Below is a transcript of Senior White House Correspondent Major Garrett's questions with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs from today's briefing at the White House
GARRETT: Robert, you told us when asked earlier this week the president was not going to Massachusetts. What changed?
GIBBS: He got invited.
GARRETT: That's it? That's all that changed? You don't think that her prospects, Martha Coakley's, are better now than they were two or three days ago and there's more likelihood the president can be productive in this trip and not suffer any negative consequence if she doesn't lose...?
GIBBS: I think the president believes that it'll -- it'll be a productive stop, whether it was announced on Tuesday or now.We have an invitation from the Coakley campaign and we're going.
GARRETT: OK. And you never had one until today?
GIBBS: Til today.
GARRETT: How much has the president indicated to you and others to devote in his schedule next week to Haiti? Is this something that you are building in every day for the next week, next couple of weeks? Give us a sense of how he's indicated his personal involvement will continue...
GIBBS: Well, look, he wants to continue to be updated on our efforts. Obviously some portion of his daily intelligence briefing is dedicated to the situation in Haiti. He has received -- he continues to receive written updates throughout the day. I don't believe they were in the Situation Room last night. I think he received another lengthy paper briefing on that. As we described the meeting in the Situation Room a few nights ago, that -- the president believes it is -- our response to this is important for who we are as a country, for who we are as a good neighbor, and for American citizens that are there, as well as Haitians that have -- that have had to live through such devastation.
GARRETT: I talked to former President Clinton this morning and he said the next seven to 10 days could present some very tough things for Americans to watch despite the most aggressive efforts by the United States and other nations. He said there could be looting, there could be people literally dying in public in the street, not because no one wants to help them, because you can't move things to them. He said the country should be prepared for some very difficult things to see. Does the president agree with that and is there anything he's going to try to do to help the country understand that though he -- the U.S. government is trying to help and others are?
GIBBS: Well, I think in some ways he alluded a little bit to this in his remarks today. Obviously -- and I've -I've discussed, and he's discussed the physical challenges of the devastation and the challenge in taking resources that are arriving at a fairly steady rate at the airport and distributing them throughout the country, particularly in the capital. Obviously, it's taking -- I know a lot of you all have sent folks down there. It's taken awhile to get down there. People have driven from the Dominican Republic, and it's taken -- I saw somebody that said it had taken 10 hours to drive. Look, I think there is not doubt there are a tremendous number of -- of these challenges that we will see more and more of as we get deeper into the weekend, and certainly into next week.
Obviously, we -- I don't think any of the pictures have been easy to watch. I don't think any of them...
And I don't think they'll get easier to watch. Obviously, as we get farther away from the initial event, we'll have greater information on the toll in human lives. We will -- we will see the physical strains of having to try to move resources. I can assure you that the president has -- has asked Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen to do all that is in their power in moving those resources down and then ultimately in distributing those resources again. I think the lift capability that arrived from the USS Vinson and those 19 helicopters is a good start. We've got security at the airport. And, hopefully, with some smoothness can continue to get resources in, and then deal with how to get those resources distributed. I don't have any doubt, though, major that it is -- it is going to be a tough weekend in terms of what I think everyone will see, exceeded greatly by how tough it's going to be to be in Haiti this week.
GARRETT: Back on health care, there are revenue implications to this arrangement made and announced yesterday. The unions say it's $60 billion. I know in our briefing yesterday...the White House isn't committed to that figure. What I want to know is, is the president committed to recouping every dollar? And the fairness question not -- doesn't just apply to those who are now exempted, but to where that revenue will come from. Why should those who already -- and I presume it will be the wealthy in America, who are already facing higher taxes --Medicare and otherwise -- be asked to pay for that additional...
GIBBS: Well, look, I'd...
GARRETT: ... of setting aside something that -- that unionized workers will not have to face for an extra five years?
GIBBS: I think that some of the revenue questions are obviously part of the discussions that are ongoing. I will say this, the president has made a commitment and is a commitment that he'll keep to ensure that this legislation is fully paid for. Again, that's something that's a little different that's going on in Washington these days.
And more on the "secret" negotiations on health care...
GARRETT: I guess ... Robert is, we don't think we're the equivalent of C-SPAN. I mean, you said we've reported the story extensively. Everyone here agrees with that.
GARRETT: But that wasn't the standard that we heard in the campaign. The standard was different.
GIBBS: Look, the president believes that the standard of -- of people being able to see what's going on, to understand what is being discussed and the details that are available are...
GARRETT: Wait a minute. You had the unions in here, and nobody saw that?!
Major Garrett will on Special Report tonight about the Haiti situation and the White House response.