Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One en route Ohio, 09/26/12
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Ohio
11:33 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Welcome aboard Air Force One, past travelers as well as new, as we make our way to the great state of Ohio. I know that we don't have a lot of time, so I'll not make any announcements at the top. Jen, do you have anything at the top?
MS. PSAKI: Very briefly. I know I sent this to all of you last night, but just to reiterate, the President will talk about his record of holding China accountable at his events in Ohio today, so that American workers can compete globally, while Mitt Romney continues to profit from companies that ship jobs overseas.
Just to give you a couple of examples, and I'm happy to send these to you guys. When Mitt Romney was in charge of his firm, his firm invested millions in Global-Tech, a company that the Boston Globe wrote about today. I'm happy to also send you that story if you don't already have it -- because before the company invested, Global-Tech was actually advertising and pushing to investors that they were a low-wage, low-tax firm that would not be taxed in the U.S.
Until recently, he also owned stock in a Chinese online video company. He owned partnership interest in GOME, a Chinese electronics company being sued for piracy. We know from his tax returns just a week ago that he also invested in an oil company. So clearly his rhetoric that he's using out there on the campaign trail doesn’t match his financial record.
Q Is the President going to name those companies by name?
MS. PSAKI: I would not expect that, no. But I'm happy to provide those details to you if you need them.
Q Jay, in his interview on the Today Show this morning, the Libyan President said that the attacks on the consulate had nothing to do with the video that sparked all the protests as elsewhere. He also repeated his claim that they were preplanned, given their sophistication, so given that's in direct contradiction to what the administration says, who's right?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I can tell you that President Magarief made very heartfelt public statements before his meeting with Secretary Clinton in New York about the brave four Americans who were killed and the firm commitment of Libya to not allow a violent minority to hijack Libya's hopes and dreams.
Over the course of the past two weeks, this administration has provided as much information as it has been able to. We made clear that our initial assessment and interim reports were based on information that was available at the time. Several administration officials, including the NCTC director, have spoken on the record about the information we have. We have also been clear that there's an ongoing FBI investigation and that we must allow that investigation to take its course. The Accountability Review Board established by Secretary of State Clinton is also doing a full investigation.
I can point you again to the statements by the NCTC director about his assessment as the chief counterterrorism official about the information that we had available at the time about how the attack occurred and who was responsible. And it continues to be the case that we provided information based on what we know -- not based on speculation, but based on what we know -- acknowledging that we are continuing an investigation that will undoubtedly uncover more facts, and as more facts and more details emerge we will, when appropriate, provide them to you.
Q The fact that he was pretty equivocal statement today that the video --
MR. CARNEY: The U.S. intelligence upon which we make our assessments has provided very clear public assessments of the information that they have available, that they had initially, that they had available when the NCTC director talked to Congress and spoke publicly. And that's what -- we make our judgments based on the information that we gather.
Q One more question on that. But how often is the President in contact with President Magarief? I mean, are they talking every day? Are they sharing this information? Is there anything that he might be aware of that the President would not be?
MR. CARNEY: We have significant cooperation with the new Libyan government, but I don't think intelligence sharing occurs at the President-to-President level, necessarily. President Obama did speak last week with the Libyan leader, the same night that he spoke with President Morsi of Egypt. But I don't believe they’ve had a conversation since.
Q Is now an opportunity to perhaps announce any meetings on Friday with Netanyahu?
MR. CARNEY: I have no scheduling announcements to make. As you know, the President had a productive and lengthy phone call with the Prime Minister recently, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu later this week in New York.
Q Governor Romney says that the President isn’t tough enough on China, which is the focus today. Specifically, the Governor says that he would label China a currency manipulator on day one. Why has the President been reluctant to take that step? And is that something he’s considering for a second term?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll say two things. One, this President’s record when it comes to ensuring a level playing field for America’s workers and businesses is very clear and very strong. This administration, because of the President’s views and guidance, has brought double the rate of WTO actions against China as its predecessor brought. And every one of those actions thus far has been met with success. The President also initiated the Section 421, I believe it’s called, action on Chinese tire imports that protected American workers, and which Governor Romney opposed and said was harmful to competition. The President could not disagree more strongly.
When it comes to the Chinese currency, this President, the Secretary of Treasury, and every high-level administration official who meets with their Chinese counterparts always presses the Chinese on this matter. We've seen some improvement in the currency situation, but not enough. And it's something that we press the Chinese on all the time. And I personally have seen that discussed and heard that discussed in the President's meeting with President Hu.
Q Jen, the Romney campaign accuses your campaign of spiking the ball at the 30-yard line, which I believe is a football metaphor. (Laughter.) How do you respond to that?
Q An American football metaphor? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Should I speak in metaphor completely? Look, I think we've seen the public polls that have been out there, just as the Romney team has. We don't get too whipped up when we're up, or too whipped up when we're down. And we're running this race in every single swing state like we're five points down. If we need to pass out horse blinders to all of our staff, we will do that.
But this is a campaign where we have a playbook -- I'm going to go back to football now. Every day we wake up, whether you're a field staffer in Ohio or you're a press person in New Hampshire, and you open the playbook and say how do I get to November 6th? How do we get to 270?
So we know they're running their campaign; we're running ours. I will say that as time progresses, the field is looking like it's narrowing for them. And so, in that sense, we'd rather be us than them, because we want a field -- or a path, I should say, where you can drive a Mack truck through it, not one where you can drive a little scooter through it.
But we know, those of us who've been -- and this is the last thing I'll say -- that those of us who've been to this rodeo before have been through these close campaigns before -- I'm just using a lot of sports metaphors to make you laugh -- know that there are ups and downs in campaigns. We know there could be many downs for us, too, between now and November 6th. And that's why we're focused on our own race, but still would rather be us than them.
MR. CARNEY: So I think the real question is what would the replacement refs do if somebody spiked their ball on the 30-yard line.
Q Well done. When do you pull the guards and have even a bigger hole? (Laughter.) Did the President listen to Ahmadinejad's speech this morning at the United Nations?
MR. CARNEY: No, he didn't. He had meetings this morning.
Q Did the President look out of his aircraft and see Air Iran parked at Andrews?
MR. CARNEY: I don't believe he did. I would refer questions about that to the State Department. This is in keeping with past precedent. The United Nations obviously decides who is invited, which foreign leaders are invited. The State Department and Secret Service deal with security and protocol.
Q Do we know how he got from Andrews up to the U.N.? Did he fly?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the State Department
MR. CARNEY: I'd refer you to State.
Q Given the protests -- there's some protests in both Spain and Greece. Has the President been in contact with any eurozone leaders about that crisis recently, or today?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any foreign leader contacts or conversations with the President to read out to you. It is certainly the case that the Treasury Department, Secretary Geithner and others -- Lael Brainard -- are constantly engaging with their counterparts. But I would refer you to Treasury for anything specific about that.
Q It looks like we're landing.
Q Just a quick one. Governor Romney today said that if the President were reelected, the national debt may hit $20 trillion. I'd love to get some response from you.
MS. PSAKI: President Obama is the only one who has a comprehensive, balanced approach to bringing the deficit down. When your approach is, like Governor Romney's is, to -- your first offering is a $5 trillion tax cut for millionaires and billionaires, it’s hard to take your plans for deficit reduction seriously. So we know he’s going to have opportunities to present more details -- he could do it any day of the week -- and we’ll look forward to hearing those.
MR. CARNEY: And I can just say as a matter of policy -- since we now seem to be heading back up into the sky -- (laughter) -- that it is, as outside tax analysts and budget analysts have made clear, independent budget analysts have made clear -- it’s simply not plausible to say you can cut taxes by $5 trillion, add a couple of a trillion in defense spending that the Joint Chiefs largely doesn’t want or believe we need for our security, and then claim that you’re going to be fiscally responsible.
The choices are clear, as the Tax Policy Center and others made obvious in their assessments, if you’re going to have a revenue-neutral $5 trillion tax cut, the middle class is going to get hammered. The alternative is to blow a gigantic hole in the deficit. So some further explanation is required.
Q Can I make a preemptive request -- as soon as I put in the pool report that we had to ascend after we descended, that's all anybody is going to want to know -- that you find out for us?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, sure.
MS. PSAKI: One just last note to leave you with -- I’m going to ask and answer this question. Why are we going to Ohio? We’re going because next Tuesday is Game Day in Ohio. It’s when early vote starts. October 9th is when the voter registration deadline is. It’s called Golden Week. It’s a huge priority for us. That’s why we’re going to two college campuses today. So just so you have that.
Q Can I ask one more -- are criticizing the President for not classifying what happened in Benghazi as a terrorist attack, going as far as you did or the NCTC director. Can you respond to that and explain why that is?
MR. CARNEY: The President spoke eloquently I believe about the attack that took the lives of four Americans at the United Nations General Assembly, and I think made very clear that it is wholly unacceptable to respond to a video, no matter how offensive, with violence, and it is wholly unacceptable, regardless of the reason, to attack embassies or diplomatic facilities and to kill diplomatic personnel.
The President -- our position is, as reflected by the NCTC director, that it was a terrorist attack. It is, I think by definition, a terrorist attack when there is a prolonged assault on an embassy with weapons.
The broader questions here about who participated, what led to the attack on the facility in Benghazi -- all those questions are under investigation at two levels, by the FBI and by the Accountability Review Board established by Secretary Clinton to look at issues of security in Benghazi and security at other diplomatic facilities.
So, let’s be clear, it was a terrorist attack and it was an inexcusable attack.
Q Could you get back to us if this up and down on the landing isn't weather-related? Would you come back again?
MR. CARNEY: I'll let you know either way.
Q Is there any reason why the President did not -- he was asked point-blank in The View interview, is this a terrorist attack, yes or no? Is there any reason why he didn’t say yes?
MR. CARNEY: No, there’s -- I mean, he answered the question that he was asked, and there's no reason that he chose the words he did beyond trying to provide a full explanation of his views and his assessment that we need to await further information that the investigation will uncover. But it is certainly the case that it is our view as an administration, the President’s view, that it was a terrorist attack.
11:48 A.M. EDT