THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release September 21, 2009
PRESS GAGGLE BY
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Troy, New York
10:35 A.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: How is everything?
Q Good. What's the President's take on McChrystal's report that he needs more troops or they're going to fail in Afghanistan?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the President obviously has seen General McChrystal's report and has had a chance to look at it and is in the process of, with his national security team and those at the Pentagon, working through some of the strategic assessments that the President thinks need to be evaluated.
Q Has he seen this confidence report that was reported in The Washington Post today?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, that's the -- I think it's on the Web and I think it's a redacted -- as best I know, it's a redacted version of the report that was -- that Secretary Gates gave to the President several weeks ago, or before he went to Martha's Vineyard.
But I'd stress what the President said over the weekend -- going through the history of our involvement there over the past nearly eight years, the President, upon coming into office, wanted an assessment on where we were and how best to move forward. Additional troops were okayed in the buildup to ensure security before the election, and the President asked then in the announcement of those additional resources in March that we come back after the election and assess where we are.
That is the process that's ongoing. And I think, as the President reiterated several times this weekend during his interviews, is we're going to have -- we're going to conduct that strategic assessment and do that in a way that lays out the best path forward before we make resource decisions, rather than having this go the other way around where one makes resources decisions and then finds a strategy. That's not what we're doing.
Q On that point, though, doesn't it have impact when the NATO U.S. commander says, among other things, we need more resources?
MR. GIBBS: Well, yes, obviously the commander has a specific mission in mind for which he sees -- he may see additional resources. Again, no resource request has come and I don't anticipate that it will come for a little bit because there's an assessment that's ongoing about where we are right now.
Q Is one of the possible reassessments a dramatic pullback in the mission that would change the mission from the comprehensive one that we now have to something much less, more targeted on just the leaders of al Qaeda?
MR. GIBBS: The President is going to focus on getting the strategy right, and I'm not going to go through what options he may or may not have.
Q The President has received this report in which McChrystal is asking for -- saying he needs more troops. You're saying no request has come.
MR. GIBBS: No specific -- as we've talked about only about three dozen times in the briefing room, this is an assessment and from that assessment will come, as I understand it, in several weeks options for additional resources. So a specific request for additional resources is what's to follow.
Q On a different topic, did the President order word to Governor Paterson that he does not want him to seek reelection?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think everybody understands the tough jobs that every elected official has right now in addressing many of the problems that we have, and I think people are aware of the tough situation that the governor of New York is in. And I wouldn't add a lot to what you've read, except this is a decision that he's going to make.
Q So you can't say for the record whether the President has directed word to the governor saying, I don't want you to seek reelection?
MR. GIBBS: Again, the President understands the tough job that everyone has and the pressure that they're under.
Q Can I ask a broader question on that? The White House seems very involved in a lot of local races, maybe more so than usual. Do you get the sense that President Obama is more eager to participate in state electoral politics than --
MR. GIBBS: I would somewhat not subscribe to the notion that this is new.
MR. GIBBS: I wouldn't subscribe to the notion that this is -- that the White House being involved in politics is -- it's a little -- to quote Paul Begala, not to be involved in politics would be like taking the math out of physics. You and I could do it, if that were the case.
Q Are there any risks for the President in dabbling in various states?
MR. GIBBS: The hazards of the job.
Q Does the President have any funny anecdotes for David Letterman tonight?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I'm not going to preview them here, for goodness sakes.
Q Well, so we can get ready. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: So that you can get ready? Well, that was first and foremost on the President's mind this morning.
No, he's had a good rapport with David Letterman for quite some time. We did this before he became a senator and again on the presidential campaign, so it should be -- I think it will be fun. But I also think, again, I think it's a way of talking to people that may not get their news all from traditional outlets. So I think that's an important way to continue the conversation.
Q Considering the obstacles that he faces -- or faced in the quest for Middle East peace, what kind of result is the President looking at for these three-way talks with Abbas and Netanyahu?
MR. GIBBS: Look, we're looking to continue to build on progress. I think part of that progress is getting the three parties, including the United States, together. And we have no grand expectations out of one meeting except to continue, as the President talked about from his very first day in office, continue the hard work, day-to-day diplomacy that has to be done to seek a lasting peace.
Do you have something else?
Q No, I was actually going to ask that very same question.
MR. GIBBS: Oh, okay.
Anything else? Thanks, guys.
10:42 A.M. EDT