tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 30, 2015 8:00pm-10:01pm EDT
, landmark cases is available for $8.95 plus shipping, get your copy today at c-span.org/landmark.cases. tonight on c-span, reporters question white house press secretary josh earnest about the deployment of special operations forces to fight isis. then, journalists who cover the white house discuss their jobs and the obama administration's relationship with the media. and nato supreme allied commander philip, talks about military operations in iraq and syria. >> at his daily briefing, white house spokesman josh earnest discusses president obama's decision to send a special operations forces to syria to help in the fight against isis. this is one hour and 20 minutes.
>> good evening everybody. happy friday. before we begin, let me begin with a short readout. the president spoke today by telephone with the iraqi prime minister to discuss the situation in iraq and underscore the united states and during support in iraq against isis. the president commended recent progress forces have made and noted that the united states in partnership with the iraqi government will intensify support in these efforts. the president also voiced support for prime minister's leadership in battling corruption and reforms. critical to promote -- promoting iraq's progress. the two leaders in for size to that both the united states and iraq are fully committed to
partnering with the international community to degrade and ultimately destroy isil. they also reaffirm their commitment to the strategic partnership between the united states and iraq. this is part of the discussion -- part of this discussion was some of the efforts that the united states will begin to undertake to intensify those elements of the u.s. strategy and the coalition strategy against isil. i know there has been reporting on this already today. i think that will be the subject of some discussion with all of you today. kathleen, you can get started on whatever topic you would like. kathleen: i think we will stay there. arethey are saying there ther than 50 troops -- initial reactions calling this a band-aid on a gaping wound.
what do you think this will accomplish? secretary ernest: i certainly would not underestimate the capability and the capacity of our u.s. special operations forces to be an important for -- force multiplier, anywhere around the world that they are deployed. the president does expect they can have an impact in intensifying our strategy for building the capacity inside syria, taking the fight to the ground to isil in their own country. that has been the core element of the military component of our strategy from the beginning. building the capacity of local forces on the ground. that was the essence of the call that the president just completed with prime minister abadi, that u.s. and coalition partners have worked effectively with the central government of iraq. they have command and control of iraqi security forces in that country, and because of that training and advice and assistance that the united states and coalition partners
have been able to offer, we have been able to build up the capacity of forces on the battlefield in iraq. the situation in syria is quite different. the united states and our coalition partners do not have a central government with whom we can partner. the assad regime has lost legitimacy to lead back country for a variety of reasons. the use the military of that country to attack innocent civilians. so, what the united states and coalition partners have been focused on doing, is enhancing the capacity of moderate opposition forces on the ground inside of syria. there are already a variety of ways that you already know about that the united states and our coalition partners have offered assistance to those forces. some of those efforts have included carrying out military airstrike in support of their operations on the ground. in some cases, they have been enhanced through decisions the president has made to resupply them, offering them military equipment, and ammunition they have used, to effectively make progress against isil. when it comes to northern syria in particular, we have seen
moderate opposition forces inside of syria who have driven isil out of kobani. you will recall that some of these opposition forces were under siege in kobani after being resupplied by the united states military. these forces did not just drive , they drovekobani them out of the broader region, and now there's a 500 mile long border between turkey and syria. all the 90 kilometers of that border is not secure. we've also seen these opposition forces make progress in the direction of a software capital of the islamic state. there are now moderate opposition forces which are 45 kilometers outside of this area. there has been important progress which we have made in this area, and the decision that the president has made is to further intensify our support for those forces that have made that progress against isil.
all along, we have indicated that the president is prepared to intensify those elements of our strategy that are showing promise. obvious the, our support for moderate opposition forces in northern syria have made progress against isil. they are shown promise and that progress would not have been possible without our support. we've also demonstrated the willingness to scale back our investment in those aspects of the strategy that have not yielded progress. there were discussions about a program that was not yielding the kind of results we would like and the president announced a significant change to our strategy. that was a long answer, but i just want to give you the full context of this latest decision the president has made to intensify this element of our strategy. kathleen: you think that this will have in impact? doesn't like you are telling us -- [indiscernible] secretary ernest: no, i think
you are astute to make that observation. i think what the president has been quite clear, that there is no military solution to the problems that are plaguing iraq and syria. there is a diplomatic one. the president has put in place a multifaceted strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy i -- i still, and this military -- isil and the military component , of that strategy is an important part of the president's top priorities, which is the safety and security of the american public. because of that strategy, we have taken extremist's off the battlefield in syria who were hoping to use a safe haven inside syria to attack the united states and our interest. so, we know we need a political transition inside syria in order to address the root causes to assimilate the problems we have seen inside syria. those problems range from
hundreds of thousands of syrians who have lost their lives in the civil war. millions of syrians who have had to flee their homes to escape violence. some of the syrians have unfortunately died trying to flee their country. it is a tragedy. both in terms of the human toll it has had on his people. it is also significant in terms of the destabilizing impact it is have to read the broader region. in countries like turkey, lebanon, and jordan -- hundreds of thousands, if not millions of syrians have sought refuge in each of their countries. this is a significant problem. we can take military action to provide for the safety and security of the american people, but the root cause of all of these problems will only be addressed through the kind of political transition the united states believes is long overdue.
>> we have details here. we heard that the president has authorized you are than 50 special operations forces. how many exactly? if this has already been authorized, can you tell us the exact number of forces going into northern syria? secretary ernest: the less than 50 number is accurate. i cannot be more specific than that, primarily for reasons related to operational security. there are number of details about this decision i am not in a position to discuss in this public setting, primarily to ensure that our special operators can do their work is -- as safely as possible. acknowledging that this is a very dangerous region of the world. reporter: you mentioned the call between the president and prime minister a body -- the premise or. is there any talk of intensifying support through u.s. troops?
secretary ernest: i do not have any announcements along those lines to make here today. but we have already found that pairing some u.s. forces, including special operations personnel, with iraqi security forces in a strictly trade advisement role has been effective in enhancing the effectiveness of those iraqi security forces to make progress against isil. i don't have anything along those lines to announce today, but i certainly would not rule out that something like that could be a possibility if it continues to be an element of our strategy that shows promise. reporter: is there a reason why the president is not publicly speaking about this move today? is it because it seems to be relatively small maneuver?
a small impact as part of a larger strategy? secretary ernest: i think i would answer that question in a couple ways. first, you have heard the president on many occasions discuss our strategy in syria. the fact is, our strategy in syria has not changed. the core of our military strategy inside of syria is to build up the capacity of local forces. to take the fight to eiffel on the ground -- i still on the ground in their own country. there are variety of ways that the united states and our coalition forces can offer support, whether it is supporting them or conducting airstrikes in support of their operations on the ground, and the president did offer to increase that support with a small group of american military personnel to offer advice and assistance on the ground as they take the fight to isil. so, this is an intensification of the strategy the president announced a year ago and he has discussed it with all of you on
many occasions and i suspect he will discuss it with all of you again in the future. justin? justin: i want to get behind -- -- define or [indiscernible] i ask that for 2 reasons. the president has laid down the ground marked that he would not send combat troops into syria. i'm wondering why this does not qualify under that definition. also, i wonder if you could flesh out what exactly they are doing? secretary ernest: on the last question it will be hard for me to offer many specifics. about what precisely they're going to be doing. primarily because there are some operational security issues that need to be protected. there may be more details. from here, i can't be more specific. than to say that those operation
forces will be in and they will be offering support to moderate opposition forces in syria right now. as a relates to their mission, this is an important thing for the american people to understand -- these forces do not have a combat mission. in 2003, president bush ordered a large scale, long-term combat mission in iraq. that is something that barack obama as a senator in illinois spoke out against. he disagreed with that decision. he did not at that point believe it would serve the interest of the country to impose a military solution on the problems inside of iraq and president barack , obama has that same view. he does not believe that
that military operation was in our best interest, and he does not believe that that is something that we should do again. that is why our special operations personnel inside of syria have a very different mission. that mission is to build the capacity of local forces, so that they can be even more effective and they have already been in taking the fight to isil. justin: the president did not say there would not be a large-scale, long-term ground operation. a ground combat operation in syria. so i'm trying to figure out how , we can measure that point. what our soldiers in combat doing that these trained dvisors are not doing? secretary ernest: what i am trying to do is be as specific as possible with you about the
specific responsibilities these special operation personnel have. this is not in any way an attempt to diminish the risk they will face or the bravery they will need to summon to carry out these operations. this is dangerous. and they are at risk. and there's no denying that. and once again that is a reason for us to remember the significant sacrifices our men and women in the military make for our safety and security and nobody is more keenly aware of that than the commander-in-chief. at the same time, the responsibilities they have there are different. first well i think if you were , envisioning a combat operation, we probably would be contemplating more than 50 troops on the ground. but because the responsibility they have is not to leave the -- lead the charge to take a hell but rather to offer , advice and assistance to those
local forces, about the best way they can organize their efforts to take the fight to isil or to take the hill inside of syria, that is the role they will be playing. again, it still means they are in a dangerous situation. it still means that they will have all of the equipment that they need to protect themselves, if necessary. i am confident that the department of defense has contingency plans in place to , make it as safe as possible for forces to operate there. but, again i do not want to , diminish the significance of the risks they are taking in pursuit of the subject of the president has identified. reporter: [indiscernible] ,n the budget, i'm wondering what is going on with the appropriate and process, what are the by december 11? negotiations with congress on
that, and how confident are you that it will get done? secretary ernest: when congress agreed to pass the continuing resolution back at the end of september, the goal all along was to reach an agreement about these broader caps, about a month in advance of the september 11 deadline to give negotiators time to negotiate. that goal has been met. congress will have more than a month to put together appropriations bills against the -- in advance of the december 11 deadline. so, based on the timeline that congress has described they would meet, we met that timeline and they should have time based on their own descriptions to put together legislation. we are hopeful though that this progress will not get bogged down through attempts by members of congress to add ideological writers that are completely unrelated to these funding bills. that is something that we have seen republicans be tempted to do in the past.
we are hopeful that they will not do that in a way that derails what should be a relatively smooth process. >> i want to be very specific about what the president has said in terms of rooting boots on the ground in syria. he said on september 10, what he 13, "i will not put american boots on the ground in syria." with this announcement today, is he effectively breaking that promise to the american people? secretary ernest: the president was receiving questions about what the united states was prepared to do, given our insistence that president assad had to go. that he had lost legitimacy to leave. the president was a human point -- was making a point that he was not prepared to put boots on the ground to take down the regime during that was precisely the mistake that the previous administration made. implementing a regime change policy in iraq, and putting u.s. forces and a long-term, large-scale operation. it did not serve the interest of
the u.s., and we're still paying the price for that mistake. the quote that you pulled there is a very different situation. reporter: [indiscernible] secretary ernest: you read one quote, which, to be fair, is out of context. the situation that the president has described, is a description of the kind of mission that our men and women in uniform will have in our counter isis campaign. reporter: [indiscernible] he specifically said that. that would not be part of the strategy. secretary ernest: you read to me a quote from 2013 that was a direct question related to what we were prepared to do to ensure that our concerns about the regime, and the need for a change were implemented. the fact is the president said
we are not going to implement a military strategy to take down bashar al-assad. we want to build up the capacities of local forces. to make sure that they can be focused on isis. that is the strategy the president has been focused on here. and the president has been quite clear that he did not consider a large-scale long-term combat , operation. either in iraq or in syria. that was his policy at the beginning of our counter operations, and it is our strategy today. reporter: you knowledge they could wind up in a combat role. how is that not a change in strategy? secretary ernest: because our strategy has been to build the capacity of local forces to fight these sites -- fight these fights against isil and our
efforts to conduct airstrikes in advance of the ground operations and in coordination with ground operations has been a important on the battlefield. that element of the strategy has yielded progress, and so the president wants to intensify that assistance we are providing and one way to intensify that assistance is to pair them up with experts, some of the smartest, bravest, most effective fighters in the united states military and that's exactly what we're doing and i do expect that will improve their performance on the battlefield. reporter: but their lives could be at risk. secretary ernest: there is no denying the amount of risk that they will be taking on here. they will be equipped to defend themselves if necessary. i am confident that the department of defense has contingency plans to try to make
them as safe as possible and a very dangerous part of the world. it's a good reminder of the appreciation that we need to have for our men and women in uniform. reporter: one more questions. does the president have the authority to put u.s. forces in syria when they are not authorized, making the point that -- [indiscernible] secretary ernest: that is a great question. here's the answer to it. the answer is congress in 2001 did give the executive branch authorization to take this action and there's no debating that. what the president has said he would welcome is congress passing an authorization to use military force. to be more specific about what exactly they are authorizing. it is not just the president would welcome congress taking that step. the administration wrote the bill for them. we wrote our own legislation or -- that congress capasso that we
could carry out our counter isil campaign. we did not step there. the president sent top security advisers to congress to testify under oath, in open hearings to explain to congress what was in included in the legislation and why they should pass it. after all of those efforts, the president saying he would welcome congress's voice in this debate, having written the legislation, sending his secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to testify before conga's, about why they should pass this legislation and what , has congress done? nothing. i don't know when congress is going to meet again. they often take fridays off and mondays off. so maybe on tuesday they cannot -- they can have a meeting and a discussion about what should be on their agenda. i've got an idea about what should be at the top of it. reporter: is this fewer than 50 and no more? secretary ernest: the decision
the president has made is to add these special operations forces to build up capacity in syria, will involve fewer than 50 special operations personnel. reporter: there won't be any escalations beyond that. is that what you're saying? secretary ernest: the decision the president has made is to send fewer than 50 special operations forces to syria to offer training, advice, and assistance to forces on the ground against isil. reporter: it's possible there could be further deployments? secretary ernest: jim, i don't want to predict the future. we have shown an effort to intensify our efforts, behind those elements of our strategy that have shown the most hamas. building the capacity of local forces, particularly in northern syria, has shown some promise. this is a further intensification of those efforts.
reporter: you said the special forces will be doing advising, training, assisting. to the other question, you said i cannot get into the specifics for operational security reasons. so, which is it? are they going to be involved in some raids in northern syria, potentially? secretary ernest: jim, the role they will have will be to offer training, advice, assistance to local opposition fighters on the ground in syria, where taking the fight to isil in their own country. that is the responsibility they have. that is the commander-in-chief has given them. on the operational bases on terms of where they are going to be operating, with whom exactly they are going to be partnering, where the first mission will take place? i think for pretty of reasons -- obvious reasons, those are not details we can get into in public. i want to get back to something we were talking about. i want to save we can have a moment of clarity here. secretary ernest: that's the reason i am here. jim: i think this is a basic
question. a question the american people have. which is this president, this , white house, the officials at this white house repeatedly, over and over again made it , clear there would be no u.s. combat troops fighting isis. that appears to be changing. not only this announcement you're talking about today, which you say there will not be a combat role, but you are not ruling out they might be involved in some sort of combat operation -- that on the rack said, you have pentagon officials this week saying we are in combat. so, it would be great if we just had a moment of clarity and you could acknowledge that, yes, this mission is changing. it's not what it was said it was going to be at the outset. secretary ernest: to say that would only confuse the situation. the fact of the matter is, the commander-in-chief has given the military personnel in iraq and syria, is to train, advice, and
assist. we have gone to great lengths to make clear that that i no means diminishes the amount of risk that our men and women in uniform will be facing. we also have been quite clear that there have been situations where combat boots have been on the ground inside syria. we have been quite candid about that. the president ordered a mission involving u.s. military personnel, putting boots on the ground in syria, to rescue hostages kept by isil. that happened more than a year ago. earlier this year, the president issued special operations personnel to conduct a raid against a high-value isil target inside syria. that raid was successful in taking that leader off of the bountiful -- battlefield and , recovering significant troves of intelligence. the department of defense has had contingency plans in place for search and rescue operations. fortunately, the united states has not been in a situation in which one of our pilots has been shot down or crashed in the
skies over syria, despite the fact that they have conducted thousands of flights over syria. this is a testament to the professionalism of our armed forces. but there were contingency plans in place for search and rescue , operations that would have , been u.s. military treats on -- boots on the ground to , potentially rescue american military pilots. we have been forthright about this. this is not the first time that we are discussing this information. in fact, we discussed this at some length. the desire here is to be a specific and clear as possible about what it is they are doing. their mission is to train -- jim: are you denying that at the onset of the military operation against isis, the impression was not given to the american people that there would not be -- i think there are potential double negatives in there. at the onset of this, i think any rational person would conclude that the impression given to the american people was
that there would not be a combat mission. it now appears that there are going to be occasions from time to time, or will be a combat elements, which is what u.s. troops are doing in iraq and syria. so, you are saying that's not the case? secretary ernest: what i'm saying is the impression that the president led to great lengths to give the american people the president gave a , national address on september and the president did go to 10th, 2014, great links to make it clear that our counter isil strategy in iraq and syria would be substantially different great -- a difference between night and day between the strategy , president obama would be implementing and the long-term, ground combat operation the bush administration pursued in 2003. the president did go out of his way to be quite clear the strategy is different. that difference existed then. that difference exists today. what the president did in the context of that speech and numerous other times -- it you all have asked him about it.
he has been quite clear. about the fact that they did not have a combat mission. it does mean our men and women in uniform will be in harm's way. it means they will be taking risks. they will be in a dangerous part of the world. we all them a debt of gratitude. jim: what about the raid wearing u.s. soldier died last week? secretary ernest: that was in iraq. the u.s. forces there were in advise role. but when those kurdish security forces -- jim: in an advisory role, there is the potential for something like this to occur, where they may have to engage, be in harms way? that's real? secretary ernest: [indiscernible] ok, major. major: how long will they stay in syria? secretary ernest: we have been quite candid.
what we're going to continue to do is continually assess our strategy and look for ways to intensify those elements of the strategy showing the most promise. major: up to 50, less than 50, they will stay there for an extended time? secretary ernest: i do not have a specific date to give you when they will come in. major: [indiscernible] which i think he would've knowledge between raids and the permanent positioning of u.s. special forces. there is a difference? secretary ernest: i certainly would not describe it is permanent. major: it is not an in and out operation? secretary ernest: i would acknowledge there is a difference and it reflects those elements that show promise. major: if you have special
operators in any place for a given time, to the questions -- will they have air cover if they are engaged in assistance operations that take them close to the fighting, yes or no? secretary ernest: this is an operational question. i will do for you to the department of defense. however, you have already seen -- major: [indiscernible] every contingency operation with special operators carries with it the implied support. secretary ernest: what has been underway for more than a year, u.s. and coalition military pilots in coordination with forces on the ground. that kind of air cover is something that the local opposition forces have already benefited from. but in terms of -- major: [indiscernible] secretary ernest: for specific operational question, i refer you to the department of defense. major: you know that's true. you're not going to put u.s. special operators out there without air cover.
secretary ernest: i am confident that the department of defense has a contingency plan, for what those contingency plans are, you should check with them. major: the special operators are not only generally at risk, but because they represent the united states government, because they not been in syria for any length of time, they will have a target on their back. and if they are in some ways in circled or in jeopardy, they will have military extraction operations to support them, if in fact they get into a dicey circumstance? also true? secretary ernest: these security risk is elevated because they wear the uniform of the united states of america -- i would allow that is probably the case. major: i am trying to establish that they are combat forces, they are -- as you just said --
the best fighters we have. [indiscernible] three levels of combat operations are implied with their continued stay in operations in syria, correct? secretary ernest: again, major, we are focused on what is not a combat mission. major: but those elements have always supported them. so we have three layers of potential combat operations inside syria that we did not have when they were in and out. so the placement of them in syria for any length of time implies these other levels of protection, correct? secretary ernest: i think what you have primarily described our air combat operations. these are military pilots taking military strikes against enemy targets. they have been underway for more than a year. i'm not sure that this represents a dramatic change in terms of our military air presents. -- presence. but the idea of our military pilots using weapons to protect
fighters on the ground is not new. that is something that they have been doing for more than a year now. major: [indiscernible] secretary ernest: four operational --for operational security reasons, i can't. major: [indiscernible] secretary ernest: somebody does, but i can't say. major: will they be near the hill? they were near the operations that cause josh wheeler to lose his life in northern iraq. this is a relevant question about proximity. secretary ernest: our military personnel will be in a train, advise, and assist mission. it will not be their primary responsibility to lead the charge of the hill. that is a rather antiquated,
hypothetical analogy i am drawing her, but i'm joined to illustrate what their role is. will they be in the vicinity, offering advice and assistance? yeah, i would not be surprised that is the case. in fact, the situation you just described, where u.s. special operations forces a company iraqi security forces on a raid, that is precisely b scenario. you saw iraqi security forces conduct the incursion to try to rescue the hostages and the u.s. military personnel were in the vicinity, but they were not leaving the charge. but once the iraqi security forces got pinned down, they sought assistance from the u.s. military personnel that were nearby, and in the context of that engagement, master sergeant wheeler lost his life. major: if this into his vocation
works and the military commanders say to the president, mr. president, we are gaining traction for the first time. we need more people to achieve greater success, the president will say what? secretary ernest: first he will say -- major: two things happen in these scenarios. you either have problems any need forces to reinforce or you have success and you need more forces to achieve more. in both in areas, the american people will be wondering if this is something that grows over time? secretary ernest: we've already seen progress. that is the reason why the president is seeking to increase support for them. it would not be accurate to say we are seeing progress for the first time.
we have already seen progress, and that is why the president has made the decision -- reporter: more professional operators will achieve greater success. what would the president say? good, let's put more in their? secretary ernest: that is a hypothetical situation. we will see. the president has repeatedly told his team, including military supervisors, that he wants them to continually evaluate their strategy. the president is prepared to intensify those elements of strategy that are showing support. reporter: [indiscernible] will they strengthen the hands to show that they are willing to step up? secretary ernest: it is certainly an ironic argument for the russians, who have committed so much military equipment and
personnel on the ground in syria to make the suggestion that the united states should refrain from doing so. russia claims that they are doing so to fight isil, the we know that they are focusing their efforts on regions where they are not present. we have made clear, for months now, that russia doubling down on their support for assad is a losing bet. doesn't make our campaign against isil more likely to be successful? if anything, it undermines it. i all being said, -- that all being said, our focus on diplomacy is acknowledgment of the fact that the problems plaguing syria do not have a military solution. it only have a diplomatic and
political one. we would like to see a political transition inside syria. the russians themselves having knowledge that this is necessary. it also highlights the contradiction in their strategy that they are carrying out a military strategy that makes the successful completion of their political strategy less likely. those are tough questions for them to answer. what the united states has been doing is build up the capacity of local forces so that there is actually a political opposition that can engage in conversations about a political transition. what secretary kerry is doing in vienna right now is trying to bring around the table all of those who have influence and a stake in syria, to find some common ground for the need for a political transition about how
to affect that transition. that has been hard work getting russia, saudi arabia, and iran in the same room. it is not something that has happened recently. it is what we believe is necessary for us to try to make some progress in pursuit of the only solution that addresses all of the root causes of the problems we are seeing in syria right now. reporter: [indiscernible] what do you hope to achieve -- the iraqi trained army that you do not have in syria, as you mentioned now, it does not exist. how can you do the job better than what you have done in iraq with thousands of troops?
secretary ernest: the forces in syria been different because the conditions in syria and iraq have been different. in iraq, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that they are under the command of a unified government. that is not something that had been in place until relatively recently went the prime minister to power and sought to govern that country in a much more inclusive way. that more effective and inclusive leadership have made the security forces more effective. the situation in syria is a lot different. opposition forces there are not affiliated with the central government. they are more loosely organized. yet, despite the loose organization, the united states
and coalition partners have been able to effectively help them. the situation in kobani is a good example of this. there is this war between turkey and syria that is almost completely secure. the advances made have left them within 35 kilometers of the self-declared capital of the islamic state. the shows they have made progress. a lot of the progress is due to their efforts to courtney with our counter isil -- to coordinate with our counter isil cooperation. we would anticipate that there performance would improve even more when paired with the force multipliers that are this several dozen united states special operators. reporter: [indiscernible]
secretary ernest: this is a mission to support the efforts of moderate opposition fighters on the ground as they take to fight isil in their own country. that is what they are trying to do. to offer training, advice, and assistance to those local forces inside syria there fighting isil. hazel? reporter: i want to go back to something -- are the forces combat ready if that needs to happen?
secretary ernest: i made allusion to the fact that the special operations forces will have equipment to protect themselves, if necessary. they will certainly be equipped to defend themselves. reporter: if something were to happen, they would be considered boots on the ground, correct? secretary ernest: there are boots on the ground now. reporter: you are not looking for any kind of military action now? training, advising, and assistance? secretary ernest: that is the military mission that they have been given. reporter: no combat at this point? secretary ernest: they are not being deployed to syria with a combat mission. they are being deployed with eight training, advising, and assistance position. it is an effort to be as specific and clear as possible about what exactly there being
asked to do. reporter: with the fight against al qaeda, no military solution. now, the same thing. no military solution. now, we are hearing the same thing. we never really saw the complete win during the bush years. what would a systematic win look like during this administration? secretary ernest: i think the reason for that -- this question actually goes to the core of our military strategy, ironically enough. the reason the president feels is important to build the capacity of local forces, to take that fight isil in their own country is because we want to enhance the ability of iraqis and syrians to provide for the security of their own country. united states to go in there and prepare that for them in perpetuity. we tried that. it didn't work. ultimately, local security forces, local government officials, and local citizens need to demonstrate the wherewithal to govern and secure
their own country. with united states goes into try to impose that security, and impose the military solution, that can temporarily have the effect of pacifying the situation. united states military is extraordinarily effective. where also has the effect of doing is not forcing iraqi security forces and iraqi political figures in the situation in iraq of stepping up and fulfilling the responsibility's they have to secure the country and govern the country in an inclusive, unified way. once the united states military left iraq, we did see a situation where the iraqi central government, because they did not have the commitment to unify the country and govern it in a exclusive way, we saw the nation of iraq breakdown along sectarian lines.
that was for the world to see when isil made its events against -- made its advance across iraq. all of it was reflective as a failure from the iraqis central government to unite the country and put in place security forces that were prepared to defend the entire country. that is why our strategy is not predicated on opposing our own solutions, but build up the capacity of iraqis and syrians to secure and govern their own countries. reporter: in syria, are we expected to mirror the same time period? we could be there for a while? secretary ernest: we have been clear that countering isil and completing our efforts to destroy that tears organization is not a short-term proposition. the president acknowledged this as well. reporter: could it be another 14 years? when you say it is not a short-term proposition, why
rush, you are seeing already the situation in iraq, see it seems like we have to stand there and stay with them because it is not ending right now. secretary ernest: i think the important thing to understand, and the lesson that hopefully we would have all learned about this is these are problems that cannot be -- these are solutions that cannot be imposed by the united states using our military might. that is just not the way it is going to work. in previous attempts, it has been unsuccessful and did not at all serve well the interests of the united states.
reporter: are these fewer than 50 on the ground now in syria? secretary ernest: you would have to check with the department of defense on that. i would not be surprised if they were reluctant to say one way or the other. reporter: you cannot say today, if they are there or not? secretary ernest: you will have to check with the department of defense. reporter: what include airstrikes -- will it include airstrikes? secretary ernest: i think chairman dempsey said this is an option on the table. i do not think chairman dempsey, while he was in office, ever recommended that to the president. he always noted that was an option that he could recommend to the president. you would have to check with the torment of defense for an answer on whether or not that is part of the training that we provide. reporter: you have a knowledge previously that the russian airstrikes over syria have
targeted u.s. backed opposition groups, and now the president is sending in these forces on the ground to help training and assist these groups. is there any concern that the u.s. troops could now become targets of these russian strikes? secretary ernest: let me say a couple of things about this. the focus of russia's military activity inside syria has been in those areas where isil fighters are not frequently present. there have been, as we have acknowledged, some strikes in other areas. that is the first thing. the second thing is of course the president is concerned, and i think the department of defense is concerned, about the safety of these americans operating in a very dangerous
country, and a very dangerous part of the world. that is why they will be prepared with the equipment necessary to defend themselves. there are contingency plans in place to try to mitigate the risk that they face. when it comes to the russians, the united states military has engaged in a handful of low-level tactical, practical conversations with the russians to the conflate our activities. i do not anticipate a scenario where the united states is coordinating our efforts with the russians, unless and until the russians are willing to make a constructive graduation to our counter isil coalition. reporter: these forces could be struck i russian airstrikes? secretary ernest: again, these forces are at risk in a very dangerous part of the world and in a dangerous country. the president has also made clear that he wants to make sure these special operators have the equipment they need to defend themselves and that is what they ask.
scott. reporter: the scale of the the deployment -- can you talk about the decision-making process? secretary ernest: i think what the president -- let me step back. i said a little bit of this before, but i think it is important that this is exhibit a of how the president has been making these kinds of decisions. the president and his team are routinely accepting counter isil -- a counter isil strategy to look specifically at the areas that are not performing up to expectations. the president has made decisions to curtail investments in those efforts. the train and equip operation is the best example of that.
at the same time, they have been conducting assessments of the counter isil strategy to look for those areas that are showing some promise. areas where the strategy is yielding some progress. our effort to offer support to opposition fighters in northern syria have showed some promise. those fighters have made some progress. those fighters have benefited from resupply missions where the united states military and coalition partners have been able to provide them with equipment and ammunition that they have used in their fight against isil. they have also benefited from our coalition's efforts to coordinate military airstrikes in support of their operations on the ground. the president asked his military team for some options, for into
the fighting -- intensifying further our support for those fighters. one option that they came back with was putting a small number, fewer than 50, special operation forces on the ground in syria in the train and advise role to make those fighters even more effective and serve as force multipliers by offering advice, and using their expertise to enhance operations and enhance the success of the opposition forces on the ground. this is probably the best example that you will hear me refer to in future briefings about the president's strategy in syria. looking for opportunities to intensify those elements of the strategy there are showing some promise. in some cases, that means actually asking the team to come back with recommendations on how to intensify their efforts. this is a good example of that. reporter: you are really trying
to minimize [indiscernible] secretary ernest: i think we are cognizant of the discussion the april and i were having that the united states cannot have a situation in which we are imposing a military solution on this problem. i think the president is mindful of that. our goal here is not -- our goal here is to build up the capacity of local forces to fight this fight on the ground in their own country for themselves. we want to enhance their performance on the battlefield. we have much for of -- looked for a lot of ways to do that here the president is mindful that we cannot do that for them. have to do it for themselves with the expertise that the united states military and our coalition partners have to offer. heaven.
reporter: would you acknowledge or reject the mission that this is the mission creed. secretary ernest: the mission has not changed. the president delivered a television address on september 10, 2014, in which he made clear that there would be u.s. military personnel on the ground to build up local forces, who could then take the fight on the ground against isil in their own country. that mission has not changed. reporter: and yet, we are adding people, special operations forces. if you continue to add forces, is that mission not free? secretary ernest: i just made clear that the mission from september's, 2014 was the mission that the department of defense implemented, and the mission that remains in place today. reporter: so, nothing is different? i'm just trying to understand -- secretary ernest: i'm trying to explain to you.
i have made quite clear what we're doing to further intensify the elements of our strategy that have shown progress. we are intensifying it, wrapping of the support that we are giving to them. the mission has not changed. reporter: u.s. forces that may come under assault by the russians -- if american special operations forces are eliminated by russian airstrikes, is that or is that not an act of war? secretary ernest: right now that is a hypothetical situation primarily because we have seen that russian military activity has been focused almost exclusively on those areas of syria where isil fighters are not present. u.s. special operations
personnel will be operating in a train, advise, and assist role alongside opposition forces that are fighting isil. that is why there is a low likelihood that they would come into conflict. we have engaged in low-level, tactical talks with russian military to the conflict -- deconflict our activities. we would welcome russia making a more constructive contribution to our broader counter isil coalition so we could more effectively coordinate with them. right now, russia's military efforts are not focused on isil, they are focused on propping up the assad regime. that is a problem for many reason, but it is a problem for russia because they are being drawn into the sectarian quagmire that has consequences for the national security of russia back home, and the national security focus is
inside syria. reporter: an american iranian has apparently been kidnapped in iran. have we reached out to get of arts in tehran about this? secretary ernest: we are aware that an american has potentially been detained in iran. for any of our interactions with iranians about this, i refer you to the state department. they can give you an update on the efforts. as you know, the president has made a priority securing the release of americans who are unjustly detained in iran. that has been a priority for quite some time. secretary kerry talked about it in the context of a nuclear talks, when he was meeting frequently with our counterparts, that he would raise the cases of these unjustly detained americans in
every conversation. this continues to be -- securing the release of americans unjustly detained in iran continues to be a parody of the obama administration and the american people. reporter: do you know if there was any prior consultation with congressional leaders on this deployment? secretary ernest: there was. [laughter] secretary ernest: i will not get into the details, but there were a number of conversations with congressional leaders. reporter: including speaker ryan? secretary ernest: again, i'm not aware of all the conversations that took place, but presumably that is the case. there were a number of telephone calls that have taken place recently to assure appropriate congressional leaders were aware of this decision that the president made to further intensify our efforts in syria. reporter: do you know if this deployment triggers a
notification under the war powers resolution? secretary ernest: it does not, principally because the united states congress has already authorized this, dated back to 2001. reporter: could you take a question or two about the budget bill? secretary ernest: sure. reporter: when will it be signed? secretary ernest: argumentation is the white house will receive the budget bill on monday. i would expect the president would find it shortly thereafter, probably on monday. reporter: [indiscernible] secretary ernest: congress typically does not work on mondays. i do not know how many members of congress -- i think our intention right now -- reporter: [indiscernible] secretary ernest: maybe that would entice them. we are still working through that, by does the we will give
you a chance to see it. reporter: could you say why president obama believes it is prudent to commit future administrations to selling oil from the strategic petroleum reserve as a way of offsetting increased spending in the bill? secretary ernest: typically these budget agreements cover a broader period of time. some would suggest that when you are discussing a budget as large as the budget of the united states of america, making decisions on a year-to-year basis, without looking at the out years, what impact the budget would have on those out years, is unwise. this is sort of -- making decisions on the budget over a 10 year window is what our accountants tell us is the most prudent thing to do. i would be the first to agree with you that sometimes it seems unrealistic to say exactly what the country will look like and what decisions are being made 10 years from now. this is the way that our budget experts say it should be done. reporter: is that the oil marketplace sufficiently volatile that you would not want to commit to selling 10 million barrels of oil and out years?
secretary ernest: presumably. how those decisions would eventually be made -- reporter: 8 million barrels. secretary ernest: how exactly that sale would take place is not something i have been briefed on, but we can try to get you some details on that. reporter: what is the international legality, or lack there of, of putting u.s. boots on the ground in a country that has not agreed to it? secretary ernest: the case that the united states has made is the united states and our coalition partners are responding to a specific request from iraq, and the concern that they have expressed about isil. our primary response was to assist the iraqi government. what is also clear is the national security threat
actually emanated from syria. because the central government of syria was either unable or unwilling to take the necessary actions to mitigate that national security threat that was being experienced by iraq, the united states and our coalition partners have taken action out of the concern that we have for iraqi national security, and the available evidence that indicates that the central government in syria is unable or unwilling to act on it themselves. reporter: who will be hosting the special forces in syria? you mentioned the moderate syrian opposition. is that the kurds -- is it the kurds, or a mix of different parties? will be bases, safe houses? secretary ernest: for operational security reasons, i'm not going to be able to get into the details of where exactly these military personnel
will be, or precisely with whom they will be working. i can tell you that they will be -- they will have a train, advice, and assist mission, and the role where they will be partnering with those local forces, as they take the fight to isil on the ground in their own country. i cannot be more specific than that in terms of where they will be doing this, or who precisely they will be working with. reporter: you mentioned over the last few days of will to of airstrikes on behalf of the u.s. coalition over syria. according to what the special command sends out every day, there have been almost none in syria over the last two, whereas they do continual over iraq. why have airstrikes come to a minimum over syria over the last few weeks?
secretary ernest: i would direct the question to central command. they're making the day-to-day decisions about what strikes should be carried out. there are a variety of scenarios to describe this. there could be bad weather, or it could be based on intelligence on the ground. i would encourage you to touch base with central command. richard. reporter: i don't want you to get into details, is this train, advice, and assist mission, is it similar to what the u.s. forces are doing with the afghan forces against the taliban? secretary ernest: it is always hard to draw comparisons because the situations and each country
are so different. i think, generally speaking, that would be a fair comparison to make. it does effectively differentiate between the combat role that the american troops previously had in afghanistan. they no longer have that combat role. they're trying to make afghan security forces more effective. they benefit from the training, advice, and assistance that they typically receive from american military personnel that remain in afghanistan. the reason i'm drawing this analogy is because it is consistent with the broader counterterrorism strategy that the president laid out, i believe in his west point speech, in which you said that the united states needs to develop more capability when it comes to enhancing the capacity of local forces around the world to prevent extremists and terrorists elements from establishing a toehold in their
country. we have talked about how this is an important part of our relationship inside afghanistan -- building the capacity of afghan national security forces. we even had a long debate about the situation in yemen. previously, before that country was assumed by a civil war, the united states was able to partner effectively with your many -- yemeni national security forces to take strikes, or at least mitigate the risks posed by opposition forces, operating in yemen. it has been diminished because we do not have a central government with whom we can order to effectively right now. this is part of the counterterrorism strategy that the president laid out before. it is why the president called for the establishment of this counterterrorism partnership fund, where we have resources available in the federal government, that could be used to support the local forces in countries around the world, with united states is trying to build
the capacity of the local forces to provide for the situation in the country, and prevent terrorist organizations and extremist from establishing a toehold in the country. reporter: the decision to keep forces longer, and more than expected, and based on the fate of u.s. operations in yemen, shouldn't we be worried about a similar situation in syria? secretary ernest: i think the greater risk is -- and this is something we discussed in the context of the afghan decision that the president made -- the greater risk is denying a request from a government like the one that exists in afghanistan. for the united states to continue partner with them, and
build up the capacity of their local security forces. afghan government has demonstrated that they are committed to taking on this test. they're not asking the united states to do this important work for them. they are asking the united states to build of the capacity to do it in their own country. that is why the president made the decision he made in afghanistan. always the, our relationship with the central government in syria is much, much different than that. there is a similar dynamic in iraq. the prime minister abadi, with whom the president consulted today, they talked about how they can intensified efforts and those parts of the country where they feel they need to take the fight to isil. in places like ramadi. the united states can play a role, not on the front lines, necessarily, but in a situation where they are supporting the
forces, including places like ramadi. reporter: in iraq, the u.s. hopes that nato forces will continue the mission -- the training and assist mission. any plan of trying to build -- extend the coalition mission from the ed to the ground in syria with nato forces? secretary ernest: nothing that we are prepared to announce at this point. let me just say, generally, the united states benefits from the expertise and capabilities of our coalition partners and this region of the world. it is not just american military personnel that are serving this training role inside iraq. there are other countries that have made important contributions based on the
capacity of their own country to be engaged in these training operations. i think it underscores the significance, the difference in approach of the united states to try to counter isil in iraq and syria, and the unilateral approach that the russians have taken, going on their own, and trying to prop up an assad regime, the has become increasingly destructive. reporter: can you talk a little bit of the meeting with the fbi director, where they talked about a different view on mass incarceration, and also the extent to which increased scrutiny of police activity has led to a shift in law enforcement patterns, and subsequently violent crimes. secretary ernest: you may not be surprised to hear that i will not get into the details of a conversation about the president had with the director of the fbi. the director of the fbi is an independent of was that role.
the president does have an opportunity to consult with him on a range of topics, on a fairly regular basis. i do not have any specific conversations to read out. one of the reasons that the president chose director kobe for this job is because he is someone who is an experienced prosecutor, but also someone who has demonstrated the capacity to think and act independently. the director of the fbi has an important independent law-enforcement role. i think over the last several weeks, we have seen director kobe willingness to independently express his views. the fact of the matter is the president believes that the director of the fbi, particularly, with somebody who has the skills of director kobe must be involved in grappling with the difficult policy debates that they are having in this country right now in balancing security and protection of civil liberties. take for example the encryption debate. policymakers and officials have been grappling with how to
ensure that the civil liberties of the american people are protected without giving terrorists the opportunity to hide behind technology, and plot and carry out attacks that could threaten the safety and security of the american people. this involves a highly technical debate about the capabilities of technology, but also it involves a more philosophical debate about how to balance these competing equities. someone like director kobe has an important contribution to make to that debate. the same is true about criminal justice reform. there is a similar dynamic at play trying to put in place criminal justice policies that adequately protect the american people and adequately protect the civil liberties and civil rights of everything will american. these are difficult issues.
the president certainly appreciates the important perspective that the director brings to this policy debates, but more important, his constructive country should to that debate will be necessary for us to find the right policy solutions. i would expect the director to continue to participate in all of those debates, and do so with the full confidence and support of the president of the united states. reporter: should lawmakers, when they are figuring out what to do about reforming those laws, put the director's statements on the presence of interpretation? secretary ernest: i would allow the director to describe the
point of view that he has. our expectation would be that somebody who has a position -- hoosiers in a position like the director of the fbi, that their views would be taken into account when making policy decisions that come to criminal justice reform. with that, let me do the week ahead, and let you get started on your weekend. on monday, as part of his commitment to criminal justice reform, the president will travel to new york, new jersey -- newark, new jersey. the president will be joined by mayor baracka on that trip. after that, he will travel to new york city for event benefiting the dnc and triple c. those are two separate events.
the president will return monday evening. on tuesday, the president will attend meetings at the white house. he will give remarks at a dnc event and washington. on thursday, the president will host the tribal nations conference. the conference will provide leaders from the 500 cc seven federally recognized tribes the opportunity to indirect directly with high-level officials and members of the white house council on native american affairs. this will be the seventh conference for the obama administration, and continues to build on the president's commitment to strengthen the government relations with indian country and improve the lives of native american indians and alaska natives with an emphasis on increasing opportunity for
native youth. on friday, the president will attend meetings here at the white house. reporter: he will sign the bill before he travels to newark on monday? secretary ernest: that is the current plan. have a good weekend. >> we will talk to michael jacobson of the center for science in the public interest and janet riley of the north american meat institute and a look at efforts to impeach iris commissioner john thompson and amid accusations he misled the destroy documents. washington journal begins live with your phone calls and facebook comments on c-span. >> c-span, the best access to congress. viewer comments.
>> members of the white house press corps talked about their jobs and how they cover the presidency at an event hosted by the washington center. they discussed the obama administration's relationship with the news media and answered questions from the audience of college students. this is one hour and 15 minutes. >> welcome everybody. good morning ladies and gentlemen. i'm going to have a couple of quick announcements then we will have a short pause for the cameras, and then we will go to kevin nunley who will introduce our modern writer. welcome. introduce our moderator. welcome.
this is an important part of the -- you will have a chance to learn about different strategies for citizens to make a difference about issues they care about. at the conclusion my colleague will take a few moments to share with you logistics and thoughts for making the transition to this afternoon's conversations. we have come from all over the world and country, and we have a panel of professionals today that we could pretty much only put together here in washington dc. they are leaders in their field and the folks we say get to write the first draft of history. this is a good opportunity for you to think about the issues you care about and the difference you want to make as you embark on your future pathways of achievement. to introduce us, our vice
president of student affairs. [applause] >> good morning everyone. welcome ourasure to moderator, miss christi parsons. is a 26 year veteran of the chicago tribune. recent -- he has an undergraduate degree in journalism and english. and a masters from yell. please welcome miss christi parsons. [applause]
>> thank you for that nice introduction. when we were talking to college students, i didn't expect you to show up on a friday morning. i didn't expect you to be dressed so professionally. -- we are going to have to up our game. >> it is not at 8:00. [laughter] we are looking at you and listening to you. we appreciate you giving us that honor. the washington center does such great work educating our future leaders. hopefully some of you are aspiring journalists and public servants and advocates. it is good to talk to this crowd directly on this friday morning. the introducer said, i'm
christy parson -- christi parsons. i don't just right for one outlet anymore. i work for lots of readers and for a wire service as well. the media landscape is changing. we will talk about that. my audience is broad and wide. we really are lucky to have this panel of white house correspondents the press and the presidency. the president could not be here today. [laughter] he is running the country or something. so this will be from the perspective of of the press. it is a special group of people. they are members of the white house press corps. they cover the presidency. we have something like 40 years of experience covering the white house. we thought it would be helpful for you to hear from each person here and their personal story, professional story, how they got
to where they are today. i would like to start with that and we will go first to kathleen hennessey from the associated press who was my partner at the white house covering the president from the los angeles times. kathleen hennessey: we were colleagues three weeks ago. that.ls strange to say i work for the associated press which is a wire service. almost all of the newspapers in the country, in addition to the internet and internationally an almosts audience, it is alone in the way it covers the president completely, fully, at every possible moment more or less. therefore my job when i worked for a newspaper has shifted a a constanttoo being presence in the white house.
we consider ourselves a constant set of eyes as much as possible. i started my career in washington and with the l.a. times. cover ao go and statehouse in nevada, and politics in las vegas, to get out into the country and cover politics on a more local level. i came back to washington to cover congress and national campaigns. now i am at the white house. one of the things that i said that is most unique about the way that is different from -- the way we covered the president is different than the way we cover any other politician in washington or statehouse, he is basically stuck with us almost all the time.
anypublic statements, public appearance, even a personal dinner out with his wife, a cough game -- a golf game, we are nearby. a small cluster of the press as representative of the larger pool of the press corps, it is not glamorous. looking for any sign we can of him, making sure he is where he supposed to be, and giving a rhythm of his daily life. christi: we view say where you are from and what your academic past was. kathleen: i didn't do any
journalism when i was in school originally, i didn't know what i wanted to do. i studied history, the classics. i wasn't -- it wasn't a terribly useful major. i got into journalism later in life and went to berkeley for graduate school. i did internships at the l.a. times and the ap. >> so that was -- thank you. let's do an introduction with april ryan. but now is as a dj public author. i'm very excited about this new book by april. the presidency in black and white. we are talking about the things she raises. will you do your two-minute personal history for everybody. >> i from baltimore, maryland. i cut my teeth and news in baltimore. baltimore is a newsy town.
>> you really do read the first draft of history. i don't know if you guys watch you see jim costa stand up and start talking to 30 seconds after the press conference is ended tell you what's happened in the rest of the press for a sitting there listening to the tv folks do their immediate take on what happens. very influential over the whole conference. that's the first read that most people get on here. you are not the only ones listening, the other people in the press for listening as well. that's an amazing talent. i usually take at least 15 minutes in a phone. we will talk about how we cover the white house. kathleen alluded to something in
her opening story about's the pool at the white house. this is a really important crew of 21 people they are very close event president for every or press open event. they report back to other members of the press corps about what has been said or done. numbers 13.vel the those people are on air force one with the president everywhere he goes. there with him sending feedback to their peers to report was going on. kathleen is a member of the permanent school. it's one kind of rare that we have her here right now. someone should be with the president. one of her peers.
can you talk about the little bit. why is it so important that the us to keep that constant watch? -- somenk it's a mix of of it is just the dark lesson of history really in that the president -- people want to do harm to him. myanything would ever happen organization and several others have decided we had to be there. we have to be in the motorcade, have to be near him should thing ever happened. think at the core. would almost talk about it, but that's part of it. isther part of it is that he
arguably the most important person in washington and how he spends his time is without a doubt almost always a public interest. there's very little that the it seems crazy and make some folks in the white house crazy but it is the truth of him being as important as he is and as public of a figure as he is. -- an awful lot organizations have come up with is very elaborate systems make sure the just about everything he says and does is done under some oversight. it can become obligated.
>> many people ask why you keep it up in one of those people is the president himself. are there times when -- you spend a lot of time in the white house for 18 years. are there times when you're watching the president's in keeping up with his daily schedule, are there things that you learn just from being there? >> oh my gosh yes. you're not going to learned from the public schedule. i remember be there recently i was walking into the white house and i thought people coming out of the white house and look mostly it was congressional leaders. and their families. i sit with you doing here? they said we met with president. i said what committees are you on? they told me i sent him.
instance, i was told to turn my phone off. we only have our volunteer because we need to find out our source could be telling us something going on. someone inside the white house could be telling us. we are 20 47. it's all about anything presidential. being there you get a chance to talk to the newsmakers and the president. when they see you it's about trust and relationship. if they trust you and feel that they can talk to you they will give you information on breaking news. you might even get a chance to talk to the president. it's important enough building and it's not a kind place. claustrophobic need not apply. i'm in a room that looks like a phone booth.
remember the red london phone you would literally call and him dictate the story from a phone booth. and you would have to pick a handset up and dial and it didn't have electricity. your point was that it's getting a sense of what's happening. so people attacked the president was talking about only come out? a lot of things only come out their children to say anything. but if your reporter worth her salt and you can pick up the phone and they will talk to you on their cell phone. it is important to be there. it's important to be seen and be part of the next.
important to be in the pool and be with the white house press corps because you are only as good as your last story. if you're not moving a story forward or dancing a story, white house. the best of the best and if you're not doing what you're supposed to be get out of there. there's analysis available all over television. it's really important and valuable. very often it starts with what is the cannot of the white house. very often it's just as simple as the president looks down today. why was he upset? i just remember the body language being important. done wasting that was
very intuitive. the white house press the time was very close to the president. when he personally seemed educated are frustrated i thought that's a reflection of something. mile of a couple of extra -- phone calls. history sometimes comes from just your impressions of being there. costa is someone who is great at breaking through the white house. as you know this white house is very adapt at corrupting the message. the job of a reporter is to take just what the newsmakers saying and retelling. talk about how you do that.
in the run-up to that speech, they allowed us to draw a comparison with jfk back in the early 1960's. we were saying oh this is going to be like jfk going up to american talk about how the united states a burden. what the president and doing is delivering a very partisan speech still recall he went after the republicans and said they were common cause with the terrorists and i remember the myt day thinking to myself goodness we just fell for this
span that they were putting out there that this is going to be like jfk when really the president with about their and deliver this partisan speech that he can rally the democrats to thehim area opposition within the party. thinking we really need to call them out on this. we did that story that evening we pointed out that this president has been saying we need a better kind of politics in this country and here he goes up to american university leading us to think is going to deliver the staircase else between really he went after republican to say there were just like the ayatollahs in iran. i use that example to show that sometimes we can solve the skin. example, in the white house briefing room i think that's the best place to try to copy this them.
your little careful because those of us to sit in the front row and annoy people sitting behind us because can ask too many questions and take too long. april knows this. --re's a pretty good job of they sit in front row april sits in the third row. next sometimes that first question you have you will get the talking points. the first enters the talking points like no problem with coming in and directing that line of questioning somewhere else that i'm not getting the answer that i need. our number one day the day that they did not have someone in charge of the ebola response and i was there going back and forth saying who's in charge and the next day or two it felt like laser beams coming out of their eyes area they were not happy about it.
we would like to be friendly with these people but it's not like ron goldman go to bed with them. buddies. we are there to hold their feet to the fire at will people accountable. >> i want to piggyback on something you said on ebola. you failed to state that we ask questions and that question for veterans the fact that there became and is all despicable ebola czar so i want to give you credit for that. at the same time our questions a lot of times object policy. we ask questions. it's typical will find out the people are saying. will throw question to them. we're last one to find out and do a little more research area sometimes it does shape policy area >> they realize there's nobody in charge. >> they were talking about shutting down --
we had something we've never seen before ebola coming from west africa into this nation. people getting infected people it was a major situation. i hate to put this out there but cameras rolling them as well. if they don't like what you're saying. you will get an e-mail from the white house. >> or phone call. >> and maybe some language that i cannot use here is banned. but it can be tough. you have that fixed in going in there. in skin need not apply. you know your again. you also need to have alligator skins late. >> that's a good piece of wisdom
for anyone who aspires to work in washington. alligator skin is really health all. i want's a minute and ask you start using a little bit about the questions you might like to panel because the moment will open up those microphones and you can come let us know it's on . moment and just -- we've been talking about how you do your job and you turn now to talk about what that means for readers and viewers. and for not just for americans but for people around the world were trying to understand the presidency. this is actually a pretty good representation of the white house press for fear. if three women and an african-american we have even american i come from a very conservative part of the country kathleen is from minnesota.
you think that kind of diversity is important to the press corps? you think that the makeup of the press for asking questions makes a difference in what people learn and read? >> absolutely. -- every day there is everything where we also down and require questions of white house and a lot of the questions are predictable there's over the news of the day that a lot of our reflection of what the reporters in the room nolo without care little bit about the way that they are frames sometimes has to do with the personal experience. you are -- you do bring that to the job. it comes through in a very public way in terms of what the white house has answer for and respond to.
that matters. it shapes worries shapes policies. it's -- it's good for the state of media in this country to look at who represents them. i think especially in the campaign setting that people from all over the country to understand a little bit about the midwest in ohio or florida or whatever is the place that were also representing to be experts on and how they can ago. not that they actually been. i spent a lot of time in nevada covering the latino community there and i was sort of booming rise of a growing city. we further from some of the experiences of some of the people in ohio where we spend a lot of time campaigning in general elections.
the rest of knowledge you have to bring that to your reporting. it matters a lot. >> you've written and thought. deeply about this. how the press for cover the first african-american president smart >> i think the press corps -- we overcome. the first african-american president of the benefit added rascher on this or send area i believe -- and just going to say it cannot be first and forcing us because he's african-american i'm looking at this as a journalist who is been there. i've seen how we come together as a group and also cover as a group. sometimes he is not place in the best light sometimes he is a stimulus light. a majore that there is
hypersensitivity because he is african-american, this achingly bellicose issues in the black community. race and politics will always saw theim area that we first term in this white house was very cognizant of the fact that because of the unique nature of him as president they had to navigate the waters strategically. harping the white house press were -- especially when he made that slip that he did mean what he wanted talk about issues he went by our investment said that instead of doing the talking points. the media jumped on that and then they jumped on beer. as much of that until the trayvon martin issue area and now we see totally different president. second term barack obama is
different. the media is counting on it more but not more it'salso for the greater good because we are now being what the african-american community has been talking about for a very long time this tension. it's not saying that you don't support law enforcement were supposed as law-enforcement. but there is some bad policing. and now it's being caught on tape. in one sense it's a good thing because helping to pull people to the fire. but at the same time unfortunate guest to be held at a different level of different data median of public. as president of all-america. >> you think this change that you're describing -- starting a criminal justice reform area you are alluding to the discussions that he promoted concerning how
police relate to their communities. feelsese changes that he -- do you think these are changes that are a result of the fact that he is now the end of his second term he does not have a political price pay? as is more to do with the fact that americans of all around the world know who he is now besides just the first african american president. when a great deal about him based on his record. like one because he is an african-american where he became president or center is a black man in america is. a lot of this. the first lady expressed in rest of area to their a lot of variables. some days he plans on this is a talk about but a lot of these issues his largely they made it to the desk of the president speak. thate watching the news
you are doing. trayvon martin happened the crowds came out. baltimorew -- i'm in freddie gray situation the rights involved visit the road in ferguson. the white house response to what america's aim. i think you respond as president but also because he is a black second term he has nothing to worry about. we've seen a totally different barack obama. we're seeing a totally different person. i do think there is a different standard for him. they understand it. pity them or? with the political climate to do more? that something you into the equation as well. it is what it is at this point. excellent ask you a related question. your father is an immigrant from you both. you come in his job is the
cuban-american. this this matter to you? you think of matters for your viewers and readers? for example on the last few months you've written about -- you had talked about the opening of relations with cuba. that's a story you brought a certain perspective or life experience to. that picture coverage? >> yes my dad emigrated to this country and 62, 3 weeks before the cuban missile crisis. my hot to was already here in miami was reading the newspaper that this does not look good. she got on a pan am flight and they cut out. that's how they came over. i sometimes referred to dad is one of the original dreamers. he over when there were not a lot of what immigrants in this country.
as was telling a program before we get started here changed his name to aj. there were no jobs in miami. in my grandmother lived up to november virginia to the d.c. area. historyave that human personal history that you bring to the table when you're doing this. we have a presidential candidate out there right now who recently said that the mexicans who are coming into this country are rapists and killers set eyes and some of them are nice people. imagine if the president were to say that from the oval office. think these are questions that people have to think about. one of the promises he made millions he was running for president was immigration reform. here we are having happened. he didn't do any of the super
majorities in congress. you do think about all those things. on the policy of luck, i just never thought something like this would ever take place. you thisoes to show was one of those things where i thought let's wait till the second term. let's wait until legitimate terms of the second term. there might be small surprises. the politics of it are very interestingly to this. you may go to cuba. the white house is that we don't without. remake of havana the thing is done area april and i will be fighting to get on a plane first. that will be held the story. >> i will have a cuban cigar. >> i will take that picture and tweeted.
this president has definitely shown a willingness to executive orders on immigration being a perfect example. your point is really well taken that we have 70 month left to go and he still has a lot of latitude. he still checking things off the list. when he runs out of things he can do with congress, there are things he can do strictly on his own authority. they took my phone when i came in here, so i don't know what time it is. timemebody watching the for me? if somebody from the washington center could get in my field a view and give us a sense -- our two-minuten warning is. time forn: we've got questions. i'm going to invite you to come to the microphone, one or two do people just to get us started on each side. this is exciting. mr. ta