Tuesday, Dec. 02, 2008

Press Secretary: Robert Gibbs

In choosing former campaign communications director Robert Gibbs as his new White House Press Secretary, Barack Obama tapped an ultra-loyalist who has spent the past few years wedded to the candidate's side. Very few staffers are as close to Obama, so much so that campaign spokeswoman Linda Douglass has referred to Gibbs as "the Barack Whisperer." (Read "Inside Obama's Idea Factory in Washington)

Fast Facts:

• 37 years old, married to attorney Mary Catherine Gibbs. The couple have a 5-year old son, Ethan.

• Born in Auburn, Alabama to two university librarians. His mother Nancy Gibbs would take young Robert along with her while she worked with the League of Women Voters.

• Studied political science at North Carolina State University where he was a short-lived goalie for the soccer team. He then worked for several southern congressmen, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and, briefly, John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.

• Jumped to Obama's 2004 senatorial campaign and his been with the candidate ever since. In fact, Obama wore one of Gibbs' ties during his blockbuster 2004 Democratic convention speech when the one he was sporting was deemed unsuitable for TV.

• As befits a Southerner, he shares with the President-Elect a love for college football.

• Gibbs accompanied the Obama family on their summer vacation to Hawaii, where the couple volunteered to babysit the Gibbs' son so that Robert and his wife could have a night out.

Quotes About Gibbs:

"He was a political junkie at 17."
— Emily Sparrow, government and history teacher at Auburn High School, on her former student (Opelika-Auburn News, Nov. 6, 2008)

"It was as close to an Animal House experience as I've ever seen. There were science experiments in the sink."
— Shar Hendrick, Gibbs' roommate during Alabama Rep. Glenn Browder's 1996 Senate campaign (Opelika-Auburn News, Nov. 7, 2008)

"He's the last person Barack talks to when he's thinking about how to handle reporters' questions...He completely understands his thinking and knows how Barack wants to come across."
— Linda Douglass, campaign spokeswoman, on the close connection between Gibbs and Obama (Washington Post, Nov. 12, 2008)

"Robert is the guy I want in the foxhole with me during incoming fire...If I'm wrong, he challenges me. He's not intimidated by me."
— Barack Obama, on Gibbs' "tell it like it is" relationship with the president-elect (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 28, 2008)

Quotes By Gibbs:

"I've always wanted to be in a position where as a staffer I could always speak freely and in an unvarnished way with whoever I was working for. I don't think you serve somebody well if you don't feel like you can."
— On his reputation as one of the few people who can challenge Obama (Chicago Tribune, Nov. 16, 2008)

"It was requisitioned for a higher purpose. I have never gotten that back and I never had the illusion that I would."
— On the light blue tie hijacked by Obama for his 2004 convention speech (Chicago Tribune, Nov. 16, 2008)

"I work the referees if they're unfair or inaccurate. The other side is working on them, too....I'm a protector of the image."
— On his sometimes contentious relationship with the press (The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 28, 2008)

"Are you anti-Semitic?"
— To Fox News anchor Sean Hannity during an on-air conversation about Obama's ties to Williams Ayers. Gibbs said that perhaps Hannity's association with a man who had made offensive comments in the past against Jews mean that Hannity himself held the same beliefs (Fox News, Oct. 7, 2008)