The Ambassador’s Comments on Anti-Semitism and Paying for the Payroll Tax Holiday – Today’s Q’s for O’s WH– 12/5/2011

Dec 5, 2011 4:23pm

TAPPER: I’m wondering if you could explain what the U.S. ambassador to Belgium meant in his comments about anti-Semitism, tying them to Israel’s policy?

JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: The fact is, as you know, we condemn — this administration and the United States condemns anti-Semitism in all its forms and believe that there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or against Israel. Ambassador Gutman has expressed his regret, noting that he, quote, “strongly condemns anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

And I would just point out, Jake, that this administration has consistently stood up against anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel, and we will continue to do so. Our record on this speaks for itself, whether it was opposing one-sided efforts to single out Israel at the Human Rights Council, speaking out against incitement in the Arab world or opposing efforts to shortcut negotiations at the United Nations.

Specifically to your question, I think the ambassador himself has addressed this, so I would direct you to his statements in terms of interpreting what he meant. But our position is quite clear, and our record is even clearer.

TAPPER: Have you read the comments?

CARNEY: Of course I have, and I think that –

TAPPER: Does it represent the administration’s point of view, what he said?

CARNEY: The administration’s point of view is what I just expressed, which is we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms and believe there is — and believe there is –

TAPPER: …his comments represent…

CARNEY: I think the ambassador has spoken on this, put out a statement about it. And our position I think is very clear. And I would point you not just to our record against — opposing, rather, one-sided efforts to single out Israel, speaking out against incitement in the Arab world, or opposing efforts, Palestinian efforts, to shortcut negotiations to the United Nations, but also look at this administration’s incredible commitment to Israeli security, which has been testified to by the prime minister and many others in Israel.

TAPPER: As far as you guys are concerned, is that the end of this controversy? Because a lot of Jewish groups are very upset about what Ambassador Gutman said.

CARNEY: Well, I think that we have to look again at our clear position on this, as well as our record. And I think that –

TAPPER: I’m actually talking about what he said, not your record.

CARNEY: No, I understand, but I just — we’re talking here about — you’re only asking me because he’s an ambassador and works out of the State Department for this administration, so let me be clear about what this administration’s policies are, what its positions are and what our record is, because that is what — TAPPER: If you have to delineate what your policies are, it may indicate if you have an ambassador who’s off the reservation a bit.

CARNEY: Well, I — again, but he addressed his statement. And let me be clear about our position — and again, I quoted him because he’s absolutely right when he says that he, as well as this administration, strongly condemns anti-Semitism in all its forms.

TAPPER: Right, and in terms of how to pay for this middle-class tax cut, the Republicans outlined a plan — and I know you talked about this a bit last week, but the Republicans outlined a plan in which wealthier Americans were asked to sacrifice through means testing of social programs. Is that not — does that not meet the requirement of the wealthy paying their “fair share”?

CARNEY: Well, I think — two points about that. One is that was a very small portion of the proposed means of paying for the payroll tax cut extension in the Republican measure that went down quite decidedly, with not even a majority of Republican votes. And the — it was a window-dressing aspect of a measure that was paid for largely through unbalanced cuts that would force the reopening of the Budget Control Act, the agreement that the president and members of both parties made just a few short months ago. And the president made clear his position on reopening that agreement.

In fact, if I could just add that it is just — it is exactly what people get frustrated about with regards to Washington when leaders in Washington say, you know, this is my position; this is the — you know, I’ve signed on the dotted line; you have my word; this is the agreement; and then a few months later that you want to – either want to, you know, changes the rules on the sequester or change – you know, violate or transgress in terms of the agreement on spending cuts, which I would point out, as I did last week, the discretionary to spending cuts — nondefense spending cuts that have already been agreed to by this president and Congress would bring us to the lowest percent in terms of nondiscretionary defense — or rather, nondefense discretionary spending as a percentage of GDP since Dwight Eisenhower was president.

So these are — these are — these are quite dramatic cuts, quite serious cuts. And the inclusion of the measure that you talked about was a very small part of the Republican pay-for.

TAPPER: So it’s — it meets the requirement, but not enough? It’s not –

CARNEY: Well, it certainly doesn’t meet — it doesn’t – it doesn’t pay for it. (Chuckles.) So it’s not enough to pay for a payroll tax cut. I’m not saying that it’s not — again, I don’t want to negotiate the particulars of an endgame or get ahead of Senator Reid and Senator Casey in terms of their proposed compromise or new measure to extend and expand the payroll tax cut, but while that measure does ask in some ways, small ways, wealthier Americans to pay their fair share or at least a little bit more, it does not, in and of itself, come anywhere close to paying for this tax cut.

TAPPER: Thank you.

-Jake Tapper

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