Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–June 2, 2011 – 1:02 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming today.
As you know, the President, later this afternoon at 2:30 p.m., is meeting with the House Democratic Caucus here at the White House. He looks forward to that meeting, as he did to the meetings that preceded it with the Senate Democrats, the Senate Republicans, and yesterday with the House Republicans.
He will listen to House members, House Democrats, in the meeting today, to their thoughts about some of the pressing issues involving the economy, especially the negotiations we’re engaged in right now to significantly reduce our deficits and long-term debt. And he will obviously take questions and provide answers to whatever is on the House Democrats’ minds.
So we may have a readout for you in more detail after that meeting happens. And with that I will take your questions.
Q Thanks, Jay. Two topics, please. On that front, one of the points that came out yesterday was Speaker Boehner’s suggestion that in order to keep the process moving or maybe even speed it up that he’s willing to more personally engage with the President. I’m wondering what the White House’s viewpoint is on when that would be appropriate for the President in terms of the talks that are being led by Vice President Biden, at some point presumably that the President would sort of step in. What’s the thinking behind when to do that, how to do that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we are engaged in a process, Ben, that has been productive, has made progress, in these negotiations led by the Vice President at the President’s request, involving members from both houses and both parties appointed by the leaders, including Eric Cantor for the House Republicans.
Mr. Cantor and others have said that there has been solid progress made in these discussions. We consider those the vehicle right now for reaching an agreement, which we are optimistic that we can reach.
Obviously the President is very engaged in this process. He is updated constantly and meeting regularly with his team that is participating in those negotiations.
As for when he might meet with the Speaker of the House or others, I don’t have a timetable for you on that. We look forward to those negotiations producing — continuing to make progress and producing a bipartisan agreement that recognizes that there is common ground that can be found here to reach a goal that we all share, which is we need to reduce our deficit, not as an esoteric goal but in order to prove that we can live within our means and, by that, show — create confidence in our economy and grow the economy and create jobs.
This debate, these negotiations, again, are not just about numbers, they’re not about reducing deficits or debts as a goal unto themselves. They’re about economic growth and job creation. And the President thinks they’re very important; he’s committed to them. That’s why he has shown in his budget proposals, shown in the Affordable Care Act, that he is committed to deficit reduction, and shown by appointing the Vice President to lead these talks that his commitment remains very strong.
Q So until those talks come to their natural fruition, it’s premature to have kind of direct presidential-Speaker engagement? Is that fair?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, the President may or may not speak with the Speaker during the time that those negotiations are going on. I don’t have an announcement to make about any meetings or phone calls that might take place. They have a relationship and they’ve obviously worked together closely on the continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011 and other issues.
But the vehicle for these negotiations is the talks led by the Vice President, and we feel that those talks have been productive, that the folks around the table in those negotiations have come to the table to do serious work, and we are optimistic that we can find common ground and produce a deficit-reduction package that Americans will support.
Q One other quick question, please. Is the President aware of this issue, I presume, about Google’s concerns that China has tapped email accounts, including some of U.S. officials? And does he think that China is in any way behind this?
MR. CARNEY: The President is obviously aware of it. He is updated on these sorts of things regularly. Threats to information and communications infrastructure pose a serious economic and national security challenge for the United States and our partners, which is why the President has made cyber security one of his top priorities.
As with all intrusions, we employ an all-of-government approach with the appropriate agency in the lead. In this case, the FBI is coordinating a response. We’re obviously aware of these reports. We’re looking into these reports. We have no reason to believe at this point that any official U.S. government email accounts were accessed. But for more details about their origin or the investigation, I’d refer you to the FBI.
Q Thanks, Jay. Two topics, but I’d like to stay with Google to start with. What is the U.S. government’s policy towards personnel having private Gmail accounts?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the U.S. government policy — certainly, the administration policy that is effective here is that we — all of our work is conducted on work email accounts; that’s part of the Presidential Records Act. So the issue in terms of, as I mentioned, our work accounts, we have no evidence to suggest that any of those accounts were accessed or compromised.
Q But is it the policy that you’re not allowed to have a Gmail account for private use —
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q — or another nongovernmental —
MR. CARNEY: No, that’s not the policy.
Q So there’s no policy in place that would say certain members of the government, senior officials, are not allowed to use Gmail accounts at all for private use?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, if you’re talking about private use that’s just different from work use. We are definitely instructed that we need to conduct all of our work on our government accounts as part of the Presidential Records Act. I’m not aware of any law or rule that suggests that government workers cannot have separate private email accounts.
Q And no one has — okay, so I understand that. All right. Separate question — on Yemen, could you tell us what message John Brennan is taking to the region from the President? He visited Saudi Arabia, and I think he’s traveling to the UAE.
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, this trip is driven by our concern about the events in Yemen, as part of our close consultations with the Gulf Cooperation Council. John Brennan, who is Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, traveled to Saudi Arabia and is now in the UAE for meetings with government officials to discuss the deteriorating situation there in Yemen. We continue to call on President Saleh to sign the accord that he said he would sign, and to transfer — to begin the process of transferring power immediately. We continue to call on his government to cease and desist from using violence against peaceful protestors. And we remain very concerned about what’s happening there.
Q No special message from the President for the Saudi Arabians or the UAE —
MR. CARNEY: I mean, beyond — I mean, the message that I just delivered from here is the message that John Brennan is carrying, and he’s obviously working with our allies in the region to see what can be done to persuade President Saleh to follow the agreement he made to sign the accord and to begin the transfer of power immediately.
Q In New Hampshire, just a few minutes ago, the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, announcing his presidential campaign said, “Barack Obama has failed America.” Romney said that there was a recession already in place when President Obama took office, but he made the recession last longer. Your thoughts?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there will be a time and a place for the President to engage in 2012 election politics, and my guess is that will be 2012. But I will say that when this President took office, we were in the deepest recession since the Great Depression. The President inherited the largest deficit in the history of the country from an administration that had, when it came into power eight years previous, inherited budget surpluses from a Democratic President. The recession got worse before it got better when this President took office. We were hemorrhaging jobs at a rate of 600,000 to 700,000 a month. The circumstances were unprecedented, save the Great Depression, as you well know — all of you covered it.
There were moments in the first few months when this President took office, long before anything he could do — any action he could take could take force, where people were talking about unemployment rates of 25 or 30 percent; bank holidays or nationalization of the banks. The situation was severe; the crisis was profound.
The President took dramatic action, including unpopular decisions like bailing out the auto industry, the American auto industry, because he felt it was the right thing to do; he felt that the million jobs associated with the auto industry were worth saving if we could extract from those companies measures that would ensure that they were given the better chance of succeeding. As Ron Bloom said yesterday from this podium, there is ample evidence to suggest that that decision was the right one.
We have now experienced 14 straight months of private sector job creation — 2.1 million jobs created. Again, he’s taking office with an inheritance of a great recession and 600,000 to 700,000 jobs lost per month; in the last 14 months, 2.1 million created — seven quarters of economic growth.
Having said that, we are a long way from home, as the President makes clear every time he talks about the economy. There is work to be done. Unemployment remains unacceptably high. That is why he took measures like he did just in the last six months, extending the middle-class tax cut, ensuring in the negotiations on that tax cut with the Republicans that we get a payroll tax cut holiday for working Americans so that if you’re making $50,000 a year right now, you’re getting a thousand dollars extra because of that tax cut the President insisted on; the American Opportunity Tax Credit, to ensure that American children can go to college, help them go to college; the Child Care Tax Credit extension to help families with children when parents are working.
Going forward, he is, as you know, pushing free trade agreements that will — three of them — which will produce 70,000 jobs, create or support 70,000 jobs in America; pushing for an R&D tax credit for things like clean energy investment, to make that permanent so that we can invest in industries that will create jobs and remain in America and will drive competition in the 21st century. There is no issue that matters more to this President than the economic health of this country and the job security and job creation in this country, job security of Americans and job creation in this country. So he is focused on this very directly.
Q In the meeting yesterday with House Republicans, a number of the House Republicans said to the President that they wanted him to introduce a budget that was score-able, that CBO could actually assess, instead of what he introduced, broad outlines of the April speech at GW. And the President seemed to indicate he was not going to do that. I think you even said from the podium that he wanted something score-able that was part of a compromise, not his own separate budget proposal. Why not, if the Republicans in the House are saying it would help the negotiating process to have a score-able —
MR. CARNEY: We heard two things from the Republicans yesterday, one from the Speaker, that we need to get these negotiations wrapped up and finished in the next few weeks and that the President should put forward a new plan, a new proposal that should make its way through Congress and be scored. I think those are compatible. Everyone knows what the President’s position is, what his plan is, the parameters of his plan. It’s quite clear. The Democrats are aware of it; Republicans are aware of it; the President has spoken about it at length — and that is what the Vice President brought to the table for these negotiations.
We’re at a point now where we don’t need new plans; we need to find common ground around the shared goal of significant deficit reduction and come together, hold hands, and agree that we’re going to get this done, and find as much common ground as we can in what the President believes needs to be a balanced approach towards deficit reduction, because as I said earlier, it is not a goal unto itself, and it should not be done in a way that harms economic growth, which is a serious concern. And that’s why the President is so committed to maintaining investments in education and infrastructure and in innovation — areas like clean energy that are the drivers — will be the drivers and are the drivers of economic growth going forward.
Q Just to follow on Ben’s question, why does the President not get involved or lead those talks directly? Since the stakes are so high, would it not be better if he got involved sooner rather than later?
MR. CARNEY: Dan, I feel like there is a certain element here of Groundhog Day. I remember getting the same questions about the President’s engagement in the continuing resolution. And as you know — the discussions that led to an agreement for the funding of fiscal year 2011.
This President is intently focused and directly engaged in this process. He has designated his Vice President to lead talks on a regular basis, as he has been doing in this process. And obviously he will engage in different ways and other ways going forward. But the vehicle for these negotiations is the talks that the Vice President is leading. And we, like other participants in those negotiations, believe that they have been productive. And so we are encouraged by the progress they have made. We believe that there is reason to be optimistic that an agreement can be reached. And so we want to continue with that process.
Q Can you tell us some of the specifics as to what the progress is? I mean, you keep talking — I know yesterday we tried to get you to answer that, but what are some of those specifics about the progress?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to get into specifics precisely because the talks have been productive and they have made progress. And one of the reasons is that —
Q Can you tell us in a broad sense —
MR. CARNEY: Well, in a broad sense, obviously they are looking at the variety of ways that you can reduce the deficit, which includes attacking the four drivers of our long-term deficits and debt: non-defense discretionary spending, defense spending, entitlement spending, and tax revenues, so the — or tax spending, spending in our tax code.
So all of that is on the table. We’ve seen the Republican proposal. The President put forward his proposal. There are other ideas that are obviously part of the discussion. And what they are searching for is common ground around those areas that they can agree on to significantly reduce our deficit going forward.
Q Jay, whose deadline is it to get this done by the end of the month? Because Boehner’s office says it’s not his deadline, that the reports that he set a deadline are wrong, but what he was talking about in the meeting was that —
MR. CARNEY: I was just responding to those reports that he had said —
Q They say that’s wrong. They say that he was responding to the President saying he wants to get it done by the end of this month, because if they don’t it will rattle the markets.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think we’re referring, again, to two separate issues here, which is the raising of the debt ceiling on the one hand, which does need to get done sooner rather than later, because there is risk if you push it to the limit, which would, based on what we know now, be the end of July, that you could rattle the markets and have — experience some of the negative impacts of not raising the debt ceiling, even before the deadline. That’s, I think, the issue the President was referring to.
Now, we have not linked the two directly. Others have. We believe we can make progress on both. We believe both are high priorities.
Of those two very high priorities, one is absolutely necessary, has to be done by a date certain, and that is raising the debt ceiling. The alternative to doing that would be catastrophic, as many observers have explained.
So that is what the President is referring to in general. I’m not aware of this particular conversation or exchange. I read the report that the Speaker had talked about getting this done within the month. I believe that’s referring to raising the debt ceiling.
Q Well, the Speaker’s office claims that the President said both pieces of this could get done by the end of the month. Is that correct?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I don’t want to get into hearsay about who said what when. We think both are on track to get done within the same period of time.
Q So the President has not set a deadline for both pieces by the end of the month?
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q Okay. Along with that, the Speaker’s office is saying that the Biden talks have only made marginal progress and that it’s too slow to get it done in time, and that something else is —
MR. CARNEY: This is hard work and that —
Q — and even Biden only said they have a trillion at this point.
MR. CARNEY: The — a trillion dollars is a lot of money, Chip, first of all.
Q Yes, it’s a lot of money, but it’s nowhere near — and the hard part is still to go.
MR. CARNEY: The fact is that most reports about the talks reflect what we believe, which is that they have been productive and have made progress. Hard work tends not to happen quickly, but the process is moving forward and they have been productive.
Q You said a few weeks ago that you rarely — or actually the quote was, you were asked about the President talking about the nominating process, and you said, “Honestly, it’s just not coming up, especially on the Republican side very much. It’s just not. I’m sure at some point, but it’s not now.” Are you hearing more of that chatter from the President now —
MR. CARNEY: About the presidential primary?
Q About the presidential nominee on the Republican side.
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q He’s just not talking about it? He’s not talking about Romney, he’s not talking about Palin?
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q None of it? It’s just —
MR. CARNEY: Seriously —
Q It’s not even a topic of conversation?
MR. CARNEY: When we’re traveling, when we’re — I spend a lot of time talking with him about different subjects. He is not focused on that.
Q Is he talking by phone with the group that’s having this big fundraising meeting in Chicago today?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of.
Q And why is Bill Daley at that meeting? What’s his role?
MR. CARNEY: Bill Daley is here today.
Q Oh, he is? Okay. They had reports that —
MR. CARNEY: He was here this morning.
Q Jay, in the back-and-forth between the state of Indiana and Medicaid about Planned Parenthood funding, what happens if Indiana refuses to change its law? Can you guys withhold Medicaid funding to get them to comply?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there’s — first of all, the decision was made by the Center for Medical — Medicare and Medicaid Services after examining the law. Federal law prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from being spent on abortion services; that’s very important to know. Medicaid does not allow states to stop beneficiaries from getting care they need — care like cancer screenings, preventative care, mammograms — just because their provider offers certain other services. That’s the law.
There’s a long history of states complying with CMS. Between January 2010 and May 31, 2011, CMS formally denied 19 state planned amendments, similar to the one Indiana has requested. CMS did not impose penalties in any of these matters because the states worked to come into compliance, and we fully expect Indiana to come into compliance.
Q So you don’t expect an extended back-and-forth between —
MR. CARNEY: We will work with Indiana or the agency involved here. We’ll work with Indiana and we expect them to come into compliance.
Q Okay. Another health care-y question. The health care law signed by the President plans a significant expansion of ACOs — Accountable Care Organizations. Today’s Washington Post said that the initial pilot was not successful. Your reaction to that? I mean, are the ones that the health care law is expanding totally different than this pilot one?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, actually — I confess I didn’t read that story so I can’t comment specifically on it. We’re obviously committed to implementing the Affordable Care Act, and believe that it will bring significant benefits as it already has to millions of Americans.
Q And very quickly on the Commerce Secretary nominee. Some Republicans have made some noise about resisting his nomination, or being opposed to his nomination — Senator Inhofe, on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, promising that he will fight his nomination vigorously. Any concern from your perspective?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I haven’t heard that. I haven’t heard why he will fight it vigorously, on what grounds. I mean, this is an enormously qualified nominee.
Q Natural Resources.
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?
Q Natural Resources Defense Council — his role in that.
MR. CARNEY: Which he co-founded several decades ago, many decades ago, in fact, and has since — which is an honorable and notable part of his resume. He has also been a CEO in a major, major company — one of the largest energy companies in the country. And he has served on the board of companies like Boeing and others. So — and Disney. So he is an enormously qualified nominee. He brings a wealth of experience in the private sector, the public sector. He has worked hard in the clean energy sector since he retired from Edison. The President is very confident that Mr. Bryson’s credentials are very strong and will be recognized as such by the Senate.
Q Did you expect a battle or a controversy or —
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t think that there’s controversy here. Every nominee is sent up for inspection by the Senate, and we fully expect and believe that the Senate will confirm Mr. Bryson.
Q Jay, does — hi. Does the President believe that the financial status of Medicare is urgent enough to require reform to be completed, decided upon before Election Day next year?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President, as you know, has already instituted significant reforms in Medicare —
Q But more in the —
MR. CARNEY: — significant savings from the Affordable Care Act, which I would note are part of the Republican plan — not the protections that the Affordable Care Act provides, not the expansion of health care that the Affordable Care Act provide, but the savings that are part of that Affordable Care Act is part of the Republican plan. And that plan is being implemented as I just said.
The President, further in his budget proposals of this year, has demonstrated that further savings can be found in entitlement spending, including in Medicare. What he believes is essential is that the benefit and the guarantee provided by Medicare be maintained. So, yes, he believes that we need to reform entitlements to make them stronger —
MR. CARNEY: As soon as possible.
Q Before the election?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he would hope to. That’s why he announced at George Washington University his vision for doing just that. And he would — if that plan were presented to him to sign into law he would sign it. So he would love to do it.
Q I don’t want to dominate the time here, but I have two other important questions. The House now — House Republicans now plan to bring a Libya resolution to the floor tomorrow, disapproving of the President’s policy in calling for a withdrawal. What is your — what is the President’s disposition towards that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, a couple of things. First of all, from our vantage point, there is pretty unified support in Congress for a policy that calls for the Qaddafi regime to remove itself from power. And we have seen in the actions that this administration has taken enormous amount of progress towards that end with our unilateral and multilateral non-lethal actions that we’ve taken to tighten the noose around Qaddafi, make it clear to him that his days are numbered, that he will no longer rule Libya, and that he needs to remove himself from power.
He has also done exactly what he said he would do when he initiated action — kinetic action, if you will, military action — against Libya as part of a NATO coalition.
At the time he said we would take the lead in this NATO action, and our lead role would be limited to days, not weeks. There was skepticism about that. He delivered on that promise and did exactly what he said. NATO has been in the lead for a long time now. That mission has been enormously successful.
It has done what U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 insisted that it do, which is provide for security and protection of civilians against attack by the Qaddafi regime. It has given — it has saved the people of Benghazi. It has saved — made considerable strides in protecting Misurata and other areas of the country. And we have seen the opposition make progress in its efforts against the Qaddafi regime.
We have also seen notably numerous defections from the regime, another indication that the policies of this administration and our partners and allies are working. Just yesterday, the oil minister defected from the regime. This is highly significant.
So we believe that the policy is working. We believe that the goal the President has is shared by a vast majority of members of Congress. And we have consulted with Congress every step of the way since we have initiated this policy.
Q Okay, I want to squeeze in one more question, so I won’t follow up on that one. But this E. coli, the outbreak in Germany, what is the level of concern here? Has the President been briefed?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, he has been briefed. We’re obviously always concerned about our own food supply, which is why we do so much to ensure that food that is imported into this country is safe. Beyond that, in terms of the specifics of the programs that we have to ensure that, I refer you to the Department of Agriculture.
Q Why does it rise to the level of a presidential briefing?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean, he gets all sorts of — it could be a single sentence — updates on what’s happening around the globe. So he didn’t get a specific brief on this — I didn’t mean to imply that. But he’s made aware of events like this.
Q Following up on Libya, notwithstanding everything you’ve said about the mission and the United States doing what the President said it would do, does — given the bipartisan concern about this mission, particularly in the House, does the President — do you feel the President needs to do more to explain, justify, bring people along in support of this mission?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have been in numerous consultations with Congress and we will continue that. We think that’s an obligation that the President has in situations like these. Our involvement militarily is limited, as the President promised, and will continue to be so. And he’s made very clear, for example, that we will not be sending ground troops to Libya — that is off the table.
And the mission is having success. We are pleased with the fact that NATO announced I think yesterday or the day before that it is extending the military mission another 90 days. We think that’s important and we think that, as participants in that mission, we think that that was called for and that it will continue the progress we’ve made thus far.
Beyond that, beyond the consultations with Congress, I think the President feels very strongly that we’re doing the right thing here.
Q So given that case that you just made and given that you have been consulting with Congress, what do you think accounts for the fairly widespread concerns about this mission?
MR. CARNEY: Well, you know, I leave that up to the folks who are reporting on the Hill. I think there’s a diversity of opinion on Capitol Hill about different aspects of any mission like this. But, again, we have been consulting with Congress. We have followed through on everything the President said he would do in terms of the way he would implement the policy that he set forward when he announced it. And we look forward to Muammar Qaddafi being — removing himself from power, stepping down from power, and to the Libyan people having an opportunity to chart their own future.
Q And do you think that anything else is needed in terms of communication, or is what you’re doing pretty well —
MR. CARNEY: The communication is regular and constant. So in that sense, of course it is. And we will continue that consultation.
Q Jay, have there been contingency talks or plans drawn up should August 2nd come around and the debt limit not be raised?
MR. CARNEY: You would have to ask the Department of Treasury. I think that Secretary Geithner and others have made abundantly clear that there is not an alternative here. And that is a view that is held by countless economists, countless leaders in business, and countless politicians, including President Ronald Reagan in a letter he wrote to Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker back in 1983, echoes the sentiments exactly in almost precise language what the President has stated and Secretary Geithner has stated about the impermissibility of defaulting on our obligations as the United States of America. That just simply cannot happen. The consequences would be too grave.
And we believe that leaders in Congress of both parties understand that. And we believe that Congress will act to raise the debt ceiling. And we look forward to that happening. At the same time, we also share the concern that members of Congress have that we need to get our deficits under control, that we need to live within our means, which is why we are pursuing so aggressively these negotiations to come up with a bipartisan deal to do just that.
Q Will the debt issue be part of his speech tomorrow at Chrysler?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know that will be the case. I don’t anticipate that, but I don’t want to rule it out either. I mean, he’s going to focus tomorrow obviously on the remarkable progress that the auto industry has made, the impact that has not just directly on employees of the auto companies but on communities and other businesses, and what it says more broadly about what we believe is a rebound in manufacturing in this country that is very important as we head into the meat of the 21st century, if you will, because the need to make things here in America that are the best-made products, the most competitive products, is vital to our economic health in the 21st century.
Q Jay, to follow up on that, while manufacturing in autos is on the rise, as you say, the manufacturing overall in the U.S. is the slowest now since September of 2009. Consumer confidence is the lowest in six months. And the S&P has dropped 4 percent just in the past month. Now, what — how is he going to address those —
MR. CARNEY: Well, what I would say to the — what I would say is — I understand what you’re saying, and this builds on an earlier question, and that is we are aware of these different economic reports. Obviously we watch them closely. We’re also aware, and I would point out, that the trends here, the longer-term trends, are quite positive. And we have said from the beginning that the road out of the dark place we were in when this President took office in terms of the economic recession, the depths of the recession we were in, was not going to be smooth every step of the way. There would be bumps along the way. Not every economic indicator would be fantastic every time it came out.
What we have seen is a rebound in manufacturing, a sustained rebound in manufacturing, that is very promising. And even as Ron Bloom said yesterday, even the manufacturing report we got yesterday, while lower than we had anticipated or hoped, he believes that was largely due to some temporary factors like the supply chain disruption that occurred because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but also was still positive, was above 50, which is the indicator for positive growth in the manufacturing sector — continuing a sustained trend of growth in manufacturing.
Again, as I pointed out, seven straight quarters of economic growth — all positive. Not each quarter has been as robust as the next necessarily — the numbers go up and down — but it has been positive economic growth. Sustained growth in private sector employment; 14 straight months; 2.1 million jobs. That’s a heck of a turnaround from hemorrhaging 700,000 jobs a month.
We are not there yet. We still have a lot of work to do. There will be bumps in the road going forward. But we believe we are headed in the right direction. And if we do things like address deficit reduction in a responsible way so that we don’t arrest the development, the positive growth that we’ve seen; if we — and thereby send a signal, a positive signal, to the global economy and to markets around the world, then we can make progress.
If we do some of the things that the President talked about, in terms of investing in research and development and clean energy, investing in education, investing in infrastructure, we believe that we will have set the table for long-term positive economic growth.
Q Can I follow up? Back to Google. Just one question. Has the administration raised the hacking issue with China? Or does it plan to do so?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t want to make any specific comment about these reports. The FBI has got the lead in this, has an investigation. I’m not going to confirm anything about origins except to say that we’re aware of the reports and are obviously concerned about cyber security and have taken action accordingly. As a general principle, as you know, the President put forward a strategy on cyber security quite recently. So beyond that I refer you to the FBI.
Q Jay, on the economy, I understand you’re saying there are bumps in the road but the long-term trend is good. So the administration is discounting any possibility of the recovery stalling?
MR. CARNEY: Look, we’re not — we don’t have crystal balls. We have excellent analysts and economists, and we also look at the outside analysis. And we believe what I think — we agree with the consensus opinion out there that economic growth will continue, and we are — and that job creation will continue.
We are doing everything we can to ensure that that happens and to take the measures necessary to ensure that it’s not reversed and to do what we can to further spur growth and job creation. But, again, we can’t on a week-by-week basis or a day-by-day basis predict what a certain economic indicator will show. We can look at long-term trends. And generally speaking, the long-term trends are very positive.
Q A question about Boehner. Was the meeting yesterday the first time that the President and Boehner have interacted since the Biden talks began?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know the answer to that question. They may have spoken.
Q So you don’t know if there have been any phone calls or any other —
MR. CARNEY: I can check.
Q Okay, that would be great. And then just one other quick question on Libya — you said that you were glad that NATO extended the mission for 90 days. Does the President think the mission should be continued until Qaddafi is out of power?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to go beyond what the President has said, and that is that it is hard to imagine that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 will have been fulfilled as long as Qaddafi is in power and in any way in control of armed forces that are exerting their force against the civilian population of Libya. And so he looks forward to the full implementation of 1973, and to the success of the other measures we have taken, including sanctions, and in success of the opposition in bringing us to the point where Muammar Qaddafi realizes that he will no longer be the ruler of Libya; that his people deserve a future that they can determine, a democratic future that they can determine. So that’s the policy we’re pursuing.
Q Jay, is there any kind of reiteration of the policy in terms of emailing and making sure that — from the White House to agencies or to high-level employees, any kind of reiteration of the policy —
MR. CARNEY: There haven’t been any — nothing that I’m aware of that’s new on that front. The guidance that we have is driven mostly by the Presidential Records Act, and I think that it’s important to understand that what we’re talking about here in terms of government email accounts, that we have no evidence — no indication that those have been compromised or hacked. And those are the ones that are guided by the Presidential Records Act.
Q Back on Libya, given that the United States is obviously the foremost military power within NATO, can you explain why it is that we are taking a backseat to the European powers? Would the operation move more quickly if we were in charge of it?
MR. CARNEY: We’ve been through this numerous times a long time ago. The fact is the President made clear that this was an important mission, and one of the reasons why it — one of the reasons why it was worth doing was because we had international consensus that included our NATO partners as well as allies in the region participating in it. And I think the fact that we have a broad international coalition and we have other countries through NATO taking a lead is a good thing and a positive thing in terms of our shared responsibility for dealing with issues like this around the world.
And I think it’s fair to say that we cannot assume the burden for every action that needs to be taken around the world. That’s why we have alliances. That’s why we have partnerships. That’s why we have the United Nations.
Q If I can follow up, I mean, isn’t the result of this, though, more killing in Libya? I mean, you’ve talked about certain — let me just finish —
MR. CARNEY: No, no. Here’s your misunderstanding, Keith.
Q — you’ve talked about certain goals, like that it would be better if Qaddafi was removed. So if more military force were brought to bear, wouldn’t that abed the process of removing Qaddafi, of degrading the military forces —
MR. CARNEY: Keith, you may have been on vacation when we had this debate. But the United Nations —
Q Well, no, but the debate goes on, because there’s a sense that a lot of these things have not been accomplished, and if there were more military forces — stronger military forces in the region, that these things might get accomplished more quickly. I understand this is new, and this is what’s going on now. These things haven’t happened. Qaddafi is still there. His forces are still able to fight.
MR. CARNEY: Tell me when you’re ready for me to answer.
Q We are trying to — well, you interrupted me before — but we’re trying to degrade these forces, and that hasn’t happened quickly enough.
MR. CARNEY: As you know, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 does not allow for or call for regime change by force. The coalition that is built around that resolution is built around the call for protection of civilians, enforcement of a no-fly zone, and enforcement of an arms embargo. There is not an international coalition for military force to regime — to force regime change. That is a fact.
We are taking other measures, as we have described numerous times, to put pressure on Qaddafi, using non-lethal means to do that.
If you are arguing that the United States should unilaterally use force to use force to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power, that is an argument that can be made and others have made, but it is an agreement that this President does not agree with and that is not shared by many people.
Q Just lastly, I did not say unilaterally. We are in a “kinetic” military action. Why not apply the maximum kinesis to that action?
MR. CARNEY: To remove Qaddafi by force?
Q Not just that. And you said that was one of the ancillary things that could help the central goal, which is the U.N. resolution. Why not apply maximum force to do that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, because that’s not called for under the Security Council resolution that we are operating under that is authorized —
Q The whole military operation — I’m not just talking about Qaddafi’s removal.
MR. CARNEY: You should have this debate in the op-ed pages somewhere. I think our policy is clear.
Q Well, these are questions for you, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: And I’ve answered them. Let me move on.
Q Thank you. Actually, if we follow up on this, are we still within the limits of the resolution, as defined by the Security Council?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Okay. My real question was about the different set of Biden talks. Vice President Biden is in Rome meeting international leaders, including ones from Georgia and Russia, presumably talking about the WTO. What is the message? What is he supposed to accomplish there from the —
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of conversations he might be having. As you know, we support Russia’s ascension into the WTO, and I’m sure that he is having consultations aimed towards ensuring that that happens.
Q But both sides, I guess, Georgia and Russia, with whom he talks, present different ideas of what this is all about. So I’m asking you to give me your idea what this is all about.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t want to speak for the Vice President while he’s still in the process of having these conversations. Obviously when he comes back and reports back and I can give a readout, I will. But these are important meetings, part of an important element of our overall trade agenda, which includes working through the issues necessary to be worked through so that Russia can accede to the WTO.
Q Do you remain confident that this can be accomplished this year?
MR. CARNEY: We do.
Q Jay, back on the email issue, we have a very complicated relationship with China. How is the U.S. government working with China to deal with this cyber attack, this Google issue?
MR. CARNEY: April, I think I’ve said that I’m not even going to comment on the reports about the origins of this cyber attack because we have — the FBI is investigating it, so I don’t — I can’t confirm or deny that.
Q Well, let me ask you this — well, okay, let me ask you this. Were some of these emails emails that were existing prior to the Cabinet members coming into their current positions?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not aware of any specifics about which email accounts might have been and whose — I guess it’s Gmail — whose Gmail accounts might have been accessed. So I don’t — I just don’t have any details on that. Again, the FBI is conducting the investigation.
Q So you can’t give us anything?
MR. CARNEY: I can’t, and I actually in this case don’t know.
Q Thanks. The governor of Puerto Rico recently said that President Obama would visit soon. It leaked last week that it would be on or around June the 14th. And I’m just wondering, a lot of our — my newspaper readers in Miami and throughout Florida are very interested in this. This is 50 years after Kennedy’s visit. What can you tell us about this visit to Puerto Rico?
MR. CARNEY: I have no scheduling announcements to make.
Q Can you tell us, beyond scheduling, which would involve a certain time and place and day, why the President would want to go to Puerto Rico? What would that —
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to get ahead of any possible scheduling announcement on that.
Q Did the President yesterday with the Republicans actually say that he would like a deficit or a debt ceiling vote within a month’s time? Was he specific? And why do the Blair House talks seem to be going so slow? There’s not even another session for another, what, week from today.
MR. CARNEY: Well, there are a variety of reasons — a lot of schedules that you have to synchronize to make these talks happen. And we had a number of meetings; we’re continuing to have meetings. I think the language you just used was not an assessment that anybody would have made until it came out of the mouth of one member yesterday. Prior to that, the consensus was the talks had been productive and were moving along well. We share that opinion.
Obviously this is not easy stuff. If these were easy issues to resolve we would have resolved them long ago. And as I indicated yesterday, I can say with great confidence that not all of the disagreements that we have among our — between us and the Republicans will be resolved through these talks. But we do believe that there’s enough common ground to be found if the members around the table are willing to find it, that we can reach an agreement on a significant bipartisan deficit reduction package and move forward.
Q When you mentioned “solid progress” a few minutes ago, quoting someone else saying solid progress, have they actually agreed in the Blair House talks on specific areas where they will recommend cuts?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to get into specifics about it —
Q Is there a way to quantify that?
MR. CARNEY: — but part of the reasons why I think –one of the reasons why they’ve been successful is that people have gone about the business of negotiating very seriously and not making it a public back-and-forth in terms of the details. So I don’t want to get ahead of that process at this point.
Q Have you been in touch with President Zuma of South Africa regarding some kind of a (inaudible) visit for Qaddafi? Because he’s the only leader who has seen him recently. And do you think this could be an out — a way out of the crisis in the absence of a change of regime?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of anything we’ve said about that. Obviously we know he traveled; there was a report that he traveled there. But I don’t know that we’ve said anything about that, and so I don’t have a comment on that.
Q But this is an alternative option —
MR. CARNEY: We obviously are pleased to see any steps taken by any outside party that would lead to convincing Muammar Qaddafi of the fact, which is that his time in power is coming to an end.
Q On Iran, I just wanted to ask you — there’s been a lot of tough talk on Iran. We had Donilon’s speech before the President’s Middle East speech. In the speech itself, in the President’s speech to AIPAC, a lot of talk about Iran, the internal situation and suppression of rights, and on the nuclear issue. Can you talk about what specific steps we’re looking at in the next few months to achieve the goal of pressuring Iran regarding — specifically regarding a nuclear program, which the President is talking —
MR. CARNEY: I mean, I don’t have anything new to bring to your attention in terms of steps we’ve taken. We’ve obviously been very clear about what we believe Iranian action has been, and the hypocrisy of Iran’s pretending to support or its support for the popular unrest in other countries, even as it has brutally suppressed popular and peaceful demonstrations in its own country. And we have maintained, along with the IAEA, about the grave concerns we have about Iran’s nuclear program.
So I don’t have anything new to announce about what measures we’re talking. Obviously there are a host of measures that are in place.
Q Thank you so much. On both Pakistan and Syria, why should the U.S. trust the Pakistani intelligence services? Why is the U.S. sharing intelligence with Pakistan? And are you submitting (inaudible) $1.2 billion in (inaudible) to Pakistan?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I addressed a lot of these questions in the wake of the successful mission against Osama bin Laden. I think we have made clear that our cooperative relationship with Pakistan is important. It’s been complicated, obviously. But it is vital to our successful effort against terrorism and terrorists. The cooperation we’ve received from Pakistan in the past has led to a variety of successes in our effort against terrorists. And we look forward to continuing that cooperative relationship.
Q Do you trust and verify —
MR. CARNEY: I just think — what I’ve said is that it’s — there’s no secret to the fact that this is a complicated relationship and at times a difficult relationship, but it is an important relationship and one we’re committed to because the cooperation between the United States and Pakistan, between our governments, our militaries, our security services, our intelligence services is so vital to America’s national security interests. And so because of that, we will continue to pursue it.
Q And on Syria, is it U.S. policy that Assad must leave?
MR. CARNEY: I think we’ve made very clear that we condemn the actions that the Syrian President has taken, the violence he’s perpetrated against peaceful protesters. We have seen reports and hope the Syrian government delivers on its promise to release prisoners of conscience from Syrian jails. But we in this case, going back to a phrase you just used, we’d like to see action and not just rhetoric. And we think that the most important thing is that the Syrian government stop shooting, brutalizing, harassing, arresting its citizens, and that it engage in a political dialogue.
Q Thanks, Jay.
Q Can I just follow on Pakistan?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll take one more. Yes, sir.
Q Thank you, Jay. On Gmail hacking, Chinese Foreign Ministry say that the accusation is ungrounded, it is — and also unacceptable. What’s the reaction from the White House?
MR. CARNEY: I think I just want to reiterate what I’ve said before, is that I am not confirming any of the reports, except that we’ve seen them, we take cyber security very serious, and to refer you to the FBI, which is investigating this specific matter.
1:52 P.M. EDT