You’ve seen Robert Gibbs’ dodge a question on cable, or in person. You’ve read the pool reports. Now FBDC takes you to the press seats for an insider’s look at the White House daily briefing…
No complaints from the corps today about the stubborn briefing room doors. Any stragglers entering the room today just treated us to the spring-like weather we were missing on the outside. (Rose Garden briefing, anyone?)
Testing 1-2-3: The tech-savvy Obama team has been chided for its slow adaptation to the WH phones and Internet lines. While they seem to have a grip on those for now, the intercom messages continue to elicit jokes and exasperation in pre-briefing announcements. Today, it sounded like “Reception… to the briefing room 4:30,” which caused a slight panic among reporters who thought the garbled message somehow meant Gibbs had postponed the briefing long past his usual delays. The more amusing announcement came a few minutes later: “Warning… warning,” which, despite laughs, was widely interpreted as the two-minute warning.
Repeat After Me: Gibbs ran through several of his favorite phrases in a somewhat uneventful briefing, reciting three in a span of less than five minutes: “One challenge at a time,” “Let’s step back,” and “[Let’s not] kick the can down the road.” He also used “we didn’t get here overnight” a few times to temper the economic whirlwinds. Gibbs used one of his all-time favorites- “don’t want to get ahead of” -in answer to a question on the stem cell bill signing. “I don’t want to get ahead of where the science is on this,” he said.
Analogy ‘o’ the Day: The fresh press secretary is always quick to a baseball analogy or other figurative language, and frequently will play the game with reporters who engage him first. Today’s was introduced by AP Radio’s Mark Smith, who in asking about the economy framed it in terms of a house fire. Gibbs ‘fired’ back, noting that one wouldn’t pick and choose a particular room to water down but instead attempt to save the entire house. One reporter followed up with, “Is there a backyard shed that can be allowed to smolder?” No definitive answer there yet.
Still Talking About Rush?: Gibbs, passing through the Lower Press doors post-briefing and in response to a shouted question as to whether he’d be willing to debate Rush Limbaugh: “I’m busy this afternoon.”
No Love for D.C.?: Still trying to preserve the Washington-outsider image even as they inhabit its most prized real estate, the Obama team is not short on subtle jabs at how this city operates. Today’s briefing featured several examples of, if not demeaning D.C., at least defining it. (1) Gibbs sparred with Jake Tapper over what would constitute “Washington writ large”- the press secretary had the last word with his quip that the White House is no longer the centerpiece as we “got rid of that several hundred years ago” and now have Congress to deal with, as well. (2) Using the tone of many of his predecessors, Gibbs was exasperated with questions on the timing of the stem cell bill signing — which fits in with the running argument that the priorities of the Washington press are in the wrong place. (3) “Washington is full of varying opinions,” but the administration has solicited many viewpoints and moved on a lot of things very quickly, Gibbs argued.
Post-game Huddles: As the briefings are gradually being cut shorter with a more prompt ‘Thank you’ from the AP seat, reporters beyond the third row are growing frustrated with the lack of attention. Today showed a flood of domestic outlet reporters trailing the Obama press team into the Lower Press office, while foreign press reporters huddled outside with the National Security Council spokesperson.