- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

The White House on Friday launched a bullish retaliatory attack on cable television reporter Rick Santelli” href=”/themes/?Theme=Rick+Santelli” >Rick Santelli, saying his “rant” against President Obama’s housing foreclosure plan is uninformed and dangerous.

In a briefing with reporters in which he ridiculed Mr. Obama’s own Transportation secretary’s idea to tax drivers’ mileage and all but said Mr. Obama’s successor in the Senate, Sen. Roland Burris, should resign, press secretary Robert Gibbs” href=”/themes/?Theme=Robert+Gibbs” >Robert Gibbs saved his harshest barbs for Mr. Santelli.

“I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives, or in what house he lives,” Mr. Gibbs said, repeatedly blasting the reporter by name.

“I would encourage him to read the president’s plan and understand that it will help millions of people, many of whom he knows. I would be more than happy to have him come here and read it. I would be more than happy to buy him a cup of coffee decaf.”

Helped by prominent coverage from the Drudge Report, Mr. Santelli’s strenuous denouncements of the president’s housing plan on CNBC have become an Internet sensation. Mr. Santelli called for a “Chicago Tea Party” revolt against Mr. Obama’s plans.

“The government is promoting bad behavior,” Mr. Santelli said, calling on the administration to hold an Internet referendum to see if Americans really wanted to rescue those with bad mortgages.

Mr. Gibbs mentioned Mr. Santelli by name six times. The reporter is a former trader and financial executive who has been an on-air editor for CNBC since 1999.

Responding to Mr. Gibbs, a more staid Mr. Santelli said on CNBC Friday that he would read the plan but took a shot at Washington politicians who forced through a $787 billion spending bill last week without giving most lawmakers a chance to read the measure, which spanned hundreds of pages.

“I want a dialogue. Enlighten me, enlighten America,” Mr. Santelli said. “We just want to all feel we’re being treated fairly and equally.”

Mr. Gibbs also took on other major figures in the news, including saying Mr. Burris must think about whether he should remain in the Senate.

“I think it might be important for Senator Burris to take some time this weekend to either correct what has been said and … and certainly think of what lays in his future,” Mr. Gibbs said.

Mr. Burris was named to replace Mr. Obama in the Senate by then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has since been removed from office by the state legislature. Mr. Burris had failed to tell the legislature about contacts he had with Mr. Blagojevich’s camp as he was seeking the Senate seat, and some Illinois officials, including the new governor, have said Mr. Burris is now so tainted he should resign.

He also categorically ruled out an idea Mr. Obama’s own Transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, suggested this week to the Associated Press that drivers be taxed based on the distances they drive.

“It is not, and will not be, the policy of the Obama administration,” Mr. Gibbs said, urging reporters to call Mr. LaHood back to ask him about it. Told by a reporter the Associated Press had already talked to him, Mr. Gibbs said simply, “Call him back.”

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