Jacob Heilbrunn

Good Riddance to Robert Gibbs

 Robert Gibbs may have been the most annoying member of the Obama administration. Arrogant, complacent, shallow, he represented the worst aspects of a White House press secretary. The news that he is departing should create a thousand hosannas across the land.


Former Democratic national chairman Howard Dean got it exactly right when he observed about Obama's departing aides:

The core issue is the contempt, which not just the progressives were treated by but lots of people were treated by, by senior advisers around the president who have been here for 20 years and thought they knew everything and we knew nothing. That is a fundamental flaw in any kind of administration. As they say, "Don't let the door hit you in the you-know-what on the way out."

Who will Obama appoint to replace Gibbs? It's hard to him imagine doing worse. Some candidates might be picked from the numerous Democrats who were defeated in the midterms. A true pick with the ability to talk to blue collar Democrats would be former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, but he lacks the kind of polish that Obama would be looking for. But the odds are that Obama will pick someone from the inside--perhaps Jay Carney, vice-president Joe Biden's spokesman and a former journalist at Time.

The truth is that Obama almost doesn't need a press secretary. He likes to turn his own press conferences into Ivy League seminars for the edification of the press corp and the nation. He is his own press secretary. In other words, he likes to hear himself talk.

This is difference from Bill Clinton, who was simply garrulous, and George W. Bush, who had trouble uttering a coherent sentence. The only time Bush was able to make the case for the Iraq war was when he had Tony Blair standing next to him to offer a fluent, if specious, argument for it. But even if Obama doesn't want to admit it, the exodus of advisers from the White House does signal that change is afoot after the shellacking of the midterms.

Already Obama has managed to recover some of his footing with his trifecta of legislative successes at the end of 2010. Now Gibbs will be serving as an outside adviser, a role he is probably better suited for than press secretary. It's unlikely that his departure will be widely mourned.