FishPoolDC: Our Insider’s Notes from Today’s Briefing

Outta Control: CBS’s Chip Reid and corps legend Helen Thomas led the charge on the issue of how the WH chose to select questioners and attendees at today’s health care town hall. A defensive Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pointed to the submission of questions via Twitter and Facebook and urged reporters to reserve judgment until after they see the broad range of views represented, though Reid maintained that it seemed “tightly controlled.” When RG tried to lighten the mood by asking Helen if she had e-mailed a question, she shot back: “I don’t have to e-mail it. I can tell you right now what I want to know.” She charged the Obama team’s press shop with a “control” that she has never seen at the WH: “It’s shocking. It’s really shocking.” Gibbs laughed at the insinuation that he was “controlling the press,” and judged: “poorly, I might add.”

Rahm and the Floating Smiley Face: Gibbs hailed yesterday’s pro-employer health care mandate from Wal-Mart as a “pretty big mindset change on behalf of the nation’s largest employer.” When CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller asked about a threat from West Wing badass Rahm Emanuel, RG replied: “Rahm would appreciate you denoting that he might have twisted or broken an arm,” even as the Chief of Staff didn’t bully the retail giant.

>>UPDATE: And now the video…

Obama v. Palin 2009?: With the Alaskan governor’s recent off-hand running challenge (the athletic kind) to POTUS, Gibbs was asked whether the Jock-in-Chief would be up for such a footrace. “I will certainly ask him,” he said of a potential summer face-off. Back to Iran: While otherwise fairly bland in his commentary on Iranian politics lately, Gibbs did indulge a question on the Iranian government’s allegation that the now-famous Neda was killed by an outside, meddling force. “I think that is the ongoing campaign of misinformation about what’s going on,” he said. “The notion that the death of an innocent woman would be staged — even with them, it’s shocking.”

Sweet Sixty: Softening some of the rising expectations coming out of yesterday’s ruling that Al Franken will, in fact, be Minnesota’s junior senator, Gibbs said the math hadn’t changed much. “I don’t know that the seating of one senator changes the notion” that the Democrats control both houses and the White House, he added. But, doggone it, they sure do like him….