White House press secretary Robert Gibbs worked for his paycheck yesterday. It wasn't easy. And he can thank Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and chief economic advisor Lawrence Summers for all the help.
Appearing on the Sunday morning news shows both Geithner and Summers left the door open for possible middle class tax hikes down the road. The problem with that is candidate Obama spoke out against raising taxes on the middle class while running for president last year. He supposedly nailed that door shut.
"You will not see your taxes increased by a single dime," Obama said during the campaign. "Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains tax, no taxes."
Perhaps Summers wasn't watching Obama's campaign. After all, he did have a problem staying awake through one of the president's economic meetings earlier this year.
When asked about the possibility of a tax increase on Sunday, Summers said, "It’s never a good idea to absolutely rule things out no matter what."
Geithner went a step further when he offered: "I think what the country needs to do is understand we're going to have to do what it takes, we're going to do what's necessary."
Except for maybe the part about raising taxes on the middle class. Gibbs, on the other hand, just happened to remember Obama's pledge on the campaign. He remembered it a lot yesterday when he was repeatedly pummeled by reporters during his press briefing.
"Let me be precise," Gibbs said when asked about his colleagues' statements for the seventh time during the briefing. "The President's clear commitment is not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year."
Can you be more clear, Robert?
"I think the President has been clear. I think you heard him reiterate it not that long ago right outside this room in the Rose Garden," he said after being asked the same question again.
Gibbs' answer even remained the same when he was asked the same question yet again only seconds later.
"I am reiterating the President's clear commitment in the clearest terms possible, that he's not raising taxes on those who make less than $250,000 a year," he said.
But could Gibbs say the same thing yet again? He did. Time and time again.
Minutes passed. Other subjects were broached. But just like a flesh-eating zombie, the tax question returned.
"I'm going to say this. I'm going to deal with this and I'll do this one more time. The President was clear; he made a commitment in the campaign; that commitment stands," he said.
That's not enough for some reporters. They kept pushing and pushing and pushing before Gibbs had a question for the reporter: "What else are you going ask then? You asked if the President is going to make his commitment. I'm saying he's made a commitment."
"But that's not completely shutting the door. You can say I'm committed to doing something, but you may not do it," replied the reporter.
Tired of the exchange, Gibbs waved the white flag. "Fine. Ignore everything I've said in the last 45 minutes."
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