3/7/11: White House Press Briefing

Uploaded by whitehouse on 07.03.2011

Mr. Carney: Good afternoon, everyone.
I am going to go right into questions.
I don't have any announcements at the top.
So, Mr. Feller.
The Press: I don't know what to do. I feel out of sorts here.
The Press: I'm not used to somebody being on time.
Mr. Carney: You don't have to air your personal --
The Press: Thanks, Jay. Two topics.
In Libya, the situation seems to have worsened over the weekend.
The rebels, as you know, are taking a terrible pounding
from air strikes.
Is the potential for military intervention by the U.S. and
NATO allies something that you think is growing?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think you heard the President just make reference to
the fact that we are meeting at the North Atlantic Council -- at
NATO -- today, discussing options that NATO can take.
And those obviously include military options.
I wouldn't characterize the likelihood of further options
being pursued as greater now, but we have said from the
beginning that those options were on the table and none of
them have been removed from the table.
It's important to note that there are a range of options
that could be categorized as military including the
substantial assistance that NATO could provide in the
humanitarian realm, involving -- and I think that there was some
focus on that in today's meeting at the NAC on the humanitarian
aspect that can be brought to bear.
The Press: Is the deployment of ground troops something
that's being considered?
Is that one of the military options?
Mr. Carney: Well, I would just say, Ben, that the -- no option has been
removed from the table, but that ground troops is not sort of top
of the list at this point.
The Press: One quick one on oil.
The chief of staff, when asked yesterday about the Strategic
Petroleum Reserve, said that it's being considered,
and he also made clear that it's only used in rare cases.
Can you explain the President's basic thinking about that?
What are the factors or conditions that would
trigger a move like that?
Mr. Carney: Well, as the chief of staff said yesterday,
it's an option we are considering.
But there are a number of factors that go into it and
it is not price-based alone.
There are -- it's important to look at history about -- and the
times when it has been used.
So I wouldn't look to a price threshold.
The issue here is disruption, is there a major disruption in the
flow of oil.
That's obviously a factor.
But I think the point that we want to make is that we're very
cognizant of the fact that Americans are experiencing a
sharp rise in prices at the gas pump,
and that affects them and their family budgets.
And we are monitoring that very closely.
Meanwhile, we are in discussions with oil-producing countries,
as well as the IEA, about the various options that are
available in the global system to deal with a major disruption,
should that occur.
The Press: Bill Daley's comments on television yesterday --
is that an indication that you're more actively considering
the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?
Mr. Carney: I wouldn't characterize it as more or less,
simply that he was making the point that it is an option we
are considering, and, again, within the broader context
of the system that exists to deal with a major disruption,
should that occur.
The Press: So it wasn't any kind of a shift.
And on Libya and the possibility of a no-fly zone,
Britain came out today and said that they're involved in the
Security Council in trying to come up with a Security Council
resolution for a no-fly zone.
Is the United -- I saw just as I was coming -- is the United
States involved in that effort?
And also, does the President feel that he would need Security
Council approval for establishing a no-fly zone,
or would it be able to go ahead with just NATO?
Mr. Carney: Well, we are in consultation with our international partners.
A no-fly zone option is certainly one that would
be discussed at NATO.
In terms of the procedures of getting there,
should we want to pursue that option,
I'm not going to elaborate on the paths,
but only to say that it is being considered.
It's also important to -- as I think Mr. Daley got at yesterday
on Meet the Press, it's important to be clear about
what a no-fly zone is, what it entails in terms
of enforcing it.
And if you were to pursue that option you would want to make
sure that it is addressing the need at hand and that it --
because there are only -- there are some things that a no-fly
can do in terms of air traffic, and things that it can't do in
terms of -- low-flying helicopter activity,
for example, would be much harder to deal
with in a no-fly zone.
So I think that what Secretary Gates got at last week,
what Bill Daley got at yesterday was that this option is very
much on the table, but people need to understand the
complexities of it both in its implementation and what it can
and can't achieve.
The Press: And the Security Council effort that he was referring to --
Mr. Carney: Again, I would just say that we are obviously in consultation
with our international partners, and Great Britain would be one
of them.
The Press: Just to follow up on that, is the United States working on
draft language in the U.N. Security Council about a
no-fly zone in Libya?
Mr. Carney: I don't have anything, Jake, on the process that I can tell you,
except that it is a live option on the table that
we're discussing with our partners.
The Press: But this -- there are reports alluded to just a second ago --
Mr. Carney: Well, I understand that, but I don't have anything more than
to say that we're reviewing that option as well as other options.
Another option that NATO would be very much involved
in is enforcing the U.N.-mandated arms embargo,
which is another thing that NATO would be involved in.
So, again, I just want to stress that the military options that
we talk about are not limited to a no-fly zone,
but include a no-fly zone as an option.
The Press: When the President and the administration send a message
to those around Qaddafi, talking about how they're going to be
held accountability, they have to make a choice -- are there
any specific individuals that they have in mind of individuals
around Colonel Qaddafi?
Mr. Carney: Well, certainly we know a number of the people around Colonel
Qaddafi, and we are working to have a fuller list of people who
can and will be held accountable for the actions that the regime
is taking against its own people -- the brutalization of its own
-- of Libya's own people.
And one of the points that I -- we have tried to make is we are
using the full spectrum of our intelligence capabilities to
assist us in identifying those who must be held accountable for
the actions that they're taking.
And those who are around Colonel Qaddafi and making that
existential choice about whether they want to be on the side of
the Libyan people or on the side of a leader and a regime that no
longer has any legitimacy, they should be fully aware
of the fact that, broadly speaking, the world is watching
what they do and they will be held accountable for their actions.
The Press: And just in terms of what has to happen for the U.S.
to up the pressure even more on Colonel Qaddafi and those around
him, we're obviously several weeks into this -- he's shown
no inclination that he's going to step down;
he's shown in fact greater defiance than I think we've
seen from others in that region who have -- such
as Mubarak and others.
At what point -- with the U.N. reporting that more
than a thousand people have died in Libya in these fights --
at what point does the U.S. say, okay, now we're going
to do something?
How many people have to die?
How many -- how much of a threat needs to -- does there need to
be to our energy needs?
What needs to happen for the President to say, okay,
that's enough?
Mr. Carney: Well, Jake, I would simply say that and remind you that when
you say that this has been a couple of weeks already,
that is a remarkably short period of time from a point
where Colonel Qaddafi was perceived to be and was in full
control of his country to the point where the international
community is imposing substantial and punishing
sanctions on him and his regime.
And the international community, including in the Middle East,
is speaking with one voice calling for him to step down
and to cease the violence against his own people.
We are -- and we're talking here a matter of days and weeks that
all of this has transpired.
We are monitoring the situation very closely, obviously,
and aware of the ongoing violence.
And as the President just did with the Prime Minister of
Australia, we call again on the Libyan regime,
the Qaddafi regime, to stop the inhumane, brutal,
unacceptable assault on its own people;
and for Colonel Qaddafi to step aside because he has lost all
legitimacy in the eyes of both his people and the world.
The Press: I wasn't talking about it in terms of days so much as I was
in terms of lives.
And as somebody who covered then-senator Obama on the
campaign trail, who spoke with great eloquence about using U.S.
force and the force of the international community --
not just words and not just sanctions -- but the force
of the international community to stop slaughter.
And I'm wondering -- more than a thousand people have died,
according to the United Nations.
How many more people have to die before the United States
decides, okay, we're going to take this one step of a no-fly
zone, for example, or we're going to arm the rebels,
for example?
What needs to happen?
How many more people have to die?
Mr. Carney: Well, again, Jake, it is understandable that as we watch
the images that we are able to get about what -- that show us
what's happening in Libya, the urgency that we all feel to be
able to move and do something quickly.
And I would simply say the international community,
with the United States in the lead,
has moved with incredible rapidity to address the
situation in Libya and continues to deal with
this with great urgency.
The meeting today at NATO of the North Atlantic Council
will be repeated daily this week as options are
reviewed and considered.
But I, again, would urge some perspective on the speed with
which we and our partners have moved in reaction to
this situation in Libya.
And I think that comparative, when you talk about what the
President said on the campaign trail,
the comparative is instructive.
When you look at other events where international action has
been required and how long it has taken,
and compare it to the speed that was pursued in this case,
I think we have moved rather quickly.
Yes, Jill.
The Press: Jay, can you confirm these reports that the U.S. is
asking Saudi Arabia to arm the rebels?
Mr. Carney: I have nothing for you on that, no.
The Press: Well, in connection with that, even if you can't -- actually,
is there any other country that the U.S. might be asking
to provide arms to the rebels?
Mr. Carney: Not that I'm aware of.
And, again, on the issue of arming,
providing weapons, it is one of the range of options
that is being considered.
But I think that we, again, are talking about a matter of days
and weeks here since this situation began.
And when you talk about arming the rebels -- now,
we have -- we are pursuing a number of channels to have
conversations and discussions with the opposition groups and
individuals as we try to learn more about what they
are pursuing, what they want; and that they also believe what
the -- we believe the Libyan people want,
which is a government that is representative,
that is responsive to the Libyan peoples' legitimate grievances
and respects their rights.
I think, again, speaking more generally,
you have to be very cognizant of,
when you pursue these options, what it is
you're trying to accomplish.
And I think that it would be premature to send a bunch of
weapons to a post office box in eastern Libya.
We need to not get ahead of ourselves in terms of
the options we're pursuing.
And, again, I would refer you to the fact that we are reviewing
and implementing actions with great haste.
The Press: And just one on the rebels.
I know it's a disparate group, but has the U.S.
had any -- let's see -- coalesced view of who they are?
Or is it still just a disparate group of people with very
different motives?
Mr. Carney: Well, again, I would -- without getting into specifics about
individuals or groups, we are using many channels --
diplomatic, the business community,
NGOs -- to reach out to those in Libya who are working to bring
about a government that respects the rights and aspirations of
the Libyan people.
For a variety of reasons, I will not, from here,
discuss how we're having those conversations or
specifically with whom.
But we are, obviously, gathering information and learning about
the opposition.
The Press: Jay, on the no-fly zone, let me try -- you said ground troops
are on the table but they're not at the top of the list.
Mr. Carney: What I mentioned is that we have not removed any option from the
table, and I would -- and I guess what I -- without -- I
don't want to -- not to be over interpreted.
I simply would suggest that we are actively considering every
option, and that the military aspects of humanitarian
assistance are being actively discussed.
The no-fly zone is being actively discussed.
The enforcement of the arms embargo that the U.N.
has mandated is being actively discussed.
And I'm not removing -- we're not removing any other options,
but I would point that out.
The Press: You said ground troops are not at the top of the list.
Would it be accurate to say that no-fly zone is at the
top of the list?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think I just mentioned to you three areas that are
being discussed today at NATO.
The Press: Could I pursue Jill's a little bit more?
Because there are actual -- there are reports overseas that
Saudi Arabia has been asked by the United States to send
weapons to the rebels.
Is that specific option on the table,
asking Saudi Arabia to send them weapons?
Mr. Carney: I would simply say that the option of providing military
assistance is on the table because no options have been
removed from the table.
So I won't get into the means that that -- by which
that would occur.
I would, however, point you to my comments in response
to Jill's question.
The Press: CBS has been pursuing a story over the past week or so about
gunrunning in Mexico -- hundreds and hundreds of guns going into
Mexico, with the knowledge of ATF.
They had hoped it would lead them to the big fish,
but it didn't work.
And there are two developments on that today.
There's an IG investigation been ordered at Justice.
And Mexico has asked for whatever details the United
States can provide on that.
Do you have any comment on the story and on these
developments today?
Mr. Carney: Chip, I don't.
Obviously, as the President pointed out when he spoke here
with President Calderón, we take the issue of the flow
of guns south very seriously, as we do the issue of the flow
of drugs north.
And -- but beyond that I don't have any comments.
The Press: Is he aware of the specific allegation that --
Mr. Carney: I don't know.
The Press: -- hundreds of guns went into Mexico with
the knowledge of ATF?
Mr. Carney: I don't know, Chip.
The Press: Final question, on the Strategic Political Reserve -- I mean,
Petroleum Reserve -- is the price of gas a valid
consideration in deciding whether to use that?
Mr. Carney: I would say that the price of oil is one of a number
of factors that is looked at -- that are looked at, rather,
in making that determination, but not the sole factor.
The Press: But a key factor, would that be fair to say?
Mr. Carney: I'd just say it's one of a number.
The Press: Okay.
Mr. Carney: Let me take -- yes.
The Press: So on the budget, regardless of the numbers that both sides
choose -- whether it's $100 billion or $61 billion or $6.5
billion -- you got to agree that you're pretty far apart still.
And so the question is would you guys go for another short-term
continuing resolution?
And also, with Biden gone to Europe,
who's handling the negotiations?
Are there more meetings scheduled, phone calls?
Mr. Carney: There are continued conversations at the staff level
that have continued through the weekend and through today,
and will continue as the Senate begins to take action on the
bills that are on the table, which,
I think will be an important milestone as we make progress
in these negotiations.
I would point out that depending on -- regardless of whatever
number you want to start from, we have,
beginning with the bill signed last December,
which cut $41 billion from the President's 2011 budget
proposal, and the baseline upon with House Republicans built
their demand for $100 billion in cuts, we have now,
both the administration and the Democrats in the
Senate have met the Republicans more than halfway at $51 billion
and change.
We are engaged and will continue to engage in negotiations.
We remain optimistic that there will not be a shutdown.
But we do not believe it would be -- we believe it would be bad
for the economy, would have harmful effects if we did this
sort of tollbooth where every few weeks we're reopening the
questions of whether or not the government is going to be funded
going forward.
I think the uncertainty that creates would be very harmful
for the economy at a time when we are beginning to witness very
positive signs that the recovery is gathering some steam.
We had a very positive jobs report number, as you know,
on Friday.
And I think that we all agree that the last thing we should be
doing in these negotiations is taking actions that reverse the
trend of the recovery.
So we remain optimistic that we can get a deal for a long-term
resolution on the funding of the government with substantial
spending cuts, which the President has made clear
he supports.
If we find that common ground we can get that long-term
resolution and move on to some of these other big issues.
The Press: But if you have a short-term -- if you have to do short-term,
two-week, you'll do it, right?
Mr. Carney: Well, I'm not going to -- we remain optimistic that we can
reach an agreement on the full year, fiscal year funding.
And I'm not going to draw a line here in the sand about what we
will or won't do.
What I will say is that it is unacceptable,
it is not good for the economy and therefore a very bad idea to
set up a scenario where we do this constantly every two weeks.
The Press: One more question on Libya with the whole -- you've talked --
you said, the President has said,
that you want to send a message to people close to Qaddafi that
they will be held accountable if the killing continues.
How do you measure whether or not they're
getting that message?
Are you -- is there anyone having direct contacts with
some of these people?
How do you know that they're receiving it?
Mr. Carney: Well, we have a broad range of contacts,
including with members of the Libyan government in Libya.
And then I would simply point you to what I said before about
utilizing the full spectrum of our capabilities to make sure
we are aware of the actions that are being taken by those around
Colonel Qaddafi, and so that they can be held accountable by
the international community.
The Press: Chief of Staff Daley said yesterday that a no-fly zone
is not a video game.
Is the President worried that some people pushing for this are
underestimating the potential cost in blood and treasure?
Mr. Carney: I would say simply that it is important to be very aware of
the complexities of creating and enforcing a no-fly zone.
It remains very much on the table,
but everyone involved in the discussions needs to be aware
of what that means, both in terms of the logistics and the
implementation that I think Secretary Gates talked about
last week -- and also the cost.
Again, it's on the table, it's a serious option, but it is,
literally, a serious option, and it's not a simple one that
you can simple say, oh, let's have a no-fly zone,
snap your fingers and it happens.
The Press: Isn't it an act of war?
The Press: Is part of the complexity the potential to rally Qaddafi
supporters behind him?
Is there concern that U.S. military action could actually
be counterproductive in that regard?
Mr. Carney: Well, setting aside specifically U.S. military action, we believe
it is both true and very important to have it be
perceived true that the unrest in Libya,
the drive to force Colonel Qaddafi from power,
and the unrest throughout the region is organic;
it is not inspired by the United States or other Western
or foreign countries.
And that's an important factor here in the developments,
the historic developments we've seen in these last
weeks and months.
The Press: And in order to not change that perception -- or would
it possibly change that perception for the U.S.
to be involved in some kind of military action?
Mr. Carney: Well, I don't want to speculate.
But I think that we weigh, as we pursue the options we've already
enumerated and we weigh further options,
obviously we want to be as aware as possible about the impact the
pursuit of those options would have,
both in the immediate effect -- we want to make sure they work
in terms of our goal of ending the violence in Libya.
And we want to make sure that they don't have any negative
ancillary pacts.
The Press: Senator Kerry called for cratering Libya's runways.
Senator Lieberman has also pushed for a more aggressive
U.S. response.
Are they contacting him privately?
Are lawmakers contacting the President privately to
try and --
Mr. Carney: I don't have anything on that for you.
I'm not aware of any private contacts between those lawmakers
and the President.
I would just say that, again, we are actively considering the
very options that those senators are discussing.
The Press: Who would -- I guess two questions.
First is who would hold Qaddafi loyalists accountable?
The U.S. or --
Mr. Carney: The international community.
The Press: The international community?
And then to follow-up -- you listed some of
the military options --
Mr. Carney: I would just point out that the United Nations Security Council
has referred this case already to the
International Criminal Court.
The Press: Okay. And you mentioned or you listed some of the military
options that are on the table, including ground troops, no-fly
zone, military, humanitarian aide.
What others -- what other options are there besides those?
And arming rebels you also mentioned.
What other options are on the table militarily?
Mr. Carney: Well, I mean, we could speculate endlessly about the options.
I would simply say that those are principal options that are
being discussed, at least the three that I've discussed:
humanitarian assistance, enforcing the U.N. arms embargo,
and contingency planning for a potential no-fly zone.
Other options remain on the table,
but I don't have a list of them for you.
The Press: Following up on Chip's questions about this gun strategy that the
ATF was running -- given the President's strong statements
about the southward flow of weapons when the Mexican
President was here, would he condone an ATF plan that uses --
in effect, uses guns as bait?
Mr. Carney: Peter, I just don't have anything for you on that
except to point you to his statements about his concerns,
our concerns about the flow of guns south.
But this -- for other questions about this story I would point
you to the Department of Justice.
The Press: Just to confirm, you don't have anything because you
weren't aware of this or --
Mr. Carney: I just don't have anything to add to what I just said.
The Press: Can you take that question and perhaps be able to elaborate on
it for us in terms of --
Mr. Carney: If there's something I can find out about it, I will.
But asking me a hypothetical about whether the President
would or would not --
The Press: Oh, it's not hypothetical.
The program exists, or existed.
Mr. Carney: I'll see what I can find out about it. Yes, Julia.
The Press: I just want to follow up on Athena's question on
the CR talks.
You say you're optimistic, but Senator Durbin yesterday said
that Democrats have been pushed to the limit in terms of the
cuts that they're prepared to offer.
So where do you find compromise there?
Mr. Carney: Well, I would say, Juliana, that we need to see what happens when
these proposals are voted on by the Senate,
and we need to find a solution that can be passed out of
Congress that this President can sign.
And that's going to require the finding of common ground.
And that's going to require all sides to move off their
positions -- as, I think, we have and the Democrats have.
And it's a process that is not at it's end;
it is still sort of midstream here.
And I think we need to wait and see how the Senate responds when
it votes on those two measures.
The Press: Just one other question.
You mentioned the jobs report from Friday.
Unemployment is down but the administration is still calling
on businesses to spend some of the $2 trillion in cash on hand
that they have to help create jobs.
Businesses are saying that they'd like to see -- a lot
of that money is overseas, and so they're calling for
a repatriation holiday.
Is that considered one of the loopholes that the President
won't consider as part of corporate -- of grander
corporate tax code overhaul?
Or is that something that the administration would support
considering separately?
Mr. Carney: I think that a repatriation holiday would be something
that we would consider as part of an overall process.
And I think as Secretary Geithner has said,
the administration would not consider it outside of the
context of broader corporate tax reform.
So I'll point to his comments as the expert on this and leave
it at that.
The Press: I have a no-fly question and then a Peter King
hearing question.
On the no-fly zone, Senator Kerry said this weekend that
he doesn't consider the implementation of
a no-fly zone to be military intervention or an act of war.
Secretary Gates seemed to describe it just the
opposite last week.
Where -- how should it be seen?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think it's -- as Secretary Gates pointed out,
it's clearly military action.
The requirement, as he discussed,
of taking some direct military action in order to effectively
implement a no-fly zone is pretty clear.
So I don't know about the semantic debate here,
but I think the point was to focus people's minds on what
the option would entail in terms of its implementation.
The Press: Would taking out their air defenses be an act of war?
Mr. Carney: I would just point you to what Secretary Gates said on that.
The Press: On the hearings on Thursday, obviously Denis McDonough
gave a speech to set the stage for this.
Should we expect anything more from the President or other
administration officials before Thursday to put those hearings
in the context that you want them?
Mr. Carney: Well, first of all, I would say that the goal of the Deputy
National Security Advisor's speech was not to put a context
on the congressional hearings.
We welcome congressional interest in this issue.
We think it's an important issue.
It's one we've been working on for a long time.
It was addressed early last year in the national security strategy.
And Denis McDonough elucidated I think in great detail in his
speech over the weekend what our position is on it.
So, again, he spoke to it at length.
I think that's a pretty clear indicator of where
we are on the issue.
The Press: Should we expect to hear from the President --
Mr. Carney: So I would not expect --
The Press: Nothing else?
Mr. Carney: I have nothing to announce on that,
and I think that Denis's speech is a good place to go if you're
curious about where we are on that issue.
The Press: Following up two on the front row, could I?
Mr. Carney: Let me get over here, and I'll get to you, Lester.
The Press: Actually, if I could follow up specifically on what Mara asked.
A number of Muslim groups think that the hearing themselves are
singling out Muslims unfairly.
I gather you disagree with that.
Mr. Carney: Well, again, I would just point you to the fact that we welcome
congressional interest.
We also feel very strongly, as Mr. McDonough made clear in his
speech, that we don't in the United States of America
practice guilt by association.
Furthermore, the Muslim American community -- we are all in this
together as Americans, and Muslim Americans are part of
the solution here -- they're not the problem.
And it is their assistance that helps us address it.
And it's why we're expanding our engagement with the communities
to enhance our ability to deal with the issue of violent
extremism in America.
The Press: Well, Congressman King thinks that the Muslim American
community is not cooperating enough with the FBI -- that's
one of the reasons for the hearing.
Mr. Carney: Well, I would just point you to the deputy national security
advisor's speech on our view of that.
The Press: Are you worried about creating false expectations among the
Libyan people and setting them up for a slaughter?
This has happened in our history before,
during the Hungarian Revolution, for example.
Mr. Carney: Well, I think we're being very careful about how we go about
this process, as we look at and implement options and
develop more options.
Again, I would say that the speed with which the
international community has reacted has been quite historic.
But obviously we're very careful about how we pursue this.
The Press: Thank you. A U.S. Geological Survey report dated 2008 said
that there were 3 to 4 billion barrels of technically recoverable
oil assessed in North Dakota and Montana's Bakken formation.
And my first question, do you know of any report that this oil
is being extracted so we will no longer have to depend so much on
North Africa and the Middle East?
Mr. Carney: I have nothing for you on that.
The Press: Okay. A report three years later, this year,
from the Energy Information Administration,
estimates Bakken as the largest domestic oil discovery since
Prudhoe Bay -- 530 billion barrels.
And could you tell us, how is the Obama administration
encouraging or discouraging this oil production,
since there are reports of $4 and $5 a gallon gasoline?
Mr. Carney: Well, what I would tell you, Lester,
is that this administration has actively pursued the development
of energy in the United States.
In fact, since the Deepwater Horizon spill,
we have approved 37 permits for offshore oil drilling,
and last week, as you know, approved the first deep water
offshore oil permit since that --
The Press: How about on the land? How about in Montana?
Mr. Carney: Again, Lester, I don't have anything for you on that.
Maybe you should address that question to the
Department of Interior.
But I would make the point that we are pursuing an energy policy
that enhances our domestic production of oil but also looks
broadly at all sources of energy to reduce our dependence on
foreign oil, and that includes natural gas
and nuclear, renewables.
It is a broad-based strategy aimed at reducing precisely
the dependence that you're talking about.
The Press: Thanks, Jay.
As a matter of principle, does the President think it's
important when gas prices go high that the government step
in and intervene in the market process to protect American
pocketbooks from that?
And separately, does he believe that the Strategic Petroleum
Reserve, should that be used as a tool to moderate price
as opposed to just being a stockpile for
future emergencies?
Mr. Carney: Well, I would point you, Ann, to some of the answers I gave
to related questions earlier.
First of all, we are very mindful of the fact that the
rise in oil prices has caused a rise in gasoline prices,
which has had a direct impact on family budgets around the
country and we understand and are concerned by that.
On the broader issue of using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve,
there are a variety of options -- I mean,
a variety of considerations that go into whether or not to take
action in that regard.
It's an option that's on the table.
But remember, all the options that we consider here and the
global system considers are aimed at dealing with
a major disruption.
It is not simply a price-based consideration.
So I think that does answer your question.
The Press: Well, my question is, why should the government intervene
in a market economy --
Mr. Carney: Well, again, what I'm talking about here is
a major disruption.
And I would say that when we have unrest in the Middle East,
that that is not a market issue.
It is -- it potentially could create a major disruption.
It hasn't -- I'm not saying that's happened,
but that is the issue here.
It is not simply the market setting a price.
The Press: Jay, you seemed --
Mr. Carney: April. Could I go to April, please?
The Press: Jay, thank you. A couple questions.
Can you talk about AFRICOM's role as it relates to all the
options that are still on the table when you're dealing with
Libya -- what AFRICOM will play in a role if there is
a no-fly zone?
What kind of role will AFRICOM play if boots are on the ground?
Could you talk to us about that?
Mr. Carney: Well, I would just say that those are "if" questions that
are about what would happen if we did certain things that we
haven't decided to do yet.
We are very heartened in general by the international consensus
that has been created here very rapidly in condemning the
actions of the Libyan regime and the brutalization of the Libyan
people by the Libyan government, and that
includes obviously AFRICOM.
But I don't have anything specifically about what role
they would play in the implementation of options
that haven't been selected.
The Press: And the reason why I asked -- I know you're saying they're "ifs"
-- but these "ifs" are on the table,
and that's the reason why it is in play and the reason
why I asked.
Mr. Carney: I understand that.
But the fact that we're considering options that may or
may not be pursued doesn't -- it doesn't make sense for me then
to enumerate how they would be implemented in detail.
The Press: Okay. And when the President of Mexico, President Calderón,
was here last week, did President Obama discuss
with him an urgency about increasing the production
of the sweet crude oil that we get from Mexico?
Mr. Carney: Not that I'm aware of. Sam.
The Press: Correct me if I'm wrong.
Are you walking back a little bit from what the chief of staff
said yesterday about --
Mr. Carney: Absolutely not.
The chief of staff made clear that this is an option on the
table, and it is an option that we're considering.
The Press: But the reason I ask is there were -- a lot of people I talked
to were surprised, quite frankly, it's being considered.
You mentioned looking historically when it's
been tapped --
Mr. Carney: Well, we talked about it late last week as something that --
when I was asked about this that we're looking at various options
and that the system, the global system has the capacity to deal
with a major disruption.
So absolutely not.
And I think that there was a move to make a story out of
something that really wasn't a story.
And the fact that it's an option is as true today as
it was on Friday.
The Press: How much of a concern is it for the White House that this --
aside from the immediate political risk of high gas
prices, how much of a concern is this might derail the larger
economic recovery?
Mr. Carney: Well, again, I don't think this is about politics.
I think it's about the impact on American families
and their budgets.
And I think it's about the impact on the economy,
which you've just addressed, and then broadly,
the global system of oil supply and the potential
for disruption.
So all of those things are things that we're looking
at as we consider our options.
Abby. Sorry.
The Press: I have a question about -- President Obama about a week
ago said that he agreed with Mitt Romney about the role that
states would play in health care.
On the other hand, Romney moved to clarify his statement by
saying that he doesn't believe that the Affordable Care Act
is constitutional and that the federal government has
a role in that.
Does President Obama still agree,
in light of this clarification that Mitt Romney attempted to
make this past weekend?
Mr. Carney: Well, I think our point is that Massachusetts and other states
that have tried to deal with this issue are examples of the
very reason that the Affordable Care Act was necessary.
And as far as other statements that the former governor may
have made about the plan he signed into law,
I don't have anything for you on that.
But we believe very strongly that our health care system
needed reform to produce -- to increase the access that
Americans have to health care -- affordable health care,
to deal with the skyrocketing costs,
and to address the deficits that health care spending
has added to.
And as you know, the Affordable Care Act,
as analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office,
says that it will produce $200 billion in deficit savings over
its first 10 years, and a trillion dollars in its
second 10 years.
The Press: So was the President's statement referring to the Massachusetts
plan, saying that that was an example of what the federal plan
intends to do?
It seems like that's not --
Mr. Carney: No, I think that it was a nod to the kind of recognition that
states have had to deal with this issue,
and that one of the reasons, as you know, going back last week,
that the President announced the state innovation waivers and
moving them up was precisely because he is interested in
states -- if they have good ideas for how to achieve the
goals set by the Affordable Care Act,
that they pursue those -- and feels that it was -- that we
could move that process up and achieve those goals even
earlier than originally anticipated by the law.
Let me -- George.
The Press: I wanted to go back to the impact of the Vice President's
trip on the budget negotiations.
It seems like an unfortunate timing for those talks.
In his absence, who is the administration point person,
and is there any effort to keep the Vice President involved in
conversations by phone and from Finland?
Mr. Carney: Well, I would say that, again, I would point you to my answer to
Athena's question.
The staff-level conversations are continuing.
The Congress, specifically the Senate,
is taking up proposals by -- produced by the House on the
one hand, the Senate Democrats on the other,
and we all are waiting to see the outcome of those votes.
And then I would simply say that in the era of modern
communications, it's certainly possible that the Vice President
could get on the phone with anyone here in Washington who
needed to speak with him.
The Press: Who on the staff is the point person while he's gone?
Mr. Carney: I'm not going to specify, simply to say that a variety of staff
members, senior staff members, have been in conversations with
folks on the Hill about this.
The Press: Thanks, Jay.
Was it a mistake for the last administration to resume
diplomatic relations with Libya?
Mr. Carney: Look, I think we're focused right now on the crisis that
has unfolded in Libya in the last several weeks.
The fact that the Libyan government took actions to
rid itself of weapons of mass destruction was obviously a
positive thing.
But right now we are focused on the crisis at hand,
and not the past.
The Press: Was it a mistake for this administration to keep those
diplomatic relations going with the new
administration's policies?
Mr. Carney: No, it wasn't.
And I would again focus you on the historic events that have
occurred in the last several weeks,
and explain that that's where our attention is right now.
The Press: What did we get out of resuming diplomatic relations with Libya?
Mr. Carney: Again, the action taken by the Libyan government to deal with
its weapons of mass destruction was obviously welcome.
It does not buy you a free pass forever and does certainly not
make the actions that the same regime has taken in the last
several weeks in any way acceptable or palatable.
The Press: Jay, I'd like to see if I could establish as fact something we
all take for granted.
The President, Friday evening in Miami,
said "We're here because we want to win in 2012."
So is the President now an official
candidate for reelection?
Mr. Carney: I have no election announcements to make from here.
The Press: But how can he go out and say we want to win in 2012?
Is he an uncandidate, or what's the status?
Mr. Carney: Well, I believe he was there at the event you're referring to,
campaigning for Senator Nelson and Democrats in general.
So there's a broad "we" there.
The Press: Thanks, Jay.
Mr. Carney: Thanks very much, guys.