the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton aboard Air Force One en route Richmond, Virginia

1:45 P.M. EDT
     MR. BURTON:  So it does look like we’re heading to the rain site in Richmond, where the President is going to talk about a lot of the issues that you’ve heard him talk about over the course of the last couple of days -- the direction that he’s taking this country, what he’s done to do -- what he’s done to grow the economy and help create jobs, and the real stark difference between what his plans are and what Republican leaders in Washington want to do as it relates to tax cuts.
     The President thinks that Americans should get tax cuts on up to $250,000 of their income.  Republicans in Washington want to blow a hole in our deficit to the tune of $4 trillion in order to give tax cuts to billionaires and millionaires.
     So you’ll hear a lot of that today.  And then, of course, as you saw earlier today, probably a wide variety of topics that the participants want to discuss.
     So, with that, I’m happy to take your questions.
     Q    Do you think there’s a danger at all that some of these questions don’t allow the President control of the conversations, that it’s slipping out of your control?
     MR. BURTON:  Well, when the President ran for this office, he told Americans that he wasn’t just going to be some canned President who went out, said two lines, walked back into the Oval Office and stayed insulated.  He wanted to make sure that he was having a real exchange with the American people about issues that are important to them.
     So that’s what you see today.  He’s talking about any variety of things.  I think that from the reports that I’ve read, people are still getting a sense of what the President is saying, what the President said yesterday in Madison, what the differences between us and Republican leaders in Washington are as it relates to their pledge on tax cuts on the middle class -- all those issues.
     So is he as in control as he could be if he just stood in front of a room with a microphone and then just walked away?  No.  But he enjoys the back-and-forth with the American people and the true conversation that he’s having about all these issues.
     Q    These are some pretty tough questions, right?
     MR. BURTON:  They were -- there was a wide variety of questions.  I think he handled them all pretty deftly.
     Q    It looks like Congress is going to adjourn without even passing a budget.  Doesn’t that make it harder for the President to argue that Democrats are doing a good job of governing and deserve to be reelected?
     MR. BURTON:  If you look at the track record of what Democrats have been able to do over the course of the last two years, nobody can argue that this was one of the most productive legislative sessions that Congress has ever seen.
     On tax cuts, as the President said today, small businesses have already gotten eight tax cuts as a result of actions that this Congress has taken -- eight more as a result of the small business bill that passed just last week.
     They’ve moved at a pretty robust pace, and you can bet that they’re going to continue to do that because there’s a lot more work to do.  He’s going to meet with -- the President will meet with Democratic leaders in Washington tomorrow and they’ll talk about a wide variety of issues and what we ought to do going forward.
     Q    Why does he want to meet with them?  What is the purpose of that meeting?
     MR. BURTON:  It’s just one more opportunity to talk to some of his allies on Capitol Hill before they go out for the election.
     Q    So it’ll be Reid, Pelosi, Hoyer --
     MR. BURTON:  We’ll be sure to get you a roster of those folks by the end of the day.
     Q    Tomorrow?
     MR. BURTON:  Tomorrow.
     Q    Is there anything in particular the President would like them to accomplish before they get out?  I’m just wondering what the main agenda item is.
     MR. BURTON:  Well, they’ve obviously already accomplished quite a bit, although there’s a lot more work to do.  I think the most necessary function is passing a CR to make sure that the government keeps functioning until they can get back and pass all the rest of their bills.
     Q    So passing a CR is more important than having some sort of a resolution to all the tax cuts?
     MR. BURTON:  The President would love to have a resolution to the tax cut issue.  He’s been disappointed that Republicans have held middle-class tax cuts hostage so that Republicans can get what would be an average of a $100,000 tax cut to millionaires and billionaires across this country. 
     So the President desperately wants to make sure that we get resolution to that.  We’ve got some time to get that done.  What’s going to happen here is exactly what Democratic leaders prescribe and they’ll pass a CR and we’ll get back to business later.
     Q    How can you say they’re holding it hostage if the Democrats haven’t even produced a bill to put on the floor?
     MR. BURTON:  I think that we’ve seen the maneuvers and gamesmanship that Republicans in Washington have been playing with this issue.  People are crystal clear on where the President stands on this and where Democratic leaders are and what we want to do.  And the President is going to be fighting all throughout the end of this year to make sure that middle-class Americans get the tax cut that they need in order to keep this economy moving and to create an environment where we can be creating more jobs in this country.
     Q    Any news on the chief of staff run?
     MR. BURTON:  Nope.
     Q    And just real quick, you seem to prioritize the CR there above the tax cuts.  Did I hear you correctly?
     MR. BURTON:  We’ve got some time on the tax cuts before they expire.  There’s less time before the government stops functioning.
     Q    So the President is comfortable with the tax cuts being dealt with in a lame duck?
     MR. BURTON:  The President is comfortable with the tax cuts being dealt with in whatever way they need to get dealt with so that middle-class Americans can get a tax cut.
     Q    The commission is supposed to release its findings in that lame-duck session, too.  Does the President still want some kind of vote on the debt commission’s finding in the lame duck?
     MR. BURTON:  You know, I don’t know exactly when that -- when a vote on their findings would happen, to be completely honest with you.  But we obviously have about -- let’s see here, it’s October, November, December -- two months and change before they come back with what their findings are, and we’ll make a determination when we get to that point.
     Q    Because that was part of the deal that he got from the Democratic leadership, that there would be a vote in the lame-duck session before the next Congress. 
     MR. BURTON:  Okay.
     Q    Are we going to hear from the President on the China bill in the House?
     MR. BURTON:  I think the extent of what the President is going to say about China and their currency he said today in that Des Moines backyard.
     Q    The President is going to be in Eric Cantor’s backyard.  Is he going to single him out today about his position on the tax cuts?
     MR. BURTON:  Well, there’s not much better place in the country to go and talk about the real difference that there is in how Democrats think this country ought to go and how these Washington Republicans think this -- the country and the economy want to go.
     There’s a -- there couldn’t be a more clear contrast as it relates to their economic policies than where we are on tax cuts.  Are we going to have huge deficit-causing tax cuts like we had throughout the last decade that caused the economy to move in the wrong direction, that caused us to -- deficit spend in ways that we never had before, and caused surpluses to turn to huge deficits?  So you can bet that the President is going to focus in very keenly on Republicans.
     Q    What do you feel like he’ll accomplish this week on the campaign trail?
     MR. BURTON:  The President sought to go out across the country to different regions, to different areas, to different backyards, to different venues, like in Madison, and talk plainly with the American people about what the choice is this November -- what the difference in direction that we could go after the elections.
     He wanted to make sure the American people knew that there were big stakes, that Democrats and independents and even the independent-minded Republicans who supported him in 2008 know that if they sit on the sidelines, if they stop doing the hard work that it costs -- that they have to do in order to keep changing Washington, to keep moving the economy in the right direction, then it could all fall apart, and it could have profound impacts -- a profound impact in the lives of the American people.
     He did a pretty good job of that, and he also had a chance to really connect with Americans right in their own backyards.
     Q    What’s he’s got for next week?
     MR. BURTON:  We should have something for you more closer to the end of the week.
     Q    Do you feel like he made headway on the enthusiasm gap?
     MR. BURTON:  I mean, the only data that you can point to is public polling, and certainly the public polling suggests that Democrats are doing better in recent days than they have been recently.  And I don’t want to say that that is necessarily directly as a result of Washington Republicans laying out their Pledge to America, but I think that’s been met with a pretty resounding -- with pretty resounding disappointment all across the country. 
     Americans don’t want to go back to the same policies that we had for the last decade.  They want to keep moving the country forward.
     And as people see what the choice is, as they see what the stakes are for them and their families, I think that Americans are choosing Democrats.
     Q    I had one -- do you have anything on the thwarted al Qaeda plot that was going to be on European and United States cities?
     MR. BURTON:  Well, I’m not going to discuss any specific plot against the United States.  We obviously track and watch out for any potential threat to Americans.  The President is briefed on threats every single day.
     In recent weeks, he’s brought in his counterterrorism team, his homeland security team, and folks have been working through all the potential threats to make sure that the American people are safe.
     And just today Secretary Napolitano is in Montreal attending an aviation security conference because we’re working closely with our partners in North America and all around the world to make sure that we’re able to effectively fight any potential attacks against our country or our interests.
     Q    Can you comment on reports that two senior leaders -- al Qaeda leaders, one in Pakistan, one in Afghanistan -- have been killed by drone attacks?
     MR. BURTON:  I don’t have any comments on those specific reports.
     Q    The President seemed to struggle today talking to the -- the first question, the woman whose son is just out of school and having trouble finding work, and the father who talked about his 55-year-old parishioner who’s kind of in the same boat.  Are you all working on kind of a short -- not long-term structural answer for that question, but kind of what he finally got around to about staying hopeful?
     MR. BURTON:  Well, these are big, tough issues that the American people are facing.  And the President likes these venues because he has an opportunity not just to spit out some 30-second answer or something that fits on a bumper sticker, but instead talk frankly with the American people about the challenges we face, what he’s done to try to take them on, and what we still need to do to keep that work going.
     He’s going to continue to do that.  You guys have all followed him since he got into politics.  I don’t think we’re going to start seeing the President talk in 15-second answers anytime soon.
     Q    You had great bumper stickers.  Everybody loved you all’s bumper stickers. 
     MR. BURTON:  I think they liked the picture -- the whole thing, Beyoncé singing.  I think he went over that.
     Q    When you talk about talking frankly, do you think that qualifies as straight talk?
     MR. BURTON:  I’m going to leave that to the pundits in Washington to decide.
     Q    Are you guys planning another round of backyard chats for the future after this swing?
     MR. BURTON:  If I were you guys, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the President in some more backyards before the end of this year.
     Q    Have you found -- have you hit on any final venues for the Moving America Forward rallies in Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Ohio yet?
     MR. BURTON:  If they’re picked, I don’t know about it.  I would check in with the DNC on that.
     Q    Will we be seeing the President and the First Lady on the campaign trail together?
     MR. BURTON:  Decent question.  I don’t know the answer to that.
     Q    Fink does.
     MR. BURTON:  He keeps it pretty close to the vest, though.
     Q    All right, thanks, Bill.
                        END                1:57 P.M. EDT