Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One en route Albany, NY
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Albany, New York
11:24 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, and welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way to Albany, New York.
Today President Obama is traveling, as you know, to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering NanoTech Complex in Albany to call on Congress to act on a "To-Do" list that will create jobs and help restore middle-class security.
These initiatives have bipartisan support and at this make-or-break moment for the middle class, we need to create an economy built to last that creates secure American jobs and makes things the rest of the world buys -- not one built on outsourcing, loopholes, or risky financial deals.
You all have the paper on it. You know what the "To-Do" list contains. But I will entertain questions on that and other subjects.
Q What is he going to do I guess as part of the "To-Do" list, rather than just present it to Congress? Is he going to do these more events --
MR. CARNEY: I think you'll hear him talking about this frequently in the days and weeks ahead because these are the kinds of initiatives that traditionally enjoy bipartisan support. They're the kinds of initiatives that outside independent economists have identified as things that would have an immediate impact on economic growth and job creation. I think that's an important distinction with some of the proposals put forward by House Republicans, which outside economists have uniformly said would not have either any positive economic impact or certainly not any positive economic impact in the near term.
We've had 26 straight months of positive private sector job growth, more than 4 million jobs created in the private sector. But we are still a long way from where we need to be. We need to keep the economy moving in the right direction. We need to keep it growing. And the President today will talk about the need to encourage insourcing; the need to provide incentives for businesses to bring jobs back to the United States rather than support of tax incentives like many Republicans do -- support for tax incentives that encourage businesses to outsource jobs and move business overseas.
So this is -- both the item that he's highlighting today and all the items on the "To-Do" list are the kinds of things that should garner bipartisan support if there's a willingness to focus on the economic needs of the American people.
Q Is Governor Cuomo going to be at this event?
MR. CARNEY: I believe he will, yes.
Q Does the President still consider this to be a do-nothing Congress?
MR. CARNEY: Look, the President believes that this Congress needs to do a lot more. It is the case, as I've mentioned over the last several weeks, that because of the focus and pressure that this President has put on a number of issues, that Congress has come together and acted on some important measures, like extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, like passing the STOCK Act and the JOBS Act. But there is still much more that needs to be done.
As I mentioned yesterday, it is notable, as I'm sure you all know, that when you look at the charts that measure job creation and compare the recovery from this recession to the recoveries from all of the previous recession for the past 30 or 40 years, what is notable is the significant job loss in the public sector. And as we know, a lot of that has been done -- has come about in the education arena, where many teachers have been laid off by state and local governments. Well, the President believes very strongly that we need to have those teachers in our classroom because of the need for education as a foundation of our economic growth, and that’s why he put in the American Jobs Act the provision that would have put 400,000 teachers back in the classrooms.
Republicans opposed that. They chose tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans over putting teachers back in the classroom, and that’s unfortunate.
Q Jay, gas prices have been declining in the last several weeks. Two questions. Has that stolen the GOP thunder that we've heard in the past few weeks? And second, does it lessen the chances of a triggering of the withdrawal of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?
MR. CARNEY: I have no news for you on the SPR. I can say that the President remains focused intensely on the need to promote an all-of-the-above approach to our energy demands. He's made clear at the time when the Republicans were trying to make hay out of this that there was no silver bullet solution to the problems of sustained high prices in the oil markets, and that’s why you had to have this kind of comprehensive approach that he has put forward and has been working on since the day he took office.
I think there's no better evidence than the fact that a modest drop in prices at the pump has brought about a change in talking points from the Republicans that they weren't serious about comprehensive solutions to our energy problems, they were just trying to score political points.
Look, the price at the pump, while it's lower now than it was at this time last year, is still high. It still poses a burden for Americans trying to make ends meet. That’s why the President is not going to drop this issue. He's going to continue to focus on it.
Q There's a new coalition government in Israel. How does the President view this coalition? Does he see it as offering a pathway to peace with the Palestinians? Or does he make -- but also on the Iran issue, is it more likely to see Israel strike Iran, given this coalition?
MR. CARNEY: Our positions on both of those issues haven't changed. We believe that Israelis and the Palestinians need to take steps towards peace. They need to refrain from actions that make it harder to reach the kind of -- well, to reach the negotiating table where they can work on a solution that still needs to be found.
On Iran, our position is as it was, which is we absolutely share Israel's concern about the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. We have pursued a policy approach that has effectively isolated Iran and united the world in identifying Iran's behavior as the problem. And we have, through sanctions and other means, made clear to the Iranians that there is a high price to pay for their refusal to abide by their international obligations. That process has led to a restart of the P5-plus-1 talks, and we look forward to the second round of those discussions.
Q Do you see the coalition, though, the new coalition changing the equation on either of those issues?
MR. CARNEY: I don't. I think that's certainly -- a new coalition government in Israel certainly will not affect our policy approach, and we continue to have very good relations with leaders in Israel and we have significant support for -- we provide significant support for and coordination with Israel's military on security interests, and share a lot of information when it comes to intelligence. And we work very closely with the Israelis on the Iran issue.
Q On the gay marriage issue, Jay, has the intensity of interest in this and the statements from some of the President's supporters led him to consider clarifying his position? And considering that his views are evolving, does he want to maybe consider his views more thoroughly?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't have a readout of any conversations involving the President on that issue. I can tell you that I'm sure it is the case that he will be asked again at some point when he gives interviews or press conferences about this issue, and I'll leave it to him to describe his personal views.
I think it's important to note, as I attempted to do yesterday, that what is abundantly clear is this President's firm commitment to the protection of and securing of the same rights and obligations for LGBT citizens as other Americans enjoy. He has been a strong proponent of LGBT rights, and I think that's demonstrated by his record, which is unparalleled, as President in support of those rights.
Q Jay, you said yesterday on this issue in reference to Vice President Biden's remarks and the President's, that the President's personal views obviously were evolving, and you stressed the personal views. I guess is there maybe a disconnect between his policies and his personal views in terms of maybe his policies are ahead of his personal views on this?
MR. CARNEY: No, I don’t think so. I think the President's absolute commitment to the rights of LGBT citizens demonstrated by the path he took to ensure the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," the opposition that he and his administration have expressed towards DOMA and the fact that he believes it ought to be repealed. It is also the case that the President and the Attorney General believe that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, which is why the federal government no longer defends Section 3. And from hate crimes legislation to hospital visitation rights, the list of accomplishments is quite long and I think demonstrates his feelings about, broadly, this issue.
Q Do you think he'll talk about it with Cuomo considering he's received a lot of plaudits from the LGBT community?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think -- I don’t know what their conversations will contain. I know that they'll focus on the issue that the President has come to discuss in upstate New York. I think the President has taken a position on some of these state issues, and I think he did on New York and he has in North Carolina. And I think the position he takes has -- the positions he has taken are consistent with his belief that it is wrong to take actions that would deny rights to LGBT citizens or rescind rights already provided to LGBT Americans. And that’s a position that you can fully expect him to maintain.
Q Do you expect that he'll address at all -- I know we got statements yesterday, but the Yemeni al Qaeda plot, do you think he will address that at all in his remarks today?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t expect him to address that issue in his remarks. I mean, I will say that he's certainly pleased with the success of our intelligence and counterterrorism officials in foiling the attempt by al Qaeda to use this explosive device. It is indicative of the kind of work that our intelligence and counterterrorism services are performing regularly to counter the threat posed by al Qaeda in general, and AQAP in particular.
So he was regularly -- as you know, he was made aware of this development in early April and he was regularly briefed on it by John Brennan. At no time were Americans in danger as a result of this, and, as you know, we were able to foil the attempt to use this device.
Q Is there any evidence that the explosive device could have evaded airport screeners, that it was designed in such a way to do so?
MR. CARNEY: This device was similar to other devices that have been out there and others have attempted to use. We are constantly adjusting our -- the measures that we take to counter threats like this in the aviation industry. It's why there's a multilayered approach to security -- aviation security at airports and on aircraft. And I think, again, this is indicative of the multifaceted approach that we take in dealing with the threat.
Q Do you know if the President had any reaction to the death of Maurice Sendak --
MR. CARNEY: Oh, I didn’t -- I was just with him and I don’t know if he's aware of it. I'll ask him. I know, as any --
Q Do you know if his daughters read the book?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sure they have, and I know every parent must be a little bit in mourning today and every child who grew up with that book. It's a sad day.
All right. Thanks.
11:39 A.M. EDT