Latest from White House Press Pool (they have landed in Los Angeles)

Subject: WH Travel Pool #2: Arrival and gaggle


Air Force One was wheels up from Andrews at 11:32am ET, and down at LAX at 1:10 pm PT. POTUS quickly off the plane, no greeters or viewing pen, and headed toward Marine One. Press helo taking off shortly.




Jen Psaki and Jay Carney gaggled mid-flight for about 21 minutes. The transcript likely made its way to your inboxes before we landed but here are some highlights.


First, a note that the man who traveled with POTUS from the White House to Andrews on Marine One is Mike Ramos, a friend from Hawaii.


Psaki opened by doing some “back of the notecard” math on how the campaign gets to the $5 trillion total in describing Mitt Romney’s tax plan. A photo of said notecard is available upon request.

Lowering rates 20% across all tax rates: $2.7 trillion over 10 years

Eliminating the AMT: $700 billion

Repealing high income payroll tax: $300 billion

Ending estate tax: $150 billion

Lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%: $1.1 trillion.

That adds up to $4.8 trillion. Factoring in interest payments for additional borrowing, you get $5 trillion.


Psaki also pointed to ideas Romney has said were off the table: tax breaks for savings and exemptions, including capital gains; exemptions for IRAs and 401(k)s.


“Eliminating all of the high-income tax breaks, all tax breaks across the board for high-income individuals, as he said he would do, that still only gets you to $2.7 trillion. Nobody thinks he’s going to do that.”




Accusations of dishonesty, is that the type of debate the American people want?


Psaki: The $5 trillion tax debate is not about honesty and dishonesty. It’s about what your priorities are and who’s going to be a better fighter for the middle class. … We’re going to keep laying out the facts for the American people.”


Asked if the Obama campaign saw an Increase in fundraising after the debate, Psaki said she had no new updates on the campaign’s fundraising. She then highlighted some of the stats from their announcement of September fundraising, adding she would be surprised if Romney’s campaign is financed by grassroots donors at the level they are.


On whether the campaign still believes it will be outspent, and how important a distinction that is given their significant fundraising, Psaki said they don’t know yet what the Romney numbers are yet. They continue to be focused on doing what it takes to fund their grassroots campaign. “We’re obviously out here making this trip because we don’t take anything for granted. We don’t count our chickens before they hatch. And we still need every last dollar to compete against the enormous amount of special interest PAC moment that is being thrown into the race on the Republican side.


On the nature of the event with Bill Clinton, which is not a fundraiser: Psaki said it’s for high-dollar donors who have maxed out around other events before. “It’s a thank you event for a small group of donors.” Because it’s a small group, it is very informal and that’s why pool will not be allowed in. She declined to name those who would be attending.


Carney gave details on the Cesar Chavez monument designation. Specified that it was years in the making, and the process began years ago, and is the fourth such designation by the president under the Antiquities Act. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will attend, as will Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who first introduced legislation during her time in the House for the purpose of designating this as a monument.


Psaki was asked whether the $5 trillion debate is one that might be pursued more aggressively this week by Vice President Biden at the debate with Paul Ryan. Psaki said she would not predict what topics will come up. “The question for Congressman Ryan is will he go to the debate and stand for the policies that he and Mitt Romney have been advocating for – voucherizing Medicare, a $5 trillion tax cut package … or will he, as Mitt Romney did last week, hide from his policies and be dishonest about what he represents.”


Are the stakes higher for Biden given Obama’s performance: “No. … I know the vice president is looking forward to having a policy debate on the differences between the platforms of the two candidates. I’m sure he’s happy to talk about the $5 trillion tax package the Romney-Ryan team has been fighting for given the opportunity.”


Is there a connection between the lessons the campaign is taking from Obama’s performance that will inform Biden’s approach? “I think what we learned earlier this week is that the Mitt Romney who came to the debate is one who has a strained relationship with the truth. We don’t know if Paul Ryan is going to go to the debate this week and talk about the issues he’s been advocating on the campaign trail … . The vice president will certainly be prepared to lay out the facts as we have been doing over the past couple of days. … The president knows what kind of debater Mitt Romney is and the fact that he’s willing to say and do anything on a national stage in order to win the presidency. So we take that into account as we prepare for future debates.”


Asked if the President and VP discussed the debates, Psaki said the two do chat regularly but didn’t have a readout. She wouldn’t give any further readout on the president’s debate prep going forward, beyond that he may be reviewing materials on the plane.


On Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech Monday: “We’re not going to be lectured by someone who’s been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he’s dipped his toe in the foreign policy waters. Just as a refresher, this is the same guy who when he went overseas on his trip, the only person who has offended Europe more is probably Chevy Chase.” She also noted that he did not bring up Afghanistan or thank the troops in his nomination speech at the Republican convention; that Romney has been “abundantly clear” he would not have gone after Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and has refused to explain how his position with regard to Iran is different from the president’s.


“This is his fourth or fifth retake, trying to lay out his foreign policy positions for the American people. And at this point it’s a very high bar he would have to jump over to convince them he’s prepared to be commander in chief.” We can expect a substantive response from the campaign tomorrow.


Carney was asked to respond to an Associated Press story on the U.S. allowing South Korea to have longer-range missiles that could reach all of North Korea. Carney said the U.S. has been in discussions with South Korea about ways to address the threat of North Korea’s ballistic missiles, and that based on those discussions South Korea has announced revisions to its missile guidelines that will improve their ability to defend against North Korean ballistic missiles. “The revisions are a prudent, proportional and specific response to the DPRK.” He said it is “absolutely legimtimate for the Republic of Korea to take actions in consultation with the United States to respond to the threat posed by the DPRK” missile program.


Psaki was asked to offer an assessment of the state of the campaign now days removed from the debate – bouncing, stable or declining.


“We’ll see what the American people say, how the polls respond,” she said. But the campaign’s focus continues to be on executing its game plan, not worrying about the day-to-day polling shifts. Notes the trip is part of that, raising money and making a registration push in Ohio on Tuesday.


Carney said that from a policy standpoint, the jobs report “was evidence that we are moving forward,” and that the “president’s approach to building the economy from the middle out is the right approach as we’ve been recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression.” The Republicans’ approach “has been to take us backward to the policies that helped get us in this mess.” He noted that, having covered the 2000 campaign, “I remember all the promises of what multi-trillion dollar tax cuts would do for the American economy and the American middle class. We all saw what happened through those eight years and what the middle class has endured.”


On foreign policy, Carney said it was his understanding that Gov. Romney, “like Republican leaders both in Congress and outside Congress [were] fully supportive of the approach that President Bush took, which might explain why Gov. Romney believes that ending the war in Iraq was a tragedy. He was fully supportive of the approach of the previous administration in Afghanistan that saw that effort, when we were taking the fight directly to those who attacked the United States, was adrift and underfunded and under-resourced. The president promised to reverse that. He did it.”