UPDATE (1:35 p.m.): White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Kaplan just briefed the press on the latest developments. In extended entry…
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release December 10, 2008
BY PRESS SECRETARY DANA PERINO
AND DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR POLICY JOEL KAPLAN
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:01 A.M. EST
MS. PERINO: Hello, everybody. A couple of things for you. The President will meet with Dr. Helima Bashir in the Oval Office today at 1:05 p.m. The President will get a firsthand account of the horrible conflict and suffering that takes place in Darfur. She has been very active internationally in speaking out about the atrocities committed there, and the President was looking forward to meeting her when she came to town.
Since 2004, just as a reminder, the United States has spent more than $5 billion in security and humanitarian interventions in Darfur, and has provided health care and medical supplies, shelter and food for millions of people in the region. We also continue to put financial and diplomatic pressure on the government of Sudan to end their campaign of violence.
This afternoon in the Roosevelt Room, the President will also meet with bloggers from Belarus, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela to discuss their use of blogs to push for democratic change and greater freedom. Why today? Well, it’s because it’s the International Bloggers and New Media on Human Rights — I think that this is one of the days that they’re highlighting. The administration has supported the use of new media to overcome censorship, report abuses, and advocate for freedom.
Also, up in New York today, Mrs. Bush will highlight Human Rights Day by delivering remarks at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City. She will discuss efforts by the United States to help women in Afghanistan and Burma — to help them overcome the oppression to their basic rights. And she will also participate in a Q&A after that on the global state of human rights. So that will be coming up.
Finally — well, two more things. The President will award this afternoon 24 Presidential Citizens Medals to recognize U.S. citizens who have performed exemplary deeds on behalf of the nation. It is one of the highest honors a President can confer upon a civilian. And we’ll put out the citations so that you can see who the recipients are.
And finally, this morning the President is participating in two interviews. The first is with Tom Bevan and John McIntyre of RealClearPolitics. And then he is sitting down with Liz Clarke from The Washington Post, as well.
I know most of you are interested in what’s going on with our negotiations on Capitol Hill in regards to the automotive industry. I brought Joel Kaplan, who is the Deputy Chief of Staff and the person who has really helped us marshal the administration’s position through the process. He’s here to give you an update. He doesn’t have a ton of time, so I’ll let him give you a little bit of an update, take a few questions, and then I’ll finish up at the end.
MR. KAPLAN: Thanks, Dana. I think as most of you know, for the past few weeks we’ve been engaged with members on both sides of the aisle in both Houses of Congress to try to find an appropriate way to help the auto manufacturers restructure and become viable firms. After a lot of negotiation and discussion, we’ve made very substantial progress and have a good conceptual agreement. There’s still a lot of drafting going on up on Capitol Hill and language being exchanged back and forth, so I don’t want to say that there is agreement, because there’s never agreement until you’ve actually seen the text and know what’s in there and what the members will be called upon to vote on. But as I say, very good progress on a conceptual agreement.
So now let me try to describe what’s in that agreement and give you a little bit of the detail and then open it up for questions. Just stepping back, I know there’s already been a lot of reporting about what’s in the draft, but I want to summarize what the essence of this bill is. It’s a bill that will provide bridge financing to one of two possibilities. Those two possibilities are: fundamental restructuring, or bankruptcy. That’s what will happen if this bill is enacted. And let me explain how it works.
The first thing is, is that the bill authorizes the President’s designee, which I’ll talk about in a second, to access funds that the Congress has already appropriated for the auto industries. Many of you know there’s been a lot of debate about this. Congress acted last fall to provide money in what’s known at the 136 account that they created at the Department of Energy. It was intended to help automakers retool, to become more energy efficient. The administration’s strongly held view was that money ought to be used — if bridge financing is going to become available, that money ought to be used to help these companies become viable right now. So the Congress — the Democrats in Congress have agreed 136 is the pot of money that will be used.
The second thing, as I mentioned, the President under this legislation would designate — would appoint a designee, referred to in the legislation as “the President’s designee.” Commonly people have referred to the concept of an auto czar. So the President names this designee who is empowered to bring all the stakeholders of any auto manufacturer that receives this bridge financing — the President’s designee is empowered to bring all those stakeholders, creditors, dealerships, bond holders, labor unions, management, to bring all those people together for a set period of time to see whether they can negotiate a plan for long-term viability.
The statute sets very clear definitions for what constitutes long-term viability, and requires the President’s designee to ultimately make a certification as to whether that definition is met. This is really important to us that this not be just an arbitrary or sort of discretionary judgment about what a good firm looks like. This is an economic definition of what it means to be long-term viable. I can talk about that in some detail, but simply stated, it’s that the firm will have a positive value going forward when you take into account all of its costs. That’s what it means to be a viable firm in the absence of continuing federal support. And that’s the goal of this legislation — firm definition in there.
Now, how does the process work? It was very important to us that there be — that this President’s designee have sticks, leverage, to make sure that all these stakeholders who are participating in the process of negotiations have a very strong incentive to make the deep and meaningful concessions that will be necessary for these companies to become viable over the long term. So there are a number of sticks. The first is, if these companies do not arrive in the negotiations at a plan that meets the test for long-term viability, that bridge financing shall be called by the President’s designee. That means we get paid back at the end of the period.
The period is until March 31st, or April 30th if the sident’s designee wants to grant a one-time, 30-day extension because they’re making progress and there’s likelihood of success. So at the end of that period, if there’s not a plan that makes these firms viable, the government gets its money back.
Now, remember what I said at the outset, that this is a bridge to either fundamental restructuring, or bankruptcy. They either have a long-term plan that’s viable, or we get our money back. And if we call our money back, which is required under this bill, then those firms are not going to be able to survive. That is a real incentive and a real stick for this President’s designee to ensure that the stakeholders all across the board make the concessions that are necessary. That was critically important to us, and we achieved that in this agreement.
A couple of other sticks: If they fail to achieve a negotiated plan for long-term viability, the President’s designee will be required to submit his own. And the language will explicitly state that that can include a plan for reorganization under Chapter 11, which is, again, one of the mechanisms that many people have suggested could be required for these firms to achieve viability and would need to happen if they’re not able to achieve viability on their own through voluntary concessions by the various stakeholders.
And finally, the last stick is that at the end of this period for negotiation, if there is not a plan that satisfies the conditions for long-term viability, there is an explicit prohibition put in the legislation against any federal financing being used to help these firms avoid bankruptcy or to achieve financial viability.
So those are three extremely powerful tools that ensure what I said at the outset. This gives these firms a chance to make these concessions voluntarily. But if they don’t, the alternative path is quite clear. And that was very important to us, and I believe very important to the American people.
A couple other things which we can talk about if you want — there are very strong taxpayer protections of the kind that you’ve seen in other programs recently and — things like executive compensation — strong executive compensation restrictions, and warrant requirements and the like. I can provide a little bit more detail on that if you want, although again, the text is not final.
I think I’ll stop there and throw it open to any questions. Ben.
Q Joel, a couple questions, please. Conservative Republicans in the Senate are threatening to block the measure, assuming it gets that far. What is the White House doing to try to address their concerns and win them over?
MR. KAPLAN: That’s a good question. Look, there are a lot of people with concerns about this legislation. We’ve had concerns about the legislation, and we wanted to make sure that it was tough and that this was not a bridge financing to nowhere, that this was — that we could look these members in the eye and we could look the American people in the eye and say that this measure gives these companies a chance and their stakeholders a chance, but it’s not a lifeline to continue with bad management and a bad business plan.
We’re going to go make that same case to the Senate Republicans, the House Republicans, and the Democrats, for that matter, who also are going to need to be called upon to vote for this.
I expect there will be difficult questions; we’re prepared to answer them. And we think that when they look at the bill in the context that I’ve just described, and compare it to the alternatives, they’ll think this is the right thing for our economy in a difficult time and the right thing for our country. We’ll be talking retail to individual senators to try to win their support. We’ve also got the Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, going up to address the Senate Republican Conference in a couple hours.
So we understand that this is a very difficult issue for everybody involved. We think we’ve come up with the right solution, and we’re going to try to persuade members of Congress from both sides that that’s the case.
Q How about President Bush? Is he going to be personally involved?
MR. KAPLAN: I expect you’ll see the President talk to various members as he thinks it’s necessary or the staff advises him. This is an important measure, and we’re going to try to get it passed.
Q What are the executive compensation restrictions?
MR. KAPLAN: There’s a whole bunch of them, and they’re very significant. They track what you’ve seen in the TARP legislation and its implementation. There’s a lot of them, and they apply to the top executives in the firm to make sure that they’re not receiving bonuses that are not commensurate with the performance of the firm, especially while they’re getting these loans. We can get them for you afterwards, what was in the TARP legislation. But I think everybody over the last few months has understood how important it is that there be very serious executive compensation provisions when the taxpayers’ money is involved and the American people are being asked to support firms that up until now have not made meaningful, necessary, tough decisions.
Q Just a point of clarification. When you say that option number two could be that the automobiles czar could submit his own restructuring plan that would essentially equate to some form of Chapter 11, that would clearly happen after the companies have repaid the bridge loan, as well, like in option number one?
MR. KAPLAN: Yes — well, it would be basically happening at the same time, because it happens when they fail to achieve a negotiated plan that accomplishes financial viability during the time period prescribed by the legislation — March 31st, or April 30th if he grants a 30-day extension. So all those things are happening on the back end, telling them basically the clock starts now; you better be serious, and you better be willing to put everything on the table to do what’s necessary — all parties — to do what’s necessary to make these firms viable, because this is really the only chance, as far as the American taxpayer is concerned.
Q If I could ask you about the standards by which you’re going to judge these restructuring plans. I guess a large amount is up to the discretion of the car czar here, but to some degree, are you putting in standards about either fuel efficiency, investment in alternative fuels or alternative types of cars, R&D investment? Because most of what you’ve discussed so far would get you through the short term, but wouldn’t really take you to the long term of the new technologies.
MR. KAPLAN: Yes, let me be clear. I mentioned one of the tests for financial viability — for the plan. I mentioned the one that is a hard economic test: whether or not the firm can demonstrate a positive net present value, taking into account all existing and future costs. That’s how an economist is going to look at this; that’s how an investor is going to look at this. And those are the kind of things that are important if what you’re trying to do is to be a successful, viable company going forward. There are other sort of qualitative judgments that –
Q But that’s like staying in business as opposed to staying competitive. Net present value will help you remain a solvent company; it’s not going to necessarily help you be competitive against —
MR. KAPLAN: It’s going to have assumptions in there about what your profits are going to be as weighed against your costs. So the President’s designee is going to have to make those assessments, and there are additional criteria in the bill that the President’s designee has to look at, including whether or not they have a product mix that will be competitive, and a cost structure that will be competitive. Whether or not they’re demonstrating capability of repaying the loan, that’s another hard economic test that’s important to us, important to the taxpayers.
So there’s a number of tests that the President’s designee will have to certify that this long-term viability plan satisfies. And I would say that this is going to be one of the most highly reviewed and scrutinized certifications in history. And so I suspect that the President’s designee will take very seriously the requirement not to exercise so much discretion that it can’t be proven to people on CNBC, in the press briefing room, the taxpayers, members of Congress. This is going to be — this is a pretty tough test to meet, and it’s the one that they have to meet to justify getting taxpayer dollars.
Q To that point, there’s a great deal of skepticism about this program in the public, reinforced by skepticism over the TARP program because it isn’t doing anything yet about mortgages. So will the President himself attempt to reassure the public, to bring pressure to bear on Congress to pass this? How involved will the President get?
MR. KAPLAN: Well, I’m going to — I’m not going to prejudge or preempt the President’s decisions about what he does over the next couple of days. I expect that you’ll see the President doing what he believes is necessary to make the case for this legislation and persuade people, including sending folks like his Chief of Staff up to see the Senate Republicans.
I would take exception to the premise in your question about whether or not the TARP is working, given what its purposes were when Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke recommended it –
Q I’m talking about public perception of the TARP, not whether it’s working.
MR. KAPLAN: Well, I can’t speak to exactly what the public perception is. I can speak to the facts of what’s happening, and that’s been a critically important program to ensure that we didn’t have the collapse of our financial sector. A lot of hard work to do, and Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke are at it every single day. But I just didn’t want to let that — I know that wasn’t the question, but I didn’t want to let that premise go unchallenged.
Q To what extent has the Obama team been involved, especially in the last 24, 36 hours, in getting to where we are now?
MR. KAPLAN: I don’t want to speak for the President-elect or his team and the degree of their involvement, because I think it’s been briefed pretty frequently. We’ve had very good interactions and conversations with the transition team and with the President-elect’s team on all the major financial challenges that we’re facing and that he and his administration will face.
I presume that they will have some interactions with their — with the Democrats on the Hill, and maybe with the Republicans on the Hill, as well, but I wouldn’t presume to say what those are or how significant they’ve been. But we’ve stayed in close contact with the President-elect’s team.
Q It sounds like you’re trying to write a lot of the standards that are going to be used in the certification into the statute, is that right?
MR. KAPLAN: Yes, that’s right. Here’s the tension, John. A lot of people would like us to write the concessions into the legislation: the unions must take exactly this pay cut; the creditors must take this haircut. That’s not something we believe that the Congress is best suited to do in legislation. We think what the Congress ought to do, and that what we want to do, is establish what the criteria are, and then empower somebody to sit down with the stakeholders and achieve an overall negotiated plan that satisfies those criteria.
Look, these things are — these are complicated, complex, very large organizations with lots of stakeholders. We just don’t think it’s realistic or feasible to think that Congress, in a matter of days — or we, for that matter — in a matter of days, could figure out exactly what the terms are for a viable company. That’s what you have management and boards for, and that’s what you’re going to have a President’s designee to do over a period of months. And it’s not a long period of time, we’ve kept it intentionally short, but it’s realistic time. This is going to take a couple months of sitting down, banging heads, getting everybody in a room and saying, what are you putting on the table to make this firm viable? How much skin are you willing to put in the game? And it’s either enough, or it’s not enough. And the President’s designee is going to be on the hook for making that determination at the back end.
Q What kind of person is the President going to look for as this designee? I mean, someone from outside of government; how skilled and knowledgeable within the auto industry; and someone who would serve past this administration?
MR. KAPLAN: It’s a good question, Ann. The legislation provides a great deal of flexibility on who could fill the post of President’s designee. And that will be flexibility that this President will have the ability to exercise for the next 41 days, and flexibility the next administration will have. And that’s something that we will want to be in continuing contact with the President-elect’s team on to figure out what’s the best way of doing that to achieve everybody’s goal here in the legislation, which is to empower the person and make them successful, but recognizing that there will be a new President on January 20th, and a new team, and we want to make sure that however we proceed, it’s consistent with the President-elect’s view on how that can be most effective, because it will be under their administration that this decision will ultimately get made.
Q It sounds like you want — that he is thinking of somebody, because of the time frame, who would not be serving just for a few days and then someone else coming in. Would it be the President’s intention to try to find someone who would remain, who would be acceptable to the new administration?
MR. KAPLAN: I’ll just reiterate, we’ll — we expect to work closely with the President-elect’s team in figuring out, once this legislation is passed, what the most effective means possible is of implementing this legislation, recognizing that we’ve got a transition.
Q Would the designee work for the White House or be in one of the Cabinet departments?
MR. KAPLAN: As I said, the legislation provides a great deal of flexibility, and right now we’re focused on getting that legislation enacted so that we have that flexibility. When we’re prepared to exercise it, we will let you know how the President intends to exercise it.
Q Joel, what about the measure that would block the automakers from suing states over their tough emissions standards? We were hearing last night that was expected to be out; we’re hearing different things from the Hill today.
MR. KAPLAN: I’ll tell you the truth, we haven’t spent a lot of time negotiating on that provision because we’ve just let the Democratic leadership know that there’s — we don’t believe there’s any chance that the legislation passes if that provision remains in. I do not expect that that provision will remain in when it reaches the floor of the respective bodies. If it does remain in when it reaches the floor of the respective bodies, I do not expect it would emerge successfully from the floor of the respective bodies. We’ve made that clear. I think it is clear, and as I said, we’ve not seen final text of legislation.
Q Why are the Democrats saying that they have drafted a final piece of legislation and that they are going to introduce it this week, and you’re saying that it’s not finalized?
MR. KAPLAN: I said that we have not seen final text of legislation that we have agreed to. So this is — the legislative process, when you get down kind of at the end there, there’s drafts going back and forth, and one party may say, whew, we’re finished, but then they got to send it over to the other party to make sure the other party agrees that they’re finished and that there’s actually an agreement. We’ve not reached that final stage yet.
Q Will you reach it today?
MR. KAPLAN: We’re working as hard as we can. And we don’t control the congressional calendar, so obviously the Speaker and the Leader will have to decide when they want to take it to the floor. Obviously, if they want the agreement and support of the administration, we’ll need to see the legislation and have a chance to opine on it.
Q And what does the President think of Paul Volcker for this car czar?
Q I was going to ask the same thing.
MR. KAPLAN: Really? Well, that’s funny because I was going to dodge it when she asked it. (Laughter.)
Look, we’re — as I said to Ann, we’re focused on getting the legislation passed. Obviously Paul Volcker is a person of tremendous stature and gravitas. But I have no reason to believe that there’s been any decisions about who the person would be, if it would be a person from the outside. We’re going to — we’re just going to reserve all flexibility on that until we actually get the legislation, until we have a chance to consult with the members of Congress and with the President-elect’s team.
Q A quick follow on that, Joel. How quickly after the legislation passes would you be looking to name the car czar?
MR. KAPLAN: Quickly. Obviously –
MR. KAPLAN: We would look to move as quickly as we could. We will obviously want to consult with members of Congress and with the President-elect’s team. I can’t tell you exactly how quickly that will be. Besides this briefing, I’m mostly focused on working with the Congress on the legislation itself so that we’re in a position to have that — to have the luxury of moving quickly on the person.
Q A group of House Republicans, led by John Boehner, have released their own plan this morning, outlined their own hopes of legislation. At this point, would you be interested in negotiating, integrating what they’ve got, or is the bigger hope to sell them on what you’ve put together?
MR. KAPLAN: Well, I have not seen that legislation, so I don’t know what the proposal is, whether it’s kind of in the ballpark of what we think is the right outcome based on our discussions over the last few days. Obviously, Leader Boehner is one of our best allies and one of the most capable members and leaders in Congress, so we’re interested in anything the Leader has to say and we’ll go take a look at it. I think that the Speaker and Leader Reid have an intention of moving this product we’ve been negotiating to the floor and to do so rather quickly. But since I haven’t seen Leader Boehner’s legislation yet I don’t want to comment on it.
Q With the President’s designee getting so strong authority on the plans, et cetera, how much does this run counter to what the President has said for years, that it is not the role of the government to run private companies?
MR. KAPLAN: Yes, it’s not the intention in this bill of this President’s designee to run the private companies; it’s the purpose to empower somebody to sit down with the private companies and all of their stakeholders, who so far have not, apparently, been capable of making agreements that would render them a viable entity going forward, which is why they’ve come to the government and to the Congress looking for assistance.
So this is not somebody who is going to run the companies; it is somebody who is going to be empowered to, like I said before, bring them around the table, knock heads, and tell them, if you want assistance from the taxpayer going forward you’re going to have to make some difficult concessions. Now, what are those concessions you’re prepared to make, and show me how that adds up to a plan for financial viability.
It’s not something you would want to do in normal times, and it’s not something you would normally do with another company or industry. We’re in very challenging economic times. It is our view that to have a uncontrolled bankruptcy in the next couple of weeks in these firms could have very significant and damaging consequences for the economy. So we think there is a rationale for providing them temporary bridge financing, as I started the briefing with, if you can have some reassurance, some very substantial reassurance that the taxpayers’ investment in these companies is going to be protected. And that’s why you have an empowered President’s designee to ensure that that investment is protected. And that’s what I’ve tried to describe.
Q A question on one of the powers the President’s designee might or might not have. Could he encourage the companies, force the companies to sell any part of their operations, including the foreign car makers? Or is an objective of this whole exercise to try to keep these in American hands? In other words, that the President’s designee determined that a certain line of cars and certain set of factories would be better in the hands of Toyota or Mercedes, or there was an offer that would create both jobs and cash for the companies, could he go that route?
MR. KAPLAN: That’s certainly not a power that is explicit in the legislation, and it’s really not what’s contemplated. Again, the idea here is to use this period for the stakeholders to negotiate and figure out what it is they need to do to be successful. It could turn out that they think some sort of merger is what’s necessary in the industry to make them viable and competitive —
Q A merger among American-based companies, or a merger that could include foreign —
MR. KAPLAN: There’s nothing in the legislation that makes that distinction certainly that I’m aware of. But again, as I said in answer to the last question, this really is not about the President’s designee figuring out exactly what they should do. It’s the President’s designee trying to bring them to the table to figure out what they need to do, and then having him be in a position to look at the plan, say, well, that’s just not going to work; you’re going to need to make more concessions over here if you expect to satisfy the ability to repay the government, or to achieve a positive net present value.
It may be that he has suggestions for how to do it. At the end of the process, again, if they’re not capable themselves of achieving a negotiated plan, he does have a requirement to prepare his own recommendation for how that might be achieved. And that –
Q But there’s nothing in the President’s goals that say that at the end of this process, you necessarily need an America-based car industry? In other words, if the solution to this is merger with non-American-headquartered makers, that’s perfectly fine with the President?
MR. KAPLAN: The President’s goal here is to ensure that there is a viable manufacturing base and companies in — that exist today. That doesn’t mean they’ll be the same –
Q Does that mean they’ll be the same?
MR. KAPLAN: Well, look, the jobs that we’re talking about that are going to be lost here, many of them are in this country — most are in this country. Some of them are in other countries. These cars have — excuse me — these companies have plants, lots of them, in Canada, for instance, and in other places. We are focused right now during this very critical time for our economy on the impact an uncontrolled bankruptcy would have on that manufacturing base and those jobs and the affiliated jobs at supplies and dealers, et cetera.
So that’s what we’re talking about in the near term. The shape of what it takes for this industry or these companies to become viable over the long term, I couldn’t stand here and tell you today what the answer to that is. I’d be surprised if anybody is expert enough to do that without really getting into their books and having conversations, and that’s what this person will be empowered to do.
And we think he can be successful if there’s the goodwill and the good faith and just the flat-out willingness to make concessions by a lot of people who have a stake in this. And we hope that that will be successful because we want there to be a viable U.S. auto industry. That’s the goal here. And we think this legislation provides the best possibility for that to happen.
Thank you. I’m going to turn it back over to Dana.
Q Joel, AP is saying that you “have finalized a deal.” Is that the conceptual — (laughter) — progress that you talked about at the beginning?
MR. KAPLAN: AP is sitting right over here — (laughter) –
Q They’ve got more of us. (Laughter.)
MR. KAPLAN: I know. If somebody else at the AP has better information than the reporter in the press briefing room, I can’t do anything about that. (Laughter.) I’ve not seen final legislation or agreed to –
Q It’s a big wire, Joel. (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: All right, I think that he exhausted that topic. Are there others that you want to cover? Jon.
Q I was going to ask Joel, but is there anything to bar the car makers from getting more money if they do show the execution of a long-term viability plan at the end of this period and they’re going forward — I mean, can they get more money?
MS. PERINO: I think that the — yes, long-term financing would depend on proof of long-term viability. I don’t know all the details of it, but I know that part of it.
Q Can we get more details just in terms of –
MS. PERINO: Well, as Ann said, if AP is correct and we actually have final language and final text, you’ll see it as soon as we do. And this is not going to be our final word on this today. We’ll continue to update you as we have over the past several days.
Q He touched on this briefly — going back to the TARP program. As you probably know, it’s getting quite a going over before a House committee today. They’re questioning bad oversight, mismanagement — this is coming from Republicans and Democrats. Is the President satisfied with the way this thing is running?
MS. PERINO: Look, I think that — we welcome the oversight. We put that into the bill because we thought that that was important. We think it’s important that the Congress be — remain engaged and interested, and I’m sure that the members of the Treasury that are up there talking about that — the legislation today and the implementation of it — are happy to answer those questions. They moved with incredible speed and with all due care to make sure that the taxpayers would be protected and that we were doing what we needed to do, that the legislation intended to do, which is to prevent the total collapse of our financial industry.
So I’ll let them testify to that, and the President believes that Secretary Paulson is leading the Department in a way that will help us fulfill the obligations that we made in the legislation, sure.
Q Is he satisfied with the way this thing has played out, though, so far?
MS. PERINO: Look, what we would — we would like to see the economy turn around faster. But are we satisfied that everybody at the Treasury Department is doing all that they can every single day and every night that they work to try to make this economy better and save it from total collapse? Yes, he’s satisfied.
Q Quick follow-up on that, Dana. A lot of the questioning at that hearing — and here — was directed at the fact that the program started out as a Troubled Asset Relief Program presumably for mortgages and then flipped within a matter of weeks to shoring up the banks themselves.
MS. PERINO: That’s not how — well, that’s not how I remember it in terms of the — the name isn’t great in terms of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The purpose was always to help the financial institutions make sure that they didn’t have a total collapse. It was not specifically aimed just at helping people with their mortgages. We have several programs for that, one that we just finalized in August, which many people in this room were pushing on us to try to approve: the Barney Frank bill, the Hope for Homeowners bill. We did that.
And we have continued to look at other programs that are — that have come forward. But there’s a lot that has to be done to consider several of the ideas in terms of weighing the pros and the cons, the benefits and the drawbacks to any of the suggestions on what we could do for mortgages.
Q But the focus of this program did shift from mid-September when it was announced to early October.
MS. PERINO: The purpose of the program to help save the financial institutions has remained intact. The tactic in order to help do that, that did change over time, because there’s no road map to tell us how we would do that. And Hank Paulson was very open and honest about that shift. It was the tactic that changed, but not the overall purpose of the bill.
Q Two questions, Dana, one domestic and international. First of all, many of these cars, all three, are running on the streets of India, everywhere. How you think this legislation or whatever will impact India in making these cars or selling in India?
MS. PERINO: I have no idea. What’s your second question?
Q Second is, as far as Mumbai impact or Mumbai attacks are concerned, Pakistan has arrested a number of people. And we’re terribly concerned — I’m sure President is concerned about two things: one, high officials of ISI, the Pakistani intelligence, and military officials are among them, who helped those terrorists; and second, if President — how much is concerned about that terrorists may get hand on the nuclear –
MS. PERINO: Okay, let me just stop you there, because what we have seen are preliminary reports out of the region. We are following those reports very closely. I couldn’t tell definitely if all of what’s been reported is accurate. We’re continuing to follow the reports.
What we are looking to see, if there’s going to be a shift in Pakistan in how they deal with LET. And if it proves out over time that there is that shift, then that would be a good one, and something that we would welcome. But it’s just too early for us to say. We continue to urge the Pakistanis and the Indians to work together to get to the bottom of who was responsible for these attacks, and most importantly to try to prevent follow-on attacks for anyone that was left over.
Q We had –
MS. PERINO: I’m going to keep going. Go ahead.
Q Getting back to TARP, this morning in the hearing, Representative Maxine Waters said something to the effect to Neel Kashkari that “if I don’t get the answers I want, if I don’t hear what I’m looking for, I’m prepared to take Sheila Bair’s IndyMac model, put it into legislation, get it on the floor, and pass that as our framework.” Can I get your reaction?
MS. PERINO: Look, I didn’t see those remarks. It would be interesting to see if she could actually get that passed. She can have at it. I don’t think that it would actually have a lot of possibility of passing, but she can certainly try. That’s what we have Congress for.
Anyone else? Okay, thank you.
END 11:38 A.M. EST