Transcript: Gibbs


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST: And as the president enjoys the final day of his summer break, we begin with one of his closest confidantes, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Welcome back, Robert.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: George, thanks for having me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And I want to get to health care, but we've got to begin with this news that came in overnight. Van Jones, the president's green jobs czar, at about 12:12 a.m. he resigned, at least that's when we were notified of his resignation. He says he is the victim of a vicious smear campaign, saying people are using lies and distortions to distract and divide the country.

As you know, he has come under fire for past statements and actions. Does the president believe that he is the victim of a vicious smear campaign or does he believe that Jones's actions and words merited resignation?

GIBBS: Well, what Van Jones decided was that the agenda of this president was bigger than any one individual. The president thanks Van Jones for his service in the first eighth months, and helping to coordinate renewable energy jobs that are going to lay the foundation for our future economic growth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But did the president want him to go?

GIBBS: Well, the president and the CEQ accepted his resignation because Van Jones, as he says in his statement, understood that he was going to get in the way of the president and ultimately this country moving forward on something as important as creating jobs in a clean energy economy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the president doesn't endorse in any way the things that Van Jones said before, the things he did?

GIBBS: He doesn't, but he thanks him for his service to the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to health care. We're going to see Robert Dole, the former Senate majority leader in a minute, part of our debate. And he said this week that the president, in order to get a fresh start on health care, has to introduce his own specific plan, his own legislation on health care, that's the way to get things started.

Is that what the president is going to do?

GIBBS: Well, George, I think if viewers for ABC and everybody else tune in to hear the president at 8:00 on Wednesday night, they'll leave that speech knowing exactly where the president stands, exactly what he thinks we have to do to get health care done -- health care reform done this year. And he intends to do it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And what he won't accept as well?

GIBBS: Well, we prefer to outline the positive rather than the negative, but I'm sure he will draw some lines in the sand on that…


STEPHANOPOULOS: But how about this question about legislation, because there has been some talk that the president will actually draft legislative language. Is that what is happening right now?

GIBBS: Well, look, we've been looking at legislative language for months. You have now several different proposals in the House and the Senate that have made their way through the committee process.

Obviously the Senate Finance Committee continues to work. So you're going to have ideas that come at this from a couple of different directions. And the president has to take all of those strands and pull them together.

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