Notes from a briefing room press insider…
“Call Tommy on Saturday.”: With the WH announcement that POTUS will, in fact, jet to Copenhagen later Thursday to push for his hometown’s 2016 Olympic bid, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had some splainin’ to do about what has changed since Obama had said FLOTUS would lead the pitch. “The president believes health care is in better shape,” RG said in response to citations of POTUS’s original stay-at-home reasoning. But POTUS was also personally enthusiastic about the Denmark jaunt, Gibbs said, while adding that it was “silly” to think POTUS wouldn’t fight for any other U.S. city with an Olympic bid. Further trip questions were deflected to press aide Tommy Vietor in what became a Gibbsian refrain: “Call Tommy on Saturday” (after the IOC’s decision). Dodging a specific question on health care later on, RG jokingly advised: “Call Tommy.”
Tehran Tango: The news out of Tehran that the regime has launched a few missiles, in the style of fellow bad-kid-in-class North Korea, has put a new twist on the drama of this week’s P5+1 meeting on Iranian denuclearization. While identifying the act as a “preplanned” exercise more than once, Gibbs also called the regime “provocative” and said it validated the Obama team’s recent missile defense decisions. “We’re focused on Thursday,” he said, declining to elaborate on sanctions speculation. Foreign policy critics are watching sanctions developments with skepticism about Russian and Chinese cooperation, but Gibbs was on offense: “A few weeks ago no one ever thought we’d be where we are right now,” he said, citing the two countries’ statements on the Iranian nuclear plant revelation as real progress.
Full Speed Deliberation Ahead: POTUS is set to meet with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and top advisors at the WH tomorrow; RG says that while no decision is expected yet, they’re “not going to have a meeting to set a meeting agenda.” It’s been at least two weeks since RG used “couple weeks” or “few weeks” to describe when we might hear that decision, but today he said, “Any decision is a number of weeks away,” and more than once described the process as “very deliberative.”
It’s Not Like Turning in Homework: Responding to chatter (including commentary by Defense Secretary Robert Gates) that Guantanamo likely won’t close by the January 22 deadline set by POTUS the first day he was in office, RG said the team was “not focused on whether or not the deadline will or won’t be met on any particular day” and instead on making the most progress they can by that date. The deadline remains, he said, citing the Secretary’s argument that this town doesn’t operate well without deadlines. As for rumors that Greg Craig is stripped of top Gitmo duties, RG denied claims and said “a number of people” are on the case and that Craig was in the Oval this morning to discuss Gitmo.