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44: Is it time for Gibbs to move on?

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By Scott Wilson
Wednesday, August 11, 2010; 2:00 PM

The truth hurts.

This may be something for the White House to consider as midterm fatigue sets in and personnel starts to churn. Are White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' recent bouts of truth-telling a sign he should move on?

For months, speculation has abounded that Gibbs will eventually move from his current post to become a less-visible senior adviser to President Obama.

He already essentially plays that role, sitting in on virtually every major meeting regardless of subject matter and receiving rare bureaucratic carte blanche within a disciplined West Wing to jump from policy lane to lane. After seven years with Obama, Gibbs is also one of the president's longest-serving advisers.

So is it time to make the move official? The trouble he keeps getting into for his increasing candor may suggest that it is.

A press secretary is always striking a self-serving balance between forcefully presenting the administration's view with a mix of selective facts and opinion - but not so forcefully that it alienates the wrong people, whoever they might be on a given issue. The term of art, of course, is spin.

First, Gibbs infuriated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) by acknowledging something that is true every two years - that the party in control of the House could lose control of it after the midterm elections.

Yes, the context this year is different, given the very real chance that angry voters will sweep away many incumbents this fall. And because the House has more Democratic incumbents than Republican ones, the risk of a change is higher than usual.

But Pelosi would have none of Gibbs's fact-based analysis, saying that she'd never met the man (which seems impossible to imagine given how often Gibbs is with Obama in meetings with Pelosi and during his visits to the Hill.)

Gibbs had to walk that one back by saying that, while it was possible, he didn't expect the Democrats to lose the chamber.

Then this week Gibbs unloaded on the "professional left" - that is, the cable television punditry disappointed that Obama has not lived up to their more-liberal-than-he-is expectations. In an interview with The Hill, he called for some of them to be "drug-tested."

Was he right, in his way, that the left has at times judged Obama's record more by its failures than its successes? Almost certainly, yes.


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