By Judy Kurtz
She has a ringside seat to what’s going on inside the White House thanks to her husband, but even Claire Shipman found out the news of Osama bin Laden’s death along with the rest of the world.
“I was kept in the dark about the Osama bin Laden raid — annoyingly,” the ABC News journalist, who’s married to White House press secretary Jay Carney, says with a playful groan.
Carney isn’t the only one who kept the big news from a spouse. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t inform former President Clinton of the raid in Pakistan.
Shipman, who now serves as an ABC correspondent and “Good Morning America” contributor, covered politics for years before Carney became press secretary. She says her husband’s job, on the whole, has been “fantastic” for her and her kids. “I kind of have a behind-the-scenes view of what goes on on the other side.”
She’s also managed to author her second book with Katty Kay, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know.
The book, says Kay, the anchor of BBC World News America, “has really hit a nerve.” So far, more than 50,000 people have taken an online confidence code assessment, which will be used as part of a research project.
Shipman faced her own test of confidence while penning the book, saying, “I felt really daunted sometimes by the sheer amount of science and research.”
But Kay says she learned through writing the book that having nerves and finding tasks daunting doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of confidence: “The trick is not to let those nerves stop you from taking action. I am nervous; it is difficult; there are hurdles — but I’m still going to do it.”
The pair has also learned not to sweat the small stuff — such as holiday decorations that might be well past their expiration date.
In addition to a well-manicured front lawn and a pair of majestic trees, guests at Shipman’s suburban Washington home are greeted by a giant, maniacal ghoul with red eyes and a complementary flame-hued scarf.
“The monster?” the ABC News journalist says with a laugh when we inquire about the fiendish one-time Halloween décor, “I liked it on the tree. I was reluctant to take it down. And then Christmas came around … and I thought, OK, we’re just going to start decorating it because I haven’t taken it down.”
Kay, chimes in between sips of coffee, “It’s been there about four years. It hasn’t moved. And it just gets redecorated for every season.”
The two chuckle in unison in Shipman’s bright kitchen, before Shipman adds, “People in the neighborhood kind of love it or hate it.
They say, ‘You’re insane, and you’re scaring our children.’ ”
These days, what’s critical for the two co-authors, who are both moms to young kids, is learning to manage the daily juggle.
“The only real thing that has helped me is that I have given up, really given up, on doing it all, and I‘ve completely embraced that every day, there will be some disaster. I will mess something up, things will not get done,” exclaims Shipman.
A few months ago, Shipman says it was dinnertime and her son asked what the family would be having. “I said, ‘You know what? Dinner is overrated. We really do not have to have dinner every night,’ ” she recalls with a grin. “ ‘I’m tired of the tyranny,’ ” she says she told her son, “ ‘Just have a banana.’ He looked at me like, ‘Have you lost your mind?’ ”
“I’ve had to embrace that attitude because it’s a struggle for women because we are able to keep so much in our heads, and we’re also able to keep in our heads this vision of everything that is possible,” Shipman tells ITK.
Another potential struggle for women in which they could use a confidence boost: politics.
“That’s one place where you’re really exposed,” says Shipman.
“Sen. [Kirsten Gillibrand] talked to us about this. It’s very hard for women to want something to be all about them and to put themselves out there.” Shipman says the New York Democrat explains to potential female candidates, “This isn’t about you. It’s about what you’ll do for other people. That is critical for women.”
When asked if having a behind-the-scenes vantage point because of Carney’s job has made her more sympathetic to political machines, Shipman nods before noting, “Although I will say that I think I’ve always had a certain amount of sympathy. I really do believe that people in politics — Republicans, Democrats, whomever — come here to try to make a difference and to do good things. I don’t subscribe to sort of one side’s evil and one side has Machiavellian plans. I think actually people want to get things done.”
And contrary to what shows such as “Scandal” and “House of Cards” depict is happening in Washington, Shipman says, “Most certainly what I see, for the most part, nobody working in the White House has the time to be plotting out vast conspiracy theories. They’re just sort of managing day to day and barely getting by.”