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

Little News About the Big News: The two headline-hoggers of the week — Sotomayor and healthcare — made little progress in the briefing room today, though Press Secretary Robert Gibbs offered fresh (if altogether un-newsy) comments on each: To settle a long-standing question from the AP on how POTUS knew Sotomayor would fulfill his promise to select someone who protects the right to privacy without asking her specifically about her abortion stance, RG said the judge’s interpretation of “settled law” reassured POTUS. Gibbs asked whether healthcare can be paid for while keeping campaign promises on no new taxes for those under the $250,000 line, and only Clinton-era taxes for those above that line. Gibbs joked that we shouldn’t rely on his math….

Where is the Love?: Gibbs continued his Washington outsider rhetoric with several lines chastising the order of business around town. He cited the “tendency to keep the final score at… the midpoint of every day” when reporters pressed on healthcare progress. In response to a potentially drawn-out Senate floor vote on Sotomayor, RG said “nothing ever is” short in this town. And when, on the topic of the Secretary’s wide-ranging foreign policy address to CFR today, a reporter asked about the BO-HRC relationship, Gibbs replied: “The notion that there’s some rift or disagreement are nothing more than silly Washington games.”

For the Record: The briefings have progressed decidedly more into the State Department style of addressing reporters by topic rather than pressroom hierarchy. As Gibbs was working all corners, AURN’s April Ryan stepped on what NBC’s Chuck Todd thought was his turn. “Ballots are still out,” Chuck joked, as April is running in the WHCA board elections that end tomorrow. (Though there is no WH involvement in the elections, Gibbs chuckled that he would consider endorsing candidates if a list were sent to him.)


Is That Your Final Answer?: The testy moment du jour came during the intro briefing by Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Judith McHale, who presented the Obama team’s outreach efforts for POTUS’s Ghana speech (including: nearly 16,000 text messages from Africans addressed to POTUS). Roll Call‘s Keith Koffler questioned whether the gathering of foreigners’ contact information for outreach purposes would be something that the admin would be comfortable with other countries imitating. When RG brusquely compared the process to Roll Call‘s e-mail sign-up, Koffler called the response “clever” and asked, “Do you want to answer it?” (Ultimate conclusion: it wouldn’t really be a bad thing…)

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