"Honey, I have to work late. The boss is having a big meeting tonight."
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
You might have heard that at certain breakfast tables in and around Washington this morning as members of the Cabinet and White House senior staff informed their spouses they wouldn't be home for dinner.
With his Administration just having passed its six-month mark, President Obama has summoned his top subordinates to a two-day retreat to discuss what they've done and have yet to do.
They'll "talk about the agendas both past and forward," says White House
spokesman Robert Gibbs.
The get-together will be staged at Blair House, the presidential guest house across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, seen left. It's so close, Mr. Obama and Vice President Biden will walk to the gathering. (It's such a short distance that the front of a presidential motorcade would likely arrive at Blair House before the tail of the convoy departed the White House.)
Gibbs is quick to caution reporters that the talks tonight and tomorrow are not meant to be seen as a "mid-course correction or a report card." And he says it was not precipitated by any recent turn of events – such as the failure of Mr. Obama to get health care plans through both the House and Senate by his August recess deadline.
"This is something that's long been on the docket," says Gibbs. He does not want anyone to view the "retreat," as a sign of panic on the part of the Administration. He says such gatherings are routine "with virtually every President since Eisenhower" convening such get-togethers.
Gibbs concedes that Blair House is "a little less scenic" than some other places that might have been selected. Past presidents have held strategy sessions at Camp David – which after all – is a "presidential retreat."
And don't look for the White House to make much use of the word "retreat." Dictionary.com defines it as "the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy." It can also mean a "forced or strategic withdrawal" as with an army. That's not the image the White House wants to convey. And the official press schedule of the President refers to tonight's gathering simply as a "meeting."
Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.