White House press secretary Jay Carney was knocked on his heels during an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” trotting out old excuses for President Barack Obama’s lackluster economic record as Washington prepares for Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
Carney sat down for his first Sunday show interview — and a surprisingly tough one at that — with ABC’s Jon Karl. The reporter opened with a fastball, highlighting a new poll showing just 37 percent have confidence in Obama’s leadership. “How can the president lead when barely a third trust his ability to make the right decisions?”
“Jon, I think what we saw last year in 2013,” Carney began, “was a Washington that did not deliver for the American people. And the president sees this as a year of action, to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary, to lift folks that wanna come up into the middle class.”
Karl highlighted the president’s promises on minimum wage, immigration and gun control made during last year’s State of the Union speech. “None of that happened,” the reporter noted. “Isn’t this year only going to be harder?”
Carney blamed Capitol Hill. “Those were calls for action that involved Congress,” he said, explaining the president’s “disappointment” and claiming the White House is “optimistic” about the passage of “comprehensive” immigration reform in 2014.
Karl then pivoted to Obamacare’s dismal poll numbers:
KARL: Will it have been worth it if you lose the Senate? I mean, you already lost the House because of the healthcare law —
CARNEY: Look, I’ll tell you what —
KARL: Will it have been worth it politically?
CARNEY: Expanding access to quality and affordable health insurance to millions of Americans, reducing the growth of healthcare costs, which is happening at a rate —
KARL: Will it have been worth it if you lose the Senate? It’s a simple —
CARNEY: You know what? This is not about politics. So the answer is, it is absolutely worth it, no matter what happens politically —
KARL: Even if you lose the Senate.
CARNEY: Because what — and I tell you, I just disagree that — Republicans are going to have a winning issue if they decide to run on this, because they have to explain what repeal means.
Carney was also forced to deflect blame over the tottering American economy, echoing White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer by blaming the 2008 financial crisis — and by implication the prior administration — for rising income inequality and dismal workforce participation (RELATED: BROKEN RECORD: White House adviser blames economic woes on Bush administration policies).
“A lot of people were thrown into poverty by the worst recession since the Great Depression,” he claimed, “which was in full bloom when President Obama was sworn into office.”
“But the president’s had five years, Jay,” Karl pressed. “I mean, five years. The economic crisis is in the rear-view mirror. The Bush years are in the rear-view mirror. Doesn’t the president bear some responsibility — his policies — for the fact that the poverty rate in America has gone up, the gap between rich and poor is only greater?”
Carney suggested the president is caught in the jaws of historical circumstance. “The problem and the challenge that the president has identified has been one in the making for over thirty years,” he explained.
Finally, the White House Press secretary vehemently denied New York Times’ editor Jill Abramson’s contention that the Obama White House is the most secretive she has ever covered. “I strongly disagree with that statement,” he declared. “I know from experience that it’s wrong. We provide an extraordinary amount of information and access to reporters, and we work every day to provide more.”
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