Aboard Air Force One En Route Boston, Massachusetts–(ENEWSPF)–March 8, 2011 – 2:05 P.M. EST.
MR. CARNEY: Okay, how’s everybody doing today?
Q Good, and you?
MR. CARNEY: I just want to start off just by reminding people first of all that the event the President is doing today in Boston at a remarkable school called TechBoston with Secretary Duncan and Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes is meant to — and Melinda Gates, of course — is meant to highlight how the education and innovation aspects of the President’s agenda come together in a place like this where, through philanthropy and businesses and educational leadership, a school like TechBoston was created, which is doing remarkable work towards providing students in Boston the kind of education they need to secure the jobs of the future in the industries that the President talks about all the time, that he thinks are key to winning the future, the economic future.
With that, I will take your questions.
Q Can I start with Libya and the no-fly zone? Senator McCain again today pushing for that. Do you — and there is a risk, as people in Congress are calling for action for the United States, that the White House is kind of dragging its feet a little bit or appears to be. Do you think Congress is getting ahead of itself?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would just say, Alister, that the President has been clear, as he was just as recently as yesterday, that we are considering all options, including military options. He made reference to the meetings in Brussels at NATO. And — but we have also already taken significant steps, both unilaterally and with our international partners.
So what I also pointed out yesterday is that there are complexities and realities involved in the adoption and implementation of a measure like a no-fly zone that we all need to be aware of as we consider it. It is an option we are actively considering. It is also one that carries with it complexities and other things that need to be — everyone needs to be aware of.
Q Can I just follow up on that? In terms of sort of committing U.S. military assets to implementing a no-fly zone, if he decides to do that, the White House has said that it wants this to be an international operation. Does that mean it has to have the imprinture of a U.N. Security Council resolution?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to get ahead of myself, and certainly not ahead of the President, in speaking to the formula by which we would reach a decision or implement a decision that we haven’t even made yet.
So we are currently working with our international partners on a number of measures, including ones that involve humanitarian assistance, as well as the very serious sanctions that we’ve leveled. So our interest is in working with our international partners going forward.
Q What are the options being considered sending any kind of U.S. envoy or delegation to meet with the two sides in Libya?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of.
Q Jay, what does the President think about this alleged outreach that Qaddafi has made to rebels and opposition forces? Is that anything that you guys give any credence to?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’ve seen the reports, but beyond that I would just say that the President has made clear that we believe that Colonel Qaddafi’s time has come, or time has ended, rather, in power, and he needs to step down and step aside for the sake and the benefit of the Libyan people. How that comes about should be decided by the Libyan people, but it needs to happen.
Q Can I follow up on that education question? CBS is reporting that the Commencement Challenge is not going as well as perhaps expected, and certainly not as well as the last time. Is that an embarrassment given all the attention that the President is giving to education?
MR. CARNEY: I would just say that the Commencement Challenge last year was a fantastic process that led to a terrific event that showcased a school in Kalamazoo, and we expect the same to happen this time. We have a large number of applicants and we look forward to a process that will produce a winner and a commencement speech from the President.
Q Can you tell us how many applicants you have at this point?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know that. I’m sorry.
Q Jay, on the budget — this morning, Senator Manchin had some pretty strong words on the President in basically saying that he’s been failing to lead on spending. Do you guys have any comment on that?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that the President of the United States put forth a budget — so far the only budget we’ve seen, fiscal year 2012 — that contains within it a five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending, the result of which is a $400 billion cut over 10 years. The overall budget produces a trillion dollars in savings over 10 years. His leadership and seriousness about the need to live within our means, cut spending where we must, or where we can, rather, is quite clear. And I think that what we’re seeing is a process in Congress unfold to which it’s becoming quite clear, as we saw I think in the Senate, that there isn’t a consensus behind the measure passed by the House Republicans H.R. 1, and there may not be one behind the Senate Democratic bill.
What we need is votes on both those so we can see whether or not a consensus exists. And if there isn’t, for either of those measures, which as you know are roughly $100 billion in cuts off of the President’s proposed 2011 baseline budget for the H.R. 1, and $51.5 billion in cuts off of the same baseline that the Senate Democratic bill. If neither of those produces a consensus, then the clear indication is we need to come together, everyone needs to move off their starting position, as the President clearly has, and resolve this. And I think we can. The President remains optimistic that we can.
Q Can I just ask, Jay — the President, with so much going on with the budget issue, with the crisis in the Middle East, he’s been to a lot of schools lately, and he’s sticking rather doggedly to this schedule of flying out to Miami, to Boston and elsewhere. Is there a point at which you worry that this is taking up a lot of time? And is there an opportunity cost? If he’s doing this, is he not in Washington doing something else?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Mark, I think that’s a great question, because the President feels very strongly that education and education reform is an economics and a jobs issue. It’s clear in any way that you evaluate the data that if we don’t have children being educated and graduating high school and moving on to higher education in the numbers that are necessary for the industries of tomorrow, then we cannot lead economically in the 21st century. You can’t — countries that out-educate us out-compete us, and that’s why he is so committed to pursuing education reform because education is important in its own right; it is also vital to our economic future.
So it’s a very, very high priority. And as you know from the way we travel now, there’s nothing that prevents him when he’s on the road from being in constant communication with the White House and others in Washington.
Q Has the President made a decision on who he’s going to nominate to be the next ambassador to China?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to get ahead of any announcements by the President. Obviously that is a post that we know will be vacant relatively soon. It’s a vital post so I’m sure he will move with dispatch to fill it.
Q Is an announcement coming soon?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have anything for you on that.
Q Jay, on the budget, given there is a difference of $50-some billion between the House bill and what the President and the Democrats have offered, can you — I mean, accepting that both will likely be defeated in the Senate, can you move halfway on those numbers? I mean, can you come together — can you come together on $25 billion that makes up that difference?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not a budget negotiator. What the President has made clear, what Senate Democrats have made clear, is that they have put skin in the game. They have made proposals that have moved them off of their initial position here. We look forward to a negotiation process where everyone recognizes that we need to come together and find common ground. Where that ground exists precisely I think depends very much on the details that can be negotiated. So I’m not going to do that from here.
But I think what is important is that we need to move — the Senate needs to move and have those votes. And the House passed a bill that had broad support by House Republicans and now there’s a holdup in the Senate in voting on that bill, which I think needs to be overcome quickly so that we can then proceed to find that common ground.
Q One more on the Middle East. Kuwait called today in the context of OPEC to increase production to help make up for the shortfall from Libya. Does the United States — would the United States welcome an increase from OPEC oil output?
MR. CARNEY: I can’t address that specifically. I will just say that we obviously are monitoring closely and are mindful of the rise in oil prices, and we are in regular discussions with the IEA and oil-producing countries about the situation. And the global system has a variety of means of dealing with a major disruption should that occur, so — but I don’t have any comment specifically on the Kuwaiti action.
Q If you don’t mind, in going back, circling back to no-fly for just a moment, Ivo Daalder yesterday suggested in that conference call that because of the volume of flights they were seeing having maybe peaked last week, that it wasn’t clear that a no-fly zone was as critical or central as many people are saying; that there might be other things that are equally or more important. Is there — can you comment on that at all?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I actually said something about that yesterday in my briefing, and I think our ambassador to NATO clearly makes a well-informed point. And you know they had this — they’ve been having discussions at NATO about the variety of options. And obviously you need to, as you adopt measures, whether it’s a no-fly zone or any other measure, you need to game out what it is you’re trying to achieve and how effective the measure will be in reaching that goal.
And I think that our ambassador, Mr. Daalder, was simply making the point that we need to know for sure that if we were to pursue a no-fly zone — again, or any other option that’s still on the table — that it will have the kind of effect we hope. And that’s — I think it’s an important point.
Q Can I follow? A member of the German parliament said today that he didn’t think it was possible for a no-fly zone to be effective without the inclusion of at least one Muslim state and collaboration from the Arab League. What’s the White House’s view on the importance of having a Muslim country involved in any kind of no-fly zone enforcement?
MR. CARNEY: Well, without speaking to the — that proposal specifically, the White House, the President, feels strongly that it has been significant and valuable that the international community has spoken with one voice on events in Libya and has acted together, and that the United States has acted together with so many of its international partners. But I don’t have anything specifically on what — our posture on the question you asked.
MR. CARNEY: All right?
Q Thank you, Jay.
2:18 P.M. EST