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Robert Gibbs, unplugged, lets loose

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By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, October 6, 2010; 3:23 PM

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday morning gave the best performance that nobody will ever see.

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Actually, his performance was good precisely because nobody will see it, at least nobody beyond the few dozen who were in the room. Gibbs ordered the cameras off for a blissful half hour, and the result was a throwback to the good old days when reporters asked serious questions and the president's press secretary actually answered some of them.

The morning's Web and cable chatter was all about the rumor, started by Bob Woodward in a CNN appearance, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might replace Vice President Joe Biden as President Obama's 2012 running mate. There was also continuing buzz about whether Gibbs would leave to run the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

But with the cameras off, Gibbs fielded more than 30 questions, mostly on Afghanistan and Pakistan, before the two topics even came up. And when they did, Gibbs, usually defensive, was playful.

Politico's Glenn Thrush asked if Gibbs was ruling out the possibility of going to the DNC. "I haven't had conversations in this building or outside this building about what the future holds," he said.

What about e-mails?

"I have to broaden it out to all level and manner of audible or electronic communication," Gibbs said amid laughter.

"Notes wrapped around bricks?"

"No -- nothing like that," Gibbs insisted.

"In the same spirit," asked CBS News's Mark Knoller, "what do you make of all this chatter that President Obama might choose Secretary Clinton as a running mate?"

"I'm surprised it took us that long" to get to that question, Gibbs remarked. He said that the rumor is "just absolutely not true," and that his colleague David Axelrod dismissed the rumor in terms that "we can't repeat on a family program."

"You're not on TV, Robert," somebody reminded him.


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