Last week, our own Major Garrett told you about President Obama's 17 minute, 14 second answer to a town hall audience member's question about her concerns over higher taxes in the new health care law.

After he finished his answer, the President apologized to the woman for his long-windedness.

Today, at the White House briefing, Mr. Obama's Press Secretary found himself with the dual duty of justifying the length of such answers while simultaneously ribbing the Commander-in-Chief.

"I think I'm largely the one who coined the phrase that it used to take the President several minutes to clear his throat giving answers," Robert Gibbs teased. Then, thinking the better of it, "I hope he's not watching."

Gibbs did lay out an honest defense of Mr. Obama, "Look, there are complex issues in our times that this President and this Congress have to deal with. Not all of it can be done in neatly phrased eight-second sound bites," he said.

"When talking about something the size and the scope of health care reform it takes a while to sketch out the landscape and that's what the President enjoys doing, either in an interview setting or in a town hall meeting where citizens get to ask those questions directly of the President," he said.

Ok, fine, one more zinger, "I was going to give another 16 minutes on that answer, but I decided --" (laughter)