"An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie for the good of his country."—attributed to Sir Henry Wotton (1568–1639), British diplomat.
If Sir Henry were around today, he might offer a corollary: a communications director is a man sent to meet with the media to fib for the good of his candidate. In the current campaign, the tactic's most transparent practitioner would seem to be Robert Gibbs, communications director for Barack Obama.
As I noted here, Gibbs recently had the chutzpah [if that's the right word for the man from Auburn, Alabama] to claim that Barack Obama's resignation from his controversial church was "a deeply personal, not a political decision." Rig-h-h-h-t.
Gibbs, the bland face of brazenness, was at it again last night, this time denying the blatantly obvious: that the campaign had tricked the press into flying to Chicago while Obama remained behind in DC to meet with Hillary.
View video here.
Here's the story: Barack Obama wanted to be able to meet with Hillary Clinton in private, without the media on his heels. So the Obama campaign informed the press corps that the candidate, then in the DC area, was flying to Chicago, and the reporters dutifully joined the motorcade to the airport and boarded the plane. It was only when the plane was about to take off that it was disclosed that Obama would not be along for the ride, having stayed back in DC to meet with Hillary.
Today's Morning Joe played the clip of this incredible bit of effrontery by Gibbs in response to a reporter's question on the plane about the deceit:
REPORTER: Is there a reason why we didn't go with him in the motorcade all the way [to the meeting with Hillary? This is what we're out here for, and now we're on this plane, with no candidate.
ROBERT GIBBS: Look, I understand. It was a desire to do these meetings, obviously in private, and, you know, that's what we're doing here tonight. You know, it wasn't an attempt to deceive in any way.
Gibbs' bald-faced, uh, misrepresentation, provoked derisive laughter from the Morning Joe crew.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah. "It wasn't an attempt to deceive in any way"? That's exactly what they were trying to do.
WILLIE GEIST: Of course!
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Why don't you just say it?
SCARBOROUGH: You've got to admit: the first press question was very polite: "Um, is there any reason why we were brought onto this plane and not allowed to follow the motorcade?"
BRZEZINSKI [imagining what a truthful Obama aide would have said]: How about: "Yeah: we wanted to make sure you guys weren't covering the meeting. That we wanted to keep them private."
SCARBOROUGH: But they [the media] were very polite to him. Can you imagine if it had been Hillary's people who had done that? The screaming and yelling and snarling? Oh, my God!
And if a Republican candidate had tried it, an outraged ACLU might have been making accusations of kidnapping and false imprisonment ;-)
Is this what Obama has in mind when he speaks—endlessly—of a "new kind of politics"? Communications directors are the kind of folks that successful presidential candidates make their press secretary. Would this be the standard for truth in an Obama administration?
Update | More Gibbs-erish
Gibbs actually appeared on Morning Joe at the top of the 8 AM EDT hour. But though the panel did rib him about his unsuccessful tangle with the truth, no one asked the simple question of why, having so blatantly deceived the press, he chose to deny it. The show rolled additional tape of Gibbs' smoke-and-dust machine in action on the plane last night. Sounding much like Scott McClellan on a particularly inarticulate day, amidst the multiple hems and haws he did manage to get off this gem of Gibbs-erish:
GIBBS: I don't really remember when I got notified exactly when everything was going to happen.
Of course. If there's one important trait for a communications director, it's bad short-term memory.
View video here.