- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2009

A day after President Obama’s housing foreclosure plan was battered by a cable network reporter, the White House on Friday launched a bullish retaliatory attack, saying CNBC reporter Rick Santelli’s “rant” was uninformed and dangerous.

“I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives, or in what house he lives,” press secretary Robert Gibbs” href=”/themes/?Theme=Robert+Gibbs” >Robert Gibbs said, mentioning the reporter six times by name and holding up a copy of the fact sheet the White House released to back up its foreclosure plan.

“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.”

Mr. Gibbs also sharply disagreed with Mr. Obama’s transportation secretary, who suggested this week that drivers be taxed based on the number of miles they drive.

The verbal spanking for Mr. Santelli came just minutes after Mr. Gibbs said the White House should not be judged by the ups and downs of the markets, which have generally reacted poorly to Mr. Obama’s financial and housing plans over the past two weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down nearly 500 points this holiday-shortened week, though it did rebound slightly Friday moments after Mr. Gibbs said Mr. Obama does not support nationalization of banks.

Mr. Gibbs refused to accept the stock market as a valuable measure of White House policies.

“I think it is very safe to assume that what is being priced into the day-to-day fluctuations of the market is not just what happens or is announced at the White House or on the road by the White House,” he said.

Mr. Santelli’s call for a “Chicago Tea Party” and his attack on Mr. Obama’s housing plan, with assistance from the Drudge Report, became an Internet sensation.

Firing back at Mr. Gibbs on Friday, Mr. Santelli - more staid than during his Thursday performance - said all he was asking for was more specifics and that he appreciated the offer to read the plan. But he chided Mr. Gibbs over the massive $787 billion spending bill, spanning hundreds of pages, which Congress passed and Mr. Obama signed within a matter of days - and before most lawmakers had a chance to read it.

Mr. Santelli also said he was happy to be invited to the White House, though he had a slight change for Mr. Gibbs‘ plans for coffee: “I’m not really big on decaf, though. I think I prefer tea.”

Mr. Gibbs categorically ruled out an idea that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggested this week to the Associated Press: that drivers should 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 to ask him about it.

Told by a reporter that the Associated Press had already talked with him, Mr. Gibbs said simply: “Call him back.”

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