Arrogant. Nasty. Sarcastic. Mean. These are just a few of the adjectives commonly used to describe Robert Gibbs, Barack Obama's press secretary.
His acerbic humor and habitual use of sarcasm would be more appropriate in a comedy club performance, rather than in the White House. Constructive criticism of Obama's policies -- and reporters' legitimate questions -- are belittled by Gibbs' mockery.
Maybe some in the White House press corps may find Gibbs humorous, but he's forgetting that he is actually playing to a much larger audience, the American public. Americans certainly don't appreciate his arrogance, sarcasm and brushing aside serious questions regarding the Obama administration's competence.
Examples of his unprofessional behavior: excoriating Vice President Cheney's sincere comments regarding Obama's policy changes which have likely increased the possibility of terrorist attacks, mocking Rush Limbaugh and twisting Limbaugh's words, plus insulting and ridiculing CNBC's Rick Santelli.
Campaign spokeswoman Linda Douglas referred to Gibbs as "the Barack Whisperer," because he is so close to the president. The New York Times intimated he may be the president's most influential aide, writing: "He has advised Mr. Obama on politics, strategy and messaging, and is often the last person to speak to him before he takes the stage.
"For the last four years, during Mr. Obama's time in the Senate and throughout his race for the presidency, no adviser has spent more time at Mr. Obama's side than Mr. Gibbs."
Even Democrats fear Gibbs. Jim Jordan, a former colleague who worked with Gibbs at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign and again during John Kerry's 2004 presidential primary campaign, said, "He had a real mean streak."
"He's always been good with a stick," says Obama advisor David Axelrod, and other Obama aides refer to Gibbs as a "silent killer."
He was born in Alabama and graduated from North Carolina State. He is proud of his Southern heritage. But one job Gibbs doesn't boast about is the job he held between working for John Kerry in 2003 and Obama's 2004 win in the Illinois senatorial primary.
While working for Kerry, Gibbs came to detest Howard Dean. As Dean gained momentum against Kerry, Gibbs took it personally. Gibbs left the Kerry campaign to represent a new organization called "Americans for Jobs, Health Care and Progressive Values."
One liberal blogger credits the Gibbs group for creating "the most disgusting ad I've ever seen occur in a Democratic primary against Howard Dean." Ironically, given Obama's thin resume, the commercial Gibbs produced accuses Dean of being unqualified for President because of his lack of military or foreign policy experience, and then the camera zooms in for a close-up of Osama bin Laden's eyes.
Some Democrats don't like the underhanded ways Gibbs attacked Hillary Clinton in last year's primaries either, while some are begging for Obama to get Gibbs off TV, because they believe he is doing Obama a big disservice.
One long-time Obama supporter implored on-line, "GET GIBBS OFF THE AIR!!!! My husband and I have supported Sen. Obama for over a year... because we believed Sen. Obama was different. Please don't go this way -- I don't want to see Robert Gibbs on TV again," calling him "smarmy" and "politics as usual."
A surprise for many Obama voters is the "politics as usual" being practiced by the White House. The "Mr. Nice Guy" image of Obama doesn't work when the nightly voice of his administration is the hatchet man Gibbs. Gibbs even calls himself "the enforcer."
For insight into Obama's reasoning, just consider the President's favorite movie, "The Godfather." In December, a New York Times reporter asked Obama "which character Gibbs reminded him of?" The NYT wrote, "Obama mentioned the Robert Duvall consigliore, Tom Hagen. 'And I've seen a little bit of Sonny in him once in a while,'" Obama added.
When asked why "The Godfather" is his favorite movie, Obama replied, "There's this combination of old world gentility and ritual, with this savagery underneath." Hmmm, sounds like the Obama administration to us.
The Browns are bestselling authors and speakers. Together, they write a national weekly column distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. To comment on this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.