No Thanks to Larry and Timmy: WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spent a good chunk of today’s briefing recalibrating the headline generators from the Sunday morning talk shows as the president’s NEC Prez Larry Summers and Treasury head Timothy Geithner had seemed to leave the door open to a tax increase on the middle class in an effort to revive the economy. Gibbs maintained, “I know the president’s been clear on this,” repeating “clear” about a dozen more times in the course of the briefing. But the prospect of a broken campaign promise kept the discussion alive, as reporters wondered how the two Obama teammates got off message. “Promising that everybody’s going to be on message may be a bar that’s too high for me to leap over,” RG said. Noting that both attended this morning’s economic briefing with POTUS, Gibbs said Obama reiterated his campaign pledge with the group but that “this wasn’t a sort of ‘school is in’ type of thing.” As Gibbs grew exasperated with the skepticism in the room, he fired: “If you don’t trust what I’m going to tell you, I don’t understand why we do this.” When one reporter closed the topic by asking why the two rogue officials weren’t clearer, RG replied: “They left it to me.”
The First Birthday Boy: Gibbs opened with the announcement that POTUS will host a luncheon for Senate Democrats tomorrow afternoon. His explanation: “It’s the president’s birthday and Chuck E. Cheese was booked.” Later, he clarified that POTUS had already done a little celebrating with friends this weekend at Camp David, where they dined, hooped, and… bowled. Bowled?! Gibbs claims a 144 on behalf of the boss — which is a HUGE improvement from his campaign-trail 37 in Pennsylvania. RG said he told POTUS that with a 144 in PA, “my life would have been a little easier.” Of note… it’s also one Ms. Helen Thomas‘s birthday tomorrow.
While Capitol Hill Takes to the Swingsets…: As the House has released for recess (which goes a little like this) and the Senate is set to take care of other unfinished business in their last week in town, Gibbs noted that the Obama team is recognizing that they “have to continue to redouble our efforts” on informing the public about the health care reform plans. He said this is “what the president takes from the polls…” but then told TWT‘s Jon Ward — adding to a long-standing, multi-administration WH-WH press dispute — that the president really doesn’t pay attention to the polls.