*NOTE: White House press secretary Jay Carney was joined at the briefing today by Jason Furman, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. My first question is a follow-up to one asked by the Associated Press about the president’s comment/negotiating position from 2011, when Mr. Obama said “What we said was give us $1.2 trillion in additional revenues, which could be accomplished without hiking taxes — tax rates, but could simply be accomplished by eliminating loopholes, eliminating some deductions and engaging in a tax reform process that could have lowered rates generally while broadening the base.” That comment seems to be at odds with the president’s current insistence that tax rates on the top two tax brackets need to be raised, since closing loopholes and eliminating some deductions won’t result in sufficient revenues.
TAPPER: I’m afraid I just don’t see the difference other than the president feels like he’s in a different position in terms of negotiations. Maybe he — it’s that he feels that he has a stronger hand now because of the re-election and because of the tax rates automatically go up.
But, I mean, what he said was — I mean, the quote is, what we said was, give us 1.2 trillion (dollars) in additional revenues, which could be accomplished without hiking tax rates. That could simply be accomplished by eliminating loopholes, eliminating some deductions and engaging in tax reform. In the tax reform process, they could have lowered rates. It seems to me, like, here’s your solution right now. Just agree to this, and we can — we can all go home and have Christmas vacation.
CARNEY: Well, I’m going to ask Jason to do some substance. I would remind you that the Republicans did not agree to that. They didn’t even come close, for the third time –
TAPPER: It doesn’t sound like you would agree to it now either.
CARNEY: No, but the thing is, he said, we could have a process to look at tax reform, to see if we can close loopholes and cap deductions. But the fundamental aspect of that potential agreement, which Republicans walked away from, was that rates would go up on high-income earners next month if tax reform was not achieved. And that required tax reform passing Congress. I’ll turn it over to you.
FURMAN: Yeah. I mean, two things. One is, I could just repeat the same example or switch over to a second or third or fourth example and walk through all of them and explain why it is we have — and we’ve done a lot of work on this topic since last summer.
TAPPER: Has the president –
FURMAN: No, Jake.
TAPPER: Has the president changed his position?
FURMAN: No. And this — the second thing is what we’re seeking to do is to lock in revenue this year, not have some vague process that may or may not add up to something, you know, in the future. And so we’re trying to pass something this month. We’re trying to pass something this month rather than launch some long process, some long discussion. We really need to see what those proposals are. The proposals we’ve seen all have these types of flaws that I’ve identified.
I don’t think there’s another proposal out there. Me, other members of the economic team spend enormous amounts of time on all of this. But if there are, they should bring them forward. We should see them. That’s what’s been so frustrating. They keep saying, let’s not do rates; let’s do this. Well, what is this? What is it? Point to it. Tell us what it is. Show us a score. Tell us how it locks in revenue, because you’re trying to actually pass a bill this year, not engage in some long process around tax reform, which we don’t have time to do by the end of this year.
TAPPER: Just to change the subject for a second, what qualities does the president look for when he’s going to pick an ambassador, especially to an important ally like France or the U.K.?
REPORTER: Very well-dressed. (Laughter.)
CARNEY: You know, I anticipated the question you’re asking, and I can tell you in advance — I will answer the question, but that I have no personnel announcements. I’m not going to engage in speculation about possible personnel announcements. You know, I think that the president, in all of his personnel appointments, looks for talent, wisdom and character in his appointees, and he would do that regardless of the position.
TAPPER: Is it important for a diplomat to be diplomatic?
CARNEY: One of the — (laughter) — I mean, another way of addressing that is to answer the question that there have been enormously effective diplomats in this country’s history who have not necessarily risen through the diplomatic corps. Now, we have enormously talented –
TAPPER: I mean in — just in — even in their personal lives or pop culture or –
CARNEY: I think –
TAPPER: You are — I mean –
CARNEY: I don’t know — I understand that that’s a rhetorical question, and diplomacy is effectively performed by diplomats. But we had one of the greatest diplomats of his generation pass away not long ago, Richard Holbrooke, and I think everyone who knew him or who sat across the table from him would agree that he was not by anyone’s traditional definition particularly diplomatic.
TAPPER: No, but he was also a brilliant negotiator and -
CARNEY: So they come in all types and sizes and approaches.
TAPPER: Has the president seen “The Devil Wears Prada“? (Laughter.)
(CARNEY calls on next reporter.)