Notes from a briefing room press insider…
Two Sides of the Same Ugly Coin?: The Taliban-as-lesser-enemy thread was woven more intricately today, with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs distinguishing between the direct and “global threat” of al Qaeda and the “not homogeneous” Taliban that alternately provides safe haven for terrorists and promotes a far different agenda on some local levels. “The Taliban are obviously exceedingly bad people that have done awful things,” RG articulated, adding that their “capability is somewhat different, though.” As a further rebuttal to those who would caution more Taliban references in the Obama team’s Af-Pak rhetoric, RG observed: “There is not intelligence to back up, as some have suggested, the imminent fall of the government in Afghanistan.”
What’s a Billion These Days…: Addressing the prospective costs of an increase in troop levels, RG acknowledged that the price tag was a continuing consideration in the Af-Pak review and that according to his figures, “For every 1,000 troops per year, it’s a billion dollars.”
No Love for Love: Holding nearly equal weight with Af-Pak today was POTUS’s 5 p.m. appointment with Cabinet members and Congressman… on the b-ball courts. RG noted the roster was largely ripped from a long-time House pickup group, and that his own attendance would be scrapped due to the “turned ankle” he suffered at one of the recent outings. Perhaps to turn the page on that embarrassment, RG outed POTUS sidekick Reggie Love as the victim of an Obama block (Ba-lock?) that WH photog Pete Souza snapped. The photo has been enlarged, ordered signed by Reggie (by POTUS), and was hanging in the West Wing… until it was dutifully delivered to the briefing room for the world to see. Reporters debated whether the photo was evidence of a POTUS foul. (In the judgment of this former HS-level hoopster, someone should clarify where the hoop was located so an over-the-back foul can be confirmed or refuted.) As Reggie crashed the briefing room to seize the (16×20?) photo, RG uttered: “I’m in trouble now.” Earlier, RG had said the game would be closed press “to protect the privacy and statistics of any of those involved.” Sorry, Reggie.
As for the Ladies: No women graced the list of to-be participants in the pickup game, and RG conceded that the “point’s well taken” for a POTUS who is the father of two daughters. As for a certain HHS Secy who seems ready for a fight (Question #9 on last night’s Leno), RG said he doesn’t know if the two have played yet, but “I think the President would be encouraged to play.” POTUS has this Secy Sebelius trash talk to contend with: “I actually made my college basketball team.”
NYT 1, Tattlers 0: For those scratching their heads at the Wednesday NYT story tracing the First Lady’s family history, RG seemed to let the gray lady off the hook on what seemed to have the potential for a WH complaint of privacy invasion. Having talked to the First Lady’s office this morning, RG said FLOTUS “enjoyed reading about her family history — that’s all.” He later remarked that “I’m sure every one of us has a relative that charts” such history. But does everyone have a newspaper to do it?