Tales from the Trail

Gibbs skillfully dances around Rahm question

The performance was worthy of “Dancing with the Stars.”

USA/Watching White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs waltz around the question  of whether White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had decided to leave and run for mayor of Chicago was quite breathtaking.

Speculation was rife all week that President Barack Obama’s top enforcer would announce that he would leave by the weekend to run for Chicago Mayor, a job he’d always said he wanted.

All that remained was confirmation.

So when anonymous sources told reporters today that Rahm had made the decision and he was leaving, all anybody wanted was confirmation at the White House press briefing.

Well that was not to be. Gibbs stopped just shy of confirming it, doing the Texas two-step in dancing around confirmation, no matter how narrowly the question was asked.

Which led to some interesting verbal constructions, that were nonetheless helpful to reporters who are on Rahm-watch on Friday.

from Summit Notebook:

Lady Gaga may not be the only one singing a new tune in November

USA/
The 2010 Reuters Washington Summit included 4 days of on-the-record interviews with policymakers, congressmen and Obama Administration officials here in the DC bureau. The interviews covered a wide range of topics…from the impact of the mid-term elections to the importance of the Lady Gaga vote.

With less than six weeks to go before the mid-term elections the focus was on what a potential shift in power to a Republican-controlled Congress could mean for policy priorities in the coming year. We heard from Senators’ McCain, Dodd, Gregg and Bingaman. On the House side we spoke with the man responsible for getting Democrats elected…Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He called this election season a “tough and challenging environment,’ but predicted Democrats would retain control of the House.

From the Obama Administration, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opened his comments by admitting that early on the administration did not have a “real understanding of the depth of what we were in.” News of Larry Summers’ departure as White House advisor came on the eve of our interview with a man who has worked with Summers, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Goolsbee said he expected that Mr. Summers’ replacement wouldn’t be part of “a dramatic change in direction.” On the economy, Goolsbee noted that he does not see a double dip on the horizon and that “pulling back on current spending programs could spook the markets.”

Washington Extra – The finer things in life

lamarIf I come back in my next life as an American, I am thinking that a career in the Senate might be a better way to go than in the administration or the military. Whatever you think of their political views, the senators who have visited our offices for the Washington Summit this week have not just been charming and interesting to talk to, they also seem to have time for the finer things in life. Take Senator Lamar Alexander, who not only has the time to watch Tennessee football pretty regularly, but also likes to play classical piano and has a date on center stage with the Jackson Symphony at the end of next month. “I try to keep a balanced life,” he said.

gibbsNo such luck for hard-pressed administration types, working at a pace that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “is and has been grueling for a long period of time,” especially if you take two years of campaigning into account. Take Austan Goolsbee, who used to compete in the triathlon, but now has no time to train and jokes he is so out of shape he can’t walk up the stairs without gasping for breath. Or General David Petraeus, who is already at work by 5:30 in the morning, and when he goes to bed around 10 or 11 at night, only manages a couple of pages in whatever book he is reading “before it falls on the floor.”

That grueling pace is one reason, Gibbs argued, why many members of Obama’s economic team and political inner circle are on their way out, to spend a bit more time “with their family and their friends.” It is not, as Goolsbee insisted, an acknowledgment that the administration has made mistakes, or that it needs to change direction.

from Summit Notebook:

How do White House staff know when it’s time to leave?

SUMMIT-WASHINGTON/GIBBSIt's an age old question that even applies to senior staff working in the White House: At what point do you decide it's time to quit your job and move on?

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs predicted at the Reuters Washington Summit that some people working in the White House will soon decide they want to go back to a less hectic life. Especially those who worked on President Barack Obama's presidential campaign which lasted two grueling years.

"It's a tremendous privilege to come and work in that building each and every day," said Gibbs.

Washington Extra – Gridlock and the fiscal deficit

summit

The term gridlock may have first entered the vocabulary during the 1980 New York transit strike, reportedly coined by “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz, chief traffic engineer in the city’s transport department.  In those days it was definitely not something to aspire to. It is a different story in 2010.

“Gridlock’s not all bad,” Republican Senator Richard Shelby told the Reuters Washington Summit today, citing the need to “slow things down” politically.  His fellow Senator and Tea Party champion Jim DeMint would probably go even further.

But is that really what lies in store after the midterm elections?

Republican and Democratic speakers on the first day of the summit agreed on one thing above all else: that the other party is to blame for the lack of bipartisanship in Washington.

Cleveland was no accident, Gibbs confirms

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed what had been suspected.

USA/OBAMAThere was a reason for choosing Cleveland as the venue for President Barack Obama’s economy speech on Wednesday and his name is John Boehner — the man who would likely be House Speaker if Republicans oust the Democrats from control on Nov. 2.

Cleveland was where House Republican leader Boehner gave his economy speech two weeks ago in which he suggested Obama toss out his economic team, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House economic adviser Larry Summers.

And it’s no accident that Boehner and Obama are paying so much attention to Ohio less than two months before the congressional elections – it’s a swing state with a crucial Senate race and several competitive House races.

White House spokesman’s “professional left” comment bites back

If the White House was trying to fire up its liberal base ahead of the Nov. 2 elections, this was probably not the way to go about it.

USA/White House spokesman Robert Gibbs criticized the “professional left” for criticizing his boss, President Barack Obama, but the comment came back to bite him.

He’s talking about the various liberal cable TV talking heads and bloggers who complain the president isn’t living up to his promises to them.

Rrrrrrring, it’s the President calling…

They talked. 

President Barack Obama called Shirley Sherrod at about 12:35 p.m. and they spoke for 7 minutes. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the White House operator unsuccessfully tried to reach her twice last night but was unable to leave a voicemail.

POTUS offered his regrets, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had been sincere in his apology yesterday, and hoped that she would see “this misfortune” as an opportunity to continue her hard work on behalf of those in need. 

In just days, a charge of racism by a conservative  led to Sherrod losing her Agriculture Department job and ended in a phone call from the president. USA/

Don’t tell anyone, but Pelosi upset her criticism of Gibbs leaked

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear she’s upset — “ticked off” — that her private criticism of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs leaked out. OBAMA/

That’s the word from one of Pelosi’s fellow Democrats who attended another closed-door meeting with her on Thursday, two days after her now well-publicized complaints about President Barack Obama’s chief spokesman.

“She said these meetings should be an opportunity for us to speak candidly with each other,” said the Democrat, asking not to be identified by name. “She was ticked off it leaked out.”

White House spokesman smells a rat in the Rose Garden

OBAMA/A furry little creature has been showing up at White House Rose Garden events recently about as often as a particularly persistent reporter. But this week it went too far, by running across the base of Barack Obama’s podium while the U.S. president was speaking about  financial regulatory reform on Thursday.

The moment was captured on video, but no one seems to know what the creature was, although there were plenty of theories.

Reggie Love, Obama’s special assistant and personal aide, opined that the animal was a field mouse, said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. But he insisted that Love had it wrong.