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The White House

Gaggle by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Aboard AF1 en route Strasbourg 4-3-2009


Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 April 3, 2009

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Strasbourg, France
9:32 A.M. (Local)

Q How are you, Robert?
MR. GIBBS: Tired. How are you?
Q About the same.
MR. GIBBS: If I could figure out how to get more than about three hours of sleep I’d be set.
Q Are you having trouble sleeping or you just don’t have time?
MR. GIBBS: A little bit of both, but it’s as much -- it’s as much just your sort of clock gets all off.
Q The press corps takes Ambien for that.
MR. GIBBS: It’s one of those things where I could probably sleep for a little bit -- I could sleep probably better at some point during the day than I can at some point during the night, so it’s sort of a little maddening. But it’s all good. How are you guys?
Q Good.
MR. GIBBS: Fire away.
Q We missed our helo ride.
MR. GIBBS: What?
Q We missed our helo ride.
MR. GIBBS: Where?
Q On this one.
MR. GIBBS: On this one. Well, trust me, I missed mine yesterday, when we were two vans short in the motorcade. Technical problems. What’s going on?
Q I was going to ask what the President’s message is going to be at the summit in terms of trying to get allies on board with Afghanistan beyond just troops but civilian help, et cetera.
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think what the President will discuss over the course of the next several days, he obviously -- and I think this started at G20 -- is reaching out to build strong partnerships with countries around the world. It started at the G20; you’ll see that again at EU and NATO, and then today with visits to -- with Sarkozy and Merkel. I think what he’ll also do is stress that with strong partnerships comes mutual responsibility.
The beginning of this process was for the administration to develop and announce a new strategy for dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that’s been done. Progress was made with Secretary Clinton at The Hague on Monday where countries and organizations came together and the strategy was outlined. And that strategy will continue to try to get agreement that Afghanistan and Pakistan are the shared concern of the world, not simply the concern of one country.
So I think as we do that, we’ll seek to make progress on ensuring security for the upcoming elections in August, ensuring that we have, in all of these, the resources now to match this strategy and hopefully progress on things such as police training, as you mentioned, the civilian-side help, and then also developmental aid for Pakistan in understanding the danger of that region.
Q Is the dinner tonight in Baden-Baden, is that supposed to kind of lay out the agenda? Is it a working dinner?
MR. GIBBS: It’s a working dinner. I think this is some of the things he’ll talk about. Obviously, look, I think when we sit down, a little bit -- there’s mostly an overlapping agenda, particularly with France and Germany. Today I think you’ll see a discussion about -- with these leaders building on some of the momentum from the G20, obviously the discussion on Afghanistan and Pakistan; obviously when he talks with President Sarkozy, an appreciation for their reintegration into NATO, which is important; discussions about our shared concerns in the Middle East and on Iran. I think with Germany many of those same issues will be discussed, as well as climate change and energy independence also being on that agenda.
Q Does the administration have a view of what military role France should play once it does rejoin that part of the Alliance?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think -- again, I think one of the keys as we begin this process, in outlining this strategy and in getting the world to agree and understand the concern as well as the strategy to match that concern, that we will have and need resources to execute that strategy.
Again, I think this is the beginning of that process with the goals I outlined, in terms of security for the upcoming elections, police training. I think those are the -- and obviously monetary assistance.
Q When Secretary Clinton and General Jones gave their briefing yesterday, they were asked what specific new commitments they were going to get, and they said we’ll find out. Are we going to find out today, or is it --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think over the course o f the next several days. I think it would be a little forward of any of us to get out ahead of member nations. Again, this is the beginning of this process. I think if -- one of the things that we hope to have everyone agree on is this strategy that we’ve outlined. I think that’s an important first step, and then I think once we get that agreement and understanding, getting -- beginning to put in place the resources to execute that strategy. But nobody is under the illusion that that’s going to happen overnight.
Q Does the President think -- General – excuse me, Secretary Gates said something about this over the weekend -- does the President think that leaders of NATO countries need to do more to convince their publics to contribute more troops? And how will he be communicating that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think you’ll hear some of this, quite frankly, in his speech today in Strasbourg because, as I outlined earlier, I think he will talk about a strong partnership with Europe, but in that partnership, there have to be mutual responsibilities.
Q This is the town hall event?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. That we have -- in those mutual responsibilities that we have to understand there are real threats out there in this world. You’ll hear the President obviously outline those -- Afghanistan and Pakistan make real the threats that we have -- and that in understanding that this is more than just the concern of the United States but rather the concern of the world, that, yes, the responsibility is there for Europe to step up.
Q So we should read that language in the speech today as an effort to motivate and convince the governments to do more?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I mean, I don't -- and I guess I'd phrase it partly this way -- you know, the criticism of the United States for the past few years was a go-it-alone diplomacy, but if you --
Q And you guys made that criticism during the campaign. (Laughter.)
Q I may have read that in a few of your publications or seen it on a couple of your news channels, but I appreciate your simply regurgitating what I say on such an easy basis. But with -- with a partnership, again, there have to be those shared responsibilities and you can't just have -- you can't have just one person bearing the entire load or responsibility in a partnership.
Q Does that mean that the United States --
MR. GIBBS: And I think that's the importance, quite frankly, of NATO. I think we've seen that over -- you know, tomorrow we celebrate the 60th anniversary of NATO. The whole idea of that was shared responsibility.
Q But does that assume then that the United States' position is that to date the other countries have been shirking that responsibility?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't think that will be the tone. I think, again, we've only -- the strategy that we've outlined is only a little less than a week old. And, again, I think our process is to build an agreement on that strategy and then to meet that strategy with the appropriate resources, focusing, as I said, on -- partly on trading and partly on security around these elections.
Q On North Korea, yesterday I believe it was a senior -- two days ago a senior administration official said you guys expect a launch. When do you expect it and are you worried that that will overshadow any parts of this NATO trip?
MR. GIBBS: I won't get into -- I won't get into when it might happen. Obviously this was high on the agenda with a number of countries over the past couple of days -- with the Russians, with the Chinese, and particularly with the South Koreans yesterday. And I think the President and Secretary of State and this administration have been quite clear that if North Korea goes through and goes ahead with the launch as they seem to intend to do, that we'll consider that to be a provocative act in violation of Security Council resolutions. There I think is strong agreement on that among many countries, and preparations are taking place in order to respond to that, should it happen.
Q In terms of military preparations or diplomatic preparations?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to get into --
Q Operations?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I'm not going to get into operations.
Q Robert, on the Germany meeting, there's been some reporting that Merkel's office reached out to the White House to try to set up a meeting prior to the summit in Washington, but wasn't able to get on the schedule. And I'm just wondering if you could speak to that, and also to this sort of sense that some people have that there's friction between the two of them because of the planning for the July trip and the whole issue of the Brandenburg Gate?
MR. GIBBS: I will check and see on the notion of an earlier trip this year. I know they spent probably an hour or so on a teleconference within the past sort of 10 days to two weeks. The conversation was very positive. I think the issues that we have of mutual concern that I outlined, I think we're in fairly close agreement on. The Germans want -- the Germans are looking for American leadership on energy and climate change. They're supportive of our diplomatic efforts with Iran. I think there's -- and quite frankly -- and I think the President spoke clearly to this yesterday and my guess is that people were probably more surprised at what came out of yesterday that everyone agreed on rather than the sort of pre-spin about how everybody seemed divided.
So I don't think there's any friction. I think the President has a strong relationship with Merkel and I think we'll simply build on that today.
Q Can I ask you about the Prague speech -- I know it's a day early, but getting some sense that -- from folks who are expecting a very major speech with some big news in it. Can you -- we know it's sort of about proliferation, but is there some big thing that we should be expecting?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think you'll see -- not to get too far ahead of it --
Q That's okay.
MR. GIBBS: But, I mean, look, I think you've -- the President has for as early as he got into the Senate, worked on and been active on issues around the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, working with Senator Lugar and others in the Senate. I think the efforts that we announced on new talks with the Russians in reducing our nuclear weapons is the beginning of that. And I think you'll hear the President outline some important goals at reducing the amount of potential material that could be -- that could if it got into the wrong hands present what the President believes is the gravest threat to our country.
Q Is he going to outline in that speech how he's -- how he intends to convince the Senate to ratify the test ban treaty?
MR. GIBBS: I think he'll get into some of those issues.
Q Is he going to reiterate his call for a world without nuclear weapons?
Q What's the goal in Turkey? What are the goals of the trip?
MR. GIBBS: I mean, again, I think it's to strengthen an important relationship and reach out to -- and demonstrate the importance of -- their importance in our relationship and, again, issues that we have in common that we want to work on. I mean, look, I think it's an opportunity to probably go also to a country that people may not have expected us to visit on our first trip over here, and I think it's an important signal for the President.
Q Does the President still believe that the Turks committed genocide against the Armenians?
MR. GIBBS: We'll get into that I think later on.
Q During this trip?
MR. GIBBS: I'll leave that for -- I can't give away everything in one gaggle, for goodness sakes.
Q On G20 -- you started talking about it a little bit -- it's sort of -- it seems like in general the commentary is that it was sort of a mixed bag for the President and that he got a lot of money but he didn't exactly get the stimulative kind of money he wanted. What's kind of your secondary read on how he did?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, there was -- maybe I haven't done as well as getting people to believe the -- our stimulus goals as I have the entire critique of the Bush foreign policy that I seem to have layered into everybody's thinking so adroitly.
The President and the administration never sought a specific goal for additional stimulus. I think nearly every country in the G20 has taken actions to stimulate their economies. Obviously the structure of some European stimulus packages have fundamentally been different than American stimulative packages because some countries in Europe already have different ways of funding safety-net items like health insurance or unemployment benefits.
But I think the agreement that came out yesterday was important in the sense that -- and I think as Prime Minister Brown said -- by the end of next year, countries will have taken -- or dedicated about $5 trillion in global stimulus. There's a very strong commitment to -- and I got to be honest with you, I think the person that led the way more than any other on strong financial regulation is Treasury Secretary Geithner.
There's a strong agreement on different rules of the road going forward, and I think you'll see our desire to ensure that we don't simply talk about different rules of the road, but work with and get through Congress a renewed financial regulation this year, a big dedication to emerging markets and the power of exports, which, of all the things that we have talked about and all the things that were discussed at G20, is the greatest driver of job growth in our economy. It accounted for last year -- exports accounted for about two-thirds of the job growth.
So ensuring that these emerging economies have the ability to finance -- continue to finance trade, even as there's a tremendous pullback in global trade, is tremendously important for the world economy.
So I think the President looks at what came out of G20 as a success. I think as he said, obviously we'll know more in a few months about what else has to be done in order to ensure that the response from our government and other governments is commensurate with the breadth and the severity of the downturn in the global economy.
Obviously, we'll get unemployment numbers later today, and I think it's safe to expect, without having seen them, that we'll see additional severe job cuts in America. And I think that underscores how important it was to come out of yesterday with a strong robust agreement as has happened.
Q That's a settled issue now, the stimulus, because of yesterday's action? Or will he press the leaders in France and Germany to think about doing more?
MR. GIBBS: Again, I think that what was secured yesterday was an understanding that we'll continue to evaluate that; that many economies have taken action -- just this week the Japanese announced an additional stimulus package.
Look, I think in some ways people have to -- people are deciding what they think is best for their economies. I think the President believes, as I've said, that there's no one single thing that we can do, but coordinated actions across many different platforms -- whether it's recovery, regulation, financial stability -- I think all of that is important and I think we took big steps on that yesterday.
Q Has the President seen the unemployment numbers? I know in the past, Presidents have gotten a heads-up.
MR. GIBBS: I will ask him. My sense is he probably has. But you and I won't see them, I guess, until they come out at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Q I know I won't.
MR. GIBBS: I won't, either.
Q How's the President's head cold?
MR. GIBBS: I think he -- I asked him yesterday afternoon how he felt, and he felt better yesterday than he did the day before. So my sense is he's through the worst of it. He said -- well, he said he sounded like he had an acorn up his nose for most of that first day.
Q What was going on in that class photo yesterday with Berlusconi?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I don't -- they looked like they were having fun. I don't -- look, I think you saw -- I mean, obviously there were, as you guys have both heard and written about, disagreements that -- inside those meetings that got -- compromises got put back together. But they looked like they were enjoying themselves yesterday -- at least at the beginning. (Laughter.)
Q Are you going to get a chance to watch any NCAA? Have you guys figured that out for the weekend or --
MR. GIBBS: No, I have gotten a few emails that there are -- we can hear it on some international -- somebody from CBS sent me their -- that they broadcast on, I think, one of the international European stations. But I think our biggest struggle may be that the game will start at some time around 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. in the morning.
Q Who needs sleep?
MR. GIBBS: So maybe Reggie will be the only one of us that sees the game.
Q How come your BlackBerries don't work? Is it a provider issue or is it a security thing that the governments look at your emails?
MR. GIBBS: We're just not using them.
Q So you chose not to use them.
MR. GIBBS: What?
Q So you chose not to use them.
Q You should try that in the U.S. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Yes. I don't -- I haven't spent a day without a BlackBerry in probably six years, so it might be a refreshing activity.
We will -- we'll try to get you guys some advance text --
Q For this one?
MR. GIBBS: For -- yes. My sense is the speech will go about 15 minutes, and then he'll take questions for the remainder of the time.
Q Who was invited to the town hall? How did you guys --
MR. GIBBS: Let me check. I think these are largely students from the area. But I will double-check.
Q Are we going to get readouts after the bilats?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, yes.
Q The speech in Turkey, the speech to Parliament, is that really just a pretty minor thing, like just a few minutes, or is that an actual speech?
MR. GIBBS: My impression was it was an actual speech, but I'll ask the speechwriters now.
Q I mean, just because when we were there it was -- there were questions about time and how much time you would have there.
MR. GIBBS: Okay, I will -- let me double-check with these guys and see.
Q All right.
MR. GIBBS: All right? Thanks, guys.
9:58 A.M. (Local)