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Tag Archives: Gibbs

Gibbs Doesn’t Do a Lot of Things

One of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ favorite evasion strategies is professing that he is unable to answer a question because he is not a member of the profession covered by the question. “I am not an attorney,” is a favorite, for example.

Gibbs is good at false modesty. He’s as smart and savvy as they come, and I think underrated as a press secretary. That is, he knows exactly when to evade, and exactly when to respond, and exactly how to turn a question into a recitation of the White House position and accomplishments.

Reporters complain a lot about him because they think he’s not responsive enough and doesn’t give them enough info. And they need to GET SOME SOURCES.

I doubt Woodward and Bernstein ever had a question for the White House press secretary, except as a courtesy to get a comment on news they had dug up somewhere else.

Anyhoo, Politico has put together a nice compilation of Gibbs’ recitations of the jobs he doesn’t do. There’s of things he doesn’t know. Which makes his life a lot easier.

Jay Carney to be White House Press Secretary

Updated at 7:15 pm

Jay Carney, a former Time magazine reporter and current communications director for Vice President Biden, will replace Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary.

Carney was chosen over Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton.

Carney, 45, is a veteran Washington hand well steeped in issues of policy, politics and journalism, a knowledge base that will serve him well as press secretary. He is well known to the White House press corps, many of whom have worked with him trying to get information out of spokespeople of the type Carney has now become.

But Carney is untested in the briefings, though he has vast TV experience and is expected to be able to handle the format. Burton has proven himself in the briefings as the regular substitute for Gibbs, but at 33 may have been viewed as too young to handle a job that will be key to Obama’s reelection prospects.

Carney, who will start work sometime around the middle of February, is married to Claire Shipman, the veteran ABC reporter who covered the White House for NBC during the Clinton years.

He’s solidly made the transition to spokesman, having drunk a big helping of Koolaid at the White House.

I once saw him at a Starbucks and asked him how things were going in his new position as Biden’s spokesman. “Just changing the world, one day at a time,” he replied.

OK. Awesome.

Despite once being one of them, Carney has a record of chewing out reporters, which he admits to.

But he really understands reporters – he’s married to one – and gets what they need and what they are trying to do.

Manipulating the press is an important part of his job. I say this as a professional, without any irony or rancor. The White House has a right to get its message out the best way in can. And knowing your enemy, which Carney really does, is the best qualification for doing battling with them, and making them do what you want.

And, having served Biden for two years, Carney has plenty of experience doing damage control, also an important part of the press secretary job.

Carney lacks the close relationship Gibbs had with Obama, and is more likely to take on the typical role of a press secretary, attending fewer high-level internal meetings and have less impact on policy.

He will have more of the aspect of a hired hand and will report to a trusted member of Obama’s inner circle, Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.

No matter, perhaps. Mike McCurry, the Clinton spokesman known as perhaps the most successful modern press secretary, was also not among the close aides who had served the president for years when he took over the office.

Obama also has tapped two women to serve as deputy chief of staff to Bill Daley, Alyssa Mastromonaco and Nancy-Ann DeParle. DeParle led the successful White House effort to pass health care reform

KGB Appears in White House Briefing Room

This is what can happen when a Russian “journalist” is permitted to ask questions in the White House briefing room.

Andrei Sitov, the Washington bureau chief for ITAR-Tass, is usually fairly well behaved, asking things that might normally be expected of a Russian correspondent were the Russian media not under the thumb of its authoritarian government.

But today, Andrei unloaded with a “question” that could have been written by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has you know as spent the last decade easing freedom out the door in Russia while his thugs bully and kill reporters who try to conduct themselves as actual journalists.

Here’s what Andrei wanted to know. Please tell me whether you think this question was NOT written in the Kremlin.

But this is what I was talking about, exactly this. This is America — the democracy, the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition your government.

And many people outside would also say, and the, quote/unquote, “freedom” of a deranged mind to react in a violent way is also American. How do you respond to that?

You Americans and your freedom. What’s the matter with you? I assume Russians will be treated to this exchange 24-7 on the television.

And good for Gibbs. He started answering calmly, and then became visibly angry, and ended the briefing once he was finished.

We had people whose lives will be changed forever because of the deranged actions of a madman.

Those are not American. Those are not in keeping with the important bedrock values by which this country was founded and by which its citizens live each and every day of their lives in hopes of something better for those that are here.

Andrei has been around for years. But this is a new low. Andrei’s dual role is as a  journalist and a propagandist. I’m not sure what he’s doing in the White House briefing room.

All the Griping About Gibbs

Apparently the search for Gibbs’s replacement is now extending far and wide, according to a piece by Politico and one by The Washington Post out today.

Gibbs carved out  too big a role for himself, and many reporters found him inadequately responsive. He tried to be a senior adviser as well as the daily point person for the voracious press corps, and it’s just too much. But I found that as long as I didn’t approach him with every little thing, and made good use of his deputies, he was responsive.

I think reporters complain too much about Gibbs. So often what they get from him is what they could get from those below him who are more reachable – predictable spin that the reporters could have written themselves.

Many reporters just need a “quote,” but want to have the name of someone senior on it. So they bother Gibbs for the same things they could get from the receptionist.

For the smaller number of reporters actively looking to break stories and get interesting background information, there’s sometimes an inverse relationship between the quality of what you get and the distance from the throne. Those who aren’t talking to the president every day can sometimes be persuaded to give a little more, both because they have time to talk to you and because they don’t have to face the boss.

The tradeoff is that when Gibbs does give a real gem, which is exceedingly rare, you know he was “in the room” getting it. But he’s mostly going to give you sanitized stuff he thinks will look good in print.

Reporters who complain a lot about the press secretary need to spend more time developing other sources, both within the White House and among those who talk to the White House and know what’s going on.

They give better information than the man whose job is to tailor information so it looks great in your publication – for the president.

Goodbye Gibbs

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed speculation that he will be leaving the White House to work as an outside adviser President Obama and his reelection campaign.

Gibbs will depart early next month. There is no replacement yet, though the betting is on either Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton or Jay Carney, a former reporter for Time magazine who heads up Vice President Biden’s communications shop

The New York Times was given a brief, exclusive interview with President Obama.

“We’ve been on this ride together since I won my Senate primary in 2004,” Mr. Obama said. “He’s had a six-year stretch now where basically he’s been going 24/7 with relatively modest pay. I think it’s natural for someone like Robert to want to step back for a second to reflect, retool and that, as a consequence, brings about both challenges and opportunities for the White House.”

Burton has substituted for Gibbs on the podium and generally handled the briefings well. But some in the White House feel he is too young to be the public face of the administration.

Carney is an unknown on the podium, but he’s smart and well versed in the ways of Washington.

The White House is still apparently considering other choices for the post.

Gibbs is much more than a press secretary. He is one of the three or four people closest to Obama and advising him on a wide range of issues.

Robert Gibbs
Gibbs in the shadows of a White House press conference last year, checking his Blackberry.
Photo by Keith Koffler

Gibbs is also far savvier and smarter than he sometimes appears on TV, where he speaks slowly and sometimes seems to make mistakes. But certain “misstatements,” including criticisms he has made of liberal Democrats, are more likely carefully crafted efforts to distinguish Obama from the Democratic base – without the president himself having to do it.

With Obama’s reelection in doubt, the White House will need for the campaign Gibbs’ strategic sense and ability to go on TV and immediately respond to attacks.

Gibbs has not only served as a Washington spokesman but has worked on several campaigns. By disentangling him from White House policy deliberations, he is now free to spend all his time promoting Obama.

Within the White House, 2008 Obama campaign chief David Plouffe will take up many of Gibbs’ in-the-background duties, as well as those of departing senior adviser and message guru David Axelrod.

But with both Axelrod and Gibbs leaving, I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama brings into the White House another sturdy hand to steer the message – perhaps even someone like veteran presidential adviser David Gergen, who was in to see the president recently.

Gibbs Appears Likely to Leave White House

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs appears headed toward the White House door to begin life as an outside adviser to President Obama, according to various reports.

Speculation had been that Gibbs would take a senior White House position. But that now appears less likely.

In his new role on the outside, Gibbs would help steward the reelection campaign, appear on TV to defend and promote Obama, and possibly be involved in setting up some type of apparatus that could collect money and use it to pay for an air war against Republicans.

Gibbs’ decision isn’t final, but White House officials don’t appear to be pushing back on the notion that he is all be set to leave the building.

Gibbs is personally close to Obama and would likely stay in close direct touch with the president.

Video: Gibbs Goes to Bat for U.S. Press in India

Here’s footage of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs trying to make sure the U.S. press pool gets in to see Obama and the Indian PM. I do dig the absurdly obsequious Indian security dude, trying to suppress the urge to take out his Kalashnikov and obliterate the American reporting contingent.

Indian security had tried to limit the number of U.S. reporters allowed into the event to five instead of eight. So Gibbs threatened to pull the president out of the meeting and literally put his foot in the door to stop the Indians from closing it on the Americans, though this is not shown in the video.

Gibbs: Obama Strongly Opposes Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today emphasized that President Obama wants an end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, even as his administration appears likely to appeal a judge’s ruling that the law in unconstitutional. Briefing reporters today off-camera, Gibbs found about seven different ways to say Obama opposes the policy, apparently seeking to reassure… Continue Reading

Gibbs: Attacks on the Chamber Will Continue

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today asserted that suggestions by President Obama that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money to fund political attack ads will continue, despite the conclusion by an independent website that there is no evidence this is happening. Gibbs spoke this morning at the the off-camera White House… Continue Reading

Gibbs Gaggles! Good Gibbs!

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today is again convening a morning off-camera gaggle, which will be followed later by the regular on-camera briefing at 12:30. This is  good news. The gaggle provides a more informal atmosphere for reporters to question the press secretary, to the benefit both the public and the White House itself.… Continue Reading

Gibbs Gets Lady Gaga Questions

The White House press corps is all over Lady Gaga. Um, what I mean is, they’re asking questions about her in the White House briefing room. Lady Gaga. She of course recently became a leader in the movement to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Just what the gay rights movement needs. Here’s… Continue Reading