Although nearly all of the 15 questions posed at the late afternoon briefing at the White House yesterday dealt with reports of the death of fugitive Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, the much-watched exchange between Vice President Joe Biden and HUMAN EVENTS Editor Jason Mattera a day before made its way into the press session, which immediately followed the President Obama’s announcement of Gaddafi’s death and the end of “a long and painful chapter” for Libya.
When CNN correspondent Brianna Keilor referred to Biden’s “exchange with a reporter from a conservative news organization on the Hill [Mattera and HUMAN EVENTS],” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney laughed, looked at this reporter, and quipped: “You’re beating his colleague to the punch here, but okay.”
Keilor quoted Mattera’s question to Biden regarding his remark that if Republicans failed to pass the American Jobs Act, murders and rapes would rise, and Biden’s reply, “Murder will continue to rise. Rape will continue to rise. All crime will continue to rise.”
“Does the President agree?” she asked.
“I think it would be hard to find anyone who doesn’t agree with the simple equation that fewer police officers on the street has a direct effect on the crime rate,” replied Carney. “We saw this in the ’90s, and it’s—I don’t know that anybody—any lawmaker up on Capitol Hill would contest that simple fact that—or any American who makes that assessment in their local communities, would you want fewer or more law enforcement officers on the job, and do you think that would—having more law enforcement officers on the job, police officers on the job, would have a positive impact on crime. That’s the point he was making. And that’s a point that the President absolutely does share.”
Keilor persisted and cited responses from Republicans that they’re being told their opposition means more people will be raped, more people will be murdered. She asked for the President’s opinion.
The President’s top spokesman weaved a bit, and then segued off the subject.
“You can focus on the words or you can focus on the simple fact,” he said. ”The President put in the American Jobs Act a provision that would provide assistance to states to put teachers back to work and to put firefighters and police officers back to work, first responders.” He then asked whether Republicans were arguing “that there is no correlation between the number of cops on the beat and the crime rate.”
Now, almost completely straying from the question about Biden’s remarks to Mattera, Carney said, “More police officers on the beat is a good thing, and will help keep crime rates lower. More firefighters fighting fires will reduce the impact that fires will have in our communities, and will save lives. That’s a fact. And more teachers in our classroom will—in our classrooms, in our schools, will enhance the education that our children get around the country, further strengthening our position going into the—as we continue to compete globally in the 21st century.”
He also went on to admonish his audience that the added benefits of putting teachers back to work “are obvious, I think, to anyone who has children—anyone who cares about the future of this country and the needs that we have in terms of education, and the direct correlation between a better-educated America and a more competitive America.”
Carney finally took the next question, which was about Libya.