With Jay Carney at the podium, Obama hopes to reset press relationship

With Jay Carney at the podium, Obama hopes to reset press relationship

President Obama’s decision to tap Jay Carney as his new press secretary completes a series of White House personnel changes meant to mend dysfunctional relationships.

If new chief of staff Bill Daley was brought on to repair Obama's relationship with business, then Carney’s appointment is designed to continue a charm offensive unleashed on the White House press corps shortly before the midterms.


The thinking inside the West Wing is that Carney, a longtime reporter and bureau chief for Time magazine who knows what it’s like to be a reporter, will smooth over relations with network executives and editorial page editors in addition to daily reporters at the White House.

Carney’s old boss on Friday told reporters they were going to love the man who will replace outgoing White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

“I'm going to miss him,” Vice President Biden said Friday of his departing spokesman. “He's the best. You guys are going to love him.”

Gibbs is not disliked by the press corps, but after two years in office -- and two years of campaigning -- the relationship is in need of a new beginning, officials acknowledge.

Enter Carney, a straight-laced, clean-cut spokesman, known for being ultra-serious and at times brash in his pushback on reporters and stories he thinks are inaccurate.

As a former Washington journalist, Carney enjoys time-tested relationships with a number of other Washington reporters, editors and broadcasters.

Like Daley, Carney is a creature of Washington, someone who occasionally attends Washington Redskins games as a guest of team owner Daniel Snyder.

He’s no outsider, having worked as Biden’s spokesman for the last two years, but he is not close with Obama, which marks a dramatic change from Gibbs, who was both a senior adviser and a close friend to the president.

That might represent a change White House reporters can believe in.

Gibbs’s strength as a press secretary was his knowledge of Obama’s thinking on key issues. Gibbs knew what he was talking about at the daily briefings because he was in the meetings and helping shape Obama’s decisions.

That dual role, however, made it difficult for Gibbs to balance his two masters -- the president and the press.

The most consistent complaint about Gibbs from White House reporters was that he was oftentimes not responsive or too busy for them. White House officials have long said that Gibbs was just too busy with two jobs to be in a position to be accessible to reporters as often as they would have liked.

Carney's role will likely be more in the traditional mold of a White House press secretary -- someone who is knowledgeable about White House affairs without being boxed in with a senior adviser's responsibilities.

Gibbs on Friday praised Carney as “tremendously smart… tremendously hard-working.”

“He's done a terrific job for the vice president,” Gibbs said. “I think you need two things to do this job well. I think you need to have the confidence of the president and the team in the White House, and you need to have the access which gives you the ability to do the job and answer questions.

“I don't think there's any doubt that Jay has each of those abilities, and I think will be terrific at what he does.”