Live

Watch CBSN Live

Gibbs' Podium Premiere

Peter Maer is a CBS News White House Correspondent.

(CBS)
New White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has tried the Briefing Room podium on for size and, with a few exceptions, it seemed to be a good fit.

In sharp contrast to the many empty seats in the closing days of the Bush administration, the room was packed with reporters eager to cover Gibbs' maiden voyage. He joked, "We should sell tickets."

The briefing was dominated by questions about President Obama's orders to close the Guantanamo terror detention facility within a year. Reporters wondered if the ban on harsh interrogation techniques would be permanent since a new commission will study policies and offer recommendations to the president.

Gibbs said, " It's the start of a process." He insisted that, "the president has been very clear on what he believes protects the American people."

The Obama White House earlier conducted its first "background briefing," insisting that the people who explained the new policies must be identified as "senior administration officials."

The press office refused reporters' requests to put the briefing on the record so that viewers, listeners and readers could know the source of the information. But the new press secretary blew that cover during his nationally broadcast briefing when he repeatedly referred to one of those officials, as " Greg." (White House counsel Greg Craig. )

During his premier briefing, Gibbs bobbed and weaved like the best of his predecessors. Asked if President Obama learned anything during a military briefing on the plan to withdraw from Iraq in 16 months, the press secretary said, "There's an ongoing discussion, an ongoing planning process...to assure that those reasonable goals are met."

Gibbs also explained events that led to last night's remarkable re-do of the presidential oath.

The early evening "take two" on the oath was staged because Chief Justice John Roberts and President Obama botched the constitutional wording after Roberts misplaced some of the words during the inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.

Gibbs said while the White House counsel's office believed strongly that President Obama was sworn in "effectively and appropriately," the oath was repeated "out of an abundance of caution."

He tried humor to try to brush aside repeated questions by saying, "You know lawyers."

But on a day that saw the new president promise an open administration, some reporters were angry that the White House did not permit full media access to the historic event. The press office allowed four print reporters to witness the "second take" on the oath. Gibbs never fully explained why TV and radio reporters and news photographers were barred, a departure from time-honored White House procedures for pool coverage of presidential events. The only audio record was a print reporter's off-microphone scratchy recording. Questioned by CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante, Gibbs said, " The procedures with which we brought in a print pool provide the documentation of exactly what happened." Representatives of a number of news organizations disagreed and lodged formal protests with the press secretary.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue