Notes from a briefing room press insider…
The T-Word: In a rare morning on-camera briefing, Press Secy Robert Gibbs tag-teamed with Jared Bernstein and Melody Barnes, chief WH economic and domestic policy advisors, respectively, to tout 250,000 saved/created education jobs reported under the Recovery Act. The announcement faced a skeptical press room (esp. on the lack of clarity on “saved” v. “created” numbers), and generated “transparency” contagion, originating with JB remarks — including that he “never contemplated this level of transparency” in local/state reporting to the RAT (independent Recovery Accountability and Transparency board). Capitalizing on the t-word, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked about the transparency of the health care debate (RG: “I do think the administration has been transparent”) and NBC’s Chuck Todd followed later with, “And this goes to the whole transparency question that Jake asked” to introduce a public option question that met with RG’s “I shockingly don’t have a lot new on this.” On bank bonuses, Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols questioned whether, “in the interest of transparency,” RG could discuss WH convos with banks reported to be ready to dole out excessive bonuses. RG said he didn’t know “who has talked to whom on this.”
Axe-ing Fox: In more colorful comments today, RG continued to engage the Fox/WH wars by elaborating on top advisor David Axelrod’s Sunday comments. As for Axe charging that Fox is just trying to make money, RG clarified: “I assume all of you are trying to make money, but maybe I have misinterpreted your otherwise altruistic ventures.” Landing the conversation-ending uppercut, RG observed of the targeted network, “Sometimes programming can be tilted toward accentuating the most profits.” Ouch.
What if We Gave You a Push?: Another press-room favorite blankets the transcript today as RG declined to “get ahead of” all sorts of Afghanistan news, following on COS Rahm Emanuel’s CNN/CBS Sunday show announcement that POTUS would wait for a solid election outcome before strategy is nailed down. “I don’t want to get ahead of the process,” RG repeated of the timing. “I’m not going to get too far down the hypothetical highway,” he riffed on Karzai cooperation. “I’m not going to get ahead of this process,” he said of whether Karzai would be credible. “I’m not going to get ahead of that,” he assured on potential POTUS involvement. In a small victory for AFP’s Stephen Collison, RG revised the talking point to “I hesitate to get too far ahead of this” when discussing whether a legitimate runoff could be held in the short term, adding that the outcome “will bear watching.” Back to you, Afghanistan….
But It’s Not Medvedev’s Favorite Phrase-ology: Declaring that he wouldn’t spend a lot of time on “pre-talk posturing” in hypothesizing the consequences of today’s multi-nation talks with Iran over its nuclear program, RG did note that Russian Prez Dmitry Medvedev was “quite clear” on the sanctions issue. Is POTUS willing to share the “clarity” rhetoric?