Today's Briefing Questions - Major Garrett

Transcript of Senior White House Correspondent Major Garrett's questions at the Nov. 5 White House briefing with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Topics: Afghanistan decision timing, H1N1, Cash for Clunkers

Garrett: Robert, is it safe to assume that since you're going to double check on the status of the Joint Chiefs meeting with the president that he will not make an announcement before he leaves for Asia? I just want to make...

Gibbs: I have not been told -- I have not been told that it won't happen, but won't happen, but...

Garrett: It's becoming increasingly unlikely that it will. That's a safe assumption. Correct?

Gibbs: I -- I -- I -- it is a safe assumption, understanding that it could change.

Garrett: OK. Do you have any guidance as to whether or not the country will know before Thanksgiving?

Gibbs: Just -- the only guidance I have is the next several weeks -- coming weeks.

Garrett: Back on H1N1, was it wrong for Wall Street firms to even request? And would the administration, more broadly say, "Look, if you're not in the priority category, don't ask?"

Gibbs: Well, look...

Garrett: Or was it wrong for the bureaucracy at the city level to give it out, getting what they would consider a legitimate request?

Gibbs: Well, the CDC has priority groupings for those that are likely to be most susceptible to this strain of flu and to the effects, obviously, that it can cause -- younger children, pregnant women, individuals that have -- are in homes with children that I think are under six months of age all comprise part of that priority group.

If there's anybody in that locality that fits that priority grouping that hasn't had or made available to them vaccine and others that aren't in that priority grouping are getting it, then, yes, that is -- that is a failing of the system that should work.

Garrett: And the word from the White House is if you're not on the list, don't ask. Is that correct?

Gibbs: We want everyone ultimately to be -- to have access to and get vaccinated. We want, though, first to establish -- CDC has -- that priority ordering so that those most susceptible to the effects of this illness are vaccinated first.

Garrett: Back to Gitmo, is it fair to say that the detainees are on a list?

Gibbs: I don't -- you'd have to ask the Pentagon of what -- what -- what their ultimate priority listing is. I don't know.

Garrett: How concerned is the administration that cash-for- clunkers in some respects turned out to be a cash for F-150 Ford trucks, that did not really demonstrably increase gasoline fuel efficiency?

Gibbs: Well, you couldn't get -- you could not get a -- you couldn't get the award unless the car you were turning in got a greater gas mileage than the -- the car that you were getting got a greater gas mileage than the car that you were turning in. That was written into the law.

I can get you final statistics for the amount -- the average amount, based on the cars that were purchased, what that ultimately saves in energy costs, in environmental costs, which ultimately mean our national security.

Garrett: It's OK?

Gibbs: Again, there -- there are certain benchmarks that are written into the law, and you don't qualify for -- you don't qualify for the money unless you meet the benchmarks in the law.

[Following up on President Obama's position on the House health care reform bill]

Garrett: Does that include or not include an explicit endorsement of the House bill?

Gibbs: Well, I don't know what he's going to say tomorrow because he hasn't said it.

Garrett: But you don't know?

Gibbs: I -- I haven't seen the remarks.

Garrett: But it's not his formulated position yet?

Gibbs: I haven't seen the remarks.

End Garrett questions.