President Obama has picked Jay Carney to succeed Robert Gibbs as press secretary. Carney, 45, is communications director for Vice President Joe Biden.
Unlike Gibbs, Carney has limited political experience. In 1987, Carney graduated from Yale University with a degree in Russian and Eastern European Studies. His first job was reporting for the Miami Herald, where he eventually became head of the Miami Bureau. In May 1990, Carney moved to Moscow as a correspondent for Time, for which he provided political coverage for almost 20 years. Notably, he was one of the few reporters on Air Force One with Pres. George W. Bush on September 11, 2001. He also won the 2003 Gerald Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the presidency. Carney led Time’s Washington Bureau from October 2005 to December 2008, during which time he also wrote for its blog, Swampland.
In his work, Carney drew the ire of activists across the ideological spectrum, but he took it in stride. In 2007, for instance, his colleagues and he hosted a meet-and-greet for left-wing bloggers at the netroots convention YearlyKos, humorously entitled, “Say It to Our Face.” In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Carney stressed that he and his staff “are not advocates,” though he appreciated good reporting from any outlet. As an example, he mentioned TPM’s coverage of the U.S.–attorney scandal under Pres. George W. Bush.
Carney also had a close relationship with Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), which deteriorated during the 2008 presidential campaign. After one interview in which the candidate proved especially terse, Carney complained to MSNBC that “It was like he’d been body snatched.” Later, Carney sparred with McCain adviser Nicole Wallace about the campaign’s treatment of the media.
After the campaign, Carney considered a career change. His erstwhile rock-band mate, Tony Blinken, a national-security adviser to Biden, suggested Carney join the vice president’s team. In January 2009, Carney took the top communications spot, where even he, the former reporter, lost his cool with the press at times. “Well, I have to say I’ve yelled at a few reporters,” he told the Washington Post. “That was a little bit of a weird experience getting on the phone and chewing out a reporter or an editor for something I thought was totally wrong.”
One wrinkle with Carney’s appointment is his marriage to ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman. Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of communications for the network, tells TVNewser, “We will not assign Claire to anything that would create even the perception of a conflict of interest.”
Nevertheless, Carney may have another weird experience fielding questions behind a podium from his former colleagues — at least at first.