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West Wing Briefing

Robert Gibbs, putting things a little too plainly

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By Michael D. Shear
Wednesday, August 11, 2010; 8:48 AM

At a dinner last year around the president's 100-day mark, a senior White House official compared the Obama administration's early legislative efforts to a busy airport: A lot of "planes" had taken off, but most had not yet been brought in for a landing.

He was making the point that once Obama achieved his ambitions -- passage of a health-care bill, financial reform, education reform, economic stabilization -- the carping from both the right and the left would fade.

It hasn't.

The president has succeeded in passing the bulk of his agenda over the strenuous objections of a resurgent Republican minority. But his critics, particularly those on the left, are still grumbling and unsatisfied. They say the president is not moving fast enough.

Some have even compared him to former president George W. Bush.

That last was enough to send press secretary Robert Gibbs over the edge Tuesday. In a rant that he later described as "inartful," Gibbs unloaded on what he called the "professional left" and said they were out of touch with reality.

(Gibbs's comments about the Democratic base)

"I hear these people saying he's like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug-tested," Gibbs told The Hill's Sam Youngman in an interview. "I mean, it's crazy."

In his apology, Gibbs offered a peek inside the current mental state at the White House: "Day after day, it gets frustrating," he wrote.

Deputy press secretary Bill Burton later said that the feelings Gibbs described were shared by everyone in the White House, including the president.

"Is there ever some frustration, from anyone who works in this building, about the way [accomplishments are] being covered? Sure," he said at Tuesday's press briefing. Later, he added: "Yes, every single person in this building, including the one who lives here, at times can be frustrated with the way some of the things are covered here."

Burton was quick to point out that such frustration pales with that of working people who are upset about the pace of the economic recovery.


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