Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 4/5/12
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 05, 2012
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 4/5/12
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:44 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Hello, everyone. Welcome to your White House briefing. Trying to get this one done a little earlier in the day today.
I know that you are, or should be, aware of the fact that a little later today, this afternoon, the President will sign into law the Jumpstarting Our Business Startups Act, otherwise known as the JOBS Act, which includes key initiatives the President proposed last fall to help small businesses and startups grow and create jobs. A significant amount of job creation, as you know, comes from young firms and startup businesses, and these proposals will help them access capital, go public, and become more competitive. That will be in the Rose Garden, due to the fine weather we are experiencing.
And with that, I go to the Associated Press.
Q Thanks, Jay. Do you think that will be the last bipartisan jobs bill of the year?
MR. CARNEY: Oh, I hope not. The President hopes not. There is a long list of things that could be achieved working -- if Congress comes together in the way that it has on the JOBS Act, on the STOCK Act that the President signed into law yesterday, on the payroll tax cut extension, some other issues.
I think, as you recall, in the beginning of the year I was saying and others were saying that we did not buy into the conventional wisdom that somehow, because this was an election year, there was no possibility for significant things to be accomplished. Some of you who were here in 1996 recall that the opposite was true in that year, when a Democratic President was running for reelection and Republicans controlled Congress.
And the President is glad to be signing this legislation today. He will be joined by entrepreneurs as well as by members of Congress of both parties. And he certainly hopes that there is -- there will be other opportunities in the coming weeks and months for more bipartisan cooperation on legislation that goes right at the core of his number-one priority, which is growing the economy and creating jobs.
Q So what would you say would be realistic? What would be next?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there is work to be done to ensure that construction workers stay on the job, fixing and building infrastructure projects across the country. There remains the opportunity for Congress to act, to change its mind -- Republicans in particular -- to change their minds about the need to put teachers and police officers and firefighters back to work, teachers back in the classroom, first responders back on the job. That was an element of the American Jobs Act that has not yet passed -- the President’s American Jobs Act.
This bill that he’s signing into law today has elements in it that reflect priorities the President laid out when he announced his American Jobs Act initiative, but there are remaining pieces of that that are still available to be acted on by Congress. And there’s an imperative here -- or there are two, really. One is the absolute imperative that every member of Congress should feel -- certainly the President feels it -- that we should be doing everything we can to help the American economy grow and to help the American economy create jobs.
Number two -- and perhaps this one is more of a practical consideration -- there is the imperative that a number of members of Congress, including all of the members of the House of Representatives, have to answer to their constituents this year and they will need to explain what they did while they were working in Washington, and whether or not they got the things done that their constituents wanted done. And I think everyone knows that the overwhelming priority of the American people is that the economy grow and jobs be created. So hopefully the confluence of those two imperatives will lead to more productive legislation.
Q A couple questions. First of all, on Iran. Iraq is offering to host the talks next week between Iran and the P5-plus-1. They’re acting on an Iranian request to change the venue from Istanbul, following friction with Turkey. Of course, Secretary of State has said Turkey is the venue. Can you weigh in on where the U.S. --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to get into a public discussion about the private discussions going on with regard to a venue for these talks. We’re waiting to hear back from the Iranians on a venue. But I’m not going to get into any more details about that.
We look forward to the talks resuming. Our policy, as you know, is very clear -- we remain determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We have worked assiduously with our international partners to isolate the regime in Tehran, to impose unprecedented sanctions on Iran, to make clear the price that Iran is paying for its refusal to abide by its international obligations. And all that Iran needs to do to reverse that process is to prove to the world that it does not harbor nuclear weapons ambitions, and prove to the world in a way that is verifiable. If Iran, through these talks, chooses to do that, that would be a positive thing. But we are very clear-eyed about it.
Q One other question. Today is the opening round of the Augusta Masters, and the question of whether the all-male Augusta National Golf Club should admit women refuses to go away. Of course, tomorrow is -- the White House is hosting a conference on women and the economy. What’s the White House stand on this? Should the Augusta National Club admit women to become members, especially now that you’ve got the CEO of a longstanding sponsor of the Masters, IBM, is a woman, and her predecessors have all been admitted?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President’s answer to this question is yes. He believes -- his personal opinion is that women should be admitted.
Q Do you think we’ll be hearing him stating that before Friday?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know that -- I happened to have a discussion with him about this, so I know that that’s his answer. But it’s obviously up to the club to decide. But his personal opinion is that women should be admitted to the club.
Q The SEC chair wrote a letter on this JOBS Act, warning that elements of it needed to be modified or improved to protect investors. And the elements that she recommended be improved, two of those elements were not changed by the Senate. One regards the possible conflict of interest between research analysts and investment bankers. The other has to do with certifying financial controls inside companies to make sure that they’re legit. These are post-Enron reform and post-2008 financial meltdowns. Why does this administration think repealing these investor protections gives the middle class a fair shake?
MR. CARNEY: Well, two things. Let’s be clear -- the JOBS Act leaves alone -- leaves in place the core post-.com bust conflict of interest protections from the Spitzer decree and it leaves them untouched. That means investment banks must keep their banking and research departments separate. Research analysts cannot be dependent for their compensation on investment banking revenue. Research analysts cannot do pitches and go on client roadshows ahead of an IPO.
Separate from that, as I emphasized -- these are facts. I’m not -- editorial notwithstanding, these are facts about the JOBS Act. In addition to this --
Q It alters the Spitzer global settlement.
MR. CARNEY: It leaves untouched the core post-.com bust conflict of interest protections. In addition to this, the SEC will have ample room to further clarify and enhance investor protections as part of the implementation of the JOBS Act. The President will make sure, and will instruct the Treasury and others to ensure that the implementation of this is done in a way that retains necessary investor protections.
Q Is there a single study you can point to that shows jobs will be created because of the IPO measure in particular?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would refer you to Treasury, perhaps. I don't have a study handy for you. I think it is a pretty well-accepted fact of the American economy that small businesses, startup businesses, are in many ways the engine of job creation and economic growth in this country. So legislation that makes it easier for those businesses to get started --
Q But there is no study, is there? There's just no study.
MR. CARNEY: I'm not saying that's true at all. I'm just not -- I don't have a study here. I would refer you to folks with the business degrees and the wherewithal to plow through studies.
Q They say there's no study.
MR. CARNEY: I'm not saying that, Jessica, at all. For all I know, there are 10 studies.
Q I'm told there are no studies. And --
MR. CARNEY: By?
Q By a number of people who are very concerned that this bill eviscerates investor protections that were put in place post-Enron, post-2008 --
MR. CARNEY: We disagree. And I'm making clear to you that in addition to leaving in place the core post-.com bust conflict of interest protections, under the so-called Spitzer decree, that the President will ensure in the implementation of this that investor protections are maintained and that the law is properly implemented.
Q Can I ask you a question on the meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood that took place here? According to our sources, the parliamentarian of the Muslim Brotherhood met with Steve Simon and Samantha Power here, who are not low-level administration officials. Why are they being --
MR. CARNEY: Well, they're mid-level.
Q -- characterized as low-level officials when they're not?
MR. CARNEY: Look, they are not -- they are mid-level members of directorates at the National Security Council. They're excellent people and experts. They probably do not, in most people's estimation, outrank Senator John McCain or Senator Lindsey Graham, who also met with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, or Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns who met with members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Our policy is clear and is the same, which is that in the aftermath of Egypt's revolution, we have broadened our engagement to include new and emerging political parties and actors -- because it's a fact that Egypt's political landscape has changed and the actors have become more diverse, and our engagement reflects that. The point is that we will judge Egypt's political actors by how they act, not by their religious affiliation.
Q No issue taken there. In the meeting, did the officials press the Muslim Brotherhood to -- press them on their stated plan to put the Camp David accord to a referendum, which would -- well, would effectively kill the treaty?
MR. CARNEY: It is part of our conversations with all the diverse and emerging political actors in Egypt our belief in the need for Egypt to abide by its treaty with Israel, and broadly, by its international obligations. And that was certainly part of this conversation.
Q On the subject of Egypt, following up on Jessica, Senator Leahy lobbied aggressively for the administration to not release the $1.5 billion in funds to the Egyptian government because of the behavior of the Egyptian government, including locking up democracy activists who were in America. Why is Senator Leahy wrong? Why was the money released all at once and not in tranches, not in a joint account that could be controlled by the Americans as well?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't have an answer to you on the specific mechanisms by which funds like this were released or might be released. What I would say to you is that we believe it is in the interest of the United States to engage with all parties in Egypt, and to engage -- to continue to engage with Egypt because Egypt has been an important ally of the United States and an important -- has played a significant role in the region. And we believe it is in our interest to engage with Egypt, in part in an effort to encourage Egypt to maintain its commitment to its international obligations and to maintain its -- to maintain a positive role in the region.
Q Senator Leahy would argue that he agrees with everything you've said just now in terms of engaging with Egypt, but the money should be released in stages to encourage Egypt to proceed along the path of democracy -- amidst signs that they may not be proceeding along those lines. Why was what he wanted -- why couldn't -- Secretary Clinton signed a waiver; I assume this was not just her decision in a vacuum, that it came from the administration writ large.
MR. CARNEY: Well, she's a pretty high-ranking official, but the --
Q I agree.
MR. CARNEY: So I would -- for details on the decision about how to proceed, the State Department might be the best place for those details. The overall assessment --
Q The overall decision was not made without serious consultations with the White House.
MR. CARNEY: No, I'm sure -- I don't doubt that at all, Jake. My point is that, again, as you pointed out, we share the same goals, and I don't think we're -- there is a great deal of distance between our position and Senator Leahy's. The conclusion was reached that the approach that we're taking was the best way to --
Q Yes, but why?
MR. CARNEY: Because we believe that that kind of -- the kind of engagement that we are participating in with Egypt and with its post-revolution leadership and with the emerging political actors on the scene is the right way to enhance our bilateral relationship.
Q But that’s not an answer.
MR. CARNEY: Well, the answer is, because we think it's the best way to go.
Q Because doing it Leahy's way would risk alienating members of the Egyptian government?
MR. CARNEY: Well, you can make a variety of assessments speculating about how things might have turned -- might turn out if you took a different approach. The overall goal is the same. The mechanism by which you get there -- there are a variety of ways you can get there and the mechanisms to provide these funds. The approach we are taking is the one we believe will yield the greatest potential for a positive result.
Q Because of a risk of alienating the Egyptian government?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, you can make an assessment.
Q I'm just looking for the answer.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I'm giving you an answer. We think this is the best approach.
Q I think we're doing this because it's right. I'm trying to -- why do you think it's right? What is the --
MR. CARNEY: Because we -- as I said before, we're engaged with Egypt's new actors to try to work with them as they -- during this historic transformation, post-revolution, and encourage them both to pursue democracy in its fullest sense as well as pursue the kind of and maintain the kind of international obligations that they've maintained in the past. And with those as our goals, we are -- the course we're taking is the one we think has the best chance of succeeding.
Q Jay, thank you. I want to go back to the women's conference on Friday. There's a pretty obvious political strategy from Chicago to exploit the gender gap that you have. It's in a lot of public polls that women, by a wide margin, are supporting the President over Mitt Romney or any other Republican paired up against him. Why are you using the White House on Friday to stage an event that clearly has some political implications?
MR. CARNEY: Ed, by that -- you’re saying that anything that has to do with women has political -- so anything that has to do with growing the economy, because I think every political analyst out there would say that a stronger recovery would be good for the President politically, or anything that has to do with job creation is inherently political because more jobs would be good for the President.
Q So what day are you having a men’s conference on the economy? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Well, stay tuned. Ed, that’s kind of a silly question.
Q -- because you're only focused on half of the population.
MR. CARNEY: This administration has engaged in a number of policy approaches designed to address women in the economy, including the very first bill that the President signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Act -- Fair Pay Act -- and there are a variety of initiatives that this administration has put forward that deal with issues of concern to women in particular. There is the Violence Against Women Act. We have an office overseen by the Vice President’s office that deals with that legislation. So these are important policy initiatives; that’s why we’re having the conference.
Q I completely agree that women’s issues are important. I’m just wondering why you’re only focusing in this conference on women’s issues because men obviously have a role in the economy, you would agree.
MR. CARNEY: So why are we focusing on small businesses with a Small Business Job Creation Act? Are we discriminating against big businesses? We’re focusing on women because there are a number of issues that are important with regards to women in the economy, women’s safety, women in education, that are very distinct and important, and we’re proud to host the conference.
Q Quick question on health care. Yesterday, you mentioned a couple times the President is a former constitutional law professor. One of his professors is Laurence Tribe and he now says, in his words, the President “obviously misspoke earlier this week. He didn’t say what he meant, and having said that in order to avoid misleading anyone, he had to clarify it.”
So I thought yesterday you were saying repeatedly, did not misspeak. What do you make of the President’s former law professor saying he did?
MR. CARNEY: Well, you can choose words however you like. What Professor Tribe said is that the President clarified, and he did, and he expanded on his remarks of Monday when he took a question on Tuesday.
The premise of your question suggests that the President of the United States, in the comments he made Monday, did not believe that the Supreme Court could rule on the constitutionality of legislation, which is a preposterous premise, and I know you don’t believe that. So what I accept --
Q Well, except this is from Professor Tribe, who knows a lot more than you or I about constitutional law.
MR. CARNEY: What I accept and what I think I acknowledged yesterday --
Q This is a former --
MR. CARNEY: -- is that in speaking on Monday, the President was not clearly understood by some people. Because he is a law professor, he spoke in shorthand.
MR. CARNEY: He referred to things like -- well, what Laurence Tribe said is that he did not say what he meant, because Laurence Tribe clearly knows that the President understands judicial precedent -- he has a little experience with it -- and the importance of judicial review.
The President spoke on Monday. The President expanded and clarified his comments on Tuesday. His whole point is that he is pretty conversant with judicial precedent, and the judicial precedent here is clear: That on matters of national economic significance -- and let’s not forget that health care is, what, 15 percent of our economy -- that the precedent is overwhelmingly on the side of upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, there is no debate between the plaintiff or the defendant on the issue of whether or not health care is something -- is a matter of national economic significance. This is not -- that’s not even an issue in the case that appeared before the Supreme Court.
So the President’s unremarkable observation is that since the New Deal era, the Lochner era that preceded the New Deal and the change in approach by the Court, there has been a longstanding precedent set where the Court defers to Congress and to congressional authority in passing legislation to deal with and regulate matters of national economic significance. That’s all.
Q Last thing. On the point of critics claiming the President was attacking the Court, your colleagues have correctly noted that when the President said that the justices are unelected he was quoting conservative commentators who have said that for years. However, are you then suggesting that if you were to lose in this case, the President will not attack the Court? Does he consider them fair game in this process to attack them?
MR. CARNEY: The President believes that the Supreme Court has a final word on matters of judicial review, on the constitutionality of legislation. He would, having been a professor of law. The fact of the matter is that, going back again to the comments the President made on Monday and on Tuesday, he believes that because of the overwhelming precedent here in this case, that the Supreme Court will uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. That was the point he was making all along, both Monday and Tuesday.
Q What he said on Monday was an obvious misspoken moment, because he talked about the Court not being in a position to overturn acts of Congress.
MR. CARNEY: The President -- look, Bill --
Q You're standing there saying --
MR. CARNEY: As your colleague --
Q -- because he made a mistake, and you can't admit it.
MR. CARNEY: No, no, Bill, I am acknowledging -- you're sharing in the righteous indignation here that your colleague --
Q I'm just noting your --
MR. CARNEY: The President spoke, in answer to a question, relatively briefly, and in the context of this case, made the statement that there is no judicial precedent -- that there is longstanding judicial precedent which would argue that the Court should not overturn this law. I grant to you -- I totally grant to you that he did not refer to the Commerce Clause; he did not refer to the full context. I think he believed that that was understood. Clearly, some folks, notably people sitting in that chair and others, missed that and --
Q It's our fault.
MR. CARNEY: No, no, look, others -- look, others --
Q It surely is. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I'm just saying that there's a lot of -- it's kind of ridiculous to believe that the President wasn't talking about the context of the case. But I completely concede that he did not describe the context when he took the question and answered it on Monday. He then, asked again on Tuesday, provided the full context. And so, did he clarify his comments? Absolutely. Did he expand on them? Absolutely.
Q Were his comments Monday messy?
MR. CARNEY: You guys -- it's your job to come up with clichés like "game on" and things like that. But I'm not going to engage in that.
Q You talked about small businesses with the JOBS Act. Now, the threshold is $1 billion in revenue, which is a pretty expansive definition of small businesses. Was that the figure that the White House startup council came up with, or was that something that Congress --
MR. CARNEY: I'd have to take that question. I'm not sure about that.
Q On another subject -- you've sometimes weighed in on movies. Anything --
MR. CARNEY: Oh, we talked the other day about "The Ides of March," which I just watched. I thought it was pretty good, actually.
Q Anything on "To Kill a Mockingbird"?
MR. CARNEY: Yes. "To Kill a Mockingbird" -- as you know, the President is screening or hosting a screening of and will make brief remarks at the beginning of the screening of "To Kill a Mockingbird" -- the 50th anniversary of that seminal movie, and looks forward to doing that. It's a fantastic movie. I'm sure everyone in this room has seen it. If you have kids like I do who are old enough, you've probably shown it to your children. It's a classic movie that elucidates the need to do the right thing even when it's hard. And so he looks forward to that event.
There will be members of Gregory Peck's family here, some of the actors from the movie, as well as local D.C. students for that.
Q Harper Lee -- was she invited? I know she doesn’t normally go to anything but --
MR. CARNEY: I have to -- I'd be shocked if she wasn't, but I'll find out for you.
Q Jay, on the movie, do you know if President Obama was influenced in his decision to pursue a legal career by the movie or the book?
MR. CARNEY: I talked to him today about the Masters. I did not talk to him about that, so I don’t know.
Q On the Masters, would the President -- (laughter) -- agree to play at a course that discriminated against women?
MR. CARNEY: I didn’t have that conversation with him. The President answered quite clearly to me, which I conveyed to you, that he believes Augusta should admit women. We're kind of long past the time when women should be excluded from anything.
Q Thanks, Jay. On the topic of the resignation of the GSA Administrator, the training conference that led to the resignation happened in 2010. How can the White House be sure that there were no other such examples of excessive spending before this was revealed, either in that agency or in other agencies?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s a big government, so I would hesitate to make any blanket statements. But what I can tell you is that on his first day in office, President Obama made clear that the people who serve in his administration are keepers of the public trust and that public service is a privilege. Under his leadership, this administration has taken historic steps to protect the taxpayer dollars and eliminate waste across the federal government.
When the White House was informed of the Inspector General’s findings in this matter, we at the White House quickly acted to determine who was responsible for such a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars. The President was informed before his trip to South Korea, and he was outraged by the excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors and disregard for taxpayer dollars. He called for all those responsible to be held fully accountable, given that these actions were irresponsible and entirely inconsistent with the expectations that he has set as President.
There are a number of efforts by this administration to curb conference spending in particular. In September of 2011, the President’s Office of Management and Budget directed all agency heads to conduct a thorough review of how they are spending taxpayer dollars on conferences. Pending that review, conference-related activities and expenses were not permitted to go forward without signoff by the deputy secretary or an equivalent chief operating officer for each agency.
Each agency has established tough internal controls and have certified those controls are now in place. To date, as a result of these efforts, they have achieved over $280 million in reduced costs in the first quarter of fiscal year 2012 compared to the same period of time in fiscal year 2010.
There's a lot more detail I can give to you on this if you would like.
Q Well, Jay, as you point out, that was in 2011. Will there be any attempt to investigate excessive spending from --
MR. CARNEY: If excessive spending is brought to our attention or the -- I assume they're obviously independent -- but the IGs, the President's reaction here, the White House's reaction here makes quite clear that we believe, the President believes very strongly that this was outrageous behavior and activity that was not in keeping with his express direction that he gave at the beginning of his administration.
Q Did the mind reader at that conference know what the President was talking about on Monday? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: You have to fly out to find her and ask her -- or him. (Laughter.)
Q Jay, also can you address the issue of the signing ceremonies? There was a signing ceremony yesterday and again today. Why hold two signing ceremonies this week and not, for example, when the free trade agreements were signed into law?
MR. CARNEY: We have held signing ceremonies -- there are a lot of moving pieces here in terms of getting legislation that's passed from the Hill here; sometimes, remarkably, it takes days, sometimes a week. There are schedules here -- we have had a number of signing ceremonies. The President is delighted to be taking part in one today, took part in one yesterday. And should there be significant legislation passed by Congress in the coming weeks and months that this President can sign into law, I think there's a good chance we'll have another signing ceremony.
The most important aspect here is the work that is being done, the laws themselves that affect our economy and affect its ability to continue to create jobs. The ceremonies are nice, but the real issue here is the actual legislation.
Q Republicans have charged that there haven't been more signing ceremonies so that the President could sort of make the argument that this Congress is an obstructionist body. How do you respond?
MR. CARNEY: It is news to me that Republicans in Congress were eager to appear next to the President. That had not always been the case. But we're happy to say that there will be a number of Republicans at today's signing ceremony. I know of at least one Republican who participated in yesterday's signing ceremony.
Q Back to the NSC meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood. Other than the basic fact of engaging with the group, what was the administration hoping to accomplish in this meeting, and how far did it go toward meeting that goal?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have a readout for you or details of it. I think that this is part of, again, regular engagement with the emerging political actors in Egypt. I think it is known to everyone who has paid any attention to the post-revolution developments in Egypt that the Muslim Brotherhood will be a major player, and we are engaging because that is the appropriate and right thing to do.
And we will judge all of the political actors in Egypt by their actions, by their commitment to democracy and democratic processes, and protection of civil rights, by how they -- if and when they attain positions of power and governmental authority, how they conduct their foreign policy and abide by their international obligations and treaties, as we would with any political party or political actor in countries which we are allied or have diplomatic relations.
Q So have more meetings been scheduled?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of. But again, I think I made clear that this is part of an ongoing process of engagement. Bill Burns has met with members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Senators in the United States Senate have met with them, and I expect that that kind of engagement will continue.
Q Can I follow on that?
MR. CARNEY: Sure, Connie.
Q Does the President feel comfortable dealing with people like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban? Has there been any warning to ask them to not crack down, not discriminate against Christians, Jews, women? I mean, they’re pretty harsh --
MR. CARNEY: I think I made clear, Connie, in several answers to this question that we will judge all of those that we engage with on the political scene in Egypt and elsewhere by their actions. And the principles that we bring to the table here are very clear with regards to civil rights and democratic processes, and this is true with -- certainly with regard to political parties and actors in Egypt.
I think the Taliban is a little bit of a different case. We’ve made clear what the conditions of the reconciliation process are, which are laying down arms, adhering to the Afghan constitution, and abiding by -- and dissociating oneself with and denouncing al Qaeda. So the Taliban is a little different from and more specific to Afghanistan than the broad principles that are at play when we talk about the meeting with members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Q But have you guys ever asked them to stop brutalizing Christians, especially now --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t have readouts on that, but we are very candid in all of our discussions with actors on the political scene in Egypt and elsewhere about what we consider to be appropriate and democratic conduct in a society that has gone through a revolution and a democratic revolution and that aspires to be a full democracy.
Q Jay, I want to go back to the women’s jobs conference tomorrow. Understanding that the White House -- everything comes to the White House, all -- the White House covers all groups pretty much -- what other groups are you looking at having conferences for -- jobs conferences, particularly?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any scheduling announcements to make. We have had a heck of a lot of conferences over the three-plus years that we’ve been here, and I’m sure we will have more. These kinds of conferences help to focus the energies of an administration on specific initiatives and legislation, to focus attention on issues of importance, and we’ll continue to do that. But I have no announcements to make about other upcoming conferences. I want them to be exciting and surprising. (Laughter.)
Q Okay. Well, they will be exciting and surprising. But the question comes after your exchange with Ed. And it does kind of make you wonder, particularly when there are certain groups still in this country that have disproportionate numbers compared to mainstream America. And I understand women are heads of households in a lot of homes -- a large portion are breadwinners and things of that nature in homes. But there are also other groups, like the African American community, who still has a disproportionate number, and the Labor Department even came out with a study on the black workforce. And what’s next after that? And that was last year, and I’m still wondering what’s next, especially with this conference.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I can -- I don’t have with me the variety of initiatives that this administration has undertaken and continues to undertake either directly or principally benefit economically minority communities or underserved areas of the country. The focus of this particular conference is on women. As I said before, there have been and will be -- continue to be a number of similar conferences and forums at the White House that focus on particular initiatives aimed at sectors of the economy or sectors of the population, or specific policy initiatives, whether they’re education or -- they regard education or the economy or even national security. So the broad focus of all of these efforts with regards to domestic policy is economic growth and development for everyone in this country.
I think the underlying principle that the President states so clearly, as he did just the other day in his speech to the AP luncheon, was that his economic vision is one where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody gets -- is given a fair shake, and everybody plays by the same rules. That is the underlying principle by his whole economic policy approach and will continue to be so.
Q Jay, the North Koreans appear to be on track for that satellite launch sometime in the middle of the month. The administration has been pretty clear that if they go ahead with that, that the food aid deal will be put on the shelf. But I’m wondering what else is the administration doing in these days leading up to that potential launch to apply pressure either with the Chinese or others to head of the North Koreans and persuade them not to do this.
MR. CARNEY: We are engaging at a variety of levels, as we always do, to convey to the North Koreans the fact that this activity, if it takes place, would be in violation of their international agreements, and would make it impossible for us to pursue the nutritional assistance that had been discussed earlier.
I think the President talked about this quite a bit in his various encounters with the press when he was in the Republic of Korea in Seoul. He talked about working with the Chinese to encourage them to use their influence with the North Koreans to get them to change their behavior and to stand down with regards to this ballistic missile test.
I don’t have anything more specific for you, but we’re obviously -- we continue to work on the issue. We continue to make clear that going through with this would be a violation and that it would jeopardize the nutritional assistance.
Q Is there any -- just one last follow-up. Is there any evidence that in the week or so since that meeting with the Chinese that they are actually applying more pressure on the North Koreans?
MR. CARNEY: I have nothing specific to report to you. The reality with the North Koreans is we judge them by their behavior not by their promises.
Thanks very much.
12:25 P.M. EDT
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