Gibbs Gets Grounded
No sooner do I poke a little fun at White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs for something he said (repeatedly) on Meet the Press last Sunday, than I am compelled to defend him for something else he said in the same interview. I am of course referring to his comments on the potential for Republicans to take control of the House in November, and the scolding he subsequently received from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for making that suggestion on national television.
If you read the transcript carefully, you will see that Gibbs didn’t actually say that the House would go Republican, or even that it was likely to change hands in November. He simply acknowledged that enough seats are in play so that it could happen. This is an accurate statement with which any Congressional race handicapper would agree. Yet Gibbs was forced to backpedal on Tuesday and say that he ultimately thinks the House will stay in Democratic control.
It is unclear whether Gibbs was speaking candidly or strategically on Sunday. If it was the latter, then surely he knows there is a fine line between motivating your core supporters and discouraging them. My guess is that this was Pelosi’s main concern in criticizing the press secretary. But this episode also highlights the reality that Congress and the presidency are in the end two separate institutions, each with its own strategic imperatives for political self-preservation, despite the potential for shared partisan goals. This wouldn’t be the first time the two institutions seem poised to go their separate ways electorally. In any event, Pelosi must realize that the president’s press secretary needs to speak credibly to be an effective spokesperson for the administration. To have answered the midterm election question otherwise would have been to call that credibility (and grasp of reality) into question.


Posted On: 07-15-2010 21:01:23 by William Tucker
I'm mystified by this whole kerfuffle. Didn't David Plouffe say essentially the same thing two weeks ago? ("...a Republican takeover--while not likely, but plausible--will be very much part of the dynamic in October, and I think that will help us with turnout and some of this enthusiasm gap.) I assumed Gibbs was just following up on that.

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