Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Elyria, Ohio, 4/18/12
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Elyria, Ohio
12:30 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Hi, everyone. It looks like a good group. Well, more or less. (Laughter.) It is marvelous to have you all on board today as we make our way to Lorain County, where the President will have an event highlighting job training initiatives to help get more Americans back to work and connect unemployed Americans with the skills training needed to find jobs in high-demand and high-growth industries.
Prior to delivering remarks to an audience of current students and graduates of Lorain County Community College's worker training program, the President will meet with a group of unemployed workers who are students in LCCC's successful job training programs that have benefited from federal funding and have been successful in placing students with jobs shortly after graduation.
The President will visit with students in the college's transformations program for computerized, numerically controlled machining, a program with a proven track record of success, placing more than 90 percent of participants in jobs within three months of graduation. The President will speak with these students and discuss his efforts to ensure that programs like these can continue to help more Americans get back to work.
Now, you may ask why this is important. The President obviously supports investing in programs that help retrain American workers for the jobs that can be filled today, putting more Americans back to work. Who doesn’t support that common-sense idea? Well, those who support the Ryan/Republican budget.
I know you've been provided information from us about what the dramatic cuts in the Ryan budget/Republican budget would do to job training programs across the country, and would do it in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, so I will not provide you those numbers verbally now unless you want me to. But it is important to remember that the budget that was passed by the House Republicans and is supported broadly by the Republican Party that is the essential governing document – would-be governing document of the Republican Party -- would devastate job training programs, as it would so many of the programs that are fundamental to ensuring that we invest appropriately to grow our economy in the 21st century.
With that, I will take your questions.
Q Has the President called Warren Buffett about his stage one cancer?
MR. CARNEY: I don't know. I'll have to check.
Q Has he seen the photos that we ran today of soldiers posing with --
MR. CARNEY: I know he's been briefed on it. I didn’t ask him if he had seen -- actually seen the photographs. I would simply echo the comments from the Pentagon that the conduct depicted in those photographs is reprehensible. It does not in any way represent the standards, the high standards of the U.S. military. And the President certainly shares in the Defense Secretary's opinion that this needs to be investigated, and it will be investigated, and that those responsible will be held accountable.
Having said that, we're also very disappointed that -- or at least I will echo what the Defense Department said about the decision made to publish these photographs two years after the incident. But that's another story.
Q Jay, you’ve got the GSA story. You've got the Secret Service story. Now you've got these soldiers behaving badly story. Does all of that detract from the President's message and make it harder for him to keep the focus on the economy? Does it drown out that message?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't think we look at it that way, Nancy. I think most Americans are extremely focused on the economy, making ends meet. Those who are looking for work are very focused on trying to find it. Those who have jobs are focused on trying to make ends meet, pay the bills. So I think when the President goes out in the country and talks about those issues, I think they -- what he says very much resonates with Americans across the country.
These are -- the matters that you raise are obviously distinct issues that are -- merit attention and are getting appropriate attention at the different agencies. The President has made clear his views on all three of them.
Q He's made a large point of trying to cast government as a force for good and kind of counter that Republican -- does this kind of hurt him --
MR. CARNEY: The President has been crystal clear since he was a candidate about the standards that he insists be met by those who work for the federal government and on behalf of the American people and for the American people. That is why his response to the IG report regarding the GSA conference was outrage and insistence that action be taken to hold those responsible for wasting taxpayers' dollars accountable.
You have heard the President speak recently on the matter involving the Secret Service. I don’t have anything to add to that. That investigation is still ongoing. And then I just spoke to the issue with troops in Afghanistan from two years ago.
Q Is it coincidence that the fundraiser tonight is at the Henry Ford Museum, which is where Romney announced his campaign in '07?
MR. CARNEY: You'd have to ask the campaign.
Q North Korea has called the U.S. decision to end the food aid deal a hostile act and said it was ready to take necessary retaliatory measures -- not saying exactly what those are. But there's expectation that brings North Korea closer to testing a nuclear weapon. Could you respond?
MR. CARNEY: I would simply say that the actions by the North Koreans to test a ballistic missile in direct contravention of its obligations internationally, in direct disregard for two United Nations Security Council resolutions was clearly provocative. And as we made abundantly clear both in Beijing and in the run-up to the failed missile test, such an action would be -- would make it clear to us that we could not provide the nutritional assistance that is so needed by the North Korean people who are being starved by their own government if we could not count on the reliability of the North Korean government to ensure that that assistance was delivered to the right people and not to the elite or to the military.
The choice made here was by the North Korean regime, and it was a bad choice.
Q Do you have any -- is there anything left the U.S. can do to prevent North Korea from moving ahead with a nuclear test?
MR. CARNEY: We're working with our international allies and partners -- who have roundly criticized the action by North Korea -- to continue to isolate and pressure the country, all while making it clear that there is an avenue available to the North Koreans to end their isolation, to allow them to better feed and educate their people, if they simply make the decision to give up their nuclear weapons program and abide by their international obligations. That option remains available.
Q Anything new on the renewed rounds of fighting in Homs in Syria? Is there any movement --
MR. CARNEY: We're horrified by the aggression of the Syrian regime forces. It’s another indication of the apparent but not entirely unexpected insincerity of the Assad regime when it promised to abide by the elements of the Kofi Annan plan -- ceasefire and withdrawal. We will work with our allies and partners on next steps, but we continue to urge the Syrian government to halt the violence, to abide by the Annan plan, and to allow the Syrian people both freedom from government-perpetrated violence but also the freedom to decide their own future.
Q Did you find out if the President watched the shuttle yesterday when it went by?
MR. CARNEY: I think he missed it. I know he regretted not being able to see it, but he marveled at the photographs, like the rest of us.
Q One more on the photos that we published. You kept mentioning that it's two years ago. Are you suggesting that because it’s -- they’re two years old that people shouldn’t see them or know about them?
MR. CARNEY: No, no, no, no. Look, I understand. The point I’m making and I think the Pentagon has made this point is that the Pentagon obviously urged the newspaper not to publish these photos. The Pentagon takes very seriously the actions represented by -- in those images. But there are issues that I think are quite clear to you and I think were made clear to the editor about the dangers that publishing photographs like that can create for our men and women in uniform as well as our civilian personnel in Afghanistan.
Q Jay, as far as the GSA goes, and having these also -- the Colombia issue with the Secret Service -- does it make it harder for the President to push on issues that are more revenue-based as opposed to spending-cuts-based? Does it undermine arguments for increases in revenue as opposed to looking harder for cuts?
MR. CARNEY: The Secret Service issue?
Q Reported -- the reported issues down there -- they were on taxpayer dime at the time --
MR. CARNEY: The President is focused on -- as was made clear by his budget proposal and made clear by his proposals in the American Jobs Act -- making the investments necessary to help our economy grow, to help it continue to recover, to help it create jobs. He is also focused on, as made clear by his budget proposal, the need to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction. That is an approach that every serious-minded, independent, bipartisan commission, every serious-minded budget expert of any party who is not an elected member of Congress or a Republican partisan strategist agrees is the only appropriate approach to take in solving our long-term deficit and debt problems. And he's going to continue to argue for that approach.
I was struck -- and this is related to this matter -- recently that the -- when the Republicans almost unanimously voted to block passage of the Buffett Rule legislation in the Senate, that they were voting against a principle and a bill that has, according to independent, nonpartisan polling, something like 72 percent support among the American public, more than 50 percent support among self-identified Republicans, almost 50 percent support among self-identified conservatives, but, shockingly, only 2 percent support among Republican senators.
I think the disconnect that that vote represents -- disconnect between Republican elected officials in Congress and the rest of the country is stunningly obvious.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you all, as ever.
12:45 P.M. EDT