Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–February 17, 2011 – 12:47 P.M. EST
See below for an answer to a question (marked with an asterisk) posed in the briefing that required follow up.
MR. CARNEY: At this rate there will be like 10 people here by next week. (Laughter.) How is everybody this morning — or this afternoon, rather? Thanks for coming to Day 2.
All right, I just have a couple things I want to start with. Some of you have asked so I just thought I’d throw it out there at the top that the President and First Lady have both filled out their absentee ballots and those are being mailed to Chicago. I won’t — so they’re exercising their franchise and are glad to do it, but I won’t be giving copies of those ballots. So you don’t need to ask for that.
Second announcement is the White House is pleased to confirm that President and Mrs. Obama have accepted the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen, and will travel to the United Kingdom for a state visit on May 24-26 of this year. This trip will be President Obama’s first European state visit, a sign of the strength of the special relationship between our two countries, and of the United States’ enduring commitment to its European and NATO allies and partners.
Further details of the trip will be made available at a later time. I hope you all can join us.
I’m not quite done. One more thing I’d like to say at the top — hold on, please. Believe me, I’ll take questions. (Laughter.) I just wanted to note — I meant to yesterday, and I admit I was a little preoccupied — I meant to note yesterday that it was the 25th anniversary, I believe, for Peter Maer — is he in the house?
Q No, he’s Air Force One today.
MR. CARNEY: Oh, okay. So I just want to say that — 25 years covering the White House. He was here when I got here — first covered the White House in the spring of ’93, and he was already a grizzled veteran. (Laughter.) But I wanted to recognize that because that’s a great tenure —
Q You forgot to add that he started at 12. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: And with that, let’s start the briefing.
Q Thanks, Jay. I wanted to ask you about Bahrain. Can you give us the President’s personal reaction to what’s happening there, the crackdown in which men and women have been beaten and shot simply for protesting?
MR. CARNEY: I spoke with the President not long ago about this, before his lunch. And his view is that we oppose the use of violence by the government of Bahrain just as we oppose the use of violence by other governments in the region against peaceful protesters. We offer condolences to the families of those who were killed and injured.
And we’ve said repeatedly the United States believes strongly that violence is not an appropriate reaction when the peoples of this region, or any region, are peacefully protesting and airing their grievances and making reasonable demands about wanting to engage in a political process.
We believe that people have universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly. So we continue to urge the government of Bahrain to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests. The government of Bahrain has the responsibility to maintain peace and security for its citizens and to hold accountable those who utilize excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators.
As you know, I think it’s been reported that Secretary of State Clinton has been in touch, and other officials of the administration are obviously reaching out to members of the government of Bahrain to communicate this message to them.
Q Do you have any sense of how those calls are going? I’m wondering whether this is another case where the U.S. makes its stand clear, as you just did, but the leverage here is limited to actually influence these events.
MR. CARNEY: Well, Ben, I would step back and point out that our position here is reflective in many ways of what it was with the demonstrations in Egypt. We supported the people of Egypt. We didn’t dictate events in Egypt. What unfolded in Egypt was the result of the actions of hundreds of thousands and millions of Egyptians. And we’re not looking to dictate events or outcomes, but we are making clear what our position is — because we believe, and the President said as long ago as his speech in Cairo, that the governments in the region need to be more responsive to their peoples in order to live up to the hopes and dreams of their people and also to — that instability comes from not responding to the legitimate grievances and democratic aspirations of their people.
Q What gives you any confidence that making clear what your position is is going to have an effect?
MR. CARNEY: Look, this is a process that, again, is about the people, in this case, of Bahrain. Our position is clearly stated and it is applicable to countries throughout the region. And, again, as with other countries, we’re not looking to dictate events but we are making very clear the values that we hold.
Q And then finally, one last one, I’m sorry. On the Fifth Fleet, any contingencies being made for that?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything for you on that at all, Ben.
Q Jay, we’re seeing protests in many countries across the region. How does the White House analyze what is going on? Are we witnessing a full-scale revolution across North Africa and the Middle East?
MR. CARNEY: Well, each country is different. Each country has different traditions, Steve. And there is a commonality, clearly, to some of the demonstrations and the unrest we’ve seen, and it’s reflective of a yearning by the peoples of the region, the peoples of these countries, to have a greater participation in the political process in their countries. And we support that.
And that’s why we have urged the governments in the region for a long time now to respond and get ahead of that — those demands and those aspirations expressed by their peoples, and respond to it and open up their societies in a way that will allow those countries to become more prosperous and their people to improve their lot in life.
Q In the case of Egypt, you were very vocal in calling for a peaceful transition there. Are you anywhere close to doing that for Bahrain or any of these other countries?
MR. CARNEY: Steve, I would say, again, that each country is different. What is the same is what we believe about these universal values and universal rights. And we have urged governments in the region — the Egyptian government, the Bahraini government, but, in general, to be responsive and to open up their societies and to get ahead of the process in order to respond to the aspirations of their people.
Q Lebanon on the U.N. Security Council is working on a resolution, or has drafted a resolution, that would condemn Israel for what it calls “illegal settlement activity.” Now, I know Dr. Rice has been working on an alternative up there, a presidential statement that would call the settlement activity illegitimate, not illegal. But that seems to be going nowhere. If it does come up for a vote in the U.N. Security Council, how will the United States vote on a resolution calling Israeli settlement activity illegal?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, no resolution, Jake, has been put forward for a vote, and I would not want to speculate on what action the United States would take — may or may not take on that matter. But I would also say that I’m not going to get into details of ongoing private diplomatic discussions in New York at the United Nations regarding this matter.
We, like every administration for decades, do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. We believe their continued expansion is corrosive not only to peace efforts and a two-state solution, which we strongly support, but to Israel’s future itself. And finally, we have long said that we believe direct negotiations are the only path through which the parties will ultimately reach an agreement. And that’s what we believe strongly today as we have in the past.
Q So it’s the position of the White House as it has been for several White Houses that settlement activity in Israel is illegitimate, is corrosive to the peace process. Do you think it’s illegal?
MR. CARNEY: What we have said is we believe it’s illegitimate, and we’ve been very clear about that. And we also believe that the best form for making progress in the negotiations, in the peace process, is in direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians in order to reach that goal of a two-state solution with security for both states, and that it’s far better to pursue that path than others.
Q Jay, I want to go back to Bahrain, because The New York Times has a story this morning saying that as far back as last summer the President ordered up a report on potential unrest in the Mideast and that that report concluded that without major change places like Egypt, Bahrain, others could face serious revolt.
And so my question is if the administration was doing all these preparations for months now, why does it seem like you’re struggling still to react to various developments there? Yesterday, you said the same thing you’re saying today about Bahrain. You said there can’t be violence; they have to respect universal rights of freedom, et cetera. And then they had a government crackdown overnight and didn’t listen to you. So if you’re doing all these preps, why are you still struggling here?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Ed, I definitely do not accept the idea that we’re struggling. I think if you look at the way that the events in Egypt unfolded and the consistency of our message in public and in private, that was, we believe, the right way to handle that situation. And I’m sure that along the way, as the President mentioned — there were questions to my predecessor and others about why haven’t you resolved this today or why didn’t what you say yesterday produce a result overnight. And I would remind you again that this is not a process that we’re looking to dictate, but we can make clear our positions and express our support for the people in the region who are peacefully demonstrating and asking for their voices to be heard.
And that’s what we’re doing with Bahrain and with all the countries in the region that are experiencing this unrest. We’re being very consistent about where we stand. And I really think that in a moment like this with such incredible events unfolding, 24 hours is a pretty short time period to expect things to change.
Q So does that mean that you can allow another 24 hours of the government cracking down, beating people, killing people — journalists getting caught in the crossfire?
MR. CARNEY: We’ve made very clear our opposition. I think I, at the top of this daily briefing, expressed our strong displeasure with violence being used against peaceful demonstrators. We simply think it is the wrong way to go. It does not — the long-term future of any country is not made more stable or more prosperous or better for its people if a government responds in a violent way to peaceful demonstrators.
So we think our voice matters in this, and that’s why we have been very clear in stating our opposition and our disappointment and displeasure with the use of violence.
Q One quick domestic issue. Speaker Boehner is out today saying that the second anniversary of the stimulus law shows that it was a failure, that it spent too much money. And last night he was on FOX saying — criticizing the President about the deficit. He specifically said, “He wasn’t elected to just sit there in the Oval Office. He was elected to lead. And if he won’t lead, we will.” So is he sitting around in the Oval Office waiting or is he going to lead?
MR. CARNEY: I think I said yesterday and I’d like to reiterate that this President has taken on enormous challenges and led in major ways. He has done big things. He has taken on tough issues. And he’s continuing to do it. And I would point to the budget that he laid out on Monday, which is actually quite an extraordinary document. It proposes $400 billion in cuts through a freeze on non-defense discretionary spending. It proposes cuts in programs that the President quite explicitly says he supports and would not in normal times want to see cut, but he’s willing to make tough choices.
And he also is very clear in his call for the need to invest in new industries, to innovate, and to focus on the education of our children — precisely in order to grow the economy and create the jobs that will enable us not just to lead in the 21st century but to seriously deal with our long-term fiscal issues.
Q But you understand Republicans are saying investment really means piling more debt on top of a stimulus law that was almost a trillion dollars. So was it a failure or —
MR. CARNEY: But the fact is, the President’s budget proposal is the only budget proposal on the table that reduces spending and reduces spending and reduces the deficits. Okay? And it is a — we acknowledge that there is more to be done, especially on the long-term fiscal issues. But this is an extraordinary proposal and an important proposal that the President wants and believes the Congress will take seriously. And that is why he is engaged in conversations with members of Congress of both parties.
As you know, he’s having lunch today with House Democratic leaders. Yesterday he had meetings also. And so — and if I could, coming where I do from the Vice President’s office prior to this, I just want to make clear that the Recovery Act, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, is responsible for as many as 3.6 million jobs and for lowering unemployment by as much as 2 percent. We understand that unemployment is still too high. We wake up every morning focused on the need to create more jobs and have the economy grow even faster and to continue to grow out of this recovery. But it is simply impossible not to acknowledge where we were versus where we are.
And the Recovery Act was a major reason why we are now in a situation where we’ve been growing consistently for many consecutive quarters and why we have created more than a million jobs in the last year. And remember, that first month, I believe it was January of 2009 when we came in, 740,000 jobs lost in just one month. There’s quite a different atmosphere now. It’s not good enough and there’s more work to do, but the steps that were taken in the early parts of this President’s term were vital to helping turn this around.
Q Thanks, Jay. And on this second anniversary of the stimulus, I believe it was 90 percent that the administration said would be private sector jobs. Is that right?
MR. CARNEY: Now, I just bragged about having spent a little time on the Recovery Act in my day and I can’t remember the figures exactly.
Q Anybody else? (Laughter.) Shall we take a vote? Well, do you know how they did in terms of —
MR. CARNEY: Look, I don’t have the breakout. What we do know is that there has been month after month of private sector job growth that has been critical to this economic recovery. And a substantial portion of that private sector job growth has been as a result of the President’s policies — the Recovery Act and other policies that he pursued to save this economy from turning a horrible situation into a catastrophic situation in our country, with the kind of unemployment that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. He would not — he did not want that to happen and he took the actions he saw necessary to prevent it from happening.
But this is now February of 2011, and we are focused, he is focused, the President is focused on continued economic growth, continued job creation. And he has proposed a budget that reinforces those goals and also recognizes the need, now that we’re in recovery, to tighten our belts and live within our means precisely so we can continue to invest.
Q Back on Bahrain, does the President believe — overall, looking at this as an historic — a historic development, does the President believe that this is a positive development?
MR. CARNEY: I go with “an” with the “h.”
Q An historic, a historic. (Laughter.) I’ll get 20,000 emails on that correcting me whichever one you do. But does the President believe that this is an historic development — excuse me, a positive development, a good thing?
MR. CARNEY: He thinks that democracy is a good thing. He thinks that the future of governments around the world will be more secure and more prosperous — of states and countries around the world — if democratic principles are pursued, if pluralism is permitted, if participation is encouraged and allowed.
So again, recognizing that each country is different, each country has different circumstances, different populations, different traditions, the overall desire for greater democratic participation for their voices to be heard is absolutely a good thing and an understandable thing.
Q And on Egypt he made very clear and Robert Gibbs made very clear that we can’t dictate, we can’t take sides. But clearly we’ve taken sides in Iran, right?
MR. CARNEY: We take sides with the people of countries who are expressing their opinions peacefully, who are making legitimate grievances known peacefully, who are assembling peacefully. And we took sides with the people of Iran. We continue to. And we take sides with the people of other regions who are trying to do that. We find very — extraordinarily hypocritical the reaction of the Iranian government to — on the one hand, supporting the demonstrators in Egypt and on the other hand brutally repressing their own people and preventing them for expressing their same —
Q And that’s in Libya and Bahrain, too? Are we taking sides?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have made clear — it’s not a binary choice. We are on the side of —
Q It’s sounding like in Iran it’s a binary choice. We’re taking sides with the people against the government. Are we taking sides with the people in Bahrain and Libya?
MR. CARNEY: We are taking sides against violence, the use of violence against peaceful protesters. And we have — it’s pretty clear from what we’ve said about how we feel about the use of violence in Bahrain and how we felt about it in Egypt. And that’s the side we’re taking.
Q Last question. The other uprising — Wisconsin — could you weigh in on that? Is the President monitoring what’s happening there with the public employees?
MR. CARNEY: I think — I know when I read out yesterday that the President was giving some regional interviews that he spoke about this in one of his interviews and was very clear that while he understands the needs that — the challenges that governors face to deal with their own fiscal issues and the need to make tough budget decisions, as he is making here at the federal level, what he sees happening in Wisconsin — making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain — seems more like an assault on unions. And he doesn’t see that as a good thing.
So what he would encourage, and I think he did yesterday, and what Secretary Duncan has been doing today, is, first of all, not to vilify public employees– because it’s easy to sort of paint public employees as faceless bureaucrats, but we’re talking about teachers and nurses and policemen and firemen. And he believes — the President believes, the Secretary of Education believes that the best way to deal with this is for people to address these problems by sitting down at the table to collaborate and work out a solution.
Q So he’s taking sides on that one.
MR. CARNEY: He expressed his opinion directly. You got it from the President yesterday.
Q Jay, was the stimulus package oversold up front?
MR. CARNEY: The stimulus package, the Recovery Act, contained within it goals to improve — to basically — as part of a number of measures that were taken, to prevent a staggering economy from collapsing into depression; to save or create jobs; to invest in areas where future growth would help drive the overall economy. And those goals have been met.
Now, economic — as I said yesterday, I’m not an economist but I do know that the business of predicting the future in terms of economics is tricky. And as we see all the time, some of the numbers we depend on most and cite most in the press and in the government — GDP statistics, unemployment statistics — are constantly being revised when new information and new data comes in.
The bigger point is there was a crisis that had to be responded to and this President did that by leading. And we believe it worked.
Q Because unemployment at the time was 8.1 percent. The charts that were initially put out suggested we would be below 7 at this point. We’re at 9, so —
MR. CARNEY: Mike, we’ve said and I’ll repeat that we don’t want to relitigate the battles of the past, but this is what I was getting at in my answer. The projections that the economic team made at the time were based on the numbers that everybody had at the time, and were reflected in the projections made by a lot of outside economic analysts and institutions. The reality as time passed was that the hole we were in, this country was in as President Obama was sworn into office was much deeper than even we knew in December or November prior to that. The job loss was much more extreme, the shrinking of the economy much greater.
That was the reality that was not apparent to economists of all stripes, and it is — was revised as we went along. The overall purpose and focus of the President’s economic plans and policies were to stop the bleeding, get us into recovery, begin to grow the economy, save and create jobs. There is no question that’s what he achieved.
Q Quick one on another topic?
MR. CARNEY: I want to — I’m committed a little bit and I’ll do this, but as a lot of you know, I do want to give everybody a chance. So I don’t want to spend all my time on the front row. So let me take this but — (applause) — I love the front row. Don’t get me wrong. But — and rows two, three, four, five, six and seven.
Q Robert said he was going to start at the back row one day a week and he never followed through.
Q Pure pandering.
MR. CARNEY: That would have been quite a thing, right? (Laughter.)
Q In announcing the trip to the UK, in recent weeks the British Prime Minister, the French President, the German Chancellor have all denounced multiculturalism. Does the President share the view of his NATO allies?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of those comments by those leaders.
Q Jay, can you give us a readout of the President’s call to Palestinian President Abbas? Secretary Clinton just informed the press that that happened.
MR. CARNEY: The President did speak with President Abbas this morning. They discussed the situation in Egypt, the events in Egypt as well as the region, and the issues at the Security Council. That’s all.
Q Anything about the peace process? Is there anything — any progress that can be added on this?
MR. CARNEY: Well, you know we’re committed to moving the peace process forward. We know it’s a difficult issue. If it were not, if it were easy it would have been solved a long time ago.
Q When was the last time he spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to get that for you. I don’t know.*
Q On Bahrain, at what point — I mean, you say every country is different and obviously — but at what point — what is it going to take for the administration to take the tougher stance on the government that they took with the Egyptian government at the time? Is public pressure not going to work in this case? Is that the issue?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would remind you of the exchange I had with Ed, which is 24 hours later the world hasn’t changed. I think that’s a timetable that is hard to meet in any circumstance. But I would — I just want to point out in these comparisons between Bahrain and Iran that the consistency of the President’s message on our opposition to the use of violence against peaceful protestors, our support for the right of peoples around the world to assemble peacefully, to speak freely, to have information, access to information — those positions apply in Iran — to Iran, to Bahrain, to Egypt.
And I think the President was very clear in espousing and enunciating those principles and his position with regards to Egypt. And I think that comparison is important to make as well when you’re looking at the countries in the region.
Q Quickly on Florida, on the Florida decision on the high-speed rail. There is a report out there in Huffington Post that says the Obama administration is considering finding a way — you’re not going to move the money now right away from Florida to California, New York, Washington, that you’re looking for a federal government way to still put this plan in place in Florida. Can you confirm that? Is that true? What more can you tell us about what Secretary LaHood is up to?
MR. CARNEY: I’m going to have to refer you to Secretary LaHood. I confess that I don’t have any more than what I said yesterday which is what — that we’re disappointed by the decision the governor made. We think that — and we’ve seen reaction to it in a bipartisan way that —
Q You don’t think it’s dead yet?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t want to speculate because I’m not aware of the report you just mentioned. And I encourage you to contact the Department of Transportation. We believe that these kinds of investments are critical for the future economic growth of this country and to allow us to compete with countries around the world where, as you know, high-speed rail is quite a bit further advanced than it is here in the United States.
Let me get to the second row. One sec, sorry.
Q To follow up on that, why, I guess, now that Florida has rejected it and three other states have rejected infrastructure spending, what does that say about the administration’s broader infrastructure plans?
MR. CARNEY: Well, our support for these plans — the President could not have been clearer in the State of the Union about the absolute importance of investing in infrastructure in order to allow us to compete and win the future in the 21st century. The decisions by individual states are the decisions they can certainly make. We think it’s — we don’t support those decisions because we think it’s harmful to the economic growth of those states. And certainly there are other states that are eager to participate in these programs. I know that the high-speed rail, in particular, was heavily oversubscribed in terms of the states that wanted to participate.
Q And I want to follow up, actually. The President’s budget included a six-year, about half-a-trillion-dollar plan on infrastructure spending, but it doesn’t say how that’s going to be paid for. How is it going to be paid for?
MR. CARNEY: You’re talking about the transportation?
Q Yes, I am.
MR. CARNEY: The fact is that in this area there has long been bipartisan support for the funding of our highways, roads, and ports, and in this case, some airport spending. And the — we believe that that’s necessary, again, for the continued growth of the economy and for the platform that’s needed to move goods and people around the country in a way that’s competitive.
It’s very hard to win the economic battles of the 21st century with third-rate or third-class infrastructure.
Q Well, why not lay out a plan to pay for it?
MR. CARNEY: This is something that will be worked out, we’re confident, in a bipartisan way because it has to be paid for. We’ve made that very clear. And if it’s not, then the decision will be made that it’s okay to have third-class infrastructure, which we don’t think is a wise choice for our economic future.
Q What ideas are on the table?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to negotiate that from here, but I think, as I’ve said, it has to be a bipartisan agreement, as it has so often in the past.
Q Jay, can we ask about —
Q What happened to this half of the row?
Q Jump around. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I’m going to squeeze from the — (laughter.)
You know, Mark, you’re in my old seat. Did you know that? (Laughter.)
Q It hasn’t been your seat in a while.
Q Ooooh —
MR. CARNEY: True enough.
Q The House work on the continuing resolution — Speaker Boehner says, well, that’s fine, we’re going to get what we passed done this week. Obviously the Senate is not going to take it up until next week. The end of next week is the deadline, and Boehner apparently saying that there is not going to be another CR unless there is some substantial budget — substantial spending reductions in there. Is this brinkmanship now?
MR. CARNEY: Brinkmanship?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as I think I said yesterday, we are committed, the President is committed to cutting spending and reducing the deficit. That’s why he put forward a tough budget. It’s important that we address the budget like any family would — got to live within your means in order to have the money you need to invest, to pay for your child’s education, to fix, as the President — I’ve heard him say anyway — fix a leaky roof or a broken boiler.
We’ve also made clear that we can’t support arbitrary or irresponsible cuts that affect the essential functions of the government or hurt our ability to grow the economy, create jobs. That would be unbelievably counterproductive, because we need to grow the economy and create jobs in order to out-educate, out-build and out-innovate the rest of the world, as you’ve probably heard.
So we wait for Congress. We look forward to working with Congress. The President looks forward to working with Congress on the continuing resolution and on his budget and the other issues on the table.
Q The deadline is the end of next week. Is there any prospect that — do you think this is going to be this bipartisan agreement that you’re looking for between now and next week?
MR. CARNEY: I think the leaders of both parties, as well as the President, have made clear that coming to an agreement is vital for the American people and the American economy, and that the — well, I’ll leave it at that. I can point you to statements that Speaker Boehner and others have made about the need to do that.
Q Jay, up on the Hill —
MR. CARNEY: Sorry, doing the second row here.
Q Jay, notwithstanding the fact that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie counter-programmed his speech against your first briefing yesterday, does the White House welcome his participation in the 2012 presidential campaign, if he were to do that? And does he — do you all have a sense of what the President thinks of his message?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re focused right now on some very big issues — dealing with the economy, dealing with international events. I don’t have any comment for you on an election process that really is very far off in the future.
Q Thanks. Earlier in the briefing you called the budget an extraordinary document. You said, the White House believes Congress will take it seriously. But if Speaker Boehner is calling it “dead, gone, over,” there seems to be quite a disconnect there between your view and his. How are you going to reconcile that?
MR. CARNEY: I would remind you, Mark, that a lot of things were said in the aftermath of the midterm elections about the prospects for bipartisan cooperation on some issues that seemed really hard to resolve, where there were pretty big differences — what we saw through the reasonable approach taken by leaders in Congress, by the President, was an ability to work through some tough issues, to compromise, to give a little on each side to get something done that the American people wanted done. And that has improved our prospects for growing the economy this year, has increased the amount of money that Americans have in their paychecks right now, and has positioned us better for growing in the future, and positioned us better, more broadly speaking, in terms of the environment that we’re in for more bipartisan cooperation and compromise.
We believe that’s possible. We believe that there is enough common ground and agreement on the need to grow the economy and create jobs, to be responsible and cut spending, that we can find common ground and get it done. That’s what the American people want us to do. There was no clearer message that was sent in the midterm elections than that.
Q Where do you see common ground in “dead, gone, and out and over?”
MR. CARNEY: Let me go to Kate.
Q What does the President want to get out of tonight’s meetings with executives? Is he going to specifically ask them to take an active, supporting role for his education and research agenda? Is corporate tax reform going to come up?
MR. CARNEY: As you know — I think I mentioned yesterday — you’re talking about the dinner tonight in California? He’s going to gather a group of business leaders to talk about technology and innovation. These are — this is part of our economy that has been a huge contributor to economic growth in the last several decades, and we expect it will continue to be. It is a remarkable demonstration of the American capacity for creativity and innovation and leadership, and a model, really, for that kind of economic activity that we want to see in other cutting-edge industries in the United States where jobs can be created in America and kept in America. And that’s what he wants to talk about.
I don’t have specifics. I’m sure there will be a variety of issues discussed. But we have — the President is committed to making investments in research and development. It’s key to education. There’s a lot of support among leaders of this industry for our education agenda. There’s a great need in the technology industry for well-educated, appropriately educated Americans in science and technology, engineering and math. And as you know, the President is very focused on that.
Q And should we assume that the President and the First Lady aren’t going to be going to the royal wedding, now that they’re going to be going a month later to England?
MR. CARNEY: I send you to the First Lady’s office. I don’t have an answer.
Q Jay, the White House has been studying these historic examples of democracy emerging in countries around the world. Can you talk about any of the lessons that the White House has gleaned from looking at those other countries?
MR. CARNEY: Without getting into specifics about which models, I think the lessons are that you want governments, opposition movements, civil society to come together and to work out the changes that can bring about greater democracy, greater pluralism, greater participation around the table, and negotiations, rather than in any violent way. And I think that the successes — the countries where those kind of — the progress has been most evident, that that’s been the model that we think is the best.
Q May I just follow —
MR. CARNEY: Let me bump around a little bit here. Margaret.
Q Thank you. When was the last time that the President spoke with the Bahrain leader? And forgive my ignorance on the issue — would he speak with the King or would he speak with the Prime Minister? And if they haven’t talked recently, kind of what’s the calculation? Do you wait until you talk —
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the State Department on the protocol issues, but in this case, I don’t have anything for you on when the President last spoke to leaders in Bahrain.
Q But do you know — just since — has he spoken directly since Cairo, since the uprising in Cairo?
MR. CARNEY: Since the uprising? I don’t believe so, but I can check on that for you.
Let me go here.
Q Thank you, Jay. You said that you don’t dictate policies, yet there is an impression in the Middle East that you don’t support the demonstrators enough, especially in allied countries. Do you worry that the United States might risk becoming irrelevant in effecting change in the Middle East?
MR. CARNEY: What I would say — and this is what I was getting at in answering Chuck, was that — is that the President was extremely clear in his support for the Egyptian people, the people of a country that is a long-term ally and continues to be an ally of the United States. And he demonstrated our commitment to the principles, the universal values and rights that we believe are essential and that need to be respected around the world. And the consistency between his message around the region I think is pretty obvious.
Q Can I follow on —
Q Jay, come back in the third row —
Q Thank you, sir. Two questions about Great Britain. How closely has the President been consulting with Prime Minister Cameron, especially the fact that the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet is in the region?
MR. CARNEY: What I can tell you — I believe we read out the fact that the President spoke with the Prime Minister over the weekend. I don’t have anything more for you on that.
Q And the other is about the invitation, obviously. It’s a very rare occurrence for any President to be invited to stay, literally, in Buckingham Palace. Can you tell us —
MR. CARNEY: Only the staff can go, too. (Laughter.)
Q Only the staff. (Laughter.) Anyway, is there any — do you have any comment on the significance of that, actually staying within the Palace itself?
MR. CARNEY: I confess that I do not know the precedence for this. But he is obviously honored by the invitation and it is reflective, he believes, of the special relationship that our two countries have long had, and a special relationship that will endure.
Q The Middle East, please? May I follow up, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Connie.
Q Thank you so much. Does the President have any concern about the billions of dollars in U.S. money going to countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, other countries which are not pro-Western? And has there been any holdup on American money to Pakistan while this diplomatic flap is still underway?
MR. CARNEY: I will just say that the United States is, as you know, on Pakistan, is focused on ensuring that the diplomatic status of Mr. Davis is honored and we’re focused on having him released. But I don’t have anything for you on money.
Q Could you look into the billions of dollars for that —
MR. CARNEY: Let me get to the back, the gentleman raising his pen.
Q Thank you — oh, which pen?
MR. CARNEY: You guys look so much alike that — (laughter.)
Q I’m assuming you meant me. Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: You go first, yes.
Q All right. Thank you very much. In his press conference the President asked those involved in the budget debate to refrain from talking about a government shutdown, which he seemed to be saying wasn’t helpful to the process. He met yesterday with the Majority Leader, but the Majority Leader continues to use the specter of a government shutdown, including just about an hour ago. Does the President believe that that’s helpful, these comments?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to what the President said in his press conference. I think he also said that in these processes there is — that sometimes people stake out positions — and, again, I’m speaking generally on all sides — but that the important thing is that reasonable, calm discussions are held to ensure that the goal and focus of our policies is economic growth, job creation, living within our means, and avoiding the kind of conflict that can harm our potential to achieve those goals.
So he continues to look forward and believes that — continues to look forward to discussions with leaders of both parties to address the CR, to address the budget, and to move forward in the way that the American people really want us to.
Now to the gentleman — yes, sir.
Q Thank you. Thank you for paying attention to the backbenchers. My name is Andrei Sitov. When I was listening to — hi, Jay. When I was listening to the President speak at the press conference when he was urging this uncharacteristic patience on journalists, I had the distinct impression that he was talking not about the specific episode in Egypt, but in general — have patience; it will work. And I think what he meant was, our approach will work. Am I correct in understanding him this way? Is what happens in the Middle East these days, do you see at the White House, do you see this as a vindication of the President’s approach to the region and to international relations in general?
MR. CARNEY: What you said about the counseling of patience I think applies in many ways to many issues. And that’s what the President was talking about. These are — in the same way that big problems come — the problems that come to a President’s desk are all hard. The easy ones come to desks in smaller offices to people of lower rank, and they get solved there. And the issues that dominate these briefings, that dominate his press conferences, are all thorny and tough and they take time to resolve. And I think being focused, clear about your principles, pragmatic in your approach, but, again, guided by your principles, that you can achieve big things.
That’s his goal, to achieve big things on behalf of the American people. He’s focused on that, whether it’s in international affairs or whether it’s — or when it’s dealing with domestic and economic affair.
Q And you do feel that this is connected to what you’ve been doing and saying?
MR. CARNEY: I do, yes.
Let me take one more. Yes, Christi.
Q The President is meeting today with lawmakers on the committees that deal with education. First of all, do you have any — do you know anything about that meeting? Can you read it out at all?
MR. CARNEY: I can, if I can find it here. Bear with me. I know it’s here somewhere. There it is. Yes, that he met — he had a bipartisan — speaking of bipartisanship, working together on goals that are commonly held by members of both parties — the President had a meeting today with — if I could just find my paper on it — with Senators Tom Harkin, Mike Enzi, Jeff Bingaman, and Lamar Alexander — Republicans and Democrats.
In that meeting, the President reiterated his strong belief that the nation’s economic future is being decided every day in classrooms across the country and that reforming education through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is a key priority this year. As you know, education is an absolute priority of this President and his commitment to reform is really quite profound.
During the bipartisan meeting, the President discussed his desire to find common ground on the need to redefine the federal role in education so that it is more flexible and better focused on responsibility, reform, and results. He discussed raising expectations for students and schools, boosting teacher effectiveness, and providing greater flexibility to support innovation and improvements throughout public education, including fostering a Race to the Top in our schools and providing incentives and rewards to help students make significant strides and to succeed.
The President looks forward to continuing this vital bipartisan work to ensure America’s students have the skills they need to out-educate and out-compete the world and win the future. And I’ll add a little bit: It was a good meeting. (Laughter.)
Q Did they talk about Wisconsin?
Q Did he restate his position on vouchers, public school vouchers — private school vouchers?
MR. CARNEY: As you know, the President — I don’t know that he — that that came up. But the President has been pretty clear that he doesn’t believe that vouchers are a long-term solution to our education reform needs.
Q Given that that is so important to the House Republicans, is the President hopeful that there can be meaningful education reform, a real reopening and overhaul of No Child Left Behind?
MR. CARNEY: The President believes that that legislation needs to be addressed and fixed and improved, and he believes that the track record of bipartisan support for his education initiatives, and bipartisan support in general for education reform along the lines that he supports is very encouraging in terms of our ability to get something done this year.
I’m going to end it there.
Q No compromise on vouchers?
MR. CARNEY: I said what his position is, but that’s all I have.
Thanks very much, guys.
Q Did he vote for Rahm?
Q Will you talk to the pool tomorrow? Are you going to California?
MR. CARNEY: Oh, yes. I am going to California with the President. I’m very disappointed you’re all not coming — I know some of you are. But I will gaggle on the flight in the morning.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Thanks.
*President Obama last spoke with PM Netanyahu on January 29 and Vice President Biden spoke with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain on February 12.
1:20 P.M. EST