The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 8/10/12

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:34 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Thanks for being here.  It’s good to be back in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.  I always forget the middle initial.  Jim Brady is a wonderful man, and this is an aptly named space for him.

I have no announcements to make save one, and that is that that we should all wish Nancy, our new White House correspondent from CBS, a happy birthday.  I just learned of that.  Drinks on everyone else.  (Laughter.)

And with that, I’ll go to questions.  The Associated Press.

Q    Thank you.  The fresh sanctions that are being announced today by the Treasury Department, are these actually meant to be behavior-changing or are they largely symbolic to only the ones that pertain to Hezbollah?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would refer you to Treasury and State for details.  But I think the desired result is to continue to press the Assad regime, to continue to isolate it, and to expose the fact that Assad’s friends -- and he has very few -- are Iran and Hezbollah.  And I think that says a lot about how far Assad has fallen in the eyes of the world, not to mention in the eyes of his own people.

And we are committed to take every step we can to isolate the regime, starve it of resources to finance its brutal crackdown on the Syrian people, and to highlight those who -- and expose -- those who continue to support someone who is surely one of the most brutal and bloody dictators operating in the world today.

Q    But these aren’t actually designed then to force the Assad regime into any type of action, or to actually kind of tighten the economic pressure on them?

MR. CARNEY:  No, I think every time we take a new step that addresses, or comes within the rubric of a financial sanction, it has an impact on the resources that Assad has and to finance his crackdown.  No single sanction is going to, by itself, prevent Assad from getting his last bit of financing.  But together, collectively, the sanctions enhance pressure. 

And the sanctions that we periodically announce, as we look for other means of pressuring Assad, are not -- are part of a broader effort that includes diplomatic efforts, includes increasing our humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, increasing our non-lethal assistance and support for the opposition as part of a broader effort to bring about that day that must come when Assad steps aside and a political transition is allowed to take place.

Q    On a totally different topic -- the President is holding a fundraiser this weekend at his house in Chicago where there will be donors in his backyard, presumably some members of the press.  Have you talked to him at all about how he feels about having this event in his backyard, in his house, as the family has tried to keep the Chicago house sort of a private place for them?

MR. CARNEY:  I confess I have not spoken to him about the event.  I have spoken to him about how he’s looking forward to being home and in Chicago.  I know that he always enjoys the opportunity to be back in his house.  And I think that those who are coming are supporters and friends for this event.  For details about the actual campaign event, I would refer you to the campaign.  But the President I know is looking forward to being back in Chicago.

Hello.

Q    Hi.  The U.S. won’t bring any charges against Goldman Sachs for any dealings with mortgage fraud during the financial crisis.  Is the President disappointed by this?  And is there any expectation that the Justice Department might take action in the future?

MR. CARNEY:  I would have to refer you to the Justice Department, and I have not spoken to the President about this.  He’s very focused on taking measures that assist homeowners in refinancing, taking advantage of these historically low interest rates.  He has done quite a bit, using his administrative capacity, to help that cause, and he has called on Congress as part of the congressional “To-Do” list to take legislative action that will enhance the capacity of homeowners who are underwater but who could benefit greatly from being able to refinance.

Anything else?

Q    One last question.

MR. CARNEY:  Sure.

Q    Recent economic data suggests that the U.S. is in better shape now, but there is still some risk remaining from Europe and a possible fiscal cliff.  Is the President willing to wait until after the election to tackle the fiscal cliff, or will we see some action before then?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, let me address that question in a couple of ways.  We do not overreact, one way or the other, to any specific piece of economic data.  We focus on trends, and we focus on the work that we can do to help the economy grow and to help it create jobs.  This is true, and you’ve seen us say, using identical words, when we have jobs reports, that those that exceed expectations and those that come in below expectations, that we’re not focused on any one report, we’re focused on the overall trend.  And the overall trend here has been one of economic growth and one of positive private sector job creation. 

We, however, are nowhere near where we need to be, which is why the President is out there every day talking about the need to implement an economic vision that invests in our education system; invests in building roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects that put construction workers to work but also help build our economy for the future; invests in research and development and innovative technologies that, again, will be part of the 21st century economy -- and why he’s calling on Congress to take action to pass a tax cut for 98 percent of the American people.  Lock that in, because we all in Washington supposedly agree on this.  Let’s lock it in so that it creates economic certainty for the middle class, it creates -- it deals with some of the issues about the end of the year challenges that you referenced, and it represents an opportunity where, given that we do disagree on some things -- like whether or not to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires -- we can continue to have that debate, but we should take off the table the debate about whether or not to extend tax cuts for the middle class.  That’s certainly the President’s position.

More broadly on the -- well, let me also say that whether there is some positive economic data or not, there is no question that there are headwinds created by Europe, there are other things out there that can affect the American economy.  And that only reinforces the need to aggressively do the things that we here in Washington can do to help insulate our economy from the kinds of shocks globally that can cause -- create a challenge for the economy.  So that’s why he urges Congress to pass elements of the American Jobs Act and the tax cut that I talked about before. 

And when it comes to the fiscal cliff, I would just note that, as you know, the President has put forward a balanced plan that tackles this issue and reduces the deficit by over $4 trillion in a balanced way, which everyone agrees -- everyone who is serious about this issue agrees is the only way to go about it. 

There is a lot of -- what is amazing to me, and this is really an inside-Washington kind of conversation about Simpson-Bowles, Bowles-Simpson and the fiscal commission.  There is a lot of loose talk that sometimes goes unchallenged, often by reporters, about who actually supports the principles behind the Simpson-Bowles commission.  The President supports the principles behind the Simpson-Bowles commission, the balanced approach that is embodied in that Simpson-Bowles proposal, which includes not just spending cuts for non-defense discretionary spending, but savings in health care and revenues. 

And I was amazed over the weekend when Lindsay Graham, the Senator from South Carolina, said -- after insisting that we can’t cut defense, after insisting that tax revenues were off the table -- he said, I’m willing to do the Simpson-Bowles plan.  He later said, I think Governor Romney has said he would embrace the Bowles-Simpson plan.  Those statements are incompatible with the facts and the truth.  And I think you saw an op-ed by Erskine Bowles this morning that makes just that point.  And I urge you to read it.

Yes, Nancy -- happy birthday.

Q    Thank you very much, Jay.  Just this morning, some top advisors for the Romney campaign called recent attack ads by the Obama campaign “unbelievable exaggerations that diminish the office of the President and insult the American people.”

MR. CARNEY:  Nancy, can I correct you?  The ads that you’re talking about -- the ad that you’re talking about is not -- and maybe you’re just short-handing it, or maybe this is what they said -- it is not an Obama campaign ad. 

Q    I think they’re talking about the new ad that questions whether Mr. Romney paid 5 or 10 percent on his taxes, which is an Obama campaign ad that just came out.  And those numbers aren’t substantiated.  So is the President concerned that ads like this do diminish the office of the presidency?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would refer you to the campaign for discussions of campaign ads.  I can tell you that the President believes that the tradition of transparency for presidential candidates, manifested by the willingness to release multiple years of your tax returns, is an important one.  It is one that he abided by as a candidate, and obviously continues to abide by as President and candidate for reelection.  It’s not always comfortable.  It’s not always a candidate’s favorite activity to release this kind of information.  But it is a tradition that was put in place, lo these many years ago, in 1968, by Governor Romney -- then-Governor Romney of Michigan, who was a leading contender for the office in that cycle.  And it’s one that candidates, major party candidates, candidates from both parties have abided by ever since. 

So I think that, as I’ve said before, watching this debate, it could be ended pretty simply by a willingness to follow that tradition.

Q    But it’s one thing to say, why doesn’t Mr. Romney release more of his tax returns?  It’s another thing to say, did he pay 5 percent, did he pay 10 percent -- without any evidence of that.  I mean, aren’t these the kinds of unsubstantiated suggestions that the White House has been --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Nancy, I appreciate it, and I again urge you to address your questions to my colleagues and friends over at the campaign for more.  I would note, again as an observer, that it was Governor Romney who, on the air just a couple of weekends ago, when asked about what rate he paid in the past, said he would find out and tell us.  I assume your colleagues who are covering that campaign are urging the Governor to provide that answer.

Brianna.

Q    Hi, Jay.  Conservative super PAC, American Crossroads, has a new video -- or a new ad.  It calls on President Obama to denounce the ad by Priorities -- the main pro-President Obama super PAC that links Mitt Romney to the death of a steelworker’s wife.  Do you have a response to the ad?

MR. CARNEY:  I am not aware of the new super PAC ad that you reference.  I find it rich with irony.  But I’m wondering if -- there’s so many different groups out there -- if that particular Republican super PAC is urging itself or some other  -- the Republican candidate or some other Republican leader to denounce the other third-party Republican super PAC ad that questions whether or not the President is an American citizen.  I mean, there is a point at which --

Q    But there has to be -- I get it, but that’s sort of --

MR. CARNEY:  No, no, no, you can’t --

Q    -- I mean, that’s a smaller super PAC.  I’m talking about this --

MR. CARNEY:  Oh, I didn’t realize that this was about --

Q    Well, this is the super PAC that President -- the one super PAC that President Obama himself allowed his bundlers.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, no, let’s talk about size, Brianna.  In how many states has the ad that you’re talking about aired?

Q    Probably 50, if you consider the news, right?

MR. CARNEY:  And how many -- just based on media reports, how many dollars has been spent on this ad?  Now, let’s compare that.  Now, again, I’m getting out of territory that is really my territory, but let me just make the point.  I have addressed this issue because of an advertisement produced by, filmed by, paid for by -- with millions of dollars that is going -- spread out across the country in major states, paid for by and produced by the Romney campaign -- not a third-party group -- that is categorically false and blatantly dishonest in its representation of the President's policy. 

And that's not just me saying it.  That's President Bill Clinton who has said it.  It is Republicans who worked on welfare reform who have said it.  It is Republicans, who are putatively out there to advance the argument on behalf of Governor Romney, who have said there is no proof that the ad is true.  So that’s qualitatively different --

Q    I guess I thought you were talking about the birther ad you mentioned yesterday.  But my question is --

MR. CARNEY:  No, no -- but it’s qualitatively different from a third-party ad that obviously we have no control over with people we don't have contact with.

Q    But this is the super PAC that President Obama in February said to his -- basically to his top bundlers it's okay to move forward supporting this super PAC.  Don't you at some point have to say something to make this go away?  I mean, this is the fourth day that you've gotten questions on this.

MR. CARNEY:  We cannot -- we do not control third-party ads. 

Q    But you could say something.

MR. CARNEY:  What this President is focused on is what he can do as President, and what his message is about what our economic future can be and should be as he campaigns around the country.  Again, perhaps others should then -- it should be incumbent on others to give evaluations and assessments and condemnations, if called for, of other ads that you judge out of line. 

What this President is focused on is helping the economy grow, helping it create jobs.  And when he is out there campaigning, he is bringing a message about what his vision is for the future.  That's what he is focused on, and as he should be.

Q    But does it serve him for a debate over this kind of ad that is so antithetical to the type of politics that he has promoted?  Does that serve him well?

MR. CARNEY:  We do not control the ad, Brianna.  Again, these are --

Q    That's not what I’m asking.  Is it good for him?

MR. CARNEY:  Look, you can make an assessment.  Again, that's not for me to do.  I'm speaking for the President and his policies. 

Q    Is he happy with the effect of the debate? 

MR. CARNEY:  I'm speaking for the President, and defending and explaining his policies, and defending them when a campaign ad with millions and millions in dollars behind it, as opposed to zero dollars behind it, is being broadcast around the country, paid for and produced by the Romney campaign, that is categorically false and blatantly dishonest about the President's policy positions.

Q    A couple of issues.  First, the drought continues to get worse and worse.  The corn crop is in dire shape.  A lot of livestock owners and other farmers are asking that this may be the year to remove the requirement that so much corn go to ethanol.  Is the President considering an exemption this year to the ethanol requirement?

MR. CARNEY:  What I can tell you is that the EPA has made clear that they're working closely with the Department of Agriculture to keep an eye on yields, and they will evaluate all the relevant information when assessing that situation.  And I would direct you to them for the latest updates. 

There is no question that the drought is very serious and the President is committed to ensuring that his administration is taking every step possible to help farmers and ranchers who have been affected by this disaster. 

As you know, the administration has already taken several steps from opening up lands for haying and grazing, to providing emergency loans, to helping get more truck drivers on the roads delivering much needed supplies.  And the President has directed all of the agencies to continue looking for more ways to provide relief from this drought.   

Q    So there's a possibility that the ethanol requirement could be exempted?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would simply say that the EPA, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, is looking at this.  I don't have a statement one way or the other predicting what the experts are going to say. 

Q    Flip to Afghanistan -- another deadly day where American trainers have been targeted.  It's the mission of our forces in Afghanistan now to try and train the Afghan army and police.  That's six dead in two different incidents over the past couple of days.  What does it say about the training mission in Afghanistan?  And is it time to say it's not working?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I appreciate the question.  And, first, I'd like to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have been killed in the line of service.  The latest attack that you mentioned, three U.S. Forces-Afghanistan servicemembers died following an attack by an individual wearing an Afghan uniform in southwest Afghanistan.  For more information about that incident, I would refer you to U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. 

It is too early to say that this latest incident is part of a stepped-up effort on the insurgents' part.  We know that they are trying to maximize media exposure of these events, but our military believes that the operational impact has been negligible.  Nonetheless, these incidents do concern us and, as I said, our hearts go out to all the victims and their families.

I would note that it's important to remember -- you mentioned that training is a focus of the U.S. mission there and the broader ISAF mission -- it has been for quite some time.  And there are 330,000 Afghan forces with whom U.S. forces and ISAF forces partner every day on missions.  And, obviously, the vast majority of those forces, Afghan forces who work with ISAF and U.S. forces are doing so in a professional way.  And while we are concerned about these incidents it is important to remember the broader context and the fact that so many Afghans have been brought into Afghan forces, and that number is now up to 330,000, I believe.

Q    No change in course in the mission?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the President's focus, as you know, is on bringing about the transition in Afghanistan to full Afghan lead that he outlined at Bagram when he visited.  He has kept his commitment from the campaign to end the war in Iraq; to focus our mission on achievable goals in Afghanistan, on al Qaeda, our principal enemy in the AfPak region.  And he has, in that effort, overseen a policy that saw a surge in forces in Afghanistan, and is now seeing a gradual withdrawal of forces as we turn over responsibility to the Afghan government and Afghan forces.

Q    This was a specific attack aimed directly at leadership of a brigade.  This is not a random --

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t diminish at all the seriousness of the attack.  And I made clear that we are concerned about this issue and about -- our forces and their commanders are evaluating whether or not -- in our broader effort there, intelligence included -- are evaluating tactics that Taliban are using.  But it is important, within context here, to recognize that missions are being conducted every day, every hour, involving U.S. forces and the 330,000 Afghan forces.   

Yes.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  The other day in the gaggle you declined to comment on intelligence issues regarding the NIE issue.  On Israel and Iran, there’s obviously a lot of discussion that continues on this with Defense Minister Barak saying that the latest estimate, which apparently everyone is looking at there, comes very close to our own estimate; it transforms the situation to an even more urgent one.  But I guess I want to ask you more gently -- can you comment on whether there’s any daylight at this point between Israel and the U.S. concerning Iran’s nuclear program?  The NSC spokesman, I noted this morning, came out and said, “We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon.”  So would you repeat that here?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would tell you that we work very closely with our Israeli counterparts on this issue.  We share information as a matter of course.  And we share an assessment of where Iran is and what its capacities are and what timelines look like.

I won’t address reports on intelligence assessments.  But I can tell you, broadly, that we are very much in agreement about Iran’s ambitions, Iran’s program, and about Iran’s failure, thus far, to live up to its international obligations -- which is why we have taken the lead in a broad international effort to impose upon Iran the stiffest, most severe sanctions ever imposed upon a country.  And that effort continues day by day and week by week as we pressure the regime into, hopefully, changing course, changing behavior, rejoining the community of nations, and abiding by its obligations under a variety of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

I would also say that we believe there continues to be the time and space to pursue this course.  It is the best course of action to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.  We take no options off the table, and we consult with our allies all the time about the situation in Iran with regards to its program.

I would also say that we have eyes, we have visibility into the program, and we would know if and when Iran made a -- what’s called a “breakout move” towards acquiring a weapon.  So we have the capacity to judge that as the regime, the sanctions regime continues to be implemented.

Q    So whatever assessments are circulating, whether in Israel or here are being assessed, does it address the question of the immunity zone that the Israelis are so concerned about?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I’m not going to get into what intelligence assessments might or might not say.  I would simply say that we work very closely with the Israelis.  We share a view of where Iran is.  And it is our firm belief that there is time and space to pursue the diplomatic option that includes extremely and increasingly aggressive sanctions, includes diplomatic isolation and international condemnation.  And we will continue that effort.

Ed.

Q    Jay, on Brianna's question -- I understand you can't comment on every third-party ad on both sides, but do you have any regret that it was aboard Air Force One in one of your press gaggles that an Obama campaign official claimed a couple of days ago that the campaign knew nothing about this man's story -- the man who charged that there was something with his wife dying, and that it was because of Bain Capital's actions, but then you find out that --

MR. CARNEY:  I think the campaign put out a statement --

Q    -- the campaign says they had a conference call with them and it featured him on the Obama campaign website?

MR. CARNEY:  I think the campaign has addressed this, and I would refer you to their statement.

Q    Okay.  And putting aside the Romney campaign attacks about it, the President himself -- it's been said many times in 2008 -- talked about changing the tone in politics in saying that this kind of negativity doesn’t add to the debate.  Do you really think at that podium that it's fair for someone to suggest that a candidate's actions led to someone's death?

MR. CARNEY:  Ed, I appreciate the efforts to get me to play political pundit, but that’s not my job.  And it's not -- I do not have any role in third-party groups that produce these ads.  I don’t have a comment on that.

I would simply say that the President goes out every day practically, now, and talks about his vision for the future.  He talks about substantive policy issues.  He talks about the need to help the middle class grow, help increase middle-class security, how we need to ensure as a nation that we're investing in education and infrastructure and innovation so that we can continue to grow our economy. 

And I would simply note that while I know there's an effort on one side of this to conflate the two, to -- there is a substantial difference between a blatantly false ad produced by and paid for by a campaign -- in this case, the Romney campaign -- and ads produced by third-party groups.

And I have made clear our views on the utter misrepresentation, factually incorrect representation of the President's policy in a Romney campaign ad that is being broadcast in states across the nation to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. 

Q    Last one.  When you talk about the President, does -- you’re correct, the last two days in Colorado, he talked about all those substantive issues, he wasn't talking about personal attacks.  He was on substance.  But part of his vision in 2008 was changing the tone.  So the question is, how can he now stand by idly and just say -- one of his former White House aides is running this thing that says that Mitt Romney may have had something to do with someone's death?  How do you stand by, now that you're in power -- that was part of your vision before.

MR. CARNEY:  Ed, I understand your question, and I would simply say that -- I don’t imagine that you are asking the Romney campaign why they haven't condemned the third-party ad that suggests the President may not be an American citizen.  I understand that -- or maybe, better phrase it -- I think it should be understood that we are not in control of third-party ads.  The campaign -- and I refer you to the President's campaign for discussions of campaign advertising, paid for by the President's campaign.  And then, I would ask you to look at what the President is out there talking about.

You travel with us; you know.  You hear what he says, you hear the argument he makes on behalf of middle-class Americans and where we need to take this country and, as a substantive policy argument, why we cannot embrace policy proposals that, in the kindest possible light -- according to the Tax Policy Center -- would, if implemented, result in massive tax breaks -- tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires paid for by middle-class families. 

That’s the dispute.  That’s the debate.  That’s the argument the President is interested in making. 

Chuck.

Q    I want to follow up on this.  You keep trying to refer to it as an outside group.  This is a group that David Plouffe has raised money for; David Plouffe works in the West Wing.  This is a group that the campaign has asked members of the Cabinet to help raise money for.  This isn't just some third-party group.  So you do have standing. 

MR. CARNEY:  Again, we do not --

Q    How do you not have standing and speak out about that?

MR. CARNEY:  As a matter of -- as I understand the law, that we have no control over --

Q    The campaign.

MR. CARNEY:  -- what third-party groups --

Q    But the law says you can't condemn an ad?

MR. CARNEY:  Chuck, I think I've -- again, I think I've made my point.  And I think that I'm looking forward to the press conference for my counterpart where the press --

Q    But, Jay, you actually have stood at that podium and asked -- you've made this general request to say to the Romney campaign Mitt Romney ought to distance himself -- whether it's a Donald Trump thing, whether it was the Mr. Ricketts -- so you've actually made these same requests.  So if you believe that they either stand by it or don’t stand by it, then how are you not held to the same standard?

MR. CARNEY:  I think the campaign -- and this is entirely a campaign issue -- I think the campaign has answered these questions, and I would refer you to them for more. 

Q    You're a little arbitrary for when you do speak about campaign stuff and when you don’t. 

MR. CARNEY:  No, I talk about --

Q    No, I mean, I'm serious.  It’s like, I pick and choose --

MR. CARNEY:  No, no, I always --

Q    -- I think if this is the way it's going to be, I mean --

MR. CARNEY:  I have gone after the campaign ad and -- again, millions of dollars spent by the other campaign in states across the country, blatantly misrepresenting the President's policy on an issue.

Q    So on that, you will speak for the campaign.

MR. CARNEY:  It's about policy.  And I know what the policy is, and I take issue, as someone who speaks for and defends and explains the President's policies, with that representation of it. 

What I'm not going to do is become a judge and assessor of every third-party ad that’s out there.  Again, just the other day, again, broadcast with real money, paid for by some group out there, conservative group, questioning the President's citizenship. 

Q    Jay, I want to follow up on something else.  Governor Romney said yesterday that he'd love to have a pledge or some sort of agreement on negative ads, on personal-attack ads.  Would you and the President be open to something like that?

MR. CARNEY:  I would only point to -- I saw some of his comments.  I mean, it was as if his campaign hadn't been, as its principal effort right now, running an ad that has been judged across the board as false by fact-checkers, by Republicans, by Bill Clinton, the author of welfare reform.  I find it interesting that he would make that.

But in terms of campaign pledges, I would refer you to the campaign.

Alexis.

Q    Jay, If I could follow up on this and then a question.  Can I just clarify -- the President has spent a lot of time as he's traveled warning his supporters about the kind of advertising that they see or hear.  So I want to just clarify -- does the President believe that the viewers, the listeners, can discern the difference between a paid campaign ad and a third-party ad, which is something that you just suggested?  He believes that?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I haven't asked him specifically.  I think, as you know, when you watch an ad produced by and paid for by a campaign -- and the candidate, himself or herself, approves it, testifies to it, takes responsibility for it -- I think that’s different from other ads. 

I would say that most Americans are pretty sophisticated now in terms of being consumers of this kind of advertising.  I feel for them because it’s such a barrage, and millions of millions of dollars have been spent by not just the campaigns, but in way in excess of that, by third-part groups -- overwhelmingly, by the way, attacking the President.  I mean, all of these ads -- every third-part ad that I’m aware of, virtually, on the anti-Obama side has been extremely negative.  And we’re talking tens, hundreds of millions of dollars.

But I think that Americans are pretty sophisticated.  They probably do, overwhelmingly, understand the distinction.  They see the candidate is taking responsibility for their campaign ads.  But the background here, in terms of what the President’s position is on the Citizens United decision and why it was not, in his view, the right decision, and the impact it would have on our elections -- there is no question that that’s playing itself out in this cycle.

Q    Let me look ahead to next week -- Iowa.  The President is going to spend three full days traveling by bus across Iowa, including through some counties he didn’t win last time.  Can you talk about the message -- what he hopes to accomplish by spending that concentrated amount of time in one state?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, to Chuck’s point, I think that is a -- what he’s doing in campaign travel and why he’s going to different places, I think I should leave to the campaign to explain.

I would note that we frequently go both -- well, we go all over the country in general -- but on campaign trips, as recently as yesterday, I think one of your colleagues asked about this -- why the President was going to a part of Colorado where he did not win.  I guess the county that he was in or the counties that we were in.  I think -- I know that the point is he has supporters across all of these states, and he wants to explain his positions and rally support everywhere -- everywhere in Colorado, in Iowa, and all these states.

But again, I would urge you -- the campaign tactic stuff is best left to the campaign.

Q    You talk about the President on policy.  In Iowa, the President is going to talk about wind, energy, drought.  Let’s talk about policy.  What’s he going to talk about?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think that the topics that you mentioned are certainly potential ones for what the President will discuss on his upcoming trip.  I don’t want to ruin the surprise by unveiling his remarks here from the podium a full three days before he hits Iowa.  But I think you will hear -- you’ve heard a lot of consistent things from the President, both prior to when -- this period where he’s been campaigning so much, but certainly on the campaign trail, about his economic vision, about the investments we need to make. 

And those investments include -- and he brought this up in Colorado -- the production tax credit, the wind energy tax credit that has broad bipartisan support in states like Colorado and Iowa, that is essential to 5,000 jobs in Colorado.  And I believe the industry has said 37,000 jobs would be in jeopardy across the country if the production tax credit, the wind energy tax credit were not renewed.  And yet, unfortunately, Republicans in Washington, including the Republican nominee, do not support extending this important tax credit.

And it's not just the impact of not extending it would be bad enough for those people whose jobs would be threatened, who might lose their jobs because of it, it would certainly be bad enough for the companies that depend on it. 

It's also a terrible thing to do when we are trying to build, in this country, industries that will be vital to economic growth and energy independence in the 21st century.  I mean, that is a key element of the President's vision when it comes to energy policy, is that we -- even as we have increased oil and gas production, even as we have reduced our imports of foreign oil, this President has aggressively pursued a policy that has doubled our production of renewable energy and that has made investments that ensure that there will be more production of renewable energy in this country and, very importantly, more facilities and jobs in this country related to those industries.

He is not at all willing to cede those industries to other countries.  And I think that is a profound difference between his vision and the Republican vision.

Q    Back to the Syrian sanctions, John Brennan, the other day in a speech, said that there was under consideration apparently a no-fly zone.  Is that under consideration by the administration to ratchet up?

MR. CARNEY:  I think, Roger, what Mr. Brennan said was in response to a question about a specific measure, the no-fly zone, and his answer reflected the fact that we have not, and the President has not, taken any option off the table when it comes to Syria.  But he was not -- our position has not changed, and that is that we believe the right course of action is a political transition that begins with or has as an important milestone in it the departure of Assad from power. 

And I would encourage you not to over-interpret what Mr. Brennan said.  He was making the point that we had made all along, which is that we are constantly evaluating various options.  And the President does not and has not asked his team to take any option off the table.

Q    Is there any sort of package of recommendations on the President's desk now for further sanctions?  Or is it not that far along?

MR. CARNEY:  For further sanctions?

Q    Yes.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don't know of any -- and if I did, I wouldn't tell you.  But I would simply say that we are constantly, as the ones announced today, we are constantly looking at other ways of putting pressure on Assad, isolating Assad both unilaterally as well as with our partners.  And that effort continues every day as we provide assistance to the opposition, non-lethal assistance, as we ramp up our humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and as we continue to pressure our friends and partners around the world to recognize the fact that allying with Assad, helping prolong Assad's brutal, tyrannical regime is a very bad choice.  And it puts nations that do so on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the Syrian people. 

Q    One other question -- gasoline prices.  They've been rising since July 1st after dipping back in June and May.  Back in March, the SPR was on the table being looked at pretty seriously.  Is it sort of back on the table, dusted off, being reconsidered again?

MR. CARNEY:  Roger, I would simply say that throughout this year, we have very closely monitored oil prices and the oil markets, most importantly.  And we continue to do that.  And, as you noted in your question, there have been spikes and declines in the price of oil, related to a variety of factors.  And we continue to do that and continue to look at options -- and I just mean that broadly -- as we evaluate where oil markets are.  I think I’ll leave it at that.

Justin.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  Earlier this week, the President signed into law a bill that among other things imposes new time and space restrictions on protest at military funerals.  This has raised some concerns among scholars because it seems to be targeting one specific group, and that's the Westboro Baptist Church.  And I'm wondering, coming after the Supreme Court's ruling last year, how exactly this bill is not a violation of the First Amendment?  And also, if we're going to restrict protest at military funerals, why not sort of expand that to countless other families that have been targeted by that group?

MR. CARNEY:  Justin, it's an interesting question.  I confess that I have not looked into it.  So I'll have to take it and get you an answer after the briefing. 

Scott. 

Q    Can you tell us about the dinner tonight?

MR. CARNEY:  I'm sorry?

Q    Can you tell us about the dinner tonight?

MR. CARNEY:  Certainly.  The President is hosting the annual White House Iftar dinner this evening.  As you know, this will be the fourth Iftar that President Obama has hosted, continuing the tradition of hosting Iftars that began annually under President Clinton and was continued by President George W. Bush. 

The invited guests include elected officials, religious and grassroots leaders in the Muslim American community, and leaders of diverse faiths and members of the diplomatic corps.  The President's remarks, you'll be glad to know, are pooled press.

Jared.

Q    Thank you.  Has the President seen the Romney campaign's welfare ad?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't know.

Q    How about the Priorities USA ad?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't know.  I mean, because I haven't asked -- I haven't had a discussion with him and I haven't seen him.

Q    You haven't asked him -- after all these questions this week about whether you guys condemn the ad, you haven't asked him whether --

MR. CARNEY:  I haven't had a discussion with him about it.  And I haven't seen him watch any ads. 

Q    -- about whether he wants to condemn the ad?  Is that worth asking him?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven't had a discussion with him about it. 

Jon-Christopher.   

Q    Can you do that for us?

Q    The final ceremony is coming up in London -- the Olympics.  You've said from this podium, needless to say, that the President and First Lady are practically thrilled with Team USA's performance in London.  Regarding the First Lady's visit, was she as thrilled with the response she got from the people of Great Britain?  And when, if any time soon, will the entire U.S. team be coming to the White House?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I have no scheduling announcements to make.  The Games continue.  And I know that having spent a lot of time with the President during the course of the past two weeks, or nearly two weeks, and discussed with him and watched with him some of the Olympics, he is extremely excited, as you heard him say yesterday, about our athletes and their performance. 

The remarkable achievement of the U.S. women's soccer team, the amazing semifinal match that I think mentioned the other day, that, basically, all work ceased over here in the West Wing -- and that includes all offices -- for the last half hour of that game, and then yesterday's victory in the final.  And then, just the remarkable performance by athletes, both men and women, in the --

Q    And the First Lady’s reception by --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think you should ask them, but I know that and I'm confident that she believes that the entire experience was a wonderful one.  It was a great opportunity to highlight the athletic prowess, but also the -- of American athletes, but also sort of -- I think that we've all seen American competitors handle themselves in that spotlight with great grace and dignity, as have athletes from so many nations.

Q    These are practically even more than 90 medals.  That's going to be a lot of participants.  So you'll keep us posted on that reception?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I have no scheduling announcements. 

Last question -- Olivier.

Q    Jay, you talked pretty confidently about having eyes on and visibility in two of the Iranian nuclear programs.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, there are IAEA inspectors, as you know. 

Q    But yesterday -- I think it was yesterday -- the Israeli defense minister said that, actually, it's getting harder to tell what's going on inside the Iranian nuclear program.  And I'm wondering if you can reconcile those two comments.  As of today, you're not concerned about a degradation of the intelligence coming in on that program?

MR. CARNEY:  I'm not going to get into specific details about intelligence.  I would simply note that we have -- there are international inspectors, and that we feel confident that we would be able to detect a breakout move by Iran towards the acquisition of a nuclear weapon. 

Thanks.

Q    Week ahead?

MR. CARNEY:  One day I'll remember.  I do have a week ahead. 

On Saturday, the President will travel to Chicago, Illinois where he will remain overnight.  On Sunday, the President will attend campaign events in Chicago.  On Monday, the President will depart Chicago en route Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he will begin a three-day bus tour. 

In Iowa, the President will attend campaign events in Council Bluffs and Boone.  The President will remain overnight in Des Moines, Iowa.  On Tuesday, the President will travel to Oskaloosa, Marshalltown, and Waterloo, Iowa for campaign events.  The President will remain overnight in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

On Wednesday, the President and First Lady will travel to Dubuque and Davenport, Iowa for campaign events.  And later on Wednesday, the President and First Lady will return here to Washington, D.C.

Q    Is she flying separately?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, she will be with the President on Wednesday.  And then it says the President and First Lady will return to Washington. 

Q    So she’s flying separately from --

MR. CARNEY:  I assume so, since she will not be with us on Monday and Tuesday.

Q    And she will be in Chicago this weekend, though?

MR. CARNEY:  I'll have to get that for you.  On Thursday and Friday, the President will attend meetings here at the White House.  Thank you all very much.

Q    Jay, any Sikhs are invited tonight for the Iftar dinner?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have any more information on that.  Thank you. 

Q    Thank you, sir.  Have a nice week.

END
1:21 P.M. EDT

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