Fox News' Glenn Beck asserted, "I know [Fox News White House correspondent] Major Garrett doesn't ask the questions at the White House, because he's never called on. Hmmm. I wonder why." In fact, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has responded to questions from Garrett during every press briefing Gibbs has held in August, including one earlier on the day of Beck's broadcast.
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Beck suggests White House refuses to take questions from Garrett
BECK: Well, why doesn't somebody -- somebody else besides Major Garrett and Jake Tapper -- I mean, I know Major Garrett doesn't ask the questions at the White House, because he's never called on. Hmmm. I wonder why. Why doesn't someone else besides those two call the president out on his blatant intellectual dishonesty. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 8/12/09]
Gibbs has taken Garrett's questions in all five White House press briefings since start of August
Obama has also called on Garrett during press conferences
Since taking office, President Obama has also taken several questions from Garrett. During press conferences, Obama responded to Garrett's questions on February 9 in the East Room, March 24 in the East Room, April 4 in Strasbourg, France, and June 23 in the Brady briefing room.
Briefing and press conference transcripts:
GARRETT: Will Chairman Baucus be with the President at the event in Montana?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
GARRETT: So they'll do it jointly?
MR. GIBBS: No, no, he'll be in attendance. He's not an introducer or -- he's just -- he's not a participant, he's -- I guess he's been --
GARRETT: Right, but he won't be answering questions or anything like that, he's just there?
MR. GIBBS: He's just there.
GARRETT: Yesterday the President said AARP endorsed the plan. As you're aware, yesterday AARP said it hasn't endorsed a plan. Where on the information or disinformation scale would the President's remark fall?
MR. GIBBS: Well, the President said -- well, AARP has said they are certainly supportive and have been for years on comprehensive health reform. I don't think the President meant to imply anything untoward. I think he discussed the notion that AARP is supportive of -- or, I'm sorry, an agreement that would fund filling the doughnut hole for seniors as part of Medicare Part D, as well as additional savings for comprehensive health care reform.
GARRETT: The President is doubtless aware AARP hasn't even endorsed the House pending committee legislation or the Senate legislation.
MR. GIBBS: Which is what I just said.
GARRETT: Right. So he's aware of that. So he wasn't trying to mislead anyone --
MR. GIBBS: No, no.
GARRETT: He just misspoke.
MR. GIBBS: Right.
GARRETT: Is that something that can happen in this debate?
MR. GIBBS: That people can misspeak?
GARRETT: Right, without intentionally meaning to mislead.
MR. GIBBS: Sure. I don't know if it's happened on certain subjects, but yes.
GARRETT: Okay, so is -- within the range of this whole discussion, something can be wrong but not necessarily intentional misinformation is what I'm getting at.
MR. GIBBS: Yes. I think most of what the President has addressed, though, has been in many ways intentional misinformation.
GARRETT: That he's been trying to correct; understood.
MR. GIBBS: Right.
GARRETT: Senator Isakson put out a statement yesterday, also taking issue with what the President describes as his position and his involvement in the end-of-life legislation in the House. Do you want to amend or correct anything the President said, or you said about that? Because Mr. Isakson has a completely different interpretation than the President used and you used yesterday. He didn't have -- he had no role in the House legislation. He opposes the language in the House --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I didn't say -- let's take what I've talked about on the back of the plane. Let me just read what -- let me just read the question, a series of questions and answers from Senator Isakson: "How did this become a question of euthanasia?" Senator Isakson: "I have no idea. I understand, and you have to check this out, I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin's Web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end-of-life directive, or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up."
Question two: "You're saying this is not a question of government, it's for individuals?" Senator Isakson: "It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time, rather than having the government make them for you."
Question three: "The policy here, as I understand it, is that Medicare would cover a counseling session with your doctor on end-of-life options." Senator Isakson: "Correct. And it's a voluntary deal."
GARRETT: I believe those are answers in response to his amendment in the HELP bill, not the longer and more defined involvement of these end-of-life panels that's in the House bill. That's how it's been explained to me by his people, so I'm just wondering if --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I would ask them, those people to interpret: "I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin's Web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it, where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end-of-life directive or a living will as that is nuts." Not my words. His.
GARRETT: Right, I understand. But what the President talked about yesterday was saying that Senator Isakson had some role in helping to craft or developed the House legislation --
MR. GIBBS: I think what the President mentioned --
GARRETT: -- implying that he supported it. And I'm just saying that Senator Isakson denies that he had any role and he doesn't support it.
MR. GIBBS: Again, I don't think that's what the President was implying. I think the President mentioned that Mr. Isakson had been in the House -- that may have been some of the confusion. He was a member of -- did, obviously, represent Atlanta suburbs before becoming a U.S. senator from Georgia.
I think, again, what the President was trying to say was, in a question about some of the misinformation, asked specifically about euthanasia and death panels, and I think -- and I said this also in the back of the plane yesterday -- I think what Senator Isakson says in addressing that misinformation could not be more clear, that for someone to take, as he says, talked about the House bill -- his words, not mine -- "having death panels on it where people would be euthanized, how somebody could come up with that" -- and roughly paraphrasing -- in that sense is nuts.
GARRETT: Right. And I'm not trying to beat this into the ground, but he doesn't support the language in the House bill. You can have differences over --
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I understand. What I'm saying is I think there may be some confusion --
GARRETT: -- of end-of-life counseling is and be clear to understand that neither of them calls for anything approaching euthanasia --
MR. GIBBS: I think the one thing that --
GARRETT: Setting that aside for a second --
MR. GIBBS: I mean, again, one thing that --
GARRETT: -- he doesn't back the House language, had no role in it, and believes that yesterday there was comments from the President that indicated that --
MR. GIBBS: I certainly didn't read it that way and I don't think my comments --
GARRETT: Should be interpreted that way.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I didn't say that, to interpret it that way would be nuts. But --
GARRETT: He's too sensitive about this?
MR. GIBBS: Again, I read what he said in an interview that was posted on WashingtonPost.com yesterday. I think if you go back and look at some amendments that he's offered and cosponsored --
GARRETT: He -- (inaudible) --
MR. GIBBS: Right, but this -- he's offered and cosponsored other amendments with Senator Rockefeller in dealing with this. I think -- whether this is uncomfortable or not, I think he and the President agree.
GARRETT: Robert, continuing our conversation from the gaggle this morning, I talked to some of the economists at the Labor Department and one of the things that happened in July is, as it routinely does, the Labor Department takes a survey of active participation in the workforce. And one of the questions they ask is, "Are you looking for a job actively?" About 775,000 Americans answered, "No," for various reasons and were taken out of the monthly survey. Would you agree, then, that that is partially to account for reduction in jobs -- 247,000 -- and yet the unemployment rate going down as an explanation of what happened?
MR. GIBBS: I think in many ways we talked about that this morning. Remember I --
GARRETT: I just maybe understand it better now. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I have to give you points for honesty, that -- I think -- and I admit I may not have been as clear, but obviously we've talked about --
GARRETT: That's why it's not such a positive from anyone's point of view. Because you have 775,000 people out of the workforce, you clearly show a smaller workforce --
MR. GIBBS: Now, why they left, I don't know if they said. I mean, obviously there are some -- there's no doubt that --
GARRETT: They make seasonal adjustments, so this is largely not --
MR. GIBBS: A decent amount of them may be discouraged, without a doubt.
GARRETT: Which is a bad sign for the economy.
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. Some of them may have won the lottery and are moving somewhere else -- probably very few. Some may be, as you said, seasonally adjusted, for the fluctuations as it happens month to month. That's why I noted up here earlier there are troubling signs with long-term unemployment reaching its highest level.
We've talked about the fact that we need to create and have sustained creation of positive job growth to see that number either hold the line or fall back in a way that denotes genuine, positive activity. Basically here you have -- my hunch is that if you hadn't taken that many people out of the workforce you might see something that's much more on the level than you would have seen as a decrease.
I will tell you this, Major, I think if you go back and look at our reactions to three months ago -- three reports ago when we went from negative 519 to negative 303, that's a revised number; last month when it went from 303 to the revised number of 443; well, this month, to go from that to negative 247, our response in many ways has largely been the same, because, as I said earlier, we've still got a lot of work to do.
We still have -- there were some positive signs. You had wages went up a little bit, which was good news. You actually had a level number on the work week, meaning that businesses weren't -- what sometimes will happen in these job reports, and that's why you have to look at some of the other numbers, which is why I hesitated to pick one number that defines overall genuine economic health -- if you look at the work week number, you may have a series of employers that decide I'm not going to fire you, I'm just going to have you work 35 rather than 40 hours, right? So that's denoted in some of these economic --
GARRETT: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Thirty-five hours a week sounds tempting, though, I would be the first one to admit that we're all lucky to have gainful employment as several millions of Americans have watched their jobs disappear in this recession.
GARRETT: I guess this is -- would partially explain why you think though the unemployment rate went down this month, it is likely to hit 10 percent by the end of the year. Is that a fair assumption?
MR. GIBBS: I think it could easily go -- whether it hits 10 next -- well, I don't know if it will hit 10 next month, but I think you could easily see it go up with a similar number of jobs lost if the denominator in that fraction simply holds constant.
And, again, as I said earlier, even as we've seen this chart go from negative 741 to 681 to 652, and as that job picture has gotten better from the standpoint of fewer jobs lost, you still see that unemployment rate go up, because you've still got to create those jobs in order to see that rating --
GARRETT: Quickly, on the drug deal, I want to give you a chance to -- not the drug deal, the --
MR. GIBBS: Drug deal?
GARRETT: Let me rephrase.
MR. GIBBS: I was going to say. All of a sudden, I wasn't sure what we were talking about now. (Laughter.)
GARRETT: The legislative -- the tax for the legislative agreement with PhRMA, Senator McCain sent out a tweet earlier today, I know you'll be happy to know.
MR. GIBBS: I'm just glad to hear it's working again. (Laughter.)
GARRETT: And it reads as follows -- and it reads as follows, "Drug companies cut deal with White House, Americans lose, special interests win, so much for transparency." Would you like to respond to that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, that doesn't seem to make any sense. I don't know if I can do this in 140 characters or less. See, I'm learning.
First of all, again, there's paper about this because it was announced. So I don't understand the whole -- I don't understand the last argument.
What we're doing is looking for savings in a program in health care that will make health care more affordable and less expensive for all Americans. The agreement that was worked out will help seniors who fall into that doughnut hole in a program that expanded Medicare covering drugs for seniors and also use savings to make health insurance more affordable for millions of Americans. I think that is a win-win for everybody.
GARRETT: So is this taming special interests or having them find their sweet spot for their own best interests?
MR. GIBBS: Well, you know, if you look back at the course of health care reform as an issue over the past 40 years, I think if you look at where we are in the debate and where others have been, and where different stakeholders have been in that debate on the other side, running TV ads, opposing health care reform or making it harder for it to happen, we have those stakeholders at the table making agreements that will make health care more affordable for families, for small businesses, that will institute genuine insurance reforms and make the lives of the American people better. I think that's a win-win for all of those involved.
GARRETT: Robert, Dr. Romer left the door open to a second stimulus in 2010, saying at one point, a good doctor always monitors the situation. Is that a fair assessment that the administration will wait until the beginning of next year before making any concrete decision about a second stimulus?
MR. GIBBS: Well, timing aside, I think the good doctor -- both Romer and the good mythical doctor they were speaking about -- said exactly what we've all said, which is, first and foremost, our focus is on implementing the Recovery Act that Congress passed. Secondly, we will continue to monitor the economic situation.
If there are ideas that the President or the economic team believe can and should be taken in order to accelerate the recovery and to lay that foundation, we'll certainly take a look at that. Obviously, I don't anticipate anything new in the near term, except as I said, the implementation of the recovery plan.
GARRETT: Dr. Romer was also asked directly to say whether or not the President would raise taxes on the middle class in his first term. Her initial reaction was, "Can I go now?" Then she said, well, the first priority is to lower costs on government through health care. But at no point did she say the President would not raise taxes on the middle class in the first term. This would now be the third economic advisor of the President who, given the opportunity to say declaratively that would not happen, has not.
MR. GIBBS: Do I count as an economic advisor?
GARRETT: So I'm asking you to help us understand why three people who are in every meeting with the President every day on the future of his economic policy would, after three times given the opportunity to say it's not going to happen, punt all three times.
MR. GIBBS: Major, in fairness to her and to me, I will be happy to take a look at the transcript.
JAKE TAPPER (ABC News White House correspondent): It's accurate what he said.
MR. GIBBS: I'm not questioning the veracity of Major. I do appreciate the ability to at least look at what the good doctor said. I'm going to give you the same answer that I gave you on Monday, which was the President's answer.
GARRETT: And what would account for this what appears to be a repetitive disconnect between the President and his economic advisors, who meet with him every day on these topics?
MR. GIBBS: And I'll have a better answer to that when I get a chance to look at what she said.
GARRETT: Following up on what Jake asked about the fishy e-mails, would it be more likely to assume, Robert, that the White House would be curious about people who would be e-mailing them about things that they'd consider either disingenuous or inaccurate in order to keep in touch with them as part of an ongoing dialogue about their support for the White House efforts on health care -- meaning you're not looking for people who are saying things that are not accurate, but you're looking for ways to always expand the number of folks who e-mail you or Organizing For America as a political tool to keep in touch with them?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let's -- hold on. Let me -- I'm not entirely sure what the question was, but let me put down some fence posts in the speech. OFA and the White House Web site, as you well know, are not in any way connected. Point number one.
Point number two, I think I was -- as Jake vouched for the veracity of your statement, I think he will equally vouch for the veracity of mine in saying that I was pretty clear that we're not collecting names from those e-mails.
TAPPER: He was pretty clear. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I like the fact that, like, Jake is the arbiter here of --
GARRETT: Well, I guess what I'm trying to figure out is --
GARRETT: Ombudsman. (Laughter.)
GARRETT: What I'm trying to figure out is why ask for them then? I mean, what's the goal here?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Major, as I said to you before, as I said to Jake before --
GARRETT: And the staff that you have assembled here is obviously very capable of detecting all sorts of conversations in America about all sorts of issues and responding and putting together briefing points --
MR. GIBBS: -- we get stuff about what's said on FOX News all the time. (Laughter.)
GARRETT: I wouldn't be surprised. I just don't understand what the particular goal is of seeking --
MR. GIBBS: The particular goal is to --
GARRETT: -- e-mail the White House about things -- about this particular issue.
MR. GIBBS: Well, it's to get misinformation and to clarify for everybody what the misinformation is. I don't -- I hope that's not new. It doesn't certainly seem to be.
GARRETT: What, the existence of so-called misinformation, or the White House soliciting --
MR. GIBBS: No, the --
GARRETT: -- descriptions in e-mails?
MR. GIBBS: -- the White House looking to correct misinformation. When you make a mistake in your report, sometimes I e-mail you; occasionally I call; sometimes I just throw something against the wall. Occasionally it's all three.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: You ask Jake if Major makes any mistakes in his reports. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: That would be -- let's not put Jake in that position. But, Major, we've discussed in here seniors having a misimpression about what is contained in the bill. We've talked about all sorts of things that are misconceptions in here.
GARRETT: -- all the thousands of people e-mailing the White House.
MR. GIBBS: And all we're asking people to do is if they're confused about what health care reform is going to mean to them, we're happy to help clear that up for you. Nobody is keeping anybody's names. I do have your e-mail. That is --
GARRETT: As I have yours.
MR. GIBBS: Maybe I assume that's because I assume future mistakes, but I'm not going to say that. (Laughter.) But nobody is collecting information. Everybody is trying to give people only the facts around what we all understand is a very complicated issue.
GARRETT: Is it your expectation, Robert, that he will leave North Korea with the two American journalists?
MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the trip.
GARRETT: Is the fate of the two American journalists and your ability to talk about this more openly, publicly, linked?
MR. GIBBS: I'm going to ensure that I don't do or the administration doesn't do anything that would jeopardize that.
GARRETT: Why would you believe that speaking about this trip would in any way jeopardize or enhance their ability to be released?
MR. GIBBS: Safety is the best policy.
GARRETT: Can I carry on, Robert, on Cash for Clunkers?
MR. GIBBS: No. (Laughter.) Go ahead, I'm sorry.
GARRETT: Ask a stupid question. (Laughter.)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He's going to put it under the umbrella of North Korea.
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
GARRETT: Where does the administration believe the $2 billion should come from within the stimulus package? Does it have a preference? There are a couple of energy-related --
MR. GIBBS: I owe this to Jon Ward, the House -- I need to look up the legislation and I'll get it for Jon and for you, as well. The money comes from an energy efficiency program previously approved --
MR. GIBBS: That's what the House legislation states.
GARRETT: And that's what the administration supports and that's where it should come?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
GARRETT: Does the administration categorically reject the notion that this money could in any way, shape, or form come from the TARP allocations?
MR. GIBBS: In order for that to happen you'd have to have -- you couldn't do that without a change in the law or the approval of Congress.
GARRETT: It couldn't be done by Friday, therefore you oppose it.
MR. GIBBS: Well, right, with the House out of town. But it could not be done unilaterally.
GARRETT: Right. So therefore you oppose it.
MR. GIBBS: Makes it more difficult to effectualize. (Laughter.)
GARRETT: How comfortable is the administration with the statistics released so far? I know these are incomplete because DOD hasn't released all the available data. But based on what we know so far, four of the five top-selling models come from Toyota and Honda.
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, the statistics that I had mentioned yesterday, I mean, 47 percent of the cars sold were from the Big Three, which was slightly larger than their current market share of 45 percent. And I think the top-selling car through this program is the Ford Focus.
I think what you've seen is --
GARRETT: So you are comfortable?
MR. GIBBS: We're comfortable because what we've seen is, one, people are making decisions to buy cars for the first time in a long time. And two, this program is also designed to take cars that get far worse gas mileage, which pollute more, off of the road for something that's more fuel-efficient, safer for our environment, and protects our security. I think the statistics that we have show a 61 percent increase in fuel mileage, which lets people know the program is working.
GARRETT: Betty Sutton's original legislation sought a "Buy America" provision. It was dropped in the negotiations. I don't remember this ever coming up in the briefings previously -- if it did, I apologize -- did the administration actively seek the removal of that "Buy America" provision?
MR. GIBBS: I can check. I know that some of those provisions, as I've talked about in some of the questions on this in the morning, there was concern about violating international trade.
GARRETT: True. But there's concerns about that in defense appropriations legislation, as well, and there are "Buy America" provisions in some defense contracting legislation that balance both these issues.
MR. GIBBS: Again, I think the statistics denote that the Big Three automakers have been represented well in this program because they're building cars that Americans want to buy.
GIBBS: Welcome back.
GARRETT: It's great to be back. How are you?
MR. GIBBS: You're lying, but that's -- (laughter.)
GARRETT: Well, it was also great to be away.
MR. GIBBS: I see. That's a better --
GARRETT: Were you in the morning meeting on the economic topics you talked about a moment ago?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
GARRETT: Who else was there? Was Mr. Geithner and Mr. Summers there, I guess?
MR. GIBBS: They were there; Peter Orszag, Rahm Emanuel, Anita Dunn.
GARRETT: Did the President bring up what was discussed in the Sunday talk shows, or did Mr. Summers and Mr. Geithner volunteer --
MR. GIBBS: I don't believe --
GARRETT: -- did either one of them volunteer the hypothetical back-and-forth characterization --
MR. GIBBS: I'm sorry, what?
GARRETT: Did either one of them explain --
MR. GIBBS: No, I made that up all by myself.
GARRETT: That's how you interpreted it, as a hypothetical back and forth?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I read the transcript a few times. And I do think that -- yes, I think there was some --
GARRETT: Did the President seek an explanation from either Mr. Summers or Mr. Geithner about what they were trying to do?
MR. GIBBS: We talked about it as an issue, but we didn't -- it wasn't sort of -- this wasn't a, you know, like "school is in" type of thing.
GARRETT: Or a woodshed type of thing?
MR. GIBBS: Right. No.
GARRETT: Okay. Why no Republicans at this meeting tomorrow? And would it be fair to interpret that since health care is the dominant issue that the Senate Finance Committee is wrestling with now and the senators will be dealing with considerably during their recess period, that health care would be the principal topic of this meeting?
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think there will be a number of topics. In terms of -- I mean, this is -- I would look at tomorrow's --
GARRETT: It's a team-building exercise.
MR. GIBBS: I don't know if there will be trust falls or not. But I think it is -- you know, Mark, I'm just not getting it today. Like I can't sort of -- (laughter) -- I'm trying.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We're with you. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I'm trying.
I mean, I think one of the things that I would say is, you know, you have -- I would look at this as the President speaking to the Democratic Caucus. They have a regularly scheduled caucus lunch that happens every Tuesday. It's just we're having that lunch here at the White House rather than up on Capitol Hill. So I think that explains talking to Senate Democrats --
GARRETT: But the dominant go-home topic is health care?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think you will -- again, I think you will hear a number of -- I think you will hear -- I don't doubt that health care will be discussed. I believe the economy will also be heavily discussed -- the numbers that we've been talking about, numbers that we'll see throughout the week, unemployment, manufacturing reports, just in general where the economy is.
I think we'll probably -- they'll go through and discuss energy legislation. I think in some ways -- I know one of the things that will be discussed is the continuation of the President's push to continue the Cash for Clunkers program, which without some help from the Senate in terms of moving the $2 billion from the recovery and reinvestment plan's energy efficiency programs into this account will likely mean that the program will have to be stopped by the end of the week.
But I also think the President will use it as an opportunity, as I am about to, to talk about the benefits of what that program has done. The initial analysis of a group of the applications showed that the transactions were generating a 61 percent increase in fuel economy -- that vehicles purchased under the Cash for Clunkers or CARS program is 25.4 miles per gallon; the average fuel economy for trade-ins was 15.8 miles per gallon. In gas alone, that's going to save a typical customer $700 to $1,000. It's good for consumers.
It's good for dealers and auto manufacturers. You've seen Ford talk about their sales being up as a result of this program. It's good for our energy security and our environment.
GARRETT: How long is it good for, Robert? I mean, is the idea of artificial incentivizing of this automobile acquisition -- how long is that a good idea? Is it a good idea for six months or for --
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, the original proposal that we had laid out was for $4 billion as part of this program. And again, we've seen the benefits of what that means in terms of savings for consumers and a decrease in fuel usage, which is good for our environment and our economy.
The Congress appropriated and the President signed $1 billion. We think another $2 billion can take the program through September and that it's a good thing.
GARRETT: Would it be -- well, first of all, what's your guidance from the Senate on the likelihood of that? Do you think you're going to get that this week?
MR. GIBBS: We're very hopeful. Again, I think if it doesn't happen this week, it's unlikely that we'll make it to the weekend with a program that can continue.
GARRETT: And is your message to those who are contemplating buying a car this week, they should go do it and expect that they'll get the money one way or the other?
MR. GIBBS: Yes. The program is up and running. Again, if they meet the requirements of the program, the certificates that are filled out at the dealerships will be honored.
GARRETT: Even if the Senate doesn't act?
MR. GIBBS: Well, at a certain point -- again, if the Senate doesn't act by the end of the week, then we'll look at what we have to do with the program -- again, likely -- if the Senate hasn't acted by next Friday --
GARRETT: This Friday.
MR. GIBBS: -- right, this Friday, then I think obviously -- I would not give people the same assurances of going into a dealership over the weekend.
GARRETT: So from now until Friday, if you're going to buy, expect that you'll get your certificate filled out and your rebate?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
From Obama's June 23 press conference:
OBAMA: All right? Major Garrett. Where's Major?
GARRETT: Right here, sir. In your opening remarks, sir, you were -- you said about Iran that you were appalled and outraged. What took you so long to say those words?
OBAMA: I don't think that's accurate. Track what I've been saying. Right after the election, I said that we had profound concerns about the nature of the election, but that it was not up to us to determine what the outcome was. As soon as violence broke out -- in fact, in anticipation of potential violence -- we were very clear in saying that violence was unacceptable, that that was not how governments operate with respect to their people.
So we've been entirely consistent, Major, in terms of how we've approached this. My role has been to say the United States is not going to be a foil for the Iranian government to try to blame what's happening on the streets of Tehran on the CIA or on the White House; that this is an issue that is led by and given voice to the frustrations of the Iranian people. And so we've been very consistent the first day, and we're going to continue to be consistent in saying this is not an issue about the United States; this is about an issue of the Iranian people.
What we've also been consistent about is saying that there are some universal principles, including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, making sure that governments are not using coercion and violence and repression in terms of how they interact with peaceful demonstrators. And we have been speaking out very clearly about that fact.
GARRETT: Are Iranian diplomats still welcome at the embassy on the Fourth of July, sir?
OBAMA: Well, I think as you're aware, Major, we don't have formal diplomatic relations with -- we don't have formal diplomatic relations with Iran. I think that we have said that if Iran chooses a path that abides by international norms and principles, then we are interested in healing some of the wounds of 30 years, in terms of U.S.-Iranian relations. But that is a choice that the Iranians are going to have to make.
GARRETT: But the offer still stands?
OBAMA: That's a choice the Iranians are going to have to make.
From Obama's April 4 news conference by in Strasbourg, France:
OBAMA: Okay. Major.
GARRETT: Thank you, Mr. President, and good afternoon. I'd like to ask you about a law that's recently been passed in Afghanistan that affects the 10 percent of the Shia population there. A summary of it says it negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage, and restricts a woman's right to leave the home. The United Nations Development Fund for Women says this legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband. I'd like your assessment of this law, number one. Number two, will you condition future troop movements of the U.S. to Afghanistan on the basis of this law being retracted or rewritten? And if not, sir, what about the character of this law ought to motivate U.S. forces to fight and possibly die in Afghanistan?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, this was actually a topic of conversation among all the allies. And in our communication -- communiqué, you will see that we specifically state that part of this comprehensive approach is encouraging the respect of human rights. I think this law is abhorrent. Certainly the views of the administration have been, and will be, communicated to the Karzai government. And we think that it is very important for us to be sensitive to local culture, but we also think that there are certain basic principles that all nations should uphold, and respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle.
Now, I just want to remind people, though, why our troops are fighting, because I think the notion that you laid out, Major, was that our troops might be less motivated. Our troops are highly motivated to protect the United States, just as troops from NATO are highly motivated to protect their own individual countries and NATO allies collectively. So we want to do everything we can to encourage and promote rule of law, human rights, the education of women and girls in Afghanistan, economic development, infrastructure development, but I also want people to understand that the first reason we are there is to root out al Qaeda so that they cannot attack members of the Alliance.
Now, I don't -- those two things aren't contradictory, I think they're complementary. And that's what's reflected in the communiqué.
OBAMA: We have stated very clearly that we object to this law. But I want everybody to understand that our focus is to defeat al Qaeda and ensure that they do not have safe havens from which they can launch attacks against the Alliance.
From Obama's March 24 news conference:
GARRETT: Good evening, Mr. President. Thank you. Taking this economic debate a bit globally, senior Chinese officials have publically expressed an interest in international currency. This is described by Chinese specialists as a sign that they are less confident than they used to be in the value and the reliability of the U.S. dollar. European countries have resisted your calls to spend more on economic stimulus. I wonder, sir, as a candidate who ran concerned about the image of the United States globally, how comfortable you are with the Chinese government, run by Communists, less confident than they used to be in the U.S. dollar, and European governments, some of them center-left, some of them Socialist, who say you're asking them to spend too much.
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I haven't asked them to do anything. What I've suggested is, is that all of us are going to have to take steps in order to lift the economy. We don't want a situation in which some countries are making extraordinary efforts, and other countries aren't, with the hope that somehow the countries that are making those important steps lift everybody up. And so somebody has got to take leadership.
It's not just me, by the way. I was with Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia, today, who was very forceful in suggesting that countries around the world, those with the capacity to do so, take the steps that are needed to fill this enormous hole in global demand. Gordon Brown, when he came to visit me, said the exact same thing.
So the goal at the G20 summit, I think, is to do a couple of things: Number one, say to all countries, let's do what's necessary in order to create jobs and to get the economy moving again. Let's avoid steps that could result in protectionism that would further contract global trade. Let's focus on how are we going to move our regulatory process forward in order that we do not see the kinds of systemic breakdowns that we've already seen. And that requires -- that means not just dealing with banks, but also some of the other financial flows that are out here that are currently unregulated. We've got to update regulations that date back to the 1930s, and we're going to have to do some coordination with other countries in order to accomplish that.
As far as confidence in the U.S. economy or the dollar, I would just point out that the dollar is extraordinarily strong right now. And the reason the dollar is strong right now is because investors consider the United States the strongest economy in the world, with the most stable political system in the world. So you don't have to take my word for it. I think that there is a great deal of confidence that ultimately, although we are going through a rough patch, that the prospects for the world economy are very, very strong.
And last point I would make in terms of changing America's image in the world, Garrett, I -- you know, I haven't looked at the latest polling around the world, but I think -- I think it's fair to say that the response that people have had to our administration and the steps that we've taken are ones that are restoring a sense of confidence and the ability of the United States to assert global leadership. That will just strengthen.
GARRETT: And the need for a global --
OBAMA: Excuse me?
GARRETT: -- the need for a global currency?
OBAMA: I don't believe that there's a need for a global currency.
From Obama's February 9 press conference:
OBAMA: All right. Major Garrett. Where's Major?
GARRETT: Mr. President, at a speech Friday that many of us covered, Vice President Biden said the following thing about a conversation the two of you had in the Oval Office, about a subject he didn't disclose: "If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, if we stand up there and we really make the tough decisions, there's still a 30 percent chance we're going to get it wrong." Since the Vice President brought it up, can you tell the American people, sir, what you were talking about? And if not, can you at least reassure them it wasn't the stimulus bill or the bank rescue plan -- (laughter) -- and if in general, you agree with that ratio of success, 30 percent failure, 70 percent success?
OBAMA: You know, I don't remember exactly what Joe was referring to. (Laughter.) Not surprisingly. But let me try this out. I think what Joe may have been suggesting, although I wouldn't put numerical -- I wouldn't ascribe any numerical percentage to any of this -- is that given the magnitude of the challenges that we have, any single thing that we do is going to be part of the solution, not all of the solution. And as I said in my introductory remarks, not everything we do is going to work out exactly as we intended it to work out.
This is an unprecedented problem. And when you talk to economists, there is some general sense of how we're going to move forward; there's some strong consensus about the need for a recovery package of a certain magnitude; there's a strong consensus that you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, all tax cuts or all investment, but that there should be a range of approaches.
But even if we do everything right on that, we've still got to deal with what we just talked about, the financial system, and making sure that banks are lending again. We're still going to have to deal with housing. We're still going to have to make sure that we've got a regulatory structure -- a regulatory architecture for the financial system that prevents crises like this from occurring again. Those are all big, complicated tasks. So I don't know whether Joe was referring to that, but I use that as a launching point to make a general point about these issues.
From the August 12 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: The chronically ill and those towards -- the chronically ill and those toward the end of their life are accounting for potentially 80 percent of total health care. You know what, Mr. President? It is only a difficult moral issue for the government. You know, even Barack Obama knows what you should really do when he said, quote, "I don't know how much that hip replacement cost, but I would have paid for it out of my pocket for that hip replacement because she is my grandmother."
Well, why doesn't somebody -- somebody else besides Major Garrett and Jake Tapper -- I mean, I know Major Garrett doesn't ask the questions at the White House, because he's never called on. Hmmm. I wonder why. Why doesn't someone else besides those two call the president out on his blatant intellectual dishonesty? You know, which do you believe? Do you believe, "Hey, I'm not gonna pull that plug thing," or, you know, "old people's cost per breath ratio." Which one? Which one?