TAPPER: Yes, have you seen any evidence that having an ambassador in Syria has had any positive effect whatsoever?
CARNEY: Having an ambassador in Syria has allowed us to be in Syria, basically, in the presence of the government to make our views known directly and not be a long distance. So, yes, it has been useful to have our ambassador there, precisely because we can communicate directly what our positions and views are. And so I think that has been a useful avenue for us to pursue in terms of communicating our points of view.
TAPPER: But not in terms of influencing behavior, I suppose?
CARNEY: Well, we condemn the behavior we've seen. So clearly, we are not pleased by, or do not support what we have seen the Syrian government do to its own citizens. But as a means of communicating directly our points of view, I think it is useful.
TAPPER: First quarter GDP growth numbers are expected this week now, and they're not expected to be encouraging; they're supposed to be worse than last quarter. So much of this recovery, as the president has said, is psychological, so much about the American people being prepared or allowing the economy to grow has been based on feelings about whether or not we're headed in the right direction, the president has said that.
Do you think that the White House and the Treasury department, the administration in general has prepared the country sufficiently for what look to be disappointing GDP numbers?
CARNEY: Well, Jake, I don't think Americans judge how they feel personally about their economic circumstances based on a report on GDP. The fact that Americans still feel stress is true today, it
was true a month ago and it will be true a month from now, because we are still climbing our way out of a very deep hole. There is still far too much joblessness. We have worked very hard in this administration to attack that problem, to bring down unemployment. Remember, in that terrible recession, the worst since the Great Depression, we — this country lost 8 million jobs before this administration had a chance for its economic policies even to go to work. So that's a — that's a deep hole.
We have been growing for a number of quarters. We have been creating jobs for more than a year, private-sector jobs — quite a few, in fact. But we're not out of the hole. And I think we speak about that quite frankly all the time. And that's why we're — in the — in the budget negotiations for the fiscal year 2011, that's why the president's starting position was that we should do nothing that harms the recovery, we should do nothing that arrests the growth or the job creation. That is his approach as he looks forward to our negotiations on long-term deficit reduction and fiscal reform. It's all with a purpose — grow the economy, increase job creation — because he knows very — in his — you know, as he — as he wakes up every morning and goes to sleep every night, this is what he thinks about. He knows that there are Americans out there who are still struggling, still suffering — too many. And that's what he's focused on.
So I would say in terms of the American people, we are very clear and blunt about what we see out there, what needs to be done, why it's so important not to take any actions that arrest the recovery, to do everything we can to speed it up, increase growth, increase job creation.
TAPPER: I haven't heard anybody from this podium or the president talk about how things are actually now sliding back a little bit in terms of GDP growth. I mean, is —
CARNEY: Well, again, you're talking about GDP growth. The president and the — and his various spokesmen speak all the time about the fact that unemployment is still too high, the fact that we are still climbing out of this very deep hole, the fact that we have to do everything we can to continue to grow the economy, increase job creation; and that concurrently, as you've heard him speak about quite a bit lately because it's on Americans' minds and it's a real issue, the fact that rising gas prices have hurt Americans in their wallets and pocketbooks and have hurt their economic bottom lines.
So he understands that that creates economic insecurity, combined with all these other factors. So he speaks frequently about it, as — in fact, I think at all three of his town halls last week he did.