Back from the Principal’s Office: Chronic tardiness might get you in trouble at school, but here it’s the classroom of reporters that’s fed up with the lecturer’s lateness. After a delayed two-minute warning to accommodate reporters returning from a stakeout of the bankers meeting with the president this afternoon, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took to the podium at 2:08, about 20 minutes after the last countdown. ABC’s Jake Tapper, who had taken charge with two visits to the Lower Press office to complain during the long wait, pointed to a pattern in this behavior and noted that it “irritated everybody.” “My apologies,” Gibbs mea culpa’d. “I was in talking with the president.”
A Mighty Long Checklist: If he didn’t punt, Gibbs at least called a timeout on an extraordinary number of questions in today’s briefing. Among the subjects earning TBA labels: specific costs with regard to the new Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy; whether returning TARP funds was discussed with the bankers; the president’s alleged meeting with 9/11 victims’ families this week; whether bonus tax legislation was discussed in the bankers’ meeting; bankers’ suggestions to the president for economic recovery; numbers related to goals for training Afghan military and police; and how the president characterized the White House approach to purchase of toxic assets with the bankers. Someone’s got some homework tonight.
No Saturday-Morning Cartoons: Gibbs announced that the promised background briefing to preview the president’s trip to Europe for the G20 and NATO summits (as well as a side-gig to Turkey) will be tomorrow at 10 a.m. Briefers will be at the podium, but also accessible via conference call. “We’re a full-service outfit,” Gibbs quipped.
“Nothing personal, Turkey, but…”: Gibbs laid to rest any lingering rumors that Obama’s jaunt to Turkey at the end of his European adventures is the “first 100 days” Muslim country that the administration has promised he’d visit for a major address. “That’s not the speech,” Gibbs said of this trip. Asked if the president still intended to keep that pledge, Gibbs repeated, “It’s not the speech.”