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

En Route New London, Connecticut—(ENEWSPF)—May 18, 2011 – 9:39 A.M. EDT

      MR. CARNEY:  Okay, before I take your questions, just wanted to let you know that on Friday President Obama will visit CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to meet with a broad range of the intelligence community, to thank them for the work they do every day to keep America safe and specifically for their excellent work in tracking down Osama bin Laden.  That will be I think expanded pool coverage, is my understanding.

      Q    Is that his first visit to the CIA?

      MR. CARNEY:  I’ll have to check.  Might be.  Is it?  I don’t know.  You tell me.

      Q    He’s been before.

      Q    He’s been before?

      MR. CARNEY:  We’ve been before.  The President has been before.  I’ve been before.

      Q    Is it something he wanted to do?

      MR. CARNEY:  Absolutely.  Very much so.

      Q    Did he have —

      MR. CARNEY:  I actually was — happened to be in his presence when he said he wanted to do this, which was a while back in the wake of the successful bin Laden mission.  So this was a presidential decision that he wanted to make this trip.

      So, with questions.

      Q    Jay, what can you tell us about the reports on the aid package for Middle East tomorrow?

      MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to get into any specifics.  I’m not going to go beyond where I was yesterday.  I think that we will have a call later this afternoon backgrounding on the speech a little bit.  I’ll simply say that the President views the situation in the Middle East as a moment of opportunity, the Middle East and North Africa, as a real moment of opportunity for America and for Americans.

      In the last decade, our focus in the region was largely on Iraq, which was a military effort, and on the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the fight against al Qaeda.  That fight against al Qaeda continues, but there is an opportunity in that region to focus on advancing our values and enhancing our security, and that’s what the President looks forward to discussing tomorrow in his speech.

      Q    Is that a message the President will also take with him to Europe and specifically to the G8 to discuss with other world leaders the moment of opportunity —

      MR. CARNEY:  Yes, indeed, he will.

      Q    — as well for the region?

      MR. CARNEY:  Again, I’m not going to get into specifics about what he may or may not be proposing.  I did mention yesterday that he will have some specific policy ideas related to this moment of opportunity, but I won’t characterize them further from here.

      Q    Things like export credits and reprogramming of aid —

      MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to get into specifics.

      Q    What about the September deadline that he had set for a peace agreement last year?  Would he —

      MR. CARNEY:  The President believes that this is also, as he said yesterday during his meeting with King Abdullah, that this is a moment of opportunity for the peace process to move forward.  He strongly urges both sides to negotiate and to move forward on the peace process.

      Q    Does the President think Dominique Strauss-Kahn should step down?

      MR. CARNEY:  We’ll stick with what I was saying yesterday, which we — I’m not going to comment on a legal matter.  I won’t go beyond what the Secretary of Treasury said, and I — we are very confident the IMF can continue to function effectively.

      Q    Is he working on the speech today, or how close is he to being done?

      MR. CARNEY:  He’s been working on it for several days.

      Q    Is he writing most of it, or is this the kind of speech where he would write —

      MR. CARNEY:  When you have somebody who knows his way around a sentence and paragraph as well as the President does, all speeches are at least in part written by him.  And this is one that he’s very engaged in.

      Q    Change topic to the deficit talks with departure from the Gang of Six of Senator Coburn, yesterday.  Do you think that that dims the prospect for bipartisan progress towards a deficit-reduction deal?

      MR. CARNEY:  I think that there are a number of members of Congress, both houses, who are committed to trying to find a solution to this thorny problem.  This is also a moment of opportunity the President believes that the broad consensus that exists creates an opportunity to do something serious about deficit reduction.  He is committed to that.

      He thinks that is very important because getting our fiscal house in order is important in and of — as a goal in and of itself.  But it’s also vital so that we can continue — we are able to continue to invest in those areas that will enhance our growth and give us the best chance to create the kinds of jobs that are well paying and will stay in this country.

      Q    Jay, when a member drops out, how is that a moment of opportunity?

      MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I’m not — I’m just talking more broadly that this is a moment of opportunity.  The President has put forward his plan and his vision.  There have been other plans and visions out there.  There –obviously great work done by the Simpson-Bowles commission, the President’s fiscal commission.  And so I think that we remain confident that the negotiations being led by the Vice President have made progress and will continue to make progress.  And the President is optimistic that we’ll be able to accomplish some significant deficit reduction.

      Q    Quick question.  IMF personnel — we’ve reported that White House staff David Lipton has been considered as number two to replace John Lipsky.

      MR. CARNEY:  I have no comment on IMF personnel.

      Q    What is he doing in Connecticut after the speech?  It seems like there’s quite a few hours that we’re there.

      MR. CARNEY:  Well, I believe that we’ll be — it has to do with our mode of transportation.

      Q    Any flavor of what he’s going to get to in the speech at the academy?

      MR. CARNEY:  I think he’ll speak to the unique role of the Coast Guard.  The United States Coast Guard Academy I think was founded in 1876.  I believe there are 228 graduates.

      Q    — security in any sense?

      MR. CARNEY:  Broadly, he’ll talk about the Coast Guard’s role in protecting the United States, protecting Americans.  But I don’t — I think it’ll be a focused speech on — a true commencement address.

      Q    Back to the budget just a moment.  I think you were asked this yesterday about any more Biden talks with lawmakers.  Anything new overnight?

      MR. CARNEY:  Oh, I don’t have anything on the — in terms of the Vice President or the schedule for the next meetings, although we do expect those to take place when both houses are back.  And there have been regular consultations at the staff level this week.

      Anybody else?  Anything else?  All right.  Thanks very much.


9:46 A.M. EDT