Aboard Air Force One
En Route Colorado Springs, Colorado
9:28 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for starting early with us as we make our way over a number of states to Colorado -- Colorado Springs -- where the President will, with great pleasure, deliver the commencement address at the Air Force Academy -- part of a tradition where the President, every year, delivers the commencement at one of the service academies. This year he very much looks forward to speaking to the class of 2012.
I think without stealing any of his thunder, I can tell you that the President will likely note how much has changed over the past four years since these cadets entered the academy and in terms of the U.S. position in the world, the strength of its alliances, the success of its fight against al Qaeda, the remarkable demonstrations again and again of the capacities -- unparalleled capacities of our men and women in uniform.
And he will likely note as well that the service our men and women in uniform have provided their country over these past four years and over the past many years, especially since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, only reinforces the absolute need and the President's firm commitment to provide our veterans when they return home -- to provide for our veterans when they return home.
And with that, I will take your questions.
Q Does that mean that he's going to talk about the Job Corps, the Veteran Job Corps?
MR. CARNEY: I'll leave the specifics to the President.
That’s it? Are we done? (Laughter.) That’s awesome.
Q We're all sleepy.
Q Jay, on the Iran nuclear talks today, does the administration have any expectations that there could be a breakthrough in the talks, any signals from Iran that they could be willing to take concrete steps to reduce their nuclear capacity?
MR. CARNEY: I'll say a couple of things about that. The talks are underway in Baghdad, as scheduled, and the fact that they are taking place as a continuance of the initial round is a sign of progress. The initial round was important because the Iranians focused on their nuclear program, and that will continue to be the case, we hope. I don’t have any readout of today's meetings, but I can say that we want to see this effort succeed.
Any process has to have as part of it reciprocal actions and Iran must demonstrate it is serious about moving forward with addressing the concerns of the international community. As I said yesterday when asked about the announcement by the IAEA director, the fact that there are positive steps forward is absolutely worth noting, but we judge Iran by its actions, not by its promises.
And so we will continue to press forward with our allies and partners with the unprecedented sanctions regime as we, on a separate track, work with our P5-plus-1 partners to pursue an effort to resolve this conflict diplomatically.
Q To follow up on that, is there any sense, Jay, that the talks will continue tomorrow or for several days?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any update on that. I think the talks are literally underway as we speak and we'll know more at the end of the day in Baghdad.
Q Can you just talk about the choice of Baghdad as a venue? I mean, is that significant for the administration or the President representing some of the changes you were referring to earlier?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would say I think there were a number of stories about the discussions among the participants about location. We certainly feel very comfortable with Baghdad as a location. I think it does say something about where Iraq has arrived and that's certainly important. But beyond that, our focus is not on the location or the symbolism, but on the content of the negotiations.
Can I, since you guys are a little woolly-headed this morning, I just wanted to read something that I read this morning that caught my attention. This is from Market Watch's Rex Nutting. He says, "Of all the falsehoods told about President Obama, the biggest whopper is the one about his reckless spending spree. Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, but it didn't happen. Although there was a big stimulus bill under President Obama, federal spending is rising at its slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s. Even hapless Herbert Hoover managed to increase spending more than Obama has."
That means that the rate of spending -- federal spending increase is lower under President Obama than all of his predecessors since Dwight Eisenhower, including all of his Republican predecessors. That is a fact not often noted in the press and certainly never mentioned by the Republicans.
Q You're emulating Herbert Hoover now as a standard --
MR. CARNEY: Not at all. I think it is simply a fact that despite the enormous challenges that this country faced when the President took office and the absolute essential need for taking dramatic action and significant action in passing a stimulus bill, as well as the other actions the President took, this President has been -- has demonstrated significant fiscal restraint and acted with great fiscal responsibility. That is also why he has put forward a balanced plan to further reduce our deficit and debt by over $4 trillion.
That approach, that balanced approach is available -- is supported by a broad majority of the American people, majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans outside of the nation's capital. If only Republicans in Congress would agree to take that balanced approach, there is an opportunity for significant further deficit reduction.
I simply make the point, as an editor might say, to check it out; do not buy into the BS that you hear about spending and fiscal constraint with regard to this administration. I think doing so is a sign of sloth and laziness.
Q Yes, let’s move on.
Q -- you need more stimulus, not Herbert Hoover policies. What do you think?
MR. CARNEY: I just think -- you know, it’s an interesting point. I think it is often noted, but not enough, that -- I remember the chart, seeing it, that the -- in the postwar era, the only two Presidents under which the size of the federal government shrank -- not Reagan, not Nixon, not Bush or Bush; Clinton and Carter. How could that be? Well, it’s a fact. So next time --
Q -- you need more stimulus.
MR. CARNEY: Next time you are lectured by a Republican member of Congress who voted for all of the budget-busting measures under the previous administration, remind them of that record on my behalf.
Q What do you say to the (inaudible) who says you need more stimulus?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, the President has an approach that includes essential investments in innovation, education, infrastructure, research and development -- essential investments to protect the middle class, to assist homeowners, for example, with refinancing their homes. But it is part of an approach that includes wise deficit reduction. That’s the approach that will lead to a continuation of our economic recovery, and a continuation of what is now 26 straight months of private sector job creation -- 26 months of private sector job creation, which, by the way, has resulted in over 4 million private sector jobs. Those jobs numbers would be greater except the public sector has been reduced under -- the size of the public sector nationwide has come down because of cuts in state and local level of teachers and firefighters and policemen. So again, these are often overlooked facts by our Republican friends.
Q This afternoon’s fundraisers and this evening’s -- do you expect the President to be talking about Bain Capital?
MR. CARNEY: I would wait until you hear the President’s remarks. I don’t have any updates for you on them.
Q Jay, what did you guys think of the CBO report that said that growth in the first half of next year could be down about 1.3 percent if the tax cuts aren’t extended and the spending cuts continue on? Does that create a sense of urgency within the administration?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the report reflects what is obvious, which is that we need -- and Congress needs -- to address all these issues in a balanced way. The President, as you know, supports and has long supported, the extension of the middle-class tax cuts. He does not believe we can afford, that the country can afford an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, for millionaires and billionaires who, as you know, have done exceptionally well over these past years in no small measure because of those Bush -- expensive Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Now, speaking of deficits, those tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans contributed significantly to the red ink that was gushing out of our treasury under the Bush administration and which greeted President Obama when he took office. It’s important to remember that in January of 2001, when President George W. Bush was sworn into office, he was turned over a federal budget situation that included surpluses as far as the eye could see. Eight years later, he bequeathed upon President Obama a massive federal deficit and growing federal debt. One of the reasons for that was the high-end tax cuts.
So the President opposes extending those firmly and he supports extending middle-class tax cuts. And he believes that overall we need to take a balanced approach to our fiscal challenges, which includes spending cuts to discretionary programs, over a trillion of which he's already signed into law, and reforms to our health care system as well as revenues. And there’s not a single credible outside expert who’s looked at this who doesn't agree with that approach.
Q Can I ask you about any movement with Congress? I know that he met with leadership last week and you said he felt very optimistic that there would be common ground, and then there was some talk yesterday about being connected on a staff level, at least to Senate Dems. Are there meetings on the staff level between Congress and the White House to try and get any number of these things passed?
MR. CARNEY: There are communications every day between the White House and Congress on the "To-Do" list and other measures, including the need to pass the surface transportation bill that will keep American construction workers on the job, as well as other measures. But the answer is, yes, in terms of the variety of measures included on the President’s congressional "To-Do" list. They would have a swift impact on economic growth and job creation.
Q Is there any sense that that's going to move any time soon?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we remain optimistic that Congress will act on the "To-Do" list. As you know and you’ve heard us say, the "To-Do" list is filled with measures that have traditionally enjoyed support from not just Democrats, but also Republicans. We discussed one of them yesterday, the production tax credit, where we had a CEO from a company out of Elgin, Illinois -- Winergy -- Mr. Royer, who talked I think passionately about the need to extend that production tax credit and the fact that Republicans as well as Democrats have always supported it.
Q Can you tell us any more about the fundraisers? Who is going to be there, how many, how much they're paying? Famous people? Silicon Valley? Zuckerberg?
MR. CARNEY: I’d refer you to the campaign on that. I just don't have that information.
Q Mitt Romney is giving an education speech. He’s going to outline his education agenda. Some of his criticism has been that the President’s reforms have not really done much to the educational system, essentially that he’s arguing that the President is in cahoots with the labor unions. Do you have any response to that?
MR. CARNEY: I’ll respond to the question. Is that the first time that Governor Romney has mentioned education since he began running for President this time? It’s the first time I’ve heard of it. As I recall education never came up in the Republican primaries in any of the debates. Or if it did, it came up almost never.
The President’s education reforms, as you know, have enjoyed bipartisan support. They are a often-overlooked aspect of his agenda that has enjoyed both Republican and Democratic support, and has been judged I think broadly to have made significant progress. So I think the President looks forward to defending that record, and it’s certainly welcome after a long, long campaign season to know that the Republican candidate actually has something to say about education, something the American people care deeply about.
9:44 A.M. EDT