In what can only be described as supreme arrogance and hubris, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs got into a very heated, and somewhat physical, altercation with Indian security officials during President Obama’s state visit.
It started when Indian security officials decided to limit the number of reporters from India and America allowed in the room to five each, down from eight.
This threw Gibbs into a highly public rage. He even used his foot to prevent Indian guards from closing the door to the room where President Obama was meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Gibbs angrily inquired, “You gonna break my foot, now?”
Several times, Gibbs threatened to pull Obama out of the meeting if the Indian officials did not acquiesce to his demand for eight reporters. Rather than call his bluff or disrupt the official meeting, the Indian officials relented and admitted all eight U.S. reporters.
Gibbs is to be faulted on two very serious counts. First, he created an unnecessary international incident embarrassing the President and the United States. The image of an enraged American White House official yelling at Indian security officials can only transmit a negative image of America as an arrogant power to the people of India – and around the world. The photo accompanying this post is now the face of America – more so than any smiling poses of the President. Think about that.
Even worse is the fact that Gibbs appeared both willing and able to disrupt a meeting of two heads of state by ordering … yes ordering … the President of the United States to withdraw over a tiff that had nothing to do with the President or the serious business of the meeting. By this threat, Gibbs makes the President seem like nothing more than the figurehead of a cabal of all-powerful advisors.
I do not believe there is anything that Obama can do, short of firing Gibbs, that can undo the harm the Press Secretary has done to the image of America and the President’s own credibility as the man in charge. If the President does not send Gibbs packing for home immediately, he leaves himself vulnerable to critics who see an increasingly impotent president. Gibbs’ poor behavior will overshadow the rest of the trip – and maybe the rest of Obama’s presidency.