President Obama on Friday announced that White House spokesman Jay Carney, point person for the press's pointed questions, is leaving his position. As is the tradition for such departures, this is the time when we celebrate the moments of Carney's tenure that strayed the furthest from the dry I-don't-have-an-answer-to-that-question variety.
When Jay Carney assured the media that Obama wasn't colluding with Jay-Z
In April of last year, Carney was asked to respond to lyrics from a Jay-Z track in which the rapper suggested that the president might have authorized the rapper's controversial trip to Cuba. (The lyrics: "Boy from the hood but got White House clearance / ... Obama said, chill, you gonna get me impeached / We don’t need this [expletive] anyway, chill with me on the beach.")
"I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury," Carney responded, "because Treasury offers and gives licenses for travel, as you know, and the White House has nothing to do with it." Carney no doubt meant to say that "Treasury clearance" had a much worse rhythm to it than "White House clearance," which is probably where the problem arose.
When Jay Carney had to answer questions about Onion Joe Biden
Before he fielded questions for Obama, Carney was responsible for answering questions for Vice President Biden, almost certainly a much-trickier enterprise.
In 2010, the New York Times reached out for comment about the Onion's parodies of the vice president. Carney was not amused.
"Let me get this straight: You want to interview the vice president about stories about him in The Onion?" Mr. Carney asked, sounding at once amused and dumbfounded by the request. "Well, I'll give you credit for trying."
When Jay Carney had to answer questions about Jeremy Lin and selfies and Donald Trump
Q: Jay, on a lighter note, is the President following at all the story of Jeremy Lin, the Knicks sensation -- "Linsanity," that kind of seems to be catching the world by storm? I understand the Chinese are very interested in him as well.
MR. CARNEY: ... [H]e's very impressed and fully up to speed.
Q: How far-reaching will this ban go or has there been a determination that there will be a ban officially on selfies with the President? And what have been the conversations with Samsung and David Ortiz himself?
MR. CARNEY: There’s no discussion of a ban. I think that was --
Q: That’s Dan Pfeiffer from yesterday.
MR. CARNEY: He was saying, I think humorously that the end of all selfies -- and I don’t think he just meant the White House.
Q: So this a nationwide ban on selfies? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: We’re going to use our executive authority to -- (laughter.)
Feb. 2, 2012: When asked about Donald Trump's endorsement of Mitt Romney in the presidential campaign, Carney replied, "I'm not going to comb over that question."
When Jay Carney explored the outer limits of how to ignore the media's questions
Last year, the folks at Yahoo's "The Ticket" put together an interactive that allowed readers to explore the nearly 10,000 ways in which Carney had demurred from answering media questions. It's a list that includes "I would refer you to someone else" (used 1,383 times), "I'm not going to tell you (939 times) and "I won't speculate (525 times).
You'll note that this list is now almost a year old. Perhaps once Carney hit the 15,000-mark, he decided that he'd accomplished everything possible in the role.
When Jay Carney got called out for using clichés
At a press briefing in April 2012, Carney criticized the assembled reporters' use of clichés. "[I]t’s your job to come up with clichés— 'game on,' and things like that," he said, according to the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, "but I’m not going to engage in that."
So Lizza went back and tallied up Carney's clichés from his days as a reporter at Time: "Loyalty is a two-way street," "you have only one chance to make a first impression," "magic bullet."
In Carney's defense, that doesn't undermine the argument that reporters use too many clichés.
When Jay Carney's bookshelves were filled with fingers
When Carney agreed to do a feel-good article for Washingtonian MOM magazine earlier this year, he probably assumed it was harmless enough. Until a someone involved in the process of producing the article decided to bulk up his bookshelves, inadvertently Photoshopping Carney's kid's finger into multiple locations.
— Matthew (@Matthops82) April 11, 2014
Critics of the president enjoyed the article very much.
Whenever Jay Carney changed his look
For some reason, nothing got Carney national attention more rapidly than when he changed his appearance. The guy grows a beard, he ends up in the fashion section of the New York Times. Then he got new glasses, and that became a thing, too. The Washington Post's Ned Martel describes the press room's first glimpse of the frames.
After a middling attempt at humor (“The better to see you with”) and flattery (“You guys look great, actually”), Carney settled on humility, pleading that his new square-rimmed, big-lensed, chunky-framed glasses were dictated by "the ravages of age."
No luck. "But they’re hipster," a reporter retorted.
"Really?" Carney said. "I thought they were sort of retro-nerdy."
Carney was right. If you'd like to stay up to date on the retro-nerdy look, check out jaycarneysglasses.tumblr.com. It isn't updated often.
When Jay Carney explored his new job: opening act for B-level bands
Just last weekend, Carney made headlines when he assumed the position of spokesman for another powerful organization: the band Guided By Voices.
Which may give some insight into his next employer. After all, his son's band just hit the big time.