Press Secretary: Obama crowing 'I won' to GOP wasn't 'cowboy diplomacy'
Reporter cites Wesley Snipes in reference to Treasury pick's tax troubles
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fielded questions from the media during Monday's briefing, which was the third one for the Obama Administration. Most of the early questions were related to President Obama's new measures to spur development of fuel efficient cars and to wean America off foreign energy, which were his first official swipes at Bush administration climate policies.
"More on fuel efficiency standards....HIGH drama," Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza Twittered after the beginning of a mostly staid press briefly, until it got more interesting towards the end.
Asked to comment on Obama's remarks to Republicans behind closed doors that was reported last week on Friday, Gibbs said his crowing of "I won" wasn't an example of "cowboy diplomacy," which appeared to be a not-very-veiled swipe at Obama's predecessor, Bush. He said that it was a "lighthearted moment" since "everybody laughed."
According to ABC News' Jake Tapper, Obama told Republican Congressional leaders who had "objections to the notion of a tax credit for people who don't pay income taxes" that "on some of these issues we're just going to have ideological differences."
"I won," Obama reportedly added. "So I think on that one, I trump you."
One lighthearted moment during Monday's briefing occurred after Fox News Channel's Major Garrett mentioned conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Gibbs smiled and replied, "Tell him I said hi."
Later in the briefing, Gibbs said he didn't know if former Vice President Al Gore had been used as an official consultant for Obama's new climate policy plans.
Before and after, Gibbs apologized to the press because there was a problem with the email system.
"Unfortunately, it's not working," Gibbs told the laughing White House reporters, all too familiar with White House email issues.
Although Gibbs had said the briefing was over already, one reporter was able to shout out a final question, which made reference to Treasury secretary nominee Timothy Geithner's tax problems.
"Can you just say ahead of the Geithner vote, there has been some jest but also in seriousness that if Wesley Snipes had been nominated secretary of Treasury he wouldn't be in jail right now," the reporter said.
Gibbs interjected, "You can't imagine the number of perspective answers going through my head right now."
"But, I am asking, isn't the president asking the IRS to be more lenient to all Americans in the future when they say 'I didn't know but I'm sorry,'" the reporter continued.
Gibbs was a little shaken and stirred, "Let me uh, wow, this is one of those questions that could certainly get me in trouble."
"The secretary-designate Geithner -- who I believe in a few hours we will be able to call Secretary Geithner because of a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate -- admitted that he made honest mistakes that could and should have been avoided," Gibbs continued. "He made amends by paying the back taxes and interest that he owes."
Gibbs then tried to explain why a candidate with tax woes was being tapped for the position, all the while making sure not to address whether the appointment could set any sort of tax amnesty precedences as the reporter had inferred.
"The president also believes that he has a unique experience, unique intelligence, and a unique background to tackle the economic crises that we face right now as a country and throughout the world," Gibbs continued. "That he will be a tremendous leader to our economic team and somebody that I think Americans will value having on their side as we try to turn this economy around and get people working again. We look forward to that vote happening, to having a strong bipartisan record, on record with a strong bipartisan vote tonight, and if it's done in the time we think it is, we may have -- we may go swear in a new secretary of Treasury soon. Thanks, guys."
The following video excerpts are from CNN.com, broadcast Jan. 26, 2009.
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