Gibbs Prepares for His Starring Role

Looking back at the tumultuous, ultimately victorious year past, former Barack Obama campaign senior aide and incoming White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn't hesitate when he was asked to name his toughest political moment.

It came, he told ABC News in an exclusive interview, "right after we'd clinched the nomination and the president-elect is going to meet with Sen. [Hillary] Clinton."

Gibbs was part of a bit of Obama campaign misdirection in which the reporters covering the then-Illinois senator, flew on the Democrat's plane from Washington back to Chicago while the candidate stayed behind to secretly meet with his former opponent in the home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Replaying the incident in his mind, Gibbs recalled, "I know that the then-candidate Barack Obama is not going to be on our flight home to Chicago. But, the press doesn't know that. And I held in the car and I got on the plane and right when I got on the plane, we basically moved to taxi and about 15 seconds later, the press realized that the candidate wasn't on the plane. And I knew that was going to be a long ride home for an hour-and-a-half flight. And that we were going to have a lot of explaining to do."

Robert Gibbs Incoming Press Secretary

Between the Obama team and the media sat a section of Secret Service agents. On his way back to tell the media why the candidate was not on the plane, Gibbs stopped to speak to them. He "told our detail leader that, 'If I'm not back in 15 minutes, get the guns out and come get me out of there.'"

Gibbs now says the campaign could "have handled it differently. I think we were in a very tough position either way. ... I understood the pitfalls of what were undertaking. The hardest part was, it was a decision that was made, but I was the one that had to implement."

The incident made for a contentious moment between the media and the Obama campaign, and it's one that Gibbs was clearly thinking about as he sat down to talk with ABC News about his new job as White House press secretary.

"A lot of the advice that I've gotten from former press secretaries," Gibbs said, is "you have to be seen as an honest broker that can discuss why this decision was made and how it was made. To explain it to a larger audience via the press. That's a role that a press secretary has to play."

In the briefing room, he said, a press secretary is seen as "a real honest broker."

Born to Auburn University library employees in 1971, the bespectacled Alabaman has worked for Obama since his Senate campaign in 2004.

Known as a bit of a political knife-fighter on Capitol Hill for his work as something of a rogue operative after he left Sen. John Kerry's campaign amid a staff shake-up, Gibbs became a close adviser to Obama in the Senate and took an even more prominent role in the senator's 2008 presidential campaign.

Now, however, he is preparing for the actual act of governing, which can be even tougher. Is he prepared for the intense scrutiny of his every word? Is he ready to serve as a media piƱata? And, given that he could likely have served as a senior adviser to the president-elect, why would he want the gig?

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