December 20, 2008

Robert Gibbs, New Face Of The Administration (Or, Lower That Drawbridge!")

Between this portrait and the NYT Mag article profiling Obama communications guru, Robert Gibbs, I give him six months, or less, as White House press secretary and podium fixture.

Why? Because Gibbs ultimately is too close to Obama, and vice-versa, to comfortably allow the kind of feigned innocence or deniability his new gig requires.

More significant than that, though, is the fact Gibbs doesn’t interact well with reporters and is not one to suffer social graces. Curious, for a major PR piece, and as the incoming Administration’s face to the media and the public, Gibbs offers The Times photographer absolutely no social connection, no warmth, no personality. (Oddly, he is not even pretending to look at the paper either.)  Instead, as an information geek who has always been more comfortable in the background, what we see is someone who much prefers the proximity of, and contact with his various communication devices.

I’m was also interested in the presence of the large Callie Shell photo of Obama’s worn shoes and feet propped up on the desk. The image of Obama posing that way with those romantically well-worn soles only distances us that much more from Gibbs, highlighting how far from “putting his own feet up” Gibbs appears. In the NYT article, by the way, Gibbs draws two analogies to describe the relationship between the press secretary and the press, one involving a moat, and the other where they connect via drawbridge. Advocating the latter strategy (thank goodness), doesn’t the angled desk, reinforced by the circle of communication devices, seem to form something of a moat with the papers and the photograph forming a drawbridge?

If there was one personable and heartening element in the picture, it would be the football, which — although compositionally awkward as it sits too close to Gibbs’s work space — is a symbol, nonetheless, of his close connection to Obama, the two being big sports friends, and fantasy sports buddies.

Overall, why a strategically gifted, behind-the-scenes player ends up as press secretary, rather than Communications Director, say, is hard to figure. The Gibbs picture doesn’t look all that workable to me.

(There are at least two more items in the picture which caught,  by the way, but which I didn’t mention. Any ideas … and analysis?)

From: Between Obama and the Press (NYT Mag)

(image: Brian Ulrich for The New York Times)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


Comments Powered by Disqus