Parroting Words at the White House

By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Man the rigging, me hearties. It's time for Cap'n Gibbs's daily briefing.

"Robert, the pirates are holding many hostages from other countries," warned Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times.

Shiver me timbers!

"Robert, does President Obama view the Somali pirates as terrorists?" asked CBS News's Mark Knoller.

No, mate. He views them as scurvy dogs!

"Any decision on how the fourth pirate is going to be charged?" inquired McClatchy's Margaret Talev.

Make him walk the plank!

Maritime piracy is, of course, a serious problem, particularly if you happen to be on a ship near the Horn of Africa. But in a world of depression and war, the discussion of an American shipping captain's successful rescue from pirates over the weekend brought the rare sensation of adventure on the high seas to the White House briefing room yesterday -- and everybody seemed to enjoy the diversion. Adding to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" atmosphere, the pirate briefing was accompanied by dance music being pumped out of loudspeakers on the lawn for the thousands of kids at the annual Easter Egg Roll.

Cap'n Gibbs was giving no quarter to the cowardly swabs. "There's at least a small group in Somalia that knows that their actions have serious consequences," he said. "That could be a deterrent in the future. People know that there are consequences to what they do."

He'll see ye to Davy Jones, scallywags.

The White House press corps was in an uncommonly good mood yesterday, owing in part to the Obama administration's decision to reverse years of Bush White House policy and admit reporters' children to the Easter Egg Roll. Some media types were also giddy with anticipation of Tuesday's arrival of the new White House dog. "Can you describe for us the plans for Bo's debut?" inquired Associated Press Radio's Mark Smith, to groans from his highbrow colleagues.

The main news of the briefing was the Obama administration's softening of some anti-Cuba policies, a move to placate Latin American critics in advance of this week's meeting of the Organization of American States. The White House deftly limited the visibility of the announcement by leaving the president in the Oval Office (where he, too, could listen to the dance music on the South Lawn) and having a mid-level official from the National Security Council make the announcement in the briefing room -- in Spanish.

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