Pakistan, the Eurozone, and Presidential Travel — Today’s Q’s for O’s WH — 11/28/2011

VIDEO: Jake Tapper asks WH press secretary about Obamas visits to battleground states.

TAPPER: Just to follow on a couple of questions that have already been asked, on Pakistan, the president is not making any conclusions about what happened. It may in fact be that the Pakistanis fired first. You’re willing to — the president is keeping an open mind about what might have happened?

CARNEY: Well, we want to — yeah, obviously we want to wait to see what the investigation discovers, yes.

TAPPER: OK, and then in terms of what’s going on in Europe, you said that this is a European issue; Europe has the resources and capacity to deal with this. But President Obama said recently that this is a problem of political will. And I guess I wonder — you didn’t say Europe has the political will to deal with this. Do you think –

CARNEY: Well, the president’s been very clear, both publicly and in his conversations with European leaders, that they need to demonstrate the will to deal with this very challenging problem.

TAPPER: What is the president –

CARNEY: We recognize that this is — that this is difficult. We experienced similar difficulties in tackling the challenges that we faced in this country as we were in free fall, economically, in the beginning of 2009, and shedding jobs at a terrible pace and where the prospect of a global economic collapse was out there. And so we — the president fully understands the challenges here that — both political and substantive, but he believes it’s – this is a moment that requires that kind of decisive action. And yes, that requires political will as well as the financial resources necessary.

TAPPER: What is he doing, other than these occasional conversations with European leaders?

CARNEY: Well, I would just say they’re not — they’re not occasional. I mean, if there are two leaders he’s spoken with more often than Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy in recent weeks and months, I don’t — I don’t know who they are. I mean, they’re regular. We read them out regularly. He’s in consultation, obviously, with other European allies. Tim Geithner, the secretary of the Treasury, is in regular contact and has traveled frequently to Europe, and other counterparts have been involved as well.

So we’re very engaged in this. We have, because of our experience, our unique experience, I think, some very constructive help that we can offer and advice that we can offer. But we also recognize — and I think Europeans feel strongly about this – that this is something that they need to solve and that they have the capacity to solve, both financial capacity and political will.

TAPPER: And lastly, I wanted to get your feedback on a study that The Wall Street Journal wrote about today, based on — in my understanding, based at least partly on numbers tabulated by our unofficial statistician, Mr. Knoller, which is that President Obama seems to have traveled to battleground states more so than any other president before him. And I’m wondering if you could respond to this. It looks like the president is campaigning on the taxpayer dime more than any other president has done.

CARNEY: Well, I reject the premise of that precisely because what happened in 2008 was Barack Obama, then-Senator Obama, expanded the political map dramatically. And what is included in this article and in this chart is Virginia, for example. Now, every president who’s occupied the Oval Office, just a few short minutes across the river from Virginia, travels to Virginia frequently to hold events.

When you look at George W. Bush’s travel as president, that’s not included on this list as a swing state or a battleground state because it was not perceived to be possible that a Democrat could win it. Well, Barack Obama won that state. And he has made numerous visits to Virginia, just as most presidents prior to Barack Obama have made numerous visits to Virginia.

North Carolina is another example. It’s not included in George W. Bush’s tabulation because it was not perceived to be a swing state. Barack Obama won it — very narrowly, but he won it — in 2008.

And if you take away those two states and you look at, for example, Bush traveled more frequently in the same time period to Ohio, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Florida, President Obama has actually traveled less to the overlaid battleground states that his immediate predecessor.

So I just think that if you took off the map and said the president of the United States can’t travel to states that are perceived to be battleground states, you would severely limit the capacity of this president and many of his successors to travel anywhere, because the fact is we live in a country that is very close politically in terms of which way states could go in any given presidential election, and increasingly we’ve seen that more and more states find themselves on the political map as potential battleground states and swing states.

And if every president, whether it’s President Obama or his successor or any successor after that, were to simply say, oh, I can’t travel to any state that might be contested in the next election, then the president would have to spend most of his time here in Washington, D.C.

And I don’t think that any president should do that. Presidents should travel, and they should be able to get out and speak to the American people about their substantive agendas, and that’s what this president has been doing.

TAPPER: He sure seems to spend a lot of time in states, though, that he’s going to be –

CARNEY: He spends a lot of time in a lot of states. And some of them — red, blue — some of them that were declared red forever and ended up not being — they’re purple now — and, you know, states that maybe are considered blue or were considered blue, but Republicans might think they have a chance of winning next year – I mean, I just think that it’s a — it’s a guessing game to suggest that we know what states are battleground states, necessarily.

And if — again, I think the salient point is, then-Senator Obama, in his presidential campaign, expanded the map dramatically, made states battleground states that had not been for a very, very long time, and to then say that he can’t travel to those states because he won them and they’ve been competitive I think would severely restrict this president’s ability to travel, and any future president’s ability to travel, which I don’t think is a good idea.

** TAPPER: But the issue is why does he go to North Carolina so many more times than he goes to Tennessee? Why does he go to Pennsylvania so much more than he goes to Georgia?

CARNEY: Look, there are a variety — Jake, there are a variety of reasons. The primary — that he — that decisions are made about where he goes. And he goes — he goes to red states. He goes to blue states. He goes to states that are considered battleground states. And those decisions are made for substantive reasons based on the policy issue that we’re putting — that he’s addressing.

My point was that if you — that the whole construct of the article was built around the idea that he’s done it more than his predecessors. And if you take off states that weren’t — that weren’t considered battlegrounds when Bush visited them — as they turned out to be battlegrounds, because Barack Obama won them — he would — his predecessor, George W. Bush, traveled to these states significantly more than President Obama has. So the whole point being, you know, presidents need to be able to travel. When he travels on — you know, when it’s political travel, political events, those are paid for by the book, according to the rules that exist. And when he does official events, those are paid for in the manner that official events are paid for.

-Jake Tapper

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