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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 7, 2008
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Dana Perino
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:40 A.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Hi, everybody. A couple of things to update to on. This morning, the President called British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy; he just finished up a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and we'll keep you updated -- Chancellor Merkel and President Bush speak often, and we'll give you an update on that when they speak again. In these conversations with our good allies and our friends, the President is discussing the various measures that the United States is taking to bring stability to the markets, as well as the importance for all countries to work together to coordinate our actions on finding solutions to the problems that are facing all of us.
In addition to that -- those conversations he had this morning on the economy, in about an hour the President will travel to Guernsey Office Products in Chantilly, Virginia. He will get a tour of the facility, have a chance to talk to the office workers there and hear firsthand about the difficulties that some of their customers are having getting credit. He will then make remarks about the economy and our financial markets. He will acknowledge the concerns and the anxieties that Americans are having about the funds that they've saved for college, or the funds they've saved for retirement, and the still volatile financial markets and the understandable anxiety that that has created over the past several weeks. He will explain how the credit freeze is a problem that could affect everybody up and down the economic food chain.
His chief concern is about the people who are the hard workers, the ones who have put this money away, and he will talk about that in particular today. He will also discuss other economic issues that continue to be important, such as our energy policy, low taxes, the free trade agreements. If there's ever a time to open up new markets to American workers and businesses, it's now. And there are three free trade agreements that are in front of Congress that they could deal with when they get back. And also we want to continue on the programs that we have with HOPE NOW, and the programs that are run out of the Housing and Urban Development Department to deal with unnecessary foreclosures. There are a lot of people who could stay in their home, and just with a little bit of help, by re-working that loan, they'll be able to keep it.
On a different topic, this evening Mrs. Bush will deliver remarks on the North Lawn and light the White House pink in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The United States is working with countries like the Middle East, Europe and the Americas to empower women to take control of their health, raise awareness about the importance of prevention and early diagnosis, and support collaborative research to find a cure for breast cancer.
As First Lady, Mrs. Bush has met with heads of state and survivors, health care workers, and members of the international media to help develop this awareness. And since breast cancer knows no borders, Mrs. Bush has invited members of the diplomatic corps to be a part of the effort, and so they will -- many of them will be here tonight. And they're also doing their own displays of the pink ribbon in solidarity with Mrs. Bush on that initiative tonight. And that happens, I think, at 7:00 p.m.
Q What is -- you're talking the President is speaking with European leaders. What does he think about the level of coordinated action and collective commitment among these countries now? Does he think it's been sufficient?
MS. PERINO: I think it's -- I do think that -- yes, I think that he would say that it is sufficient in that they are talking and they are communicating. It's critical that everybody gets on the same page. And this weekend, here in Washington D.C., there will be a G7 finance ministers meeting. And that will be a very important meeting, as everyone works to collaborate and discuss the efforts that need to be taken. That's the immediate focus right now, is the actions they can take right now, today. And then, of course, this weekend they'll have meetings, I think starting Friday and then into Saturday.
Q There is some disagreement among the European countries about minimum bank guarantees. I think they came up with one for 50,000 euros. Some had wanted more. Do we think that's the kind of action they should be taking?
MS. PERINO: I'm not familiar enough with the details of their plan. So I'll refer you to the Treasury Department for details on their analysis.
Q Generally speaking, you think they're doing the right thing?
MS. PERINO: Well, the President -- the reason that he was in touch with them today is that, obviously, our markets are interconnected, and something that happens here or there affects the other one, one way or another. And, in fact, it's happening all over -- it's affecting everybody all over the world, including emerging markets like Brazil and Mexico. So there's a lot of work that needs to be done. I don't know if -- not everybody has dotted all the I's and crossed the T's yet on their plans. I think that they're continuing to work on them. So we're satisfied with the level of effort and coordination, but I don't think anybody has an end result yet.
Q And do you have a figure on this new plan to buy commercial paper? How much is that going to cost?
MS. PERINO: This is the Fed's plan of -- the Federal Reserve this morning announced the creation of a program that they will use to buy commercial paper. I don't have details of it. That was an independent decision made by them. It was not part of the legislation. This was authority that they were able to take on their own, and it was part of a pattern that we've seen that the Fed is increasingly willing to find innovative ways to try to get the markets moving again, since that's the goal.
Q So is there more coordinated action that the leaders have in mind that they're discussing?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that -- well, we have the G7 ministers meeting this weekend, which that's the immediate focus. And it's four days away, but it's -- in some ways that's a long time; in other ways it's just right around the corner. So there's that meeting. And then, of course, the President is continuing to talk to these allies. He talks to them often, some of them every other week.
But this call in particular was to discuss the financial issues, the rescue package here in America, what we are doing in our own markets, and to hear from them what they are doing and about the coordinated efforts. I'm going to leave it there, because I don't want to provide any more details since they were private discussions, but I did want to give you an update that he'd spoken to them.
Q Dana, the remarks this afternoon will be the third time in two days that the President has spoken about the economy. Does he feel that the American people need reassurance about the plan that was signed into law on Friday, and after yesterday's plunge on Wall Street?
MS. PERINO: Well, certainly the President of the United States recognizes that people all over America are watching very closely what's happening in the economy and they're concerned about their statements. They're probably not looking forward to next month's statement when they get their retirement fund or their college fund bank statement. And so the President understands that.
One of the things that the President can do is to remind them what this rescue package would do. One of the most important things that it would do is to make sure that everybody knows that their bank deposit is safe, insured by the FDIC, and the legislation allowed for a temporary increase from $100,000 to $250,000. This reassures people that their bank accounts are safe, and that's an important message.
But remember, with this rescue package, we asked the American people to do a really big thing and commit a lot of money in order to help prevent the credit freeze from affecting everybody lower on down the food chain. And to that extent, yes, the President thinks that it's important that they hear from the President of the United States about how he understands that nobody wanted to do this legislation, however, it was the right thing to do. And now that we've done it, the most important thing is that Treasury move in the most expeditious way possible, to be efficient and to be effective, to make sure that the plan will do what it's supposed to do and un-freeze these credit markets.
Q Why does the President think the markets did react so poorly yesterday? It was the first full day of trading after the -- he signed the act, the economic stabilization act, and yet, the confidence is still so low. Why does he think that is?
MS. PERINO: Well, we don't comment on daily market movements. And that's not going to change, even though we've seen that increased volatility. But what I will say is that what you saw over the weekend was the increasing concern around the globe about our global financial system and how it's interconnected, and that the pain is going to be spread outside of the United States. And so I think that could be one of your answers.
Q Do you think the U.S. economy is in a recession?
MS. PERINO: You know I don't think that we know. Obviously, this next quarter is probably not going to be a very good one. And we know that. But we know that the last quarter we had about a 2-percent* growth, which is not too bad. But obviously, right now we are in a very difficult situation. But we're working every day to make sure that we effectively put this plan to use so that we can pull up out of it and return to job growth.
So I couldn't say. The classic definition of a recession is not something that we could determine now, or forecast. It's something that people look back on.
Q President Sarkozy of France has proposed an emergency G8 leaders meeting on the financial situation. Was this discussed in these conversations? And also, what does President Bush think about such a meeting?
MS. PERINO: Well as I said, one of the first things that we're focused on is this weekend's G7 finance ministers meeting, which will take place here in Washington. The President obviously talked to President Sarkozy about his idea to have a meeting. The President is open to that. But the immediate focus is on this meeting -- this weekend's meeting, because we're still on a situation where you have an emergency where you need to act today and not worry too much about a meeting. We want to make sure that everyone is on the same page when they get there so that it can be an effective and efficient meeting.
I'll go to Kathleen.
Q Excuse me. The markets -- I think there were a lot of Americans and a lot of lawmakers who -- after what happened last week on Monday when the House failed to pass the rescue plan and the markets plummeted, many thought, well, okay, if we vote for it on Friday -- and many Americans again switched their calls and their e-mails and all to their lawmakers, saying, wow, okay we're in a crisis, vote for this thing, vote for this thing, and then everything will be better and the markets will be fine. Would you say that -- did lawmakers, did Americans have an incorrect perception of what this rescue plan was going to do? And again, when it comes towards the reassurance or acts of reassurance, is there anything else the administration is contemplating immediately that could give the calm and the reassurance that the markets obviously haven't found in this rescue plan?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think we need to give it a little bit of time. And this plan is going to take us -- it's a huge plan and a huge amount of money. And what the Treasury Department is doing is working as quickly as possible the find the right people to put in place so that they are protecting the American taxpayers' dollars and efficiently and effectively investing this money, and making sure that we can, first and foremost, protect the taxpayer, and also make good decisions.
And you can't make good decisions overnight. You have to find these people, and actually the amount of time that we're talking about to actually get something like this up and running is a very short amount of time. But if you're watching the markets on a daily basis or hourly basis or minute-by-minute basis, as many of us are, then it seems like it might be -- it might seem like it's too long. But what I can tell you is, Treasury -- the Treasury and the Fed Reserve are working day and night to make sure that we do this right, not just do it quickly.
So to the extent that anybody had a false impression of what was immediately going to happen in the markets, I guess I can't really speak to that. I would hope that wouldn't be true, because we have long said that it's going to take a little while to pull us out of it, but that we do think that this emergency package is the right thing to do.
Again, what you saw over the weekend and what you saw yesterday was people coming to grips with the reality that this problem is going to be felt not just in the United States but in emerging markets and established markets, like Europe, as well.
Q As we've dealt with this crisis over the past month and a half or so, the talks -- the international talks have involved the G7, not the G8. Is Moscow, in this regard, paying the price for its overreaction to the Georgia incursion?
MS. PERINO: I've not heard that come up, because -- and I don't know all the details; I'd refer you to Treasury about the G7 and the makeup. But usually when they're talking the finance ministers meeting, those have been held at the G7 level, though I think there is some observance or participation at the Russian level, and that will be true this weekend, as well.
Q That will be true this weekend as -- because Russia's stock market has lost about half its value this year. They are also suffering in this thing. Do we feel we need them, given they're a huge energy provider for Europe?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that you should go back and -- well, you have to ask Europe that. And I think that obviously energy is an issue. They've been working to try to diversify and develop more supply and different types of supply there in their own hemisphere. But the Russian stock market -- and I'm not an expert in this -- but you could go back -- they didn't just lose value over the past two weeks. They've been losing value since about -- since May --
Q All year.
MS. PERINO: -- or maybe all year, but I know that a precipitous drop since May. Again, I don't comment on the daily market movements here, and I can't do it in terms of the Russian ones. But clearly, if you look back in August, if you want to try to make a parallel, when we were dealing with the situation when Russia invaded Georgia, yes, I think that they did -- the world did react negatively to that.
Q But I just want to make sure that the -- in the current financial situation, I want to -- the question remains whether Russia is being punished, in effect.
MS. PERINO: As I said, I'll have you check with Treasury for the exact list of who all will be here. But it's usually -- when the G7 meets, it's usually just the finance ministers. And that's been the way it's been -- I think we inherited that policy for a while. But I think that the Russian -- I can't remember --
Q So the G8 meets on political matters, the G7 on financial matters?
MS. PERINO: I believe so. I don't want to say for sure. But the G7 -- I'm sorry, Treasury will have the list today. But I do think that they send an observer.
Q Two quick questions. One, are they -- the leaders and President Bush -- are they discussing coordinating interest rate cuts? Do you know --
MS. PERINO: I couldn't comment on that. I'll let -- but obviously the central bankers are talking amongst themselves, as well, and they'll be involved in the meetings this week.
Q Okay. Also -- this may be a little technical, but there's been some talk of the FDIC issuing a short-term blanket insurance for all non-insured deposits. Is that being discussed at all?
MS. PERINO: I haven't heard that, but I can refer you to what was in the bill, which is a temporary increase from an insurance policy of $100,000 per account to $250,000 as a temporary measure.
Q This would be beyond the bill --
MS. PERINO: I don't -- I haven't heard.
Q Thank you, Dana. During the negotiations that led to passage of the rescue package, Bill Isaac, the former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, was a very visible fixture on Capitol Hill, and he was advocating an alternate measure that he felt would not take as much funding as was required in the rescue package. Yet he also said he offered to meet with Secretary Paulson on this and got no response. Did he meet with anyone from the administration, and if not, why?
MS. PERINO: I'll have to check with you. I don't know.
Q The other thing -- anything new on the Iranian shootdown?
MS. PERINO: Well, there was no shootdown. I'd refer you to -- I think the news agency out of Iran is sending mixed signals. There was no U.S. aircraft involved.
Q Going back to Ann's question about a recession, you said, we don't know. And that's somewhat -- it's changing, especially from February, when President Bush emphatically said, when I did an interview with him, he said, we're not in a recession and we're not going into a recession. He was emphatic about that. What has changed since February to now?
MS. PERINO: Just look at what's happened. That's what's changed, is what's happened in the market.
Q No, no, I'm not being flippant -- I mean, I know things have changed. But he was emphatic, saying we're not in a recession and we're not going into one. And just last week you were standing at the podium -- you and Tony stood at the podium, saying --
MS. PERINO: I wasn't here last week.
Q Well, the week before. Okay, let's --
MS. PERINO: I don't know -- look, April, I don't know if there's -- if we are in a recession right now. And in fact, there's no one who could actually tell you if we precisely are in a recession right now.
Q All I'm just saying --
MS. PERINO: Last February, when the President was asked that question -- again, if you look at the classical definition of a recession, we were not in it. That doesn't mean that the President doesn't understand that people are hurting, or that people are concerned about their savings accounts, or people are concerned about their retirement accounts. But it doesn't mean that we are necessarily in a recession. And I think we should be careful about throwing around words like that until there's actually some evidence.
Clearly, right now we're in a very distressing situation. And next quarter's growth will not -- well, I couldn't tell you what the number is going to be, but it's not going to be anything to write home about. So we are realistic in that regard. But I don't think anybody could tell you right now if we're in a recession or not. Those are just -- those are determinations that come later. But that doesn't take away from the importance and the gravity and the seriousness of the situation we have -- are facing right now.
I'm going to go to Jon first.
Q Dana, is the President going to talk to Chancellor Merkel for sure today? Is that --
MS. PERINO: Not today, but we'll let you know.
Q Are there other European leaders or other world leaders --
MS. PERINO: Those are the only calls that I know about right now, but I'll keep you updated.
Go ahead, Les.
Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions: You, and I presume the President, both heard Senator Biden say, "Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous Vice President we probably had in American history." And my question: Surely the President was appalled at that statement about his chosen Vice President and good friend, wasn't he?
MS. PERINO: I haven't spoken to the President about it, but I clearly think it's a ridiculous claim.
Q And The New York Times quotes Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman as saying of Chicago's William Ayers, "I don't think there's a statute of limitations" --
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on this one.
Q -- "on terrorist bombings." If John McCain had a long association with a guy who had bombed abortion clinics, I don't think people would --
MS. PERINO: Okay, Les, that's enough. We're going to move on.
Connie, go ahead.
Q Can I get to my question?
MS. PERINO: No. I'm not going to answer. Connie, go ahead. I'm going to go -- I'm going to railroad right over it.
Q Does the President think these failed multimillionaire CEOs should get some of their money back to society and should the system be reformed --
MS. PERINO: The President is not going to make determinations like that. They'll have to live with themselves and figure out what they're going to do with those -- with that money.
Go ahead, Lambros.
Q Yes, Dana. Is President concerned on the continued fight between the Turkish forces and Kurdish forces inside and outside of Turkey, affecting terribly the security of northern Iraq?
MS. PERINO: Am I concerned about it?
MS. PERINO: Well, we are concerned. We've asked them to make sure that they are coordinating and working together. They are doing so. President Bush spoke to President Talabani about that just recently. And we have a new ambassador, Jim Jeffrey, who will be headed to Turkey soon who was just confirmed, and he will take that message, as well.
Q Any communication between the President of the Turkish government or the Iraqi government for this issue?
MS. PERINO: President Bush himself, no. But obviously the State Department and our ambassadors have been in touch with them.
Q Thank you.
END 11:52 A.M. EDT
* 2.8 percent