Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One en route Washington, DC
11:23 A.M. PDT
Q How did the President view the trip? Do he view it as a success or did he accomplish what he wanted to accomplish?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. It was a very successful trip. I think he particularly enjoyed the town hall at Facebook, which seems like it was a week ago but I know it was just the other day, and again in Reno yesterday.
He really enjoyed those events and feels like it’s important for him to have those opportunities to get out and talk about what can seem like pretty esoteric and arcane policy debates in Washington, but engage with Americans from around the country to find out what their concerns are and to explain to them his vision for shared responsibility and shared prosperity, the need for deficit reduction that's done in a way that is balanced so that we can continue to invest in the things that are so important to drive our economy, like education, infrastructure, innovation.
So he had a -- it’s been a great trip.
Q -- trip to Libya, did the White House know that Senator McCain was going to be headed over there? And then, also, is the President going to authorize this $25 million in aid to the rebels today?
MR. CARNEY: We did, of course, know that Senator McCain would be traveling to Libya. State supported that CODEL, as it always does. And then on that request, I'll have to take that -- in terms of the President approving it today, is that what you said? I'll have to check. I'm not sure.
Q Staying with Libya, is he carrying any messages from the administration?
MR. CARNEY: No, not that I'm aware of.
Q Should the U.S. recognize the National Transitional Council in Libya?
MR. CARNEY: We've said all along that we have been meeting regularly with opposition leaders, including, of course, the National Council, and continue to do so to advise them, assist them as they try to prepare for a post-Qaddafi Libya. And the issue now is providing that kind of assistance and advice as the world -- as their country moves closer to a situation where they can -- the citizens of Libya can pick their own leaders and decide their own political future.
Q How would you respond to Senator McCain’s call that the United States recognize the opposition as the head of the country?
MR. CARNEY: We think it’s for the people of Libya to decide who the head of their country is, not for the United States to do that. And our position on Libya in general has been very clear, and we -- both in terms of our support for and commitment through United Nations Council Resolution 1973 and through the non-military means that we’ve participated in quite aggressively both unilaterally and multilaterally to put the squeeze on Qaddafi.
I think it’s important to remember that Qaddafi’s resources are limited. And the arms embargo and the sanctions that have been put in place will, as each day goes by, make it harder and harder for him to function and for his regime to function.
Q On Syria -- do you have anything to say on Syria today? Lots of violence and --
MR. CARNEY: As we have consistently throughout this period, we deplore the use of violence and we’re very concerned about what we’ve -- the reports we’ve seen from Syria. We are monitoring it very closely; call on the Syrian government to cease and desist from the use of violence against peaceful protestors; call on all sides to cease and desist from the use of violence; and also call on the Syrian government to follow through on its promises and take action towards the kind of concrete reform that they promised.
Q Jay, even though the U.S. and other countries keep condemning what’s happening in Syria, the situation there just gets worse. So is there any discussion in the administration about taking any further action, since the situation there is starting to look like it was in Libya when the U.S. took action?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean, I have no updates on that, except to say that every country is different and every situation is different. And the circumstances that presented themselves in Libya were actually quite unique to Libya in terms of the imminent assault on a town with a sizeable population which Muammar Qaddafi had promised to show no mercy; the opportunity to prevent that kind of slaughter of civilians; the unified international consensus that action should be taken that was not just Western but included Arab League and other support; the request from the opposition there for the kind of assistance that was provided through -- and has been provided through U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
So those circumstances were quite unique.
Q Jay, I had a question from one of my radio colleagues. The President has a couple of times this week cited the Minnesota bridge collapse in 2007 as a reason the U.S. should invest in infrastructure, but the NTSB said the collapse was because of faulty design, not maintenance. So why is it relevant?
MR. CARNEY: Well, in fact, while that is true the NTSB said that in terms of the collapse, what was also true is that there were numerous reports about structural deficiencies and the fact that it was behind in its maintenance and repair. And I think the President was just pointing out broadly that we have, as anyone who drives around this country can attest, serious needs in terms of upgrading our infrastructure -- bridges, roads, highways, ports, airports. And I think that’s the point he’s making.
Q Jay, the Wall Street Journal story had a story this morning on Iraq wanting to I guess get the 10,000 or so troops out eventually to prevent tension. Is the U.S. maintaining 10,000? Is that the idea there?
MR. CARNEY: We don’t have -- we, of course, are on schedule to withdraw the remaining U.S. forces that are in Iraq by the end of the year, which was the commitment made by the previous administration that we support. But we are also in negotiations and discussions with the Iraqis about what their security needs are and will be in the future. And obviously there have been discussions about whether or not a future security presence by the United States might be requested. But I don’t anticipate any requests and certainly any decisions that would be made on a request that has not been made.
Q Is there any deadline for deciding this, or is it sort of an ongoing thing?
MR. CARNEY: Well, certainly there’s a deadline for the troop withdrawal, so I think --
MR. CARNEY: Well, any discussions about a future security relationship with Iraq would obviously be taking place now. And I think that’s what that story reflected.
Q Do you have any guidance for the President’s week ahead?
MR. CARNEY: I do, indeed. I have a week ahead for you. The schedule for the week of April 25, 2011: On Monday, the President and the First Lady will host the 2011 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn. The event will feature live music, sports courts, cooking stations, storytelling, and, of course, Easter egg rolling.
The President will also meet with his national security team for his monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On Tuesday, the President will welcome Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates to the White House.
On Wednesday, the President and the First Lady will travel to Chicago to tape an episode of the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” The President will then travel to New York to deliver -- New York City to deliver remarks at two DNC events.
On Thursday, the President will welcome Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli to the White House.
On Friday, the President will welcome Auburn University’s football team to the White House to honor the team’s 2010 BCS National Championship. Following the ceremony, Coach Gene Chizik and the Tigers will participate in a "Let's Move" South Lawn Series youth football clinic on the South Lawn. Later the First Family will travel to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to view the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The President will then travel to Miami, Florida, to deliver the commencement address at Miami-Dade College.
On Saturday, the President and the First Lady will attend the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Q Anything for this Easter weekend? Any plans?
MR. CARNEY: No public schedule that I’m aware of.
Q How does the President view the poll in The New York Times that most Americans view the economy as worse than -- going forward?
MR. CARNEY: The President, as you’ve heard him talk about, is very aware of and concerned by rising gas prices, which have put added pressure on Americans as they deal with an economy that is recovering but is not back to where it needs to be. And he’s very concerned about that, and discussed it, as you know, yesterday at the town hall in Reno.
And that's why, as he said, he wakes up every morning and goes to bed every night with the economy on his mind and thinking about what steps we need to take to continue to grow our economy, make sure we don't do anything that would reverse the recovery or reverse the job creation we’ve seen -- and also to both look at things like what the Attorney General announced yesterday about taking action to investigate whether or not there’s any fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that could have an impact on gas prices.
But he’s also very focused, as you know, on the need for a long-term energy policy, because the kind of price shock we're seeing at the pumps today is just a reminder that we need a long-term strategy that he’s spoken about a lot. And that's why we need a clean energy standard. That's why it would be folly to cut investment in clean energy by 70 percent, which one plan for long-term deficit reduction would entail.
So he’s -- this is an issue that very much has his attention.
Q Back to Iraq just really quick before you leave. It seems to me that if you're saying there are discussions about security needs of Iraq, that means talking about leaving troops there. How does that reconcile with --
MR. CARNEY: I think we've always said, Jeff -- and I'm not saying anything Admiral Mullen didn’t say or hasn’t said, or Secretary Gates and others, which is that obviously we have an interest in Iraq’s future. We have, even as we have drawn down our troops, 100,000-plus troops since President Obama came into office, we have ramped up our civilian engagement. We have a stake in Iraq’s future. We want Iraq to succeed.
And obviously we would entertain any request from the Iraqi government for any -- for cooperation or assistance. But we have long since ended our combat mission in Iraq. We have continued to meet every deadline and every commitment in terms of drawing down our troops. And we are on schedule to fully withdraw. But the question was about these conversations that are taking place, and I don't want to prejudge an outcome.
Q Discussion about security needs in Iraq could mean more troops in Iraq staying --
MR. CARNEY: I don't want to prejudge what that would mean and what kind of security assistance we might provide Iraq in the future, if any. Again, I don't want to get ahead of -- in fact, I'll stay safely behind Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates and others on this issue. But I'm simply saying that as the Iraqi government continues to take full control of its security, demonstrated its dramatically increased capacity to do that, as the U.S. forces have drawn down, we are obviously in discussions with Iraq about its future writ large -- its economic future, diplomatic future, regional future and security future.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Thanks, everybody. Thanks for coming with us.
We had fun.
END 11:38 A.M. PDT