Class is Still in Session: “The argument’s not over,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, beating back insinuations that the WH was losing steam on health care or focusing only on winning the Dems. RG continues to fight interpretations of weekend quotations (versus “must” references) that suggested a change in WH policy on the public option, saying, “We can quibble about the way [Obama] phrased it one way that time” and repeating that they cannot fully evaluate the co-op option to judge its weight against the public plan.”I’m not going to get into ranking different priorities like the pre-season college football pool,” he said. Certain Republicans (especially the Three Musketeers in Senate Finance) were applauded for working toward reform, but Gibbs noted the GOP leadership’s reticence. (McConnell: Write your name on the blackboard.)
Baghdad and Kabul: Upticks in violence on both war fronts have heads turning toward foreign policy today, especially on Election Eve in Afghanistan. Gibbs called the Afghan elections the “most important event that will happen in Afghanistan this year” and cited the process as the reason for the president’s troop increases. As for the Afghan government’s attempt at muzzling journalists on reports of violence during polling hours, RG said, “We have expressed our concern and displeasure about that policy” and stated the WH’s belief that the journalists should be able to exercise “freedom of access” during tomorrow’s election. (Voting starts in a few hours.) On Iraq, which saw its bloodiest day in some time, Gibbs observed that the “number of attacks is at or near an all-time low.” He responded to concerns about the lessening of American security by pointing out that this agreement was determined by Iraqis.
Give Us Our Fill on Bill: While mostly mum on North Korea, post-multi-presidential summit, Gibbs ran through the WH talking points on how they’re dealing with the reclusive regime, saying “our goals have not changed… largely because the responsibilities of North Korea have not changed” and reiterating the ultimate goal of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. When WaPo‘s Anne Kornblut asked if RG could offer more details on yesterday’s Sit Room/Oval rendezvous, he responded: “No. Good try though.” He was also quiet, despite repeated requests and in the name of preserving private conversations, to elaborate on whether health care was broached in Obama-Bill or Obama-Hillary discussions, including yesterday’s long sit-down with 42.