This is the transcript of today’s press gaggle on Air Force One en route to Missouri:
MR. GIBBS: Fire away.
Q So you kind of shrugged off the 100 days as a media creation, but is the President using this time to reflect or assess what he’s done and think about what he might grade himself?
MR. GIBBS: Oh, I think so, though I’ve got to tell you, Caren, I don’t think he would — I don’t think he waits for some specific milestone in days to reflect on what he’s faced or the decisions that he’s made or what lies ahead. I think he does that on a fairly regular basis.
Again, as I’ve said, I think he’s happy with what we have started to achieve, understanding that we have a long way to go, that the American people are more concerned with what we’re doing each and every day, not simply what we’re doing on the 100th day or the 101st. But I can assure you he spends time each day reflecting on not just what’s happened that day, but what’s happened in a long journey.
Q But despite your view that it’s an artificial day you are marking it with a town hall and a trip and a news conference tonight. And what’s behind that? Is it that you want —
MR. GIBBS: We’re playing along with the game. (Laughter.)
Q You’re playing along with the game.
Q You’re not trying to drive the game?
MR. GIBBS: You might want to turn that around, I think the mic is — oh, you’re okay?
You know, look, you guys create the wave and we’ll try to surf it a little bit.
Q Do you think that it’s a good time for the American people, though, to reflect on what they think of his accomplishments so far?
MR. GIBBS: Absolutely. I mean, I think so, but again, I think they are — my sense is that they do that on a fairly regular basis in that the problems that they see in their everyday lives — the trouble they have getting a college loan for their family, or a loan for their own small business, or a member of the family that might be out of work — probably spends more time thinking about that each and every day, not just on specific days.
I wonder what people did on the 100th day before Roosevelt’s 100th day.
Q Well, one President died before that day.
MR. GIBBS: Well, it was probably less of a cheery day, I guess, in that administration.
Q What can you tell us about the briefing he received that led to today’s comments on the flu situation?
MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously the President has been apprised of the developments related to the situation since Friday. He continues to get regular updates, including late last night. I think the President believed it was important to continue to underscore the seriousness of the situation and the vigilance that all of us, both in government and as individuals, have to take to ensure that the spread of H1N1 is something that can be slowed and controlled.
So the news — the test results coming back on the infant are a very, very painful reminder of what we have to do to ensure that all of us remain safe.
Q Is there still a situation of concern, as opposed to alarm?
MR. GIBBS: I think so. I mean, I think the way — I would phrase it the way the President did: It’s a very serious situation and one that requires serious precautions. I think that’s what he outlined today. I think that continues to be his concern and he continues to ask questions of those that are involved in this to ensure that we’re taking every step and precaution that’s possible to ensure safety.
Q Robert, it’s fairly unusual for a sitting President to basically endorse a candidate in a party primary. Can we expect President Obama to be doing more of the same in the next election cycle?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t think it’s at all irregular for a President to endorse an incumbent member of his own party even if it’s a new member. I think you can go back and find a lot of examples of that.
The President is, as I said and he said yesterday, happy to have Senator Specter as a member of the Democratic Party, thrilled to have him, support him fully. He’s made a decision of how to best represent the people he represents in Pennsylvania and we’re happy that he did so.
Q Robert, to follow up on Ed’s question, it was — I think, seven minutes lapsed before the President was on the phone with Senator Specter saying he would support him in the primary —
MR. GIBBS: Seven minutes after he called him, yes.
Q Well, could you on that point say when did he have an inkling before that — he thought it through? How did he arrive at the decision to offer that support, and did he consider supporting maybe a candidate who had been backed by the unions?
MR. GIBBS: No, he supported a — he supported the, albeit new, member — incumbent member of his party. There wasn’t any meeting about it. The President offered his support to Senator Specter and it’s a commitment he’ll keep.
Q Did he decide in that seven-minute span? I think he said no.
MR. GIBBS: My sense is it probably took him less than about seven seconds, so he might have had some extra time to think about other stuff.
Q — saw GDP down 6.1 percent today. Where does the President see the economy right now? Is he in the group who are optimistic and are looking at some of these trends that show that we may have turned a corner, or is he of the mind that we haven’t hit the bottom yet?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think in some ways it’s hard to tell because obviously, as the President said, you get information — some numbers that are good, and some numbers that obviously aren’t so good. The 6.1 percent demonstrates a pretty severe contraction in our economy over the course of the first three months of the year, not altogether surprising given the way the economy deteriorated particularly the very first part of the quarter and the sort of steep acceleration of that.
But again, if you look inside the numbers, consumer spending was actually up in the first quarter for the first time in two years. So, look, we continue to get, as the President said, some glimmers of hope — consumer confidence had a big rebound yesterday, according to the numbers; consumer spending is up, which generally is a very good economic statistic. At the same time, we continue to see larger economic contraction. We’re likely to see jobs lost in the hundreds of thousands for quite some time to come.
So whether or not we’ve hit the very bottom, I don’t know, but I know the President is focused on what he can do each and every day to ensure that we’re one day closer to that economic recovery, whether it’s financial stability — we’re getting toward the end of stress tests for the banks; we’ve got important deadlines for Chrysler and GM that are upcoming. So I think he’s focused on ensuring that we are taking the steps necessary to fix our economy.
Q Concerning Chrysler, in addition to this being his 100th day, tomorrow is the deadline for the Chrysler deal with Fiat. Have you heard anything from Fiat that you can tell us about? And are there likely to be any announcements today?
MR. GIBBS: You know, I don’t know if a deal is going to be finished, or when a deal might be finished. Obviously, we are — we believe that some strong strides — positive strides have been made over the course of the past several days in getting agreements with the union and getting agreements with debt holders. Hurdles still remain and we — but we remain optimistic and hopeful that something in the next many hours will get done that will provide a pathway for Chrysler’s viability without continued government assistance, which is what the President hopes and seeks for both Chrysler and GM.
Q Any other lawmakers onboard besides Senator McCaskill?
MR. GIBBS: You know, I’ve got to say, I walked right through the cabin and I didn’t check. Let me check on that and I’ll come back. Anything else?
Q She’s been taking pictures on this. Must be for her constituents’ bulletin or something. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Well, that’s probably cheaper pictures than were taken earlier in the week.
Q Robert, can you do a preview of the Arnold visit? What is the President — can you hit some of the highlights? And also, why did he choose this particular place?
MR. GIBBS: Well, he’ll mention some of that in his remarks about the notion that — Missouri was one of the last stops on the campaign trail. But it’s also, as he’ll say, good to be back in Middle America. And I think what he’ll do in the remarks is sort of give the American people a progress report on what he’s seen in the first hundred days of his administration, but at the same time lay out what he hopes we’ll see going forward and what he’d like to see in terms of what Congress and he will deal with issue-wise, as well as what he — where he’d like to see the economy go.
Q Is there anything he thinks he has not done well during the first 100 days? Are there regrets that he will express here or elsewhere, or has just expressed in some other setting?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know if there’s anything specifically in the remarks, but as I said yesterday, look, I think the President — I don’t think the President believes that he would do everything the very exact same if he had it to do all over again. I mentioned yesterday and I can assure you, had he had any knowledge of the stupid idea to go take pictures of the plane in New York, I can assure you that wouldn’t have happened.
So obviously there are mistakes you wish had been done differently. But I think on the whole he feels good about the start that we’ve had. But again, I’d underscore that — and we believed this throughout the campaign — it’s not about — it’s not about the day-to-day ups and downs; it’s where you’re trying to go and where you’re trying to take the country. And I think he’ll feel — he feels comfortable being judged on the totality of that effort, understanding we’ve got a ways to go.
MR. GIBBS: Thanks, guys.