Robert Gibbs's last day in the White House

President Barack Obama made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room Friday to mark his longtime aide Robert Gibbs' last day at the White House. (Feb. 11)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011; 5:19 PM

President Obama praised Robert Gibbs at the outgoing press secretary's final briefing Friday afternoon, calling him an "extraordinary" press secretary and friend.

Only minutes after a speech about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, Obama entered the White House press briefing room to send off Gibbs, who has served as press secretary since the beginning of Obama's term and advised the president for more than six years.

Obama presented Gibbs with a tie that the press secretary loaned Obama for his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, which launched Obama's national political rise.

"You couldn't ask for anybody better in the foxhole with you," Obama said. "I couldn't have a better friend at the podium each and every day."

A choked-up Gibbs thanked the president and told the assembled reporters, "You've become a greater extension of my family."

Gibbs, who announced his departure last month, had been one of Obama's longest-serving aides. With David Axelrod, Obama's longtime political strategist, departing late last month, the tight inner circle around Obama in his campaign and first two years in office is now expanding to include new advisers, such as Chief of Staff William Daley.

Gibbs has said he will stay involved in politics, go on television to defend the president and work on the 2012 reelection campaign. But he has not said exactly what he will be doing after leaving the White House.

Gibbs's relationship with the White House press has at times been chilly.

In a profile of Gibbs last April, The Washington Post's Jason Horowitz wrote that reporters were often frustrated by the press secretary, such as the way Gibbs has compared reporters -- and even Sen. John McCain -- to his 6-year-old son because he didn't approve of the way they were behaving. His answers to questions could be vague or dismissive. Unlike press secretaries past, who would call reporters as they neared deadlines, Gibbs was notoriously tough to get on the phone.

He will be replaced by Jay Carney, a former Time magazine journalist who is Vice President Biden's communications director.

With his journalism experience, Carney is widely expected to quickly master the role of taking questions in the briefing room. What's unclear is whether he will succeed Gibbs as a top adviser to Obama on key issues.

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