Speaking publicly for the first time since he disparaged the "professional left," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he stands by his comments, has no plans to resign and that he fully expects progressive voters to go to the polls in 2010.
"I don't plan on leaving and there is no truth to the rumor that I've added an inflatable exit to my office," the press secretary said during Wednesday's briefing, referencing the recent incident in which a Jet Blue flight attendant bolted his plane in frustration.
Taking the podium after a day off to tend to a sore throat, Gibbs said he has not reached out to any Democrats to discuss his remarks, in which he chastised liberals for wanting to "eliminate the Pentagon" and pursue Canadian-style health care reform. Nor, he added, has he talked to the president about the matter.
Does he stand by the comments? "Yes," he replied.
It was suggested that the remarks may have been part of a cynical strategy to depict the White House as not beholden to the progressive base. But the press secretary insisted that there was nothing underhanded in his interview with The Hill. He had said what he said in a bout of frustration.
"There are many time when I read the transcripts... that I could have said things slightly differently. I watch lot of cable TV and you don't have to watch long to get frustrated by some of what's said."
As for remorse, however, little was offered. Gibbs noted that the president has achieved many of the objectives that he had pledged on the campaign trail, insinuating that he isn't getting enough credit for these accomplishments. The frustration came from there but the sentiments aren't wholly unique.
"I doubt I said anything you haven't already heard before," said Gibbs.
The press secretary did not name names when pressed as to whom he was targeting with his criticism. The professional left was defined by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton as primarily cable news pundits. But no one on the TV circuit, let alone in public office, has called for the Pentagon to be eliminated. Gibbs hinted, briefly, that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) had done as much on the presidential campaign trail, only to have CBS's Chip Reid correct him. Kucinich had promoted a Department of Peace.
A day after the controversy over Gibbs' remarks was seemingly been put to rest by a quick walk-back from the press secretary, Wednesday's briefing seems likely to reignite the debate over the White House's relationship with liberals. But if there was nervousness over base voters not heading to the polls, Gibbs didn't show it:
"I don't think [liberal voters won't show up]," he said, "because I think what's at stake in November is too important to do that."