Tales from the Trail

Does it matter if the president smokes?

In the current anti-smoking mood in the United States where having a cigarette is banned just about everywhere that is public, how big of a deal is it if the president of the United States lights up once in a while? AUSTRALIA-BUDGET/

The question puffed up on Sunday when President Barack Obama’s routine medical exam showed he was in good health but still struggling with the habit that last June he said was “95 percent cured.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama continues to chew nicotine gum and has quit smoking but  occasionally falls off the wagon “like many who have struggled with kicking that habit. ”

Was it more difficult to quit because this was probably his most stressful year? “I can’t imagine that that helps,” Gibbs replied.  Obama “continues to both work hard at it as well as struggle with it probably each and every day,” he said.

But there were no additional details like where does Obama get the cigarettes? (Think about it, he can’t just walk down to the nearest corner shop to buy a pack secretly).  “I don’t smoke, so I don’t know the answer to that,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs Twitter math: 4 days, 8 tweets, 22,500 followers

NUCEAR-IRAN/MISSILES-USABasically all White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had to do was turn up … and they followed by the thousands.

Gibbs launched his first tweet on Twitter @PressSec this Saturday asking for micro-blogging tips and by Tuesday he had more than 22,500 followers. (OK so there may be a touch of envy from some of us still struggling in the three-digit follower realm).

Asked whether he was sending all the tweets — eight so far — himself, Gibbs replied: “Inexplicably, yes.”

Obama ‘luckiest man on the planet’ in snowstorm

President Barack Obama has weathered many political storms with varying degrees of success, but the snowstorm of the century that walloped Washington this week proved he was the luckiest man on the planet. That’s according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, still sore from endlessly shoveling snow at his own home.

To get an idea of what a herculean task it would have been for one person to clear the White House of snow, see the video posted on the White House blog of the blizzard striking the president’s home.

“Obviously, we have seen an extraordinary amount of winter weather here in the mid-Atlantic.  Having shoveled my driveway now what seems like 10,000 times, I can testify to that,” Gibbs said at his daily news briefing.

Obama aide backhands Palin over crib notes

OBAMAWhite House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs mocked former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for writing notes on her hand at last weekend’s Tea Party convention.

At his daily briefing, Gibbs jokingly showed the White House press corps his left palm where scrawled in black ink was a grocery list of items to buy in case he and his family were snowed in.

“Eggs, milk and bread,” Gibbs read to laughter. “But I crossed out bread … And then I wrote down ‘hope and change,’ just in case I forgot,” he quipped, referring to President Barack Obama’s  slogan during the 2008 campaign.

Could it be just a case of climate change coincidence?

Maybe it was just a case of cosmic karma…

USA-CLIMATE/EPAClimate skeptics around Washington wondered whether it was really a coincidence that the EPA announced its long-awaited “endangerment finding” — which clears the way for the agency to regulate greenhouse gases as a harmful pollutant –  on the same day that a big international climate change meeting opened in Copenhagen.

It looked like suspicious timing to some in Congress, and in the media. Why now? Could it be that the Obama team wanted to curry favor with the climate crowd a week before the president heads for the big conference in Denmark? Or was it really just one of those things?

At the daily White House press briefing spokesman Robert Gibbs was peppered with questions about the strangely timely timing of the EPA ruling ahead of President Barack Obama’s trip to the climate conference next week.

White House defends social secretary in gate-crasher flap, couple declines to testify

INDIA-USA/White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today defended the White House social secretary, Desiree Rogers, in the controversy surrounding how a Virginia couple managed to wangle their way into President Barack Obama’s state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week.

It has been noted in news accounts that no one from the social secretary’s office was at the gate helping the Secret Service identify guests and making sure people not on the list did not get inside.

Gibbs noted that for the crush of holiday parties that have just begun at the White House, procedures have been changed to ensure someone from the social office is at the gate.

First words from First spokesman: it wasn’t about Obama

The First spokesman has spoken: Tuesday’s elections were not about the president after all.

OBAMA/In the New Jersey and Virginia governor races, which Republicans won, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says voters were working through “very local issues that didn’t involve the president.”

For his part, President Barack Obama, who campaigned for both Democrats who lost, received updates on the races but didn’t watch the election returns last night.

Is swine flu vaccine going to Guantanamo? Define “going”

GERMANY/Conservative politicians and commentators got up in arms this week after the Pentagon said it would send doses of hard-to-get H1N1 swine flu vaccine to terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.

The White House denied it on Tuesday, emphatically, but also carefully — saying there is no vaccine at the U.S. military prison, or going there … now.

“There is no vaccine in Guantanamo and there’s no vaccine on the way to Guantanamo,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said when queried about the burgeoning controversy.

Darth Vader, as played by Robert Gibbs

OBAMA/We saw a lot of photos over the weekend of President Obama and his wife, Michelle “Catwoman” Obama, handing out Halloween treats at the White House on Saturday night.

But we didn’t see one of the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who had dressed up as Darth Vader to join in the festivities.

So check out the photo. He is without his glasses, so he probably couldn’t see a thing. We imagine it would be tempting for him to bring the light saber to his daily news briefing and zap offending questioners.

He’s powerful… And you’re not?

NUCEAR-IRAN/MISSILES-USAMaybe it was a sign that someone wanted to put the press corps — or possibly the White House staff — in their place.

Who knows, but at the beginning of the daily White House press briefing on Wednesday, a disembodied voice sounded in the briefing room, saying: “THE PRESIDENT IS POWERFUL.”

Reporters and White House staffers in the room laughed, and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs joked about it, to more laughter. But no one offered an explanation for the pronouncement.