White House press secretary Robert Gibbs held an off-camera gaggle earlier today, and an on camera briefing in the afternoon.
TAPPER: Has the president called or does the president intend to call Roy Halladay?
GIBBS: he could…
GIBBS: Yes, you run that through (Phillies fan and former Obama for America campaign manager) David Plouffe. He'd be happy to be on the phone, too. I don't know if he has. I can — I can check on that. It was…
TAPPER: OK. If you could let me know, that would be great. And the other question is, I went back and I read the August 4th…
GIBBS: …was wondering if it was about calling Zardari…
TAPPER: First things first.
TAPPER: I — I went back and I read the August 4th briefing with Allen, Lubchenco, you and Carol Browner after Carol Browner went on the morning shows and gave what you acknowledged to be and the oil spill commission says is erroneous information about what she said: that 70 percent, three-quarters of the oil was gone, and that was overstating the case. And I didn't really see any — while it's true, absolutely, that Lubchenco gave the precise information I didn't really see any correction that — or any alerting of the public that however many tens of millions of Americans had been given incorrect information a few hours before. And I'm wondering if…
GIBBS: I — the report (inaudible) I didn't bring my briefing out. Let me go back and look. I would point you, I guess, to what Director — Dr. Lubchenco said in that briefing is — is she appropriately represented the viewpoint of NOAA. Look, I think it is important to understand that our response attacked the oil spill in an unprecedented way. It was the largest environmental disaster that we have ever faced. And we attacked it with the largest federal response. We — we did all that was humanly possible in the most challenging of environments.
TAPPER: Right, but this is — this is more about communication, about communicating an overly optimistic — whether it was a misunderstanding or not, an overly optimistic prognosis of what was going on in the water. And the White House has acknowledged that Carol Browner misunderstood, misspoke, what have you. And I'm wondering if not only does the White House regret that she did that, but that the White House didn't make more of a point? Because there were headlines the next day, "75 Percent of the Oil Gone" — to make it clear that she had misspoken.
GIBBS: I — I think we were — I'd go back and — I would go back and read it. I think we were abundantly clear in the briefing that was done in here on the 4th of August exactly what — exactly what the oil budget represented. It represented the fact that there was very good news, that oil had biodegraded, that oil had been skimmed, that oil had been burned. That the very worst-case scenarios that many people thought we would be dealing with never came to fruition largely because of that federal response. Again, I'm happy to look through the briefing. I — I — look, I — I think it is fair to say that Carol probably did hundreds of hours of interviews, and may have misspoke once, which is a pretty darn good track record and one that — one that we made sure was accurate, certainly just a few days — a few hours later.
TAPPER: But should you have been more precise? Carol Browner gave information that was not I think that the word Jonathan used yesterday, but not as nuanced as it should have been?
GIBBS: Again, I would point you to the briefing. I think the briefing on the 4th was rather clear.
TAPPER: As I'm sure you know, the judge ruled in the Ahmed Ghailani trial that one witness would not testify. That's the man who allegedly sold Ghailani the explosives used in the U.S. embassy bombings. And a lot of critics of terrorists being tried or alleged terrorists being tried in civilian courts are seizing on this as an example of exactly why they should be prosecuted in military tribunals. I was wondering if this — what your response is, what the president thinks of this and whether or not this does indeed, in the president's mind, underscore the need for some of these cases to go military tribunals.
GIBBS: Well, I will say, first and foremost, Jake, we were active participants in reforming a military commission system to allow that to be an important avenue in dealing with — in dealing with alleged terrorists. In this particular case, I believe — and I'd point you specifically to Justice — it is a — it's a pending criminal matter that I don't want to wade deeply into because of it. I understand that they — certainly reviewing the order and making plans, I believe, to appeal what the judge issued yesterday. And we continue to believe that, as we saw in the case of Mr. Shahzad, that there is — there is an appropriate avenue for these courts to play in dealing with, and in Mr. Shahzad's case arresting, interrogating, getting valuable intelligence information and ultimately locking him up for the rest of his life for his actions in Times Square.