Gibbs: I was ordered not to acknowledge drone program existed

Robert Gibbs Drones

I was listening to Up Withe Chris Hayes yesterday morning  while doing some things around the house.  When Robert Gibbs made the above statement, I actually stopped what I was doing to hear Gibb’s revelation about White House policy on the use of drones (starting at 3:30…)

I’ve been opposed to the use of drones since I learned of speculation that he Bush administration had implemented the program and was disappointed to hear that President Obama was continuing the program.

The Hill

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday that he and other administration spokesmen often seem evasive about the government’s drone program because they are told not to acknowledge the secret strikes.

“When I went through the process of becoming press secretary,” Gibbs told MSNBC, “one of the things, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.'”

The former press secretary said that instruction led to a sort of “Wizard of Oz” phenomenon when he was asked about drone operations in the press briefing.

“Here’s what’s inherently crazy about that proposition,” Gibbs said. “You’re being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists. So you’re the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program — pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Current White House press secretary Jay Carney has acknowledged the drone program in recent weeks, as questions have swirled over a leaked Justice Department white paper that outlines the legal justifications that the government claims enable it to carry out drone strikes against terrorist-affiliated American citizens abroad. But President Obama had previously spoken publicly about the drone program, freeing the current press secretary in some regards.

Carney said the strikes were “necessary to mitigate ongoing attacks” and argued “they are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise.”

On Sunday, Gibbs said he had not discussed transparency over the program with the president, but believed Obama saw an advantage in discussing the drone strikes more openly.

Gibbs said attempting to ignore the strikes “when it’s obviously happening, undermines people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes.”

Lawmakers have called for greater scrutiny of the drone program, with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) intending to hold hearings on a federal court to oversee the strikes.

During the State of the Union address earlier this month, Obama pledged greater transparency in the program.

“In the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world,” Obama said.

Politico’s: The week in one-liners: Wolf, FLOTUS, Newt


The top quotes in politics …

“I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong.”  — Former Sen. John Edwards speaking after a mistrial was declared in his federal campaign finance trial.

“He’s slightly wacked.” — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich zinging MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

“Donald, you’re beginning to sound a little ridiculous.” — CNN’s Wolf Blitzer addressing  Donald Trump.

“What ever happened to hope and change?” — CBS’s Bob Schieffer putting Robert Gibbs on the spot about President Obama’s attack ads.

“You’ll be able gaze at this portrait and ask, ‘What would George do?’” — Former President George W. Bush talking about his new White House portrait.

“You also left me a really good TV sports package, I use it.” — President Barack Obama  thanking  Bush.

“I don’t wield it over him.” — First lady Michelle Obama on having an approval rating that’s higher than her husband’s.

West Wing Week: 2/18/11 or “Goodbye, Gibbs”

The White House

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, President Obama released his federal budget, discussing the need to take responsibility for our deficits while investing in education, to prepare our children to be competitive in the global economy and win the future. He also responded to the situation in Egypt, chatted with some Boy Scouts, and honored some of our greatest Americans.

Find out more about the topics covered in this West Wing Week

Friday, February 11, 2011:

Monday, February 14, 2011:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011:

Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer

Politico’s: The Week In One Liners


The week’s top ten quotes in American politics: 

“I’m going to miss almost all of you.” – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, discussing his departure from the White House with reporters. 

“I firmly believe in after-school programs. I don’t care if it’s tumbling or trigonometry.” – Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel

“After leaving the Senate floor for the last time, I had no emotion.” – Former Sen. Bob Bennett, discussing his departure from office. 

“She’d been an academic. And, you know, a lot of academics like to have meetings.” – Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, talking about former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

“I’m not a big fan of young kids having Facebook.” – First lady Michelle Obama, ruining Sasha and Malia’s day. 

“I will not call him the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal… I’ll let his wife call him that instead.” –Sarah Palin, partaking in a war of words with former Sen. Rick Santorum.

“I’m like the ombudsman for Amtrak.” – Vice President Joe Biden, talking about his many trips on the train. 

“If I could make it at Hooters, I could make it anywhere.” – Tennessee state Rep. Julia Hurley, chalking up much of her success to one of her previous jobs. 

“I’m a tough guy.” – Sen. Orrin Hatch, brushing off how bruising his reelection could be. 

“Get real!” – Sen. Richard Lugar, taking on the Tea Party over the START treaty.

For Obama, Egypt a balancing act


The White House tiptoed gingerly toward solidarity with the protesters thronging Egyptian streets on a day of escalating rhetoric that culminated Friday evening with President Barack Obama making a televised appeal to the nation’s leader, Hosni Mubarak, to halt his crackdown and reform the government.

“This moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise,” Obama said, while calling on Mubarak “to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors.”

His statement – after a half-hour call with Mubarak in the middle of Egypt’s night – capped the swift progression of the U.S. position as the White House struggled to stay ahead, and on the right side of, the widening protest movement.

Obama stopped short of endorsing the protesters’ calls on Mubarak to step down, citing the American “close partnership” with Egypt. Mubarak himself rejected the call in a speech to Egyptians in which he warned of “chaos” and said he had fired his cabinet.

Obama’s careful formulation – he also called on protestors to keep the peace – embodied an administration struggling to respond to the rapidly changing conditions in Egypt and in a larger sense to reconcile the universalist idealism and foreign policy realism that Obama seeks to simultaneously embody.

Its response to the protests in Egypt shifted markedly in the course of just a few days, starting with Vice President Joe Biden’s insistence Thursday night that Mubarak is not a “dictator.” First Secretary of State Hillary urged the Egyptian government to “restrain the security forces…allow peaceful protests” and to restore Internet access. Then White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs warned the Egyptian government that continuing the U.S.’s $1.3 billion in military aid will depend on its response to the protests.     More… 

Jay Carney To Be Next White House Press Secretary

Huffington Post

Jay Carney, Vice President Joe Biden’s top spokesman, is taking over the post of White House Press Secretary, multiple Democratic sources confirmed to The Huffington Post.

Carney will be taking over the position being vacated by Robert Gibbs at a time when much of the original inner Obama circle is either leaving the White House or heading to Chicago to help with the re-election campaign.

CNN’s Ed Henry first reported the news.

Carney was chosen from a candidate pool of roughly five, including several current members of the White House’s communications team. One of those individuals, former DNC Communications Director Karen Finney (a paid contributor to MSNBC) praised the decision. “Jay will be great, he’s well respected, in addition to his background as a journalist, his work with the Vice President on domestic and foreign policy issues will be a huge asset,” she said.

In private, it was widely expected that Carney would end up at the post.

The choice caused a bit of rancor. Carney, who is known as being a bit more brass-knuckled than Gibbs and the other contenders, is, nevertheless, a creature of D.C., having previously served as TIME magazine’s Washington bureau chief. In that regard, he is no different than many of the other administration hires. But that was still enough to cause some eye rolls.

“Most of us thought that hiring someone from the outside was likely ‘too much’ change,” said one top Democratic strategist.    More…

Robert Gibbs To Russian Reporter: No, Arizona Shooting Is Not “American”


White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs, speaking about [last] weekend’s shooting in Arizona, responded to one Russian reporter’s assertion that the shooting was somehow “American” – as in a wholly American demonstration of one practicing his freedom to… kill… people? We’re not entirely sure what the reporter’s thought process was.

In any case, here is how he phrased his question to Gibbs:

This is America, the democracy, the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition your government. And many people outside would also say — and the quote, unquote ‘freedom’ of a deranged mind to react in a violent way is also American. How do you respond to that?

Gibbs asked the reporter to repeat “that last part” before issuing a very clear, concise response:

No, no, I would disagree vehemently with that. There are — there is nothing in the values of our country, there’s nothing on the many laws on our books that would provide for somebody to impugn and impede on the very freedoms that you began with by exercising the actions that that individual took on that day. That is not American.

There are — I think there’s agreement on all sides of the political spectrum: Violence is never, ever acceptable. We had people that died. We had people whose lives will be changed forever because of the deranged actions of a madman. Those are not American. Those are not in keeping with the important bedrock values by which this country was founded and by which its citizens live each and every day of their lives in hopes of something better for those that are here.

We hope that clears things up!

Obama administration, Congress brace for new political reality

One week from today, the GOP dominated 112th Congress begins it’s two year run.  What will be different, what will remain status quo?


A new political reality hits Washington next week, with the first split Congress since 2004 raising questions about whether the bipartisan cooperation of the recently concluded lame-duck session can continue.

Conventional wisdom says the shift from one party controlling both chambers, as Democrats have done since 2006, to the GOP taking over the House and holding a stronger minority stake in the Senate should mean increased partisan impasse over the next two years.

But that same conventional wisdom got turned on its head after November 2, when the electoral “shellacking” delivered to President Barack Obama and the Democrats was followed by one of the most productive post-election congressional conclusions in history.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs attributed the new bipartisanship of the post-election period to the Republican gains in the November vote.

“There was a responsibility of government that I think the Republicans got in the November elections and they began to understand that responsibility a little bit more in this lame-duck session than they had in the previous, quite frankly, 18 months or so,” Gibbs said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Republicans can no longer afford to “simply sit and say no,” Gibbs said, referring to the obstructive posture that GOP leaders generally struck in Obama’s first two years in office. Instead, he called for Republicans to be part of a constructive conversation, at least in 2011 before the presidential campaign of 2012 really heats up.

Some liberals accused Obama of giving in too easily to Republican demands on some issues, particularly in cutting a deal that extended Bush-era tax cuts to everyone after Obama had campaigned on allowing tax rates of the wealthy to return to higher levels.

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told the NBC program “Meet the Press” that the new reality in Washington requires such compromise in order to do what’s best for the American people, rather than one political party or another

“There was a responsibility of government that I think the Republicans got in the November elections and they began to understand that responsibility a little bit more in this lame-duck session than they had in the previous, quite frankly, 18 months or so,” Gibbs said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”   More…

Gibbs’ Comments On Sanders Filibuster Show White House Toning Down Cracks At Liberal Critics

I’m glad to see that the White House has decided not to continue it’s unwarranted attacks against many of those who actually voted Obama into office…

Huffington Post

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded carefully Monday to the nine-hour filibuster Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) led Friday in protest of the tax-cut deal President Barack Obama struck with congressional Republicans.

Addressing the issue for the first time since the largely-ceremonial filibuster ended at 7 p.m. Friday night, Gibbs seemed to laud Sanders’ philosophical point but did not endorse the senator’s procedural tactic, and fell back on the administration’s position that letting all the Bush-era tax cuts expire on Jan. 1 could slide the nation’s economy back into recession.

“About Sanders,” he said. “I think the president would be the first to agree that there are aspects of this that he doesn’t like… our preferred method was to make permanent the tax cuts for the middle class. The votes weren’t there in the Senate to do that. And rather than threaten our economic recovery, the president believed that this bipartisan agreement was the best way to go.”

The press secretary did, however, attempt to strike a note of commiseration with Obama’s more progressive critics. “He respects and understand the frustration of those who have a different viewpoint on the agreement,” Gibbs said. “I think, at the same time, he believes it is important for our economy, it is important for middle class families to get [this] done.”

This slight moderation in tone has been noticeable ever since Obama blasted Democrats he called “sanctimonious” for decrying the deals he’s struck with Republicans on such issues as tax cuts and health care. The administration has been cautious about inflaming intra-party frictions. Instead of acting with alarm, Gibbs and others have stressed a shared frustration with the current tax-cut package.

Continue reading here…

Politico’s Politi-Quotes 12-10-10


The week’s top 10 quotes in politics:

 “It’s alive! That’s just a joke guys, don’t worry.” – President Barack Obama, joking as he looked into a microscope while visiting a biotech classroom. 

“Ok I’m starting to scream at Obama on tv the way I used to with Bush – not a good sign.” – HBO’s Bill Maher, suddenly souring, via Twitter, on the president. 

“He is whining, and no one likes a whining president.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham, on Obama. 

“Tragedy comes in threes. Pearl Harbor, Elizabeth Edwards’s passing and Barack Obama’s announcement of extending the tax cuts, which is good, but also extending the unemployment benefits.” – Christine O’Donnell, philosophizing. 

“You blowhard!” – David Letterman, to Bill O’Reilly. 

“I’m not going to answer.” – Oprah Winfrey, on whether Sarah Palin is qualified to be president. 

“I have another dead horse to beat.” – A White House reporter, beginning his question to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs during a briefing. 

“I saw him the other day and I was amazed by it, he must be 300-plus, and that’s something he’s just gotta deal with because you’re not going to say, ‘I’m going to cut the budget,’ well, how about starting with supper?” – MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. 

“He’s stubborn.” – Gibbs, explaining how Obama has successfully stayed away from cigarettes. 

“I have heard that the TSA will be handling more packages this Christmas than the UPS.” – British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald, joking about airport security.