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 en route Charlotte, NC, 9/5/2012

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Charlotte, North Carolina

2:25 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way to Charlotte, North Carolina.  So happy to have you.  I have no announcements.

MS. PSAKI:  As I did yesterday, I’m just going to tick through the speakers for the evening so you all have that fresh. So now you’ll hear from the CEO of Carmax and the CEO of Costco. They’ll talk about the need to not only unleash the power of our entrepreneurs and small businesses, but also invest in things that can help them succeed.  You’ll also hear from former employees of companies controlled by Romney’s Bain Capital who will speak to the impact of his business experience on workers and families. 

You’ll hear from Congressman Chris Van Hollen.  Elizabeth Warren will talk about what President Obama has done to make sure that Wall Street plays by the same rules as Main Street and what would happen if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan had their way.  And finally, I know you’ve heard this, but you’ll from President Clinton this evening who will take the stage to talk about what the President has done to help the nation recover from the worst economic crisis ever handed to a new President and what he’s doing to create an economy built to last.

Finally, one thing you won’t hear is -- but you may have heard from the Romney-Ryan team today -- is a statement -- a comment by Paul Ryan that "the nation is in decline."  So what a pessimistic comment to come from the Republican ticket at a time when we’re continuing to recover.  More work needs to be done, but you’ll hear much more from the Democratic speakers tonight and tomorrow about what we need to do moving forward than that kind of pessimistic language.

MR. CARNEY:  I wanted to note if you hadn’t seen it already that to help meet the growing humanitarian need caused by the violence in Syria, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah announced today in Jordan that the United States is providing an additional $21 million to the United Nations World Food Program.  With this new assistance the United States is providing a total of more than $100 million for humanitarian activities both inside Syria and in neighboring countries.

Now, we’ll take your questions.

Q    Did the President have any role in the decision to move his speech from the stadium to the arena?  And was he disappointed by the outcome there?

MS. PSAKI:  We’re all disappointed because we had 65,000 ticket holders, plus 19,000 people who were on the waiting list ready and excited and fired up to hear the President deliver his speech tomorrow night.  So certainly he is.

The decision was made on a staff level.  We’ve been working closely on the ground with an advisory team.  This is not a Panthers game, as you may know.  It’s a national special security event -- is what it’s called.  So the criteria used for that is making -- ensuring that we’re not putting the public safety or security of anybody in the audience at risk.

There were several weather forecasts that were calling for a 30 to 40 percent chance of thunderstorms tomorrow night, which just to put that in real terms for you, what it means, we would have had to possibly evacuate the stadium if there were thunderstorms.  So we know that Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate.  Unfortunately, we wish she did.  But we’ve been planning for this, a contingency plan from the day that we announced that there would be an outdoor venue, and so we had alternative plans in place in case this happened.

Q    How does that square, though, with what you said yesterday when we asked about the concerns about weather and you said, we plan to go ahead -- I think you had even mentioned that sporting events happen there, and now you’re saying this isn’t a sporting event.

MS. PSAKI:  There's a difference between raindrops and severe thunderstorms.  And those calls are made by people who have a great deal of experience planning for and preventing a situation like evacuating tens of thousands of people. 

This isn’t a call we wanted to make.  Obviously, we were very much looking forward to having a full and energized and excited crowd in the stadium.  And again, as I said before, it’s disappointing, but we made it because it was recommended by the collection of the team on the ground that we needed to plan for it for public safety reasons.

Q    Can I ask you, Jen, about the -- or even Jay -- about the change in the platform regarding Jerusalem from 2008.  This platform I think for the DNC does not mention them as the capital of Israel.  Can you both comment on that and whether you agree with it -- the White House agree with it?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, first I’ll say the President’s position has been completely consistent since 2008.  He spoke about this in 2008, beyond what was in the platform in 2008.  This is being addressed.  I don't have anything further for you on it other than that. 

But I’ll also say that there are times -- this is one example of a time when a position on an issue where there’s been bipartisan agreement on, Republicans are trying to make it into a wedge issue, and that's very disappointing.

But I’ll let you speak to it.

MR. CARNEY:  I would simply add that obviously we’ve heard some of the concerns expressed about it.  But let’s be clear.  As President of the United States, the position on Jerusalem held by this administration, this President, is exactly the same position that Presidents and administrations have held since 1967 -- Presidents of both parties, administrations of both parties. 

And I think it’s -- you certainly didn't hear leaders of the Republican Party during the George W. Bush administration saying that his position of his government that Jerusalem needed to be resolved in final status negotiations between the two parties -- Israelis and Palestinians -- was "shameful."  I didn't hear Mitt Romney say that.  I certainly didn't hear Paul Ryan say that.

Q    Can I ask about Bill Clinton’s speech tonight?  Will President Obama be watching that speech?  And what kind of coordination has there between President Clinton’s office and the campaign in crafting his remarks?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, our team has been working closely with President Clinton and his team since the day the President asked him to deliver the speech.  You may know some of the colorful characters -- Gene Sperling, people like that -- who worked for President Clinton also work for President Obama. 

The President will be watching.  He’s very much looking forward to watching his remarks tonight.  He will not be in the First Lady’s box.  The First Lady will have a group of people in the box.  You may already have, but I’m happy to get you that list if you don't have.  We’ll have more details later on where he’ll be watching his remarks from.

Q    -- helped him with his remarks?  Is there --

MS. PSAKI:  I was just using the example -- there were several people from our -- from President Obama’s team who have been working closely with President Clinton and his team from the beginning.  I don't want to -- I don't mean to single anyone out. And they’ve been closely coordinating on both the message and the content.

As is true of President Obama, President Clinton will probably be tweaking it and fine-tuning it until the very last moment before he takes the stage.  Anyone who's covered him knows that that's what traditionally happens. 

But I will say we’re very much looking forward to not only hearing President Clinton speak and take down the house and -- bring down the house, not take down the house -- bring down the house at the convention site, but he has a unique background, and 20 years ago, when he was running, he was also facing a Republican -- Republicans who wanted to give tax cuts to the wealthiest.  They wanted to slash benefits for the middle class, and he can really speak to experience on why it’s important to take the path that the President has laid out.

Q    What's the campaign’s position on Rahm Emanuel raising money for Priorities USA?  And does that signal some sort of panic mode about being out-raised by the Republicans?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we’ve been very clear for months that we expected to be out-raised by the Republicans.  And it’s been very clear that on the super PAC side that's evident in the monthly reporting.  Rahm Emanuel -- Mayor Emanuel is very close, of course, to the President, a strong supporter of his.  And he has said that this is what he thinks is the right -- or his team has said that he thinks this is the best way he can help the President get reelected.  So I think it’s more about what he feels is the best role he can play between now and November.

Q    Glenn Thrush's book I think reported that Rahm Emanuel had pushed earlier to sort of set up a super PAC to raise money like this, and that he was shot down because of the idea the President was sort of against this kind of outside money influence.  I don't know if you can talk about that and whether you -- there’s any second-guessing now.

MS. PSAKI:  Well, look, the President has been very clear about his opposition to the Citizens United decision.  There’s been no secret about that.  At the same time, we’re not going to bring a butter knife to a knife -- or a butter knife to a gunfight, and we’ve also been clear that we don't want to play by a different set of rules.  And that's why months ago we’ve encouraged our supporters to give to the Super PAC, despite the fact that we’d love to see greater accountability, greater disclosure.  So there’s absolutely -- it’s been a very consistent view on our part.  We know this election is going to be close and we need all the tools we can have out there.

Q    Back to moving the Thursday venue, was there ever a concern about being able to fill the stadium?  Did that factor in at all?

MS. PSAKI:  Absolutely not.  I know that our opponents on the other side of the aisle seem to be pushing this.  However, when you had 65,000 ticketed people, 19,000 people on the waiting list, our concern was more about turning people away than it was about filling the stadium.  We had an overwhelming response from people in North Carolina. 

More than 6,000 people participate in this program we’ve talked a little bit about called the 9-3-1 program -- nine hours, three shifts, one ticket.  Those are people who are now engaged and are going to be a part of this campaign between now and November.  And we need to do everything possible -- and we’re going to do everything possible -- to make sure all of these people who are unable to attend now because of feisty Mother Nature know how valuable they are.  The President is doing a conference call tomorrow.  We’re inviting them to events in the future.  And that’s really where our focus is.

Q    Why were the organizers telling people that the event was going to go off tomorrow night, rain or shine?  Doesn’t that inconvenience a lot of people?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, if it were a light drizzle, it might be still in the stadium.  So there’s a difference, as I mentioned before, between the possibility of severe thunderstorms, the risks that that could pose to the tens of thousands of people in the stadium.  And there was decision made by an advisory group who have a lot of experience making these calls that we just couldn’t put people at that public safety risk.

Q    Will the President be making any stops by the arena tonight to do a walk-through since he can’t go to the stadium?

MRS. PSAKI:  Well, given the circumstances and the change, the recent change, we’re seeing what’s logistically possible.  I don’t have any update as of now on that, but we’ll keep you guys updated if that ends up being part of his evening plans.

Q    Will he be meeting with Clinton at all while he’s here in town?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I’m sure he will see him around.  I don’t have any specific -- there’s no meeting specifically set up, but I know he’s looking forward to watching his speech -- and we’ll see.  We’ll see what the next few days bring.

Q    Jen, will the media -- or can the media have access to that conference call you mentioned that the President is going to have?

MS. PSAKI:  Let me get back to you on that.  Let me check on that.  I’m not sure what decision was made.

Q    And do either of you have any reaction from the President on the First Lady’s speech last night and what he thought when he watched it?

MR. CARNEY:  I spoke with him about it this morning, and he was extremely pleased with the First Lady’s performance, and commented on the power of the words she spoke and the grace and skill with which she delivered the speech.  I think any of us -- any of you who saw it I think I’m sure were impressed by it, as I was.

Q    Did he get misty?

MR. CARNEY:  I didn’t ask him if he got misty.

MS. PSAKI:  I can also add just for a little more detail that he called the First Lady last night to just tell her how proud he was of her and what an incredible job she did during her remarks.  As you saw in the photo, he watched the speech with his two daughters and with Mrs. Robinson, and they had dinner before the speech and talked about their first day of school because yesterday was the girls’ first day of school.

Q    Are the girls coming out to the convention?

MS. PSAKI:  I believe -- let me double-check.  I believe they’ll be here tomorrow evening.  But this is their first week of school so they’re obviously not on the plane here, but we’ll get back to you on when they’ll be arriving.

Q    -- opinion that the welfare reform ought to go back -- the welfare changes ought to go back to Congress?

MR. CARNEY:  I have seen that report.  I can say that this is pretty arcane stuff and there is a many-year, multi-administration dispute between the executive branch and the Congress over how these kinds of guidances should be viewed.  But beyond that I don’t have any reaction.

Thanks, guys.

END 
2:37 P.M. EDT