Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 10/19/2010
1:18 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: Yes, ma’am.
Q A couple of campaign-related questions. Two weeks from Election Day. In the President’s appearances this week and next week, are we going to hear anything new in his message, or has he really solidified the message going forward?
MR. GIBBS: I think you’ll continue to hear the President make a very strong and affirmative case for continuing to move the country forward and the perils of what it means to go back. That's I think been the basis of his message for quite a while. I think you’ll continue to hear that.
Q So we're not going to see him try to roll out another message? Okay. And then, looking at this Western swing, Boxer and Reid and Murray -- those are candidates that the President has been campaigning for, pretty frequently the First Lady is, Biden has. What is it about those three races that has the White House so interested?
MR. GIBBS: They’re all important races. They’re important votes in the Senate; they’re important races. The President knows each one of them from his work and their work in the Senate and is anxious to go out and campaign for all three of them.
Q Does the President feel like he can be more effective in those states than in states like Arkansas or West Virginia?
MR. GIBBS: Look, the President, if you look at -- has campaigned in states throughout the country. Just this past weekend we were in Ohio. I think people tend to forget that before Governor Patrick there was 16 years of Republican governors in the state of Massachusetts -- not exactly easy gubernatorial territory, at least in the recent past, for Democrats.
So the President is going to go and hit a lot of places; the Vice President, the First Lady, they’ll all hit important races as we head into -- head to the finish of the campaign season.
Q Is there anything you can tell us about his schedule for next week, what states he'll be hitting?
MR. GIBBS: Not yet. Not yet.
Q Robert, is the White House concerned that some banks are lifting their foreclosure freezes too soon?
MR. GIBBS: Well, as you saw in the statement that I put out, there is an ongoing process through FHA -- started before this round of stories -- where we had concerns and wanted to ensure that services are complying fully with the laws of this country.
Tomorrow, at HUD, there’s a meeting of regulators, including Secretary Donovan, Secretary Geithner, Tom Perrelli from the Justice Department -- to talk through sort of where we are on our look at this process. And that process, again, as I said, is -- will continue over the course of the next several weeks.
Q You mentioned your statement this morning. Was that -- the reason for your sending that fueled by any concern about this lifting of freezes happening too quickly?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, we are -- our concern has been in ensuring that the process adequately complies with the law. That's what led FHA to get involved in this. That's what’s led the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to be involved in this process, as well as our support for 50 state attorneys general ensuring, again, compliance with the law. That is -- obviously that's tremendously important in this process.
We have talked about, over the past week or so, the danger that we see in, though, halting the entire housing market and the danger that it would provide -- or potentially provide writ large and its effect on the economy.
Q I guess it’s still not clear to me if you think it’s -- are they lifting these freezes too soon, or is that not a concern?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, that is a -- we are looking at their process in order to determine their compliance with the law. Obviously they have certain requirements under the law that have to be met, and if they’re not meeting those requirements they certainly can face fines from us and they can face legal action from homeowners.
Q Did the President discuss this with Secretary Geithner in their meeting today?
MR. GIBBS: I don't know if this came up specifically. My guess is it likely did. The President’s economic daily briefing centered on this last week and there have certainly been meetings with Secretary Donovan and others around this.
Q Is the President talking to any of his friends and contacts in the banking industry about this?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q In a new ABC News/Yahoo News poll, 55 percent of the American people say the Tea Party candidates can effectively bring about major changes in the way government operates. How did the President and the Democrats lose the mantle of change?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think if you're talking about repealing the minimum wage that would be significant change. I think if you're talking about questioning the validity of whether Social Security should happen, or whether there should be a Department of Education -- I think that all qualifies significant change.
Q I said “effectively bring about major change” --
MR. GIBBS: That would effectively bring about major change. Jake, I'd have to look more closely at what the poll says. This is not necessarily in relation to the Tea Party, but I think there continues to be a frustration with the pace of our economic recovery, based largely on the fact that, as I've said before, the hole that we’re in is huge. The number of jobs that we lost -- 8 million or so jobs -- the number of jobs we lost leading up to the last election is a significant amount.
Q And one other thing. Later this week, the administration is going to release a report on women in the economy, at the same time President Obama will be campaigning for two embattled women senators -- Murray and Boxer. Is there a relation between the two?
MR. GIBBS: Well, no, I think obviously we are -- the President has been focused throughout this administration on our economic recovery, on ensuring that businesses have the credit they need to expand. I think this is just a continuation of that concern and demonstrating what can and should be done to fix our economy.
Q At these monthly AfPak meetings -- and the President will have one again tomorrow -- is this a chance to tweak the strategy in that region, or is it more of a comprehensive update for the President?
MR. GIBBS: I hesitate to say what the meeting would involve since the meeting is tomorrow -- in terms of its update. I think the President gets from -- both a military and diplomatic update on a weekly basis from that region of the world, and as you said, a monthly secure video teleconference with many of the same players, to go about the developments in that region and to discuss where we are in several of our goals, including -- and I'm sure the President will get, as he does, a regular update on where we are in our goals at training a Afghan national security force, both a police and an army.
So I'd have a better sense of the tweaking part of that question after tomorrow’s meeting.
Q But do these meetings -- since he does have these weekly updates as well, I'm trying to get a sense of what kind of weight is given to these meetings that he has monthly. Is it broader? Is it more comprehensive?
MR. GIBBS: I would say this, Dan, without getting into a lot of specifics for a highly classified meeting, there are -- obviously there’s a broader perspective and then there’s granularity as you go through and as commanders and our diplomatic representatives go through developments on the ground in different parts of the country.
The President, as I said, gets that weekly -- gets a fairly thick weekly update as well as this monthly teleconference. And depending on the range of issues that are confronting the situation, again, it can be very granular, it can be -- I’d anticipate that at some point it would be very granular, and at some points you’d be much more at 30,000 feet.
Q Is the White House satisfied with what Pakistan is doing to go after the insurgency in its own country?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously there’s a Pakistani delegation here to continue the regular strategic dialogues that were begun in the spring of 2009. I think we see an unprecedented level of cooperation from the Pakistanis in taking on insurgents, because we understand, unlike in the past, it’s now in our mutual well-being to do so.
That having been said, then, throughout this process and throughout these meetings this week, there will be opportunities for us to detail for the Pakistanis what more must be done. And that was clear in the report that was sent to Congress and that's been clear in our statements about our relationship with Pakistan.
Q And one more question, on Bill Clinton. I know last week you talked about how he’s been able to go to some of these areas with a much smaller footprint than the President would if he traveled. But when you look at what his effectiveness might be for the midterm elections, how do you rate that?
MR. GIBBS: I think he is an effective voice for the Democratic Party. I think he’s an effective voice for the steps that this administration has had to take to rescue the economy, to put ourselves back on a stable financial footing. Look, he’s a tremendous advocate.
Q Robert, what prompted the statement on foreclosures today?
MR. GIBBS: We got a lot of interest off of what was going on with the process around Bank of America.
Q Is the President hearing from Speaker Pelosi or Majority Leader Reid saying what about a moratorium nationally?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, we have -- there have obviously, Mark, been calls to do -- to freeze the process. Again, our concern has been what that effect is for the housing market in a broader sense. Take a state like Florida. About a little more than a third of the housing transactions that are going on right now are individuals who are purchasing long-foreclosed, previously foreclosed homes. That's in many places what is beginning to spur a housing recovery in places that have been hit extremely hard with the housing crisis and the great dip in housing prices, which obviously leads to people being underwater in their mortgage and the economy, writ large, in its ability -- in their ability to make those payments.
So our concern with that moratorium is that a process that has followed all aspects of the law and is in the midst of a contract to purchase that from somebody else, that process is frozen, too. We believe that, as I said in the statement, all services must comply with the law; they’ll be held accountable if they don't. But at the same time, we see the downsides of what a moratorium could do to the larger housing market.
Q And what about the timing of the Hispanic education announcement today, coming two weeks before the midterms? Is there anything political in that?
MR. GIBBS: No, I mean, look, this is a renewal of an executive order on -- the dropout rate in the Latino community is something that's been talked about for quite some time. And our efforts to ensure that we're doing all that we can as efficiently and effectively to address it and the other educational issues are done because it’s the right thing to do, not because of the political calendar.
Q Robert, what does it mean to the President, to the White House agenda, to retain control -- Democratic control in the Senate?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think that we are -- I think we have a common -- we have a sense of what has to happen over the course of the next couple years. We have to continue our economic recovery. The President outlined in the past month or so ideas for cutting taxes on businesses as it relates to expensing and new purchases, our investments in construction and infrastructure that are tremendously important to getting things going.
We understand that we have to take a look and deal with our midterm and long-term financial picture. We have to implement the important reforms in both health care and in Wall Street reform. That is going to happen regardless of -- needs to happen regardless of the makeup of either body in the next two years.
Q You took some heat in July for a prediction about the election --
MR. GIBBS: I didn’t make a prediction in July.
Q Well, I guess you suggested the possibility that the Republicans could take control.
MR. GIBBS: Right.
Q So there’s not a change of heart in terms of your analysis?
MR. GIBBS: I think if you look back in the days after that, I said the same thing.
Q Is the President surprised that some of these Western races are tight?
MR. GIBBS: No, I don't -- again, I think we're -- I said this on Sunday as well -- I think the political environment mainly is driven because of our economic environment. We're at 9.6 unemployment. We've seen 8 million people lose their jobs. We've been dealing with a housing crisis for several years -- all of which we're making progress on. The housing market largely stabilized; nine months of private sector job growth. We're moving in the right direction. I think that's the President’s message out on the campaign trail because that's what we see as the facts on the ground.
Q The Kentucky Senate race has gotten kind of nasty over a campaign ad about Rand Paul’s religion when he was in college. Does the President think it’s time to move on from digging into people’s religion, particularly in their youth?
MR. GIBBS: I've not talked to him -- I've not seen the ad; I've not talked to the President about the ad.
Q You guys have proposed a $250 emergency payment to seniors because there’s no cost of living adjustment to this year from Social Security. I was just wondering -- I mean, the reason Social Security didn’t enact another COLA is because the cost of living didn’t go up, so I just wonder how you justify spending --
MR. GIBBS: Look, we've seen an economy that has seen the savings of seniors, as a result of investments, change dramatically.
Q Is $250 going to help with that, though?
MR. GIBBS: I think it did when we did it in the Recovery Act, just like I think it did with Make Work Pay, and I think would make a difference in the lives of seniors now, yes.
Q You mentioned the Making Work Pay tax cut, which obviously was about a third of the stimulus for these tax cuts --
MR. GIBBS: Right -- Making Work Pay was, if my math is correct, about $40 [billion] of the $290 billion or so in tax cuts, yes.
Q Okay. So you got these tax cuts in the stimulus. Our poll, for example, continually shows people don't think health care is a good idea. I wonder if you feel any responsibility that Democrats are fighting so hard in these races and a lot of them, frankly, losing because of a failure to communicate on some of these policies, in particular, a lot of people not even knowing, for example, or realizing that they got a tax cut.
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, because in some of these places you may have states and localities that have raised property taxes or raised different taxes in order to deal with budget gaps and budget deficits. In terms of Making Work Pay -- we modeled Making Work Pay differently than tax cuts that had been done previously where one check was mailed out. And when people get one check, they realize this is all we’re getting. And in terms of that, it’s harder to get that money back into the economy. If people get it spread out in a consistent way -- and we know from economic data that people tend to spend that money -- that was the point of that tax cut.
Q Could that have been explained better? I mean, it’s more of a political question as opposed to the substantive reasons why you designed it that way.
MR. GIBBS: No, we did it based on the substance of wanting to get the economy moving again. Look, we’ve seen just in the last couple of days a fairly prominent Republican pollster -- you mentioned health care -- discuss why it’s not such a good idea to talk about repealing health care reform. The seniors that got checks to start beginning to close the doughnut hole, something that was left as part of the prescription drug act that was passed in the early 2000s; that people up to 26 can stay on their parent’s insurance; that for the first time they’re making decisions -- families are making decisions that are not at the mercy of a child that’s sick, getting kicked off of their own health care -- I think those are issues that make a real difference in people’s lives.
Q You’ve spoken numerous times about the Republican failures to reach -- to work with you on various issues. Given -- looking ahead to next year, are you considering at all what the White House -- if the White House needs a different approach in working with Republicans?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, we will continue to reach out to those on the other side of the aisle to get things done on behalf of the American people. We will -- I did see I think it was an ABC poll that demonstrated that the President -- the American people view the President as having, by about a two-to-one margin, a willingness to work with others to solve problems. The same poll shows that by a two-to-one margin, Republicans in Congress are not seen that way. So I think the actions of the Republican Party in deciding not to be part of helping on economic recovery -- despite the fact that they have on occasion asked to be part of the spending on economic recovery -- not doing anything on Wall Street reform and things like that, I think regardless of the outcome of the elections, people are going to -- voters will expect that the two parties will work together to solve their problems. That’s what they expected after 2006, after 2008. And that’s, I think, what they’re likely to expect after 2010.
Q You’ve just explained how you guys have done such a good job at that. So my question is whether given voter expectations, you think that you should continue approaching it the same way that you have or whether the White House needs to change anything?
MR. GIBBS: I think we will continue to reach out to the other side of the aisle to solve the problems that the American people most want us to address. You’ll have to ask Mitch McConnell, who stated quite clearly that the strategy was not to cooperate and to say no. You’ll have to ask John Boehner, who -- as I have used the example before -- put out the statement opposing the stimulus, as the President was about to load the motorcade to go to Capitol Hill to talk to the Republican Caucus about the Recovery Act.
Q Just a quick thing, coming off that. How do you see this changing with this influx of -- I mean, you’ve acknowledged that Republicans are going to win seats and a lot of them are going to be Tea Party candidates.
MR. GIBBS: I don’t want to get in the business of what the makeup is. I think that even as you look at voter preferences, looking underneath the numbers, people are -- people want the two sides to work together. They want us to address the issues that they face.
You look back at, let’s say, 1994, and if you look at the standing -- just look at the standing of the Republican Party leading into 1994 and leading into 2010, then you have a fairly stark difference in how the party is viewed. And I think that’s because the Republican Party has through its political strategy not offered a series of alternative ideas. They’ve just said no.
Q But do you think that’s going to get better? You have the President’s re-elect in 2012 --
MR. GIBBS: I do, because I think --
Q -- you have a lot of moderate -- or the Republican senators who are dealmakers are going to be up.
MR. GIBBS: I think the message from voters will be that we want people to solve problems.
Q You say that again and again, but you -- I’ve asked this question to you before and you don’t take any responsibility for any of the problems. You think it’s a hundred percent on the Republican side. So how is that solving problems in Washington?
MR. GIBBS: No, no. I think when you asked me this question last week, I said, I am not up here to say we’ve done a hundred percent of the things that we’ve done perfectly.
Q What is something that you haven’t done right?
MR. GIBBS: But, Laura, this is -- there are two lanes between here and the Capitol, one that goes this way and one that goes that way. When we were loading up the motorcade to go that way, the statement was coming this way. I think it was with The New York Times, Mitch McConnell said, our strategy was to simply say no to everything.
Am I surprised that there hasn’t been massive political cooperation when the leaders of both parties [sic] have told newspaper reporters that their strategy is to say no to everything? No. I’m not that naïve. I can read. That was their strategy and it’s been pulled off very effectively. That’s why people don’t have a great reverence for that political party.
Q Robert, a few minutes ago you said that you have a sense of what has to happen in the future here. To what extent have you all been planning for the various midterm course correction scenarios that are going to happen in a couple of weeks?
MR. GIBBS: In what way?
Q Well, to what extent has the White House been gaming, been planning how it’s going to respond if the Republicans take control of the House, if they make big gains in the Senate?
MR. GIBBS: I have not been and I don't know of a massive number of meetings on that. I think, Peter, we’ve been focused on what we have to do at hand. There will be time for that later.
Q So you’re going to wait until --
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, there's -- it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of things to do in the next two weeks.
Q What's the point of having a trigger for cost-of-living increases for Social Security if every time that trigger isn’t met the money just goes out anyway?
MR. GIBBS: Well, take into account the economic situation that we’re in and understand, as I said earlier, that we’ve seen what happens and we’ve seen what has happened to people’s life savings, to their investments, and to the struggles that they’ve had in this economy. Our belief was that this is still something that is needed, and that's why it was proposed.
Q How closely is the administration involved in these regulatory reviews for foreclosures, as far as if something arises that might need a policy remedy?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, we’ve had fairly regular meetings here. We have -- like I said, the President spent time specifically on this within the past week, even as FHA has several weeks ago begun looking into that process. We will -- as these evaluation process, these investigations conclude, we’ll see what those show.
Look, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that some of this will ultimately fall under the role of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an office that if we roll back Wall Street reform, won’t exist. I think that's important as we move forward, in ensuring that we have a voice that's on the side of consumers in this process.
Q Robert, two questions. Twice in recent weeks, the President has quoted from the Declaration of Independence and has omitted the Declaration’s reference to rights “endowed by their Creator.” Why did he omit this part of the declaration?
MR. GIBBS: I haven’t seen the comments, Lester, but I can assure you the President believes in the Declaration of Independence.
Q In his interview with Rolling Stone, the President --
MR. GIBBS: Are you a subscriber, Lester?
Q No, no. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Thought he might be slightly --
Q In his interview with Rolling Stone, the President called FOX News “destructive to the country.” And my question: Does he also believe that talk radio is destructive to the country, or is it only FOX News?
MR. GIBBS: I don't remember the exact quote of the President’s, Lester, but speech is obviously important in this country but facts involved in that speech are equally important as we enter into these political debates. I think that's what his objection largely has been.
Q A federal judge in California has made it clear she’s not going to -- probably -- uphold the stay of the injunction of "don't ask, don't tell,” and the President said recently that "don't ask, don't tell" will end on his watch. Is he, or will he, put pressure on Harry Reid -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to push for a vote during a lame duck session, one. And two, depending on what happens after the midterms, how does the President see ending "don't ask, don't tell" if he has diminished majorities or no Democratic control?
MR. GIBBS: Well, first and foremost, in terms of -- the process obviously with the judge will render on her own ruling. That then likely goes to a three-judge panel to consider. And we're certainly monitoring developments, as is the Department of Justice.
The President believes that the policy will end under his watch precisely because in the defense authorization bill pending in the Senate is a provision that would repeal what the President believes is unjust, what the President believes is discriminatory. It’s passed the House. The President will push for defense authorization to be passed containing that provision when the Senate comes back for the lame duck.
We have obviously a lot of important business in that legislation. The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is certainly one of those aspects. My sense is if you can get through a filibuster -- and again, everything takes 60 votes these days -- that there are a majority of U.S. senators that believe, as the President does, that this policy isn’t right and that it harms our national security.
So the President will work during the lame duck to ensure that that bill is passed and that what’s passed the House and what’s passed in the Senate can end up on his desk for his signature. But again, I think if we can get passed the procedural hurdles, that a majority of the U.S. Senate believes as the President does that it is time for this policy to change.
The courts have -- the courts in a number of different instances out West have determined that the lifespan of this policy is coming to its natural end. I think that that was recognized in the House. I think it will be recognized in the Senate and the bill -- the law will be repealed.
Q Can I follow? If the President believes that, then why doesn’t he repeal it now? Is he just waiting until after the election?
MR. GIBBS: Well, we can't repeal it now because, one, the Senate is not here. Remember, the law that was passed in the early ‘90s does not give the power to repeal the law to the Commander-in-Chief. It’s a congressional action that can only be durably repealed through another legislative action.
I think the President was asked last Thursday at the town hall, why not simply sign an executive order like Harry Truman. The law that was passed, I guess in 1993, does not afford for executive action to remove the law.
Q Well, where does the Justice Department stand on --
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, as we said last week, we believe the law should be repealed and we believe that, as the Pentagon studies a process for an orderly transition, that we think will come to pass in repeal of the law.
Q Did the judge nullify the law?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q Well, then there is no law anymore.
MR. GIBBS: Again, the earlier answer that I gave, which is we believe that a process has to be put in process for that orderly transition.
Q Since the Justice Department is officially appealing the case, is it necessarily true that the President believes that "don't ask, don't tell" is a constitutional law?
MR. GIBBS: Again, I have enumerated for you the belief -- the President’s belief that it’s unjust, it’s discriminatory, and that it harms our national security.
Q Well, you’ve never enumerated for us his belief on the constitutionality of it.
MR. GIBBS: I haven’t.
Q I'm confused, though. If it does end up in Congress under a filibuster, would you guys force a filibuster? Because you’ve never done that before.
MR. GIBBS: Force a filibuster? I don't know what --
Q Where you actually -- you were saying that if it goes -- if you can get through a filibuster, a Republican filibuster in Congress. You’ve never actually forced a filibuster before. You’ve never vetoed or called the Republicans’ bluff on anything.
MR. GIBBS: Well, maybe I'm confused at what you're --
Q -- if he doesn’t have 60 votes.
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, the President will work to try to get 60 votes --
Q But if he doesn’t would he force a -- will you force the Republicans to filibuster it?
MR. GIBBS: The final passage of the bill? Again, there has to be a vote to take -- it’s in the underlying bill. It’s in the base bill. I think you can go back and find Republican quotes about the harm of not passing a defense authorization bill in the past and ensuring that we have the necessary resources for our military to do what it needs to do.
Q Also, on the West Coast swing, I know you said that the White House is focused on the task at hand, not on looking at what happens after the elections. What’s your wish list then for the next few days as you go out on this West Coast swing? What does President Obama hope to accomplish?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think he hopes to accomplish what he did over the weekend in Boston and in Ohio, in reminding -- reminding voters what’s at stake, who has their best interest in mind, the steps that have been taken to get us out of the economic hole that we found ourselves in, and to continue to move forward on those policy decisions. That’s I think been the basis for what he has talked to voters about over the past couple of weeks. And I expect that that will continue tomorrow and throughout the trip out West.
Q Robert, the Afghan-Pakistan meeting tomorrow, is President Karzai going to be part of that teleconference?
MR. GIBBS: No. He has never been a part of those monthly meetings, no. I think on the guidance we’ll put out the participants. And they generally include -- they look a lot -- the roster looks a lot like the Afghan policy review meetings of last fall.
Q And to what extent is there going to be an assessment of the peace feelers for the Taliban that we've been hearing about?
MR. GIBBS: Reconciliation, led by the Afghans, has been a topic of many of the past meetings. I expect that we’ll get an update from General Petraeus, Ambassador Eikenberry, and others, on where they see the progress on those talks and their hopes for seeing that progress continue. I anticipate, as in the past, that will be a big topic tomorrow.
Q The New York Times has a story today that starts out with, what if a President cut Americans’ income taxes by $116 billion and nobody noticed? They had a poll last month that said that fewer than one-in-10 Americans knew that this administration had lowered taxes. Why hasn’t the administration been able to effectively communicate that? And, as you said, the President isn’t changing his message. Why not?
MR. GIBBS: I’m apparently failing in effectively being able to communicate that because I got that question like two rows ago. (Laughter.) So apparently, it’s me. I can’t get the same answer through about nine different people.
I’ll try one more time to underscore my personal ineffectiveness at communicating through an entire row of people that we’re in an economic situation that is unprecedented; that as the federal government cut taxes and we saw the economic impact of the Making Work Pay tax cut into the paychecks of individuals, families that went on to spend that money and increase consumer demand and increase economic growth. That’s not to say that people aren’t making a value decision on their entire financial outlook, or whether or not the state or the locality that they live in had to raise taxes.
We could have mailed checks in bulk, meaning -- when I mean “in bulk,” I mean the entire amount out. But economists found that when that happened in the past administration, most people tended to save and not spend that money. Our hope was to get that money into the economy. That’s what has happened as a result of dividing that tax cut up and putting it into people’s paychecks.
Q Robert, thank you. In the President’s car/ditch/Slurpee metaphor that he has been using -- (laughter) -- he says that the idea here is that --
MR. GIBBS: I would mention that, as Mark appropriately pointed out, it now includes lattes.
Q -- the Republicans can ride along in the car, but they have to sit in the backseat. Is that language about firing up the base? Or does the President --
MR. GIBBS: No. We really mean they should sit in the back. (Laughter.)
Q Or does the President believe that the Republicans --
MR. GIBBS: Somebody else called “shotgun” and -- it’s a generational thing. It didn’t go in here.
Q I got it. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Only because that was in last week’s Rolling Stone. (Laughter.)
Go ahead. I’m sorry, Peter. Go ahead.
Q You funny man. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I try. I’ll be here all weekend.
Q The President talked about the importance of reaching across the aisle and you mentioned it today. Is that kind of language conducive, though, to a constructive bipartisan relationship, when the President says they can come along, but they got to sit in the backseat?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, Peter, I think the President has -- as I said earlier, I think the President has, on issues big and small, tried to work with and tried to offer opportunities for Republicans to work with Democrats in coming up with solutions for them. We’re in a campaign season now. And I don’t actually think the President thinks they’re drinking a lot of Slurpees -- sorry. But I think the President uses it as a metaphor for the role that Republicans have thus far played.
Look, as I said, we’re hopeful that regardless of the outcome, Republicans seek to participate in representative democracy. That’s what the voters demand. I think that’s what they’ll hope to see, regardless of the outcome of this election.
Q The President’s campaign message, though, does seem to be directed at Democrats. Have you reached a conclusion that this is a base election and the message should be directed at the base of the Democrats and not to independents at this point?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think we are a point in the election where we normally get to -- in every election where individuals are talking to their voters and trying to get them fired up and trying to get them out. I think that’s what the President is working on doing. And I’d say -- I don’t know who was on the trip on Sunday -- that seemed like a pretty big crowd to me.
Q The President is doing another backyard chat in Seattle. I’m wondering how much have these backyard talks with, you know, everyday voters influenced his agenda. Is it changing like how he thinks or, you know --
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, this is from -- dating back more than six years, the President has done some form of -- I think you can call this roughly a town hall meeting, where you hear directly from, the concerns of, and the interests of voters in America. He’ll certainly continue to do that.
I think we hear the importance of cutting taxes on small businesses. We hear the importance of continuing our education reforms. We hear a lot of issues that are not just important to the American people but important to this administration. And we’ll continue to pursue policies to ensure that we’re making good on the promises that the President made just a few years ago running.
Q Robert, back on the midterms. What constitutes a win and/or loss for the Democratic Party on November 2nd?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to play predictor, April. We’ll have plenty of time to talk about what the results are.
Q I’m really not asking you to play predictor. I’m just asking you to define it, because the way I understand it, there’s a historic effort in this midterm election season through the Democratic Party to push for the base to get out to vote. As I understand it, in years past it had not been done. At least, the last 12 years it had not been done. And with that push, this historic push, there will be at least some -- there will be better than normal anticipation that the numbers will be higher than they were in the past. So that’s why I’m asking -- I’m not asking you to predict -- but if there will be a little bit more movement than before at least.
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think that the efforts of the campaign committees and the DNC particularly at helping to fund those campaign committees has reached a level of help that hasn’t been seen certainly by those committees in any sort of recent memory. The amount of technology that’s being used, the funds that go from the DNC, or leftover funds from the President’s campaign, directly to the campaign committees that ultimately help campaigns is unprecedented. We are -- the Democratic Party is working every day to increase enthusiasm and, therefore, increase turnout as we get closer to election.
Q Robert, on that note, do you expect that your base in certain communities, particularly where there are more African Americans, more youth, and maybe independents, that you will see a higher than normal --
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, as compared to 2008? Look, I will say this, that there rarely are instances in which -- the composition and the enthusiasm in a presidential year is obviously always different in an off-year election, by definition. They’re different in special elections.
It’s our hope to take in these races a winning coalition and put them together for the Democratic candidate. That’s not to say that these -- again, the composition and the level -- we are not going to have as many people vote in 2010 as we had in a presidential election simply by definition of the fact that they’re off-year elections.
Q Did the President agree with David Cameron’s contention last night in their phone call that the UK would still have a first-rate military after the defense cuts? I noticed that it wasn’t -- it didn’t say that he did during the readout you put out.
MR. GIBBS: I can certainly check the readout. But I think that our view is that -- certainly that the level of help and cooperation that we get and the sacrifice of that country in places like Afghanistan is certainly -- is vital and important to our coalition, and that they will indeed continue to have a first-rate military.
Q May I follow up, Robert? Since that call, today Briton announced the defense budget would fall 8 percent. Is the President still confident, knowing that now that troops, planes, tanks, et cetera will be cut by that kind of figure?
MR. GIBBS: Again, I think it’s safe to assume that some discussions prior to that phone call have led us to believe that indeed the readiness and the capability of the British military would continue.
Q Thank you.
Q In this busy campaign season, how is the President preparing for his trip to India next month? And what does he wants to achieve during his trip there?
MR. GIBBS: Well -- and we’ll have a chance to go through some of the briefings on this in the days upcoming -- but look, obviously, this is an important relationship. It was the first state dinner that was held here. I think that gives you the degree of understanding in terms of the significance that this government and this administration puts on that relationship. We will have -- it’s an important economic relationship. It is -- which, again, we’ll have a chance to go through.
So the President is involved in fairly regular meetings with the national security team to ensure a successful visit not long after the elections. It’s an important trip. We understand -- look, just from a viewpoint economically, we understand that -- we understand what we have to do to create jobs, to grow our exports, to ensure that it just doesn’t fall on American consumers to drive world demand. That's a lot of what you’ll hear the President talk about on that trip, and we’ll hopefully have some tangible results from it.
2:08 P.M. EDT