NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
President Obama returns Press Secretary Robert Gibbs necktie, February 11, 2011.
President Obama returns Press Secretary Robert Gibbs necktie, February 11, 2011. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
On a much slower news day, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' last day would be getting more attention.
But Friday was anything but slow, with the exit from power of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after two weeks of massive protests in Egypt.
Which President Obama alluded to when he entered the White House press briefing room bearing a gift for the aide and friend he refers to as "Gibbs.
"Obviously, Gibbs' departure is not the biggest one today," the president said, spurring a big laugh from reporters.
Obama carried a necktie in a large picture frame with accompanying photos and a note card. It was Gibbs' necktie.
The president explained that he had borrowed Gibbs' neckwear for the electrifying "Red America, Blue America, One America" speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as his party's nominee for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. The speech boosted him to a much higher altitude as a national figure.
Obama told the story behind the tie:
And I know that a lot of you think that probably most attention was devoted to the speech that I delivered, the keynote speech in Boston, but in fact actually the most challenging problem was what tie to wear.
And this went up to the very last minute. I mean, 10 minutes before we were about to go on stage, we were still having an argument about ties.
I had bought five, six ties. And Michelle didn't like any of them. Axelrod didn't like a couple of them — him being, you know, one of the best-dressed men in the world — (laughter) — so we really valued his opinion. (Laughter.)
And then somebody — I don't remember who it was — turned and said: You know what? What about Gibbs' tie? What about Gibbs' tie? That might look good.
And frankly, Robert didn't want to give it up, because he thought he looked really good in the tie. But eventually he was willing to "take one for the Gipper," and so he took off his tie and I put it on. And that's the tie that I wore at the national convention.
He has not said about — anything about this tie all these years, but I have to tell you that I know there's a simmering resentment that he never got it back.
MR. GIBBS: You don't need to give it back.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And so as a consequence, I wanted, here today—
PRESS CORPS MEMBERS: Awww.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: — the — I wanted this on the record, oncamera — (laughter) — that I'm finally returning Robert's tie.
And if he chooses to break the glass, he can. (Laughter.)
But this is going to be a reminder to me that Robert has not only been an extraordinary press secretary, but he has been a great friend.
After a few more words and a hug, Obama left the briefing room and Gibbs took the podium for the last time. Clearly fighting to stave back his emotions, Gibbs thanked the president and his colleagues:
I — it is a tremendous honor and privilege to do this each and every day, to serve and to take part in days like today that are so momentous.
And I want to thank the president and all of his team for, again, theprivilege to serve.
I don't want to spend a lot of time doing this. I don't talk about myself well. But I would be remiss if I didn't talk about a group of people that I want to be clear doesn't work for me, but I have the great privilege and am lucky enough to work with. I would not want to do this job, as amazing and as exciting as it is, without them. And I wouldn't have made it through it without them.
Gibbs, who has a family, had indicated that he's leaving to escape the all-consuming nature of the job. And the expectation is that he'll make a lot of money giving speeches and consulting.
One of his clients will be Obama as Gibbs and other White House officials have said he will be involved in the president's re-election efforts. So Obama will have plenty of other opportunities to eye Gibbs' ties, if not borrow them.