Press Briefing 6/16/09

June 16, 2009 | 40:49

White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing. (public domain)

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Briefing by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 6-16-09

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                       June 16, 2009

PRESS BRIEFING BY
PRESS SECRETARY ROBERT GIBBS

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:04 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS:  Yes, ma'am.

Q    Ready to go?  Okay.  President Lee talked about new measures and policies that he and President Obama had agreed to talk to the other members of the five-party talks -- about new measures and policies on North Korea.  Can you elaborate on what he meant by that and what they agreed on?

MR. GIBBS:  I don't have anything additional on that, in terms of the statement that went out and what the two Presidents discussed.  Obviously we have a longstanding commitment in the defense of the Republic of Korea, and I think, obviously, the steps -- the important steps that the Security Council took over the past several days -- we had Ambassador Rice in here to discuss that last week -- demonstrates the seriousness with which the international community is addressing what is happening with North Korea.

Q    You said -- Susan Rice also said last week when she was talking about this new resolution that the United States has other measures that it's considering taking, not waiting to take but considering taking now.  And so if you're not willing to talk about what those might be or what's on the table, isn’t this sort of an empty threat to North Korea?

MR. GIBBS:  No, because we don't discuss things publicly. 

Q    And what about on Iran, is the President prepared at some point to more forcefully denounce what's happening there against the protestors?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think the President has been quite forceful on two occasions in the past 24 hours, in discussing the universal right that people have to peaceably demonstrate.  He's deplored the violence -- deplored and condemned the violence that we've seen, and underscored that the world is seeing in Iran a yearning for change.  I think the President has also, rightly, underscored that this is a vigorous debate inside of Iran by Iranians about who is going to -- about the leadership in their country.  And as he said this afternoon, it's not a good idea to meddle in that sovereignty.

Q    I just wanted to follow up on the President's remarks about the financial regulatory reform that's going to come out.  He said that you would not, in fact, see a host of new regulatory agencies added.  Does that mean there will not be any new regulatory agencies added?

MR. GIBBS:  I think he said "a host of." 

Q    There could be maybe one -- some lawmakers think -- would like to see a new agency to look out on behalf of consumers.  Could that be part of the plan?

MR. GIBBS:  I will, as the President said -- I'd be hard pressed to get ahead of the President saying he wasn’t going to get ahead of himself. 

Q    Oh, show a little ankle.  (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS:  Maybe if I can get work -- get a job with CBS.  But, no, I think the President underscored again today the strong need for regulatory reform.  We've all witnessed over the past many months what happens in an environment that doesn’t have the regulations and the watchdogs that are needed to ensure that we don't ever again get to the precipice of where we were just a few months ago and what caused that.

Yes.  I'm sorry -

Q    Well, I just -- kind of a different side of the same question.  When he talked about consolidating, does that mean that some agencies may be closed or merged into other agencies?
MR. GIBBS:  Trust me, you'll have plenty of opportunity to do all this tomorrow.
Q    The President went a little farther today than he did yesterday, saying he had concerns about the election, when directly talking about the election results, the legitimacy of the election.  What are his concerns, and what are they based on?
MR. GIBBS:  Well, we've enumerated some of those concerns over the course of the past few days.  I think irregularities in general.  I think you've seen -- I think I saw reports that one of the candidates overwhelmingly lost their home region.  But I think obviously the international community is watching with some concern.  Obviously even those in Iran have noted concern with the outcome, and that's why they're also looking into this.  But I think -- again, I think the international community has concern not just about what happened in the election but what has happened in the aftermath.
Q    Has the President reached out to Arab allies or other conduits, to Khamenei or any other of the power structure in Iran, to talk about what happens next?
MR. GIBBS:  Not that I'm aware of.  Again, I think I would stress for you the importance of what the President discussed, also in his comments both yesterday and today, about ensuring that while we abhor the violence associated with this vigorous Iranian debate, that we also respect their sovereignty.
Q    Thank you.
MR. GIBBS:  Yes, ma'am.
Q    Robert, back on North Korea.  The AP was saying that the two American journalists who had been sentenced last week to 12 years of hard labor had admitted to illegally crossing into North Korea.  First, can you tell us if you know whether or not that's true?  And secondly, what is the administration doing to follow up on this?  Is there a special representative or an envoy who is responsible or working towards their release?
MR. GIBBS:  Look, I don't have much to add to what we've said in the past few days, that we think -- that the administration is working to ensure their safe release; that we strongly believe -- and I think the Presidents reiterated this today -- that these two journalists should be released on humanitarian grounds.  But I'm not going to get into envoys and things like that.
Q    On another matter, it was last week the President said that he wanted to make sure taxpayer dollars were spent well, the stimulus package, against potential boondoggles and wasteful spending.  Since then, Senator Coburn has come out with a report saying that he's taking a look at a hundred different programs, saying that he has found wasteful spending, including a turtle wildlife crossing that he says cost $3 million, and 8,000 Social Security checks that were sent to people who are deceased.
First, can you tell me whether or not this report is credible in your opinion?  And if so, has the administration addressed some of those concerns?
MR. GIBBS:  Well, I've seen parts of this report and I've seen parts of our response and I think there's a longer, more detailed response that we'd be happy to provide you.  But a number of things look to be inaccurate in the "second opinion" itself.  There appear to be the assumption that projects are being funded using recovery money, which isn't true.
I think the very first project that's outlined is a decision that's ultimately made by the state, not by the feds, in terms of how particular revolving fund money is used.  So I think there are a number of entries throughout this report that are just simply wrong.  This President has taken historic steps to ensure that there is adequate transparency, and that this money is spent the way it's intended to be used.  There are projects within the report that haven't been funded; have been canceled based on our own looking into this.
So again, I think the report appears to be, in many, many cases, just flat out wrong.
Q    Are there any examples that were correct that the administration is addressing?
MR. GIBBS:  I have not looked through each and every one of them.  I'd have to look through each and every one of them.
Yes, ma'am.
Q    Is Dennis Ross moving into the White House with larger powers?  And also, is the President calling for nuclear disarmament of the whole region of Asia?
MR. GIBBS:  I don't have any personnel announcements about the State Department or the White House.  I know the President has enormous confidence, and has for quite some time, in Dennis Ross and what he brings to our foreign policy team.  I think the President has stated clearly in terms of -- and I think he reiterated in the first question he got today -- the priority of ensuring the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Q    But why can't you speak on Ross?
MR. GIBBS:  Because there's no policy -- there's no personnel announcements to make.
Q    Is he here?
MR. GIBBS:  I don't know where he is.  But I can assure you, wherever he is, he's working for the administration on behalf of the administration.
Q    Is the story wrong?
MR. GIBBS:  It's not right.  (Laughter.) 
Q    Okay, what does that mean?
MR. GIBBS:  It means I don't have any policy or personnel announcements regarding Dennis Ross. 
Q    It doesn't necessarily mean the story is wrong.  Is that what you're suggesting?
MR. GIBBS:  I'm suggesting that, if I had a personnel announcement to make regarding Dennis Ross, I'd make it.
Q    But you're not knocking down the story that appeared --
MR. GIBBS:  I'm telling you that the President has enormous confidence in him.  The President doesn't have any personnel announcements to make --
Q    Why don't you really tell us what you're trying to say?
MR. GIBBS:  I have no personnel announcements to make today, Helen.  (Laughter.)
Q    You didn't ask for a retraction -- I'm not going to belabor the point.  (Laughter.)  No retraction.
MR. GIBBS:  I'd be one busy -- I'd be one busy man if that were the case.
Q    Can you translate some of this diplo-speak?  Three times President Lee said -- talked about the firm relationship between South Korea and the United States when responding to a question about the North Korean threat.  Is that -- did he ask for an assurance from the President that if there's a military strike against South Korea that the U.S. will respond, that's unequivocal?
MR. GIBBS:  Well, Chuck, we've had that type of relationship with the Republic of Korea for --
Q    So nothing has changed on that front?  And that was reiterated today and that's the way we should read the words "firm," and all of that?
MR. GIBBS:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I mean, obviously this is something that has -- that we've responded to.  I think as we've said many times before, the increasingly -- the reactions of the North Koreans in alienating themselves from their own responsibilities and from those responsibilities and isolating themselves from the rest of the world, that they're going alone down a different path.  The President believes there's a different way for North Korea.
And I think what he discussed today with President Lee was a continuation of the strong relationship that we have with the Republic of Korea and the strong international reactions and steps that have been taken to coordinate that response, and to take some extremely tough actions, all of what Ambassador Rice outlined just last week.
I remember not long after the first launch in late March and early April, there was some vast skepticism that tough actions and steps could be agreed upon by a group of five nations, a group of 15 nations.  Not only were they agreed upon, but they're now being implemented.
Q    How is the President getting his information on Iran right now?  Is he just reacting to the news reports that everybody has seen, or do you guys feel like you have some intelligence on the ground that's telling you where things stand?
MR. GIBBS:  I can assure you the President gets a regular intelligence briefing, but I'll demure the --
Q    Has he had any conversations with allies about a coordinated response?
MR. GIBBS:  Not that I'm aware of.
Yes, sir.
Q    I understand that the President doesn’t want to look like he's meddling in the Iranian elections, but at what point does the President's position that he is willing to speak with the Ahmadinejad government bolster the Ahmadinejad regime?  And is there a time when he would suspend that offer as the election results go through a contestation?
Q    Is that a word?
MR. GIBBS:  I'm almost sure that it's not.  (Laughter.)  But leaving that aside for one moment --
Q    It's a print guy that made up -- (laughter.)
MR. GIBBS:  I don't know, let me say, if that's -- I'm going to do my crossword puzzle tonight; I don't know if that's -- look, I would say this, Jonathan.  The concerns that we have about Iran are no different than we had last Thursday or last Friday.  Our primary concerns are obviously the state sponsorship and the spread of terror, and their efforts to secure a nuclear weapon.  Those interests -- our interests are no different today than they were before the election.  The President remains committed to strong action and principled diplomacy to address our national interests; that our interest haven't changed regardless of ultimately who the Iranians pick.
Yes, sir.
Q    What's the policy going to be on release of the names of White House visitors?
MR. GIBBS:  The policy -- as you know, I think many of you know, this has involved -- visitor logs have been involved in some litigation dating back to some time in 2006.  The White House is reviewing that policy based on some of that litigation.
Q    So it's just you're not going either way on it now, and you're not refusing to --
MR. GIBBS:  We're reviewing what has been the policy of -- the previous policy.
Q    Who is doing that review?
MR. GIBBS:  The White House Counsel's Office and other people in the administration.
Q    What's the length of the review?
MR. GIBBS:  I don't know the exact timeline.
Q    Is there a mandate to be more transparent than the previous administration?
MR. GIBBS:  I think we ran on that --
Q    In this specific regard?
MR. GIBBS:  That's what's under review.
Q    Is that the goal?
MR. GIBBS:  What's the goal?
Q    Isn't that the goal, to be more transparent on these visitor logs than the previous administration?
MR. GIBBS:  The goal is -- and I think the President, who underscored his commitment to transparency on his first full day in office -- this is not a contest between this administration or that administration, or any administration; it's to uphold the principle of open government.
Q    Why would the President have any objection to the public knowing who is coming in here to visit?
MR. GIBBS:  I think we've taken actions to let people know who are.  I think again, Peter, this dates back to litigation long before we ever showed up.
Q    Do you think you might have to uphold precedent here, possibly?
MR. GIBBS:  That's part of what's being reviewed by the Counsel's Office.
Yes, ma'am.
Q    Will the administration provide emergency aid to California, or are you rejecting that to avoid similar requests from other states?
MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, obviously many states throughout the country, because of the slowdown in our economy, find themselves with severe budgetary constraints.  The President believed and addressed part of this in the recovery and reinvestment plan by ensuring the largest amount of fiscal relief that we've seen moved to states in the history of our country.
It's obviously not an easy time for the state of California. We'll continue to monitor the challenges that they have.  But this budgetary problem, unfortunately, is one that they're going to have to solve.
Q    Following up on that, is the administration comfortable with the kind of precedent California would have to impose, specifically on its participation in Medicaid and SCHIP, which the President has identified as significant priorities of his administration, and in one regard, SCHIP, an achievement of this administration?
MR. GIBBS:  I don't know if -- I don't know the degree to which we've analyzed each of California's individual cuts. Obviously we've had to make -- and states have had to make very difficult decisions as it relates to our budget.  And these aren't easy times for states.
Q    I want to follow up on Jonathan's question, just to have it on the record.  The President is still willing to talk to Ahmadinejad about U.S.-Iranian issues, even currently, is that correct?
MR. GIBBS:  I'm sorry?
Q    The President is still willing to talk to Ahmadinejad about the various U.S. issues, and that's not been changed at all by the --
MR. GIBBS:  The President is committed to --
Q    -- status of this election?
MR. GIBBS:  The President is committed to direct engagement with the Iranian government on issues of our national interest, including their pursuit of a nuclear weapon and their sponsorship for terror.
Q    And the disputed election does not in any way change that?
MR. GIBBS:  Well, again, the disputed election is something for Iranians to work out.
Q    Does the administration have an opinion as to whether or not foreign journalists should be allowed to cover that story and remain inside Iran?
MR. GIBBS:  Obviously the President spoke both yesterday and today about what he thinks of his universal values, and obviously --
Q    He spoke about people in the streets and Iranians --
MR. GIBBS:  Let me --
Q    I'm sorry.
MR. GIBBS:  I think having a robust free press that covers an important story for the world is something that the President believes strongly in.
Q    Does the administration believe the Internet and texting access should be restored?
MR. GIBBS:  Absolutely.
Yes, sir.
Q    A follow-up?  Sky News has designated a spot on their Web site, as other organizations have, for people who are tweeting, who are sending SMS's, et cetera.  In light of the fact that we don't have a diplomatic relationship, is the White House monitoring these various Web sites for that information?
MR. GIBBS:  I can check with somebody at NSC, but I don't have anything specific.
Q    The President said in Cairo that countries that elect their governments are better -- the governments are better, more stable, better able to provide economic opportunities.  Does the United States have a national interest in the will of the Iranian people being accurately reflected in this election?
MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think that he's expressed concern, as the international community has.  Obviously any election, if it's going to -- any election should reflect the will of the people.  That, by definition, is an election.
I would also mention, Scott, that the President said that it's important -- elections are important, but also the decisions that governments make after elections are important.  That's why our interests as they relate to the Iranian government are unchanged.
Q    Robert, are you at all concerned that the measured response of the United States so far to the Iranian elections could harm America or the President's image among democracy advocates not only in Iran but around the world?
MR. GIBBS:  No, I think this administration's commitment to democracy has been demonstrated in the commitment in resources that we've put forward.  But at the same time, I think it's important that I reemphasize what the President said about sovereignty, but more importantly, that I emphasize that this is a debate inside of Iran for Iranians.
Yes, sir.
Q    Robert, health care.  CBO, as I think you know, has scored Ted Kennedy's bill as costing over a trillion dollars, and yet it still is only going to ensure about a third of the uninsured.  Doesn't that -- I realized you said that that's his bill and not your bill, but doesn't that bode ill for health care reform in general and the President's hope of ensuring everybody?
MR. GIBBS:  How so?
Q    Well, to the extent that you spend that amount of money, which is in the ballpark of what the administration has said it's going to cost --
MR. GIBBS:  In reading stories on this, I think it's clear that this is an old proposal, an incomplete proposal.  I think what's important is what the President outlined yesterday, in his speech to the doctors, that we know clearly what the cost of inaction is.  We know what that cost is to the federal budget; we know what it is to state budgets; we know what it is to budgets of families and to businesses, large and small.  And that inaction is something we simply can't afford.
The President I think has laid out strong principles that he believes should be contained in legislation so that we can see significant cost-saving for families and small businesses that are struggling.  But, again, I think this has many twists and turns to go.  I mean, one incomplete, older proposal I don't think is indicative of where we are now.  And I would also mention this -- I think the President has outlined close to $950 billion in savings that he believes could be used to ensure that a plan for health care reform is deficit-neutral.
Q    But you're confident that the President's proposal or what he wants to sign is going to be so dramatically different from what CBO looked at, that you will ensure the bulk of the unemployed --
MR. GIBBS:  I think the committee that's worked on that bill will tell you the bill they have now is.  Look, as I've said, Mark, the President isn’t looking to pass -- for Congress to pass and for him to sign something that doesn't significantly cut the amount of cost that families and small businesses are struggling with.  The President reiterated yesterday that we shouldn't be a nation that sees tens of millions of uninsured.  And he has some very firm principles in mind that have to be met as part of health care reform.
Ann.
Q    How does that principle work, though?  If he promises repeatedly that Americans can keep the doctors and the health insurance they like, if they like it, but if he succeeds in getting a kind of a government plan, small businesses desert their private insurers and go to a government plan, how can people keep the doctors and plans they want if their employers opt out for --
MR. GIBBS:  Look, I guess I wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to this notion that presenting a public option with better choice and more competition will result dramatically in employers dropping what they already have.  The notion of injecting a public option, we believe, will do exactly what I said in terms of choice and competition.  Having somebody ensure that there is an affordable placeholder in the market I think will have a dramatic effect in terms of driving down costs, exactly what the President talks about each and every time he talks about health care reform.
Q    By the time Air Force One arrived back here yesterday, the complaints on Capitol Hill were that the government option would drive private insurance out of business.  How can he make sure that doesn’t happen?
MR. GIBBS:  I think the President outlined pretty clearly yesterday, the principle to ensure that if you like what you have, you can keep it; that the injection of an option that ensures greater choice among those that don't have access and competition that drives down costs is an important option that has to be preserved in this entire debate.
Q    How can you promise that?  How can you promise -- if employers are in charge of providing insurance for their employees, how can the President say --
MR. GIBBS:  Because the injection of competition will drive down costs.  People -- other insurance companies will follow that.  You can't set a market -- if a marketplace is set that is so vastly out of whack, people have to make decisions.  That's what we're --
Q    But the report said that there would be some millions knocked off of their private plans as a public option.
MR. GIBBS:  Well, Major, based on what I think we all acknowledge is an older proposal and not one that's fully laid out.
Q    Do you guys think you can offer a plan that's less expensive and people aren’t going to flock to it?
MR. GIBBS:  I think what happens in a marketplace like that, if I understand the free enterprise system, is that increased choice in competition drives down the prices for other insurance. That's why a strong public option is necessary to ensure that competition.
Q    But a free enterprise system, if the competitor -- one has an inexhaustible source of tax revenue as a public option funded by the government might, then the private sector can't --
Q    That's the 11th question up there.  Could we get some back here?
MR. GIBBS:  Just by Major, or by the first two rows?  (Laughter.)
Q    By Major -- 11, 11.  We've counted.
Q    We have a new record.
Q    Could I ask just one?
MR. GIBBS:  Let me work my way back, Lester, so that I ensure that the 11 questions that Major has had during our short period of time together -- let me give a chance for somebody in the third and fourth row to break that record. 
Peter. 
Q    Thank you, Robert.  Back to the turtles for a moment.  How do you ensure the priorities in the stimulus package are met? In Florida, 200 faculty and staff are going to be laid off at a time when the state transportation department is going to spend $3 million paving a pathway for turtles so that they can safely cross a highway.  Is that a priority --
MR. GIBBS:  I have not looked through the entire report.  I think that, again, I'd point out the number of inaccuracies and simply -- the entries in the report that are simply wrong.
Q    But I just have a rebuttal on that one, and I guess the broader question is, is it possible with a stimulus package of this size to prioritize in a way to ensure that the money goes to the worthiest projects?

MR. GIBBS:  Absolutely.  That's exactly the system that the President has set up.  That's the priority of any recovery plan. And I think that a reasonable look at the spending thus far denotes that that's happened in this case, that the priorities are being met, that funding is going to where it's needed.

But, look, you're using an example of state budget priorities.  As I said earlier in relation to California, there are very few entities -- business, states, the federal government -- that are immune to the type of dramatic downturn that we've seen in the economy.  I think that's why the President endeavored to seek a recovery and reinvestment plan that would actually make a difference.

April.

Q    Robert, the U.S. Conference of Mayors was very happy early on in this administration, saying they had a friend in the White House when the President was engaging them on the recovery plan.  Now they're very, very upset about the White House not crossing this picketing.  Could you talk about that?  Is the good of the whole being neglected for one city?

MR. GIBBS:  No, I think the administration has denoted pretty clearly that obviously we have worked with officials at a city, county, state level, particularly as it relates to the recovery plan.  But I think, as the statement from me says clearly, it's not our policy to cross the picket line.

Q    So -- okay.  And I'm going to go hypothetically, but I want an answer, a real answer.  (Laughter.) 

MR. GIBBS:  I won't "contestation" then.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Is that a real word?  But here's the deal.  If the conference, the three-day conference, was in another city, would the high-profile White House officials have attended?  If it were in another city that did not have any kind of picket --

MR. GIBBS:  Look, let me see if I'm accurately paraphrasing your question.  If there wasn a picket line that we wouldn't cross, would we go?

Q    Right.  In another city.

MR. GIBBS:  Again, our policy is we don't want to cross a picket line.  So if there's not a picket line in Smithville and that's where the conference is, we'll go to the conference.

Q    And also, another conference in July, the NAACP.  We understand it looks very favorable that the President could be speaking to the nation's oldest civil rights organization?  Is that true?  And tell us why.

MR. GIBBS:  I think the President has spoken on a number of occasions.  I have not seen the final thing.  I assume, strongly, that he'll go, and looks forward to honoring their historic commitment.

Q    What is his message?  He's gone to Muslim America, he's gone to Hispanic America.  What is his message to black America as the first African American President?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, let me not get ahead of a speech that probably hasn't been written.

David.

Q    Thanks.  Thirteen questions.  (Laughter.)  I'll settle for two.  On the visitor log issue, while the policy is under review you've denied two requests from MSNBC and from crew, and then was quoted up by MSNBC, saying that, in essence, there should be the right to hold secret meetings in the White House, and he gave a forward examples when that might be needed.  Is it the position of the White House that you need to hold secret meetings on occasion here, and thus --

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think there are obviously occasions in which the President is going to meet privately with advisors on topics that are of great national importance, yes.

Q    Okay, so then how does that square with a policy that might end up -- a policy review that might end up releasing some visitor logs?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, again, let me not conclude the review that's underway.

Q    And then secondly, just --

Q    Why can't you give us a length of that review?

MR. GIBBS:  I don't have it.

Q    But can you find it?  Can you find out?

MR. GIBBS:  I will see if they have one, yes. 

Q    CNN is reporting that --

MR. GIBBS:  This is two --

Q    This is two.

Q    I just have one -- just one.

MR. GIBBS:  Just one big microphone, or just one big question?  (Laughter.)

Q    Both.  Both. 

MR. GIBBS:  Okay.

Q    CNN is reporting that State Department officials are working with Twitter and other social networks to keep communications open with Iran.  Is that something the White House is involved with, too?

MR. GIBBS:  I will check.  Obviously I think, as I said earlier, ensuring an active free press on the ground, as well as communications either through texting or Twitter are incredibly important.  I think, David, you are seeing the yearning for change that the President talked about, and the President has talked about, right now.  I think the peaceable demonstration and that yearning especially by youth in Iran is heartening for the world to see and is important for the world to see.

Q    You said that U.S. interest with Iran haven’t changed since last Thursday or Friday.  Is it fair to say that the talks the U.S. -- (inaudible) -- in addressing those interests has gone much harder because of the events of the last week?  And is it going to be much more difficult to build domestic political support for an engagement strategy with Ahmadinejad as President after a disputed election?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I've seen quite a few people in the last 24 hours discuss a more vigorous policy in engaging Iran, quite frankly, than I've seen in any number of months.  I think -- again, I'll go back to what I said just a moment ago.  I think you're seeing the yearning for change.  I think we're witnessing something that we believe -- the world is witnessing something that's tremendously important

Q    Robert, on the war funding, the Republicans have announced they're going to vote en bloc against the war-funding measure.  Does the administration believe that Republicans or Democrats who vote against the war-funding measure are putting our troops in danger?

MR. GIBBS:  I would note with some irony the new message position of Republicans on Capitol Hill.  As I said last week, I think there are many important reasons to support this supplemental funding:  ensuring our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq; the commitments that we've made to Pakistan to help; and as I said last week, the extremely important efforts -- as the World Health Organization denotes we have reached internationally a pandemic stage, the important money that's there for the preparation and response to what we and others throughout the world assume will be another visit from H1N1 this fall. 

I think for any number of reasons, the administration strongly believes that a vote in support of all of these measures is truly important.

Q    And their reasoning they say is because of the IMF funding.  In 1998, John Boehner said:  "Given the crises we have around the world, the U.S. needs to provide leadership.  The only real avenue is the IMF."   Interesting change of position.

MR. GIBBS:  Have you gotten his response on that?

Q    I'd like to hear yours.

MR. GIBBS:  The President made a commitment at the G20 to ensure that as we watched an economic downturn, we watched an even steeper downturn in exports, which hurts not only -- it hurts all countries, but it hurts particularly developing nations.  This is important relief to ensure that we have strong global trade. 

I don't think, given where we are in the world economy, that we would want to see a pullback in that commitment.  And I think we should understand that exports create jobs right here at home.

Q    Robert, on immigration, what's the reason that the meeting has been delayed week after week?  Some Hispanic organizations are saying that's because the President is losing ground in the support in the House and in the Senate on  immigration reform discussion.

MR. GIBBS:  Unfortunately, the schedule here is, as always, a work in progress.  And for those reasons, the meeting has been I think rescheduled to the -- I think it's the 25th, if I have it off the top of my head.  But the President remains committed to working with Congress to seek changes in our immigration law.  But that doesn't -- but that's not shifted because a meeting got pushed back on the schedule.

Tim.

Q    The House majority leader said he has reason to believe that the President is considering an executive order that would prevent the release of the detainee abuse photos.  Is that something the President is considering?

MR. GIBBS:  Tim, all I'm going to say on this is that the President has committed to all interested parties that he intends to do what's necessary to keep those photos from being released, and that he intends to keep that commitment.

Q    Did he give Hoyer a reason to believe that?

MR. GIBBS:  I won't get into any private conversations.

Lester, yes.

Q    Thank you very much.  Historian Victor Davis Hanson cites what he terms, "The President's politically correct canard that the Renaissance was fueled by Arab learning, and the President's statement that abolition of slavery and civil rights in the U.S. were accomplished without violence," as two of seven presidential errors.  And my question:  Does the White House believe Dr. Hanson is wrong, or do you believe your speechwriters and the President made some mistakes?

MR. GIBBS:  Lester, I have to hand it to you that you have in only one question covered some five or six centuries of world history.  (Laughter.)

Q    No, no, just mistakes -- White House mistakes.

MR. GIBBS:  Should I ask you a question and you respond, or should I give a --

Q    I'd be delighted --

MR. GIBBS:  At least you're not leaning into where you think the answer to such a historically significant and important question -- I'm not familiar with the work of the esteemed historian.  I haven't seen it.  I can assure you that not knowing who this historian is, I'll put my money on our speechwriters.

Q    Thank you very much for getting back to us.

END
1:46 P.M. EDT
#73-06/16/2009  

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