Below is the White House transcript on the press briefing after the meeting between President Obama and President Aquino of the Philippines.
As usual, what’s news is a function of the audience, and the most important issue here really is the international one: the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China in the oil rich shoals of South China Sea. It’s resulted in some tense moments within the last month between the Philippines and China, and most Americans don’t even know about it.
What makes this briefing valuable is how it shows China the strength of the relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines.
If you’re in China, you’re seeing the U.S. remind us all that it sees itself as a Pacific power, and that the Philippines is a really, really good friend and ally. Don’t mess with it.
What else can China do but realize it has a lot invested in the U.S. If they want us to pay them back, it should put up with a little Filipino sabre-rattling.
Frankly, the whole thing is a little too colonial for my taste. The Philippines isn’t “Little Brown Brother” anymore. But the Philippines is so anemic it still needs the U.S. to play “Big Brother.”
Maybe that’s all right if you find yourself in a pissing match with China over oil.
Too bad the press chose to go domestic and followed up with a question focused on Obama’s earlier statements about the economy and the private sector doing well.
Is a mini-gaffe over language really more important than what happens in the South China Sea?
Here’s the White House transcript of the Washington press briefing:
President Obama: It is a great pleasure to welcome President Aquino to the Oval Office and to the White House.
I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with him, most recently during my Asia trip, when we met most recently in Bali. And at that time, we discussed how important the U.S.-Philippine relationship was, the historic ties, the 60 years of a mutual defense treaty, the extraordinary links between Filipino-Americans that have brought our two countries so closely together. And we pledged to work on a whole host of issues that would continue to strengthen and deepen the relationship for the 21st century.
We talked about how we could work on security issues, on economic issues, on people-to-people exchanges, and on a whole host of regional issues. And I just want to thank President Aquino for his excellent cooperation, because we’ve made a great deal of progress since that time.
On economic issues, the Philippines is the recipient of a Millennium Challenge grant that is helping to foster greater development and opportunity within the Philippines. We have a partnership for growth that is working on how we can make sure that we are structuring a relationship of expanding trade and commerce between our two countries.
I want to congratulate President Aquino for the work that he’s done on the Open Government Partnership that is consistent with his campaign to root out corruption that can facilitate greater economic development within the Philippines.
And on security and military issues, we had discussions about how we can continue to consult closely together, to engage in training together, work on a range of regional issues together — all of which is consistent with the announced pivot by the United States back to Asia, and reminding everybody that, in fact, the United States considers itself, and is, a Pacific power.
Throughout all these exchanges and all the work that we’ve done I’ve always found President Aquino to be a thoughtful and very helpful partner. And I think that as a consequence of the meeting today in which we discussed not only military and economic issues, but also regional issues — for example, trying to make sure that we have a strong set of international norms and rules governing maritime disputes in the region — that I’m very confident that we’re going to see continued friendship and strong cooperation between our two countries.
So, Mr. President, thank you for visiting. We are very proud of the friendship between our two countries, and we look forward to continuing in the future.
PRESIDENT AQUINO: I would like to thank President Obama for all the support that the U.S. has given us in our quest to really transform our society. Ours is a shared history, shared values, and that’s why America is just one of two that we have strategic partnerships with.
Today’s meeting has really even deepened and strengthened a very long relationship we have, especially as we face the challenges that are before both our countries in the current situation.
And again, we’d like to thank them for all the expressions of support that even now has led to the resolution of situations within our territory.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right. Thank you, everybody.
Q Mr. President, Mitt Romney says you’re out of touch for saying the private sector is doing fine. What’s your response?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Listen, it is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That’s the reason I had the press conference. That’s why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month, and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger.
The economy is not doing fine. There are too many people out of work. The housing market is still weak and too many homes underwater. And that’s precisely why I asked Congress to start taking some steps that can make a difference.
Now, I think if you look at what I said this morning and what I’ve been saying consistently over the last year, we’ve actually seen some good momentum in the private sector. We’ve seen 4.3 million jobs created — 800,000 this year alone — record corporate profits. And so that has not been the biggest drag on the economy.
The folks who are hurting, where we have problems and where we can do even better, is small businesses that are having a tough time getting financing; we’ve seen teachers and police officers and firefighters who’ve been laid off — all of which, by the way, when they get laid off spend less money buying goods and going to restaurants and contributing to additional economic growth. The construction industry is still very weak, and that’s one of the areas where we’ve still seen job losses instead of job gains.
So if we take the steps that I laid out to make sure that we’re not seeing teacher layoffs and we’re not seeing police officer layoffs, and we’re providing small businesses with additional financing and tax breaks for when they hire or if they’re giving raises to their employees; if we refinance housing — or allow homeowners to refinance so they’ve got an extra $3,000 in their pocket so that they can spend money and contribute to further economic growth; if we’re making sure that we’re rebuilding, work that has to be done anyway, deferred maintenance on roads and bridges that could put construction workers back to work — all those things will strengthen the economy, and independent economists estimate it would create an additional million jobs.
Now, you can’t give me a good reason as to why Congress would not act on these items other than politics — because these are traditionally ideas that Democrats and Republicans have supported. So let me be as clear as I can be. The economy needs to be strengthened. That’s why I had a press conference.
I believe that there are a lot of Americans who are hurting right now, which is what I’ve been saying for the last year, two years, three years, what I’ve been saying since I came into office. And the question then is what are we going to do about it? And one of the things that people get so frustrated about is that instead of actually talking about what would help, we get wrapped up in these political games. That’s what we need to put an end to.
So the key right now is for folks — what I’m interested in hearing from Congress and Mr. Romney is what steps are they willing to take right now that are going to make an actual difference. And so far, all we’ve heard are additional tax cuts to the folks who are doing fine, as opposed to taking steps that would actually help deal with the weaknesses in the economy and promote the kind of economic growth that we would all like to see.
All right. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thanks. Thank you, guys.