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

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems: Responding to questions on the Congressional Budget Office’s release of new numbers this morning on the trillion-gazillion-bajillion-sized deficit and its potential growth in the coming years, Robert Gibbs said it’d be “hard to predict seven to ten years into the future” but added that the president is still confident he can cut the budget in half by the end of his first term. (So to clarify: He can only predict four years into the future.)

Filling the Analogy Quota: Gibbs, also on budget predictions: “It’s like naming the winner of the NCAA bracket in six years. I’m extending my sports analogy for yet another important fiscal issue.”

“Special”-gate: CBS’s Chip Reid drilled Gibbs with several questions on whether the president had lost hold of his message this week, including the one line from his Jay Leno appearance that has been taking laps in the news. Gibbs responded generally that the president has never been interested in “day-to-day scorekeeping,” adding, “We’ve been called idiots before.” Pressed later on the bowling gaffe, Gibbs called it a “thoughtless joke” and noted the president’s apology. In a West Wing-area stakeout following the briefing, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger answered the same inquiry by insisting he knows what’s in Obama’s heart.

Secrets, Secrets, are No Fun: Following on the president’s midnight video message to Iran coordinated with the start of their New Year, Gibbs was asked about the next steps in a diplomatic process with one-third of the Bush-era Axis of Evil. “There are many more,” he said, teasing, “none of which I’m going to get into today.”

Ticked off by the Tick-Tock: Several reporters pressed on the issue of Geithner’s what-I-knew-and-when-I-knew-it explanation of the AIG bonuses, pointing to parsing of the Treasury Secretary’s language about what exactly he had only learned from staffers last week. A visibly uncomfortable Gibbs repeatedly referred to reports on Geithner’s statement, and attempted to lighten the tension by offering to buy a reporter a newspaper to review the comments. Evasive phraseology from the podium included: “point you to the report,” “I’m just going to leave it at that,” “refer you to comments,” and “I don’t want to repeat the answers I’ve given.”

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