When White House press secretary Dana Perino appeared on "The Daily Show" last week, host Jon Stewart asked how she got the day off: "Did they not need press secretarying today?"
These days, with President Bush largely relegated to the sidelines rather than the headlines, it's not surprising that Perino can knock off early.
Fewer than half the seats were filled in the White House briefing room that Thursday afternoon, when deputy press secretary Tony Fratto was even asked at one point if an upcoming economic speech by Bush would provide anything newsworthy.
"No," Fratto replied, "you shouldn't look for new major announcements tomorrow." Some laughter and grumbling followed among the press corps.
But that's the White House beat during these lame duck days, where correspondents compete for front-page real estate and airtime with reporters on the campaign trail -- most often, unsuccessfully.