Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay CarneyBy USGOV
Friday, September 30, 2011
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:17 P.M. EDT
Q Why do you fire — Red Sox fans are firing Terry Francona? Fans are unbelievable. Do you have a comment on it?
MR. CARNEY: I don't support that.
Q There it is — ESPN.com headline: "Don't Fire Tito."
Q Are you speaking for the President?
MR. CARNEY: Tito was manager for the first two World Series victories in a long, long time for the Boston Red Sox. So Red Sox Nation owes him greatly.
Q What do you think about the Orioles? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I'm a Red Sox fan because I grew up here without a team and I never really –the whole Baltimore thing didn’t work for me. So –
Q I'm from Baltimore so don't say anything –
MR. CARNEY: I love Baltimore. (Laughter.) I just didn’t — my fan allegiance didn’t travel up Interstate 95.
Q What specifically do you like about Baltimore? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I love the Inner Harbor — (laughter) — I've taken my kids to the Aquarium and they have a great Children's Museum. It's fantastic. Okay. And I do like to go to games in Camden Yards — when the Red Sox are playing.
So, with that, I guess there's nothing going on today, right? (Laughter.) I don't have any announcements so I'll go straight to your questions.
Q Thank you, Jay. On the killings of al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, does the President believe a different standard applies when the target, in this case al-Awlaki, is a U.S. citizen? Does the President view al Qaeda senior operatives in the same vein, or does he have a different standard of proof when the target is an American citizen?
MR. CARNEY: Jim, you heard the President speak today about al-Awlaki's death and why that is a significant event. He was a principal leader in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most operational affiliate, if you will, of al Qaeda. And he himself was directly involved in plotting terrorist attacks against the United States and American citizens, including the so-called underwear bomber who attempted to bomb an airliner in December of 2009, and the failed attempt to bomb cargo planes headed to the United States.
So in the overall effort, the sustained effort to continue to put pressure on al Qaeda, this is a significant fact that al-Awlaki is dead. Questions about the circumstances of his death I'm not going to get into. So I think the question that you just asked contains within it assumptions that I just won't address.
Q The question is, is there a greater burden of proof simply because he's a U.S. citizen than there would be if you were going after another –
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think that just goes to the assumptions about the circumstances of his death, and I'm not going to address that.
Q Well, is the administration prepared to lay out the evidence that it had against him? You spelled out the instances where you think he was operational, but can you show where that could be –
MR. CARNEY: Separate from, again, the events, the fact of his death today, that he was a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and was operationally involved in serious attempted terrorist attacks against the United States and Americans is an established fact that we've talked about for a long time from here, and we have talked about for a long time about how dangerous AQAP is, and that's been a focus of ours.
And that's why our cooperation with Yemen, militarily and with intelligence and diplomatically with Yemen, has been so important. And this is — it certainly reflects on the partnership that we have had in that effort with Yemen and with the Yemeni officials and why that is so important to continue. And that's the same — in to overall effort that we've made there are many components to it. And when we talk, as I did yesterday, about Pakistan and the complicated but important relationship with Pakistan, our cooperation with Pakistan has helped us in the efforts against al Qaeda. And certainly our cooperation with Yemen has done the same.
Q Does the administration make a distinction between his role as an inspirational leader and an operational leader? And was their a tipping point — is there a tipping point that you guys can point to?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, he certainly — there is no question he was engaged in inspirational efforts, or that he was a recruiter for al Qaeda. But he was also very demonstrably, and provably, involved in operational aspects of AQAP. He was a senior leader. But those are statements of fact, same as I would have said last week if you'd have asked me. But again, in terms of everything relating to the circumstances, I think I’ve said all I can say about that.
Q On a separate matter, you brought up Pakistan. Secretary Clinton, on Wednesday, said the administration is in the final formal review on whether to designate the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization. The administration — you had a meeting yesterday — the NSC with the President. Are you any further along in those discussions? Are you at the point of making a decision as to whether to designate the Haqqani network as an FTO? You designated some of its leadership as terrorist but not the entire network.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I was going to make that point, that individuals have been designated, and that review continues. I don't have an update on the review.
Q Do you have a time?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have a time for you.
Q Getting back to the events in Yemen. Did the President personally order or approve the attack?
MR. CARNEY: I’m going to go back to what I said to Jim. The circumstances of his death I’m not going to address. And what I will say is what I said to Jim about who he was, the threat he posed. The fact that — and this is significant, and it goes to our cooperation both with Yemeni officials and counterparts, but also around the region and why it’s so important — because we cannot forget that the victims, the principal victims of the violence perpetrated by AQAP — al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — were Muslims, in Yemen. And as a leader of AQAP he was responsible for that.
Again, going into the circumstances of his death is not something I’m going to do from here.
Q Well, his focus was primarily international, though, because of his English language capabilities, his abilities on the net in radicalizing English-speaking Muslims. What effect do you think his death will have on efforts by AQAP to destabilize the governments of Yemen and Saudi Arabia?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there is no question that this is a serious blow to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But we remain extremely vigilant. That affiliate, that organization remains very dangerous and very — has proven itself to be operational and capable. So the vigilance continues — as it has in the wake of the successful mission against Osama bin Laden. Obviously al Qaeda remains a threat, and a serious threat, and one that we continue to confront in a variety of ways.
So while this is an important milestone, it is not the end of AQAP and it doesn't change our posture, if you will, towards that organization.
Q Is there a new willingness, do you sense, in the Yemeni government to help the U.S. with this, or is this just part of the — as things have been going along?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think we’ve said — and I was asked this, because of the unrest in Yemen, how that has affected our cooperation. And there’s no — it made it more difficult, but the cooperation continued, and it will continue. And it is separate from President Saleh and our view about him; that has not changed. We continue to call on him to abide by the commitments he’s made to begin the transfer of power immediately, as stipulated in the GCC agreement. And that hasn’t changed. And we call on him and his government to cease any violent actions against the Yemeni people. That continues to be our position.
However, it has been also important to maintain the kind of cooperation we’ve had against this threat in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Q A factual question hopefully you can answer.
MR. CARNEY: We’ll see.
Q Where, when, and by whom was the President notified of the death?
MR. CARNEY: He was notified early this morning by John Brennan, his counterterrorism advisor, and he was briefed on it again this morning.
Q Woken up by a phone call?
MR. CARNEY: He was just notified. I won’t get into specifically how –
Q You said this morning. Can you tell us when he was –
MR. CARNEY: Early this morning.
Q No, when was –
MR. CARNEY: Before the sun rose.
Q When did Brennan first — what time?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have a specific time for you, but it was early.
Q You said he was briefed twice. That's why I was –
MR. CARNEY: I mean that he was notified when he was still in the residence. And then this morning, once he came to the Oval, he had his normal PDB daily briefing, intel briefing, and this was obviously a subject there in that discussion.
Q So going back, nobody questions that both this administration and the prior have identified AQAP as a threat. Other U.S. officials have said this was a U.S. drone, and we know this is an American. So don't the American people deserve to understand our government’s justification for killing — or deciding where and when an American can be killed, in this case someone who is unindicted? Can you speak at least hypothetically to legal justifications for killing Americans?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to speak hypothetically, and I’m not going to speak about the circumstances of his death. And I don't — I’m not aware of anyone by name who has made the kind of statements that you’ve said who is a member of the government.
Q Can you explain then why you won’t get into any of the specifics of what’s gone on here? We know that — we’ve all been reporting that a U.S. drone has been involved, that there’s U.S. involvement in this attack, that this is an American. Help us understand why you're not sharing any more detail.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to get into the circumstances of Awlaki’s death. I would simply say that we are asked questions like that all the time, and our response is the same, which is that we cooperate with partners around the world — whether it’s in Pakistan or Yemen — in taking the fight to al Qaeda, and that cooperation takes many different forms. It’s vital to the success that we’ve had in degrading al Qaeda — and by "we" I mean collectively with our partners. And that effort continues. But I’m not going to get into the specific circumstances of his death.
Q You said that Awlaki was demonstrably and provably involved in operations. Do you plan on demonstrating –
MR. CARNEY: I should step back. He is clearly — I mean "provably" may be a legal term. I think it has been well established, and it has certainly been the position of this administration and the previous administration that he is a leader in — was a leader in AQAP; that AQAP was a definite threat, was operational, planned and carried out terrorist attacks that, fortunately, did not succeed, but were extremely serious — including the ones specifically that I mentioned, in terms of the would-be Christmas Day bombing in 2009 and the attempt to bomb numerous cargo planes headed for the United States. And he was obviously also an active recruiter of al Qaeda terrorists. So I don't think anybody in the field would dispute any of those assertions.
Q You don't think anybody else in the government would dispute that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I wouldn’t know of any credible terrorist expert who would dispute the fact that he was a leader in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and that he was operationally involved in terrorist attacks against American interests and citizens.
Q Do you plan on bringing before the public any proof of these charges?
MR. CARNEY: Again, the question makes us — has embedded within it assumptions about the circumstances of his death that I’m just not going to address.
Q How on earth does it have — I really don't understand. How does — he’s dead. You are asserting that he had operational control of the cargo plot and the Abdulmutallab plot. He’s now dead. Can you tell us, or the American people — or has a judge been shown –
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, Jake, I’m not going to go any further than what I’ve said about the circumstances of his death and –
Q I don't even understand how they're tied.
MR. CARNEY: — the case against him, which, again, you’re linking. And I think that –
Q You said that he was responsible for these things.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, but again –
Q Is there going to be any evidence presented?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything for you on that.
Q Do you not see at all — does the administration not see at all how a President asserting that he has the right to kill an American citizen without due process, and that he’s not going to even explain why he thinks he has that right is troublesome to some people?
MR. CARNEY: I wasn’t aware of any of those things that you said actually happening. And again, I’m not going to address the circumstances of Awlaki’s death. I think, again, it is an important fact that this terrorist, who was actively plotting — had plotted in the past, and was actively plotting to attack Americans and American interests, is dead. But I’m not going to — from any angle — discuss the circumstances of his death.
Q Do you know that the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU tried to get permission to represent Awlaki? And his father had asked them to do that. But they needed to get permission from the Treasury Department so that they could challenge his being on this targeted killing list. And the administration, the Obama administration refused to let them represent him, to not even — he couldn't even have the ACLU representing him.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would send those questions, or take those questions to Treasury or Justice. I don't have anything on that for you.
Q What do you think constitutional law professor Barack Obama would make of this?
MR. CARNEY: I think he spoke about it today.
Q Sorry, just one more time on this. Can you just explain more broadly under what legal authority the U.S. government can kill an American citizen abroad?
MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve had that question. It’s not a question, taken out of context, that I would have an answer to. Generally speaking — and I’m certainly not going to answer a question like that in any way that relates to the events of today. I’m not going to talk about the circumstances of Awlaki’s death, and I’m not going to acknowledge or concede or accept premises embedded in questions. And you should take no response that I give here to have done that because I’m not talking about the circumstances.
Q I mean, after 9/11, President Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, the authority to kill a U.S. citizen abroad if they were plotting attacks on the United States. And then, it is correct that President Obama continued that — yes?
MR. CARNEY: That’s a question I would have to take, and I think would probably be best addressed to the Justice Department.
Q Okay. Let me switch subjects then. Does the President have any co-sponsors yet for his American Jobs Act?
MR. CARNEY: We are confident, as I said yesterday, that the Senate will take up the American Jobs Act. It has broad support from Democrats in both Houses, sweeping support in –
Q Why don't they sign up as co-sponsors?
MR. CARNEY: You’re talking congressional process, legislative process. The bill will be taken up. How and with whose names attached to it, I don't know. I refer you to the leadership in the Senate. The important facts here are what’s in the bill, why the things that are in the bill would be so beneficial to the American economy — would help put teachers back to work, would put construction workers on the job rebuilding highways and bridges and schools. It would give tax cuts to everybody who gets a paycheck and give tax cuts to small businesses, tax incentives, additionally, to small businesses to hire or increase wages, a specific provision to hire veterans.
These are all things that outside economists have said would have a demonstrable and positive impact on the economy. And there is no higher priority right now for this President than to continue to push Congress to take action on those important measures.
Q Is the President concerned that not even Speaker Pelosi has signed up as a co-sponsor for the bill –
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q — and that Senator Durbin has raised doubts about whether a number of Democrats would support it in the Senate — who've also been on the record saying they won’t support it.
MR. CARNEY: A couple of things. I’m not aware of any Democrat who doesn't support the provisions that go to creating jobs, reducing taxes and that sort of thing. And again, it has broad Democratic support. I could go back and read you all the statements of support in the wake of the President’s speech to the joint session.
It also, as a matter of record, for those who consume public opinion data — I think most of you do — has broad public support across the political spectrum. So all the provisions within it — and in the past, the provisions within it have had both Democratic and Republican support. So we are confident that Congress will move — will act on it. We certainly hope that Congress — that the entire American Jobs Act will be passed into law — I mean passed and signed into law by the President.
Now, as I’ve said in the past, if portions of it are sent to him that come directly from the American Jobs Act, if it’s paid for in a way that is modeled after the principles the President has said he insists upon, then he would sign those. And then he would say, send me the rest of it — because all of it is important. And we’re at a moment where our economy needs this kind of action.
So who is sponsoring it, the legislative minutia of this, the details of this are not, I think, particularly important. The broader principle here is, and the need to pass it is. And I think the American people are not particularly concerned about which congressmen or congresswomen are signed up to it, but when Washington is going to take action to help the economy and create jobs.
Q But, Jay, Senator Durbin is not just any rank-and-file senator. He’s the number two in the Senate.
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q He’s a close ally of the President. When he says the President doesn't have the votes for the jobs bill right now, is the President going to stop saying pass the bill right now, since even his fellow Democrats are saying they can't pass it now?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not sure that's quite what he said. And again, the vote is not tomorrow or today –
Q I asked him if he had the votes — he said, “not at the moment. I don't think we do. But we can work on it.”
MR. CARNEY: Right.
Q We don't have the votes. he said.
MR. CARNEY: Right, and we’re working on it, and we’re going to get it. And I’m not sure, again — we face some certain realities, as I’m sure you understand, in the United States Senate, which is that you can't name a post office without 60 votes these days, the way that the filibuster is used. And that was meant to be an exaggeration — but practically and principally. So the reality is even if every Democratic senator supported it, that we face those obstacles.
We have made the point, and the President has made the point, that these are provisions that have historically garnered Republican support as well. And we are making the case both here in Washington and around the country for why that support should be there this time — because the American people need it, they want it, and they want Washington to take action.
Q Warren Buffett was on CNBC, as I’m sure you know. It sounds like Republicans are taking one piece of it and suggesting that he came out against the Buffett rule, even though when you read the transcript, it doesn't sound like he came out against the Buffett rule. However, when asked about how the President is paying for the jobs bill, about changing deductions for people making at least $200,000 or $250,000, he at the very least did not give support for it. He said, "I’ll look at the overall plan that's submitted to Congress and decide what I like, what I don't like. There’s no question there will be parts I disagree with."
So if one of the President’s economic gurus he’s used to hold up on — as the guy who supports raising taxes is not offering his support for the way the President wants to pay for the jobs bill, how do you pay for the jobs bill?
MR. CARNEY: Well, wait a second. I think if you look at that transcript, he was distinguishing it — making clear that the interviewer understood that that — as you actually very helpfully pointed — was not the same as the Buffett rule, the Buffett principle, and the things that he’s discussed. I think it reflected he wants to look more deeply into the various provisions within the jobs act.
The overall principle that he supports the need for wealthy Americans to pay their fair share I think has been established many times by him in a variety of forums.
Q Yes, but he’s saying, I’m not sure if I support the mechanism the President wants to pay for the $447 billion jobs bill — so –
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not sure –
Q And Senator Schumer –
MR. CARNEY: I'm not sure that's what he said. I think he said he was going to look at it. He didn't –
Q And Senator Schumer was on a conference call a short time ago saying the Senate Democrats were looking for other ways to pay for the jobs bill. So are you having a problem getting Democrats to support –
MR. CARNEY: Ed, what I’ve said as recently as yesterday and meant to include in my otherwise incredibly eloquent answer to Norah was that we are open — if there are other ways to pay for this that are fair, that do not put burdens on the middle class unfairly or seniors — we absolutely are willing to look at that, and understand that members of Congress may have either changes around the margins or different ideas about how to do that.
My point about the vast support for the provisions within the bill was about those provisions that go to stimulating growth and accelerating hiring. The President believes strongly that the provisions to pay for this bill, that he had put into the bill, are fair and represent the kind of choices that we need to make as a country at a time when we have to ensure that we pay for something like this — that we tighten our belts and that everybody is paying their fair share, and therefore you're not unnecessarily or unfairly burdening one sector of society and saying, seniors, it's all on you, or, middle class, sorry, or, kids coming out of college — or going into college, rather, and trying to get an education, tough luck.
Because other ideas about how to either pay for deficit reduction bills or other jobs provisions that we've seen have had those problems within them, and we think there's a better and fairer way to do it.
Q Very last, short thing. The Washington Post is reporting that Secretary Chu is taking responsibility for the restructuring of the Solyndra loan. And Republicans are suggesting maybe that's to shield other people at the White House if he's stepping forward. Does he still have the President's full confidence? Is there anyone here who thinks he's to blame for what happened with Solyndra?
MR. CARNEY: Secretary Chu does have the President's full confidence. Going to the report, he is the head of that department, the department, as we have made clear, where career professionals have administered the program, reviewed the loan applications and made their recommendations. Obviously, ultimately the head of that department is responsible for it, but let's be clear, there were numerous people involved who were career professionals and work on those kinds of issues every day.
Q Can you explain to us how the U.S. confirmed his death, since there have — he's been dead before and then found alive. Is it only a Yemeni source, or did the U.S. government –
MR. CARNEY: I don't have an answer to that, actually. I don't know.
Q — U.S. government confirmation, but U.S. government is 100 percent sure that he's dead?
MR. CARNEY: As I understand it, but I don't have a specific — in terms of whether that came from the Yemenis or –
Q Samir Khan — there has been a report that he was also killed in this strike. Do you have confirmation on –
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any information on anyone except for Awlaki.
Q And again, you don't know how that confirmation was — is there a way to get an answer –
MR. CARNEY: I'm not saying I don't have that confirmation, so I wouldn't know where others are getting it. I'm just saying I don't have it to give.
Q So what are the chances of organizing a briefing on these questions today? Could we do that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, actually, I think — what I'm saying here is that we're not going to address circumstances of his death. So I wouldn't anticipate a briefing on it.
Q I thought you were making some distinctions between what you can't answer because you don't know the answers and maybe –
MR. CARNEY: Well, that's true. But specifically in terms of notification and things like that, but –
Q Well, can we get a briefing to at least –
MR. CARNEY: We'll see. I'll take that question about notification and where it came from.
Q Is there DNA? Because with bin Laden there was DNA.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't have any details on that.
Q On the Buffett conversation, the other thing that he talked about in here was this idea of what he says his version of the Buffett rule was on the attacks on the ultra-rich, people that make more than — so, for instance, even athletes that make $30 million a year would be paying this special tax was –
MR. CARNEY: No, no, no, you have to look very carefully — and this is important — and, Ed, I really appreciate you clarifying this because there has been a lot of, I think, deliberate misrepresentation for political reasons, but also just misunderstanding –
Q The way he said it was –
MR. CARNEY: What he said was — and it absolutely fits the Buffett rule as the President described it. If you make $5 million, Chuck — and I hope you do — and it's all in wages –
Q I wouldn't be sitting here if I did, no offense. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: — and that $5 million in income is all in wages — or $50 million, if you were so lucky to make that much — and it's all in wages, you are paying an effective tax rate that is at least as much as middle-class earners are paying. If, however, you are, like Warren Buffett or someone making $1 million, or somebody making $10 million, or $50 million, or $5 million — whatever the figure is — but you're paying an effective tax rate that is lower than a plumber or secretary or a lot of us here, then that's where the principle would apply.
So it doesn’t apply to just — and that's how Warren Buffett described it and that's how –
Q He thinks it affects 50,000 people. Is that –
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't know what the figures are. We have been quite clear that obviously this is not about the — the principle, first of all, is a principle. It's not a — it's a principle that should guide a tax reform — overall tax reform structure.
But we have acknowledged — as I just did here, but even broadly in terms of broad groups of numbers — that obviously there are a lot of very affluent Americans who make millions, maybe even tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, certainly a portion of them are paying an effective tax rate that’s at least as much as a middle-class wage earner.
But there are certainly numerous very affluent Americans who are not. And that is what the Buffett rule was meant to apply to, is those who, because the way our tax code is written and the nature of their income, can find themselves paying 12, 14, 15, 16 percent on substantial income, whereas most folks are paying much more than that.
Q There are two watchdog groups that have filed complaints against a number of super PACs, including Priorities USA, which is a Democratic super PAC that was started by a couple of former White House officials. And the complaints are filed to the IRS to have the IRS look into whether they’re abusing their charitable PACs status. Given the President’s previous denunciations of super PACs in general, does the President support an investigation like this?
MR. CARNEY: That report is new to me, so I’ll have to take it. I don’t have a –
Q In general, is he still — did he ever ask Priorities USA to not go about this? Did he ever ask the ex-staffers, Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, not to do this?
MR. CARNEY: I think back early in my tenure here I addressed this question. But I haven’t thought about it today, and so I will have to take it.
Q Does the death — the killing of Awlaki complicate the arguments that Saleh should go as the President of Yemen?
MR. CARNEY: No, absolutely not. I made that clear earlier that our position has not changed, that he needs to keep his commitment to — as embedded in the GCC agreement that he signed to transfer power right away. And we continue to have that position.
Q He would say that this proves his point, that he — under his leadership, Yemen has been a valuable ally to the United States in the counterterrorism fight. So how would you just respond to that?
MR. CARNEY: Our cooperation with Yemen and with civilian/military intelligence counterparts in Yemen is not limited to one person and it’s never been about one person. It’s been about a partnership around the goal of dealing with a threat both to the United States, to American allies, and to Yemen and Yemenis.
So it does not — that cooperation continued during — has continued throughout the unrest, even though it has been — it has made it more difficult, this unrest. And it’s one of the reasons why we need President Saleh to abide by his commitments. But it has continued throughout the unrest, as I said on several occasions before when Yemen was being discussed. And it will continue — we certainly will endeavor to continue it going forward. But it does not change our position with regard to the President.
Q Jay, separate from the Awlaki matter, can you say or confirm that the President is able to designate individuals on a CIA capture or kill list?
MR. CARNEY: Mark, I can’t. I don’t have an answer to that. So if there’s anything that we’re able to say about that, I can take your question. But, again, I’m not going to get into backdoor ways to try to discuss the circumstances of that.
Q Didn’t Panetta confirm that earlier in the year?
MR. CARNEY: I would have to — again, I don’t know what discussions have been had about that in the past. I can look at that. But I want to make clear that in doing that I’m not discussing the circumstances here.
Q Is the way Buffett explained the rule entirely consistent with what the rule is indeed –
MR. CARNEY: Yes. Yes. And again, I appreciate the opportunity to make clear here, because there has been some, I’m sure accidental, blogging by Republican leaders, and tweeting — (laughter) — and some websites that have misconstrued at best what I think Warren Buffett was saying. The principle is that affluent Americans should pay the same — at least the same tax rate as middle American wage earners.
And that doesn’t mean that’s going to — as I explained it to Chuck, it doesn’t mean that if you’re — that everyone making over a certain figure will have, under that principle, would have a change in their tax rate, because many are paying an effective tax rate that is at least as high as middle Americans, somebody making $50,000 or $60,000 or $75,000 or even $100,000. But there are many others who are paying an effective tax rate that is much lower, because of the nature of their income.
So the principle is simply, as we look at tax reform, as we try to address all the different loopholes and subsidies and aspects of the tax code that benefit some at the expense of others, that principle should be applied.
Q But if it only hits 50,000 people, is that going to –
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t know whether we have numbers that we’ve put together on this. I know it’s not an insubstantial number. But it’s a principle here that I think not only does Warren Buffett strongly agree with, but most Americans strongly agree with.
Q I thought you said 450,000.
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure what our — if we've gathered figures about what we estimate, based on Treasury Department data, what we estimate the number of people who would be impacted by the principle. So, again, it may be — those numbers may not reflect our numbers. But the principle is the principle.
Q — is it a lot higher, as high as 450,000?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know. We’ll have to get you the numbers.
Q And on Awlaki, what role did — can you talk a little bit about the role that the Yemeni government played in targeting and killing him?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to get into the circumstances of his death.
Q But have they stepped up their cooperation recently with the U.S.?
MR. CARNEY: I would simply say that it has been an objective of this administration — and I think the prior one, but this one in particular — that we work to have that cooperation because of the threat that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula represented and continues to represent. It has been actually through the unrest that that has been an issue because of the need to continue that cooperation — that the unrest adversely affected that, but it continued and it continues today.
Q Do you think the tax rate on a millionaire ballplayer should be affected by team payroll or win-lose percentages? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know about that. I am aware that paying — having the largest payroll does not necessarily translate into ultimate victory, as it turns out — but — even the second largest.
Alexis — speaking of a bad headline — sorry.
Q It's the end of the fundraising quarter, so the President is doing a lot of fundraising. We’re going to write stories about how much money he’s been raising. What has he gleaned out of the meetings that he’s had, the interaction he’s had with donors? And also he’s been reaching out a lot to small donors. Can you give us kind of a summary of what it means to him here, how things are going, his interaction with supporters?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean I think he’s had — he’s enjoyed the opportunity to get out and talk to his supporters. It’s part of what you have to do and what you do do when you’re running for office.
I think the message that he’s carried has been the same everywhere, which is that when he took office, when he was sworn into office in January of 2009, and even back on the night when he was elected, he made clear that this was not going to be easy. The challenges that faced us were enormous, and as it turned out, they were even more enormous than people realized at the time in terms of the economic challenges, but that we’ve made progress — we’ve made progress but our work is not done; that we have to continue to struggle and fight to do the things that need to be done to help the American people economically; to ensure that we’re continuing to make the investments in our future, in education or infrastructure, innovation that will enable America to dominate the 21st century economically the way it did in the 20th.
So the message that's he’s been bringing to his supporters in campaign events is really very similar to the message that he is delivering in general about where he wants the country to go, the steps we need to take to get it there, the challenges we face, which remain substantial, and the need to keep working, to keep pushing forward to achieve the goals that he set.
Q In the last election the President was very proud to say that grassroots, small-dollar donors were very important — at least of a quarter of what he pulled in. Is he at all concerned that he’s not going to be able to replicate that this time?
MR. CARNEY: I would address those kinds of questions to the campaign in terms of fundraising and the makeup of donors. My understanding just from what I’ve read in the press is that he’s getting very broad support from all over the country and from — in small and big ways.
Q Again on Awlaki, at Fort Myer, the President said that this operation was a tribute to our intelligence community and to the efforts of Yemen and its security forces. Can we then infer that this was a covert CIA operation without U.S. military involvement?
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q — did not mention the military.
MR. CARNEY: I think the point is, is that we, broadly speaking, have had a cooperative relationship at a variety of levels with our Yemeni counterparts, and that has been the case for a certain amount of time now and continues to be the case today.
Q Well, I’m just — the reason I ask is that obviously in the case of the bin Laden raid where there was a JSOC involvement, that was pretty clear from the outset. Based on what the President says, it appears there is no such JSOC involvement in this operation.
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’m not going to — by parsing his words or anyone else’s — get led down the path of trying to — of discussing details of the circumstances of his death. I’m just not going to do it.
Q And then just one more. You said that the U.S. decision on Saleh and the disposition of Saleh is not related to the Awlaki operation. Does that also mean that the timing of Saleh’s return to Yemen has no connection to what happened with Awlaki? There’s no linkage between that — he arrived one week before Awlaki was killed?
MR. CARNEY: There is no connection to my knowledge.
Q Jay, you took a question yesterday on China currency. The vote is Monday in the Senate. Is the administration going to take a position on this bill?
MR. CARNEY: What I said — I think I had this question yesterday — remains the same. We’re reviewing the bill. We share concerns about the need for the currency — the Chinese currency to appreciate. There has been some progress, but there needs to be more.
Q If you’re going to leave it that way through the vote
MR. CARNEY: Well, that's what I have to say today about it.
Q Jay, does the President believe there is a risk of retaliation and danger to Americans after the Awlaki killing?
MR. CARNEY: We are always mindful of the possibility of actions by those who generally have as their goal doing harm to the United States and Americans and our allies. And after something like this, again, without — regardless of whatever the circumstances of his death might have been — something like this that we need to be extra vigilant. So I would expect that as the case in terms of our — the community that deals with this.
Yes. Let me go to Keith.
Q Jay, the President often talks about innovation and new businesses and industries and so forth. So on the Buffett rule, it would pretty substantially affect venture capitalists who make any kind of capital gains, any kind of really successful capital gains on investments in new businesses. Is he concerned that the Buffett rule could really harm investments in these type of new businesses that he’s often promoting?
MR. CARNEY: I would simply say that as a matter of principle, the President believes strongly that someone making millions of dollar in income should not be paying at a much lower tax rate than an American receiving a paycheck and making $60,000, $75,000.
Q If these new businesses don't get started, won’t that principle be at the cost of real jobs?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, this administration, this President — we have taken numerous measures towards helping businesses — especially small businesses — create jobs and start-ups. And again, in this proposal, the American Jobs Act, we have tax relief for small businesses, specifically aimed at putting more money into the pockets if you will of small businesses, which will hopefully enable them to grow and hire, giving them incentives to grow their workforce or to increase wages. So the commitment this President has to helping our businesses grow and hire is very strong.
Q Thanks, Jay. I would have two questions on the eurozone, if I may. So the first one is, the President was pretty outspoken about his concerns for the developments in the eurozone and the consequences for the world economy. And one could say that he was successful because afterwards European countries and their parliaments — they took action.
Now, my first question would be: Is this a model how generally foreign leaders should deal with other countries? For example, European leaders with Congress, pointing out that the inability of Congress to deal with the debt problem and budget in a timely, decisive manner is also a danger for the world economy? And would you think that leaders in Congress would go along with that and pass swift action? So is that a model and a consideration what European leaders could do to help the States get their house in order, as well?
MR. CARNEY: If European leaders or leaders from other parts of the world want to make the point that we’ve made, that political dysfunction in Washington is bad for the economy, that's fine with me, and I’m sure it’s fine with the President.
It’s a self-evident fact that the kind of dysfunction that we witnessed here in Washington this past summer had a negative impact on confidence both here in America and probably globally — both business confidence and consumer confidence. It was a drag on our economy, and the kind of self-inflicted wound that we should not be self-inflicting here in Washington when we have so many challenges that we need to solve. We shouldn’t create more challenges for ourselves.
As for — the President, as you know, is in regular contact with his counterparts in Europe; the Treasury Secretary. We work very well and cooperatively with our European counterparts on this issue, and our position remains the same, that we urge Europe to take decisive, forceful action to deal with this challenge, which obviously affects the eurozone — the European economy and the eurozone, but the global economy, as well. And we are working with our counterparts to help them in that process.
Q My other question was I'm not quite sure if you had a chance to see the German ambassador put a statement out today, which I quote, “This is no time for transatlantic blame games.” So not everybody shares the interpretation, as I try to present it as a model, how European leaders could –
MR. CARNEY: Well, I –
Q Just let me finish because in the European government, at least in German governments, there is a discussion whether one should do that, or not do that; whether it's good — in order to come to a situation where you calm the market, or you have just the opposite effect, that markets get even more nervous afterward. So what is your reaction, if now the German government in the form of the German ambassador puts out such a statement, no time for –
MR. CARNEY: I don't think anybody is engaged in what you describe as a blame game. I think we are simply — we’re noting what everyone notes, which is this is a real challenge that needs to be addressed, that the capacity exists to address it, and that collective, decisive, forceful action needs to be taken. I don't think that’s a particularly controversial observation, and it’s certainly not meant to be.
This is a global economy. And we need to work collectively with our allies and partners around the world, in Europe and elsewhere, to help it grow and to prevent the kind of problems –
Bless you. Is it Ed?
Q He's contagious.
MR. CARNEY: Oh my God. (Laughter.) Who’s next? Anyway, thank you all very much. I actually — I have to go. Whoa. Every Friday, I forget. It’s because I think I'll be back here tomorrow.
On Monday, the President will hold a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
On Tuesday, the President will travel to Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas, to deliver remarks urging Congress to pass the American Jobs Act now to keep teachers in the classroom, rebuild our schools across the nation, and put money in the pockets of working Americans, while not adding a dime to the deficit. Later, the President will travel to St. Louis, Missouri, to attend campaign events.
On Wednesday, the President will host the President of Honduras at the White House. The President looks forward to discussing a broad range of bilateral and regional economic and security issues during their Oval Office meeting. The President also welcomes the opportunity to underscore the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Honduran people, as well as President Lobo’s efforts to restore democratic and constitutional order in Honduras, and the country’s return to the Organization of American States earlier this year.
On Thursday, the President will welcome the Texas A&M women’s basketball team to the White House for a ceremony honoring their 2011 NCAA national championship.
On Friday, the President will welcome the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears to the White House. Later in the afternoon, the President will host the Prime Minister of Tunisia at the White House. During his meeting with the Prime Minister, the President looks forward to discussing America’s strong support for Tunisia’s historic transition to Democracy, as well as a broad range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest. The President also welcomes the opportunity to highlight the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Tunisian people.
That is your week ahead.
Q How did you guys reach out to the Bears on this? Did you just deal with it through the team, or did you individually invite the players?
MR. CARNEY: I honestly don't know.
MR. EARNEST: We cant discuss the circumstances of their invitation. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry. (Laughter.) Well said.
Q How did the whole thing –
Q Any security clearance problems here? (Laughter.)
2:05 P.M. EDT
Tags: Barack Obama, Office of the Press Secretary, Press Briefings, United States, Whitehouse