Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/4/12
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:55 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to the White House for your daily briefing on June 4, 2012. I have no announcements to make at the top, so assisted ably by my Principal Deputy --
Q Did Josh lose all his friends? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: That's all you need. (Laughter.) And with that, I'll go to your questions. Although, Ben, you just had a question. The answer is, no. (Laughter.)
Q Let me ask you about the economy. And then I had a question about Bill Clinton. Pivoting off the jobs report on Friday, I was wondering how the President continues to argue and make the argument to voters that the economy is heading in the right direction when job numbers are not headed in the right direction.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate the question, and I would say that while Friday's jobs numbers were clearly below expectations and far from good enough, they did represent the 27th straight month of private sector job creation since the President's policies began to take effect.
He has argued and will continue to argue that we need to do more, and we can do more right now -- not wait until November or next January, but right now -- to further grow the economy and have it create more jobs.
The President made clear last fall that the recovery was not robust enough when he introduced his American Jobs Act. And outside economists -- not White House or administration economists -- outside economists judged that plan, if implemented, to be one that would create over a million jobs. With their backs against the wall, Republicans in Congress ended up supporting some of the elements of the American Jobs Act, but others they refused to support because they made the choice that it was more important to protect subsidies for oil and gas companies, or tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans. That is a choice the President disagreed with. But those items remain on the table and they remain the very things that would boost job creation right now if Congress were willing to take them up.
That is also true of the items on the President's "To-Do" list for Congress, which is compiled entirely of measures that should have bipartisan support, that have traditionally in the past had bipartisan support, and which, if implemented, would all contribute to further economic growth and job creation. And this President will continue to do everything he can, both using his administrative authority, his executive authority, and through working with Congress, to make sure that we continue to move this economy forward.
I cannot help but make the point that the alternative here is to go back to the policies that created the 8 million lost jobs. And I don't think the American people believe that that's the right way to go, if you look at that choice. Is it continuing in the direction that has led to 4.3 million jobs created as we recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression, or is it going back to the policies that precipitated, caused the worst recession since the Great Depression? The President clearly thinks that choice is clear.
Q Are the President's proposals -- you mentioned the leftover elements of the Jobs Act and the "To-Do" list -- in the White House's view bold enough to create the kind of jobs the country needs? Or is there anything else that this White House would seek to do this year if you could get it through Congress?
MR. CARNEY: I would simply say that the elements of the American Jobs Act and the "To-Do" List combined would help the economy grow and create significant numbers of jobs. There's no question about that. And had Congress done the right thing and passed the American Jobs Act in its entirety last fall, I think we would be in a different situation with a different employment picture today than the one we’re in.
But you can be sure that this President is constantly tasking his economic advisers and talking to folks about other policy ideas and other proposals to continue this economy -- to continue having this economy grow and create jobs. That is work that is never done for anybody who’s been sent to Washington by the American people. A number-one task that you have here if you’re elected to Congress or sent to the White House is to do the things necessary to help the economy grow and to help the economy create jobs.
Q On the Clinton question -- President Clinton and President Obama have had some differences on policy and tactics lately, and a lot was made of the comments President Clinton made in an interview about Governor Romney, including that Romney had a sterling business career and that that helps at least get him across the threshold to be President. Are these two former Presidents seeing life the same way right now?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think -- two things. I would refer you to some of the other things President Clinton has said since then, and simply make the point that, as President Obama has made and others, that the issue isn’t whether someone succeeded in the private equity world where the purpose is maximizing profits for your investors and your shareholders. It’s whether or not that vision is the right vision for creating jobs.
Maximizing profits for your shareholders and investors is -- as a primary goal is fine and appropriate in that world. But it has nothing, as a primary goal, to do with job creation, because, as you know, the way this world works, if you -- you can succeed in a situation where the result is many, many layoffs; you can still make a lot of money. Or perhaps the result is some jobs are created. The issue is not jobs; it’s profits. And that’s fine if your goal is to succeed in that financial world.
But that’s not a President’s responsibility. The President’s responsibility is to maximize the economy for all Americans, to maximize economic growth so that more jobs are available for hardworking, middle-class folks around the country.
So I think looking at that, President Clinton has completely supported President Obama’s approach and has thoroughly endorsed Obama -- President Obama as someone who has the right vision economically for moving this country forward.
I think it’s important to note that President Clinton, when he left office after eight years in which we saw substantial job creation under his stewardship, he handed an economy and a budget that included surpluses for as far as the eye could see, hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars of surpluses. After eight years pursuing policies that every Republican leader in Congress supported and every Republican who ran for President has endorsed, President Obama came into office, was handed a $1.4 trillion deficit -- or over $1 trillion deficit, the largest at that time in history, and an economic situation that was the worst any of us had ever seen. So I think the choice is clear.
Q Does President Obama agree with President Clinton that Governor Romney has had a sterling business career?
MR. CARNEY: I think President Obama has spoken to this issue, and I’m sure the campaign would be happy to help you more on the specifics of the debate at the purely political and campaign level.
What the choice is about in the fall, as well as right now, is which is the right economic prescription for this country. Is it one that includes investments in the near term in education and innovation, investments in clean energy, for example, as well as taking the necessary steps to bring our deficits under control and our debt under control for the long term through a balanced approach? Or is it one that doubles down on the policies of the previous eight years that takes those policies and puts them on steroids and says let’s have a multi-trillion-dollar tax cut that benefits primarily the wealthiest Americans, tell no one how you would pay for it -- every economist on the outside who looks at this says it would add tremendously to the deficit -- and then let the middle class and seniors and others fend for themselves and in many ways pay for the very tax cuts that the wealthiest would receive? I think, again, the choice as I’ve described it is clear.
Reuters, do you have anything?
Q Jay, this jobs report comes in the context of a lot of threats to the global economy, principally the crisis in Europe, but a slowdown in China, as well. And I’m just wondering, given all of these threats to the economy and the severity of this, is it time to go back to the drawing board? And is the report correct saying that the President plans to deliver a speech on the economy later this month?
MR. CARNEY: Well, two things. I don't have any scheduling announcements to make about speeches in the future. The President speaks about the economy frequently, and I’m sure you will hear him speak about it frequently in the coming weeks and months. The fact of the matter is, as I pointed out in answer to Ben’s first question, there is no mystery about what we need to do or what we can do to help the economy grow and create jobs. One of the often-overlooked facts about the recovery that we’ve had thus far since the great recession is that there has been substantial private sector job creation, even as the economy at the state and local level has shed jobs. And the President thinks that’s a problem.
The President thinks substantial layoffs of teachers around the country is bad not just for those teachers who have lost their jobs but for the children who are in classrooms with fewer teachers. And that’s bad for our long-term economic prospects. It’s bad for the kids. It’s bad for the teachers. It’s bad for their families. And it’s bad for our economy.
So he proposed in the American Jobs Act that Congress should take action, that together we should take action to help return teachers to the classroom. Republicans in Congress refuse to do that. And we have job losses as a result of that refusal. They refuse to do it because they chose, unfortunately, to protect special interest loopholes for the oil and gas industry for wealthy Americans, and that was a bad choice, as the President sees it.
So there are things we can do now to invest in the economy, to help it grow, to help it create jobs, including the "To-Do" list, including the United Nations-passed elements of the American Jobs Act, and Congress should do them. And the President will sign them if Congress does them. He will always continue to work with his economic advisers to make sure that he is doing everything possible, both with Congress and through his executive authority, to take further measures to help the economy and create jobs. And again, that is the business that everyone in Washington should be about -- because as I’ve said before, he doesn’t expect that Congress will suddenly change their mind just because he’s asking them to.
He expects that Congress -- in this case, those who opposed some of these proposals in the past -- will change their minds because their constituents are demanding action now. We need to be focused on the American economic situation and jobs for the American people, not on jobs that will be won or lost in November. We need to act now.
Q But for Americans reading the news and looking at these worrisome signs in Europe and reading about the jobs report, do you think it’s good enough to say, I’m telling Congress to pass my "To-Do" list, I unveiled these measures in January, I think they’re the right thing to do, my economists think they’re the right thing to do? Doesn’t he have to show the American people that he’s doing more, maybe coming up with more creative approaches?
MR. CARNEY: Well, like I said, Caren, he will be constantly working with his team and others to examine proposals for economic growth and job creation, in addition to the ones that he’s put forward. He has been, I think -- he’s put forward a number of ideas and they have been deliberately designed to garner bipartisan support, both in the American Jobs Act and in the congressional "To-Do" list. But there is not a --
Q But as you pointed out, Congress isn’t passing them --
MR. CARNEY: Well, but then you should ask why. Because it’s not okay to simply root for failure and hope it pays off politically. I think, in fact, there’s a potential for a political price to be paid if you come to Washington and you do nothing in the hope that doing nothing will enhance your power in the future. That’s a bad approach to your responsibility as an elected representative of the American people from your district or your state.
So, again, there’s a lot that can be done right now, working with Congress. The President will continue to look at ideas and propose ideas. He will continue to do what he can administratively through executive power where appropriate. And he will continue to push Congress to take action.
I mean, let’s not forget when Republicans in Congress finally relented and extended the payroll tax cut and extended unemployment insurance, when they agreed to pass the assistance to veterans in the American Jobs Act and they’ve taken some of the other actions that they have taken, it’s been in part because they’ve heard from the American people, from their constituents that they need to do this. And the President has been out talking about these economic proposals around the country, putting pressure on Congress, making clear that we have business to do right now for the American people. That has resulted in some of this action. And he is going to continue to do that.
Q Why did the President quit talking so much about those two big elements on the infrastructure projects and paying for teachers and first responders to remain in their jobs in states and cities? For months, he didn’t really talk about them at all. And then, the "To-Do" list came out and none of -- those two things weren’t on it. Why? Was it a mistake to have quit talking about that given the job --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think broadly speaking, we always continued to talk about the undone proposals, the United Nations-passed proposals from the American Jobs Act. The President -- I mean, going to Caren’s point -- has continued to generate new economic proposals, new ideas that Congress could take up and pass -- small, medium and large in size, in terms of their impact and their effect. And he will continue to do that.
But I think when you look at the jobs numbers that we got on Friday and you look at all the jobs reports from previous months, you notice this effect here, which is greater private sector job growth and slippage in public sector jobs, principally in education and in public safety -- cops and firefighters, teachers. And this is very significant, because the impact, as I described earlier, is not just on the teachers who were laid off and their immediate families. It’s on the kids who don’t have those teachers in their classrooms; classroom sizes are bigger -- we think that’s a bad thing -- and in the impact that that has on our education system and our overall economic growth, which the President believes firmly is tied to the quality of the education that our kids receive.
So the compound effect here of those layoffs is profound. And that’s why Congress should take action to put those teachers back to work. It’s why Congress should have taken action to put construction workers on the job, another element of the American Jobs Act. There is no question that had Congress acted then, we would be looking at a different picture now in terms of overall job creation in the period since.
Q But why did those drop from his emphasis in the winter months? Was it because of a sense that the economy was picking up steam?
MR. CARNEY: No, because, look, he continued to push additional and new economic proposals. But it never became a question of whether or not Congress should simply not act on the ones that they had not yet acted on. That was always part of what the President believed Congress should do. And he continues to believe that.
Jake, and then, Jessica.
Q Who specifically is rooting for failure?
MR. CARNEY: I think that when you have a situation where action is not being taken on Capitol Hill, where it is obvious, as outside economists will tell you, what actions Congress could take to help create jobs, that there is at least a failure to act. And I can’t tell you specifically whether or not that’s rooting or just passivity. But the fact is that Americans send their members -- send their elected representatives to Washington to act, not to do nothing.
And there is an opportunity -- and has been now for quite some time -- an opportunity to help the economy grow faster, to help it create more jobs, to protect the jobs of teachers and firefighters, and policemen and women, and Congress has failed to act on those. And Congress has failed to act thus far on elements of the congressional "To-Do" list that would also have positive economic effect.
Q So they failed to act by not supporting what you support, but they have been passing legislation. You just --
MR. CARNEY: Right, and the same outside economists -- again, not our economists -- but the same ones who get the golden seal of approval in terms of independence will tell you that those proposals, by and large, put forward by Republicans that include small business tax cuts with a definition of small business that gives a huge tax cut to tax fund managers -- I mean, to hedge fund managers, or partners in law firms would not have any immediate positive impact on the economy. It may have some impact in the future. Some of them have neither short-term, nor medium- or long-term positive impact.
The proposals the President put forward were specifically designed to have effect now. Because the American people aren’t focused on what’s going to help the economy in five years; right now they’re focused on what can we do now to help this economy grow and create jobs.
Q Is it fair to say that there is nothing new that the President plans on introducing given this bad -- not only a bad jobs report, but a revision downward of the two previous months -- that the President is going to keep pressing forward with his "To-Do" list and things he has been talking about for months, nothing new?
MR. CARNEY: No, I don’t think that’s fair to say. I said -- what I said in answers to questions that came prior was that the President will continue to work with his team of economic advisers, as well as outside economic advisers to examine other proposals and other ideas that -- as he has all along -- that could help the economy grow and create jobs. And those could be proposals that require congressional approval, or they could be proposals that he can act on using his executive authority.
They can be proposals also that encourage private sector action along the lines of the things that the First Lady has done with the President and the Vice President and Dr. Biden, to get the private sector to hire returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So there’s a variety of things and areas where action can be taken. And, obviously, the President is continuing to work with his team on potential new ideas.
The point I’m trying to make is there’s not a lot of mystery in June of 2012, after all of the economic debates that we’ve had these past several years, about what the menu looks like in terms of the things we can do both to help the economy grow in the near term, help it create jobs in the near term, take actions that address our deficit and debt in the medium and long term. One positive outcome of these debates and negotiations and swapping of proposals has been that there’s a lot of work on the shelf that can be taken off the shelf and acted on if there’s a willingness to take the kind of balanced approach that the American public supports, that the President supports, bipartisan commissions support, when we talk about sort of broad economic proposals that include short-term action and medium- and long-term deficit reduction.
Q Jay, in the last few days, Democrats have expressed real concern about not only the economy, but what it says about the President’s prospects for reelection and with him, the House and Senate, and who will control them. Is the President hearing from these Democrats? What is the concern? Does the President share the concern that somehow there has been a tipping point reached, that the economy is now headed in the wrong direction, not just a blip but the last two months were revised downward, and the President will not be able to make the argument that the economy -- as he has as recently as March -- that job growth is happening, it’s accelerating, and that his prospects for reelection are weaker? Is he at all concerned about this?
MR. CARNEY: Jake, the President is focused far less on his job than on the jobs of the American people. That’s what he works on every day. That is what drives all of the economic proposals that he has put forward. That is what has driven him, from the time he decided to run for the Senate and run for the presidency. The fact of the matter is, as you know, having covered him for some time, is he takes the long view on all of these things.
He didn’t buy into the same punditry in the earlier part of this year that said because we’d had a series of better than expected months of job creation that all would be smooth sailing either for our economy or for the election cycle. And he takes a very determined view today about the work he needs to do as President, the direction this economy needs to move, and the debate that he’ll have with his opponent in the coming months over the direction the country should go in.
These issues are far too significant and they matter in tangible ways to far too many people across the country to be reduced to an electoral equation -- is it good or bad for any candidate’s prospects in November. That’s not why he got into this.
And I think, going to your last question, he will argue strongly that the actions that he took as President -- working with Congress as well as around Congress where he had to -- took an economy that was in freefall and reversed that direction; took an economy that was shedding 750,000 jobs in the month of January 2009, on the way to an 8 million job loss hole, to one that has grown by 4.3 million jobs since his policies began to take effect.
And Friday’s numbers were very far from where we want them to be, where the President wants them to be. But even those numbers -- again, another month of private sector job creation -- compare favorably by anyone’s standards to losing 750,000 jobs in one month, which is what faced this country when he took office. And it wasn’t even halfway done when he took office. So that's the way he looks at all of these issues.
Q On Friday, at multiple fundraisers, the President seemed to make the case that the disappointing job numbers in May were largely due to the turmoil in Europe. If these jobs -- if the jobs picture continues as it is, does this administration plan to make the case that it’s Europe -- it’s Congress and Europe that's slowing the nation’s economy?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President made clear on Friday, and has in the past, as have others, that the situation in Europe unquestionably creates a headwind for the global economy, and therefore for the American economy. And the point he made Friday and has made in the past and I’m sure will make in the future is that because of that headwind and others that affect global economic growth and therefore the American economy, we need to take every step that we can here at home to insulate our economy from the negative effects of the eurozone crisis or slower growth in China or whatever headwind arises, because the fact is that's what we need to do in the United States of America.
We have the biggest economy in the world. We have the most dynamic workforce in the world. But we cannot completely control events around the globe economically; therefore, we need to pass every piece of legislation we can that helps our economy grow and helps it create jobs. And we need to take all the action we can to insulate the American people from the effect of those kinds of events.
Q Why not just come out and say this nation is going through a slow-growth period while we’re deleveraging and this is the reality we’re living in?
MR. CARNEY: I think we speak extremely frankly about the economic realities that we face. I think the President was very clear, as have I been, that the jobs figures on Friday and the overall growth figures that we’ve seen of late are not nearly good enough. That’s a fact. That’s pretty blunt, right? We’re not remotely satisfied with 4.3 million jobs created, and this President won’t be satisfied until every American who is looking for a job has a job.
Q But that could be true with or without Europe’s crisis.
MR. CARNEY: No question. But it is also true that eurozone crises or earthquakes that cause tsunamis in Japan or the spike in oil prices, or other events that affect the global economy have a negative impact on the American economy. And that’s why you have to, as a matter of leadership, take every action you can here in Washington to affect our economy positively and insulate it from those events.
Q I have a follow-up on something we asked on Friday. In the gaggle we asked about the Stuxnet story in David Sanger’s piece and whether this was an authorized leak. And subsequent to that gaggle, we were referred to David Sanger, the author of the piece -- which is unusual because the White House I think should answer our questions, not the author of a piece.
MR. CARNEY: I think we made very clear that -- yes?
Q My question is, was this -- my colleagues and I asked, was this an authorized leak?
MR. CARNEY: No. And I think that the reason why people pointed you to the author is that he has made clear that his reporting on this initiated elsewhere. Look, our interest is always in protecting sensitive information, protecting classified information, because it’s important for our national security. In fact, some people are frustrated by that approach that we take because it is so vital to the ability of our men and women both in uniform as well as in the intelligence community to protect the United States and to fulfilling their missions that we protect that information. So I think the reason why people pointed you to the author is because he knows best where he got his information and had made that clear.
Q Tomorrow in Wisconsin -- a big contest. Why didn’t the President travel there?
MR. CARNEY: The President endorsed Tom Barrett right after he won the primary. The President supports him, stands by him. And I think if you talk to the campaign I’m sure they can give you more details about how that support is manifested. But you have a unique situation in Wisconsin where the event -- the election is a result of a recall petition. But the President absolutely stands by Tom Barrett and hopes he prevails.
Q Does the President think that he would not have been able to help?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think that there are a lot of factors in that context that make it unique -- how it came about, for one thing; the money being spent, for another. But the fact is the President has made clear all along his opposition to those who would take away workers’ rights, to actions that would take away or diminish workers’ rights, and he’s also made clear his support for Tom Barrett.
Q And then just quickly on Syria. Assad, over the weekend, gave a big speech and denied again that the Syrian government was involved in the massacre. Is Assad lying again to the world?
Q And what’s the next step for the administration?
MR. CARNEY: Well, along with our international partners, we are focused on preparing for a political transition in Syria. And as evidenced by the very massacres that the Assad regime participated in and is now denying, the sooner that political transition takes place, the better for the people of Syria, and the better the chances that a bloody sectarian war will be avoided. Assad’s behavior is so heinous that it is --
Q Do you think if Assad stepped down there wouldn’t be a bloody sectarian war?
MR. CARNEY: I said that the chance that there would be a blood sectarian war is diminished -- will be diminished if Assad removes himself from power or is no longer in power. And the longer that this continues, the longer that Assad continues to essentially wage war on his own people, brutalize his own people, brutally murder, execute his own people, the greater the chance that that situation will dissolve into a sectarian civil war and will spill over its borders and cause instability in the region.
Now, that is why it is so essential that the world community come together and unify to pressure Assad and isolate Assad, and help precipitate a situation where that political transition can take place. We’ve been very clear about the responsibility that the nations of the world have in this matter, and the need for international unity when it comes to the appalling behavior of the Assad regime.
We, I think, have made clear and I think it’s obvious that history will judge Assad as a brutal dictator who murdered his own people. History will judge those who supported Assad and continue to support Assad, accordingly. And that’s why it’s so important for the world to unify behind the plan -- a plan that would bring about political transition.
Q Jay, you gave an impassioned case there about private equity a couple moments ago, how about it doesn't really prepare you for the presidency. It’s all about profit, et cetera. Why then is the President raising money at a hedge fund manager’s home in New York tonight?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I wasn’t aware that any of them are running for President, first of all, Ed.
Q No, but if it’s so evil, why is he --
MR. CARNEY: No, no, Ed. Those are your words, okay. I never said that and you know it, and neither did the --
Q You said it’s all about profit.
MR. CARNEY: And there’s nothing wrong with profit, and you can be -- you can succeed very well in the field by maximizing profit. That is the goal. The point is simply that job creation is not the goal. Job creation is incidental. Whether it’s massive layoffs or some job creation, either way what matter is maximization of profit. And the point simply is that that is not the approach that best informs the decisions that a President would make when he or she is trying to maximize job creation in this country, maximize economic growth.
Q So why is he spending time with job creators tonight?
MR. CARNEY: I think you make a great point in that folks who are supporting the President, including folks who know that supporting the President and the President’s success would mean that they would have to pay a little bit more as part of a balanced approach to get our deficit and debt under control speaks extremely well of those folks.
Another approach would be to support a candidate financially or support a super PAC enormously with great amounts of financials, knowing that you're essentially buying tax relief, that victory in that case would result in a windfall. That's I think a different approach, and it’s not the one that's being taken by the supporters of the President.
Q On top of the jobs report that's been discussed, there’s this talk about what people are calling a fiscal cliff. We’ve talked about it here -- defense cuts that could kick in. It could make this job situation worse if the defense industry takes a big hit at the end of the year, and also taxes going up, as you just mentioned about taxes, the Bush tax cuts expire. Why is the President not calling Republican leaders here this week, or will he, to talk about both the jobs situation and making them I guess pass the rest of that agenda? But also looking ahead to all of this, it seems like it’s being kicked after -- to after the election. Why is he not dealing with this right now with the leaders?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, the President had lunch recently right here in the White House with leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, of Congress.
Q They stated their positions on the fiscal cliff and then moved on, right?
MR. CARNEY: Well, they discussed that issue, as well as the need to take action right away to help the economy grow and create jobs. That's certainly the President’s position.
The fact of the matter is that the sequester that you referred to was agreed upon by Republicans and Democrats as part of the Budget Control Act last summer during the debt ceiling negotiations. The whole point of the sequester was to make it so onerous that nobody would want to allow it to become law, and therefore Congress would be forced to make some tough choices, forced to accept some things that they normally wouldn’t want to accept.
On the Democratic side, I think as you saw demonstrated during the debt ceiling negotiations, there was a willingness to address the need for reforms in our entitlements. Unfortunately, there was not a commensurate willingness on the Republican side and has not yet been in any substantial way a willingness on the Republican side to make the tough choices when it comes to revenue.
I did note that one leading Republican senator, in talking about the effect of the sequester on defense spending, said that he believes revenue should be on the table. And I think the point of that is not to cheer, but to simply view that as the essential kind of decisions that Congress needs to make, members of both parties need to make when it comes to dealing with our fiscal challenges.
If you take a balanced approach that includes hard choices by Republicans and hard choices by Democrats, you can achieve a result that can reduce our deficit over 10 years by over $4 trillion, that can allow for substantial but not damaging cuts in our non-defense discretionary spending and our defense spending, cuts that are manageable, the kinds that the President supports. Because, as you know, this administration, the President, the Secretary of Defense do not support cuts the size of which would be brought about by that -- if that sequester were to take effect. And that's the whole point, right? Congress needs to come together under the pressure of that sequester to make some tough choices.
Q But bottom line, the President is not calling the Republican leaders over here. And he’s not offering up any new jobs plan --
MR. CARNEY: Well, Ed, I think -- I know you remember even though it was -- I did go on a bit, that at the beginning of my answer I did say the President just met with -- not too long ago here in the White House with the leaders of both parties in Congress, and I’m sure he will continue to do that in the future.
The fact of that matter is, as I noted earlier, that the choices that are available to leaders of both parties are apparent to everyone. That is the result of all the work that's been done on these issues over the last 18 months -- a lot of plans, a lot of proposals. It’s not that complicated. It just takes political will.
Q Jay, you said that the President and his advisers are talking through some ideas that could help promote job growth. Are they considering a new stimulus bill? Or can you give us some more specifics about what they might be considering?
MR. CARNEY: Kristen, I appreciate the question. I would simply say that there are a number of things that Congress could do right now that would put teachers back to work, put construction workers on the job, put police and firefighters back to work, efforts that would help homeowners refinance their homes, that would help veterans get jobs, that would protect 37,000 with the extension of the production tax credit. These are items from the "To-Do" list. There are at least 10 different things that the Congress could do that are already on the table that represent bipartisan -- traditionally bipartisan legislation that would help the economy grow and create jobs.
The President will, as I said earlier, continue to discuss with his economic team different options that can be pursued, different possibilities that perhaps Congress could take up to help the economy grow and create jobs in addition to the ones that he’s already proposed. And he will obviously look for every opportunity to act administratively with his executive authority to further economic growth and job creation.
Q As you know, one of the ideas that Republicans support is moving forward with the Keystone pipeline. Will the President revisit this idea given the anemic jobs report on Friday?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, and I’ll take a little time here to revisit the history, the company in question has submitted a new proposal not that long ago for a new pipeline. Now, the reason that they submitted a new proposal is that the previous proposal was rejected because of broad bipartisan opposition to it, including opposition from the Republican governor in the state that would be affected.
The process need not -- must not be politicized. There shouldn’t be, as there were in the past several months, purely ideological votes that have nothing to do with the legislation at hand designed to force the President or the administration to approve a pipeline for which there was not even a proposal. That was the case. Now that the proposal has been submitted, it will go through all the appropriate -- the entire, appropriate process that has been in place for successive administrations of both parties for years and years and years. And a decision will be made.
In the meantime, this administration has taken action -- as it has in numerous areas -- on domestic production and specifically with the domestic portion of the Keystone pipeline. This process is -- the State Department process is in place because the proposed pipeline crosses an international border with Canada, and that is why the State Department reviews it. The portion that begins at Cushing and goes to the Gulf, as you know -- and maybe you were on the trip -- the President has not only -- the administration not only has approved the various permits that needed to be approved at the federal level, but the President has urged that that process be expedited.
Q So once it goes through the process, given this jobs report, would the President be more likely to view it favorably?
MR. CARNEY: I would make two points. One, the process has to move forward and a recommendation has to emerge from that process. You can’t put your thumb on the scale and do what Republicans seem to want to do, which is bypass the process and say you would approve anything, no matter what emerges, even if experts say it shouldn’t be approved.
The President is interested in a thorough process that makes a judgment based on the merits. He also has pursued very aggressively an all-of-the-above approach to our energy needs that includes increasing domestic oil production, that includes increasing domestic natural gas production as well as clean energy technologies. And that has resulted, as you know, in a situation where we have greater oil production at home than we’ve had in a number of years, and less reliance on foreign -- imports of foreign oil than we have had in a long time.
So another point to make is that Congress could take action today on one of the President’s proposals from the American Jobs Act and put vastly more people back to work today than would be employed by that portion of the Keystone pipeline to which you’re referring, the proposal for which was only recently submitted to the State Department.
Q Jay, one more. I wonder if we could get your reaction to the Mubarak trial. Human Rights Watch said that the acquittals of the top ministry officials, despite the fact Mubarak was sentenced to life, gave a green light to future police abuse. Does the President think that the outcome of this trial is a success? And how concerned are you that this could be a green light to future police abuses?
MR. CARNEY: Specifically with regards to the trial, I would say simply that this was a decision made by the Egyptian judiciary, according to the Egyptian legal process. And I would refer you the government of Egypt for more information about it. We obviously continue to support the application of due process through the Egyptian legal system, but this was a decision made by that system.
I'll move around a little. Alexis, yes, and then Laura.
Q There is a report out that Kofi Annan will be in Washington on Friday to meet with Secretary Clinton. Can you comment on whether the President hopes to see Annan on Friday or thereabouts? And is this a signal that the towel is being thrown in on Annan?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I certainly would let Mr. Annan speak for himself in terms of his proposals. Obviously, we support the Annan plan and we have, even though we’ve remained extremely skeptical -- I think with good reason -- about Assad’s willingness to comply with it. The fact of the matter is, going back to what I said earlier, the international community needs to come together and unify around the idea that a political transition must happen sooner rather than later in Syria so that we avert the kind of sectarian civil war that that situation could dissolve into.
I don’t have a scheduling update for the President, but if I have one I’ll be sure to let you know.
Q And just one quick follow-up on the economy. Last week, the President -- some commentators were saying that the American people are very fuzzy on the details of what President Obama would do in terms of his economic agenda, not this year in an election year, but in the second term. Does the President believe that the American people are fuzzy or don’t understand the specifics of what he would do, that the choice to them is murkier than he thinks it is?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not sure who you’re citing, but the President has made clear and will continue to make clear the steps that he took to reverse a situation where we were in cataclysmic economic decline, where we were suffering massive job losses on the order of 750,000 jobs per month, to a point where once his policies were implemented we began to see the economy grow and to see it create jobs -- and we are only partway down that road. And we need to continue to take necessary actions to see that the economy grows, to invest in the middle class, to provide the security that the middle class needs so that it can be the foundation of the American economic engine of the 21st century just as it was in the 20th.
And part of what you will hear and the American people will hear in this debate that awaits us is his elucidation of his vision for moving the country forward economically. I’m not going to preview any or every speech that he’ll give in the coming weeks or months and the proposals that he’ll put forward. But you can be sure that there will be a very clear choice, and I think that the outlines of the different directions that are being proposed will be extremely clear to the American people.
I think, again, if you look at proposals that have led to the creation of 4.3 million jobs over 27 months, that have brought us partway back from the worst recession since the Great Depression, versus proposals that double down on the policies that delivered to the country the worst recession since the Great Depression, that delivered to the country a situation where in the fall, or the last quarter of 2008, the economy was shrinking at almost 9 percent -- a kind of economic catastrophe we haven’t seen since the 1930s -- versus the President’s ideas, that choice will be clear.
Q On Syria, just following up on that, we had a rebel spokesman quoted I think by Reuters, saying that they are ending their commitment to the Annan plan. We have the failure of the EU-Putin summit to come up with any solution. So how serious is this getting on the way to the President’s meeting with Putin in Mexico at the G20? And when you said "a plan" at the end of that explanation before when you were talking about it, what other plan would bring about -- I think Secretary Clinton said that, his departure does not have to be a precondition to a resolution, but it should be an outcome -- and what other plan can --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I didn't mean to hint that there’s an alternative plan, just a plan that brings about that political transition sooner rather than later is one that is desired by, broadly speaking, the international community. I think Secretary Clinton addressed the issue of Russia and the need for Russia to play a constructive role in this process very clearly, and I can echo that here, that obviously we have disagreed with Russia in the past on Syria, in the recent past, and we are in direct consultations with the Russians about why their participation in a process that leads to that political transition in Syria is so important.
I made the point earlier about how history will view Assad and how history will view those who helped sustain him at a time when that sustenance allowed for him to carry out brutal attacks against Syrian civilians. So we are working with not just the Russians, but a variety of nations, on this issue and will continue to do so. In terms of the -- I saw that story. I don’t have anything specifically for you on that about the rebel commander, but broadly speaking, that’s where we are on Syria.
Roger, and then -- oh, Laura, I owe you. Laura, did you already ask? Okay, Laura and then Margaret.
Q I think all of my questions have been so memorable. (Laughter.) My question is --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I remember you sneezed. I just couldn’t remember if there was a question before or after. (Laughter.)
Q So you’ve laid out your argument that the President has put forward jobs ideas, the Republicans in Congress haven’t been willing to act on them. And that’s basically the situation we’ve been in for many, many months now. Even if the American people sort of buy that, that that’s what’s going on here, what do you say to those who would say, I don’t want four more years of this. You know, if I reelect Barack Obama and Republicans remain in control of at least one house of Congress, which is likely, then we’re just going to have more and more of this stalemate, and how is that going to help anybody get a job? So could you sort of address that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think two points about that. One is we have elections for a reason and they, I think, provide direction to Washington from the American people. If the President is reelected, he will pursue the policies that he will have talked about extensively with the American people during the campaign. And I think that message will be delivered to members of Congress of both parties. Our economic challenges are too significant not to act on. And despite the record of intransigence that you cited, the fact is there have been occasions even with this Congress where, with their backs against the wall, leaders in the Republican Party in Congress have come together and worked with the President on important economic issues.
So some of that has occurred -- not nearly enough of it has occurred -- more of it should occur now. It shouldn’t wait for the election because members of the House were sent here for a two-year term, not a 15-month term or a 16-month term. They were sent here to do their job for two years, and that includes taking action on the economy to help it grow.
That this President wants to work with Congress, has made clear in the proposals he’s put forward that by their very design they are and should be enticing to those who are willing to work in a bipartisan way to help the economy grow.
So I think that’s the message he’ll carry. And I think most Americans see that when they are presented the choice of the ideas the President has put forward versus some of the options that have been forward by Republicans. And they want to see the kind of bipartisan compromise that has been very much a part of the proposals the President has put forward.
Q So you anticipate that, in the wake of an Obama victory, Republicans would come around. Do you think that the President needs to do anything differently in a second term in terms of how he would approach trying to get these things done, or is it all on the other side?
MR. CARNEY: Before I start getting into great detail about what the President is going to do the day after the election, I think I want to focus on -- and he wants to focus on what he can and is doing -- can do and is doing right now for the American economy. Because there’s an option here. There’s an opportunity here for Congress to actually help the economic picture right now, rather than simply wait and see until January to see who’s won and who's lost, and whether or not they can push different proposals. There are things that have traditionally garnered bipartisan support that are on the table and can be voted on, and the President looks forward to signing them into law.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Thanks. Oh, Roger, I owe you, and then Mark.
Q Yes, thank you. The President dispatched Lael Brainard to Europe last week. She went to France and Spain, Greece and Germany. Did she come back with any fresh insight or fresh recommendations for the President as to how the U.S. might proceed?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President is regularly briefed on the situation in the eurozone, and I'm sure -- and I know he has been briefed on this, but I don’t have anything specific for you. I'd refer you to Treasury for that, for specifics on her trip and any readouts of her meetings there.
Q Is there any sense on the part of the President that perhaps Europe has sort of missed its best chance to stem this debt crisis?
MR. CARNEY: The President believes that the Europeans have the capacity to take action to resolve this and that they have already taken actions that are significant, but serious risks remain. And there's no question that markets remains skeptical that the measures taken thus far are sufficient to secure the recovery in Europe and remove the risk that the crisis will deepen.
So we obviously believe that more steps need to be taken. And we, in our consultations -- which are quite regular with the European -- with our European counterparts involve discussions of the lessons we learned from the experience we had here in terms of the need to take out -- to take, rather, difficult steps to have our banks go through strict stress tests, for example, and require them to raise capital to strengthen their balance sheets, as well as the politically difficult steps taken here to bail out institutions for the benefit of the overall economy.
He's discussed those efforts that he engaged in to turn around the economy here, to restart job creation and secure growth. And in his conversations, and obviously the conversations that Secretary Geithner as well as Brainard and others have had with their counterparts, they've discussed how some of those lessons that we learned here might be applied in Europe.
With that, Mark, you are the last.
Q Yes. Jay, back on Wisconsin. Is it your -- are you trying to tell us that you don’t think the President has decidedly distanced himself from the recall vote in Wisconsin? He doesn’t give a speech about it; he hasn't been there since February.
MR. CARNEY: I think I just made clear that the President stands by the Democratic candidate and made that clear right after the primary. And for other efforts to support Mr. Barrett's candidacy, I would refer you to the President's campaign.
1:52 P.M. EDT
President Obama Signs S. 337 FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 and S. 2328 Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act
June 30, 2016
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