White House Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney on Bus Tour through Hampton, VA, Oct. 19, 2011

Bus Tour Through Hampton, Virginia–(ENEWSPF)–October 19, 2011 – 11:20 A.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY: This is a brief gaggle, so I won’t — I don’t have any announcements. Obviously you heard the President and First Lady discuss just now the good news about the program of the American Logistics Association committing to hire 25,000 veterans or their spouses, which is certainly a good program.

So with that, I will take your questions.

Q Jay, there are very few Democrats from Virginia in any of these events. We have on-the-record quotes yesterday from a Fairfax County, I guess, delegate, and also Ward Armstrong has cut these ads distancing himself from the President. Did you guys, A, have to shift any events because local Democrats didn’t want to appear with the President? And what in general do you think about the fact that so few Democrats want to be at the same event as the President?

MR. CARNEY: Well, a couple of things. One, I’m not aware of any schedule changes — not my department. But the fact of the matter is there have been Democrats as well as Republicans, including just now Governor McDonnell, at some of these events the President has done.
Secondly, as we have made clear, the President is out here talking about the need for Congress to pass the elements of the American Jobs Act, the provisions from that act that will help put Americans back to work and grow the economy. That is the urgent matter at hand, and that is why he is out here in North Carolina and Virginia, talking to the citizens of these states, and trying to put pressure on Congress to take up that legislation now piece by piece and pass it, because there is no higher priority.

So he is not out here campaigning for himself or for other candidates. Secondly, some of that reporting has been a little off base. I mean, I saw something about Governor Kaine that seemed to miss the fact that we were just in Richmond a few weeks ago and Governor Kaine spoke at an event with the President.

The President is focused on the important matter at hand, which is getting the American Jobs Act passed and signed into law.
Q There is a report that the U.S. is replacing his — appointing a new envoy to North Korea and replacing Steven Bosworth. Can you confirm that?

MR. CARNEY: For now I’m going to have to refer you to the State Department on that.

Q What about the talks in general with North Korea? Why is the U.S. looking to restart those? What are you hoping to gain out of them?

MR. CARNEY: Again, let me just refer you to State on that.

Q Can you confirm that they’re happening?

MR. CARNEY: At the moment I’m just going to refer you to State.

Q Did the President watch any of the debate? And does he think the Republican field is narrowing?

MR. CARNEY: On the bus the President did not watch any of the debate. It was — he walked by a television that had it on with the sound off, so I don’t want to say he didn’t see any image from the debate, but he didn’t watch any of it. I did. And I asked him this morning, and he didn’t catch any of it after we got back to the hotel.

So what he told your network, Ann, last night is that he’s not going to prognosticate about who will emerge from the primary field in the Republican Party. He knows from personal experience that it’s a long primary campaign — or can be — and the outcome is hard to predict.

I think at this stage in 2007, he was certainly a long way from winning the nomination and was still very much an underdog in his party. So it’s just — he’s content to focus on his job. Like he said the other day, I think our first day on this jobs tour, when a crowd was chanting “four more years” he said he appreciated that, but he’s focused on the next 13 months and doing his job as President and getting this jobs bill passed.

Anybody else?

Q Thanks, Jay.

Q That’s great. Thank you.

Q Sorry, Jay, just one more. I know we have a statement already from the NSC about the terrorist attack in Turkey by the Kurdish PKK. Is the — and the Turkish military has launched an incursion into Northern Iraq in retaliation for that. Is the U.S. communicating with the Turks and urging any kind of restraint in their response?

MR. CARNEY: All I have on that is I think a statement from the President, which has, I believe, been put out. I can read it if you like, if you haven’t seen it. I don’t have anything — no? You don’t want to hear that? I just didn’t know if you guys had gotten it yet. But that’s all I have on that for now.

Q Jay, can I ask one quick follow-up on the prisoner swap from yesterday, since you guys didn’t have a lot then? Now that you’ve —

MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s not that I didn’t have a lot — you guys didn’t ask a lot.

Q We asked, we asked about it in general. But to be a little more specific on it, now that we’ve sort of seen the celebrations in the Palestinian territories, people have heard a little bit more from Shalit — do you think that this is going to encourage Hamas in any way? And if that happens, what impact does that have on the peace process?

MR. CARNEY: Well, look, again, I am still in a position where the connection between this and the peace process is not direct, at the very least. We are pleased that Gilad Shalit has been reunited with his family. We have long called for his release, and it was far too long in coming.

The road to peace is through direct negotiations. And it’s very important that both Palestinians and the Israelis take steps that bring them closer to returning to the negotiating table so they can resolve the issues between them. That’s the only thing that’s going to lead to a two-state solution that achieves the goals for both — that have been set forward by both Palestinians and Israelis.

Q But if Hamas is boosted by this incident, how does that impact the peace process?

MR. CARNEY: Look, it’s not our place to deem winners and losers on this incident, except for Mr. Shalit and his family. And our position on Hamas hasn’t changed and this incident doesn’t change our view of what needs to happen in the peace process.

Q Whoa!

Q Hold on.

MR. CARNEY: Very impressive, Ann. Very impressive.

Q I don’t know if you were asked yesterday in the gaggle about this report that Merkel and Sarkozy have essentially agreed on this $2 trillion backstop. Has the President been kept in the loop on this? And what’s your general sense of how that is proceeding before this weekend’s meeting?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I was not asked about it, and I don’t have any detail on it. I mean, the President — I did speak generally about Europe yesterday and the fact that the President has been spending a lot of time on it, and will continue to, especially as we get closer to the G20.

I think, for now, Secretary Geithner and the Treasury Department are probably the best people to pose that question to that you just asked.

Q Thank you, Jay.

Q Thank you.

MR. CARNEY: Thank you.

* * *

Q — Senator McConnell says, park the campaign bus and the talking points and do something about the jobs crisis.

MR. CARNEY: The President of the United States is traveling to two states of the 50, talking with citizens about the need to pass the American Jobs Act. Presidents can and should get out of Washington on occasion to meet with ordinary Americans and hear from them about their — the challenges they face in this difficult economy.

11:28 A.M. EDT