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Is Gibbs on the Way Out?

In a very unusual move – actually it’s never happened to my memory – a press secretary who was scheduled to brief is being replaced at the last minute by his deputy. But less than an hour before the briefing was to start, we were informed that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would not be starring in today’s performance and would be replaced by his stand in, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton.

Oops, I did it again.

Gibbs is in deep doo doo today over remarks he made in an interview with The Hill newspaper in which he ridiculed Washington liberals, whom many in the White House view as overly critical of the president.

The outbursts prompted an apology today from Gibbs. It’s the second time in recent weeks that he has enraged Obama’s allies on the left. Last, month, he drew the ire of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when he suggested that Democrats might lose the House.

There is no specific evidence that Gibbs will step aside. But his replacement by Burton today would seem clearly related to the brouhaha and a signal that he needs to make amends for his critique.

Speaking today at the briefing, Burton said Gibbs decided not to brief because he was a bit ill. Answering a liberal member of Congress who suggested Gibbs needs to “step down,”

Burton replied,  “I don’t think there’s any danger of that.”

Not sure I remember the last time Gibbs begged off due to “a sore throat and the sniffles,” as Burton put it, but perhaps there’s a first time for it.

Making oneself the issue is about the last thing a press secretary ever wants to do. It’s his job to keep the focus on the president.

Burton, left, waiting in the wings

Gibbs told The Hill that liberals who compared Obama to former President George W. Bush need to be “drug tested.”He also referred to some of them as “the professional left” whom he derisively suggested did not represent true “progressives,” who instead reside in “real America” outside of Washington

“They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality,”
he said. “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Here are some excerpts of an apology Gibbs provided today to the Huffington Post, which of course is read and written by “the professional left.”

So what I may have said inartfully, let me say this way — since coming to office in January 2009, this White House and Congress have worked tirelessly to put our country back on the right path. Most importantly, to dig our way out of a huge recession and build an economy that makes America more competitive and our middle class more secure. Some are frustrated that the change we want hasn’t come fast enough for many Americans. That we all understand.

So we should all, me included, stop fighting each other and arguing about our differences on certain policies, and instead work together to make sure everyone knows what is at stake because we’ve come too far to turn back now.

Burton is widely viewed as next in line to take the press secretary job whenever Gibbs steps down. Rumors have circulated for months that Gibbs wants to get out anyway and take a senior level advisory job to Obama that does not put him in the briefing room kleig lights every day.

Firing Gibbs is probably out of the question. He is a longtime and trusted Obama aide who was instrumental in the president’s election. His current portfolio extends  beyond the tradition press secretary’s job of advisikng on communications and answering reporters’ phone calls.

“They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”
Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”
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8 Responses to Is Gibbs on the Way Out?

  1. Rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

    I’m looking forward to Vanity Fair’s article on the WH. I read the blurb in Commentary and Peter Wehner said that this WH sounds like a pity party.

    I liked Dana Milbank’s WaPo piece on Barack as a 12 year old, too.

    I think I have an answer to how you get a eerie effect in a video. Besides the obvious the selection of music seems to do it..

  2. After the November elections, the WH senior staff will go their separate ways.
    Emanuel will resign to run for Mayor of Chicago.
    Jarrett is tired of the WH and wants to go home.
    Axelrod and Gibbs will resign and head the O Re-Election campaign (which will fizzle out after they collect enough millions).
    In August ’11, O will announce that he is not running for reelection because of family concerns (his family is not happy in the WH).
    Hillary will announce that she is a candidate again and resign as SofS.
    O will spend the remainder of his Presidency acting like a teenager when the folks are gone…golf, basketball, travel, parties by the dozen.
    The only reason to offend your supporters is that you don’t care anymore.