Who gets (and controls) the “First Crack”? Remember back in October of this year when @PressSec Gibbs tweeted about his “first crack” initiative? (What happened to that?) It gave the public the opportunity to ask Gibbs the first question at a press briefing by tweeting a question at Gibbs with the hashtag #1; he would then answer it on video before the briefing. Nice open government initiative, right? Clint Hendler had his own first, second, and third questions for Gibbs. And then a word or two of his own.

Gibbs and his staff will choose the question they are answering from a buffet of those offered up by hashtag, and can pick to match their preferred message of the day. They will have time to script their response. And the questioner will have no opportunity for follow-up.

And while there is of course a difference between a question before a briefing and the first question at a briefing, the Gibbs tweet seems to set up this P.R. exercise as part of the briefing process.

It’s not a bad thing. But it’s definitely not the same thing.

Who’s Undercutting Obama? Former New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston slammed the press office in an early review from way back in January 2009. He was having trouble trying to reach Gibbs’s team for comment; what he found was incompetence. “I have called 202-456-2580, the main number for the White House press office, going back to the Nixon administration,” wrote Johnston. “Never has anyone in the press office declined to spell his name, give his job title, or hung up, even after the kind of aggressive exchanges that used to be common between journalists and flacks—and between journalists and high government officials, for that matter.” A White House’s dealing with journalists, “sets a tone that will influence the administration’s ability to communicate its messages, especially those Obama messages that run counter to deeply ingrained cultural myths about the economy, taxes, and the role of government.” By the end of the piece, Johnston reports, “I’m still waiting for Gibbs, or someone with authority to speak on the record, to call me back for that interview I wanted to start with—and now for a second one about how the White House press office operates. You can reach me at 585-230-0558.”

Gibbs Gaffes Again, Tradition Continues Lefty readers may recall last August’s famous Gibbs gaffe, when the press secretary spoke of a “professional” left that needed to be “drug tested” for comparing the president to his predecessor. “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president,” he opined. Ouch. In honor of that gaffe—not Gibbs’s first, not his last—I compiled a video package of press secretary gaffe’s past. The list included another Gibbs gem: responding to a question about Dick Cheney, Gibbs retorted, “Well, I guess Rush Limbaugh was busy, so they trotted out the next most popular member of the Republican cabal.”

Kicking Gibbs Around Gibbs showed up many a time in our more lighthearted Kicker blog. Highlights reel: Megan Garber noting Gibbs’s favorite evasive maneuver; my own word-cloud tribute to his Twitter account; Liz Cox Barrett on Gibbs’s funny side, and Politico’s noting of it; Alexandra Fenwick’s note on Gibbs’s Palin-hand-memo standup routine; and Barrett on a mini spat between press corps vet Helen Thomas and then newbie Gibbs—“you people” indeed.

We end with a video tribute to the outgoing press-herder, courtesy of CNN. Farewell, Mr. Gibbs, and we look forward to our next foil.



Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.