Carney debuts at White House

White House press secretary Jay Carney held his inaugural briefing Wednesday while the departure of a deputy considered for the job sent ripples through the press corps.

Deputy press secretary Bill Burton announced he was leaving the White House an hour or so after Carney finished briefing reporters. Burton’s timing raised some eyebrows, though his decision was not a surprise.

Burton was seen for most of President Obama’s first two years in office as the favorite to replace departing press secretary Robert Gibbs. He frequently filled in for Gibbs at the White House and aboard Air Force One.

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In an e-mail, Burton, a former spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he was forming a political consulting group with Sean Sweeney, another Obama aide.

White House officials insisted no one was angry with Burton’s timing, with some noting that he waited until after Carney’s first briefing to make it official.

Like Gibbs, Burton was one of Obama’s first aides. In a farewell e-mail, he said he had “stood with many of you in Springfield [Ill.] as then-Sen. Barack Obama announced an improbable campaign for president on an unbelievably cold day.”

Carney, a boyish-looking, 45-year-old former journalist who served previously as Vice President Biden's spokesman, stuck to most of the same tricks as his predecessor in his inaugural briefing.

Carney mostly called on the same reporters in the same order, giving the network and wire reporters in the front and second rows free rein to ask questions and follow-ups.

But after finishing with the third row, Carney said he wanted to “experiment a little bit.”

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Carney moved around the room, calling on some reporters who rarely got to ask questions during Gibbs’s tenure. Carney finished the briefing in just under an hour, similar to the time Gibbs allotted.

Carney stuck close to the White House talking points on the president's budget, the Middle East and the continuing resolution.

But like Gibbs, Carney made clear that, when it comes to discussing the budget, he is a press secretary and not an economist, especially when it comes to explaining “the miracle and sometimes horror of compound interest.”

The new press secretary seemed a tad nervous at the beginning, but appeared to pick up confidence as he moved through the room. When it was over, Carney said the experience was “better than I ever could have imagined.”

Carney's background as a reporter led reporters to ask him which side he's on: the press's or the president's.

“I mean, I do work for the president, but I'm also here to help the press understand what we're doing, to give the best information I can give, with the help of a great team,” Carney said. “And that's what I will try to do.”

He then added: “I understand where you come from, literally.”

Carney wouldn't say how many press conferences the president should have, how often he will brief or what changes he might make, stating there are “no hard and fast rules.”

“I just want it to evolve,” Carney said. “I don't have a new plan to lay on the table about how we're going to do this. I want to see how it works. But I’m eager to work with all of you to make it as productive for us and for you as possible.”

Asked if he received any advice from the president, Carney said he had spoken to Obama a couple of times Wednesday morning and “he wished me luck.”

This story was posted at 2:38 p.m. and updated at 4:25 p.m.