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

“The Tea Party People”: While Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has avoided directly addressing the tea parties currently sweeping the nation in protest of taxes and big government, hundreds gathered across the street in Lafayette Park this Tax Day helped put the issue back in the briefing room. As Gibbs repeated that Obama had cut taxes for those making under $250,000, CNN’s Ed Henry noted that many attendees were hard-hit by the cigarette tax. “People make a decision to smoke,” Gibbs argued, adding later: “I guess that depends on the individual consumption of nicotine habits involved in those at tea parties around the country.” (Side note: “Tea party people” now ranks next to “pirates” among giggle-worthy labels in the briefing room.)

Hold the 2012 Stickers: Gibbs joked during one tax reform response that he didn’t want to get into “what we might do in a second term,” and ABC’s Jake Tapper took the opportunity to question re-election plans. “Not today,” Gibbs said, to whether he was announcing a second Obama run. “Give him a couple more years and see if he wants to do that.”

Hug a Paper, Part Two: Following on yesterday’s Wash Times story that pointed to controversial language in a DHS report on extremist groups potentially recruiting returning veterans, the paper’s Jon Ward asked if it was on the POTUS radar. Gibbs noted that while he hadn’t spoken to Obama specifically on this issue, DHS head Janet Napolitano would be issuing a related statement today. In a tiny shout-out, Gibbs told Ward, “I, on occasion, read the Washington Times.”

Just Like the Smelly Kid: When asked whether Obama was prepared to sit with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez at the upcoming Summit of the Americas, Gibbs shot back that “If we didn’t sit in the same room with people who were critical of this country, we’d probably be sitting in a room all alone.”

Say Whaaa?: In a rare show of briefing room tag-teaming, McClatchy’s Margaret Talev followed on a lengthy back-and-forth by NPR’s Mara Liasson to press Gibbs on an answer to the possibility of taxing health insurance premiums. The visibly agitated press secretary repeatedly told them to consult the transcript, while reporters preferred the “Play it again, Sam” approach. The stare-down ended with the classic Gibbs-ism calling on everyone to wait until the bill’s through Congress before scrutinizing a possible presidential veto on specific healthcare measures.

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