Obama Pays Friendly Visit To White House Reporters

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Obama made an unannounced visit to the White House press room Thursday, engaging in some friendly banter that centered more on basketball and Blackberrys than Guantanamo and the global economic collapse.

Some highlights:

  • Asked if he had played basketball yet on the White House ground, he said, "I have not tried the basketball court. It's been too cold." He mentioned, though, that "we installed a new backboard on the tennis court … so we'll be able to play full court."

  • Mr. Obama walked through the briefing room and into the back where various news agencies have their booths, desks or cubbyholes. "Right now I want to say hello and introduce myself. to you," he said and proceeded to walk around shaking hands and introducing himself reporters who had not covered his campaign. "We'll try to have a relationship that's respectful," he said.

    He walked through the break room and saw the contents of the vending machines – lots of potato chips and chocolate bars and commented, "We're thinking that maybe you might have some healthier snacks though guys."

    (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
    When he saw Fox News and CNN booths next to each other in the basement of the press room, he jokingly likened it to the goal for Israel and the Palestinians – saying the two cable news networks were "living side by side in peace and security."
  • He added that he's very proud of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs for the way he handled his first White House press briefing today, saying "I'm very proud of him today – gave him a fist bump."
  • He said of the press room, "It's nice – but it's confining," and asked reporters about the history of the press room: when it was renovated, and how it's determined which news organizations get which work space. A reporter joked about whether Mr. Obama had seen the hot tub yet. He played along, saying he hadn't.
  • Asked about his Blackberry – Mr. Obama has fought to keep the device for limited use during his presidency despite security and disclosure concerns – he said, "I won the fight but I don't think it's actually up and running yet."
    (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
  • When a reporter tried to ask him a serious question about his nomination of a former lobbyist to be deputy defense secretary, Mr. Obama didn't want to get serious. "I can't come in and shake hands if I'm gonna get grilled every time," he said. He promised to hold a press conference soon, but didn't commit to a date.
  • He promised to come back and answer substantive questions.
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      Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.