White House Press Gaggle by Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One, February 18, 2011

En route Portland, Oregon–(ENEWSPF)–February 18, 2011 – 9:34 A.M. PST

MR. CARNEY:  I’m going to try to do this relatively fast so that nobody gets hurt in landing here.  To begin, I want to read you a statement by the President on violence in Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen:

“I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen.  The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur.  We express our condolences to the families and friends of those who have been killed during the demonstrations.  Wherever they are, people have certain universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly.  The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.”

That’s the end of the statement.  If you — what I will do now, and we can come back to questions, if you want me to do the week ahead — is that helpful to everyone, or do you want to —

Q    Can we just —

MR. CARNEY:  Just go right into questions, sure.

Q    What kind of briefings is the President getting on the situation in the Middle East?

MR. CARNEY:  He’s getting regular briefings.  Obviously he has a national security aide with him, and he also has for several weeks now as this — these events in the Middle East have been unfolding, he tasked his national security staff to provide even more regular updates on the situation.  They now come to him obviously in his morning PDB but also in midday updates and end-of-day updates, every day.  So that obviously continues today.

Q    What’s the impact of the Bahrain situation on the U.S. fleet that’s based there?

MR. CARNEY:  I refer you to the Department of Defense on that, but specifically I think what we want to focus on here is the President’s deep concern about the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen.  And we are expressing that message directly to the government of Bahrain — in response to your question.  And these are universal rights that need to be recognized.  And as you can see, we — that position holds whether it’s Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Egypt — to all countries in the region.

Q    Staying a little bit with the uprising, there’s one in Africa now, in Djibouti, where the U.S. has the only military base in Africa.  Is there any concern there about possible loss of the military base, or is there any concern on the part of the U.S. government?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have anything on that for you.  You’d have to go to the Department of Defense or the Department of State.

Q    Has he spoken to the leaders of those four countries?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m sorry?

Q    You named four countries.  Has he spoken to the leaders of any or all of those —

MR. CARNEY:  He has made no calls to foreign leaders since we last spoke.

Q    Jay, Egypt has given permission to the Iranians to send those warships through the Suez Canal.  Does the United States have any position on that?

MR. CARNEY:  We’re monitoring that, obviously, but we also would say that Iran does not have a great track record for responsible behavior in the region, which is always a concern to us.  But beyond that, I don’t have a comment.

Q    Jay, on Wisconsin, is the President keeping up with what’s going on there?  Speaker Boehner today said the President should tell OFA to stand down.

MR. CARNEY:  I want to make clear that — something about what — the President’s comments in the radio — the television interview he gave the other day.  There are two points he made.  One is that he is very understanding of the need for state governments, governors, state legislatures to reduce spending, to be — to make tough choices, to be fiscally responsible.  He’s doing that at the federal level and he understands that states need to do that at the state level.

But he also feels very strongly that we need not to make this an assault on the collective bargaining rights of workers in a given state.  Public service workers need to make sacrifices just like everyone else, but there’s a distinction here that he sees.  And I just want to make sure that people see that he was very clear about his recognition that states need to deal with their budgets just like the federal government needs to deal with its budget.

Q    Do you expect the President to weigh in on this activity in some of the other states — Ohio or Indiana?

MR. CARNEY:  I have no scheduling announcement to make, or I have no information that he would do that.

Q    The Post suggested this morning the White House had a role in stoking the protests in Madison.

MR. CARNEY:  The President made a comment in a television interview.  That’s the only role that I see that we’ve had.

Q    What about Organizing For America?

MR. CARNEY:  I’d refer you to the DNC for comment on that.

Q    Does the President support federal funding for Planned Parenthood?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m sorry?

Q    Does the President support federal funding for Planned Parenthood?

MR. CARNEY:  There’s a longstanding history of funding for Title 10 by HHS, and on the history of that program and the funding of that program and what it does, I’d refer you to HHS.

Q    The Intel CEO — the announcement that was made this morning — back in September he was pretty critical of the administration, on stimulus and what not.  We know that he was part of — one of the CEOs in December at the Blair House, then he was at the state dinner last month.  What has changed for him that he’s going to now partner up with the President when he was so critical just six months ago?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that’s a good question.  The Intel CEO has also been very supportive of the President’s agenda on infrastructure, on research and development.  But more broadly, I think the point of the Jobs and Competiveness Council is to foster ideas for job growth and competitiveness.

And he wants to hear from — the President wants to hear from a lot of different voices, and private business is clearly essential to the agenda the President has for creating jobs and enhancing our competiveness around the globe.  So the point is not to collect people who agree with him on every issue and every policy decision he’s made, but to create an environment — a council that — where ideas, good ideas can be generated for going forward on job-creation.

Q    Was the President’s statement released on the ground?  I’m just wondering.

MR. CARNEY:  It is — this is happening now, as we say.

Q    Jay, other countries have frozen the assets of Hosni Mubarak and his lieutenants that are — assets in their countries.  Are we doing the same thing?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have anything for you on that.  I don’t know.  I would refer you — I would refer you to State.  I don’t have anything.

Q    Jay, is there going to be any news in the President’s speech today — any more news?

MR. CARNEY:  As you know, the purpose of the event is to highlight the innovation agenda the President is pushing, and also education.  Intel has been very strong on — in its own programs.  I think — I hope we have paper for you on the investments they’ve made in enhancing the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math because it’s so vital to the future economic growth in these key industries for our country.

I think he will speak a lot about that, and I don’t want to steal his thunder.  All right?  Okay, thanks, guys.

Q    Are you going to do a week ahead?  Are you still going to do that?

MR. CARNEY:  You guys want a week ahead?  I have that.  Here we go.

On Monday, the President has no public events scheduled.

On Tuesday, the President and members of his Cabinet will travel to Cleveland, Ohio, where the White House will convene a “Winning the Future” forum on small business, in association with Cleveland State University and Northeast Ohio economic development organizations JumpStart and NorTech.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke of the need to out-innovate — sorry, out-innovate, out-educate and out-build our competitors in order to sustain our leadership and secure prosperity for all Americans.  The forum will be an opportunity for the President and his economic team to hear directly from small business owners and leaders about their ideas for how America can continue to grow the economy, put Americans back to work, and win the future.

On Wednesday the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday the President will hold a meeting with the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness at the White House, the aforementioned council.  In the evening the President and the Vice — and the First Lady — sorry — will invite music legends and contemporary major artists to the White House on Thursday — well, as I said — for the Motown Sound in performance at the White House, a concert celebrating Black History Month and the legacy of Motown records.

On Friday the President will attend meetings at the White House.

That is your week ahead.

Q    Thank you.

MR. CARNEY:  All right.  Thanks, guys.


9:45 A.M. PST