Aboard Air Force One
En Route Denver, Colorado
12:05 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good day, friends. Thank you for joining us aboard Air Force One as we make our way to Colorado. Jen Psaki and I will be briefing again — together again today.
I have one quick announcement to make, which is, at the top of the flight, the beginning of the flight, the President had a phone call — phone conversation with the Prime Minister of India. The President expressed his condolences to the Prime Minister because, as you know, several of the victims in the shooting in Wisconsin were Indian nationals.
The two leaders spoke about their shared commitment to tolerance and religious freedom. And the President again reiterated his appreciation for the significant contributions that Sikhs make to the broader American community, and again reiterated his condolences.
I believe Jen has a topper as well.
MS. PSAKI: The President, as you know, is kicking off this morning a two-day trip to Colorado. The first event will be focused on — he will focus his remarks on his commitment to ensuring women have access to affordable health care, can make choices about their health care decisions. And it will just serve as a reminder to women in Colorado and women across the country of the stakes in this election that we are facing.
The women — the audience will also have a heavier concentration of women. Men, of course, are allowed into the event. But we did include, in addition to inviting people of the community — it’s free and open to the public — we did invite several local women’s groups and organizations.
As you know, Sandra Fluke will be introducing the President at the event this morning. She had an op-ed this morning in a local paper, I encourage you to read. And finally, Elizabeth Banks — excellent actress — put out — is featured in a video the campaign put out overnight, also talking about the same issues and the stakes for women in this election.
MR. CARNEY: And with that, we’ll take your questions.
Q Jay, I wanted to follow up on a question from the briefing yesterday. You said you’d get back to us on your assessment of the Priorities ad and whether it was appropriate to essentially tie Mitt Romney to the man in the video’s wife’s death. And Jen, I’d like to get your assessment of that ad as well.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’ll simply say that I haven’t seen the ad but I have read about it. And I speak for the President. I do not speak for a third-party organization. This was in the context yesterday of a discussion about the categorically false and blatantly dishonest advertisement from the Romney campaign — not a third-party group — from the Romney campaign with regards to the President’s policy on welfare reform. And I would just state that, again, the ad is categorically false and blatantly dishonest.
There have been no waivers even granted. The Department of Health and Human Services has simply said it is willing to listen to requests for waivers. And this issue arose because of the interest expressed by Republican governors in getting waivers. And the HHS guidelines have made clear that no waivers would be granted unless the states could demonstrate that they will increase by 20 percent the number of individuals who are moved from welfare to work. So this is a –
Q This is a separate issue.
MR. CARNEY: No, no, no, this is not a separate issue. This is about Romney campaign’s advertising about the President’s policy. And I think it is important to say that there is a point at which you need to set aside covering tactics and simply evaluate things based on fact or fiction. You guys know, as a matter of policy, that this is entirely fictitious. And I’ll turn it over to Jen.
Q Jay, this isn’t a one-for-one thing. This isn’t, well — my question is about the White House and the President’s assessment of whether it’s appropriate for a third-party group that supports Obama to put out an ad that essentially ties Mitt Romney to a worker’s wife’s death.
MR. CARNEY: I still haven’t seen the ad. I’ve read about it. I don’t speak for a third-party group. I speak for the President and the administration, and I explain and defend his policies. And again, I will simply point you to an ad that, as I’ve been told by your colleagues, has a lot of money behind it, that’s running all over the country, that entirely falsely describes the President’s policy on a specific issue. And I think that certainly merits coverage.
MS. PSAKI: I will echo some of what Jay said here, which is that we have nothing — no involvement with any ads that are done by Priorities USA. We don’t have any knowledge of the story of the family. As you know, campaign finance rules in that regard are in place for a reason. At the same time, while we’re talking about this ad, which we all know we had no involvement in, Mitt Romney’s team is running a dishonest ad, an ad that is a big, bold-faced lie that even President Clinton has said was disappointing and inaccurate. And that’s an ad that they should be held accountable for and on the facts, because right now they’re out there running it across the country as if this is a true policy when in fact it’s not. So that’s a conversation we feel like we should be having.
Q Do you think that Romney’s folks are trying to almost kind of neutralize the advantage you think you might get from using Bill Clinton by using him to — in an ad to criticize the President?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this isn’t the first time that they have attempted to use President Clinton. It’s interesting because President Clinton is not only a strong supporter of President Obama — he’ll be speaking about him at the convention — but he has said time and time again that President Obama is the right person to lead the country forward, to help our economy continue to move forward. So if that’s the best validator they can find — someone who thinks President Obama is a far better choice on the economy and on other issues — perhaps his bench is a little shorter than we thought it was.
MR. CARNEY: Can I just add as a matter of policy, as somebody who covered in detail the passage of welfare reform under President Clinton, there is no more credible spokesman on this issue than former President Clinton. I would note not only his assessment that this ad by the Romney campaign, as a matter of policy, is categorically false and blatantly dishonest, but I would also note that two of the architects of welfare reform within the Clinton administration — Bruce Reed and Gene Sperling — work for President Obama. I would also note a report today that quotes the senior Republican staffer who helped draft that legislation in Congress at the time, who also assesses this ad as false and misleading.
Again, at some point, while there is a place for covering the back and forth, and he said this and he said that, there is also a need to assess things based on their truthfulness. And this is — there is a great void here when it comes to truthfulness.
Q There is some new polling today that suggests that President Obama is actually running behind in Colorado. And I’m wondering, how seriously do you take that polling? How much are you concerned about shoring up both the women’s vote and Latino turnout in Colorado? And why do you think that there is — if the polling is right, why do you think that this trend is emerging in Colorado?
MS. PSAKI: One is, we know three things — that we need 270 electoral votes; that there are going to be a lot of polls between now and Election Day; and that the race is going to be very close, especially in these key states.
We also, if you look at the sampling of the poll, we’re pretty confident that the final electorate is not going to — is unlikely to reflect the sample, which has –
MS. PSAKI: Yes, which is the poll you just asked about, correct — which has an under-sampling of Latino voters; in our view, an oversampling of voters over 65; and more men than women. So I think that’s a contributing factor as well.
We’re going to Colorado today because we know the race is going to be close, because we know that women and families in Colorado care deeply about having access to affordable health care. And that’s why the President is going there to talk about it. And we’re not leaving any stone unturned. We’re not taking any vote for granted.
As you’ll note from our schedule, we’re going to some parts of the state where President Obama didn’t win four years ago. We’re not saying that we’re going to make up a 20-point deficit, but we know that for every voter in Colorado Springs, every voter in Pueblo, every voter in Grand Junction and the Denver area that comes our way, that supports us like they did in 2008, or people who didn’t even vote that last time, that that’s another vote in Colorado toward getting us over the finish line there and towards getting us toward the 270.
Q Can I ask about the — we’re all looking forward to hearing about who Mitt Romney is going to tap as his running mate. Can you talk about how the campaign and the President are following that — whether the President has his own bets or inside picks for who he’d like to see as the ticket to be running against? Any thoughts on that at all? How is he monitoring it?
MR. CARNEY: I can just say, in conversations I’ve been a part of, I’ve never heard him express an opinion about who that might be. But Jen might have a perspective.
MS. PSAKI: We all think Newt Gingrich or Michelle Bachmann would be an excellent choice for Mitt Romney to choose. No, obviously, the campaign is — we are closely watching. We don’t know any more than you do about the day and who it will be. And as soon as he picks, we’re happy to tell you why that person may be a bad choice for middle-class families.
MR. CARNEY: Since Jen mentioned Newt Gingrich, and I know that, again, as a matter of the factual accuracy of the critique of the President’s policy, the Romney campaign put Newt Gingrich forward, I suppose believing that he’s a very credible spokesman on this issue — I think he took a shot at the Secretary of Health and Human Services. And I would simply note that Kathleen Sebelius twice won statewide election in Kansas — not exactly a liberal state. And I looked it up, and Newt Gingrich got 14 percent in Kansas — 14.4.
MS. PSAKI: I’ll also add that any way you cut it, whomever we pick, we’d much rather have Vice President Biden on our side campaigning across the country, in the debates, out there standing up for the President than any of the motley crew that Mitt Romney is choosing between.
Q A slightly different topic, Jay. I know you were asked about Standard Chartered yesterday. Do you have any updates on that? Has the President had any discussions with his officials or British officials about this issue?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of any conversations the President has had with foreign leaders on this matter or, for that matter, internally. I mean, I would simply echo what I said yesterday, which is that this is an issue that’s under investigation so I have no comment specifically on it. I would point you to the track record at Treasury on issues like this. But beyond that I don’t have a further comment.
Q Can you comment at all about reports that people within the Treasury were upset with regulators for doing what they did?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the Treasury. I saw those reports, but I have nothing to add.
Q And on a separate foreign policy issue, is the United States working right now on coming up with names to replace Kofi Annan?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that we’re simply working with our partners, both at the United Nations and more broadly, including the “Friends of Syria,” on a concerted effort to pressure the Assad regime, support the Syrian people, provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition, assist the opposition in its efforts to unify and constitute itself, and assist broadly in the effort to prepare for the day when — the welcome day when Assad is no longer in power in Syria.
Q How important is it to have a replacement as a special envoy?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t had any discussions about that. I think that we have been frustrated, as you know, by the failure of the United Nations Security Council to pass meaningful resolutions against Assad that would hold Assad accountable for his failure to live up to his promises. So we are working on all levels to bring about — to help bring about the future that Syria and the Syrian people so desperately deserve.
Q Does the White House support the Egyptian operation overnight in the Sinai, following the border attack the other day?
MR. CARNEY: Let me consult my book here. I don't have any updates on Egypt, except to say what I said the other day, and that is that we regret the loss of Egyptian life in the attack in the Sinai. And as President Morsi stated the other night, his government strongly rejects this type of extremist violence and has pledged to hold accountable those responsible for it.
Violent extremism and border security are shared challenges, and we encourage Egypt and Israel to work together against these common threats. And actually, I do realize I can tell you that we are in close contact with our friends in Egypt and Israel about the security situation in the Sinai. I'm not going to get into the substance of those consultations, but I would note that the Egyptians have underscored their commitment to address the security situation in the Sinai and made constructive comments about relations with their neighbors. And they have shown a willingness to take action when necessary.
Q Jen, just to follow up, a question on Colorado. How did you choose the places where the President is going today and tomorrow?
MS. PSAKI: Do you have any — about any specific location, or did you mean the locations like the school or the town?
Q I mean the towns.
MS. PSAKI: Well, every time we go to a state, we consult with the state to determine what the most important places are to go, to reach not only our supporters but voters we can influence and pull over to our side. We have a two-pronged strategy, which is to excite and engage our supporters, but also to persuade people who either are soft supporters of Mitt Romney or are undecided at this stage.
So if you look at some of the places we're going, we know that even though, say, Grand Junction and Pueblo are places that may lean a little bit in the other direction, they’re –
Q And Colorado Springs?
MS. PSAKI: — and Colorado Springs — they are places where we do still have a strong base of supporters, where we have an excellent ground game where we think the President's message, the President's commitment to fighting for the middle class is very effective. As you probably know as a native, the issue of clean energy and specifically the recent wind tax credit debate is also a huge issue in Colorado.
One of the places we're going tomorrow — Pueblo — that town is one of the towns that will be impacted if the wind tax credit is not continued, because Vestas, the company that has been mentioned in a number of recent news stories, their CEO has said they would have to lay off 1,700 workers — a lot of them would be in Pueblo, a small town. So this is another topic, in addition to talking about women today, that the President will be talking about over the course of the next two days.
But, really, Colorado is a key state for us and our goal of winning 270 electoral votes. It's a — we have a great ground game here. We know that we need to leave no stone unturned and compete for every single vote. And that's exactly what we're doing over the next two days.
12:23 P.M. EDT