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

While most of today’s class was your typical August snoozer – Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (somewhat liberally) estimated this morning that 90 percent of the WH is on vacay — a few items worth scribbling about amid the summer school doldrums:

Around the World: RG largely stuck to his previous comments on Lockerbie and Afghanistan, first affirming that the newly released 1988 Pan Am bomber should be treated as the “convicted mass murderer” he is and that the Libyans purportedly receiving him from Scotland’s so-called compassionate release should institute house arrest. He clarified POTUS’s afternoon remarks on WH contacts with the victims’ families, noting that the National Security Council was sure to inform them of the admin’s efforts to thwart the release. On Afghanistan, Gibbs said POTUS is “enormously proud” of the millions of Afghanis who overcame voter intimidation to cast ballots in today’s election, and that the WH is looking forward to the Sept. 3 preliminary announcement of election results.

“Oh Lester!”: While radio host Lester Kinsolving’s questions are usually met with widespread groans or mocking chuckles (partly due to his consistently toting an outdated, Fisher Price-sized tape recorder and microphone), his reference today to an article in NYT‘s recent series on women in the military elicited an interesting dodge from the podium. Lester asked whether POTUS was supportive of having women in the military, and added a follow-up addressing their overseas quarters. Both queries were met with the same evasion: that the topic is “left appropriately to the Pentagon.” Lester’s pleas that POTUS is, in fact, the Commander in Chief did nothing to change the response. Sensitivity on the issue might be understandable, considering the WH’s similar stickiness with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell…

Color Blind?: Across the radio spectrum from Lester, Bill Press questioned whether it was time for the terror alert system to be scrapped, since our Orange Alert seems to have overstayed its welcome. (From our friends on the 2003 Weekend Update desk, Happy Orange Alert, indeed) Gibbs said DHS Secy Janet Napolitano was still reviewing the system.

Teddy Talk: As for the intriguing bit of news today that Sen. Ted Kennedy has put forward a proposal (dated back to July 2, interestingly) to ensure his swift replacement in Congress, RG insists POTUS has not discussed the issue with the ailing “lion” of the Senate. He said he believed their last contact was June 2 for an estimated 7-8 minutes to discuss progress on health care reform.