Robert Gibbs' first briefing as White House press secretary offered almost as much insight into the media as the newly installed administration.
Well before Gibbs entered, the room was filled beyond its normal capacity. An overflow of press stemmed down the aisles and into the back. Roughly 120 journalists were in attendance. A week earlier, at Bush's final press conference as president, the briefing room held approximately 40 such reporters.
"The new press secretary trumps the old president," said one bemused reporter.
"I've never seen this, not even for Bush's first press conference," offered another, before a colleague cut him off with a single word: "Impeachment."
As it was announced that Gibbs would soon take the stage, the crowds kept on growing. One female reporter, in an effort to ease the path through the aisles, jokingly announced that a "woman in labor" was coming through. "Make room."
Another complained that the media needed slimmer members, as he struggled to get to the back of the room.
Clearly, there was a lot of interest in what Gibbs was about to say. Obama had come into the Oval Office guns ablaze. In his first two days, he issued Executive Orders that froze White House officials' salaries, restricted lobbying activities, prohibited torture, and closed Guantanamo Bay. All while he and his staff and he were hammering out a stimulus package, staffing a Cabinet, and figuring out a responsible end to the war.
These topics were pressing. But the media also had another issue on its mind: why did Obama retake the Oath of Office if he thought the first go around -- with Chief Justice John Roberts' rhetorical flub -- was sufficient? Moreover, why was the event restricted only to the four members of the pool press and not the fourth estate at large?
A Democratic friend wrote to say that the White House Press Corps was not exactly acquitting itself well.
Over the roughly hour-long session, Gibbs would be pressed on nearly all the aforementioned fronts. But it seemed appropriate that as he left the stage he was asked to respond to the interest and size of the attending crowd.
"We should sell tickets and have the money go to the deficit," he said.
"How about some newspapers," chimed in a reporter.