Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Los Angeles, California
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Los Angeles, California
12:10 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Welcome aboard Air Force One this morning, as we make our way out to sunny California for what will I’m sure be a terrific trip, largely focused on the campaign. I have no announcements to make, official announcements. Maybe Jen has something to start with.
MS. PSAKI: So before we get started, I just wanted to go through some simple “back of the notecard” math on how we get to the $5 trillion. And I was not a math major, I was an English major. So just to be clear, this is something any American can do, so just bear with me here. I know this is hard to see, but I’ll read through it.
So lowering the rates, as Mitt Romney has said he would do, to 20 percent -- $2.7 trillion over 10 years; eliminating the AMT -- $700 billion; repealing high-income payroll tax -- $300 billion; ending estate tax -- $150 billion; lowering the corporate rate from 35 to 25 -- $1.1 trillion. That adds up to $4.8 trillion. If you factor in interest for additional borrowing, you get to $5 trillion.
Let’s keep in mind also the things that Mitt Romney have said are off the table. We know he, one, says it’s going to be revenue-neutral. He’s taken off the table tax breaks for savings and exemptions -- for savings and investments; exemptions, which includes capital gains, of course; exemptions for both IRAs and 401Ks. So those are things that he will not be touching.
And if you were to add up eliminating all of the high-income tax breaks, all tax breaks across the board for high-income individuals, as he said he would do, that still only gets you to $2.7 trillion. Nobody thinks he’s going to do that.
Last point I’ll make is the Tax Policy Center also gives him the benefit of the doubt and says he will raise $1.1 trillion by eliminating loopholes, none of which he said which ones they will do. That still only gets you to $3.8 [trillion]. And that’s with using -- giving the absolute benefit of the doubt.
So that’s the simple math. I’m happy to send this to anyone. Just wanted to get that off the table to start with.
MR. CARNEY: Questions.
Q I guess I have a big picture question about where both campaigns are going -- and this is part of that, the $5 trillion debate. There’s a lot of talk now about dishonesty. Your campaign thinks he’s being dishonest about not having this $5 trillion plan. The Romney folks think that they can do what they say without hurting the middle class. Do you think that this is the kind of debate the American people want right now 30 days out -- who’s being dishonest?
MS. PSAKI: The $5 trillion tax debate is not about honesty and dishonesty. It’s about what your priorities are and who’s going to be a better fighter for the middle class. So the reason that’s so important is because the $5 trillion tax cut plan is the big idea Mitt Romney has put forward -- tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. The Tax Policy Center, independent economists have said the only way to do that, the only way to pay for that, as I just showed, is by either blowing a hole in the deficit or raising taxes on middle-class families. It’s a difference in priorities, and it’s an indicator of who each of the candidates would be fighting for in the White House.
We know that elections are tough, and Mitt Romney himself even said during the primary campaign, elections are tough. But we’re going to keep laying out the facts for the American people, the facts about the differences between their policies. And we feel that’s pivotal in the final 30 days.
Q Jen, we got your fundraising figures yesterday for the month of September. Mitt Romney’s campaign made a point of saying that they had a big increase in fundraising after the debate -- $12 million or something in 48 hours. Did the Obama campaign also have an influx in fundraising after the debate?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on that. I will just emphasize that one of the pieces that we’re so proud of, of our fundraising numbers, is that we brought more than a half a million new donors into the system who -- into our campaign, who had never contributed before, with an average donation of $58. Ninety-eight percent of donations were under $250. This is just further confirmation that our campaign is funded by grassroots donations, by people across the country who are giving $3, $5, $10 whenever they can.
I haven’t seen the numbers from the Romney team yet, but I would be surprised if their numbers show that their campaign is funded by low-dollar grassroots donors like ours is.
Q Is it still the position of the campaign that you’re going to be outspent? I mean, given these huge sums of money, isn’t it all irrelevant at this point?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, we’ve long said that’s what we expected. We obviously were outraised a couple of months this summer. We don’t know what the Romney team’s numbers are. We’re focused at this point, and always have been, on running our own race and making sure that we have the resources to fund the largest grassroots campaign in history. And for us, that means making sure we are able to open the number of offices we wanted to open, have the number of staff on the ground that do the GOTV that we wanted to do, and communicate directly with the American people.
We’ve always said we would have the resources to do that. We’re still confident we are. We’re obviously out here and making this trip because we don’t take anything for granted and we don’t count our chickens before they hatch. And we still need every last dollar to compete against the enormous amount of special interest super PAC money that is being thrown into the race on the Republican side.
Q Can you talk to us about who President Obama’s friend was who de-boarded Marine One and came onto Air Force One with him? Who is that?
MS. PSAKI: He’s a new debate coach. No, I’m just kidding. (Laughter.)
Mike Ramos is a longtime friend of the President’s. He’s traveled with him many times before. He’s probably been in pool reports you all have read before, so he’s traveling with him on this trip.
Q Is he from Hawaii -- is it Chicago?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure where he’s from originally.
MR. CARNEY: We’ll find out for you. But I’m sure he’s been written about much -- very frequently in the past.
Q Can you also talk to us about tonight’s event -- the first event, which is closed press? It’s sort of unusual. It’s not a fundraising event. Can you tell us about what it is?
MS. PSAKI: We have actually done meetings or events with high-dollar donors who have maxed out or contributed a high amount to the campaign around other events before. So this is one of those events; it’s a thank-you event for a small group of donors. President Clinton will be there with the President. President Clinton also has an event tomorrow morning that he’s doing that I believe I sent you all information on. The cost for -- the tickets for those started at about $1,000. So it’s just an opportunity to thank donors who have been there with us.
Q Will Bill Clinton speak as well as President Obama? Do they make informal remarks instead of formal remarks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a very small group of people; it’s only about a dozen people. So typically, it’s just around a table or in a small room, and no formal program. Obviously, if there was, that would be something we’d all be discussing and litigating. So it’s much more informal than that.
Q Could you tell us about who’s going to be there?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a list and as you know, we don’t release lists of people attending fundraisers.
Q Could you talk to us about -- even though it’s tomorrow, about tomorrow -- maybe, Jay, this is a question for you about the Chávez event. Policy-wise, what’s the important of it? And politics-wise, what’s the significance of him going there to announce this memorial for César Chávez?
MR. CARNEY: On October 8th, tomorrow, the President will travel to Keene, California to announce the establishment of the César E. Chávez national monument. Years in the making, the monument, which will be designated under the Antiquities Act, will be established on the property known as La Paz. Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, or Our Lady Queen of Peace.
Q Check out that accent.
MR. CARNEY: A little high school Spanish. The La Paz property is recognized worldwide for its historic link to civil rights icon, César Estrada Chávez, and the farm worker movement. The site served as the national headquarters of the United Farm Workers, as well as the home and workplace of César Chávez and his family from the early 1970s until his death in 1993. It includes his gravesite, which will be part of the monument.
The President will honor César Chávez’s memory with -- we’ll honor César Chávez’s memory, and what the American people can take away from this new national monument from a civil rights icon who gave a voice to poor and disenfranchised workers everywhere.
Going to your question, this is the fourth, I believe, designation under this President, under the Antiquities Act, of a national monument. The process of doing that is a multi-year process. This has been in the works for several years.
Participating in the event tomorrow will be Secretary Salazar, who oversees the National Park Service, as well as Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, who first introduced a bill in Congress several years ago for the purpose of establishing this national monument. Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, will also be there.
Q In terms of the $5 trillion tax debate, is that something that we can expect to hear Vice President Biden pursue in a much more aggressive way in this week’s debate, given the high profile setting that will be a nationally televised debate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to get too ahead of what topics we think will come up. I mean, obviously, the Vice President and Congressman Ryan have both had time debating and discussing and laying out the case for their very different approach to policy issues. The question for Congressman Ryan is, will he go to the debate and stand for the policies that he and Mitt Romney have been advocating for -- voucherizing Medicare, a $5 trillion tax cut package that benefits millionaires and billionaires, and leaves the burden on the back of the middle class. Or will he, as Mitt Romney did last week, hide from his policies and be dishonest about what he represents. So we don’t know the answer to that, and we’ll see later this week.
Q Are the stakes higher for him, given what was reviewed -- the President’s performance -- are the stakes higher for Biden this week?
MS. PSAKI: No, I think that they’re both looking -- I know the Vice President is looking forward to having a policy debate about the differences between the platforms of the two candidates, and I’m sure he’s happy to talk about the $5 trillion tax cut package the Romney/Ryan team has been fighting for, if given the opportunity.
Q Jen, we heard from the campaign there will be adjustments to the President’s debate strategy after the last one. How does that debate inform how Vice President Biden might debate? Is there any connection?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what we learned earlier this week is that Mitt Romney -- the Mitt Romney who came to the debate is one who has a strange relationship with the truth. And we don’t know if Paul Ryan is going to go to the debate this week and talk about the issues they’ve been -- he’s been advocating on the campaign trail, whether that’s voucherizing Medicare or extending tax cuts for the highest income.
The Vice President will certainly be prepared to lay out the facts as we have been doing over the past couple of days. So in that way, it’s informed us. The President knows what kind of debater Mitt Romney is and the fact that he’s willing to say and do anything on a national stage in order to win the presidency. And so we take that into account as we prepare for future debates.
Q So does the President, irrespective of the first debate, in general, does the President work with Vice President Biden in a case like this to go over debate? I mean, is that a natural part of their conversations?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure if they’re having conversations. As you know, they speak on a regular basis. The President is obviously going to be out campaigning quite a bit this week. But the Vice President has been preparing, his team I’m sure, and watched the debate as did he. So I think they’re pretty clear what the approach of Mitt Romney was, and we’ll see if that’s the approach Paul Ryan takes later this week.
Q Is President Obama doing any debate prep during this fundraising swing in California?
MS. PSAKI: He has a pretty busy schedule, as he has been doing. He may take some time to review materials, but I don’t have any specific scheduling updates for you on his debate prep.
Q Is that something -- it’s a five-hour flight each way.
MS. PSAKI: It could be. We just started the flight, so as of now I don’t have any updates for you on what he’s doing during the flight.
Q Jen, Governor Romney is going to give a big foreign policy speech tomorrow. Can you talk about what your view is on the timing of his speech and also how the President and the campaign plans to counter that, given that he’s likely to talk about Iran and Syria and Libya, some things that are in the news?
MS. PSAKI: So, one, we’re not going to be lectured by someone who has been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he’s dipped his toe in the foreign policy waters. Just as a refresher, this is the same guy who, when he went overseas on his trip, the only person who has offended Europe more is probably Chevy Chase. And that was a trip that was built up.
Second is when he had the opportunity to speak directly to the American people about his plans on domestic and foreign policy issues, as we all remember, he didn’t bring up Afghanistan, he didn’t bring up the troops. He has been abundantly clear that he would not have gone after Osama bin Laden in Pakistan; has failed to lay out his exact differences on Iran, as much as he said he has an entirely different position from the President.
So we’re certainly interested in what he has to say, but this is his fourth or fifth retake at trying to lay out his foreign policy positions for the American people. And at this point, it’s a very high bar he would have to jump over to convince them he’s prepared to be Commander-in-Chief and to address all of the foreign policy challenges you’ve mentioned that we’re facing.
Q So how do you plan to counter it? I mean, with the campaign, or will the President speak to that himself? I mean, one of the things he’s likely to talk about are a lot of the questions surrounding the administration’s handling of the Libya attack on 9/11.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get too -- we don’t know what’s in his speech yet, so I’m sure that we will have a substantive response from the campaign. But we’ll see what he has to say, and we’ll respond accordingly.
Q Jay, we had a story out this morning saying that the U.S. has agreed to allow South Korea to have longer-range missiles that could reach all of North Korea, which obviously raises the potential of an angry reaction from the North. Do you have any reaction to this and why the U.S. has taken this position?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Ben, as you know, the United States works very closely with the Republic of Korea on a wide range of security issues. As partners whose alliance is a linchpin of stability in northeast Asia, we take seriously our mission of maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. The United States remains firmly committed to our Alliance and to the defense of the Republic of Korea.
In this context, we have been in discussions with the Republic of Korea, at its request, on ways to address the threat posed by DPRK ballistic missiles. Based on those consultations, the Republic of Korea has announced revisions to its missile guidelines as well as additional improvements to Alliance capabilities.
The ROK’s new missile guidelines are designed to improve the Republic of Korea’s ability to defend against DPRK ballistic missiles. The revisions are a prudent, proportional, and specific response to the DPRK.
I would just say that we are in regular consultations with the Republic of Korea on these matters, and the reason that these new guidelines were established -- or were designed, rather, was in response to the DPRK ballistic missile threat.
Q Is there any concern, though, even given the reasons that you just stated, that this could lead to some sort of escalation of tensions?
MR. CARNEY: I think the international community has made clear its concerns about North Korea’s missile activities. The United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874 call on the DPRK to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program. However, the DPRK continues to seek improvements to the range and effectiveness of its ballistic missiles.
The onus here is on North Korea, as it has been, to abide by its international obligations to fulfill its obligations under two United Nations Security Council resolutions.
It is absolutely legitimate for the Republic of Korea to take actions in consultation with the United States to respond to a threat posed by the DPRK’s ballistic missile program.
Q So a lot of stuff has happened since the debate last night, including the unemployment numbers and the fundraising numbers. And I’m just wondering, would you assess, from a campaign standpoint, that you are about the same, weaker, or stronger than you were going into the debate last week? And how will that affect your approach this week going ahead?
MS. PSAKI: Well, even before the debate, we always thought this race was going to be close. We still believe that. We’ll see what the American people say and how the polls respond to the events that you just listed of last week.
Our focus is not looking at the ups and downs, or evaluating day to day -- we’re at an eight today, we’re at a seven today, we’re at a six -- whatever it may be; it’s keeping on our game plan, and that’s what we’re doing. Obviously, we’re out here fundraising the next two days. On Tuesday, we’re going to Ohio State. It’s the last day of voter registration in Ohio. The President will be making a firm call for the students to go immediately from the rally and go register and to early vote as well.
So just as we weren’t two weeks ago getting wrapped up in the ups and downs, in the day-to-day polls, we’re still not now. And we’re just focused on making sure we’re getting our message out, we’re getting all our people out to early vote, and we’re reaching our goals on that level.
MR. CARNEY: If I could just pull it out of the campaign day to day and look at it as a matter of policy, what was important about the jobs report we saw Friday was that it was evidence that we are moving forward. We have a long way to go, but it was another piece of evidence that demonstrates that the President’s approach to building the economy from the middle out is the right approach, as we’ve been recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
And I think it is very important to remember, both on domestic policy and on foreign policy, that the alternative approach put forward by Republicans in general, including Governor Romney, has been to take us backward to the policies that helped get us in this mess.
To your point on foreign policy, Carol, it’s my understanding that Governor Romney was, like Republican leaders both in Congress and outside Congress, fully supportive of the approach that President Bush took, which might explain why Governor Romney believes that ending the war in Iraq was a tragedy.
He was fully supportive of the approach in the previous administration in Afghanistan that saw that effort, where we were taking the fight directly to those who attacked the United States, was adrift and underfunded and under-resourced. The President promised to reverse that. He did it. He took the fight to al Qaeda. He increased our resources and sharpened our mission in Afghanistan, and he is now -- has begun the process of ending that war in Afghanistan, as he promised.
On domestic policy, I covered the 2000 campaign. I remember the promises of what multi-trillion-dollar tax cuts would do for the American economy and the American middle class. We all saw what happened through those eight years, and what the middle class has endured. We all saw a President who took office in 2001 inherited a surplus that was supposed to be in place as far as the eye could see; eight years later, bequeathed upon President Obama a $1 trillion deficit. We saw what deregulation did and allowed in terms of Wall Street being able to write its own rules, and what that helped create -- the worst financial crisis in our lifetimes.
We cannot go back, and as a matter of policy, this President is committed to moving forward.
END 12:31 P.M. EDT