Skip to comments.Jay Carney vs. the press
Posted on 05/30/2014 5:25:19 PM PDT by Second Amendment First
Jay Carney spent three years successfully keeping the press at bay even as reporters grew increasingly disenchanted and adversarial with the administration.
During his tenure as White House press secretary, Carney, who stepped down on Friday, faced grillings over several administration failures, real and perceived, ranging from the botched Obamacare rollout to the revelations of NSA surveillance to the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi. Throughout it all, the press secretary was confident and composed, said journalists who cover the White House. He might dodge, counter, or stonewall a source of constant frustration for the reporters but he rarely blundered or left his boss vulnerable.
Indeed, Carneys most notable achievement, many said, is that he did nothing notable.
(Also on POLITICO: Parlor game: What's next for Carney?)
For the most part, he kept his cool and made remarkably few mistakes quite a feat considering all the White House has been through since he took the job, said Jon Karl, the ABC News senior White House correspondent who clashed frequently with Carney on camera at the daily briefings.
Carney seemed to check all the boxes in terms of having a solid tenure: No mega-memorable blunders, managed to say very little in a smart-sounding and telegenic way and seemed reasonably in-the-loop about the presidents thinking (in so much as that ever translated to anything in the briefing room), said Mark Leibovich, the New York Times Magazine chief national correspondent.
Theres a bit of a If-No-One-Remembers-the-Referees-Name-Hes Probably-Doing-his-Job factor in assessing a press secretary, Leibovich added. The big difference being that in the current media environment, more people probably know the White press secretarys name and face than they did any of his predecessors.
(Also on POLITICO: Press secretary Jay Carney steps down)
If reporters had any illusions three years ago that they would get kid gloves treatment from a former colleague - Carney had been White House bureau chief for Time - he quickly showed them that wouldnt be the case and transitioned over to what journalists call the dark side in record time and with seeming ease.
By all accounts, President Barack Obama and top White House staff valued Carneys work on their behalf. Dan Pfeiffer, a senior assistant to President BarackObama, praised him as a huge asset to the administration.
In an age when reporters are tweeting analysis of the briefing as it happens and always looking for some potential gaffe, the podium part of the job has never been more important or more difficult, Pfeiffer wrote in an email. Its essentially like doing Meet the Press for an hour a day two hundred times a year. I have always been amazed at Jays ability to do the briefing, keep his calm, and make no gaffes under tremendous pressure. He also helped us better understand the pressures the reporters in the briefing room are under, which I think helped better respond to the needs of the press corps.
(QUIZ: How well do you know Jay Carney?)
Every press secretary serves two masters the President and the Press which puts them in an impossible situation, but I think everyone involved is better because Jay served in this role, Pfeiffer wrote.
Carney, who was in the job for three years and four-and-a-half months, was the longest serving White House press secretary since Mike McCurry, who served under President Bill Clinton from December 1994 to August 1998. He previously worked in Vice President Joe Bidens press shop.
Carney was tapped as White House press secretary in February 2011 to replace Robert Gibbs, a member of Obamas inner circle who was relatively intimate with the presidents thinking. Gibbs also had no problem being combative with the press, when required.
In Carney, several reporters said, the White House was hoping for something tamer: a go-between. They wanted someone who could reliably promote talking points and deflect negative coverage without having too great a sense of the presidents private thinking.
Jay served the president precisely as he wanted to be served after Robert Gibbs departure, said Major Garrett, the chief White House correspondent for CBS News. Gibbs was not only plugged in he was part of the White House wiring. Jay was not what Robert was in terms of access or the intuitive sense of decisions Obama made and the motives behind them. As such, he was a more traditional spokesman and less of a spokesman/counselor.
Jays frequent use of the White House binder reflected his more regimented approach to White House answers and formulations, Garrett added.
Carney came to the White House job hoping that his journalistic bona fides for Time would endear him to his onetime colleagues in the press, where suspicion of press secretaries is a prerequisite. Carney frequently said that he appreciated reporters questions or was sympathetic to their line of inquiry.
Mark Knoller, the CBS News Radio White House correspondent, said that Carneys experience in journalism helped.
As a former member of the White House press corps, he well understood what motivates reporters on the beat and it was reflected in his dealings with us, Knoller said. He was not shy about telling reporters when he thought we were off-base on a story. But he did his duty at the lectern responding to questions that were pointed and tough and not flattering about the president.
Others noted that Carney became a fierce advocate for the president immediately after taking the job. Skeptical journalist to true believer in a nanosecond, Karl said.
Carney didnt hesitate to criticize reporters for their coverage, the questions they asked, or even the manner in which they went about doing their jobs.
A favorite target of his was Fox News, a bastion of anti-Obama sentiment. On one occasion, Carney responded to a question from Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry by saying, I welcome the opportunity to correct the record, especially for some news outlets who persist in misrepresenting the facts. Another time, he mocked Henrys complaints about restricted access to one of the presidents golf games with Tiger Woods. And in an on-air exchange with a Fox News anchor, he suggested that the interviewer do a little reporting.
Still, the first two years of his tenure required relatively little sparring. By mid-2013, however, Carney was catching fire on the Benghazi investigation, the IRS targeting of conservative groups, and the Justice Departments seizure of AP phone records. More recently, hes had to contend with a sustained barrage of tough questions about the botched Obamacare rollout and, most recently, the Veterans Affairs scandal that led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on Friday.
But even with the controversies surrounding Obamas second term, Carney was able to weather the storm. His tenure was largely unremarkable, several reporters said, and therefore, a success.
His relationship with the press, Knoller said, was more adversarial than some of his predecessors, less than others.
Jay was accessible and rarely needlessly quarrelsome, Garrett said. Quarrels are part of this job what Jay commonly refers to as spirited exchanges. They were on the merits, not for sport.
Hey! If you’re a good liar, it doesn’t take much to keep the morons in the press “at bay”. Especially when they WANT to believe everything you say about their “messiah”.
Carney tried to sell “crazy”, with a straight face. Not an easy job.
Pure Side Show barker.
Name does appear to be destiny. Carney (Carny?) has overseen the circus of late, but he’s being replaced by Josh Earnest. I wonder which part of his name will win out.
Liar for the Liar in Chief. It must have gotten very tiring.
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When the going gets tough, the pussies go home and stare at their Soviet Era Propaganda Posters.
Smart move by a smart man.
Realizes that if he continues working for the boss he might one day face charges, but if he steps down now he will have “served his purpose”.
Don’t worry, fellow piss bucket carriers, he’ll bend over for you now...remember, he’s one of your club.
"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Looks like Jay did just that when he ran out of excuses for the liar-in-chief. He did his best, I assume, to cover for his buddy, but he's no match for the great pretender.
The opening sentence tells us everything we need to know.
“....grew increasingly disenchanted and adversarial with
If the media grew “increasingly disenchanted” with the
administration does that mean they were initially
“enchanted”? Since when is the news media supposed
to be “enchanted” with ANY administration? And,
when is the media NOT supposed to be adversarial
with every administration? Why are we not surprised?
I look forward to seeing Jay Carney join forces with his mentor, Baghdad Bob.
Good career move for Carney, who is a professional scumbag of the highest order. Big contract. Look for CNN, PMsNBC or another MSM outlet controlled by a billionaire friend'o'Barry's that can pay him big-time despite their lack of audience.
Speaking of PR, next time you're on the checkout line in the supermarket, checkout the National Enquirer (They're on Drudge, too). They have been running a series about the Obama Marriage. Seems Michelle fit to be tied over Barry's Roman hands and Russian fingers. What a Stud Muffin! He just cain't leave them ladies alone! 12 GFs named as co-respondents ... starlets, prime ministers, ... everyone except possibly Queen Elizabeth.
The articles say Michelle is "furious." Logically speaking, Reggie should be furious and she should go shopping. My people tell me this barrage of "Barry Stud Muffin" stuff could be to offset an 'alternative lifestyle' bombshell.
Sorry. Startin' to sound like Detective Zullo!