Commentary Magazine


Topic: obnoxious messenger

RE: Time to Clean House

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS's Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

Dana Milbank reminds me that there’s another White House aide who deserves to be shown the door: the ever-snide Robert Gibbs. Milbank explains:

Gibbs acts as though he’s playing himself in the movie version of his job. In this imaginary film, he is the smart-alecky press secretary, offering zippy comebacks and cracking jokes to make his questioners look ridiculous. It’s no great feat to make reporters look bad, but this act also sends a televised image of a cocksure White House to ordinary Americans watching at home.

This is the most visible manifestation of a larger problem the Obama White House has. Many Obama loyalists from the 2008 race still seem, after a year on the job, to be having trouble exiting campaign mode. They sometimes appear to be running a taxpayer-funded rapid-response operation.

Sometimes? We’ve been treated to attacks from Gibbs on Fox, Gallup, radio talk-show hosts, and CNBC reporters. As Milbank describes, he waves off reporters’ legitimate inquiries with the back of his hand — the perfect metaphor for the contempt with which this White House treats critics. A case in point of the abject rudeness that Gibbs displays:

The press secretary drummed a bah-dum-bum on the lectern. [CBS's Chip] Reid ignored the percussion and asked whether the “groundswell of support for a Republican in the blue state of Massachusetts for a candidate who’s running against the president’s agenda” meant that “the White House has simply lost touch with the American people.”

Gibbs gave another dismissive wave and cited a CBS News poll that wasn’t about Massachusetts.

“Good diversion,” Reid replied.

“I hate to quote CBS to CBS,” Gibbs continued with a grin.

Funny, huh? No, not really. The Obama team has brought its style of Chicago politics — nontransparent, corrupt, undemocratic, and bullying — to Washington. It makes no effort to conceal it; instead it showcases it every day from the White House press room. Gibbs in that regard is the perfect face for the Obama White House — arrogant and just plain boorish.

So if Obama is looking to turn over a new leaf — and it’s not sure that he is — or even if he wants to present a more appealing image to the voters, he’d do well to dump Gibbs. There have been some pretty good Democratic press secretaries (Mike McCurry among the best), so they should be able to come up with another mouthpiece. The message is a different problem, but the least they can do is find a less obnoxious messenger.

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