We were joined at the top of the briefing by Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Jared Bernstein, chief economist and policy adviser to Vice President Biden, who heralded a new report indicating that the stimulus bill had created or saved roughly 250,000 jobs in education.
TAPPER: So these 250,000, these are auditable jobs? These are directly created, all of them?
BERNSTEIN: Directly created. And I'm not exactly sure what you mean by auditable, but I think what you mean is that these are directly reported from recipients. And I want to stress that those of us who have been Keynesian economists throughout our lifetimes have never contemplated this level of transparency in — in a government stimulus program. We've never seen anything like this, where recipients are telling you precisely how taxpayer dollars are at work preserving and creating jobs. And I think it's particularly germane in the education sector, from the perspective that Melody Barnes was talking about. I mean, teachers, students, parents are walking into classrooms that would have been twice as large in the absence of these funds.
TAPPER: These are teachers? This is — none of these 250,000 are employees of the Department of Education or anything else?
BERNSTEIN: None of them are — well, they're not — they're not employees of the U.S. Department of Education, but they're not just teachers. They are education jobs. So there could be…
BARNES: Support staff.
BERNSTEIN: Yes, you want to speak to that?
BARNES: Yes, no, I mean, we're talking teachers, support personnel, the same thing in — in the higher education context. But these are people who are, you know, teaching students or working in the support of teaching students or the operations of the educational facilities.
TAPPER: Do you know how many are teachers versus how many are secretaries or people who work for the local boards of education?
BARNES: I don't know that we have that — that breakdown.
TAPPER: If Karzai refuses to participate in a run-off, as he's signaled — and he has signaled this. This is not a hypothetical…If he refuses to participate in a run-off and refuses to engage in any sort of unity government, will he be seen as a credible leader?
GIBBS: Well, again, I don't — I'm going to let not just words speak, but I think ultimately actions are going to have to speak, in many cases, louder than words. I'm not going to get ahead of this process. Obviously, determinations are going to be made by the ECC, by the IEC, and then it's going to be incredibly important for — for the world to see that Afghan leaders are willing to make this process legitimate. And that's the process that we're encouraging.
TAPPER: The IEC — the IEC is refusing to accept the EEC's results.
GIBBS: Right. And I think it's now up to the Afghans to make this legitimate.
CNN’S SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Will President Obama — will he get involved? Will he go ahead and approach Karzai, if necessary?
GIBBS: Well, I'm — I'm not going to get ahead of that. Again, I — we've got one of the best in the business right now on the ground and have been — has been for a long time in Karl Eikenberry, who is working through, obviously, a delicate but extremely important situation as it relates to our posture in Afghanistan.
TAPPER: Can I just ask one question on health care? During the campaign, President Obama often talked about the importance of not — this is a quote – “not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN.” Do you think President Obama and those who are negotiating health care right now are living up to that promise?
GIBBS: Well, I think I've — I've seen a number of — of clips from footage from the very beginning of meetings that were held, some of which were aired on C-SPAN, as a health care proposal was developed, understanding that the merging of two committee bills is just one step along a long process. And I think the American people have — have gotten quite a bit of news coverage on this topic.
TAPPER: But you're talking about the health care forum you guys had here…
TAPPER: … that went — but that was, what, March or April?
GIBBS: The beginning of the process of putting together health care reform, yes.
TAPPER: But since then, there have been significant negotiations both on Capitol Hill — you have White House representatives on Capitol Hill right now. You have deals that were cut with big Pharma, with the hospitals, with the doctors. Do you think that that has upheld this promise of transparency?
GIBBS: I — I do think the administration has been transparent. I think the — I think the process, again, is ongoing. Trust me: I'd love to declare that the process is over. It's not. It's ongoing, and I think transparency will be continued.