Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/15/2011
1:05 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t have any announcements, so I will go straight to questions.
Q Hi, Jay. Thank you. I wonder if you could tell us when the White House became aware that Pakistanis had arrested people who had assisted in the operation to raid bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any specific information for you about that report. I can say that our relationship with Pakistan is extremely important. It is also complicated. And we have made that clear and been quite candid about that for a long time.
And it is important to remember that the relationship is important because it helps our national security interest to maintain it. Pakistan has worked with us to go after terrorism and terrorists. More terrorists have been killed on Pakistani soil than in any other country.
So we continue to work with the Pakistanis. Sometimes we have difficult issues to work through with them, but it remains an important relationship.
Q Well, there appears to be a pattern. These arrests aside, you had an event -- episode a couple weeks ago where U.S. intelligence shared information with the Pakistanis regarding two bomb-making compounds, and then the militants apparently fled. Does the President have -- is he frustrated with this kind of pattern?
And let me ask you what the Senate Intelligence Committee asked last week of the deputy CIA director, which is, on a scale of one to 10, where would you rank Pakistani cooperation on matters of counterterrorism?
MR. CARNEY: Well, without addressing that specific ranking, I would say that we acknowledge that it is a complicated relationship, and I think that’s pretty candid. And I think we have also made clear that the cooperation we do get is vital and essential to our war against terrorism and terrorists.
And we will continue that relationship for precisely that reason. And when we have issues, we deal with them. And obviously there was, in the wake of the successful mission against Osama bin Laden, we have reached out and engaged with the Pakistani government and our counterparts in Pakistan at many levels, precisely because this relationship is so important.
Q But it seems that the administration is merely accepting the fact that it’s a complicated relationship. Are you doing anything to improve the relationship?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what I just said. We work constantly to improve the relationship, to improve the cooperation. And whatever number you pick on the scale of cooperation, that number represents significant success in combating terrorism and eliminating terrorists -- terrorists who threaten Pakistan, terrorists who threaten the United States and threaten our allies.
So, again, we don’t do this except with those priorities in mind. So it’s not always an easy relationship, but it is a vital one.
Q On Afghanistan -- the President is meeting with Secretary Gates today. Is Afghanistan drawdown on the agenda? And have you received a recommendation from the Pentagon?
MR. CARNEY: The President, as you know, has a weekly meeting with Secretary Gates. That is what this meeting is -- and with the Vice President when he’s in town.
Afghanistan routinely comes up in those weekly meetings. I’m not saying it’s on the agenda -- we don’t read out the weekly meetings with Secretary Gates or the weekly meetings with Secretary Clinton. So I would simply leave it at that.
On the second question, as I’ve said before, the President will be looking at recommendations from his commanders, including General Petraeus, having discussions with his commanders, Secretary Gates, his national security team going forward. I’m not going to give you a blow by blow about when those meetings are taking place and the content of those meetings, but he said -- the President did -- that he will make a decision soon about the beginning of the drawdown.
I would make the point that this is the continuation, the implementation of a process he set in motion in December of 2009. This is not a reopening of review of our policy; it is the implementation of his policy, which is succeeding, is making progress.
The stated goals -- disrupt, dismantle, defeat al Qaeda -- we’ve had enormous success in achieving that goal. Stopping the Taliban’s momentum -- we’ve had significant progress in achieving that goal.
As he reviews the options, he will obviously consult with a number of people. But the President has been a deeply engaged participant in the Afghanistan policy from the beginning. As you know, he has chaired monthly Situation Room meetings on AfPak, as we call it. And of course, Afghanistan and Pakistan are elements of his national security conversations all the time.
Q Can I just follow?
MR. CARNEY: I will go in order here. Yes.
Q Thanks. Senate Republican Leader Jon Kyl said today that July 1st was the Biden group’s goal for a deal on the debt ceiling. I wondered if the White House is also envisioning that timeline, end of next week, and if the President is intending to get involved directly in these meetings?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we certainly endorse the idea that we need to make progress in these talks, as we have, and expect that we will continue to make progress. I don’t have a deadline for you. And I know that the Vice President has spoken to this, and I would refer you to some of his comments. And I’m sorry, was there a second question?
Q Obama’s involvement? The President’s involvement?
MR. CARNEY: The President is regularly involved, and he will I’m sure, as this process moves forward, engage even more directly with leaders. But I can tell you that he is frequently updated on the progress of the negotiations by the Vice President; by the Vice President’s chief of staff, Bruce Reed; by other members of his economic team. And he will continue to be having those -- getting those updates, and he will engage directly at the appropriate time.
Q I want to go back to Pakistan again, and the fact that you keep talking about this relationship as being complicated. At any point looking down the road, does the administration foresee a scenario where you have to have tough love? Where you really have to start looking at perhaps the aid to Pakistan in order to bring that friendship back to the middle?
MR. CARNEY: I think, Dan, that we are very clear-eyed about this, and we pursue this relationship and value it and state its importance precisely because it is in the national security interests of the United States of America to have this relationship and to maintain the cooperation that we do get, the significant cooperation that we do get from Pakistan in this incredibly important and volatile region of the world.
I don’t think that we are remotely naïve about the challenges in the relationship, in the region, and in dealing with the variety of issues that confront us. But I would say again, it is important to remember the successes we have had -- successes that have come, in many cases, precisely because we have this cooperation. That is why we actively work to ensure that we have cooperation going forward.
Q So there will be no divorce in this relationship?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t anticipate that.
Q About the progress that’s being made on debt talks, how would you rate that progress? Significant progress? Is it more progress than progress that we heard last week or two weeks ago?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. I think that, as you know, we have stepped up the pace of meetings. The Vice President has had a second meeting today. He had one yesterday; he’ll have another one tomorrow. We obviously are interested in moving this process forward. No one suggested it is easy and I don’t want to suggest by stating the fact that we believe that the talks have made progress that we -- that they’re all sitting around a table and laughing it up because it’s so easy. It’s not. These are hard issues and obviously we have a lot of differences.
But the stakes are high in the sense that everyone agrees we have to have significant deficit reduction and everyone agrees, as the sort of parallel issue here, that we need to raise the debt ceiling so that we do not default on our obligations. People have -- those participants in those negotiations have brought a level of seriousness to them that is essential to making the progress that we’ve made. I don’t want to give any predictions or percentages on how much progress we’ve made or how optimistic I am about the ultimate success of those talks because they are difficult, but we do remain optimistic.
Q Scale of one to 10?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I won’t rate it. But -- yes.
Q A new study by the Center for Public Integrity found that nearly 200 of the President’s biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won millions of dollars in federal contracts for their businesses, and attended elite White House meetings. Do you have any response?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would simply say that this administration looks for the most qualified candidates who represent Americans from all walks of life when it makes appointments. The administration also has across the board the toughest ethics standards in history, including a bold commitment to transparency, which I have discussed frequently from here.
Now, the people we have appointed, the President has appointed, to key positions all have sterling academic credentials, years of public service and private sector experience that make them eminently qualified for the positions to which they were appointed. And I would make the point here that having enacted these ethical -- high ethical standards, the highest in history, and having pursued and delivered on a level of transparency that is unprecedented, it is important to note that being a supporter does not qualify you for a job or guarantee you a job, but it does not disqualify you, obviously. So we stand by all of our appointments. We believe they are enormously qualified for the jobs that they hold.
Q And how does that square with what the President said in his announcement speech in 2007? He said, “The cynics and the lobbyists and the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills. They get the access while you get to write a letter.” He said, “The time for that politics is over.”
MR. CARNEY: Well, right, but this is -- we were talking about -- you asked me about supporters of the President who may have been donors who have gotten positions. And I would point out to the fact that those -- the people who got those positions got them because of their credentials. They also happened to be donors in some cases. There are, obviously, numerous and far more -- far many more cases of people who weren’t donors who were appointed to jobs.
And that’s a lot different from the problem that exists in Washington, existed in Washington, with special interests having lobbying success here in terms of the effect that has on legislation that’s produced in Congress and signed into law. And we have been incredibly aggressive in that.
I mean, we are -- again, you -- it is important to remember the kinds of transparency -- the kind of transparency we have made a regular practice here, including releasing the WAVES logs, something that was never done before, in terms of visitors to the White House and the other measures we’ve taken in terms of the -- what you can and cannot do in the wake of serving in this administration in terms of lobbying and that sort of thing.
So we believe that we’ve taken important measures that qualify the praise that this administration has gotten for its high ethical standards. And we stand by that.
Q Jay, following up on that, are you saying that raising or bundling $100,000, $500,000 does not give a person any leg up in looking for an administration job?
MR. CARNEY: I am saying that. I am saying that the President appoints people based on their qualifications.
Q It has nothing to do with raising half a million dollars?
MR. CARNEY: Chip, I think that -- I didn’t raise a half a million dollars. I didn’t raise any money. I’m standing here.
Q Eighty percent --
MR. CARNEY: And the fact is that we -- the President made clear that he would make political appointments as every President before him has. But we have enacted ethical standards and levels of transparency that are unprecedented, that we believe should give the American people the kind of confidence that they have lacked in the past; that the people that the President has appointed to these jobs are highly qualified and have the credentials necessary to perform their duties.
Q So nearly 80 percent of people who bundled more than $500,000 got key administration positions. That has nothing to do with the money that --
MR. CARNEY: Chip, we can have this discussion. Those people are highly qualified individuals who happen to be highly successful in the things that they’ve done in life. But the fact is I would -- look at the people we’ve appointed. Look at their credentials. Look at their qualifications.
Q And look at the money they’ve raised. That’s not a factor? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: And I’m saying it is not a disqualification for office to have been a supporter of the President.
Q Would it be wrong to reward people for the hard work of raising a half a million --
MR. CARNEY: It would be wrong if they weren’t qualified.
Q But would it be wrong to reward --
MR. CARNEY: And we stand by -- it would be wrong if they were not qualified. I think I answered your question.
Q But would it be wrong to take that as a -- consider that as a factor, that hard work of raising all that money, half a million dollars? That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of work.
MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve said everything I can say about this, and I’ve answered your question. It would be wrong to appoint someone who wasn’t qualified to the job, and the President has appointed highly qualified individuals to the positions that he has appointed as President, and we stand by those appointments.
Q One other -- golf. And if you’ve answered this, just ignore it, but has -- is the President going to be discussing the debt and policy and things like with Boehner? Or are they just going to golf --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I’ve said from here before, Chip, that this is a social occasion. It is not -- that we will not complete our budget negotiations on the --
Q Will it be mentioned?
MR. CARNEY: It’s hard to imagine that it won’t be, but there is not an agenda. There are no talking points. This is simply an effort to get together outside of an office, outside of the normal venues that Presidents and Speakers of the House tend to get together and develop further the relationship that the President and the Speaker already have developed in the many meetings and conversations they’ve had already. But -- so I think it -- I assume, and I think it’s fair for everyone here to assume that they will discuss all the -- in a general way, some of the business out there that they have between them, including the deficit-reduction talks. But we don’t have an agenda. We don’t have an expected outcome.
In fact, I think I can say with great confidence that they will not wrap up the 18th hole and come out and say that we have a deal. But I think that for the broader purpose of the work that needs to be done in a bipartisan way in Washington, this social occasion is a good thing because establishing -- spending a number of hours together in that kind of environment I think can only help improve the chances of bipartisan cooperation. It certainly can’t hurt it, unless someone wins really big. (Laughter.)
Q Back to the investigation, I addressed people who have gotten posts. But another issue --
MR. CARNEY: The investigation?
Q This -- about --
MR. CARNEY: Report?
Q Report, okay. Anyway, the report also brings up the idea that some people who have raised a lot of money work for companies that have gotten stimulus money, for example.
MR. CARNEY: And the vast majority of companies that got stimulus money -- a process, by the way, which is largely done in agencies by career employees of the federal government in terms of the bids and that sort of thing -- the vast majority of companies were not donors, were not -- did not have people who were bundlers working for them. So it’s just -- it’s not -- people were appointed on the merits.
Q But $13.8 million for Level 3 Communications after you have a few bundlers is not chump change.
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question.
Q Well, I’m just saying that’s a lot of money -- $13.8 million in stimulus money if you’ve got a few bundlers on the team.
MR. CARNEY: Again, you’ll have to explain to me what the question is, $13.8 --
Q Does that pass the journalistic smell test? I mean, if you’re --
MR. CARNEY: What you’re saying -- as I’ve said, it does not disqualify you to get -- to work for this administration. It certainly hasn’t disqualified you in any previous administration to have been a supporter of the President of the United States and to have helped raise money for the President of the United States.
Nor does it qualify you or get you a job. You have to have the skills and credentials to do it. And our ethical standards are unmatched by any previous administration. Our efforts at transparency are unprecedented. And that’s not just me saying it, it is outside groups who have said that. So I think that the fact that individuals who have been appointed also supported the President is hardly a story.
Q But here’s an outside group that’s saying big fundraisers have gotten more than 3,000 White House meetings, so that doesn’t sound like -- it sounds like money has --
MR. CARNEY: Does it, Mike? I mean, it sounds like you’re just throwing out things here, Mike. We have meetings. By the way, we have meetings that are then made public in a way that has never been the case before through WAVES release information. So you’re throwing stuff up without any suggestion of any impropriety, which, by the way, there isn’t any suggestion of any impropriety.
In fact, having worked a long time with the Vice President on the Recovery Act, it is noted for -- and you can talk to the independent IG’s that oversee, it has been remarkable in its level of transparency and the lack of abuse and fraud. And we’re very proud of that, and we stand by it.
Q Quickly on Libya, you guys are going to send some information to the Hill today. Are you hopeful that what you send to the Hill today will answer their questions and allow the operation to go forward? Or where do things go after today?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we do hope this afternoon to provide to Congress a letter and a report over 30 pages on our Libya mission. We think that it will answer the questions that members have about the mission. It will also include within it a legal analysis that explains our position that the President has acted in a way -- in a manner that is consistent with the War Powers resolution.
And we believe that the support for the overall mission, the support for the goal of protecting Libyan civilians and holding Colonel Qaddafi accountable will continue. It is support that we’ve had from Congress in the past and we expect it to continue, because now is not the time to send mixed messages as we’ve had the success that we’ve had in that mission.
And I think it’s an opportunity to remind you of the bigger picture here, about what the President said he would do and what he has done. Working with a broad coalition, the United States intervened and saved thousands of lives, saved essentially the citizens of a city of three-quarters of a million people, averting a massacre and stopping the advance of Qaddafi’s forces; enforcing a no-fly zone; enforcing an arms embargo.
He also, the President did, kept his commitment to the American people to limit our involvement in Libya. He said at the time -- and it will -- it is now and will always be the case, he will send no ground troops to Libya. After an initial phase -- days, not weeks, as he said, as he promised -- the United States stepped back from its lead role in the Libya mission, turned over lead responsibility to NATO, and has been in a support mission ever since.
Most importantly, the mission has been effective in fulfilling the goals set out by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 -- protecting civilians, enforcing an arms embargo, enforcing a no-fly zone. And we think that as that mission has been effective, it has helped the Transitional National Council of Libya to assert itself. It has allowed the TNC to work with the contact group and others as it has begun to envision what a post-Qaddafi Libya would look like. It has embraced democratic reform, democratic process; the insurance of basic civil rights and human rights for the people of Libya.
These are all positive developments that flow directly from the decisions the President has made. We believe Congress has supported that in the past and should continue to support it and will. And we continue, as we have said from the beginning, to welcome the support from Congress that would come, in this case, in the form of the resolution put forward by a bipartisan group of senators, including Senator McCain and Senator Kerry.
Q Very briefly, 10 lawmakers filed a lawsuit on Libya today. Have you guys seen the lawsuit? Do you take it seriously?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re aware of that. I’ve certainly seen the stories. And I would simply say that we believe that the report that we will be sending up to Congress later today answers a lot of the questions that members have, continues a process of consultation that has been broad and deep and consistent. More now, but continues the process that allowed me to say, I believe last week, that there have been 40 distinct engagements with Congress in terms of consultation on Libya. This is part of that process. So we feel very confident that we will be able to answer the questions that Congress has.
Q Jay, you describe the relationship with Pakistan as uneasy and complicated.
MR. CARNEY: I think I said “complicated,” but yes.
Q Well, you said it’s not an easy relationship.
MR. CARNEY: Okay. (Laughter.)
Q Uneasy was my word, I concede that. But one word you didn’t use was “allies.” Is Pakistan an ally of the United States?
MR. CARNEY: Pakistan is a partner of the United States, an important partner in fighting terrorism, fighting the terrorists who in that region plotted the attack on the United States on September 11th of 2001.
Q Is partner different than ally?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there are diplomatic nuances between these words. The important thing is Pakistan has been an important partner. It is a relationship that we work very hard on. We candidly acknowledge that it is complicated. It is difficult. But it is very important.
And we have the -- the cooperation we do get from the Pakistanis has been vital to our efforts. And that is why we continue to work with the Pakistanis to ensure that that cooperation continues.
Q You’re probably familiar with a quote from candidate Obama in December 2007, in response to a questioner from the Boston Globe, I believe it was: “History has shown” -- I’m quoting -- “History has shown us time and time again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.” My question is, in compliance with the War Powers resolution, will the President begin withdrawal of American forces in the action against Libya this weekend after the 90-day period is up?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, as you know, there are no forces to withdraw from Libya. Let’s just make that clear. Secondly, the President has acted in a manner that is consistent with the War Powers resolution. I will point you to -- not being a lawyer -- to the legal analysis that will be part of the packet of information provided to Congress this afternoon.
Q Can I point to one specific point, please? The timeline, 60-day timeline --
MR. CARNEY: Again, you’re talking about the War Powers --
Q There’s no Congressional resolution in support --
MR. CARNEY: You’re talking about the War Powers resolution. You’re talking about a constitutional debate that has existed in this country for a long, long time, volumes of which have been written about.
Q The President supports the War Powers --
MR. CARNEY: And the reasoning that we have put forward will appear and is being provided to Congress about why he has acted in a manner that is consistent with the War Powers resolution. I don’t want to get into that here. I will point you to the analysis written by actual attorneys and not just ones who play them on TV.
Q Let me follow on Pakistan.
MR. CARNEY: Let me go to Laura.
Q Thanks. Following up on that, you’ve said consistently that the White House would welcome a resolution of support from Congress. But -- which I can understand why the White House would feel that way. But isn’t the real question not welcoming a resolution of support, but welcoming a congressional debate, and it may be able to come out in support and maybe it won’t?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have certainly not restrained Congress from having a debate. And we have been actively consulting with Congress, again, more than 40 distinct engagements with Congress to consult with them and to inform them about the mission in Libya. We are providing a report this afternoon of more than 30 pages that we believe answers in detail the questions that Congress has put forward about the mission.
Again, I think it’s important, Laura, to -- and including the legal analysis that answers the questions that I think you and Mike have -- it is important, too, to remember what we’re talking about here: the action the President took, the promises he’s made and has kept about the nature of U.S. involvement, and where we are now in terms of our supporting role where we have no troops on the ground; where we are supporting a NATO mission that is fulfilling a United Nations Security Council Resolution to protect Libyan civilians and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. That mission has been successful thus far. We believe it’s important to continue it so that it continues to be successful to protect Libyans and to allow the space necessary for the opposition to move forward with building a future for Libya and for Libyans in the post-Qaddafi world. And we believe that it’s important for Congress not to send mixed messages about a goal that we think most members of Congress share.
Q So in order for Congress not to send mixed messages, does that mean you only want a congressional resolution if it comes out in support?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think we’ve made -- we’ve said what we have in the past about things that have been voted on that we think are not necessarily helpful -- not necessary or helpful. But we do support the mission -- I mean, the resolution put forward by senators -- a number of senators, Republicans and Democrats -- that reinforce the goals that we set out in pursuing this very limited, very specific mission with specific objectives and specific limitations on U.S. involvement.
Q Last question. You repeatedly articulated the argument for being in Libya and the limited nature of the conflict. If the White House is unable to persuade a majority of the House and Senate that those arguments are legitimate, valid, true, what have you, should the mission be allowed to succeed even if Congress doesn’t agree?
MR. CARNEY: Again, the legal reasoning will be available to you to review and analyze. The fact is that some of the resolutions -- the questions that were part of the House resolution -- and we have endeavored in this report to we believe answer a lot of those questions -- that resolution also said that there should be no U.S. ground troops. Well, yes, the President said that on day one. We agree. And the President is absolutely committed to his assertion that there will be no U.S. ground troops in Libya.
And so, anticipating what may or may not come out of Congress in the future is not, I think, a helpful exercise at this point. I encourage you to look at the report that we’re making available later this afternoon.
Q And just on Pakistan, are you declining to say what the administration will do in the wake of these arrests or to comment on the substance of the arrests at all?
MR. CARNEY: Are you talking about Pakistan?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not commenting on the substance of those reports. I am simply saying that we are actively engaged with the Pakistanis.
Q Back on that, when you look at the scope of actions by Pakistan before the Osama bin Laden operation and since, how would you gauge the reliability of Pakistan as a -- as you put it -- partner?
MR. CARNEY: I think it’s a complicated relationship that is not perfect and that requires a lot of attention. We give it that attention because it’s important to do that. It’s important to our national security interest to do that.
I’m not going to give percentage assessments or one-to-10 assessments of the level of cooperation. I would note that in the wake of that operation, which obviously was a major development and there was a reaction to it, we have worked hard to continue the cooperation that’s important. And we have received some cooperation from Pakistan continuing since the bin Laden mission.
Beyond that, I’m not going to characterize the relative level of cooperation. But it does continue. And we are working to make sure that it continues from here.
Q I didn’t ask for one to 10 or a percentage. I’m just asking you, Jay, are they reliable?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, they’re reliable in -- they are important partners in this effort. It is a complicated relationship. And one way to answer your question that, yes, they have been reliable in providing important information that has led to successful missions against terrorists. And that’s a pretty important fact to remember. And they have also had important successes in the fight against terrorists who threaten Pakistan -- important to remember, shared enemies, if you will -- and, again, saying that while acknowledging that it is a complicated relationship.
Q Jay, back to the deficit talks, Monday in North Carolina, the President said the deficit talks give us a little bit of room to continue to do some smart things like the payroll tax cut. Given that, I was wondering if you could give us a sense of what kind of reaction folks have had from the Hill, Republicans primarily, on the extension or a renewal of the current one or an extension -- adding to the employer --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that, first of all, conversations notwithstanding and what the President said, there is no -- we are not submitting proposals to Congress. I think that’s important to remember. We are -- like I think a lot of people -- listening to ideas about -- ideas for how we might continue to grow the economy and create jobs.
The nature of the discussions that we’ve had in the talks led by the Vice President I’m not going to get into, but obviously, as the President said, we are interested in ideas for how we can continue to grow the economy and create jobs, even as we take measures to significantly reduce the deficit.
And again -- and this is all because we have -- as we engage in this important exercise with members and leaders of Congress, it is important to remember what the end goal here is. The end goal is not to simply reduce the deficit and cut the debt-to-GDP ratio because those are worthy goals in and of themselves. The goal is to strengthen our economy, is to position our economy so that it will grow and create more jobs. And an agreement, we believe, done properly in a balanced way that doesn’t do the opposite -- doesn’t reduce growth, doesn’t restrain job creation -- will have, if you will, a compound positive effect because it will demonstrate to Americans as well as others that we have control over our deficits, that we have taken a balanced approach to deal with our long-term debt problem, and that will create some confidence.
Q Is it the sense of the White House that the existing tax cuts have helped the economy --
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely.
Q -- and that the unemployment rate -- which is 9.1 right now -- might otherwise be higher without them?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. Yes, I think that that is absolutely the case. When you have provided more money through the payroll tax cut in particular, as well as the extension of the middle-class tax cuts, provided extra money to Americans who are at income levels that mean as a matter of economic analysis that they are much more likely to pump that money back into the economy, I think that is a very helpful thing and has helped the growth that we have seen this year and has helped the job creation that we’ve seen this year.
And that’s obviously an opinion that I share, but it is an opinion generated by actual economists.
Q And one final -- the reaction from the Hill generally?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t have any reaction to report. I mean, I’d ask them, but again, nobody up there is submitting proposals that I’m aware of to react to.
Q Jay, is it the legal position of the administration that you’ll still be acting consistent with the War Powers Act on the 91st day of the operation?
MR. CARNEY: I think that we have been acting consistent with the War Powers resolution. We’ll continue the mission. We believe it’s important. The legal analysis I’ll leave to the lawyers, but you’ll see this afternoon.
Q Is it fair to assume that the President personally believes the War Powers resolution is constitutional?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t had that discussion with him, so I’m not going to speculate about the answer to that. There is a long debate about this, as you all know, and, you, Scott, you probably in particular know, and the material that’s been written and testified to about this could fill this room -- over the years.
I would point out that there has been some expressions on the Hill about this issue that are inconsistent with expressions in the past about the constitutionality of the War Powers resolution, and I think that, if nothing else, testifies to the fact that there’s a lot of debate about it. This President believes that he has acted in a manner that is consistent with the War Powers resolution. Again, I point you to the report that we are releasing, providing to Congress later today.
Yes. How are you?
Q I’m good. How are you?
MR. CARNEY: I’m good. (Laughter.)
Q President Obama said last year that he was going to, this year, go to Pakistan. Does he still intend to do that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have any scheduling announcements to make, so --
Q But he hasn’t changed his mind about the trip?
MR. CARNEY: I have no real answer to that because I haven’t had a discussion with him about it. I don’t have any announcements to make on travel.
Q But he did say he was going to go, so as far as you know he’s still --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t dispute that. (Laughter.)
Q And on the golf game, is he doing any trash talking in advance of Sunday, or is he going to let his golf do the talking for him? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I have heard no trash talking from the President on this. I think it’s fair to say that the President enjoys golf and plays it when he can, but I don’t think that he would say that he is an expert golfer. And I hear that the Speaker of the House is quite good, as well as the governor of Ohio.
Q Expectations. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: But don’t take my word for it. I think there are -- I’m not a golfer, but there are ways to measure this. (Laughter.)
Q What’s the President’s handicap?
MR. CARNEY: No, seriously, this is about -- I think I’ve said in the past, too, the President plays golf because I think a lot of Presidents who occupy this house and this West Wing look for ways to literally get outdoors where you’re not surrounded by people and then you can -- I think the process itself is one he enjoys as much as the game, which he does enjoy. And he’s a competitive guy. But I’m not making predictions or doing any trash talking.
Q But this is -- I mean, this is a big deal. I mean, if he goes and lets Boehner beat him, that’s just -- that’s going to look --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t think it’s about winning or losing. (Laughter.) I think it’s about -- I think it’s about -- the getting together for a few hours and --
Q So he is a lousy golfer?
MR. CARNEY: -- developing the relationship that they already have. They’ve obviously spent a fair amount of time together, mostly in the Oval Office during the CR discussions. But he looks forward to doing this and I think broadly thinks it’s a worthwhile endeavor simply because I think, as a member of the House Republican Caucus who was here for the visit with the President last week said upon departing the White House, that any day Democrats and Republicans sit across from each other and actually exchange ideas and talk, instead of shouting past each other -- these are my words now -- shouting past each other on cable TV or through other media, that’s a good thing. That’s good for the process. It’s good for the country. It may move you a little bit closer towards the kind of compromise that we need to get the things done that the American people expect us to get done.
So if it takes a few hours out on the golf course to help that process, I think it’s a worthwhile thing to do.
Q Yes, General Petraeus is in town. Is it expected that before he goes back to Afghanistan he will meet with the President?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don’t have any announcements about meetings, but I think it’s fair to -- well, I’ll simply refer you to what I’ve said in the past, which is that the President will have discussions with General Petraeus, who is the commanding general in Afghanistan, and others about -- to hear their ideas and their recommendations about the beginning of a drawdown, which I hasten to remind people is the implementation of a policy that he articulated in December of 2009, including specifically the fact that we would begin the drawdown in July of 2011.
Q Jay, is it the President’s opinion that acting consistent with the War Powers Act is legally the same thing as complying with the act? And when he ran for election, is that what he meant when he said he supported Presidents abiding by the War Powers Act?
MR. CARNEY: Ann, I’m not sure I can parse this any more than I have, except to say that we have acted in a manner consistent with the War Powers resolution. The legal analysis will be supplied as part of this report to Congress. I think it’s important to remember what we’re talking about here in terms of the mission in Libya, what we are doing, what we have done, and what we’re not doing, what it does not include. And I think that’s important context when you look at the reasoning here and the resolution and the kind of engagement that we’re talking about.
Q Isn’t that kind of like saying you’re just a little bit pregnant, we’re not really in combat --
MR. CARNEY: I’m not at all pregnant.
Q But his description -- is there any other law out there where he acts just consistent with the law, just not in compliance with the law?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, I think that I may have -- although I will continue to, if you guys want to hear it, give the answers that I have given you. I don’t want to pretend I’m a lawyer and to delve into that. I think that the reasoning and the analysis that that will be provided in a short period of time will help answer the questions that you’re asking.
Q Jay, since all the serious War Powers questions have been asked, I want to get back to golf. Has the Vice President done any trash talking? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’ve heard. He also enjoys the game. But not that I’ve heard.
Q Why did the President choose him? Is it because he’s a little bit of a ringer?
MR. CARNEY: I think because he’s Vice President of the United States. I think because he’s, as you know, leading these negotiations. Again, I don’t want to send a signal that somehow these negotiations will continue on the golf course, but that is obviously a topic of conversation that’s likely to arise -- it’s hard to imagine that it won’t -- among many other things. And he’s a good partner to have in general, I think, whether you’re playing golf or you’re trying to figure out nuclear arms treaties or budget negotiations.
Q Partner or ally? (Laughter.)
Q Seven handicap -- seven handicap had nothing to do with it?
MR. CARNEY: He’s a good golfer, I know that.
Q Jay, going back to Pakistan real fast, you said there are diplomatic nuances with the words “partner” versus “ally.” What would make Pakistan an ally? Would --
MR. CARNEY: You know, April, that’s a fair question, and I think that for the diplomatese, I’d refer you to the State Department. For me, as a layman, I think partner, ally -- the important point here is that we have an important relationship with Pakistan. They have been our partner and ally in the traditional meaning of the word in the fight against terrorism. It is not always a perfect relationship. It is not always an easy relationship. We have our differences. We discuss them directly. We meet with our Pakistani counterparts regularly, precisely because we need to discuss those issues, and to further the cooperation that we have.
Q So is the investigation still going on as to their knowledge of Osama bin Laden being where he was? Is the U.S. still questioning government officials in Pakistan about --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know that nature of that. We obviously are looking into that. I don’t know where that stands.
Q May I follow?
MR. CARNEY: Stephen.
Q Is it helpful to the U.S. effort to constrain Iran’s nuclear program that President Ahmadinejad showed up to a summit today with the leaders of China and Russia and Kazakhstan? And did the U.S. send any message to those leaders before the meeting?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of. I mean, obviously we have worked with the Chinese and the Russians on that issue and will continue to, but I don’t have any more information on that.
All the way in back. Yes, ma’am.
Q Does the President think that this report to Congress is going to settle the debate on the Hill? Or is he expecting to have to further defend his actions?
MR. CARNEY: I wouldn’t predict the future on that. I think that it will answer a lot of questions. I think that it will continue the tradition of consulting with Congress in a robust manner on this mission that began even before the mission started and was launched.
But obviously if as the mission continues and more -- if there are more questions raised, we will work with Congress and consult with Congress going forward.
Q Jay, just two questions.
MR. CARNEY: Giles.
Q Thanks. On the deficit, Director Sperling spoke a little bit about David Cameron’s approach to deficit cutting, which includes raising revenues, chiefly on the wealthier. Does the President agree that this is a significant example of conservatives being willing to raise taxes as well as cut spending? And is it an example that is being used in any of these negotiations?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not aware that it’s been brought up in any negotiations, but the -- and then on the broader point, I think -- I would say to that, Giles, what we’ve said in the past, which is that each country that is dealing with deficit and debt issues has to deal with those issues in their own way. And I don’t want to stretch an analogy in either direction.
Our position, which you know, is that the way to -- we have put forward a path to achieving dramatic reductions in our deficits, $4 trillion over 10 to 12 years, in a balanced way, in a way that spreads the burden and the sacrifice, in a way that’s fair, that does not put the burden disproportionately on our seniors, on disabled children, the families of those children, and that we believe will -- because it will maintain the investments in education and innovation and infrastructure that are so key to building the foundation of this economy for the 21st century, it will enhance our capacity to grow and create jobs in the near term, even as it gets our long-term balance sheet in a better position.
So that includes dealing with spending through the tax code. And you can have absolute positions and pledges that you sign that are abstract and based on politically potent positioning. But if you really want to solve this problem, you can’t do it by going after the 12 percent of spending that’s discretionary non-defense. You can’t do it in a fair way by ending Medicare as we know it and shifting the burden of health care costs so dramatically onto seniors. We don’t think that’s the right approach.
But, look, having said that, I think that there has been progress in these negotiations. There has been a willingness to allow all ideas to be brought to the table, and we are encouraged by that.
Q Syria? Can I talk Syria?
Q Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Sirius Radio. Yes.
Q Jay, two questions. One, I just want take one more stab at this War Powers thing. Is effective solutions and promising and delivering on specifics, is that more important to the President than strict compliance to the satisfaction of Congress with War Powers?
MR. CARNEY: Do you want to hear my answer again, or should I just refer you to my remarks? I think I’ve done my best to answer this. And I think that you’ll obviously have questions after we -- you read this information that we’re sending to Congress, but I think it will help answer a lot of the questions that you have.
Q And the second one was on Boeing and the Dreamliner. Yesterday in the Senate, Senators Graham and DeMint both called out not only the President’s policy, but also members of the staff and futures members of the staff, and John Bryson potentially, on their position saying the President is choosing -- or that the National Labor Relations Board is preferring jobs in union states versus non-union workers or so-called Right to Work states. Is this something that the President has a reaction to?
MR. CARNEY: I would say it’s important to remember, and what I’ve said in the past, that we need to refer questions on the action by the NLRB to the NLRB, because it is a independent body, and it’s an independent agency’s enforcement action. We don’t get involved in particular enforcement matters of independent agencies.
So, having said that -- but I would also say that the President has a strong record on labor rights. But we also support a strong private sector in the United States that helps our economy grow and create jobs. That’s what the President has been working so hard on, including with his Jobs and Competitiveness Council meeting on Monday in North Carolina.
On the -- on Boeing in particular, look, I mean, Boeing is a great American company and it’s doing good things. They’re growing, they’re increasing exports, and they’re investing here in the United States. And the President has set a goal of doubling our exports over five years -- a goal he set last year. We’re on track to do that, and we’re doing it in part because we have Jim McNerney’s leadership on the Export Council.
So I think that it’s important to remember that the agency here is independent and it’s an enforcement action, and that to assert that we somehow are against robust growth of private sector companies, and especially companies that invest here and increase our exports, is just wrong.
Q -- in South Carolina, is that good for doubling exports?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think -- on the enforcement matter I got to refer you to the agency involved.
END 1:58 P.M. EDT
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