Big thank you to today’s co-pooler, Kathleen Hennessey.
AF1 landed in Des Moines at 11:58 local time, after a bumpy descent during which Sen. Harkin, in a navy polo shirt and khakis, paid a brief off-the-record visit to the press cabin (and during which a huge load of plates crashed dramatically in the galley behind us, causing several alarmed faces among the press corps).
Tarmac greeters, per campaign:
Below are the names of the seven greeters at Des Moines International Airport in Iowa (in order).
Mayor Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines
State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald
State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad (HD-66)
State Senator Jack Hatch (SD-33)
Jamie Fitzgerald, Polk County Auditor
Angela Connolly, Polk County Region 5 Supervisor
Tom Hockensmith, Polk County Region 3 Supervisor
Please see the transcript for direct quotes, which will probably beat this report to your inboxes.
WH stenographer Dominique Dansky came back to the press cabin a few moments into our flight with her microphone and digital recorder in hand to record the gaggle, a telltale sign that it was about to begin. But WH press stationed back in the briefing room would not be able to listen to this one live bc we’re on Baby AF1.
Psaki and Carney came back to an unusually cramped press cabin, the two of them sharing a seat back with their elbows (and reporters grumbling a little bit about not being able to hear). Carney was crammed into a seat well and his head was bumping up against the overhead bin. He struggled to flip through his briefing book in the cramped space.
There was another gaggle going on a few paces up the aisle: five SS agents having what looked like an animated chat outside the lavatories, and causing pool to speculate on how much more interesting that gaggle might have been.
The top of the gaggle was dominated by Tropical Storm Isaac. Carney described various ways the federal govenrment is preparing for the storm and repeated POTUS’s message from the WH this morning, when he urged local residents in the storm path to take appropriate precautions. Four incident management assistant teams, two mobile emergency support teams and other resources have been prepositioned. FEMA and DOD have set up incident bases in Jacksonville FL and Montgomery AL. POTUS signed a pre-emergency declaration for LA. Spoke to governors Monday from all affected states and is getting regular updates, which will continue today.
Carney noted that Isaac is coming on the anniversary of Katrina.
Carney then tossed to Psaki, pivoted seamlessly to politics, previewing POTUS’s campaign swing on three college campuses today and tomorrow.
15 m new voters are eligible since 2008, Psaki said. Young people are going to come out and support President Obama bc he has taken action on a number of issues, she said, including war, education, clean energy and other areas.
Asked if there is any concern about today’s dual message – storm and campaign, Carney said: “The president is president every day. He takes the potential effects of this storm very seriously.”
“He will be getting briefed on its developments throughout today and obviously throughout tomorrow. He is also conducting campaign events but will be minding, will be getting information regularly on the status of the storm and on the status of the federal response.”
Psaki on same question:
“Obviously the Republican convention is proceeding as planned. As Jay mentioned the president continues to mintor what’s happening. If anything needs to be changed that is something we will adjust.
“The president is also out there laying out the stakes for what is a very important election for a generation, there’s almost no group with higher stakes for what happens in November. That’s also important.”
“He’s the leader of the country and following this very closely and if changes need to be made we will certainly make them.”
“It is important for him to be out there less than 70 days from the election making the case for why he’s a better choice for the American people, and he’s doing that as well. But there’s plenty of time between events, there’s plenty of time for briefings and if changes need to be made we’ll make them.”
Carney was asked whether Obama, with the storm looming and oil producers shutting down facilities in the Gulf, is considering releasing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He gave the usual answer – always on the table, no announcements to make today.
Carney was asked for reaction to Gov Jindal’s letter claiming Louisiana did not receive enough money to prepare for the storm. Carney didn’t directly address Jindal’s letter but he listed all the resources the federal government is providing to LA and other Gulf states.
Fielding a question about the president’s convention speech, Psaki promised to bring copies of drafts of each day between now and the DNC in Charlotte next week. Carney laughed. She did say that the speech would “lay out the choice that we’re facing” on all the issues we’ve all been hearing about all these weeks: health care, education, clean energy, etc.
The back half from Hennessey:
On campaigning during the RNC and speaking during Boehner’s remarkstonight:
Psaki: “I can’t speak to Speaker Boehner’s schedule. I can say that the president’s schedule is mapped our weeks in advance and we don’t typically making decisions based on what Speaker Boehner is or isn’t doing. There’s ample precedent for presidents, candidates, vice presidents campaigning during the other party convention. The president campaigned four years ago. John Kerry campaigned eight years ago and there is less than 70 days left in the election, until the election, so we know we can’t cede a day or a time with voters or a time in an important state.
Carney added: As a policy matter, it’s important for the American people to know that “the most unpopular Congress in the history of polling would get a rubber stamp, if the president Obama doesn’t win reelection.”
On Katrina anniversary, does this storm remind people of a need for government?
Carney: “The president doesn’t look at the circumstance like this through a political lens. … They are profound events … lives are lost property is lost. There’s a great deal of need for active and quick response on all levels including the fed level … at times like these it’s vital that the administration in Washington be completely fortified and ready to handle a storm like this one and that it is working aggressively with state and local official to make sure supplies are at the ready. I remember fighting Congress last fall to make sure that we had funds ready for future disasters and some leading House Republicans opposed that and the president fought hard to ensure that those funds are in place for just this reason.
Is POTUS going to watch the RNC speeches:
Psaki: “We’ll have to get back to you on that.”
On Romney’s USA Today interview calling Obama camp “vituperative” and involved in “dehumanization”
Psaki: “That kind of language seems to be a pattern from Mitt Romney and his team — ironically, given that he has questioned whether the president understands America, understand free and made a light joke about a birth certificate less that a week ago. “
The president “generally focuses on what his positive vision is.” “Less that two weeks ago Mitt Romney and his team talk about elevating the con elevating the debate and we really haven’t seen that. The language is pretty rich.”
Carney pointed to comments from Romney camp in a conference call this morning in response to question on welfare ad. “The response was we don’t care” if the ads are inaccurate, he said.
On the joint gaggle situation:
“It is absolutely incumbent on me as the president’s spokesman on matters of policy to push back” against false statements.
Psaki says she’s “learned quite a bit” from Jay, although not Russian – yet. She is hopeful.
The Washington Post