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The White House

Press Gaggle by Robert Gibbs En Route Cleveland, OH

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                         July 23, 2009

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cleveland, Ohio
12:17 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: All right, is everybody done with their strawberry pie? Fire away.
Q Robert, some people thought it was a little unusual that the President waded into the matter between Professor Gates and the Cambridge police -- a little uncharacteristic of him -- when the facts are in dispute. You know, this is the sort of thing he might ordinarily say, I don't -- you know, I don't know all the facts. Why do you --
MR. GIBBS: Well, he did -- let's go through what he did say, because he did say, one, Professor Gates was a friend of his. He did say he didn't have all the facts. I think we've all read in the newspaper at least a baseline of fact that the President outlined first by saying you have an unidentified individual who jimmies open a door of a house; the police are called based on that; the police respond -- which you would expect a series of those events to transpire like that.
I think what the President ultimately talked about was, obviously there was a point at which, inside of the house, both parties involved, probably recognizing that the situation originally responded to wasn't what was actually happening, in terms of a crime being committed, and at that point -- at that point cooler heads on all sides should have prevailed. I think that's what the President was denoting in the ultimate arrest and the since dropping of those charges.
Q Why do you think he wanted to weigh in on this, though? He obviously --
MR. GIBBS: I appreciate your -- I appreciate the ability at nationally televised news conferences to pass on questions like it was a game show. But I haven't been afforded that -- I don't think the President has been afforded those possibilities before. But I will certainly pass along your suggestion.
Q But he did go so far as to say that the police behaved "stupidly."
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think -- again, as I just said, I think there's a point in this where it becomes clear that the situation as it was originally called in is not the current situation, right? At some point it becomes clear that the individual in the house owns the house.
And I think that's -- at that point, cooler heads likely should have prevailed on both sides.
Q Robert, does the President feel that he, ever in his life, has been a victim of racial profiling -- pulled over, questioned for no obvious reason?
MR. GIBBS: Let me check. I think there -- I think he mentions in his book an instance where that happens.
Q Has the President --
MR. GIBBS: And I know he certainly -- you know, I think he's mentioned, you know, being at the front of a restaurant where somebody hands him the keys to go get a car.
Q That's a little different from a police action to --
MR. GIBBS: Right, I don't know if he's ever felt -- let me double-check on that.
Q There was a Chicago Tribune story from 2003 that suggests that he did feel that way, but it didn't have any details --
MR. GIBBS: I recall that, and obviously -- you know, again, I think the President also touched on the fact that working with all involved -- communities, police, and all stakeholders -- on legislation to develop a series of statistics that would allow the state of Illinois to evaluate what was going on and how best to address it -- again, I think, the important thing working with all of those involved.
Q Can I just ask you to clarify one quick thing that he said last night? When he was talking about "I would get shot trying to, you know, break into the house," he was talking about the White House or was he talking about his home in Chicago?
MR. GIBBS: I assume he was talking about the White House. And as I said to him afterwards, having looked at a couple of them, the only people apparently not laughing at that joke were the Secret Service, at that point which, we were standing to one of the guys from the Secret Service, and he laughed. So I think he was --
Q He wasn't talking about Chicago or the Chicago police, is what I --
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, I think he was talking about the White House.
Q Has the President spoken to Professor Gates at all?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q Has anybody from the White House reached out to him.
MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of. Not that I'm aware of.
Q And when you say that cooler heads should have prevailed on all sides, you're saying Professor Gates should have also handled it differently?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, again, I wasn't there, the President wasn't there. I think at some point, again, you have a situation that is not as it -- as not as it was called in. I think when somebody -- I think being arrested in your own home for being in your home -- I think the fact that those charges have been dropped denote that there clearly was a point at which this got far out of -- far out of control.
Q But does he regret his use of language in saying "acting stupidly," because online polls show lots of people of Massachusetts were disappointed that he used those words while acknowledging that he wasn't in full possession of the facts.
MR. GIBBS: Again, I think if you look at the fact that a situation got as far out of control at a certain point as it did underscores the fact that things were going in a direction that neither wanted it to go in.
Q Can I ask one health care question, since that's what we're doing today?
MR. GIBBS: Sure.
Q There was a suggestion by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch today that if the President wants to meet his August deadline, he's going to have to become more directly involved in negotiations on the Hill. Is that something we're likely to see as the deadline grows closer?
MR. GIBBS: The President speaks almost daily with members of the Finance Committee. I don't --
Q He's not planning to go up onto the Hill, for example?
MR. GIBBS: I don't think at this point that's the case, but, you know, we've had members down at the White House. The President is actively involved in seeking a solution for health care reform. I think the notion that he's not involved is --
Q But more directly involved, I think -- but do --
MR. GIBBS: I think being on the phone every day with members of the Finance Committee, it's hard to be more involved.
Q Do you think there's enough momentum in Congress, though, to meet his August deadline? Are they doing enough?
MR. GIBBS: I think Congress continues -- I think the best untold story is all the progress Congress has made. I think I've used this analogy -- if you need 10 things to happen and seven of them are happening, no offense, but you guys tend to focus on the three that aren't. That's just the way the deal works. That's our turn in the barrel. We get that.
But, you know, let's take, for example, the last time we flew to Chicago we were going to speak to the doctors, right? Everybody was in a huff and puff about how the doctors wouldn't accept a public plan. I remember a big front-page story in The New York Times, questions of -- you know, you're going to get on -- guess what? The doctors came out for a bill that supports a public plan. How many of you all wrote individual stories on that?
Q Robert, the Cleveland Clinic, one thing it does is pay its doctors salaries instead of by the procedure. Is that something the President would like to see wider spread? Will he suggest that all doctors or most hospitals work that way?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don't know how deeply he'll get into every procedure that's done at Cleveland Clinic in terms of employment, but I think it highlights an example that he wants to highlight for others, and that is that we're paying for outcomes, we're paying for better health care, not paying per procedure.
I think he uses -- he tends to use the example most often of somebody with severe diabetes. There is a rate for what happens at a point in which an amputation is required, not necessarily an incentive structure for treating a patient that we know could get to this point with better nutrition and wellness.
So I think -- the President talks about cutting the cost for health care and we have to change the way health care is delivered in order to deliver better outcomes. I think the President again discussed, you know, if you were paying $6,000 more a year for something that wasn’t as good as what others were paying for, you would stop and say, why is that the case. And I think that's what he'll highlight today.
Q Robert, just to be clear, the President doesn't regret the language or his statement last night?
MR. GIBBS: No, I think the President -- again, I think the President was clear in, again, denoting that at a certain point -- let me be clear. He was not calling the officers stupid, okay? He was ensuring -- I think, again, denoting that at a certain point the situation got far out of hand, and I think all sides understand that.
Q Yes, just back to the -- would he specifically endorse the idea of salaried physicians?
MR. GIBBS: Let me check. I don't know if that's -- I did not see that in the remarks, but let me double-check on that.
Q Congressman Clyburn said today that the August recess either needs to be cancelled or postponed. Does the President agree with that assessment in order to get health care done?
MR. GIBBS: Again, I don't know that we're at that point yet. I know that some people on Capitol Hill have discussed delaying the beginning of a district work period in order to continue to make progress. But I think -- obviously Congressman Clyburn and others know Capitol Hill quite well. The President continues to be encouraged that we're moving toward real reform, and we're focused on that and continuing that progress before we go cancelling recesses.
Q Robert, can you fill us in on the two fundraisers the President is doing tonight? Who are sponsoring them? Who's the money for?
MR. GIBBS: I can double-check. I think these are DNC events.
Q Both DNC?
MR. GIBBS: One is at the Hyatt. Obviously it's a larger event, and then another event earlier at the house of Penny Pritzker and her husband.
I love when we do this when we're landing. Luckily, these guys are a little softer than our previous pilots. If I had to do this on that old plane, I don't know -- broken legs. (Laughter.)
Let me get -- I'll get details on the next leg on the fundraisers, sponsors, as much information as we have in terms of money amounts and things like that.
All right?
12:28 P.M. EDT