More Qs for O’s WH – 7/9/2009

By Lindsey Ellerson

Jul 9, 2009 3:59pm

TAPPER:  I was wondering, Froman talked about yesterday of the efforts that are being made to bring the developing nations onboard in time for Copenhagen in December. Can you talk a little bit about what those efforts will entail? And also, Denis talked about the personal impact of the — the personal influence that the Catholic teachings have had on President Obama, and I was wondering if you'd just elaborate as to what those are. 

GIBBS:  Let me have Denis take, actually, a crack at both of these. One of things that I talked about coming out of the meeting with Lula of Brazil today was — and this was brought up first by Lula, which was that he wanted to see, and the President readily agreed, consistent engagement as we lead up to Copenhagen, understanding that Lula believed and the President agreed that there was the ability to lessen our differences and to seek some commonality of agreement as we move toward that important event. That was the first topic that they discussed this morning. 

MCDONOUGH:  I would just add, and I think that they'll — both Todd and Mike will be able to give you more on this after the discussions at the MEF this afternoon — but I think the way the President sees this is — and he's talked about this frankly since he was inaugurated, in bilateral meetings with leaders of developing countries, in speeches — you've heard him reference the idea that energy is going to be a motivating factor, a national security issue for us. And I would just give you a couple examples and then Mike and Todd can give you additional ones. 

It goes to the things that the President will be talking about in Ghana, which is that we want to make sure that our development assistance programs are targeted at the kind of long-term solutions as it relates to climate change impact mitigation, low-carbon energy development, that have so far not been in great evidence in U.S. assistance programs. And one of the reasons, frankly, that I think you see increased skepticism about those programs is because they don't have the kind of lasting impact that I think most Americans hope they would. That's one. 

Two, there will be a big focus on technology transfer. I think the President has made a very compelling case that — as he did in Russia — that 21st century power will be determined less by arms and more by innovation and by brains. And I think our challenge is to be the first country to really make use of the opportunities in green energy technology that will allow us not only to green our own economy here but also to lead the way on green exports to countries like India and China that want to see the kind of growth — low-carbon growth that is only going to come with new innovation.

 As it relates to your second question, Jake, the question as it relates to the influence of Catholic social teaching on the President, I would say something that I've been quite impacted by myself, I would offer. The President, in both his words and in his deeds, expresses many things that many Catholics recognize as fundamental to our teaching. One is that the President often refers to the fundamental belief that each person is endowed with dignity, and as it relates to the issues I work on most frequently with the President, the President often underscores that dignity of people is a driving goal in what we hope to accomplish in development policy, for example, and in foreign policy. That's one.

Two, I've also heard the President speak very movingly about what Cardinal Bernadin called the seamless garment of Catholic teaching. That garment speaks to not just taking care of the poor and the needy but also investing in the kind of health care infrastructure that would ensure that people like those on the South Side of Chicago, who the President is very familiar with are oftentimes finding their health care not in publicly funded hospitals but in Catholic hospitals, for example.

So the President I think has been very impacted not just as he's talked publicly about his time on the South Side when he was funded partly as a community organizer by a Catholic Church campaign for human development funding, but also as a younger person when his mother was doing so many things consistent with that tradition as somebody focused on economic development and issues similar to that in poor communities overseas.


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