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Gibbs to the Rescue in India

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was forced to intervene as Indian security officials – for at least the second time this trip – sought to limit U.S. participation in coverage of an event with President Obama.

Gibbs’ heroic effort for the U.S. team included both physical intervention and an unprecedented threat to remove Obama from his meeting with the Indian prime minister. From the U.S. press pool report.

Indian officials decided to cut agreed-upon number of WH pool allowed into spray of extended bilat (bilateral meeting) from eight to five. Katie Lillie and other U.S. officials lobbied hard for the eight, but no luck until Gibbbs announced loudly and persistantly on steps of Hyderabad House that he would pull POTUS of bilat with PM Singh unless “the White House 8,” as we’ve come to be known, were all allowed in. At one point, Gibbs literally had his foot lodged in the closing front door, asking if the Indian security officials pushing hard to shut it were going to break his foot. More angry words ensued, and after Gibbs convinced them, through high volume and repetition, that he was serious about pulling POTUS, we all made it inside, to hold with larger Indian press contingent, for start of extended bilat.

It’s  worth noting that when they are at the White House, the Indian press is easily the pushiest and most resistant to rules of decorum of any of the foreign press corps. Part of me takes offense to see them baying at the U.S. president, while the other part admires the free speech impulse to ignore protocols, which the U.S. press corps sometimes takes too seriously.

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8 Responses to Gibbs to the Rescue in India

  1. Wow! making friends all over the globe. C’mon, their country, their rules.
    Our Prez has already insulted and diminished the Indians with their super-duper security and lavish accomodations, but to argue over 3 plus or minus reporters is hardly diplomatic.

    Unless the Prez is bringing back the jobs that American business’ have shipped to India, this vacation is a terrible public relations mess. There are no ‘new’ jobs to be made by agreement with the Indians, they need all the jobs they can get themselves.
    The unemployed, foreclosed and bankrupt Americans are seething with resentment at the O’s lavish vacation at our expense. Our DC government is in turmoil, inflation is creeping up, we’re still at war and O parties.
    Foolish and short-sighted.

    • srdem – you make a good point. As much as I, as a journalist, like Gibbs going to bat for our side, is it really worth a diplomatic incident over three reporters? He may have been bluffing, so he should at least get points for pushing hard for U.S. reporters and playing good poker.

  2. I agree on the new jobs thing, SrDem. It was a last-minute brainstorm, in my not so humble. Are they going to bring all the help centers back? Are the Indians now buying all Boeing aircraft? Did the CEO roster include aerospace CEOs–that is a big ticket item we can sometimes get people to buy. I notice ads on TV for Mahindra–world’s most popular tractor..somehow that seems you know…not Caterpillar.

    • POTUS might and probably should say something too and may have – because one thing the WH is dealing with is that newspapers are OUT OF MONEY and many have stopped going on these foreign trips. The WH does want this to be covered, and if reporters can’t even get in the damn meetings, some accountant back home is going to question whether they need to go. The trips are VERY expensive.

  3. I watched the Gibbs “kerfuffle” on CNN and the one during Copenhagen and in each one, Gibbs went to bat for us. As much as this guy is a lame brain and a propagandist, you have to give him his due: He fights for the rights of the press pool to get in and get their story. And … during the Copenhagen brawl, Gibbs never lost his cool, just grabbed hold of one press reporter and got him into the meeting!

    I dont like Gibbs, but I think what he did was correct and in good faith based upon the prior, established guidelines for the meeting.