By this time, the NewsBusters connoisseur will have surely heard about yesterday’s unofficial celebration in the White House press briefing. Like many parties, it was somewhat louder than normal, a bit tense at points, and the press – specifically Chip Reid and Helen Thomas – topped off the early Independence Day festivities by roasting (figuratively, of course) Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
That, incidentally, does not normally happen at parties – even at the White House.
The Robert Roast was, of course, in reference to the recent spate of staged White House press events. The White House press corps, apparently, do not enjoy heavily produced events, such as the “town hall” meeting with DNC volunteers and union members. However, Carl Bernstein, appearing on the July 2 Morning Joe, did not take kindly to the gentle press-corps broiling:
“Nixon didn’t try to do that,” Thomas said. “They couldn’t control (the media). They didn’t try. “What the hell do they think we are, puppets?” Thomas said. “They’re supposed to stay out of our business. They are our public servants. We pay them.” Thomas said she was especially concerned about the arrangement between the Obama Administration and a writer from the liberal Huffington Post Web site. The writer was invited by the White House to President Obama’s press conference last week on the understanding that he would ask Obama a question about Iran from among questions that had been sent to him by people in Iran. “When you call the reporter the night before you know damn well what they are going to ask to control you,” Thomas said.
Is the press corps starting to tire of the Obama Administration?
At a press conference today, Helen Thomas and CBS’s Chip Reid got into it with Robert Gibbs over how the administration has been prepackaging media events.
First Reid asked why the questions for Wednesday’s town hall on healthcare were being preselected. After Gibbs tried to dodge that question a few times, Thomas became involved, saying, “We have never had that in the White House. I’m amazed that you people … call for openness and transparency.”
Saturday’s NBC Nightly News aired a report filed by NBC News correspondent Lisa Myers in which she looked into President Obama’s tendency to award lavish jobs as ambassadors to some of his top campaign fund-raisers – whose qualifications in foreign policy are questionable – and in which she noted that Obama had criticized President Bush for appointing donors to positions in government. Myers: "It's worth noting that candidate Obama criticized President Bush for rewarding his donors with ambassadorships."
Anchor Lester Holt introduced the story: "Now to NBC News ‘In Depth,’ and another tradition still going strong in Washington: rewarding major fund-raisers with plum positions as foreign ambassadors. It's a custom apparently embraced by President Obama. One-third of his nominees raised big money for his campaign."
There is little argument that the British press is doing a better job than its U.S. counterparts covering the Obama administration's less than perfect performance.
If the reactions of Nile Gardiner and James Delingpole at the UK Telegraph to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs's blanket criticism of British journalism are any indication, UK reporters are also more willing to stand up for themselves instead of filing toothless complaints and letting veiled threats go by without blowback.
First, via Howard Kurtz, here's the fine whine from Associated Press reporter, President of the White House Correspondents' Association, and Democratic operative Jennifer Loven about the Obama administration's penchant for anonymous, "on background" briefings:
Those of us seeking truth in reporting, especially the inconvenient truths about a Democratic presidential administration, are re-learning the lessons of the Clinton Era:
First, that the "newspapers of record," the Associated Press, and the major TV networks (except Fox) are usually the last places you want to go to learn what's really going on, and the first place to visit if you want a rendition of the Democratic-left wing party line.
Second, that some of the best reporting and fact-checking can be found in editorials at the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily.
Third, that the many of the British papers will dig up and expose administration-embarrassing news most of America's newsprint apparatchiks will bury if they find them, and ignore if they can.
In 2009, there is a fourth lesson, which is that much of the investigative reporting vacuum created by the establishment media is being filled by the center-right blogosphere.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is very upset that Lesson Three is again in force, and made his displeasure known (HT Politico) in reaction to a UK Telegraph report alleging that photos from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq "include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse":
Patrick Gavin at the Politico – the same reporter that discovered how reporters reverently stood for President Obama in White House briefing room, when they didn’t do the same for Bush – has found another measure of media comfort and joy over Team Obama. Call it the Gibbs Giggle Index:
Whenever there’s laughter in the James S. Brady Briefing Room — by either the briefer or the briefed — the official White House stenographer indicates as much by inserting "(Laughter.)" into the transcript.
And in Robert Gibbs’ first four months as President Barack Obama’s press secretary, there have been more than 600 instances of "(Laughter.)" during his regular press briefings — an average of more than 10 laughs per day.
It’s a gaudy statistic — and one that puts his predecessors to shame.
Dana Perino, George W. Bush’s last press secretary, got all of 57 laughs in her first four months. Scott McClellan, another Bush press secretary, got just 66 laughs in his first four months.
Gibbs even bests the late Tony Snow, whose jocular performances — dubbed "The Tony Snow Show" by some — drew a relatively paltry 217 laughs during his first four months on the job.
The Joe Biden Gaffe Express almost ran off the tracks Thursday. Fortunately, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was there to explain to America exactly what the Vice President meant when he told NBC's Matt Lauer people shouldn't fly on airplanes or ride the subway because of the recent swine flu outbreak.
Just hours after Biden made these comments on the "Today" show (video embedded right), Gibbs was asked about them by ABC's Jake Tapper.
Here is the marvelous exchange (video embedded below the fold with transcript h/t TVNewser):
No bias here, just some fun at White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs's expense.
"White House Press Secretary began his daily briefing, even though Pres. Obama was speaking at the U.Conn event. Considered a no-no," CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller noted via his Twitter account just shortly after 2:30 p.m. EDT.
Education journalist Dakarai I. Aarons asked Knoller:
@markknoller any precedent for holding a briefing while the president is speaking elsewhere?
To which the veteran journalist answered:
@d_aarons In 30 years of covering the White House - it's just not done. the press secretary waits till the Pres is done, before starting...
It must be hard to keep a straight face when you report that the President of United States going to cut $100 million from a $3.5 trillion budget and then say he is serious about cutting government spending.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs couldn't pull it off. In the White House's April 20 press briefing, Gibbs was asked by Associated Press reporter Jennifer Loven why the $100-million target was so small and she even accused him of making a joke about it.
"I'm being completely sincere that only in Washington, D.C. is $100 million not a lot of money," Gibbs said. "It is where I'm from. It is where I grew up. And I think it is for hundreds of millions of Americans."
But somehow, CNN correspondent Elaine Quijano pulled it off. Originally on CNN's April 20 "American Morning," and again on CNN throughout April 20, Quijano reported the Obama administration was making an effort to cut spending.
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show co-host Harry Smith talked to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about Monday’s stock market rally and wondered: "What was the reaction at the White House yesterday when the stock market closed?...There's been a lot of heat, though, aimed at the White House, aimed at the Treasury Secretary. Was there some degree of vindication?"
Gibbs claimed that the administration does not pay attention to daily stock numbers, but Smith replied: "You have to admit, it's a pretty good day, though, when the stock market goes up 500 points and the AIG executives, at least more than a dozen of them, say ‘we're going to give our money back.’" After Smith’s pressing, Gibbs admitted: "Well, look, Harry. I'll take 500 points and that kind of news any day of the week."
An earlier report by Bloomberg TV anchor Deirdre Bolton credited the White House banking plan for the stock surge: "...yesterday the Dow soared to 6.5%, that was the biggest gain since October. The Obama administration finally giving some -- Wall Street some details on how the bad banks' assets can be treated. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner put together a plan that some say is the best of both worlds to deal with toxic assets."
Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's “Morning Joe”, showed her father's aptitude for foreign policy this morning.
The daughter of one of the Carter administration's chief foreign policy wonks started by scolding Robert Gibbs' knee-capping response to former Vice President Dick Cheney's CNN interview, saying that:
BRZEZINSKI: I would have probably wanted to take that on in a big way because many would argue that Cheney made the country more dangerous. Cheney is the one who put us in the position we're in and now has al Qaeda reconstituting around the world. There's some good answers to what Cheney said.
Many would, and they would be proven wrong by that very statement. It was Cheney's policies that destroyed Al Qaeda to the point that they had to “reconstitute” at all. It was Cheney's policies that stopped a long string of al Qaeda attacks. It was indeed Cheney's policies that put us in the position we're in - winning, and safe at home. Apparently, Brzezinski's idea of a better response would have been to attack the policies that have made us safe in the first place.
What's a little salt on the wound after a seemingly humiliating performance by CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer on Comedy Central's March 12 "The Daily Show?" At least that's the way White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acted when he took the opportunity to comment on last night's "Daily Show" during his March 13 press briefing.
Here we go again - another Obama administration/media personality feud in the works.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has no problem addressing media critics of President Barack Obama - even on an individual basis. Since Obama was sworn in as president, Gibbs has addressed criticism from conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, CNBC mercantile exchange floor reporter Rick Santelli and now CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer.
During the March 3 White House press briefing, Tom Costello of NBC News asked Gibbs to respond to remarks from Cramer, who was described as "not a conservative," made on NBC's March 3 "Today" show that he "thought the president's policies, his agenda had contributed to the greatest wealth destruction he's ever seen by a president."
CNBC reporter Santelli's Thursday morning "Shout Heard Round the World" (CNBC's term) objecting to the Obama administration's mortgage modification program on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange quickly went viral, and struck two nerves. First, it ignited a groundswell of support from the over 90% of the of the nation that pays its bills and plays by the (normal) rules. The other nerve it struck was at the White House, whose spokesman Robert Gibbs struck back with a level of poorly concealed fury and contempt that I don't think I've seen publicly displayed by any other administration in my lifetime.
Larry Kudlow had Santelli as a guest on CNBC's Kudlow Report Friday night (CNBC video here; YouTube here [HT Scott's Slant]). As one would fully expect by this time, Santelli made a few huge, emotionally-charged points of his own. The gratifying stunner is Kudlow's passion in the final third of the interview, where he sounded the alarm over freedom of the press, basic respect, and bullying.
Looking around the web, at least at this point, this interview has gained relatively little exposure, leaving the distinct and incorrect impression that Gibbs has the rhetorical upper hand.
No way. The CNBC pair of Santelli and Kudlow has the White House on its heels. Common-sense, passionate, principled assertions rooted in truth will tend to do that. Here's the full transcript (bolds are mine):
Will wonders ever cease? First, a NBC network airs its Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor reporter making a call to action against all the populism that has inundated the political dialogue over the past six months. Now, the same reporter, Rick Santelli, has been invited by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to the White House.
On CNBC's "Street Signs" Feb. 20, Santelli told viewers he would accept Gibbs' invitation. And, although his critics thought he was over-the-top, he said he still felt good about his impassioned plea.
"Well, I tell you what Melissa Lee," Santelli said. "It's been a wild afternoon, but I do want to point out - I do believe I was invited to the White House by Mr. Gibbs and I want to let him know, I would love to. I would love to accept and the decaf sounds good, but I prefer tea, but thank you for bring this into the forefront. This is an issue that means a lot to everybody and I'm glad it's getting a high degree of introspection, debate and I think that's essential. I feel really good about that."
Live-blogging the press briefing. Was scheduled to start at 2:30, it's now 2:38.
Watching on Fox News Channel. May also through up some Tweets @KenShepherd
The archive of official White House press briefings can be found here.
14:45: Still waiting for Gibbs to come out. Fox News has gone to split-screen.
14:52, Gibbs finally underway.
14:54, female reporter notes Judd Gregg connection to Abramoff scandal. 2nd question, is president getting tougher in rhetoric on stimulus?
14:56, same reporter he feels the need to ramp up the rhetoric a bit, why is that?
14:58, male reporter asks if there's any concern the executive pay guideline will backfire, with firms not asking for bailout money b/c of the rules. Also asks if Gibbs can give a "flavor" for what to expect from stimulus negotiations.
15:01, same reporter: Are you worried about it backfiring?
15:02, Ed Henry, CNN with question about president's stance on "buy American" provisions in the stimulus bill.
15:03, Henry asks "what balance" does Obama want "to strike" in buying American and honoring trade commitments.
Former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle (picture at right is part of a Getty Images pic at a related New York Times story) has just upped the ante in Washington's tax-avoiding/evading game of "Can you top this?"
Whereas recently confirmed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner "only" $40,000 in back taxes and interest, principally relating to unpaid Social Security and Medicare taxes (with a dash of retirement-plan penalty and illegally deducted overnight summer camp expenses included in the mix), the man who Rush Limbaugh used to call "Puff" Daschle during his Senate days has upped to ante to six figures.
In his daily press briefing earlier today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs scoffed at a question by conservative-leaning WCBM Radio host Les Kinsolving as "far afield" from a question posed just a moment earlier on the February 17 nationwide conversion to digital television (DTV).
Other reporters could be heard scoffing Kinsolving as well as the embedded video shows. Relevant transcript below (emphasis mine):
LES KINSOLVING, WCBM Radio: Can I follow that up?
ROBERT GIBBS, White House Press Secretary: Yes sir.
KINSOLVING: Thank you, so much. A number of Democrats in Congress want to restore the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which, before it was repealed applied only to electronic media and not to any print media-
GIBBS: Lester, I thought we were talking about DTV.
Updated (14:17 p.m. EST): Checking back at the site a few minutes ago, the Obama White House now has a press briefings section with the Briefing Room portion of the site. You can find it here.
This morning I discovered that the Obama administration's WhiteHouse.gov is indeed transcribing and maintaining its daily press briefings featuring Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Of course you pretty much have to know where to find them since there's no link to an archive section from either the main page or the "Briefing Room" page.
By entering "press briefing" in the search field, I got a hit for the first Gibbs press briefing on January 22, 2009. The link is as follows:
NewsBusters and the Weekly Standard's Mary Katharine Ham are not the only critics of the Obama administration for its failure to transcribe, publish and archive the daily press briefings held by press secretary Robert Gibbs.
A Web site called WhiteHousePressCorps.org is running a graphic at the top of its main page which reads, "Waiting on the official release of the 1/22/2009 Press Briefing transcript for" followed by a ticker counting up from January 22. You can also track them on Twiter @whpresscorps.
The site, which features archives of White House press gaggle and briefing transcripts dating back to February 2006, describes itself as "an independent media watchdog source providing information and commentary on the relationship between the press and the White House" that is not affiliated with the White House Correspondents' Association.
Here's how the guys at WHPC reacted to a carefully excerpted press briefing posted to the WhiteHouse.gov site on Monday:
A Minnesotan who voted in November for Barack Obama recently wrote NewsBusters thanking us for our reporting on how the Obama administration has thus far failed to transcribe, publish, and archive on whitehouse.gov its daily press briefings.
Writes Andrea Dvorak of St. Paul:
My politics are certainly left of center; I voted for Obama and couldn't be happier that he's our president now. (Part of why I started reading the press briefings back in 2002 was to keep tabs on some of the less well publicized actions of former president Bush.) But just because I think I'll like most of Obama's policies doesn't mean I'm comfortable letting his Press office decide what I find out about what the US press is asking his administration. I count on the press to investigate ANY administration and ask tough questions. If I don't know what they're asking, I'm significantly less informed about my government.
Once again I'm going to live-blog the daily press briefing. I'll be focused on the reporters' questions, not so much Gibbs's answers. I also caution this is a rough transcript and may contain errors. I hope to render as accurate a depiction as possible of the questions asked and who's asking them.
As a little twist, I'll also try Twittering some comments on my Twitter page, @KenShepherd.
The presser was scheduled for 3:45 p.m. ET, but is late getting off the ground. Gibbs entering room at 3:53 p.m. ET
15:54 Gibbs gives announcements including week-ahead schedule "better late than never" he adds.
15:54, female reporter: Did the president come away with any specific reason to think Republicans will support the stimulus? Was there anything he agreed to put in the bill to get Republican support?
15:58, same reporter with followup, says way Gibbs describes it makes it sound like Obama is arguing for the status quo stimulus bill, not getting changes to it.
15:59, Bill Plante: It seems more aspirational. Public comments we hear are more predictable. Republicans accuse Dems of it being too larded up, Democrats say there's too much tax cuts... I don't hear enough from either side that there's compromise in the works.