Jay Carney reflects on his days on the White House firing line

 

White House press secretary Jay Carney has just a day and-a-half left on the job, leaving him in a reflective mood. Speaking at The Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday, he answered reporters' questions one more time. Here are some of the highlights of what he said:

1. Switching from being an "old-school journalist" to a White House communications staffer was a relief. "I didn’t feel like I had a straitjacket put on me when I took this job," he remarked. "I felt liberated."

2. He had never lied to the press in the course of doing his job. "Neil, the answer’s no," Carney said. "Honestly it’s not because I’m a paragon of virtue. It would a terrible way to do the job."

3. Bringing back an off-camera gaggle would be a good thing. "I think there is some dissatisfaction on both sides with the ways the briefing has evolved," Carney said, adding that alternately a televised briefing with an off-camera one would benefit everyone. Noting that the daily briefing has "become so much of a theater performance," he added, "I think there probably is a way to drain some of that out of it while still doing what’s important."

At the same time, Carney argued it would be too time-consuming to hold a gaggle and a press briefing on the same day. "It’s very challenging to try to do the gaggle and the briefing if you also want to be in the room during key meetings, so you can stand up at the podium and represent what’s happening inside," he said.

4. The White House has every right to use social media to reach Americans directly, rather than always going through the press. "I know that’s also caused some tension, and I understand that," he said. "I also think it would be malpractice for anyone in our position not to take advantage of social media."

5. The hardest point during his job was during the botched rollout of the federal online health insurance exchange. "The most difficult period since I’ve been press secretary was dealing with HealthCare.gov and its pretty awful rollout," he recalled. "This one was completely of our doing, was completely our responsibility... This was on us. I knew the president felt that responsibility deeply, and the people working on it felt that deeply.

6. He had discussions with some colleagues--but not the president--about becoming the U.S. ambassador to Russia, but didn't push for the job. Carney, who had served as Moscow correspondent for Time magazine, said that "to the extent" he talked with some in the administration about serving as U.S. ambassador in Russia, "I was lobbying against it, not that it was ever a real thing.. It was not anything that I expressed any real interest in." He added that when it came to that potential posting, "More importantly, my wife’s not interested."

7. He did not keep a diary while serving in the White House, and has no plans to write a memoir. Carney said the volume of work in the West Wing made it impossible to keep a diary, though "I kept notes to keep track of" discussions about key decisions. While The Washington Post reported Wednesday he may be considering a job offer from CNN, Carney said, "I have absolutely made no decisions about what I’m doing next," beyond spending more time with his wife and two young children.


White House Press Secretary Jay Carney waves goodbye after giving his final briefing at the White House in Washington June 18, 2014. Carney will be replaced by his deputy Josh Earnest. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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