TAPPER: So the president a few weeks ago said at negotiations that he hoped that everybody would leave their ultimatums at the door. I count four ultimatums, and they were — all four of them were brought in; two of them are the president's and two of them are the Republican's. For Republicans obviously it's no tax increases and it has to be dollar for dollar raising the debt ceiling versus deficit reduction. The president's are, this has to go through 2013, as Ben asked about, and that it has to have tax increases. Can you explain to the American people why the ultimatum that this has to go through 2013 is important? Because you and I talked about this and I still don't understand why that ultimatum is more important than avoiding the risk of default.
CARNEY: We're not going to default, Jake. I mean, that's the — it's a — it's a — it's a circular question. But we're not — Congress will act and has said that it will act, and we remain confident that it will. And it's important not to have a short-term extension because, since Congress will act and raise the debt ceiling and ensure that the United States is able to pay its bills, that we do that for a period through 2012 into 2013, so that we do not contribute to the kind of uncertainty that many economists feel has been a drag on our economic growth and our job creation.
So it is — it is a position, I think, that is eminently sensible, eminently defensible, and we believe that — and we know that Congress will act to raise the debt ceiling.
TAPPER: In a world where you're looking for the lessers of evils, the least horrible option, is contributing to that uncertainty not preferable to risking default –
CARNEY: You're asking for a hypothetical that… We're not going to default.
TAPPER: Saying it does not make so. (Laughter.)
CARNEY: True enough.
TAPPER: Would that it were.
CARNEY: Would that — but the — but the issue is, it's not just that I'm saying it or the president's saying it. It's that the leaders of the House and Senate are saying it, and they're the ones who have to vote on it.
So we remain absolutely confident that the debt ceiling will be raised, that the United States will continue to be able to pay its bills, including obviously the debt — pay down it — I mean, pay the holders of our debt and our Treasuries, pay our beneficiaries of Social Security and veterans benefits, et cetera, et cetera – that that will not — that that is not an issue here. The issue is a debate and a discussion and a negotiation with members of Congress over what kind of deficit-reduction package we can get as part of this process. And you know, the president remains optimistic that we can get something significant.
And, you know, again we saw — we have seen — you know, Mr. Norquist notwithstanding, we have seen a significant amount of movement in terms of both public opinion and Republican opinion about the need to take a balanced approach, the wisdom behind the idea that we need to have a balanced approach to it if we're going to have significant deficit reduction. Obviously the — you know, we hope that that growing support, you know, creates some momentum and that we can do that.
TAPPER: And just a quick aside –
CARNEY: Mm-hmm. I want to move — remember I said the — yesterday that I regretted not getting further back, so —
TAPPER: OK. Go ahead.
CARNEY: If you've got a quick one, that's fine.
TAPPER: It seems like the White House has been relatively quiet on the subject of Syria as of late, and I was wondering if you had any comment on recent developments.
CARNEY: Simply that — I mean, we don't have — I mean, not since the last time I addressed this, but you know, we continue to condemn the violence. We believe that President Assad has lost his legitimacy. He had the opportunity to lead the transition that the Syrian people are demanding, and he has not — he has not followed up or taken that opportunity. That's regrettable, because there will be a — there has to be a transition. The Syrian people are demanding that there be one, and –
TAPPER: Is there anything you guys are doing? Is there anything the White House or the State Department — nothing you can do to back that transition?
CARNEY: Well, we — again, it's up to the Syrian people to do that. We have, as you know, instituted a lot of sanctions, working unilaterally and multilaterally with our international partners. And obviously, the — our ambassador there has gone to Hama and been with the people there who are among those protesting the kind of treatment they've been getting from the Syrian regime, and we continue, obviously, to monitor the situation there very closely.