the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 7/27/12

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:00 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks for being here, everyone.  I’m sorry I’m late.  Actually, on my way here, I dumped most of a cup of water on the floor outside the Oval Office -- very embarrassing.  Pete Souza, the White House photographer, insisted that it was a cup of coffee and he was going to make a "Picture of the Day" out of it.  (Laughter.)  But it was, in fact, water.

I have no announcements.  I wanted to take the toughest questions first, but I don’t see Connie here.  (Laughter.)  She got me yesterday. 

So we’ll go straight to the Associated Press.

Q    Thank you.  At the Israel bill signing today -- I know you got a similar question on the Olympics readout yesterday -- but how much of the timing of this bill signing today and the announcement of the $70 billion in addition to that are tied to Romney’s upcoming visit to Israel?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Julie, as I think you know, the bill the President signed today that reaffirms the United States’ unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security was passed by Congress this month and was sent to the President a week ago.  And the President has been traveling, so, as is normally the case, he signs a bill when he gets it from Congress -- a bill that he supports -- and that’s what he did.  So the timing of the passage and signing of this legislation was not up to us, but up to Congress.

And then on the announcement that funds had been transferred to fund our support for Iron Dome, the rocket defense program, the President directed those funds to be made available in May and the transfer was made in recent days.  And since this is a program that is very directly related to the U.S.-Israeli security relationship, it’s entirely appropriate to make that announcement at the same time that he’s signing this bill that was passed in a bipartisan way in Congress. 

So I think that both the bill and the funds announcement reflect the commitment of this administration to Israel’s security -- a commitment that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak have both said demonstrates -- has reached a level that’s unprecedented under this administration. 

I remember standing with Vice President Biden when we were in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he said that to both the traveling and the Israeli press, that this administration’s commitment to Israeli security is unprecedented, and the amount of cooperation that we have with Israel on its security needs is unprecedented.

Q    Do you feel like it’s helpful to be able to underscore that commitment just a day before Romney heads to Israel?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I think that the fact that Congress passed this legislation, bipartisan piece of legislation, and that it arrived at the White House in recent days, made signing of it this week necessary. 

And I understand the coincidence, but the fact is our cooperation with Israel on its security is a subject we could discuss every day because there are things that take place in that relationship and in our assistance to Israel every day.  So the fact of the matter is we combined the two today.  We could have spread it out over a couple of days, but we figured that the Iron Dome transfer was so related to the legislation that we could knock them both out in one day.

Q    On Syria, as we’ve talked about the differences between Libya and Syria, one of the reasons that the administration gives for why the U.S. and international partners went into Libya was that there was an imminent attack on a city.  And we’re seeing exactly that situation in Aleppo today.  Does that in any way change the discussion between the U.S. and international partners about what types of involvement you’ll have in Syria?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we are very concerned about the situation in Aleppo.  As I talked about in the last several days, the assault that Assad’s forces have been perpetrating on the civilian population centers is heinous and reprehensible.  The kinds of weaponry that they’re using against unarmed civilians I think demonstrates the depths of depravity to which Assad has sunk.

The fact of the matter is while your analogy is -- it’s a good question and I understand the analogy -- there were a broader array of issues that allowed for the kind of action that the United States -- the international community, led by the United States, was able to take in Libya.  There was the imminent assault.  There was the call from the opposition, the unified opposition, for international action.  There was international consensus, both at the level of the United Nations Security Council, as well as regional consensus through the Arab League. 

We do not have that.  And we've been very blunt about our disappointment with the Russians and the Chinese in the fact that they have vetoed the three meaningful resolutions that were put before the United Nations Security Council with regards to Syria and Assad.

That's why we're working beyond the Security Council now with "Friends of Syria," other international partners, to try to build consensus to further isolate and pressure Assad.  That's why we're continuing to provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, why we're continuing to provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition, why we are working -- with our partners -- with the opposition to help the opposition unify and fulfill the -- or take steps to fulfill the plan that they put forward not long ago.

And it's why we will continue to call on the international community to -- all members of the international community, and all nations with a stake in the future of the region and of Syria to recognize that siding with Assad is aligning yourself with a tyrant, is ensuring that the Syrian people will remember your assistance to Assad long beyond Assad's removal from power or disappearance from the scene.  And we continue to make that case. 

Reuters.

Q    Just staying on Syria for one moment. 

MR. CARNEY:  Sure.

Q    U.N. Secretary General said today that Syria should categorically state that it will not use chemical weapons under any circumstances.  So we've talked about this before, but I wondered if you think a statement like that is needed and if that's enough when it comes to chemical weapons.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, it's certainly not enough.  As we've said all along, we judge -- we have long since given up -- or long since understood that Assad's word is not worth very much, that he routinely fails to keeps his promises, live up to his commitments.  And that's most evident recently by his -- the lip service he paid to the Annan plan and his categorical refusal to abide by any of the six points of the Annan plan.

On the issue of chemical weapons, there's no question that we share the point of view that they should never be used, that the Syrian government not only must not use those weapons but must maintain control of them, and any failure to do that will be -- will result in those responsible being held accountable by the international community.

So our views on this, I think as I've expressed recently, are very strong.  We are concerned about the disposition of the weapons.  We believe that the stockpiles remain under Syrian government control, and we -- as I just said -- reiterate our position that any use of those weapons, any failure to safeguard those stockpiles would be a very serious transgression that would result in those responsible being held accountable.

Q    And just quickly on GDP, one of the reasons that the rate of growth was as low as it was today, while still growing, not growing very quickly -- is that consumer confidence seemed to be lower.  Automobile sales is one of the things that was slow.  I wonder if you had a message to American consumers who were wondering whether to make a big purchase or not, given the answer to that is related to where the economy is.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would say that, on the issue of GDP, what we have seen is the 12th straight quarter of economic growth, positive growth, and that is a good thing.  We have also seen over the last three years an economy that has expanded by 6.7 percent overall, and the private components of the GDP have grown by nearly 10 percent -- 9.9 percent. 

And yet, as we say consistently, this is not enough and this growth is not fast enough, this is job creation that is not substantial enough.  And that's why Congress needs to act.  That's why the President continues to insist that the proposals he has put forward that outside economists say would have an immediate impact on economic growth and an immediate impact on job creation must be passed by Congress.  And we'll continue to make that case.

In terms of -- we obviously, despite the sustained growth, despite the private sector job creation, are still in a position where we're pulling ourselves out of the very deep hole caused by the Great Recession.  And there is still, of course, a great deal of anxiety in the country about the economy.  And that's why we need to take these steps.  That's why it is simply unacceptable to say we'll wait until next year perhaps to take action on economic growth and job creation.  We should do it right now. 

Because the things that are in the American Jobs Act, the President's proposal that Congress has not yet passed, would create, according to outside economists, a million jobs -- firefighters, teachers, construction workers.  And every one of those jobs carries with it not just the benefit for those individuals who are employed and their families, but outsized positive benefits to the economy and to society through the building of roads and bridges and ports and schools, and through the placement of more teachers in classrooms that has obvious positive effects on education in this country.  And this President believes very strongly that education is a key element of our economic picture. 

So, yes, we're going to keep pressing for action.  The President is going to continue to do everything he can administratively to help the economy grow and create jobs.  And he is going to continue to hammer the point that we know what we can do right now to spur growth and job creation, and Congress needs to act.

Jake.

Q    Jay, eight years ago -- I think you were there -- I was in the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts.  And I heard a fairly obscure state senator stand up to give a speech in which he talked about how right then there were spinmeisters and negative ad peddlers preparing to divide the country.

Given that the vast, vast majority of the ads that are running these days from both sides -- both Governor Romney and President Obama -- are negative -- I think in one New York Times story, it said all of the ones that ran in Richmond over a certain period were negative, not one positive ad, and then there was a study that showed in a two-week period 89 percent of the President's ads were negative, 94 percent of Mitt Romney's ads were negative -- what would that state senator think about the campaign being run right now by this President?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think that he thinks, and we think, that the issues that the President talks about all the time, as President and as a candidate, go right to the central concern that the American people have about economic growth and job creation; about ensuring that the middle class is given a shot to expand; that the squeeze that the middle class has been under now for a decade is relieved; and that there is the right investments made in our economy in education and infrastructure and innovation that will allow it to grow and will allow it to create the kinds of jobs here in the United States that can create the foundation for a good middle-class life --

Q    And that’s why you're running ads about Romney's tax returns? 

MR. CARNEY:  Well, that's why we're running ads about -- well, first of all, I'm not speaking for the campaign.  That's why the President believes that the issue of what do you believe when it comes to what our tax code should look like and whether we should reward companies that ship jobs overseas or should we reward companies that insource jobs in the United States -- that's a policy difference that's extremely important.

This President believes that as a matter of economic policy it is an important point of discussion to note the difference between his position, which is that we ought to have a balanced approach where the wealthiest Americans who have done extremely well, exceptionally well, in the last decade pay their fair share, and that the high-end Bush tax cuts that contributed mightily to the deficits that he inherited not be extended, and that that money be used to help bring down the debt and to invest where we need investments -- in education, innovation and infrastructure. 

And that's a fundamental difference not just with the Republican nominee or presumptive nominee, but with Republicans in Congress that this President has been dealing with, in an attempt to move the economy forward legislatively.

So I mean, I think those are -- all those issues are fundamental to the debate we're having right now.  They're fundamental to the stalemate we have in Washington that the President discusses.  And that's why I think he phrases it the way he does, that the American people have the opportunity to break that stalemate, to decide which direction, which vision is the right one for the American economy.  So I think those are the -- those issues are the subject of most of what the President talks about and what his campaign discusses.  I’d obviously refer you to the Romney campaign for their points of view on their advertising.

Q    So you reject the characterization that these ads are negative?

MR. CARNEY:  No, I’m -- I mean, I think that when we -- the President draws distinctions about his vision for the economy compared to the Republican vision, it is a contrast, there’s no question.

But these are central to -- I mean, this is the absolute core of the debate in our country and it is overwhelmingly the principal focus of the American people.  So I think it very important to have the kinds of discussions that we’ve been having and that the President puts forward every time he goes out and speaks to the people.

Bill.

Q    Can it really be a coincidence that just as Mitt Romney embarks on his foreign trip, that in the past few days the President not only has a chance to declare his unshakeable support for Israel and sign this bill, but his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor meets with people to discuss security preparations for the Olympics, and the Secretary of Defense meets with the Israeli Secretary of Defense and announces a trip to Poland?  Can all that really be a coincidence?

MR. CARNEY:  Bill, let me ask you -- I wish it were the case that we could direct Congress and have it do what we wanted on our schedule all the time.  The bill the President signed today was passed by Congress, bipartisan majorities, and sent to the White House I believe a week ago, and the President has been on the road and today was the day to sign it.

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. CARNEY:  I will, if you would like, come out here every time we have a senior administration official meeting a senior Israeli government official -- and it will happen I’m sure extremely frequently, because that’s how intense the cooperation is between the United States and Israel on security matters, as well as other issues.

And then on the Olympics, whatever country the Olympics were in, this President would have been briefed on security.  This is a major event, international event, with thousands of Americans present, hundreds of American athletes present, and it’s the kind of thing that he would, as a matter of routine preparation, be briefed on, just as he is the Super Bowl and other issues and other major events where this is an American security interest.  And this one happens to be -- this event happens to be taking place in the United Kingdom, a country with which we have a deep relationship and a deep security cooperative relationship.

It is a matter of course that John Brennan would be involved in that and that the President would be briefed on that.  And I routinely read out those briefings from the podium.

Q    So there is no political calculation whatsoever involved here?  None?

MR. CARNEY:  On the issues that you just talked, I think I raised -- I think I just explained to you that the President signed a bill that was passed by Congress -- Republicans and Democrats.  And the Olympics is an event that this President would be briefed on in terms of security as a matter of course, no matter where they were or what time of year they took place.

Q    Jay, on Israel, at the beginning you made a joke obviously about not answering the question yesterday.  In the transcript from yesterday’s briefing, you added at the top the administration position, obviously.  Could you explain why you didn’t answer the question and why you decided to add that, I guess?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I wanted to be clear.  I added it because -- look, I did assume that everyone here knew our position, since it is the same position that we have held since the President was sworn into office.  Not only that -- and this goes to some of the criticism, and perhaps the critics don’t realize this -- it’s the same position that was held by the previous administration for eight years.  Our policy has not changed. 

The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.  And we continue to work with both parties to resolve this issue and others in a way that is just and fair, and respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

So I did assume that, since this is a policy that has been longstanding and in place for many, many years now across administrations of both parties, that it was understood.  But I accept that it merited clarification, so thus we provided it.

Q    On the economy, you said, headed in the right direction but obviously more needs to be done.  At a fundraiser on Wednesday night, the President was talking about -- I think in Oakland -- in the context of what the Clinton administration did -- and you said this as well yesterday here in the briefing room -- about sort of the balanced approach, as you call it.  He said, "we tried our plan and it worked."  But he was not just talking about his plan, he was talking about the Clinton plan.

MR. CARNEY:  He was talking about the Clinton proposal.  And I understand that as part of the course -- maybe this goes to Jake’s question of an effort to serially distort what the President said.  I mean, anybody who listened to that set of remarks and has heard President Obama discuss President Clinton’s record surely understands he was citing the approach that was taken by President Clinton, an approach that, as I noted yesterday, for those of us who covered it in 1993, when President Clinton’s economic plan was passed and it included increases in revenue, that Republicans, including some of the very leaders in Congress today, declared from the floor of the House and the Senate that it would lead to recession, economic decline, stagnation, unemployment.  And they were wrong -- entirely and completely. 

And it led instead to the longest peacetime expansion in our history, and it led to the creation of 24 million jobs -- a pretty good record.  So that’s what the President -- President Obama was talking about. 

Q    Right.  And so that’s the context.  My question is, is he running on the Clinton economy or the Obama economy?

MR. CARNEY:  He is running on his record.  He is running on a vision for the future and an economic plan that has as one component a fundamental principle that everyone ought to play by the same set of rules, and everybody ought to get a fair shot, and everyone ought to pay their fair share.  And part of the paying their fair share is simply suggesting that the highest-income Americans, those making over $250,000, the top 2 percent, including millionaires and billionaires, can afford to and should pay income taxes at the marginal rate that was in place in the 1990s when we had one of the strongest economies in American history, and when we created 24 million jobs -- an economic record that occurred despite all the predictions of Republican leaders.

Q    But it's not that with unemployment over 8 percent, GDP slowing down now, the worst in a year, you’d rather talk about those years than --

MR. CARNEY:  We’re not talking -- we’re talking about -- he’s talking about an economic policy.  His plan, which he talks about all the time, which involves a balanced approach, including expiration of the high-end Bush tax cuts, and as a rebuttal to the assertions from Republicans that his is terrible economic policy, he points to the facts, which are that under President Clinton, marginal rates at that level were in place when we saw this substantial economic growth and job creation. 

But let’s be clear.  I saw recently it suggested by a leading Republican that the next President, whether it’s President Obama in his second term or his opponent in his first, that his policies, economic policies, should be judged after six or nine months after they come into office.  And then, after that period, then that’s a fair grace period after which you can judge whether or not those policies are having an impact.  I find that fascinating given some of the discourse that we’ve engaged in over recent months.

But if you do take that standard and apply it to President Obama, who took office during the worst cataclysmic economic recession in full bloom of our lifetimes, and began to measure the economy’s performance after his first six months in office  -- we’ll just start at six months, not even nine months -- and you’ll see a record of economic growth and job creation as we emerged from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and positive job creation -- that job creation.

It is not enough.  As we saw today with the GDP numbers, the economy is not growing fast enough; the economy is not creating jobs fast enough.  And the President says that every time he speaks about the economy.  And that's why he calls on Congress to do the right thing, to pass -- for the House to pass the measure that cleared the Senate this week that would extend tax cuts to 98 percent of the American people and to 97 percent of small businesses in America, and to pass the measures of the American Jobs Act that would create or save over a million jobs -- that would put teachers back in the classroom, first responders back on the job, and construction workers back to work.

Q    On Syria, Reuters is reporting that the White House has crafted a "presidential directive" that would authorize greater covert assistance for the rebels.  Can you confirm that?

MR. CARNEY:  I can't comment on that Reuters report, no.

Q    Can you confirm that the President is more actively considering enhanced assistance to the rebels and how much farther is he going?

MR. CARNEY:  I can only say what our policy is, which is to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrians, to continue to provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition, to continue to work with the "Friends of Syria" and other nations that have a stake in and care about the Syrian people and the region to isolate the Syrian regime, to put pressure on it, to starve Assad of the financial resources that he needs to continue to wage war on his people.  That is our policy.

Q    You said that Assad's fall is imminent.  Given what we're seeing in Aleppo, given this --

MR. CARNEY:  I think it's inevitable.  I don't know about imminent, but his days are numbered.

Q    You still stand by that?

MR. CARNEY:  Certainly.  There are daily reminders of the fact that his grip on power is loosening, that his control over the country is diminishing.  We've seen almost daily defections of high-level government officials, military officials.  We've seen other indications through the -- by the consolidation of and the strength of the opposition, that Assad is losing control.

But I'm not going to get into the business of predicting when Assad will leave power.  I will simply say that he must, and he will, because the Syrian people demand it. 

Q    And, Jay, domestically, Senator Schumer and six other Democratic senators have offered an amendment to the cyber security bill that would limit the purchase of high-capacity gun magazines for some consumers.  Would the President support such an amendment?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven't seen that legislation or had that discussion with him.  I think as we discussed at length yesterday, the President believes that we need to focus on common-sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights but ensure that those who should not have guns under existing law cannot get them.  We need to take a step back and have a broader discussion about the problem of violence and attack that problem from a variety of angles, including through assistance that this administration provides to local law enforcement and local governments, through programs that put teenagers to work and programs that get them off the street, and programs that help educate our young people and keep them away from gangs and away from violence.

So this is a broader problem, as the President sees it.  But on that specific proposal, I don't have a response because I haven't seen it and haven't discussed it with him.

Mark.

Q    Jay, if the GDP says -- or shows that the economy is not growing fast enough, as you say, why isn't that an indication that it's the wrong time to raise anybody's taxes?

MR. CARNEY:  The President believes that 98 percent of the American people should have the certainty that Congress can provide right now that their taxes will not go up, that that tax cut for the middle class will be extended. 

And I'm sure you have done it -- if you ask economists, in terms of the macroeconomic effect of tax cuts and the growth effect of tax cuts, they will tell you that tax cuts to that 98 percent will have a vastly disproportionate benefit to the economy than will very expensive tax cuts to the top 2 percent, because millionaires and billionaires, for example, are not -- those tax cuts would be substantial if extended, and very expensive.  The dollar-for-dollar benefit of those tax cuts to the economy is much less than the benefit of tax cuts that go to working Americans, middle-class Americans, who are struggling to make ends meet, who use that money to pay bills, to fund education, and therefore, put that money right back into the economy where it has -- there's a virtuous cycle -- it helps drive economic growth and drive job creation.

So this is about choices.  It's about the fact that we need to get our fiscal house in order, the fact that we need to ensure that the middle class has economic certainty, and we need to make the right investments to help our economy grow into the future, and that means investments in education and innovation and infrastructure.

So the President's position I think is very clear.  It happens to be supported by a majority of the American people and it reflects a very careful assessment by the President and his economic team of what the right policies are, the right of mix  of policies are to help the economy grow, to help the middle class, and to help deal with our fiscal challenges.

Q    And you would -- and President Obama would stand firm against tax cuts for everybody if that was the only choice, right?

MR. CARNEY:  The President has made clear that he will not sign a bill that extends tax cuts for the top 2 percent of American earners, the wealthiest Americans.  The top 2 percent  -- 98 percent -- he agrees with, I believe, every Republican on Capitol Hill and every Democrat on Capitol Hill unanimously or close to it, that 98 percent of the American people should have their tax cuts extended.  The top 2 percent of tax cuts that President Bush put into place in 2001 and 2003 are simply more than we can afford, and by extending them we would be making a choice to place the burden of getting our fiscal house in order on the middle class, to place the burden of dealing with our fiscal challenges on seniors and on the disabled.  We would make the choice of providing tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans as opposed to investments in education, investments in medical research.

We do not have infinite resources.  And one of the virtues of all the work that's been done on this issue over the past two years, including the Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Rivlin-Domenici Commission, is the identification of the truth, which is that tax cuts represent spending.  Tax cuts reduce revenues and reflect the same kinds of choices that you have to make when you allocate funds to defense spending or education spending or entitlement spending. 

So this is the balanced approach that the President believes we need to take.  And when you say that it is more important to give tax cuts to the top 2 percent than ensure that Medicare as we know it stays in place --

Q    I didn’t say that.

MR. CARNEY:  No, when the argument is made, you're making a choice there that is harmful to the economy, is harmful to American seniors, and is not supported by the majority of the American people. 

Q    But you're saying it's more important to deny a tax cut extension to the top 2 percent than to give it to everybody.

MR. CARNEY:  No.  We're saying that since we all agree that the 98 percent should have their tax cut extended, then we should pass that tomorrow. 

Now, the only issue -- there is a bill to do that.  The only issue is now will the House take that bill up and pass it or not?  And if they do not, then they are making the choice that tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people should be held hostage to tax cuts for the top 2 percent. 

We can have the debate.  If there is such passion behind the notion that those tax cuts for the top 2 percent, 3 percent must be extended, that Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and --

Q    Justin Bieber. 

MR. CARNEY:  -- Justin Bieber and Mitt Romney and Barack Obama should get a tax cut and if they don't, 98 percent of Americans should have their taxes raised -- we'll have that debate.  Just based on what Mark said, I'm assuming he is in that top 2 percent, but I can't verify that.  (Laughter.)  

Laura.

Q    Following up on Kristen's question, you said that the goal right now is to have a conversation about gun violence.  What is the President planning on doing to advance that conversation?

MR. CARNEY:  I think you heard the President speak before a large audience two nights ago in New Orleans -- I think it was two nights ago -- on this issue.  And I don't have any scheduling announcements for you, but he has directed his Department of Justice to continue to find ways to make improvements in our background check system and other common-sense measures that we can take administratively to ensure that existing laws are enforced and ensure that those who should not obtain weapons under existing law, like criminals, cannot get them. 

And then, more broadly, I think if you listen to what the President said in New Orleans and what he said in a hospital in Aurora, there is a broader issue here about violence -- that it goes well beyond the question of legislation regarding weapons.

Q    So going beyond the legislation, what he said in the speech was that he would "continue to talk to members of both parties, civic organizations and other who are interested in this issue."  And I'm asking if he has any specific plans to do that.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I have no scheduling announcements to make to you.  But I think --

Q    But can you tell me whether he is planning to do it or not?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would point you to what the President of the United States himself said.

Q    So he is planning to?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, that's what he said. 

Q    So if he doesn't, then --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, look, the President will -- has in the past and will continue to address the broader issue of violence.  He will continue to direct his administration to take steps to assist local law enforcement and local government in their efforts to combat violence.  And we'll continue to insist that we need to take broader measures that assist young people -- that ensure that young people get an education and stay in school -- that also can contribute positively to reducing violence.

So I'm sure he will continue discussing these issues.  And I point you to what he himself has said.  But I'm not going to give you a date -- just like I don't give you a date when he is next going to give a speech on foreign policy or economic policy, I'm not going to give you a date on which he is going to make a speech about these issues. 

Q    From what I can tell, in between the op-ed he wrote in the wake of Tucson and the shootings in Aurora, he did not publicly address this issue at all.  And so, I'm --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I'm not sure that's the case.  A, I think he did, in getting asked about it and in other forums, discuss it -- on the broader issue of violence.  Secondly, in that period, at his direction, the Department of Justice made progress on the very issues that he asked them to make progress on, as we put out on paper and I've discussed here and on Air Force One. 

Q    But that doesn't speak to creating a national dialogue on the issue or trying to find consensus on what he calls issues that should have common ground, common-sense efforts to try to control gun violence.

MR. CARNEY:  But, Laura, I'm not sure of your point.  He just gave a major speech in which he talked about these issues.  He spoke about these issues in a hospital in Aurora, where he had just visited the families of those who lost their lives in that terrible shooting as well as those individuals who are recovering from wounds in that shooting.  And he will, I'm sure, continue to talk about the steps that we need to take to address the problem of violence, and to address the problem of violence that is with us not just when we have these horrific events that garner headlines, but with us consistently around the country, as he mentioned in New Orleans.

Q    So having given the speech, he has done that? 

MR. CARNEY:  Laura, you can continue to editorialize, but I've answered this question a bunch of times.  I don't have an announcement for when the President is next going to address this issue.  He told you that he would and I would take his word on it.  Thank you. 

Q    So Russia is looking at setting up naval bases in Cuba and in Vietnam.  And I'm wondering whether the President has been briefed about that and what he thinks about that.  Does he have some concerns about it or is he cool with it?  (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY:  I have not had that discussion with the President -- not just in the language that you used -- (laughter) -- but even addressing Russia or Cuba.  So I will have to take that question.

Q    Can I ask another couple of questions -- anything about the week ahead, including the weekend, themes for next week will be greatly appreciated.  And can you give us kind of a good synopsis of his Olympic watching, calling, involvement plans in the days to come?  Who is he going to be talking to?  Are there any events he’s totally keyed in on, et cetera?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I can tell just from the travel we’ve done recently and talking to him about the Olympics in general, I mean he is a sports fan as everyone knows.  He’s actually very -- I heard him the other day, he’s like, I love the Olympics, I can't wait for the Olympics to start.

So I don't know which events he will be paying attention to.  His interests are very broad, and he’s read up a lot on our athletes and on the upcoming competition, and looks forward to catching as much of the games as he can his schedule being what it is.

There is at least one person in London I know he’ll be in touch with regularly.  That would be the First Lady.  (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY:  But I don't have any announcements to make in terms of other -- any participation by the President.  I think, as you know, the First Lady is representing the United States delegation in London.  As has been the case in years when a sitting President is running for reelection, he has not been able to -- he, regrettably, is not able to make the trip himself.

Q    Will he be watching horseback riding?

MR. CARNEY:  I can give you -- what’s that?

Q    Will he be watching horseback riding by any chance?

MR. CARNEY:  I think he is interested in seeing every American entrant perform well, and he’ll follow every event.  And I think if his schedule allows, I think the answer to that question is, yes.

On the week ahead, I can give that to you now if you would like?  Do I hear a chorus of yes?

Q    Yes.

Q    Yes.

MR. CARNEY:  On Monday, the President will participate in an ambassador credentialing ceremony here at the White House.  In the afternoon, the President will travel to New York City for campaign events.  The President will return to Washington, D.C., that night. 

On Tuesday, the President will attend meetings here at the White House.  On Wednesday, the President will travel to Mansfield, Ohio and Akron, Ohio for campaign events.  The President will return to Washington, D.C., that night.  The next day, Thursday, the President will travel to Orlando, Florida and to Leesburg, Virginia for campaign events and will return once again to Washington that evening.  On Friday, the President will be here at the White House attending meetings.

Yes, Mark.

Q    Sunday, in between --

MR. CARNEY:  He’ll be watching the Olympics.  (Laughter.)

Q    And in between the Olympic events, on Sunday, Sunday is the 100-day from the election mark.  I know the campaign was going to do some events like house parties and stuff.  Is the President going to play any role in that?  Is he going to mark that day in any fashion?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have any information involving the President’s schedule on Sunday.  I believe he’s down, but I would address that question to the campaign.

Q    Well, on the larger question of that mark -- how does the President feel about the campaign at this point?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he’s very, as you’ve seen -- as he’s been out there, he’s energized by the opportunity to get out and campaign, to talk to people across the country about his vision for our economy and looks forward to the next 100 days or the next 103 or 104 or however many days there are.

I don't think this is unique to him.  I think it’s true of past Presidents that the opportunity to get out in the country and to speak to folks in different states and to hear from them is something that is very invigorating for him.  When we travel with him, those of us who have that opportunity and privilege, you can just tell how much he enjoys it and how much energy he draws from it. 

So obviously campaigns can be grueling in terms of the hours and the schedule.  He also has a full-time job as President that he continues to execute.  But he's very gratified at the opportunity and believes that the stakes could not be higher, which is why he's going out there and taking his case around the country.

Ari.  Haven't seen you in a while.  How are you?

Q    Nice to be back.

MR. CARNEY:  Long-term vacation?

Q    I was with Romney actually.

MR. CARNEY:  That's kind of like a vacation.

Q    Oooh! 
 
Q    We're almost at the one-year anniversary of the credit rating downgrade.  And I wonder how concerned the White House is that there could be another one while this President is in office, and given the paralysis in Congress, what the President can do to prevent that from happening.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I had not thought about the fact that that particular anniversary was nearly upon us.  I can say that it brings back grim memories of a willingness on Capitol Hill to threaten the global economy, and most importantly, the American economy, for the sake of ideology. 

We now know that the price paid by that brinksmanship was great, not just in downgrade but in its impact on consumer confidence -- which is a question that we got earlier -- its impact on economic growth and job creation.  That was a terrible game to play.  And this President ensured as that process came to an end that we would not be playing that game of chicken with the American economy again in a periodic process of every three or six or nine months, which is what Republicans were insisting on.

The full faith and credit of the United States is a very valuable thing, and it should not be toyed with.  This President feels very strongly about that.  And the memory of that I think for all of us and the impact that it had on the economy is not one that's particularly welcome.  But it is a reminder of why Congress needs to act on responsible, balanced deficit reduction.  That is why the sequester was put in place as a forcing mechanism to get Congress to act and make tough decisions, for both parties to accept that they would not get their maximalist positions.

And what you've seen is, unfortunately, Republicans, by and large, still refusing to accept the basic principle that everyone should pay their fair share, that we need all three legs of this stool.  We need significant spending cuts, which this President has already signed into law.  We need entitlement reforms, which this President has made clear he is willing to support.  And we need revenues.  And that is the only way to do this to get the kinds of -- the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that is needed to address our fiscal challenges.

And, yes, I mean, we were all here, and to see the willingness that some on Capitol Hill demonstrated to take the economy over the cliff, to risk default, was very unfortunate.
 
April.

Q    Jay, sometimes when politicians go overseas, they --some dicey issue when they meet with foreign leaders.  And then, particularly -- presidential candidates may go and meet with foreign leaders.  How would you critique thus far the last couple of days for Mitt Romney overseas?

MR. CARNEY:  I would not.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Why not?

MR. CARNEY:  I'll take questions on policy.  I'll certainly entertain --

Q    No, no, no, this one -- this relates to policy ,though.  The White House is working with London on the Olympic issues.  The White House works with people from various parties in the UK.  Our government will assist them, work with Mr. Cameron.  Talk to me about so far what you're feeling.  I mean, because there are issues that could relate, come back here to the White House, especially with Australia, what's happening with Australia. 

MR. CARNEY:  I will let others make those assessments.  Many have been made, I've noticed.

Q    What's yours?

MR. CARNEY:  But I will simply say that while the focus of this election cycle is the economy -- that’s what the American people are focused on, that’s certainly what the President is focused on -- the presidency involves, as a huge component of the job, engagement in national security affairs, engagement with foreign leaders and countries around the world.  And it is important work, even when the attention of others is elsewhere. 

And that’s why this President has made the safety and security of the United States and its people such a high priority.  It’s why he has acted sometimes at some risk to fulfill his promises in the foreign policy arena, including ending the war in Iraq; increasing our troop presence, initially in Afghanistan in order to properly execute that war and to take the fight to al Qaeda; and to create a situation, for example, with Iran, where the approach he took led to a level of international consensus about Iran being the problem that did not exist prior to him coming into office.

So, I mean, that’s simply to say that foreign policy is a big part of the job.

Q    Thanks, Jay.

Q    Wait a minute, wait a minute.  Are you not -- I’m sorry, Jay.  Are you not answering it because you don’t want to discuss it because he’s overseas, and typically you don’t talk about a U.S. --

MR. CARNEY:  I’m just not going to -- I’m not sure what -- the question as it relates to the President here is unclear to me, and I’m not going to give a performance critique of the former governor from the podium. 

Q    Has the President been made aware of some of the gaffes overseas so far?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, as you know, the President follows the news, but I don’t know how much he’s been following this particular story.

Thanks, guys.

END
12:51 P.M. EDT