3:13 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for being here this afternoon. Welcome back from the Labor Day weekend.
I just have a short announcement here. I would like to provide you with an update on the federal government’s ongoing response to a number of events affecting areas across the country.
On Sunday, as you know, the President visited New Jersey to survey damage there and meet with local officials, including Governor Christie. Yesterday, DHS Secretary Napolitano toured damage in Connecticut from Hurricane Irene and met with state and local officials, including Governor Malloy and first responders. FEMA, through its regional officials in Atlanta, New York, and Denton, Texas, is also closely monitoring the remains of Tropical Depression Lee as it moves over southeastern states.
Also we are monitoring the major fires in Texas. This past weekend, at the request of the Texas governor, seven fire management assistance grants were approved by this administration for the ongoing firefighting efforts there. In total, we have approved 52 fire management assistance grants requested by the governor during this fire season, as well as a major disaster declaration to help cover expenses from earlier emergency response efforts this past July.
We will continue to work closely with the state and local emergency management officials as their efforts to contain these fires continue.
With that, I will go to the Associated Press.
Q Jay, do you know what the amount is of these grants?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to get that for you. It’s a proportion of the cost of fighting a fire, is my understanding how these grants work.
Q Hi, Jay, thanks. Two topics. Speaker Boehner and Representative Cantor, they issued a letter, which I’m sure you saw, to President Obama in which they appear to try to zero in on areas of common interest, including infrastructure, and said that there should not be an all-or-nothing solution to creating jobs. Do you guys see this as an opening, important opening, or are you dubious, given the partisanship of the recent days?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Ben, we’ve said now for quite some time that we hope and expect that members of Congress, rank and file and leader, will come back from their recession newly focused on the need to address the economy, to take measures that we can take together in a bipartisan way to grow the economy and create jobs. And we welcome signs that that level of interest in bipartisan cooperation has increased.
We certainly think, as I’ve said before, that we expect that members of Congress -- House and Senate -- heard in their districts and states the same kinds of things from their constituents that the President heard when he visited the Midwest on his bus tour and previous trip as well, that there is a level of frustration with Washington that is palpable, and that Americans of all stripes, whether they are registered Republicans or independents or Democrats, whether they -- no matter how they voted or how they will vote, are tired of gridlock and political posturing getting in the way of Washington doing the things that can and should be done to help them and help the economy.
What’s important here is that gridlock and obstructionism are not new. We’ve seen it, obviously, for a long time, those of us who have been in Washington and watched it. What was unique about what Americans saw this summer was that it wasn’t just frustrating, it was harmful, it was dangerous. It had a direct negative impact on the economy, on confidence -- consumer confidence and business confidence. And while expectations for what Washington can do are tempered with skepticism, Americans should not have to expect that Washington will, by its actions, actually harm the economy.
Q Has the White House been consulting at all with Republican leaders in Congress ahead of the speech on some of these areas of potential bipartisan agreement, to build support to speed this thing along? Or are they going to hear about any new ideas along with the rest of the country?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ve had this question as well last week. The President has, throughout this year and certainly throughout the spring and summer, been in regular consultation with members of Congress and leaders of both parties. Consultations and preparations for his jobs and growth package were wide-ranging, both inside and outside the administration. And the ideas the President collected helped inform him as he made his decisions for this package.
I’m sure the President will be consulting with leaders of Congress going forward as he moves forward, by presenting his jobs and growth package to the Congress, by calling on them to act. You will see that it is a significant proposal, but it contains ideas that have historically garnered bipartisan support by the very members who will sit in the hall on Thursday night. So he hopes that the imperative to help the economy, to grow the economy, to create jobs, will trump political partisanship.
Q One other topic, please. The AP has had a series of reports based on documents that show the New York Police Department has put the Muslim community around New York under scrutiny using undercover officers and informants to monitor restaurants and mosques and social groups. Does the White House see this as a best practice for combating extremism?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, Ben, I’m not aware of those reports so I’ll have to take the question. It sounds like it might well be addressed to DHS or other agencies, but I’m happy to take the question.
Q Jay, the turbulence in markets is reflecting growing concern about the European crisis. What advice is the President giving to his European counterparts about this? And is this going to be a part of his speech, given that this turmoil could very well affect the U.S. economy in a very big way?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll make two points. First, we are in regular consultation with our European counterparts at a variety of levels -- the President obviously with his counterparts, Secretary Geithner with his. Secretary Geithner will be in France for a ministerial-level meeting of the G7 -- G8, rather, on this weekend, on Friday. And those consultations are ongoing.
Obviously the Europeans face a difficult challenge, but we believe that they have both the ability and the will to meet their obligations and we continue to believe that. As for the effect of what’s been happening in Europe on our economy, there’s no question that there is an impact. We have acknowledged that previously, which is why it’s so important that we continue to consult with and coordinate with our counterparts.
The President -- going to your question about his speech -- believes that one thing we can do when we talk about our economy is control the things we can control, take action where we can take action to grow the economy and create jobs. There’s no doubt that there have been events this year that are out of our control completely, like an earthquake and a tsunami, that have affected our economy -- the Arab Spring, the uprisings there that have affected oil prices that have affected our economy, and the situation in Europe, which we have some role with our European counterparts in, but obviously it’s not completely within our control.
These things happen and we deal with them. While we are dealing with them, we should take action where we can. And that’s why the President feels so strongly that on Thursday night, as you will hear, we need to do the things we can do to grow the economy and create jobs. The package he will put forward will absolutely be judged by independent economic analysts to, if passed, have a direct, quick and positive impact on the economy and job creation.
Q Is the President confident in how the European leaders are handling this crisis?
MR. CARNEY: We believe that they need to handle the crisis, and we believe they have the ability and the will. They’ve been grappling with it obviously for a while now, and we understand that it’s clear that they are working hard to address it. And the President, as well as Secretary Geithner and others, are in regular consultation with them on it.
Q Just shifting topics. The decision to give the speech to a joint session of Congress -- one of the reasons you said the President wanted to do that is because Congress would need to pass at least some of these initiatives; some may be by executive action.
Given, though, that the views on how you spur growth at the moment are just so different -- the Republicans criticize what they see as a Keynesian approach and want permanent overhauls of the tax code and things like that, and a new look at regulations -- can you talk a little bit more about why the President wants to do this when the philosophical difference couldn’t be greater?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ll go to Ben’s question to point out that there are areas that we know have and have enjoyed bipartisan support, measures that we can take. One thing the President has spoken about is extending the payroll tax cut, a tax cut for millions and millions of Americans, working Americans -- money that puts on average a thousand dollars back in the wallets of average American families across the country, has done for this year. The President wants to see it happen again next year. We believe that should have bipartisan support.
There are other measures. The infrastructure bank that we’ve talked about has bipartisan support, has the support of labor and business, for example. There are a number of measures that we believe have enjoyed bipartisan support -- can, should and will enjoy bipartisan support this fall if people are serious about -- if members of Congress are serious about trying to help the economy, which we believe is their number one obligation. That’s what their constituents are demanding.
Obviously we have serious differences. Some of the measures that you talked about -- you can have a debate about some of the things that you’ve discussed, tax reform and regulatory reform. The President is for both of those and has his own ideas about them and has taken measures on regulations already, as you know.
What is indisputable is that we need to do things that will have a direct impact in the short term to grow the economy and create jobs. And the President will put forward proposals that do just that.
Q But I think that’s where the difference is, because even on the payroll tax, Republicans are saying it wouldn’t do the economy a whole lot of good to just extend a temporary tax cut temporarily.
MR. CARNEY: Well, they would have to consult with economists who disagree significantly with that. There is no question that that tax cut has a direct impact on job growth and economic growth; has had this year and would have if it were extended. And other measures that we will propose that have had bipartisan support in the past, precisely because they are judged by independent analysts to have a direct impact on the economy and jobs, should have that kind of support again in the future.
Let me also be clear that the President will make it absolutely clear that he will pay for these proposals. He knows that’s important and it is part of his commitment to deficit reduction and long-term debt reduction, getting our deficits and debt under control. He was very aggressive in pursuing that in his negotiations with John Boehner, Speaker of the House, and he will continue to be aggressive in pushing for substantial deficit and debt reduction in a comprehensive way, a way that is balanced, that makes sure that none of the burden -- that the burden, rather, doesn’t fall solely on one segment of society but that it’s shared. And he believes that’s the best way, as, again, a broad consensus agrees, the best way to tackle our deficits and long-term debt.
Q The President has talked about -- I know there’s a lot in the speech that we don’t know about, but it does seem like infrastructure spending is going to be part of it; he’s mentioned it several times, including yesterday. There obviously were hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure spending in the stimulus bill, and while that bill may have stemmed the bleeding, it obviously did not prompt the kind of economic recovery that the President had hoped. Why would a new round of infrastructure spending have a different effect?
MR. CARNEY: I think your analysis of the Recovery Act -- hundreds of billions I think may be overstating the amount of actual infrastructure spending. But the -- remember, what a lot of people don’t know, it wasn’t widely reported, is that a third of the Recovery Act -- fully a third -- was tax cuts. And then --
Q That’s still $550 billion --
MR. CARNEY: And then assistance to states and -- there were a lot of different components of it. Hundreds of --
Q -- will get us a number.
MR. CARNEY: We’ll get that for you. But the point is, what is uncontestable is that those infrastructure projects that were funded by the Recovery Act were very well managed, came in on budget or under budget and led to the creation of many, many jobs by an outside, independent analyst.
I mean, broadly, the Recovery Act, I think it was over 3 million jobs -- created or supported over 3 million jobs -- created or saved over 3 million jobs. If you’re asking me, did it fill the hole created by 8 million jobs lost, the answer is no, because 8 million jobs is more than the 3 million that the Recovery Act created or saved. That’s how dire the situation was that we encountered when the President was sworn into office.
What it definitely did was, together with the other initiatives the President took in conjunction with Congress, is prevented us from falling into a Great Depression and began the slow but steady road to recovery, which has led to more than 2 million private sector jobs created in the last 18 months and economic growth rather than economic contraction. Nobody is arguing that the growth we’ve seen this year is anywhere near robust enough or that the job creation we’ve seen is enough.
But even this year, there have been a million private sector jobs created. And we certainly think that the initiatives taken -- put forward by the President, taken up by Congress and passed -- had a lot to do with that.
Q There’s a new ABC News poll/Washington Post poll out today that shows a record high of the American people disapproving of the President’s handling of the economy, of the deficit, of job creation. One in three Americans say they’re worse off now than when President Obama -- than before President Obama took office. What’s the President’s message to these people?
MR. CARNEY: That he is working every day to take the necessary measures to grow the economy and create jobs, that he fully understands the anxiety that is out there among the American people about the economy, the frustration at the pace of growth, the frustration at the pace of job creation. And that’s why he feels it is so urgent to take action now and not to simply say, oh, well, we shouldn’t do anything and then let it all be decided next year after an election.
The American people don’t deserve that. They deserve action now, and that’s why the President will call for action now.
Q And lastly, Jay, in January, President Obama said after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, “At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all the ails of the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do, it’s important for us to pause for a moment, make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” Did he mean that?
MR. CARNEY: Of course he did.
Q How does the comments -- how did the comments by the Teamsters’ president fit in with that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, those weren’t comments by the President. Secondly, and as I think it’s been reported by --
Q Comments by a union leader at an event that President Obama spoke at.
MR. CARNEY: I understand that there is a ritual in Washington that somebody says something and you link the associations, and then everybody who has an association with him or her somehow has to avow or disavow it. The President wasn’t there -- I mean, he wasn’t on stage. He didn’t speak for another 20 minutes. He didn’t hear it. I really don’t have any comment beyond that, Jake.
Q Okay. Well, some of us covered the campaign and recall a time when somebody made some harsh comments about then-Senator Obama while -- during the introduction of a McCain rally and the Obama campaign was offended and expected an apology, and Senator McCain came out and did so.
MR. CARNEY: Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself. He speaks for the labor movement, the AFL-CIO. The President speaks for himself. I speak for the President.
What the President was glad to do yesterday was have the opportunity to present his views on the importance of working Americans and on the importance of taking measures to help working Americans --
Q Okay, so the precedent --
MR. CARNEY: -- to create jobs and grow the economy.
Q So the precedent you’re setting right now for the 2012 election is, the candidate -- the Republican candidates are the ones that we need to pay attention to, and those who introduce them at rallies, their surrogates -- you don’t have to pay attention to anything that they say.
MR. CARNEY: Jake, I really -- I think I’ve said what I can say about this.
Q I just -- is that the standard now?
MR. CARNEY: You can report it as you --
Q I’d rather not have to do this Washington Kabuki every time something happens --
MR. CARNEY: It’s up to you to do the Kabuki --
Q -- but if that’s the standard -- if that’s the standard, then --
MR. CARNEY: The standard is, we should focus on the actions we can take to grow the economy and create jobs, instead of focusing on Kabuki theater.
Q Did the President find the comments appropriate?
MR. CARNEY: Can we move on?
Q Jay, given the anticipation that’s building up to Thursday, is the White House -- is the President concerned that the expectations set for the speech are simply way too high? There’s just -- short of producing 8 million jobs, what can this man do?
MR. CARNEY: Every day, he can do what he can and focus on the things that we can do, working with Congress or independently as the administration -- administratively, rather, to grow the economy and create jobs. This is obviously not something that’s done in a day. It’s work that will continue beyond Thursday, as we push for Congress to take action on this package. And it will be part of an overall effort, as I’ve mentioned, regarding the President’s longer-term view about where we need to move this economy that includes long-term investments in infrastructure, innovation and education, and tackling our long-term deficit and debt problems.
So the answer is -- obviously the work does not get done in one day or one night. This is a multi-step process that hopefully results in Congress taking appropriate action to grow the economy and create jobs, action that, if passed in its entirety, would have significant impact immediately or within the year on economic growth and job creation.
Q The Republicans are already expressing frustration that this is being called bipartisan, but they’re not being consulted in advance at all, and Democrats expressing frustration that they’re hearing legislation will be delivered to them, and they think, hey, we’ve got our plans of our own -- why are we getting this from on high?
MR. CARNEY: But, Jessica, when we say that the proposals the President will put forward have had -- are the kinds that have had bipartisan support in the past, we are speaking the truth, and you will be able to judge when you see whether that is the case. We’re not saying that this is part of a bipartisan negotiation that has created this plan. In terms of consultations, I wasn’t aware that when the Republicans drew up H.R. 1, they had invited Democrats to write it with them, or the Ryan plan, or any of their economic proposals going forward.
What they do is put those proposals forward, and they are judged on the merits in Congress and by the American people as to whether or not they are centrist, have bipartisan support, or whether they are too partisan or too political.
We will put forward a proposal -- the President will put forward a proposal that is made up of component parts that have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. Not only that, they will be paid for.
Q And you think your relations with Congress are at a reasonable enough place that these can pass?
MR. CARNEY: You know what, I think that the American people do not care whether or not we express niceties. That’s a good thing. Civility is important, and we’re all for it. What American people care about is that Congress -- Washington, in general -- take action; take the kind of action that will improve the economic situation in the United States, both in the near term and the long term.
Q Jay, how much would you characterize is in this speech of new proposals that we have not already heard the President or the administration talk about or float?
MR. CARNEY: I think that you will hear some new proposals that you have not heard us talk about or float.
Q And can I turn to Afghanistan and ask whether the President has received a recommendation from Secretary Panetta to reduce the number of troop levels to about 3,000 by year’s end?
MR. CARNEY: I think you mean Iraq.
Q Excuse me, Iraq. Thank you. I misspoke.
MR. CARNEY: No. And the process has -- as you know, we are operating under a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government that was signed by the previous administration to draw down our forces. We are in negotiations, consultations with the Iraqi government about what our relationship with Iraq will look like going forward. We want a normal, productive, healthy relationship with Iraq going forward.
We have said in the past that if the security component of that relationship -- if the Iraqi government makes a request of us, we will certainly consider it. That request has not been made. No decisions have been made. And so we are operating as of now under the existing agreements.
Q I understand those negotiations are underway. But the question specifically, though, is has Secretary Panetta delivered a recommendation to the President --
MR. CARNEY: No, I think what I -- this is contingent upon what our relationship looks like with Iraq, and that component of it depends on our negotiations with the Iraqi government.
Q Will budgetary concerns be a part of the President’s decision about how many troops to leave in Iraq?
MR. CARNEY: The President has I think made abundantly clear for a long time now that he will end and has ended our efforts in Iraq, our combat efforts, responsibly. We have been operating on a timetable that has withdrawn over 100,000 U.S. forces since he took office in a way that has been incredibly careful and responsible, and has allowed the Iraqis to further build up their security forces and improve their capacities.
And what our relationship looks like going forward with Iraq will depend upon our negotiations with the Iraqi government.
Q And not concerns about how much it costs?
MR. CARNEY: I think we live in a world where resources aren’t infinite, and that’s the case with every consideration we make. But the answer is we will make decisions based on what is the best for the United States, best for our national security interests and best for having the most effective relationship with Iraq going forward.
Q In addition to the poll that Jake cited, the recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll also found the President’s approval ratings at an all-time low. How concerned is the President about these numbers?
MR. CARNEY: I can honestly tell you that I have spent quite a bit of time with the President this week, last week; this did not get raised. The President is focused on the measures he can take as President of the United States, either administratively or working with Congress legislatively, to address the urgent need to grow our economy and create jobs; to deal with the fact that economic growth is not fast enough and that job creation is not substantial enough.
I think that this is one of those cases where good policy makes good politics. What he is focused on is doing what the American people are demanding that Washington do, which is listen to them and not spend a lot of time trying to score political points and winning ideological battles on the fringes. What Washington -- what Americans saw, to their horror, was that in the name of ideological purity Washington almost brought the global economy to its knees this summer -- for no other reason than to try to prove an ideological political point.
That was unacceptable. And it had -- even though it didn’t happen, and that calamitous result was averted, the impact was felt on confidence among consumers and among businesses. And that’s just not okay.
Q But shouldn’t there be some concern given the fact that these numbers show that the majority of Americans have lost faith in the President and this government to actually fix this economy?
MR. CARNEY: I think the American people, if you look at your poll and other polls, make abundantly clear that they have a high reservoir of skepticism towards Washington in general. And I think that has been exacerbated dramatically by what they witnessed this summer, where the opportunity to do something sweeping and bold and bipartisan was squandered because there wasn’t the political will to make it happen. And I think that is what you’re seeing registered in your polls, where I think everyone associated with Washington is being viewed quite dimly right now.
Q We’ve spoken with someone who said that these ideas that were put forth -- we heard yesterday from the President -- are ideas that have been talked about before, that there’s not a whole lot of confidence that this speech will have new ideas. And I know you told Norah there will be some new ideas. Given that we’re so close to the speech, can you tell us what percentage of this plan will be new?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think what’s new to some is not new to others. There’s a limited universe of things that can be done. I think economists will be very clear with you, if you call them up and talk to them, about the things that we can do in Washington to effect growth, effect job creation in a positive way.
But within the sort of basket areas, there are new ideas and new proposals that you will hear. I don’t have a percentage for you, because it depends on how broadly you’ve read up on it. And I would also make the point that just because you’ve heard it somewhere out there in Washington doesn’t mean you’ve heard it from us.
And the President has consulted widely. He has listened to ideas from the private sector to -- from economists inside and outside the administration and considered a vast array of ideas. And he will put forward his proposal, a collection of ideas that he thinks will have the most effective impact on the economy and jobs.
Q And, Jay, just finally, 72 percent of Americans believe that the economy hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. What would you say to those people?
MR. CARNEY: That this President is doing everything he can to make sure that we continue to grow the economy and create jobs, that we improve our economic situation, and that he will call on Congress to join him in doing that, and suggest that not doing it, not acting, will be highly unresponsive to what the American people are demanding.
Q I wanted to ask you about the decision last week on the ozone regulation. Was that a product of a sort of wrenching debate within the White House with a lot of disagreement, or was there sort of a fair amount of consensus that this was the right thing to do, given all of the factors?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to get into an internal process here. It was the President’s decision. He laid out the reasoning behind the decision in his statement. And I think you’ve heard from others who have explained it in more detail. So I wouldn’t say it was -- it was a normal process internally. Normal.
Q A normal process, what does that mean? I don’t know what that means. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: No, I wouldn’t say it was -- I would just say it was -- obviously these processes are -- decisions are discussed. This was the President’s decision. He made the decision. He laid out his reasoning again in the statement that we put out, and I think it’s pretty clear.
Q Normally the President comments on the monthly jobs numbers. He didn’t do that this time. Is there any reason why? And do you expect him to address those?
MR. CARNEY: I think that there have been occasions when I worked for the Vice President where the Vice President commented. We’ve had traditionally economic advisors, either the CEA chair, but we don’t have one who has been confirmed at the moment, who have gone out -- Gene Sperling, the NEC director went out -- no particular reason.
The President is focused on -- I mean, a lot of people -- you ask instantly was how does that change his jobs proposal. The jobs numbers were just another indication of why we need to do what the President is going to ask Congress to do on Thursday. So there was -- it’s completely consistent with his estimation that we need to take action to get the economy growing again and to get more jobs created.
Q Jay, did the White House know the Labor Day rally yesterday would be as partisan an event as it turned out to be?
MR. CARNEY: I wasn’t there. I’m not -- the President enjoyed the opportunity to speak to the audience there, to honor working men and women in this country, and to make clear what he believes is the urgent need to take action to grow the economy and create jobs, which is what he will be discussing on Thursday evening in Congress.
Again, I wasn’t there. I’m not sure how to characterize it. The President was invited. He came, he spoke. And he was grateful to have the opportunity to deliver his messages.
Q And what is your answer to Senator McConnell, who used an op-ed today to again call on the administration to send those free trade agreements to Congress?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, and as I’ve said in the past, we look forward to submitting the free trade agreements as soon as possible. The next step is to nail down the remaining specifics on a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to move forward with all three agreements and with TAA, trade adjustment assistance, in a timely fashion.
There has been progress made in the Senate and we hope that progress will continue to be made so that we can move forward on those agreements. And I would just note that TAA is something that has, again, enjoyed wide bipartisan support in the past and we believe it should this time around as well.
Q McConnell said TAA is unions extracting concessions from the President.
MR. CARNEY: Again, there has been broad bipartisan support for TAA in the past. There was support among significant senior members in the House, Republican members in the House for it. And we believe there can and will be support for it moving forward.
Q To follow up on that, congressional leaders have already committed to taking those up. So why not send the --
MR. CARNEY: Again, we’re hopeful that we will reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the sequencing and the process by which these will all be taken up. And hopefully we will see passage of the free trade agreements and TAA, and enjoy the benefits that will come from that.
Q The administration wants them as one package, then. So what you’re saying --
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to negotiate how it works from here; you can talk to folks on the Hill about that. But we believe an agreement can be reached and should be reached, and that we can move forward and get those passed.
Q Will he send them up Thursday along with his speech Thursday night?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a timing announcement to make on that.
Q I’d like to follow up on Caren’s question on the European debts and the markets today. Did the President get any briefings today on the markets on what was going on in Europe?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he’s been here and has been in meetings all day, and I’m sure he did. I wasn’t present for that particular one, but I’m sure he has been briefed on it.
Q And you said he’s been in constant consultation with his counterparts in Europe. Has he called Merkel or Sarkozy today?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of, no. I believe he spoke with Chancellor Merkel over the weekend, but that was a personal call expressing condolences for the loss of her father.
Q And one last thing -- does Mr. Geithner plan to have -- have any suggestions at G8 later this -- or G7 later this --
MR. CARNEY: I would steer you towards the Treasury Department for that.
Q May I follow up on that one?
MR. CARNEY: David.
Q The President traveled to Detroit yesterday with several labor leaders on the plane with him, I think. Can you tell us kind of what those labor leaders said to the President, and what, perhaps, he promised them? Do you have any sense of that?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t, and I think that the President probably discussed his commitment to helping working Americans and his commitment to growing the economy and creating jobs. And I’m sure -- that’s been his focus pretty intensely of late and I’m sure that was the nature of the conversation.
But I traveled Sunday, not Monday, so I don’t actually know.
Q Jay, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, said over the weekend that he planned to go ahead with an effort to get recognition of a state at the U.N. this month, something that the President has come out against and American officials have said the U.S. would veto. Given that it looks like the Palestinians are going to press on with this, does the administration have a plan B for how to deal with the aftermath of recognition of Palestinian statehood?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have made clear, as you know, that we do not believe that this will bring the Palestinians -- if this action were taken or this approach were followed through, that it would have -- bring the Palestinians any closer to statehood, that peace has to be negotiated directly by both parties. And we continue to encourage both sides to come back together in direct negotiations. There is no substitute for serious and substantive negotiations between the parties. That has been the case and remains the case.
And you’re not going to achieve statehood through this means, and we think it’s -- we’ve made our opinion on that pretty clear.
Q Does the President worry, given all the work he’s put into responding to the Arab Spring, that having an American veto of an Arab people seeking statehood, seeking recognition, sends a bad signal to other Arabs who also aspire for freedoms and recognition?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there’s some speculation about actions we’ll take embedded in that, and I will simply say that we continue to believe that this is not the right course of action, that it’s not productive or helpful and will not bring the Palestinians any closer to statehood.
Q Jay, the speech the President is giving is going to be a jobs speech, not a deficit/debt speech, correct?
MR. CARNEY: That is correct, but I will make it clear that he will make clear in his speech that the package of proposals he will put forward will be paid for, that he will pay for them within the package, and he will also put it within the context of his broader vision for economic growth and making America competitive in the 21st century. And part of that will be the need to aggressively deal with our deficits and long-term debt.
When other folks were talking about scaling back, the President very clearly pushed hard for a substantial deficit and debt reduction package with the Speaker of the House this summer. He continues to believe that we need to take on those issues, do it in a balanced way, do it in a way that will set us on a path for long-term deficit reduction, long-term stability in the relationship between our debt and GDP, and that that will have long-term positive effects on our economy.
But to go back to your question, yes, this will be primarily focused on the short-term need to take measures to grow the economy and create jobs, which is what the current economic situation calls for. It is certainly what the American people want to see happen. And the President believes that the initiatives he’ll put forward should have bipartisan support.
Q Does he still intend to come forward with a --
MR. CARNEY: Yes --
Q -- specific plan to submit to the super committee? And if so, any idea as to what it’s going to be?
MR. CARNEY: As promised, the President will provide the super committee -- Congress in general -- with his very specific ideas for the actions that they should take to achieve significant deficit reduction, significant long-term debt control. And that commitment still stands, and it will come in relatively short order.
Q Thank you, Jay. The Speaker wrote to the President today asking -- saying it would be appropriate for the President to brief the senior leadership in advance of the speech. And Senator DeMint, on the Senate side, says that he’s not sure he’s actually going to come to this; he thought if the President would give Congress a package and then take the speech to explain it that it would be worth their time to come. Does the President intend to share some of this information with Congress before he delivers the speech?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any announcements on specific phone calls or consultations he’ll have prior to the speech. As I think I noted early on in response to a related question, the President has clearly spent a great deal of time consulting with and discussing economic ideas with the Republican leadership and the Democratic leadership this year. He’ll continue to do that, I’m sure, going forward, both on jobs and growth as well as on deficit reduction.
So, in terms of your question -- I think it was a question about those who might not attend the speech -- we think that’s regrettable. The President will -- is addressing Congress precisely because he believes it is urgent for this administration and Congress to act together to do what the American people are demanding Washington do, which is take action on the economy.
Q He would consider it a snub?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I didn’t say that. I think it’s just -- somebody asked me the other day when a House member said that he wasn’t going to attend because it’s political -- what’s political is the decision not to attend. The President is addressing a joint session of Congress to talk about the economy, the American economy -- the need to grow the economy and create jobs. I think that’s a goal shared by Republicans of all political persuasions.
Q Thanks, Jay. The White House has talked about how the President will be putting forward a jobs package that enjoys -- should enjoy some level of bipartisan support, ideas that Republicans have supported in the past. At this stage in his presidency, is the President willing to put forward a package that reflects what he thinks is best for the country and what Democrats feel might be best for the country, or is he not at that place? Does he only want to, at this point, put forward ideas that Republicans might conceivably sign on to?
MR. CARNEY: The President will put forward a package of ideas that, judged by outside analysts, would have a direct and immediate impact on the economy -- positive -- growth and job creation. It will be an array of ideas -- it will contain an array of ideas that address certain areas of the economy and that will have, again, a positive impact.
The fact that these ideas should have, because they have had, bipartisan support does not take away from the fact that these are his ideas and his proposals. He thinks they’re the best ideas and the best proposals. He wants them to get done, and he will call on Congress to act, and act now -- act right away to get them done.
And I think that he’s calling on Congress to put country before party, country before politics, and that within it contains the obvious point that the proposals he puts forward are just that: They are measures that should have bipartisan support, have had bipartisan support and represent very much that idea that you need to put country before party.
Q But he’s not trimming his proposals, given the political realities in Congress?
MR. CARNEY: His proposals represent a package of ideas that he believes is the best possible package for the task at hand, which is to grow the economy and create jobs.
Q Just to be clear on your response to Ann’s question about the meeting that the Speaker and Majority Leader requested, is that something that the President is entertaining or would do, in terms of consulting with them before --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have an announcement on a meeting or other forms of consultation. I think if that is something I have to announce for you tomorrow or at another time, I will. I think the broader point I was making is that there has been no shortage of consultations and meetings between this President and leaders in Congress of both parties. And my guess is there will be meetings in the future on these very urgent matters of economic growth, job creation, deficit and debt reduction.
My other point was that, in crafting a proposal, he -- that is very clearly, and you will see it as such, bipartisan in nature in terms of the ideas within it -- he looks forward to Congress judging it on its merits and taking action accordingly. And you all will judge it, too, when you see it.
Q Will this be a package that is a scorable package by CBO standards? Will it have a dollar figure that he puts on it on Thursday night?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q What about metrics, which is -- it will create this many jobs or --
MR. CARNEY: I think we’ll leave that to the outside experts to judge. Again, as I’ve said I think repeatedly, we feel confident that because of the nature of the measures put forward, that they will be viewed by outside economists as having, if passed, a positive impact of the kind that we’re looking for.
Q I wanted to ask about the relationship and the understanding of the White House between the European crisis and the American crisis. Here very often, after readouts of the quotes of the President as he discusses the European crisis and what it has in consequence for the American side -- I really very -- not very often hear about what a problem the American financial crisis is for European markets. So what is the understanding of the White House? Which is a bigger problem? Or are they on the same level -- mutual influences, bad influences at the moment for the turmoil in the markets?
MR. CARNEY: I think I would refer you to the Treasury Department for that kind of analysis, in terms of which has more of an impact on the global economy, if that’s your question -- the situation in Europe or the situation here. What I will say is, going back to my previous answers, that this President is focused on -- in addition to the consultations he has with his European counterparts, that he and Secretary Geithner have and others, he is focused on the actions that he can take, and that he working with Congress can take, to have a positive impact on the American economy and on the American job picture. And we need to do that. We need to do it urgently, even as we contend with some of these other issues that affect our economy that either we have limited control over or no control over, like the effect that the Arab uprisings had on oil prices or the effect that the earthquake and tsunami had on the economy because of disrupted supply chains.
Q Does the President have a view on whether a temporary tax holiday for the repatriation of foreign corporate profits would be stimulative to the economy?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to get into details of things beyond the ones that he’s already discussed. In terms of the economic analysis of that, I’d maybe send you to Treasury or somewhere else.
Q And just to be clear on what you were previously talking about, the pay-fors for what he’s going to propose Thursday night will be specified Thursday night, they won’t be -- it won’t be like, oh, I’m going to give a speech later where I will explain how I’m going to pay for this?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he will make clear that there are pay-fors for the jobs and growth package that he’s putting forward. He will also --
Q And there will be --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know in terms of the lines in the speech, but he will make it clear and there will be supporting information for that. But it will be within the context of his broader proposals for broader deficit reduction and debt control. And as I think I mentioned earlier, it’s precisely because he has had a vision for a long time now of significant, sweeping deficit and debt reduction. And because of the need to pay for the measures we need to take now to grow the economy and create jobs, he will call on the super committee to overshoot its target, to go beyond the $1.5 trillion called for by the legislation that created the committee and do more deficit reduction, more debt control.
Q Thanks, Jay. Yesterday, the President said that if Congress won’t act, he won’t wait for them. What did he mean by that?
MR. CARNEY: He will make the case that -- to the American people and to Congress that we need to act now. He believes Congress can and will act, that there are measures -- that the measures he will put forward on Thursday should have and hopefully will have bipartisan support because of the urgency that members of Congress will feel returning from their recesses, having heard from their constituencies -- their constituents about the need to create jobs and grow the economy.
If action isn’t taken, he will continue to make that case because he hopes that eventually members of Congress -- if that happens, he will hope that eventually members of Congress will begin to feel the pressure from their constituents to set aside political posturing, set aside the ideological battles, and focus on the things we can and should do to address the immediate need to grow the economy and create jobs.
Let me go all the way back -- yes.
Q Is the President concerned about reports that the Chinese may have violated international sanctions by dealing with arms sales to the Qaddafi regime when he was in power in Libya?
MR. CARNEY: I saw -- I think you’re referring to reports about intelligence material that was gathered in Tripoli. I saw those reports; I don’t have a response to them. I can take your question if you want to address it to the office later.
Q Thank you. Two questions. One, U.S.-India -- when President was in Mumbai and spoke with the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, and also they came to agreement that thousands of jobs will be created in the United States because of U.S.-India business relations -- when the President spoke to the U.S.-India Business Council. One, what happened to those jobs, particularly over here, because that’s supposed to help U.S. economy?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure I follow the question entirely, but I think that the importance of our bilateral relations with India, our economic cooperations with India, cannot be overstated, for the sake of our economy and for India’s economy. And I think that continues to be the case, and that a healthy bilateral relationship will mean more jobs here and more jobs there. And I think that remains the case as much today as it was when the President visited.
Q And second, as far as corruption is concerned around the globe, now U.S. has been asking Swiss banks and Swiss government to open more accountability as far as who’s holding how much money in their accounts, in secret accounts. Now, I hope the President was following as far as demonstrations going on in India for the last whole month against corruption and against Indian corrupt politicians who are holding billions of dollars in Swiss banks and around the globe. Do you think President is worried, and he should be concerned about that maybe even the terrorists are holding secret accounts in Swiss banks, including, as I said, Indian corrupt politicians?
MR. CARNEY: Well, you’ve asked a number of questions there. I think we’re all aware of the protests that you refer to. On the matter of money in bank accounts abroad, I would refer you to the Treasury Department.
Thanks, all. Appreciate it.
Q Is the President going to announce tomorrow talking about immigration -- on Thursday?
MR. CARNEY: No more details, sorry.
Q Thank you, sir.
END 4:05 P.M. EDT