If you missed Tuesday's press conference at the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs got himself into some trouble, and it all started with those two little syllables:
Upon which Helen Thomas one again abandoned propriety and asked an actual question:
"Why is the President blocking habeas corpus from prisoners at Bagram? I thought he taught constitutional law. And these prisoners have been there --"
Here's where Gibbs stepped in with a brilliant defense of his boss's unconstitutional behavior.
"You're incorrect that he taught on constitutional law."
Ouch. Nailed that one. But Helen kept talking as if Gibbs had missed the point.
"-- for many years with no due process."
But Gibbs was ready and still had a card to play. It was a bit tattered and stained, but he pulled it out and held it up high so that everyone could read the four-letter word printed on it: FEAR.
"Well, there are several issues relating to that that have to do differently than in some places than others, particularly because you have detainees in an active theater of war. There's a review that's pending of court cases and decisions, and we want to ensure -- we want to ensure protection and security of the American people as well as rights that might be afforded."
"Are you saying these people in prison are a threat to us?"
Now watch how many words it takes for Gibbs to say yes to the question he wanted asked and how quickly he moves on without ever addressing the initial question Helen had asked:
"Well, I think that part of that is the determination based on our detainee policy that the President announced on the 21st of January, that that's part of that review, yes.
Later a man not identified by name in the transcript asked this: