The New York Times Magazine is set to publish a lengthy profile of press secretary Robert Gibbs this Sunday, in what is a largely flattering piece outlining a man still honing his craft and very much protective of his soon-to-be president and boss.
The article, written by Mark Leibovich, recounts various elements of Gibb's communications strategy during the campaign that seem to defy common perceptions. For example, the Obama team, with all its tech savvy, new media skills, generally shunned political websites that dictated election coverage.
"Staff members were encouraged to ignore new Web sites like The Page, written by Time's Mark Halperin, and Politico," writes Leibovich. "'If Politico and Halperin say we're winning, we're losing,' Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, would repeat mantra-like around headquarters. He said his least favorite words in the English language were, 'I saw someone on cable say this.'"
Gibbs, meanwhile, is portrayed as devotee to the Obama cause and tirelessly committed to protecting the now president-elect's image. The relationship started during the Senate run in '04, after which Gibbs framed the Illinois Democrat as a head-down laborer in the halls of Congress. And it continued through the campaign trail, when the soon-to-be chief White House spokesman acknowledged being overly harsh on certain members of the media and - occasionally - restricting access to the candidate's plane.
Mixed in between, Leibovich weaves a variety of humorous, colorful and informative anecdotes. All of which portray Obama and Gibbs as near soul mates, duly devoted to staying on message.
Obama, for example, is reported to have been "furious over the serial public airings about Hillary Clinton's eventual nomination to be Secretary of State," though later understanding about why word leaked. Gibbs, meanwhile, is described as taking precautions and preparations for his new post; including removing his phone number from public listings - per advice from current White House press secretary Dana Perino.
Then there is this great bit from debate preparation while on the campaign trail, symbolic, in many ways, of how Obama and his chief spokesperson have come to relate.
[Adviser Anita] Dunn tells the story of a tense practice session before the third debate in which Obama, sitting at a table, kept looking up intently at Gibbs across the room. They were sending urgent-looking BlackBerry messages back and forth, and Dunn became concerned that some crisis had arisen. When the session ended, the men ran over to each other. It was a Sunday afternoon, and they had been following the fortunes of Obama's fantasy football team.
The piece - which includes interviews with Obama, Gibbs, high-ranking advisers to the Obama campaign, members of the communications shop and former press secretaries - is worth a read.