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News from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Monday, Sept. 14
Remarks by President Obama on financial rescue, reform

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. It is wonderful to be back in New York after having just been here last week. It is a beautiful day and we have some extraordinary guests here in the Hall today. I just want to mention a few.

First of all from my economic team, somebody who I think has done extraordinary work on behalf of all Americans and has helped to strengthen our financial system immeasurably, Secretary Tim Geithner — please give him a big round of applause. (Applause.) Somebody who is continually guiding me and keeping me straight on the numbers, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer is here. (Applause.) We have an extraordinary economic recovery board and as chairman somebody who knows more about the financial markets and the economy generally than just about anybody in this country, Paul Volcker. Thank you, Paul. (Applause.) The outstanding mayor of the city of New York, Mr. Michael Bloomberg. (Applause.) We have Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is here, as well; thank you. (Applause.)

We have a host of members of Congress, but there’s one that I have to single out because he is going to be helping to shape the agenda going forward to make sure that we have one of the strongest, most dynamic, and most innovative financial markets in the world for many years to come, and that’s my good friend, Barney Frank. (Applause.) I also want to thank our hosts from the National Park Service here at Federal Hall and all the other outstanding public officials who are here.

Thanks for being here. Thank you for your warm welcome. It’s a privilege to be in historic Federal Hall. It was here more than two centuries ago that our first Congress served and our first President was inaugurated. And I just had a chance to glance at the Bible upon which George Washington took his oath. It was here, in the early days of the Republic, that Hamilton and Jefferson debated how best to administer a young economy and ensure that our nation rewarded the talents and drive of its people. And two centuries later, we still grapple with these questions — questions made more acute in moments of crisis.

It was one year ago today that we experienced just such a crisis. As investors and pension-holders watched with dread and dismay, and after a series of emergency meetings often conducted in the dead of the night, several of the world’s largest and oldest financial institutions had fallen, either bankrupt, bought, or bailed out: Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Washington Mutual, Wachovia. A week before this began, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had been taken over by the government. Other large firms teetered on the brink of insolvency. Credit markets froze as banks refused to lend not only to families and businesses, but to one another. Five trillion dollars of Americans’ household wealth evaporated in the span of just three months. That was just one year ago.

Congress and the previous administration took difficult but necessary action in the days and months that followed. Nonetheless, when this administration walked through the door in January, the situation remained urgent. The markets had fallen sharply; credit was not flowing. It was feared that the largest banks — those that remained standing — had too little capital and far too much exposure to risky loans. And the consequences had spread far beyond the streets of lower Manhattan. This was no longer just a financial crisis; it had become a full-blown economic crisis, with home prices sinking and businesses struggling to access affordable credit, and the economy shedding an average of 700,000 jobs every single month.

We could not separate what was happening in the corridors of our financial institutions from what was happening on the factory floors and around the kitchen tables. Home foreclosures linked those who took out home loans and those who repackaged those loans as securities. A lack of access to affordable credit threatened the health of large firms and small businesses, as well as all those whose jobs depended on them. And a weakened financial system weakened the broader economy, which in turn further weakened the financial system.

So the only way to address successfully any of these challenges was to address them together. And this administration, under the outstanding leadership of Tim Geithner and Christy Romer and Larry Summers and others, moved quickly on all fronts, initializing a financial — a financial stability plan to rescue the system from the crisis and restart lending for all those affected by the crisis. By opening and examining the books of large financial firms, we helped restore the availability of two things that had been in short supply: capital and confidence. By taking aggressive and innovative steps in credit markets, we spurred lending not just to banks, but to folks looking to buy homes or cars, take out student loans, or finance small businesses. Our home ownership plan has helped responsible homeowners refinance to stem the tide of lost homes and lost home values.

And the recovery plan is providing help to the unemployed and tax relief for working families, all the while spurring consumer spending. It’s prevented layoffs of tens of thousands of teachers and police officers and other essential public servants. And thousands of recovery projects are underway all across America, including right here in New York City, putting people to work building wind turbines and solar panels, renovating schools and hospitals, repairing our nation’s roads and bridges.

Eight months later, the work of recovery continues. And though I will never be satisfied while people are out of work and our financial system is weakened, we can be confident that the storms of the past two years are beginning to break. In fact, while there continues to be a need for government involvement to stabilize the financial system, that necessity is waning. After months in which public dollars were flowing into our financial system, we’re finally beginning to see money flowing back to taxpayers. This doesn’t mean taxpayers will escape the worst financial crisis in decades entirely unscathed. But banks have repaid more than $70 billion, and in those cases where the government’s stakes have been sold completely, taxpayers have actually earned a 17 percent return on their investment. Just a few months ago, many experts from across the ideological spectrum feared that ensuring financial stability would require even more tax dollars. Instead, we’ve been able to eliminate a $250 billion reserve included in our budget because that fear has not been realized.

While full recovery of the financial system will take a great deal more time and work, the growing stability resulting from these interventions means we’re beginning to return to normalcy. But here’s what I want to emphasize today: Normalcy cannot lead to complacency.

Unfortunately, there are some in the financial industry who are misreading this moment. Instead of learning the lessons of Lehman and the crisis from which we’re still recovering, they’re choosing to ignore those lessons. I’m convinced they do so not just at their own peril, but at our nation’s. So I want everybody here to hear my words: We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses. Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall.

And that’s why we need strong rules of the road to guard against the kind of systemic risks that we’ve seen. And we have a responsibility to write and enforce these rules to protect consumers of financial products, to protect taxpayers, and to protect our economy as a whole. Yes, there must — these rules must be developed in a way that doesn’t stifle innovation and enterprise. And I want to say very clearly here today, we want to work with the financial industry to achieve that end. But the old ways that led to this crisis cannot stand. And to the extent that some have so readily returned to them underscores the need for change and change now. History cannot be allowed to repeat itself.

So what we’re calling for is for the financial industry to join us in a constructive effort to update the rules and regulatory structure to meet the challenges of this new century. That is what my administration seeks to do. We’ve sought ideas and input from industry leaders and policy experts, academics, consumer advocates, and the broader public. And we’ve worked closely with leaders in the Senate and the House, including not only Barney, but also Senators Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby, and Barney is already working with his counterpart, Sheldon [sic] Bachus. And we intend to pass regulatory reform through Congress.

And taken together, we’re proposing the most ambitious overhaul of the financial regulatory system since the Great Depression. But I want to emphasize that these reforms are rooted in a simple principle: We ought to set clear rules of the road that promote transparency and accountability. That’s how we’ll make certain that markets foster responsibility, not recklessness. That’s how we’ll make certain that markets reward those who compete honestly and vigorously within the system, instead of those who are trying to game the system.

So let me outline specifically what we’re talking about. First, we’re proposing new rules to protect consumers and a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to enforce those rules. (Applause.) This crisis was not just the result of decisions made by the mightiest of financial firms. It was also the result of decisions made by ordinary Americans to open credit cards and take on mortgages. And while there were many who took out loans they knew they couldn’t afford, there were also millions of Americans who signed contracts they didn’t fully understand offered by lenders who didn’t always tell the truth.

This is in part because there is no single agency charged with making sure that doesn’t happen. That’s what we intend to change. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency will have the power to make certain that consumers get information that is clear and concise, and to prevent the worst kinds of abuses. Consumers shouldn’t have to worry about loan contracts designed to be unintelligible, hidden fees attached to their mortgage, and financial penalties — whether through a credit card or a debit card — that appear without warning on their statements. And responsible lenders, including community banks, doing the right thing shouldn’t have to worry about ruinous competition from unregulated competitors.

Now there are those who are suggesting that somehow this will restrict the choices available to consumers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The lack of clear rules in the past meant we had the wrong kind of innovation: The firm that could make its products look the best by doing the best job of hiding the real costs ended up getting the business. For example, we had “teaser” rates on credit cards and mortgages that lured people in and then surprised them with big rate increases. By setting ground rules, we’ll increase the kind of competition that actually provides people better and greater choices, as companies compete to offer the best products, not the ones that are most complex or the most confusing.

Second, we’ve got to close the loopholes that were at the heart of the crisis. Where there were gaps in the rules, regulators lacked the authority to take action. Where there were overlaps, regulators often lacked accountability for inaction. These weaknesses in oversight engendered systematic, and systemic, abuse.

Under existing rules, some companies can actually shop for the regulator of their choice — and others, like hedge funds, can operate outside of the regulatory system altogether. We’ve seen the development of financial instruments — like derivatives and credit default swaps — without anyone examining the risks, or regulating all of the players. And we’ve seen lenders profit by providing loans to borrowers who they knew would never repay, because the lender offloaded the loan and the consequences to somebody else. Those who refused to game the system are at a disadvantage.

Now, one of the main reasons this crisis could take place is that many agencies and regulators were responsible for oversight of individual financial firms and their subsidiaries, but no one was responsible for protecting the system as the whole — as a whole. In other words, regulators were charged with seeing the trees, but not the forest. And even then, some firms that posed a “systemic risk” were not regulated as strongly as others, exploiting loopholes in the system to take on greater risk with less scrutiny. As a result, the failure of one firm threatened the viability of many others. We were facing one of the largest financial crises in history, and those responsible for oversight were caught off guard and without the authority to act.

And that’s why we’ll create clear accountability and responsibility for regulating large financial firms that pose a systemic risk. While holding the Federal Reserve fully accountable for regulation of the largest, most interconnected firms, we’ll create an oversight council to bring together regulators from across markets to share information, to identify gaps in regulation, and to tackle issues that don’t fit neatly into an organizational chart. We’ll also require these financial firms to meet stronger capital and liquidity requirements and observe greater constraints on their risky behavior. That’s one of the lessons of the past year. The only way to avoid a crisis of this magnitude is to ensure that large firms can’t take risks that threaten our entire financial system, and to make sure that they have the resources to weather even the worst of economic storms.

Even as we’ve proposed safeguards to make the failure of large and interconnected firms less likely, we’ve also created — proposed creating what’s called “resolution authority” in the event that such a failure happens and poses a threat to the stability of the financial system. This is intended to put an end to the idea that some firms are “too big to fail.” For a market to function, those who invest and lend in that market must believe that their money is actually at risk. And the system as a whole isn’t safe until it is safe from the failure of any individual institution.

If a bank approaches insolvency, we have a process through the FDIC that protects depositors and maintains confidence in the banking system. This process was created during the Great Depression when the failure of one bank led to runs on other banks, which in turn threatened the banking system as a whole. That system works. But we don’t have any kind of process in place to contain the failure of a Lehman Brothers or AIG or any of the largest and most interconnected financial firms in our country.

And that’s why, when this crisis began, crucial decisions about what would happen to some of the world’s biggest companies — companies employing tens of thousands of people and holding trillions of dollars of assets — took place in hurried discussions in the middle of the night. That’s why we’ve had to rely on taxpayer dollars. The only resolution authority we currently have that would prevent a financial meltdown involved tapping the Federal Reserve or the federal treasury. With so much at stake, we should not be forced to choose between allowing a company to fail into a rapid and chaotic dissolution that threatens the economy and innocent people, or, alternatively, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill. So our plan would put the cost of a firm’s failures on those who own its stock and loaned it money. And if taxpayers ever have to step in again to prevent a second Great Depression, the financial industry will have to pay the taxpayer back — every cent.

Finally, we need to close the gaps that exist not just within this country but among countries. The United States is leading a coordinated response to promote recovery and to restore prosperity among both the world’s largest economies and the world’s fastest growing economies. At a summit in London in April, leaders agreed to work together in an unprecedented way to spur global demand but also to address the underlying problems that caused such a deep and lasting global recession. And this work will continue next week in Pittsburgh when I convene the G20, which has proven to be an effective forum for coordinating policies among key developed and emerging economies and one that I see taking on an important role in the future.

Essential to this effort is reforming what’s broken in the global financial system — a system that links economies and spreads both rewards and risks. For we know that abuses in financial markets anywhere can have an impact everywhere; and just as gaps in domestic regulation lead to a race to the bottom, so do gaps in regulation around the world. What we need instead is a global race to the top, including stronger capital standards, as I’ve called for today. As the United States is aggressively reforming our regulatory system, we’re going to be working to ensure that the rest of the world does the same. And this is something that Secretary Geithner has already been actively meeting with finance ministers around the world to discuss.

A healthy economy in the 21st century also depends on our ability to buy and sell goods in markets across the globe. And make no mistake, this administration is committed to pursuing expanded trade and new trade agreements. It is absolutely essential to our economic future. And each time that we have met — at the G20 and the G8 — we have reaffirmed the need to fight against protectionism. But no trading system will work if we fail to enforce our trade agreements, those that have already been signed. So when — as happened this weekend — we invoke provisions of existing agreements, we do so not to be provocative or to promote self-defeating protectionism, we do so because enforcing trade agreements is part and parcel of maintaining an open and free trading system.

And just as we have to live up to our responsibilities on trade, we have to live up to our responsibilities on financial reform as well. I have urged leaders in Congress to pass regulatory reform this year and both Congressman Frank and Senator Dodd, who are leading this effort, have made it clear that that’s what they intend to do. Now there will be those who defend the status quo — there always are. There will be those who argue we should do less or nothing at all. There will be those who engage in revisionist history or have selective memories, and don’t seem to recall what we just went through last year. But to them I’d say only this: Do you really believe that the absence of sound regulation one year ago was good for the financial system? Do you believe the resulting decline in markets and wealth and unemployment, the wrenching hardship that families are going through all across the country, was somehow good for our economy? Was that good for the American people?

I have always been a strong believer in the power of the free market. I believe that jobs are best created not by government, but by businesses and entrepreneurs willing to take a risk on a good idea. I believe that the role of the government is not to disparage wealth, but to expand its reach; not to stifle markets, but to provide the ground rules and level playing field that helps to make those markets more vibrant — and that will allow us to better tap the creative and innovative potential of our people. For we know that it is the dynamism of our people that has been the source of America’s progress and prosperity.

So I promise you, I did not run for President to bail out banks or intervene in capital markets. But it is important to note that the very absence of common-sense regulations able to keep up with a fast-paced financial sector is what created the need for that extraordinary intervention — not just with our administration, but the previous administration. The lack of sensible rules of the road, so often opposed by those who claim to speak for the free market, ironically led to a rescue far more intrusive than anything any of us — Democratic or Republican, progressive or conservative — would have ever proposed or predicted.

At the same time, we have to recognize that what’s needed now goes beyond just the reforms that I’ve mentioned. For what took place one year ago was not merely a failure of regulation or legislation; it wasn’t just a failure of oversight or foresight. It was also a failure of responsibility — it was fundamentally a failure of responsibility — that allowed Washington to become a place where problems — including structural problems in our financial system — were ignored rather than solved. It was a failure of responsibility that led homebuyers and derivative traders alike to take reckless risks that they couldn’t afford to take. It was a collective failure of responsibility in Washington, on Wall Street, and across America that led to the near-collapse of our financial system one year ago.

So restoring a willingness to take responsibility — even when it’s hard to do — is at the heart of what we must do. Here on Wall Street, you have a responsibility. The reforms I’ve laid out will pass and these changes will become law. But one of the most important ways to rebuild the system stronger than it was before is to rebuild trust stronger than before — and you don’t have to wait for a new law to do that. You don’t have to wait to use plain language in your dealings with consumers. You don’t have to wait for legislation to put the 2009 bonuses of your senior executives up for a shareholder vote. You don’t have to wait for a law to overhaul your pay system so that folks are rewarded for long-term performance instead of short-term gains.

The fact is, many of the firms that are now returning to prosperity owe a debt to the American people. They were not the cause of this crisis, and yet American taxpayers, through their government, had to take extraordinary action to stabilize the financial industry. They shouldered the burden of the bailout and they are still bearing the burden of the fallout — in lost jobs and lost homes and lost opportunities. It is neither right nor responsible after you’ve recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system, and a more broadly shared prosperity.

So I want to urge you to demonstrate that you take this obligation to heart. To put greater effort into helping families who need their mortgages modified under my administration’s homeownership plan. To help small business owners who desperately need loans and who are bearing the brunt of the decline in available credit. To help communities that would benefit from the financing you could provide, or the community development institutions you could support. To come up with creative approaches to improve financial education and to bring banking to those who live and work entirely outside of the banking system. And, of course, to embrace serious financial reform, not resist it.

Just as we are asking the private sector to think about the long term, I recognize that Washington has to do so as well. When my administration came through the door, we not only faced a financial crisis and costly recession, we also found waiting a trillion dollar deficit. So yes, we have to take extraordinary action in the wake of an extraordinary economic crisis. But I am absolutely committed to putting this nation on a sound and secure fiscal footing. That’s why we’re pushing to restore pay-as-you-go rules in Congress, because I will not go along with the old Washington ways which said it was okay to pass spending bills and tax cuts without a plan to pay for it. That’s why we’re cutting programs that don’t work or are out of date. That’s why I’ve insisted that health insurance reform — as important as it is — not add a dime to the deficit, now or in the future.

There are those who would suggest that we must choose between markets unfettered by even the most modest of regulations, and markets weighed down by onerous regulations that suppress the spirit of enterprise and innovation. If there is one lesson we can learn from last year, it is that this is a false choice. Common-sense rules of the road don’t hinder the market, they make the market stronger. Indeed, they are essential to ensuring that our markets function fairly and freely.

One year ago, we saw in stark relief how markets can spin out of control; how a lack of common-sense rules can lead to excess and abuse; how close we can come to the brink. One year later, it is incumbent upon us to put in place those reforms that will prevent this kind of crisis from ever happening again, reflecting painful but important lessons that we’ve learned, and that will help us move from a period of reckless irresponsibility, a period of crisis, to one of responsibility and prosperity. That’s what we must do. And I’m confident that’s what we will do.

Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)


Press gaggle by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs

MR. GIBBS: How is everyone? What’s going on? Fire away.

Q Who paid for lunch?

MR. GIBBS: I assume we split the bill.

Q Can you give us a readout of their discussion? And specifically, did they get into any kind of recap on North Korea?

MR. GIBBS: I asked the President what they talked about. He said most of the conversation was about the economy, particularly the global economy, and ways to transition where we are into something that works better for the American people in the 21st century. I think that’s what they spent most of their time talking about today.

Q What about specifically the issue of health care — where we are in the process, did they get into that? And any lessons —

MR. GIBBS: They did talk about health care, but the President wasn’t sharing any details.

Q Is President Clinton supportive of what President Obama is proposing on financial regulations?

MR. GIBBS: I don’t know if they got that specific into it. But, look, I think everybody who watched what happened a year ago understands that we have to have rules in place to prevent it from happening again. As you heard the President say today, we had inadequate protection for consumers. We had things like derivatives that were out of the scope of regulation; hedge funds; we had regulator shopping that was going on. We had a lot of things in place that we know contributed to what happened a year ago.

The American people have invested their hard-earned money in ensuring the financial system is stable and works. We’re happy that we’re getting some of that money back. But we have to put something in place that ensures that that type of investment is never needed again.

Q How concerned is the administration about the Chinese response to the tire tariffs decision? Are you afraid you started — are you starting a trade war?

MR. GIBBS: Look, again, I think it’s important to back up and understand that if we’re going to have a framework for global trade that works for everyone, then agreements are going to have to be enforced and rules are going to have to be followed. Without following those rules and following those agreements it’s going to be hard to make trade work for everyone.

I think this administration obviously has invested a lot of time and resources in ensuring that trade happens throughout the world, that developing nations have the access to capital that they need to buy the goods and services that others are producing. But within that framework, again, we have to follow the rules.

Q What is the status of the relationship between former President Clinton and President Obama? It’s mid-September, it’s the first time they’re sitting down at a social event — other than a funeral, I guess — all year. What’s the status or evolution of their relationship?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, obviously, Jeff, there are — to point out the obvious, obviously there are very few people that have done what the current President is doing. So I think any President, any former President offers invaluable advice to the current officeholder. I think there’s obviously a special relationship with all of them.

I think President Obama values the type of advice that President Clinton has. I think you saw the economy in a lot of ways transform during his administration, not unlike what the economy has to do to meet the demands of the 21st century, to create good paying jobs. So I think they have a very strong relationship and I know the President is — President Obama is always happy to talk with President Clinton and hear his thoughts.

Q Another topic, what was the U.S. involvement in the attack on the suspected terrorists in Somalia?

MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to get into that.

Q Was there any U.S. involvement?

MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to get into that. I would point you to the Department of Defense if you have any questions.

Q To get back on trade, is the Chinese response to investigate U.S. products an appropriate response — I mean, does the President think, does the administration think?

MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think that what is undeniable were findings that the amount of Chinese tires that were coming into our country had increased exponentially over the course of the past two years. We had written into our agreements specific measures that we’re enforcing. I think that is a finding that’s based on an independent review of the situation.

I think what would be unnecessary is to take punitive or retaliatory actions for something — to create a trade problem that doesn’t or didn’t exist. Again, I think if we’re going to have a framework for trade that works throughout the world, we’re going to have to follow a certain set of rules and enforce agreements that have been entered into by two countries.

Q With the U.N. meeting coming up next week and the Pittsburgh summit of the G20, is there a concern that the trade frictions with China are going to hurt the cooperation on other issues like North Korea?

MR. GIBBS: I’d point out that we have strong relationships throughout the world where you time to time have disagreements about trade actions. It’s nothing new with Europe. It’s nothing new with other countries. I don’t see that — I don’t see a dispute like this will cause something that causes countries like the United States and China to get off track in things that are very important in terms of global matters.

Q But the trade relationship is so central to the relationship between these two countries, and is there a concern that issues like North Korea — on that issue, there may be less cooperation?

MR. GIBBS: No. Again, I think we — I think everybody understands the importance of getting North Korea right, not the least of which is the Chinese. It’s a country in — obviously in close proximity to the Chinese and I think the Chinese have been extremely constructive partners in reiterating the obligations that the North Koreans have and in fact living up to the obligations that the North Koreans themselves signed up for. I think some of the strongest reactions over the past several years on North Korean actions have come from the Chinese.

Q What can you tell us about tomorrow’s AFL-CIO event?

MR. GIBBS: I think the President will use the occasion to talk about — talk again about the economy, to focus in on the new foundation that he’s hoping to build, the steps that we have to take, the steps that we have taken to strengthen the economy and pull it back from the brink. But I think, as the President said on health care, we didn’t come here just to respond to crises; we came here to address America’s prosperity in the future, and I think that’s what he’ll outline again tomorrow.

Q Mostly health care?

MR. GIBBS: No, I think mostly — quite frankly, mostly the economy. I mean, obviously, look, the President wouldn’t talk about the economy without mentioning health care, but I think the focus will be on the economy.

Q Is there a second event tomorrow?

MR. GIBBS: Well, there’s — the first stop is at a GM plant outside of Youngstown that I believe is hiring workers back to build more fuel-efficient cars, the AFL-CIO remarks are in Pittsburgh, and then the last event is the Specter fundraiser in Philadelphia.

Q On the meeting between Iran and the six powers, can you talk about what you’re expecting out of that? I mean, it seems you can’t even agree with the Iranians on what should be discussed. They’re saying that the nuclear issue shouldn’t even be part of it, or their nuclear issue shouldn’t be part of it. And do you think that that’s going to make for a difficulty making any progress?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t know what’s on their agenda, but I know what’s on our agenda and I know what’s on the agenda for countries around the world that are concerned about Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program. It will be part of that discussion. And if Iran is unwilling to discuss their illicit nuclear weapons program, I think all that does is strengthen the hand of the international community in underscoring the obligations, again, that the Iranians are failing to live up to.

So I think this will be an interesting moment and we’ll see if it’s something that — if it’s something they don’t want to talk about, I think that will speak volumes around the world.

Q And one last question on China. For the G20, do you expect the two leaders will get together in a bilateral meeting of some sort?

MR. GIBBS: I don’t know that the final schedule has been locked down yet, but we’ll find out — I will try to get that information.

All right?

Q Thank you, sir.

MR. GIBBS: Thanks, guys. What did you guys have for lunch?

Q Sushi.

MR. GIBBS: How was that?

Q Not as good as yours. (Laughter.)

* * * * *

MR. GIBBS: — in a square, or rectangle, so to speak. They were in the far corner and we were in the farthest sort of diagonal corner. So it was just the two of them, and the restaurant was closed.

I think I was telling Jeff earlier — I’ll tell you guys — that the President mentioned first getting together for lunch, President Obama did when they spoke just as President Clinton had come back from North Korea. And the President mentioned his desire to sit down and have lunch with him and talk about a range of things when they both had a chance, understanding their schedules are not the easiest to coordinate.

Obviously President Clinton came to the White House to talk with the President and the national security team about his events in North Korea. The original hope was to try to get together for lunch last week when the President was up here for the Cronkite memorial, but because of the speech to Congress, we figured it would be an event that would be good to do on this trip.

And I think Jen told you all that we are speaking — I think it’s the 22nd — to the Clinton Global Initiative while we’re in New York next week.

Q Do you have a topic yet for that?

MR. GIBBS: Not yet.

Q But it’s a formal speech?

MR. GIBBS: Yes, I don’t think — in all honesty, I don’t know that the length of the speech is sort of in that 20-25 minute — I think it’s a shorter topic. And obviously the day after, the President will speak to the General Assembly at the U.N. So I anticipate a series of global topics that will be on everybody’s mind.

Q But the financial markets and the economy were the thing they talked about the most in this lunch?

MR. GIBBS: Yes, yes.

All right? Thanks, guys.

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