- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When President Obama says White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has been there from the beginning, it’s true. Standing nervously backstage before his debut as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004, Mr. Obama was involved in a half-hour debate over which tie he should wear for the speech that was about to launch his political fame.

“We finally settled on the tie that Robert Gibbs was wearing,” Mr. Obama wrote in his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”

Mr. Gibbs says now that he was reluctant to hand over the light blue tie.

“I really liked the tie; I didn’t want to give it to him,” Mr. Gibbs told The Washington Times. “I went back and bought the same one after the speech.”

The bespectacled press secretary, an aide and close adviser to Mr. Obama since his U.S. Senate bid the year of the convention, paused and grinned.

“I wore it at the inaugural,” he said.

As Mr. Obama took the oath of office Jan. 20, the blue-tied Mr. Gibbs stood far above him, near violinist Yo-Yo Ma on a platform looking down at the swearing-in ceremony.

In the less than two weeks since Mr. Obama has worked in the White House, he has visited frequently with Mr. Gibbs, who says he aims to give a reflection of the president’s thinking and direction from the podium where he briefs the press.

“I don’t think there are a lot of ways to get ready for this,” Mr. Gibbs told The Times one recent evening between bites of a cookie. “The amount of preparation needed for the day is remarkable.”

He said he has had a learning curve as he must understand government issues and policy “at a different level” from what he was used to as a campaign spokesman.

“You can’t fake your way through Middle East peace,” he said.

Though he keeps two BlackBerrys - one for personal calls and the other for White House business - Mr. Gibbs isn’t known to be completely tech-savvy.

Deputy press secretary Jen Psaki said Mr. Gibbs carries “mysterious notecards” in the front pocket of his jacket, often jotting down everything from policy questions to notes on which birthday parties his son is attending.

“The system obviously works, but it predates the digital age,” she quipped.

In a profile last fall, Mr. Gibbs’ Alabama hometown newspaper, the Auburn Villager, called him “little Bobby Gibbs.”

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