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An Ex-Journalist on His New Life as Biden Aide

By Mary Ann Akers
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jay Carney describes his not-so-long-ago former self as an "old school" journalist who took his vow of objectivity very seriously. Today, just three months after leaving Time magazine, he's an entrenched partisan trumpeting the message of Vice President Biden.

Carney, 43, discussed his radical midlife career transformation during an interview in his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

Here are the highlights:

Q: You left journalism after 20 years with Time. How is life on the other side?

Carney: It's great. I have had very little trouble adapting to this new role, which is completely different from what I was doing before.

Q: During the campaign, were you ever swept up in Obamamania?

Carney: I wasn't personally, I was impressed by and believed in what then-Senator Obama was saying during the campaign and what his program was, and also have long admired Joe Biden. It was something I never expected to happen, but it kind of happened very quickly after the election. And here I am.

Q: Your boss, Joe Biden, has long been known for having a little bit of foot-in-mouth syndrome. And part of your job obviously is to keep his foot out of his mouth. How's that going?

Carney: I think that in politics, people get stereotyped or they have reputations that they have to contend with. And the thing about the vice president, most of what people attribute to him as being gaffes are really examples of his candor. Vice President Biden is not capable of not telling you how he feels.

Q: You had at one point a close professional relationship with Senator McCain, and then it turned testy. Do you ever talk to him anymore?

Carney: I haven't talked to him much since the campaign, or at all. And I haven't seen him, but I look forward to it. That's the nature of the profession. And campaigns are hard. I don't think there are any hard feelings.

Q: What has most surprised you about this new role?

Carney: Well, I have to say I've yelled at a few reporters. No, I'm not going to say who. But look, people get it wrong sometimes. 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.

Q: Do you feel like the veteran Democratic loyalists in this administration fully accept you?

Carney: I've had some funny experiences -- not in the White House, because everybody was aware from the beginning when I was brought on. When the president was going to give his joint address to Congress, I accompanied the vice president. . . . And when I got to the well there, John Boehner, the minority leader, looked at me like, "What in the heck are you doing here?" He actually said that -- "Carney, what are you doing here?"

Q: One of the most notable members of the press corps is your wife, Claire Shipman, a correspondent for ABC News. How do you avoid blurting out scoops over the dinner table?

Carney: I just don't, partly because we don't get to see each other that much thanks to my new job. . . . I tell her, 'Call Gibbs, call Rahm,' or something like that.

Read more of the interview in The Sleuth.

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