The president's well-known penchant for "making himself perfectly clear" has, in this case, created quite a quagmire for his press secretary to navigate.
Robert Gibbs dodged questions about the C-SPAN promise at yesterday's briefing by saying he hadn't seen the letter from C-SPAN president Brian Lamb. Of course, it's wholly unnecessary for Gibbs to see the letter from Lamb as he was on the campaign trail with Barack Obama when the president was "making himself perfectly clear," and understands the issue completely.
Today, Gibbs was stuck stuttering again as the utter clarity of Obama's promise, and the starkness with which he is departing from it, left him with no answers:
GIBBS: Chip, we covered this yesterday and I would refer you to yesterday's transcript.
QUESTION: But today is today and --GIBBS: And the answer that I would give today is similar to the one --
QUESTION: But there was an intervening meeting in which it's been reported that the President pressed the leaders in Congress to take the fast-track approach...Did he do that?
Gibbs offered more stonewalling and when questioned again, with that Gibbsian brand of cornered petulance we've come to know and love, went after the NBC reporter:
QUESTION: Well, does the President think it would be more helpful if this process were more transparent, that the American people could see --
GIBBS: Mike, how many stories do you think NBC has done on this?
QUESTION: Speaking for myself --
GIBBS: Just a guess.
QUESTION: That's not the issue. The issue is whether he broke an explicit campaign promise.
GIBBS: So the answer is --
QUESTION: I deal with the information that --
GIBBS: So the answer is hundreds, is that correct?
QUESTION: Right, but that's got nothing to do with it. I deal with the information, however much or little of it, there is. I'm saying would people benefit by having more information?
GIBBS: Have you lacked information in those hundred stories? Do you think you've reported stuff that was inaccurate based on the lack of information?
Watch the whole, painful exhange, here.
This is shaping up to be a not insubstantial p.r. problem for the president. It's easily understood by the general public and is a non-ideological complaint, as illustrated by involvement of the press corps and C-SPAN. It highlights the essential conflict of Obama myth and Obama reality as starkly as anything could. Heck, George H.W. Bush only said "Read my lips" one time, and look at the impact it had on his career and legacy.
And, who was it that planted this massive political problem for Obama? Why, Obama himself, whose hubris wrote a check his skills and will couldn't cash.