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

Baby You Should Drive My Car: In answer to whether the president believes American automakers are producing cars that are worth buying, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted that the Driver-in-Chief actually owns one — “a Ford Escape Hybrid, like his press secretary.” (Twinsies!) Gibbs added that while his gray model was parked on West Exec, the president’s is back in Chicago. No DC joy rides for POTUS.

“I Have One Question, And Nine Follow-Ups”: Unlike the lame-duck Bush administration briefings, reporters have taken every opportunity to ask follow-up after follow-up in the daily Gibbs showdowns. When Press “Dean” Helen Thomas followed suit today, Gibbs joked she was imitating the style of one Major Garrett of Fox News, especially in her lining up two questions of different topics. “Well, you seemed so generous!” she ceded.

As Seen on TV: The liveliest banter in today’s briefing, coming close to the normally overblown Aaron Sorkin renderings (and almost as energized as last fall’s Secretary Paulson presser at the height of the economy’s downfall), centered on the fascination du jour: Obama’s response to virtual town hall queries on the legalization of marijuana. “I’ve lost control,” Gibbs said amid the excitement. Gibbs maintained that the president does not believe legalizing the drug would be “good economic strategy” but gave little ground on whether the administration sees any value in permitting medical marijuana. When he observed that marijuana questions were filed in several categories on the White House web site in advance of the town hall, ABC Radio’s Ann Compton quipped: “Green Jobs.”

We are the Askers, You the Askee: NYT’s Sheryl Stolberg has kept the heat on in challenging the administration’s “new tone” pledge. Today she pressed Gibbs on whether his crack about the GOP being the “Party of No New Ideas” (artists formerly known as the “Party of No”) was an example of the kind of change of tone you can believe in. “Yeah,” Gibbs said confidently, rehashing his complaints about the Republican budget released today that allegedly contains no numbers. Gibbs tried a little role reversal in asking Stolberg a somewhat rhetorical question, and the savvy Stolberg pointed out who is actually supposed to be answering the questions around here. Major Garrett backed her up with, “Why don’t you answer it, then ask it and answer it.”