BoWatch: The briefing was nearly an hour old when AP Radio’s Mark Smith pitched the first “First Dog” question. “Thanks for leaving it to me, guys,” he laughed, only to be followed by a flurry of questions surrounding the canine royalty’s official arrival at the White House tomorrow. As one reminded Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that President Bush’s pup Barney bit a reporter last fall, Gibbs joked, “I’ve been training him throughout the morning.”
Beyond the “Si Se Puede”: Gibbs enlisted the help of White House adviser Daniel Restrepo to make a bilingual announcement of the Obama team’s easing of restrictions on Cuban travel and remittances, as well as the troubled island’s telecommunications setup. CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller was tapped for his encyclopedic knowledge of briefing room history as he confirmed this was likely the first time a foreign language was spoken at the Brady podium. NBC’s Chuck Todd asked why the president was not in front of the cameras on this epic shift in U.S.-Cuba policy, to which Gibbs joked that he was “trying not to take that personally” but that this was “less about choreography” than the steps they hoped to take to increase Cuban freedoms. Senor Gibbs also noted his very limited Spanish repertoire, and that POTUS “knows a few words of Spanish.”
Calling Captain Hook: The pirate story is still making a big splash in White House news, even if Gibbs punted on providing operational details of the weekend rescue. Borrowing a popular terrorist-topic Bushism, Gibbs ensured that the president would “bring those… to justice” who engaged in piracy. (This line was accompanied by an incidental outburst of raucous merrymaking outside, where Easter Egg Roll festivities continued; the bass from the outdoor music was rattling some briefing room light panels.) As reporters pressed on whether the latest Somali pirate incident would provoke the rebel groups to take violent action against their current hostages, Gibbs countered that it showed “their actions have serious consequences” and that the rescue “could be a deterrent in the future.”
You Can Say That Again: Two pirate-related quips from the seats that illustrate sustained interest in the story: 1) AP’s Jennifer Loven, asked by Gibbs if she had another Cuba-policy question: “I’m just thinking about pirates.” 2) WaPo’s Michael Shear, switching topics: “Back to the pirates for a second…”
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