Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Portland, OR, 7/24/12
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Portland, Oregon
11:04 A.M. PDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon. As we have done in the past, Jen and I will brief you together. I don't have any announcements for you. I don't know if Jen does.
MS. PSAKI: One thing, one announcement I have. I know how much you all enjoy visual aids, so I have one with me today. This is a new ad. There will be some information that the campaign will release on this probably by the time we hit the ground, early this afternoon. It's an ad that will run in six states and it will probably be on the air by tomorrow. It's shipping today.
I'm going to play it for you. (Video is played.)
Q Is there a name for that ad?
MS. PSAKI: Let me get that for you. I'll get that for you before the end of the flight.
Q What six states?
MS. PSAKI: It will be running in Iowa, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Nevada -- is that six? I think I'm missing one, which I'll get back to you.
Q So, Jen, from what I could hear from the ad, he was amplifying his message from last night at the fundraiser. Does the fact that you're putting up an ad on this suggest that you fear that some of the Republican attacks on him for the comment that he made about "you didn’t build this" are doing damage and that you need to push back on it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm glad you asked. We are not going to stand by while Mitt Romney slices and dices and deliberately takes out of context the President's remarks on businesses.
As the President has said many, many times -- I've heard him say many times over the course of years -- he believes in the creativity and the hard work and the ingenuity of the American people, entrepreneurs and small business owners. And he also believes that there are -- if you ask any business owner, there's a lot we can do to help them, including making sure roads and rails and runways are running and they can ship their goods; including making sure workers are trained and prepared and qualified to be hired.
And as he mentioned last night and you'll hear him say again today, Mitt Romney doesn’t exactly have a sterling record on these issues. He has supported budgets that would gut funding for small businesses, for entrepreneurs, for investments in innovation. And again, the American people have a choice. We're continuing to lay that out. And we wanted to make absolutely clear where the President stands.
Q So it sounds like you're saying that you are concerned that those attacks on him were starting to take hold.
MS. PSAKI: I think it's more that when you have a period of time where our opponent, Mitt Romney, and his surrogates have tweaked and taken apart to such a degree the President's remarks on an issue he's spoken about many, many times, and Mitt Romney has made similar points, it was important to us to ensure that people knew where the President was coming from, how much he supports entrepreneurs and small business owners, and how their records contrast.
Q The fact that the President himself is speaking to the camera and not a narrator explaining, does that speak to the level of concern about these attacks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I think the President is a pretty effective communicator and an effective advocate for his policies. You heard him convey last night his belief that entrepreneurs and small business owners, the people who run those businesses on Main Streets across the country are the drivers of our economy. He absolutely believes that. It's, in fact, been a part of his stump speech and his remarks for a very long period of time.
And a lot of the policies that he has fought for and supporting -- including 18 tax credits for small businesses, including historic investments in clean energy and innovative fields -- are areas he has focused on because they help exactly the kind of entrepreneurs and small business owners that Mitt Romney has attacked him for.
Q Jay, was any of the classified information that Dianne Feinstein and Mitt Romney have talked about over the past two days leaked from the White House?
MR. CARNEY: You know I've addressed this many times, and the President has, too. There are two experienced federal prosecutors investigating the leaks in question. As a general matter, the President has made abundantly clear that he has no tolerance for leaks and he thinks leaks are damaging to our national security interests. The kinds of decisions he has to make every day depend upon the ability to keep our secrets secret. And he feels extremely strongly about this.
Again, I would point you to the fact that two experienced federal prosecutors are investigating these leaks -- A; and B, the fact that the authors -- The New York Times authors have on the record made clear that the White House was not the source for these stories.
Q Based on what Feinstein said yesterday, though, she seems to be indicating that the investigation shows that the White House had some role in it. Is that the same --
MR. CARNEY: I don't think she referenced an investigation. She referenced a book. And again, I would simply say that there are two experienced federal prosecutors investigating these leaks. I can't comment on specifics of an ongoing investigation, but I can tell you as a general matter, the President takes very seriously the issue of leaking of classified information and has spoken very firmly about this. No one depends more on that information to make extremely difficult and significant decisions on a regular basis than the President of the United States.
Q We have the Chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee saying some of this is coming from their ranks, meaning the administration -- not necessarily the White House.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I would -- this is in reference to an ongoing investigation, which I cannot comment on. I can point you to the President's very firmly stated feelings about leaks, the importance of being able to keep classified information secure.
Q Can you at least say when you expect the investigation to yield some results?
MR. CARNEY: I am not standing here as an employee of the Department of Justice, so, no, I cannot.
Q You have no update on when they're going --
MR. CARNEY: I'm not updated on the process of investigations -- the progress of investigations.
Q We were told that a campaign event was cancelled today in Portland because -- given the shootings in Aurora, that the tone wouldn't be right. Last night, the President in Oakland, very enthusiastic rally, very feisty message, punching back on the ads. I'm wondering how you reconcile those two facts. Is the sort of truce over, I guess?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we made a decision -- and obviously the President is the one who felt very strongly about this -- over the weekend that we wanted to take into account the tragic events Thursday. He felt very strongly about traveling to Colorado and spending the time with families, hearing their stories, meeting the families of victims.
And there were two reasons that we had to cancel the Portland event, which I spoke about earlier -- Sunday, I guess. One was that we felt a large grassroots event is perhaps not the right kind of tone and approach at this period. The second was because of resources and assets we needed to pull down one event in order for the President to be able to go to Colorado.
So both are very important. There isn't a playbook for this. I will remind you that yesterday, prior to the President speaking last night, Mitt Romney held an event with small business owners where he distorted and ripped apart the President's record. And that was -- we're not going to stand by and allow that to happen.
Q Jen, Romney yesterday touched a little bit on gun control, returning to that topic. Does the President have any sort of plans in the next several weeks to sort of address that issue kind of in a one big, sweeping thing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I'll speak from the campaign side and Jay may be able to speak to the policy here. You heard the President say on Sunday that he hoped that the events in Colorado allows us to reflect on -- over the coming weeks, reflect on what this means and what we can all do as a country. He has talked to -- this will stick with him for a period of -- a long period of time, through to November, and he talks every day about the families and the people he met there.
I'll let Jay speak to the policy.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'll make a couple of points. One, as you've heard the President say and you saw in the op-ed that he wrote in the wake of the Tucson shootings, that he believes that we need to take, and we can take, common-sense measures that ensure that individuals who should not have weapons under existing law do not get them. And we can take those measures without in any way compromising our Second Amendment rights.
I would note that the President has long been a supporter of the assault weapons ban, renewing that, and he continues to support that position. Obviously, congressional opposition has been an issue on that. But he does support renewal of the assault weapons ban, a position he's long held.
Q Does he have any plan to push it? I mean, he made it in --
MR. CARNEY: I don't want to --
Q -- so he had time to try to advance the plan.
MR. CARNEY: Well, there have been -- as you know, I think, Roger, measures taken and progress has been achieved on some of the issues that he raised in the wake of Tucson. I can refer you to the Department of Justice or even Matt Lehrich in the Press Office in the White House can provide detailed information on the progress made in terms of expanding the quality and quantity of information in background checks, as well as other measures that have been taken -- A. B, and I think it's certainly possible the President could address these issues in the future. But I don't have any scheduling updates for you.
Q But since he wrote that op-ed, has there been some -- I have looked into it. I talked to the Justice Department, so I know what they've done. And there have been some modest improvements in terms of better -- making the existing laws work a little bit better. But in that op-ed, he spoke much more broadly about trying to find common ground on this issue. Can you point to anything that he's done since writing that op-ed that has advanced that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, I think the work that the Department of Justice has done on this issue that has resulted in the progress that you noted demonstrates what the President has done on this issue, and reflects the approach that he believes we have to take, which is to seek methods and means that ensure that those who should not have weapons under existing law obtain them, but that protect our Second Amendment rights. And that's the balance that he seeks.
And his position on broader issues of this nature he has articulated in the past. And I've noted that he has long been a proponent of renewing the assault weapons ban.
Q To the markets. They're tumbling again today. New concerns on Greece may be missing debt reduction payments -- back to where we were a few months ago.
MR. CARNEY: This has been an ongoing process, an ongoing challenge, obviously, for the Europeans, but a challenge that affects the American economy. That is why the President, and Secretary Geithner in particular, Under Secretary Brainard, have been so engaged in this issue and continue to be.
We note that the Europeans have made progress and some of the decisions they made in late June at their summit were significant. Now they need to operationalize those decisions, take steps to further consolidate those decisions, to implement reform as well as create greater unity in the banking system in Europe. And we certainly urge Europeans to take those steps to operationalize.
Q Did he make calls or --
MR. CARNEY: The Europeans need to take steps to operationalize, if you will, the commitments they made back at the end of the June.
Q With Governor Romney traveling overseas, I'm wondering if he's asked to begin the security briefings that candidates typically tend to get on the campaign, or if you have a timeline for when those briefings might begin for him.
MR. CARNEY: I don't know the answer to your question about whether or not Governor Romney has made that request. I can take that question. I believe the timing of that was a little later in the 2008 cycle, although I was a reporter then so I'm not entirely sure. I'll have to take that question.
I would note, going back to the issue that was raised early on in the briefing about the President's firm position on leaks, that those questions arose from the excerpts in Governor Romney's speech -- I think, as a matter of policy, it's important to look at what the President talked about at the VFW, what he talked about four years earlier where he laid out concrete policy positions. He made very specific promises of things that he would do as President. And as you heard him say yesterday, he has delivered on those promises.
He said he would end the war in Iraq; he ended the war in Iraq. He said he would take the fight to al Qaeda and seek to destroy al Qaeda; he has delivered on those promises. He said he would restore our alliances that were extremely frayed at the end of the Bush administration, as anyone who was around and covering those relationships knows; he has done that. Our relationships are much stronger.
He has taken extraordinary steps to enhance America's national security, America's stature around the globe. He is -- in addition to taking the fight to al Qaeda, he is winding down the war in Afghanistan, again, as promised.
What we saw in the excerpts I think were kind of the polar opposite. And I think that when you discuss these issues as a matter of a decision the President makes, the policies the President puts forward -- the President talks frequently about the challenges we face in Afghanistan, the challenges we face in Iraq, the challenge we face now in Syria and the broader Arab Spring, in Asia, the need to focus and rebalance our efforts towards Asia -- I find those specifics lacking so far in what I've heard from the other side.
MS. PSAKI: If I can just add one thing to this. Mitt Romney has a very high bar he has not yet jumped over to convince the American people that he wants to have a serious conversation about foreign policy. And if you look at this week -- Jay touched on the excerpts -- instead of using today as an opportunity to speak to an audience about differences he may have with the President on Iran, on Syria, on what we should have done or what he felt we should have done in Iraq, on even how to take care of military families when they come home, he's used this as an opportunity to launch baseless attacks on the President -- as we saw from the excerpts.
He's now going on a foreign trip, where what we've learned from his schedule is he's going to be doing some fundraising and he has some photo ops. So as far as we can tell at this point, these several days, which were an enormous opportunity, are not going to help him jump over that bar and convince the American people he wants to have a serious conversation about foreign policy.
Q Given the old adage that politics stops at the water's edge, is there any thought that if he were to give any sort of substantive remarks while abroad there's a sort of code you should respect or restraint you should show in terms of talking about the President?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would simply say that then-Senator Obama was able to talk in great detail and at a significant level of substance when he made a similar trip as a candidate for President in 2008, while adhering to that tradition. So I think you can do both, and we'll see if that standard continues to apply.
MS. PSAKI: I was on the trip with President Obama four years ago and I can tell you that not only did he give a major policy speech right before he went, but he had meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders; he had a meeting with Merkel. I mean, you know the schedule. He did press conferences, press avails, interviews with major networks, and we had a full pool with us for all these meetings and all these events. That's an entirely different scale than what we're looking at over the next couple of days.
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think -- again, going back to the matters of policy and the decisions a President makes, it's important to ask -- because the President has answered these questions -- what would you do in Iraq? Would you not end the war? Would you keep American troops there? Would you keep them there for one year, two years, five years, 10 years longer? And what is the policy purpose behind that, and is that in keeping with what the Iraqis want as they continue to expand their security capacity? Would you have not refocused our efforts -- because you decided to stay and keep a robust force in Iraq, would you not have refocused our efforts on Afghanistan and on al Qaeda in the AfPak region?
Because the consequences of that decision, that failure to focus intensely on the enemies who attacked us in 2001 would almost certainly mean that we would not have had the successes that we've had against al Qaeda in the last three and a half years. These are tradeoffs -- these are tough decisions that you have to make every day as President on significant policy issues.
Syria is obviously a very complicated situation, as part of the broader developments in that region. What are the choices that someone who would sit in that chair makes that are different from what the President is making? And if a position is that you would unilaterally engage militarily in Syria, then say so and make that case. The President makes his case every day and explains his positions every day in great detail. And they're never easy decisions, and that's why the President has to make them.
Q Are there any other events on the President's schedule? Interviews or anything while we're on the ground in Portland beyond the listed events?
MS. PSAKI: You know about the -- I'm happy to go through -- would any of you like me to go through what he's doing today --
MS. PSAKI: -- or do you have that? Okay. So he's going to hold a fundraising roundtable in Portland at the Oregon Convention Center -- that's our first stop. It's 25 people. As you know, we've done a number of these. It's $30,000 per person. Then he's going to deliver remarks at a reception in Portland, also at the Convention Center. The tickets for that event start at $500 per person. He will then -- we'll move to Washington State --
Q What about between those two events?
Q No interviews or anything?
MS. PSAKI: No. I will triple-check, but there aren’t any TV or radio or anything like that interviews.
The President will then go to a fundraising roundtable in Hunt's Point, at a private residence in Washington State. We expect about 20 people. The tickets for that are $35,800. And then he'll end the day with a reception in the evening, which we expect about 200 people and the tickets are $5,000 per person.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you.
11:20 A.M. PDT