Current White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has a reputation for condescending comments and iron-fisted rule over the press briefing room. But given his recent blunders (here and here), which have drawn criticism from his own party, and a strong showing by his vacation replacement Bill Burton, Gibbs might have cause to be nervous if the president decides change is necessary.
Just today, Gibbs's fiery attitude and argumentative, brash style were on display during a back-and-forth with FOX and Friends' Gretchen Carlson. Carlson pressed Gibbs multiple times to answer if, during Obama's national address tonight regarding the war, President Obama will thank former President George W. Bush for instituting a troop surge in Iraq. Visibly annoyed, Gibbs continually chuckled and counted out loud the times Carlson asked the question: "Gretchen, I don't know if this is you actually interviewing me or just a tape of you looping the same question over and over again."
But whereas Gibbs is contentious, an Associated Press profile describes Burton as "low-key and self-deprecating," and "always ready to smile." Those comments come as Burton recently finished a two week stint as acting press secretary.
Others praise Burton's polished style. "You watch him up there on the podium and you think, 'This is someone who likes what he's doing, is in the job he should be doing and is doing it well,'" Steve Elmendorf told the AP. Elmendorf supervised Burton during both Dick Gephardt's and John Kerry's presidential campaigns. "He's just a really even-keeled, hardworking deputy who sort of fits into the Obama 'no-drama' ethic from the campaign."
Former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry added that Burton is much less combative than Gibbs, and the AP story points out that Burton's "broad grin and aw-shucks approach ... is a marked contrast with his boss, the always ready-for-battle White House press secretary Robert Gibbs."
Burton made a name for himself while working as Obama's national press secretary during the 2008 presidential campaign. And he's no stranger to Washington politics. Besides working on Gephardt's and Kerry's campaigns, he served on Capitol Hill as an aid to Rep. Bill Luther (D-MN) and as press secretary for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).
That experience seems to have taught Burton how to avoid major controversy--he declined to be interviewed for the AP story: "Come on. Are you that bored?"
For now, neither Gibbs nor the White House has given any indication that he's at risk. But given Burton's much more palatable style, Gibbs might want to look over his shoulder.