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The White House
For Immediate Release

Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs aboard Air Force One en route Jacksonville, FL, 10/26/09

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                            October 26, 2009
Aboard Air Force One En Route Jacksonville, Florida

2:21 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS:  Neatly assembled, very nice.  How's everyone today? 

Q    Good.

MR. GIBBS:  Fire away.

Q    Afghanistan.  Is the President getting any new options beyond the ones that General McChrystal offered a while back?

MR. GIBBS:  I haven't gotten a long download of today's meeting.  I know it ran a little bit longer.  That's why we took off a little bit later.  I haven't gotten a full download on that.  I know they're still focused on reviewing and assessing and making a decision, but I don't have any information on that.

Q    Is there any movement on whether or not the President's decision could come before the runoff election?  Has there been any progress on that?

MR. GIBBS:  No, I mean, look, I said this last week, it could come at any moment.  So as soon as he has it, he'll make it.  Whether that's before the runoff or not, I just don't know.

Q    So within weeks, or any moment?

MR. GIBBS:  I would still -- I would still say this is in the coming weeks.

Q    The Afghan review that the Bush administration -- or Cheney says was handed off to your administration, you said last week you would go and look at that.  What did you find when you did that, when you went and looked for the report?  Did they hand it off, and what did it say?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I -- well, it's top secret, so I appreciate the opportunity to get into what it says.  Many members of our administration briefed people on the review's existence.  I don't think what was -- I don't think what's --

Q    Was your administration briefed?

MR. GIBBS:  With people that -- it's been public that we got these reviews.  I mean, we can show articles where these things are discussed. 

While some of the information was helpful, the President obviously found it instructive to do a review of his own, and that's what Bruce Riedel did in the spring, which led to the President signing off on additional forces that went to Afghanistan.
I don't think it's the existence of the reviews that seems to be an issue here, Jon.  I think it's a focus on one area of the world at the expense of another.

Q    Does the -- does the thinking of Afghanistan change at all, or is it more urgent by the fact that we had 14 killed there over the past 24 hours?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, I -- first of all, the President will obviously will address this at the stop in Jacksonville.  And obviously our condolences and our thoughts go out to the families of the service members and the embassy personnel that gave their lives today.

I think it is -- the President understands, as I think everyone does, the urgency of getting this decision right.  We are reminded on an almost daily basis of the sacrifice that thousands have made and continue to make to protect our freedom.  So I think the President -- the President understands that and the President is enormously humbled by their sacrifices, as I think all Americans are.

Q    Does the ratcheting up of the violence, the dramatic ratcheting up of the violence in Iraq, have any effect on the President's pullout timetable?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, obviously the President spent time yesterday on the phone with members of the administration as well as political leaders in Iraq.  Obviously we understand, and I think the statement the President put out speaks for itself, we've got -- we continue to have work to do in Iraq.  We will work side by side with the Iraqis as they take control of their country.

We have to continue to monitor it, but I don't know of any change in the timetable.

Q    On health care, there's a lot of people -- or Senator McCain was one of some who are talking about the issue of the C-SPAN line that the President used during the campaign.  Do you feel like that comment, talking about having the health care committee hearings and sort of the whole process of making the health care bill, do you feel like that comment about having those on C-SPAN has been overblown?  Because you're getting a lot of heat about not having the process be as open as people interpreted it.

MR. GIBBS:  If there's been a process that's been more asked about in my nine months in the administration, I'd be happy to know what it is.  I get asked every day about health care.  I get asked about -- you guys seem to have fairly intimate knowledge about what happens at all these proceedings.  And I don't -- I'm hard-pressed to see how the American people haven't seen a lot of this process.

Q    The hearings -- or the meetings where they're making -- where they're crafting the bill, have not been on C-SPAN really at all.  I mean, what do you make --

MR. GIBBS:  I think I addressed this last week.  The administration is comfortable with the process.  The very first meeting that we had was -- to get everybody's advice on this was broadcast on C-SPAN.  This has been an open process.  I wish all of those that wondered aloud why the process isn't -- why they don't like the process would come in and be part of the process.  This is -- that's what being a member of the Senate or the House is.  You get to be part of the process.  Unfortunately some people declared three months ago they didn't want to be part of the process, and now they're complaining about the process.
Q    Care to name names?

MR. GIBBS:  Many of those individuals know exactly who they are.

Q    Robert, has the President spoken to Harry Reid today?  At 3:15 p.m. he's supposed to come out with a press conference.

MR. GIBBS:  He's not talked to him.

Q    Is there any reaction to him backing an opt-out?

MR. GIBBS:  No, I'll wait until 3:15 p.m. before we react to -- I don't want to react at 2:30 p.m. to the 3:15 p.m. event.

Q    Is that something that the President would support, a public option where states have the opportunity to opt out?

MR. GIBBS:  I'm going to wait for -- I'm going to wait for 3:15 p.m. to -- with the ability to comment on --

Q    -- come back between the --

MR. GIBBS:  I don't know where we'll be at 3:15 p.m., but we'll check in and see what they said, how about that?

Q    On Air Force One on the next leg of the trip?

MR. GIBBS:  We'll certainly -- I don't know if we can get cameras set up in time.  Well, I -- let me see where we are.  I don't know what's going to be announced.  And we'll have something later on.

Q    What's the theme of his speech today to the Navy people?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think this is obviously a chance to -- a chance to say thank you and a chance to remind the country of the sacrifice that men and women in our uniform make each and every day, and the humble responsibility that we have to them to keep them safe and to take care of them when they come back.

Q    Robert, what was behind the decision to have Melody Barnes play golf with the President yesterday?  Was it in any way related to the --

MR. GIBBS:  To play golf.
Q    So it was not --

MR. GIBBS:  And I'm told help the President take some money from fellow golfers.

Q    So it was not a response to criticism at all of --

MR. GIBBS:  No.  She's just a good golfer.

Q    The trip to Virginia tomorrow, why, scheduling-wise, hasn't the President campaigned for Creigh Deeds since August?

MR. GIBBS:  I'm sorry?

Q    Why is tomorrow the first time since August that the President will be campaigning for Creigh Deeds?

MR. GIBBS:  The President raised money, as you mentioned, for Creigh Deeds.  The Vice President has been to Virginia.  We're going to Virginia.  I think we'll let our effort, which has been a lot, speak for itself.

Q    So the White House has been happy with the Deeds campaign?

MR. GIBBS:  That's not for me to pass judgment on.

Q    Any new initiatives in this solar panel installation speech tomorrow, or is this a review of the smart grid program and so forth?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, we'll have -- we're going to do a briefing call on that a little bit later today, which will have some details.  It's, needless to say, one of the largest Recovery Act projects that we'll walk through tomorrow.  But it's a sizable -- obviously sizable investment, because what the Recovery Act did in terms of tax incentives has allowed tremendous growth in the clean energy economy, in the production of solar panels, in the production of wind turbines. 

But obviously we have an electrical grid system that hasn't been always capable of moving cleanly produced electricity in different parts of the country to other parts of the country that most need it.

If you look at places -- well, places with either solar or wind aren't always the most populous areas of the country, and you've got to find a vehicle that's technologically capable of moving clean power to places where the demand is greatest, and that's what the President will talk about tomorrow.  And the President will talk about the benefits in the recovery plan from that.

Q    In the briefing call, are we going to be able to participate?

MR. GIBBS:  I think -- I want to say it's at 7:00 p.m., but I need to double-check my -- I believe it's at 7:00 p.m. tonight, but I will --

Q    Before his first --

MR. GIBBS:  You guys are --

Q    We're staying in Jacksonville.

MR. GIBBS:  Yes.  So let me -- let me double-check it. If it's not conducive to you guys, I'll make sure that it gets moved so it is.

Q    Is there any concern in the administration about Abdullah saying he may not participate in a runoff?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, I think -- I think -- I'll just say this, Jon.  I think that we know that the participants are going to be -- and we're working with the ECC, the IEC, with NATO and the U.N. to ensure a safe and secure election without the type of fraud you saw last time.  We feel confident that -- we're working to make progress to ensure that that happens.  And we think that will be the case on November 7th.
Q    Could I just ask one last question about the first-time homebuyer tax credit?  Would the President like to see that voted on this week for it to be extended?  Has there been discussions of it?

MR. GIBBS:  I know we continue to discuss where we are on that.  And I think -- but I don't have any news on it.

Q    Whether or not the President would like to see it extended?

MR. GIBBS:  I think we're still working with Congress about possible ways forward.

All right?  Thanks, guys.

END           2:32 P.M. EDT