Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 10/12/2010
2:40 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: Yes, ma’am.
Q On the drilling moratorium announcement today, how much did pressure that you guys were getting from the region play into the decision to make the announcement this early?
MR. GIBBS: This was part of a natural policy process. Secretary Salazar, Director Browmich have been down in the region hosting public meetings, talking with stakeholders, talking with the industry to ensure that we came up with the right set of rules and the right set of safety mechanisms to ensure that something that will obviously always carry some risk also has within it a containment strategy that works for the American people.
So this was part of a very deliberative policy process that, quite frankly, just got done more quickly than the original timeline.
Q Has the White House reached out to Landrieu to ask her to drop the hold on Lew’s nomination?
MR. GIBBS: Legislative Affairs was, through the normal course of this, going to do their congressional notifications. I saw, I believe, a statement from her that said she was not dropping her hold on Jack Lew.
And our feeling on this is the nomination of Jack Lew is not in any way connected to and shouldn’t be in any way connected to any facet of the moratorium. Jack didn’t have anything to do with issuing the moratorium, doesn’t currently have anything to do with the moratorium. He passed two Senate committees with more than 40 votes and only one dissenting vote, and obviously a budget director in a time of economic concern and concern about our long-term fiscal picture is somebody that you need at work.
We have said from the beginning that the hold was unwarranted and outrageous. And that continues to be our viewpoint, and we hope that as we work though the normal course of a policy that ensures that oil drilling is done in a safe way, certainly that Senator Landrieu would judge Jack Lew on the merits of being a budget director, not of playing politics and getting issues that are ancillary to what he does involved in that equation.
Q And if we could just shift to the President’s campaign schedule, is there any insight that you can give us into how the decision was made to send him out to the specific states and for the specific candidates that you announced earlier?
MR. GIBBS: Let me see if there’s any information from Legislative Affairs. Obviously those are -- some of those states we’ve been to -- we’ve been to before, and -- look, some places, obviously, we’re going to raise money. Some places we’re going for different activities like the past weekend in Philadelphia, to rally young people in Madison, Wisconsin, and other places like that -- just where candidates and the team here feel like the President could be most useful.
Q Are there places you’ve specifically decided not to go?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of.
Q Robert, can we shift to the mortgage foreclosure? You said this morning that you oppose a national moratorium and that you want to take the just and necessary steps to ensure the process is moving forward legally. Could you say specifically what actions you plan on that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me -- give me one minute. Will you -- I thought I had my list of the different agencies and what they were doing.
Q Back to the offshore drilling moratorium, environmental groups are saying this is pure politics and very cynical. I mean, is there no political dimension to this?
MR. GIBBS: How so?
Q Sort of currying favor with voters in the Gulf states? The hold on Lew, no?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t see any -- I’m not entirely sure anybody could make -- I don’t see how anybody could make that equation. I mean, this is -- again, this was a very deliberative policy process. And it puts in place, again, some important safety steps to ensure that when this is done again, it’s done safely.
An operator must certify that they’re meeting the requirements of ensuring that a worst-case scenario -- that they have the ability to address a worst-case scenario. We’re asking the CEO to sign off on that process. I think those are a series of very commonsense things that we have to ensure are in place.
But politics in the region, politics outside the region, none of that has played -- none of it played a role in the President’s instituting the moratorium. None of it has played a role in the policy process that’s gone on to devise a way out of the moratorium. It is -- the President wanted to put in place a moratorium that paused deepwater drilling while we figured out what had happened and what needed to be in place.
Look, there are other reports that are going to come out of the Deepwater Horizon spill. There’s still an engineering report. There are other -- the oil commission, obviously, is looking at this. There certainly will be opportunities for, as that moves forward, for the Department of Interior to examine the evidence that comes back either from the engineers or the oil commission and update that process as we go along.
This is a process that starts the permitting process again. And somebody can drill only when they satisfy the government that they have a process in place to deal with a worst-case scenario. Until that time, drilling can’t happen.
In terms of this -- I mean, look, FHA has launched a review of servicers to examine the full compliance with the law. HUD, Treasury, FTC and the Justice Department, along with state AGs, are working together and in close communications on the best ways to protect consumers. The officer of the -- Comptroller of the Currency, which has supervisory authority over the biggest mortgage servicers like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, they are reviewing the nation’s -- reviewing the process by which the nation’s largest servicers undertake their foreclosure process. There are other things like FHA, FHFA, which oversee Fannie and Freddie. All of that is to say, as we said this morning, that there are -- there’s a process that has to be followed, a legal process, and if that process isn’t being followed by anybody along the way, then that can and should be rectified.
We also have pointed out, though, that the idea of a national moratorium would impact the recovery in the housing sector, as anybody that wished to enter into a contract or execute a contract to purchase a home that had previously been foreclosed on, that process stops. That means houses and neighborhoods remain empty even if there are buyers ready, willing and able to do so.
So we want to protect consumers. We support what state attorneys generals are doing in looking into the mortgage process to ensure that consumers are protected.
Q I was just wondering, first of all, if you had any reaction -- a federal judge has granted an injunction of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
MR. GIBBS: I was told something about that as I walked out. I would point you to DOJ, as I assume they will analyze the briefing. Obviously you know the President’s view on changing the law in “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Q Okay. This is the 10th anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole. After becoming President the President withdrew the prosecution of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri as you guys got your house in order as to what to do about the defendants and detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Since then the Pentagon prosecutors have been eager to go forward with the case and they have been stopped by the interagency process. Can you give us any update as to what’s next for al-Nashiri, when that trial will go forward?
MR. GIBBS: The important -- one of the most important parts of that process, Jake, as you well know -- and I think you touched upon it -- is -- was working with a bipartisan coalition in Congress to review and reform the military commission system to ensure that that process would and should be used -- could be used to bring terror suspects to justice.
The Attorney General referred five cases, including al-Nashiri, to the Department of Defense, and as you said, there is an interagency process that is being worked through, and certainly our hope is now that we have a reform commission system that it’s a process that can start soon.
Q Can you shed any light on what the holdup is? There are obviously families who are grieving today, the 10th anniversary of the bombing. There’s a desire for information.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t have an update on the timing. Obviously DOD and DOJ are working through this.
Obviously our viewpoint is that somebody who did harm to American servicemen 10 years ago will be and should be brought to justice. That was our goal in reforming the military commission system, and I believe in this case we will see justice done.
Q Lastly, as somebody -- there are a lot of us here who have covered the President’s campaign and now his White House, and a lot of times you guys are subject to accusations that are baseless and grounded in no more than, “Well, it could be true; make them prove that it’s not true.” And that seems to be the argument you’re making towards the Chamber of Commerce when it comes to these foreign donations -- it could be true; have them prove that it’s not true. Don’t you think that the President -- there should be a higher bar for when the President levels or suggests or insinuates a charge?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Jake, what I would do is go back and look at what the President has said directly on this. The President --
Q Very careful with his language, absolutely. But the suggestion is it could be true; they should open their books.
MR. GIBBS: Well, Jake, the -- as we covered in this morning’s briefing, or gaggle, that I get asked questions and others around this town get asked questions about people that have donated to the campaigns that you mentioned that you follow because people that give in excess of $200 are required to report who they are and who they work for. Simple disclosure.
We know that -- we know, because the Chamber has said, that they take money from overseas. We do know that they’re spending $75 million to $80 million on ad campaigns -- with anonymous donors. They know the identities, but the American people and the voters in these individual elections do not.
The best way to clear any of this stuff up would simply be to disclose the names, the identities of those donors. That goes for groups on any side of the political spectrum. When you have, in the case of this election -- there are outside groups on the Republican side that are largely supplanting the role of the national party, certainly to the extent to which they are participating as an active entity in this election. And no one knows where that money is coming from.
This is an important election. And those groups owe it to the American people to tell us who they are, to describe based on that identity what their agenda is, why are they so heavily involved in these races.
It seems like a fairly simple thing to do. The President talked about this as early this year as the State of the Union. And we tried desperately to get a law passed that would require those identities to be disclosed.
Q Robert, on the conference call earlier. Secretary Salazar was asked whether additional inspectors have been brought in to carry out some of these new reforms, to make sure that these oil companies are abiding by the guidelines, and the answer was, no, they don’t have -- the numbers have not been increased since prior to the accident. So how can the American people sort of be assured that these inspections will be able to be carried out when you don’t have the personnel perhaps to do it?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Dan, let me go back and see what DOI was referring to in terms of -- what they were referring to in terms of additional inspections that meet the law.
In this process, applications for re-permitting of exploratory deepwater wells will be examined and reviewed, and permits issued based on their ability to meet the requirements of a worst-case scenario.
Q But then inspectors would be following up to make sure that they’re abiding by whatever the guidelines are.
MR. GIBBS: Right. I would need to get more information, and I would have you ping also the Department of Interior. But what is crucial in this process is ensuring that -- and this is -- this would be through the signature of the chief executive officer of the operating company -- that they certify that they do indeed have all the resources readily available to respond to that worst-case scenario. That is what would now be in place in order to continue a deepwater drilling project that is underway in the Gulf.
Q On the First Lady out on the campaign trail, we’re seeing more of that now. What are you hoping to accomplish by having her out there campaigning?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think she is an invaluable asset to this White House. I think she has -- as she told during the 2008 election, she’s got a story to tell about herself and her family, and I think she will tell that story and what the administration and some of these candidates have been able to do to help the families that they represent.
I think she’ll -- I think she will be -- she will go out and have a very affirmative case for coming out and participating in this very important election. I think she’s -- like I said, she’s an invaluable asset, and my guess is we’ll get good response out there on the campaign trail.
Q Part of her appeal has been that she’s non-political, in terms of what she gets involved in. Any risk at all in sort of throwing her into this hand-to-hand campaign?
MR. GIBBS: No, again, I think you’ll see her make -- you’ll see her make a very positive case for these candidates, not get involved in the back-and-forth of normal political campaigns.
Q Thank you.
MR. GIBBS: Chip.
Q Robert, at the gaggle, you suggested that the reason the President didn’t bring up the Chamber of Commerce issue was he was just giving an abbreviated version of his usual address at fundraisers. But are you suggesting that he’s not backing off this at all? When he holds fundraiser for Coons on Friday and Patrick on Saturday, he goes to Cleveland in Columbus, are you telling us this will be a major part of his address?
MR. GIBBS: Look, it will be -- it will definitely be part of his address, absolutely.
Q He’s not backing off one iota.
MR. GIBBS: There’s no reason to. There’s no reason to back off asking for the disclosure on these --
Q There’s been a lot of criticism, I mean, from fact-checking organizations and from newspaper editorials, and a lot of people saying, this is the kind of --
MR. GIBBS: None of whom have seen --
Q -- unsubstantiated, harsh attacks that he --
MR. GIBBS: None of whom have seen the list of donors that is being protected and whose identities are being protected.
Chip, if there are organizations raising tens of millions of dollars who won’t tell us who their donors are, my guess is they’re not telling us for a reason -- because they have something to hide.
Yet they spend -- they supplant an entire national political party, spend tens of millions of dollars, in the end, in total, probably hundreds of millions of dollars without knowing who they are, what their agenda is or who they represent. That’s not good for our democracy.
Q How do you define Rove-ian trick?
MR. GIBBS: In this case, it was -- it was very much to try to take a similar example far out of what the discussion point is in order to distract you all away from asking for their donor list.
Q And in other cases? I mean, is this something with a broader application? Rove-ian trick, is that sort of --
MR. GIBBS: Likely. (Laughter.)
Q Is that something we’re going to find in Webster’s in a --
MR. GIBBS: Likely, yes, I’m sure --
Q -- Bill Safire’s dictionary?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. (Laughter.) Look, again, I think it’s -- the question was, well, how come this think tank won’t disclose its donors. Well, look, that might be an interesting debate to have, but it’s not the debate that we’re having about the fact that there’s tens of millions of dollars on TV for and against certain candidates.
If -- as I said this morning, if that was a group that was advertising on television, the President has not reserved his criticism for the masking of the identities of these political donors based on who they are advertising for or against. He believes that whether you are supportive of Democratic candidates, Republican candidates, in some cases both, the identities of who funds those campaigns is pertinent to the debate.
Q Does the President approve of the DNC saying -- and believe, as the DNC ad says -- that the Chamber of Commerce is apparently taking money, using money from foreign sources in its political endeavors?
MR. GIBBS: I have not -- I don’t know whether the President -- I have not talked to the President about that ad, so I don’t --
Q You won’t go -- you won’t go that far?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I have not talked to the President about that ad. I would point you to what the President has said on this subject, which is to lay out that -- as the Chamber has said, they take money from overseas. We know they’re spending millions of dollars. Who is that money coming from? And where is it coming from?
Q The Chamber’s dues from foreign affiliates account for less than two-tenths of a percent of the $40 million plus -- $40 million to $50 million they’re spending on political endeavors this year.
MR. GIBBS: Have you seen the list of their donors?
Q I have not.
MR. GIBBS: Okay.
Q Is the bigger problem the legal use of money from domestic donors that may have an agenda? I mean, do you seriously think that the possibility of illegal use of foreign funds is as big a threat?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the identity -- I think that a small number of people might write tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in checks to fund and bankroll a campaign or a series of campaign ads in order to defeat certain candidates because they have -- whether it’s -- it’s not a political ideology; it’s what business do they have in front of the federal government. What regulation are they trying to impact with -- by getting involved in certain Senate races? What’s their legislative agenda?
Easier to answer if you knew who we were talking about.
Q But that’s not illegal. If they’re foreign it’s illegal. But if they’re domestic it’s not illegal.
MR. GIBBS: I’d say the biggest point in this is disclosure. The biggest point is knowing what’s out there. The biggest point is who’s involved. That’s what the President mentioned, again, at the State of the Union many, many months ago. And we had -- there was a bill to do just this, because the President warned that -- warned pretty clearly what might happen if those identities were shielded from the American people.
Q To follow up on -- actually, to follow up on the bill that you just brought up, Democrats on Capitol Hill mishandle that bill? Did they cut too many deals -- the exception for the NRA, the exception for labor unions -- and so politicized it?
MR. GIBBS: The biggest problem was 99 percent of Republicans voted against that bill.
Q Well, they voted against the bill after the deals were cut. Were too many deals cut?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think it should be a simple deal, right?
Q And it wasn’t, correct? This bill -- could this bill have been simplified?
MR. GIBBS: It should be who are your donors.
Q But that was not what this bill said, right?
MR. GIBBS: You’re probably following some aspects --
Q I understand, but I mean --
MR. GIBBS: -- more than I am. But --
Q -- but it does sound like you feel like this bill wasn’t simple enough. Could have been simple, straightforward --
MR. GIBBS: Chuck, I think when people filibuster the bill because people don’t want you to know who their donors are, I think it’s pretty simple. There’s -- there was a ruling and a campaign put together in order to gather up tens of and hundreds of millions of dollars to affect an election, with the promise that your identity would never be known. That’s pretty simple. That’s what’s gotten all that money rolling into TV stations.
Q Another housekeeping. One, when’s the last time the President talked to the Chilean President?
MR. GIBBS: The Chilean President?
Q Yes, about the miners.
MR. GIBBS: Oh, I don’t know the answer to that. I will check with NSC. Not in my recent memory have I seen anything on that.
Q Second, on the drilling moratorium, by lifting this moratorium, does this mean the federal government has a better -- do you feel like you guys have a better sense of what caused the Deepwater Horizon explosion; that this was a uniquely BP situation? Is that sort of how people should interpret this moratorium?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think a couple of different ways, which is why I mentioned to -- I think it was to Dan’s question, that there are still -- there’s still an outstanding commission, there’s still an outstanding engineering report that may very well, depending on its findings, impact the process, which is important.
But we know that -- again, we know there’s inherent risks in doing this at all. That we understand. But the belief of the Secretary, I think rightly so, is that each operator has to certify what the worst-case scenario is, and that they have the ability to meet that scenario.
It is -- it’s a very commonsense way of looking at how we go about this process, and one that we think, based on the quality of permit applications, can be met by operators. It won’t be --
Q So you feel as if the industry, as a whole, does have a handle on how to keep this the safest.
MR. GIBBS: I think that they understand now far better what has to be in place, and what they risk if something like this gets out of hand, which clearly it did in the Gulf with the Deepwater Horizon.
Q And one campaign question. There were five Senate debates last night, three time zones, all over the country.
MR. GIBBS: I didn’t see any of it.
Q I understand that. But two big issues debated -- stimulus -- the Recovery Act and health care all came up in all of them. And it was -- it was all familiar. The Democratic candidate never cheerleaded the bill. The Republican candidates, both said both were failures, both were mistakes, would repeal. But in each case the Democratic candidate said, well, it was okay, or the health care bill -- well, it was a good start, it was a decent compromise. Do you feel as if you guys need to help these Democratic candidates essentially sell the -- I mean, because none of them were saying the Recovery Act was a success; all of the Republicans said it was a failure. None of them were saying that health care was a great piece of legislation.
MR. GIBBS: Let’s look at the Recovery Act. What we did was -- what that bill did was make sure that we didn’t have a systemic economic meltdown that led to a Great Depression. Again, that’s --
Q And that’s how it should be judged?
MR. GIBBS: That’s known. That’s not me saying that. That’s not -- that’s economists saying that it led to increased growth; that it created and saved jobs; that it turned our economy around. Now, are there people that will still deny it? I’m sure. I don’t -- I think if you --
Q Democrats are having trouble sort of telling that story.
MR. GIBBS: I don’t think they’re having trouble telling that story. I think that we live in an environment where we’re not losing 800,000 jobs a month, we’re not losing 3 million jobs in six months as we were at the end of 2008, but we’re climbing out of, very slowly, a hole that lost 8 million jobs. There’s going to be economic frustration not just from the past two years, but built up over many years, as wages failed to go up, as hours increased, as jobs were moved overseas, as businesses made a series of bad decisions that required the government to step in and ensure that they didn’t do irreparable harm to our economy.
Nobody likes doing that. Nobody sat in meetings here and said, boy, let’s do this because this would be great and politically popular. But we know what happened -- what would have happened if the financial sector would have melted down. How would the debates go in the Midwest if GM and Chrysler and the million or so people that were connected both working directly for those auto companies and the auto parts suppliers, many of which, if you drive by some of these auto plants, are built next to those factories -- where would we be if a million more people were out of work?
Well, you know, look, I think it’s up to Republicans to -- and I’ve seen it. I’ve watched them in Michigan say we shouldn’t have done that to help Chrysler and GM. And I hope voters will take them at their word that many of their friends and many of their neighbors would have been out of work, without the prospect of a lot of new jobs coming to town, manufacturing has taken a beating.
But, look, I understand that some legislative efforts in things like rescuing the economy -- we get that the judgment on a political timeline might not always match up with I think how ultimately this will be viewed, as creating a new foundation that stimulated new industries to create the jobs of tomorrow, which prevented, as I said, a meltdown into a Great Depression. And we are all aware of the economic study that shows had some of these steps not been taken -- stabilized the financial system and in the Recovery Act -- that hole that’s 8 million jobs deep would likely have been twice that. And that would be the Great Depression that we are thankful was warded off because we didn’t do necessarily what was popular, but we did what was right and what had to be done at the moment.
Q Robert, may I --
MR. GIBBS: I should run for something. (Laughter.)
Q I guess you want to participate in these debates.
MR. GIBBS: I was watching the Braves and the similar outcome. (Laughter.)
Q On the moratorium -- the deepwater moratorium, the lifting of the moratorium has a lot of caveats. There’s the redesigned blowout preventers, more equipment on hand in case of accidents, things like that. How quickly does the President want to see these rigs back out doing exploratory drilling? And do you believe that these new regulations are going to chase away all the small companies and leave only the mega oil companies out there?
MR. GIBBS: On that latter point, I don’t believe it’s going to chase away -- I don’t believe it’s going to chase away those companies because, Jonathan, I think we want to ensure that whoever is doing that exploratory drilling and participating in those activities has the ability to handle something if it goes catastrophically wrong. I don’t think we’d ever want to permit something that we can’t -- that we couldn’t unwind, that we can’t meet.
In terms of how quickly, I think Director Bromwich and others have said some of this is going to depend on the quality of the permit applications themselves. This is obviously not going to happen overnight. It’s probably going to take several weeks to ensure that everybody feels comfortable that we have the appropriate plans in place to ensure that we meet those worst-case scenarios.
I think this is an important first step. It starts that process. It opens that process back up. And I think it’s an important day.
Q And has there been any contact, any outreach -- I know we’ve asked this -- but with Mary Landrieu and --
MR. GIBBS: Let me check. I would be shocked, quite honestly, if Legislative Affairs didn’t give Senator Landrieu, Senator Vitter and all those along the Gulf Coast a heads-up on this. I don’t -- let me check specifically on that reaction.
Q Robert, if the law doesn’t require political groups to disclose their donors, how can you say that these groups owe it to the American people? I mean, they’re abiding by the law.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the spirit of political disclosure is -- and remember, too, that the law was -- the last has just recently been struck down by the Court. The notion of disclosure was struck down by the Court. The notion of political donor anonymity was established, and I think many in Congress believed that -- although not enough -- believed that understanding who those people are is important to the process.
There are -- it is hard to understate, Mark, how much they’re impacting some of these elections. In some of these states, there are four, five, six of these groups up at a time.
Q They’re just commercials.
MR. GIBBS: Well, probably radio ads, TV ads. That’s -- I think most people would admit that’s the way a bunch of people, most people, get the information that they’re going to -- how they determine who’s going to vote -- who they’re going to vote for, excuse me. And I think it’s important -- when you don’t know who those people are, when you don’t know what their agenda is, I think, as the President has said, that is a threat very fundamentally to our democracy. There are people impacting those elections with which you have no identity.
Q Do you think the spirit of political openness ought to embrace the President when he does closed-door fundraisers?
MR. GIBBS: Well, just last night the President brought a print pool into --
Q Yes, but for ones that were closed.
MR. GIBBS: They were, but here’s what you know, Mark. Every person that gives to an entity that the President is raising money for -- the DCCC, the DSCC, the DNC, Obama for America in 2007 and 2008 -- if you give in excess of $200 -- and I think in our case we actually disclosed a lower amount -- but if you give in excess of $200, we know who you are -- not only we -- you, the FEC, it’s posted on the Internet -- who you are, who you work for, where you live. That’s basic disclosure. That’s how --
Q But in the spirit of openness, if he’s addressing big money donors, shouldn’t that be open to coverage?
MR. GIBBS: I will say this -- I will say this, Mark, I think we had one or two that weren’t --
Q There was more than that.
MR. GIBBS: I’m sure you have the exact number.
Q I do. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I bet it was less than five.
Q It’s closer to 10.
MR. GIBBS: How many have we done?
Q Fifty something.
MR. GIBBS: Okay. I’d put our openness, Mark, against anybody’s. It was a policy that we had during the campaign. It wasn’t something that we waited to institute when we got there. And we’ve taken as many steps as we’ve can to ensure that when the President speaks to these groups, that you know.
Q But why are there different rules for some of these things? Why do you say, well, print for this? What’s the point of keeping TV cameras out?
MR. GIBBS: Because it’s -- it’s not the point of keeping TV cameras out, Chuck. I trust that your friends are -- that are doing pool reports are relaying what the President says quite accurately. But, Chuck, it’s -- no offense, but to take you, your producer, to take one other guy, to take a bunch of people --
Q I mean, that’s why we have a pool. We have a very small group of people. We’re talking --
MR. GIBBS: You’re not a very small group of people, but some people have private homes that we don’t -- we just -- you can’t bring that many people into. But, Chuck, let’s not get diverted from the fact that you know exactly what the President said last night, you know exactly -- you will know exactly who gave, you’ll know the amount they gave, you will know their name and where they work. You will not know any of that on these groups that sound like “Mom and Apple Pie” that are running tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars of ads affecting big parts of Senate races, big parts of House races, big parts of gubernatorial races. Obviously a separate series of laws govern gubernatorial races.
But I’d be happy, Mark, if the groups that have advertised in these races on either side met the transparency standards that we have met and that federal candidates are required to meet, because you’d know the identities of who gave that money.
Q Will you have more closed fundraisers?
MR. GIBBS: Not that -- every one I think we have is -- will be open, as far as I know. And I think all the ones that we announced today -- the DCCC, the DNC events -- I know are open.
MR. GIBBS: I believe Delaware is open. I don’t -- I will double-check on that when we get out of here.
Q Back to the oil moratorium, the Interior Department rules say that the new rules are going to add about $183 million in annual costs. That’s about $500,000 a day. Jonathan asked you about chasing --
MR. GIBBS: I’m sorry, tell me the figures again, where are they from?
Q $183 million a year in annual costs under the new rules. That’s about $500,000 a day.
MR. GIBBS: $500,000 a day for the 30-some exploratory --
Q -- spread out.
MR. GIBBS: Okay.
Q Jonathan asked about chasing away the independents, and I heard you say that you don’t believe it’s going to chase them away. But do you know? Or is there any evidence? How do you know --
MR. GIBBS: I’ll go back and look -- I’ll go back and ask, and you should ask DOI about what cost-benefit analysis they have. But, I mean, Roger, the point is we’re not going to permit -- large or small -- somebody that does not have the ability to certify accurately and adequately a containment strategy if the well they are drilling can’t be contained in a worst-case scenario.
That wouldn’t make any sense regardless of the size of the operator. That wouldn’t make any sense for those communities along the Gulf, whether they’re employing people that work on those rigs, or you have a business like the seafood industry that might be affected by an accident. These rules are put in place to ensure that the standards that are in the law are adequately met, that that can be certified and signed off on by the chief executive officer, and that the steps to put in place those safety requirements are taken seriously.
Q Do you think there’s any concern that when the Interior Department holds the next auction for leases that it will only be the Exxons and the Shells and even the BPs that will be able to afford it, and therefore the government would get fewer bids at lower prices?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t because I think that is -- obviously oil is a fairly known commodity with a known price.
Q One other -- something, separate subject. Senator Mitchell met with Biden this morning on the Middle East -- or was to. Did that happen?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t have an update on that, but I can try to find one.
Q Any update on resolving the impasse?
MR. GIBBS: No, I don’t have any update on that meeting, but I’ll see if there is one.
Q In New York, the first civilian trial for a Guantanamo detainee is underway. And I wonder if you could just reflect on what the stakes for the administration are in the outcome of this trial?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, obviously this is an individual who is on trial for and accused of his role in deadly embassy bombings that killed Americans. And we are serious about bringing to justice those that have harmed or killed our citizens, be it the al-Nashiris of the world who’ve done so by doing harm to our service members, killing civilians or government employees in embassies, and to bring to justice those that seek to do our citizens harm -- or have done them harm.
Q But is this a referendum on the ability of civilian courts to handle Guantanamo detainees?
MR. GIBBS: I think -- look, I think this is an important trial in terms of bringing about justice. There have been cases where suspects -- last week there was a -- obviously the Times Square bomber was sentenced to -- in an Article III court -- was sentenced to life in prison. So we know that these work. We also know that we have a reformed military commission that can also bring those at Guantanamo -- that were housed at Guantanamo to justice and will do so.
Q Robert, just two questions. The Los Angeles Times reported that Obama White House aides owe the IRS $831,000 in back taxes. What will the President do about this?
MR. GIBBS: I was going to check on that and I haven’t done so, so let me do so.
Q Why did the President schedule a 12-day trip to the Far East, beginning on November 4th, instead of remaining home in the possibility of the need for a major Democrat rebuilding?
MR. GIBBS: Well, it’s a 10-day trip that starts the 5th.
Q It said 12-day in the print.
MR. GIBBS: I’m pretty sure it’s -- I was in a meeting about it this morning.
Q I won’t disagree.
MR. GIBBS: Lester, our --
Q Many in this room get screwed with 12 days. (Laughter.) That’s why.
MR. GIBBS: Oh, well, sorry. Ours is I guess a more direct flight.
Look, our relationship with the world, Lester, is tremendously important. We can’t grow our economy unless we can export our products overseas. Asia is the fastest-growing market in the world --
Q But why not do that later, so that he can, if he needs, rebuild the party of which he is the head?
MR. GIBBS: One, I don’t think we’re going to need to do that, Lester. And two, this is an important election, but there’s also important work to be done with -- in countries like Korea, in Japan and in India, in ensuring that we have the type of relationships around the world and the type of business relationships in the world that can buy and sell the products we make here and create jobs.
Q Robert, could you just spell out why you think it’s a good argument to be pushing this issue of the foreign money and whether it exists or not, is disclosed or not, at a time when we’re this close to the election and people are sort of looking for the closing argument?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think people care about -- let’s be clear, I think people care very much about who these people are and who these people are that they don’t know. And understand that we don’t know what their agenda is. We don’t know whether they’re trying to elect a group of senators to roll back Wall Street reform. We don’t know -- there’s a whole lot of things we don’t know.
I think -- look, if you look at the Bloomberg poll today, it was one of the most -- it was one of the most likely -- if you look at the percentages of “are you more likely to support or less likely to support somebody who has advertising in that race on their behalf,” it was a pretty persuasive concern for voters.
Q Does that jibe with your own polls?
MR. GIBBS: I have not seen anything in DNC polling on it that I can remember. I think people are very concerned about, again, not knowing the identities of these special interests, not knowing where they’re from, not knowing what their -- not knowing what they want from government, not knowing what they want from the senators that they seek or the House members that they seek to elect.
Q I wanted to follow on Chuck’s question about the stimulus. Even as Republicans are out campaigning and calling the past stimulus or the existing stimulus a failure, you have a lot of nonpartisan economists and analysts who have said that it did its job, it just maybe should have been larger, and that in fact part of our problem right now is that the stimulus is waning and that there arguably should be some more. Was that what was behind Secretary LaHood yesterday saying that you’ll push sooner rather than later for the $50 billion in transportation funding?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I will say, first and foremost, we have -- we met the goal of ensuring that 70 percent of the money from the Recovery Act was spent by the end of the most recent fiscal year. We met that goal. But understand that that’s a lot of funding to get into an economy in a very short period of time. So there’s still some funding that continues, obviously, that has not -- that’s been obligated but -- and projects are underway, though the money, the check hasn’t finally been written -- the economic activity is happening.
Again, I think those statistics bear that we not just got what we could politically bear but we got into the economy what could be gotten into the economy in as quick a period of time, and to do so without waste, fraud and abuse.
In terms of infrastructure or expensing or some of the proposals that the administration continues to have, some of them are built off of existing ideas that were in the Recovery Act that we’d like to see extended.
Infrastructure -- obviously there was major investments that were made as part of the recovery, but we also know that a great deal of the unemployed that we’re dealing with used to be in the construction industry as the housing market has waned, that have the skills that could be put to use in infrastructure. We know that’s a good investment for long-term economic growth and we think that puts people back to work.
So all of those go into what the economic team has proposed and what the President has proposed to continue to see our economy strengthen.
Q But those arguments like he made yesterday suggest like acting sooner rather than later. But are you going to try in a lame-duck Congress to get some sort of emergency spending, or are you going to rule that out?
MR. GIBBS: I think that most of what the President has proposed is likely to be dealt with when Congress comes back in January.
Q And one last thing on undisclosed money. Ginny Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, has formed this group for which she solicited and accepted, as far as we know, unknown -- contributions from unknown sources of up to $500,000. Does the White House think that’s an appropriate activity for the spouse of a Supreme Court justice?
MR. GIBBS: Let me take a look at that and get back to you on that. I just -- before I go --
Q Yes, thanks, Robert. Just breaking news out of California, Judge Virginia Phillips just issued an injunction of all “don’t ask, don’t tell” discharges, effective immediately.
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I got this question right as I came out.
Q You did? Okay.
MR. GIBBS: I saw it literally as we were walking down, so let me point you initially to DOJ.
Q Guess who I already have a question into?
MR. GIBBS: Those good guys at DOJ, call her back.
Q Yes. I’m just wondering, do you know if there’s been any discussion inside the White House of how to -- of what kind of steps might be taken to bring the Pentagon into compliance with such an injunction? I mean --
MR. GIBBS: Let me check on that. Obviously, like I said, I learned of and haven’t been able to talk to as we were walking down here anybody in the counsel’s office who might have had an opportunity to read this more closely.
Obviously there have been a number of court cases that have ruled in favor of plaintiffs in this case. And the President will continue to work as hard as he can to change the law that he believes is fundamentally unfair.
Q And you don’t have any idea of whether or not you’re going to work for a stay?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t, but that’s one of the questions that I had as I was walking in, and I’ve got to get somebody from counsel to help me with that.
Q A very small question left over from Sunday. We’ve been asked whether the President saw the streaker who was trying to win a million dollars at the rally. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Whether the President saw the streaker?
Q Does he know the name of the website? (Laughter.)
Q Yes, come on. Poor guy needs a million bucks. (Laughter.) Stimulus.
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know if he did. I -- now you’re going to ask me to walk into the Oval Office and see if the President saw the streaker.
Q Others might.
Q Next question is about Brett Favre.
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know the answer to the streaker question.
Q What about the book? Did he know about the book?
Q Is it your view, Robert, that China is softening its stance on territorial claims in the South China Sea this week, based on the release of the Vietnamese fishermen?
MR. GIBBS: Let me get some better guidance from NSC on that.
Q Robert, you guys have complained for quite a while about sort of these unsubstantiated Republican charges about death panels and birth certificates and all that kind of thing. Does it feel kind of good to hear them carping about the accuracy of your statements with regard to the Chamber?
MR. GIBBS: Well, no, but let’s take the example that you -- the example that you had of death panels, okay? That might seem -- might have seemed like a more plausible charge if he didn’t have a piece of legislation in front of you. Remember -- are you going to read the bill, are you going to look at this section, are you going to go through this? You had the piece of legislation.
So let’s just have an analogous political argument, and that is let’s put out the names, put it in the list, put it in a form -- I’m sure it would stack up quite high -- put out the names of the donors and let people make a judgment based on the evidence.
That’s the one thing you could do with health care, right? You could -- you had a piece of legislation that you could -- and why the myth was so thoroughly debunked, it’s because people read the legislation and said, well, that’s not in there. But we don’t have a list of who’s giving secret money to these secret groups.
Q Well, we’ve had like, I don’t know, between this morning and now, we’ve had a dozen questions about this, we’ve eaten a lot of clock. Isn’t that to a certain extent one of the reasons why we’re talking about this, so that we don’t have to talk about other things like the economy or other issues?
MR. GIBBS: No, I think this is very much part of the economy. Understand this, Glenn, I don’t know the identities. I wish I did. I bet when we finally do find out who these people are, you’re going to find out their political agenda is to go back to the rules that we had governing Wall Street before we passed financial reform.
But, Glenn, all you got to do, if you walk right out that door, right up that nifty new set of steps, walk across that nifty park, there’s a big building right over there. Right? It’s a stone’s throw. It’s a bad Sam Youngman golf shot. (Laughter.) I had you right up until that, right?
But what I’m saying -- what I’m telling you -- what I’m saying, Glenn, is it’s a short walk, right? Email the Chamber and tell them you’ll meet them over there in 10 minutes. Have the list. Put the entire argument to rest with the list. Put the entire argument to rest with Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie by providing the list. Why perpetuate the argument? Why distract from all the other things we could be talking about by just simply providing the list? That seems easy. Simply disclose the identities of who funds all these ads. No longer hide behind the shroud of secrecy and anonymity.
Simply tell us who you are. It will probably be pretty easy to figure out what your agenda is. But generally people that are looking for that shroud of secrecy in keeping their names anonymous have something to hide. It would be easy -- just walk right over there.
Q Including environmental groups and all the others that also get money anonymously? All of them should disclose all of their donors?
MR. GIBBS: If you’re running TV ads in this election --
Q That’s the White House position?
MR. GIBBS: It has been since the President stood in front of Congress in the State of the Union.
Q Even groups that support this White House?
MR. GIBBS: Even groups that support this White House.
Q Are you calling on them now to do that?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely, absolutely.
Q But, Robert, listening to you in this briefing, again, they have the cover of the law behind them.
MR. GIBBS: You got to get a shorter guy sitting in front of you.
Q Sorry. (Laughter.)
Q Okay, they have the cover of the law behind them. But just listening, it’s sounding like -- and you tell me if I’m wrong -- they have deeper pockets than we do, and we’re upset, and we want them to disclose even though they have the cover behind it -- let me -- you’re upset because they’re winning in the ad game.
MR. GIBBS: I am -- they have the ability to influence elections. They are supplanting the entire effort of a national party to the tune of $150 million, $160 million, $180 million in a political campaign. And you don’t have the slightest idea who they are.
You don’t have -- you don’t know who they represent. You don’t know what their political agenda is. You don’t know what they’re looking for in their next United States senator. You don’t know if we’re looking for somebody to walk down there the first day and sign on to repealing the laws that we have instituted to change the way Wall Street works.
But they’re going to impact this election. If it weren’t for the discussion we’re having now, this would likely be the biggest story after the election -- $200 million, $150 million -- some huge amount of money that is playing out in races all over the country, and nobody knows who they are. I think that’s a threat to the democracy that we have this country. I think that is what is fundamental about who we are and what’s at stake in this election.
Q On another --
Q I know it’s very far back -- but some of your deputies say there may be something happening outside that people are interested in.
MR. GIBBS: Oh.
Q Oh, yes.
Q Thank you.
MR. GIBBS: Does somebody want to go see George Clooney? Sam, do you have something you want to -- (laughter.)
Q I’m still reeling from that sucker punch. Per our agreement from last week, the Auburn University Tigers are a superior football program to the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
MR. GIBBS: Nobody will argue about basketball so I appreciate it.
Thank you, guys.
Q But what about the book? What about the book, Robert, the book that was thrown? Did the President know about it, and what was the end result about the book?
MR. GIBBS: I have not talked to him about it --
Q What was the book? What was the book?
Q A million dollars. Stimulus, man.
3:39 P.M. EDT
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