Smiley/West Poverty Tour, OBL The Movie, and POTUS’ Vacation: Today’s Q’s for O’s WH -8/10/2011

Aug 10, 2011 2:35pm

TAPPER:  Tavis Smiley and Cornel West's "poverty tour" has rolled into D.C.  They've been very critical of President Obama with his handling of poverty and joblessness, particularly in the most destitute communities.  Specifically, Tavis Smiley has said that the president has forgotten about the poor.  Cornel West has called the president "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats."  What's the White House view of this criticism from Smiley and West?

CARNEY:  Well, I would simply say that this president, again, is focused on the economy every day, and he is focused on those who are struggling in this economy.  Every economic measure that he has proposed and every one that has become law because of his leadership has been geared towards helping those folks who are in the greatest distress because of the recession that we were in, the Great Recession, the worst since the Great Depression, and those who are struggling as we emerge from it.

His focus on the most vulnerable communities was evidenced when he negotiated with congressional leaders last — late last year on the tax cut extension deal by insisting that, in addition to the payroll tax cut that he insisted be in it so that every American family — working American family would have on average an extra thousand dollars this year, he insisted on an extension on the earned income tax credit, an extension of the child tax credit, which disproportionately helps those who are disproportionately in need.

It is why he insisted in the recent debt ceiling deal that Pell grant funding be protected, because those who deserve and qualify for quality higher education but are struggling to be able to pay for it because of their economic circumstances need the assistance that those Pell grants supply. 

So this president's very focused on every American who is suffering during these turbulent economic times, and that the policies that he's espoused and that he's pushed take into account very seriously those who are most affected.

TAPPER:  Peter King, the congressman, is calling for an investigation based on a report in a Maureen Dowd column today saying that Sony Pictures, movie makers doing the OBL raid movie, have been given top- level access to the most clarified — classified mission in history from an administration that's tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration.  I think Mr. King is less involved, less concerned about the last part. 

But what's your response to that report, both King's interest and also the inherent criticism.

CARNEY:  Well, I do have a response to that.  First of all, the claims are ridiculous.  When people, including you, in this room, are working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the president, ask to speak to administration officials, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct. 

That is hardly a novel approach to the media. 

We do not discuss classified information.  And I would hope that as we face the continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie. 

The information that this White House provided about that mission has been focused on the president role in — there is no difference in the information that we've given to anybody who's working on this topic from what we gave to those of you in this room who worked on it as — in the days and weeks after the raid itself.  In fact, the most specific information we've given from this White House about the actual raid I read to you from this podium.

So it's just simply false.

TAPPER:  And, last question, you said the president will not rest until the joblessness and the economy are worked out.  But the president is obviously going on a vacation.  And I'm wondering, is there any concern about — I understand it takes two to tango and you need the Congress to be in Washington — we went over that the other day, about whether or not you guys should call Congress to come back.

But is there any concern about the impression the president going to Martha's Vineyard for nine or 10 days might leave with the American people?  And also, if this is such an important issue for Speaker Boehner, for Harry Reid, for President Obama, why the R&R?

CARNEY:  Well, let me — there's a couple of questions embedded in that.  [Yes, for] me to go — to acknowledge that, yes, the president does plan to travel with his family at the end of August to Martha's Vineyard, as he has in the past.  And I don't think Americans out there would begrudge that notion that the president would spend some time with his family.

It is also, I think, as anyone who's covered it in the past either in this administration or others — there's no such thing as a presidential vacation.  The presidency travels with you.  He will be in constant communication and get regular briefings from his national security team as well as his economic team.  And he will, of course, be fully capable if necessary of traveling back if that were required. It's not very far.

The broader issue is that this president is doing what the American people expect presidents to do in circumstances like this, whether the markets are up or down, whether there's volatility or relative stability.  This president is focused every day on the economy.  And he's — let's talk about what the American people and Republicans and Democrats expect their presidents to do.  They expect their presidents to consult with policymakers in circumstances like this.  This president is doing that regularly, both on his own team — I can tell you that later this afternoon, he had a meeting with Chairman Bernanke, for example, as he does on a regular basis to discuss the economy.

He consults — in a situation where the volatility we're seeing in the markets has to do with a global economic situation and specifically with Europe, he consults with international leaders. As I just mentioned, in recent days, he has spoken with the chancellor of Germany, the prime minister of Great Britain, the president of France, president of Spain, prime minister of Italy.  And he will continue to do that.

He meets with business leaders.  Later this week, he will meet — have another meeting, one of a series he's been having, with CEOs, business leaders, to discuss the economy.  And then he will also — they expect their president to travel and meet with folks who are actually engaged in the economy, in their communities.  Tomorrow, he'll go to Holland, Michigan, to highlight something very positive in the economy, which is the investments with our assistance this country is making in the clean energy industries that have led to advances in the advanced-battery market, which is an important segment of an important area of the economy for the future.

He will, as you know, next week go out into the country, into the Midwest, to three different states, where he will meet with small- business owners and workers and others to talk about what's happening in their economic — economically, in their communities.  And he will — and, I mean, they expect the president to propose specific ideas for what we can do to create jobs now:  things that have bipartisan support and won't get, or shouldn't get, hung up in Congress.

This president has done that throughout his presidency, and right now is making clear that there are things that we can do together that have bipartisan support that could create jobs right away, including passage of the free trade agreements, the three of them that are up there; passage of patent reform, to unleash entrepreneurial, innovative spirit in our economy; extension of the payroll tax cut; extension of unemployment insurance — things that economists say could create hundreds of thousands of jobs, up to a million.

And they expect the president to continue to look and hunt for new and better — new and good ideas for economic growth and job creation, and this president's doing that.

-Jake Tapper (@jaketapper)

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