Djcnor’s Weblog

Obama’s Choices #8 Robert Gibbs

Posted on: January 10, 2009

What is the job of a Press Secretary? Or rather, what should it be? Is he pure PR for the Pres? Always presenting the President’s side of any controversy and doing his best to prevent the other side being presented? The guy who represents the President because he can say “I don’t know” and get away with it when the press can be sure the Pres should know the answer, but wouldn’t want to answer truthfully?

A lot of his job is more mundame than that. He has the President’s schedule, where he’ll be and who he’ll be with during each day, and often, not only does the press want to know all this but the President wants the press to know it, to come and take pictures of it and write stories about it. He’s also on top of the news of the day, anticipating the questions the Press will be asking about it, so fully in touch with the President’s position that he can handle any unanticipated questions or unanticipated happenings in the way the President would want.

Naturally, a media background would be an advantage for the job, particularly experience reporting. Robert Gibbs does not have that experience. He has always been on the other side of the podium, the one fielding the questions rather than the person asking them.

Gibbs’ degree is in political science and he has always been a political consultant as well as a press secretary. He played an early part in John Kerry’s Presidential campaign, but resigned when Jim Jordan, Kerry’s political strategist, was fired. Gibbs then became involved in intense efforts to prevent John Dean from winning the nomination, and Jim Jordan was also involved in that effort.  I wish that I could ask Mr. Gibbs exactly what it was that that he and Jordan had against Dean and if he still feels the same about those efforts, because to my mind, the exit from Kerry’s campaign looks rather like a disassociation to permit some types of actions that might not have been permissable otherwise.

Gibbs tends to be aggressive and intensive in dealing with criticisms of whomever he is supporting, which perhaps was needed to counteract the Republican tendency toward swift boating and other disinformation techniques but, in my opinion, is not a good thing with respect to the transparency by which Obama would be best served as President. Obama must not let his Press Secretary cut him off from the people that are his base.

I also wonder, considering his anti-Dean efforts, how prepared he is to deal with all the types of new media that Dean was taking advantage of and that have played such a large part in Obama’s support. The internet media are independent, nimble, and fickle, closer to the people than other media, and Obama will need us.

I have no suggestions as to who might be more a more appropriate choice, but I have to say that this choice worries me some. If Obama’s positions cannot stand so well on their own as to not need such fierce defenses, then the positions should be made stronger, not the defenses of them. And that can only happen by opening access, not closing it off.

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