February 11th, 2011
10:25 AM ET

The curtain closes on Gibbs

WASHINGTON (CNN) - It was 1:40 pm, January 22, 2009, when White House spokesman Robert Gibbs first stepped behind the podium in the James S. Brady briefing room to begin a two year joust with the press corps.

“How are you all?" The Alabama native said. “Nice to be here.”

He wasn’t a stranger. After all he’d been by the newly elected president’s side since Obama’s early run for the U.S. Senate.

But Gibbs was about to roll out a blunt, sarcastic and evasive style that would both entertain and frustrate reporters.

He danced deftly with phrases like “I shouldn’t get ahead of the president,” “I don’t want to prejudge,” and “I’m not a lawyer” (or any other expertise he was using to dodge a question).

All the while Gibbs enjoyed a powerful seat right next to the president’s ear.

He’s a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium,” the president said in a recent written statement.

During a recent forum at George Washington University, Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary under President Bill Clinton, acknowledged the crucial role Gibbs played.

He said Gibbs “is instrumentally important, and was during the first two years to the president."

Yet that relationship can be inherently complicated.

“I think it is nearly impossible to be a decision maker and a key policy maker on behalf of the president, and simultaneously do the job that we have to do,” McCurry said.

But Gibbs, who lived in a world of mostly first-hand information, believed his dual roles gave him an advantage in dealing with the press.

And he reveled in one of Washington's most public platforms.

“I would not trade the worst days here for many of the best days at another job.”

But while he exuded confidence, Gibbs confessed he wasn’t always pleased with his performances.

Every night in the comfort of his home, he would pour over the transcripts of his briefings and think about what he could have done differently, he said.

What he never second guessed was his style, which he once compared to a jujitsu match.

Often abrasive humor was used to swat back a question, or just knock it out of the park.

Right after the Tea Party convention in Nashville last year, Gibbs handled a tough question on health care by poking fun at former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

She had used her hand as a cheat sheet during a speech at the convention, so Gibbs responded in kind and displayed his own “notes” on his palm. The room erupted in laughter.

It was just one moment in an ongoing one-man highlight reel for a spokesman who was chronically late for his daily briefings.

Gibbs once took a ringing cell phone away from a stunned reporter, right in the middle of a briefing.

He wore a hockey jersey when he lost a bet with his Canadian counterpart after the U.S. was defeated in the Winter Olympics.

And he hardly missed a beat when a persistent spider crawled and dangled its way around his nicely pressed suit during a briefing.

But it wasn’t all fun and games.

Gibbs would sometimes put his foot in his mouth...or even in a door.

First the mouth.

With questions about serious challenges in the mid-term elections, Gibbs was criticized for predicting his party would suffer losses, even as other Democrats were trying to deliver a more positive tone.

He also caught flak for referring to unhappy liberal Democrats as the “professional left.”

Now back to that door.

During a trip to India last year, attempts to keep American journalists out of a meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Singh were met with a foot from Gibbs firmly planted and nearly crushed in a shutting door.

He argued with Indian security officials, used a few strong words, and threatened to pull President Obama from the meeting if the U.S. press were kept out. Both his foot and his persistence won that argument handily.

It was all part of a 24-7 job that put him in the stressful and sometimes bruising position of trying to explain the president's thinking on everything from the controversial stimulus package to the health care reform law that Republicans are still trying to repeal.

Waking up each morning at 4am, Gibbs was often hit with harsh headlines. He would "pick up the paper and groan," he said.

Finally last month he announced his decision to step down in order to "step back a little bit and recharge some."

The spokesman is moving on to become a Washington pundit but staying in Obama's inner circle as an outside adviser.

On Thursday night, Gibbs was busy cleaning out his office. Pictures were taken off the wall. Books were removed from shelves. Cardboard boxes were ready to be filled.

And Jay Carney, Vice President Joe Biden’s communications director, who had been quietly doing “simulated briefings,” was gearing up to take over for real on Monday.

As he counted down his final hours, Gibbs reflected on the job he's leaving behind.

“I’ve said a hundred times, well, probably 10,000 times, if you didn’t enjoy some element of this you’d do it for about three days and you would turn in your pass and hope no one ever found you again."

I'm not a mathematician, and I don't want to prejudge (sound familiar), but Gibbs did it for 752 days.

Now he’s handing his pass to Carney who has "three days" to decide whether he can handle the heat, or want to run to that place where "no one ever found you again."

White House producer Becky Brittain contributed to this report

soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. br

    This guy me proud to be from Alabama. WAR EAGLE! Good job, Bobby. Thanks for putting an intelligent face on the White House and your home state.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Tom

      He was alright, and I think he had a hard job having to dodge so many questions that were required over the last two years of inaction and outright bad policy. I wouldn't have wanted that job for all the money in the world frankly. When you break that many promises to voters, you are going to take some heat for that, and usually it was this guy.

      February 11, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  2. IluvObama

    I am a devoted obama supporter and in that time have come to love Gibbs for his "I dont take shit" approach. I hate to see him go

    February 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • nheckt

      This guy is almost as worthless as his boss, one down, one to go

      February 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
      • 1138

        Hah, what pre-election cycle are you following?

        February 12, 2011 at 7:23 am |
      • Jill

        Your ignorance is showing.

        February 12, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Clark Griswold

      Obama had absolutely nothing to do with what happened in Egypt. He did nothing and he knew nothing. That is clearly evident when senior members of his staff get their intel from the media.

      February 11, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
      • Stan For Something

        What did you expect him to do?
        He's the President of the USA not Egypt stupid. So are wel suppose to run over and tell every country how to run their government. You seem as dumb as sarah palin. Do you try to tell your neighbors how to raise their kids? If you don't like the way things are being done, run for public office. No how about just vote. If not then shut your hole. Sarah Palin won't run for President for two reasons. She doesn't know what the hell is going on, and secondly it doesn't pay enough.

        February 14, 2011 at 4:40 am |
  3. nat

    Happy trails to you...sorry but i won't miss the arogant sarcasim..kind of sums up Obama and his whole administratio...arrogant..

    February 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • seraphim0

      Must not have been paying attention during the Bush years, eh? As a small example- remember the "Mission Accomplished" banner? yeah... arrogant, eh?

      February 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
      • Jay in NC

        'The Banner' was not put on the ship by the press secretary or Presidnet Bush. It was hung by the crew who were proud of the fact they had accomplished their mission and that President Bush was visiting. It is a shame that after all these years that Liberals will continue to bash our service people and not give them credit for their accomplishments.

        February 12, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  4. br

    This guy makes me proud to be from Alabama. WAR EAGLE! Good job, Bobby. Thanks for putting an intelligent face on the White House and your home state.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Well done Mr. Gibbs, a true and faithful American.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  6. gl

    I will miss you dearly. I love you.

    February 11, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  7. Marie MD

    Good luck Gibbs!!!!! It was fun having you around. You will be missed!!! Maybe down the road for the next campaign???

    February 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  8. sacardenas


    February 11, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  9. the situation

    Happy trails to you...sorry but i won't miss the arogant sarcasim..kind of sums up Obama and his whole administratio...arrogant

    I think you must be mistaken for all the talking heads for the previous administration. I guess that why the US wasn't respected by nobody in the world!

    February 11, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • 1138

      Yeah, buddy, that and the misuse of prepositions and double-negatives. And is the last "n" in "administration" really so taxing to type? Seriously, it might add (some) validity to your otherwise vapid comment.

      In any case, don't mistake arrogance for intelligence. Gibbs and Obama are intelligent. I'm both.

      February 12, 2011 at 7:31 am |
      • Brian

        And last, but not least, you're petty.

        February 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
      • 1138

        If pointing out the absurdity of political commentary written by someone so impotent in his command of the English language is petty, then yes, maybe he is. But I really don't think it's much to ask from would-be politicos that they learn to write properly before hazarding attempts at anything like memorializing a complete thought.

        February 14, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  10. J Thomas

    So much for clear and transparent when it comes to the presidency. People used to learn to speak in public but apparently nobody seems to care about all the 'uh' and 'ah's in between the few words actually spoken. Gibbs is a disgrace to public speaking and if he is the poster child for clear and transparent leadership, all I can say is America got what she deserved.

    February 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Mad man

      I am with you J, this guy fumbled and bumbled his way through every press meet...hilarious!

      February 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  11. A Senior Citizen

    Good luck in your future endevors Mr. Gibbs. Have enjoyed watching your Press Conferences these past two years and enjoyed your wit, humor, insite and honesty. Welcome aboard Mr. Carney and good luck to you also.

    February 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  12. kayla

    well done, good and faithful servant. God bless you and you family. class is what you brought to the white house.

    February 11, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  13. MikeBell

    Will this be the last day of farce from the briefings?

    February 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  14. Sees All Evil

    @Gnat Obama and his whole administration arrogant? Arrogant = insolently proud i don't think so however you are a racist and fyi w. was arrogant after he stole the election and hesitated to act on 9/11. Mr Obama is far from arrogant you should learn the meaning and yes the spelling of the three syllable words before you use them. Just saying

    February 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • nheckt

      Still living in the past. Stole the election???? How is a 5 minute pause with children a hesitation. If I am not mistaken, Big W. reacted with more force than any President ever. It is amazing at your thought process, what a joke you are.

      February 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
      • goodburger

        You mad bro?

        February 12, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Oingo Boingo jitterbug

      let's see stolen election versus lack of a valid birthcertificate, hmmmmm, you got a toss up...just sayin'

      February 11, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
      • 1138

        "Birth certificate" is spelled with a space.

        February 12, 2011 at 7:34 am |
      • duckhuntking

        I like how when you have a good point a liberal can't argue they just change the subject . Or in this case correct your grammar

        February 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
      • 1138

        Why waste time arguing with the illiterate? I doubt he can even read this.

        February 13, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  15. Lance Manyon

    Granted, WH press sec. is a difficult job...but Mr. Gibbs was evasive and came across as arrogant when asked to respond to the most basic of questions...what's next for him?

    February 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  16. keith jones

    Gibbs was truly a man after the President's own heart and will be missed irmeasurably

    February 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  17. lol

    good riddance to (BAGDAD BOB) I mean robert gibbs. we will not miss the uhh-uhh-uhh that were apart of every sentence he uttered. Worst whitehouse spokesperson ever.! Can't wait for the new one to arrive in 2012 when the Republican candidate wins.

    February 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  18. Richard Mwamba

    We in Canada will miss u dearly, but hope will c u soon on campaign trail for 2012 to help Mr Obama win a second term. There has never been a more smart, intelligent white house press sec as Gibbs, as there is a say: "like father like son" Obama and Gibbs are the smartest America ever had!

    February 11, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  19. Lisa

    Gibbs, you rocked!!! You were always "in between a rock and a hard place" when it came to your job. Job well done!!! I know we in NC love ya! You will be missed.

    February 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Gov. Bev

      You must be kidding! This this guy couldn't fumble two words together without an uhhh, much less a sentence. NC doesn't miss this nor do I. Please speak for yourself and leave our great state out of it.

      February 12, 2011 at 4:07 am |
  20. far rockway beach ny

    You go Gibbs I hate to see you go. Those republicans have barked too long, Accept the fact the we have a great Black President and many great people like Gibbs in his circle.

    February 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  21. ayvia

    I love barak obama. matter of fact im in washington d.c right now. this happened on 5:43 pm. on friday january 11 , 2010

    February 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  22. Isaac Aso

    Gibbs loyalty to the administration and love for freedom were unparalleled. we ll miss him.

    February 11, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  23. Tony

    Gibbs is an easy person to listen to when it comes to politics. He always has a smile and and confidence. I just wish he was Republican... you will be missed...

    February 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  24. Crob

    Can't believe some of u actually believe that th President of the United States isn't American. So sad how much still exists.

    February 11, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  25. varmuyah

    Very well Mr. Gibbs. You severed the people well. The position you occupied required restraint and thoughtfulness. That is what you showed.

    February 11, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  26. Dave Kennedy

    Gibbs is quick witted and did a superb job..

    His briefings were required viewing – and never disappointed.

    I really don't think anyone will do the job as well as he did. Yes, he had some characteristic "uh's" when speaking.. when phrasing things for the ravenous sharks of the media, who are ready to twist any word you say, sometimes you have to take a moment and pause..

    No one but Gibbs has swatted down the press's pointed questions so well. I'll miss ya Robert.

    February 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  27. R. Allen

    Don't let the door hit you where it counts on your way out to nowhere, you came from nothing and you go back to nothing. Good Riddance.

    February 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  28. R. Allen

    Don't let the door hit you where it counts on your way out to nowhere, you came from nothing and you go back to nothing. Good Riddance.McDonald's need a Chinese spokesman, please apply.

    February 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  29. Pkm

    Mr gibbs i always thought you always made mr obama look good you look like the kind of person that liked people good luck

    February 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  30. Pkm

    Attn nat you always loved the way g w bush made fun of people cheney was meaner mr cheney wants a new heart how can he get a new heart when he does not have a heart in the first place read my lipS

    February 11, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  31. James

    Hooo Hummmm–

    February 11, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  32. don vito corleone


    February 11, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  33. angela

    Forget obama name one good thing he has done thus far.

    February 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  34. Don Vito Corleone

    Dont worry Obama your new press secratary will be as much as an ass kisser as Gibbs.

    February 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  35. John Connolly

    It should be pore, not pour.

    February 11, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  36. Tomaz

    Massachusetts appreciate you work for the american family Gibbs. Good luck moving on!

    February 12, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  37. smile

    Gibbs be blessed! President Obama u gt my vote again!

    February 12, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  38. david

    I see the anti-obama weirdos are out again today with their fantasies about no birth cerficate etc etc

    February 12, 2011 at 2:44 am |
  39. jmoney

    Are you kidding me? the best? uh uh uh uh I uh dont think uh macab obama uh Will uh have uh chance uh gain after uh not listening to the uh majority uh but the minority rules in this country. one small complaint changes policy from any minority group or person filing a lawsuit. – true story-

    February 12, 2011 at 7:22 am |
  40. dave

    I really didn't want to comment but when there is just some unrelenting un patriotic people speaking of our president in such a derogatory manner is a disgrace. How about Ms. Dana Perrino she was such a great forthright press security for a bunch of lieing uneducated people that will believe anything. That's not calling people stupid people will always listen to people that they feel they have more in common with which is understandable but when you just believe with out researching for yourself. How is it that people just listened to Bush about WMD's without any facts but don't believe Pre Obama about the amount of people dieing without healthcare with Facts. I'm not going to pull a race card but you do the math. The difference is people even gave President Junior Bush a chance after stealing an election from day one but from day one President Obama from day one been dealing with some birthers if u can't see the writing on the wall your just naïve or just listening to what your told. Let's be adults and do what's best for our country be as intelligent as possible by doing our research and not going by word of mouth. We are suppose to be a nation of leaders not followers and by people just sitting back listening to some people on the radio letting them dictate their thoughts. We cannot just listen to people who has problems themselves rant their issues with themselves.

    February 12, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Alagirl10

      I like your comment check out mine.

      February 13, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  41. Flyover Combover

    I feel like I'm either reading an article from the propaganda bureau of the DPRK about one of the Dear Leader's cronies or The Onion. You can't be serious with this drivel...who's kidding who here?

    February 12, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Alagirl10

      Didn't like your comment read mine

      February 13, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  42. Rosin Vazquez


    February 12, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  43. Laffin at jittabag

    He has a valid birth certificate that has been provided. It has been abundantly documented down to which hospital Mr. Obama was born at you dumdum sumvitch. (read it phonetically, if you are capable)

    February 12, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  44. SearchingForAnAtheistExtremist

    It is deeply discouraging to read the insults and just plain ignorance of what is likely the voting republican public...can none of you read? Is it possible that you simply listen to something a celebrity show host says and assume it's based in some kind of reality? Do none of you ever thing to validate information – question things? Without an informed public, our democracy suffers. People who can't answer basic questions correctly about policy, our politicians, events in our country (current or historical) should simply not vote.

    February 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  45. SearchingForAnAtheistExtremist

    Think* not 'thing' (self correction)

    February 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  46. BadPatient

    he seems like a nice guy. wonder why he left. it usually means they don't like something.

    February 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  47. Love In The Bible

    It's a shame how everyone here just argues back and forth. It would be nice if we could use all that energy to do some good. Same goes on Capitol Hill. God Bless us, we really need it,

    February 12, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  48. Lynelle

    Gibbs you have done a fine job for the past two years,sorry to see you go and thank you for your fine service. You will be missed.

    February 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  49. Don Vito Corleone

    Just because U dont agree wit Obama's policies doesnt mean U R a racist

    February 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  50. Drew

    He's a yutz, the entire current admimistration needs to be arrested,prosecuted for treason and fraud

    February 12, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  51. dustin


    February 13, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  52. Alagirl10

    I have read every single comment. I say until u can walk in Gibbs shoes there's nothing you can say about his job. If you thought he did such a BAD job, then why don't we see any of your faces on T.V. in his position. Unless you have walked the walked and talked the talked meaning you have been in Gibbs position then there is nothing you can say. I will say job well done Gibbs because none of us can say we would have done a better job being under such pressure. Let's be real about it. @ Dave I thank you for your last comment. Like you I didn't want to comment as well. @ Flyover combover what do you think you are doing when you are reading something it don't matter if its long or short. If you (generally speaking)
    can read and understand then what does it matter if you feel like you are reading an article from propaganda. And you asked who kiddn who. I ask who are you kiddn.....I said what I wanted to say and I mean what I said that's it enuff already..........

    February 13, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  53. Shills

    He couldn't 'turn around' or communicate effectively the President's agenda. I got sick of hearing the rebuttals that didn't get to the core of the issues.

    February 13, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  54. ric perez

    same old song and dance, when the mistakes come to light, drop the press sec, get another clinton puppet, nobody sees this bull-shit....

    February 13, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  55. Larry N.

    Thank you for job well done! It is appreciated!

    February 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  56. jill Anglin

    To compare Obama to Bush is so unfair. Obama care about people not corporations and their rich CEO'S

    February 13, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  57. ron j

    Not only arrogant but mean and spiteful. Thin-skinned, just like his boss. BTW the left started the poisonous atmosphere with its attacks on Bush, so enjoy the turnabout.

    February 13, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  58. Chapalody

    It was clear the press was more then happy to see Gibbs go.

    February 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  59. powlenn@yahoo

    Its your god given right to hate some for their color(obama),or like them for their swagger(bush) but its not ok to be entittled to your version of the truth...long live mr Gibbs(GOAT)

    February 13, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  60. Freddi

    For those among us who believe that racism has value I would like to ask them to picture the world they aspire to and then picture themselves living in that world. See yourself killing another human being, see yourself, your son or your father raping a black women and then see your mother look the other way. See a man lynched and burned hanging from the tree just a ways down from your house. Pitcher you trying to kill me and me trying to stop you. Picture that! Oh, and to all of you that don't or can't read, try it it's the most independent thing you can do. Formulate your own opinions and stop waiting for someone else to tell you what to think, believe and say. The world you save may be your own since most of you will not be allowed to board the Mothership (Lol) you'd better make this world a better place for people of every race.

    February 14, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  61. Freddi

    ! Typo self correction! "women" should be "woman" Sorry, now you're going to have to find something of
    substance to attack. That is of course if you can.

    February 14, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  62. felix

    Well done ass hole

    February 14, 2011 at 2:43 am |
  63. Liz Carter in Georgia

    'BASH OUR SERVICE PEOPLE'? Jay, you love to spew venom against Liberals and anyone who's even trying to understand the reasons and make sense of the actions being taken by PRESIDENT OBAMA! Had the same banner been put up claiming 'VICTORY' during OBAMAS' term, whether he, his people had put it up or not, you'd have had a field day with it; and ESPECIALLY SINCE THERE REALLY WASN'T A VICTORY! For you, that would've been ONE of your biggest OBAMA 'blasters'! Especially since we were still in there 'a-FIGHTIN'!

    February 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  64. Liz Carter in Georgia

    That 'Mission Accomplished' banner was still singing praises and accolading MR ARROGANT BUSH even though his 'misguided' decisions and bad policy of even setting off that IRAQ mission was failing! Our soldiers and maries were only doing what they were ordered to do. We have to support our troops no matter what, because they are obliged to obey their supriors and do their best jobs! We need to continue questioning the legitimacy of their superiors actions, as some of us are doing, and rightfully so!

    February 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  65. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @Love In The Bible; thank you for that beautiful comment and suggestion. I too wish that we could all get along, but it seems it's getting worse everyday PRES OBAMA is in office! These demons HATE that man and I know it's not ALL about the decisions he's been having to make! It's mainly about WHO'S making them! THEY HIDE UNDER POLITICS TO APPEAR POLITICALLY CORRECT; in other words IT LOOKS BETTER THAN THE TRUTH! @DREW, and you didn't call for the BUSH administration to be prosecuted for fraud and treason??

    February 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  66. Dello

    Job well done sir!!!

    February 23, 2011 at 6:58 pm |