The curious and troubling tendency of President Obama to use his communications and political aides as advisers on everything under the sun, including foreign policy, has been documented before. That wouldn’t be so bad if any of them had expertise on these subjects, but for the most part they are strictly political creatures.
Robert Gibbs is a case in point. One of the least appealing of Obama’s inner circle (and that’s saying something), he is also one of the most visible in his role as Obama’s press secretary. Look at his bio and tell me whether you can see anything there that would qualify him to give advice to fellow-neophyte Barack Obama in any policy field, much less foreign affairs. He is a political animal, specializing in campaigns and communications.
Nevertheless here’s a piece from the WaPo about his tremendous and growing influence on policy in this administration [emphasis mine]:
…Anita Dunn, the Obama administration’s former communications director, [says,] “[Gibbs] is one of the very few people who can sit in on anything he wants to sit in on.“…Much of Gibbs’s day is spent sitting in on a broad swath of policy meetings in the Oval Office, educating himself for his public performances, but also for the greater private role to come. Some policy advisers have wondered why the administration’s flack is so often in attendance, but insiders fluent in the administration’s power dynamics know Obama values his views…
Gibbs is also a regular at foreign policy meetings. He volunteered that he attended all 33 hours of the Afghanistan briefings, though he noted that he never said a word. He did chime in during last month’s escalating tensions with Israel, if only to make sure the president understood the “conventional wisdom” promoted in the media, that Obama’s toughness with Likud hard-liners would potentially erode his domestic Jewish support. “For a lot of reasons, he would discount that,” Gibbs said, referring to the president.
So it appears that all of Obama’s foreign policy decisions are vetted at the outset by Gibbs for their potential political repercussions. If so, he seems to be doing an abominable job; Obama’s polls continue to fall. Or perhaps Obama just doesn’t take Gibbs’s advice, although he certainly solicits it.
What’s more, the abrasive and condescending Gibbs appears to have alienated virtually the entire Washington press corps, not an easy feat in that formerly Obamaphilic crowd [emphasis mine]:
There are a few things about Gibbs that irritate even the least excitable reporters in the briefing room, though none of them would speak for the record out of fear of retaliation. One reporter expressed frustration with the way Gibbs has compared reporters — and even Sen. John McCain — to his 6-year-old son because he didn’t approve of the way they were behaving…Unlike press secretaries past, who would make rounds of calls to reporters as they neared deadlines, Gibbs is notoriously tough to get on the phone. His soliloquies are full of “first and foremost” and “I will say this,” and he relies on escape-hatch promises to “check and get back to you.”
Initially it seemed surprising that the supposedly charismatic, calm, and likeable Obama would surround himself with so many downright unpleasant people. But that aspect of Obama is a mere facade, and he selects his aides very carefully. The pattern that emerges is that they are amoral thugs who insult, intimidate, and lie, while providing an increasingly thin cover for the very same aspects in Obama’s personality and methodry.
The pattern was apparent even before the election to anyone who cared to look at Obama’s history. Taken separately and looked at by the naive, Rezko and Ayers and Wright seemed to be curious anomolies. But one would be hard-pressed at this point to find any close friend or adviser of Obama who doesn’t fit this mold.