CNS News’ Fred Lucas asked about a comment from Obama appointee Donald Berwick about rationing, which Gibbs not only dodged but used to bludgeon the reporter. Rather than state whether the president agreed with a position held by his own nominee, Gibbs slammed a reporter much to other members of the press gallery’s delight:
Lucas: “Among the controversial comments that [Berwick] made in the past that would have come out in the Senate confirmation hearing are “excellent health care by definition is redistribution,” some of the others were mentioned, does the president actually agree with that?” Gibbs: “Look this is somebody who is uniquely and supremely qualified to run an agency that is important to our government, it’s important to seniors, it’s important to the implementation of the new health care law. This is somebody supported not just by Democrats but by Tom Scully and Mark McClellan, both of whom ran this agency for George Bush.” Lucas: “But does the president agree with–” Gibbs: “This is the exact type of political game that the American people have come to understand dominates washington and doesn’t actually make their health care more affordable.”
Political game? Lucas was asking whether the president agreed with a fairly controversial sentiment offered by a nominee that has bypassed the Senate confirmation process. The American people might think that relevant, but that’s no matter for Gibbs.
Lucas: “You said you were confident there would have been a confirmation had there been a hearing. But do you think that it would have been politically troublesome in an election year to have all of these comments aired out about rationing and redistribution that Dr. Berwick had talked about in the past?” Gibbs: “You just read comments. Is there, like, a secret comment book that somehow you got and that nobody else got?” “And you just read them to me and somehow they wouldn’t have come out? Did he say things like ‘rationing happens today, it’s just a question of who will do it?” Lucas: “Well, that was one comment.” Gibbs: “Actually that was Paul Ryan. He’s a Republican in Congress.” Lucas: “Well you have your own comments.” Gibbs: “No, that’s Paul Ryan’s comment.”
He then dismisses the question saying that Lucas should go talk to Paul Ryan and that he’d “be happy to take that question” once he does so.
Mediaite’s Frances Martel jumped on this morsel, writing:
…Gibbs pulled out a comment that sounded remarkably similar to the one Lucas attributed to Berwick and asked him to confirm whether that was the comment he was concerned about. It was. The comment was by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan. The lesson? Robert Gibbs won’t entertain baseless questions from reporters who haven’t done their homework. And when he does, he makes enough of an example out of them to keep the rest of the Press Corps on their toes.
“Remarkably similar?” One is the president’s nominee talking about redistributing wealth by rationing health care, and the other is Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., worrying that people like the president’s nominee are going to be the ones rationing health care.
Gibbs sure did keep the Press Corps on their toes though: Don’t ask questions he (and Mediaite) doesn’t like.