Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Columbus, Ohio, 3/22/12
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Columbus, Ohio
12:52 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us on the continuation of our two-day, multi-state tour focusing on American-made energy and the importance of the President's all-of-the-above strategy to deal with our energy challenges. We are on our way, as you know, to Ohio, and the Ohio State University as the last stop of this tour.
Before I take your questions, let me read a statement from me that will be issued shortly.
It says: "The President is grateful that the Senate acted in a bipartisan way to move forward key ideas the President proposed last fall that will help our small businesses and start-ups access capital they need to grow and to create jobs. We are heartened by the important investor protections added to the crowdfunding provision, and will be vigilant in monitoring this and other elements to ensure the overall bill achieves its goal of helping entrepreneurs while maintaining protections for investors. We urge the House to adopt these important changes.
While this vote marks a moment of bipartisan cooperation, there is much more work to be done to create an economy that is built to last, and we encourage Congress to act on additional measures like rebuilding our nation's crumbling roads and bridges, putting our teachers back in the classroom and first responders back on the beat, and reauthorizing the Export/Import Bank, which thousands of American businesses and their workers depend on to stay competitive in the global economy."
That was from me. And with that, I'll take your questions.
Maybe we should just end it now -- lot of turbulence, lot of turbulence. Okay, go.
Q I'm going to start out with a repetition of a question from yesterday. Do you have, does the President have a World Bank candidate, and will there be an announcement tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: Jeff, I'm trying to keep it under my hat that you're his leading candidate. (Laughter.) I have no news to make on the World Bank front and no information to impart about the process or timing for any kind of decision or announcement.
Q On the pipeline --
Q -- he make the decision by tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: That's a backward way but clever way of trying to get me to say -- to give a different answer. But I just have no information on that for you.
Q On the pipeline announcement today, are the steps that the President is taking, will they help make the pipeline get built any quicker? The President's critics say that it won't have any impact on the timeline whatsoever.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I understand that the President's critics want to make a political point, having been deprived by the facts and the visuals of this visit -- which demonstrated the President’s commitment to both increasing oil and gas production in this country and doing everything he can to open up bottlenecks in the supply chain for oil and gas production -- to find some other reason to criticize him. The fact of the matter is even the southern portion of this pipeline requires federal permitting. The actions the President took today will ensure that that process is -- moves as quickly as possible as a matter of -- as a national priority. So, yes, we believe it will have an impact and certainly at the very least it ensures that there will not be any unnecessary bureaucratic delay.
Q Do you expect -- is it your understanding that that construction will begin in June, as the company has targeted?
MR. CARNEY: If that's what they've targeted, yes, that’s what will happen -- again, in part because we’re going to ensure that the permitting process, while done by the book, is done in an expedited way, that everything should proceed accordingly. But I would refer you to the company itself as well as to the agencies for more specifics.
Q What else did the President see there at the Cushing site? We, obviously, heard his remarks, but did he walk around and look at the pipes? Did he -- what did he do exactly?
MR. CARNEY: Unfortunately, we weren’t on the ground that long. He met with some folks, including some folks from the company, prior to the speech, and then did his usual greets with drivers and law enforcement and others, and then did a couple of interviews, one with AAA and another with Univision Radio.
Q What did he have to say to the people from TransCanada?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a readout of that conversation for you. I think that what you heard the President say in his remarks, his public remarks, reflects his position, which is he’s committed to expediting this process. He has -- on his watch, the United States has built a considerable amount of pipeline and will continue to do that.
And with regard to the transnational portion of the Keystone pipeline, as we've said before, that process was halted because of pushback because of the requests of the Nebraska governor and others who had concerns about the environmental impact the proposed pipeline would have on that aquifer in Nebraska. When a renewed pipeline proposal is put forward, it would be absolutely viewed on the merits. And the process should be allowed to work as it’s supposed to work and it should not be hijacked for ideological or other political reasons.
Q -- any TransCanada officials that he talked to?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have names for you. I mean, they were at the event.
Q Whenever he meets with company officials at events, we usually do get the names.
MR. CARNEY: I'll see if I can get them. I just don't have them. I wasn’t paying very close attention. I apologize.
Q On Afghanistan, General Allen testified before the Senate today. He said the U.S. is going to need a substantial force -- a substantial military presence in 2013. He was asked if 68,000 troops would be a sufficient number. He said that that would be a good going-in number. Does the administration think there’s a will among the American public to support that large of a military presence next year in Afghanistan?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President is focused on implementing a strategy that has as its core objective the goal of disrupting and dismantling and ultimately defeating al Qaeda.
As part of this process, he surged up U.S. forces considerably. We are now drawing down those forces that surged into Afghanistan, and that withdrawal will be complete by the middle of September. The President made clear that we will continue to withdraw U.S. forces at a steady pace. However, the specific timetable for that and troop numbers will not be decided until we have finished the current withdrawal.
What General Allen was referring to is that 68,000 troops which will remain after the withdrawal of the surge forces is a good number going into the period of the post-surge-withdrawal period. But the President’s position has not changed, and that position is that we will steadily draw down U.S. troops as we continue to transition security lead to Afghan security forces as they continue to be trained and their numbers increase.
What will be discussed and agreed upon we hope in Chicago is a decision to transfer combat lead to Afghan forces in 2013 as part of the full transition to Afghan security control by the end of 2014. But no troop -- no announcements of further troop withdrawals will come in Chicago, and there are no options currently under consideration. That will come after we have withdrawn the forces we’re withdrawing now.
That's it? Man, you guys are easy.
Q Does the President believe that the Republican candidate, whoever that will be, will be able to hit a reset button once the general election begins? And did he have any reaction to this whole Etch-A-Sketch issue?
MR. CARNEY: The President has been focused on this trip on the -- his all-of-the-above approach to our energy challenges. He'll be ready to engage in a vigorous debate with a Republican opponent when the Republicans have picked their nominee. We're not -- he's not, certainly, and we're not paying any great amount of attention to the day-by-day narrative in the race for the Republican nomination. We're just lay observers. We follow your work and the work of your colleagues, but beyond that we're focused on the job of trying to get this economy to continue to grow, to continue to create jobs, diversifying our energy portfolio so that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil, insulate American consumers from the vicissitudes of the global oil market. That's our focus at the moment.
Q Did he have any reaction to the NFL's decision with the New Orleans Saints to suspended some of their coaches because of the --
MR. CARNEY: He's certainly aware of it. As you know, we occasionally have ESPN on on the plane here. And I know he's aware of it, but I don't recall any specific reaction.
Q How about Tebow, Manning?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any reaction to that to read out. But I think we all -- he's had pretty big sports headlines prior to this. I do know that March Madness continues tonight -- right? -- games starting again tonight? I'm sure the President will try to catch a little of the games if he can.
Amendment to the Gaggle:
MR. CARNEY: -- said yesterday we don't have any plans on the President's schedule, any events to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act. But I want to be clear that this was historic and important legislation that is already leading to significant benefits for millions of Americans.
And the White House has put out a video that features a lot of folks who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act already, and it's part of our effort to continue to inform the American people about the Affordable Care Act, about the protections it provides young Americans who are now able to stay on their parent's insurance plans for a lot longer, and for seniors who are getting significant assistance in dealing with their prescription drug bills, and preventive services -- and on the full-scale effort to continue to implement the Affordable Care Act across the country, in states across the country.
Q Is that video timed to the anniversary date or to the arguments that are going to be --
MR. CARNEY: It is. Yes, it is. And I think I made the point yesterday that I found it absurd -- that I found absurd some of the suggestions that the President or the White House, the administration was running away from or not interested in talking about the Affordable Care Act, because, as you know, and I have seen, the campaign has put out its own campaign video where the Affordable Care Act is featured prominently. The President speaks about the Affordable Care Act and its importance to the American people frequently. I don't think a week goes by where he doesn’t include remarks about health care reform in some form or another.
But we are looking at -- he is focused this week and in the coming weeks on pushing forward policies that will continue to grow the economy, continue to create jobs, and diversify our energy resources.
MR. CARNEY: The White House put out a video that, as I understand it -- I confess I haven't seen it yet, but I heard about it -- that tells some of the stories of people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. It's part of an effort to inform Americans about the protections and provisions of the law as it's being implemented.
Q Does that come out today, tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: I think today.
Q The campaign released something today, too.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, I think they're separate. I'll check that, but I think they're separate.
1:07 P.M. CDT