New press secretary Carney is long-time D.C. insider, but newcomer to West Wing

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 2011; 10:55 AM

The new face at the White House podium really isn't that new.

Jay Carney, who will replace Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary, only started working in politics two years ago. But he's long been a fixture on television analyzing politics in his role as a Time magazine reporter and editor. He and his wife, ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman, used to appear jointly on ABC's "This Week."

Carney, who has served the past two years as Vice President Biden's communications director, is some ways more of a Washington insider than Gibbs: he covered the White House for Time in both the Clinton and Bush administrations before serving as the magazine's Washington bureau chief.

Carney's challenge in his new job will to become deeply familiar with President Obama's thinking. The vice president and president have separate press operations, so Carney has not been at Obama's side as often as many of the other people considered for the press secretary job. And he lacks the long ties to the president of Gibbs, who worked on Obama's 2004 Senate campaign and then traveled the country with him in 2007 and 2008.

"Jay is fast on his feet, articulate, I think he's going to do fine on TV," said Ari Fleischer, who served as President George W. Bush's press secretary from 2001 to 2003. "His biggest challenge is going to be getting to know his new boss. The hardest part of the job is knowing what the boss wants said and knowing what he wants unsaid."

Carney may prove to be a quick study. After spending 20 years at Time, he joined Biden's staff eager to take on a new challenge. He managed to generate largely positive coverage for the gaffe-prone Biden and surprised some of his former colleagues in the news media by sharply criticizing stories that Carney did not like.

He won the White House job over a group of candidates who are much more experienced as press secretaries.

Obama today

The president will defend the new health care law, now under attack by Republicans in Congress, and talk about the agenda he outlined in the State of the Union address at the Washington conference of Families USA, a group that works on health care issues.

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