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

‘A’ is for Barack?: Faced with another pre-emptive 100-days question, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the “president is pleased by his achievements thus far,” though the American people won’t grade “just by the first 95 days.” (How about 100?) Gibbs cited a few initiatives that makes POTUS particularly proud: Recovery and Reinvestment Act, timetable for Iraq withdrawal, progress on children’s healthcare, and the green light for stem cell research.

Ready to Rumble: In a lengthy back-and-forth with Helen Thomas, Gibbs played defense on the now-issue-du-week from another angle, arguing for the president’s departure from his predecessor on interrogation with his second-day executive order to close Guantanamo. As Thomas came out swinging with “What is this?!” and “That’s a mantra left by the Bush administration — ‘never look back,’” Gibbs said the administration does learn from history. Then he ironically employed the Bush team defense that “history, I think, will be left to historians.”

Ask Me One More Time And…: Challenges to the White House’s message on prosecution of those involved with past interrogation practices reached a fever pitch in the briefing room today as Gibbs sarcastically remarked to one reporter, “I appreciate your characterization of our ambiguity.” He added, “I try not to take it personally” when he’s faced with the same question over and over and over… and over again. He then dryly repeated that he wasn’t sure how to clarify the president’s simple statement on not proposing a 9/11-style “truth commission.” (Earlier, he dodged a yes-or-no on the president’s preference for a commission by emphasizing the “look forward” approach and adding that an investigation is ongoing and the Senate Intel committee is the “appropriate place” for it.)

Beware the Pigs: When ABC’s Ann Compton asked, of the recent swine flu outbreak, “has the president been told of any risk for him or any of the people traveling with him when they went to Mexico City?” Gibbs found reason to poke fun at the implication that reporters could be at risk. “Feeling a little off today?” he joked, before pledging to look into the issue.


Mark Your Calendars: Gibbs gave a brief background of the former VP’s request to declassify documents that allegedly show the benefits of the interrogation methods in question. Cheney requested two such declassifications on March 31, the press secretary said, and the decision will be made by “a number of people” (including the DNI and NSA) and “could take up to about three weeks.”

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