Carney Struggles to Defend Obama Attack Campaign

Jake Tapper forces Jay Carney to reflect on how State Senator Barack Obama, complaining to the 2004 Democratic Convention about the "spinmeisters and negative ad peddlers" dividing the country 8 years ago, would view President Obama's negative campaign.

CARNEY: Well, that’s why we were running ads about — well, first of all, I’m not — you know, I don’t speak for the campaign.

Here's the entire exchange.

TAPPER: Jay, eight years ago, I think you were there, and I was in the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. And I heard a fairly obscure state senator stand up and give a speech in which he talked about how, right then, there were spinmeisters and negative ad peddlers preparing to divide the country.

Given that the vast, vast majority of the ads that are run these days — from both sides, both Governor Romney and President Obama — are negative — I think in one New York Times story it said all of the ones that ran in Richmond over a certain period were negative, not one positive ad; and then there was a study that showed in a two-week period, 89 percent of the president’s ads were negative; 94 percent of Mitt Romney’s ads were negative — what would that state senator think about the campaign being run right now by this president?

CARNEY: Well, I think that he thinks and we think that the issues that the president talks about all the time, as president and as a candidate, go right to the central concern that the American people have about economic growth and job creation, about ensuring that the middle class is given a shot to expand, that the squeeze that the middle class has been under now for a decade is relieved, and that there’s the right investments made in our economy, in education and infrastructure and innovation, that will allow it to grow and will allow it to create the kinds of jobs here in the United States that can create the foundation for a good middle-class life, that allows people –

TAPPER: And that’s why you’re running ads about Mitt Romney’s tax returns?

CARNEY: Well, that’s why we were running ads about — well, first of all, I’m not — you know, I don’t speak for the campaign.

That’s why the president believes that the issue of what do you believe when it comes to what our tax code should look like and whether we should reward companies that ship jobs overseas, or should we reward companies that insource jobs in the United States — that’s a policy difference that is extremely important.

This president believes that as a matter of economic policy, it is an important point of discussion to note the difference between his position, which is that we ought to have a balanced approach where the wealthiest Americans, who have done extremely well, exceptionally well in the last decade, pay their fair share and that — and that the high-end Bush tax cuts that contributed mightily to the deficit that he inherited not be extended and that that money be used to help bring down the debt and to invest where we need investments, in education, innovation and infrastructure.

And that’s a fundamental difference not just with the Republican nominee or presumptive nominee, but with Republicans in Congress that this president has been dealing with in an attempt to move the economy forward legislatively.

So I mean, I think those are the — all those issues are fundamental to the debate we’re having right now. They’re fundamental to the stalemate we have in Washington that the president discusses. And that’s why I think he praises it the way he does, that the American people have the opportunity to break that stalemate, to decide which direction, which vision is the right one for the — for the American economy

So I think those are the — those issues are the subject of most of what the president talks about and what his campaign discusses. You know, I’d obviously refer you to the Romney campaign for their points of view on their advertising.

TAPPER: So you — so you reject the characterization that these ads are negative?

CARNEY: I — no, I’m — I mean, I think that when we — the president draws distinctions about his vision for the economy compared to the Republican vision, you know, it is a contrast, there is no question. But, you know, these are central –

TAPPER: So did we misunderstand –

CARNEY: There are — these are central to — I mean, this is the — this is the absolute core of the debate in our country, and it is — it is overwhelmingly the principal focus of the American people. So I think it’s very important to have the kinds of discussions that we’ve been having and that the president puts forward every time he goes out and speaks to the people.