Wait a second, everybody knows that the worst financial crisis this country has seen since the 1930s occurred in part because of lax regulation. Is that the argument, that we should remove all of the protections that this legislation put into place precisely to prevent the kind of collapse we had or near collapse we had in 2007? That should happen to ensure that the kind of taxpayer-funded bailouts that occurred last time will never happen again, that should be removed?
I just think we’re happy to have that debate. And on the merits of that debate, yes, the President will be re-elected.
Q On the millionaire surtax, the President endorsed it yesterday, but he said he’s fine with it; he’s comfortable with it. Those are kind of lukewarm adjectives compared to other ones he could have used. Why not a stronger endorsement?
MR. CARNEY: Look, the President made clear that -- from the beginning, that how we pay for the American Jobs Act was something that could be decided by Congress as long as it met his principles -- first of all, the first principle being it had to be paid for. That’s why he put forward a proposal to pay for it.
The alternative that the Senate Democratic leadership has put forward is fine with us. It meets his principles, and that’s essential; and it pays for all of the provisions within the American Jobs Act. So it’s entirely consistent with where he’s been from the beginning, since he talked about the jobs act, and we look forward to the Senate taking the bill up, debating it, and hopefully passing it, hopefully exceeding the 60-vote threshold that has sort of artificially been established for any vote in the Senate, because we believe that these are the kinds of ideas that Republicans as well as Democrats should support, because they’ve supported them in the past. And those senators who don’t will have to explain, well, wait a second. Don’t you have teachers who have been thrown out of work?
Q But does it undermine -- does it --
MR. CARNEY: Give me one second, one thing -- Jake asked about the jobs report. Absolutely not strong enough. Not good enough. And while I think for the 16th or 19th straight month we’ve had private sector growth now, 2.6 million private sector jobs, a reality of this jobs report, which has been true now for many, many months, is that while the private sector has been growing, the public sector has been shrinking. And once again, 34,000 jobs last month were lost in the public sector, overwhelmingly in the education area -- teachers being laid off. That’s a problem.
Who has a solution? The President. The American Jobs Act. If you’re opposed to it, explain why.
Q Okay, but on the surtax. I mean, does it undermine his push in the future for the level -- sort of the line that he’s drawn for $200,000 or more for individuals, $250,000 or more --
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q It doesn’t undermine a push in the future for that?
MR. CARNEY: Of course not.
Q For Senate Democrats to have essentially said, here’s where the line really should be.
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, a surtax is different from not renewing the Bush-era tax cuts for the --
Q As a marker, sort of drawing the line of earnings.
MR. CARNEY: I’m telling you it doesn’t affect that. They’re different policies. Just like the Buffett rule is a principle that would inform tax reform, and we certainly hope tax reform goes forward. If it doesn’t, we -- the President’s position is as it has always been, which is that the upper end -- the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans -- those making over $250,000 -- are simply things that we can no longer afford. They are part of the reason why we have the tremendous deficits and debt that we have now, and they should be allowed to expire.
Q But someone like Senator Schumer looks at -- he represents a state where money doesn’t go as far as it would go in other states, if you’re outside the New York Metropolitan area. So if you have a family in the New York City area, $250,000 thereabouts -- I mean, does the President think that that’s a wealthy family?
MR. CARNEY: The President’s position has not changed. And it also happens that the public overwhelmingly supports that position. This is only about ensuring that as we make choices -- because we do not have unlimited resources -- that we make those choices in a way that is fair and balanced, and that people -- that everyone pays their fair share.
I don’t think members of the middle class out there are thinking they somehow got a great deal in the last decade, right? Do you know anybody who -- as they’ve seen their wages stagnate or decline -- and this is even prior to the Great Recession -- do they think they got a great shake out of the tax code? I don’t expect they have.
What we do know is that the wealthiest Americans have actually seen their incomes and their share of the national wealth increase a lot over the same period. And it is simply a matter of making sensible choices, and if the choice on one hand is do you not do anything about the fact that all around the country teachers are being laid off, or do you look at a possibility of preventing that from happening through the American Jobs Act by asking the most fortunate among us to pay just a little more to ensure that those teachers get back in the classroom, that they’re teaching our children, which is a value in and of itself and a value that helps make America stronger in the future, I think most Americans would side with helping those teachers.
Q The Pakistani doctor who aided the U.S. in the search for Osama bin Laden, is there an obligation -- he could be charged with treason. Should the U.S. -- are they doing anything to help him? Is there an obligation?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything for you on that. I’d refer you to the Pakistani government.
Let me -- you got something, Bill?
Q I’m sure they’ll be very helpful. (Laughter.)
Q Quick two things. One, Senator Reid was here, as you mentioned before, at the White House a short time ago. Last night he had a big dust-up with Senator McConnell where Democrats essentially changed the rules so that it will be easier to limit amendments. Senator McConnell quite upset with that, but basically that with 51 votes, you can potentially get a lot more done. Does the White House think that’s a good idea?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know the particulars -- or the arcane details, and almost everything about the rules up there in both Houses are pretty arcane, as anybody who has covered it knows. What I can say is that, yes, we think it’s generally a problem, as I just mentioned a minute ago, that the filibuster has become a tool that is applied so broadly to measures that normally require only a majority vote, that that’s an issue. Again, that’s a general principle. As regards this, I’m not sure.
What I do understand, though, is that once you’ve stopped debate and then want to add an amendment to it -- I think that was the issue here that drove that. But I only know what I’ve read about it.
Q So if Senator McConnell becomes Majority Leader in 2013 and President Obama is in office, if they only have 51 --
MR. CARNEY: We don’t really see that happening, but yes -- (laughter) -- we don’t foresee a change in leadership in the Senate.
Q Okay, but -- you just mentioned teachers being laid off. Yesterday, the President at the news conference said, "I had a chance to meet a young man named Robert Baroz recently, from Massachusetts.” He got three pink slips. And he said that you need to pass the jobs bill -- "put somebody like Robert back in the classroom teaching our kids." The Boston Herald has a story this morning saying the President never met this gentleman. He was at the White House, but they never met and the gentleman has a job.
MR. CARNEY: The President -- as you know, he was in a group of people that were -- I think he was this close to the President as you are to me. And the President knows his story. As I would -- I would simply refer you to the Boston Herald story where Mr. Baroz said, "People who want to fuss over the word choice are missing the point. It’s about our investing in education and in communities. Yes, I did lose my position three times within four years in the Boston public schools. To me, the question he posed to the people was a rhetorical question. The emphasis was on ‘like Robert.’ It’s people who are like me, highly qualified, and are not working. That’s the spirit of it.”
I mean, it’s just indisputable -- as we found out again this morning -- that all around the country, teachers are being laid off. The President has a plan to solve, okay, or to address that problem.
Q So why not use an example of somebody who does not have a job? The man has a job right now.
MR. CARNEY: The man has been laid off three times in four years. It is indicative of a problem. And, in fact, the fact that he got -- as I think is reported in the Herald story, the fact that he got -- was hired again after the fact happened often to be the result of the kinds of assistance provided by this administration through the Recovery Act to give assistance to states to ensure that teachers were hired back or weren’t laid off to begin with.
So I think the principle is just indisputable, as Mr. Baroz himself makes clear.
Q The Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, this morning said he’s increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and other cities across the country. Does the President share that concern?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President spoke to the Occupy Wall Street movement yesterday, so I’ll point you to those comments.
I sense a little hypocrisy unbound here because I think what we’re seeing on the streets of New York is an expression of democracy. And what I -- which I think I remember Mr. Cantor -- is how Mr. Cantor described protests by the tea party. And I don’t understand why one man’s mob is another man’s democracy. I think both are expressions that are totally consistent with the American democratic tradition.
Q Today, a very auspicious day, the 10-year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. With everything that’s happened there and the seemingly endless supply of bad news -- with the assassination attempts, with the assassination of Rabbani, with elevated amounts of fighting, with the conflict between President Karzai and Pakistan, and in the past President Karzai and this government -- what evidence can you point to that the surge, the President’s policy is working?
MR. CARNEY: I would point you to the objectives that the President laid out when he put forward his policy, his strategy on Afghanistan, or the AfPak region.
What was the primary objective? Disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda. By any standard, including one I just quoted, the President has had substantial success in the number-one objective -- the number-one objective of his policy and strategy. The fact that the effort in Afghanistan is difficult, that there are setbacks as well as successes, is also -- is not something we would dispute. It is the truth.
And we are enormously grateful. This President, as I said the other day, is just profoundly grateful for the sacrifice and the patriotism and the remarkable skill of our men and women in uniform and what they’ve been able to do in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq and elsewhere around the world.
In addition to that number-one objective that the President laid out, which was an important part of the review of Afghanistan policy, because as you know, our situation in Afghanistan -- our approach in -- it was entirely adrift when this President came in, and he decided we needed to dive deep, focus on what our true objectives needed to be, and pursue a policy that could achieve those objectives, and that is what he is doing.
Part of that policy was to surge forces, which he did, and then to begin to draw those forces down, which he is doing.
As you know, by 2014, we will draw down to the point where we can fully transition security lead over to Afghan security forces, and we continue to be on track to do that.
Q Can I directly follow on that, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Certainly.
Q A British government review is going to say there is a significant risk of an Afghanistan civil war or a Taliban takeover when we do withdraw in 2014. In addition, General Stanley McChrystal said yesterday that we’re maybe 50 percent of where we need to go.
If you were to be candid about the White House’s position on where things are, would you concur that there is, in fact, a significant risk?
MR. CARNEY: I was enormously candid just moments ago that there is -- there are significant challenges in Afghanistan as we strive to meet the goals set out, laid out by the President. And part of that process was to make the goals clear and focused, as opposed to broad and unfocused, which they have been in the past. And we continue to work towards achieving those goals. Remember, the principal goal was to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat al Qaeda. I don’t think there’s any dispute that we have had some success in achieving that goal, although there is work still to be done.
It is also to prevent the government -- give safe space to the Afghan government as it continues to take control, and to give us a time to train up Afghan national security forces, which we are doing. And that process is continuing. And, again, 2014, as you stated -- it’s 2011 now -- 2014 is when we will hand over lead, security lead to the Afghan national security forces. And we hope and expect to continue to make progress toward our goals as we move towards 2014.
This is not easy work, and we have been absolutely candid about that fact.
Q The Afghan government, though, is rampant with corruption and now not talking to Pakistan. So you’ve got some problems there also, right?
MR. CARNEY: If there were an absence of problems, we wouldn’t be focusing as much attention and resources on the issue. This is -- I mean, you’re restating -- you’re stating -- I mean, these are totally legitimate questions, but we are acknowledging that there are challenges. But I think it’s important to also acknowledge what -- the process this President went through in absolutely adhering to the promises he made during the campaign, which is that we needed to -- that our policy in Afghanistan was adrift; that we needed to focus attention on Afghanistan, we needed to focus on what our primary objectives were.
Don’t forget that it was out of Afghanistan from al Qaeda that the threat emerged that resulted in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, led by Osama bin Laden, that the re-orientation of our process -- of our policy as we have ended the war responsibly in Iraq and focused on Afghanistan has been entirely consistent with what this President said when he was running for office back in 2007 and 2008. This is hard stuff, and it continues to be very difficult. And the extraordinary service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform as well as our civilians in Afghanistan is what makes success possible.
Challenges remain, there’s no question about it.
Q Will you not leave troops in Iraq if you can’t solve the problem of immunity for our troops with the Iraqi government?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’d refer to you what the Secretary of Defense said on that. And we are complying with an agreement made, actually, by the previous administration but honored by this one to withdraw all of our forces by the end of this year. And we are on track to do that as this President has been committed to doing.
What is true is that regardless of the discussions that we’re having now, related to that issue, we will have a robust and serious relationship with Iraq, as we have with countries all around the world. And that’s an important relationship that we intend to continue to focus on beyond the end of this year.
Q The President yesterday promised that he would move forward with elements of the jobs package if Congress wouldn’t pass the whole thing. And I just wondered, is there any priority order that he’d like to see? Because one of the --
MR. CARNEY: That’s like saying which one of your children do you love best.
Q Well, you could always, like, split it up.
MR. CARNEY: No, I think they’re all valuable. They’re all -- they all do what they’re designed to do, which is help the economy grow, help put people back to work -- yes, Mark -- I tried not to go there. But the -- there are more than two options here, there are more than two elements of the proposal.
So, no, we don’t have a priority here. We obviously want the Congress to take up, vote on, pass the entirety of the American Jobs Act. As we’ve said from the beginning -- not just yesterday when the President gave a press conference -- if Congress sends him a portion of it, and as long as it’s -- and it’s paid for in a way that meets the President’s principles, then he will sign that into law and then say, where’s the rest of it?
If they send us an extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut for American workers, for everybody who gets a paycheck, we will say, fantastic. This will help, it’s part of my package, it’s paid for, I sign it into law. What’s wrong -- where’s the rest of it? Where’s the provision that puts teachers back to work? Where’s the provision that puts construction workers on the job rebuilding bridges and roads and schools? Where is the provision that gives incentives to businesses to hire veterans -- going back to the question earlier -- veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan?
Q Well, it’s funny you should mention that one, though. Because that, of any of them, is the one that there is some school of thought would have the best chance of getting through.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don’t know how to successfully divine the future, especially as regards what will happen in the House of Representatives. But we believe that every element of this package should have broad bipartisan support, the kinds of things that have had broad, bipartisan support in the past. If you’re suggesting, by your question, that members of Congress will be willing to allow -- not renew -- at least renew, if not expand, the payroll tax cut and therefore have 150 [million] Americans see their taxes go up next year, I think that would be surprising. But it’s been a year of surprises.
Q But politically, it’s been considered that of any of them, if you pick that and have it (inaudible), why wouldn’t people support this and have it paid for by a surcharge on the wealthy, that that would be one of the ones that perhaps would be -- if not feasible --
MR. CARNEY: What you’re saying is entirely consistent with what we’ve said. If pieces of it come up, we hope the Senate -- we know the Senate will vote on it. We hope it will pass. We hope the House will vote on it. We hope it will pass -- that is, the American Jobs Act.
If it does not -- if the bill itself in its entirety does not pass, then we will certainly urge -- as the President said yesterday -- that Congress tax action on tax cuts, on tax incentives, on putting teachers back to work, on putting construction workers on the job, all the elements of it until -- and unless and until it’s entirely done. And the President, he was asked, campaigning against a do-nothing Congress -- he would like nothing more than to be prevented from doing that because the Congress actually acted on the nation’s most urgent priority.
All the way in the back, yes.
Q Thanks, Jay. The President put out a statement earlier today, which says that the United States is responsibly ending the Afghanistan war and Iraq war from a position of strength. And my question is, what does the United States intend to do with the stalled reconciliation process in Afghanistan from its position of strength?
MR. CARNEY: This goes to some of the questions I just got a few minutes ago. We have a strategy in Afghanistan. It has met with significant successes. It meets with significant challenges. One thing that we do support that is very important is an Afghan-led process of reconciliation. Ultimately reconciliation is essential to the prospects of peace in Afghanistan. And we support that process, and we will continue to support it and believe that it’s necessary.
But, again, going back to the answers I gave previously, there is no question that there are significant challenges in Afghanistan. There is also no question that we have had significant successes in meeting the goals that the President set out when he announced his new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan last year or maybe even the year before, December. So, I mean, it’s very similar to the answer I gave just a few minutes ago.
Q May I just follow, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Goyal, yes.
Q Thank you. Two questions. One is, according to many think tanks, and including in the President said many times, that there cannot be peace and stability in Afghanistan without cooperation from Pakistan. Now, yesterday the President said there is some cooperation from Pakistan, but also at the time, some elements of the military and the intelligence for the Pakistanis are in war against -- or in war with al Qaeda. My question is --
MR. CARNEY: Well, he didn’t say that, Goyal, but --
Q Or helping al Qaeda. My question is that --
MR. CARNEY: He didn’t say that, either, but go ahead with your question.
Q My question is the Haqqani network, which is involved with ISI, still killing Americans in Afghanistan and also Indians, and also of course they are supporting al Qaeda around the globe. Where do we go from here? Because according to a big poll in Pakistan, inside Pakistan, according to Pakistani press, number-one enemy in Pakistan, according to the people of Pakistan, is not India but the United States? My question, is President taking any steps or is he worried about what --
MR. CARNEY: I think he answered the question actually in great detail, a question I think from Reuters about Pakistan yesterday in his long press conference, so I don’t expect I’ll be able to improve on his answer. So I won’t try except to say that, as I’ve said all along, we have an important relationship with Pakistan. We have had enormous successes through our cooperation with Pakistan. The cooperation we have with Pakistan is extremely important in terms of our national security objectives, in terms of protecting Americans, in terms of taking the fight to al Qaeda, and that’s why we continue to work with the Pakistanis and try to build on that cooperation.
We have also made clear that we have issues with Pakistan at times, and that it is a complicated relationship. And I think the President addressed that very clearly and fully yesterday in his press conference.
Q On immigration, if I can -- on immigration, please? Thank you. Again, after talking to so many think tanks here, and going to a lot of meetings and to several think tanks on immigration issues of this country, 20 to 30 million people, is any economist advising the President that it can bring billions of dollars today by giving some kind of status to those illegals in this country, and also in the future, they will pay the taxes just like anybody else in this country?
MR. CARNEY: Well, you know this President supports comprehensive immigration reform. He hopes in the future that we will see the kind of bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform that used to exist not that many years ago. Two of the leaders of the cause of comprehensive immigration reform in the Republican Party were the previous President, President George W. Bush, and the previous Republican nominee for President, Senator John McCain. So we hope and we continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform.
Q Jay, does President Obama believe that the 5 percent surtax would bring wealthy Americans to “fair share” status in their taxes? Is that -- would it achieve fair share?
MR. CARNEY: The President believes that there needs to be shared sacrifice, as well as shared prosperity. As I said before, we have choices to make. If we had unlimited resources, we could all take a vacation because some of these difficult choices wouldn’t have to be made, but they do.
And if we’re saying that tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands of teachers are being laid off around the country because of the economic stress that states are under and localities are under, and we want to do something about it, because that’s an important objective -- both to put those individuals back to work but also to ensure that our children around the country are getting educated, and helping build the foundation for the future of this country -- then we have to figure out how we can make that happen.
And rather than say -- depending on what your economic policy is -- rather than say, oh, I know, let’s make senior citizens pay for it by turning the Medicare program into a voucher system, or let’s slash spending in transportation or elsewhere -- or education, which happens to be the case with some of the proposals we’ve seen -- that we believe that those who have benefited enormously in the last decade or so should pay a little bit more.
In terms of does that constitute -- it certainly constitutes more fairness. The President’s principle, which has been described as the Buffett rule, applies to overall tax reform.
Q More fairness but not complete fairness?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to project what may or may not happen once the Senate acts and this provision hopefully -- or rather the American Jobs Act, with this provision attached to it, takes effect. The President’s focus is on taking the action that we absolutely have to take to ensure that our economy grows significantly next year, to ensure that it creates jobs. There is no higher priority, as most of your questions recognize as a premise.
And then we have to say -- because we absolutely have to take action, and we need to pay for it, how do we do that? And the President believes as evidenced by the proposal he put forward, and as well as the proposal that the Senate Democrats have put forward, that we need to do it in a fair way.
Q So just to follow up on that, you’re not ruling out the idea that it might require additional taxes on this group of very wealthy Americans?
MR. CARNEY: I think we’re talking about apples and oranges here. I was asked earlier, I think by Brianna, about whether or not this changes the President’s position on should the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire, and the answer is his position has not changed. So I think I can just point you to the President’s comprehensive deficit and debt reduction proposal, which includes a number of measures that would increase revenue to help reduce the deficit and get a hold of our debt in a balanced and responsible way -- revenues on one hand and cuts and entitlement reforms on the other. And I would point you to those to say that if we’re going to be serious about our deficits and debt, then other measures have to be taken on the revenue side.
Roger, and then Ann, and then Mark.
Q Thank you. The President is meeting with the Prime Minister of Tunisia later today. They have elections coming up October 23rd. Is there any level of concern in the U.S. on its path of democracy that it somehow might get derailed or any danger the elections might get derailed?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would say two things about that. This is a very significant visit because it involves a couple of firsts. It is the -- the Prime Minister of Tunisia is the first leader of the Arab Spring to visit the White House and meet with the President, and it is the first country that has gone through a transition because of the Arab Spring to be holding elections, as you note. And the President very much looks forward to the meeting.
If you’re asking me in the -- generally speaking in the whole region, is this process tenuous, well, I think in general it has to be because this is significant -- significant change. I remember -- I can’t remember, a month or so ago, six or eight weeks ago, I was asked about why things are moving so slowly in the Middle East. And I had to step back and say, wait a second, things have happened in this nine-month period that were unimaginable for years and years and years. So there’s a lot of changing happening at once, but we’re very encouraged by the progress that has been made in Tunisia, and the President looks forward to this meeting.
Q Just a quick follow-up on that, is he going to be -- is the President going to be announcing any endorsement of aid? I know the Secretary of State has -- proposed some stuff back in March, but is there any -- things that are going to get --
MR. CARNEY: Without getting into specifics, I think we may have more information related to the visit that will be provided for you a little later. I just don’t -- I don’t have the details for you.
Thanks very much.
Q Week ahead.
MR. CARNEY: Oh. One day I will remember to read the week ahead. One Friday. Here we go.
Q Why is the President intervening in the -- to prevent the enforcement of the new Alabama immigration law?
MR. CARNEY: You say that like -- yes, come on, like I dodged the question. I haven’t even been asked, Ann.
Q We’ve been trying, Jay.
Q It’s a Today story.
MR. CARNEY: I think ABC has already got -- the Justice Department is reviewing the decision to determine next steps. I would refer you to the Department of Justice for questions on the specific case.
Generally, the President has made clear -- has been clear that efforts to address the issue of America’s broken immigration system through a patchwork of state laws will only create more problems than it solves.
Q Does he think this law is working a real hardship? Has he seen the reports of people fleeing the state?
MR. CARNEY: I just haven’t -- I haven’t had that discussion with him so I wouldn’t want to characterize --
Q Are you saying he’s not sure that they’re going to intervene?
MR. CARNEY: I would just point you the Department of Justice.
Q They filed.
MR. CARNEY: Well, then you should ask them about it. But the President’s principles on this I think have been well stated and restated just moments ago by me.
Guidance for the week of October 10, 2011. On Monday, the President of the United States will travel to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. While at Walter Reed, the President will visit with wounded service members.
On Tuesday, the President will travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While in Pittsburgh, the President will visit the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Number Five Training Center. During his time at the IBEW Local Number Five Training Center, the President will take a tour of the IBEW training facilities, convene a meeting of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and deliver remarks.
Later in the day, the President will travel to Orlando, Florida, to attend campaign events.
Q Do you know if any of those campaign events will be open, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I --
Q Open to --
MR. CARNEY: We have a regular policy where the pool comes in for remarks at campaign events every time he has one, so I don’t know specifically about these events.
Q Jay, not to be picky, but doesn’t Walter Reed have a new name or is it the same name and an old place?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know if the transition is --
Q It took place in September.
Q It took place, yes.
MR. CARNEY: September? Well, I will adjust accordingly. Is it the --
Q It’s like Bethesda Medical something --
MR. CARNEY: Bethesda Naval Walter Reed, that sort of --
Q Yes, right, something like that.
Q Is that going to be closed press?
MR. CARNEY: His visits are always closed press, yes.
Q And physical? Jay, is it time for a physical?
MR. CARNEY: He’s visiting service members.
Q Okay, no physical.
Q How’s his smoking?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?
Q He brought up the physical. How’s his smoking?
MR. CARNEY: The President does not smoke.
On Wednesday, the President will deliver remarks at the American Latino Heritage forum being hosted by the White House and the U.S. Department of the Interior to celebrate the past and ongoing contributions of American Latinos who have helped shape America’s rich and diverse history.
On Thursday, the President and the First Lady will host President Lee and First Lady Kim of the Republic of -- sorry, the Republic of Korea for a state visit, the President and First Lady. This visit will highlight the strong alliance, the global partnership and the deep economic ties between the United States and the Republic of Korea. The visit will also celebrate the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Korean people.
Details about Friday’s schedule will be released as they become available.
Thank you all very much.
Q Thank you, Jay.
12:47 P.M. EDT