The White House
June 29, 2009
Briefing by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 6-29-09
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 29, 2009
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 29, 2009
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
Q What happened to the President being ready for a question on Michael Jackson from Friday to today, and then the letter over the weekend?
MR. GIBBS: I don't understand your first question. We're going to go a little out of order today, Ms. Loven, so --
Q Friday, when you were at the podium, you told us that he was anticipating a question about Michael Jackson. And then you said --
MR. GIBBS: I said I think we were -- I would say I was surprised that nobody asked one. I don't think you were there on Friday, so --
Q I was here Friday. I was --
MR. GIBBS: Were you at the Chancellor Merkel thing?
Q No, I didn't go.
MR. GIBBS: Oh, okay.
Q But I was here.
MR. GIBBS: Right, right, right. So was I. (Laughter.) But I just wanted to delineate for --
Q Should we take attendance? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: No, no, what I'm saying, April, I didn't necessarily expect you to ask a question because you weren't there, right?
Q But other people wanted to ask that question, too. Anyway, but then in your --
MR. GIBBS: Okay, leaving all that aside.
Q Then your statement, you said he's sending condolences. I asked about a call, you said no, but you didn't lead us into believing that there would be a letter. Then Sunday we find out there's a letter. And then with all the information from Friday and Sunday, the question was asked today when he walks out. Why not make a statement about --
MR. GIBBS: I didn't see whether he -- I didn't see that he was asked a question today. I think he's, through me, expressed his thoughts on the death of Michael Jackson. And I think the President often writes private letters of condolence that, based on their nature, we'll continue to keep private.
Q So the family got it already? The way Joe Jackson just said it was a private letter -- did they get it already? How was it sent? Could you tell us about the letter?
MR. GIBBS: I will refer you to the Postal Service.
No, I honestly don't know whether they got it or not.
Q Can we turn to Honduras?
MR. GIBBS: Sure.
Q Has President Obama spoken with Mr. Zelaya since the coup?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I know of.
Q And what kind of leverage, specifically -- what specific things is the White House doing and can it do to try to bring him back to power?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think you all know that -- I think it's -- I haven't seen this morning's news report -- that working with the OAS and others in the international community over the past few days, we were working to avert the type of constitutional action that took place in Honduras, trying to prevent that from happening.
Our goal now is on restoring democratic order in Honduras -- again, working with partners at the OAS and in the international community. And I don't want to get ahead of the "what if," as we're focused on restoring their democratic order.
Q Well, without getting into the "what if," I mean, what does it mean when you say "working with" the OAS and the international community? What specifically? Are there calls coming from the President himself? Perhaps Secretary Clinton?
MR. GIBBS: I can check on whether -- I don't believe the President has called anybody. I'm sure this will be something that will be discussed in the meeting with the Colombian President today. I don't -- I just don't want to get into diplomacy out loud right this second.
Q Or the kind of leverage you might use?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, that's I think more of a "what if."
Q Sorry, still on the Honduras issue and trying to get a clear picture of what the U.S. is considering. Is the administration looking at withdrawing its ambassador as the leftist Latin American governments have decided to do, or even looking at a possible cutoff of aid?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think some of that is in the next -- in the frame of next steps in evaluating this. I just don't want to get real specific at this point.
Q Did the United States have any advance knowledge or word of a planned coup? Did it do anything to try to head that off? And what does the administration's failure to have headed that off say about its credibility in Latin America?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think as I said a minute ago, the administration, our government, working with partners, were attempting to prevent the type of unrest that we've seen happen over the last 24 hours. They worked on that over the past several days. And we will continue to work to restore democratic order in Honduras.
Q Did the administration warn President Zelaya that this was in the making?
MR. GIBBS: That I don't know.
Q Robert, I just wanted to ask about health care. Yesterday on ABC, David Axelrod was asked repeatedly about whether the President would veto any health reform bill that has a tax on people making -- a tax increase on anybody making under $250,000 per year. So I want to give you a chance, as well. (Laughter.) Will the President veto -- will the President veto any health bill that has a tax --
MR. GIBBS: We should get David down here. You know, here's what -- I think we get this question once a week, in some form or another. I think in many ways, Ed, what marks the difference between this health care effort and other health care efforts in the past is exactly what the President described -- a very large table with people sitting at it, trying to solve a problem that we've been working on for 40 years.
The good news is we're making significant progress, and all those people are still sitting at the table. We haven't drawn a lot of bright lines. We understand there's some flexibility on the part of Congress to work through some of these policy issues. And we're going to allow that process to continue to make -- that process to continue in order to make progress.
Q That may be true, but the President on the campaign said that -- he made a flat pledge that he would not raise taxes on anybody making under $250,000. So is that pledge still operable?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think in some ways your question is hypothetical because there are any number of different bills, different proposals. I think the President has outlined what he believes is the very best way to pay for health care.
Q It doesn't have to be hypothetical. He made a pledge --
MR. GIBBS: I understand.
Q -- he said, I am not going to raise taxes on anyone making under $250,000. Is that pledge still active?
MR. GIBBS: We are going to let the process work its way through.
Q So it's not.
Q So it's not.
Q So it's not. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: We're going to let the process work its way through. All right?
You have that awfully perplexed look on your face, Mr. Garrett.
Q Well, what would be the reason for reversing among the most conspicuous, if not the most conspicuous, campaign promise that this candidate Obama repeated everywhere across the country?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I appreciate the indulgence to get into these hypothetical questions months before we're likely to do that. It is rich to watch the fact that we're making so little progress on health care reform that you've asked me if the President is going to sign the bill that's not at his desk. Let's --
Q We didn't ask you about signing the bill --
MR. GIBBS: No, no --
Q And there's nothing hypothetical about reaffirming a campaign promise.
MR. GIBBS: It is in the sense that we're not facing any sort of decision on this. We're letting Congress work many of these issues through. And we're making progress.
Q But, historically, administrations that make such conspicuous promises tell Congress, you can do this, this, and this, but don't go there because it's not something we're going to do.
MR. GIBBS: And I think the President in his principles and in the $948 billion to finance health care reform has laid out pretty clearly what his financing mechanism would be. Which --
Q Then why not take the opportunity provided by Ed to reassure the American public that the campaign promise still stands?
MR. GIBBS: -- any increase in revenue would affect top wage-earners' charitable deductions, returning them to the rates of the Regan administration.
Q Robert, I have a question on today's event in the East Room. On "don't ask, don't tell," how much is the President personally involved? I mean, I know you've said that he sort of turned that policy change over to the Pentagon and you're letting them and Congress work on that.
MR. GIBBS: I've said that -- I mean, the President hasn't, himself, been involved in meetings with the Pentagon. A solution has to include working with the Pentagon. But it's something that the President has been involved in since coming to this administration.
Q How much of a priority is this for him?
MR. GIBBS: Well, it's something that --
Q I mean, is there a timeline or --
MR. GIBBS: When we can get it done. The President has talked about this -- and I've talked about the fact that to have an enduring solution this had to be done legislatively. That, I think most people recognize, is going to take some time to do, working with both Congress and the Pentagon. I think the President will address this in remarks at the event a little bit later today.
Q Change in policy?
MR. GIBBS: Pardon me?
Q A change?
MR. GIBBS: No. But, again, in order to have that enduring solution, this is going to have to be done legislatively.
Q Can I ask you one more question, just quickly, on sort of a D.C. issue? And that is, why hasn't the President changed his license plates on the presidential limousine? Is he planning to change them to the "Taxation Without Representation" plates or --
MR. GIBBS: I think rather than change the logo around the license plate, the President is committed instead to changing the status of the District of Columbia.
Q But it's a symbol, though, that a lot of people look at as --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I guess I would ask you to ask people in Washington whether they'd like to have that status changed or that symbolism screwed on to the back of a limousine.
Q The previous President had a pretty good relationship -- pretty warm relationship with the Colombian President. Do you expect President Obama to have just as warm a relationship, even in light of that President's and that country's human rights record, and will that be brought up in any forceful manner by him today?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think today's meeting will mark the continued strong relationship between the United States and Colombia. We hope that the meeting represents a deeper cooperation with an important ally. But I think part of that cooperation, part of that friendship, and part of that relationship is bringing up when you disagree, particularly on human rights. And I know that will be a topic of today's meeting.
Q This isn't just a disagreement. I mean, human rights groups believe he has an atrocious record on human rights. Is this just a matter of saying, hey, we disagree with you on human rights? Or is he going to say something a lot stronger than that?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know what led you to believe that he was just going to do that.
Q Well, maybe the moderate tone of your answer. What tone do you believe he will --
MR. GIBBS: Soon I will hop up on top of this --
Q -- what tone do you anticipate that he will strike --
MR. GIBBS: -- warrant --
Q -- in dealing with this issue of human rights?
MR. GIBBS: The seriousness required in dealing with anything that involves human rights. The President isn't one that tends to paper over things that he finds important. And my hunch is that if somebody has flown all the way from Colombia to meet with the President and the President believes it's important to bring up, the message will be delivered as to its importance.
Q Robert, so going back to this tax pledge thing, whether you've made a campaign -- the campaign promise and whether you've now opened the door on this. Is it fair to interpret that you've opened the door? Because this is what you said in April: "I would restate what he said in the campaign, and that is he won't raise taxes on people that make above $250,000 a year."
MR. GIBBS: I think the President --
Q So is that statement no longer effective?
MR. GIBBS: I would -- I love playing -- I love us playing out Wimbledon without the benefit of a grass tennis court, but we're going to let Congress do its job. We're going to have the President do his job. We're going to make progress on health care reform. And I think you'll see a reform bill come to his desk later this year, and one that he will sign.
Q So you just don't want to be -- it's fair to say he is not allowing himself to be boxed in by a campaign promise?
MR. GIBBS: It's fair to say -- it's fair to say that we're watching Congress do their job.
Q Can you explain the Joe Biden "Iraq portfolio," and what that -- can you --
MR. GIBBS: Let me get a little bit more on that and I'll walk you through.
Q All of us?
MR. GIBBS: Sure.
Q How about a cap and trade-related question. Over the past month, the dollar has been very volatile. And in part that's because Wall Street was looking for a strong signal from the White House that you're serious about attacking the deficit. Could you repeat again where cap and trade fits in and how it will help bring down the deficit? Isn't that one of the promises made during the campaign?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think we talked about the fact that -- well, first of all, cap and trade is something that generates revenue through pollution credits. Cap and trade helps -- and the comprehensive energy legislation that the House passed and that the President supported -- as well as other administrative initiatives and the Recovery Plan -- are laying the foundation for long term economic growth through creating a market for clean-energy jobs; getting our economy back on track, creating jobs is part of bringing down that deficit.
I think that most people understand that in some ways our deficit has gotten worse because our economy is worse. That's not the entire set of problems. And bringing the economy back isn't going to fix the deficit. We're going to have to take actions like the President's budget to cut the deficit in half in four years.
Q But this was a big revenue-raiser.
MR. GIBBS: It does raise revenue. Some of that revenue, obviously, will be used for, as the President talked about in the campaign, for tax credits to spur those energy jobs.
Q Robert, did your answer to Yunji mean that the President considered putting on the D.C. vote in Congress license plate, but then decided against it?
MR. GIBBS: You know, I have not talked to him about his license plate.
Q You're kidding. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Nor have I talked to him about the oil in the license plate -- oil in the car, either.
Q On another issue --
Q Are you sure those are on the same level? I mean, this is an issue that makes people's blood boil in this town.
MR. GIBBS: Chip, you know, again, I'm continually amazed -- you've got a President --
Q Yes, but --
MR. GIBBS: -- no, no, let me finish. You've got a President that supports changing the status of the District. What could be more important?
Q Why not put that on his car? Why not show that support?
MR. GIBBS: It's endearing that you're equating the two.
Go ahead, Mark.
Q Sorry, Mark.
Q That's all right. When you say "changing the status of the District," what do you mean?
MR. GIBBS: Giving it voting rights, giving it statehood.
Q What are you guys doing on that?
MR. GIBBS: I think the legislation is making its way through Congress, with the support of the President.
Q And on the story the other day that the administration is considering drafting an executive order to give the President authority to support permanent detentions in Guantanamo Bay, is that happening?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think if you all watched the course of the day, you saw that story migrate in many ways from something when it first appeared on the Internet to something -- I had to do it. I mean, it only changed three times in a four hour period, and most of us were at a picnic.
Q How'd that work out? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Less well for some of us.
I think the President addressed the notion and the very tough issue that the administration is likely to face, and that is that we are going to have detainees that will be hard to prosecute and too dangerous to release. And while the administration is considering a series of options, a range of options, none relies on legal theories that we have the inherent authority to detain people. And this will not be pursued in that manner.
Q Well, it's hard to prosecute, why do you do it? I mean, isn't that against the law if you have no evidence?
MR. GIBBS: Well, no, I hope that my language didn't conflate the two issues in that -- I don't think it did. I think there are, without getting into specifics that are classified or intelligence, I think we're likely to end up --
Q Why should these people be in limbo? Why should this President keep them?
MR. GIBBS: Well, because as I said earlier, these are people that the great majority recognize might not be able to be dealt with through a prosecution, but at the same time are too dangerous to let go.
Q How do you know that?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, sir.
Q Did the President have any comment on the Supreme Court decision this morning on the firefighter's decision?
MR. GIBBS: I haven't talked to him specifically about it. I think -- though I think one thing is clear, that the ruling by Judge Sotomayor was based on the precedent of the 2nd circuit and the precedence that they had considered. The Supreme Court clearly had a new interpretation for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. So I think some of the very concerns that members of the Senate have expressed about judicial activism seem to be at the very least upside-down in this case. I think her ruling on the 2nd circuit denotes that she's a follower of precedent.
Q Is there any concern that there will be some consequences out of this at the confirmation hearings at all?
MR. GIBBS: No. I don't foresee that this would represent anything that would prevent her from a seat on the Supreme Court. I would note that one of the rulings that came down today in an important First Amendment case is that the court -- the new court will hear a case on September the 9th. I think that underscores the importance of ensuring that we get a new Supreme Court nominee there in order to become -- in order to be an active participant in that case, rather than potentially have something that's a four-to-four decision.
Q Can I get a housekeeping question in, Robert? Do you have the schedule yet for the briefings for the trip?
MR. GIBBS: No. We're supposed to talk about that a little bit later today. Our goal is to get this done the next day or two so that we can -- I know as we get closer to the 4th, people will have different things on their --
Q Do you want to see her sworn in on September 9?
MR. GIBBS: We want her to be an active participant when the Supreme Court hears what I think everyone believes will be an important case in the new term.
Q Robert, on that point, do you think that the reversal -- when you count noses of what the Senate votes, what your projections are, do you think that will change any of what you think your roll call will be?
MR. GIBBS: No, because I think if you look at the last two Supreme Court nominees, I don't think the vote changed because they had cases either reversed -- let me separate that a little bit. Judge Alito had three cases reversed by the Supreme Court and is now a member of the Supreme Court. Judge Roberts actually had a case reversed by the Supreme Court as the sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Q It was --
MR. GIBBS: Right. So I think that denotes that there's little political significance to whatever the Court decided today in terms of Judge Sotomayor, except to render I think a fairly definitive opinion that she follows judicial precedent and that she doesn't legislate from the bench. It is a little interesting to watch today the people that criticize her -- in essence, I think you've seen a new interpretation of a piece of legislation by a court, and her critics are criticizing her ruling based on judicial precedent and in support of something where a court has interpreted in a new way the law. It's interesting to watch the gymnastics.
Q -- judicial activist. You're saying today was an example of --
MR. GIBBS: I think it is -- it's an interesting, new interpretation of a law that has been reviewed by many judges in many courts -- judges supported by Democrats and Republicans. I just -- I find it somewhat interesting.
Q On global warming and greenhouse gas regulation. Some e-mails came to the surface last week that Republicans say opens the question of whether or not the EPA had already reached a decision about endangerment even before it announced it on April 17. The e-mail is an exchange between two people who work at the National Center for Environmental Economics. And in the course of one, a senior analyst says, "I have these findings. I'd like them to be distributed to the Agency and reviewed as part of the process." He's written back by his supervisor, "The administrator and the administration have already decided on endangerment, we don't need to distribute these findings."
Some Republican members of the House and Senate say two things are at issue here. One, the President's pledge when he signed the stem cell executive order to use science in a non-political way, to be transparent, and not to pre-judge things before all scientific data had been reviewed. Do you have any comment on this issue?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I've not seen those e-mails. But I will say this, Major -- I think one of the things that we spoke about in this administration was this was a -- endangerment is a policy -- or is the result of a court case that would require action in the absence of legislative action. This administration has always maintained that the best course going forward wasn't through administrative action, but instead through a process that included the views of Congress.
I think Congress took an important step in that case on Friday by moving forward on legislation that will for the first time mandate the curtailing of greenhouse gas emissions. That's the preferred method that this administration would like to see that important issue addressed and discussed.
Q As Congress continues to work its will on that legislation will the President recommend to the Senate that it drop the tariff provision in the House that he criticized in interviews over the weekend?
MR. GIBBS: I think he's got concerns about those positions. I think the bill is likely to -- I don't know about this particular provision, but the bill is likely to look a little different coming out of the Senate, and those two will I think be reconciled and the President will have something to sign that he's comfortable signing later this year.
Q Robert, today the President is going to celebrate Gay Pride at the White House for the first time. Even so, the gay community is somewhat divided over whether or not the President has done enough, the pace of change is enough. What does the President intend to say today, and can you talk a little bit about his thinking about how much he has to mollify a community that's been very supportive during the campaign?
MR. GIBBS: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on mollifying a community, but that's not the way the President looks at important issues. I think if you go back and look at the campaign -- either his campaign for the Senate or his campaign for the presidency -- he takes stands that he believes are consistent with his values.
We didn't play a lot of interest group-based politics in the presidential race, I think that was denoted by the fact that we didn't get a lot of endorsements in the presidential race.
The President makes those decisions, again, based on his values. I won't get ahead of what he's going to say later today, but he will, I think, address a number of issues and reaffirm the commitments that he's made.
Q Following on that, the President has talked about repealing "don't ask, don't tell," and also the Defense of Marriage Act. So I'm wondering if you can tell me what specific steps has he taken to do this? What is his timeline for doing it? And also --
MR. GIBBS: I think we got a fairly similar question a minute ago, but I'll try to --
Q -- there's legislation apparently moving through House to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," I think it's H.R. 1283, and he hasn't endorsed it. Why not?
MR. GIBBS: I can certainly talk to legislative affairs about what that piece of legislation would do. As I said earlier, the President has been involved in, personally, meetings on this topic with stakeholders, including those at the Pentagon.
Q What about members of Congress?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know if he's met specifically with members of Congress on that. I know that -- I can try to get a list, I know that staff has worked here on the issue. It's a commitment that he intends to keep.
Q Can you talk a little bit more about the meetings that he's had, what --
MR. GIBBS: No.
Q -- and how recent has he been in these meetings?
MR. GIBBS: Since January 20.
Q Prime Minister Berlusconi says next week at the G8 the leaders are going to talk about sanctions, possible sanctions on Iran with the election. Is this something the President could support? Is he ready for that kind of discussion or is it too early?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I have not seen what Mr. Berlusconi is considering, and I think the President would want to look at what is being considered before rendering a judgment on its applicability.
Q What about the decision today, the recount that seemed to be wrapped up very quickly after it started? Does the President have any feelings about whether that was a valid --
MR. GIBBS: I haven't talked to him about that. I know that -- I mean, look, we continue to have concerns about the way this election was conducted and obviously, more importantly, so do Iranians.
Q Is the Time Magazine report correct that the President has told his staff that he intends to not search for a church in Washington, but he will worship at Camp David instead?
MR. GIBBS: No. There have been no formal decisions about joining a church. I think I've mentioned in here in the past couple of weeks that when he goes to Camp David he has attended services at the chapel there, he enjoys the pastor there. They're not formally joining that church and there have been no formal decisions on joining a church in this area.
I will say I think one aspect of the article that is true, as I mentioned here in that same discussion, was the concern that the President continues to have about the disruptive nature of his presence on any particular Sunday in some churches around the area. I think that was discussed in the article. And I know he is -- I think obviously he shares the strong belief that there's a very personal nature to one's spirituality. And for it to be -- for his presence to be disruptive, I think he believes that takes away from the experience that others might get and he certainly doesn't want to do that.
Q So for a while, he is not going to be searching for a --
MR. GIBBS: Well, no. I think they will continue to look for a formal church home. I think when he's at Camp David, he'll continue to go to the chapel there. He has told us that he greatly enjoys that.
Q On Gitmo, just to follow on what Mark asked about, you said that the President does not plan to take unilateral action and cut out Congress. That, however, does not necessarily mean that you're going in the direction of a national security court, which would be a cooperative --
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me just say that I think there have been a number of stories about this that have tried to advance the ball on decisions that have yet to be made here. I don't know whether those are being litigated among different departments with different viewpoints, but no final decisions have been made here.
Q Do you guys still feel like the January 20 deadline for closing Gitmo is within reach?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. I think we've made -- I think you've seen over the past few weeks -- progress, particularly with statements by the European Union and individual countries in their desire to share the responsibility of settling transferred detainees. We've seen four detainees that were ordered released by a court transferred to Bermuda, others to Saudi Arabia. And I think we're making progress on what I think everybody understood and believes is a very complicated issue.
Q Well, isn't the Bermuda example, though, a case where it actually shows how difficult it is to transfer these guys, since I believe parliament is doing an inquiry into the head of state or the head of government?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think there was a vote on that and the head of state won that vote. Look, I don't think anybody would -- if this was easy, we'd have done it already -- all things would be neatly wrapped up. I think we understand that it's complicated. My larger point is that I think a number of stories appeared on Friday and over the weekend that get significantly ahead of final decisions being made here.
Q Robert --
Q Thank you, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: Can we just call you Steve from now on? You thought I said Lester because it sounds so much like Steve? (Laughter.) Go ahead, Lester, just because I'm feeling a little cheeky today. Go ahead.
Q Does the President support New York Democrat Congressman José Serrano's House joint resolution number five? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: You're going to find I tend to get it mixed up with House joint resolution four and six. So I'd have to, at the conclusion of our time together here today, Lester --
Q That's the repeal of the -- wait a minute. It's the repeal of the 22nd Amendment. Does he support this -- because Steny Hoyer in 2006 came out in favor of it -- does he support the repeal of the 22nd Amendment or not, Robert?
MR. GIBBS: This is to serve more -- this is for two terms? Is that the --
Q That's right.
MR. GIBBS: I think the President is firmly in support of an amendment that would limit his time in the presidency to eight years if he's given that awesome responsibility by the American people.
Q Robert, the Senate Armed Services Committee --
MR. GIBBS: You don't have a follow-up on that? (Laughter.)
Q No, no, just one.
MR. GIBBS: Well, it was actually two, but go ahead. Ironically, it was two. Go ahead, I'm sorry.
Q The Senate Armed Services Committee voted today to restore funding for seven F-22s. There's a lot of support for the F-22s in the House, as well. Are you losing this battle?
MR. GIBBS: No. There's not a lot of support for that weapons program at the Pentagon. It's the determination that they've made that going forward that's not a weapons system that they believe should be a priority for this country and the threats that it faces moving forward. The President -- our administration set up a statement of administration policy that said, if that funding and funding for another aircraft's second engine were in the legislation, that senior advisors at the White House and the Secretary of Defense would advocate a veto of that, and that's our position.
Q Thank you, Robert. Five years ago when President Aristide of Haiti was overthrown by the military, the previous administration promptly recognized the new government by the chief justice, because under the Haitian constitution he was next in succession. Now with President Zelaya leaving Honduras, the congress elected their President, Mr. Micheletti.
MR. GIBBS: Certainly one way of putting it, I suppose.
MR. GIBBS: Or "ousted." (Laughter.)
Q -- elected their President, Mr. Micheletti, as new President to the country, which is in accordance with Honduran law. Why doesn't the administration simply follow the precedent of Haiti after Aristide here?
MR. GIBBS: Because I think what we saw over the course of the weekend was a severe disruption in any sort of democratic norm. We're seeking to restore that democratic norm in Honduras and haven't changed the recognition of who we believe is the President of that country.
Q My other question is, on the calls the President made to members of Congress for the passage of cap and trade, did he promise any political and campaign assistance to some of the Democrats who are an endangered district and who are on the fence?
MR. GIBBS: I think the President said that -- I wasn't a participant in those calls, but I can assure you the President affirmed his commitment to support the policy position that they were taking in helping to explain to their constituents and to the American public the great benefit of this bill in creating jobs and lessening our dependence on foreign oil, which is a national security problem and an environmental problem. I know he is a strong advocate for the legislation and I think that came through in the calls.
Q Given the President's position on settlement construction, what's the administration's reaction to the Israeli decision to allow the building of homes in the West Bank settlement? And have you seen the reports that Israel might consider a three to six month suspension of settlement building during a meaningful peace discussion with the Palestinians? Is that something the President has been working towards?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I've certainly seen reports on that today. I think the President has outlined the responsibilities of all -- that he sees in a process toward building long-term Middle East peace. I don't want to get ahead of some very important meetings tomorrow between Ehud Barak and George Mitchell, except to say that we're optimistic about making progress.
Nothing, April? That's --
Q Yes. (Laughter.) Let me ask you something. The NAACP -- I understand that there could -- you shouldn't ask -- (laughter.) I understand there could be a snafu with the timing for the President's speech on the 17th. Is the White House trying to work that out or is there a chance the President may not speak to the 100th anniversary?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know of any snafu. I will talk to scheduling, but I don't have any reason to believe that we're not going to speak there.
Q Because they were saying that the timing -- they wanted to bus -- they wanted the people to come all the way out to something and they're still having events and it's just not feasible for the time that the President wants, and they're giving you another time and you're saying -- the White House is saying one time and they're saying another.
MR. GIBBS: Let me -- it's hard for me to do this without sort of discussing this with scheduling, who will predictably have all of these answers.
Q Any reaction from the White House on the Bernie Madoff sentencing? And separately, we're seeing some reports here and there about a rise in bonuses and executive compensation at some of the banks that went through the bailout process. What's the President's thought on that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me take the second one first. Obviously we have appointed a special master to look into the compensation practices of banks that -- lending institutions that have received extraordinary assistance under the TARP program. His ability to review the salaries for the top 100 employees, and in all sense sign off on that salary structure, is in the process of beginning. I think the President and his administration are implementing wide-reaching, far-reaching executive pay reform, and I think the President has outlined his views on this pretty clearly since the administration began.
On the first one, I think that -- I saw obviously that the judge wanted to send a very strong signal to anybody that invests money on behalf of others of the amazing responsibility that they have to those investors and to the country, and use this sentence to send a message. My guess is that that message will be heard loud and clear going forward.
Q Can you give update as far as the campaign (inaudible) Pakistan by the Pakistan (inaudible) against al Qaeda; if President is quite happy with the campaign? And also if his mission is still to catch Osama bin Laden -- he's still at large -- and is he going to change after -- if Osama bin Laden is brought to justice, whether things will change or not.
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously we would like to see Osama bin Laden captured and brought to justice. I think, as I've said before, our policy is broader than one person or one individual. I think General Jones was in -- General Jones visited Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India over the course of the past week and spent time talking with the President on that issue as well as Honduras yesterday.
I think we've seen some progress. I think there seems to be -- I think the events that have happened in Pakistan over the past several weeks have united many in the cause against extremism. We obviously have a long way to go, but I think the administration believes that we're making important progress on that front.
Q Thank you, Robert.
MR. GIBBS: Thanks, guys.
END 3:31 P.M. EDT