An unusually aggressive Washington press corps grilled White House press secretary Jay Carney Thursday, repeatedly asking what President Barack Obama was doing to revive the tanking economy and create jobs.
In his daily press briefing, Carney partly blamed the fiscal crisis on international factors outside the president’s control: the tsunami in Japan, the Arab spring, and spiking oil prices.
The journalists kept returning to what they referred to as Obama’s absence and lack of a frontal assault to get the economy back on track and reduce unemployment.
A query posed by Fox News’ White House correspondent Ed Henry is indicative of the level of questioning:
“Do you worry at all that the message to the American people is that you’re blaming all these things that are happening around the world and not taking responsibility for the jobs crisis?”
The following is, in part, a transcript of the press briefing, held before the end of the U.S. stock markets’ trading day, which saw a plunge of the Dow Jones industrial average by more than 500 points. The statements highlighted were bolded by Newsmax:
Q: I believe the Dow has gone down — and obviously the day is not over — but I believe the Dow has gone down now more than during the controversial TARP vote. And analysts are saying that the reason that this is happening is because of uncertainty about the American economy, that we are entering a double-dip recession, or at the very least a period of real softness and weakness for the U.S. economy. What is the administration doing to prepare for that?
CARNEY: Well, the analysis I saw today did not — was not about the American economy, particularly in terms of what’s happening, but there are obviously — there are a lot of global issues that affect the global economy and that obviously affect the American economy.
We strongly believe, as I’ve said, that we will continue to grow and we will continue to create jobs and we need to take the measures necessary to do that. We have encountered in this calendar year a number of economic headwinds that could not have been foreseen — the tsunami — earthquake and tsunami in Japan that disrupted global supply chains, the unrest in the Middle East, which had an impact on oil prices, and the situation in Europe.
So obviously that has hurt the economy globally and has slowed growth and job creation, but we believe that growth and job creation will continue.
Q: But what is the president doing? What is — we know that he went to a — he went to fundraisers last night. What is he doing today?
CARNEY: Jake, that is —
Q: What is he doing?
CARNEY: The president has worked —
Q: He stood up there and hectored Congress about all the stuff that needs to be done to help create jobs, and this needs to take place —
CARNEY: That’s right, and Congress —
Q: and then he flew off to Chicago. What’s he doing today?
CARNEY: Congress has — the president is having meetings with his senior staff. The president has called on Congress to move quickly on things that are — have bipartisan support and are in Congress’s lap — the trade —
Q: So the same stuff he was doing a couple of months ago, calling on Congress to pass things?
CARNEY: Congress has the power to pass legislation that the president can sign. The actions that it can take could create more jobs right now if it passed the patent reform, if it passed the free trade agreements, and, as you know, there are other issues that the president encourages and will push hard for the Congress to take up when it returns from its recess, including extension of the payroll tax cut, which would put — which has this year put an additional $1,000 in the pockets of every American or typical American family. And he believes we need to do that again next year, because that assists those families in having — giving them the ability to make ends meet and puts money back into the economy, which in turn sustains businesses and creates jobs.
And he will continue to come up with and propose measures that we in Washington, together, can take to spur further economic growth and job creation.
Q: Has he called Mitch McConnell? Has he called John Boehner? Has he — is he working on things that they can do? If every —
CARNEY: Jake, I don’t — I know you weren’t here yesterday, but I know you were here for most of the days before that, when this president and those leaders and others worked seven days a week to avert a major economic crisis in this country that would have made —
Q: You’re the one that’s always saying the president can walk and chew gum at the same time. I’m asking you —
CARNEY: But what are — are you asking me —
Q: What is he doing?
CARNEY: He is focused —
Q: Other than calling on Congress to pass things that you’ve been calling on Congress to pass for months — what is he doing to help the economy?
CARNEY: He is working very closely with his senior economic advisors to come up with new proposals to help advance growth and job creation. He is working with members of Congress to help advance growth and job creation. And he will continue to do that. There are things that Congress can do now to create jobs, and they should; there are things that Congress will be able to do when they return from recess to help create jobs and spur growth, and they should. And he looks forward to working with Congress to do that.
Q: When the president looks at all these negative economic numbers, or “headwinds” as you like to call it, does he believe that he’s made all the right choices when it comes to the economy since he’s taken office?
CARNEY: Does he believe he’s made all the right choices? I don’t — I haven’t asked him, but I’m sure that he would say that there are always things that, in hindsight, he might have done a little differently.
The simple fact of the matter is, as I know everyone in this room knows, that the recession that this country faced when this president took office was the worst since the Great Depression. And when he took office, there were many analysts who believed that we were going to go back to another Great Depression; that we could see levels of unemployment that rivaled the Great Depression; that we could see global economic collapse; we could see the necessity of nationalizing the banks; that whole industries would go under.
That’s the world we lived in when this President was sworn into office. We had a recession that cost 8 million American jobs that, in the month prior — in the quarter prior to and the quarter during which he was sworn into office, the economy was contracting at something like 6 percent. As you know, for a number of quarters now the economy has been growing. For over 15 months, private sector jobs have been created, more than 2 million private sector jobs.
None of this is enough, because 2.1 million private sector jobs is only a portion of the 8 million jobs that were lost by the recession that this president inherited, which is why he has worked so hard, why he has taken measures like he did — against a lot of advice, and against the advice of a lot of folks now who have to explain why it was okay with them to lose the 1 million jobs in America that the auto industry would have lost had this President not moved to save the domestic auto industry. The measures that he took to stabilize our financial system and our banking system, and obviously the measures he took to begin the recovery in this country. Is it enough? Not even close to enough, which is why that every day this president’s focus is on the economy and on job creation.
Q: But just to continue on Jake’s thought, what else can the president do? I mean, he does make — we hear often from the podium here that he is making calls, that Congress needs to do more. Is there anything out of the box that he’s looking for?
CARNEY: As I said yesterday, there is no silver bullet and I have not heard one proposed by anyone in Washington or beyond that there is a silver bullet to help our economy grow faster or create jobs.
Q: Is he looking at other kinds of smaller bullets, then?
CARNEY: I would note that just in recent weeks, as he was negotiating with a Congress that seemed hell bent in many ways on precipitating an economic catastrophe, he also passed historic — or put forward a historic fuel-efficiency standards agreement with 13 major auto manufacturers at his side that will result in enormous — $1.7 trillion in savings for American consumers and will create jobs in an industry that the United States of America should own in the 21st century, which is the clean energy industry.
So he has also — he took a measure to allow for loan — mortgage forbearance for the unemployed, to help those folks who are unemployed stay in their houses by giving them additional forbearance in paying their mortgages. So there are small things, medium-sized things, and big things that this president has done and will continue to do, and will look forward to doing. And he will work with Congress to do all of them.
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