In fact, he periodically invites key members of the press corps into his office overlooking the White House’s north lawn to give preliminary briefings on major news events. But with the advent of the 24-hour news cycle and the immediacy of information delivered by blogs, Twitter and the Internet, there are fewer gaggle briefings than in years past.
During a one-on-one conversation early Tuesday in his White House office, Gibbs outlined the grinding weekday work cycle that often begins at 6 a.m. and finishes at 10 p.m. On weekends, he gets a break – he’s only in the office about eight hours daily.
His life these days is much different from 1998 when Gibbs served as press secretary in the last re-election campaign for U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C.
“You realize when you go to meetings here, there aren’t any easy decisions,” said Gibbs, the only Southerner in Obama’s inner circle. “Every day is a very grueling thing. You are going from one thing to another, none of which is easy.”
He realizes the long hours take a toll, but that’s been true for anyone in a major position in any recent White House administration.
“There are days in which your quality of life is not good, from a purely personal perspective, meaning being able to do what you want to do. But if you’re in public service, you realize you can be in a meeting and make a point that will change the outcome of what the entire administration is doing.
“If that doesn’t get you excited about what you’re doing, it’s time to look for new work.”
The biggest frustration Gibbs says he currently has is the lack of news context provided by the competitive, insatiable news media.
“Because of the fact that the media has changed so much – that there are so many different outlets and because of the economic situation of media – I think there’s a far greater, right now, desire to be first with something than there is to step back and describe for people what is going on and how it affects them.
“No doubt these are trying and tumultuous times, [but] I think we need an institution that doesn’t just cover what somebody screams the loudest because they scream it, but that covers the importance of what is being debated and discussed because of how that impacts them. ”
Gibbs said he found hard to fathom that it had been more than 11 years since he was on the campaign trail with Hollings in South Carolina.
“There isn’t a day I wouldn’t like to be having dinner in Charleston, South Carolina,” he said before focusing back on his job of pushing President Barack Obama’s message:
“Whether you agree with every decision he makes or not, every day he is working to get most fundamentally the economy back on track and that will help everybody, regardless of whether you like him or not.”
Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston Currents. He can be reached at: [email protected]