Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 11/01/2013
**Please see below for a correction, marked with asterisks.
1:48 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon and happy Friday, everyone. Thanks for being here. Before I take your questions, I have a brief announcement.
On Friday, November 8, the President will travel to the New Orleans area for an event on the economy. The President will discuss the importance of taking measures to grow the economy and create jobs by increasing our exports. More details on the President’s travel will be released as they become available.
That is my very brief topper, so I go to you.
Q Is that the sum total of the week ahead?
MR. CARNEY: No, I’ll have the full week ahead for you at the end of your briefing, Chuck. (Laughter.)
Q Thanks, Jay. I know the President has been briefed on the shooting at LAX. Can you tell us any more about who he was briefed by at the White House? Anyone he may have talked to outside of the building? And does he have any sense of what actually has happened in this incident?
MR. CARNEY: The President has been briefed on the incident at Los Angeles International Airport by Alyssa Mastromonaco, his Deputy Chief of Staff, and he will be regularly updated on unfolding events there. At this point, the lead is LAPD, but we’re obviously at the federal level in touch with law enforcement officials on the ground, and the President will be updated as the afternoon progresses.
Q And at this point, anything you can say about what he’s been told, what the understanding is from officials on what’s happened there?
MR. CARNEY: No, I have no more information than what I think you’re learning from reports out of L.A. right now to convey.
Q On a separate topic, intelligence officials say that the leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed in a U.S. drone strike Friday. Can you confirm that he was killed?
MR. CARNEY: No -- as you know, I don’t speak about operational matters. But I would have to refer you to the Department of Defense for that.
Q And one last topic. Edward Snowden appears to be reaching out to some other countries for help in trying to get the U.S. to drop these charges against him. Is the U.S. talking to any countries -- Germany, in particular, is one country we know he’s reaching out to -- to tell them what the U.S. would prefer they do in this kind of situation?
MR. CARNEY: I’m certainly not aware of any conversations like that. Mr. Snowden has been charged with crimes, and he ought to return to the United States to face those charges and avail himself of all the rights available to defendants in this country. The crimes with which he’s charged are very serious, and it’s certainly our view that the right thing to do in this case is for him to return, or be returned, to the United States to face those charges and to have his day in court.
So beyond that, our position is what it was, which is that the unauthorized release of classified information, especially of the nature that we’re talking about here, is harmful to the national security interests of the United States.
Q Do you think it complicates for allies like Germany, for example, their dealings with him perhaps, knowing that U.S. officials had been spying on their communications to their Chancellor?
MR. CARNEY: I mean, our view on what Mr. Snowden did I think is well known. And when it comes to the tensions caused by the disclosures that have appeared, because of those unauthorized leaks, we're handling those issues in our direct diplomatic communications with Germany and other nations and allies.
So we've talked a lot about that, and there's no question that these are issues that we are addressing. And they go to the heart of the overall review of our intelligence collection activities that the President has ordered up, and it's underway now.
Q Was the President aware that some of his advisors were talking about the idea of replacing Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton?
** MR. CARNEY: I'm glad you asked, because I think it's important to know that campaigns and pollsters, as part of campaigns, test a lot of things. What I can tell you without a doubt is that the President never considered that, and had anyone brought that idea to him, he would have laughed it out of the room. I think former Chief of Staff Bill Daley said as much this morning.
And here's why: Joe Biden has been an asset to this President in two campaigns and throughout five years of this administration. Whether it was handling the implementation of the Recovery Act, handling the very sensitive and important portfolio of Iraq in the first term, or his key role in working with Congress on some very important negotiations, Joe Biden has been an excellent partner in the President's view. And then, as a candidate, I think if you look at the role he played in 2012 and you look at the job he did in his debate, I think there is little doubt that he was an enormous asset to the entire cause and enterprise. So that's how the President feels.
And having said that, I think you all know that he believes that Hillary Clinton did a magnificent job as Secretary of State. He believes he made the right choice in running mate. He made the right choice in Secretary of State. And when it comes to 2012, I think the fact that the President became the first person to win more than 50 percent of the vote consecutively since Ronald Reagan Dwight D. Eisenhower tells you a lot about how effective that ticket was.
Q So you're saying he was aware of this or was not aware of this?
MR. CARNEY: I believe -- look, I think if you ask the people who were more directly running the campaign that question, they might have an answer. I'm not aware that he was aware of it.
Again, I know for a fact that any suggestion that people periodically floated in the press that this was something under consideration was not one that he took seriously, ever.
Q Now, separately, Secretary Sebelius testified the other day that she did not have reliable enrollment data, but we’ve since learned that only six people signed up on the first day. Did she not have that data when she --
MR. CARNEY: Well, what you’ve learned from selected, cherry-picked leaks from a Republican committee is that there are notes out there from a contractor that makes estimates about figures related to enrollees in the early days of this process.
What’s important to know is that the website wasn’t functioning very well on October 1st or October 2nd; in fact, it hasn’t been functioning well in the first month since the launch. And that’s why the President is so focused on making sure that everything is done to bring that website up to the standards he has for it.
So if the implication from this disclosure is that the website wasn’t working effectively on October 1st, I think that is a dog-bites-man story. We know that. And when we have fully compiled data about enrollment in the middle of this month, for October, we’re going to release it, which is what we said even prior to launch.
But it’s also instructive to remember that, setting aside any problems with the website, we knew and told you in advance that there would be low enrollment figures initially because we knew that from experience. We saw that in the Massachusetts precedent, which the President himself spoke about just in Boston. So, in fact, I think if you look at what happened in Massachusetts, something like 0.3 percent of what would turn out to be the enrollment figure in that insurance reform program is what they saw in the first month -- 123 people.
So we knew it was going to be a slow build. It’s no question that it’s been made more challenging by the poorly functioning website, and that’s on us, and that’s why we’re dedicating the resources and the brainpower to get it fixed. Because the central issue here, as we’ve talked about before, is not can we build a great website, it’s can we make sure that the American people who deserve affordable, quality health insurance are able to buy it. And that’s why the President is so frustrated by the website -- more frustrated than anyone else, I think it’s fair to say.
I’m going to do what I did the other day, move up and back.
Q Thanks, Jay. What prompted the climate change executive order this morning? Is there a particular problem that it’s trying to address?
MR. CARNEY: Climate change.
Q Climate change, yes. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: That’s a very particular and important problem. Yes.
Q Just very broad, very broad.
MR. CARNEY: I think this is part of the President’s overall effort to address this challenge that our nation and the whole world is facing. And he established a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the administration on how the federal government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change.
And I think what’s important about this task force is that it’s basically tasking state and local officials who are on the ground and dealing with how to respond to or prepare for the changes brought about by alterations in our climate, so that they can feed back ideas and suggestions for best practices through this task force.
So it’s part of an overall approach to the problem, and I think it demonstrates that we’re continuing to take it on from a variety of angles.
Jon. Yes, Joe and then Jon.
Q Do you know whether the numbers from this war room meeting are accurate, six on the first day?
MR. CARNEY: HHS has put out a statement, and I think it’s been available since yesterday on that, and where they believe it comes from. I think these are rough figures, notes that were sort of a snap in time. I think as the Secretary testified in a hearing, a lengthy hearing the other day, we’re going to assemble accurate data and provide it monthly. I think that one of the reasons why it’s important to do it on a monthly basis is to make sure that the data is checked and is accurate. Remember, it’s coming in from a variety of places, both via the website and via -- from states who are running their own exchanges, from applicants who go through mail or go through in-person centers or through the call centers.
So I would refer you to HHS or CMS for more on that. And I think that the whole point, regardless of how specifically accurate those numbers turn out to be, is that we know and acknowledge that the website has been a problem.
Q So you don’t -- excuse me.
MR. CARNEY: Sorry, go ahead.
Q You don’t think there's a transparency problem for the administration --
MR. CARNEY: I think what Secretary Sebelius has said and I've said and others have said is that we will provide enrollment figures on a monthly basis, which is entirely consistent with the way that other programs have provided information, and the reason to do that is because we want to make sure that it's accurate. And, in this case, because the data is coming in from so many different places, you need to verify it and make sure that it reflects what's actually happening. And we will do that.
And look, let me just tell you now, on November 1st we don’t expect those numbers to be very high, and we never did. But they're going to be even lower because of the challenges we've had with the website. I think if Massachusetts is the precedent that makes sense to look at, and you look at what happened in the first month of enrollment in Massachusetts in what turned out to be a very successful enrollment period, you'll see that the first month is going to be slow as people begin to familiarize themselves with the options available to them and then make the choices that they want to make when it comes to their health care.
Q We've been sort of struggling a lot with numbers right now. The President said the other day that just a small fraction of Americans would pay more. Do you know what that fraction is? Is it 2 percent, 3 percent? And what, in terms of numbers, it works out to.
MR. CARNEY: I think that’s a fair question. I don’t have that figure, because here's the reality of what happens when you create a market that provides options to the American people.
So when you talk about -- and this is mostly focused, as we've discussed in the past here, Joe, on the portion of just 5 percent of the population that currently is insured under the -- in the individual insurance market -- they often have one option, maybe one carrier and one plan available to them. And every year that insurance company can say, you know what, your plan is canceled and here's your only option to replace it -- and it's usually a worse plan.
What happens now to those individuals is they now have a variety of options. They have levels of coverage that begin with minimum-level benefits that already exceed what they've had available to them, and then they can choose from bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans, and they can also then look and see what kind of tax credits might be available to them because of their income level.
So it's harder to predict with precision, because a lot of this depends on what choices individual consumers make. And the fact that they have those choices I think is -- we have to acknowledge is a good thing.
Q And the last thing.
MR. CARNEY: Sure. By the way, it's good to see you here.
Q Good to see you, too. Massachusetts -- you said many times that you think it's the proper template. It was a completely different political climate in Massachusetts. Do you think you're really choosing the right model?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think in terms of the political climate, that certainly speaks to how the bill passed. And look, nobody would have liked to have seen more bipartisan support for health care reform than the President, and I think as anybody here who covered it knows and can tell you, there was a great deal of effort that went into building a plan that reflected not just Democratic principles and Democratic ways to tackle this program, but Republican ways.
In fact, as those of us who are old enough to have covered the health care debate under President Clinton in his first term, there was a Republican plan submitted at the time that is the closest precursor to what the Affordable Care Act is today. So a lot of the ideas in the Affordable Care Act came from middle-of-the-road and conservative Republicans, and I think that reflects the President’s view all along that we ought to try to build a consensus here.
It’s regrettable, of course, that Republicans have instead fought this tooth and nail all the way. They fought it through passage; they fought it through the many pointless repeal votes that they’ve held in the House; and then challenged it unsuccessfully in the Supreme Court and then ran a national campaign on it, and it didn’t turn out their way.
So what we hope is that in the spirit of everyone’s desire to help the American people, Republicans and Democrats can join together in making sure that the American people who have benefits available to them by law are getting the benefits that they deserve. That's what Democrats did. Democrats who opposed President George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D plan, who voted against it -- once it was law, Democrats and Republicans came together when that program had a rocky rollout to make sure that their constituents got the benefits promised by the law. And we certainly hope that lawmakers of both parties will join us in that effort.
Q You said we’ll get monthly enrollment figures, right?
MR. CARNEY: As I’ve said probably a dozen times from this podium.
Q Okay, today is November 1st, and the rollout was October 1st. We’re at the one-month mark. How many enrollees --
MR. CARNEY: And as I probably said a dozen times, Jon, mid-month, which is consistent with every program like it. We want this data to be accurate; we want it to be compiled; we want to verify it. So this is not moving the ball. What we've said all along, middle of November we'll have October figures.
Q Okay. What I really want to ask you about is Joe Biden. Did Vice President Biden know that the campaign was conducting polling and focus groups on the possibility of replacing him with Hillary Clinton?
MR. CARNEY: Jon, I don't know the details of that. I can point you to the people who ran the campaign, who, according to the book, had some of this work done. And everyone to a person says this was never seriously considered. It was something that the President would never have accepted. And the idea was never brought to him.
You've covered campaigns. They poll and focus-group on what you had for breakfast. That's what they do.
Q But they usually poll or focus-group on something that has an impact on the campaign. I mean, why would the campaign be polling on what it would look like if Hillary Clinton replaced Joe Biden, if that was an idea never under consideration?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think you ought to ask pollsters and those who ran the campaign. What I can tell you is that the President has in a partner, in Joe Biden, somebody who has been an enormous asset when it comes to governing here in Washington and an enormous asset in two national elections when it comes to campaigning. And I think, again, if you look back at 2012 and you look at that moment in the campaign when the Vice President had his debate, it was a key moment. And Joe Biden delivered for the ticket. I think there's no question about that.
And the President knew he would. That's why he asked him to be his running mate in 2008. And that's why there was never any doubt among anybody here that he would be the running mate in 2012.
Q Does the President enjoy spending quality time with Bill Clinton?
MR. CARNEY: He does. (Laughter.)
Q Just another thing in the book. It says that they did a round of golf; they couldn't get through 18 holes. The President made a comment of he likes him, but in doses.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, here's two things I'll tell you about the book. One, I haven't read it. Two, I'm sure it's filled with a lot of great color and detail about a campaign that like all national campaigns is filled with ups and downs and turns and twists. And I'm sure it will be a great read.
What I can tell you is that the President is enormously grateful for the advice and assistance that he received from President Clinton during the campaign and the counsel he has received throughout his presidency from one of his only living predecessors. And that relationship has only strengthened ever since the President, then senator, ran for the nomination against President Clinton's wife, then-Senator Clinton. And I think you can see how that relationship only got stronger over the years, and it's very strong today.
We were just in New York -- the Clinton Global Initiative in September -- and they have a very strong bond. And I know that President Obama very much appreciates the counsel and advice he receives from President Clinton.
Q He never gets tired of it, never?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q We know that congressional and administration officials, including national security staff here at the White House, met with a slew of representatives, EU representatives early this week regarding the so-called NSA spying concerns. Do you have any updates? And do you think that these meetings have improved relations between the U.S. and the EU?
MR. CARNEY: I think there’s no question that the kind of communication we’ve had with our European allies on this matter have been very important and very useful when it comes to making clear how much we value the kind of security cooperation that our nations have and that we have with Europe in general. It’s vital when it comes to keeping Americans safe. It’s vital when it comes to keeping our European allies safe.
So as I said earlier, the tensions that have been caused by these disclosures are ones that we acknowledge, and they’re ones that we are addressing directly in our communications with European nations and other nations who have been part of the disclosures.
Q Do you think these tensions have been calmed in any way?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I obviously wouldn’t speak for any European nation or any allied nation, but I would say that we believe that the kind of communication that we’ve engaged in has been effective and useful in making clear how much we value those relationships, how important our cooperation is when it comes to national security issues and intelligence matters, and how much more broad our relationships are, because these are very important economic relationships as well as national security relationships.
Q You have a noisy demonstration out front by Camp Ashraf folks. Can you tell us how hard is the President going to press the Iraqi Prime Minister on the issue of accountability for the killings that took place in September at Camp Ashraf?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, the President has meetings this afternoon with -- very shortly with Prime Minister Maliki. And I’m not going to give you a readout of meetings that haven’t happened yet. They’ll discuss a whole range of issues; this is I’m sure going to be one of them.
But this is an important relationship, and it’s one that in the aftermath of the ending of the Iraq war and the withdrawal of U.S. troops remains important. And our commitment remains very strong to Iraq and the assistance we provide them in dealing with their challenges from al Qaeda in Iraq, the renamed al Qaeda in Iraq, and dealing with their overall economic challenges as they continue to make progress out of the past that created so many problems for the Iraqi people.
Q What’s the current position on who was responsible for that?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you -- well, let me say this. I’m sure State Department has more on this for you, but I can tell you that we remain deeply concerned about the fate of the individuals abducted from Camp Ashraf as well as the security of the residents remaining in Iraq at Camp Hurriya. We are pursuing these matters actively and daily with UNAMI, with UNHCR, the government of Iraq and other relevant authorities, to seek information on the MEK members who went missing and to ensure as much protection as possible is provided for the residents who are at Camp Hurriya.
So I’m sure, as I said, that these are the kinds of conversations we have with our counterparts as part of a whole array of topics that will come up.
Q Can you be as definitive about whether or not surveillance is going on at the IMF and World Bank as you have been with Chancellor Merkel?
MR. CARNEY: Look, as I think I’ve said, we do not comment on specific reports about our intelligence-gathering activities. All these matters are under review at the direction of the President, and --
Q I know -- just a report that a decision has been made, and that’s no longer going on. I wondered if you could --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think this has come up with regards to different questions.
Q I know, but we’re duty-bound to ask.
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely, and it’s fair. And I can just tell you that all of these matters are under review. When it comes to heads of state and also allies and friends, there’s a special emphasis as part of the review in looking at intelligence-gathering activities. But beyond that, the issues that you raise and others are part of this review, and when that review is complete at the end of this year, I’m sure we’ll have more information that we can provide to you about decisions that are being made and changes that are being made in how we collect intelligence.
Q So you can’t even say whether a decision has been made about --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I just don’t have any updates that I can provide.
Q The Vice President spent two hours with Prime Minister Maliki yesterday, and as anyone who follows the Vice President and Iraq knows, he continues to have phone conversations with all the key players in Iraq. Will he be participating with the President in any post-game meetings? And does the White House sort of view where Iraq is right now at either a crucial or tipping point as relates to the violence and all the other issues, parliamentary elections? I mean, is this a time where that portfolio that the Vice President has carried for five years becomes ever more significant?
MR. CARNEY: I think it’s a very important time for Iraq. The violence that we’ve seen has clearly escalated significantly, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. And that’s why we believe that we need to work together with other allies and friends of Iraq to help them counter the terrorism being perpetrated by al Qaeda there. The Vice President is a part of the conversations today, and I’m sure that he and the President will continue to discuss this very important foreign policy matter going forward.
Q Is it time for some fresh thinking as far as U.S. policy and what's going on in the post-pullout dimensions of Iraq?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean, look, we're focused on providing the necessary assistance to Iraq to help them combat terrorism there, as well as the broader assistance that we provide through the Strategic Framework Agreement, and that encompasses not just the security relationship, but an economic and political relationship.
Part of what Iraq has been going through for many years now is the effort to resolve the political differences and divisions within that country peacefully and through politics, rather than through violent conflict. The forces of al Qaeda are trying to disrupt that, as they have periodically throughout this period.
And it's very important that, in spite of the differences that exist politically in Iraq, that the parties and the factions and the groups continue to resolve their own differences peacefully, which further isolates the activities of al Qaeda and demonstrates what they are for all to see, which is the wreaking of terrible violence upon innocent civilians that is damaging to every Iraqi.
So our assistance encompasses more than just a level of security cooperation, although that’s very much a part of it.
Q Can I ask you to address something that in this very busy news week has sort of filtered through some of the analysis of the President and his leadership style? As I'm sure you're well aware, and maybe others in the building are, there have been a number of stories suggesting the President has been indifferent or sort of an absentee, or lacking a central involvement in things very important not only to his agenda but to his overall projection of power. And I just want to give you a chance to offer the White House a rejoinder to some of that analysis.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I know what you're talking about. I think that the -- I mean, I'll have to just address it specifically.
Q I can't summarize everything.
MR. CARNEY: No, no I know. It was a good job. (Laughter.) But the -- I mean, let's take the piece that some have looked at when it comes to intelligence gathering.
This President is a very deliberate consumer of the intelligence product provided to him, and he focuses on the things that are -- keep him up at night, which are the threats to the United States, the threats against the American people and the threats against our allies. And that means North Korea, Iran, al Qaeda and other kinds of threats that are direct to the United States. And you can be sure that he focuses on those issues.
And this question has come with regard to some reports, and all I can say without commenting on specific intelligence-gathering matters is that when the President wants to know what the head of state of one of our allies thinks, the President calls him or her -- the President calls Chancellor Merkel or Prime Minister Cameron, or President Hollande. So I think that answers that piece of the question.
When it comes to health care, this President has been focused from day one, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, on making sure that implementation will be carried out effectively. And that includes the implementation of the website -- which is why nobody is more frustrated by the substandard performance of the website than the President of the United States. And he’s making sure that every effort is expended to bring it up to snuff.
So I think the President expects results. That's the way he manages this White House. That's the way he manages this administration. He believes that smart people ought to bring all their talents to bear to solving problems, but he expects results.
Q Right. But, I mean, on the question of the website and some other things, we've asked questions, others. Evidence has been raised of things that the President should have known, and either we can't find out if he did know or we're told it doesn’t matter whether or not he knew. And on the question --
MR. CARNEY: Again, you have to be more specific. Look, I think you’ve seen all along that we've said we did not know -- imagine -- of course, we didn’t know the website would perform as poorly as it has, otherwise we wouldn't have been speaking about it the way we --
Q Right, but there were some tests right before launch, 200 people were on it --
MR. CARNEY: And what Secretary Sebelius has said and what Marilyn Tavenner has said is that they were told that the website would function. It would not be error-free; there would be glitches, but that it would function. And it clearly has not functioned up to the standards that we expected, which is why we're dedicating the resources we have and the brainpower we are to fixing it.
Because in the end, this isn't about a functioning website; it’s about delivering affordable health care to millions of the American people.
Q And on intelligence, there are many in the intelligence community who find it inconceivable the President couldn't know of all the things that have been disclosed. And we were told the hard things -- the hard targets he knew about, the soft targets he didn’t. And that just seems to some on the outside not really the way a President would organize himself around intelligence matters.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I cannot answer every specific report about our intelligence-gathering activities. I think I came pretty close to answering a question when I described the kinds of intelligence that that President focuses on and how he goes about having discussions with or learning the thinking of our allies.
Q Jay, on Iraq and the necessary assistance you talked about, there were obviously some lawmakers in this country talking about keeping some U.S. forces behind as part of the transition. And the President decided not to do that. As you noted, the violence has escalated. Are there any regrets here about not leaving some U.S. troops there to try to help the situation?
MR. CARNEY: The decision to fully withdraw from Iraq was one made by the Iraqi government and the United States government, and it was the right decision. Because anyone who believes that the presence of U.S. troops -- 5,000, 10,000, 60,000, 100,000 -- in perpetuity is the answer to solving Iraq's political challenges I think is just simply wrong. And I think that was part of a sustained debate in the 2008 campaign. And the President was committed to ending the war in Iraq, and he has fulfilled that commitment.
That doesn't mean that we don't have an intense and focused relationship with Iraq going forward, including one that focuses on providing security assistance. But Iraq has to resolve the challenges that face Iraq through intense political effort, and aided by the security forces -- the troops and police who have been trained by the United States and our allies in that effort -- and through the assistance that we provide them and other friends of Iraq provide them going forward.
Q On Syria, some administration officials have privately confirmed that these reports of Israeli war planes a couple of days ago striking a military base in Syria. You also read out a phone call a couple of days between the President and Prime Minster Netanyahu. Was this discussed on that call? And what can you tell us about what the U.S. --
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any further readout on that call, and I have no comment on those reports.
Q Vice President Biden, on that -- not about the book, but looking forward, in your answer you talked a lot about how they worked well together and the President thinks very highly of the Vice President, would have laughed off the idea of somebody wanting to take him off the ticket. Does the President believe the Vice President would be a strong President?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q Is he ready to endorse him?
MR. CARNEY: I think the President picked Joe Biden as his running mate for the right reason, which is that if necessary, Vice President Biden could be President. That's I think the first item on your checklist when you're picking a running mate.
So what happens in 2016 is something that we'll see in 2016. I'm not going to get into 2016 right now, unless you want to -- we could talk about the Republicans. That’s pretty interesting.
Q Please proceed. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q How do you compare Rand Paul, Ted Cruz --
MR. CARNEY: I think they all ought to run. It would be awesome. (Laughter.)
Q And last thing on -- if I could bring it back to health care. You started out on this question of six people enrolling on day one by saying that numbers were "cherry-picked." Obviously, these are HHS numbers. I understand they're --
MR. CARNEY: I'm saying the document released, as we've seen again and again and again, in particular from this committee, is selected documents. And I'm not contesting -- what I'm saying is that is -- those are notes from a contractor, as I understand it, based -- and we're going about the business, as we promised, of gathering all the data, verifying all the data, and we'll provide it --
Q So to prevent cherry picking, why don’t you at least put out a reasonable preliminary number and show us some transparency? Tell the public where we are.
MR. CARNEY: We're going to put out a reasonable, accurate number, as we promised we would, on a monthly basis consistent with the data released that you see for other programs.
And the focus here, for understandable reasons, I guess, is on how low the number might be. And I think -- listen to me now -- they were always going to be low, the enrollment figures for the first month, because that’s how enrollment periods work. That’s how Massachusetts worked. That’s how probably all the monthly enrollment you guys have on your plans work. That has been compounded and will be compounded by the problems that we've had with the website.
So we expect those figures to be relatively low, but we absolutely expect those figures to grow -- and we always did. And it is our challenge and our responsibility to make sure that we provide for the American people who want this product access to it through the website, through call-in centers, by mail, so that come January 1st and then by April 1st, everybody who wants affordable, quality health insurance on these marketplace is able to purchase it. And that’s why we're working hard on the goal here. And the means to the end is only important because the means have to work to get you to the end.
Q The President is going to be campaigning with Terry McAuliffe on Sunday. Does the fact that the administration is investigating Mr. McAuliffe's company present a conflict?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not even sure what you're talking about. Investigations are something that aren't handled here. The President believes strongly that Terry McAuliffe is the right person for the job in Virginia, and I'm sure looks forward to campaigning for him.
Q So he's not aware of the SEC investigation?
MR. CARNEY: I didn’t say that. I'm saying whatever investigation you're talking about is something for investigative authorities to comment on.
Q Could you just talk broadly about what the President's message on Sunday is going to be? In other years, we've had the President giving a series of rallies and speeches, the message to the American people about who to choose. This seems to be the only rally he's doing of this election cycle.
MR. CARNEY: Well, it is an off year.
Q Yes, I know. I mean, I'm not saying he should be doing lots more, I'm just saying given that this is the one speech of this kind he's going to give this year, what is it going to contain?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'm sure he's going to say that Terry McAuliffe is the right choice for Virginia, and he's going to make an argument for why. But beyond that, you'll have to wait and see.
Q Really? I mean, like, you don’t want to give us any kind of sense at all? (Laughter.)
Q And it's official he's not campaigning with Barbara Buono?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any updates on his schedule beyond Virginia.
Q All right. A couple questions. Is it fair to say somebody gets daily updates on enrollment figures in the administration?
MR. CARNEY: In terms of the daily churn of this process, we set up briefings where they can --
Q No, I understand publicly. I'm saying somebody every day is finding out, here are today's numbers.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I would refer you to -- CMS might be able to tell you more about that. What I can tell you is what the Secretary said. We're compiling data. You need to verify it and make it accurate. Obviously, the challenges in doing that have been exacerbated by the difficulties with the website. I mean, what I --
Q If the President wanted an update right now, would somebody be able to provide him a number?
MR. CARNEY: I suppose that somebody could provide a rough estimate, Chuck. But the point is you want to get accurate information when you release it publicly. And if the purpose of this line of questioning, which I know is of fierce interest to those who never wanted affordable health insurance available to the American people to begin with, is to demonstrate that those numbers are low, we concede that they will be. We said that even before October 1st, before we had the trouble with the website, because that's how enrollment works.
If you look at Massachusetts -- I mean, imagine what that must have looked like at the time. They roll out this new health insurance reform program and Governor Romney signs it into law, and he’s got bipartisan support, and they implement it, and after a month, they have 123 people sign up for it. It turned out that more than 36,000 people signed up for it, but in that first month enrollment was low. Well, it’s going to be low here, too.
But the important thing is that we provide steady improvements to the accessibility to the website and to accessibility to information and enrollment through the other means available so that the millions of Americans who want to shop for affordable health insurance through these marketplaces are able to do so.
Q And just very quickly -- this rough estimate that was leaked, this is federal exchange only? This is not counting state exchanges?
MR. CARNEY: I haven't even seen the document. Chairman Issa didn’t send it to me, so I don't --
Q I want to ask about Iraq. Does the President think that the United States has a special responsibility for Iraq’s safety? Whether or not he believed in the war itself, does he believe the United States --
MR. CARNEY: The President believes it’s in the interest of the United States to have a robust relationship with Iraq and to help Iraq deal with its security challenges, and to help Iraq deal with its overall challenges as it makes its way out of decades and decades of dictatorship and tyranny, and then a decade of terrible violence. And that's in the United States’ interest to do that.
The President does firmly believe that it was the right thing to do to end that war. And he obviously believed that it was the wrong thing to do to get involved in that war. But when he became President, it was his responsibility to make sure that we ended that war in a way that protected our national security interests.
Q You keep saying that the President does believe that he needs to provide a relationship that helps with security. If Prime Minister Maliki is saying, hey, he needs even more help with security, does that mean the President would be open to some sort of special forces, some sort of troops? Or is there sort of a line?
MR. CARNEY: I don't anticipate -- no, I don't anticipate troops on the ground. What I think will be a focus of the discussions is the ways in which the United States can provide assistance. We are providing assistance and believe it’s important that we make that case on Capitol Hill.
I wouldn't expect any announcements, but if you're asking about boots on the ground, I think we've made clear we withdrew from Iraq and we think that we can continue to provide assistance to Iraq in its effort against al Qaeda short of boots on the ground through our foreign military sales and through other means.
Q Does the President think that Iraq is a robust democracy?
MR. CARNEY: I think that the President believes what is accurate, which is that Iraq is a new democracy struggling with democratic governance. It’s not alone in those kinds of struggles. And I think Iraqis would be the first to tell you it’s an imperfect democracy, to say the least. But it’s important that Iraq make progress, and that it make progress by resolving political differences through political negotiation and through elections and through conciliation, and not through violence.
Q Kind of building on that, the President has always reserved a right to use American military force against extremists when a local government cannot or will not. There are now al Qaeda camps in Iraq. Is that option on the table for Iraq?
MR. CARNEY: I certainly don't have any military action to preview for you. I think I answered the question about troops on the ground.
Q Jay, a couple of questions. One, on New Orleans, could you talk about the economic situation in New Orleans right now as the President is looking to talk about foreign trade, New Orleans and other countries around the world?
MR. CARNEY: About the specific situation economically in New Orleans? I don't have a lot of data for you on it. I think that obviously, New Orleans, in addition to being hit -- as the rest of the country was hit -- by the Great Recession, also had significant other economic challenges caused by Hurricane Katrina. And this President has been focused on and dedicated to the effort to help New Orleans revitalize itself, and that effort continues.
The President is going to New Orleans to talk about the need to increase our exports, because increasing our exports helps grow our economy and helps create jobs here in the United States, including in New Orleans.
Q -- seeing mostly --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't have a further preview on it. I'm sure we'll have more details for you next week.
Q And I want to ask you this. There are at least two principals in this administration that have great possibilities down the road. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Are you talking about me again?
Q Yes, I am. So will the President be strategic -- because in any kind of support that he may --
MR. CARNEY: I'm just wondering where it's going.
Q Okay, listen, listen. (Laughter.) Will he be strategic in making any kind of support for any of these principals because they have far-reaching ramifications down the road for one or the other? Or could we see a President who sits out until the general election?
MR. CARNEY: April, I have to tell you, on November 1st, 2013, the President is not thinking about 2016. He is thinking about what he needs to do every day to make progress for the American people and the economy and on jobs; make progress in getting this website fixed so that Americans can have access to affordable and quality health insurance; making progress in our relationships with our allies, as well as in keeping the American people safe by continuing to take the fight to al Qaeda.
So that’s what he’s thinking about every day. I’m sure 2016 will take care of itself. This President has run for the last time, and we’ll obviously all watch with interest what happens, especially in the Republican Party.
Q But when a Democratic President does not stand behind a Democratic candidate it shows.
MR. CARNEY: April, again, you’re way ahead of the game here.
Q You guys are strategic. You guys are already planning --
MR. CARNEY: I can promise you nobody is talking about that in the President’s world right now.
Q Why did the President decide not to campaign for Barbara Buono in New Jersey? Has she asked for his help, and has he decided not to go there?
MR. CARNEY: I have no information on the President’s schedule politically beyond his visit to Virginia on Sunday.
Q Does he support her candidacy?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t -- I just haven’t been asked that question in a while. I’ll have to get back to you, Phil.
Q I mean, she’s the Democratic nominee on the ballot --
MR. CARNEY: Sure, and I think he met with her when he was in New Jersey earlier this year, I think it was. But I don’t have any updates on that.
Q You can’t say whether he supports her?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, he supports her, but I haven’t been up -- I honestly --
Q That was the question.
Q That was the question. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Sorry. I thought you were focused on whether he was going up to New Jersey.
Q Traveling is one thing, supporting is another. He supports her?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Mike Viqueira. Then Justin.
Q Thanks, Jay. So the United Nations -- back on Iraq -- has got figures out today: More than 900 Iraqis, 852 of them civilians, were killed last month alone; 5,000 since April. You have repeatedly attributed the violence there to al Qaeda, but there are others, notably some very influential senators, who say that Prime Minister Maliki has mismanaged this situation, that he’s fostered sectarian strife there of the type that’s plagued Iraq over the course of the last 10 years. How do you respond to that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’d respond in two ways. One, the violence is coming from al Qaeda and its affiliates. I don’t think there’s any question about that. When it comes to democratic governance and resolving differences between the parties and factions and ethnic groups and religious groups within Iraq, that’s hard work and it’s every leader’s responsibility in Iraq to make sure that work is done in a way that doesn’t foster violence. I think I answered earlier a question about the nature of Iraq’s political system, and there’s no question it’s a work in progress.
But make no mistake that the source of the violence is al Qaeda. And I think that for Iraqis, that is something that is particularly painful, but also illuminating. This is not the product of intra-party or intra-faction conflict. This is Iraq once -- I mean, al Qaeda once again trying to destabilize Iraq and take advantage of the instability there.
Q Jay, on Monday, it looks like the Senate will vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for the first time since 1996, when it failed by one vote. What’s the White House doing to make sure that doesn’t happen again?
MR. CARNEY: The President has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would enshrine into law strong, lasting, and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And his administration has and will continue to work to build support for it.
What we have seen is progress as that bill has moved through committee, and now will get a vote in the full Senate. We’re making clear to every senator who may be on the fence or may not have expressed support for it that we strongly believe that a “yes” vote is the right vote on this legislation. So we’re working towards that end.
Q Are you confident that it will pass?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think counting votes in the Senate is something that experts in the Senate do. We know that it’s the right thing to do and we fully support it.
Q Can I follow up on this?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, Chris.
Q The passage in the Senate of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, if it gets passed through that one chamber, would that change the landscape in the President’s thinking on an executive order for prohibiting LGBT workplace discrimination for federal contractors?
MR. CARNEY: If you’re asking me to predict whether or not it would pass the House if it --
Q I’m asking you if the Senate passed ENDA, would that change the President’s thinking about the executive order for LGBT workplace discrimination?
MR. CARNEY: I think that what I would say is that we have long believed that legislation, an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would enshrine into law these protections, is the right way to go. You and I have had this discussion periodically over the year. And that’s still our view.
I’m not going to prejudge what’s going to happen in Congress. What I can tell you is that it’s come further than I think some people expected a year ago, and we want to continue to see that progress in Congress.
Q That’s a no? That the Senate vote is not going to --
MR. CARNEY: I think I answered the question expertly.
Q Week ahead?
MR. CARNEY: Week ahead.
Q One more?
MR. CARNEY: Knoller.
Q Carney, thanks. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: What do you got?
Q Jay, you say the President is not thinking at all about 2016.
MR. CARNEY: Guarantee it.
Q Can you tell us what he’s thinking about 2014?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, he wants to see lawmakers elected or reelected who want to focus on the problems that this country has and the challenges it faces when it comes to growing our economy and increasing employment and making the middle class more secure. And he’ll do as presidents before him have done: Get out there and support those candidates, Democratic candidates he believes have that as the focus of their agenda.
Look, the President wants practical progress made in Washington. The American people are crying out for it. They’re tired of the kind of dysfunction that we saw during the shutdown. They’re tired of the blame game that they see people engage in here in Washington. They want their elected leaders focusing on them and their futures, not on their personal political futures. And that’s what the President is committed to doing. He’s not running again. He wants progress. He wants this economy to grow faster. He wants it to create more and better jobs for the middle class. So that’ll be the message he carries in the midterm elections, when that time comes. That time is still some ways off.
In the meantime and throughout that time, he wants to focus on working with this Congress and doing everything he can with the executive authority he has to move the ball forward on the economy and on jobs.
The week ahead -- schedule for the week of November 4, 2013.
On Monday, the President will welcome the five-time Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 Stanley Cup victory. Following the visit, the President will deliver remarks at an Organizing for Action event. That's Monday.
Tuesday, the President will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and visit with wounded warriors who are being treated at the hospital and with their families. The President will also visit the Fisher House, a program that supports military families by welcoming them to stay at the house while their loved ones receive specialized medical care.
On Wednesday, the President will travel to Dallas, Texas to participate in DSCC events.
On Thursday, the President will attend meetings here at the White House. And as I mentioned earlier, on Friday, November 8, the President will travel to the New Orleans area for an event on the economy. The President will discuss the importance of taking measures to grow the economy and create jobs by increasing our exports. We'll have more details on the President's travel as they become available.
Later that day, Friday the 8th, he will travel to Miami, Florida to participate in DNC and DSCC events.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is your week ahead. I hope you have a fantastic weekend. And I'll see you Monday.
END 2:41 P.M. EDT
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