Press Briefing by the Press Secretary Jay Carney, 1/20/12
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:43 P.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: I apologize for the delay. Welcome to the White House for your daily briefing. I do not have any announcements to make, so I will go straight to Julie Pace.
Q Thank you. A couple logistical questions on the State of the Union. Can you give us a sense of where the speech stands right now? Is it written? Is that something the President is going to be working on today and over the weekend?
MR. CARNEY: The President is working on the State of the Union address. He is working with Jon Favreau, his chief speechwriter, as well as many others who are involved in the discussion about policy issues and other things that will be a part of the speech. So that process is underway, and I’m sure he will continue to work on it through the next several days until he delivers it on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
I urge all Americans to tune in. And if they don’t tune in on their old-fashioned televisions, they should go to www.whitehouse.gov/sotu, where we will have enhanced -- essentially an enhanced version of the speech. It will be live-streamed, but there will be graphics and other details that are occurring live and appearing with the speech that will give viewers who watch it on whitehouse.gov even more information. After that, there will be a live-streamed discussion with -- a panel discussion featuring senior administration officials, and a live audience taking questions from Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
So we’re very excited about all the ways that we’re trying to provide access to the President’s State of the Union address. It’s a terrific opportunity for the President to describe his vision for where he believes this country needs to go, for its economy, as well as for its security. So he’s looking forward to it, and working on his speech.
Q Radio is a good option, too. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Tune in --
Q And I know you haven’t wanted to --
MR. CARNEY: -- on the radio.
Q I know you haven’t wanted to preview the content of the speech, but should we be expecting to hear anything from the White House on the content over the weekend, or really any time before Tuesday night?
Q Well, if the AP hears about it, can we --
MR. CARNEY: Can everybody else get a piece of that action? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Honestly, we don’t have a lot of plans right now to get into details of the speech before the speech is delivered. That’s been our approach of late in these major presidential addresses, that our preference is really for the news to be fresh when the President gives a speech.
So how this process works, you can’t always control all the information about something like this. But our hope is that when Americans hear it -- many millions of Americans hear it or watch it or read about it, they will be doing all of that for the first time and learning about what the President’s ideas are, what his vision is, at least as regards the State of the Union address for the first time.
Q And then just on one other topic, the French have threatened to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan early. How concerning is that to the administration? Have the French communicated any details about what they’re going to be looking at in terms of their troop levels in Afghanistan to the U.S.?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, our thoughts and prayers go out to the French people, and the families of those who lost loved ones in this tragic incident. As you know, four French soldiers perished in Afghanistan. France is a valued member of the NATO/ISAF coalition, and their forces have served alongside ours with valor and honor.
We are in regular consultation with all of our ISAF coalition partners. I don’t have anything specific to report to you about those communications with France, except to say that it’s a very tight coalition and communication is regular and frequent.
Q But is it concerning that a key U.S. ally in Afghanistan would be discussing pulling its troops out early?
MR. CARNEY: The fact of the matter is, as I’ve said, France has been an excellent and valued member of the NATO/ISAF team. I don’t want to get ahead of any discussions or decision that France might make with regard to its presence as part of that coalition. We are -- we -- well, we believe the mission in Afghanistan is very important. The coalition is very important. The President laid out an Afghanistan strategy that he has been executing very deliberately and effectively, and we will continue to focus our efforts on executing that policy that brought a surge in forces that allowed us to focus our efforts on taking the fight to al Qaeda with the goal of disrupting, dismantling and ultimately defeating al Qaeda; with the other goal of stabilizing Afghanistan to give the Afghan government breathing room to help train up Afghan security forces so that we could then draw down our forces as we have begun doing, and transfer security lead to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
So that process is in place. It’s a process that we obviously are significantly engaged in. But it includes all of our ISAF partners.
Q Thank you, Jay. Two questions. First, on Iran: Does the White House have any reaction to an ally of Iran’s Supreme Leader today calling on Israel to be punished for killing a nuclear scientist?
MR. CARNEY: I have no reaction to that. I wasn’t even aware of it, so I have nothing to say about that.
Q Second, on politics, did the President watch the debate last night? And does the President think that --
MR. CARNEY: We were a little busy last night.
Q I’m sure you were. That voters have a right to know about --
MR. CARNEY: The President was -- we were -- he didn’t watch the debate. As I think I’ve discussed with you before, he doesn’t -- tends not to -- not because of disinterest, necessarily, he just doesn’t watch a lot of television, at least not news television. And I mean no disrespect. (Laughter.)
But he was -- he had events in New York last night, so -- I think when the debate was occurring.
Q Sorry, I wasn’t even thinking about that.
MR. CARNEY: That’s okay.
Q The point of the question was not that. It’s -- one of the issues that came up at the debate was about candidates’ personal lives. And my question is, does the President think that voters have a right to know about candidates’ personal lives -- for example, Newt Gingrich’s -- the allegations by Newt Gingrich’s former wife?
MR. CARNEY: Jeff, I’m not going to wade into the GOP primary contest and the debates and the issues. The President ran for this office four years ago. He put forward himself and his record and his vision. Voters evaluated his record, who he is and his positions and his vision and elected him to this office. And he’s running again -- again, on his record and his vision. And voters make their decisions and weigh a lot of criteria, and it would not be for him or for us to tell voters what should matter and what shouldn’t. But this President is focused on the job he’s doing, the record that he’s compiled, the vision he has for the future. He’ll be speaking about that within the context of the State of the Union address, the things that we need to do working with Congress, the things that he can do using his executive authority to continue to recover from this terrible recession, to strengthen American security, and to build a foundation for America to, as we’ve said in the past, win the future, win the 21st century.
Q But he’ll be up against one of those gentlemen on the stage later this year. Should personal lives be on the agenda?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t want to weigh into that. I think the President will run his campaign. He, because of the support he has within his own party, is fortunate enough not to face a primary contest. That is a good thing because he has so much work to do for the American people as President. He’ll engage in the campaign, obviously, as the months pass here with more frequency. And certainly once the Republican Party chooses its nominee, that frequency will intensify.
But right now he’s focused on the things that he can do, the things that Washington can do, Congress working with the administration, the things we can do with the private sector. Those will be what he’ll be talking about. Those are the kinds of things that he’ll be talking about in his State of the Union address. And we’ll let the campaign take care of itself for now. We’ll let the Republican primary process play itself out, and we’ll look to you all to let us know through your reports how that’s going.
Who’s it going to be? Mark.
Q A follow-up on the debate. Does the President feel at any time that these Republicans have had 16 occasions to take their views to the American people -- does he feel left out of it? Does he feel that, gee, I really would have liked to have responded to that comment there or another one? Or is he content getting his message through the way he’s doing it?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he hadn’t been invited to these debates. (Laughter.) I think the President, President Obama, understands well what this process is like, how challenging it is, what it’s like to engage in debate after debate after debate, as we’ve seen in the Republican Party process. And he recognizes that that’s a process for each party to engage in as it allows folks across the country, in these states that are participating early on, to make key decisions about who should be that party’s nominee.
I certainly think he feels that he has ample opportunity to engage with the public to convey what his views are about what policies we should be pursuing, what his views are about the future of the country and his incredible confidence in America and its -- the role it’s going to play as, again, the indispensable nation in the 21st century.
So there will be debates. He will be, I’m sure, engaged in debates with the Republican nominee. And that will afford him the opportunity to discuss the issues in a point-counterpoint way. For now, he’s going to focus on his job, which is to be President, to do the things he can do. Because, as he’s pointed out, American political, presidential campaigns take a long time, and we can judge whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But we have 10 more months, almost, before Election Day. That’s a lot of time, and it’s -- and we should not use all of that time simply to campaign. We should -- this President believes very strongly that he will use that time, that he should use that time, and the American people expect him to use that time, to govern, to try to move the ball down the field, if you will, in terms of growing our economy and creating jobs. That’s going to be his primary focus in the months ahead.
Q But he must be aware that everything he does is seen through a spectrum of politics in this year, right?
MR. CARNEY: Well, certainly that is a part of this process, and it’s partly because -- and this is not a judgment but an observation -- the media, because of the importance and the duration of the presidential campaign, tends to in an election year view everything that a president or members of Congress does -- a member of Congress does through the prism of politics. But he’s going to focus what he does on the policy proposals that he can pursue, that he can work with Congress on. We need to, as has been discussed, extend this payroll tax cut to 160 million Americans for the duration of the calendar year. We need to extend unemployment insurance. There are just many things -- and you’ll hear more about them on Tuesday night -- many things that we can and should and must do that aren’t about an election campaign.
So he looks forward to fulfilling those responsibilities. That’s why you run, after all. That’s why he’s here. And that’s why every individual who has found himself in the Oval Office sought that job to begin with -- to pursue a vision and policy goals. And nobody -- I don’t think, and I certainly know this President didn’t run for this office so that he could run again; he ran for this office so he could be President and do the things he can do to help the country, to help the American people, to grow the economy; to, in the case that he found when he took office, to help stave off a Great Depression; to save an automobile industry that was on the brink of extinction in America; to pass historic health care reform -- a culmination of a 100-year effort to do that; to rebalance and refocus our foreign policy and national security policy so that we took the fight to the enemy that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, so that -- to end the war in Iraq, as he promised, in a way that’s responsible; to reassert ourselves in the Pacific region, because of the neglect that our foreign policy had experienced while it was preoccupied with Iraq and other issues.
So that’s why he ran -- the great opportunity the American people gave him to put his proposals and promises to the test, and that’s what he’s been doing. And he’s going to continue to do that throughout this year.
Q Jay, can I follow on that, please?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q Thank you. You just said there that he’s going to use this time, the American people want him to use this time to govern. And yet, last night, he had four fundraisers in New York, he had six I think last week, in D.C. and Chicago. His first TV ad is a million-dollar ad buy; came out yesterday. So how can you continue to present this image that he’s just focused on governing and the campaign is a small part when he’s holding fundraisers left and right?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Ed, I never said he wasn’t participating in -- I’ve been -- we’ve been very clear about -- we actually bring the press into these fundraisers -- about the fact -- and these campaign events, virtually all; any event where there’s remarks given.
I mean, that’s the nature of the campaign. But he has the good fortune of not facing a primary challenge, not having a primary contest. He is -- that allows him to spend even more of his time doing the job that he was elected to do.
So the point is --
Q There’s no disputing that he’s governing. I’m not saying that. But can’t you also admit that he’s spending a significant amount of his time campaigning and raising money?
MR. CARNEY: I can -- Ed, you seem to want to have a -- make an issue of the fact that we state forthrightly that he has campaign events. As a portion of his time, it is still relatively small. And that’s in part because he has no primary contest.
But it’s also because that’s what he was elected to do. He was elected to be President. And there will certainly come a time, and it will increase gradually as the year goes on, where he engages in more campaign activity. But certainly, relative to the would-be nominees in the Republican Party right now, it’s a very small portion of his time. And that’s a good thing, because that means he can focus on being President and governing.
But he is fully prepared and looking forward to the opportunity to presenting himself again before the American people; to taking -- presenting his vision for the country, his ideas for where we need to go; putting forward his record of rescuing us from a potential Great Depression; of saving the automobile industry; of passing health care reform; of taking the fight successfully to al Qaeda, and all the other things that have been accomplished in these three years, and presenting it to the American people, and having a debate about it with his opponent. But that time has not come.
Q Last thing -- on governing. Republicans are having their House -- House Republicans are having a retreat in Baltimore, and one of the things they keep hounding is the Keystone decision. We already know that; they’re upset about it. But moving forward on the governing front, the Republican line now seems to be that they want to bring it back up specifically in the payroll tax cut negotiations. Is that a poison pill for this President, or will you negotiate that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Ed, I don’t want to get ahead of discussions and negotiations that are occurring and will occur with regards to extending the payroll tax cut.
I think that we anticipate and hope that Congress will, and Republicans in Congress in particular will approve this extension without drama, without arbitrary, ideological fights. It’s hard to imagine that --
MR. CARNEY: No, I’m not drawing lines about what --
Q But you’re calling it an arbitrary, partisan fight. It doesn’t sound like you want it.
MR. CARNEY: Well, it was an arbitrary inclusion in December, so I’m not making -- I’m not negotiating the payroll tax cut extension from here. Let me be clear about that.
What I am saying is that I think the American people who were watching this debate in December saw the approach that Republicans took for what it was. And it wasn’t about them, and that’s unfortunate, because 160 million Americans are depending on this tax cut. They’ve got it now. They got it for two months. It will mean -- it will do enormous harm to those millions of Americans if it is not extended, and we fully expect that it will be. We fully expect that Republicans and Democrats will come together and pass that extension.
Alexis, you moved.
Q Just trying to keep you on your toes. Two quick questions to follow up on what you were just talking about with campaign events.
The afternoon event today is closed in D.C. Can you -- first, can you just describe what that event is and why it’s closed and who’s going to attend?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to get details for you. But as is the case -- and I just mentioned this to Ed -- that we provide I think pretty extraordinary access to the President’s campaign events. When there are no formal remarks given I think that’s when we -- the events are closed press. So that would be the case today. I don’t have any details on the event.
Q And the second question is, just recently there was an article that stated flatly that President Obama is opposed to the pro-Obama super PAC that is working to raise money. And could you just clarify his feeling about a super PAC being out there raising money to support his reelection? Is he actually opposed? Is that correct, he’s opposed to it?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not familiar with the article. I don’t remember the article that you’re referring to. I think our position on Citizens United is pretty clear. The President’s position on Citizens United is very clear.
And I would have to --
Q Can you tell us what it is?
MR. CARNEY: We opposed the decision. We believe it’s not healthy for the system. I think you know that. But thanks for asking. So I don’t have any more details for you on it. I haven’t had that discussion with him. But our views on the system that has created this situation are pretty clear.
Q But just to follow up, has he ever suggested that he would prefer that that group -- and he knows them well --
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t had that conversation with him, so I haven’t -- there is, as is the case by law, there’s no coordination, there’s no -- but I haven’t had that discussion with him.
Q Thanks. Just to follow on Ed’s question. Do you folks not see the optics of --
MR. CARNEY: You guys get that you’re totally obsessed with campaign politics now, right, even though he doesn’t have a primary contest?
Q Well, I wouldn’t call it an obsession, but do you not understand the optics of it --
Q Well, why not?
MR. CARNEY: No, I get it. I did it. It’s fun to cover the campaign, sure.
Q Do you not understand the optics when the President -- the economy event -- he was on the ground in Orlando for, I believe, less than three hours, yet he spent roughly seven hours at these four different campaign events. I mean, the way that this is viewed, you hear from Republicans --
MR. CARNEY: Dan, I would challenge you to look at what the President does on any given week, including this week and many weeks going backward, and not come to the conclusion that he spends a relatively small amount of time at this stage on campaign events. That’s a simple fact. I mean, his would-be challengers are spending all of their time. Some of them have been spending many years exclusively on this while he’s been here governing.
And that’s the way the system works. That’s fine. But it’s just a fact that, yes, he had a number of events last night in New York, but --
Q And not just last night, I mean, there are other times when he goes on the road. It’s the same kind of thing.
MR. CARNEY: I get that. But again, I challenge you to look at the President’s schedule and not come to the conclusion, the factual conclusion, that at this point in the campaign he is -- partly because he doesn’t have a primary contest -- obviously, if he did, he would be out more and engaging in that primary contest as previous incumbent presidents have had to do -- because of his broad support within his own party, he doesn’t have that.
So he is making the appropriate use of the extra time that affords him, which is to focus on governing; to focus on engaging with Congress to do things to grow the economy and create jobs; focusing on the things he can do independently like the announcements he made yesterday about the executive order and initiatives to significantly expand tourism, a vital industry in this country. That’s what he was doing yesterday in Florida. He’s going to keep doing that, because that’s the right thing to do, it’s what he believes is important, and at this stage in the campaign he can do it.
Q Can you give us a status update on same-sex marriage, where the President is on that evolving process? And what is he doing to assist that evolution? Does he meet with people? Does he read books? What is he doing?
MR. CARNEY: Dan, I appreciate the question. I don’t have an update for you on that. I think it is important in this, as part of my answer here, to just remind you about the President’s record on these issues -- ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and on marriage in particular having the federal government stand down from -- or his administration stand down from defending DOMA, believing that it’s unconstitutional and working to have it repealed. The President’s personal views I will leave for him to describe. But this administration, his administration’s record on these issues that are very important I think are pretty clear.
Q So no movement at this time?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I will leave it to him to describe. It’s the same answer I have given in the past to Chris, for example, who has his hand raised. (Laughter.) And I think you’ve deprived him of the opportunity to ask it today.
Q Actually, I have a follow-up question to that. Can I jump in?
MR. CARNEY: Sure. Chris, how are you?
Q I’m doing good. How are you?
MR. CARNEY: Very well.
Q A number of state legislatures in the coming weeks, including those in Washington State, New Jersey and Maryland are going to try to push for same-sex marriage legislation in the coming weeks. I know you said you don’t want to talk specifics about the State of The Union address. I’m just wondering if you could rule out the possibility of the President completing his evolution and endorsing marriage equality next week.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I will not rule anything in or out. I’m just not going to talk about, beyond pointing at his words, his personal views on this. I think his administration’s policies on related issues are there for people to judge.
Q I did watch the debate last night.
MR. CARNEY: How was that?
Q They painted a picture of America --
MR. CARNEY: I heard it was pretty entertaining.
Q At times.
MR. CARNEY: I followed it a bit on Twitter in between events, as a casual observer.
Q So one could, after watching that debate, have a view of America. What is the state of the union today?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you should stay tuned to hear the President deliver an address to the nation from Congress at 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening.
Look, the President believes that this country suffered an economic body blow the likes of which it had not encountered -- suffered from since the Great Depression. I think that’s indisputable. The facts make that clear, and I think that any discussion with any American who’s been affected by the Great Recession would reaffirm that.
What is also true is that because of who we are as a country -- the fact that we always get up when we’re knocked down, because we have the best workers, the smartest workers in the world, and because of the measures that this President, working with Congress, took to halt an economic collapse and to reverse it, this country is stronger now than it was when he took office, both economically and in terms of its national security.
Q On national security. The President said last night -- you used it again today -- that he has restored the United States as the “sole indispensable power in the world.” The United States was not that four years ago?
MR. CARNEY: What I think is indisputable -- and I would refer you to the reports that you and your colleagues made regularly at the time -- is that the United States, prior to President Obama taking office, was viewed very differently than it is now, by allies and partners around the world.
I think, as I’ve noted, Iran is a very good example of an approach that this -- an issue to which this President’s approach has changed that dynamic in a way that has allowed the United States to lead, not just unilaterally, but to lead other nations towards historic and unprecedented sanctions and pressure on Iran, so that it is now clear to the world that the issue is not -- the problem here is not the United States, it is Iran and Iranian behavior.
And that was not the way the world, unfortunately, viewed it back in 2008. He has, through ending torture, I believe, he believes, done something that was absolutely the right thing to do, and improved the way the United States is viewed around the world. Because we are not only strong, but we have incredibly strong values, and we conduct ourselves accordingly.
So I think that’s the context in which he was speaking. He looks forward, as I think he said in a recent interview, to having a debate about foreign policy as well as domestic policy when the time comes. I was looking to Ed, but he’s stepped away. And he’ll have that debate.
Q Thanks, Jay. Going back to the topic of national security, yesterday, as you know, you just commented on the President announced that he wants to speed up the tourist visa process in certain countries, as well as expand the Global Entry program. What kinds of measures are in place to make sure that this process doesn’t compromise national security in any way?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think we provided a lot of information about that yesterday, Kristen. And what absolutely remains as true today as it was prior to this week and this announcement by the President, is that our security remains our number-one priority. What the President directed through the initiatives that he announced yesterday was for various agencies to take steps to streamline the visa applications in certain cases, in certain countries; to take other measures to make it easier for tourists to visit the United States and enjoy what this great country has to offer; and to, by doing so, help create American jobs.
But all of that is done with an absolute eye to the paramount concern, which is security. And I would refer you for details to the Departments of State and Homeland Security.
Q And Jay, on Syria, one activist in Syria was quoted in a newspaper saying, “Until now, there’s not a civil war, but if the international community continues like this, just watching and doing nothing, there will be.” What’s your reaction to those words? And does this steady drumbeat of people calling for a Libya-like intervention, is that making the administration reassess its stance right now?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would make two points. One, the international community is not standing by. The international community has, with American leadership, taken action to pressure and isolate Syria, and that is having an obvious effect as the Assad regime loses control of the country.
Q But it’s not the same type of intervention that we had in Libya.
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s not the same situation. As we’ve said all along, each country affected by the so-called Arab Spring is different, and circumstances are different in each country, and circumstances are different with regards to how the region views these developments. So there is not a one-size-fits-all approach here.
What I can tell you is that Assad’s fall is inevitable. It is clear that his regime is no longer, as I said, in full control of the country, and that it is only taking Syria toward a dangerous end. There have been defections of senior military officials and a parliamentary representative recently. And those are just additional data points that demonstrate the momentum and how it continues against Assad and his regime.
We stand with the Syrians who want to have a transition in their country so that Syria can be democratic and prosperous. And we will continue to work with our international partners to enhance the pressure on Assad to do the right thing and step aside.
Q If I could try just one more on the State of the Union. I know you can’t preview specifically what’s going to be in it. But to what extent will it include different ideas or themes than those that we heard during the President’s speech in Osawatomie, Kansas?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there will be thematic consistency between not just what the President said in Osawatomie, but what he has been saying since he began his campaign for this office back in 2007.
But there will be news in the speech. There will be new ideas. And going to I think Julie’s question to start off the briefing, we are hoping that those will be -- the newness of those ideas will be preserved for him to announce them.
Q How about some kind of framework?
MR. CARNEY: Look, the President is keenly focused, as you know, on doing everything he can to ensure that every American gets a fair shake and a fair shot; that we rebuild this economy in a way that ensures that everyone plays by the same rules so that opportunity is available to everyone; that Wall Street, for example, plays by the same rules as Main Street; and that we grow as a nation together, that we expand access to the middle class and expand security for those who are already in the middle class.
That dynamic that has existed now for, by some measures, 30 years and certainly intensively for the decade before this President took office, has to be broken. The middle class has been under intense pressure in that decade prior to President Obama taking office. Middle-class incomes stagnated or declined. And at the same time, the wealthiest 1 or 2 percent of the country saw their incomes expand greatly, and their share of the nation’s wealth share greatly.
And the President’s view on this is not -- it’s about we need to, as a country, to ensure that we are the most powerful economy, the most innovative and sophisticated; the job-creating engine that this economy needs to be. We need to make some very important investments in education, in infrastructure, in research and development. And in order to do that we need to make sure that everyone pays their fair share.
And that goes to I believe the point about the theme, one of the themes from the President’s speech in Osawatomie. And as you have heard since that speech and certainly predating it, but since that speech you will continue to hear that theme.
Q Thank you, Jay. Online piracy bills up on the Hill were put off and votes were postponed on SOPA today until there can be some consensus. Christopher Dodd, in a New York Times piece yesterday, was suggesting that perhaps the White House should hold a summit to bridge the gaps and so forth. What does the White House think of holding a summit on online piracy?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that we made our principles clear about these issues over the weekend and this week. We believe that online piracy is an important issue and a problem that needs to be addressed. And we believe that there’s a legislative solution to that that Congress can find. And it’s important for both sides on this issue to come together and work out that solution that both deals with online piracy and continues to ensure a free and open Internet. And we think that’s possible.
So we call on and are encouraged by indications that this -- that others believe this should happen, too; that the stakeholders in this issue who have, on all sides, very legitimate concerns work together to find what we believe is a legislative compromise. But it has -- everybody has to be in on it for it to work and get through Congress.
Q Could that be aided by a summit?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t -- I think it can be -- we have laid out our principles, which we hope will be looked to as a guide for that process. But I think this is a legislative process that folks on the Hill can take up, working with those with strong opinions on both sides of the issue.
Q If I may, one other question on the foreign affairs front. Can you talk about the reports about Brennan helping look for a place outside of Yemen for Saleh?
MR. CARNEY: No. I’m not aware of that. Our view of this issue hasn’t changed. We remain focused on achieving a peaceful political transition and helping the Yemenis hold a presidential election in February that will begin a new chapter in that country’s history.
Most of the questions I get about this are in terms of Saleh’s visa application. There have been no changes in that. But this is -- I have no information, or no knowledge, about that question that you asked.
Mr. Wolf. And then Ann.
Q You mentioned before -- thanks, Jay. You mentioned before use of executive authority in the context of the State of the Union speech next week. Last year it was his first speaking to a partially Republican Congress; this year he’s got a partially Republican Congress in an election year. He can’t be expecting much in the way of legislation. Will he sort of talk about, if you won’t work with me, we’re going to keep doing this alone? Will he mention the “We Can’t Wait” campaign that he’s on?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate the question, because I think that we disagree with that premise that we can’t get anything done just because it’s an election year. I don’t think the American people want that to be true or would be happy if that were true. And Americans of all political persuasions are going to want their elected representatives here in Washington to work together, whether it’s an even year or an odd year or a year in the presidential cycle. They want progress. They don’t want members of either party to throw up their hands and say, we can’t do it. And they don’t want what -- based on one report I read, they don’t want, I don’t think, to hear from one party -- which is, again, referring to one report from the House Republican caucus -- declare that the year is all about challenging the President instead of getting things done.
So we believe that there is opportunity, and there could be more opportunities this year to achieve things with Congress, Republicans and Democrats working together in a bipartisan way. I think there are historic examples that actually contradict the assumption that you can’t get anything done in a presidential election year -- 1996 comes to mind.
So we will -- this President will try, he will put forward ideas both in the State of the Union address and continue to press ideas that he put forward last fall -- the kinds of ideas, referring to those provisions of the American Jobs Act that haven’t yet passed, that on their face are bipartisan in nature. Their pedigree is bipartisan in nature. And they should enjoy bipartisan support. And he will continue to press for that. And there is reason to hope, at least, that members in Congress -- and I guess I’m speaking here about Republicans who blocked those provisions of the American Jobs Act -- will view things a little differently this year. Not just because passing those provisions would be good for the country, good for the American people, good for their constituents, but may be good for them politically. And then, boy, is that a win-win-win situation, right?
So hopefully that will happen. And we’re going to -- this President is not going to assume that nothing can get done.
Q But it does sound like he’s going to bring up the other side, which is, if not, then --
MR. CARNEY: But he has been doing that all along. Well, but --
Q But not in the State of the Union address. I don’t believe that he’s talked about using his executive authority.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t want to preview specifics. He has been talking about the fact that he will use his executive authority to advance the priorities of the American people, and he has been doing that. He will continue to do that. It is true that the context here is often, we can’t wait for Congress to act, and that will be true throughout the year.
But where Congress will act, he will eagerly join with them to get the people’s business done.
Q David Plouffe did just get specific on the State of the Union with mayors saying that the President will present what he called a blueprint for the middle class, specifics on how to create jobs. Is that the President’s approach, to lay out a blueprint for the middle class in this address coming up?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure that’s all that specific, Ann. But, yes, I mean, his whole agenda has been a blueprint for the middle class and it will be going forward.
The American Jobs Act is an economic proposal designed to help the middle class, give it more economic security; return teachers to the classroom and construction workers to infrastructure projects; give 160 million Americans, essentially middle-class Americans, a tax cut for the entire calendar year; provide unemployment insurance to those hardworking Americans who are unemployed but looking for work and who need that assistance to help themselves and their families. And that money itself then provides a boost to the economy. So you will hear more ideas from him about how to assist the middle class. That’s vitally important to him.
Q Has he practiced at all or will he this weekend? How many drafts has he gone through?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have specifics on drafts. As I mentioned earlier, there is a speech that’s being worked on. The President is very engaged in that process, as he always is. I don’t think we’re at a stage yet where he’s practicing. He’s pretty good at giving speeches, so when it comes together I think he’ll be ready to deliver it.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: I’ll take one more -- oh, I don’t even -- two more, since I don’t -- introduce yourself and then --
Q I’m David Welna with NPR.
MR. CARNEY: Nice to see you.
Q A question about Israel. I was at the RNC’s winter meeting last week in New Orleans. And they in general assembly passed unanimously a resolution that says, “peace can be afforded to the region” -- referring to Israel -- “only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people.” Do you see this as a clear departure from a two-state solution that has had bipartisan support up until now?
MR. CARNEY: I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that, so I wouldn’t want to venture too far into analyzing what it means within the context of an approach that both sides in the Middle East peace process believe is the right approach to the Middle East peace process. So this President’s position, in keeping with his predecessors, his recent predecessors, is that the way to achieve a two-state solution, which both parties want, is through face-to-face negotiations. And we commend the Jordanians, the King of Jordan in particular, for overseeing the resumption of talks. This is a very challenging issue. If it weren’t, it would have been resolved probably a long time ago. This President is committed to continuing to work on it. And he certainly believes that it is profoundly in the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis to achieve that two-state solution that gives Palestinians sovereignty and gives Israel the secure Jewish state that they need and deserve.
So that’s the purpose of pursuing a two-state solution, and that’s the President’s policy.
Sorry, Victoria, yes.
Q On the classified coalition report on the animosity between Afghan soldiers and U.S. soldiers and coalition soldiers, there have been 26 attacks by Afghan soldiers on coalition forces in the last four years; of course, as we saw, four French killed today. It says that these are not isolated incidents; in fact, saying that -- and you’ve made your pronouncement to the contrary -- it seemed disingenuous, if not profoundly intellectually dishonest. Is it --
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure if -- I’m not sure what you’re reading -- I don’t know what you’re reading from. So I can tell you that there is no indication that these incidents are linked or part of any larger coordinated effort, but ISAF is closely examining the incidents and has taken steps to improve the vetting process. As the NATO Secretary General pointed out in his statement on the incident, every day, 130,000 ISAF troops from 50 nations fight and train with 300,000 Afghan soldiers. I think ISAF has more details. But you opened up by saying this was a classified report, and I’m just not familiar with the quote you gave, and if it were in fact a classified report I wouldn’t be talking about it from here.
So thank you very much.
Q Do you read The New York Times --
Q Week ahead?
MR. CARNEY: I do read The New York Times. One day, I will remember. But I have it.
Schedule for the week of -- well, Victoria, my response to your question and to that article is what I just said.
MR. CARNEY: The schedule for the week of January 23, 2012, is as follows: On Monday, the President will attend meetings at the White House. He might even be putting the finishing touches on his speech. Actually, that will probably happen Tuesday. Tuesday evening, the President will deliver his State of the Union address at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Following the President’s State of the Union address, he will begin a five-state, three-day swing across the country. On Wednesday, he will begin his trip with an event in the Cedar Rapids area, followed by an event in the Phoenix area. He will then travel to Las Vegas, where he will spend the night. On Thursday, the President will hold events in the Las Vegas area and the Denver area before traveling to Detroit that evening, where he will spend the night. On Friday, the President will hold an event in the Detroit area before returning here to Washington, D.C.
That is your week ahead. Thank you all very much. I hope you all join us next week. It will be fun.
Q Have a nice week.
MR. CARNEY: You, too, Goyal.
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President Obama and the First Lady Attend the State Dinner with Prime Minister Renzi and Mrs. Landini
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