White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked Monday about President Obama’s remark during a meeting Friday with congressional leaders, when the subject of ideological differences came up.
“I won,” Mr. Obama said.
The context: The president was saying he has more political and legislative firepower, with Democratic control of both chambers, and has the upper hand. The point to the GOP leaders was, “It’s my world, and you’re living in it.”
Mr. Gibbs sought to put a softer spin on the remark during Monday’s press briefing, and in the process took a swipe at President Bush.
“This wasn’t cowboy diplomacy,” Mr. Gibbs said, in a somewhat misplaced (diplomacy usually refers to relations with foreign powers) reference to one of the negative stereotypes of Mr. Bush.
“This was, I think, a rather lighthearted moment in a meeting that he was pleased to host in order to have Democrats and Republicans talk extensively about their ideas for getting this economy moving again,” Mr. Gibbs said.
Mr. Gibbs said that during discussion of tax cuts in the economic stimulus package, “there was a debate about what would constitute exactly those tax cuts, and the president said that he felt confident with the tax cuts that he’d run on, that the people had weighed in on what they thought might be a good way to stimulate the economy.”
“He said he won in the — next thing that happened is everybody laughed,” he said.
In fairness, a number of folks from the Republican side of that meeting backed up Mr. Gibbs’ point that Mr. Obama’s comment was not generally an aggressively hostile remark, though one Hill aide did allow that it showed a certain amount of “hubris.”
My colleague, Christina Bellantoni, who attended the briefing, reports that Mr. Gibbs also was asked to explain the president’s comments in that same meeting that the GOP should stop listening to Rush Limbaugh.
The press secretary paused, smiling, and said the remark about the conservative radio giant were “self-explanatory.”
Reporters in the room laughed, and NBC’s Chuck Todd offered: “I think he’s live on the air right now.”
“Tell him I said ‘Hi,’ ” Gibbs quipped.
— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times