Travel pool #2/Fort Hood arrival and gaggle
Air Force One touched down at Robert Gray Army Air Field at 11:20am CT. The president and first lady will meet with families of those killed, and those wounded, in last week’s shooting spree before speaking at a memorial service at Fort Hood.
Jay Carney gaggled for 20 minutes early in the flight, touching on Ukraine, Fort Hood, the LBJ Civil Rights summit, Democrats’ midterm prospects, and George W. Bush’s painting. Check transcript.
On Ukraine and whether Russia is trying to destabilize the country ahead of May elections: “It is clear that Russia has engaged in actions that have as an effect destabilization in Ukraine, and presumably a goal of destabilizing Ukraine. That’s what we saw in Crimea and that’s what we see with the positioning of large numbers of troops on the Ukrainian border.”
Carney suggested that Russia could face further sanctions over its actions in Crimea, and not solely in response to future provocations.
On the latest Fort Hood shooting, his second such trip to Fort Hood post-massacre, and what he can do to prevent such events: “The president described, accurately, this event as heartbreaking and he is deeply saddened by the fact that he’s making a trip to Fort Hood again, for a memorial ceremony. He will meet with families of the deceased as well as of the wounded, and offer whatever comfort he can.”
“…On the broader issues of gun violence… you know the efforts he’s undertaken. You know the disappointment he felt when Congress failed to heed the desires of the overwhelming majority of the American people and refused to pass a commonsense measure to expand background checks…”
He declined to weigh in on calls to let more military personnel carry firearms, referring that query to the Pentagon.
LBJ summit: still won’t steal the president’s thunder but said:
“President Obama has deep appreciation for the effort that went into passing landmark civili rights legislation, an effort led by President Johnson, and a successful effort that will be forever to President Johnson’s credit. I think it’s fair to say that there is a connection between the passage of that legislation and the fact that Barack Obama is president of the United States. It says a lot about America.”
Unclear if Obama will address, for instance, Congress’ failure yet to replace the coverage formula in the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down last year.
“He believes that Congress needs to address this and he is heartened by the fact that this is a bipartisan effort.”
Carney doubts the president will be touring the LBJ library with an eye toward gathering ideas for his own library: “I don’t think so. I think the president will be focused on the meaning of the event, the significance of the anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.”
No regrets or second thoughts about the visit Friday with the Rev. Al Sharpton.
On tonight’s DNC/DSCC/DCCC fund-raisers and the party’s midterm prospects: Carney said the GOP resistance to paycheck fairness “highlights how President Obama and Democrats are working on behalf of Americans… I can’t imagine how they think that’s good politics. It’s certainly not good policy.”
“He and we are confident that Democrats will [retain] control of the Senate because of the policy agenda that Democrats support…. He believes Democrats will do well in House races, as well.”
Unclear if Obama will cross paths with any predecessors on this trip, though “he would enjoy it.”
Re George W. Bush’s paintings, Carney doesn’t know if : “I’m both surprised and impressed by the pursuit that he’s taken up and the clear dedication he’s given it.” Doubts that Obama will take up painting anytime soon. “He’s got his hands full.”