Robert Gibbs keeps jabbing the left

Jane Hamsher, Publisher of, talks about Gibbs on "Top Line."
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 12, 2010

"I am going to apologize in advance," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said at the start of his briefing Wednesday afternoon.

News alert! Was he going to do a mea culpa for his amateurish decision to vent his frustration at the "professional left" -- a.k.a. President Obama's most loyal supporters?

Gibbs had no such plan. His apology was for his hoarse voice. "It is not my Barry White imitation, but it is still on the scratchy side," he explained.

Actually, his voice sounded fine. And the voice, anyway, isn't the problem. It's the words. Gibbs has, in the space of just a few weeks, twice committed the unforgivable sin for a White House press secretary: He has carelessly spoken the truth.

First, he said it was possible that Democrats would lose control of the House in November. Then, in an interview with the Hill newspaper, he criticized the "professional left" for its refusal to give Obama credit for all he has done.

"I hear these people saying he's like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug-tested," Gibbs told the paper. "I mean, it's crazy." He went on to say these lefty pros "will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we've eliminated the Pentagon. That's not reality."

The professional left's reaction was, not surprisingly, swift.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, chairman and CEO of Professional Left, said that Obama had given in to the "professional right" and that "the White House has seemed more like the amateur left."

MSNBC's Ed Schultz, a senior vice president of Professional Left, said Gibbs "pretty much lost his cool" and questioned "the White House mentality towards the progressive movement."

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a regional director of Professional Left, said Gibbs should resign over his "untoward and inflammatory comments."

Gibbs and his colleagues have reason to be frustrated by the constant carping from the professional and semi-pro left. The gulf oil spill has been plugged, and three-quarters of the oil is gone. Combat in Iraq is ending in a matter of days. Health-care reform has been enacted. The auto industry is recovering, the bank bailout funds have been repaid, and a depression was averted. Yet the president, instead of getting credit, has received the sort of criticism from his unruly base that the right never bestowed on George W. Bush.

On the other hand, Obama has only himself to blame for setting expectations impossibly high. He persuaded liberals to support him over Hillary Clinton by claiming he would usher in a postpartisan era of world peace, domestic prosperity and green energy -- and that was just the first week. By that standard, he inevitably failed.

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