Gibbs Is a Window Into the Obama Psyche

December 2, 2010

If White House press secretaries are windows to the presidential mindset, Robert Gibbs continues to reflect President Obama in an unpresidential light.

Here the entire nation is in an uproar over the release of stolen U.S. State Department documents by WikiLeaks bad boy Julian Assange, and how does the White House respond?

Well, it does not respond through President Obama himself, who prefers to reserve his bully pulpit for weightier matters, such as the arrest of his friend Henry Gates by Cambridge, Mass., police. Instead, he trots out the ever-snarky Gibbs to present the administration’s position. Or maybe Gibbs trotted himself out, which is even scarier.

On “Fox & Friends,” co-host Steve Doocy asked Gibbs why we haven’t “heard from the president on this issue.”

Gibbs, in keeping with the administration’s CYA policy of pointing backward toward Dubya, first reminded Doocy that similar leaks occurred under Obama’s predecessor.

But even after exculpating his boss, Gibbs still had to be prodded by co-host Gretchen Carlson into addressing such trivial issues as our national security and international relations. Carlson said: “This is, by many accounts, the largest security breach in American history. And the president of the United States has been very busy doing other things — talking about the federal pay freeze, talking about taxes — and not one statement about this.” In other words, Obama hasn’t been out of pocket. He’s been addressing the matters he considers to be priorities.

Thus pressed, Gibbs said: “Look, our foreign policy and our country is stronger than one guy with one website … and we should never be afraid of one guy who plopped down $35 and bought a Web address.”

Hold on. Is that really what Gibbs thinks, or is this just another example of his trying to be cute on the people’s dime on a matter of grave importance to the nation?

Does he really believe this is just about one guy purchasing an Internet domain name? What about the fact that this one insignificant guy acquired stolen national security documents and released them publicly to the detriment of our strategic interests and our diplomatic ties?

Is Gibbs speaking only for himself here, or is this how President Obama views this matter, as well? Did Obama take him to the woodshed over these impertinent remarks, which reflected the administration’s abject unseriousness about this? Or can Obama simply not be bothered, what with his obsession over raising income taxes on the nation’s primary job producers?

Indeed, let’s not be distracted by Obama’s direct silence on this, because his communication through his surrogate Gibbs is far worse than any inferences we can draw from his silence. If Gibbs does speak for him — and if he doesn’t, he should be out the door yesterday — Obama is wholly dismissive of the gravity of the leaks, and the rumors we increasingly hear about his unwillingness to engage on these types of presidential tasks gain credence.

Lest you think this was an extemporaneous misstatement, Gibbs, when further questioned, reiterated, “We’re not scared of one guy with one keyboard and a laptop.” And amazingly, he said it a third time a few seconds later. He might as well have been reading from Obama’s prompter.

Well, are Gibbs/Obama concerned at all about how this affects our national security or international relations, the latter being something Obama has emphasized ad nauseam when critiquing his whipping boy predecessor? Is Obama interested in doing anything to allay the anxieties of the American people about whether this could happen again?

Even former President Bill Clinton apparently does not share Obama’s (through Gibbs) dismissiveness, saying that he believes the leak is very damaging and that he’ll “be very surprised if some people don’t lose their lives. And goodness knows how many will lose their careers.”

But, President Clinton, don’t be silly and lose your head over this. Are you actually afraid of one guy with a laptop and a $35 domain name?

Sure, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has attempted damage control on behalf of the administration, alluding to the illegality of the disclosures, the national security implications, and the harm this may have caused to people and our international relations. But none of that changes the fact that Obama has chosen not to speak directly on this and that his closest mouthpiece, Gibbs, has made clear just how casually and cynically Obama actually regards the incident.

A few weeks ago, the White House indicated that Gibbs would be doing fewer press briefings because, according to senior adviser David Axelrod, “he was getting more face time with the media than the president. No one should be getting more face time than the president.”

Right, but he’s still there, and through him, we see the attitudes, priorities and worldview of Obama.