Notes from a briefing room press insider:
Hot off the Presses: The highly anticipated release of Sen. Max Baucus’s bipartisan legislation on health care drew little applause from a cautious WH, where Press Secretary Robert Gibbs deflected invitations to grade the bill. “I don’t think this is a mirror of what the President’s talked about,” RG said, addressing those who draw comparisons to the WH proposal. He repeated that “the President’s speech wasn’t to send up a truckload of paper — some of which you printed,” nodding to NBC’s Chuck Todd, who held almost a tree’s worth of paper (though he noted that he wasn’t able to print the full Baucus legislation). When pressed to highlight positive parts of the newly released bill, Gibbs declined: “I’m not going to play games today.” (Apparently that was only on the South Lawn.)
(Don’t) Pencil It In: RG continued to address questions on the timetable of a decision on troop resources for the war in Afghanistan, today using the phrase “not immediate and not imminent” and replacing his earlier projection of “a couple” or “a few” weeks. He sought to ease pressure on the process by drawing a critical comparison to the Bush team, noting, “The president is not going to make resource decisions and then have a strategy” and “We’ve seen in the past what happens” when that route is taken. But when CNN’s Ed Henry said it sounded like the Bush team to stall for time by noting an “evolving” situation on the ground, RG disposed of the analogy: “I think what’s evolving is the answer you just gave me on the Bush administration.”
This is the Carter: Little response to President Jimmy Carter’s remarks last night regarding what he sees as race-based criticism of POTUS. RG reiterated the WH stance downplaying the role of prejudice in its opponents’ rhetoric. So is POTUS just staying out of this so as not to outshine the legislative priorities, or… is Carter just still the smelly kid in the class?
Question of the Day?: Responding to the hubbub building over the number of WH czars and their exact functions within the administration, RG at one point redirected the question by referencing former “AIDS czar” of the Bush WH, Randall Tobias, and his outing on the infamous DC Madam’s list. “Did that violate the Constitution or just offend our sensibilities?” RG asked.