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Obama Press Secretary Briefing Skills

The reviews of the first press conference by President Obama’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs were generally favorable. After all who wants to blast the person who will feed you every day for possibly the next four years.

One columnist, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, chided Gibbs for being too cautious, instead of being more open and transparent.

I rarely get a chance to quote comedians. But let me invoke Steve Martin. “Excuuuuuse me!.”

What was Milbank hoping for, a ranting scree of day one of news conferences? Falling for the sarcastic questions? Changing an answer just to give a better quote?
Milbank objected to the number of times that Gibbs stuck to his message and used the phrase “Abundance of caution.” Gibbs first used the phrase to describe the second administering of the Oath of Office. “Out of an abundance of caution, Chief Justice Roberts came last night to readminister the oath.”

In the same answer, Gibbs added, “There are at least two examples in history where words have been misplaced in the oath, and again, out of an abundance of caution, a similar abundance of caution, the oath was readminstered.”

You know that wacky White House press corps smelled a possible gotcha. So, NBC’s Chuck Todd asked if the executive orders were going to be resigned out of “an abundance of caution.”

Ok, maybe Gibbs needs a couple of synonyms for “AOC” phrase. But I’m all for consistency and not changing an answer just because a reporter asks the same question in a slight different way. Way to go Gibbs.

Gibbs was also cautious in not going beyond the facts or making policy from the White House press room (which historians will remember was originally built over a swimming pool). When asked a couple of financial mess questions, Gibbs was on firm ground saying: “Let me not get ahead of our economic team.”

Way to go Bob. It’s not inconsistent to be open and transparent about those subjects that you are authorized to speak about. Last I checked, a press secretary is not a subject matter expert in very many things. He/she is “a spokesperson.”

One Comment


Excellent blog.

I was sold on Gibbs the day he put the smack down on Hannity. Nice to have some competence and gravitas back in Washington.

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