The Washington Post

What will Jay Carney do next? Consulting, if history is any guide

This post has been updated.

Jay Carney, the 31st presidential press secretary in American history, gave his last press conference on Wednesday. So what will he do next?

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He will probably start a consulting firm and do pundit gigs on television. That probably doesn't surprise you, given how many recent press secretaries (and other political communications people) have gone down precisely that path. But it didn't used to be this way.

It used to be that press secretaries often went into the media, writing for newspapers or working for television news. James Hagerty, press secretary to President Eisenhower, and Pierre Salinger, who worked for Kennedy and Johnson, both went that route, as did Jonathan Daniels, who worked for Franklin Roosevelt. This isn't unheard of today, of course; George Stephanopoulos, who acted as Bill Clinton's de facto press secretary briefly, can be seen most mornings on your local ABC affiliate. (Update: According to the Post's Al Kamen, it appears very likely that this is what Carney will do, too, at CNN.)

A number of past press secretaries have also gone into the private sector or lobbying. Jerald terHorst, who famously resigned as Gerald Ford's press secretary after the president pardoned Richard Nixon, worked briefly in the media and then went to work for Ford Motor Company. Nixon secretary Ron Ziegler ran an advocacy group for truck stops. Bush press secretary Scott McClellan (who endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008) ended up doing communications work for Seattle University.

The new favorite post-press secretary gig, though, is consulting. It has happened in the past; George Christian, press secretary to Lyndon Johnson, went into consulting once his service was over. (His post-White House life was also struck by tragedy. In 1978, Christian's son John shot and killed his English teacher using Christian's rifle.) Since the Clinton administration, four different press secretaries have started consulting firms or done consulting work, including Bush secretary Ari Fleischer, who now consults on communications for sports teams.

Carney's two immediate predecessors have padded their incomes by taking jobs as on-air pundits -- Dana Perino for Fox News and Robert Gibbs for MSNBC. (Perino also occasionally co-hosts the network's show, "The Five.") The odds that Carney, who did lots of TV in his past life at Time magazine, gets a similar offer seem to be above zero.

Carney will happily avoid the fate of some of the less fortunate press secretaries -- most of whom served under President Truman. In 1950, Charlie Ross died at the White House immediately after giving a press conference. He was briefly replaced by Stephen Early, who had previously served under President Roosevelt. Early died of a heart attack in 1951, after being replaced by Joseph Short. Short died while holding the position in 1952. (That rivals the record of Spinal Tap drummers.)

Makes the prospect of leaving the White House to be a cable news pundit seem less unappetizing.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.

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