Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: On a high wire for Obama

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    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs laughs during a light moment, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009, during his daily press briefing in the White House Pressroom at the White House in Washington.
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What's it like being White House Press Secretary?

Robert Gibbs gave reporters a couple of revealing glimpses at Wednesday’s White House briefing.

“I’m up here a little on the high wire without knowing all the news,” Gibbs said 50 minutes into his daily meeting with reporters.

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On a high wire without a BlackBerry

The high wire comment came after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on Capitol Hill that House and Senate negotiators had reached agreement on a $790 billion economic stimulus bill. The news broke during the briefing. Reporters could read the details on their BlackBerry mail devices. Gibbs lacked the latest information while being asked to comment about the agreement.

Gibbs’ daily high wire act remains quite popular. Three weeks into his term as White House Press Secretary, the 49 assigned, theater style seats in the cramped briefing room were all occupied. And the left and right aisles were filled with some two dozen standees, including Daily Show “correspondent” John Oliver. At least 11 TV camera operators focused on Gibbs.

For much of the session, reporters hammered Gibbs on the dismal reaction the stock market gave to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s speech Tuesday unveiling the Treasury’s Financial Stability Plan. The speech, Gibbs said, was “not designed for a one day market reaction.”

Trying to stay out of the deep end of the pool

When reporters began pressing for more details on the plan than Geithner had provided Tuesday, Gibbs offered up another revealing comment. If he talked about technical issues, “I will be swimming in a deeper pool than I can see the bottom of,” Gibbs said.

Earlier Gibbs had admitted that when it comes to the problems confronting the nation’s banks, “we may not entirely know all the property lines of what we are dealing with.”

A funny answer to a pointed question

The new press secretary, like his predecessors, uses humor to deflect questions. Radio reporter Lester Kinsolving noted that at President John Kennedy’s first press conference 48 years ago Kennedy had responded to 37 questions in 40 minutes, and he asked if Mr. Obama would study the transcript. At Monday evening’s press conference, President Obama responded to 13 questions in nearly an hour. Some commentators accused the president of being long winded.

To general laughter, Gibbs responded to Kinsolving's question about the Kennedy transcript by asking, "Do you have a copy of it from your attendance?"

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