On the flight back to Washington D.C. today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gaggle with reporters aboard Air Force One and pushed back on a couple of stories in today’s papers.
One by McClatchy claimed that President Obama and Vice President Biden hadn’t talked to Iraqi leaders in the months leading up to a troop withdrawal decision. The article itself says that it’s drawn from an embassy report based on postings on the White House website, and Carney called the piece entirely incorrect, saying that the administration does not provide read-outs for every call that’s made from the White House, and thus not every correspondence would appear on the White House website. National Security Staff Spokesman Tommy Vietor is even quoted in the story saying that the article is “totally wrong.”
Another push back was on reports that U.S. embassies around the world spent more than $70,000 collectively on Obama’s autobiographies as gifts and for their libraries. Carney referred people to the State Department saying that this was an “embassy by embassy based decision.”
“Obviously the White House didn't have anything to do with this,” Carney said. “I think this is an embassy-by-embassy-based decision based on what they think is – in buying books – makes sense for them in terms of advancing American foreign policy interests. I've just seen in some paper that a lot of these embassies have books by Colin Powell, George W. Bush, other – Ronald Reagan, but again in terms of this particular – this story I would refer you to the State Department.”
He also pushed back on Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech this morning at the Heritage Foundation, and rolled out what sounded to me at least to be a new line of attack on the GOP argument against raising taxes on the wealthy.
This is the speech that Congressman Ryan gave about decrying the politics of division, which he gave at a conservative think tank – very partisan conservative think tank – in which he then spent most of his speech criticizing and attacking the president? Is that the speech you're referring to?...
I do have something to say about that. This president's commitment to trying to overcome the kind divisive politics is at the core of who he is as leader and a politician. The fact of the matter is despite what Congressman Ryan says, the president's approach is viewed even recently – and I'm citing somebody else's work here that I saw a little item – that even recently cited in a Fox News poll with a somewhat leading question about, do you believe that the approach that the president's taking is bringing people together or is he deliberately dividing people, 56 to 32 said the former. …
There's a familiar refrain that we heard in the speech about going after small business and punitive tax hikes on job creators. Something that I always find interesting because by the way Republicans define small business, did you know that more than 200 of the top – of the 400 highest earning people in america, people who's average annual income is $271 million – that they're small business owners because they're in partnerships in law firms or other things and those are the small business owners that they say shouldn't be paying a little extra. It's just a fallacy.
And on criticism that the newly rolled-out student loan and mortgage programs would only help a small sliver of the U.S. population, Carney had this to say:
To suggest that an initiative doesn't entirely solve a problem that makes it not work doing is i think faulty analysis at best. Tell it to i think it's 1.6 million students who would be assisted and see their burden reduced by this.
If our economic problems or challenges were solvable by two or three proposals I think we'd be done already, but as the president says the whole that we found ourselves in as a country because of the great recession is very very deep and we didn't get there over night and we won't climb out of it overnight. But we are climbing out of it.