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 Ames, IA

 

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Ames, Iowa
 
11:37 A.M. EDT
 
MR. CARNEY: Thank you all for joining us as we make our way to Iowa. I think you all heard the President speak this morning before his departure about tropical storm Isaac and his estimation that citizens in affected areas need to heed the warnings and advice of local officials, take it seriously, and act accordingly. 
 
As you know, the administration continues to take a number of steps to support state and local officials in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi as they prepare for this storm, which the National Hurricane Center, as you know, has predicted could become a hurricane.
 
In advance of the storm, FEMA has placed four Incident Management Assistant Teams and liaisons on site at emergency operation centers. In Gulf states, it has moved two Mobile Emergency Response Support teams and additional commodities to prepositioned locations closer to the potential impact areas. Other support teams have been identified and are ready to deploy as needed and requested. 
 
Working with the Department of Defense, FEMA has set up incident support bases in Jacksonville, Florida and Montgomery, Alabama to proactively stage supplies closer to areas potentially affected by the severe weather.
 
As you know, yesterday, President Obama signed a pre-disaster emergency declaration for the state of Louisiana. And as you know, he spoke with governors from all the potentially affected states yesterday, and has been getting regular updates from FEMA Administrator Fugate and others. Those updates will continue today. He’ll be regularly kept abreast of the developments of the storm. And as directed, FEMA and other elements of his administration will be forward-leaning in their response to this storm, which, as you know, is coming on the anniversary of the devastating hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast and especially New Orleans seven years ago.
 
With that, I turn it over to Jen.
 
MS. PSAKI: I just wanted to give a little preview of the President’s remarks today for all of you. While Mitt Romney and his team of supporters are down in Tampa continuing to lay out their backward-looking agenda, the President will be laying out his forward-looking agenda, specifically for the youth of this country -- young people who are in college, who are about to face the working world. And for them, his view is that there’s almost no other group where there’s more at stake in this election. So he’ll remind them about the importance of their voice, of their vote. 
 
An interesting statistic is that 15 million new voters are eligible since 2008, so those are young people who have a stake in the process. Young people are going to come out and support President Obama because he’s taken action important to their generation -- bringing the war in Iraq to a responsible end; advancing the rights of the LGBT community; standing up for a woman’s right to choose; making health care more affordable and accessible, including insuring an additional 3.1 million young Americans; and investing in education and clean energy.
 
In contrast, Mitt Romney will make college less affordable, has no plans to bring our troops from Afghanistan home, and will veto the DREAM Act. And on the day of his inauguration, somewhere between being inaugurated and the inaugural ball at night, he’s going to find a pen, end the Affordable Care Act and all the benefits, including health care coverage for young people who are under 26. 
 
So the President will talk about all those issues today, lay out the case for young people and why it’s so important to get engaged, get registered, and vote in November.
 
Q Hey, guys, is there any concern that there’s a bit of a dual message today? On the one hand, take the storm seriously, listen to your local officials, and this is something that the White House is monitoring. On the other hand, we’re going to go out and rally votes and go after Romney. Is there any concern that those don’t necessarily jive?
 
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would just say that obviously the President is President every day. He takes the potential effects of this storm very seriously. I think you’ve seen over the weekend, if you covered him this weekend, that he spent a great deal of time being briefed and updated on this storm, and instructing FEMA and others in the administration to take appropriate action to prepare for the potential impact of this storm. And he will be getting briefed on its developments throughout the day and obviously throughout tomorrow. He is also conducting campaign events, but will be getting information regularly on the status of the storm and on the status of the federal response. 
 
I’ll turn it over to Jen.
 
MS. PSAKI: I just want to add to that. Obviously, the Republican Convention is proceeding as planned. As Jay mentioned, the President continues to monitor what’s happening, and if any changes need to be made, that certainly is something that we will adjust or we’ll make the changes. But the President is also out there laying out the stakes for what is a very important election for a group, a generation that has -- there’s almost no group with higher stakes in what happens in November. So that’s also important.
 
And again, as I mentioned, if any changes need to be made, we will make them. And you’ll hear him mention the storm today, as you did this morning, but briefly in his remarks this afternoon as well.
 
Q Along those lines, there have been some Democrats who have been critical of the Republican Convention continuing on with the storm moving. How is that different from what the President is doing today?
 
MS. PSAKI: Well, as Jay mentioned, the President has spent a significant amount of time over the last couple of days monitoring the storm, receiving briefings, updating you all this morning as he did -- and we’re continuing to do that. He is the leader of the country and following this very, very closely, and if changes need to be made, we will certainly make them. 
 
But he is out there -- it is important for him to be out there, less than 70 days from the election, making the case for why he’s a better choice for the American people. And he’s doing that as well. But there is plenty of time in between events, there is plenty of time for briefings. And as I said previously, if changes need to be made, we’ll make them.
 
Q Is that a possibility?
 
MS. PSAKI: There are no changes to the schedule at this time. We’re obviously monitoring the storm closely, as are you guys. So we’ll keep you updated throughout the day if anything changes. 
 
Q Producers in the Gulf have started beginning to shut down facilities. Is there any consideration of pulling the SPR trigger as a result of Isaac?
 
MR. CARNEY: Well, as we have said for some time now, and I myself have said, all options are on the table, including that one. But we certainly have no announcements to make today.
 
Q So the President is actively considering that option?
 
MR. CARNEY: That option has been on the table for some time and remains on the table, but we have no announcements to make today.
 
Q I think we’re missing the conference call that Administrator Jackson and Secretary LaHood are doing. Can you kind of tell us what they’re talking about in terms of fuel efficiency?
 
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to -- I believe this is with regards to finalization of the car rule. As you know, this administration’s effort to enhance fuel efficiency has been historic and unprecedented, and will result in enormous savings for Americans at the pump and enhanced national security for the country at large. And it’s a high priority of the President.
 
Q Jay, Governor Jindal wrote a letter to you guys today saying that the aid they’re getting for the hurricane isn’t enough for Louisiana. Have you guys seen the letter? Do you have any reaction to what he said?
 
MR. CARNEY: I would say that at the President’s direction, FEMA has been leaning forward to prepare for this storm. And important reform that had been put in place is that we no longer need disaster declarations to deploy resources ahead of a storm. Teams were in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands last week to prepare for impacts there. Over the weekend, teams were deployed to Louisiana to support the Governor and his emergency management officials as they prepare for this storm. Similar activities have been underway in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi as well.
 
As you know, yesterday, on top of efforts already underway, and following a request by the Governor of Louisiana, the President granted an emergency declaration for that state. This emergency declaration allows FEMA to provide additional commodities services necessary to prepare for the impacts of tropical storm Isaac. And we will continue to work with state officials to provide for any unmet needs.
 
And I can say that, of course, a more expansive disaster declaration can provide reimbursement costs and longer-term funding for recovery efforts and there will be time to explore if additional declarations are necessary to support these types of efforts. Right now, the President’s focus is on making sure that FEMA and the rest of the federal team is doing all it can to support potentially impacted states. And the President wanted to make sure Louisiana had immediate support for this phase.
 
Q On a different topic, where does the President’s convention speech stand? Does he have a draft of it? Has he been working on it?
 
MS. PSAKI: Should I just bring copies back for you guys to see the version where it stands on a daily basis? (Laughter.) And you guys can give comments back? Perfect. 
 
No, the convention speech is very important, of course. It’s an enormous platform with a big megaphone. It’s an opportunity -- the whole week -- the whole three days is really, for us to talk about the President’s record, the President’s vision. And that’s what you should expect next week. 
 
He certainly has been working on his speech, but he also has a very active schedule. We’re here today and tomorrow. He has an active schedule Saturday through next week. He spent last weekend with his daughters. So it’s always a balance. But I’m not going to preview what’s in there or anything like that more before the speech, but I can promise you he’ll be ready by Thursday.
 
Q Can you talk about the goals of the speech? What does he hope to accomplish by it, Jen?
 
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has had a very consistent message for quite some time now, since I started working for him, which is several years ago. And he’s been talking about his commitment to fighting for the middle class; his belief that people should have access to affordable health care; his belief that we need to invest in industries like clean energy that will grow the economy and continue to put people back to work. Of course, there will be some time during the convention to lay out the choice that people are facing. 
 
But for him, he’s consistently been talking about the same themes for quite some time, and I expect you’ll hear from him the same themes next week and hear from our supporters the same theme.
 
Of course, the convention and the platform is much larger, and it’s an opportunity to reach many people that you may not reach on a daily basis either because they don't happen to live in a swing state, or maybe they're not watching the evening news. So in that way it’s a huge opportunity. But -- that's all I’ll say.
 
Q Can I just -- on the decision to campaign during the RNC, it looks like the President is going to be going up in Colorado at the same time as John Boehner. I’m just wondering if this is the kind of move that damages relationships on the Hill, or if you can speak at all to sort of why you decided to keep campaigning.
 
MS. PSAKI: I can’t speak to Speaker Boehner’s schedule. I can say that the President’s schedule is mapped out weeks in advance, and we don't typically make decisions based on what Speaker Boehner is or isn’t doing. There’s ample precedent for Presidents, candidates, Vice Presidents campaigning during the other party's convention.
 
The President campaigned four years ago. John Kerry campaigned eight years ago. And there are less than 70 days left in the election, so we know we -- until the election -- we know it’s going to be close, and we can't cede a day or time with voters, or time in important states, or time making the argument to our opponents.
 
But when you hear the President talk today, as he does regularly out on the trail, he’ll really be making the case for his vision, why young people should support him, why he’s the best choice. And that's the focus of his events over the next few days.
 
MR. CARNEY: And can I just say as a policy matter, having worked with the President over the past couple of years since the Republicans took over the House of Representatives, I think it’s very important for the American people to understand what that agenda is, and the fact that the most unpopular Congress in the history of polling would get a rubber stamp if President Obama doesn't win reelection. And when it comes to the President’s proposals for, as Jen said, making sure we make the right investments in education, making sure we make the right investments in clean energy technology, in research and development, making sure that our teachers and firefighters and police officers are back on the job, and making sure that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that doesn't force us to turn Medicare into a voucher program or decimate spending in programs that are key to our economic growth -- it’s a very useful exercise, indeed, I think for the American people to understand what the House Republican agenda is.
 
Q -- between the Katrina anniversary and the obvious pitfalls when the government doesn't respond, is there an opportunity here, though, for the President to kind of make the case he’s been making on the campaign trail that there are things that we want government to do that we can't do on our own, either for disaster response but also for financial firewalls, that sort of thing?
 
MR. CARNEY: I can assure you the President doesn't look at a circumstance like this through a political lens. As you know -- you’ve been covering him -- these instances when there are disasters in different parts of the country are profound events and they affect people dramatically. They lose -- lives are lost, and property is lost. There’s a great deal of need for active and quick response at all levels, including the federal level.
 
And I think that your point is important because at times like these it’s vital that the administration in Washington be completely fortified and ready to handle a storm like this one, and that it is working aggressively with state and local officials to ensure that supplies are at the ready, that all the proper responses are ready if a storm like this has a negative impact.
 
I remember there was a fight in Congress last fall over making sure that we had funds ready for future disasters and there were some leading House Republicans who opposed that. And the President fought hard to ensure that those funds were in place for just this reason.
 
Q Is he going to watch the convention tonight?
 
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know. We’ll have to get back to you on that.
 
Thanks, guys.
 
Q Jen, one last question for you. Can you respond to the interview that Mitt Romney gave to USA Today? I think it was over the weekend and we haven’t heard from you yet. He said that the President’s campaign, you guys have been very "vituperative" and "campaign of personal vilification and demonization." I mean, what’s your response to that and do you deny any of this kind of personal tone?
 
MS. PSAKI: Well, that kind of language seems to be a pattern from Mitt Romney and his team -- ironically, given that he has questioned whether the President understands America, understands freedom, and made a light joke about birth certificate less than a week ago. You all have spent time out with the President, many people have, watching him campaign. And he generally focuses on laying out what his positive vision is and what he would do for the country moving forward, what his record is and why it matters. But he does lay out the contrast and the choice. But we want to have -- less than two weeks ago, Mitt Romney and his team talked about raising the -- elevating the conversation, elevating the debate, and we really haven’t seen that. So the language is pretty rich considering who it’s coming from.
 
MR. CARNEY: Could I just add -- because I would hope you noticed this -- there was a briefing apparently this morning by members of Governor Romney’s campaign team in which it was -- reporters, your colleagues, raised the fact that they had spent more money than -- on any other ad, on a series of ads that falsely represented the President’s record on welfare reform, and they have continued to pump money into this advertising campaign even though everyone in the media has identified the fact that these ads are false, that fact checkers have identified them as categorically and wholly and blatantly false. And the response from the Romney team was "we don’t care." We don’t care what fact checkers say. We don’t care what the facts say. They basically said to you reporters, we don’t care what you say. We’re going to keep running this ad. 
 
And I think that when it comes to substantive policy issues, it’s very important to note that the primary attack that's being made on the President's record has been identified by everyone as blatantly false and they continue to do it. And they basically told your colleagues, we don't care what you think. We don't care if it's false; we're going to continue to do it. 
 
Q Can you, Jay, explain how that answer that you just gave us fits in to the role of the hat that you talk about wearing in these joint gaggles where you're talking about policy and Jen is talking about -- 
 
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. 
 
Q And more broadly, can each of you just talk about how this partnership is going and the goals that you're trying to accomplish with it?
 
MR. CARNEY: The issue of welfare reform is a matter of policy. There is a multi-million dollar campaign being waged now in states across the country by Governor Romney that falsely represents the President's policy on welfare reform, a policy which seeks to enhance the work requirement in welfare reform. And it is absolutely incumbent upon me, as the President's spokesman on matters of policy, to push back against blatant falsehoods like that. 
 
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me add one thing and then I'll get to your question. This morning, I also saw an interview with Governor Christie where he seemed to preview that he'd be questioning the President's ability to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans, or his desire to, despite the fact that we have gotten quite a bit done with Republicans -- whether it's coming to an agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit, small business tax cuts, parts of the American Jobs Act, including to help veterans. 
 
And it's especially ironic, considering the day that Mitt Romney takes office, he has said that he will repeal the Affordable Care Act, starting a bloody bath war between Democrats and Republicans in Washington. So that was just on my mind. I had to get it off my chest. 
 
I will say that there have been many times in past campaigns where the political and the official side have worked together to brief the media and make sure they have the information they need. And that's our bottom-line goal. And Jay has not taught me Russian yet, but we have a few months left -- I'm hopeful. But he is just an amazing person to learn from, and I've learned quite a bit about Syria, Israel, Iran -- all these issues, these are very important issues you all ask about. And our goal is to be helpful to all of you. So that's the bottom line. 
 
MR. CARNEY: The goal really is to help you, the traveling press corps, get the answers to your questions as efficiently as possible. And we decided with -- given that there's ample precedent for doing this, especially in the 1996 reelection with Mike McCurry and Joe Lockhart, that this would be the most effective way of doing it, to have us both brief together. 
 
Q Is there any chance you could ask Senator Harkin if he would be interested in a quick on-the-record back here?
 
MS. PSAKI: On the record? Yes, we're happy to ask him. Thanks, guys. 
 
END
11:58 A.M. EDT