Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 10, 2011 – 1:52 P.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House. Thanks for coming to your daily briefing.
Before I get started, I just wanted to make mention of the fact that this morning, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it has sent warning letters to 1,200 businesses suspected of selling cigarettes and tobacco to children. These letters came after an aggressive inspection campaign, and remind retailers of their legal responsibility to protect our children.
President Obama is committed to protecting children from cigarettes, and this action is only one part of the administration’s effort to stop children from smoking before they start. In 2009, President Obama was proud to sign the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives us new tools to prevent kids from smoking — including graphic warning labels that make the risks of cigarette smoking clear to anyone thinking about picking up a pack.
Tobacco companies have gone to court to stop these labels, and were disappointed by a recent ruling in this matter. Tobacco companies shouldn’t be standing in the way of common-sense measures that will help prevent children from smoking. But we are confident that big tobacco’s attempt to stop these warnings from going forward will ultimately fail.
Q Thank you. Are you able to confirm that the administration is going to delay a decision on the Keystone Pipeline while it studies the possibility of another route?
MR. CARNEY: Julie, as you know and as we’ve said repeatedly, that process of review is housed within the State Department. I expect that any decision about the status of that process or any announcement that might be made about that will come from the State Department. So I would direct you to Foggy Bottom for that.
Q Has the White House been told anything by the State Department that a decision —
MR. CARNEY: I don’t want to get ahead of the State Department. It’s their obligation, responsibility to make announcements about processes. So I think if you direct your attention over there, you’ll find what you need.
Q Would the President like to see a decision on this pushed back until after the 2012 election, given that so many of his supporters oppose the pipeline?
MR. CARNEY: The President wants the best possible decision. And I think he made clear in an interview the week before last what he views are the criteria necessary by which to judge whether the decision is the right one or how to make that decision, including issues of public health, climate change, economic growth and jobs. All of these things have to be factored in to a decision that’s made.
And that process, as you know, and as we’ve said repeatedly, is run out of the State Department and in accordance with an executive order that was signed during the previous administration; also in accordance with decades of previous practice.
It is an open process, however. It’s not made in a vacuum. And the State Department takes input from — in this process — from the public, as well as stakeholders, as well as many agencies within the executive branch.
The President fully expects that the decisions that — decision or decisions made by the State Department will reflect his views. It is the Obama administration, after all.
Q And just quickly, on one other topic. In Italy, it looks like the Italian government is going to ask Berlusconi to step aside perhaps as early as Monday, and get the new government in place. Is the President supportive of that quick turnover in Italy, in order to get a hold of their debt crisis?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you, Julie, that the President spoke with President Napolitano this morning about the situation in Italy. He expressed confidence in President Napolitano’s leadership to put an interim government in place in Italy that will implement an aggressive reform program and restore market confidence.
Q Following up on that, are you able to read out any other calls that the President has made to leaders in Europe today?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any other calls to announce or read out at this moment.
Q Okay. And turning to the special committee — does the President detect that the committee is making any progress? And does he intend to step in at all to help them?
MR. CARNEY: Let me make a couple of points about that. The President participated in great detail in prolonged negotiations with Congress, with Republican leaders in Congress, over the summer, as did the Vice President. He participated in very quiet, specific negotiations with the Speaker of the House to resolve our long-term and medium-term deficit and debt problems. And his views, and the administration’s views on these matters are quite well known by those who are trying to make decisions now.
Beyond that — and then, of course, he — when the Speaker was unable to reach a deal to — walked away from the table on the so-called grand bargain, in the end, what was important was that we made sure the debt ceiling was raised and we did not default on our obligations, and that we pushed back — that we absolutely refused to go down the road that Republicans wanted us to go down — or some did — which is having the circus of raising the debt ceiling occur again this year, or every six months — whatever it is that they wanted.
The President successfully negotiated that in the Budget Control Act. And that act contained within it the provision that set up the super committee, by Congress, creating a congressional committee with members of Congress, appointed by the leaders of both houses and both parties to come to a resolution in a bipartisan way on a medium- and long-term deficit and debt reduction plan.
When that process began, as you know, the President laid out, in detail, living within our means and investing in the future — his detailed, comprehensive proposal for medium- and long-term deficit and debt control. His views are well known. He I’m sure will have conversations with members of Congress of both parties in the future about what he thinks they ought to do. But what he will probably refer them to are some of the page numbers in this very document.
So the irony of the situation we’re in here is that it’s not that hard to figure out how we get from here to there.
Q Is he seeing any progress?
MR. CARNEY: Well, let me — that’s the first part of your question which I’ll get to now. It is certainly a step in the right direction that Republicans are actually uttering the R-word now, at least some of them, because there is no credible way to achieve significant deficit and debt reduction if it’s not balanced.
There is no way fair to do it, because if you don’t have revenue, if you don’t ask the wealthiest among us, those who have done the best over the past 10 years while the middle class has really struggled to pay their fair share, then you have to do what was in the House Republican budget proposal, the Ryan plan, and ask seniors to bear all the burden, ask families with disabled children to shoulder the burden. Well, that’s simply not acceptable to the President.
So you have to be balanced. You have to look at all aspects of federal spending — through entitlements, through discretionary spending, through defense spending, through the tax code. To the extent that Republicans are willing now to at least speak the word, entertain the idea, acknowledge that it has to be part of this process, that is a good thing. Proposals that we’ve seen so far I think are a long way from achieving the kind of fairness that’s necessary. But progress is progress.
Let me move around a little bit. Anybody in the back? You guys there. Yes, ma’am.
Q What’s the White House reaction to protesters who say that the White House and attorneys general are being too soft on the details that have come out about settlements with banks who may have exhibited unlawful foreclosure practices?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have anything to say about a settlement that hasn’t been achieved or announced as far as I know, so I’m not going to comment on that process.
Q Did the President watch the debate last night?
MR. CARNEY: I spent some time with him this morning. It didn’t come up, although I’m pretty sure, based on what I understand, he did not see it. So —
Q No thoughts on Governor Perry’s night? Or perhaps Mr. Cain’s?
MR. CARNEY: From him or from me?
Q Well, either.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think — actually I know from our conversation that he did not see the debate. But, look, I think — our interest in this, to the extent that we have the time to pay attention to it, is in the policy issues, and what I’ve seen — what we’ve seen in the debates and from the candidates are economic proposals; proposals designed to address the very issues that are the most important to the American people right now are economic proposals that look awfully similar to the ones that got us into this mess: Let’s give more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans; let’s throw — prevent 30 million Americans from getting health insurance; let’s reduce regulations in a way that means that our kids don’t have clean air to breathe or clean water to drink; let’s do all that and assume that everything is going to be fine.
Well, we tried that, and we’ve been cleaning up quite a mess as a result.
Q Jay, thanks. If I could go back on Keystone again. The State Department is not saying anything today, at least so far. And I normally cover the State Department, so I’m over here trying to get some more information. Because, ultimately, it’s the President’s —
MR. CARNEY: They sent you here?
Q They did, on a mission from God, to find out more information about Keystone. (Laughter.) Because, ultimately, it is the President’s responsibility. Hillary Clinton makes that determination, but does the President still have confidence in that process? Because already we have the Inspector General conducting a special review.
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President has great confidence in the Secretary of State, and he has confidence in a process that will take into account the criteria that he publicly said were very important and he believes need to be taken into account as this review is conducted and these decisions are made and these determinations are made. And he made clear that when that determination is made, it will certainly reflect his views, because this is his administration. The State Department doesn’t make this in a vacuum; the State Department is part of the administration.
But it is a process that they run for a lot of very important reasons, as you understand, because you cover the State Department. So I will send you back to the State Department. And I think you will find there the answer that you are looking for when it comes to announcements about process.
Q Okay. One other one on another subject. The IAEA report that came out on Iran this week — the Russians are really slamming it, saying that it’s tantamount to regime change, an attempt at regime change. And if you look at Russia and the reset, one of the main elements of the reset was the cooperation that Russia was providing to the United States on Iran. If that is suddenly falling apart, what does that mean to the reset? Is the reset dead?
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, not at all. And in fact, all of us in the P5-plus-1 share — stand firm together in our belief that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is an intolerable threat to regional and international security, and we remain determined to prevent that outcome. Moreover, we share a strategic goal with Russia. And our efforts with Russia have produced a situation, and our efforts with international partners everywhere have produced a situation where Iran is now suffering, if you will — the regime is — from the most stringent set of sanctions, the most stringent sanctions regime that it has ever faced. And that pressure and that isolation is having an effect, as you know, because I know you cover these issues pretty closely. And it is because of the kind of cooperation and consensus that this President has been able to achieve internationally that we’ve been able to do that with regards to Iran.
So we will continue to work with the Russians and others on this process, and we will continue to isolate and pressure Iran to change its behavior.
Q Jay, I was wondering if you could comment on, first of all, the White House refusal to comply with Republicans in Congress asking for all documents related to Solyndra to be turned over to them by noon today. Obviously that deadline was not met. And then also, Republicans in Congress are saying that some of the emails they have uncovered indicate that the White House has not been forthcoming about the conversations that those behind the Solyndra business have had with people at the White House. And I can cite those emails if you want, but I’m sure you’ve seen them.
MR. CARNEY: I have, thank you, Jake. I appreciate it. A couple of things. One, we have been enormously cooperative with legitimate oversight, in this area and others. In this investigation alone, we’ve turned over 85,000 pages of documents. And we will continue to cooperate with this committee investigation.
On the issue of the subpoena that you referenced, I don’t have anything to announce about any release made to the Hill yet, but I can say that, as the White House counsel made clear in her letter, this is something we view as overbroad, unnecessary.
And I think in my words, when something seems partisan it probably is, and in this case, when we hear the Speaker of the House saying that he will — they will — the Republicans — be “relentless in pursuing this oversight investigation,” I think most American people wish they would be as relentless in taking measures to help the economy and create jobs as they are in trying to create a political issue out of something that is simply a policy decision, and policy decisions that were made on — merit-based decisions out of the Department of Energy.
Q What about some of the items in the specific emails that —
MR. CARNEY: Let’s be clear: Republicans know — what the episode in the last 24 hours shows I think reinforces the idea that this is becoming a political football and a partisan effort. They cherry-pick some documents and try to make hay out of something that, when looked at in its entirety, only reinforces what we’ve said, which is that there was no political influence in the decision-making progress — process that led to the loan guarantee for Solyndra. In fact, the meeting that they’re referring to, as I’m sure you’re aware, took place almost a year after the loan was approved — okay?
And Mr. Kaiser has said both I believe to committee members, both Republicans and Democrats, and in public, again, that he would not discuss the loan with members of this administration.
So, again, we have cooperated with legitimate oversight on this matter and others. We are now 85,000 pages into this process, nine committee staff briefings, four congressional hearings; the donor in question has been interviewed and the investors have released their documents. And this is what the Republicans could find. Again, at some point they have to focus I think on the things that the American people care about.
Q There’s an advisor that Kaiser quoted in one of the emails saying “The White House has offered to help in the past and we do have a contact at the White House that we are working with.” And Republicans are citing that as an example that —
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, this was a meeting that took place — again, this was either emails from outside the administration; all of their review of emails from internally have produced none of this, of what they want to be there, and they have clearly been gravely disappointed by that. The meeting that is referenced here took place almost I think 11 months after the loan guarantee went out the door. And the donor in question here — the investor in question here, Mr. Kaiser, has been explicitly clear about saying that he never discussed this loan with administration officials, White House officials.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Kate.
Q Can you confirm that Dennis Ross is leaving the administration? And when did he first indicate that he would be leaving, and do you have a replacement?
MR. CARNEY: I can confirm that he is leaving. I can confirm that he, like a lot of folks, especially somebody who has served as frequently over the years as he has, had committed to staying two years and then ended up, because of everything that we’ve seen happen in the region of the world that he focuses on, stayed for almost three. Dennis has been a remarkable contributor to this administration. He is — going back to the questions we were discussing just now with Jill about Iran — very much a part and an architect of the sanctions regime and the effort to pressure and isolate Iran, and has been at the forefront of our deliberations about handling the Arab Spring, the remarkable events we’ve seen in the Middle East and North Africa this year.
So I believe there might have been a statement that’s been put out already on this, but he’s certainly served his country and this administration and this President very well.
Q So how does it reflect on the Mideast peace process in general, though, that he’s —
MR. CARNEY: I think the fact that Dennis Ross, somebody with his remarkable experience and long service, stayed as long as he did, given how much he’s — how often he’s served in the past I think is testimony to his dedication to the issues that he’s been involved in for so many years, his dedication to the administration, to this President. And I think you can expect us to build on the good work that he’s done here going forward.
Q All signs point to, on Keystone, this 12-to-18 month delay. How do you think — I mean, how does that reflect on where the President —
MR. CARNEY: Kate, I’m not going to — again, I’m not going to get ahead of any announcements that may or may not be coming from the State Department, where this process is being run.
Q Some environmentalists and union labor leaders are saying this seems very political, that he’s just punting to past the election —
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m just — I can tell you the President made clear what the criteria are; they all have to be considered. And he expects that the State Department is considering those criteria as it reviews this issue and as it makes determinations about it. And none of those criteria are political.
Q Jay, did the President have any reaction to the outcome of the vote in Ohio on Tuesday on collective bargaining?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we put out a statement, and I think this President firmly believes that Americans should enjoy collective bargaining rights and he was certainly pleased by the results of that vote.
Q And the vote in Mississippi?
MR. CARNEY: We were also pleased by the vote in Mississippi because of the need to protect women’s reproductive rights and protect their capacity to make decisions about their own health.
Q The Senate is scheduled to approve part of the President’s American Jobs Act, the part that would help veterans who are looking for jobs and give tax breaks to companies to hire them. This, however, though, is not being paid for by any additional revenues raised or tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. The President is going to sign this legislation, correct?
MR. CARNEY: We do support it, yes.
Q So will the President support additional pieces of his jobs act that are passed by Congress that don’t include raising taxes on millionaires?
MR. CARNEY: I think the way you phrase it is very useful, so I appreciate the question, Norah. The President will sign legislation that’s paid for in a fair way, and if this bill passes, we support it. What he will not do is sign legislation that adds to the burden already borne by the middle class that requires — you drew the lines very clearly. Republicans are voting for this — why? Well, we hope because it’s a good idea, but we know from past experience in terms of the things that they used to support that every provision within the jobs act is a good idea. But they’re going to vote for this one in your words because it doesn’t include a requirement that millionaires and billionaires pay a little bit extra. So that’s their bottom line I guess is the way you’re putting it.
We certainly hope that’s not the case when it comes to putting 400,000 teachers back to work, or building — rebuilding our bridges and highways and schools, or giving and extending — extending and expanding a tax cut to 160 million Americans, $1,500 on average for each American family. If their standard is those are only — those are good ideas but not if we have to ask millionaires to pay a little more, they’re going to have to explain that to the American people because that’s not a standard that they support. Their own constituents do not support that approach, do not support that point of view.
Q You said pay for in a fair way, but it’s being paid for, my understanding is, by extending a fee the Veterans Affairs Department charges to back home loans. Is that fair?
MR. CARNEY: Again, we support the legislation. We obviously believe very strongly that we need to make — take efforts to help veterans who have been fighting for us come back to the country and not have to fight for a job.
Q I’m just interested — I’m interested in the pay-fors on that, and also because of the withholding tax —
MR. CARNEY: Well, I get it, Norah. And I said that we support the bill.
Q Okay. On the withholding tax, which is part of that, too, my understanding is that’s going to cost the government $11 billion over the next decade. And that’s going to be made up by lost revenue, by making it harder for some Social Security beneficiaries to qualify for Medicaid, which, of course, affects low-income people. So the President —
MR. CARNEY: Hey, Norah, I don’t have all the details on this. I can just tell you that we strongly support —
Q So the President is going to sign something that makes it harder for people to get Medicaid?
MR. CARNEY: Well, let’s see what the bill looks like, if and when it passes, okay? Our principles have been clear. Let’s be clear about this President put forward and what Democrats in the Senate have put forward, and how those very sensible and effective solutions to economic growth and job creation would be paid for, as we see it; what we think is the preferred option.
Now, we’ll review every alternative proposal that comes forward and make decisions accordingly. But we firmly believe, given what we knew already and what we now know even more to be the case about who has had the hardest time in the last 10 years — and that’s the middle class, who has had the most — who has benefited the most from the greatness of this country over the past 30 years, and asking them merely to pay a little bit extra so that we can put Americans back to work and grow the economy.
Q Sorry, just a last question on this. You just laid it out very clearly what the President’s principle is on this jobs act, and who should be paying more, who should pay their fair share to put forward this jobs bill.
MR. CARNEY: Hey, Norah, I’m happy to take questions about the specifics of this pay-for. I just don’t have any more specifics to give you. So —
Q But is the President now giving ground, so that members up on Capitol Hill can find pay-fors in some other way that don’t meet the President’s principle of the wealthier paying their fair share, and he’ll sign it if they can just find some other way to —
MR. CARNEY: No, no, not if they can find some other way. It still has to meet a standard, and that standard will be applied.
Q Jay, before when you said that sanctions against Iran are the most stringent, after the IAEA report came out, your answer — officials here said you were going to have even tougher sanctions to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Now you have Russia and China both saying, we’re not going to sign on to new sanctions. So what’s your plan B?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what I would say is that we’re consulting with our partners and allies. The conclusions that the report draws are alarming and they reinforce what we’ve been saying about Iranian behavior.
Moving forward, we’ve been very clear that we are looking at additional ways to apply pressure on Iran, because the onus is on Iran to address the questions raised by the international community about the intent of its nuclear program.
So I don’t have any announcements to make. But you can be sure that we are looking at ways to apply even greater pressure on Iran as a consequence of their refusal to live up to, rather, their international obligations.
Q It’s been a few days since it was reported that in a private conversation, President Sarkozy called the Prime Minister of Israel a liar, and President Obama did not disagree with that. Why have you not put out a statement saying — disagree with this, that this is unfortunate —
MR. CARNEY: Again, Ed, I assume you were part of the briefing yesterday — I think you were — where we talked about this at some length. We’re not going to comment on a reported conversation, a private conversation.
Q So it didn’t happen?
MR. CARNEY: What I will say is that this President’s commitment to Israel, to Israel’s security, is unquestioned — not just by us, but by the Israelis, by Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, who has said on the record that the things that this administration has done to ensure Israel’s security are — have not — have been greater than any other administration. So — and other officials in Israel have said so, too.
Our relationship with Israel is based on our shared principles, our shared values, and obviously on our mutual interests in terms of security. And we will stick by Israel.
Q Last thing. Following on Jake, on Solyndra. One of the emails he was talking about, March 2010, George Kaiser told a board member of Solyndra that he had had a meeting at the White House — he stressed the White House, not the Department of Energy, in the email. He said Solyndra came up; every one of them responded simultaneously about their thorough knowledge of the Solyndra story, suggesting it was one of their prime poster children. How does that square with you saying in September, in this very room, that George Kaiser did not lobby on Solyndra at all, and as you put it, “He was involved in charitable efforts”?
MR. CARNEY: Okay, so let’s go back to what you just said and what I just said in response to the question. March 2010 — do you remember when the loan was approved?
Q It was after the loan was approved, but before the loan was restructured.
MR. CARNEY: So he was supposedly lobbying — but he was supposedly lobbying for a loan that had already been approved almost a year before. Second —
Q Solyndra was later lobbying to restructure.
MR. CARNEY: — he never said, in that email or any other discussion — and certainly never said before the Republicans and Democrats in the committee, based on what we know — in fact, he made quite clear that he never lobbied for the loan. And this is an effort by Republicans to create a political story out of something that is not providing them what they want, which is any evidence that anything but merit-based decisions were made at the Department of Energy.
Q But will you at least acknowledge that his — George Kaiser’s meetings here were not just about his charity; they were about Solyndra as well?
MR. CARNEY: Well, look, what I — let’s go back also, since you’re quoting me erroneously:
Q No, that’s what you said.
MR. CARNEY: Here’s what I said, Ed, if I could: “I would point you simply to what George Kaiser himself has said: That he did not lobby or discuss; he did not lobby administration officials with regard to this while with Solyndra. He was involved in a lot of charitable efforts, and it’s our understanding that while we haven’t looked into every meeting that he might have had here, that that was the focus of his conversations, generally speaking, at the White House.”
Okay, you’re talking about emails that were not sent to or from here, characterizations of meetings not made by people who were here. What I can point you to is that George Kaiser himself, with the committee, reaffirmed in his words that he never lobbied this administration.
Q Does the President think that the firing of Joe Paterno was merited?
MR. CARNEY: We’re not going to get into the decisions made by the university. What I can say is that if the allegations about what happened up there prove true, that what happened is outrageous. And our — the President’s thoughts and prayers, and all of our thoughts and prayers, are with the victims of the abuse and the family members of those victims.
Q And back on Dennis Ross, can you categorically state that he did not resign as a result of any friction within the administration, particularly on Iranian policy?
MR. CARNEY: I can categorically deny that, yes. Unless — yes, I can deny that. Yes.
Q Jay, of the 13 days before the joint select committee deadline, the President is going to be traveling for nine of them. Is there any reason that the President’s presence in Washington might positively influence the outcome in that time?
MR. CARNEY: The outcome of —
Q The super committee.
MR. CARNEY: Well, let’s be clear about what the super committee is. It’s a congressional committee, established by an act of Congress, written by members of Congress, to include members of Congress — not administration officials, not the President — to do their job. And their job is not as hard as a lot of people make it out to be. They need to basically come together around some common-sense solutions to our medium- and long-term deficit and debt problems and challenges.
A common-sense approach would be a balanced approach — one that includes cuts and reforms, but also includes revenues; and that asks those who have done the best, especially in the last 10 years, to pay a little bit extra; those who benefited from the very unpaid-for tax cuts that helped create the deficit and debt that we face now.
He believes and hopes that the committee will do its job; that Congress will do its job, and that it will reach a resolution that is fair and balanced, that Congress can pass and that he can sign.
As I said earlier, his views on this are well known. They are enshrined in this document, provided to the super committee, to all members of Congress and to every member of the public who’s interested, back in September.
So this not a case of where’s the President’s plan, a refrain I remember hearing from some of you all this summer, because the President’s plan has been out there for everybody to see and to use as a road map to getting to the necessary destination. The President, whenever he travels, is able to be in contact with Washington, with his administration and with members of Congress as necessary. That will certainly be the case if it’s necessary.
But there is nothing here — there is no obstacle to Congress getting its job done if they demonstrate a little political will.
Q One other thing, Jay. I know that you said the President didn’t watch the debate, but I’m sure that, like most people, he got the takeaway. What is the President’s thought on eliminating the Departments of Commerce, Education and the department to be named later? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think our view of the debates and the primary process underway in the Republican Party is simply focused on policy proposals and what solutions are being put forward to the challenges that we face as a country, principally the economic challenges and the jobs challenge that we face.
And what I’ve seen so far, what we’ve seen so far is a real paucity of new ideas. In fact, what we’ve seen is Xeroxed policy proposals, the likes of which we’ve seen put forward and adopted in the previous decade that contributed so greatly to the economic crisis that we faced in 2008 and 2009.
So that’s the focus. To the extent that we are paying attention at this point and we will be paying more attention later, and we aren’t paying great attention now, it’s on the policy proposals.
Q The elimination of three departments isn’t Xeroxed from any particular —
MR. CARNEY: Putting aside the incident that that refers to, I think that this President is for serious policy solutions and not bumper stickers. And that has been demonstrated — I get to pull it out a third time — by the comprehensive nature of the kind of policy proposals he puts forward.
Q Do you have copies of that?
MR. CARNEY: You guys have this, yes. But I’m happy to provide it again, although, perhaps online, because we’re interested in saving money around here.
Q Isn’t “We Can’t Wait” a bumper sticker policy? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: But it’s backed up by serious substance. Yes.
Q Jay, the IAEA report makes clear that Iran has made considerable progress towards obtaining a nuclear weapon. And during quite a lot of that time, they have been subject to what you describe as “stringent sanctions.” So would you agree that those sanctions have not been effective in deterring them?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would agree that those sanctions have been stringent. They have had a dramatic impact on the Iranian economy, and have put great strain on the regime as a result of that. And that is certainly the objective in the sense that the objective is to put pressure on Iran to change its behavior.
We will continue to take measures, working with our international partners, to put added pressure on Iran and make clear to Iran that they need to get right with the world and live up to their obligations with regards to their nuclear program. And we will continue to pursue that going forward in the wake of this very alarming report.
Q But so far they haven’t had any effect, it seems, on their nuclear program and its progress. Or if they have it’s been minimal.
MR. CARNEY: Again, it’s had an impact on the regime. I think those who cover Iran closely can speak at length about the kind of pressure that the international sanctions regime has placed on Iran and on the regime. And the President himself, of Iran, recently admitted as much. And we will continue to ratchet up the pressure to encourage and urge Iran to change its behavior.
Q Ayatollah Khamenei said today that any attack on Iran by Israel or the United States would be met with an iron fist. Do you have response to that?
MR. CARNEY: My response is simply that Iran should live up to its international obligations.
Q Jay, when you articulate the diplomatic strategy toward Iran, you seem to keep leaving out this big middle step. I mean, if it’s continue to increase the pressure to lead to isolation, is eventually supposed to lead to them withdrawing any aggressive nuclear intentions, what’s the middle step? What leads one to the other?
MR. CARNEY: Well, that’s about predicting the future and where the tipping point is. What we know is that the pressure has —
Q The strategy is intention. I mean, you have the intention, but —
MR. CARNEY: The intention is to change behavior.
Q Right. So how?
MR. CARNEY: By ratcheting up pressure on Iran. And we will continue to do that. Are you — I’m not sure what you’re asking. We will continue to take measures. And I think in response to a question about what our next steps will be, I made clear that there will be next steps but I’m not prepared to announce them today. But we will enhance the pressure, enhance the isolation, and Iran will feel that. And it will have an effect on the Iranian economy and on the Iranian leadership.
Q Will those next steps be diplomatic?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we are pursuing a diplomatic channel. That’s correct. It is also the case, as we have said all along, that we take no options off the table; and that remains the case today.
There is quiet in the room. Mark.
Q Who’s he going to root for tomorrow in that ball game on the deck of the Vinson? Michigan or North Carolina?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have an answer to that question. We’ll have to see. He may talk about it tomorrow.
Q Can you just — since he brought that up, can you just tell us a little bit about why he’s going to see that game?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a lot to tell you about it now, except that it’s pretty exciting, and the fact that it’s taking place on the USS Vinson is doubly exciting. And I think he will take the opportunity to honor American servicemen and women for their tremendous service and sacrifice to this country. He will certainly use this as an occasion to do that. But I’m sure we’ll have more details about it tomorrow.
Q Thanks, Jay.
Q One more on Iran.
MR. CARNEY: One more. Yes, ma’am.
Q Thanks, Jay. Following up on something you’ve been asked previously — last night after the debate, the President’s reelection team sent out a number of comments about Romney’s comments last night. Given the developments in the recent days, is the administration ready to say that you do see Romney as the eventual frontrunner nominee?
MR. CARNEY: It is not for us to decide who will be the nominee of the other party. We will leave that to, as we should, the voters in the primaries and caucuses to come.
Our views on this are pretty limited to an examination of the policy proposals that the candidates, both leading and otherwise, have put forward. What we have seen is a remarkable uniformity to the idea that the way to emerge from the crisis is to repeat the policies that got us into it. In our view that’s not a great solution.
Q Jay, has the President at least seen the news clips of the brain freeze?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t — when I spoke with him this morning, he had not seen any of the debate.
2:36 P.M. EST