Sunday, February 14, 2010

Big Week In White House Media: President Appears In Briefing Room; Gibbs Goes From Grocery List On His Hand To Twitter

...No q's about First Lady's new campaign at President's news conference...and another Beer Summit, OTR
On Tuesday, President Obama made an unexpected and unannounced appearance in the James Brady briefing room at the White House. Your intrepid blogger was there, having just covered First Lady Michelle Obama officially launch her child obesity campaign Let's Move, in a big event upstairs in the State Dining Room. Ob Fo was packing up the tek bag to leave when the President suddenly bounded into the briefing room, causing a flurry of panic among the journalists, most of whom had been heading out the door, trying to beat the massive blizzard that was bearing down on DC. There were exclamations of surprise, a scramble for seats, a dash for cameras. (Above: The President on Tuesday; at lower left, with camera, is his official photographer, Pete Souza, who gets lots of coverage here on the blog)

President Obama hadn't been in the briefing room for months, which numerous media outlets had started to vociferously complain about--and which has led to a website, Demand Question Time. The last question President Obama had taken and answered during a news conference was in July, from Chicago Sun-Times's Lynn Sweet, about the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. by Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley. President Obama's pronouncement about the arrest-- "Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home"--eventually led to the White House Beer Summit. No food or beverage summits arose from Tuesday's newser; the President discussed jobs, nuclear power, Afghanistan, and bipartisanship, among other things. There were no questions about Mrs. Obama's new campaign, even though the President had just signed a memo creating the first-ever interagency Task Force on Child Obesity. As the President left, one reporter shouted after him: "When are you coming back?!" (Above: Everyone wanted a Q)

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs went up to the podium after the President left, and he had to do something to try to top him. Gibbs is always very witty in his briefings, and so he shared his grocery list, written on his hand, with the press corps. The list: Eggs Milk Bread Hope Change. Actually, Gibbs was spoofing Sarah Palin, who'd been "busted" for writing her talking points on her hand, when she was keynoting the first-ever national Tea Party confab over the weekend. Call Gibb's hand jam a new media experiment. (Above: Gibbs and his handy-dandy grocery list)

Yesterday, "The Gibbs" started another new media experiment when he joined "The Twitter," and sent out his very first tweet. Bill Burton, deputy Press Secretary, is already on Twitter; he's @billburton44. (The Gibbs's first tweet, above)

Meanwhile, in the Sunday New York Times magazine, there's news about follow-up events to the Beer Summit. Prof. Gates reveals that Sgt. Crowley gave him the handcuffs he used in the Beer Summit arrest, when they met for their own private Beer Summit, minus the President, at River Gods cafe in Cambridge, a few months ago. Gates has now donated these to the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture, and says he hopes he's remembered, in future, for more than handcuffs and Beer Summits. (Above: From L, Vice president Joe Biden, Gates, Crowley, President Obama at the Beer Summit)

Photos: Gibbs by Helena Bottemiller, Food Safety News; President Obama news conference photos by Obama Foodorama; Beer Summit via Reuters.