For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 7, 2008
Press Briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
10:37 A.M. EST
MR. FRATTO: Good morning, everyone. You should have -- we just released a statement by the President on the economy, and it just should be hitting your boxes right now. And just to summarize what the President says: He notes that we are, of course, in the midst of a global financial crisis and tight credit markets, and this is having an impact on our economy and the global economy, and obviously on job creation. And what we're focused on here are the aggressive actions that we're taking to deal with the problems in the economy. He notes that in the weeks ahead we'll continue to implement the programs we have and work to return our economy to growth and job creation.
He understands that Americans are deeply concerned about the challenges our economy is facing. But we've overcome these challenges in the past and he's confident that, with the actions that we're taking, we'll be able to do so again.
And with that, why don't I take your questions.
Q Keying off of Dana's statement earlier on the unemployment numbers -- I haven't seen the President's because I don't want to read my BlackBerry during your briefing. (Laughter.)
MR. FRATTO: Really? That's so polite of you --
Q I'll do it later.
MR. FRATTO: -- and unusual for this august crowd. (Laughter.)
Q Anyway, she talked about using the tools we have and expressed that in a couple different ways in her short statement, which kind of leads me to wonder whether these -- you all want to caution against thinking that numbers like what we saw today would be any reason for a new stimulus.
MR. FRATTO: Well, I think --
Q Are they or are they not?
MR. FRATTO: Well, when people talk about a stimulus, they're usually talking about what can we do for the economy right now, seeing these numbers are actually -- they're backward-looking, so it's the economy that we are certainly in. And the stimulus proposals that we have seen out there are very limited and very forward-looking and long range. And I don't think that's what any -- the notion of stimulus that anyone has out there, they're interested in what can you do for the economy right now. And what we're doing for the economy right now is to deal with the biggest drags on the economy, which are the very tight credit markets. And we're dealing with that through the TARP program, to loosen up credit for consumers and businesses. And we're dealing with housing, try to shore up the housing market and the market for home finance so that becomes less of a drag on the economy.
There are other sort of natural -- more or less natural stimulus-type efforts like -- it's not an effort, but the fact that oil prices have declined so much has a stimulative effect on the economy immediately. It's like an immediate tax cut for consumers with a dramatic lowering in energy prices.
So that's what's happening right now, and those are all the authorities that we have right now to deal with the economy as it is. Some of the ideas that we've seen, things like infrastructure spending, for example, have an exceedingly limited impact on the economy in the short term, over the period of one or two quarters. I think the Department of Transportation estimates that about a quarter of every dollar spent on infrastructure spending is actually spent in the very first year. Well -- so take whatever number you see people throwing out there about infrastructure spending, divide it by four, and that's the impact on the economy over a one-year period. And in a -- so if it's $100 billion -- it's a number some people have thrown around -- that's $25 billion over a year, and that's in a $14 trillion economy. So it's a very limited stimulus impact.
The things we're doing now with the $700 billion TARP program have actually multiplying effects. When you improve the conditions of banks to go out there and make loans, it's not a $1 for $1 impact on the economy, it's actually larger than that. So those are the things that we are working on with those tools.
Q I just had a separate --
MR. FRATTO: Oh, I'm sorry, go ahead.
Q It's okay, just a separate question. Can you characterize the level of contacts now between the White House and the Obama team on the economy? There's been talk about office space being set up at Treasury and these things are just getting started. Can you talk about where they are today?
MR. FRATTO: Those communications actually started well before Election Day with both campaigns. I know Treasury Secretary Paulson was in regular contact with both candidates and staff, were in appropriate ways involved in communications with the staffs and transition -- prospective transition teams for both campaigns. Since then they've continued those communications. They are starting the process for briefings and moving transition people into Treasury to work alongside some of the --
Q Have people started showing up?
MR. FRATTO: I don't know if they've actually started showing up to do that, but they're starting that process. And it's -- we have to deal with our formal relationship with the transition team, and once that's done, that will happen. But they are free to communicate with each other. They have been communicating with each other. They've been sharing information.
And Secretary Paulson I know is very interested in how the next administration will deal with the economic plans that he's putting in place for very important reasons. Remember, these are programs he's putting in place to deal with systemic risk in financial markets. And the last thing financial markets need right now is confusing signals and programs that might be started and changed in a very short time. What they need is some sense of constancy as to what the government's policy response is going to be. So they don't want to surprise markets, they want to try to make sure that they have predictable information for markets.
Q Tony, could I just ask you to return to something we've talked about before? But now that the election is over, maybe you could be a little freer in sort of characterizing what the sense is about government assistance or bailout to industries aside from the financial industry. And I know you saw at least one front-page article about it today. But the concern some people have that when you talk about the automakers, or any number of industries, that it sort of moves us closer to socialism. Can you address where the lines are, in terms of what you support?
MR. FRATTO: I would say that we're very, very far away from that line of socialism, wherever that's drawn out there. Every action that we have taken, going back to the actions to prevent the total collapse of Bear Stearns and making sure that that was worked out in an appropriate way until the very recent actions with the TARP program, have been all about one thing, and that is preventing the systemic breakdown in our economy. There's absolutely zero appetite for government ownership and government control of private businesses, and that should be clear to everyone.
And in fact, the programs that we're putting in place are designed to go in, help them from collapsing in ways that do not affect the broader economy, and then for government to get out as quickly as possible. We do not want government running businesses. We do not want government making private business interests. We believe businesses should do that on their own, in the best interests of their companies and how they deal with consumers. But it is in our public interest to make sure that we do not have a systemic breakdown in this economy. And so that is the -- I would say the guiding standard for all of the decisions that we make and that the Treasury Department and the Fed have made throughout this whole financial crisis.
Q But if you look at -- take the automakers -- where you do see a lot of opinion out there that maybe the best thing is to allow one or two of the companies in trouble to fail without government intervention. I'm not quite sure how you define systemic breakdown; you could almost apply that -- you could apply that in a very wide variety of cases.
MR. FRATTO: I don't think so. I don't think you can provide it in a wide variety of cases -- you can only provide it in actually a very narrow cases.
With respect to the special question of the auto firms, let me say this. First of all, we have great concern for the health of the auto industry. It is a very large part of our economy, and not just the automakers themselves but their parts and suppliers and the communities in which factories are located.
And so it's an important question. What we have to deal with here in the federal government, though, are the rules that -- or the authorities that Congress gave us to deal with how we can assist the automakers and other automotive component makers. And that is the section 136 auto loan program that is being administered by the Department of Energy. So the Department of Energy moved in really record speed to get their regulations out so that automakers will know what is available for them in that program, as Congress directed the administration to do, and that's what we've done.
If Congress has any interest in going beyond that, that's a decision that they're going to have to make. What we would say about that is that we want to make sure that we continue to have the standard of dealing with viable firms, which is language that's in the current legislation with respect to section 136; that they do it in ways that protect the taxpayer. But that is a -- that's a decision for Congress to make. We don't have the authority to do that.
Q Tony, the last thing the markets need right now are confusing signals. So does that mean if there are going to be any changes to the TARP program such as expanding who qualifies outside of financial institutions, would you not move forward if President-Elect Obama and his team don't agree with those changes, or will the Treasury Department still go ahead and make the changes they feel are necessary even if there might not be agreement on it --
MR. FRATTO: Secretary Paulson does have an obligation to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the country and for protecting the financial markets. So those decisions rest with him. But he certainly will want to take into account what the next administration thinks about the actions that he's taken. But those are decisions that he's going to have to make on his own based on what he's hearing.
Q Automakers were on the Hill yesterday, obviously. Has the White House had any contact with Detroit, and what has that contact been like?
MR. FRATTO: No, we have -- the White House hasn't been in contact with -- in direct contact with automakers. I know that -- I think we've said this a number of times in the past -- automakers have been in contact with certainly Department of Energy over the loan program. I know they approached the Treasury Department and others in the administration who have relationships with the automakers, have heard from them also. But we have not been.
Q Tony, on the proposals for a second stimulus package, I just wanted to visit -- revisit that one. Why does the White House continue to diss the Democrats' ideas for a package and not proactively come forward with ideas of its own? Isn't there a recognition that the President has to continue to lead in this area, even with only a few weeks left in office?
MR. FRATTO: I think there needs to be a recognition, first of all, of what we're doing already. I guess it was in very, very late summer that we passed housing legislation, a $300 billion program which the FHA has been working very hard to implement and to get up and running, and that has just started. They have another housing program that they've been working, and that is getting into the economy, dealing with foreclosure in housing.
Then you take all of the actions that we have taken so far with respect to dealing with the financial crisis, which has put a lot of liquidity into the system. And we're trying to fix the multiple problems that relate to financial markets. That is having an impact. Some of that is just starting now. We remind people it was just I think 10 days ago that the first tranche of funding for the first nine banks to participate in the capital injection program received their funding.
So these are things that are happening right now. I'd also point you to actions that the Federal Reserve has taken in their efforts to help free up credit in the commercial paper market; that is starting to have an impact. We're starting to see improvement in short-term lending, and that's good for all of our businesses. It helps them to be more competitive and to do the things that they need to do. And then also what the Fed has done in the past with respect to overnight lending rates for the FOMC decisions. And they've spoken as to how that will impact the economy.
So there is a lot going on right now, and we think these things are having an impact right now, and will over the short term. And that's what we have the authority to do. If there are ideas about what can be done that would be stimulative in the short term, we'll listen to them and we'll see if there's an appetite in Congress for what they would like to do. But it's not clear among Democrats in Congress what they would like to do yet. They haven't made clear what the path is for them and what things they'd like to bring to the table. And they control both bodies there. We can only deal with the authorities we have.
Q So the White House feels there's no need to make any further effort on the stimulus front for now.
MR. FRATTO: Right now we're focused on the stimulative efforts that we're -- that we have the authority to do. By the time Congress has an opportunity to look at legislation, we'll see what their ideas are and we'll make a judgment as to whether it will have -- whether there are good reasons to take some kinds of action, whether stimulative or not, whether there's a good -- whether there are good economic reasons for doing certain things with respect to the economy.
But on the question of stimulus, I would just -- I would ask all of you to -- if someone is out there labeling something a stimulus plan, there are lots of experts out there, and find out whether it really -- any of these ideas being proposed actually would be stimulus in the short term. You don't have to take our word for it. It's -- there are lots of experts out there who can talk about how this spending comes out and what impact it would have.
Q New subject.
Q Follow that?
MR. FRATTO: Sure.
Q Go ahead.
MR. FRATTO: Mike.
Q Tony, on your point about your concern about confusing signals to the markets, I'm wondering how much of Monday's meeting in the Oval Office with the President-Elect may deal with making sure they're on the same page, at least short term, on the economy, and trying to avoid those confusing signals. And what do you think if President-Elect Obama comes in and says, I'm strongly in favor of a second stimulus, whether that may move the White House?
MR. FRATTO: Well, that's a really important meeting, and a very special meeting in our democracy, in the way we deal with transfers of power. And I think all of us here at the White House are looking forward to that meeting, as I know all of you are, too. It will be wonderful to see the Obama family come to the White House. And as you know, Mrs. Bush and Michelle Obama will have a chance to spend some time together, too.
So the meeting itself, we don't -- we keep those meetings private. So it'll be up to President Bush and President-Elect Obama what it is they would like to discuss. I'm sure they'll have an opportunity for a wide range of issues. There's no shortage of important subjects that we're dealing with, and the economy could be one of them. But we keep the President's meetings with former Presidents private. I think we'll keep his discussions with future Presidents private also. But we are certainly looking forward to that meeting.
Q A couple questions. You said that Paulson has been talking with the Obama folks. Can you provide some names that he's been --
MR. FRATTO: No. You can check in with Treasury on that. If you're looking for hints for who will be members of the Obama economic team, I won't be able to help you with that.
Q Okay. And I'm not clear on something. Has the administration ruled out using any of the $700 billion for an equity stake in either autos or insurance companies?
MR. FRATTO: The way the equity injection program is set up -- these kinds of firms are known as industrial loan corporations, as they're presently organized, are not eligible for the capital injection program. The capital injection program is --
Q So you have ruled it out.
MR. FRATTO: You asked me specifically about two specific companies. So, yes, in that instance. But --
Q So automakers and insurance will be barred --
MR. FRATTO: No. If you'll let me finish the answer. The TARP program, the capital injection program, is for -- number one for banks, whose primary business is banking, and they can not have a non-bank ownership that is so substantial that it determines how that business is run and they have a percentage of how much ownership from non-bank -- from a non-bank ownership stake, whoever has ownership of it. Under those standards, no, typically those kinds of firms can't qualify.
Yes, about insurance companies -- there are some insurance companies that are set up as bank-holding companies or thrift-holding companies. And so they would at a first level qualify, but then the other -- the second question is the determination by Congress as to what needs to be done to prevent systemic risk in the economy. And there are other standards that Treasury needs to take into account before they make any of those decisions. But as of now, typically those kinds of firms don't qualify.
Q Tony, does today's unemployment report leave any doubt that the economy is in recession?
MR. FRATTO: We've been -- I think we go through this the first Friday of every month this year.
Q Here we go again. (Laughter.)
MR. FRATTO: Yes. We don't make determinations or predictions on what the National Bureau of Economic Research will call the bottom of the business cycle, but if you go to the national -- the Business Cycle Dating Committee, they have a webpage; they'll tell you exactly what they take into account to determine what the bottom of the business cycle is. And I'll just refer you to that.
But make no mistake, we know this is a very challenging, difficult time for the economy. It's a challenging time for the global economy; it's a challenging time here in the United States. We know it's very difficult for families. The only thing that we can be focused on is not what you call it, but what do you do about it. And we're focused on what we can do about it and how quickly we can implement those things to have an impact as quickly as possible so that businesses can go back to generating growth and hiring employees and keeping employees hired and having good work for them to do.
Q Given the runup in the unemployment rate, do you -- what are your thoughts about doing more in terms of benefits for workers who've lost their jobs?
MR. FRATTO: I mean, we've already extended benefits once and then in certain states there are federal-state matching programs to further extend unemployment benefits when a state hits a trigger. Look, what every worker would rather have is a paycheck. And I think right now that's what we need to be focused on. If there's interest in Congress on taking additional measures, again, we need to see what their intentions are and whether it's something that they want to do while we're here to work with them on it. But it's not at all clear what their intentions are right now.
Q Tony, do you have a final list for the attendees at the summit next week? And a subset of that, do you know at what level the President-Elect will be represented?
MR. FRATTO: I don't know -- on your second question -- I don't know what level of representation they'll have, but certainly we want to be working very closely with them and listening to them. I think Dana mentioned yesterday that Dan Price will be in close consultation with the President-Elect's transition team and his international economic people. And that's very appropriate. We look forward to hearing their views on how to deal with these issues, which are going to go on for some time.
In terms of the final list -- I mean, the final list is, as I'm aware, are the G20 countries that -- and economies that we've been involved in. I'm not -- I don't know if there are any other --
Q I guess I mean are all the G20 heads of government or heads of state coming? I mean, is it -- no one's being just represented at the finance minister level, it's all the --
MR. FRATTO: I believe it -- my understanding is it's all heads of state -- heads of state or heads of government.
Q Tony, moving on to another subject.
Q No, Tony --
MR. FRATTO: I'm sorry, I let Olivier go off topic. Let's do a couple more on the economy, and then I'll -- what's that?
Q The economic crisis summit is not the economic crisis? (Laughter.)
MR. FRATTO: Writ large. Paula.
Q One of the ideas floating around is withholding, or changing the tax withholding tables, which arguably could increase or stimulate the economy much quicker than, say, a tax rebate. Would the White House consider that stimulus --
MR. FRATTO: Are you in favor of lowering marginalized tax rates to spur growth in the U.S. economy? I think that's something we've been in favor of for a long time. In fact, we think everyone should have lower marginalized rates in order to spur growth in the economy.
Q Okay, but in order to achieve that --
MR. FRATTO: In fact, we would like to have the lower marginalized rates that were put in place by President Bush extended and made permanent.
Q So we've heard.
Q Isn't that one possible way, though, of achieving that, if you adjust the tax withholding --
MR. FRATTO: To make the President's tax cuts permanent? Yes. (Laughter.)
Q And also, it sounded like a minute ago you were changing the ground rules to some extent on what would be acceptable when you said that as long as there's a good economic reason to do anything other than stimulative measures, then it's up to Congress. But doesn't sound like you'd veto anything.
MR. FRATTO: Well, Congress needs to propose legislation. And I'm not going to debate sort of ideas floated in trial balloons and new stories that come from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. If they have something concrete that they want to put on the table, we'll look at it, we'll make our judgment on it.
What I was saying -- I was making the distinction between something that is labeled as stimulus, and something that other people -- and maybe people can have arguments on as to whether it is a good public policy thing to do whether or not it is stimulus. And what I was asking you all to do is to -- if you hear someone naming something as stimulus, go out and find out whether it really is stimulus. And that's not saying that it may or may not be something good to do, but just be careful of the label of stimulus.
Q They're not talking about stimulus. They're talking about a broader economic package that could include some stimulus measures, but also could do other things to help, whether it's public work projects, extending unemployment -- they're talking about doing --
MR. FRATTO: It's very good intel, Paula, and I'm writing it down so that I'm ready for it when I see that proposal. (Laughter.)
Q One more --
Q Tony --
Q One more on the economy.
MR. FRATTO: I think Jon has some on the economy, too, and so let me get Jon and I'll come back to you, Jim.
Q I had a question on the stimulus, but it did sound in your response to Olivier like you were saying there will be some presentation from the Obama team at the summit.
MR. FRATTO: Whether there is --
Q I just wanted to clarify that.
MR. FRATTO: We'll have communication and coordination with them. I don't know whether someone will actually be in the building -- I don't expect in the room. But certainly, look, we're going to have very good communication with them. We want their thoughts and views. This is a incredibly complicated issue on a lot of different fronts. I mean, these are things that a lot of people haven't paid a whole lot of attention to over the years -- dealing with cross-border capital flows and accounting standards and how markets interact and how -- you know, what you do with banking capital requirements and risk management.
I mean, when was the last time we talked about these kinds of things in this room? And I suspect that's the same thing in lots of other capitals, and there's a reason for that -- they're complicated and you need experts to go out there and do a lot of work on it. I think we want to give that -- those efforts momentum and speed them up and get them done, and we certainly want to hear from the incoming President-Elect what he thinks about them, because it is going to take a long time to put in place reforms in these areas.
Q On the stimulus --
Q Staying on the question, real quickly. It does sound like you're saying that nothing can be done because you're knocking Dems' ideas and you're not proposing any of your own.
MR. FRATTO: On stimulus?
MR. FRATTO: Look, we -- I think what I have said repeatedly now is that a lot is in fact getting done. You're saying you don't think anything -- we're saying -- I'm saying nothing can get done. I think I'm saying the opposite.
Q -- nothing more can be done?
MR. FRATTO: Well, we'd want to see what those ideas are. What we're focused on are the things that we think will have the biggest impact on the root causes of the economic downturn right now, which is credit and housing. And we're working feverishly on both of those things. Those are the -- it's the root cause and that's what we think can get done, and we also think it has a stimulative impact in the economy over a period of time.
I promised to come back to Jim.
Q I just wanted to ask one question, because I think we heard a new one this morning -- "the bottom of the business cycle." I may be wrong, but I've never heard anybody say the word "recession" from the podium. Can I just ask you, is that word radioactive? Why isn't it said?
MR. FRATTO: The way that we're always asked the question is, are we in a recession or are we not in a recession? And there you have me saying the word twice. (Laughter.)
Q All right, I've got it.
MR. FRATTO: I'm sure. But look, I mean, we don't make those determinations. And we also think it's relatively irrelevant to the primary focus that we have, which is dealing with implementing policy. I mean, I don't think the American people sit around and say, boy, why won't they say it? Or, why won't they label what the economy is? We've said it's a very difficult economy. We've said it's challenging. We've said it -- and we've said this, by the way, in very clear and transparent ways all the way through this downturn.
I don't think anyone who has stood at this podium could be accused of cheerleading the economy or looking through rose-colored glasses. We've tried to be very, very transparent so that we'll have very good credibility in talking about what the conditions of the economy are, because we don't want to send mixed messages, either to markets nor to the American people and global financial players. We want to be credible and clear, and that's what we're doing.
As to whether someone six to eight months from now is going to label what this period was isn't as important as what we're trying to do to deal with it. And that's what we're focused on.
Q The same -- basically the same thing. The IMF yesterday said that there will be, in fact, a recession, not only in the U.S. -- they gave specific numbers that they expect. They gave similar numbers to all the other major economies, as you undoubtedly know. You probably would not want to comment on the numbers themselves, but what do you say to the people around the world who believe that this is the outcome of the American crisis originally?
MR. FRATTO: It's not an American crisis, it's a global crisis. There were weaknesses in our economy having to do with housing and home mortgage, there's no question about that. But there were weaknesses in lots of financial centers across the globe. And I think we've seen some exposure when those financial markets came under stress. So I'm not really sure what you're question is, but it's -- again, I'm not sure that it's useful for me to give analysis on what the rest of the world would think about it.
Q My real question was actually if you agree with the figures. (Laughter.)
MR. FRATTO: If I agree with?
Q With the IMF expectations.
MR. FRATTO: We're not -- that would be like me making a prediction.
Q And last thing. The Russians are saying that they're discussing with you guys a meeting between our two Presidents. Is that true?
MR. FRATTO: I'm not aware of that.
Q Back on the summit. Will other countries want to have as full involvement from the new -- the coming administration as possible? Because otherwise there's going to be this whole game of, does President-Elect Obama agree with what President Bush -- what direction you want to go in.
MR. FRATTO: Actually, I think what we've -- the messages that we've got, and from the President's discussions with other world leaders, is that we can't afford to wait. I think they appreciate the fact that we are working closely and communicating well with the President-Elect, and that's good. And I think we'll be able to have that reflected in the way we deal with this issue. But what the other world leaders have said is -- has been quite the opposite; is that we can't afford to wait, we need to deal with these issues now, we need to start a process going forward so that we're not behind next year. And we agree with that and we've agreed with that point of view from the very beginning.
Q I guess my point -- if there are different approaches or differences in approaches, I mean, are you going to be presenting -- well, the current administration, we want to do X, but -- you're not going to give them a menu?
MR. FRATTO: I think we have and I expect we will continue to have a very respectful relationship going two ways with the Obama team. And so we'll have those discussions and we'll see how it goes, but I think we are in a position to have a very successful summit with these countries coming in and I expect us to see some very strong agreement on the principles that we all hope to address going forward.
Q Tony, we're talking about big concepts here, but with that jobs report, when you look at the individuals behind those numbers, I mean, it sounds like the message today from the White House is, hang tight, we're working on it. What are you saying to those people?
MR. FRATTO: Well, I'll take -- the second part is, we're working on it. And with respect to the first part of the message that you suppose we're sending is, we understand what you're going through, we understand that it's difficult, we understand that as you sit at the kitchen table and think about how you're going to put food on your plate and you may have angst about if you don't have a job whether you're going to have a job; if you have a job, how long you're going to have one. Those are very natural feelings for people to have in an economic downturn.
The most important part of our message, though, as I've said a number of times now, is that we need to keep focusing on the causes of the problem so that we can dig out of this downturn and get back to stronger economic growth and stronger job creation. I think that's what the American people would like us to be focused on, and that's exactly what we are focused on.
Q One more --
MR. FRATTO: Kathleen.
Q Tony, have Chinese hackers penetrated the White House computer system? If so, how many times? And are you concerned about the kind of information they've been able to obtain?
MR. FRATTO: There's just nothing I can comment on.
Q Nothing at all?
MR. FRATTO: No.
Q Is this is an issue the White House has raised in any way with the Chinese government?
MR. FRATTO: I just -- I can't comment on it. I'm sorry.
Q Tony, going to a subject you talked about earlier, the Obama-Bush meeting, you said it was special and this White House is looking forward to it. What kind of preparations are being made for this historic meeting around the White House right now?
MR. FRATTO: I honestly don't know, except for the -- I know what our press plans are for dealing with how we're going to move you around so you can get good shots of the President and President-Elect Obama and the families. I'll refer you to the First Lady's office if they're doing anything special. We've been focused on the meeting, and -- the meeting that the President and the President-Elect would have.
Q The President was very gracious in his statement to the -- in recognizing history. And I guess what I'm asking also is what type -- is there anything special, something, some kind of new nuance in the meeting of the President-Elect and this President because of the historic nature?
MR. FRATTO: I don't know of anything in particular, April, that I could point to. But it is a special meeting. It is -- and I would say that it's always special. We take great pride in the way we deal with transfer of power from one government to the next. And so I expect it to be a very respectful meeting. They'll have a wonderful conversation, and like I said, we're all looking forward to it.
Q Tony, what is the anticipated coverage plans for us for Monday?
MR. FRATTO: I think you'll see the President and -- did Dana go through this yesterday? I thought she did. No? You'll see the --
Q She told us to ask you. (Laughter.)
MR. FRATTO: You'll see the President and Mrs. Bush greet the President-Elect and Mrs. Obama at the North Portico --
Q Pool, open press? What do you think we're looking at?
MR. FRATTO: I can't remember the specific coverage. It's pool? That's pool.
Q What time? What time do we --
MR. FRATTO: Two-thirty. And then you'll see them walking on the Colonnade and then going into the Oval Office. And we'll see if we can get you more details later.
Q A readout afterwards?
MR. FRATTO: I'll let you know.
Q Will either of them make comments to the press?
MR. FRATTO: We'll see.
Q Will you let the President-Elect go to stakeout? (Laughter.)
MR. FRATTO: Paula.
Q Thank you. On the definition of recession, a few weeks ago your Chairman of the Economic Council -- I can't say -- anyway, Ed Lazear a few weeks ago said that there are already certain pockets of the United States above -- with unemployment above 6 percent, as he defined it, are recessionary. And now you have a 6.5 percent unemployment rate. So is that recessionary?
MR. FRATTO: I think you're connecting dots that Ed Lazear wasn't exactly connecting.
Q Tony, two questions -- thank you. What is the White House reaction to the news report that the election in New Hampshire to the state Senate has resulted in the first and only government body in U.S. history where the majority is female?
MR. FRATTO: I wasn't actually aware of that, so I don't have a White House reaction to that, Les. But if that's actually true, I think it's wonderful. (Laughter.)
Q Okay. Thank you.
MR. FRATTO: Thank you.
Q Wait a minute. Do you know, and if so, what is your impression of Robert Gibbs, who's been repeatedly reported to be Dana's successor at the Obama White House?
MR. FRATTO: I don't know him. Dana was on TV this morning and I think she expressed her views of him -- she thinks he'll -- if it is Robert Gibbs, that he's named --
Q If it is? Is there any doubt?
MR. FRATTO: -- he'll come here and he'll do a wonderful job. And we'll be doing everything we can to help him and his team.
END 11:14 A.M. EST