Today’s questions for the White House:
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS: The president has also had his fair share of private moments that have later been made public. During the 2008 campaign, he said that rural voters “get bitter” and “they cling to their guns or religion.” Like for Romney, this was also said privately to donors and then later made public after the fact. Rural voters certainly aren’t 47 percent of the electorate, but they are a large demographic. How are Romney’s comments any different from what the president said?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE: Look, I think that happened four years ago and was discussed in abundance at the time. What the President said four years ago, what he said eight years ago, what he says today and what he said ever since he took office here is that he’s fighting for every American, that he firmly believes that as a nation we’re all in this together, that what unites us is far stronger and greater than what divides us, that we’re not red America and blue America, we’re the United States of America.
And I think that that’s a fundamental fact about Barack Obama. And it’s been the guiding philosophy and principle behind the policy decisions he’s made.
I think, again, citing some of the examples from what he’s done in office, when he took action to ensure that our financial markets, our financial sector did not collapse, he didn’t check to see whether the people who would most directly benefit from that were supporters or not. He took a lot of grief for that, but he did it because he thought it was right for the American economy and right for all Americans that we do not experience the collapse of an important sector of our economy.
The same thing with the auto industry — he didn’t ask if autoworkers were supporters, he didn’t ask if auto executives were supporters. He did what he believed was right for the country. And that’s been his guiding principle.
And I think he talked about this in Charlotte, that the people who inspire him, the people who give him hope, he doesn’t know whether they’re voting for him. The soldier he first met at Walter Reed who lost a leg, he doesn’t know; or the gentleman who won the lottery and kept working and bought flags for his town.
This is the sort of essence of the American story that inspires him every day. And it does not matter to him whether they’re Republican or Democrat or independent, because we’re all in this together.
BRUCE: The campaign said, in its response to Mitt Romney’s statements, that “it’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.” And you’ve said repeatedly now that the president obviously does represent all Americans. Why is that any different from Mitt Romney when he makes a comment like this?
CARNEY: What’s the question again?
BRUCE: The question being that if the president can make a comment like he did in 2008, where he sort of offended a large — I don’t want to say “offended,” but where he made a remark in direct relation to a large portion of the electorate, and Mitt Romney makes a similar remark …
CARNEY: Then-Sen. Obama never said that he did not worry about or would not worry about 47 percent of the population.
A lot of folks, when we travel around the country ask why the president is campaigning on a bus in towns and communities and counties that trend red or Republican. Why is he there if he’s not likely to win the count? Because he’s there to take his message about his economic vision and his agenda for the country to everybody, because he firmly believes that building this country up helps everybody. You’ve heard him talk about it, that if we do the right things for our economic policy, if we take a balanced approach to dealing with our fiscal challenges, if we reduce spending, reform our entitlements, ask millionaires and billionaires to pay a little bit more, that everybody will benefit, including millionaires and billionaires. That’s the essence of his governing philosophy, and it’s at the core of who he is.
BRUCE: Can I ask one more question, just on a different topic? It seems that the U.S. and Libya have sort of different accounts of the attack in Benghazi last week. There are reports that Libyan officials warned the U.S. of the growing extremist threat prior to the attacks, that they admitted they could not control some of these militias. That seems to run counter to what administration officials have been saying, that this was just a spontaneous reaction to this anti-Islam film. Can you reconcile this?
CARNEY: Well, what I can tell you is that we have provided information about what we believe was the precipitating cause of the protest and the violence based on the information that we have had available. There is an ongoing investigation. The FBI is investigating. And that investigation will follow the facts wherever they lead.
What we do know about Libya is that it’s a country that emerged from war and revolution, and you have a new government trying to assert its authority as that country makes a transition to democracy and broader representation for all Libyans and broader rights for all Libyans. And in that environment there are certainly, in this postwar, post-revolution environment, there are vast numbers of weapons and certainly a number of violent groups in the country.
What is important to note, however, is that the Libyan people do not understand — or rather they do understand that the United States was with them in their efforts to achieve their aspirations, to rid them of the Qaddafi regime and the tyranny that Qaddafi inflicted upon them. But it is still a very volatile place, there’s no question about it.