Another Guest-Lecturer: Press Secretary Robert Gibbs ceded time at the top for Jared Bernstein of the VPOTUS team to do a little show-and-tell on the Recovery Act. Bernstein pulled out one of the swanky briefing room screens to help outline 10 major projects in the works for the second, “accelerated” stage of the Act. (Perhaps his most animated moment came when he curiously emphasized that “RURAL” America will benefit from 200 waste and water systems in the 10-project plan.) “I’m getting to like this thing!” he said gleefully as he jabbed his finger on the podium button for each slide change. Asked if the slide show was paid for with stimulus money, Gibbs butted in to deliver another blow to the black-and-white team: “We cut newspapers.”
How We Spell “Recovery”: The Obama team is measuring “acceleration” by building on the claim of 150,000 jobs created or saved in the first Recovery Act stage with a pledge to create or save another 600,000 by this fall. Bernstein (and later Gibbs) was pushed hard on the 150,000 figure, which he branded an “absolute, tried-and-true economic methodology.” (Paging Tony Fratto.) But, asked for the split between jobs created and saved within that
150,000, Bernstein said he wouldn’t “pretend to give a level of accuracy on that.” He did, however, make multiple plugs for the newly unveiled whitehouse.gov/recovery site. (Opened today!) In other numbers news, Bernstein defended the inaccurate 8-percent unemployment projection from the Congressional stimulus fight (actual: 9.4) by noting that the prediction predated the surprisingly bleak 4th-quarter GDP figure.
The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind?: In a light exchange of smartassery, Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols asked if Gibbs would concede that wind is free amid an explanation regarding the “multiplier effect” of such projects as windmills and window replacements. RG didn’t contend the assertion, but said it was “blowing hot in my direction.” Growing less patient with Nichols, he granted the privilege to “ask as many questions as you want,” but “don’t act like the question didn’t get answered.”
Around the World: Outside the home front… North Korea has, among other things recently: voided the truce ending the Korean War, tested a nuclear device, launched a few missiles, convicted two U.S. journalists and sentenced them to 12 years in a labor prison, and potentially chosen a successor for the ailing “Dear Leader,” Gibbs provided brief reaction to the developments. Echoing the State Department, he called for the “innocent” journalists’ release, reiterated that re-listing North Korea on the state sponsors of terrorism list was an option being considered, and didn’t have anything to add to rumors that Al Gore or Bill Richardson could be sent to negotiate the journalists’ release.