Ex-journalist to face the press
Friday, January 28, 2011
President Obama named ex-journalist Jay Carney as the next White House press secretary on Thursday, rounding out a broad personnel restructuring within the West Wing after the midterm elections.
With new Chief of Staff William M. Daley already on board, Obama has an almost entirely new senior lineup - even if many of the faces are familiar. He has shed some of his most longtime loyalists, including outgoing press secretary Robert Gibbs, and moved others into official campaign roles ahead of his 2012 reelection bid.
What has emerged is a staff that is well-versed in the ways of the Obama operation but not necessarily as entrenched in its culture. Democratic operatives who have long complained about the insular nature of the Obama West Wing said they are hopeful members of the new group will conduct greater outreach as they develop strategy for the next two years.
Carney, 45, who has served as communications director to Vice President Biden since 2009, spent his earlier career as a reporter, working his way up the hierarchy of Time magazine to become its Washington bureau chief. A Virginia native, he has earned a reputation in both journalism and politics for being smart and engaged - and, in his most recent capacity, for helping eliminate the image of Biden as simply a gaffe machine. While Carney has little experience with the press secretary's job of standing on the podium to face a barrage of reporter questions, he has been on television as a journalist ample times. The White House hopes he may be able to navigate the press corps more easily having come from its ranks.
With Carney's appointment comes a major structural shift: All of the operations of the press and communications shops will move under the control of communications director Dan Pfeiffer. Previously, the press shop had reported to the press secretary. Carney will technically report to Pfeiffer, something of a downgrading of that role, although they are expected to function as equals.
Also moving into senior positions are Nancy-Ann DeParle, Obama's top health-care adviser, and scheduling and advance director Alyssa Mastromonaco, both of whom will become deputy chiefs of staff. They replace Jim Messina, who is leaving to run the 2012 campaign from Chicago, and Mona Sutphen, who is expected to leave the White House to move to New York.
Two others are moving into senior roles: Stephanie Cutter, a communications expert worked for outgoing White House senior adviser David Axelrod; and David Lane, a former chief of staff to Daley when he was commerce secretary.
Taken together, the group is a mix of old and new. Even some of the most long-standing Obama advisers now on board - such as David Plouffe, who joined the White House as a senior adviser this month - have spent time in other capacities in recent years. The only members of Obama's original team who remain in senior roles are Mastromonaco, counselor Pete Rouse and communications director Pfeiffer.
Among the many departures from the administration is Phil Schiliro, a respected Capitol Hill veteran who had served as director of legislative affairs. In a Thursday afternoon memo to the White House staff, Daley said that former Office of Management and Budget deputy director Rob Nabors would take over Schiliro's role but that he had asked Schiliro to "slow his departure in order to lend his wise counsel and guidance in the transition period ahead."
"I am looking forward to collaborating with all of you," Daley wrote, announcing the changes. "Effective collaboration requires a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, so that we can hold each other accountable for the duties we've each undertaken."
With that, Daley appeared to be addressing a complaint among administration members over the past two years that the portfolios of members of Obama's inner circle often overlap and dip into each other's territory.
Daley has sought to put his mark on the hiring process by requesting more outsiders and, in the case of the press secretary, more female candidates. Neither of those two boxes was checked, but more women are rising within the Obama orbit: in addition to Cutter and the two new deputy chiefs of staff, Obama has tapped two key women, outgoing Democratic National Committee executive director Jen O'Malley Dillon and outgoing social secretary Julianna Smoot, to serve as deputy campaign managers.
Another important - but often overlooked - position was also filled: Daley announced that Jon Carson will lead the Office of Public Engagement, filling the vacancy left by Tina Tchen, who became first lady Michelle Obama's chief of staff. Carson was the field director for Obama's 2008 campaign, often credited with having a masterful command of the operations across the country.
And Daley said he had hired his own chief of staff, Emmett Beliveau, who ran Obama's inauguration operations.