What Robert Gibbs said in case Democrat Coakley lost the Massachusetts Senate race, which she did
It was change to believe 2010-style. On the right foot this time.
Every once in a while The Ticket publishes a partial or entire transcript of a public exchange or statement to let readers get a feel for the issues in their full context free of any intervening filter.
It will be six months on Friday since President Obama has held a full-blown news conference. So the sometimes blunt banter with Gibbs is the only way for media representatives to pump info from the increasingly-embattled White House. Gibbs says he doesn't see the sixth news conference anytime in the near future. And, of course, next Wednesday is Obama's first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
Today we're publishing an exchange from the Tuesday White House briefing between press secretary Robert Gibbs and reporters on the subject of the day's special Senate election in traditionally Democratic Massachusetts. Even as the voting was going on, polls and gut feelings had told most that Democrat state Attorney General Martha Coakley was in deep trouble against state Senator Scott Brown.
She lost rather easily. He won rather comfortably. See related items below for existing Ticket coverage and we'll have more right here later today. So check back.
The impact in Washington is that the Massachusetts seat had been held by a Democrat continuously since 1952. And its loss would (and now will) erase the Democrats' 60-seat filibuster-proof Senate majority, not to mention give mental pause to other Democrats there who must face the voters in November's midterm elections.
Here's the full Tuesday exchange:.Q So in the event of a Democratic loss in Massachusetts, what kind of contingency planning is the White House doing to prevent the -- to keep the health care bill alive as well as to keep everything on track?
MR. GIBBS: Obviously health care is a great priority to this President. We can get....
...into discussing the results of tomorrow, tomorrow when we have results.
Q But whatever the outcome of the election up there in Massachusetts, what's the thinking within the administration that this has exposed public skepticism, perhaps even backlash against the President's agenda, not just health care, but financial reform and --
MR. GIBBS: Again, I don't -- I think to get into why something happened before it happens -- we will schedule a briefing not unlike this at approximately the same time tomorrow where we can discuss a lot of it. Jake.
Q Forgetting the results of the election -- (laughter) -- the fact is it's incredibly close, right? You guys have said it's an incredibly close --
MR. GIBBS: It's a heavily contested election.
Q Heavily contested election in Massachusetts. Does the President think that the fact that it's so close is any reflection at all on him or his agenda or his governing style?
MR. GIBBS: Look, again, as I said to Matt, we'll have a chance to get into --
Q But I'm not talking about --
MR.GIBBS: No, no, I understand. Let me finish the -- I think there is obviously -- and this isn't something that's known simply because there's an election in one state. I think there's a tremendous amount of upset and anger in this country about where we are economically. That's not a surprise to us in this administration because, Jake, in many ways we're here because of that upset and anger.
That upset and anger, quite frankly, dates much farther back than simply the 2008 election. That's not to talk about any previous administration, except for quite some time the middle class has thought that Washington was looking out for Washington and the big special interests, and not looking out for them. I don't think there's any doubt of that.
I think the President, who reads letters from people every day, will be in Ohio during a town hall meeting later this week -- I have no doubt that people are going to express anger and frustration about where we are. We have seen an economic downturn and collapse that we haven't seen since the late 1920s and the early 1930s.
I think that is going to be the source of, rightfully so, a lot of frustration, understanding that there were a lot of people that were hurting well before that economic calamity hit Wall Street.
Wages weren't going up -- you guys heard the President talk about this. People were working longer, people were working harder, people were more productive even as their wages weren't growing. So, look, the President understands there's a lot of economic frustration out there.
Q If you look at the right track-wrong track number, which I know you guys pay attention to, it was improving after President Obama took office. And it became that a majority of Americans at one point thought that we were on the right track, and that number has started to go down, even as the economy has continued to tank. So it would seem that a lot of Americans are now attaching their frustration with Washington to President Obama and what he's doing.MR. GIBBS: I think there is certainly some attachment to us. I think there is some larger attachment to this town. I think there's an attachment to the pace of that recovery that you would count the President among those frustrated about. The President is -- understands that there is frustration out there and is frustrated himself.
Q But when you look at the polls on what the American people think about his handling of health care reform and the health care reform bill itself, they don't -- they don't approve. Is it possible that it's not just -- that along with President Obama, they are frustrated with the pace of economic recovery, but maybe that Americans disagree with what President Obama is doing, disagree with the direction he is taking the country?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, we have had a vigorous back-and-forth in this country about health care. I think we'd be the first to admit that we think there are a lot more benefits than people see and feel in these bills. If that's a failing, I think that is certainly a failing that I and others here at the White House take responsibility for, up to and including the President.
Q Robert, if the Senate loses the 60-member filibuster-proof majority, does the President feel that it would be in the best interest of moving health care forward for House Democrats to support the Senate bill and get it on his desk as soon as possible?
MR. GIBBS:These are going to be all great questions tomorrow. But I just --
Q You'll answer them tomorrow?
MR. GIBBS: I promise I'll be here tomorrow, how about that? (Laughter) ####
The Ticket will publish Wednesday whatever the ensuing exchange is on this same subject from the media pbriefing so you can see how the Obama White House attempts to cauterize the political wound.
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Photo: Associated Press (Brown at victory rally); Jim Young / Reuters (Obama and Coakley Sunday).