From: Fritze, John [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, October 2, 2015 5:18 PM
To: Allen, Jessica L. EOP ; Barnes, Desiree N. EOP
Subject: Pool report #2 Duncan
President Obama entered the State Dining Room at 3:41 p.m. to announce the resignation of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The president took six questions after speaking about Duncan, including on Syria, gun control, the debt ceiling and Joe Biden’s potential presidential candidacy.
Reporters occupied the back rows of seating; with the front occupied by folks here for the Duncan event, including Education Department officials and family. Duncan and Deputy Secretary John B. King Jr. stood to Obama’s right. Also spotted: Denis McDonough, Shaun Donovan, Valerie Jarrett.
The event was open, but here are a few highlights:
Obama opened with the jobs report and government funding, warning he would not sign another short-term CR.
“These long term trends are obviously good news,” the president said, “but we would be doing even better if we didn’t have to keep on dealing with unnecessary crises in Congress every few months.”
Obama moved on to the recently signed CR, noting it sets up another showdown two weeks before Christmas.
“I will not sign another short-sighted spending bill like the one Congress sent me this week,” he said.
On to questions:
On Syria, Obama rejected the idea that Russia has offered a viable option to address the conflict. He said he warned Putin in their meeting of entering into a “quagmire” in Syria. “We reject Russia’s theory that everybody opposed to Assad is a terrorist,” Obama said.
“Mr. Putin had to go into Syria not out of strength, but out of weakness,” Obama said, a theme he returned to several times. “Iran and Assad make up Mr. Putin’s coalition at the moment. The rest of the world makes up ours.”
Obama said Iran and Syria have been “propping up a regime that is rejected by an overwhelming majority of the Syrian public.”
“This is not a contest between the United States and Russia,” Obama said. “We’re not going to make Syria a proxy war between the United States and Russia.”
On guns, Obama was asked to respond to Bush comments on Oregon shooting: “I don’t even think I have to react to that. I think the American people should hear that and make their own judgments.”
“The main thing that I’m going to do is I’m going to talk about this,” Obama said, reiterating his vow to “politicize” the issue. Obama said that gun control proponents must be as organized and aggressive as those on the other side of the issue. “Unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem,” Obama said.
“The politics has to change.”
Also, “Let’s not forget this is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country.”
On debt ceiling, Obama said “we’re not going back there,” in reference to past showdowns, and reiterated that “we’re not going to negotiate on that.” He noted meetings with congressional leadership on a broader budget deal. He said Boehner’s decision to step down complicated that effort, but said “there’s still a path for us to come up with a reasonable agreement.”
Regarding Clinton no fly zone for Syria, Obama said his former Secretary of State is “not half baked in terms of her approach to these problems” but that, “I also think there’s a difference between running for president and being president.”
On Biden’s decision: “I love Joe Biden. He’s got his own decision to make. And I’ll leave it at that.”
Regarding Duncan, King and the Ed. Department, which came at the top, before the Q&A.
Obama said he tried to get Duncan to stay, but that he knows “from personal experience how hard it is to be away from your family.”
“Arne bleeds this stuff. He cares so much about our kids,” Obama said.
Obama, calling Duncan a friend, noted that he is “my favorite partner in pickup basketball,” joking that he was a smart player, but slow. Obama noted accomplishments under Duncan’s tenure and called him one of the most consequential Ed secretaries in the nation’s history.
Duncan, tearing up as he spoke of his parents and family: “We know there’s so many other kids out there we know we can reach…I love this work, I love this team…The only thing I love more is you guys,” Duncan said to his family. “I can’t wait to come home...It’s been too long. It’s been an amazing, amazing journey.”
The event ended at 4:52 p.m. Obama shook some hands in the front row, and left the room.
The Baltimore Sun