Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton en route Kansas City, Missouri
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Kansas City, Missouri
11:36 A.M. EDT
Q Kick off with Cuba. Any reaction to this gesture, release the prisoners by the Cuban government? Do you see this smoothing relations at all?
MR. BURTON: Well, we’ve seen the reports. The State Department is following this closely, and I would look for any reaction, if it indeed does happen, from those guys.
Q You can’t confirm any details about it at all, I take it?
MR. BURTON: Not at this point. The State Department is monitoring it.
Q How about the prisoner swap in Russia?
MR. BURTON: This is an ongoing law enforcement matter, and I would direct you to the Department of Justice for any further developments on that.
Q Got any details on what the Israeli government announced yesterday about a nuclear deal with the United States on civilian nuclear technology? Do you have any information on that at all?
MR. BURTON: Yes, there’s -- I’ve seen some of these reports. There’s no nuclear cooperation agreement with Israel.
Q There’s not, you said?
MR. BURTON: Right.
Q Anything to say about today’s oral arguments in the appeals court over the drilling ban, drilling moratorium?
MR. BURTON: Well, as the President said, the moratorium was important so that -- because we needed to do everything that we could in order to ensure the safety of workers who are working on there and ensure the protection of our environment. So obviously we’re involved here and following it closely.
Q When will you guys announce a new drilling moratorium? Wasn’t that the response -- isn’t Interior working on a new one? Is that forthcoming?
MR. BURTON: Yes, I would stay tuned on that. I would say that sooner than later.
Q Can you talk a little about why the President is going to Nevada to campaign for Senator Reid and how important Leader Reid is for the President’s agenda?
MR. BURTON: Sure. Both Reid and Carnahan on these trips are important individuals. The President is going to be out talking about some of the choices that Americans will face as we get closer to the fall here and people go to vote, whether they want to choose someone who is going to continue the progress that we’ve made or choose someone who’s wanting to go back to the policies that got us into the crises that we’ve been in.
Leader Reid has been an important partner and ally, and is someone who is fighting hard for folks in Nevada. The President has been out here before, and we’re going to continue to work hard to make sure that he continues on.
Q What’s the message going to be today at the economic event? Anything different?
MR. BURTON: Well, the company that we’re visiting, Smith Electric Vehicles, is the kind of company that has helped to bring our country back from the vicious recession that we found ourselves in. They’ve been able to grow their company with help from the Recovery Act and some innovation, and build on the growth that our country has seen over the course of the last 18 months.
The President is not satisfied with the speed of the recovery, and that’s why we’re doing everything we can to find ways to create an environment where people can create more jobs and businesses can grow and the American economy can continue to grow.
Q Can I follow up on that? The clean energy piece of the whole -- of the President’s effort is a much more long-term piece, right? I mean, there may be some jobs with this company, but that ultimately he talks about investments in the technologies of the future and what have you. How do you get the American people to be patient for that piece of it since that’s obviously years down the road coming to fruition when people want jobs now?
MR. BURTON: Well, the President doesn’t expect the American people to be patient. He’s not patient. He wants things to move as fast as they can. And of course, he wishes that the progress moved faster. But all we can do is bring to bear the good ideas that are helping to create the sort of growth that builds our economy, that creates new jobs. That’s what these kinds of jobs are.
So we’ve got these investments here, you’re right. And we’ve got some long-term ideas on how you continue to create jobs here in the sector. The President’s feeling is that the country that leads on renewable energy is the country that will lead the world. And when you’ve got four other countries -- China, Germany -- all over the world making these kinds of investments, there’s real competition out there. So the President is not playing for second place. He’s fighting hard to make sure that we have the most advanced technology, that we’re creating all the jobs that we can to grow our economy.
Q Any legitimacy to the narrative that he’s been to Missouri as often as he has because of some sense of competition or regret over having lost the state two years ago?
MR. BURTON: I would say that that is not the reason we’ve been to Missouri. We’ve been to Missouri to talk about all sorts of things, from how you can create jobs in rural areas to how you help create jobs around ideas like the ones that they’re producing Smith Electric Vehicles. Tonight, the President will be helping some campaigns out in the state.
So I would say it’s a lot less about his own inter-competitive spirit and more just about doing his job as President.
Q But five times more than any other state he’s been there, except for Louisiana? I mean, why Missouri?
MR. BURTON: Missouri is a great state. We’ll probably be back there. It’s a place where people have good ideas about how to grow the economy. They’ve got some questions about what the President is doing to move our country forward. We’ve been other places in the country multiple times, and you can bet that we’ll continue to do that. But, no, it’s not based in any sort of competitiveness with what happened in 2008.
Q Vice President Biden gives Harry Reid about a 55 percent chance. What do you give him?
MR. BURTON: He gives him what?
Q Vice President Biden gives Harry Reid about a 55 percent chance -- in an interview. What do you say about that? What do you guys give him?
MR. BURTON: I never go to Vegas, but I’m no odds maker. Harry Reid is a fighter. That’s where he started his career. That’s what he’s doing right now. And we have no doubt that this is going to be a competitive race. But of course we’re confident that he’s going to come back and continue to be our Leader, come next year.
Q Is there any contradiction between Obama’s message at these events that has been particularly partisan, attacking individual House members by name, and the campaign that he ran for President, bridging partisan divides and so forth?
MR. BURTON: What the President said was he was going to come to Washington and do everything he could to move our country in the right direction. And when there are moments that are -- that help to illustrate the differences between our philosophy and their philosophy, the President has taken it upon himself to point those out to the American people and say clearly that our view is that we need to continue to make progress and not go back to the same policies that got us into this mess.
You’ve heard him say before, these are the same guys who drove the car into the ditch and now they want the keys back. Well, it’s his view is that we can either go forward or go backwards. At least we’re going forward, and where he can make that case he does.
Q Can I ask you to see if we can’t get the remarks -- do you know if we’re going to get the remarks ahead of time?
MR. BURTON: They’re still being typed up. Hopefully the remarks for Smith Electric you should have pretty soon. They may have been sent out down on the ground; I’ll check on that, actually. But for the fundraisers, we’ll try to get them to you as soon as possible. I mean, you’ve been to these before, he often goes off script a lot --
Q I meant the Smith Electric --
MR. BURTON: Oh, okay.
Q -- just because we’re going to have a tight turnaround after that.
Q Will there be any more pushback against this idea that the White House is anti-business?
MR. BURTON: Well, I think that that -- the question of whether or not the White House is anti-business is the wrong question. It’s whether or not we’re for -- are we for creating a climate where --
Q Any pushback against this notion that he’s anti-business?
MR. BURTON: The President is for creating an environment where businesses can create jobs and help to continue grow the American economy. Are we going to agree with the business community on every single issue? No. But we came -- the President came into office saying that he was going to do some very specific things, like financial regulatory reform, which he talked about repeatedly on the campaign trail, if you go back to Cooper Union or the Nasdaq speech. He said he was going to close loopholes for overseas investments.
And so maybe those things aren’t always going to be popular with business, but if you look at where we were and where we are now, the President has made progress on the economy. He has brought us to a place where the economy is growing, where jobs are being created, as opposed to losing 700,000 a month like we were when we came into office.
But there are going to be times when we disagree, and that’s fine. But that’s -- the President has a governing philosophy that says that we need to do what we can to create jobs and grow the economy, and we’re not going to do that at the expense of necessarily giving discrete businesses or individual businesses every single thing that they may want.
Q Can you -- what is he going to say tomorrow at UNLV?
MR. BURTON: He’s going to continue to talk about how we grow the economy, what sort of investments the government can make, working with private industry to leverage as much growth and jobs as we can through things like renewable energy.
Q Tomorrow’s event, I thought it was a financial reg reform event.
MR. BURTON: Nope.
Q Is there going to be any new thing? (Laughter.)
MR. BURTON: I appreciate the way you articulated that question. It will be some things that -- some initiatives that you’ve heard about before, but the President will talk about some of the progress that we’ve been able to make and some of the things that we needed to do going forward to continue on the path of growth.
11:48 A.M. EDT