Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 9/1/2011
2:15 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for coming to the White House for your daily briefing.
I have no announcements at the top, so we’ll go straight to questions.
Q Thank you. The new budget projections that just came out predict 9 percent unemployment next year when the President is facing reelection, 1.7 percent growth for this year. Does the White House believe that the jobs initiatives the President is going to announce next week will change those projections for the positive?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. Absolutely. As I mentioned yesterday, I think as I mentioned earlier this week, the President will come forward with specific proposals that by any objective measure would add to growth and job creation in the short term. And that will be part of a broad package that reflects his commitment to grow the economy now and to build a foundation for economic growth for the future to ensure that we win the future. So the answer to that is yes.
Q So if Congress were to pass the package that the President is going to announce, unemployment would be under 9 percent?
MR. CARNEY: I think based on -- when you’re talking about economic predictions, yes, economic analysts, economists, will be able to look at this series of proposals and say that based on history, based on what we know, based on their collected expertise, that it would add to economic growth and it would cause an increase in job creation.
Q Given the flap yesterday over the date and timing of this speech, is there anything --
MR. CARNEY: What flap? (Laughter.)
Q There was a bit of a flap. Is there anything that the White House would have done differently, in retrospect, in terms of consulting with the Hill or announcing the joint session?
MR. CARNEY: Our focus from the beginning was to have the President have the opportunity to speak to the American people and to Congress, in front of Congress, at the soonest possible date upon Congress’s return from its long recess. Wednesday seemed to be the best option. When that wasn’t available -- or when that seemed to be a problem, Thursday was fine with us. And we are just looking forward to -- the President is looking forward to the opportunity to talk about what the American people really care about: the economy and the need to create more jobs. So we’re focused on that.
Q So you would have gone through that process the same way?
MR. CARNEY: All we care about here is that we address the issues that are most important. We’re certainly not interested in sort of inside-the-beltway political gamesmanship. What we are interested in is coming up with proposals that make sense, that can grow the economy, can create jobs, that by historical standards would have broad bipartisan support, and that if Congress comes back from their districts -- members of Congress come back from their districts and their states with the same sense of urgency that the President has, and having heard from their constituents the same things that the President heard when he went on his bus tour through the upper Midwest, everyone will come back with the same amount of urgency and focus to get this done -- because what the President will propose can get done, should get done and will benefit the country.
Q Just on one other topic -- the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, should that be viewed as the administration taking a more aggressive approach on antitrust?
MR. CARNEY: This is a law enforcement action that you should address -- about which you should address your questions to the Department of Justice. It’s based on a law that is designed to foster competition and protect American consumers. But beyond that, I refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q Jay, Democrats are unifying around the advice that the President needs to go bold in his speech. Is that the way you would characterize the proposals that he’s going to roll out? And are there certain high expectations that one creates when you do a joint session of Congress speech?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll leave it to you and others to characterize the speech in the terms that you just described. What will be the case, and the reason why the President wants to speak before Congress, is because this is an important moment in our economy and it is an important moment for the American people who are demanding that Washington put an end to the gridlock and bickering that has paralyzed the process here and take action to help the economy, to create jobs -- to help them.
That’s what they want. They don’t want -- they’re not out there scoring political points. They want -- the vast majority of Americans, whether they voted Democratic or Republican, whether they’re registered with a party or not, they want Washington to work for them. They want them to take sensible actions to work for them -- to create jobs, to grow the economy. That’s what this speech will be about. That’s what the concrete proposals the President puts forward will be about.
Q Economists, when you talk to them and ask them what would constitute “bold,” throw out figures like $400 billion in fiscal stimulus. Is he looking at anything on that scale? Is he going to give specifics about how many jobs he thinks this package might create when he unveils it?
MR. CARNEY: I will not preview the speech any more than I really have, except to say that it will focus on the need to grow the economy and create jobs. It will be a collection of proposals that, again, should have bipartisan support, have had a similar -- at similar times have had bipartisan support, that will be, by any objective standard, pro-growth, pro-job creation, and that can be acted on right away if members of Congress come back from their recess ready to do things to help the American people. Beyond that, I’m not going to characterize it.
Q You talked about bipartisan ideas that should have bipartisan support. Do you have any indication that some of these ideas will get bipartisan support, like are people in the White House consulting with people on the Hill about some of these specific proposals and have gotten some indication that they would be accepted?
MR. CARNEY: In previous days, when you haven’t been here, I’ve been asked that question in a variety of ways. The President has consulted widely, as he had throughout his presidency, very interested in ideas that folks might have outside of his administration, in Congress, outside of Washington -- consults frequently with businessmen, with CEOs, with workers. And he has done that in this process. But beyond -- I’m not going to detail conversations he’s had or lay out which policy proposals may or may not have support from this segment or that segment of Congress.
Q One more question. How has the President reacted to the whole debate yesterday over -- the issues over the scheduling of the speech?
MR. CARNEY: I spent a great deal of time with him this morning and it never came up. Honestly.
Q You’re not asking the right questions. (Laughter.)
Q But Jay, if you can’t --
MR. CARNEY: I know you guys love this stuff. I know it’s catnip. But we’re really not focused on it.
Q But there’s a basic question here. If you can’t even get the Congress to agree on a date for a speech without a political sideshow, how can we expect -- how can the American people expect that you can do something much more difficult, come up with a jobs plan, deal with the deficit?
MR. CARNEY: Because the sideshows don’t matter. The economy matters. The American people matter. Jobs matter. And that’s what we’re focused on. That’s why -- you know, if Thursday is the day, Thursday is the day. We want to give this speech. The President wants to talk to the American people. The President wants to call on Congress to act. That’s what we’re going to do.
Q But what does it say about your ability to get anything out of this Congress? I mean, you can’t work on a scheduling date for a speech.
MR. CARNEY: John, it’s irrelevant and it’s -- this is small stuff. The issue is whether it’s -- we were -- Wednesday was the soonest possible day upon their return from their recess. Thursday is fine with us. He’s going to give the speech Thursday.
Q So on the --
MR. CARNEY: The issue about -- look, going back to what I said before, the cooperation, it’s about -- do the members of Congress return next week to Washington, having heard from their constituents that they’re fed up, right? They’re tired -- you and I have been in Washington long enough and covered this stuff long enough that the cycles of gridlock, cycles of partisanship -- not new, right? And people get frustrated with it because they think Washington is incompetent or broken. What they saw this summer is that it’s not incompetence, it’s dangerous. The incompetence, the gridlock, actually threatened and harmed the American economy, harmed the American people. That’s just not acceptable.
So what I think and what we hope will happen upon Congress’s return is that they will have heard from their constituents that enough is enough and that it is time to actually do things that are productive, do things that are helpful to the economy, rather than retreat to your corner and hope that you win the partisan political battle for an ideological band within your own political party. That’s just not going to cut it.
So the American -- so the President believes -- again, because he will put forward proposals that we believe should have bipartisan support, that faced with that imperative -- because everyone here is working for the American people, and the members of Congress, like the President, were elected by the American people -- will do the right thing and actually focus on the issues that matter, which -- the economy and jobs.
Q But the only indications are bad, right? I mean, you had this kerfuffle over the speech, the super committee has had -- the only thing -- they haven’t even had a meeting of the full committee but the two sides have been off to their own corners, Democrats meeting with Democrats, Republicans meeting with Republicans. This doesn’t seem to be an auspicious start.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you’re too focused on what’s happening within the narrow confines of not just this town but the handful of blocks between here and Congress. I think, again, members of Congress have to answer to their constituents. The President answers to every American citizen. They have heard -- they will have heard the imperative from the American people to put an end to the nonsense and get to work. And I think there is an opportunity here for the American people to drive this process, to have their demands heard, to -- we’re faced with a challenging situation. There’s no question that the recovery is moving too slowly, that we need to do something to boost growth, to boost job creation. That’s a number one priority, and any data you can come across that the American people have, number one priority of Democrats, independents and Republicans.
So with that information, we should act. And the President is hopeful that Congress will want to join him in doing that.
Q Jay, you blame partisanship, but isn’t this -- isn’t the real culprit here an inability to just communicate on the most simple terms?
MR. CARNEY: No. No. We communicate all the time with Congress. We obviously spent a lot of time this year communicating with Congress. And this President has since he took office.
The problem -- the problem -- I mean, you don’t need a civics lesson from me but I’ll give you one anyway. (Laughter.) No, but I think the problem is -- and I think everyone in here is aware of this -- is that the partisanship that -- and the apparent polarization that is sometimes observed here and felt here, is actually not very reflective of what’s happening out in the country, that the country is pretty unified when it comes to their priorities, when it comes to their belief that compromise is necessary, when it comes to their acceptance that the far ends of either spectrum don’t have the answers necessarily. So if you look back over our history, we’re closer together in many ways than we’ve ever been, and we ought to take advantage of that instead of fabricate false divides that prevent us from getting things done.
Q Well, would you concede -- I mean, compromise requires effective communication between the two parties. And my understanding of what happened yesterday was that the President’s Chief of Staff first reached out to the Speaker at about 10:30 in the morning and delivered a message that the President wanted to speak to a joint session of Congress, but there was no give-and-take that is part of the regular give-and-take that goes on between a White House and the Congress about delivering a joint session of Congress. You cited from the podium congressional scheduling yesterday as one of the concerns and yet it appears that there was no one who checked with Congress about what’s the -- whether they could get everybody back in time to hear from the President, so you conceded on that point.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think the focus on the details of this --
Q What has happened with the communication between the President and his staff and the Speaker’s staff?
MR. CARNEY: We have fine communication. And I think the focus on this is really yesterday’s story; it is not what people care about. We were interested in speaking Wednesday because Congress was returning, both houses, first day after Labor Day -- Wednesday -- after a long recess, that was the first day they were back. There were no initial objections to that. When problems were expressed, we said -- we talked about it and we said, fine, Thursday will work for us fine. Because the -- it’s just not very relevant. What matters is moving as quickly as possible to raise and then address the issues the American people care about -- the economy, jobs, the need to build a foundation that includes getting our fiscal house in order while we invest in key areas like innovation and education and infrastructure, building the capacity to compete in the 21st century against a world that’s growing more competitive.
So I think that’s what people care about. They don’t care about what happened at 11 o’clock versus what happened at 4 o’clock. They care about what are we doing to make the economy grow, to help the private sector hire, and make sure that their kids are getting educated.
Q Given yesterday’s failure to work this out behind the scenes, before there was this very public kerfuffle or spat, and given what happened during the debt ceiling, where there were people who are elected members who hung up on one another and wouldn’t return phone calls, what can you say today that would give confidence to the American people that Republicans and the President can actually work together to solve whatever hard problems facing this country, based on that track record?
MR. CARNEY: I will go back to what I said to John and I think to Julie and others, that we believe that members of Congress -- House and Senate -- will have heard from their constituents what the President heard in Minnesota -- in small towns in Minnesota, in Iowa, in Illinois, what he heard the previous week in Michigan, which is that the American people -- Democrat, Republican, independent -- are tired of the bickering and they want reasonable compromise solutions to the problems that face the country. They want the government to do things that help the economy grow, that help private sector hire, and they don’t expect and they get frustrated by politicians who don’t listen to them.
So I think everyone will have gotten an earful from the very people who sent them to Washington about what their priorities are, and I think that, because everyone here works for the American people, that that will have a salutary effect on their behavior -- we hope.
Q Jay, following on that, you’re absolutely right. Obviously everyone knows sideshows matter less than helping people who are unemployed -- obviously. But you don’t seem to be acknowledging that there’s a process in Washington that has to be dealt with to help those people who are unemployed. And I think what John and Norah are suggesting is if the President is having this much trouble with the date -- you have James Carville saying on ABC today, “The last thing the White House needed was to appear to cave in to the Speaker, and that’s what happened.” So if there’s a perception even among Democrats that he doesn’t have enough clout with the Hill to figure out what day it is, how is he going to pass a plan to help the American people?
MR. CARNEY: Look -- Ed, you guys, I honestly think that your obsession with this is --
Q It’s not an obsession.
MR. CARNEY: -- is not -- what the American people expect the President to do, what the American people expect their senators and congressmen and women to do, is listen to them and take action. They do not give a lick about what day next week the President speaks before Congress. They want to hear from him. They want to know what his proposals are. They want to know that he has reasonable, sound, serious ideas to grow the economy and to create jobs, and that he’s going to pay for it and that he has a plan for getting our fiscal house in order in the long term. That’s what they care about. And they care whether or not Congress has similar ideas and is willing to take action on those ideas. They simply do not care about this stuff.
Q Okay. So let me concede your point -- they don’t give a lick about what day it is, what time it is. Why doesn’t he give a speech from the Oval Office tonight saying, here’s my plan?
MR. CARNEY: He wants to speak before Congress because he recognizes that while there are things he can do without Congress -- and he will do them -- there are actions that need to be taken with Congress that require legislation to grow the economy and create jobs. And he wants to go to Congress, speak directly to members of Congress, and lay out his proposals.
The first opportunity to do that is next week, so that’s when he’ll do it.
Q Okay. Last thing. The President visited the solar company Solyndra in May of 2010. He said, “It’s here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” You probably heard overnight that yesterday this company, after getting half a billion dollars in government money, attention from the President, a visit, is filing for Chapter 11 and laying off 1,100 people. What does it say about the President’s policies so far, as he gets ready for this new plan, if this company he promoted, gave government money to, is going bankrupt and is laying off 1,100 people?
MR. CARNEY: The whole purpose of this program, which has a broad portfolio of many companies that are doing well, was to invest in cutting-edge technologies that with some government assistance, with some government loan guarantees, would help us establish a beachhead in vital industries that will allow America to compete in the future.
There are no guarantees in the business world about success and failure. That is just the way business works, and everyone recognizes that. And that’s why -- there’s over 40 companies, as I understand it, 40 guarantees involved in this program that merit looking at. There’s no individual -- you cannot measure the success based on one company or the other.
Q You’ve said several times today and yesterday that the President wanted to speak to Congress at the soonest possible opportunity when they get back. Was this the plan all along, to give a speech to a joint session?
MR. CARNEY: Well, obviously we discussed this as the President worked on his proposals and this was the idea settled upon. And once we thought -- the conclusion was made, the President decided that this is what he wanted to do, then we moved forward.
Q And that decision was made yesterday?
MR. CARNEY: It was made this week.
Q It was made this week. Not to put too fine a point on it, but let me just ask you straight up -- did the President give in or capitulate to the Speaker on the schedule?
MR. CARNEY: The President wanted to speak to Congress. Congress is back next Wednesday. That’s the first day that both houses -- senators and Congressmen -- are back in session. Therefore he requested that he speak Wednesday. If Wednesday doesn’t work, Thursday is fine with us, as long as he gets to speak to Congress. And he looks forward to doing it.
Q And I know you are loath to get into some of the details that are being discussed for the speech, whether you’re going to go big, small, whatever, but the Mid-Session Review -- we’ve just been treated to a conference call that forecasted an average unemployment rate of 9 percent through the course of 2012. And you said that the President’s policies, if enacted, will lower that rate. Correct?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I will say that objective outside economic analysts will look at it and say, if enacted, this plan will have a positive impact on growth and a positive impact on job creation.
Q And what is the target for growth and the target for the unemployment --
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to make projections here, nor am I going to get into details of the proposals.
Q Well, we’ve just been treated to a conference call where projections were -- that was what the call was about. So --
MR. CARNEY: That’s the Mid-Session Review; that’s not -- this is a new series of proposals the President is making next week. And rather than preview them now --
Q And are those proposals predicated on certain results, though, that he’d like to see, and what is --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to get into projections or show any more leg on the details of the speech. What I am going to say is that there will be a series -- it will contain a series of proposals that are aimed at having a quick impact on economic growth and job creation.
Q Are they updating the Mid-Session Review? I mean, it’s going to be --
MR. CARNEY: You’ll have to ask OMB. I’m not -- I don’t know how that process works.
Q But you guys put it out a month and a half late, a week before the President delivers a new economic plan, making it completely --
MR. CARNEY: There are a lot of factors here. This has obviously been quite an interesting budget year. But these are separate issues here. The President is moving forward with a job and growth proposal next week, and the obligations to put out a Mid-Session Review that came out today -- these are not connected in any specific sense.
Q So should we or shouldn’t we expect an updated economic report --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I just said you have to ask OMB. I’m not sure how that works.
Q Do you have a time for the speech on Thursday?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t. I can assure you that, for all you football fans, that he will be completed before kickoff between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.
Q And then if you could just clarify -- you said yesterday and you’ve said today that the President and his team have consulted with Republicans on the Hill as he puts together this plan.
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, what?
Q You said yesterday and today that the President and his team have consulted with Republicans on the Hill as he puts together --
MR. CARNEY: I think that’s a slight --
Q So he hasn’t?
MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve answered this about six times this week, but as I just said to Athena, the President has consistently throughout his presidency and including in recent weeks and months consulted with a wide array of folks within his administration, outside of his administration, in Congress, both parties, business and elsewhere, about economic ideas, proposals for growing the economy and creating jobs. That has been true throughout. It’s been true through this process.
Q Right, but he’s putting forward a new plan with new ideas --
MR. CARNEY: But I’m not going to get into did he have specific conversations with individual lawmakers --
Q Because they say he hasn’t. And wouldn’t that be something that he would want to do?
MR. CARNEY: Have you talked to every member of Congress?
Q The Republican leadership in Congress said that they have not been consulted as he was putting together his plan.
MR. CARNEY: He’s consulted widely, as he always does. He’s gathered ideas. His economic team and he have put together proposals that we are quite confident, if Congress comes back to Washington filled with a righteous sense of urgency about the need to grow the economy and create jobs, they will act on it and do the right thing by the American people.
Q But you can’t definitively say whether or not he’s talked to Republicans --
MR. CARNEY: I think I answered that question a half dozen times.
Q Jay, in the hours between the letter from Speaker Boehner and your statement at about 9:18 last night, it didn’t seem as though you were saying, well, if Wednesday doesn’t work, Thursday is fine with us. Did it go to the President and he said, all right, fine, we’ll do it on Thursday? Is that what happened?
MR. CARNEY: No, I think we were -- it was clear that we were in conversation with the Speaker’s office and looking at what the alternatives were. And I think, again, we’re talking about a matter of hours here, we’re not talking days and weeks -- resolved that Thursday would be the day, and that was fine with us.
Q And the President made that decision last night?
MR. CARNEY: The President makes all the decisions here. So we were discussing among ourselves, we were talking with the Speaker’s office -- we decided to go with Thursday.
Q And if the address is done by kickoff, does that mean he sees the speech as the pregame show? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: It means that he’ll have the opportunity to watch the game like millions of other Americans.
Q Thanks, Jay. You referred us to the Justice Department on questions about the law enforcement action involving the AT&T decision, but I want to ask you about a couple of White House questions regarding that. Did the Justice Department notify the White House before announcing this decision? And was the White House involved in the decision or given any consultation -- did the jobs impact come up in the course of those consultations?
MR. CARNEY: The decision was made by the Justice Department -- it’s a law enforcement action. And for any questions on what factors were considered, I encourage you to go to the Justice Department.
Q What about -- of course the decision was made by them. Was that in consultation in advance --
MR. CARNEY: It’s a Justice Department decision. They look at the factors, they make the call.
Q Right, but did the White House consult with them before they made their decision?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure what your -- the Justice Department makes the -- they look at the factors, they make the decision about proceeding on a law enforcement action. So I think you should ask them about what their considerations were.
Q Including what the White House’s role was?
MR. CARNEY: The White House did not have a role in making the decision; the Justice Department made the decision.
Q And also, has AT&T’s lobbyist Jim Cicconi been to the White House today? That’s been --
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of.
Q Is it possible to get an actual definitive answer on that? Would you be able to help us to do that?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll take that.
Q Jay, just one question on Solyndra. Should we assume that whatever money the taxpayers put into that in terms of loan guarantees, that is not going to be returned, that can’t be returned, it’s lost?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know the technical details of it, but I can take that or refer you to OMB -- or Department of Energy probably.
Q And a question about the speech next week. You keep on saying that the proposals the President is going to lay out should have bipartisan support. That’s quite different than saying you’re designing a package that would have the best chance of passing. I’m wondering, what is the goal? Is the goal to just put out the proposals he believes --
MR. CARNEY: I think you asked me this yesterday --
Q Yes, and I -- well, no, I asked you on the plane --
MR. CARNEY: Tuesday.
Q -- and it seemed like you said that they were designed to pass, which is what really worries a lot of your supporters, that you’re designing a package that can pass and therefore will --
MR. CARNEY: I think that it is a difficult process to know precisely what is in the hearts and minds of 535 elected members of Congress as they consider legislation. What we know with great confidence is that the proposals the President will put forward next week are reasonable and reflect, based on historic precedent, historical precedent, what should be bipartisan -- should receive bipartisan support, and I think that will be judged that way when he unveils it on -- on Thursday, rather.
Q That’s different than saying these are designed -- this is a package designed to get Congressional support --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t -- I think it’s a distinction without a difference, because you could say that nothing could get congressional support, or you could say anything could get congressional support. I don’t know -- I mean, I think that, again, if members of Congress come back focused on the need to address the economy and hiring, they will view this proposal as an excellent path to take to grow the economy and create jobs, and a reasonable one, and one that merits broad support. That’s what we believe, and that’s why we’re coming forward with it next week.
Q Just one last question following up on what Jonathan was asking, this idea that the President can’t get something out of this Congress, not even a date to speak. Is it fair to judge this President on what he gets out of this Congress? Or is it fair to judge him just on the proposals he lays out and his vision?
MR. CARNEY: I think it is fair to judge the President on the actions he takes and the determination he shows to do what he was elected to do, which is, first and foremost, protect the American people and help the American people and the American economy. And he has done that since he took office, and he will demonstrate that again next week. That is his focus: What can I do as President, either administratively or with Congress legislatively, to ensure that the American economy is best positioned to grow, that the private sector has the conditions that will allow it to hire and encourage it to hire, and that the American people can go back to work?
We have been through a horrible situation -- the worst recession since the Great Depression. We here, I think -- Americans in general, we can have short-term memory, I mean, it’s part of what makes us great -- we don’t spend our time wallowing in the past; we look towards the future. It is important to remember what we are emerging from and how serious the economic recession was. And this President has been focused on this since the day he took office, and he’ll be focused on it until, as he says, he knows that every American who wants a job and is looking for a job has a job.
Q Jay, could you say that -- could you just explain a little bit about what the President expects to do and see and hear when he goes to Paterson, New Jersey, on Sunday?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he, I think as you saw throughout the process -- Hurricane Irene -- very concerned about the devastation the storm was likely to cause and did cause. And the fact that it was not as severe as it could have been may be true, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that many, many Americans were severely affected by it, and some lost their lives. And obviously New Jersey was a very hard-hit state.
Q Is he going to take a tour of the town or --
MR. CARNEY: I think we’ll come out with more details about what his itinerary will look like on Sunday a little later.
Q I mean, does he -- is going sort of for moral support or does seeing it firsthand better help him foment the government’s continuing response?
MR. CARNEY: I think it’s very important that he’s -- to see up close and personal what the effects of a storm like this were, to talk to local officials, talk to affected Americans, talk to first responders and to those officials who are working on recovery, and hear from them. So he looks forward to doing it.
Q Jay, does the White House feel that this President has gotten the respect from Congress that the office of the presidency deserves, with yesterday’s incident?
MR. CARNEY: The White House spends zero time worrying about that. It spends its time -- we spend our time, the President spends our time focused on the job at hand. The job at hand is to come up with, propose and act on the things that we can do to help the economy and to help job creation, specifically for next week -- and obviously all the other responsibilities that the President has and the White House and the administration have.
Q So there’s no worry at all that there -- about the whole idea of the office of the presidency being demeaned? I mean, it’s virtually unheard --
MR. CARNEY: You guys are making --
Q -- virtually unheard of for --
MR. CARNEY: -- you’re really making so much more of this than is merited, okay? The President will speak to the Congress in a joint session and to the American people next week. It’s an important time for our country; it’s an important time for the economy. He will speak directly to the people about what we need to do to grow the economy and create jobs, and he looks forward to doing it.
Q One on Solyndra. Does the President have any regrets about having made such a big deal about this company?
MR. CARNEY: The President -- the administration, the President is committed to, as I think I said, the idea that we need to make investments in clean energy technology, in the kind of industries that will be the -- that are the industries of the future, and that will be the job-creation engines in American in the future. If we intend to be number one in the 21st century the way we have been in the 20th and the early part of this century, we need to make those key investments.
American history is full of examples of the federal government providing seed money in areas that allowed for explosive and economy-changing growth in certain areas, whether it’s the Transcontinental Railroad or the Internet. So the President is very committed to that, and, as I said before, that does not mean that each individual investment we made -- we do not change the rules of business by doing this. And by nature these can be high-risk but also very high-reward investments, and we are committed to that process.
Q Does he have any regrets about this particular company --
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t spoken to him about it.
Q And just -- you know that some Republicans said they thought this particular company was a dubious proposition from the start --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there were Republicans who thought investments in clean energy were a mistake, that they were ready to cede that vital industry to foreign competition, they were ready to cede the automobile industry to foreign competition, a million jobs there. We just disagree on that front.
Q Are you satisfied that this company got the scrutiny that it should have had from the outset?
MR. CARNEY: I refer you to DOE on the particulars of the process. We’re satisfied that this program was necessary and is working.
Q Jay, thank you. When you say that the President will make some proposals in his address next week that will be things that he could do administratively, doesn’t he -- would that make up the bulk of his recommendations?
MR. CARNEY: I simply said that obviously -- what I meant, or meant to convey through that, is that he’s -- I think I was asked why Congress, and that’s because we need to act with Congress. Much of -- some of what -- much of what we need to do requires legislation, requires action by Congress. That is why it’s important to go to Congress.
He can also do things, as he has in the past, administratively that can help the economy grow, that can -- for example, the regulatory look-back that can free -- relieve businesses from burdensome regulations; other measures he can take administratively that don’t require legislative action, he will continue to do that as well.
So that was not -- there are many pieces to this that are both legislative and administrative.
Q And do you think if he finishes by the time the kickoff comes at 8:35 p.m., he might also leave enough time for a Republican response during that time? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I have not -- again, we don’t have a specific time yet for when he will begin speaking, so I don’t have an answer to that.
Q Jay, just to follow on two points that you made. You told Helene a couple minutes ago that you felt -- the President has sort of zero interest in the notion that the prestige of the office has been dented by this. Should he have zero interest? Isn’t the prestige of the office a significant component of having leverage in these negotiations?
MR. CARNEY: Let’s just –- what he has zero interest in, and what the American people have zero interest in, is the petty political gamesmanship that goes on in here and that gets chronicled quite assiduously by the press, which is fine. But it is not what the American people care about, right? It’s just not.
And, in fact, when they are forced to pay attention to it, they recoil in disgust. And they -- (laughter) -- you know, go out there and talk to regular folks.
Q I do.
MR. CARNEY: I know you do, and I think that’s what you hear. That’s what –- when you go out into the country and you talk to ordinary Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, who are making sure they can get their car payments, ensuring that they’re saving money for their kids’ college education, who are coming up with great new ideas for -– to increase the productivity in their small business, tilling the field or working in the shop, they do not have any time for this. They do not have any time for the pettiness, the smallness, the posturing. And mostly they don’t even pay attention to it.
And I think one of the things that I think that was so frustrating about what happened this summer is that because of the seriousness of the consequences of the posturing, they were forced to pay attention to it, and they were appalled by and scared by it. So that’s what -– look, the President is focused on the big things, the things that matter. And I think that’s what the vast majority of the American people are focused on. And I think that with any luck, that’s what members of Congress will be focused on when they come back.
Q The other thing I wanted to follow on, you described the communication between the White House and the Hill as being “fine.” I think this might be the only room in Washington where you could say that without folks shouting you down. To what extent do you think the fact that there was a communications gap with the Speaker’s office -- it appears that this was done at the staff level -– do you have any regrets that the President himself didn’t call up Speaker Boehner –-
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to -- first of all, I think you need to fine tune your reporting on what happened, but I –- and who was involved, but it is irrelevant. It really is. The President will speak to the nation and the Congress next week, as he hoped to do, and he will talk about some very important things that have nothing to do with communication gaps.
Q But do you really think communications between the White House and Hill Republicans are fine? I mean, do you not see that there’s a problem?
MR. CARNEY: What I think is that the issues trump that kind of stuff. And as you know, the President has a working relationship with the Speaker of the House. They’ve spent an awful lot of time together in person and on the phone this year. They will continue to do that. The same is true with the Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate, as well as obviously the Senate Republican leaders. So -– and other leaders and members of Congress. That will continue. The issues matter far more than this.
Q But you don’t think something has to be fixed? You think the communications is fine?
MR. CARNEY: I think politics needs to be fixed. Yes, the President says politics is broken. The American people are fed up with this. So we’re going to focus on the stuff that matters. And I think, listening to their constituents, that Congress is going to focus on it, too.
Q Thank you, Jay. Yes, the Boston Globe reported today on the President’s uncle that had been arrested. Was the President aware that his uncle was in the United States as an undocumented –-
MR. CARNEY: He became aware of this story when I walked into his office and among other subjects mentioned it to him, and it was new to him on Monday.
Q And also, is the administration committed to seeing that all U.S. laws are enforced in this case?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. We expect it to be treated –- I refer you to ICE and DHS and expect it to be handled like any other immigration case.
Q And I have a follow-up –-
MR. CARNEY: Steve.
Q On the things the President can do without Congress, you mentioned regulations. Can you give us some other examples of things he can do administratively or by executive order to create jobs?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Q So he’s going to --
MR. CARNEY: I mean, of course the President has certain powers. The executive branch has certain things it can do, and we’re always looking -- I refer to you –- I talked yesterday about – on the housing front, the measures that were taken to assist the unemployed; unemployed homeowners. That’s a measure that can be taken at the executive level, administrative level to help homeowners on an economic issue. There are just a variety of things we can do.
Q On a completely different subject, the President in Minneapolis reaffirmed his commitment to get all the troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. Former Prime Minister -- I’m sorry --
MR. CARNEY: Allawi.
Q -- said this morning in a very strong op-ed in the Washington Post, made a very compelling case that things are getting much, much worse there. And he referred to a big debate in Washington about whether you’re going to maintain this troop withdrawal. Is there any of that debate in the administration?
MR. CARNEY: I’d trust your sources in Washington on this, and I would simply say that we’ve made significant progress at great sacrifice in Iraq. And the fact of the matter is that violence overall remains down significantly, and Iraqi security forces have demonstrated great improvements in their capacities to maintain security in that country. It’s not perfect. There are still incidents, no question. And there are still folks there who have a great interest in being disruptive, but the accomplishments of American men and women over there are substantial. The fact is, it’s important to remember we turned over combat lead there quite a long time ago. Iraqis have been in the security lead for a substantial period of time, and that progress continues.
So no question there are challenges ahead in Iraq, but substantial successes have been achieved.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Thanks, you guys.
END 2:57 P.M. EDT
May 21, 2013
May 21, 2013
May 20, 2013
May 20, 2013
May 20, 2013
May 18, 2013
May 18, 2013
May 17, 2013