Notes from a briefing room press insider…
Afghanistan TBA: In the first day back in the Brady briefing room in two weeks, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fielded a lot of lingering questions on the Afghan troop decision timeline. Another Sit Room meeting is scheduled for 1.5 hours this evening, and while RG has already ruled out an announcement this week, no further meetings are scheduled. (Yet.) As CBS’s Chip Reid pushed on the “dithering” criticism and whether the WH felt pressured by the angst of U.S. allies, RG flipped the questioning tables to drill Reid on his sources for such a sentiment. Reid said he thought RG should be familiar with such criticism, and an almost Who’s-on-First-like back-and-forth ensued, with RG eventually joking, “We could play the Jeopardy! version of this.” When Reid posed an unrelated follow-up on a critical analysis by Leslie Gelb — shared by “other analysts” — on POTUS’s recent Asia jaunt, RG jabbed, “We’re going to play this game again?”
Quotable: RG, on the odds that health care will make its way through the Senate and reconciliation process before January to meet the WH “deadline”: “You guys are better odds makers than me.” (He also noted that “that’s our hope” and it “continues to be our goal” — which seem like less hearty words than when previously asked this question.)
A True Team of Rivals: After Fox’s Wendell Goler slipped on citing the new WH counsel Bob Bauer, instead referencing Gary Bauer as the new top West Wing lawyer, RG deadpanned, “That might be some news.” (Sure would have helped an otherwise slow, rainy day….)
“Curry”-ing Favor: With preparations underway to welcome the Indian First Family for the Obama team’s first State Dinner tomorrow night (including an elaborate tent perched on the South Lawn), RG responded to Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times — who asked whether a black-tie affair was appropriate in this economy — by noting the “very important relationship” that the U.S. has “with a very important country.” He ticked off counter-terrorism, energy, economy, and climate change as a few issues of mutual concern. Even the highly anticipated diplo-tainment has some critics wondering if India has gotten the attention it deserves.