A truly brief pre-holiday weekend briefing started with Press Secretary/WH School Marm Robert Gibbs‘ scolding of NBC’s Chuck Todd for another late entrance (though no one heard a two-minute warning). “Three times — you’ve got to go to detention hall,” RG announced. (Chucky T was allowed to stay.)
But… Free Ice Cream?!: With more grim economic numbers out this morning, Gibbs continued to keep the bar low on short-term employment data. Asked if the WH still expected to see 10% unemployment this year, Gibbs said, “Absolutely,” adding, “in the next two to three months — I think it’s quite clear that we’ll hit that number.” He noted POTUS’s “impatience” and said, “He sees this economy through the eyes of the American people, and obviously the American people are continuing to hurt.” (On a completely unrelated up side, Gibbs wondered aloud if a ringing cell phone was an ice cream truck. “Ice cream sandwiches are on me,” he said. So… at least we have that going for us.)
Salons are for Hair and Nails: When Gibbs recognized WaPo‘s Michael Shear after an unusually early “thank you” from AP’s Liz Sidoti to close the briefing, Shear’s intro of “On healthcare…” drew laughs from all corners. Rumors of WaPo‘s salon-style healthcare gatherings with Obama officials and the controversial $25,000 price tag for lobbyist tickets has sparked a significant journalistic ethics debate around town. “The Counsel’s office has advised me to ask Mike exactly how much each of these questions is costing,” Gibbs cracked. NYT‘s Jeff Zeleny, next to Shear, made his seatmate squirm as he asked Gibbs to weigh in on the salon idea. RG said no verdict had been rendered but that the salons “would likely exceed what the Counsel would feel, in this case, would be appropriate.”
Happy Fourth, Kim Jong-Il: News of this morning’s four North Korean short-range missile launches, coupled with POTUS’s comments to the AP that the door remains open for diplomacy, prompted a few questions on whether international measures to rein in that nation are working. Gibbs cited “positive developments” — but declined, for “national security reasons,” to elaborate on what that actually meant. After multiple clarification requests from Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols, RG hinted only: “I think if you turn on cable, you can see part of it.” (But what do Michael Jackson and Mark Sanford have to do with North Korea?)
Say Cheez-It!: Gibbs declined to enumerate why POTUS has delayed his departure for Camp David from today to tomorrow, only saying it was because BO “wanted to stay here and catch up on some work.” Clearly, POTUS wanted to stay in town for special snack time with his favorite prez.