Gibbs departs White House with door only half-closed

WASHINGTON (RNN) - White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs conducted his last press briefing Friday on a day that was upstaged by breaking, international news.

As President Barack Obama took the podium to begin the farewell, Obama joked, "Obviously, Gibbs' departure is not the biggest one today," referring to the resignation of Egypt's president, which was announced hours before.

The remark drew chuckles from the gathered press corps, and called to mind Gibbs' famous wit and humor, which have been the hallmark of his interaction with the press over the past several years.

The shirt off his back - almost

Obama presented Gibbs with a gift - a large, framed necktie with accompanying snapshots of the two of them.

The pale blue necktie was the tie that Obama wore as he broke into the national political scene, delivering the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention.

The tie was Gibbs'.

"He has not said anything about this tie all these years," Obama said of Gibbs before turning to reporters and saying, "I want it on the record - on camera - that I'm finally returning Roberts' tie."

Obama said he had been agonizing over what tie to wear to the event when he noticed Gibbs and his light blue necktie.

"I certainly couldn't have a better friend at the podium each day," he said of Gibbs.

With that, Gibbs began his final news conference - his 250th - refusing to reflect for very long on his time at the White House and visibly holding back emotions.

"I'm going to miss boring days like this at the White House," he joked.

Still a team player

When he announced his resignation Jan. 5, Gibbs said the best service he could provide to the president over the next couple of years is outside of the White House, something he said coincided nicely with his desire "to get a little bit of a break."

"And it all worked out that way," Gibbs said.

Gibbs will work as an outside political adviser to Obama and the White House, and will make the rounds giving speeches and spreading the White House's message.

"Robert has been a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium for what this administration has been doing to move America forward," Obama said in a statement released in January.

"This … doesn't change the important role that Robert will continue to play on our team," Obama said.

Gibbs said it was important to bring fresh voices to the White House as the administration shifts its gears away from a period of advocating for legislation toward the implementation of said legislation and a focus on economic recovery.

Gibbs will be replaced by Jay Carney, the spokesman for Vice President Joe Biden, who was previously head of Time magazine's Washington operations.

Carney starts his new job Monday.

Lucky number seven

Now that he's left the White House, Gibbs will take a "serious" vacation to "recharge." He said it has been almost seven years since he joined Obama's staff and was able to take a vacation without a Blackberry, something he looks forward to doing.

According to a New York Times profile, Gibbs first joined Obama's team as a communication director before being promoted to senior strategist.

Gibbs said he would also work as a paid consultant to Obama's re-election campaign at some point in the future.

"No adviser has spent more time at Mr. Obama's side than Mr. Gibbs," the Times wrote in 2008.

Gibbs also added that he wouldn't "close the door" on a return to the White House if Obama's 2012 presidential bid is successful.

"I told the president I'm happy to serve as ambassador to Italy in the second administration," he joked. "Begrudgingly, I'll do it. But OK. All right. You got me. I'll do it."

A long-standing tradition

After announcing his resignation, Gibbs spoke about the importance of the White House briefing room, which allows the administration to interact with the press on a daily basis.

"It's important to - as a government - to come out here and talk about the policies and decisions that are being made and to answer the questions surrounding those," he said.

Gibbs said the daily briefing could be enhanced by more experimentation with more gaggles and social networking.

No matter what changes come to the briefing room, Gibbs said he believes that it will long carry on.

"I think the briefing will endure," he said. "And I think what gets added to and what complements the briefing in terms of breaking down any walls that exist between the people and their government will only accelerate."

A Southern gentleman

One thing is for sure: Gibbs will miss walking into the briefing room, something he said he enjoyed doing every day no matter how tough the questions facing him might be.

"It is in many ways the opportunity of a lifetime, one that I will be forever thankful and grateful for," Gibbs said.

Although Gibbs was born and raised in the university town of Auburn, AL, on March 29, 1971, he went on to study at North Carolina State University.

He has one son with his lawyer wife, both of whom he will now be able to give more of his energy to.

"My wife likes to get calls at 4:15 in the morning," Gibbs joked. "If you don't get an answer the first time, keep calling."

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