Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Bakersfield, CA, 10/8/12
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Bakersfield, California
9:48 A.M. PDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way to Bakersfield, California, where, as you know, the President will be speaking about the designation of La Paz as a national monument. We discussed that yesterday, can certainly take more questions on that if you like.
I have no other announcements to make. Jen may have something at the top.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Just as a follow-up to a question you guys asked yesterday, because I'm here to please you -- on the fundraising the 48 hours after the debate, I know the Romney team released their number, which I believe was $12 million in the 48 hours. I can tell you because of a strong response from our grassroots supporters, from people who want to see the President go back for another four years, that we raised more than that in the 48 hours following the debate. In fact, if you look back at our numbers from September, that's about the daily average -- about $6 million a day if you were to do the daily average of our numbers in September.
So I don't have any other specifics than that, but I just wanted to get back to you on that particular piece.
Q What made you decide to tell us that? Because usually you guys don't reveal those sorts of things in the middle of the cycle.
MS. PSAKI: We have before. And I think it was just important to remind you that we have a lot of people out there who are excited to see the President go back for another four years; that we had 30,000 people in Wisconsin last week; we've had an overwhelming response from our grassroots supports. And it was something you asked and it was something I was able to deliver the information on.
Q You can't give us the exact number, just that it was more than $12 million?
MS. PSAKI: I cannot. More than $12 million.
Q Jen, before the debate, the campaign told us that you expected Romney to do well; that wasn’t the measure, the measure was what comes of it. Particularly in states like Ohio, will we see any changes? Can you speak from the campaign's perspective whether you are seeing any changes, whether there is any tightening of the polls?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to speak to our internal poll numbers, as I'm sure comes as no surprise to you. We've long said long before the debate that we expected the race to tighten and we don't expect that in the polls that showed us 10 points and even more points up in Ohio that that would be the final margin.
But the people in Ohio are looking at who's going to be a better fighter for them in the White House. And the decision -- the factors haven’t changed since the debate, so who's going to fight for middle-class tax cuts, who's going to fight to make sure kids have access to affordable health care, can go to college. In Ohio, there are some specific issues, like who is -- who fought to bring the auto industry back. We all know Mitt Romney wanted to let the auto industry go bankrupt, and one in eight jobs in Ohio relies on the auto industry.
We've been back to Ohio; we'll be back again. We know there are many other states that we're going to be competing in and fighting for every last vote. But the decision-making -- the issues that we were debating before the campaign and the choice between the candidates has not changed. And that's one of the reasons the President's message has been so consistent, not just before and after the debate but for months.
Q Has the President read or heard Mitt Romney's foreign policy remarks? What's his reaction, and what's your reaction to the details that he laid out today?
MR. CARNEY: I don't believe the President has read or seen the remarks yet, but we have, and I'll let Jen start.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. A couple things I'll say. One is this is Mitt Romney's seventh attempt by our count to reboot his foreign policy. When you're commander-in-chief you don't get to bring an Etch-a-Sketch into the Oval Office. You don't get second chances, never mind seventh chances.
And as the American people are looking at what he had to say today, but also his record from the last few months, the areas that should be of concern are that this is somebody who leads with chest-pounding rhetoric. He's inexperienced. He's been clumsy at his handling of foreign policy. And most of all, all of these factors lead to a risk that we're going to go back to the same policies that led us to some of the challenges we faced in the last few years.
He's surrounded himself with people who are out of the mainstream. And I just want to highlight a couple of things that were in the speech that stuck out to us. One is that he doubled down on comments he made in a closed door -- the 47 percent closed-door event that we’ve all chatted about quite a bit, where he talked about leaving troops in Iraq. He led -- he said today that that’s something that he didn’t think the handling was done correctly.
The President disagrees with him on that. Obviously we’ve drawn down our troops in Iraq. They have a strong difference of opinion. And that’s one of the President’s proudest accomplishments.
Second is he indicated that the President hadn’t signed trade agreements. That is not only absurd, it’s inaccurate. He’s basing it on an absurd premise that President Bush signed a couple of trade agreements, but the fact remains that the President renegotiated the trade agreements -- made them better for American workers, made them better for the American auto industry and the American meat industry -- and that’s why we not only got them through Congress, but the President actually signed them into law.
So overall, we heard a lot of rhetoric, an out-of-the-mainstream rhetoric from Mitt Romney this morning. It doesn’t change the fact that the American people have some serious questions about whether he’s prepared to be Commander-in-Chief.
Q Jen, who would you describe as being -- in Romney’s foreign policy circle as being outside the mainstream?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s surrounded himself with a number of people who were advisors to past President Bush, people who have been saber-rattling -- have used saber-rattling rhetoric when it comes to Syria and Iran, and that’s something that we think the American people should take a look at.
Q Can you comment on his -- he didn’t mention China and obviously that’s been a big campaign issue. Were you guys struck by that in any way?
And also, Jay, if you could address what he said about Egypt in terms of putting conditions on U.S. aid?
MR. CARNEY: Well, on Egypt I would simply say that this President has supported the people of the region in their historic attempt to transform their countries and their governments into ones that are responsive to the interests of the people, that are more democratic and more able to create prosperity for more people. And that has been true in Egypt as it has been true throughout the region.
The President believes we need to support a democratic transition in Egypt. And one of the things that I think is striking about the speech that Governor Romney gave is that on the one hand he says -- he suggests the President hasn’t been supportive enough of the democratic aspirations of people in the region, and on the other hand he suggests that we should withdraw our conditioned support for those who are trying to achieve a brighter future, a more democratic future in the region.
Contradictions are, I know, fairly prevalent in his statements about foreign policy as well as other policy, but this is particularly striking.
On China, I can simply say that this President’s policy is clear. We have a broad and deep relationship with China that is extremely important. We cooperate in a number of areas, but we are clear with the Chinese on matters where we disagree. And when there are issues that we have with the Chinese in terms of trade policy that put American workers and businesses at a disadvantage, this President acts. And he has acted at a rate before the WTO that -- twice of his predecessor. And in all of those actions that he’s put before the WTO, the United States has prevailed. And I think that demonstrates this President’s commitment to American workers and American businesses.
MS. PSAKI: I’ll just add, I mean, it is striking that -- obviously I didn’t go through every single piece of the speech -- that on an issue like China, where Mitt Romney has gone out there and used so much heated rhetoric about how the President isn’t the right leader, the President doesn’t have the right plans, that he would fail to talk about it. And it kind of harkens you back to him failing to talk about Afghanistan and failing to talk about the troops in his convention speech.
So the question is, we don’t know what kind of commander-in-chief Mitt Romney will be, and all we can -- would be. All we can delve into is kind of who he surrounds himself with, his rhetoric and his repeated attempts to reboot his policies.
MR. CARNEY: I think it’s important as a matter of policy to look at what he said about Iraq. This was a long military engagement that President Obama, when he ran for office, made clear that he would end more responsibly than it was begun under President Bush. That is a commitment the President made and it is a commitment that he fulfilled, a promise that he kept.
In what seems simply to be an attempt to draw a distinction with this President without any policy forethought, Governor Romney is now saying we should have tens of thousands of troops still in Iraq. And this President is happy to debate that issue, because he profoundly disagrees. And that is why he kept his promise and withdrew all of our forces from Iraq.
In Afghanistan it’s the same thing. This President inherited a policy that was adrift, that was under-resourced, that Governor Romney had supported and other Republican leaders had supported. He kept his commitment to redouble our efforts against al Qaeda, to fully resource our mission in Afghanistan, to hone that mission so that its objectives were clear and achievable. And he has fulfilled that, and we are now in the process of drawing down our presence in Afghanistan and ending that war.
Q Is there anything besides -- keep mentioning Iraq -- that you saw that was different with what Governor Romney said and where the President is on certain policies? He talked about Syria, he talked about army opposition, but his staff says that that would be done through other partners, not directly by the U.S. Did you -- anything notable in what he said about Iran? He also said that he supports the 2014 drawdown in Afghanistan. I mean, it sounds like they’re pretty similar in terms of where they stand on a number of these issues.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would just say, as matters of policy, this has been frequently the case -- that on Iran, for example, there has been a lot of heated rhetoric and chest-thumping, but every concrete prescription that the President’s critics, including Governor Romney, have put forward -- concrete prescriptions that make sense have been acted on. We have the most intense sanctions regime in history -- an effort this President has led internationally. We have diplomatic isolation and international isolation that’s unprecedented in history, and it’s having a profound impact on both the Iranian economy and the Iranian regime’s internal political structure.
On Israel, there’s an attempt to draw a distinction and to suggest that this President’s commitment to Israel’s security is not strong, and yet Israel’s leaders themselves have said that military cooperation and support, and intelligence cooperation and support from this President and this administration is unprecedented in the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
Those are the facts. And this President’s foreign policy record is very strong.
Q Speaking of foreign policy, can you react to the election results in Venezuela?
MR. CARNEY: The Venezuelan National Elections Commission has declared that President Hugo Chavez won reelection, I believe roughly 54 to 45 percent, with 90 percent reporting. We congratulate the Venezuelan people on the high level of participation, as well as on what was a relatively peaceful election process. I would note the challenger has conceded the race.
Q Do you have anything else to say about Chavez?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have our differences with President Chavez, but we congratulate the Venezuelan people on a process that included high levels of participation.
Q A quick follow-up on Syria. Do you see any distinctions between the President’s positions on how to handle that crisis and what the Governor says in his speech?
MR. CARNEY: Short of -- I think the President has been very clear about what our interests are: Assad must go. We must work with our friends and allies around the world and in the region to put pressure on Assad to make clear that Syria's future cannot include him because the Syrian people demand a transition and a change.
And we have worked very closely with the Friends of Syria. We have worked through -- or attempted to work through the United Nations Security Council, and we continue to work with our allies and partners to help bring about that change. We provide substantial assistance, humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and substantial non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition. We work with our partners to help the Syrian opposition form itself. And we support those elements in the opposition that aspire to a democratic and inclusive future for Syria.
MS. PSAKI: One thing I would just add is -- I mean, I would flip this question to Mitt Romney and his team. He said that the President and his team are not doing enough when it comes to Syria, when it comes to Libya, and several events in the Middle East. What exactly are they suggesting we do? What exactly is their plan and their proposal? So if they’re going farther, they should say that.
Q Can I ask you a politics question? So last night at two of the fundraisers where the President made public remarks, he talked about basically not knocking it out of the park with the debate. And I’m curious why he’s decided to incorporate that into his speeches. Is it -- does he feel that his supporters want to hear an acknowledgement from him that the debate was less than perfect? And is this a message we’ll hear going forward? Basically, what’s the strategic thinking in his comments twice last night?
MS. PSAKI: I think the President was having a light moment last night, acknowledging that it wasn’t his best performance, that his opponent had a much more theatrical performance. And I think it’s nothing more than that.
And the majority of the President’s remarks last night and moving forward will be about the choice in this election and the differences between their policies and what’s at stake. And that’s what he thinks is the most important.
MR. CARNEY: Thanks, guys.
Q Thank you.
10:04 A.M. PDT