Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was uncharacteristically candid during an appearance on MSNBC Tusday morning, claiming “the White House sort of stopped trying” to change the “dysfunction” in Washington, D.C.
Gibbs spoke on a “Morning Joe” panel about President Obama’s relative lack of measurable accomplishments as he goes into his State of the Union speech this evening. “Robert, I know you’re not in the White House anymore –” MSNBC host Willie Geist began. “Thank God!” Gibbs interjected, prompting some incredulous laughs from the panel. ”Well, there’s a moment of honestly,” Geist grinned.
“But you’re obviously — you know the president very well,” the host continued. “We know what this poll says about how the country’s feeling about him. How is he feeling about the country right now? I mean, this is a guy who came in five years ago saying, ‘Change comes from outside Washington. We’re gonna break the fever, we’re going to change the way Washington does business. We’re going to get things done.’ And he’s learned some pretty hard lessons in how Washington actually works and doesn’t work.”
“Well, I think the ability to change Washington is something that, long ago, the White House sort of stopped trying to do,” Gibbs began. “Whether or not that’s a good thing, we’ll look back on history. I do think that, you know, this is a story of Washington dysfunction . . . Everything in this speech is what the public wants to hear. The public just doesn’t simply think that this group of people assembled in this room is remotely capable of solving those problems.”
“2013 was a lost year for the president,” the former press secretary continued. “He was buffeted by crisis after crisis. I think the test of this speech will be, do the American people who do watch, do they feel like this president has a plan to get some of those things done? Or is this just another speech out of Washington?”
Gibbs is a long-time Obama loyalist, joining the president’s Illinois Senate campaign way back in 2004. He followed him through the Senate to the White House, where he served as press secretary and close personal adviser to President Obama until early 2011. Some of his recent commentary, however, suggests the communications professional may have soured on the president’s leadership — and certainly shows relief that his tenure as White House spin doctor is now over.
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