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

Not Quite Ready for Back-to-School: On the heels of Monday’s WH daily guidance that noted, “The president will continue his vacation through the end of the week,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reported for duty in the briefing room as POTUS took an afternoon jaunt to the links with a few of the usual suspects. When RG was asked about POTUS’s seemingly inactive role in health care in recent days, he quipped that if he “hits Marvin [Nicholson]” he’ll be more active in health care. He followed by saying POTUS has held meetings today on the issue, and will make calls this week. “Just because the president might be doing something else doesn’t mean he’s not focused on health care,” Gibbs added. Congress returns to the classroom next Tuesday. (Any legislators with fun “What I did on my summer vacation” stories?)

Booyakasha!: Gibbs responded to questions about Dick Cheney’s Sunday Fox News appearance by calling the former VP’s comments the “same song and dance” from the early days of the Obama WH. (Anyone else really want to know what that song and dance would look like?) Cheney “clearly had his facts on a number of things wrong,” RG said, noting that the detainee review group (HIG) and not the WH will make decisions on the issue. RG added that former Bush-era DHS Secy Fran Townsend has applauded the group’s formation, Sen. John McCain’s remarks on interrogation have been “tremendously illuminating,” and Cheney’s track record on foreign policy “hasn’t borne a whole lot of fruit.” When Helen Thomas pressed for answers on reported continuation of “black sites” for interrogation, Gibbs denied that detainees were being tortured, and then carefully noted that detainees were sent to other countries to be tried where they violated laws but “not shipped in the dark of night to be tortured.”

McChrystal’s Homework: The imminent release of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s report on the war in Afghanistan has drummed up speculation on a potential change in troop numbers or broader strategy. Gibbs said POTUS is “anxious to continue the discussion about Afghanistan.” McChrystal’s homework has yet to reach the professor’s desk as it’s been weaving through the chain of command. Gibbs joked that it has no FedEx tracking #, but that the Pentagon will send it to 1600 Penn after its own review. Asked the classic question on defining “winnable” for Afghanistan, RG recycled the “disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies” goal, and rebutted a question that implied that achieving such a benchmark could take “close to forever.”