For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 10, 2008
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Dana Perino
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:09 A.M. EST
MS. PERINO: Welcome. Okay, I have a couple of things for you and then I will go to questions.
This morning the President is visiting the National Naval Medical Center and meeting with military personnel recovering from injuries sustained in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. This is the President's 10th visit to that center.
This afternoon -- which is why I think all of you are here -- the President and Mrs. Bush will greet the President-elect and Mrs. Obama on the South Portico at 2:00 p.m. They will proceed into the Diplomatic Reception Room, where the Obamas will meet Admiral Stephen Rochon, the Director of the Executive Residence and the Chief Usher.
Following the greeting Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama will resume their own schedule. They will have a social meeting in the Residence, after which Mrs. Bush will give Mrs. Obama a tour of the First Family's living quarters, including the bedrooms used by children of previous Presidents. We expect that the conversation will include topics such as raising a family in the White House and the support of the Executive Residence staff, which has been really unbelievable for the President and Mrs. Bush and they are very grateful for it.
The President and the President-elect will walk down the colonnade here into the Oval Office, where they will meet privately -- and the pool will cover both the arrival and then the colonnade walk.
A little preview for you for tomorrow, the President's speech at the Intrepid. The President will commemorate Veteran's Day at a ceremony that will rededicate the USS Intrepid Museum in New York. It came -- the Intrepid came to New York after the aircraft carrier left active service in 1982. And about two years ago it began a major restoration, and this ceremony is the official reopening.
Nearly 55,000 Americans served aboard the Intrepid, and some of them will be in the audience for the speech. The President will pay tribute to them and to all those who have served our country in uniform through the generations. The President will talk about the new generation of Americans serving in uniform today, including five outstanding service members, one from each branch of the Armed Forces, who flew up with him to New York.
He will talk about the responsibility our nation has to support our veterans and their families, and highlighting both some of the steps our administration has taken and also the work of private charities like the Intrepid Relief Fund and Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. These are two organizations that are part of the same family of foundations as the Intrepid Museum.
Above all, he will thank our veterans for all they have done to keep our country safe and our liberty secure throughout our history. We are looking forward to celebrating that day tomorrow.
With that I'll go to questions.
Q Two separate topics. First, if you could just give us a sense of what the President goal's are today with President-elect Obama? What does he take into the meeting? What would he like to accomplish in that conversation? And then separately, I'll ask about AIG.
MS. PERINO: President Bush is very much looking forward to this meeting. He first invited the President-elect the night that he called him to congratulate him on winning, so on election night. And this is a meeting that typically takes place between Presidents and Presidents-elect. It's happening a little bit earlier for us and that was, one, because we are so committed to making sure that the transition is as smooth as possible, to get he and his team here so that they can start having private conversations amongst themselves is important to us. Also our calendar made it such that we wanted to get him here sooner than later. So at their convenience, they were able to come today.
This is going to be a private meeting, and there's not a lot that we can do to preview it. I don't think any of us can understand what it's like between -- for two people who are now -- are going to be in a very small club, who understand what it's like to be the Commander-in-Chief, to be the leader of our great country. And so they'll have a private conversation. I'm sure they'll talk about a range of issues. But we'll let that be private, and I'll try to provide you some sort of readout afterwards.
Q On AIG, why did the government feel like it needed to take this action? And why is it appropriate to allow AIG to participate in the stock purchase program but, say, not automakers?
MS. PERINO: You'll remember in September it was the Federal Reserve that first began lending to AIG in order to prevent the collapse of this firm, as the Federal Reserve Chairman and the Secretary of the Treasury determined that the collapse of that company would have a systemic -- would pose a systemic risk to the entire economy. That action was taken before passage of the rescue package that the Congress finally passed in late September.
Today the Treasury Department and the Treasury announced -- I'm sorry, Treasury and the Federal Reserve announced a restructuring of that help that they're providing to that company. The previous plan they've determined was not adequate to deal with the problems that AIG had. So using the new tools available and additional actions of the Fed, this restructured package will allow AIG to continue to restructure themselves in a way that will not hurt the overall economy.
AIG is a large, interconnected firm. Both Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke have determined that a failure by the firm would cause damage to our financial system, the U.S. economy, and the global economy. AIG being clearly within that financial service sector is what Congress had in mind when it passed the rescue package. There was not discussion of specific help to auto companies during that debate, and so the Congress's intent was to help financial institutions. That doesn't mean that Congress wasn't also thinking about the auto industry, because that's how we got the legislation to allow us to provide for loans to the auto industry as they try to retool themselves to make cars that consumers are more interested in buying in a more economic, fuel-economy way.
So the Treasury Department did a conference call this morning. There's a lot of technicalities that go along with this decision that I'm not as well versed in as certainly the experts are that have been working on this. Congress is going to come back into town next week. If they decide to try to do something more on the auto industry we would listen to them. We do think that because we rushed and tried to make sure we got those loan regulations done as quickly as possible last week -- we put those forward I think it was Wednesday night. The Energy Department is now accepting applications for those loans and we'll continue to work with Congress on the others.
Q Dana, can I just get back to the meeting for a second. I guess, in terms of generally characterizing the tone of what a meeting between the current President and the President-elect would be like, is it more of a sort of "Welcome to the White House, this is what it's like and what you can expect," and sort of general? Or are they going to be discussing specific issues and hot spots and that kind of thing?
MS. PERINO: If I had a crystal ball I could tell you; I just don't know. I'm sure that they'll talk about a range of issues. Obviously, there is the Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Bush meeting, which is going to talk about how they will make their life here and how they will make the house a home and all the help that they will be -- at their disposal in order for them to do that.
And then the President and the President-elect will have a chance to talk. I'm sure they'll talk about a range of issues. I'll try to get you something later, but it's just very private and I'm sure this won't be the only time that they speak. I'm sure that between our staffs and also between the two of them that they'll talk on the way forward.
I know one thing that the President will want to talk about is what he's been talking about in the phone call that he had with the President-elect and in his radio address and in the two statements he gave to you all last week, which is the transition of power this time around is so critically important -- one, in regards to the economy, and two, in regards to the attacks -- the threat of attack that we currently live under.
And we all know that as we've seen in other countries that that period of transition can be one where a country is vulnerable to attack. And we really want to make sure that we work with them through joint exercises, through providing briefings, so that when we hand the baton to them they're able to move forward and continue to protect the country.
Q One follow on this -- and I know there's a general sort of reticence about getting a place on the couch -- but I'm just wondering with the arrival of the President-elect here, is there in some way -- for the President, for the staff, or for senior aides -- is everything becoming a little more real, even in a way that the election wasn't, today?
MS. PERINO: Sure, I think that that is fair to say. We all realize how many days we have left to be here to be able to continue to do the work that the President has asked us to do, both in our daily jobs and also in the transition. And one of our most important jobs right now throughout the administration, throughout the White House and the executive office of the President is to make sure that we have a very smooth transition, one that is professional and unprecedented.
I think the President and the President-elect have both set a tone of cooperation, one of a spirit of partnership to be able to move forward. Of course they have differences on policies, but they both love their country equally and their love of country they're going to put first, and then they'll work together to make sure that they have everything that they need going forward.
Q Dana, on Friday, Barack Obama voiced his strong support for a second stimulus. Does that kind of statement change the White House's view on that? Is that something you expect them to discuss today?
MS. PERINO: It's possible that they'll discuss it. Again, I'm not going to presuppose what the two might discuss, but obviously the economy is going to be something that will be top of line for both of the leaders.
The Democrats have not yet determined how they will move forward and whether they'll move forward next week. And before we speculate on what they might hypothetically put forward, I think it's best to let them continue to talk.
One thing we have heard a lot about in this election is the pledge of bipartisan cooperation. And I think that the Democrats, instead of just asking what the administration can do, would be wise to be talking to their Republican counterparts in Congress so they can find out what those members of Congress are thinking about as we move forward to try to continue to help the economy.
Q Going back to the autos for just a minute, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid over the weekend sent Paulson a letter which seemed to suggest that their interpretation of TARP would include the auto industry as a critical part of the financial markets and the economy. How does the White House react to that, especially since they're suggesting legislative intent of the TARP?
MS. PERINO: Well, the letter was sent to Secretary Paulson, the Treasury Department is still reviewing it and hasn't responded yet -- but I'm sure that they will and when they do, that will be public.
I would remind you, though, that the letter doesn't specifically say that that was their congressional intent. It asked the Secretary of the Treasury to review the legislation and study the feasibility of using TARP funds for that purpose. So I think that it's important that you recognize that distinction and let the Treasury Secretary review those discussions.
Q A follow-up. You mentioned the DOE loans, have you heard from Energy on whether any of the automakers, suppliers have come forward on that?
MS. PERINO: I think that they have, but we'll check for you and get back to you.
Q You know, you talked about this a little bit ago, about the differences in policy, obviously, that these two men have. There was a lot of heated rhetoric on the campaign trail. Not to belabor the point, but how does that affect the dynamic when -- you know, the President obviously understands, I know, he's a politician, he understands full well what it's like on the campaign trail, but could you just elaborate a little bit on how the heated rhetoric --
MS. PERINO: It's always amazed me how President Bush is able to let heated rhetoric like that just slide off his back and move forward and do what he thinks is right for the country.
Obviously right now the most important thing we can do is ensure a smooth transition to Barack Obama and his team, and that's what he's committed to doing. He just lets those things go and will be focused on helping the next team have what they need.
I think it's probably something that's hard for all of us to understand, but President Bush has been involved in politics since the mid-'60s, when he watched his father run for Congress. And then their whole political life has been about a rough and tumble campaign. This President was not involved in the campaign, we studiously stayed out of it, even when it was very hard for us sometimes to let attacks go unanswered. But we did that because he thought it was the right thing to do for the Republican Party.
Now in the next few weeks I think you'll be able to see us revisit some of those issues and put a marker down for history of what this President stood for and why he made the decisions that he did.
Q Dana, what does the President think about hearing John Podesta talk about a range of executive orders -- be ready to reverse administration policy on so many things -- basically right away?
MS. PERINO: Well, every President has the prerogative to change policies; that's nothing unusual. That happened in our administration, too. And what I will tell you is that policies that this President made have been carefully considered; all of the due diligence has been done on a range of these issues.
One of them I saw mentioned was on stem cells. And unfortunately, the President's position on stem cells has been misconstrued over the years, with the suggestion that President Bush but a ban on research for embryonic stem cell research. That is not true. I think that -- I don't know if I need to go over it again with all of you here, but I would ask that people think about that carefully. The President made a very important choice after a lot of careful deliberation -- in fact, it's detailed in Karen Hughes' book, "Ten Minutes from Normal," there's a whole chapter dedicated to the decision-making process that went into that decision.
Since that decision, scientists from all over the world and especially here in our own country have shown their innovation and their abilities to do embryonic stem cell research and make huge leaps in achievement without destroying embryos. So I think that we'll just keep all of that in mind as we move forward. But we would say that our regulations that we put forward through executive order or through the rule making process has been carefully considered and have checked all of the boxes when it comes to the due diligence that are required for all of them.
Q So is your advice against a wholesale reversal of these orders?
MS. PERINO: I'm not here to advise or not advise the next team, I'll just remain neutral in that regard. But I will defend what the President has put forward.
Q Another specific that's been talked about is trials for detainees in Guantanamo Bay inside the U.S. You've spent a lot of time at that podium and the President has talked about this a lot, about the danger of that potentially happening. What about that prospect, a meeting?
MS. PERINO: I don't know what their plans are. I do think it's interesting that some -- for many years, a couple of years we've been seeing reported in the press that it would just be easier just to close Guantanamo Bay, and we've tried very hard to explain to people how complicated it is.
When you pick up people off the battlefield that have a terrorist background, it's not just so easy to let them go. We've tried to repatriate many of them back to their homes. We've gone from about 655 detainees down to about 250 now. We continue to try to repatriate them to places that we know that they will be safe and that they'll be kept from harming others. About 7 percent of the detainees that we returned to their home countries have actually struck again. Some have been recaptured. One of them could not be recaptured because he was a suicide bomber who killed 40 people in Mosul.
These issues are complicated, and we have put forward a process that we think would work in order to put them on trial through military tribunals. We have also asked Congress to take another look at the issue that resulted from the Boumediene decision because it is not just -- it's not so easy just to say that you're going to close Guantanamo Bay.
And now in the last week or so, all of a sudden some of our critics in the media are now putting forward how complicated it would be and how difficult it will be for the next President to make these decisions. All of a sudden it's really complicated. So we take the point. It is complicated and we've been trying to do our best to try to close it.
Q Doubtful, but do you have any comment on the New York Times story about the secret orders for the U.S. to raid into other countries to go after al Qaeda?
MS. PERINO: You are correct -- no comment. (Laughter.)
Q Does it get to the point of a presidential level -- we know -- we've confirmed that the Defense Secretary in fact signed an order -- Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in 2004. Does each of those incidents raise to a presidential level?
MS. PERINO: I cannot comment on our methods of going after al Qaeda terrorists. What I can tell you is that we're committed to doing so and bringing them to justice one way or the other.
Q Is this the first substantive meeting between the President and Senator Obama -- one on one?
MS. PERINO: One on one? Yes.
Q Another one on First Lady -- she's talking to the diplomatic wives today. What's that about?
MS. PERINO: I just -- yes, I just saw Ambassador Brinker. She was on her way over to the East Wing; there's a lunch today for the spouses of our diplomats who are here --
Q American diplomats?
MS. PERINO: I believe so. I can check with the First Lady's office and get you details on it.
Q And lastly, the foreign ministers of our two countries met in Sharm el Sheikh. Basically our foreign minister -- they resolved to resume the dialogue on strategic issues. Does that approach have the blessing of the White House?
MS. PERINO: If Secretary Rice moved forward with something you can bet that it had the blessing of President Bush.
Q Aside from the meeting that the President is having and the intelligence briefings, in what other ways is the administration preparing the incoming administration for the vulnerabilities that you mentioned earlier?
MS. PERINO: Vulnerabilities? Well, it runs the gamut, and I'd really refer you to the Department of Homeland Security because Secretary Chertoff, for the past year, has been working to set this up to make sure that, for example, that the senior career official that is in a certain department or office of the Secretary would by ready to step in and fill that position for a while, if needed -- if it takes a while to get somebody named to a particular post, or if it takes a while to get somebody through confirmation. So that's one area.
We're also going to plan to do possibly some exercises to make sure the continuity of operations is understood by the next team coming forward, because that's obviously something we take very seriously. There's also response to natural disasters that we can go over with them. There's a whole range of issues at the Energy Department as well, not to mention bio-terror issues that the Health and Human Services Department would look at. So it runs the gamut of all different issues that we need to continue to prepare them on.
The President-elect's team has been very organized and very helpful, and they've identified a lot of people so that they'll be able to get a lot of overlap between now and January 20th when we leave.
Q On something else, what might you want to tell the next Press Secretary about this outfit and about your job?
MS. PERINO: Well, that it's a high honor and privilege to be here every day, and it's --
Q Really? (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: It is -- even on Sundays, when you're driving me crazy with emails. You know who you are. (Laughter.)
Q Will you tell them, don't give out your email address?
MS. PERINO: Actually, that's a good idea. We could start that. You could enforce the duty officer.
I don't know, but I hope I'll have a chance to meet with him or her. They haven't been officially announced yet so I won't do that for them. We will provide everything that we possibly can from here. I think we've established a good, cooperative relationship in figuring out how to get you the information as quickly as possible so that you can do your jobs. And I'm sure that because of how professional and top-notch their organization was on their campaign, that that will carry over into the White House too.
Q On the automakers again, can you say whether the White House would prefer for Congress to take some affirmative action to clarify that the TARP money can be used for --
MS. PERINO: I won't say either way. I'll just say that Congress will have an opportunity when it returns next week to consider it. If it wants to do anything in addition for the automakers, we'll certainly listen to ideas they have on how to accelerate the loans to viable companies, as laid out in the legislation. I think right now we need to let them to continue to do their work. And hopefully, in the spirit of bipartisanship that they've pledged, that they'll continue to talk to their Republican counterparts as well.
Go ahead, sir.
Q Will there be a seat at the table at the forthcoming economic conference for the incoming administration?
MS. PERINO: We've been in contact with the Obama team on a whole host of issues, and one of them is on the economic summit that's taking place this Friday and Saturday. They have indicated, I believe, that they don't plan to attend. But we are keeping them updated on all of that. And in addition to that, just so that you know, I think on Wednesday we'll be able to bring in a couple of experts to preview for you here -- an on the record, maybe off-camera briefing -- so that you'll have some information leading up to that Friday/Saturday meeting.
Q Dana, is the Oval Office meeting today just the two men for the whole meeting?
MS. PERINO: As far as I -- yes, absolutely.
Q For the entire session?
MS. PERINO: Although, I believe that the Chief of Staff and John Podesta will also try to meet. But it would be separate and probably in the Chief's office.
MS. PERINO: Transcript? (Laughter.)
Q Translation? It was a joke --
MS. PERINO: Go ahead.
Q Have the President's daughters spoken at all to the Obama family about that transition -- life in the White House?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of, but you could call the First Lady's office and check.
Okay, go ahead.
Q Thank you very much. Two questions. President Franklin Roosevelt had "nearly 1,000 press conferences," according to Time Magazine in April of 1945. And my question --
MS. PERINO: What does Knoller say? (Laughter.)
Q My question is, since that averages more than one press conference a week, could you tell us the total number of press conferences held by President Bush?
MS. PERINO: I couldn't tell you. But it's certainly not been that many.
Q The New York Times reported, "Mr. Obama has indicated he will hold a news conference once a month, but nothing has been set." Does the President, as an upcoming private citizen, hope that his successor will try to emulate FDR in the number of his press conferences?
MS. PERINO: I don't think the President will be providing any advice as to how many press conferences he has.
Q Well, he certainly would like to see it, wouldn't he?
MS. PERINO: He'll be in Crawford. I don't think he'll be worried about it too much.
Q Dana, could you tell us about Admiral Rochon's role in -- first, his role here, and then his role in bringing the new First Family in, in January?
MS. PERINO: I think I would refer that question to the First Lady's office since they know him best. And they can talk to you a little bit more about -- in depth about it.
Q Well, let me ask you this. President Bush has been one who likes to break barriers as far as hiring women -- on gender, race, age, all sorts of issues. What was his thought about bringing in Admiral Rochon, who is an African American, to run the residence of the White House? Because now you have the President-elect who is African American, an African American who is running the residence -- it's historic all the way around. Can you talk to us about that?
MS. PERINO: I don't know why President Bush made that decision, but what I do know about the President is that he doesn't make decisions about positions based on somebody's race or gender. So maybe when you have a chance to talk to him over the next couple months you can ask him that question. I don't know.
Q Dana, given that the -- back on the auto industry for a second -- there's a lot of concern in Detroit and among the automakers that if Congress doesn't act this administration might not be able to do anything. Would there be anything that the administration could do if Congress does not come back for a lame duck --
MS. PERINO: I think we have -- we have to move forward with what we can do with the statutes that Congress has authorized us to put forward. And as I said, Congress will have a chance to meet next week, and if they decide to move forward with something additional, we will be able to listen to their ideas. But I think this is too early to say.
Q Thank you.
END 11:34 A.M. EST