Gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs aboard Air Force One en route NY, NY, 4/22/10
10:56 A.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: What’s going on? How are you guys? I think we're going to land soon, so I -- looks like it. How are you guys? What’s going on?
Q Can we ask you about -- we hear Goldman Sachs folks that will be in the audience today, including the head of --
MR. GIBBS: We're trying to get an updated list. I think different attendees were changing, so I think several were invited, including I think the CEO and the COO -- I'll make sure I have those titles right.
Q So that's Blankfein and Cohn?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. But let me get a confirmed list when we get on the ground and we have a little bit of a better sense, like I said, as schedules were changing. So we’ll get an updated list for you -- and try to get a more comprehensive list, because there’s about 700 people in the audience; several hundred are from the school, and I think you’ll see there’s a pretty good cross-section of people throughout this.
And I will just say one other thing. This is -- this was never scheduled for or intended to be a speech to five or six CEOs. It is a speech -- certainly there are messages in there for Wall Street, there are messages in there for Main Street, about the need to get this legislation, strong Wall Street reform done this year, because we know what happens if we don’t get something done -- the same rules that got us into this mess are in place to get us into a mess again.
Q Are there any CEOs that are going? Because we’ve been in touch with the Wall Street firms and it seems like there are risk officers and CFOs, but we don't know of any CEOs --
MR. GIBBS: I will -- we’ll get a better list for you on the ground. Again, I would, again, underscore that the speech wasn’t intended to gather CEOs and speak directly to them; it’s intended to speak to the country writ large about the importance of this issue.
Q Are the President’s comments on derivatives meant to be an endorsement of the Senate agriculture bill that passed yesterday?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, Jonathan, we have at the very beginning of this process identified the need for regulation and transparency of financial instruments, including derivatives. And that was in the white paper that the administration sent up last year. The bill that passed the Senate Ag Committee yesterday -- as I understand it, there will be meetings to take bills that Senator Dodd has and Senator Lincoln has that have a lot of overlap and merge all those together.
Obviously you’ve heard the President speak extensively about ensuring that this bill takes those instruments out of the dark into the light of day and puts them in something that regulates their activities for all to see.
Q Does the Ag Committee bill do that?
MR. GIBBS: Again, that’s -- there are aspects of each I think that have pluses and we’re going to go through them and merge those bills together.
Q Is the President at all concerned that if you regulate derivatives in this way, that a lot of them will go offshore and then be off the books and even in darker, blacker places?
MR. GIBBS: How so? You mean if you -- I mean, obviously, our original proposal puts them into a regulated exchange. So in fact --
Q Well, if you take the Lincoln language, then banks will have a lot of -- have their international consortiums do a lot of this and it will be offshore. I mean, it’s --
MR. GIBBS: I think the best thing to do is for us to have -- we'll have a better sense of some of this once all these proposals get worked through. I do think overall we’re making a lot of progress on the legislation. I think if you look at, for instance, the Consumer Finance Protection Agency I think, quite frankly, is in a far stronger position than it may have been even two weeks ago.
So I think that we’re on the precipice of taking, as the Secretary said this morning, some genuinely historic steps in reforming the way Wall Street and our financial system work.
Q Do you consider the Dodd bill essentially a done deal at this point? I mean, a lot of people seem very optimistic that you’ve been --
MR. GIBBS: I would say we seem very optimistic. I think you have seen statements from Republicans, well, quite frankly, well into last week that -- I think they want -- I think there are some that want to get something done and I think that only gets stronger as the days go on.
Q One of the criticisms of Republicans is that there’s nothing on Fannie or Freddie in these reforms. Treasury Secretary Geithner, who was asked about that on a television program earlier today, said that there is something in the works. What’s in the works? How far along is it? When might we see it?
MR. GIBBS: Look, specifically, we wanted to get something focused on what we had seen on Wall Street and what caused many of the calamities that we’ve dealt with over the last two years through this process as Treasury works on additional measures. Let me get an update from Treasury on where exactly they see that being.
Q Why the President’s strong comments for free markets? Does he feel like some of his rhetoric has gone a little too far?
MR. GIBBS: No. Again, I point you -- I think the best way to show where the President has been on this issue is not to look at what the excerpts say today, but look at what the President said in 2007 standing at NASDAQ as a candidate; look at what the President said at Cooper Union in 2008. I think you’ll find a remarkable similarity in the way the President has talked about this issue.
And the President, again, going back to 2007, was very clear that he’s a strong believer in our capital system, that we have to have a strong free market. The only way that works is with some real common-sense rules that don’t allow people to take advantage of the system, and that that system, when it gets taken advantage of, hands the bill to the American taxpayers. That’s what the President warned about in 2007 and in 2008. We come here in 2010 I think on the cusp of real progress to ensure that what the President has warned about for years doesn’t come again to pass.
Q So today isn’t a dialing back of his rhetoric? This is all like a consistent, steady thread?
MR. GIBBS: Again, don’t take my words for it -- take the President’s words for it dating back to 2007.
Q You’re so good at parsing his words and calibrating them for us.
MR. GIBBS: And, again, I think if you read only a few lines of each of those speeches, you’ll see that for the better part of more than three years, even as the President warned about things that -- look, I'll be the first one to tell you, google the text of the speech for the NASDAQ, because I can assure you there weren’t this many reporters -- and there are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight of you all that I'm talking to, for the purposes of people reading this transcript -- we didn’t have to fight for press space in the 2007 speech warning of loose regulation. There wasn’t a ton of interest in it. I think there is now because what we've seen happen. I think you’ll see a remarkable consistency.
Q Robert, on immigration, given the amount of time left before the political calendar really starts ticking --
MR. GIBBS: One can say that's already -- that clock has been ticking for about --
Q Does the President think that immigration or energy should be the next major thing up before Congress?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I'll be honest with you, Jonathan, the way we're going to get either of those things done is through bipartisan proposals. Senators Graham and Schumer are working on -- among others -- are working on comprehensive immigration legislation. Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham are working on -- with others -- comprehensive energy legislation. I think in order to get either of those things through we're going to need leadership from both parties. So the President has been working with both groups in trying to help those processes along.
I do think there’s time to get more done. We will watch gas prices rise again as we get into summer and see the desire and need again to take additional steps to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And as I talked about yesterday, the President made some phone calls on this plane a few days ago to try to get additional support for immigration.
Q What about energy?
MR. GIBBS: Again, he has, and the team have met with those senators as they finish up their proposal to move forward. So, again, I think that -- I wouldn't rule anything out.
Q Is there any update that you can give us on phone calls he’s made on financial regulatory reform in the last 24 hours?
MR. GIBBS: Nothing new on that.
Q Has he reached out to anyone in Louisiana over the oil rig explosion?
MR. GIBBS: Let me check on that. I don't believe so, but --
Q Might he?
MR. GIBBS: well, I know that the Department of Interior and I think the Deputy Secretary were headed -- either down there or headed down there because that falls under the Department of Interior’s portfolio.
Let me go sit down before we start surfing.
Q Just to be clear, no vat tax?
MR. GIBBS: Just to be clear, no vat tax.
Yes, you have one more?
Q Well, yes. South Korea is saying that they believe North Korea is responsible behind that --
MR. GIBBS: I am going to go sit down.
Q Thanks, Robert.
Q Are you going to get back to me on that?
11:06 A.M. EDT