Earlier today, the White House announced President Barack Obama and his one-time rival, Mitt Romney, would be sitting down for a bite to eat tomorrow, but outside of the event being scheduled no additional information was provided. Various journalists, naturally, weren’t satisfied and attempted to score more details from Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney. They mostly did not succeed.
However, we did learn Mr. Obama is not planning to offer Mr. Romney a cabinet secretary position tomorrow, or at least that’s not his intention. Additionally, the president was the one to invite Mr. Romney, instead of the other way around, but apparently has no specific questions in mind for his former opponent. And no, despite an earnest request, they won’t reconsider opening the meeting to the press.
“I appreciate the request, but we’re going to let the two men, who spent a great deal of time in the public eye over the course of the past year, both of them, have a private lunch together,” Mr. Carney explained.
Below you can find the official White House transcript of their back-and-forth on the topic:
Q One is, you all announced this morning a meeting tomorrow, at lunch, between the President and Mitt Romney. What does the President expect to get out of that meeting? Certainly during the campaign they didn’t seem to agree on much, but is there overlap in their positions on certain things that they could discuss?
MR. CARNEY: Let me take tomorrow’s lunch first. During his news conference two weeks ago, the President said that there are aspects of Governor Romney’s record and Governor Romney’s ideas that he believes could be very helpful. The President noted that Governor Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that that skills set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better, which is a passion of the President’s. As you know, he’s requested reorganization authority from the Congress to do just that.
I don’t have an agenda for the lunch. The President, as he said then, looked forward to having this meeting with Governor Romney. It’s a private lunch; only the two men will be in the room. And I’m sure it will be a useful discussion.
Q A couple of quick follows on previously asked questions. The meeting with Romney — can you give us a little bit on how that came about? Did the President call and invite him? When? And the President I think said he respects his ability to create efficiencies in the Olympics — that’s a rough memory. Does he have a specific ask of Governor Romney in the meeting?
MR. CARNEY: He does not have a specific ask. I’m sure that the topics will be many in their lunch. The President noted during the press conference that Governor Romney was very successful in running the Olympics. He was obviously a successful businessman and I’m sure has some ideas that the President will find helpful. But I don’t want to — I don’t have an agenda for you and I don’t have outcomes before the meeting itself.
The way it came about was that the President expressed interest in the immediate aftermath of the election in meeting with Governor Romney, and so the staffs of the two men got together and worked out a time for that to happen, and that time is tomorrow.
Q One more about the meeting, the lunch tomorrow. The language that you’re using today about the meeting and about Governor Romney’s strengths and what we heard the President say in the press conference, it reminds me a little bit of what was being said last January when we were talking about the reorganization of the Commerce Department. Is Governor Romney here tomorrow in some kind of Cabinet-level position? (Laughter.) In some kind of audition for that position?
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q Beyond that, is there some kind of reorganization in the Commerce Department where Governor Romney could play a role?
MR. CARNEY: Again, there is — the President does not have a specific assignment in mind for the Governor. He looks forward to discussing with Governor Romney a variety of issues, including the President’s interest in making the federal government more efficient — an interest that was demonstrated by that very broad proposal that he put forward asking Congress for reorganization authority, the same authority that Presidents up through Reagan had had for a long time — and adding what he felt was a helpful enticement, which is that he would only use that authority with the promise that any action he took to reorganize government would result in savings to the federal government. And that’s what his proposal with regards to all the entities in government that deal with exports and commerce would do.
Q Jay, the strengths that Governor Romney brings do comport with the kind of vision that the President has for that reorganization –
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think Governor Romney has many strengths, but I know that the President will look forward to having a discussion about broadly the issues of government efficiency.
Q Jay, both then-candidates for the Oval Office seemed to have such disdain for one another, particularly when they were debating. What is the President’s stand on his emotions and his feelings with Mitt Romney now? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, I would say that elections are serious business, and they tend to represent a clash of ideas and they’re hard fought. And it’s certainly no different this time than it has been in every election that I’ve been around for and covered in the past.
But the President, as he said in the aftermath of the election, believes that Governor Romney has ideas that he’s interested in that were developed through some of the experiences that Governor Romney has had in his life, and he looks forward to discussing them with Governor Romney.
I think the President feels pretty good about how the election turned out, if that’s what you mean. (Laughter.)
Q How long is the lunch for? Is it an hour, hour and a half, two?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have an end time for you. I think it will be a substantial lunch, if not on the plate than in the discussion.
Q Just one — would you please reconsider opening the President’s meeting with Mitt Romney to press coverage since it’s — (laughter) — no, just so — to cameras, because it’s closed coverage and this was an historic election. This is the first time they’re meeting, and I would just respectfully request –
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate the request, but we’re going to let the two men, who spent a great deal of time in the public eye over the course of the past year, both of them, have a private lunch together.