FishPoolDC: Our Insider’s Notes from Today’s Press Briefing

Back in the briefing room…

Don’t Get Out Your Pool Toys Just Yet: Political nerds everywhere are counting the days to the August Congressional recess to track the healthcare legislation nail-biter, but Press Secretary Robert Gibbs played it cool when asked whether the deed would get done by vacay time. “Maybe. I don’t know,” he said. While it was floated whether the goalposts had been moved (RG response: “Did somebody bring in goalposts?”), Gibbs said, “I don’t think anybody was under the illusion” that the bill would be signed by the end of the summer. “I’m sure the president will encourage them to stay” if there is not satisfactory progress, he said, noting that the WH would like to see bills through both houses by the deadline.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Gibbs continued to counter the impatient tone in coverage of the healthcare debate, deriding the emphasis on the negative and using a familiar jab: “I get that. That’s how this town continues to operate.” He pushed back on the criticism that POTUS has been too hands-off, saying, “Given the amount of time [WH] staff spend up on Capitol Hill… I’m not entirely sure that’s the case.” When Fox’s Major Garrett pressed Gibbs on whether the public option was essential to the WH, he was instructed to “Don’t quote Rahm. Don’t quote me. Quote the president.” When Major pointed to POTUS remarks in L’Aquila that omitted the public option among his key parameters, RG said he’d have to check….

“I’m a Hyper Hypo[thetical]”: RG repeatedly employed a familiar strategy from the press hand’s playbook, refusing to engage the hypotheticals from the seats. He advised against “blow[ing] through like four toll boths on the hypothetical interstate.” In an even lighter moment, Robert attempted to pacify the inimitable Lester
by declaring him “a smart man,” to which Congress Daily‘s George Condon interrupted: “Hypothetical.”

Iiiiinteresting…: Tomorrow’s field trip to Michigan will feature a POTUS speech that was previously scheduled as a town hall. Gibbs claimed ignorance on why the format was moved — if it ever was slated as a town hall (which it was) — and joked, with a wink, “I guess we couldn’t find enough questions.”

Hold Onto Your Seats: Helen Thomas nearly spit out her teeth in response to Kinsolving’s second question — on how WH reporters were selected to attend the July Fourth reception on condition that it be off-the-record. Les had pointed out that Helen wasn’t invited, and the West Wing press legend bowled over, barely containing herself. Gibbs asked that the record reflect the response.