Today's Qs for O's WH - 5/12/2009

TAPPER:  Two questions, Robert.  Thank you for calling on me. Vice President Cheney is continuing his media campaign talking about how he feels that the Obama administration's policies make the country less safe.  I'm wondering if you could specifically address the substance of what he's saying in terms of changing the interrogation policies and changing the storage of detainees at Guantanamo. I understand that you feel that this was bad public relations and inflamed people against the United States, but in addition to that, how do you know that Vice President Cheney is wrong?     GIBBS:  Well, I think there was -- without putting words in everyone's mouth, I think there's been some agreement across party lines that Guantanamo Bay has not made us a safer country.  I've seen remarks in the past few days -- I haven't -- I read part of what Vice President Cheney said this weekend.  I haven't seen updated comments. I don't know if that's what you're referring to.

You know, the president has taken action along needed to address our fundamental threat throughout the globe, and that is in Afghanistan and Pakistan to put a renewed focus on the exact location of where extremists have targeted this country.  They targeted it in 2001 in operations there, and we have no reason to believe or no intelligence to suggest that that planning doesn't continue in both of those countries.

That's why the president, throughout the campaign, discussed the importance of focusing on those two countries.  And that's why you've seen his actions in moving more of our precious resources and troops to Afghanistan to address Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and its extremist allies. I think that's the best way to keep this country safe is to -- is to go at the terrorist threat, something that the previous administration didn't do.     TAPPER:  OK.  The second question on a completely different topic.     GIBBS:  Uh-huh.     TAPPER:  The president opposed same-sex marriage, but he supports giving same-sex couples the same rights as married couples.     GIBBS:  And benefits.     TAPPER:  And benefits -- same rights and benefits.  What's your response to critics of this policy who say this is exactly separate but equal?     GIBBS:  Well, I would point you to any number of times that he was asked this during the campaign and addressed it.     TAPPER:  I don't think he was ever asked is this separate but equal.     GIBBS:  No.  In fact, it was asked on multiple occasions, and I can pull you something on that.  It's the president's belief -- he strongly supports civil unions and supports ensuring that they have access to the rights and benefits such as hospital visitation and things like that that are enjoyed by others. ** Note: the White House quickly provided this example from an August 9, 2007 forum sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign where then-Sen. Obama was asked about his position on same sex marriage being essentially "separate but equal." JOE SOLMONESE: Can you see to our community where it, that comes across as sounding like "separate but equal"? SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, you know, when my parents got married in 1960, '61, you know, it would have been illegal for them to be married in a number of states in the South. So obviously, this is something that I understand intimately, it's something that I care about. But I would also say this, that if I were advising the civil rights movement back in 1961 about its approach to civil rights, I would have probably said it's less important that we focus on an anti- miscegenation law than we focus on a voting rights law and a non- discrimination and employment law and all the legal rights that are conferred by the state.Now, it's not for me to suggest that you shouldn't be troubled by these issues. I understand that and I'm sympathetic to it. But my job as president is going to be to make sure that the legal rights that have consequences on a day to day basis for loving same sex couples all across the country, that those rights are recognized and enforced by my White House and by my Justice Department. - jpt

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