Aboard Press One
En Route Skipwith, Virginia
12:13 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Thanks for joining me here for this unorthodox gaggle as we drive to our next event here in North Carolina.
I don’t have any announcements to make so I’ll go straight to questions. I do have one small thing, which is later this afternoon there’s going to be a conference call for the traveling press that I encourage you to participate in where we will preview an announcement that the President and First Lady are making tomorrow at Langley Air Base.
Q Do you know what the embargo on that is going to be? First thing tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know. I’m sure they’ll say on this call. I’ll try to get an answer to that.
Q Jay, is there any White House reaction on the prisoner swap in the Middle East, and what does the President think that swap will do for the peace process there?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we are pleased that the -- get some language here -- we’re pleased that Mr. Shalit is being reunited with his family. As regards the overall Middle East peace process, for us it’s always about each side taking steps that make it easier to return to negotiations, direct negotiations, instead of harder.
Q Instead of what?
MR. CARNEY: So I don’t really have -- instead of harder. I’m not -- I don’t really know how --
Q Instead of what? Excuse me.
MR. CARNEY: Instead of harder. So each side needs to take steps that make it easier to return to direct negotiations rather than harder, and that’s the position that we’ve taken all along.
I don’t really have an assessment of how this particular action will affect the peace process. We simply are pleased that Mr. Shalit is reunited with his family.
Q Took quite a few years, though.
MR. CARNEY: It did. It did. No, I mean, look, we’ve long called for his release and we are pleased that he’s reunited with his family. He was obviously held for quite a long time.
Q Did the President have any personal reaction?
MR. CARNEY: Not in my presence, but I know that he personally is pleased by the release and the fact that -- or he’s pleased that Mr. Shalit is reunited with his family. But I haven’t spoken with him about it directly.
Q Jay, what makes -- when the President talks about giving Congress another chance to go at this bill in pieces, what makes him think that the votes will be any different this time and how is this not a similar exercise to the ones that he criticized this summer that Republicans were taking in the House on various votes, budget votes?
MR. CARNEY: Let me start with the second question first. They’re quite different for two reasons. First, there was a deadline this summer. The clock was ticking. And every day wasted on votes that everyone knew were theater and would not produce legislation that would pass was a wasted day that brought us closer to defaulting on the full faith and credit of the United States.
Secondly, and equally important, is that the American Jobs Act is filled with proposals that by design were bipartisan in nature, that had enjoyed -- the kinds of measures that had enjoyed support from Republicans and Democrats in the past specifically because the President wanted something that could pass the House and the Senate and he could sign into law.
And that’s quite different from the proposals that were put forward by the House in the debt ceiling period because those were designed with full knowledge that there was -- there was very little in them at all that could be said to have garnered bipartisan support in the past.
Q Couldn’t you say that about the pay-fors?
MR. CARNEY: I think that I could go back in history and cite Ronald Reagan and others who have talked about the need to -- in fact, I think I will -- the need for the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. Here’s something that Ronald Reagan said: “We are going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing while our bus driver is paying 10 percent of his salary. That’s crazy.” Ronald Reagan.
So there certainly has been precedence in the past where Republicans have supported fair tax rates where people pay their fair share and the wealthiest pay their fair share. And also I think I would note that there’s broad, broad support among the American populace for this method of ensuring that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for and does not add a dime to the deficit.
Q So, Jay, I don’t know if you saw the story out of Virginia, but there was a truck of some White House property that was stolen. Is the White House aware of this, and also can you tell us if there was anything sensitive on there beyond just equipment that is of concern?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re aware of it because we’ve seen the press reports, but the -- I don’t have any information about it. I’d have to refer you to the Department of Defense. There’s an agency, the DISA, that is handling queries on this. So I’d have to refer you to them.
Q Do they just always handle --
MR. CARNEY: Everything I know -- I believe so, yes. It’s their area, their responsibility, their equipment.
Q Everything you know is what?
MR. CARNEY: Everything I know about it I learned from the press reports. So I don’t -- this is something DOD handles.
Q Is there any concern about it?
MR. CARNEY: I have seen in the press reports statements that there is not a concern about the types of information, the types of things that were in the van. But I don’t know anything more than, again, that I’ve read or seen in news reports.
Q And do you know -- the Occupy Greensboro folks I guess have made some suggestions about trying to get word to the President if there was any sort of a meeting or any communications between them and --
MR. CARNEY: There was no communication with any of the traveling White House staff that I’m aware of.
Q How is the President enjoying the bus tour?
MR. CARNEY: The President, as you can tell when you see him and hear him, is really enjoying himself. He has a real affection for North Carolina that’s genuine. He just -- he finds it to be a very welcoming state. As he’s said now a couple of times, even folks who didn’t vote for him are really friendly. And he’s just also -- I think it’s -- he sees it as a state that’s got a -- kind of a microcosm in its -- how it’s got sort of old industries and new industries; obviously a hub for education, research and innovation. It’s just a very beautiful state and diverse and interesting state. So he loves coming down here.
Q Can we expect he’ll have equally warm feelings about Virginia once we cross over the --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean, his special affection for North Carolina, I’m just citing his words. We’ll see what he says about Virginia. I know he likes Virginia, too. My native state, so he’s obligated to like it.
Q Our political reporter in -- sorry, don’t mean to dominate -- our political reporter in Virginia has a story out today quoting some of the top GOP officials in Virginia who say that the President changed his travel plans there because he was originally scheduled to go to districts where there are some state legislators who are up for reelection, Democrats who are unhappy about his trip there. Do you have any comment on their assertions?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t seen those reports and I’m not aware of that. I mean, there are always -- as we plan these trips, there are a lot of factors that go into them, and schedules are changed for much more prosaic reasons than that that have to do with pure logistics. But I’m not even aware of any changes that were made.
Q Do you know, does the President intend to visit any of the earthquake damage area? Will he eventually take the governor up on that?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to -- I mean, there’s no plans, not at this point, to do that. I don’t have a detailed schedule for you for tomorrow. But no plans that I’m aware of.
Q Have you guys seen any evidence that people are taking the President up on his call to reach out to Congress on passing this teachers portion, for the $35 billion portion and construction portion of this bill?
MR. CARNEY: I would simply say that the evidence that Congress is hearing -- members of Congress are hearing their constituents and hearing their demands that Washington take action on their number-one priority, which is the economy and jobs, can be measured by the efforts by -- obviously the President and the Democrats to get the American Jobs Act through the Senate and hopefully the House, whether -- as a whole comprehensive measure and now piece by piece, and secondly by the Republicans’ insistence that -- almost every day now that they have a jobs plan, too. And we certainly acknowledge that the Republicans, both in the House and now Senators McCain and Paul have put forward economic plans -- they are plans, but they’re not by any measure that is credible, they’re not jobs plans. They’re not plans that would have near-term positive impact on the economy and hiring.
So as the President has said and I’ve said and others, those -- the ideas that existed in the Republican proposals that the President can find common ground on with Republicans, he’s very eager to work with them on. We saw that in the free trade agreements, which was one of the top items in the House plan, which has now cleared Congress and the President looks forward to signing; patent reform, which he’s already signed into law. And I’m sure there will be other proposals where he can and will be able to work with Republicans. And he certainly hopes that he can and will be able to work with Republicans on the component parts of the jobs act because, again, there has been in the past, both through votes and rhetoric, strong support from Republicans for tax cuts -- tax cuts for small businesses, tax cuts for Americans who get a paycheck, tax incentives for businesses to hire veterans and the long-term unemployed. There’s been broad support, including from Republicans, for rebuilding our infrastructure in the past.
So we’re hoping that as the Congress now moves forward with the jobs act incrementally that Republicans will reevaluate their position and appreciate the fact that these proposals are fully paid for and they’re exactly what this economy needs right now. And that is not to say that we shouldn’t be doing other things that are important for our long-term economic health. The President has put forward a medium- and long-term economic plan that deals with our deficit and debt, allows us to invest in the future, and we should be doing that as well. But right now we have an urgent need to take measures to help the economy grow and help it create jobs, and the President has a plan to do that, and he hopes Republicans will join him in passing that plan.
Q In North Carolina, Senator Kay Hagan has a bill that she’s put forward with John McCain on repatriating corporate funds from overseas. That’s not been part of the President’s jobs package, but do you all have a thought or a position on doing that?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of that specific proposal that you mention, at least from those senators. And I can come back to you in terms of our general position on that.
We feel that the measures that we put forward are the most effective for the near term in terms of spurring growth and accelerating hiring. And we certainly looked at other things that are not in the jobs act and decided that the measures that were included in the jobs act were the ones that would be most effective, have the most upside and the most immediate impact.
Q Can I just go back to what we were talking about earlier with having the Congress do this bill again? So does some of what you’re saying -- you’re saying it’s different because there’s no debt deadline and because these things that he’s asking for have had bipartisan support, including the tax increases 20-some years ago? Is that essentially --
MR. CARNEY: What I’m saying is that the elements of the jobs act have had -- are the kinds of measures that have had bipartisan support in the past. I assume that’s something I can say and not -- it’s documented, plenty of evidence for it.
It is also the case that Republicans as well as Democrats have in the past been in favor of the wealthiest Americans paying their fair share in taxes, and the proposals that both we put forward originally and then the Senate put forward as an alternative are ones that have broad, broad support among the American people, both -- not just Democratic support and not just independent support, but Republican support. And there’s a reason for that: They’re fair. I mean, it is statistically a fact that over the last 10 years ordinary Americans, middle-class Americans, have seen their incomes flatline or go down. They’ve been in a very tight squeeze. And at the same time, the most fortunate Americans have seen their incomes rise dramatically and their share of the nation’s wealth increase.
And the President just feels that in a time of -- when we have to make choices, that this is an absolutely fair approach to passing measures that -- and paying for measures that will -- as analyzed by outside independent economists, will help grow the economy by an extra up to 2 percent and create jobs by an extra 1.9 million, up to that many next year.
So that’s why he put it together and that’s why he believes it’s fair.
Q The President said today that he had seen an ad at a football game -- I don’t know if you answered this or not. Is that -- is he talking about the American Crossroads ad?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, the question is about his --
Q The American Crossroads ad, yes, his reference in his speech?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know, I’ll have to ask him. I haven’t -- I didn’t speak with him about that.
Q Is he watching the debate?
MR. CARNEY: I mean, I don’t know what he’ll, as of yet, do this evening. He has not -- I know, since I’ve been with him on some occasions when there have been Republican debates and he hasn’t been watching them, partly because he obviously has other things to do. But he follows the news, so I’m sure he’ll be aware generally of some of the ideas and proposals and exchanges through the news if he doesn’t actually catch any of it on TV.
And the thing about debates these days obviously is there’s so many of them, and bits and pieces of them are replayed on the news for a while. So it’s hard to -- it’s hard not to catch the highlights.
Q Can I ask one more?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q Is he doing any preparation at all for the G20?
MR. CARNEY: No, he just goes in cold. (Laughter.)
Absolutely. I mean, he certainly, as a rule, and even more so in recent months, the President has been very engaged with his European counterparts on the situation in Europe and the eurozone. And he has continued to have conversations with those counterparts, and Secretary Geithner has been very deeply engaged. And that will continue, and it’s part of his week every week, and I’m sure will get even more attention as we -- in the days leading up to the G20.
All right, guys, thanks a lot.
12:33 P.M. EDT