Last night I could not sleep, so I did what I usually do to combat insomnia, I turned on C-Span. Unfortunately, the White House Press Briefing was on, and rather than falling asleep in ten words or less, I was immediately reduced to giggles. I think EVERY press secretary, regardless of administration, deserves a medal of honor for dealing with the ship of fools known as the White House Press Corps. Check out these exchanges:
Q I was going to ask you an Afghanistan question, but I’ll wait until tomorrow. Back to this — I want to make sure I understood the Enron question. You’re saying that the President is interested — the government is pursuing the Justice Department investigation and that, this broader thing of how to make sure that this doesn’t happen before. But that in the White House there is no effort being made to gather together the contacts?
I want to make sure I understand that, because that’s a rather novel way of managing a crisis and I want to make sure. Nobody is interested in who called Enron in this White House or in the government, and getting together those people, what did you tell them, so that you don’t know? But that if we find out about one of these calls, you’ll —
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, if you have any suggestion — and no one has — of any wrongdoing, I urge you, bring it forward, present it, ask it to me, ask of me on the record, ask it to be on background, ask it to me wherever you like, and we will do our best to track it down and find out.
But if you’re asking — if you’re asking if the White House is chronicling any contact with anybody in this administration and anybody at Enron over anything, I think that’s such a broad request that it’s characterized as a fishing expedition. But that’s exactly what the question is.
Q I’m not talking about any — I’m talking about when the company was in trouble, calls they made or did not make to the White House or the senior staff or the Cabinet. You’re telling me you don’t even want to know those calls that might have been made?
MR. FLEISCHER: Calls about what?
Q Help or anything. I don’t — I can’t —
MR. FLEISCHER: See, again, there you go, you’re asking me are we doing something that you can’t even define. You’re saying to me, are you engaged in a — hold it, hold it — you’re asking me are you engaged in a — I’m getting there.
You’re asking me, are you gathering information about any contact with Enron about what? Ask the question.
Q — financial position.
MR. FLEISCHER: Exactly, any communication.
A little bit later, came this exchange, and it was hard to imagine that Ari Fleischer was thinking about anything other than someone’s head on a stake.
Q Two follow ups. One, is the President concerned that his buddies at Enron are going to jail?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks that it is vital for the Department of Justice to pursue this wherever it goes, to whoever it goes and to do whatever it takes to investigate any criminal wrongdoing.
News- Fair and Balanced. Then came this exchange:
Q I’ll try to state this carefully so you don’t have to restate the question, you can just give me a “yes” or “no” if you can. Is the White House determining whether or not administration officials or White House aids have received any calls from Enron since the summer of 2001?
MR. FLEISCHER: On any topic, on anything?
Q That’s my question, have they received —
MR. FLEISCHER: On any topic, on anything?
Q Have they received any calls, are you guys determining whether or not White House officials or administration officials have received calls from Enron since the summer of 2001?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the standard the White House has put in place is that if you have any suggestion of any wrongdoing, as opposed to such a broad, open-ended question —
Q I’m asking whether or not you guys are determining whether these calls were made. I’m not asking you —
MR. FLEISCHER: “These” calls meaning which calls?
Q I’m asking you whether or not, yes or no —
MR. FLEISCHER: You said, “these calls.” Describe the calls.
Q — yes or not, is the administration determining who in this administration got calls from Enron in the last six or 10 months.
MR. FLEISCHER: About any — now it’s six or 10 months.
Q Since he summer of 2001.
MR. FLEISCHER: About any topic or anything? Again, the administration is interested, if anybody has any evidence of wrongdoing —
Q I’m asking yes or no —
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you’ve heard the answer.
Q No, no, I haven’t. I want to know if the White House cares enough about this to investigate?
MR. FLEISCHER: The White House views this as a matter of a criminal investigation and a policy review. And if somebody has a suggestion that something was wrong, it will be investigated and reviewed. But other than that, that is such a broad question about any topic, any conversation about anything.
What you’re saying is, communication in itself, that all communication in itself needs to be brought under scrutiny.
Q It’s a simple “yes” or “no.”
Q With all due respect, the question couldn’t be narrower. It’s “yes” or “no,” are you investigating who received these calls? You either are or you aren’t. I’m not asking you —
MR. FLEISCHER: Wrongdoing should be investigated. Communication — I want to again remind everybody here — communication —
Q So the answer is “no”?
Q Why won’t you say “yes” or “no”?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because it is not being handled in the way that I think you all are looking for it to be handled, because you’re trying to make comparisons to previous administrations. That is not the White House approach.