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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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HOT OFF THE PRESSES - Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke to AU students in the University Club in MGC on Sept. 19 about his experiences working with President Obama and interacting with the media.

Robert Gibbs reflects on life after the White House

Correction appended

Robert Gibbs has had quite a change of pace since his February resignation as press secretary under Barack Obama.

Though Gibbs continues to act as an adviser to the president for the 2012 election, his Blackberry’s battery and his stamina are not quite as tested as they were during his days on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“It’s gearing back up, but thankfully it’s not as crazy and chaotic as it used to be,” Gibbs said of his 2012 campaign involvement in an interview with the Eagle. “There’s some things that you miss and some things that you don’t miss.”

In a Sept. 19 Kennedy Political Union-sponsored speech at an over-packed University Club, Gibbs reminisced about his White House days. His greatest memories included the opportunity to have a close working relationship with the president and access to plentiful bowls of red, white and blue M&Ms in the Oval Office.

Gibbs doesn’t miss the constant stress of his former job or 15 extra pounds he gained during his tenure. He kept an anonymous postcard joking about his weight in his office as a reminder of the ups and downs of being the press secretary.

“Though that postcard was hard to read, I kept it on my desk for the rest of my days at the White House to try to instill in myself a little humility,” Gibbs said in his speech.

But neither humility nor humor could prepare Gibbs for having to handle the White House’s response to the catastrophe that arrived on the Gulf Coast in the summer of 2010. As the BP oil spill leeched out into the ocean off the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi, Gibbs struggled to respond to reporters’ relentless questions in Washington about Obama’s response to the spill.

“The hardest obstacles are the ones you don’t expect,” he said.

At the time, he was shocked by the sheer volume of questions from reporters about the oil spill.

“Frankly, those were some of the toughest briefings I ever had,” Gibbs said.

Now, Gibbs said with some sarcasm, he has more knowledge of the inner workings of relief wells than anyone other than oil company employees.

He settled back into his former role as press secretary for a moment while taking questions from students. He came to the defense of President Obama when one student asked about the president’s wavering stance on gay marriage.

“If you could not use the word ‘evolve’ in your answer, I would really appreciate that,” the student said, referencing the administration’s tendency to say Obama’s opinions are “evolving.”

Though Gibbs refrained from using that language to describe the president, he was nevertheless ambiguous in his answer.

“I will say this: He’s thinking through a lot of this,” Gibbs said to laughter from the audience before turning serious. “The president wrestles with this question a lot, I don’t know when he’s going to stop thinking about it and start talking about it, but I think the acceptance [of gay people] of this country is changing every day.”

Gibbs also said the media does not cover developing situations like the Gulf Oil Spill and Arab Spring with enough depth. He repeated throughout his address that the mentality of some cable news commentators is that “every day is an election.” He said even the format of these cable news programs, with talking heads framed in boxes, creates divisive discussion.

“I think media and news information is flying around faster than before and as fast as it happens today, people want it faster tomorrow,” Gibbs said.

lgiangreco@theeagleonline.com


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