Monday, October 31, 2011

Today: First Lady Travels To New Orleans For Let's Move! Event; Houston Fundraisers Cancelled

In Louisiana, a focus on early childhood intervention...First Lady Michelle Obama will visit New Orleans today for an 11:00 AM Let's Move! event at the Royal Castle Child Development Center, the first nationally-accredited day care center in the city, which serves more than than 100 children. Mrs. Obama had two DNC fundraisers scheduled after in Houston, Texas, but the White House announced on Monday that these have been canceled.

In New Orleans, Mrs. Obama's event will "highlight the importance of building healthy habits at a very young age," said the East Wing. "The Louisiana Children's Museum conducts East Sleep Play, an 11-week program at the center with children and parents focused on healthy eating and learning about good nutrition and physical fitness."

The program is actually called Eat Sleep Play, and is an arts-based health curriculum that was developed at the Children's Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) as part of a three-year pilot program to teach children, parents and caregivers how to eat healthy, get the right amount of sleep and lead an active lifestyle. CMOM staff have trained staff at the Louisiana Children's Musuem, who in turn have trained staff at Royal Castle Child Development Center.

In May of 2011, Mrs. Obama launched Let's Move Museums and Gardens, which focuses on using museums and public education facilities for her childhood obesity initiative. In June of 2011, Mrs. Obama launched Let's Move Childcare, which focuses on early childhood development.

One of the canceled Houston fundraisers Mrs. Obama was supposed to attend was at the River Oaks mansion of Laura and John Arnold, a billionaire and former Enron trader. Guests paid $10,000 to attend the evening reception, with couples paying $15,000. An earlier 5:30 PM reception cost $250 per ticket.
read more "Today: First Lady Travels To New Orleans For Let's Move! Event; Houston Fundraisers Cancelled"

Fit For Duty: White House Releases Results Of President Obama's 2011 Medical Exam

President is "tobacco free" and "fit at fifty"...has improved cholesterol numbers since his last physical...
The White House today released a report from President Obama's second periodic physical examination performed at the White House Medical Unit. The exam was performed last week by Dr. Jeffrey C. Kuhlman, a Navy captain and the Physician to the President, who led a team that put the President through his tests. The report was released with Mr. Obama's consent, and finds that the President is "tobacco free" and eats a healthy diet.  The report reveals an improvement in some formerly high cholesterol levels, noted in the President's previous medical exam, completed in February of 2010.

"The President is in excellent health and 'fit for duty.' All clinical data indicate he will remain so for the duration of his Presidency," Kuhlman wrote. "The President is current on all age-appropriate screening tests. He is 'fit at fifty' and 'staying healthy at 50+.' "

Mr. Obama turned fifty on August 4th, 2011. He is six feet 1 inches tall and weighs 181.3 pounds. He has a Body Mass Index of 23.9 kg/m2, which puts him in the "normal" category. His pulse is 67 bpm, while his heart rate is 107/71. His temperature is 97.7 degrees.

All physical systems were noted as "normal," and the President's lip laceration, acquired from a thrown elbow during a basketball game last year, is "well healed." One procedure that was done during the exam: The President had "benign skin tags" removed from his neck. He has 20/20 vision, though "mild myopia and astigmatism" are present, but do not require correction.

The President has stopped smoking, and his report lists him as "tobacco free," but there is no nicotine replacement therapy listed among the medications he uses, though he is frequently seen chewing gum. He is physically active--loads of golf and basketball, as well as self-reported treadmill use--and "eats a healthy diet."

The First Lady does not allow him to have "second or third helpings" at mealtimes, the President said this weekend. Mr. Obama "on occasion drinks alcohol in moderation," according to the report.  He's a big fan of candy, for the record.  And chicken wings.  And oh yes, burgers...

A diabetes screen proved normal, with blood glucose of 85 mg/dl. A Colorectal cancer screen performed on Feb. 28, 2010 was negative, and a Prostrate cancer screen, performed at "informed patient request," was PSA 0.80 ng/mL.

The President's cholesterol levels, a subject of national attention in February of 2010, have improved. His total cholesterol went down from 209 to a current level of 193 at the time of the exam, while his LDL cholesterol went from 138 to 110, which is considered in the normal range. Optimal is under 129. He is not on cholesterol medication.

The President's HDL cholesterol rose from 62 to 69, which is a positive uptick. The President's VLDL cholesterol went from 9 to a current level of 14.

The President's cholesterol to HDL ratio went from 2.8 in February of 2010 to a current level of 3.4.

The President has "rare use" of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, "associated with episodes of strenuous physical activity." He takes ant-Malarial drugs "associated with travel to areas of malaria." Recommended "routine, global travel, and influenza immunizations are up-to-date."

The exam was performed with participation of consultants from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Dr. Kuhlman recommends the President's next physical take place in December 2012.

*Photo of President Obama in Denver, CO, by Pete Souza/White House
read more "Fit For Duty: White House Releases Results Of President Obama's 2011 Medical Exam"

First Lady Celebrates 50th Anniversary Of The White House Historical Association

Caroline Kennedy and members of other First Families attend reception...
President Obama and First Lady Obama have made plenty of White House history since 2009, from creating new policy to making bricks-and-mortar changes to the most famous address in America (not least of which is Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden). Today, the First Lady hosted an afternoon reception celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The White House Historical Association, which has played a crucial role in preserving the Presidential residence. Former First Daughter Caroline Kennedy and representatives from other First Families joined Mrs. Obama at the 3:30 PM event. (Above: Mrs. Obama and Kennedy wait in the Green Room before entering the reception to make remarks)

The reception was closed to press, though the non-profit organization, chartered in 1961, plays a vital role in educating the public about the White House, as well as recording its unique history. First Lady Jackie Kennedy was crucial to both restoring many parts of the White House and establishing the WHHA, which has published and distributed more than eight million books about the White House, as well as videos and other educational materials.

A special exhibit for the 50th Anniversary, "Something of Splendor," is devoted to Decorative Arts from the White House, and opened on Oct. 1 at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, located across the street from the White House campus. If you are visiting Washington, DC, the gorgeous exhibition is a must-see, with pieces on display that have never been outside of the Residence. It runs through May of 2012. Information is here.

"Thousands of schools, universities and libraries have received free educational materials about the White House, and traveling exhibits and videos are circulated to the presidential libraries and museums," noted the East Wing in its announcement of Mrs. Obama's reception.

*Photo by Lawrence Jackson/White House
read more "First Lady Celebrates 50th Anniversary Of The White House Historical Association"

Trancript: Press Briefing For President Obama's Trip To Cannes For G20 Summit

On Wednesday night, Nov. 2, President Obama leaves the White House to travel to Cannes, France to attend the G20 Summit. Below, the transcript of the briefing by Administration officials for members of the media. The Cannes G20 is the fifth G20 the President will have attended since taking office.

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 31, 2011



James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

10:36 A.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. Happy Halloween. Thanks for being here for our off-camera gaggle previewing the President's trip later this week to the G20. I have with me today someone you all know, Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications. I also have on my left the Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs Lael Brainard; and on my right the Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman.

I have them here to discuss, as I said, the President's upcoming trip, take your questions on that trip. I will remain after they leave to take your questions on other issues if you have any.

And with that, Ben, I'll turn it over to you.

MR. RHODES: Good morning, everybody. Trick or treat there. Feel free to take two pieces.

So we want to talk a little bit about the President's trip to the G20 today. I'll just start by giving a bit of an overview of the schedule as it currently stands, and then turn it over to these guys to dig deeper into the issues that will be discussed in Cannes.

We'll be leaving here Wednesday night to fly to France. After we arrive, we'll have two bilateral meetings in the morning, first with President Sarkozy of France, and then with Chancellor Merkel of Germany. These are obviously the two largest economies in the eurozone and two leaders that the President has been in very close contact with over the last weeks and months about the issues that will be discussed at the G20 and about the situation in the eurozone. So these will be important meetings for him to have consultations with these leaders before the G20 commences. And Mike and Lael can speak a little bit more about those issues.

Following those meetings he will also have a meeting with the L20, the international labor leaders who will be in Cannes as a part of the G20 program. And then that afternoon we head directly into the G20 schedule. And the G20 schedule for that afternoon includes a working lunch and then a number of sessions and a working dinner. So the rest of the day on Thursday will be taken up with the G20 schedule.

Then Friday morning, we will complete the G20 with a number of sessions in the morning and early afternoon. Following the conclusion of the G20, the President will be able to meet with President Kirchner of Argentina. She was recently reelected, as you may know, and this is an important opportunity for the U.S. and Argentina to discuss our relationship going forward and to congratulate her on her reelection.

Following that meeting, the President will have a press conference, as he usually does at the end of the G20. And then we may have additional opportunities to spend some time with President Sarkozy. We're working that out as well.

If there are additional meetings that emerge on the margins of the G20, we'll, of course, let you know about them either before or during the sessions. The President often has opportunities to speak to his counterparts at these summits.

And with that, I'll turn it over to Mike to talk through some of the issues, and then we'll go to Lael, and then we'll take your questions.

MR. FROMAN: Thanks, Ben.

Well, as you all know, this is the -- Cannes will be the fifth G20 that President Obama attends. In Pittsburgh, the leaders agreed to make the G20 the premiere forum for global economic cooperation and it's already established a solid track record of action.

In London, as you may recall, the G20 countries deployed their combined fire power to deal with the crisis of 2008-2009. In Pittsburgh, the G20 launched the framework for strong, balanced and sustainable growth. In Toronto and Seoul, the G20 elaborated on that framework and launched work programs into new areas like anticorruption and development.

The G20 agenda is critical to growing our economy here back at home, to strengthening the recovery, to increase exports and to create jobs. And as the President said in his op-ed last week, the U.S. plays a leadership role in strengthening the global recovery. To promote near-term growth and job creation, the President of course has proposed the American Jobs Act, but he's also proposed the framework to put our medium-term public finances in stronger, more sustainable footing as well. And together we think this approach of spurring job creation and growth in the near term and meaningful deficit reduction in the medium term represents the best insurance policy to protect the U.S. economy.

In Cannes, we expect the eurozone to be the primary focus of discussion, but in addition, the leaders will focus on mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure strong, balanced and sustainable growth. They'll talk about the next stages of financial regulatory reform, and they'll talk about how to keep momentum going on G20 priorities on common global challenges -- everything from development for security and infrastructure, as well as the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, fighting corruption, and strengthening the multilateral trading system consistent with our interest.

These summits, like any summits, really have three purposes: One, they're action-forcing events to make decisions; they are ongoing processes for getting work done below the leader level; and they’re an opportunity for leaders to engage directly with their counterparts on the issues of the day.

And let me say, in many respects, the Cannes G20 has already been an important success as being a catalyst for the decisions that Europe took last week to deal with its crisis. Obviously, there's more discussion to be had among leaders about the next steps in that process to include the fleshing out of the details and their full implementation. But that’s the context in which the President goes to Cannes.

And let me turn it over to Under Secretary Brainard.

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: Against a backdrop of renewed global risks, there is growing agreement around the world that the focus at Cannes needs to be on growth, safeguarding the fragile recovery, and laying the foundation for stronger, more balanced growth will, therefore, be the core of our economic agenda in Cannes.

President Obama remains intensely focused on putting Americans back to work. Recovery in the U.S. remains fragile and still too vulnerable to disruption beyond our shores. Pro-growth policies in the near term and meaningful deficit reduction in the medium term provide the best insurance policy to protect the U.S. recovery from global risks.

President Obama goes into Cannes on the heels of signing three new trade agreements that are at the center of our growth agenda by securing new markets for U.S. goods and services exports. And we’re going to continue in the weeks ahead seeking opportunities to capitalize on the export-led engine of growth and job creation that’s central to the recovery, advancing the President’s national export initiative goal of doubling exports in five years.

President Obama will also continue his close engagement with European leaders in Cannes, working together to safeguard the global recovery. The comprehensive plan agreed by European leaders last week will lay a critical foundation for a durable solution to the euro area crisis. The plan contains all the right elements: building a more powerful firewall to overwhelm the markets and protect sovereigns so they have access to affordable financing as they reform; ensuring European banks have the liquidity and the capital cushions they need to maintain the full confidence of depositors and creditors; charting a sustainable path forward for Greece to support crucial fiscal and structural reforms; and ensuring member states are pursuing sound economic policies to address the root causes of today’s crisis. We are looking forward to hearing more at Cannes about the further elaboration and implementation of these elements.

Obviously, the challenges facing Europe have significant implications for the U.S. economy and for the global economy. The EU is a critical anchor of global stability, and our single-largest trading partner. Fortunately, Europe has the resources and the capacity to overcome these risks. We’ll continue to support our European allies in their efforts to address this crisis, alongside the IMF and our G20 partners. We also welcome Japan’s recent initiatives to support growth by accelerating expenditures in its third supplemental budget, and through implementation of its national growth strategy.

With weak demand in advanced economies, emerging markets, especially those with large surpluses, have substantial capacity to support growth by pivoting more rapidly to a pro-growth strategy driven by domestic consumption. Recall in Pittsburgh, the leaders of the G20 recognized that an unbalanced global recovery will be neither strong nor durable.

In China and other surplus emerging-market economies, allowing exchange rates to appreciate to reflect market forces is the most powerful near-term tool to accelerate the shift to domestic consumption, while countering inflationary pressures.

And finally, the G20 will press forward with financial reform. In Cannes, we’ll seek agreement on a new global margin standard on uncleared derivatives trades to create incentives for central clearing while pushing forward on standardization of derivatives, exchange trading and trade reporting. These efforts are critical to ensure international coherence and greater oversight of capital markets.

We also expect the G20 leaders to move forward on important reforms for the largest, most interconnected financial institutions, including adopting a new standard for resolution regimes so that large cross-border firms can be resolved without severe disruption or taxpayer exposure to loss. We’ll also ask these firms to hold higher capital buffers so that they can withstand future shocks without imposing costs on the economy.

This builds on a host of initiatives to ensure the largest financial institutions bear their fair share of the burden and are discouraged from the risky behavior that led to the crisis.

Stronger and more balanced growth, financial stability, these will be the key touchstones for the G20.

MR. CARNEY: Great. If we can take your questions. Ben?

Q Thanks, Jay. I had two questions for Lael, please. The firewall that you mentioned, how confident is the United States that the European countries will be able to achieve that? It’s expected to be $1.4 trillion. And will the United States either directly or indirectly be contributing any money to that?

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: Let me just say that the announcements that European leaders made last week were very significant. We are going to hear more about the details of how they move forward on the four elements, including on the firewall. So we look forward to hearing more about the elaboration and implementation of those initiatives at Cannes. And of course, we are, along with other members of the G20, going to stand with Europe and support Europe. Europe has substantial resources that it can bring to bear to address the challenge and we have a lot of confidence that they will do so.

Q When you say you stand with them and support them, will there be any U.S. financial commitment?

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: The U.S., as you know, went through a number of important decisions on its own during our financial crisis, and we have been very engaged with Europeans, sharing our experiences during the crisis where we, ourselves, took quite decisive and overwhelming action to address the financial disruptions to our own economy. And so we'll continue talking with Europe about those.

The IMF also has played an important role, and through it the United States will continue to support Europe. The IMF, as you know, received substantially greater resources, at our behest and with our support, back in 2009, and those resources are largely available today to support Europe and other countries as they confront financial volatility and as they mount plan to restore stability in the euro area.

Q -- if I could follow up. Do the Europeans really have the luxury of spending weeks, if not months, to flesh out the details of this plan, is my first question. And I'd like to follow up on something else as well.

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: Well, I think as Mike noted earlier, European leaders came together. They used the G20 summit in Cannes as a action-forcing event. They came together on a comprehensive plan with the four key elements to address their crisis, and they will continue, I believe, moving quickly to elaborate and implement the four elements. And we expect to hear more about those details and the implementation at Cannes.

Q Okay. And to follow up, the Bank of Japan was intervening in currency markets overnight. You talked about the need for currencies to appreciate for emerging economies that have surpluses. But are you concerned over Japan intervening to prevent the rise of the yen? That sends a potentially conflicting signal to that desire to see currency fluctuate freely.

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: So the G7 reaffirmed in September its commitment to market-determined exchange rates. In the absence of disorderly conditions or excessive volatility, that remains our position. And in the G20 discussions, we do expect that as we look at the rebalancing agenda, emerging market economies that have surpluses will continue to move forward on their commitments to rebalance demand by allowing their exchange rates to appreciate in line with market forces, which is the most powerful tool they have to encourage the pivot to domestic consumption-led growth.

Q Dr. Brainard, what -- or, Mr. Froman, what message will the U.S. deliver to Europe about their interest in China helping to make up some of the bailout fund?

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: So let me just broaden out that question a little bit. You'll remember that, in Pittsburgh, it was President Obama that led the initiative to make the G20 the premiere forum for international cooperation to strengthen growth and to secure more balanced growth. And that was because he saw then the importance that these economies, the emerging markets, would play in coming years in the global economy. So it is, I think, important that we have all the countries around the table, including key emerging markets. And China and other emerging markets -- like us -- have a tremendous interest in seeing European stability and confidence return, and European growth return.

So all of us are going to work together to support European efforts. It's very much in all of our interests to see them return to stability and growth.

Q The U.S. has made it clear that we want -- or this administration wants Europe to bail out Europe.

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: Well, let me just say again, we are all working with Europe. It's very much in all of our interests. But Europe has substantial capacity, substantial resources, and, indeed, they've indicated that they are going to bring those resources to bear. So we will stand with other members of the G20. We'll continue to support the IMF having a very important role working with Europe as Europe takes steps to address its own crisis.

Q Are you saying it's okay with the U.S. if China contributes a significant sum to that bailout fund?

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: I think that we will have a variety of conversations in Cannes about steering the global economy to a stronger place, and we'll have members of the G20 sitting around the table that make contributions such as -- in the case, for instance, of some of the emerging market surplus economies, they have a tremendous contribution they can make through their own domestic consumption and through pivoting to domestic consumption-like growth. We’ll all stand together with the IMF, but again, Europe has substantial resources to bring to bear to the problem.

And the IMF is much better resourced than it was in 2009 because of our efforts in 2009. Back in 2009, compared to today, I think the IMF has four times greater resources to deal with any crisis around the world than we saw back in 2009. But we will have a set of conversations, and we will work together with other countries to support Europe and to support the global recovery.

Q This is for Ben. You were talking about this meeting with President Kirchner. So the relationship between the two countries has not been particularly good in the past months, so I would like to know what you are expecting there. I mean, do you expect, for example, any engagement from Argentina concerning the point that has been the burden in the relationship in the past months?

MR. RHODES: Well, certainly there have been ups and downs in the U.S.-Argentina relationship over the last couple of years. But we believe very much that when you have an election and you have a new mandate for a leader, that presents an opportunity to put the relationship on a stronger footing and to establish a basis for cooperation going forward.

So we very much view this as an opportunity following the reelection of President Kirchner to pivot on the relationship towards a more positive direction, and again, to cooperate with Argentina on issues in the hemisphere, our shared interest in economic growth and security in the Americas, as well as cooperating on global issues, Argentina, obviously, being a member of the G20 and many other forums where we have common interests.

So I do think it’s important to take advantage of this opportunity for the two leaders to come together after President Kirchner has won her new mandate and to, again, put the relationship on a stronger foundation and point a positive way forward coming out of the meeting between the two Presidents.

Q You talked about the shared experience you have with the Europeans. Do you feel like you have been listened to enough? And I would like also to know (inaudible) came out in support of the new transaction tax, the international financial transaction tax. Would you support that (inaudible)? And is that why you say that you need to see President Sarkozy again at the end of the G20, so is there a specific reason for that? Thank you.

MR. RHODES: I’ll take the last question first. Simply the fact that we are in France and President Sarkozy is the host, the President was interested in spending additional time with France as a key ally of the United States. So that's the principal reason why.

They’ll obviously have the bilateral meeting at the beginning that will be intensely focused on the G20 agenda. But again, we’ll keep you updated, but the thought was that the two Presidents, given their close personal relationship and the close alliance between the U.S. and France, would have some additional time together at the end of the summit.

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: We’ve had very extensive engagement with Europe and, of course, we worked closely with them during our financial crisis. I think President Obama has had a number of important conversations with his European counterparts, and we have shared back and forth some of the experiences we had during the crisis, and in particular, the need to move with overwhelming force.

With regard to discussions about getting the financial sector to bear their fair share of the burden, we’re very much in sync with Europe on their goal of ensuring both that the financial sector -- large financial institutions -- bear their fair share of the burden, but also that they're discouraged from taking the kind of risky behavior that led to the crisis. We’ve taken a number of steps and got started a little earlier here, as you know. We undertook stress tests back in 2009 and asked our largest financial institutions to materially increase their capital buffers, and they have. They’ve doubled their capital since that time.

The President has also put forward a financial crisis responsibility fee that would be directed at the largest financial institutions that really impose the greatest costs on the economy. We think it’s pretty well designed to both deter the kind of risky behavior that led to the crisis, and to ensure that these large financial institutions and not retail investors bear their fair share of the burden.

MR. FROMAN: I would just add to it that we’re looking forward to hearing the full Bill Gates report, but our understanding is in fact, he’s looked at development finance, broadly, including the importance of developing countries mobilizing domestic sources of finance and creating enabling environments for attracting private sector investment; countries upholding their commitments to aid where there is a varying degree of success; and then a series of innovative financing techniques -- that being just one of several that he is suggesting are worth consideration. And we look forward to having that conversation about the array of things that could be done to support development.

Q You just partially answered the question I had. I understand that the development portion of the agenda is going to come up on the first day. What are President Obama’s goals for the issues of hunger, food security, the other humanitarian issues? And what are the prospects of that just simply going to get overwhelmed by the overriding issue of the debt crisis?

MR. FROMAN: Well, as you may recall, in L’Aquila three years ago, the President launched a food security initiative -- here in the United States it’s called Feed the Future -- and it mobilized over $20 billion of commitments from around the world. But more importantly -- or equally importantly to the overall commitment, was the agreement to have countries align their assistance programs with country plans to focus on increasing agricultural productivity and leveraging the private sector that had as much to do with changing the way we do development assistance, consistent with the President’s own development policies that he laid out about a year or so ago at the U.N. as it does with the mobilization of finance itself. So that will be very much on the agenda.

The Koreans added development to the G20 agenda last year. The French focused on food security and infrastructure in developing countries as the two priorities for this year. And the President looks forward to engaging with that, because he has been personally very much involved in both of those issues.

MR. CARNEY: Andrei.

Q Thank you. My question is to Ben. Ben, the Russians keep raising the possibility of the President’s visit to Moscow in December. Is such a possibility even considered at the White House? And if not, what are your plans for the upcoming bilaterals?

MR. RHODES: At this point, we don’t anticipate the President being able to travel to Russia this year, given a very aggressive schedule both domestically and then internationally. However, he will be, in addition to the G20, as you know, going to the -- hosting the APEC forum in Hawaii and then going to the EAS. And we certainly anticipate that we will have the opportunity to have the bilateral meeting with President Medvedev at one of those stops on the Asia Pacific trip. So we certainly believe he'll meet with President Medvedev bilaterally. We think it's unlikely that he'll be able to get to Russia this year.

Q Are there specific things the President is seeking at the G20 and in the bilaterals that you can talk about, and more generally, how you would judge the success of this trip at the end of it?

MR. RHODES: I'd say a couple of things, and would just offer Lael or Mike the opportunity to add to this.

As Mike said, the G20 is both an ongoing process and an action-forcing mechanism. The preeminent issue right now in the global economy has been the eurozone crisis. The steps that the Europeans took in announcing a comprehensive package in advance of the G20 was an important marker leading into the G20 to give confidence and to provide a way forward that could help stabilize the situation in Europe.

As Lael has said, there will be discussions about the ongoing implementation of that plan. And I think what we want to see is a G20 as a forum where the leaders of the world's largest economies can come together behind that plan and in support of it, to project, again, confidence in the efforts to address the situation in the eurozone and to move forward.

At the same time, we also see the G20 as an important place to focus on steps that countries are taking to foster both growth in the immediate term that can stabilize the global economy, and then the type of fiscal consolidation in the medium and long term that the United States is pursuing at home as well.

And then, lastly, it's, of course, an important forum to discuss a range of issues across the international agenda, be it development, be it the continued efforts to reform and modernize organizations like the G20 and others that address these global issues. But I think, as we've led into it, the President's conversations with his counterparts, particularly his European counterparts, have really focused on this question of, how do we deal with the eurozone crisis; what lessons do we have to offer from our own financial crisis, in which the U.S. took very robust action, again, to address a financial crisis in our country and also to help stabilize the global economy. And so those discussions will be ongoing as he talks to Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy, and then with his other leaders there.

So that's how I would frame it for you.

MR. CARNEY: Roger.

Q I'd like to go back to the transaction tax. Europe is going to be pushing it. I'm not clear on what the U.S. position is.

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: Well, again, I think Europe is in the middle of their own discussions within not just the euro area but within the EU more broadly. We're very much synched up with the goal of assuring that the largest financial institutions, whose risky behavior led to our financial crisis, bear the burden of the costs associated with it, and also have disincentives to engage in that kind of behavior. So we've put in place a number of elements that we think are very powerful in that direction, including, as I mentioned earlier, asking them to hold much thicker capital cushions. We'll have agreement, we think, at the G20 on additional capital buffers for the largest financial institutions. But we've also put forward a financial responsibility fee.

As Europe is thinking through how to go forward on its own goals, they'll be going through the same thought process that we went through. And we put forward the fee because we think it's more important to put the burden on the largest financial institutions rather than shifting it to retail investors. We think that the financial responsibility fee, which is on the liabilities of the largest financial institutions, is well targeted to make those institutions that are bearing greater risk pay more. It is better targeted to prevent evasion. And the IMF went through a similar assessment exercise and came, frankly, to a pretty similar conclusion. But that said, looking forward to having the discussions with them; share very much the goal.

Q So the U.S. will not support it?

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: Again, we very much support the goal and --

Q I understand that the goal is --

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: -- look forward to having conversations about the best way to achieve that goal.

MR. CARNEY: Norah, then Jon-Christopher.

Q Hi. Can I ask you about whether you're concerned at all that China is being asked for 100 billion euros to bail out Europe? And will this G20 -- will the headline coming out of it be that this is a shift in economic power to Asia and Latin America?

MR. FROMAN: I would repeat something that Lael said earlier, which is that the whole idea of the G20 and the reason that President Obama insisted on it becoming the premiere forum for international cooperation is to recognize that emerging economies have an important role to play, commensurate with their size in the global economy; that they need to have a seat at the table, and that there are certain responsibilities that go along with having that seat at the table.

So the concept that China and other emerging economies are part of this discussion, that they will be there, along with ourselves and other industrialized countries, speaking with the Europeans, talking about the elaboration and the implementation of their plan, and expressing unity and support of what the Europeans are doing, we think is very much appropriate.

The U.S. is the largest economy in the world. We are a very important market to China and others. We continue -- this is the place that parents all over the world want to send their kids to university. We’re the center of innovation. We have a great network of alliances around the world that no other country has. People continue -- I’m struck -- in the G20 and the other forums that we're involved in, I’m struck by the degree to which other countries very much look to the U.S. for leadership, thought leadership and leadership on action, to ensure a way to resolve global problems.

Q So it doesn’t matter that China is being asked for a hundred billion euros, and that they’re going to bail out Europe -- might bail out Europe?

MR. FROMAN: As I said, I think the U.S. plays a critical leadership role, and we believe that having all the major emerging and developing countries around the table, along with the industrialized countries, talking about what’s important for the global economy is what the G20 is all about.

Q In light of the recent vote in Parliament last week regarding the level of involvement Great Britain will be having in the EU, will the President be speaking to Prime Minister Cameron? Will it be a bilateral? Is the President aware of this particular issue that’s going on -- conflict that’s going on in the UK right now?

MR. FROMAN: The President is very much aware of it, and I’m sure will have an opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Cameron over the course of their time together there.

Q So there’s no bilateral set up at the moment?

MR. FROMAN: There’s no formal bilateral set up at the moment.

MR. CARNEY: If we can just take a couple more for Lael and Mike.

Yes, sir.

Q There is a push in Europe to regulate credit rating agencies and essentially shield countries -- there are going through bailouts from adverse credit ratings. Is this going to be part of the regulatory reform discussion at the G20? And if so, what’s the U.S. position on it?

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: The G20 and the FSB have, to date, been very focused on credit rating agencies, but making sure that credit ratings don’t play an inappropriate role in terms of the supervisory process. And we’ve made a number of very strong commitments there to ensure that credit ratings are not used in a mechanical way but that supervisors are actively engaged.

So I would anticipate that conversations will continue along those lines. As you know, in the U.S., under the Dodd-Frank Act, the Dodd-Frank Act has very strong provisions so that supervisors need to assess risk weights without relying, as they had previously, on credit ratings. So we’ve taken a number of very strong steps here to ensure that credit ratings play a more appropriate role. And so that is, to date, where the G20 and FSB discussions have been, and I anticipate they’ll continue in that vein.

Q I have two important follow-ups. First, my colleague from Bloomberg asked a pretty important question -- because the people on Wall Street do not know how to parse diplomatic-speak. And so you will probably roil the markets if your wording is not clear and concise. (Laughter.) So could you please tell us if the U.S. supports or opposes a transaction tax, number one.

Number two, to Norah’s question, Europe's relation with China has been reduced to mendicancy. They’re mendicants to China. You talk about talking about currency manipulation and China’s mercantilism. It sounds like an empty agenda item if Europe is going to China hat in hand. What kind of strong language can they expect out of the G20?

UNDER SECRETARY BRAINARD: So on the issue of how to get Wall Street to bear its fair share of the burden, how to ensure that the largest financial institutions do not again impose costs on the system through risky behavior, were very much in sync with Europe. Europe is having its own conversations about this issue. They are looking at a financial transactions tax, but there is a debate within the European Union, as you know, on this issue.

We’re very much aligned on the goal. We went through our own analysis and assessment. We put in place a number of things that we think are very tough and very effective, including having our institutions go through stress tests and requiring them to build capital, to double capital. We’re now going to require the largest institutions to build additional capital buffers. We put forward a fee -- a financial crisis responsibility fee that, again, we think is well targeted because it puts the burden on the largest institutions, yet disincents them from taking risky behavior that could be imposing costs on the economy. And we think that's an approach that works better than putting the burden on retail investors. We think it’s an approach that better addresses issues of evasion.

So again, we’re going to have that conversation with European friends and more broadly.

On the issue of what role we would want to see various emerging markets playing, I think it is, again, very much with our support and leadership that the major emerging economies are sitting at the G20, which is now the premiere forum for steering the global economy. They have critically important contributions to make in steering the global recovery.

And they have said in the G20, and we expect them to continue moving in their policies to contribute importantly by shifting to more domestic, consumption-led growth. Why? They're looking at the same numbers that we are. Demand is likely to be weak in the advanced economies for some time, so it’s very much in China’s own interest, as they know, and as you see in their own policies, to shift to domestic consumption-led growth, rather than relying on an outdated growth model based on net exports to advanced economies where demand is likely to be weak for some time. And the exchange rate plays the most powerful potential near-term role as a lever in helping that shift.

They will also be -- parts of the conversation in how we make sure that the IMF continues to be as strong as it possibly can be. And again, it has four times greater resources than it had going into the crisis in 2008-2009, when we moved forward on this very significant decision to up the resources.

So we look forward to having that conversation, and we think it’s very important that the emerging markets be central parts of that conversation.

MR. CARNEY: I want to thank Mike and Lael, and we’ll go on to other topics, if that's okay.

Thank you. Ann.

Q Tony Blair meeting, can you give us a --

MR. CARNEY: As we said when we announced it, there’s no set agenda. They’ll obviously talk -- discuss a number of topics. I don't have anything more specific on it for you.

Q And was the President aware that Qaddafi had kept his chemical weapons? Or were reports of chemical weapons being found in Libya a surprise?

MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of anything that's been reported that has surprised us out of Libya, but I can check on that for you.

Q Palestine is now a member of UNESCO. What’s our thinking about this? How does that affect Israel's relationship with the Palestinians --

MR. CARNEY: Today’s vote at UNESCO to admit the Palestinian Authority as a member is premature and undermines the international community’s shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Today’s vote distracts us from our shared goal of direct negotiations that result in a secure Israel and an independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security. I mean, not unlike the issues of membership, as we discussed, the path to peace is through direct negotiations, and we support measures that -- and steps that bring the two sides closer to direct negotiations, which is the only way to resolve the differences between them.

Anybody else? Yes, Victoria.

Q What was the reason for putting both David Plouffe and David Axelrod on the Sunday shows yesterday? I mean, generally speaking, if you're going to have --

MR. CARNEY: To see who did better. (Laughter.)

Q Well, I mean, usually you put one political strategist out there, but to put two out -- I mean, it was like two guns. It was just odd this early in the campaign to put two out there.

MR. CARNEY: We make decisions about who appears on which show based on not just our desires, but on the requests. Obviously, David Plouffe's role here in the White House is different from a role on the campaign, and he can address different subjects more broadly, and certainly did in his appearance.

Q Jay, you're announcing some new steps today on the We Can't Wait program regarding prescription drug shortages. Given that there's pending legislation in Congress and, if I understand, only today is the White House actually endorsing that, why is it necessary to move forward unilaterally from this end if you're just now endorsing what Congress is doing?

MR. CARNEY: Well, our endorsement hasn't determined whether or not Congress acts on a piece of legislation, first of all. As we have said throughout this initiative and in general, the President looks to ways he can use his executive authority to, broadly speaking, help Americans who can be helped through actions that this administration can take -- whether it's helping underwater homeowners refinance their loans, take advantage of these historically low mortgage rates, or students ease the burden of their student loans, or, in this case, speed access -- or ensure that there are not shortages of -- try to ensure that there are not shortages of very, very important drugs for Americans who may be in great need of them.

So we will continue to take these actions as the President determines them, because we can't wait for Congress to act -- whether it's on legislation to take on this problem or on the American Jobs Act, the provisions therein that the Congress, thus far, has refused to pass -- the Republicans in Congress have refused to pass in the Senate. We hope that changes as more votes are taken in the Senate, because there is no more urgent priority than the need to grow the economy and create jobs here in America.

Yes, Scott.

Q How is the White House going to keep that focus on the economy during this short G20 trip within the longer --

MR. CARNEY: Well, both of these trips are all about economic growth, global as well as domestic economic growth. The President has said repeatedly, as have I and others, that the crisis in the eurozone has a direct effect on the American economy. It is why it's so important that Europeans implement the important decisions that they made last week, and why the G20, as a forcing mechanism, was so important and continues to be so important. The President is obviously a leader in that forum.

That will be the case when he goes to the Asia Pacific region and participates in both APEC and the EAS and other -- has other meetings that are directly related to the need to expand global markets to grow the economy in that region of the world. And that has great benefit to American markets and to American workers.

And I would also simply say that we will continue to press the agenda on all fronts while the President travels, both from wherever he is and here back in the United States.

Yes, Mark.

Q On the announcement -- I'm sorry -- are the Republicans obstructing this in some fashion?

MR. CARNEY: Well, the question here isn't -- it's not about a contrast, necessarily. It's simply about action. Action needs to be taken; action hasn't been taken on the Hill. So the President has the authority to take this action, so he will take it because it's in the best interests of the American people and the many Americans who need these particular drugs.

Q There's no counterpoint -- it's not as if you're -- this is one or the other; it's not like the jobs package where there's specific votes that have been against it.

MR. CARNEY: No, but there is inaction. There is a lack of action, so there is a need to move -- because we can move. And again, this is not, broadly speaking -- the We Can't Wait actions, the executive actions that the President is taking and will take are not substitutes for legislative action. He fully understands that the kinds of things that are contained within the American Jobs Act require congressional action, require laws being passed. And that's why he's pressing for Congress to take action legislatively.

But he can also act independently -- or, rather, administratively, and exercise his executive authority to benefit the American people in other ways. And he will continue to do that.


Q Thank you, Jay. Two questions. The President is now going to --

MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry. He’s not going to --

Q He’s going to APEC and East Asian Summit as well. Will he hold any bilateral meetings with President Hu?

MR. CARNEY: I don't have any more meetings to announce beyond what Ben did at the top of this briefing. As we have meetings to announce we’ll certainly make you aware of them.

Q Are you arranging --

MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?

Q Are you arranging the meeting right now?

MR. CARNEY: Well, that would be kind of announcing it, wouldn’t it? (Laughter.) Or announcing our intentions. So you’ll have to wait for the announcement.

Q Jay, the House Speaker has expressed concerns over some of the We Can’t Wait legislation or executive action, and the RNC is suggesting its political expediency. I don't know if you addressed this, but could you?

MR. CARNEY: I was asked about this concern, which I would just suggest is misplaced, because the President is acting well within his authority, well within his constitutional authority. And he is simply acting to help the American people, whether it’s with their mortgages, their student loans, their access to vital drugs, assisting businesses to speed up the process by which they get either contracts with or payments from the federal government. These are all measures he can take administratively, and he will continue to take them.

Again, one of the reasons why we can’t wait is because Congress won’t act. So if the Speaker is concerned about the President acting administratively, he can certainly assist in the effort by allowing the provisions of the American Jobs Act, for example, to be voted on by the House of Representatives.

Yes. Paula.

Q The Keystone Excel Project -- I know you’ve been deferring that decision to the State Department. There’s been a lot of reputable scientists and climatologists that have said that this would cause irreversible environmental damage if that pipeline is built, so -- and also, it’s a litmus test for the President as far as his commitment to climate change. So what is the White House response to that?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I would say two things. One, the President’s commitment to addressing these issues has been demonstrated by the actions he took for historic fuel efficiency standards, an action which by itself will have dramatic effect on the amount of fuel consumed in this country. Great reduction -- great increase in our fuel efficiency; great reduction in our demand for foreign fuel from -- I mean, fuel from abroad, as well as savings for American consumers that are quite extensive.

Secondly, I will return to the fact that this is a decision that will be made by the State Department, or is housed within the State Department. And they are taking into -- they are in a phase now of taking into public account, public comment and comments certainly from experts, both environmental as well as energy experts. So this process includes a full review of various concerns from all areas.

MR. EARNEST: Jay, let’s just do one more.

MR. CARNEY: One more.


Q Can I ask one more question?

MR. CARNEY: Yes. Sorry. And then you -- yes.

Q Well, I know one of the arguments for supporters is that it would create jobs as well as that there is a concern about the need for reducing foreign dependence on oil. But those that oppose it are saying that there’s no guarantee that the oil would even go -- or stay within the United States, that it could be exported to other countries such as China.

MR. CARNEY: Oh, I understand. You’re trying to get me to engage in something that’s being reviewed over at the State Department. And my comments weren’t meant to address the Keystone issue, but to -- in response to the suggestion -- or the comment you made about the President’s environmental record.

Again, I would point to you that just one of his achievements, the fuel economy standards accomplished by this administration, with industry support and without the need of congressional action -- which, given our circumstance is always a good thing -- will reduce our reliance on foreign oil, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025, reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day -- as much as half of the oil we import from OPEC every day. These steps will save American families $1.7 trillion, and by 2025, result in an average fuel savings of over $8,000 per vehicle.


Q Yesterday, Mr. Plouffe on “Meet the Press” had strong words about Mr. Romney. Would you say those are Mr. Plouffe’s opinions, or does that represent the White House’s opinion?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean, Mr. Plouffe works for the White House, so I would say that his views represent the White House’s views. You have to be more specific if there is a -- that is my broad statement, but is there one in particular that you --

Q That he has no core?

Q Exactly.

MR. CARNEY: Look, I think as anybody who’s watched this campaign and watched Mr. Romney’s previous campaigns, it is always a question as to where he was and where he is and where he might be on any given issue.

Thank you very much.

END 11:29 A.M. EDT

read more "Trancript: Press Briefing For President Obama's Trip To Cannes For G20 Summit"

"Dinner with Barack" Winners Dish On Their Date With President Obama

From The Liberty Tavern: Details on the Presidential table talk, the menu, the very bad dessert decision, and the guest who named his child "Maxwell Barack"...
Update, Nov. 27: Campaign releases 5 new videos from the first "Dinner with Barack"
The four citizens who won Obama for America's first "Dinner with Barack" contest dined with President Obama last Thursday at The Liberty Tavern in Arlington, VA. The gang, all donors to the President's 2012 re-election effort, have spent the ensuing days dishing to media outlets about their heady, rare date with the Eater in Chief. The President's culinary comrades were, from left in the above photo Ken Knight of Chandler, Ariz; Wendi Smith of Croyden, Ind; Casey Helbling of Minneapolis, Minn; and Juanita Martinez of Brighton, Colo. Each comes from a state that is crucial for the President's success in 2012.

All had to sign releases agreeing to be used in future Campaign promotions. Over the weekend, Campaign HQ put out the first "official" statements from the "lucky folks" ("wonderful!" "exciting!"). There was also a promise of "more from our Dinner with Barack winners in the coming weeks." But before the dishing, the menu.

The Liberty Tavern creates seasonal, regional American cuisine, and the casually dressed President Obama enjoyed the "Harpoon Caught Swordfish," which is regularly featured on the menu. It's served "Portuguese style," accompanied by white beans, sweet peppers, lamb sausage escarole, and Littleneck clam sauce ($22). He also had the Tavern Salad, which is field greens with breakfast radish and red wine vinaigrette ($6). No wine for the President: He washed down dinner with iced tea.

Executive Chef Liam LaCivita also created some Presidential treats that aren't on the menu: He kicked the dinner off with an Obama Foodie Homage, delivering a special appetizer of five mini Chicago-style Hot Dogs topped with the mandatory green relish. The President loves his Chicago Dogs: In July, he settled an NBA bet with a Univision reporter with a big box of the authentic goodies sent from Chicago to Miami headquarters. The Dogs were also featured at the annual White House Congressional Picnic in 2010.

Dinner winners decline dessert...
The foursome, astonishingly, declined the President's offer of dessert, apparently not realizing that this would extend their time with Mr. Obama. The rapid-fire dinner was just 70 minutes long, a quickie for a President who frequently has dinners outside the White House that last two to three hours. Mr. Obama arrived at the restaurant at 6:48 PM and was rolling homeward in his motorcade by 7:58 PM. Helbling, the Minneapolis winner, publicly bemoaned the bad decision on Twitter. (Above: Helbling and the President)

"The president offered us dessert at the end of the meal... None of us wanted it-what was I thinking! #DinnerWithBarack," Helbling tweeted.

"We got back in the van and all of us were kicking ourselves and probably will for the rest of our lives," Helbling later told US News & World Report. "We couldn't believe it; we had all turned down dessert with Barack Obama."

The dinner conversation...
Helbling, a tech entrepreneur who runs a company called Software for Good, is such a big Obama enthusiast that he named one of his children "Maxwell Barack," he said, and revealed that the dinner conversation focused on "critical veterans, education, and economic issues." In his statement for, he said the dinner "really blows your mind when you think about it."

Perhaps that's because the President revealed some deep secrets about White House life?

"I learned Obama's not a real early riser; he gets up at seven and then goes to the gym before reporting to the office," Helbling told USNWR. "And, he is rarely awaken from sleep for emergencies. The last time he had to go to the situation room in the middle of the night was when the Japanese earthquake was going on."

"The most memorable part was when he talked about his day & at 630 going upstairs to have dinner w/Michelle and kids. I could relate," (sic) was another tweet from Helbling.

Helbling also tweeted about the dinner to his hometown chief, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who not uncoincidentally, since Minnesota is a crucial electoral state, was last week one of the eight Mayors invited to attend First Lady Obama's food desert summit in Chicago.

"He was very thankful for your early support!" Helbling tweeted to Rybak, and also tweeted "tonight at #DinnerWithBarack President Obama mentioned how great of a guy you are!"

"Cool!" the Mayor tweeted back, and asked what the President ate.

Mr. Obama tossed his own tweet into the mix after the dinner.

"This dinner is important because I'm only president thanks to the work of millions of Americans like the four I just met. —BO," the President wrote on @BarackObama.

A big security detail...
Ken Knight, 48, of Chandler, Arizona, is a mail carrier with a route in Tempe, and it was his mother's $10 donation in his name that got him to the dinner, he told Arizona Central. Knight said he was worried that his "colorful past" might kill his chances of meeting the President. The dinner winners had to pass background checks, and Knight said he is a recovering alcoholic, almost five years sober, and "admits to past use of a few illegal substances that he feared would negatively influence the Campaign's decision about selecting him."

Nope: Knight, who bills himself as extremely liberal and a longtime Obama supporter, got in. The President and his guests ate in an upstairs dining room in the restaurant, and unlike at many other Presidential dinners, there were no other patrons present. There were, however, many members of the President's security detail.

"There were dozens of Secret Service, but they made it really calm and casual for us. It wasn't as crazy as you might think. It was a lot of fun," Knight told Arizona's KTAR radio.

Still, Knight was dubious when he first got the call from Campaign officials saying that he'd won, which occurred in July.

"They said they needed to run a background check and asked for my Social Security number and birth date," Knight said. "I thought it was a scam. They spent the next 10 minutes trying to convince me of who they where." He finally set his suspicions aside and gave them his information.

The Dinner Winners' statements put out by Campaign HQ...
There was no "official statement" released from Knight, but the three other winners were quoted as follows on, which titled the blogpost "This Is The President Of The United States Sitting Next to Me." (Above: The surprisingly low res photo tweeted by Campaign HQ)

Juanita Martinez, who is a retired teacher: "It was wonderful, delicious, exciting. I don’t have the words. I had the swordfish, and they had the best dinner rolls. The President was so eager to meet us. He asked about our states and our families. Every now and then I had to take a moment and think, ‘This is the President of the United States sitting next to me.’"

Wendi Smith, who is a retired professor and artist: "It was wonderful. There was all this anticipation, and the whole day was spent in preparation for our dinner, so all of us were anxious and excited and our heart rates were way up there. But he came in and was just so wonderful at making us feel relaxed and calming us down. In the first few minutes we all went 'Oh, okay, we can do this.' He introduced himself to all of us and really listened to what we had to say. He made sure each one of us got to say something. He was very humble and modest and just exactly the guy I thought he was."

Casey Helbling: "He was a little shorter than I was expecting—I was expecting him to be really really tall for some reason. He was really charming and easy to talk to. And it was like we were just having a normal dinner, just a couple people sitting around a table having a meal talking about the issues. We were joking that it would have been a totally different vibe if we had just gone to the White House and met him in his office. We were completely wide open on questions—we could ask whatever we wanted. It was cool and down to earth, but he’s still the President—so it really blows your mind when you think about it."

The dinner fulfilled the first of two dinner contests held to drop cash into the President's 2012 war chest, and Thursday was the first time the names of the winners were revealed. Though the contest's Official Rules stated that their names would be posted online in July, it never happened; the Campaign ignored its own rules. The dinner was supposed to be "Dinner with Barack and Joe," and include Vice President Joe Biden, but on Thursday he was leading a Presidential Delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a condolence trip that was scheduled after the Crown Prince died. The Campaign promised that Biden would telephone the four winners.

The date of the second dinner has yet to be announced.

An AP video, shot during the less than 50 seconds the President's press pool was allowed in to observe the proceedings, before any food or drink was served:

The prize was worth $1,075...
In addition to the dinner, the winners received a round-trip coach-class airfare and one night's hotel stay as part of the prize. The Campaign pegged the "approximate retail value" of the package at $1,075, with the meal priced at $100, airfare at $700, and the hotel stay at $275. This is taxable income for the winners under IRS rules.

*Top photo by Getty-pool; second by Photo by Obama for America; Helbling photo by AP
read more ""Dinner with Barack" Winners Dish On Their Date With President Obama"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

First Lady Says She "Confiscates" Daughters' Halloween Candy

Holiday treat indulgences should be time-limited, according to Mrs. Obama...
First Lady Michelle Obama has an easy parental solution to ensure that daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, don't overdose on the tons of candy they gather when they go trick-or-treating for Halloween. It's swift and easy: Mrs. Obama "confiscates" the girls' treat bags, she revealed during a recent roundtable interview with digital reporters. (Above: The First Couple hands out Halloween treats at the White House on Saturday night)

"What we do is we get that bag of candy, and I let them hang out with that bag for maybe a day or two, and then I confiscate it," Mrs. Obama said.

The First Daughters trick-or-treated in the DC area last year, and both dressed up as food: Malia was costumed as a Sour Patch Girl, while Sasha haunted the night as a turkey. But while they get to celebrate Halloween, the girls aren't allowed to participate in the time-honored tradition beloved by America's kids: Keeping their Halloween candy haul in their bedrooms.

"I confiscate it, because it's like, you just don't need to have this in your room; it's not good," Mrs. Obama said.

The First Lady is running a national campaign to combat childhood obesity, and she said the idea is that the girls should enjoy their sugar on Halloween without worrying about over indulging, but then the uneaten candy has to be removed.

"The temptation is too great," she said.

On Saturday, extra pieces of candy were added to White House goody bags for the Presidential Halloween celebration, after President Obama publicly worried that the mansion would "get egged" because Mrs. Obama insists on handing out dried fruit to celebrate the nation's biggest candy holiday. The treat bags included a scoop of dried fruit, a box of White House M&Ms with the Presidential seal, and a White House Sweet Dough Butter Cookie, just as they did in 2009 and 2010. But packages of Reese's candy were added at the last minute to the treat bags, which were given out to thousands of invited kids.

Mrs. Obama's approach to holiday treats is all about balance, she said.

"If you make good choices every day—I tell this to my girls all the time—when it's time for the holidays and the fun stuff and the birthday parties, you don't have to worry about it because you're doing what you're supposed to be doing every single day."

No junk food in the Residence...
Mrs. Obama also revealed her approach to limiting her own junk food indulgences. Asked what she does to manage "midnight cravings," Mrs. Obama said that the kitchen pantry in the Residence is stocked with exactly what the President complained about: Dried fruit. The First Lady said she asks White House staff to keep "dried and fresh fruit, cereals, crackers, and nuts" available, and to put these in clear containers so they're easily visible and available.

"I'm a salty snack person," Mrs. Obama said. "So if a bag of chips were there, I'd eat the whole thing, so I just can't have it around. And I think the same thing is true for the kids. It's just tough temptation. So we try to put out healthy snacks in clear containers."

"I just tell them, 'Don't put junk in there,' because if it's there, it wouldn't even matter what it was," Mrs. Obama said, adding that she'd eat it.

The White House released the recipes for the Halloween cookies and for the dried fruit mix. The First Lady's forthcoming book, "American Grown," will offer readers plenty of healthy eating advice, as well as recipes and gardening tips.

Mrs. Obama's remarks about the First Family's eating habits came on Oct. 17, during her first-ever roundtable interview with writers from digital outlets, which was conducted in the White House. Twelve outlets were represented, including Yahoo's Shine, and iVillage, and MSNBC. (Above: The First Lady during the roundtable)

*Top photo by AP; second by Chuck Kennedy/White House

read more "First Lady Says She "Confiscates" Daughters' Halloween Candy"

Michelle Obama Tweets About White House Halloween Party for Military Families

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a closed-to-press Halloween Party inside the White House on Saturday night for kids from military families. Mrs. Obama sent out a tweet on the Joining Forces account, and posted a photo of herself with a group of her young guests. It was the First Lady's second "official" tweet.

"Happy halloween! Spending it w/ military kids & families - so proud of them & honored to say thanks. -mo," Mrs. Obama wrote (sic).

The special party, the third time the President and Mrs. Obama have welcomed military families for Halloween, came after they'd doled out treat bags to thousands of kids as snow fell over the North Portico. The White House treat bags this year contained extra sugary candy at President Obama's request. Festive decorations included First Dog Bo dressed as Superman as well as cobwebs, pumpkins, and bats.

The White House this year released two recipes for Halloween, and Mrs. Obama also offered some treat advice for parents: Confiscate the candy.
read more "Michelle Obama Tweets About White House Halloween Party for Military Families"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

At President Obama's Request, Reese's Candy Added To White House Halloween Treat Bags

Anti-egging insurance: White House adds more candy to bags that contain Presidential M&Ms and cookies...
His wife may be running a national healthy eating campaign, but President Obama wanted more candy in this year's White House Halloween treat bags. On national television, the President declared that "the White House is going to get egged" thanks to the First Lady's insistence on including dried fruit in goody bags. He suggested that it would be a good idea to "put in a couple Reese's Pieces or something." The President got his wish on Saturday: Reese's candy was included in the treat bags that he and Mrs. Obama handed out during a snowy early Halloween celebration. But the White House didn't mention the extra candy on Friday, as it announced the contents of the Presidential treat bags in a media advisory. (Above: The President holds a basket filled with the treat bags; the Reese's candy is visible)

Standing in the White House driveway, President Obama commented on the presence of the Reese's candy as he handed out treats alongside Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, the man in charge of the goody bags.

"I notice you got the Reese's in there," the President said.

"We listen to what you say," Yosses responded. The chef was costumed as a giant red chili pepper for the event, in homage to Mrs. Obama's South Lawn vegetable garden.

On Friday, in its media advisory, the White House said that this year's treat bags would be the same as in 2009 and 2010, and include a box of White House M&Ms with the Presidential seal, a White House Sweet Dough Butter Cookie, and a scoop of a dried fruit mix. The thousands of costumed kids who filled the North Lawn all got those treats--and the extra dose of sugar with the Reese's candy. (Above: A photo of this year's treat bags before the Reese's candy was added)

The President's exchange about the treats with Yosses is captured in this AP video:

it was during an appearance on The Tonight Show that the President complained about his wife's campaign:

"Halloween's coming up, and she's been giving--for the last few years--the kids--fruit and raisins in their bags," President Obama told host Jay Leno. "And I said 'the White House is going to get egged if this keeps up. You need to throw some candy in there...Put in a couple Reese's Pieces or something.'"

A White House video released on Friday of the treat bags being assembled in the pastry shop shows the ready-to-go treat bags with no Reese's candy. The segment begins at 1:06:

The First Lady sent out a tweet about the private party for military families inside the White House after the trick-or-treating, and she also offered some treat advice for parents: Confiscate the candy.

Related: CLICK HERE for a post about the 2009 Obama Halloween Celebration; CLICK HERE for a post about the 2010 Obama Halloween Celebration.
read more "At President Obama's Request, Reese's Candy Added To White House Halloween Treat Bags"

The Obamas Celebrate Halloween 2011 With Early White House Festivities--UPDATED, With Video

A rare Halloween snowstorm doesn't stop the President and First Lady's pumpkin-laden celebration with thousands of local trick-or-treaters...
As a light snow fell on the White House, President Obama and First Lady Obama celebrated Halloween early this year, welcoming a couple thousand local kids for trick-or -treating under the orange-lit North Portico, beginning at 5:48 PM on Saturday. The First Couple were surrounded by cobwebs, bats, bales of hay, plenty of pumpkins--and a statue of First Dog Bo, dressed as Superman--as they greeted excited but drenched kids for the annual fun. The President was "costumed" as First Dad, in gray slacks and a black fleece, while Mrs. Obama's dress was a graphic interpretation of Halloween colors under a heavy black coat. First Grandmother Marian Robinson--wearing fluffy black bunny ears and painted-on whiskers--also joined the treat-doling line. All held baskets laden with goodie bags, and more baskets filled the steps of the North Portico. (Above: The First Couple and First Grandmother in action)

"Hey, how are you? Happy Halloween!" the President greeted the kids.

The first kids in line included Batman, Harry Potter and at least one Green Bay Packer. Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, and Assistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison were also handing out treats; they're the star staffers of the holiday, after all, and both got their costume inspirations from Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden: Yosses wore a giant red chili pepper costume, while Morrison was a bumble bee, in homage to the White House Beehive. (Above: Morrison the bee behind the President; Yosses is behind the First Lady)

“I know it’s cold here, you guys doing alright? It’s not ideal out here," President Obama said to the kids.

The treats are exactly the same as the treats for the Obama's two previous Halloweens: Each cellophane goodie bag, tied with a purple ribbon, included a box of White House M&Ms, a White House Sweet Dough Butter Cookie, and a scoop of the dreaded dried fruit that the President publicly worried about earlier in the week. The recipes for the cookies and the dried fruit mix are here. But there was an addition to the treat bags, too.

Reese's candy added to the treat bags...
There was one unannounced addition to the treat bags: A package of Reese's peanut butter candy was included in each one, too--something the White House didn't announce on Friday when revealing this year's treats in a media advisory. The President "called for" the inclusion of the treats during an appearance on the Tonight Show earlier this week. The First Lady's Let's Move! campaign practice of including dried fruit in the treat bags could get the White House "egged," the President said. (Above: A long shot of the action; Yosses as chili pepper is at left)

"Halloween's coming up, and she's been giving--for the last few years--the kids--fruit and raisins in their bags," President Obama said. "And I said 'the White House is going to get egged if this keeps up. You need to throw some candy in there...Put in a couple Reese's Pieces or something.'"

Mission accomplished.

As he handed out treats, a boy dressed as a headless man impressed Mr. Obama. (Above)

“Look at this guy!” he said. “It’s a headless man – terrible!”

The kid revelers were elementary students from D.C., Maryland and Virginia schools, along with children from military families. After the trick-or-treating, the President and Mrs. Obama hosted a special party in the East Room for the military kids and their families, as they did in 2009 and 2010.

“A cookie!” yelled 3-year-old Peyton Wood after she got her treat bag. Asked by the pooler on duty what she thought about trick-or-treating at the White House, Wood responded with a big smile: “It’s President Obama!”

The Marine Band played and costumed characters greeted the kids as they moved across the snowy North Lawn; actors from theaterWashington and other local venues were called to duty. Chef James Parker of VeggyArt in in Chantilly, Va., demonstrated pumpkin carving from a station set up on the lawn. Parker demonstrated his fabulous gourds at last year's celebration, too. Why mess with immortal perfection?

After the Halloween celebration, the President headed for the Washington Hilton to deliver the keynote address at the National Italian American Foundation's 36th Anniversary Awards Gala. The black-tie event was for more than 2,000 guests.

The White House preparations...
For the past few days, staff and volunteers have been busily strewing cobwebs through the historic trees and bushes on the White House grounds, and stacking up piles of pumpkins, including some that the President and Mrs. Obama purchased during a stop last week at a farmers market in Virginia. These were carved by the chefs into fun, scary shapes. There were piles all over. (Above: The President loads a pumpkin onto Ground Force One)

The White House on Friday released a video about decor and kitchen preparations. Pastry chef Morrison gives a peek into the pastry kitchen at 1:06:

More details...
"The trick-or-treaters are elementary students from local schools in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas as well as children from the Boys and Girls Club of America and children from military families," the White House said.

More from the festive advisory: "As the trick-or-treaters make their way across the North Lawn to the North Portico they will be entertained by the Marine Band playing Halloween music and spooked by in-costume actors from Washington-area theatres, brought together by theatreWashington. (Above: A detail of a bat decoration above the North Portico)

Kids from the following schools were invited:

DC Public Schools: Truesdell Elementary, Walker-Jones Elementary, Stanton Elementary, Achievement Prep Academy. Virginia DC Public Schools: Abingdon Elementary, Arlington Science Focus Elementary, Barcroft Elementary, Barrett Elementary, Campbell Elementary, Key Elementary, Belmont Elementary, Mary Williams Elementary. Maryland Public Schools: Mary B. Neal Elementary School, Concord Elementary, Rogers Heights Elementary, Montgomery Knolls Elementary, Highland View Elementary.

Related: CLICK HERE for a post about the 2009 Obama Halloween Celebration; CLICK HERE for a post about the 2010 Obama Halloween Celebration.

*AP photos; updated with White House video
read more "The Obamas Celebrate Halloween 2011 With Early White House Festivities--UPDATED, With Video"