Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 8/31/2011
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:26 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. Anybody want to ask me when and where the speech is going to be? (Laughter.)
Q Have they accepted? Are they going to let him --
MR. CARNEY: I don't want to speak for the leaders of Congress, but I know you all did learn that the President requested of the leaders that he speak to a joint session of Congress next week on September 7th at 8:00 p.m.
Beyond that, I don't have any announcements, so I'll start with your questions.
Q Can you talk a little bit about why he's going to do the speech before a joint session of Congress as opposed to some other venue?
MR. CARNEY: Sure. The President feels that we are at a moment when we need to take significant action to spur economic growth and to create jobs, to accelerate hiring, and that that action can be -- there are significant things we can do if we work together in Washington. And that requires working with Congress. And he believes that if members of Congress, while they've been on their recess, have been hearing the same things from regular Americans that he heard when he was on his bus tour, then they will come back with a sense of urgency and a focus and determination to do the kinds of bipartisan things that we can do right now to increase growth and increase job creation. So he believes that the venue is appropriate because of the actions that need to be taken.
Q Is the timing of the speech -- there's also a Republican debate that night in California. Did the White House specifically choose the date and time --
MR. CARNEY: No, of course not. There were a lot of considerations that once you decide you want to do a speech to Congress, and you have to deal with congressional schedules and there are many other factors here. And obviously one debate of many that’s on one channel of many was not enough reason not to have the speech at the time that we decided to have it.
Q Did you check with Chuck Todd or anyone -- (laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: We make consultations obviously with networks all the time about the timing of presidential speeches.
Q Can I follow real quick -- I'm sorry.
MR. CARNEY: Do you yield, Alister? (Laughter.)
Q The gentleman from Reuters. (Laughter.) Any concern that -- as you know, it's at the Reagan facility. Any concern of potentially upsetting Nancy Reagan by stepping on this?
MR. CARNEY: I think that the -- the sponsors of the debate control the timing of it; they can make a decision based on how they want to handle this. There are many channels, there are many opportunities for the public to hear the President speak, to watch this debate -- one of many -- and we'll let that sort itself out.
Q Two questions on the speech. The President said yesterday in a radio interview that the government could take steps that could spur growth by up to 1.5 percentage point and add a million new jobs. Is that an indication of the scale of the proposals he's going to lay out?
MR. CARNEY: No, I think if you look at the full quotation, the full context of that comment by the President, he was speaking generally about economic models -- economic analysis and models that say every one -- roughly -- I'm not an economist -- but every 1 percent of growth equals -- generally equals T-K number of jobs, this many million jobs or 100,000 jobs. So that was not a reference to his proposal. I'll leave the details and the projections of added growth and job creation to the speech itself and to the analysis afterwards. That was more a reference to general economic analysis says if you take measures to increase economic growth by this percentage, it will result in this many jobs.
Q Okay. And then, secondly, is this a job speech, or is it a jobs and deficit speech? Because the President has referenced the importance of bringing down the deficit over time. Is it going to include proposals for the super committee?
MR. CARNEY: The President made clear his commitment to present to the so-called super committee, special committee, joint committee in Congress that's going to deal with further deficit and debt reduction his own specific and detailed proposals. He will do that.
This speech next week, he will certainly put the need for jobs -- job creation and economic growth within the context of an overall long-term plan for dealing with growing our economy and getting our fiscal house in order. But the speech tomorrow -- rather next week will focus on the immediate need to create jobs and spur economic growth.
It will obviously -- it will contain -- there will be many elements of it. I don't want to over-preview it here, but the commitment to present a detailed proposal on deficit reduction remains. And as you know, I believe the committee meets for the first time the following week. Next week he will focus on jobs and growth.
Q So it will not lay out a goal for --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to get into the specifics. It will be a significant speech with many elements to it, but I don't want -- I want to be clear that the President is focused very much on steps we can take together -- Congress, the administration -- to grow the economy and create jobs at this important time in the American economy.
Q On housing, Jay, is the White House working on a new proposal at this point?
MR. CARNEY: As you know, restoring the health of the housing market after its dramatic collapse is an important goal and it’s not an easy task. We have been committed since the day this President was sworn into office to taking measures -- taking steps that will help us do that, and we continue to look at new ideas for how to do that. There’s many measures that we have taken that have resulted in many, many families being able to stay in their homes, to restructure their mortgages and to allow themselves to stay in their homes. And we think that’s very important, and we’ll continue to look at measures.
Most recently over the summer, as you know, the President put forward an initiative of expanded forbearance for unemployed homeowners to allow them to stay in their homes, and he began a process to deal with the excess of foreclosed properties, to help stabilize communities and home values. And we continue to look at new ideas.
Q But HAMP and the unemployed, underwater, and the states’ help -- I mean, those things are sort of incremental and have -- for HAMP especially -- have served many fewer people, millions fewer people than the administration initially said they would. How imperative is it from the President’s perspective to help those people, millions of people who are underwater on their home loans, to refinance?
MR. CARNEY: The President, as I said, continues to be focused on this issue. It’s not an easy task. I would note that over 760,000 homeowners have obtained permanent remodifications -- modifications, rather, to their mortgages under the HAMP program you reference, and that on average over the past six months, 25,000 to 30,000 more homeowners are obtaining permanent modification each month. And when you combine that with the assistance provided through HUD and the steps that the private sector has taken, another 5 million families have been offered modifications between April 2009 and December 2010.
And we will continue to look at measures and to take steps that can improve the prospects for homeowners and to allow them to stay in their homes, including -- evidence of the fact that we’re constantly looking for new ideas on this issue are the two measures that I just referenced.
Q It sounds very decoupled, though, from jobs and deficit reduction. It’s something, maybe, that is a lesser priority than those other things when you look at the timing?
MR. CARNEY: I think these are all priorities. And the housing challenge that we continue to face is part of the economic challenge that we face, there’s no question. And he is focused on that as part of his overall highest priority, which is the economy and jobs.
Q The 9/11 report card is being released virtually as we speak. Three of the big concerns it addresses -- intel sharing and coordination, particularly at the DNI, explosive detection and communications were three of the big lessons from 9/11 itself -- three of the real issues then. Given that we’re 10 years later, as we approach that anniversary, what happened, and what is the President doing to address those?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t spent a lot of time on this. I think it was just today it came out, but if you look at the number of recommendations the commission made, and the number that have been filled, it’s a very high percentage. Obviously, there are some that are still outstanding. And some of them I would -- are very technical, the answers to which I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security.
I think overall we continue to be intensely focused on taking the fight to al Qaeda and the terrorists who threaten the United States, and protecting the homeland, and the record that this administration has in those tasks is one worth reviewing, which doesn't mean that we don't constantly look for ways to improve.
Q Some of these are not that technical. When they talk about intelligence sharing and coordination, they just say, it’s not the intelligence community integration we envisioned. This is not technical stuff. This is about cooperation --
MR. CARNEY: Well, when you talk about how -- I mean, I think that's a broad statement about the setup of DNI and other things, and some of this has to do with the structure and would require congressional actions to change, as I understand it. So what’s your broader question? Can we constantly take measures to improve? There’s no doubt that's true.
Q No question. But as you approach this anniversary, just three of the critical issues were ones that were critical 10 years ago. We had a sample of tough communication between first responders during the earthquake with cell phone lines being inundated. The question is how did we end up at this point 10 years later, and what is the President doing to address those, to correct those in a quicker timeframe than they’ve clearly been addressed, as the report card shows? There was disappointment here in the report card.
MR. CARNEY: I mean, again, I think you need to ask a more specific question about whether or not communications work for first responders. I mean, there’s no doubt that there are many things that we need to continue to work to improve on. There’s no question.
I believe, again, if you look at the report and the number of recommendations that the commission put forward and that have been met is substantial. The percentage is very high. And there are still issues that need to be addressed. And I think you have to look at it also within the context of the overall purpose of those recommendations, which was to enhance our ability to protect our homeland, and enhance our ability to deal with those who threaten the United States and American citizens. And you can certainly look at the things that this administration has done, as well as the previous administration, to address those issues. And if you do, you can certainly note some successes.
Q Have Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner accepted the President’s request to address the joint session?
MR. CARNEY: I have not -- obviously, we just submitted this letter. I have not heard from them yet, personally.
Q The President is requesting this time to address the joint session of Congress at the same Republicans are holding a debate. Would you describe that timing as coincidental?
MR. CARNEY: I was already asked this, actually, by the first question -- by Darlene and I think I answered it. It is coincidental. There is -- the President committed to speaking next week after the Labor Day holiday and immediately upon Congress’ return. And there are a lot of factors that go into scheduling a speech before Congress, a joint session speech. And again, you can never find a perfect time. There are major events that occur on television. There are other issues that you have to deal with, as well as congressional scheduling and the President’s scheduling. So as I just noted, there are many channels, there are many opportunities for people to watch the President, and obviously, an opportunity for people to watch the debate. And I leave -- the network involved here can decide how it wants to deal.
Q You mentioned congressional scheduling. So there was something that Leader Reid or Speaker Boehner suggested that date and --
MR. CARNEY: I’m saying that Congress isn’t in session, is not back on Monday, for example -- or on Friday. It’s not -- there are other issues that have to go into any of these kind of scheduling decisions.
Q The President has a lot of things he’s talked about, about ways to jumpstart the economy. Some of the proposals would cost tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars -- like the payroll tax cut. Is the President planning to send -- pose something that would be deficit neutral, in other words would be paid for --
MR. CARNEY: The President has already made clear that precisely because we need to take measures to enhance growth, accelerate hiring, he will call on the committee dealing with the need for fiscal soundness to overshoot its goals, to pass a program that -- his program will call for greater deficit reduction, greater savings than the target set by the legislation that created the super committee.
Q I'm just trying to decouple these two things -- one is the jobs speech and --
MR. CARNEY: The answer is, yes, it will be paid for.
Q -- and one is the long-term deficit reduction.
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely paid for.
Q But the jobs speech stuff will be paid for?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Jay, so given the scheduling, other things in the air on the speech, but is there an added bonus for the White House to step -- I mean, for you to say there's no --
MR. CARNEY: Look, again, there's one President; there's 20-some odd debates. This is an important moment for our economy. Congress is just coming back. He is addressing an issue that is of great significance to the American people as well as to the Congress. And there are many opportunities for the American people -- there's the choice they can make to watch the President, to watch a debate. The debate could be -- again, the network could make a decision to alter the timing of the debate by an hour if it so decided -- or the sponsor of the debate. Again, it can't -- you know how this works because you work in television. There is no perfect time -- there's not been a time in my short time in this job where I have called the networks and said, how about now -- does this time work for the President to speak? There's always a, well, it works for two of us, but not the other three of us --
Q I understand. We also work in a political world where it's not like this White House doesn’t know that the Republicans are trying to trump the President that night. So that didn’t play a factor at all?
MR. CARNEY: It did not. I can honestly tell you -- and again, the President -- this is about the President addressing the American economy, the need to grow the economy, the need to create jobs. This is the right time to do it, the right day to do it, given all the other considerations. So that's why we asked for it.
Q And on the economy and jobs, you say in the speech he wants to talk about bipartisan proposals, things that Republicans could support. It seems like he started the ball rolling today with the highway jobs. But we heard the same talk from the President in January 2009 with the stimulus -- shovel-ready projects, this was going to create a lot of jobs -- that didn’t pan out. So what's really new about this? Why would the American people be confident that the jobs are going to be created?
MR. CARNEY: Well -- and I know that you know the history better than that, that every independent economist attests to the fact that the Recovery Act added, what, 3 million jobs, I believe, to the economy, created a safety --
Q I'm not saying it did not create jobs. I'm just saying it didn’t create as many as you said --
MR. CARNEY: I understand there's a political issue that some folks are arguing that it didn’t do enough; obviously others on the other side argue that it should have been bigger and could have done more. What is an indisputable fact is that the hole created by the recession that this President took office during was 8 million jobs large. That is a fact -- that the recession that was in full bloom, if you will, when the President took office ended up costing the American economy 8 million jobs; 8 million Americans lost their job because of that recession. And that is the economic environment in which this President took office and began to take measures to address that problem. And the measures he's taken have -- working with Congress -- have resulted in, again, over 2 million private sector jobs being created, economic growth as opposed to economic contraction.
Recovery is not happening fast enough. Job creation is not happening fast enough. That is why he will address the American people and the Congress next week to talk about measures that we can take together to do right now to enhance growth and job creation.
Q I guess I’m referring less to -- I know Republicans have been saying even before the stimulus passed that they didn’t think it was going to do enough. They’ve made that argument over and over again. But the President himself, a couple months ago, said shovel-ready didn’t turn out to be so shovel-ready. So put aside the -- the President himself has acknowledged publicly --
MR. CARNEY: I think you’re confusing --
Q -- that it didn’t create as many jobs.
MR. CARNEY: You’re confusing two things. When the President spoke today with the CEO -- the COO of the Chamber of Commerce and the head of the AFL-CIO by his side, as well as many others, he was referring to a clean extension of the Surface Transportation bill, the highway bill, if you will, that has had broad bipartisan support for years, that has been extended without issue seven times in the last two years, and that the failure to do that would -- could potentially jeopardize up to a million American jobs. That is separate from the jobs and growth proposals he’ll put forward next week and has nothing to do with whether or not projects are ready to build.
This is a program that has been in place for years, that has been supported by Democratic and Republican Presidents, Democratic and Republican congresses. The reason why the President came out today to talk about it is that, unfortunately, we do not live in the kind of political environment that we used to, where you cannot take for granted that things that had bipartisan support will have it going forward, and you cannot take for granted, after we went through the debt ceiling debate, where some members of Congress seemed willing to threaten the American economy and the global economy to make a political point -- you can’t take anything for granted.
So the President went out today to say, look, Congress has to do this. We should not create any more self-inflicted wounds. We certainly have to take action to grow the economy and create jobs, and we absolutely must not take action that will result in the loss of jobs. We saw this in the FAA thing. It was a wholly unnecessary, self-inflicted wound that resulted, for a time period, in people losing their jobs and not getting a paycheck.
Q That brings up a question. FEMA funding, highway bill, FAA -- normally things that are popular in Congress, or relatively non-controversial anyway -- the President told Tom Joyner yesterday he’s going to communicate with the American people and he wants the next election to be a referendum on a Republican Congress, as opposed to a referendum on his presidency, I assume. Is this an effort, the venue, probably the most conspicuous of all venues, in prime-time, to sort of go big and put Republicans in a very public box on this?
MR. CARNEY: As I said I believe the other day, and again yesterday on Air Force One when we were flying to Minneapolis, the President’s goal is for Congress to act and act quickly to pass the proposals he will put forward next week. And there, again, if we -- in normal times, the proposals he puts forward next week would gain substantial, broad bipartisan support, especially in an economic situation like we face now.
He is hopeful that members of Congress of both parties will, during their recess, have heard from their constituents the same things that the President heard from Americans in Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa, when he was on his bus trip a few weeks ago, and the week before that when he was in Michigan -- the American people -- Republicans, Democrats, independents -- are fed up with the kind of political posturing and gamesmanship that used to just result in gridlock and what’s perceived to be incompetent, but proved itself during the debt-ceiling debate to be dangerous, that did harm to the American economy, and therefore did harm to average Americans.
We can’t have that. We can’t afford it. And the President believes that members of Congress will come back, having heard from their constituents, and will understand the need to take action -- sensible action -- to grow the economy and create jobs.
Q Since I jumped the line, I’ll pass --
MR. CARNEY: You yield to the Wall Street Journal?
Q Will the President include an estimate of how many jobs his plan will create or what sort of growth it might produce when he lays out his proposal?
MR. CARNEY: We’ll see. (Laughter.)
Q Is that something that you think is important --
MR. CARNEY: The President will -- I can just say generally without getting into the specifics of the speech that will not be delivered for another week, that the President is confident that outside economic analysts will judge his proposals to be beneficial to the economy and beneficial to job creation. And they will make those measurements.
As far as what projections we make, that remains to be seen. But we are absolutely confident the kinds of proposals the President will make will be judged by reputable, nonpartisan, independent economic analysts to be pro-growth, pro-job creation.
Q And considering the weight the housing market has on the economy, is he going to offer any new proposals for getting -- for the housing market --
MR. CARNEY: I was just asked this question, and again, we -- the President believes that and understands that the challenges facing the housing market after its collapse remain, and we will continue to take steps as we’ve taken since the beginning of this administration to try to alleviate that, to help homeowners stay in their homes. And we are constantly evaluating new ideas and taking action, as he has just this summer with the two programs I mentioned. And by "constantly," I mean not just in the past, but going forward.
Q Just one more thing on the debate. Would the President prefer, would he like that the organizers to move it up so that it doesn't coincide with his speech?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not -- we’re not going to get into the scheduling for sponsors of debates or television. Given the options we had, the fact that we believe that it is the right venue and the right time to speak for this kind of a speech, we asked for the time that we asked for.
Q I know, but the reason I asked was because --
MR. CARNEY: We would be perfectly happy to have --
Q -- we’ve heard a lot about democracy and the importance of the American --
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely, I mean, we --
Q -- voting process. And a debate like this is an important piece of that process.
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q And so I’m just wondering is he at all concerned that by him delivering his speech at the same time as this debate that he’s somehow depriving them --
MR. CARNEY: As his press secretary and somebody involved in his communications -- putting aside what else, whatever the competing opportunities on television are, whether it’s the wildlife channel or the cooking channel or political -- but I would be -- I wish that I could say --
Q Are you comparing Republicans to --
MR. CARNEY: Maybe the wildlife -- but the -- (laughter.) What I mean is that would it were so that I could be sure simply by having the President of the United States speak at a certain hour that every American who is watching TV would be watching him. I wish that were the case. Certainly, a substantial number of Americans will. I would personally, and I’m sure the President feels the same way, welcome -- if the sponsors so chose, and the candidates so chose to adjust the timing of their debate so that it didn't conflict, that would be completely fine with us in the spirit of democracy and that.
But, again, I think that we live in such a world of choices in terms of getting information and watching media, that there will be ample opportunity for Americans to hear and see the President, ample opportunity for Americans to hear and see candidates for office. And so we’ll just carry forward with our plan.
Q Jay, you and the President and others keep using the term "bipartisan" to describe the ideas that he’s going to announce --
MR. CARNEY: By any historical measure, yes.
Q Okay, by any historical measure, the Republicans, especially in the House, have rejected almost every idea that he has proposed up until now. What makes you think that they're going to --
MR. CARNEY: It is an excellent point that you make that even when the President has put forward ideas that have been historically affiliated with the Republican Party, that suddenly they have been unappealing to some members of Congress.
Q So what makes you think they’ll see this as bipartisan?
MR. CARNEY: Because they will have heard from their constituents. They will have heard that the vast majority of Americans, whether they voted Democratic or Republican, whether they're registered Democrats or Republicans or independents, just want their elected representatives to get to work and to get things done. They do not care who wins the ideological debate. They do not care who scores the most political points. In fact, they're infuriated when they see that take precedence over the need to do the things that need to be done to help them, to help the American economy grow, to help the private sector grow and create jobs.
Look, I think it is entirely likely that most representatives of Congress will have heard that message from their constituents during the recess. Now, I can’t predict behavior, but the President certainly hopes that, having heard that, lawmakers will return to Washington with a sense of purpose and seriousness that will enable us to do things in a bipartisan way to grow the economy and create jobs.
If that's not the case, we will continue to push -- the President will continue to push to get it done. But he certainly hopes that it will be the case. Because, again, as I said, I think in answer to Mike’s question, it used to be that political gridlock and partisanship when it reared its head and it made Washington dysfunctional, people were like, oh, my God, it’s just so incompetent and it’s frustrating. Now, they were treated to the spectacle of Washington politics threatening to do direct and immediate harm to their livelihoods and to the American economy. And that's just not acceptable.
Q To what extent will this speech be a follow-up to the message that we heard on the bus tour asking people to enlist -- enlist people in a fight if Republicans continue to reject --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think what the President was doing then and will continue to do is to call on the American people to insist that Washington, Congress, their representatives, respond to their desire that action be taken. And it’s not about winning a fight or a political battle. It’s about insisting that things that have broad bipartisan support, things that make eminent sense to assist the economy to create jobs, get passed and signed into law, for the sake of all the American people.
Q Do you have any other further schedule updates to give us?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t.
Q And nothing this weekend, no plan of looking at any of the hurricane damage or tropical storm damage?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything for you on that now. Thanks.
Q Jay, I’m just a little confused between the disconnection between the deficit part of this, which you say he’s going to give his ideas to the super committee at some other time, and this jobs speech.
MR. CARNEY: Well, let me just -- I don’t mean that in a literal sense. I simply meant that the President made an explicit commitment to provide the joint committee that will be -- that is tasked with finding further ways to reduce the deficit and deal with our long-term debt, a specific, detailed proposal. He will do that.
Now, I was asked about will that be part of the speech next week. And, again, without getting into details, I just want to make clear that the reason he is going forward to Congress, to the American people, next week is to talk about actions that we can take to create jobs and grow the economy now.
There is the broader context, without question, that we need to -- Congress can, if it behaves rationally, we can do things not just to grow the economy and create jobs, but as was demonstrated by the process over the debt ceiling debate, that there is ample bipartisan -- could be ample bipartisan consensus for getting our long-term fiscal house in order.
Q But you could make the argument as a --
MR. CARNEY: These are related. There’s no question they’re related. The immediate task here is to spur growth and accelerate hiring.
Q Right, but because the Republican argument is the best way to spur growth is to cut government immediately and not spend any more money, he has to answer that argument on Wednesday night, doesn’t he?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, again, I don’t want to get into the specifics. There’s no question that within the context of this he will, as he has in the past, talk about how we can take actions now to enhance growth and accelerate hiring within the context of doing the things that we need to do for the long term to get our deficits under control, our debt under control, and to create the kind of economic environment we need to dominate the 21st century in the same way we did the 20th. And that includes investments in infrastructure, education, clean energy and the like.
Q But just -- when you said to Norah that, yes, this will be paid for, I’m assuming you’re saying it will be paid for over the long term. These are short-term immediate investments to spur job creation. The pay-fors are long term --
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to get into specifics about the line items within the proposals and how they --
Q I’m not asking -- I’m just --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean, and how -- the President is committed, as he made clear, to more deficit reduction than has been mandated by Congress. And one of the reasons to do that is to pay for the measures that need to be taken to grow the economy and create jobs now.
Q And he will discuss that on Wednesday?
MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve said -- I mean, I think the answer is yes. But, again, I want to be understood that the focus here is on jobs and economic growth -- which is not to say -- all of these are of a piece. What the American -- what needs to be done now is Congress needs to come back, having heard from their constituents, and do the things that the President will put forward that should have bipartisan support, that will be judged by economists and independent analysts to be pro-growth and pro-job creation, and to take action quickly so that those things can have an effect.
Also, Congress has mandated as part of the agreement that was reached to raise the debt ceiling that this super committee take action by shortly before Thanksgiving that would further reduce the deficit and reduce the debt. And the President is going to be very engaged with a specific and detailed proposal about how he believes we should do that in a balanced way, in a way that will actually enhance growth, enhance confidence, and not balance the back on the budget -- balance the budget, rather, on the backs of individual sectors of society so that some sectors can continue to get broad tax cuts or enjoy loopholes in the tax code or subsidies. So that will be all part of the package.
Q Three of the Republican candidates for President are sitting House members. Where would the White House expect them to be next Wednesday night?
MR. CARNEY: The White House has no expectations. We’ll leave that to individual choice.
Q Foreign affairs -- Syria. You have already called --
MR. CARNEY: Foreign what? Affairs?
Q Yes. You called Syrian President Assad to step down weeks ago, and some of the Western countries also did that. But it looks like the crackdown is going on. Nothing is changed. My question is, what is the next step?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I know as you probably know, as recently as yesterday, we identified other individuals, members of the Syrian regime for targeted sanctions, including the Foreign Minister. We continue to ratchet up the pressure on the Syrian regime.
As you noted, we recently called for President Assad to step down. His opportunity to lead a transition has ended. He squandered it. He has lost his legitimacy. And we will continue to work with our international partners to take actions that will increase pressure on Syria, to allow the Syrian people -- the Syrian regime, rather -- to allow the Syrian people to determine their own future.
Q Though there are countries like Turkey, you have been praising, and they have not taken any kind of steps on the sanctions regime, and some of the Muslim countries -- I mean, none of the Muslim countries. My question --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you’re discounting the significance of the fact that the Arab League -- of the Arab League’s critique and of Turkey’s saying that it has lost confidence in the Syrian government. It is --
Q But no sanctions.
MR. CARNEY: I think we digest these historic things rather quickly and discount their importance. I mean, we have been through this process over a number of months here of historic and rapid change in this region. And as each of these countries have experienced dramatic upheaval I have stood -- I have, and the President and others -- have stood before you when asked why -- why isn’t this happening sooner, why isn’t this happening now, why aren’t you doing this now? And I would simply say that a little historical perspective is required here to examine the scope and the breadth of change that has taken place in this region. And it is important to recognize with regard to Libya, for example, that Libyans marched into Tripoli and took back their government. Not foreign forces; Libyans did. And that has broad significance for the region and broad significance for the potential for positive developments in Libya going forward.
So when I get questions, "but nothing has changed," it just -- everything has changed. Things have changed dramatically every day in Syria, in Libya, in the whole region. And so I understand impatience, and certainly for every day that the Syrian people suffer at the hands of the Assad regime is a day too many. And I get that. But we are working with our international partners to ratchet up pressure on the regime. We have called for Assad to step down. We will continue to take actions to isolate and pressure that regime.
Q Is the no-fly zone under any consideration right now?
MR. CARNEY: I don't want to speculate about what other -- well, first of all, I think we’ve addressed military action. But I don't want to speculate on other measures that may or may not be considered.
It’s been a long time, Christi. How are you?
Q Good. The 9/11 recommendations included a civil liberties oversight board, which I understand the President has not appointed three of the five members to, nor a chairman or a chairperson. Do you know why?
MR. CARNEY: I honestly will have to take that question. I think as I said to Jim, I just haven't spent a lot of time yet on that. I was focused on this speech the President is giving next week.
Q Just more generally, though, the 9/11 Commission said if they had to give a grade for the implementation of the recommendations, they would give it a failing grade. And I just wonder if the President feels that most of the recommendations have been carried through as far as they responsibly can. And are we now verging on --
MR. CARNEY: I think that -- this is not a finite process, that we will -- when every recommendation -- let’s posit that every recommendation should be and is fulfilled. This administration or any administration that were in our place would not stop then and think that everything we could do to prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11 has been done because the work will continue.
The need to improve our intelligence gathering, our intelligence coordination will continue. The need to enhance our capacity to go after al Qaeda, its affiliates or its successors, will continue. The need to remain hypervigilant will continue. And we will always take steps because there will always be room for improvement.
So I confess I haven’t had a conversation with the President about this report, so I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I don't think that it’s a finite process.
Q Jay, two questions about the speech. The media sponsors for the debate are big boys and they can sort of take care of themselves on this, but it’s also sponsored by the Reagan Library and Mrs. Reagan is very much involved.
MR. CARNEY: I was asked already. I feel like there’s a lot of echo effect.
Q But I just wanted to know, did you give any consideration to that? Did you, for instance -- did anyone in the administration reach out to officials at the library or Mrs. Reagan’s office to inform her --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't want to prescribe an answer here, but I think that we’re talking about 8 p.m. East Coast time; 5 p.m. West Coast time. It doesn't seem terribly complicated to --
Q They could always --
MR. CARNEY: We could all -- Republicans might enjoy the prospect, the candidates might enjoy the prospect of responding to the President. Again, but it’s not for us to decide how that plays itself out. And everyone will decide according to their own best interests, I’m sure.
Q On to the speech itself. We spent a fair amount of time on that bus tour talking about bipartisanship.
MR. CARNEY: You know you enjoyed every minute.
Q I enjoyed it. It was wonderful. The corn dogs were terrific.
MR. CARNEY: Fantastic pie.
Q The pie was great. You guys talked a lot about bipartisanship. The Republicans are always accusing the President of being Professor Obama, standing up at a lectern, telling them what to do. How does this particularly move this process along of actually getting a negotiated deal?
MR. CARNEY: He will put forward specific proposals that can be acted on by Congress. Congress legislates, right? They take legislation, they debate it, they work on it, they pass it, and it gets signed into law. I mean, this is the way the system has worked since its creation. So --
Q Yes, but we’ve also had Presidents who have negotiated more directly and had a better working relationship with members of Congress. Has the President --
MR. CARNEY: Not in my time.
Q Has the President spent any -- over this summer period, has the President reached out to any of the leadership? Have there been -- is there any attempt to sort of build these private bridges, as opposed to having these large public events?
MR. CARNEY: Glenn, as you know, and as you exhaustively covered, and everyone here, and as the American people witnessed and probably grew exceedingly tired of, the President spent an inordinate amount of time with the leaders of Congress earlier this summer -- in telephone conversations, in private meetings, and meetings that you all were brought into at the top of or bottom of. I don’t think the American people, or, for that matter, members of Congress, are looking for more quality time with the President or anyone else. They want things done.
The President will put forward proposals that should in a normal world have broad support, and he hopes that they will once he puts them forward next week, and Congress will act. Because the American people want Washington to work, and are fed up with Washington not working. And when it becomes a question of harm as opposed to incompetence, it's even more frustrating.
Q Jay, as the President has considered the options for the jobs initiatives that the advisors have gone over with him, can you describe how he has weighed what job creation could be available immediately, if that’s the imperative? And I’m thinking in terms of what he learned from the not enough shovel-ready jobs. In other words, he’s not talking about jobs in 2014, he wants them now.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think it’s fair to say that we want action to be taken soon so that -- because those actions will have a direct and quick effect on economic growth and job creation. The slowing of our recovery, the slowing of job creation needs to be addressed now. So, yes, we’re interested in measures that would have quick effect.
Q But he applied that template when he was weighing them, right? In other words --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the whole economic team was looking for -- led by the President -- was looking for -- has been examining proposals, listening to ideas from outside -- people the President has met with and spoken with, as well as members of his team -- that are effective; that, again, judged by independent, outside economists and analysts will be judged pro-growth and pro-job creation, and will take effect quickly -- because the need is now.
But within the context of his overall vision that he has discussed frequently, about the need to make wise -- even as we get our fiscal house in order, to make -- I mean, one of the reasons why you need to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction is so that the burden of it is fairly shared, but also to allow for the kinds of investments in innovation and infrastructure and education that will ensure that we grow economically not just next year or the year after, but into the next decade and beyond.
So that’s part of his overall vision, because we need to -- that’s why we need to dominate the industries of the future, the innovative industries of the future. That’s why we need to educate -- to take measures to invest in education, because education is directly related to your capacity to compete globally.
I mean, the Chinese, the Germans -- nobody else is waiting around to win this competition. So we have to move quickly, in concert with Congress, to do the things necessary to assure that America remains the most powerful economy in the world.
Q If Congress worked with him to enact legislation this fall --
MR. CARNEY: We’d be very happy.
Q -- could he credibly make the case that Americans could see jobs before the end of the year, that it would --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t want to -- I think it obviously depends on how quickly Congress acts, what the specifics of the legislative proposals are, and how they get implemented. But I do say, yes, to your question, which is --was the focus here on proposals that would take effect quickly -- yes.
Q Just to clarify on Glenn’s question, realizing what happened earlier in the summer, are you saying that there has not been private consultation with Republican leaders over the most recent recess on the President’s expectation for what will happen after Congress gets back? That’s A. And B, do you envision the timeline for Congress to respond to the President to be the same one that the special committee is working off of, that is it goes through Thanksgiving and then action in December --
MR. CARNEY: That’s on the deficit reduction --
Q Correct, correct. Do you see that same timeline for jobs or --
MR. CARNEY: The President believes we can get that -- no, the Congress should -- on measures that can be taken, that should have bipartisan support, that could grow the economy and create jobs, Congress could and should act quickly, and should not wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Q What do you think is the realistic window for Congress either to act or not act on this?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll leave that to you to decide or to analyze. Again, I think it goes back to questions I took in the beginning -- it depends on the disposition of lawmakers as they return from their recess, and what they heard from the constituents, and the kind of imperative they’re operating under when they get back and what their priorities are.
Q And on Glenn’s point, no additional -- beyond what happened before the break, no additional private consultation with Republican members?
MR. CARNEY: The President is -- well, you called them private consultations, so if I talked about them they wouldn’t be private. So the President is in conversation with leaders of Congress frequently -- or has been, again, broadly speaking, over the last weeks and months. I’m not going to get into specific conversations he has had about these proposals that he’s putting together, except to say, as I did I believe the other day, that he’s consulted with folks outside of the administration as well, obviously, as with his economic team.
Q New subject? Could you take one --
MR. CARNEY: I think I was just was called to a conclusion here. Thanks.
1:14 P.M. EDT
May 22, 2015
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