Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 7/9/2009

By Caitlin Taylor

Jul 9, 2009 1:38pm

I don’t have the transcript of my precise questions, but I asked White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and Denis McDonough, deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications, two basic inquiries. The first was: how does the US intend, in the months before the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December, to alleviate the concerns of developing nations that steps taken towards reducing greenhouse gases won't hurt their economies?

GIBBS: one of the things it talked about coming out of the meeting with Lula of Brazil today was, — and this was brought up first by Lula — which was 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 they discussed this morning.

McDONOUGH: I think the way the president sees this is — and he's talked about this really 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 and national security issue for us… 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 US 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 hoped 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, 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 will only come with innovation

And I asked McDonough to elaborate on a comment previewing the president's visit with the Pope that the president had been influenced by Catholic teachings.

McDONOUGH: 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 the dignity of people is a driving, 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 Bernadine called the seamless garment of Catholic teaching. That garment speaks to not only taking care of the poor and the needy but also investing in the kind of healthcare infrastructure that would ensure that people like those on the South side of Chicago, who the president is very familiar with, are often times 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 the 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.

- jpt

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