Starting Foreign Aid at Zero – Today’s Q’s for O’s WH – 11/14/11

TAPPER: At the Republican debate the other night, several candidates talked about a philosophy of phasing out all foreign aid to zero and having allies and other countries basically earn the billions in foreign aid that the U.S. disburses each year. I’m wondering if the White House has any take on this? I know the Obama campaign has scheduled a call to talk about it, but since this is not just a campaign issue, this is a foreign policy issue, I was wondering if you guys have any thoughts.

PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: Well, I can certainly say that is not an approach that this administration has taken. There are a number of countries where the United States directly benefits from having a role in those countries, and that we can certainly help — that the provision of civilian assistance is critical to the success of promoting American interests and serving American interests in countries around the world. The first one that comes to mind is obviously Afghanistan. But the other example that’s been talked about is Israel, and that certainly one of the things that the President has done is strengthened our ties with that country, and provided significant assistance in the form of the Iron Dome project and others that are critical to Israel’s security. So these are the kinds of — it’s the President’s view that this is an appropriate use of government resources, particularly when we’re in the time when the federal government has to tighten — we have to tighten our belts, and we need to scrub the budget, go line by line to look for opportunities where we can reduce the budget and cut the budget. But we can’t do it at the expense of ensuring that our interests are well represented and well promoted all around the world.

TAPPER: Does that mean that you think that that approach would be contrary to America’s interests?

EARNEST: I can say that it’s an approach that’s entirely different than the one that President Obama has pursued.

TAPPER: That’s as far as you’re going to go?

EARNEST: That’s as far as I will go. But it sounds like there’s a conference call that’s being hosted by people who may be willing to go farther.