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.

{mosads}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.”

{mosads}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

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

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

Tags Barack Obama

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