The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
August 29, 2012
Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One en route Charlottesville, VA
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Charlottesville, Virginia
10:22 A.M. MDT
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that this morning, prior to departing the hotel, President Obama received a briefing on impacts of Hurricane Isaac, which is currently affecting, as you know, Gulf states, including Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The briefing also gave him updates on the ongoing federal response to the hurricane.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb, and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan provided the President an update on the extensive rainfall, storm surge, and wind damage to date in coastal areas, including in Louisiana and Mississippi, where there are extensive power outages and flooding in coastal areas, as well as ongoing efforts to support response activities and to meet the needs of impacted communities.
The President directed FEMA to continue its efforts to assist the states that are affected by this storm, and he will be regularly updated as the day progresses.
That’s all I have at the top. I think we’re just going to go straight to questions.
Q Jay, did they say anything about the storm damage? I mean, what has he been told? Apparently, there are parts southeast of New Orleans which are really severely flooded now.
MR. CARNEY: He has been made aware of and I’ve seen the reports about a levee that was overtopped, as I understand it -- not breached, but where water crested, and that there is severe flooding. And that was certainly part of his briefing. It’s my understanding that the levee in question is not an Army Corps levee. It was not one that was part of the reinforcement project that was embarked upon after Hurricane Katrina.
I should note, of course, that today is the seventh anniversary of that devastating hurricane that had such terrible effects on New Orleans and other areas in the Gulf Coast. But my understanding is this levee in particular was overtopped, crested, rather than breached, but that there is flooding.
Q The G7 has now encouraged major oil producers to boost output. Is there any resistance from the President to maybe perhaps tap the SPR because it would encourage some Republican criticism ahead of the election?
MR. CARNEY: As I have said for some time now, all options are on the table with regard to this issue. And we monitor with our international partners -- the G7 that you mentioned, as well as, as you know, the G8 addressed this -- the effects of global oil prices on the global economy, and we continue to do that. But I have no announcement.
Q So is the President concerned about oil prices, and does he think that the oil market is adequately supplied?
MR. CARNEY: -- as our G7 partners and the finance ministers issued this statement, we are, of course, constantly monitoring global energy prices, global oil prices and their effect on the global economy. But I have no announcements for actions that he might take, except to say that that option remains on the table.
Q Has the President mentioned at all, as you just did, sort of the irony of this storm hitting New Orleans on the anniversary of Katrina? It is kind of eerie when you watch the maps to see the storm churning towards New Orleans at this point.
MR. CARNEY: Well, he’s certainly very well aware of the anniversary. And when I’ve been with him, both in the front of the plane and yesterday evening, he was watching the progress of the storm on the maps that you talk about. And it certainly -- he did not comment in this way to me, but it certainly is, for all of us I think, a reminder of that terrible storm seven years ago.
From January 2009, when he took office, this administration has provided $5 billion in funding to New Orleans and the surrounding areas in efforts to recover from that storm and prepare for other storms. But even though it’s only been seven years ago, I think for any of us who witnessed that the memory is still strong, and most of all, of course, for the people of New Orleans.
Q Did he watch any of the Republican National Convention last night? He got to the hotel in time to see it. Did he choose to watch any?
MR. CARNEY: He did not when I was with him. And afterwards, he was working on his briefing books and reading a lot of material, watching sports, but not watching the convention.
MR. CARNEY: He had other things to do.
Q He’s just not interested in hearing their message?
MR. CARNEY: As you know, Ann, and I’ve talked about a lot, he consumes most of his news -- and, of course, he has enormous regard and respect for broadcast reporters -- but most of his news he gets through reading. So he just doesn’t -- he tends to when he turns on the TV -- while we were monitoring the storm, especially on the plane yesterday -- mostly when the TV is on and the President is in the room, it’s usually ESPN.
Q What does the campaign think of the Republican choice last night of the, “we built” -- “you didn’t build that” comment? It seems like it was pretty prevalent in all of the speakers, including Ann Romney.
MS. PSAKI: Well, if you look at all of the speakers last night, there was a theme of -- the theme of what they were talking about was really built on a house of lies -- not only the “we didn’t build it” comment, but talking about Medicare, talking about welfare. We’ve seen this in their ads. We saw it in a number of the speeches last night in their remarks.
We know we’re going to see Paul Ryan speak later this evening. And just a few weeks ago, when he was announced as the running mate, they made a big to-do about elevating the debate, making this a policy debate, a policy discussion back and forth, and telling the truth. to be doing a lot of truth-telling to the American people. So as we’re watching in the next couple of days, what’s interesting to us is whether they are willing to tell the truth about the impact voucherizing Medicare would have on seniors; whether they’re willing to tell the truth about the impact defunding Planned Parenthood would have on low-income women across the country; whether they’re willing to tell the truth about the impact extending tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires would have on the middle class. And that’s probably going to require some serious linguistic acrobatics to do. So we’ll be watching.
Q Jen, did you feel like Ann Romney was effective in sort of humanizing Mitt Romney and in appealing to women?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. She gave a speech about her relationship with her husband or the strength of her marriage, the love of her husband -- she has for her husband, and did a great job doing that and was very effective. And we’ll leave it to the voters and the viewers to decide what their thoughts are on the ticket.
But we also know that there are a number of other speakers to come who are going to receive a great deal of attention. I mentioned Paul Ryan. Obviously, Mitt Ryan -- Mitt Ryan? It’s a verbal like -- Mitt Romney is speaking tomorrow night. These two, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, are the two most unpopular presidential nominee and vice presidential nominee in modern history. So they have two days to rebrand who they are, what they stand for, convince the American people that their plan to extend tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires is a winning plan for the middle class.
We know, we saw last week, I think -- this all runs together -- that they brought in some modern-day “Mad Men” to help them rebrand what they’re representing. I love that show, especially that Jon Hamm. (Laughter.) But you know, when they’re doing something like that you know there’s trouble.
So we’ll look back and we’ll evaluate in a couple days. And next week we’ll have the opportunity to make the case for the President and his reelection.
Q What about Ann Romney’s whole “I love women” attitude that was on stage last night? Do you think that she’s going to galvanize these women voters that the President has tried to bring into his court in recent weeks on appealing to social issues? What’s your response there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said, I think she gave a very powerful speech about her husband and their family, and the strength of that bond.
Q Specifically on women --
MS. PSAKI: I will say there’s nothing I heard or we heard from any of the speakers last night that changes the fact that they don’t support equal pay for women, that they want to drive us back to a 1950s approach to women having access to affordable health care and women being able to make choices about their own health care.
So broadly, as a platform, surrounding yourself with a strong woman is a great thing, but it doesn’t change your positions. And women in this country are smart, and they’re paying attention to how things impact them. And I put the President’s record -- his commitment to standing up for women’s ability to have a choice about their health care, making sure -- fighting for equal pay for equal work -- up against the Republican Romney/Ryan record any day of the week. And that’s ultimately what people will be making their choice about.
Q Jay, I just wanted to clarify, on the President last night, were you saying that he didn’t watch any of it while you were with him, or you know for a fact he didn’t watch it?
MR. CARNEY: He didn’t watch -- right. I mean, again, as I was saying to Ann, it’s not generally how he consumes his news, and he had other things he was dealing with. But I’m sure he’s read about it this morning.
Q Can I ask about the voter ID laws that are being passed in other -- what some Democrats are calling voter suppression efforts? What is the campaign doing to overcome that in Ohio and Texas and Pennsylvania? Are you going to be spending more money on your ground game in these states?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you mentioned, there are different cases in each of the states and kind of different circumstances. We have been running a very aggressive effort to educate voters on when they can vote -- whether it’s early vote, whether it’s vote by mail. One of the reasons we were in Colorado and will be back again next week is because 78 percent of voters in 2008 voted by mail or early-voted in Colorado. So it’s key -- even in states where there aren’t cases going on -- to educate people. So that’s a big part of our effort.
We’re also taking any legal step we can take to ensure that voters who are eligible have access to vote on Election Day -- early vote, if that’s part of the plan in those states. And we’ll continue to fight those battles until the end.
Q Is it forcing you to spend more money in those states?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specifics about strategy on that level. But I will say that educating voters and making sure they know where to vote, when to vote, has always been a big part of our focus, especially at this stage. And because we bring so many new people, new registrations, new registrants, young people into the system, that’s always been part of what we knew we had to focus on. So it will continue to be as we expected.
Q Jay, on the foreign policy front -- Karzai today had another shake-up in this government; I think it’s the national intelligence chief that he dismissed. Is the U.S. supportive of these steps that he’s taken? I think this is like the third or fourth top official that he’s dismissed.
MR. CARNEY: I’ve seen those reports. I don’t have a specific response to that personnel move. I can tell you that our focus is on our relationship and partnership with President Karzai and the Afghan government and the Afghan security forces. And as we draw down forces from Afghanistan and continue with the President’s policy of transferring security lead to Afghan national security forces, we look to the policies that the government implements, policies that the military leadership carries out, and focus less on the individuals or personalities than on actions and policies.
Q Looking at it as a whole, do you view this as an attempt by Karzai to try to strengthen his government, or do you see it as a sign of weakness of the government?
MR. CARNEY: I just don’t have an assessment to make about that for you. We continue to work with the Afghan government, with the Afghan security forces as we draw down our forces, bring our troops home, and transition to Afghan security lead, which, as you know, as part of the NATO plan, will be complete in 2014.
Q Jay, going back to the hurricane, is there any update the President has gotten on how the weather might be impacting those states that have been suffering this summer due to the drought?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know that he’s had a specific update on the rain and whether that’s had an impact on the drought. I don’t know. In many ways, that’s a question that might be best directed, in terms of the actual data and information, to the Department of Agriculture.
The drought obviously has been for some time now a significant concern to the President, to his team. We were in Iowa a few weeks ago, where he toured a farm that had visibly suffered from the impacts of the drought. And he’s directed his administration, Secretary Vilsack and others, to take steps to help alleviate the effects of the drought, as well as, as you know, the Defense Department and the significant purchases of pork and other meat products that will help ranchers.
But I just don’t have -- I haven’t heard or seen, and don’t know whether he has, any of the correlation between the significant rainfall associated with this storm and the impacts on the drought.
Q Every President faces a conundrum: Do you go in to show the victims of damage that you care, or do you stay away while the first responders still have their hands full. You’ve announced officially now that the President is going to West Texas on Friday. Will that give you an opportunity to stop by the Gulf Coast?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we are going to El Paso on Friday to visit Fort Bliss two years after he was last there, as he ended the war in Iraq. I don’t have any other travel announcements to make. As of now, that’s where we’re headed on Friday.
Q Thanks, guys.
10:38 A.M. MDT