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

No Funny Business: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs hadn’t taken his first stab at a joke at the podium today when AP’s Jennifer Loven warned him, on the issue of Obama’s $100 million in cuts: “It’s not funny.” Loven, followed by others in the corps, challenged whether this should be considered significant savings in our new economic era. “I’m not making a joke,” Gibbs defended. “Let’s walk through this,” he said, noting that “a lot of these administrative things will add up” and change not just the short-term bottom line but also the D.C. “culture” — from which the Obama team likes to separate itself.

…But Maybe It Is Funny: Repeatedly citing supposedly years-old Defense Department purchases of $600 toilets, Gibbs continued to defend the president’s announcement from his Cabinet meeting today as a step on the path toward “fiscal sanity.” CBS’s Chip Reid said he wasn’t sure he agreed that the American people would see this as a big number, and Gibbs challenged Reid to air it on the Evening News, before staging a mock-walkout when Reid seemed to agree. In answer to a somewhat unrelated question, Gibbs identified $200 billion in savings from Medicare reform and then jabbed, “Maybe $200 billion is not a lot of money here, either.” (When another joke fell flat, Gibbs added: “Come on guys, it’s Monday. You guys are a little punchy today.”)

FYI, a P.S. on DOJ: Following on the heels of last week’s release of torture memos, today’s briefing revealed another reason for the controversial documents’ public display. While Gibbs maintains that the administration arranged the documents’ release because they thought it was “the right thing to do,” the news today was that the White House felt that “a legal entity would have compelled the making public of the very documents that were made public.”

Driving Mister Obama: The president’s one-time driving buddy — from a trip to Jordan last July — is set to arrive at the White House tomorrow. Gibbs said King Abdullah frighted the Secret Service by driving Obama in his own car to the airport in what was likely “a fun drive” for both. The king is expected to discuss regional security on his Washington visit, among other topics. Any chance Obama will take his presidential limo out for a spin?


Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones…: A question about the highly publicized weekend Nicaraguan smackdown of U.S. policy by President Daniel Ortega sparked quick wit from Gibbs: “I suppose we could’ve asked for equal time, but we’d probably still be there,” he said, adding that instead of rapid response, the president made his foreign policy case over the course of the weekend.

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