Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh EarnestBy USGOV
Monday, August 22, 2011
Mansion House Press Filing Center
Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
12:49 P.M. EDT
MR. EARNEST: I do have a few announcements before we get started. Just a few minutes ago the President informed his team that he would like to depart Martha's Vineyard this evening to return to the White House. We are — as soon as we have more information about the timing of that, then we will share that for you. But that's something that — something the President has just informed his team about.
Q Josh, what changed, though? I mean –
MR. EARNEST: Let me go ahead and finish and then we'll get to some questions.
The travel schedule for the First Family is unchanged. They will depart as scheduled tomorrow morning.
Let me run through a couple more readouts and then we'll get to the questions.
This morning the President received — conducted a conference call — many of you have seen the photo of this conference call; it's already on the White House Flickr photo stream — he conducted a conference call with Chief of Staff Bill Daley, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, as well as FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. This is similar to the call that he convened yesterday in which he got an update from them on the preparations that have been underway for a number of days now in advance of Hurricane Irene.
The President also conducted a call with a handful of governors and mayors from states and communities that are potentially in the line of this storm. On that call, he underscored the importance of coordination between the federal government and local and state officials. He also — he thanked Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate for the work that they've done over the last several days on this issue, and for their continued efforts to communicate and coordinate in support of the state and local authorities who are responsible for preparing these communities for these storms and for responding to them after the storm strikes.
He also made clear to them that the entire federal government is focused on bringing all available resources to bear on this effort and he directed his team to continue to make sure that there are no unmet needs.
In addition to that, I wanted to flag two other things that may be useful for your reporting as you're working in terms of covering this story related to Hurricane Irene. The first is, in 2009, the Obama administration conducted a national-level exercise. What this is, is basically a simulation or an exercise from federal officials to prepare for different emergency situations.
One of the first exercises that they conducted along these lines was actually simulating or exercising around a category 3 hurricane striking New York City. This is an exercise that the President participated in, in 2009. And the reason I raise this is because the federal government's preparations for this storm didn’t just begin as the clouds started to gather and form a tropical depression, but rather that the federal government, and this administration in particular, is constantly exercising and preparing and testing and evaluating our readiness for situations like this.
So, obviously, in the last several days, as that weather forecast has become clearer, very urgent preparations have been underway, but they were not starting from scratch. And I think that's an important point to note.
The second thing is the President did get an in-person briefing on the first day of hurricane season this year in the Situation Room at the White House. North Carolina Governor Perdue participated in that briefing in person. So, again, our level of coordination and communication with local officials in that state in particular have been underway for quite some time in preparation for this hurricane season.
So I wanted to flag those two pieces of interest.
Q What was the date of that 2009 –
MR. EARNEST: I don't know. I can get you some more information about that.
Q And the New York preparation — what was it?
MR. EARNEST: This is something called a national-level exercise — an NLE. And this is where federal officials across a range of different agencies exercise around different simulated events that require an emergency response from the federal government.
Q It’s like a tabletop?
MR. EARNEST: Essentially a tabletop, yes. And this is an exercise in which the President participated in it, and this is –
Q When was it?
MR. EARNEST: In 2009. I’m not sure exactly when during that year. This is one of the first national-level exercises that this administration conducted.
Q It seems kind of obvious that he’s going back early because of the hurricane.
MR. EARNEST: Yes.
Q Will he go directly back to D.C. tonight?
MR. EARNEST: He will travel back to the White House this evening.
Q Any plans to go to North Carolina at this point?
MR. EARNEST: Not at this point that I have to announce.
Q Why did he not mention that to the American people in his statement? What changed in the last hour? It seemed like he was just addressing the American people about the severity. Why wouldn’t he say, by the way, I’m leaving? Did something change?
MR. EARNEST: I think that he felt it was more urgent to communicate to them the need to listen to local officials and to make — to put in place — to take the precautions and to follow the advice that state and local officials are offering them. And that was the reason for his statement today. He didn’t feel obligated to keep them apprised of his travel plans.
Q What changed, Josh? Could you tell us what changed? Did something develop over the last 24 hours that the President said, listen, this situation is much more severe than we initially thought and I need to be in Washington as opposed to on an island?
MR. EARNEST: I think the President simply reached the conclusion it would be more prudent for him to be in Washington, D.C., and to be at the White House at the end of the day today. And that is the — that’s the reason.
Let me do two more things –
Q When did he reach that conclusion?
MR. EARNEST: He directed his team just in the last few minutes.
Q The last few minutes?
MR. EARNEST: In the last few minutes, yes.
Let me flag two other things and we’ll sort of get around to some questions here — because the President also today received his daily economic briefing with the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese. Mr. Deese informed the President — or updated the President on overnight developments in the overseas markets. He also gave the President a briefing on the speech that Chairman Bernanke delivered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this morning.
And in addition to that, the President also made a telephone call to the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde. We’ll have some more details on that call later today in terms of a readout of that call.
MR. EARNEST: He did that this morning.
And then, finally, there have been two statements from the President that we’ve sent out just within the last hour. The first is condemning the violence in Monterrey, Mexico, overnight. And the second was condemning the brutal attack on U.N. facilities in Nigeria. So I wanted to flag both of those presidential statements for you — because there’s obviously a lot going on.
So I will take a few questions now. Erica.
Q Can you talk about the economic impact of the storm? In particular, Obama has been laying out the things they have set us back that you can’t control — is this going to become one of these things that sets back the economy?
MR. EARNEST: Well, two things: One is, I’m not in a position to predict what the aftermath of this storm will look like. I can tell you that right now the focus of our efforts and the focus of the efforts of the federal government is in support of state and local officials, who right now are focused on protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people who live in the communities that could possibly be affected by the storm.
So we’re talking right now about protecting lives, and that’s what the focus of our efforts — that’s where the focus of our efforts is. That’s why the President delivered the statement that he did today, in terms of urging Americans to take this storm seriously, to take the necessary precautions, and to follow strictly the advice and guidance that’s being offered by state and local officials — in particular, evacuation orders that are issued by state and local officials. I can’t underscore that strongly enough. That is something that the President believes people need to be extremely mindful of.
Q But understanding that’s your focus right now, would you anticipate a significant economic impact from the storm?
MR. EARNEST: Again, I’m not in a position, before the storm has even struck, to predict what things will look like after the storm has passed.
Q In the 2009 exercise you described, since it was specifically studying New York City, what was it that they gamed against? What did they study? Was it a study of how many people were in need of shelter, how much water might run out? What did they study exactly?
MR. EARNEST: Well, they — what they did was they actually — they evaluated the interagency federal response. So they wanted to have a good sense about what are the kinds of prudent measures that the federal government could take in the situation in support of state and local officials who are responsible for responding to a storm like that.
So there are a number of lessons, over the years, that emergency managers at the federal level have learned about this, and one of them was something that we talked about a little bit — two days ago when I was up here, where we talked about the value of pre-deploying some assets in the area in advance of a storm. So we talked about these Incident Management Teams pre-deploying to certain areas.
I can tell you that — when I talked about this two days ago, there were these pre-deployed teams in Virginia and North Carolina. There are now Incident Management Teams who are deployed in South Carolina — North Carolina and Virginia, which I had previously mentioned — but also in New York, Massachusetts and Vermont.
And so that’s an indication of the kinds of things, in terms of pre-deploying assets to the region to ensure that they can — that those resources will be available to federal responders in support of state and local officials who are responding to the storm.
Q Okay, but when you do those pre-deployments, those pre-deployments tend to be big containers that are full of things like cots, lights, water, these kinds of things –
MR. EARNEST: Baby formula, those kinds of things.
Q So is that what the NLE was about? Do you have the right number of supplies in place if the New York-based shelters can't handle the people who are evacuated?
MR. EARNEST: Again, this is a federal-level exercise that was conducted, so we were talking about federal actions that would be taken. And so the importance of pre-deploying these kinds of assets are among the kinds of things that was talked about in this exercise, where they considered, again, what kind of materials and supplies they would want to have at hand, where they would pre-deploy them, what are the other places where they need to ensure they're in close coordination with federal officials.
One of the things that they've also done is there is a — just in the last day or two, FEMA has — or the federal government has activated a national disaster medical system. This basically allows the federal government to deploy doctors, nurses, EMTs and paramedics as necessary. So that system has been activated. Those medical professionals, last I heard, had not yet been deployed, but again, they have this system in place so that they can be in support of hospitals and clinics in areas where it's most needed.
Q And I have one more quick clarification. On the list of states for pre-deployment, you said Massachusetts and Vermont. Are Connecticut and New Hampshire on the list?
MR. EARNEST: They aren’t right now. But, again, the goal of these pre-deployments is to ensure that there in the region, but not necessarily in the direct line of the storm, so they can quickly deploy to any of those — to the areas where they're needed.
Q Staying on the NLE, can you give us a sense of the scenario, how many people we're displaced in New York City, what did the feds have to do with the state and local — just to give us a sense of what a category 3 in the federal government's mind might do to New York?
MR. EARNEST: I don't have that in front of me right now, but I will see if I can get some more information out of our folks at the national security staff who were responsible for coordinating that exercise, and if we can provide some more information on that, then we will.
Q And a couple of my colleagues asked what changed the President's mind? I mean, we've been watching the storm track for several days and had been asking whether or not he might leave a little bit early. What actually happened that may have triggered –
MR. EARNEST: I would simply say that in the mind of the President he felt that it was prudent for him to be at the White House this evening. I certainly do anticipate that he'll continue to be in touch with his team over the course of the day as necessary, but certainly will be receiving updates through the weekend as the storm progresses, both in terms of the preparation and then whatever response is needed.
Q Josh, we know that, of course, it's a traveling presidency and you get information and updates as they come, but what can he do from the Situation Room in terms of monitoring the storm that he can't do in a place like Martha's Vineyard?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I can't get into obviously all the capabilities that exist in the Situation Room, but suffice it to say that the President felt it would be prudent for him to be at the White House this evening.
Q Just to go back to the call he made to Christine Lagarde, can you tell us what that was about?
MR. EARNEST: We will have more information on that call. At this point, I don't have information on what they discussed during that call, but we will have a readout for you later today.
Q I mean, generally, it wasn’t about the hurricane, they were talking about the economy?
MR. EARNEST: That's correct, it was not about the –
Q Who were some of the mayors and governors who he talked to today? And were any New York officials involved in that tabletop exercise in '09?
MR. EARNEST: They were not. Again, it's a federal-level exercise. I think subsequent to that, to that exercise in 2009, they have looked for ways to include state and local officials in these types of exercises, but that was not the case in 2009. It was purely a federal-level exercise.
In terms of the conference call today, those who participated were Governor Christie from New Jersey, Governor Cuomo from New York, Governor Markell from Delaware, Governor McDonnell from Virginia, Governor O'Malley from Maryland, Governor Patrick from Massachusetts, and Governor Perdue from North Carolina.
And then the mayors on that call — Mayor Bloomberg from New York, Mayor Fraim from Norfolk, Virgnia, Mayor Gray from Washington, D.C., Mayor Nutter from Philadelphia,
Mayor Rawlings-Blake from Baltimore, and Mayor Sessoms from Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Q The conference call — sorry — was convened at what time this morning?
MR. EARNEST: The conference call was at approximately — it was shortly before the President delivered his statement this morning, so I'd say in the 10 o'clock hour.
Q Does he feel confident that the preparations are in place to deal with this kind of magnitude of a storm?
MR. EARNEST: The President was very complimentary of the efforts of Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate in terms of the preparations that have been put in place in advance of the storm. Obviously, as I mentioned on Wednesday, Administrator Fugate has a lot of experience in dealing with this particular event. He previously held the job as the chief emergency response official in the state of Florida, and he served there during a couple of those years, in 2004 and 2005, where the state was buffeted by repeated hurricane strikes. So he has a lot of experience in terms of dealing with this sort of an event. He's keenly aware of the needs of state and local officials who are trying to prepare their communities for this sort of event and is also keenly aware of the kinds of resources and support that are required from the federal government in the aftermath of the storm.
So the President is very pleased with all the steps that have been taken by FEMA under the leadership of both Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate.
Q And in that 2009 exercise and the preparations that you talked about that the President has been working on over the last couple of years, are there specific lessons that he took from the government's response to Hurricane Katrina that — specific changes that he wanted to see that would prepare for a storm like this now?
MR. EARNEST: Well, there are a couple of operational things which I've already talked about in terms of pre-deploying some of the response assets that may be needed in the region but not necessarily directly in the line of the storm, and then also the content of some of those supplies — so things like ensuring that there are medical supplies that are on hand, that there is extra baby formula and diapers, that those kinds of supplies are also available.
But if you're looking for more details, more granular details on that, then I would urge you to contact my colleagues at FEMA and I'm sure they can provide you some more information on that.
Q I know in terms of the look ahead of the economic impact it's hard to judge, but is there a sense of how much has been spent so far just deploying these units up and down the East Coast?
MR. EARNEST: I don't know if I have a number that I could provide you on that. Obviously that's something that FEMA is dealing with. One of the things that the President has already done is he did sign an emergency declaration for the state of North Carolina. That is something that is done to ensure that the state and local officials have the resources that they need to make the advance preparations. So this is a little bit different than the kind of declaration that the President would issue in the aftermath of a storm; that these kinds of emergency declarations are to address the issue that you're raising.
Q Is there a sense that other states — that he will sign emergency declarations for other states in the coming hours?
MR. EARNEST: Well, those kinds of declarations are actually — first have to be requested by individual states. I don't know exactly where we are in the process in terms of if there are other states that have issued those requests. But again, that's a process that's administrated by FEMA, so you can check with them if you have a question about specific states.
Q And just turning quickly to Libya, there seems to be renewed fighting between the rebels and Qaddafi's forces. Does the White House still believe that Qaddafi's power has slipped, or is there a concern that he still may be in control?
MR. EARNEST: No, the White House firmly believes that Qaddafi's power — grip on power has slipped. That's pretty evident from the reports that we're seeing on the ground. We have also said from the beginning that this is a transition that's underway and that there obviously does continue to be some fighting in parts of Tripoli and other places around the country, but it is evident that there is momentum on the side of the rebels as they continue to make advances and as they continue in their efforts to set up a new government in Libya. There was an announcement that they were beginning to put in place some of that governmental infrastructure in the capital of Tripoli. And that is something that the United States, our allies and others in the region are pleased about and continue to be supportive of, because we are supportive of the efforts of TNC to put in place a democratic government that respects the rights of the Libyan people.
Q Do you still believe that Qaddafi is inside Tripoli?
MR. EARNEST: Right now, as I've been saying the past few days, right now there is no evidence to indicate the Qaddafi has left Libya.
Q And how important is it that he be captured, killed or flee for this transition to move forward?
MR. EARNEST: Well, it is our belief that Qaddafi needs to relinquish power once and for all, that that's in the best interests of the American people — of the Libyan people, I should say. Probably of the American people, too, but in this case, it's more pertinent to be in the interests of the Libyan people. It's also important that Qaddafi is held accountable for the crimes that he's perpetrated while in power and against his people and against people, frankly, who were the victims — from around the world — who were the victims of his terrorist activities.
Q But can the transition really progress at the speed that you'd like to see with him not having been captured, killed or flee?
MR. EARNEST: Well, obviously we would — I'm not in a position to sort of evaluate that question. Obviously it is the belief of this administration that the transition would proceed more smoothly if Qaddafi were to turn himself in and were to be held accountable.
Q Josh, you said the President has decided it would be more prudent for him to be at the White House tonight. To be clear, is that because of his safety and the weather or overseeing the response?
MR. EARNEST: The decision today was not made in response to any concerns about his own personal safety, but he did believe that it would be prudent, as the hurricane prepares to make landfall, for him to be at the White House this evening.
Q And Mrs. Obama and the children are going to stay here?
MR. EARNEST: That's correct. That's right. They will continue as planned to remain here overnight in Martha's Vineyard and then will travel home tomorrow morning.
Q Change of topic?
MR. EARNEST: Sure.
Q On the jobs program and his speech, can you give us any guidance as to whether you're still doing nuts and bolts on policy work? And is it fair to say the way you've described it and the way the President has said that he's asking for more than $1.5 trillion in long-term deficit reduction as well as the new elements in things you’ve talked about he will talk about in his speech — is it fair to say he's making another run at the grand bargain, that it's not just a jobs program, it really is an attempt to get the grand bargain done this time?
MR. EARNEST: It is fair to say that the President does believe that there is an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to coalesce around some common ground that would allow us to do something very serious about the long-term fiscal challenges facing this country; that there is an opportunity for us to find common ground around the super committee identifying — or going beyond, I should say, the $1.5 trillion deficit reduction mandate that they currently have.
I think there are a number of reasons for that. Certainly, and I think first and foremost, it's that there is a — first and foremost, the reason for that is that the long-term fiscal challenges that this country is facing is something that should be addressed both for the long-term economic benefit of this country, but also because there is an opportunity here if Democrats and Republicans are willing to move off their initial negotiating positions that we can actually do something serious.
And there's something unique about this political moment at this time. There is sufficient political pressure to get this done, to make some difficult decisions that will require people on both sides making some sacrifices.
Q So I mean, we could label it the grand bargain as well, the package you're calling your jobs plan? It is the grand bargain in different clothes?
MR. EARNEST: Well, these are two separate things. The major economic address that the President will deliver shortly after Labor Day will be focused on things that we can do, policies that we can put in place to strengthen our economy and create jobs. That is the top priority of this administration. That has not changed.
Q But to get there –
MR. EARNEST: Well, in addition to that, the President continues to believe there is something serious that we can do and can get done around addressing our long-term deficit challenges. But these are — the President views this as — these are two different things here.
Q But do you get the short-term without doing the long-term?
MR. EARNEST: What do you mean?
Q I mean can you convince Congress to do stimulus, in essence, with job-creating programs that the President will talk about in his speech without doing long-term deficit reduction?
MR. EARNEST: Well, there are a number of things that the President –
Q — it makes it a grand bargain, right? I mean, entitlements and everything else.
MR. EARNEST: I suppose that’s one way to look at it. The President’s top priority, in his view, is that we need to speed up our recovery; that there is more that we can do strengthen our recovery and create jobs. This is something that’s going to be led by the private sector, but there is a role for the government to play to support the private sector’s efforts in that regard.
What you will see from the President, what you’ll hear from the President when he lays out that — when he gives that speech is it will include the kinds of ideas that Democrats and Republicans should both be able to support. These are the kinds of things that, by and large, should have bipartisan support.
One of them that we’ve talked about quite a bit is the extension of the payroll tax cut. There are some Republicans in Congress who are saying that they will not support that — that they don’t support that proposal and that they’re — that they stand ready to raise taxes on middle-class Americans, families who stand to benefit — or have benefited from a $1,000 tax cut over the last year and would benefit next year from a $1,000 tax cut.
So there are some things that we have to work out here. But the President’s chief priority here is to strengthen our economy, to create jobs, and to support the private sector’s efforts on that — in that regard.
Q Josh, now that the President doesn’t have the MLK dedication to do on Sunday, do you have any additional information about what he’ll do Saturday and Sunday after he returns to Washington tonight? And might he do some on-the-ground hurricane related event? Most likely — you don’t want to get in the way of –
MR. EARNEST: That’s right.
Q — public safety and stuff, but can you talk about his planning on that front?
MR. EARNEST: I can tell you that, certainly over the course of the weekend, the President will be in close touch with both Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate and other members of his team who are responsible for leading the preparation efforts and the response efforts. I don’t have anything more detailed to share with you at this point, but we will endeavor over the weekend to keep you apprised of his activities.
Q Can I ask a question about the jobs plan quickly? As you know, he’s gotten some criticism from members of his own party, people who say the African American unemployment rate is hovering around 16 percent, the President hasn’t done enough. Will his jobs plan include any initiatives that might target that community specifically, or low-income communities?
MR. EARNEST: I can tell you that what the — that the way that the President looks at this problem is that there are communities, large and small, in every region of this country where he would like to see the economy strengthened and more jobs created. And so the policies that he will lay out in September will be focused on addressing that problem and addressing the needs of those people, regardless of whether they’re white, black or Latino; regardless of whether they live in an urban area, a suburban area or a rural community; regardless of whether they live in the North or the South or the East or the West; that rather what he’s focused on is strengthening the economy in those communities where it’s needed. And that’s what I think you can anticipate — that’s what you can anticipate he’ll talk about when he delivers his address shortly after Labor Day.
Q A related question: You mentioned from the podium the other day — this is on infrastructure — you mentioned from the podium that he was taking input from the top members of his Jobs Council on retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency. The context of that seemed to be the ideas he was getting from these big business leaders in what to do from their point of view to create jobs. But the President has mentioned that before. That was also one of his campaign promises. And on this arc, Josh, if you will, between what’s old — what are some of the old ideas that might be part of the job creation package and what are some of the new ideas that he’s going to put forward in the speech — how serious is the retrofitting of buildings, and is that going to be considered a new idea or an old idea?
MR. EARNEST: Well, two things: The first is, the reason that the Jobs Council exists is the President believes that it’s important for him to be in close touch and coordination with leaders in the private sector about ways to strengthen the economy and create jobs. So he’s in regular consultation with them because he believes, again, that the private sector is going to lead this effort. And he’s interested in finding the kinds of government policies that would support the efforts of the private sector in that regard.
The reason that I mention that is, is that there are a number of ways for the government to provide incentives for the private sector to engage in efforts like this. So whether it’s specific tax incentives or other things, there are a number of ways to incentivize these kinds of changes in a way that would benefit the businesses that own these buildings, but also that would benefit the broader economy because it would lead to the hiring of a good number of construction workers, not to mention the environmental benefit.
So this is — the Jobs Council is actually going to have a meeting next week in Dallas, Texas, on September 1st, to work through some of these issues, to talk about what are the kinds of incentives that could be put in place that would be most beneficial — what’s sort of the best way for us to leverage the policies of the federal government to support the private sector’s efforts in this regard.
Q Tax breaks, low-interest loans — these kinds of things?
MR. EARNEST: Right, right. So they’ll consider this broad array of policy proposals to try and find out the best way to leverage these policies in a way that will incentivize the private sector.
Q Can you say, has the President any reaction to the criticism that ran throughout Chairman Bernanke’s speech today of the fiscal policy process?
MR. EARNEST: Well, are you talking about specifically of the debt ceiling negotiations and –
Q Well, he referred — Bernanke referred back to that, but the idea that — he said that this — the process that we’ve seen to date, we need a new process because this one had not only damaged the markets but had potentially damaged the economy, and it has to change.
MR. EARNEST: As you know, Jackie, as a matter of course, we routinely don’t respond to the specific decisions or statements that are delivered by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve because that is, of course, an independent body. He’s articulating his own independent opinion and making his own independent policy decisions.
However, what I can tell you is that the President has repeatedly expressed in his own right his frustration with the dysfunction and the partisan rancor that we’ve seen on Capitol Hill that has interfered with the government’s ability to address these challenges in a way that benefits the American people. So that is something — that has been a source of frustration that the President has articulated. And the President is hopeful that after these members of Congress have spent a few weeks talking to their constituents back in their home districts, that they will return after Labor Day and will have received the message from the broad majority of Americans, who would like to see the kind of government that they voted for. And, again, this is a divided government, not a dysfunctional government.
And so the President is hopeful that members of Congress will have received that message and will come back and be willing to work in bipartisan fashion to put in place the kinds of fiscal policies and broader economic policies that are in the best interests of the country.
Q Do you know if they talked — if the President and Chairman Bernanke talked about fiscal policy when they met shortly before the President left on vacation, at the White House?
MR. EARNEST: I remember that meeting, and we made a conscious decision to protect the confidentiality of that meeting. So I’m not in a position to read out what they discussed at this point.
Q Josh, on the economy, the Vice President told reporters on the way back from Hawaii, I believe, that he believes what’s needed is the economy needs more stimulus — I believe was the word he used — and government programs to get things going. I think this follows on what David was asking a couple of days ago that stimulus has sort of become a dirty word in Washington. And here you have the Vice President saying it’s what we need again. Is that what the President’s jobs plan is going to be about, more stimulus, more government programs?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I’ll let you evaluate how you want to describe it once you’ve seen the President give his speech.
Q That’s the Vice President’s –
MR. EARNEST: Yes, I understand. And you’re seeking guidance about how you should describe it, and what I’m saying is that the President will lay out a series of ideas that he thinks could do a lot to create jobs and strengthen the economy in this country. These are the kinds of jobs that he believes that both Democrats and Republicans should be able to support. This will include some ideas that we’ve already talked about, in terms of an infrastructure bill, in terms of extending the payroll tax cut, but it’s also going to include some new ideas. And I’ll let you — after the President gives his speech, I’ll let you sort of evaluate how you would like to describe it.
Q The Vice President says, we need stimulus. Does the President agree?
MR. EARNEST: The President believes that there are certain things that the government can do to support the private sector as they lead this recovery; that there is a — we were talking about some of the retrofit incentives. These are the kinds of things — again, government policies that can incentivize and support the private sector to make the kinds of decisions that will certainly help those businesses, but also stimulate job creation and economic expansion.
And, again, these are the kinds of things that the President is working on. His team has been working on this back at the White House over the course of the week. The President has been consulting with these leaders in the private sector. We talked about the conversations that he had with Alan Mulally, Warren Buffett, the folks on his Jobs Council. So this is — these are the kinds of things that they’re talking about, and they’re talking about the kinds of government policies that would be helpful in this regard.
Q Josh, just jumping to the attack on the U.N. headquarters in Abudja — in addition to the statement the President issued, do you have any insight as to who might have been behind that? And has the administration offered to assist the Nigerians in any way in tracking down the perpetrators?
Mr. EARNEST: I don’t have anything for you on that. I’d actually suggest that you check with the State Department. They may be able to provide you some more information on that front. Any final questions before we wrap this up?
Q It’s all good.
MR. EARNEST: Okay. Thanks, everybody.
Q Thank you, Josh.
Q Josh, just one other little logistical thing.
MR. EARNEST: Okay.
Q There are a number of other things that I think are still going on with the soft announcement of the — or soft unveiling of the statue of Martin Luther King. Is he going to do anything at all associated with that in the coming days, or is he waiting for them to firm up their plans?
MR. EARNEST: If we have — my understanding is that the last of those activities will actually be tomorrow. I’m not aware of anything that’s been added to his schedule for tomorrow, but if we add something we’ll let you know. At this time nothing has been added.
MR. EARNEST: No, but we’ll have it for you as soon as we can this afternoon. The advance team and the other assets are working on putting that together.
In terms of the week ahead, obviously the President will be back at the White House this evening. There’s nothing that I have for the schedule tomorrow at this point, other than sort of his regular communication, coordination with Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate.
Obviously, the event on Sunday has been postponed. I don’t have any updates for you on what that postponement will look like and whether the President will participate, but we’ll keep you updated on that front.
Q Any chance of canceling the Minneapolis speech, or is this too far in advance?
MR. EARNEST: At this point it’s still on, the President is still planning to go. On Monday, he’s planning to be at the White House. He doesn’t have any trips beyond the White House at this point. And then Tuesday he is traveling to Minneapolis to speak to the American Legion.
Q What would you say the odds are that he will visit some of the areas on the way back?
MR. EARNEST: I’m not in the gambling mood today.
Q Is he going to — (inaudible) –Dallas?
MR. EARNEST: No, this is the Jobs Council that is convening those meetings.
I don’t have anything else for the rest of the week, but let’s talk early next week and we’ll get you what we can.
Q There's several reporters saying the whole family is coming back tonight. That’s not your understanding, right? And it hasn’t changed?
MR. EARNEST: We’re going to lock that down for you.
Q So that may not be the case, that they’re leaving tomorrow morning?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t know yet. So let me –
Q So it’s unclear whether the rest of the family is leaving –
MR. EARNEST: At this point, you should report that it’s unclear exactly what their travel plans are.
Q But that’s not what you said at the top of this.
MR. EARNEST: I know it’s not what I said. (Laughter.) Did you see Amy surreptitiously passing notes to me? (Laughter.) So we’re obviously dealing with some moving situations here. As soon as we get greater clarity about their travel plans, we’ll get back to the pool and we’ll make sure that everybody is informed.
Q And tonight — it’s going to be late tonight?
MR. EARNEST: I’m not quite sure yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as we can.
Q — to go home and pack. (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: Yes. As soon as we get you guidance on those logistical details, we’ll do it. Okay? I’m in the same boat.
1:27 P.M. EDT
Tags: Office of the Press Secretary, Press Briefings, United States, Whitehouse