New White House Spokesman Takes Podium The man who will often be the public face of the Obama administration had his first White House news conference Thursday. Robert Gibbs explained the president's order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He also talked about taking fast action on the economy, and about the first family's adjustment to their new digs.
NPR logo

New White House Spokesman Takes Podium

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/99763927/99763904" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
New White House Spokesman Takes Podium

New White House Spokesman Takes Podium

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/99763927/99763904" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris. There's a new guy on the scene standing at the lectern in front of the White House logo. We don't mean President Obama, we're talking about Robert Gibbs, the new White House spokesman. Today, he held his first news conference as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: President Obama is used to drawing huge crowds. But Robert Gibbs had a sizeable audience of his own this afternoon when he stepped in front of the White House press corps for the first time.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (Press Secretary, White House): How are you all?

(Soundbite of laughter)

HORSLEY: Gibbs was quickly pressed to defend the president's new executive orders - directing the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and issuing new limits on the way detainees can be interrogated.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Mr. GIBBS: The president believes that what he did today will enhance the security of the American people, that it lives up to our values as Americans, and that it will protect the men and women that we have in uniform.

HORSLEY: On a day marked by alarming new unemployment claims, Gibbs also talked about the president's meeting with economic advisers this morning. In a nod to the severity of the situation, Gibbs says Mr. Obama has asked to be updated on the economy every day, just as he is on national security.

Although some Republican lawmakers are challenging the government spending in a proposed economic stimulus package, Gibbs says the administration is pleased with the level of bipartisan support.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Mr. GIBBS: We have to do everything in our power and Congress does, too, to get that package moving, to get that money into the economy, to begin to create those jobs.

HORSLEY: Gibbs fielded some tough questions about exceptions the administration has made to its new policy against lobbyists in government, and about why TV cameras were excluded from last night's retake of the presidential swearing-in ceremony. Gibbs cracked a couple of jokes during the press conference, and he answered a softball about how the president is settling in.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Mr. GIBBS: I know that at the end of the first night, he had to ask somebody where he was supposed to go next. (Laughing) It's a pretty big house. You know, I've known the president a long time, and he looked very comfortable in his surroundings yesterday.

HORSLEY: Still, the incoming staff has faced some challenges. Some new staffers had trouble making it through security in their first days, and it took a while to figure out the P.A. system that summons reporters when the president's about to do something important.

Press Deputy Jen Psaki knows that unlike most offices, there aren't a lot of White House veterans hanging around to ask where the office supplies are kept or where the restroom is.

Ms. JEN PSAKI (Deputy Press Secretary, White House): We're pretty sure that the security staff has had a good laugh about, you know, staff wandering around and trying to find offices or see where people sit and trying not to accidentally walk into the Oval Office, and all those adventures you have when you first start at a job like this.

HORSLEY: Psaki herself confessed at getting lost a few times, and this afternoon, she had to ask a puzzled co-worker how to make her computer print - a bit of comeuppance for the technically savvy Obama troops.

Ms. PSAKI: A lot of us didn't get on to computers until today, so it's certainly been an adjustment, but, you know, we know this is the process, and we respect that and I hope - we're hoping everybody bears with us, I guess.

HORSLEY: The president himself will get to hang on to one piece of familiar technology. Gibbs announced today that Mr. Obama will get to keep a souped-up version of his beloved Blackberry. But only a few senior staff and some personal friends will have access to it. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.