White House Press Gaggle by the Press Secretary Jay Carney Aboard Air Force One, May 5, 2011

En Route New York, New York–(ENEWSPF)–May 5, 2011 – 10:27 A.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Good morning.  I don’t have any announcements, so let’s get started.

Q    What does the President want to do today?  What does he want to see?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the President believes it’s appropriate and fitting to travel to New York this week, in the wake of the successful mission to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, in order to recognize the terrible loss that New York suffered on 9/11, and to acknowledge the burden that the families of the victims, the loved ones of the victims, have been carrying with them since 9/11, almost 10 years, and in an effort to perhaps help New Yorkers and Americans everywhere to achieve a sense of closure with the death of Osama bin Laden.

Q    Can you talk about tomorrow’s troop rally in Kentucky and sort of the tone that the President is looking to strike there versus today?

MR. CARNEY:  What the President almost always says when he’s asked about the toughest decisions he has to make is that it’s sending men and women into battle, into harm’s way.  And the successful mission against Osama bin Laden is a monumental achievement, but the fact remains that we’re still at war, that we have 100,000 combat personnel in Afghanistan, we have troops in a support-and-assist role in Iraq, and we have U.S. military men and women in other places around the globe and, in some cases, in difficult situations.

So it’s important to acknowledge that, and for Americans to remember that despite the elimination of bin Laden, we’re still extremely dependent upon and grateful to our military men and women for what they do.

Q    Will there be a status update on the efforts in Afghanistan or any sort of policy discussion?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t expect the President to make any policy announcements about Afghanistan or AfPak, as we say.  As I’ve said, and others, that the President’s policy remains unchanged. In many ways, while the mission against bin Laden was a singular event, it was part of a general intensification of our focus on the AfPak region, on the need to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, which was the primary goal of the President’s policy in the AfPak region, and it was reflective of a general success that we’ve been having in taking out al Qaeda members and terrorists in the region.

Q    Jay, you used the term, “closure,” there in your first answer.  Does the President think that coming to New York, meeting with first responders, going to Ground Zero, can add to a sense of closure for New Yorkers that they wouldn’t have if he simply made his statements from the White House?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that it’s important for the President of the United States, given the traumatic events that New York suffered on September 11, 2001, to return in the wake of the successful mission against bin Laden.  He will be back for the 10-year anniversary.  And this is a significant event this week, and he looks forward to meeting privately with family members, meeting with first responders, in what is a bitter-sweet moment in many ways.

Q    Can you talk about the latest revision to the Sunday narrative that in fact it was not a 40-minute firefight, as White House officials had initially said?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any updates on the narrative.  As I said yesterday, we’ve been extremely forthcoming in trying to provide as many facts as we could to you as we’d gotten them.  The nature of the mission, the nature of what happened Sunday, combined with the effort to get that information quickly resulted in the need to clarify some facts, which I think, honestly, is to our credit that when we discovered that clarification was needed we did put them out.  But the —

Q    But the White House has not clarified this point on the record.

MR. CARNEY:  Again, as I said yesterday, the Defense Department can take questions about — you have about further details on the mission or clarifications.  We’re still in a process of gathering all the facts of that operation.  And the broader point here is that a group of extraordinary U.S. personnel flew into a foreign country at the dead of night and executed a mission and achieved a goal — executed a mission flawlessly and achieved a goal that had eluded the United States of America for almost 10 years.

Q    Can I ask you about the family members?  If any expressed a desire to see the picture of Osama bin Laden, would you be willing to provide it, and have you brought a picture today in case of that eventuality?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not aware that anybody brought any pictures and I don’t have any updates on that.

Q    Well, on the picture, yesterday in his interview that you shared with us, the President used the phrase, “spike the football,” in discussing his decision not to release the photos. Does the President believe that Americans who want to see the pictures are looking to do a victory dance?

MR. CARNEY:  No, but he believes that there is ample precedent or evidence in the past of pictures like this being used in a way that is not helpful to national security interests of the United States; that is not reflective of who the American people are, as the President said, that we don’t trot out photos as trophies.  And since we established beyond any doubt the identity of Osama bin Laden, the fact that he was killed, there is no need to release those photos.  And on balance, as I said, there are certainly arguments for — and reasonable arguments to be made for release, but on balance, the President feels very strongly that the cons outweigh the pros.

Q    Any updates to the schedule at this point?

MR. CARNEY:  We will provide you updates as we move along throughout the day.  If there are changes to the schedule that you already have we’ll provide you that information as we go along.

Q    Any updates to the search for a Commerce Secretary?

MR. CARNEY:  I do not.

Q    There were reports today about — on the budget talks, that Republicans were kind of seemingly downsizing some of their ambitions on what they were going to seek from these talks that are beginning today.  Do you have any indication of Republicans backing away from Medicare demands or any reaction to some of the stories that were out there today?

MR. CARNEY:  I read those stories.  All I would say is that the necessity to set aside maximalist positions is paramount if you’re trying to reach common ground and find a consensus around some achievable goal.  So we welcome any efforts, indications, that parties to these negotiations are searching for common ground, and look forward to these talks getting underway and to having them produce a result.

Q    Can you describe how the Vice President has prepared for the talks?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, having worked for him, I know he likes to dive deep and I’m sure he spent a lot of — in terms of the issues, I’m sure he spent a lot of time with a lot of paper and with his Chief of Staff, Bruce Reed, and with the economic team, just mastering the facts of the situation.  That’s how he approaches these things.  So — but beyond that, I don’t have any updates.

Q    Thanks.

10:37 A.M. EDT