Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Press Secretary Gibbs Says Goodbye (Kinda)

Gets The Tie Seen Around The World

The events in Egypt may have given the press corp something to talk about at yesterday's 250th press briefing of one Robert Lane Gibbs, perhaps overshadowing his exit, but it was an emotional last White House briefing, nonetheless.

From sounds of "aawww" coming from the press as Gibbs announced that one of his "week ahead" items would include taking his two year-old son, Ethan, to the bus stop - to the applause given after President Obama gave (or perhaps, returned) to his Press Secretary of two and some odd years, a good-bye present encased in a glass picture frame - it was press briefing to remember.

Entering the James Brady briefing room moments before Gibbs was about to end his last briefing of the 2010 Obama Administration, the man himself walks in with a gift for his trusty friend, and confidant.

President Obama returned to Gibbs a tie, or perhaps 'the' tie that helped launch a presidential campaign, secure an election, and an even closer, lasting friendship.

On his last day as Press Secretary, President Obama presents Gibbs with the tie he borrowed, and wore, during his 2004 DNC speech."It, and you, helped me get started", wrote Obama under a picture of the two friends. Photo/CD Brown.
On the tie's history, "We then had this incredible opportunity to speak at the national convention in Boston", recalled President Obama, who earlier addresed the nation on the current development in Egypt.  "And I know that a lot of you think that probably most of the attention was devoted to the speech that I delivered, the keynote speech in Boston, but in fact, actually, the most challenging problem was what tie to wear."

Gibbs, we're told, almost reluctantly loaned the then Chicago senator his tie right before he was to give his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

"And frankly, Robert didn’t want to give it up because he thought he looked really good in the tie", President Obama recounted.  "But eventually he was willing to take one for the gipper.  And so he took off his tie and I put it on.  And that’s the tie that I wore at the National Convention."

"He has not said anything about this tie all these years", the president continued.  "But I have to tell you that I know there’s a simmering resentment that he never got it back", he joked.  "And so, as a consequence, I wanted here today, I wanted this on the record, on camera that I am finally returning Robert’s tie."

Still not saying anything about the tie he loaned his friend, Gibbs, seemingly surprised, accepted the gift with a smile.

"It is a tremendous honor and privilege to do this each and every day, to serve and to take part in days like today that are so momentous.  And I want to thank the president and all of his team for, again, the privilege to serve."

Gibbs announced earlier this year that he wants to trade in his "remarkable privilege, and "opportunity of a lifetime" to "step back a little bit, recharge some" to  "give speeches" and work on the 2012 presidential campaign.

"I've been a member of his staff for almost seven years, and it’s a remarkable privilege", Gibbs said earlier in the year. "It is in many ways the opportunity of a lifetime, one that I will be forever thankful and grateful for."

When asked in what capacity he will still remain connected to the Obama Administration, Gibbs said, "I will continue to provide advice and counsel to this building and to this president. And I look forward to continuing to do that."

Gibbs, not one to have a lot of attention directed his way (not that stating the Democrats will lose in the midterm elections did that in any way), reflected over his last two years, opting not to reflect, however, on the question asked: "What was your fondest moment?", but rather stated, "I don’t intend, today or tomorrow, to tell any of you goodbye, because I don’t intend to go anywhere. You all are forever a part of this experience for me. You’ve become a greater extension of my family. We’ve shared a lot of extraordinary times."

Jay Carney, former Time magazine reporter, and communications director for Vice President Biden, replaces Gibbs on Monday.

"I will miss boring days like today at the White House", to which the assembled press managed yet another chuckle.  "I should tell you that for all of you that are looking for help on your morning shows, that Jay likes calls around 4:15 a.m. in the morning. If you don’t get through at first, just keep dialing".

The celebration continued in the briefing room, this time without  the cameras rolling, as the man of the hour was showered with a gift of champagne, and (wait for it), another tie.  This time, a pink and white striped tie, that actually would look good with the suit he wore on his last day. 

Side Bar

On a personal note, we got most of the press corp to sign a card for Robert -  dog themed, that read "Mutts you leave", and "It's going to be ruff around here without you."

"I wish you all good luck", said Gibbs.

"I will miss you. I had a lot of fun. And I hope, as we covered some very serious subjects and we watched the world change, I hope you had some fun, too."

It was fun, Robert. It was fun watching your expressions as you carefully, yet pointedly, address political questions of the day, as well as those questions that were a bit less than political, and those that didn't get much of your attention at all.  We'll miss how you made the press feel worthy of asking you questions, even if they became a bit off-centered and misdirected along the way.

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