Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Toledo, Ohio
4:09 P.M. MDT
MR. CARNEY: Thank you for coming aboard Air Force One as we make our way to Toledo. I just have one brief update to give you, which is that tomorrow, when the President goes to Louisiana, he will receive a briefing. He will also tour flood damage caused by Hurricane Isaac in St. John the Baptist Parish with local and federal officials. He’ll deliver a statement that evening, tomorrow evening, from that parish and then return to Washington, D.C.
MS. PSAKI: I just wanted to -- I know we were having a discussion yesterday about early voting and voting by mail, and I came back to you guys with just a couple of interesting statistics for this. As I mentioned yesterday, an early voter or vote by mail to us is the same is as a vote on Election Day; the one is not more valuable than the other. And we have a grassroots-on-the-ground focus in every state on these programs in making sure people know when they can vote, how to vote, et cetera.
So we were just in Colorado. I mentioned yesterday -- I said 77 percent; it was actually 78 percent of people early voted or voted by mail. We're headed to Ohio -- 26 percent in 2008 early voted or voted by mail. We were just in Iowa -- 36 percent early voted or voted by mail.
The early vote -- the days that early vote starts in these states range, and I’m happy to send this to all of you. They begin as early as September 27th in Iowa, October 2nd in Ohio, October 22nd in Colorado. But again, this is a big focus, and we'll be continuing to communicate with people in these states about how and when they can vote. So with that --
MR. CARNEY: Questions?
Q What's the name of the parish?
MR. CARNEY: St. John the Baptist.
Q And so this is in the evening? It carries into the evening? I just didn't hear you very well.
MR. CARNEY: We don't have exact timing. But, yes, it’s in -- I don't have a time of day, but the statement, which will be at the end of his visit, will be in the evening. But we get back fairly late in Washington.
Q Will he be meeting with any local residents, or is it more like getting briefing from officials?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any more details for you on it. Those are the contours of his visit that I can provide to you at this time.
Q Can you just clarify what you mean by "statement"? Will he be speaking to reporters, speaking directly to the camera? How --
MR. CARNEY: I'm sorry, just statement to the pool. I mean, that's when you'll hear from him. Just a statement to the pool, not for broadcast or anything.
Q Can you talk about what the President is doing to get ready for the convention through tomorrow and as it starts on Tuesday?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Jen and I can both do that. He is focused primarily on the events that you’ve seen him participate in so far on this trip in Iowa and Colorado, and looking forward to being in Toledo. But as we mentioned, he’s been working on his speech. He looks forward to the opportunity to speak in Charlotte on Thursday evening. That's pretty much been the focus of his work.
MS. PSAKI: I’ll just add, for the President, this is not -- and for us as a party, this is not a reinvention convention like the Republican Convention was last week. The President has been very consistent about laying out the choice the American people are facing. This will bring it more into focus. We know that the convention is a huge platform with a big megaphone, and there is no question that next Friday, when the American people look back, they're going to know what the choice is, they're going to know what his forward-looking agenda is. And we’ll be looking forward to Thursday night.
I'll also add that in addition to the President, there are of course a number of other speakers, as you know, at the convention. And I would point you to the fact that the First Lady will be speaking on Tuesday. The Vice President will be speaking on Thursday. And they're important bookends for this convention as well.
The First Lady will be laying out a very personal view of the President's vision, the President -- what keeps him up at night, what keeps him going, and what he’s focused on. And the Vice President has had a front seat to the last three and a half years. He knows firsthand how challenging the times have been, how hard the decisions have been. And you should expect to hear more from him on that as well.
Q Jen, on the convention, the President keeps ripping Mitt Romney for not introducing a single new idea. Does that mean he’s going to present new ideas, stuff that he hasn’t talked about before?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m glad you asked. Look, the President has been running on his forward-looking agenda for the entire time he’s been campaigning. He’s been talking about his forward-looking agenda for the last three and a half years. We’ve been running on our ideas. He’s been running on his ideas -- whether that is talking about more we can do for students to help them go to college, whether that’s talking about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and what people can look ahead to, or whether that is the ideas he’s laid out -- doing more to invest in infrastructure, doing more to help small businesses grow and prosper.
Unlike the President, Mitt Romney and the Republicans have been running away from their ideas. And when you have a lack of ideas -- their pool is like an empty pool with no water and dead leaves and trees in it. So when you have that to go back to, of course you’re going to spend your time launching petty attacks. And I think you will hear a lot more from him on his forward-looking agenda than you heard from Mitt Romney on Thursday night.
Q I just wanted you to comment on the empty pool of water and dead leaves and trees. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I endorse language as creative and descriptive as that used by my friend and colleague.
Q The President yesterday and again today talked about bringing all the troops home from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But the plan that he had put forth when he went to Afghanistan in May didn’t lay that specific date down. Is this a new plan from the President?
MR. CARNEY: As I’m sure you’re aware, this is a NATO-endorsed strategy that foresees full transition to Afghan security lead in Afghanistan by 2014. That is a NATO policy that has been put in place for quite some time now. And part of that is drawing down our forces, which, as you know, is happening as we speak.
Q Does that mean that all the troops will be out by 2014 as he said?
MR. CARNEY: He never said that all the troops would be out. What we’ve said, as we did in Iraq -- and I think this is a good way to look at it -- is in Iraq, there were steps of -- sort of milestones where troops began to come home, more and more authorities transferred over to Iraqi security forces. The U.S. forces that remained as that process took place moved out of the cities and on to bases. And then the full transfer took place and combat mission ended, after which remaining U.S. forces eventually came home and the last U.S. soldier left, with the exception obviously of those who are at the embassy.
Q What he said was, the specific plan to bring our troops home by the end of 2014, which it sounds like that’s --
MR. CARNEY: I understand you’re trying to engage in a clever game of “gotcha.” Everyone understands what the President’s policy is, which is a full transition to Afghan security lead by 2014. We have been abundantly clear about the stages of the implementation of that policy. And as in Iraq, that means that while not all U.S. troops will have withdrawn necessarily by then, the Afghan Security Forces will be in full security transition -- I mean, will be in full security lead, and U.S. forces will continue to be drawn down.
Q Jay, does the White House have any comment to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks -- I think it was yesterday -- about the international community not presenting a clear red line on Iran?
MR. CARNEY: Kathleen, I appreciate that question, and I can tell you that there is absolutely no daylight between the United States and Israel when it comes to the necessity of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that’s why this President has been engaged in a policy that has put enormous pressure on the regime in Tehran, isolated it and sanctioned it to a degree that is unprecedented, and why he has made clear that in pursuit of the objective of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, all options remain on the table. That’s one.
Two, it is the case that the window for diplomacy remains open, and it remains the case that the best way to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon is through a diplomatic process that results in Iran finally agreeing to, in a completely verifiable way, give up its nuclear weapons ambitions and abide by its international obligations. But that window will not remain open indefinitely, as we’ve made clear. And as I said earlier, the President has insisted that all options, in pursuit of his policy objective, remain on the table.
Q Do you have any concerns that with statements like that, Netanyahu is raising tensions in a counterproductive way?
MR. CARNEY: I will simply say that we share absolutely the same objective as the Israelis, that there is no daylight between us when it comes to our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and that the onus here is entirely on Iran.
One thing that I think everyone here who has been covering these issues for the past four years has seen clearly is a change in the way the world views this problem. When President Obama was running for this office, and when he took this office in January of 2009, the world was divided over this issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and Iran was united. Thanks to the President’s policy and the pursuit of it, the world has united and come to a consensus that is unprecedented, in agreement that Iran is the problem; that it is Iran’s failure to live up to its international obligations that has caused this situation that is of such serious concern to President Obama, obviously to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and to leaders around the region and around the world.
And I think it is a testament to the vision that the President had when he when he ran for the office, that he understood the value in uniting the international community behind a plan of action that has isolated Iran, put enormous financial stress and political pressure on Iran as we pursue this goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Q Mitch McConnell last week endorsed the Washington Nationals plan to shut down Stephen Strasburg despite them being in a pennant race. Does the President share the Senate Minority Leader’s view that the team should shut down their best pitcher?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I have had this discussion with him, although not this week. As I think he’s mentioned, he’s following the Nationals closely. He is, first and foremost, a diehard Chicago White Sox fan, and that hasn’t changed. But I think he has, like all of us in Washington, been caught up in the remarkable success of the Washington Nationals this season. And I don’t have a firm opinion to state for you about whether -- from the President about whether or not Stephen Strasburg should be shut down, as you say. But he --
Q Shouldn’t he have an opinion? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: But he certainly appreciates the conundrum that Nationals management faces as well as Nationals fans, including myself. He pitched a great game today. I don’t know if you saw that. Six solid innings. I think one run. Pretty good. Nats won 4-3, you’ll be glad to know.
END 4:23 P.M. MDT