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The White House

Gaggle with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs en route Columbus, Ohio, 3/6/09

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                              March 6, 2009
Aboard Air Force One
En route Columbus, Ohio
10:13 A.M. EST
MR. GIBBS:  How's everyone today?
Q    Hi, Robert, how are you?
MR. GIBBS:  Good, how about you guys?
Q    How's your new radio?  (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS:  I now have three radios.  Chuck, I assume, won't ask a question without giving me a big screen TV -- it's still in the box.  So, you know, when I get my 60-inch TV from NBC, we'll be -- (laughter.)
Go ahead, what do you guys have?
Q    Jobs?
MR. GIBBS:  You know, obviously, one more piece of evidence to demonstrate how deep -- how deep of a recession we're in.  And as the President has often said, that it's going to get worse before it gets better.  We've now lost 2 million jobs in just the last three months.
I think one of the things that's important about today's trip is that we're going to -- we're going to a place to show that the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will begin to make a difference.
Q    Sorry, what did you say?
MR. GIBBS:  That the event we're going to will show that the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is beginning to make a difference.  These are cops that weren't going to be hired, that are now, because of stimulus money that the city is getting, able to -- instead of laying off the Police Academy force before they get their badges, put them on the street and keep the community safe.
But there's no doubt that we have a long way to go to get this economy moving again, and the jobs numbers are one more reminder of that.
Q    Robert, why not say we are not going to let the U.S. auto industry -- we're not going to let GM go bankrupt?  Obviously there was a run -- a little bit, the fears of bankruptcy at GM.  Why not say, you know what, whatever the line is, that's the line we're drawing.
MR. GIBBS:  GM has sent, with Chrysler, their plan for restructure, which was required for the loans they got from the previous administration.  The team is looking through those plans and figuring out how to be the best partner in what's next for the auto industry.
Q    So bankruptcy can't be ruled out?
MR. GIBBS:  But here's -- here's what I think the President was very clear about saying in front of Congress, which was we need a strengthened, retooled and restructured and re-imagined auto industry in this country.  Whether the auto industry as we have it now is exactly what we have in a year is something I think is going to be determined by a lot of different factors.
But understand this, Chuck, that we all saw the auto sales figures either earlier this -- I think they were earlier this week or late last week -- shows real steep drops in year-to-year auto purchases -- so much so that now Toyota, a company that most used to hold up as a model for other auto companies, asked the Japanese government for help, because right now the number of cars -- we're basically on an annual sales track of about 8 million -- 8 to 9 million cars.  You know, obviously in the -- in very strong years, it's not uncommon to see 15 million cars sold.
So the best way to get the auto industry back up on its feet and selling cars again is to get the overall economy going.  You've got a lot of different -- you've got a lot of different sort of aches and pains, but one sickness -- and that's the overall economy.
Q    Can I ask you about the trip today, and then a question about the FDIC?  In terms of the trip today, you're going to highlight 25 jobs saved -- and we've lost 651,000, I believe, last month.  So, I mean, do you think this makes even a dent in the psyche of the American people?
MR. GIBBS:  Well, I mean, you know, let's -- I think if -- I think on that scale, you'd never even undertake -- you'd never even undertake any action to seek cuts in wasteful spending unless you saved trillions of dollars with the stroke of one pen.
I mean, I think it's a -- you know, I'm sure it's one viewpoint.  I think it's a bit cynical to think that the only jobs created or saved today will be the 25 or 27 that the President is going to see in Columbus.  I think it demonstrates for the American people that the President has a plan to get the economy moving again, that we're seeing results from that plan, and that the American people -- because they understand this -- know it's going to take us a while to get out of this hole, but that there are brighter days ahead.
I'm always amazed -- you know, a week ago we were talking down the economy.  This week we're not talking the economy up to the heights of which we -- you know, I mean, there's -- it's a moving set of hurdles.
Q    You guys doing anything on the Hill to deal with this -- the fact that the spending bill got held up?  Are you guys --
MR. GIBBS:  I don't -- I will check with.  I don't know anything specifically from our legislative team.  I know the -- you know, if a continuing resolution comes down, obviously the President will sign that.  I don't know what -- I don't know when that might be.
Q    On the Dodd bill that would allow the FDIC to borrow $500 billion from the Treasury, that would require White House support.  Would you support that if it passed?
MR. GIBBS:  I would have to -- to be honest with you, I have not looked at that.  Let me get a little bit more information; I'll have somebody pull that for the ride back.  I don't -- I'm not as familiar with that one, so let me --
Q    And the nuclear pact with Russia that was unsigned by Bush after the Georgian invasion -- do you support renewing that or re-picking that back up again?
MR. GIBBS:  Let me check with State and see if that's a topic that the Secretary --
Q    -- raised it.
MR. GIBBS:  -- yes, that the Secretary and the Foreign Minister will speak about today.
Anything else, guys?  All right.
Q    You got a week ahead?
MR. GIBBS:  A very rough one.
Q    It's going to be that bad, huh?
MR. GIBBS:  Yes.  (Laughter.)  No -- excuse me -- most of this -- most of the next week will be in Washington.  He'll go to Camp David with his family tomorrow and return on Sunday.  Events in Washington Monday.  A speech that I will have a little bit more information on probably on the way back, on Tuesday.
Q    The speech is Tuesday?
MR. GIBBS:  A speech Tuesday.
Q    Topic?
MR. GIBBS:  I'll have that for you also on the way back.  As I understand it --
Q    Is it in D.C.?
MR. GIBBS:  Yes.  As I understand it, though, we do not have domestic travel next week.  So we'll be in D.C. Monday through Friday.
Q    Any topics at all for the week?
MR. GIBBS:  I'll have better stuff later in the day.  They were just finishing it up as we were going.
All right.  Thanks, guys.
Q    Thank you.
                              END                  10:21 A.M. EST