the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One en route Minneapolis, Minnesota

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Minneapolis, Minnesota

10:26 A.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. How are you?

Q Good. How are you?

MR. CARNEY: I'm terrific. I'm glad you're joining us today on our flight to Minneapolis, where the President will address the 93rd Annual Conference of the American Legion. It's his distinct honor and pleasure to do so.

His remarks will focus on the incredible sacrifice and commitment demonstrated by the service to their country that veterans -- American veterans have made throughout our history, and he will emphasize the sacrifice and commitment of the 9/11 generation of veterans, and the efforts that his administration is making to ensure that all veterans, and in particular the 9/11 generation, are given the assistance and due respect that they deserve.

And as you know, one of the initiatives that the President announced recently was -- is designed to help integrate returning veterans into the workforce, working with the private sector, working with the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. So he will mention those efforts as well.

With that, I will take your questions.

Q Jay, can you confirm the reports about the administration, the White House specifically, having sent out guidelines to agencies and U.S. embassies around the world on how to discuss 9/11?

MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything -- I mean, beyond being surprised that The New York Times thinks what might be called talking points qualifies as news. I would just say that we obviously think that this upcoming anniversary is significant and the approach that we're taking to commemorating that tragedy and the remarkable resilience of the American people in its wake is one that we think is appropriate.

As you know, the President will travel to all three sites -- New York, Shanksville, and the Pentagon -- on 9/11. He will also -- on the evening of Sunday, September 11th, he and the First Lady will attend a concert for hope, interfaith prayer and concert service at the Washington National Cathedral. The President will deliver remarks at that event. So --

Q -- be there?

MR. CARNEY: Yes, he will.

Q Jay, since we're discussing that, The New York Times story wasn’t new, I mean talking about the Arab Spring is the future and al Qaeda is the past. I mean, that doesn’t seem different than what you guys have already been saying. But can you describe why it's important to frame it that way?

MR. CARNEY: Well, it's hardly -- it would hardly be expected to have -- things that were true yesterday are true tomorrow. I mean, what we have seen happen in this past decade is the utter rejection of the ideology of al Qaeda by the very region of the world that was supposed to be its foundation and where it was supposed to get the most support.

We obviously find that encouraging, even as we remain absolutely vigilant in protecting the American homeland, protecting the American people, and taking the fight to al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Q Will the President's jobs plan be a mix of things he can do through executive action and also things he has to go through Congress to get done? And any update on the timing and the location of the announcement?

MR. CARNEY: I have no updates on timing and location beyond what the President said yesterday. The President's proposal will be a combination of things that, in a world less riven by partisan politics, would garner broad bipartisan support. The President hopes that members of Congress of both parties, having returned from their August recess, will come back imbued with the spirit of bipartisan compromise, and imbued with the urgency required to address the needs of our economy and the needs of our workforce.

So I'm not going to get into what the mix is, but you can be sure that these are things that should have, and we believe will have, significant and broad support, which will be judged by independent economists and analysts to have, if implemented, a positive effect on growth and job creation.

Q But is the purpose of the proposals to pass Congress --


Q -- or is it to lay out the President’s vision of what he --

MR. CARNEY: Absolutely, the purpose is -- well, the purpose is both. But the proposals are, as I’ve just said, ones that should and historically have received bipartisan support.

Q -- 6 million jobs, the pre-recession peak of 6 million?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a numerical figure or goal to give you on growth or job creation.

Q Jay, is it something that you would want -- that the President would want to have passed this year?

MR. CARNEY: I think the President would absolutely want it passed as soon as possible -- the entire package.

Q Was there anything in Eric Cantor’s proposals yesterday the White House could support?

MR. CARNEY: I didn’t get a chance to review them and so I don’t -- I can’t really respond.

Q What about the idea of offsetting --

Q A couple of days ago, Eric Cantor mentioned that he wanted to see a pay-for when it came to hurricane disaster relief. What do you guys think about that?

MR. CARNEY: Well, we are, as we said yesterday -- as I said, and I believe Administrator Fugate said, we’re in the process still of assessing what the damages and costs associated with Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irene will be. So it’s premature to make a determination yet about what kind of costs could be incurred at the federal level.

Q What about the offset -- the idea of offsets?

MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don’t want to get ahead of an estimate about whether or not additional funding will be required. I think the principle that when we have a national -- a natural disaster and an emergency situation in, in this case, a significant stretch of the country, our priority has to be with -- has to be responding to the disaster and then helping those regions and states recover.

I mean, this President is very committed to fiscal discipline, and it’s -- obviously we applaud those who are committed also. I guess I can’t help but say that I wish that commitment to looking for offsets had been held by the House Majority Leader and others, say, during the previous administration when they ran up unprecedented bills and not paid -- and never paid for them.

Q On Libya, does the U.S. support the TNC's call for Algeria to return Qaddafi's wife and his kids to Libya? And then, also, do you have any update on Qaddafi's location from yesterday?

MR. CARNEY: I have no update on Qaddafi's location. As I said -- what I said yesterday stands, which is that we do not believe -- we see no indication that he left the country. And as for -- I think it's important to -- as the TNC oversees the democratic transition and obviously the international community has, in large portion, recognized the TNC's place, they're -- they begin to speak for and are speaking for the Libyan people. So I don't have a position that we have on members of his family that are outside of the country right now.

Q Jay, there's been a lot of dissatisfaction expressed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other African American leaders. We had a story today in which both Laura Richardson* and Roland Martin and other people said that there's some concern that the President doesn’t want to be perceived as being too close to the African American community because he doesn’t want to alienate white independents. Is there any truth to that argument?

MR. CARNEY: This is -- a lot of people have suffered through this great recession -- a lot of Americans. And certain communities have obviously suffered significantly. And this President has been committed since the day he was sworn into office to helping the country recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression and doing everything he can to spur growth and job creation, and to assist those communities that have been hardest hit by job loss and economic contraction that we experienced during the recession.

So this is not a political issue. It's been -- the American economy is the primary focus of this President -- the economy and national security, obviously. And he's very committed to assisting African Americans and Americans of all --

Q But what about --

MR. CARNEY: -- recover from this terrible recession.

Q You had the mayor of Atlanta, who is a supporter of the President, say yesterday on MSNBC that he thought it would be “adverse” if white independents perceive the President as being too close to the African American community.

MR. CARNEY: I think that this is a kind of a -- I mean, your point, not the point -- the expressions of frustration that people have over the need to continue to create jobs and reduce our unemployment rate is one we feel obviously, as well. But the political analysis you’re making is one I remember as a journalist being made back when Senator Obama was running for President. It certainly did not bear out then, and it doesn't bear out now.

Q Jay, one of the things that the President will talk about today, I guess, are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is there any update about whether or not Iraq has asked the U.S. to keep troops there longer than the end of this year?

MR. CARNEY: I don't have any update on that beyond what I said previously that we have an agreement in place. We have also said that we will consider a request if the Iraqi government makes it. And beyond that, I don't have anything to --

Q Does the White House have any reaction to the selection of the new Japanese Prime Minister? And would you expect the President to call him at a fairly early stage?

MR. CARNEY: I don't have an announcement to make about a phone call. But we obviously -- the President congratulates the new Prime Minister and looks forward to working with him. We have a long-term and vital alliance with Japan and the Japanese people. And the strength of those bonds will remain, obviously, with the change in government.

The President also obviously worked closely with and spoke on numerous occasions with the outgoing Prime Minister, and thanks him for his service during the obviously difficult time that Japan has gone through this year.

Q Do you anticipate any more states being declared disasters?

MR. CARNEY: Well, you know how this process works. If there’s emergency declarations in anticipation of a natural disaster or a storm like this, of which there were many, and then as assessments are made about damages and costs and what costs exceed a state’s ability to handle them, that requests for disaster declarations are made. And we -- I mean, obviously, there’s at least one that is in and there may be others. But this President is committed to, as he has been throughout this process, to ensuring that bureaucracy and red tape is not a factor in making sure that assistance is provided where it's needed.

Q Jay, is there any reaction to the House Republican plan to require the U.N. to adopt a voluntary budget model, which would end funding for Palestinian refugees? Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is proposing it, and I’m wondering if you have any reaction to this new proposal.

MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of that proposal, so I don't have a reaction. I can take the question, though.

Q Also, anything on these protests outside the White House on this pipeline? Has the President decided against TransCanada’s permit for the pipeline? It’s the tar sands pipeline. There have been a lot of arrests outside the White House about it.

MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything new on that. I believe the State Department has -- that's under the purview of the State Department presently, but I don't have anything new on that.

Q Is the President aware of the protests?

MR. CARNEY: I haven’t talked to him about it.

Q Jay, does the President have any plan to visit any of these flood-stricken areas, Vermont, New Jersey?

MR. CARNEY: I don't have any update -- travel updates. Obviously, the focus in all these areas right now is on -- there’s still a response focus in some states, and now a recovery focus. And the President, working with FEMA Administrator and other members of his team, Secretary Napolitano and others, is primarily focused on that. If we have a scheduling update to make, we’ll let you know.

Q Will he be meeting with them today after they get back from North Carolina and Virginia --

MR. CARNEY: I don't have any meetings to announce. I believe he’s gotten some updates this morning, on paper, and will be in communication as the day progresses.

Q What other senior staff are on the plane, on the trip today?

MR. CARNEY: You’re looking at him.

Q We’re looking at him. (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY: Well, we have obviously other staff here.

Q We didn't see anyone. That's why I’m asking.

MR. CARNEY: We have the national security staff aide and others onboard.

Q We just didn't want him to be lonely, you know? (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY: I'm sitting all alone in the senior staff cabin -- it’s kind of -- I’ve tried every seat to see which is most comfortable. (Laughter.)

Q Can you offer any insight into who the President is talking to ahead -- I mean, you said that he’s talking to Republicans ahead of the jobs plan, right? So who is he consulting in Congress?

MR. CARNEY: -- wide array of people, obviously, within the administration and beyond. And I think I was asked yesterday if he’s spoken to Republican members of Congress, and I wasn’t going to characterize it beyond what I said yesterday. But, I mean, some of them you know. He’s brought in CEOs that we’ve announced that are part of his ongoing conversations with people with important perspectives about the economy outside the administration, and that includes lawmakers, as well as CEOs, small businessmen and women and others.

Q So it’s accurate to say he’s consulting Republican Congress people right now?

MR. CARNEY: I don't want to characterize -- I mean, he’s obviously had numerous conversations over these weeks and months with members of Congress in both parties, but I don't want you to go on -- try to ferret out members of Congress he might have spoken to. You can do that, but I don't have any -- I’m not going to help.

Anything else?

Q Thank you.

MR. CARNEY: Thanks for coming.

Q Thanks for having us.

10:43 A.M. EDT