Out with the old and in with the new. The very day we get a new Tea Party Congress, we find out the White House is losing its Spinner-in-Chief Robert Gibbs.
Gibbs is leaving as part of a White House shake-up, what The New York Times called “the first major reorganization of his administration.” Well, two years later, we finally see “change” in action.
Gibbs has been Obama’s lovable pit bull – laughing it up with the overly friendly press and bullying anybody not in the hallelujah chorus. Politico’s Patrick Gavin found that the press room reacted with laughter more than 600 times during regular press briefings in just the first four months — an average of more than 10 laughs per day.
Sounds entirely lovable unless he’s going after any of the Obama administration’s approved enemies list: Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, CNBC’s Jim Cramer and Rick Santelli, Matt Drudge and the Chamber of Commerce, to name a few. Then throw in some major restraints on the press, and he’s been more of a Secretary of War than a Press Secretary to many in the media.
Remember back in July 2009, Helen Thomas (before her career imploded) and CBS’s Chip Reid got into a dust-up with Gibbs. After Reid inquired about how healthcare town hall questions were pre-selected. Thomas criticized the White House for its “openness and transparency.”
Thomas followed up with a rant about how the administration was going too far. “Nixon didn’t try to do that. They couldn’t control [the media]. They didn’t try that. What the hell do they think we are, puppets?” It’s not often you see a press secretary compared to Nixon.
When Gibbs wasn’t massaging the news, he was bashing media he didn’t like. During a “Hannity & Colmes" appearance in October 2008, Gibbs didn’t like questions about Obama’s connections to radical William Ayers. So he fired back at Hannity “Are you anti-Semitic?” He got worse, asking, “Why am I not to believe that everyone who works for the network is anti-Semitic because Sean Hannity gave a platform to a man who thinks Jews are slimy?”
That exchange is a nice metaphor for Gibbs’ tenure as Press Secretary. He stood at the front of the press gaggle, tie all askew, and blasted his opponents. He attacked Rush Limbaugh to defend the auto bailout. He attacked Santelli for his criticism of the administration. Then Cramer became the target because he didn’t like the economic moves the president was making.
In August, Gibbs did battle with “Fox & Friends” co-host Gretchen Carlson. “I think you've asked me this question twice and I’ve given you an answer,” Gibbs chided. He continued later: “That's actually now the fourth time you've asked me that question....That's number five....Gretchen, I don't know whether this is you actually interviewing me or just a tape of you looping the same question over and over again.”
With his departure, Obama can pretend to hire someone kinder and gentler and give all appearances of working in a bipartisan manner with conservative media. -- Shedding Gibbs will make that pretense more believable, even if nothing changes.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor.