Reporters at the State Department — and around the world — are awaiting the first televised briefing from new spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Psaki, a former Obama White House deputy communications director and more recently the 2012 traveling campaign press secretary, has been on the job a couple weeks now.
Patience — and some historical perspective — is needed here. We wrote 20 years ago that, a month into the same job, Mike McCurry, who later went to the White House, had “not been deemed ready for prime time to conduct the noon televised briefing.”
The simple reason was that McCurry had not graduated from the famed Richard A. Boucher Ecole du Dizinformatsiya (school of disinformation, as it was jokingly dubbed), named for the then-current and widely admired spokesman.
The Boucher School is no joke, McCurry recalled Monday. “The heart of the training is to sit in the morning preparations with senior officials then leave the building and skip the briefing. When you return, colleagues do a mock briefing from the actual transcript, asking the same questions the reporters asked that day.
“The test is to see if you give the right answers,” he said, so as not to spark some international crisis. “There’s a level of substance and seriousness that you don’t find at the theater of the absurd,” he added, referring to the White House.
The hardest part comes when the cameras are off and reporters come up to chat on background. You have to be able to translate from diplospeak on camera into plain English and then make reporters think they got useful news —even if they didn’t.
The legendary Boucher, State’s longest serving public affairs chief, went on to senior-most posts, including assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs. He’s now deputy secretary general of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is conveniently headquartered in Paris.
As for Psaki, we’ve heard the plan is for the new kid to shadow current spokeswoman Victoria Nuland “until Jen learns to drive.”
Shouldn’t take much longer.