Opinion: The White House words of Robert Gibbs: U.S. troops to Afghanistan


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Virtually every day, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs meets with the media -- fewer of whom actually have printing presses these days -- to answer assorted serious, superficial and silly questions about the president and his administration’s doings or not-doings.

These sessions are broadcast on television and radio during the day, which makes access to them problematic for Ticket readers who actually have employment still and for our many followers overseas.


As a new regular feature on The Ticket, we’ll be publishing unedited excerpts from these sessions to provide at least a brief feel for the ongoing issues, discussions and relationship between the media and the White House’s official talking face. As you’ll notice over time, sometimes the spokesman’s answers -- much of them prefabricated during daily prep -- are not really designed to clarify.

With the president holding another of his three-hour strategy meetings today on what to do with the Afghanistan mess, many questions focused on that historically turbulent land and the evolving new policies to be announced, likely before Obama’s long Asian trip next month.

More troops? More troops but fewer troops than expected? How to best politically package the new and improved Afghan strategy from the less-new Afghan strategy announced last March before American casualties began to soar and poll numbers begin to dip?

Today’s excerpts come in two parts, separated by a line like this ..........................

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Excerpts from the White House briefing session with Robert Gibbs

Q. The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said today that his government is ready to send 500 more troops under certain conditions. And the BBC is reporting that the U.S. government told....

...the British government that it was going to announce substantial increase in a U.S. deployment in Afghanistan. Can you comment on the veracity of that report --

MR. GIBBS: I wouldn’t -- the President has not made a decision, and when he does, I think that you can assume that the BBC will not be the first outlet for such a decision. I would not put any -- throw weight behind the fact that a decision has been made when the President has yet to make a decision.

In terms of -- let me speak just for a second about Prime Minister Brown’s announcement. Obviously, throughout this process we have been coordinating our review with our allies. I think we read out a call last week between President Obama and Prime Minister Brown, where the Prime Minister communicated to us their decision to send more troops.

Obviously, the British people and those that serve there have borne an enormous price in casualties. Obviously, we’re thankful for a strengthening of the coalition, and our assessment continues. But again, I think we’re happy for their increase in contribution.


Q You shot down the BBC report, but could I get a little more specific about it so that you can shoot down the specific numbers we’re hearing --

MR. GIBBS: It’s not true. I mean, I can be generalistic or I can be specific. I’ve seen the report. It’s not true either generally or specifically.

Q The report specifically said 45,000 troops.

MR. GIBBS: Right.

Q And I just want you to address that. Is that --

MR. GIBBS: Well, let me address both things. Well, first of all, the President hasn’t made a decision. Right? So the fact that he’s made a decision isn’t true. And the fact that the decision that he hasn’t made has been reported as a certain number consequently is also not true.

So it’s -- I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s not true.

Q It’s a good story, though. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: And, you know, by God, don’t let the facts get in the way of it, just go with it. ###

Excerpts taken from a transcript provided by the White House.