Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs barely got a foot through the door of the White House briefing room Thursday before being hit by the full force of a press corps demanding information on the big news of the day.
Not Iran or healthcare, of course, or even the energy bill that President Barack Obama had discussed earlier in the White House Rose Garden.
Nope, the big news Thursday was who on the White House staff would take a turn in the dunk tank at the Hawaiian luau being thrown by Obama for members of Congress and their families on the White House south lawn.
“I went out there to see it. It’s out there,” Gibbs said in response to questions about the tank — one of those amusement park devices where someone sits suspended over a huge tub of water while others hurl balls at a trigger in an effort to dunk him.
“Rahm is going to be in it. Phil Schiliro’s going to be in it,” Gibbs said, referring to Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, and Schiliro, the president’s assistant for legislative affairs.
“Robert Gibbs is going to be in it,” he added, referring to himself.
News that Emanuel and Schiliro would be targets in the dunk tank set off speculation on Capitol Hill that Obama was deviously trying to round up more support for an expected vote in the House Friday on the energy bill.
News that Gibbs had volunteered set off a round of journalistic pleading for news coverage, or perhaps an opportunity to try it out on White House spokesman.
Offers of fundraising for charity were made — $5 or $10 per reporter in exchange for a throw and a video of the results.
“I’m happy to. You guys collect the pot of money, you guys pick your best arm, and we can — you can have a shot at it. You can throw it (at) me and I’ll get you the video,” Gibbs said.
He did express one reservation.
“My only concern at this point is that the water gets a little warmer maybe before we start throwing.”
And so at the appointed hour a little past 5 p.m., the press corps filed out for the dunking shortly before the start of the luau, cheered on by Obama, who poked his head out a West Wing door and shouted: “Go get him! Go get him! You can do it!”
Gibbs went into the water twice in five minutes — once at the hands of AP’s Ben Feller and a second time on the pitching of CBS’s Bill Plante, who’s been covering the White House for nearly 30 years.
Gibbs was still drying off as the luau got underway.
“Bill Plante,” he said. “Who’d have thought?”
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Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Gibbs before, and after, being dunked)