5/31/12: White House Press Briefing

Uploaded by whitehouse on 31.05.2012

Mr. Carney: Okay, wow. Good afternoon -- or good morning.
Only just.
Thank you for being here, ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome, as ever, to the White House and the Brady
Briefing Room.
Before I take your questions I just wanted to note an article
that caught my eye not that long ago.
First of all, I would say that it's based on anonymous sources,
so I'm not sure that it's true, and hopefully it's not because
it reports that Speaker of the House John Boehner,
in a closed meeting with House Republicans,
called the discussion over whether or not to allow student
interest loan rates to double a phony debate.
He said essentially that it's inconsequential,
and he said that it's not going to pass in time to prevent those
rates from doubling.
You know our position on this, the President's position, that,
A, it is unconscionable to allow these rates to double for 7
million students around the country who depend on low
interest rates to allow them to attend college.
Support for taking action to prevent that from happening has
generally been bipartisan, and we hope that this report --
again, based on reporting out of closed conference meeting --
turns out not to be true.
The other point it makes is it makes the suggestion that we've
heard before from the Speaker's office that somehow education is
not an economic issue.
It says that they want to focus on jobs,
and suggests that they believe education doesn't have anything
to do with jobs.
The American people don't believe that.
The President doesn't believe that.
Education has everything to do with employment,
with economic growth, and with the future of this country --
which is why the President has stressed education so much in
his presidency and why he has made an issue out of the need
to take action to prevent these loan rates from doubling.
And with that, I will take your questions.
The Press: The 1st Circuit ruled this morning on the
Defense of Marriage Act.
Can you comment on the ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional?
Would you like to see the Supreme Court take this case?
And if so, would this administration be actively
arguing for the overturning of a law signed by a previous
Democratic President?
Mr. Carney: Well, Anne, as you know, the President has concluded that
Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
So has his Attorney General.
And for that reason, the administration
will no longer defend equal protection challenges against
it in the courts.
That's the position the President has held for some time
now, and it has been enforced by the Department of Justice.
With regards to this ruling, which the DOJ was an active
participant in, I would refer you to the Justice Department.
But there's no question that this is in concert with the
President's views.
The Press: But the question, though, is whether you would take
your current somewhat passive position that
you will not defend it and turn that around
and actively argue for it -- to overturn the law.
Mr. Carney: The Department of Justice participated in this very
litigation in the 1st Circuit, consistent with the position
that the President and the Attorney General have
articulated, which is that they do not believe that Section 3 of
DOMA is constitutional.
I can't predict what the next steps will be in handling cases
of this nature.
I would refer you to the Department of Justice.
But I wouldn't necessarily call that passive.
The Press: Back on Syria.
Ambassador Rice at the U.N. yesterday laid out what she
said was a worst-case scenario, and said that in fact it was the
most probable scenario in the Syria crisis in which it becomes
a regional sectarian crisis -- conflict, arms flowing to both
sides in a kind of proxy war, and then the international
community basically -- world powers start taking
action outside of the U.N. Security Council.
She would seem to be suggesting that the hardening
of the position the U.S. takes on where this -- has
taken on where this is going, whether the Annan plan is going
to completely collapse or not.
Can you comment on that, whether it's what we're seeing?
Mr. Carney: Well, I would simply say that we have been
focused on the need to bring about a political transition in
Syria sooner rather than later, precisely because the longer
this goes on, the longer that Assad and his thugs are allowed
to brutally murder the Syrian people,
the more likely it becomes a sectarian civil war;
the more likely that it spills over Syrian borders;
the more likely that it transforms into a proxy
war with different players, including, of course, Iran,
which is already engaging in malignant behavior with regards
to the Syrian situation, stepping up that kind of
activity and not being alone in doing that.
So what we're seeing happen in Syria only underscores the
urgent need to take action to prevent further devolution of
the situation there, take action to support the process of
political transition, to isolate and pressure Assad into taking
himself out of power so that that transition can proceed.
And that's why we have been working to overcome our
differences with the Russians and others on this matter.
It's why we need to have even greater unity in the
international community at the United Nations Security Council,
at the United Nations broadly because this situation is as
Ambassador Rice described it.
The Press: She spoke of certain kinds of actions that
would be taken beyond the scope of the Security Council,
obviously signaling that the U.S. could
take such action.
Can you give anything specific on what might come next?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think that -- I'm not going to preview
next steps, but we have been working consistently both within
international organizations, within the context of the
"Friends of Syria," collectively and independently,
as have other nations, to impose further sanctions,
to take other actions to isolate and pressure Assad,
to support the opposition as it constitutes itself,
to provide humanitarian relief to the Syrian people,
to provide nonlethal aid to the opposition.
Those are the kinds of things that we've been doing through
both collective action and individual action,
and other nations have done the same.
You see various iterations of how that has transpired just
this week where a group of nations acted in concert to
expel Syrian diplomats; where just the other day,
in a joint U.S.-Qatar designation,
sanctions were taken against the Syria
International Islamic Bank.
So these are the kinds of things that we can do with
partners or independently.
The Press: Has the administration given any thought to
imposing an arms quarantine surrounding Syria to prevent
them from getting arms from other countries?
Mr. Carney: I don't have a preview for you of potential next steps.
We are regularly consulting with our allies and partners around
the world, with members of the Security Council and the broader
"Friends of Syria" group, about potential next steps.
But I don't have anything specific for you and nothing
on that specific possibility.
The Press: When is the last time -- I know that there's
a deputies meeting roughly every week or so on the
subject of Syria.
When is the last time there was one of these meetings?
Mr. Carney: I'd have to check with you on that.
There are regular meetings on Syria.
This is obviously, on the international stage,
a matter of great and intense focus right now because of the
horrific brutalization of the Syrian people and the need for
the international community to take actions.
The Press: And lastly, Jay, I understand the position of the administration
and concern that military action would only cause more
harm than good, at least at this stage.
On a human level, what is it like for the President to see
these reports, to hear about the brutalization of infants,
of children in Syria?
And how difficult is it for him to go through this,
knowing that -- believing as he does -- that there's nothing he
can do about it?
And does it change his resolve at all?
Does it change his desire to take action or find more or
other ways to do something?
Mr. Carney: Well, it bolsters his resolve when it comes to the need to do
everything the United States can -- do everything
the United States can both independently and in working
with our partners, to try to bring about a change in that
dynamic in Syria.
It horrifies him, as it does anybody who witnesses or watches
the reports on what's happening in Syria.
The brutality exhibited by Assad is -- will surely doom him in
history as a tyrant and a human rights violator and the worst
kind of leader imaginable for any people.
The President is very aware of that.
And when he makes judgments he obviously takes into account
that kind of suffering.
He has to make judgments with all considerations in mind,
beginning with national security interests of the United States
of America.
And he has to make practical judgments about what steps we
can take, both acting alone and in concert with partners,
to bring about the result that we want and that is best for
the United States, as well as for the Syrian people.
And that's what he's doing.
There is no question that as mighty as the United States is,
that we cannot end all atrocities around the globe.
It is a fact that we need to work with our partners and
allies to take the kinds of actions that can reduce that
kind of appalling behavior in different parts of the globe.
You have to be very focused on the decision-making process and
what you are doing as the United States of America to bring about
the desired result, and making sure you're not taking actions
that create unintended consequences that are
bad for the United States and bad, in some cases,
for the very people you're trying to help.
That is the way that the President looks at all
these sorts of problems.
It's the way he looked at the situations in Egypt, in Yemen,
in Libya, as well as the way he looks at it in Syria.
Dan and then Kristen.
The Press: Thank you.
Anything more you can tell us about what was discussed
yesterday in that videoconference with
Merkel and Monti and Hollande?
And also, what is the consensus among these leaders about
managing the eurozone crisis?
Mr. Carney: As I think we put out last night,
the President did participate in a videoconference with the
leaders of Germany, Italy and France.
The discussions were a follow-up to the discussions around the
eurozone crisis that were held at the G8 summit at Camp David.
They also did discuss -- to go back to what we've been talking
about thus far in the briefing -- they also did discuss Syria.
But the eurozone situation was the primary focus of those
conversations and they were follow-up discussions on what
was discussed at the G8, and they were also discussions
held in anticipation of the G20 meeting later -- well,
next month, in a few weeks, in Mexico.
I think one of the important things to remember about the
outcome of the G8 is that all nations agreed that there needs
to be a focus on growth and job creation,
and that is certainly true today and is coming out of
the videoconference.
The President has made clear his views that we need to -- that
Europe should take an approach that balances the near-term need
to help the economy grow in Europe and help it create jobs
with the medium- and longer-term need to implement reforms that
help European nations get their fiscal houses in order.
That's the kind of balanced approach that the President
has pursued here in the United States.
And I think that as was noted, there is agreement about the
need to focus on jobs and economic growth in
the near term.
The Press: New York -- on another issue, New York is banning -- set to
ban these large sugary drinks.
And given that the First Lady has been fighting childhood
obesity, what's the White House reaction to something like that?
Mr. Carney: I saw those reports.
I don't have a specific reaction.
Obviously, the issue of obesity is extremely important.
The effect of obesity on the nation's health,
on the health of our children and on the costs of health care
are enormous.
But I don't have a specific reaction to the announcement
in New York City.
The Press: Jay, I'm going to try again on Syria.
You have expressed deep skepticism that the Annan
plan can work.
Given everything that we've seen in recent days,
why not just declare the Annan plan dead and try to come up
with another solution at this point?
Why do you --
Mr. Carney: Well, we are continuing to come up with and work
with our partners on additional steps.
The reason why we are both skeptical about Assad's
willingness to comply with his commitments under the Annan plan
is because he has failed to comply with any of the six
points contained within it, and he has continued to brutally
attack his own people -- most recently with the -- well,
not most recently, unfortunately,
but very recently with the horrific massacre in Houla.
However, there are some positives out of the Annan
plan in spite of the failure of Assad to abide by it,
and that is where there are United Nations observers in
place there has been a reduction in violence.
That is a good thing.
Where there are United Nations observers in place it allows for
more information about what's happening in Syria to get out of
that country and become more broadly known.
It allows for the international community to counter attempts
at propaganda and lies put forward by the Assad regime.
I think Secretary Clinton has made this point,
as well as others.
So we support the Annan plan because if it were adhered to
by Assad it would be very much in the interests of the Syrian
people, and it would bring about a reduction -- a cease-fire and
a withdrawal of forces.
We are skeptical that it will be complied with in the end,
and that is why we are talking with our partners about other
options and other steps.
The Press: I think most people, most outside observers would
conclude that things seem to be getting worse,
though, not better.
Given that, does the President have a deadline,
a breaking point in his own mind at this point?
Mr. Carney: We have made clear -- the President and
others have made clear that the window of opportunity here to
allow for a peaceful political transition in Syria is -- will
not remain open for long.
There is an urgent need for the international community to come
together and further unify against the Assad regime,
in an effort to persuade the Assad regime and pressure and
isolate the Assad regime to the point where that transition is
allowed to fully take place.
If that does not happen, the consequences are very serious.
And that's what Ambassador Rice was talking about,
and Secretary Clinton and I, because the consequences of not
taking that firm action are more violence -- violence that spills
over Syria's borders, violence that results in even greater
participation in this by Iran, for example, and others,
to the point where it becomes a proxy war of sorts.
And this is bad for the region and bad for the Syrian people
and bad for the world.
So that's why we're working with the Russians and others to try
to explain to them our views on this,
persuade them why allowing this to continue will have
such horrific consequences.
The Press: But I guess what I'm asking, at what point --
Mr. Carney: I don't have a date for you, Kristen.
I think that the President --
The Press: Not a date, but is there something that is a red
line for the President --
Mr. Carney: I'm not going to preview next steps or options.
I can tell you that there is very much an urgent need for
action to be taken here, for the international community to
further unify and make it clear that a transition has to take
place in Syria.
The Press: Can I follow up on the question about Russia?
I mean, you -- when Secretary Clinton proposed a U.N.
Security Council arms embargo last month,
it was quickly shot down, including by Russia.
Could a -- is there any way to impose -- as Jake referred to
earlier -- some kind of a unilateral or separate arms
embargo apart from the Security Council?
Would that have any -- are you getting any sense from
the Russians that they would be willing to even entertain that
thought, especially considering that they currently supply the
Assad regime with weapons?
Mr. Carney: I don't have any detailed readout to give to you of
our discussions with the Russians or with others
on this issue and on possible next steps.
I can tell you that we are working to overcome our
differences with the Russians on Syria.
Our points are very clear and we've made them transparently
both in public and in our conversations with them.
We simply do not believe it is in Russia's interest,
let alone in Syria's interest, for the Assad regime to continue
to be propped up, and therefore to allow it to continue to
brutalize its own people.
Beyond that, I don't have anything I can divulge to
you today. Yes.
The Press: Jay, you took a question yesterday
on gender-based abortion.
The House is voting on this ban.
I understand the administration opposes the ban.
My question is, since the President has been outspoken
about being against gender-based discrimination,
how can you allow gender-based abortion?
Mr. Carney: Well, Ed, the administration opposed gender discrimination
in all forms.
But the end result of this legislation would be to subject
doctors to criminal prosecution if they fail to determine the
motivations behind a very personal and private decision.
I think we, again, oppose gender discrimination in all cases.
I think our record on that is very clear.
The President's record on that is very clear.
But the purpose of this legislation -- or the result
of this legislation would be to subject doctors to criminal
prosecution for failing to divine the motivations of their
patients when it comes to a very personal and medical decision.
The Press: -- a law then to deal with that issue?
Because the real central issue with the one child --
Mr. Carney: To allow doctors to read their patient's minds?
The Press: To figure out a way -- to figure out how to get to
the bottom of this -- because when the one-child policy in
communist China comes up people of all political stripes in this
country are outraged that girls are killed, essentially.
How can that happen in this country?
Mr. Carney: Again, Ed, we oppose gender discrimination
in all its forms -- in all its forms.
And we don't selectively pursue legislation in order to achieve
other ideological goals.
We oppose it in all its forms.
This piece of legislation would have the hopefully unintended
consequence of criminalizing a failure by a doctor and
prosecuting a doctor for criminal behavior if he or
she were somehow to fail to intuit the motivations of a
patient in making a very private medical decision.
The Press: The President today is obviously unveiling a
portrait of former President Bush.
I wonder, when they have this private lunch,
do you think the President is trying to soak in a little
insight about how to take on somehow from Massachusetts?
Because I noticed David Axelrod is in that state today.
Mr. Carney: I think, as I said yesterday, that the discussion that will
take place -- or is almost taking place at this moment --
between President Obama and both former Presidents Bush,
as well as other members of their families,
will be about what it is like to live -- to have the
privilege, the rare privilege to live in the White House for
not just Presidents but their families,
to serve their country by living here.
I think that, as I said yesterday -- and you'll have
three Presidents in this lunch -- there is a commonality of
experience that transcends political differences.
And my guess is that that is what the Presidents
will discuss.
There is also a commonality of experiences I think for First
Ladies that -- and for families.
In the case of President George W. Bush, he also raised
two relatively young daughters here in the White House.
And I know that President Obama and the First Lady greatly
appreciate the counsel and advice that the President
and Mrs. Bush provided to them during the transition,
not just about the official aspects of their duties but
the very personal ones and the family ones.
And I know that President Obama and the First Lady have been
looking forward to and are enjoying this encounter.
The Press: Last thing on that.
The European debt crisis -- I think Dan asked you about -- how
worried is this White House that -- former President George H.W.
Bush here as well -- that a sour economy may wind up with this
President having one term as well?
The same thing happened to him.
Mr. Carney: You want to turn this lunch into a political prism.
I think the --
The Press: Well, there is a pretty similar situation where
you have a President who has had some successes on the national
security front but is facing a very difficult economy here at
home, and George H.W. Bush faced that as well.
Mr. Carney: Well, I would simply say that President Obama
will probably not spend a lot of time talking about election year
politics with either President Bush.
And as I think you know, he's met with former President George
H.W. Bush on several occasions.
He has very high regard for that President Bush's foreign policy
record in particular, and, in general,
appreciates the service provided by all members
of the Bush family.
And again, that transcends political differences,
and of course there are political differences.
As for the race, I think every race is different.
What the President says repeatedly and I try to echo
is that it is precisely because there are headwinds like the
crisis in the eurozone that can affect the global economy and
therefore the American economy, that we in Washington need to
buckle down and do the things that we can control to insulate
the American economy from those headwinds;
to help the economy grow, to help it create jobs.
You'll hear the President again tomorrow talk about the need for
Congress to take action on those items that are before it that
have in the past and should in the future enjoy bipartisan
support -- very specific items -- a "To-Do" list that can,
if fulfilled, contribute to economic growth and contribute
to job creation.
These are things that Americans support,
whether they're Democrats or Republicans.
And they're things that Congress should act on.
The Press: On Syria, how critical is Russia's support in
getting rid of Assad?
Mr. Carney: I think I've made clear here that we are working
to consult with and try to overcome our differences with
Russia on Syria.
And I think that reflects what was clear at the United Nations
Security Council when resolutions were vetoed
by Russia on this matter.
So we have, in spite of those obstacles,
worked broadly with a number of international partners to
isolate and pressure Assad, to support the opposition,
help it constitute itself, to provide humanitarian relief to
the Syrian people.
We have, working with Russia and other nations,
supported the Kofi Annan plan.
So there have been things that we can and have done -- can do
and have done to bring about the political transition that the
Syrian people so dearly deserve and desire.
But there is no question that greater international unity
would assist the effort here to bring about that transition
sooner rather than later.
The Press: How are you working to overcome those differences?
And what gives you hope that Russia is going to budge at all?
Mr. Carney: Well, as I've said now several times,
we're in consultations with a number of international
partners, with the Russians as well as others on this
very issue.
It's an issue that for obvious reasons gets a lot of attention
here, at the State Department, and elsewhere.
And we'll continue to have those discussions.
And we believe that the Assad regime is making the case for
us by its brutal behavior.
This is unfortunate, but it is apparent.
It is -- no one in the world needs the United States to
point out Assad's behavior because it's apparent to the
entire world.
We are working with our allies, working with our partners,
working with members of the Security Council and others,
in light of the obvious responsibility that Assad
bears for the thousands of deaths of his own people,
to take further action.
The Press: President Obama frequently blames President George W.
Bush for the current state of the economy, two wars in Iraq,
the debt.
Is it an awkward event today for the two of them?
Mr. Carney: Norah, I'll say what I said yesterday and just
earlier, which is that there are certainly political differences,
as there were between President George W. Bush
and former President Clinton, when President Clinton and his
family came for the unveiling of his -- and First Lady Clinton's,
Hillary Clinton's portraits.
There were differences, I'm sure,
in the past when incumbent Presidents have presided
over these ceremonies.
But there is so much in common for the men thus far who have
occupied this office and for the families who have lived in the
White House, that there I think is a great deal of respect and
appreciation held by everyone who is participating in that
lunch for one another.
There's much to discuss.
As I noted yesterday, it's a small collection of people who
know what it's like to sit at the desk in the Oval Office
and have to make the kinds of decisions that
a President makes.
And again, the commonality there transcends politics.
Mr. DeFrank.
The Press: Thank you, Jay.
Just following up on Ed's question,
in addition to the two events that are on the President's
public schedule with the Presidents Bush,
are there any other things -- specifically,
is President Obama going to have a little private time
with either of the Bushes, or any other sorts of events beyond
the two we know about?
Mr. Carney: I don't have any more details on the President's
schedule to give to you beyond what's been made public.
The Press: Jay, you've talked in the past about the United States'
role in uniting and vetting the Syrian opposition.
And I'm wondering what the purpose of that effort -- is
it to give Syrians someone or a group of someones to rally
behind for the post-Assad?
Is it to make sure that aid gets into the right hands,
whether it's humanitarian or military?
I know the United States is not providing those -- what's
the purpose of this?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think you've described two of the
purposes behind it.
In order to bring about an effective political transition
in Syria that serves the interest of the Syrian people,
it makes eminent sense to help the opposition constitute itself
and to identify the various components of the opposition.
On the question of whether or not one of the reasons is to
prevent humanitarian and non-lethal aid that the United
States is providing from falling into the wrong hands,
I think that's certainly the case, too.
We recognize and have said that there are elements to the Syrian
opposition that do not share the democratic ideals of the broad
Syrian people, who are not necessarily friends of the
United States.
Those elements appear to us to be fringe elements.
They do not represent the opposition as a whole.
But we need to be mindful of that.
And that is why we make these evaluations and assessments.
The Press: Are you looking to stand up some kind of official
opposition in the --
Mr. Carney: We don't -- it's up to the Syrian people and
the representatives of the opposition to
organize themselves.
We can assist and offer advice.
And I say "we" in the sense of speaking more broadly about the
"Friends of Syria" who have participated in this effort.
So it's not for us to create or stand up an opposition.
It's for us to help assist it as it stands itself up.
The Press: But if you're vetting them, there's at least an implicit
approval from the United States, right?
Mr. Carney: Well, again, I think you went to the point
about assistance that might be provided by the United States
and the importance of ensuring as best we can that that
assistance reaches its intended recipients.
When it comes to humanitarian assistance,
obviously that means the Syrian people who are suffering greatly
because of their -- because of the Assad regime's brutality.
The Press: Jay, you've talked today about Assad in the sense
of brutality, human rights violations,
potential war crimes.
When Prime Minister Cameron was here at the White House,
he talked about trying to build a record of that for perhaps
future international prosecution, whatever.
And you also talked about the President's interest in seeing
Assad participate in a peaceful transition.
I'm just trying to clarify, what does the President envision
would be the future for Assad if he were to participate in some
sort of peaceful transition?
Is it inevitable that he would be held accountable for the
crimes you've described?
Or is it possible, and would the President assent to his going to
some safe haven to escape that?
Mr. Carney: Well, again, I think we're focused on bringing
about that transition.
We're not focused on decisions that the Syrian people would
have to make and decisions that the international community
would have to make.
It is another benefit of the Annan plan,
despite the failure of Assad to abide by it,
that we have United Nations observers who can account for --
objectively account for the actions of the Assad regime and
the thug forces that support it.
But I am not going to prejudge now where that leads in terms
of his future.
The point about a peaceful transition is it's made in
contrast to a full-out sectarian civil war.
That is not obviously a desirable outcome.
And that is what could be the outcome here if there is not
further unification in the international community and
further efforts taken to pressure and isolate
the Assad regime.
The Press: But in terms of the timing that Kristen was asking about,
is there an incentive -- is the world community offering
an incentive that would allow Assad in some way
to slip that noose?
Mr. Carney: Again, I don't have any insight to provide to
you about the discussions that are underway on next steps.
What needs to happen is a political transition that
serves the interest of the Syrian people.
How that comes about is obviously not entirely
up to the United States.
We are working with our partners to do everything we can to help
make it happen.
The Press: Thank you.
There's a high school student from Indiana named Elizabeth
Olivas at this hour sitting in the consulate in Juárez,
I believe.
She missed the deadline for going back to get the legal
paperwork done by one day, and she is in danger of missing her
high school graduation on Saturday.
Has there been any -- is the President aware of this story?
And was there any discussion here at the White House whether
it would be appropriate for the President to ask immigration to
give her case special --
Mr. Carney: Ann, I'm learning of this story from you,
so I'll have to take the question.
I have not heard it discussed.
But questions of that nature I think are best directed towards
DHS and ICE, Immigration and Customs.
The Press: The President for a long time has advocated ending
the tax breaks for those making $250,000 or more.
Nancy Pelosi has come by with another suggestion,
setting that number at $1 million.
Her office says it's a way to move the process along.
I was wondering what the White House thinks of her proposal.
Mr. Carney: Well, the President's position has been
clear for years.
As you rightly state, we need to end the tax breaks for the
wealthiest Americans and make them permanent for every family
bringing in less than $250,000 a year.
We know that Democratic leaders in Congress are committed to
making sure that taxes do not go up on millions of families
at the end of the year, as is the President.
And the question now is whether Republicans will vote to raise
taxes on the middle class and hold the middle class hostage on
the insistence that the wealthiest Americans continue to
get tax breaks that contributed mightily already to our
deficits, which in this economic environment they do not need.
The Press: So he doesn't -- he's not keen on the $1 million
-- raising it to $1 million.
Mr. Carney: Look, we're continuing to work with leaders in
Congress on how best to move forward to ensure that we not
only protect middle-class families from a tax hike,
but also how we achieve a balanced plan to reduce the
deficit and avoid the sequester -- to use Washington lingo.
I apologize to anyone out there watching,
but you know what I'm talking about.
And these are -- these obviously are ongoing discussions.
Our position is clear, and it has been clear
for a very long time.
The Press: So he's not rejecting it out of hand?
Mr. Carney: Again, we're working with leaders in Congress.
We're continuing to have discussions on that.
I think the question that needs to be asked is of Republicans,
who at every turn have refused to take sensible action to
protect the middle class, to ensure that they receive further
tax relief unless the wealthiest Americans who have enjoyed
substantial benefits over the last decade get additional tax
cuts or have those tax cuts extended.
That's simply unaffordable and does not represent the kind of
balanced approach that we need to take to deal with
our fiscal challenges.
The Press: On the call last night, did the leaders discuss
a bailout for Spain?
Mr. Carney: I don't have any specifics for the conversation beyond
what I've said and what the paper readout we gave last
night said.
The Press: And can you tell us when the call was scheduled?
Mr. Carney: It was a follow-up on discussions that
were held obviously at the G8.
I don't have a specific date for when it was penciled into
people's calendars.
The Press: And on Syria, you said earlier in the briefing
that Iran has been playing I guess a malignant role in Syria.
Can you elaborate more on what role the U.S. sees
Iran has been playing?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think Iran has been transparent.
They've admitted involvement in the Syrian crisis by sending
troops to Syria.
That fact further highlights Iran's continued effort to
expand its nefarious influence in the region and underscores
Iran's fear of a Syria without the Assad regime.
Assad's partnership with Iran is a direct offense to the Syrian
people, their revolution, and to Arabs across the Middle East and
North Africa.
We are also focused on preventing Iran from
continuing to financially, materially and logistically
support the Syrian regime.
Again, they have not pretended otherwise.
And I think the fact that it is Iran that is coming to Assad's
aid here is only further evidence of how isolated and
beyond the pale Assad and his behavior have become.
The Press: Tomorrow night the President will be in Chicago.
A couple of questions about that.
Usually, when the President has finished his final event on the
road he'll fly back, even if it's late at night.
He's staying overnight I think.
Can you confirm whether he's going to stay at his own house,
and also characterize if he needs to be there this Saturday
morning for some reason, or whether he also has a feeling
that being at home gives him a little bit a break from
Washington and can refresh him?
Mr. Carney: I can tell you that the President always enjoys
returning to Chicago, returning to Illinois.
I can't give you details about where he's staying,
but I can assure you that he will enjoy being in Chicago.
The Press: Do you know if he plans to visit the campaign
headquarters or anything like that this time?
Mr. Carney: I don't have any scheduling updates for you on that.
The Press: Jay, I want to ask you about two topics.
First of all, I want to follow up on the DOMA
ruling from today.
The President campaigned on the repeal of DOMA.
He has endorsed legislation to meet that goal.
He has stop defending the law in court.
He has sent Justice Department attorneys to litigate against
that law in court.
But does the administration --
Mr. Carney: Well said.
The Press: Does the administration see value in holding a vote in the
Democratically controlled Senate on repealing the law
as a symbolic stand against that statute?
Mr. Carney: Well, I haven't heard that discussed.
The President's position is clear.
The actions taken as a result of that position are clear.
Participation of the Department of Justice in the specific
litigation is clear.
But I don't have anything for you on that proposal,
which I have not heard.
The Press: The other thing I want to ask you about is,
there was a vote yesterday among Exxon Mobil shareholders to
include LGBT non-discrimination protections for its more than
80,000 workers that work at the corporation.
The shareholders voted down that proposal but it's still possible
for the board to accept it without the shareholders
taking action.
Back in April, when you talked about the executive order not
happening at this time, you said that the administration was
committed to directly engaging with and educating all sectors
of the business community from major corporations to
contractors to small businesses, and raising public awareness
about the human and financial cost of
discrimination in the workforce.
Following up with these words, will the administration call
on Exxon Mobil to adopt that non-discrimination policy?
Mr. Carney: Well, that is certainly our position,
and what I said in April holds true today.
And those kinds of conversations, broadly speaking,
continue to take place -- have taken place and will continue
to take place.
I don't have anything specifically for you on
this case and this vote, which just took place.
But broadly, yes, that's our position.
The Press: Has the administration communicated -- any
communications at all with Exxon Mobil?
Mr. Carney: Again, I can tell you broadly that those kinds of conversations
have been had.
Our position and views on this are well known.
That's why the President supports ENDA,
a legislative solution to this discrimination.
And those conversations will continue.
I just don't have anything to report to you on specific
conversations with specific companies or business leaders.
The Press: In the past year -- the past decade,
Exxon Mobil has taken more than $1 billion in federal contracts.
In the wake of this vote, will the administration revisit the
idea of issuing that executive order,
barring federal contractors from taking money if they don't have
non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation
and gender identity?
Mr. Carney: Well, we don't expect that an EO of that nature
will be issued at this time.
We are working, as I've said in the past, with Congress.
We support legislation that has been introduced,
and we will continue to work to build support for it.
We believe that the legislative avenue here is the right avenue
to pursue at this time.
The Press: How can the legislative avenue be right at this
time when Republicans control Congress?
How will that legislation get through the
Republican-controlled Congress?
Mr. Carney: Well, because it's the right thing to do.
Yes, Stephen.
The Press: Just following up on your comments on Iran.
Is one of the reasons why the administration is worried of
arming factions in Syria that it is concerned about the
possibility of starting a direct proxy war with Iran,
given the fact that you're saying it's helping to arm
the Syrian government?
Mr. Carney: I think -- I wouldn't tease it out that far.
I think that we don't believe that further militarization of
situation in Syria is the right course to take.
That's our position.
We believe we need to act while the window is still open to
bring about a political transition before we have
a situation in Syria that dissolves into a sectarian
civil war or a proxy war.
As I think I mentioned earlier, there is obviously an issue with
the need to evaluate and assess and learn more about all the
elements of the opposition.
We believe that those who support al Qaeda or al Qaeda
in Iraq and other elements are fringe elements of the
opposition; that the broad opposition aspires to meet
the democratic desires of the Syrian people.
But all of these things are considerations that we evaluate
all the time as we review our position on Syria.
The Press: Given that the U.S. and Iran are clearly on the opposite side of
this dispute, is there any concern that what happens in
Syria could prejudice the chances of agreement on the
other big issue, the nuclear question?
Mr. Carney: Well, they're both very big issues,
and in each case -- specifically with regards to the nuclear
ambitions of the Iranian regime, they are specifically
the problem.
Their need to comply with their international obligations is the
demand of the international community and specifically
the members of the P5-plus-1.
Their behavior and involvement in the Syria crisis is another
example of the kind of -- it's another indication of why the
international community does not trust the Iranian regime to keep
its word.
It's why we insist in our negotiations with them over
their nuclear program that we will judge them by their
actions, not by their promises.
The Press: Jay, where in the White House is the portrait
going to hang?
And does the President -- has he seen it?
And does he think it reveals any particular quality about
President Bush?
Mr. Carney: I'll let the President discuss this.
I think there will be an event, an open-press event
for the unveiling.
And you'll see I believe where it's going to hang.
We're providing some background documentation on the history of
these portraits and the tradition of hanging them
and where they hang and how they move around the house.
I don't know the answer to the question of whether or not he's
seen the portraits.
I suspect by now he has, and my guess is he saw them before the
rest of us.
But I can't guarantee it because I haven't asked him about it.
The Press: Who are you taking down?
Mr. Carney: Again, there's a process that -- we'll follow
tradition, I think, is how -- is the answer to that.
The Press: Thank you, Jay.
Mr. Carney: Thanks, you all.