Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton Aboard Air Force One en route Cleveland, Ohio, 1/22/10
10:40 A.M. EST
MR. BURTON: So do you guys have the paper from Katie on sort of what's happening today? So I'll leave the specifics on that stuff to you guys.
When the President gets to the town hall, he'll top it with some remarks. Then we'll go into some detail about the economic pressure and anxiety that middle-class families in Ohio and all over the country are facing. He'll talk about some of the fights that we've had in order to alleviate some of that from -- getting the Recovery Act passed so that we could get money directly into the pockets of middle-class families and so that we could get some investments going to create jobs and strengthen local economies here in Ohio and all over the country.
He'll also talk some about health care and the persistent problems associated with that from the skyrocketing costs of premiums to millions of Americans who don't have health insurance to the difficulties small businesses and others have in getting health insurance for their employees.
He'll also talk about what a hard fight this has been, and that even though we've hit some pretty big bumps in the road from the special interests and their lobbyists and from partisan politics and the different ways that people try to determine who's up and who's down in Washington. But the President is going to keep fighting because he was sent to Washington to solve hard problems and he's not going to give up just because the going got tough.
So with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions that you have.
Q Have you -- is this back to campaign mode? It sounds like he dusted off the campaign manual and that's what we're doing today -- complete with no overcoat, no necktie.
MR. BURTON: Well, I will say I'm not sure that -- it might be a little too cold for having no overcoat. But, no, the President -- as you know, this has been on the schedule for quite a long time. We'll have another similar day at the end of February.
But the President thinks it's important to get outside of Washington. It's not as easy as it used to be for him to get the pulse of what people are thinking and saying out there without actually going out and going directly to the American people.
So the President thinks there are very important things that he's fighting for in Washington, D.C. He wants to talk about that a little bit today, and he also wants to hear the questions and concerns that folks in Ohio have about what it is that he's up to.
Q You've now used the word "fight" three times. Is this the new "fired up, ready to go"?
MR. BURTON: I don't think that I've -- that I have a high enough rank to give a new "fired up, ready to go." But, no, the President thinks it's important that the American people understand that he's working hard on their behalf to strengthen the economy, to create jobs, and to make sure that we alleviate some of the pressure that's being created by the persistent problems within the health care system.
Q Bill, is the White House going to do anything to help Bernanke's confirmation process?
MR. BURTON: Well, yes, as the President has said before, he has a great deal of confidence in what Chairman Bernanke did to bring our economy back from the brink. And he continues to think that he's the best person for the job, and will be confirmed by the United States Senate.
So his feelings are known. But of course people on the White House staff and around the President continue to work to get that done.
Q So does he believe that there are the votes in the Senate to get Bernanke confirmed? And if there aren't, does he have a plan B?
MR. BURTON: Well, let me just say that I didn't come back here to count votes in the United States Senate, but the President thinks he's the right person for the job and believes that he will be confirmed. In terms of plan B, if I were Robert Gibbs, I would denote that we don't engage in hypotheticals.
Q China says that the Google spat has damaged relations with the United States. Is that the U.S. view?
MR. BURTON: As the President has said, he continues to be troubled by the cyber security breach that Google attributes to China. His view, and as he said even in China, he thinks that unfettered Internet access is an important value.
And as Secretary Clinton said yesterday, all we're looking for from China are some answers. So with further questions I would really direct you to the State Department, though.
Q Do you think the President would be willing to allow Congress to start over on health care? Do you see that even as a possibility?
MR. BURTON: I think that what the -- the President's view is that no matter what special election happened this week, no matter what members of Congress from either political party said this week, none of these problems that we had in health care have gone away. He's out in Ohio talking directly to the American people about this issue. Back in Washington you can bet that Nancy-Ann and Phil Schiliro and the rest of the team are working hard with members of Congress in both the House and Senate to make important progress on what is an issue that the -- what is an issue the President is deeply committed to.
Q How much time is he spending on the State of the Union? Has he done run-throughs? Has he changed it substantially since Massachusetts?
MR. BURTON: The work of the State of the Union is ongoing. I'm not going to do anything to get myself in trouble with my friend Jon Favreau on what's in it or how the process is going. But the President has been deeply involved. There's been meetings, there's been drafts. But that -- it's not quite done, but it's -- I have great confidence that it's going to be a great speech.
Q Can you give us any more details on the proposal for the banks, any more granularity on what they're going to do to reduce this risk-taking; leadership from the White House on that rather than just leaving it to the Senate Banking Committee to thrash out?
MR. BURTON: Well, I think we've already made important progress on regulations that reduce risk-taking so that we don't get ourselves into the crisis that we found ourselves in last year and the year before. The President is obviously in close contact with Chairman Dodd, who's confident that we'll be able to get something done very soon. Yesterday was a piece of that. We're confident that it strengthens our ability to decrease excessive risk-taking, and we're going to continue to work with the Senate to pass a strong bill that the President can sign into law.
Q Any reaction to Leno? (Laughter.)
MR. BURTON: We're just glad that there's one time slot that's not controversial.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURTON: Thanks.
10:47 A.M. EST