Washington Prowler

The Obama Carnival’s Carney

The situation must be dire if you have to hire Joe Biden's flack.

By 1.28.11

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Just how serious President Barack Obama takes the threat of losing the White House in 2012 is made clear by his decision to dump longtime loyalist Bill Burton for Jay Carney as his new press secretary.

Carney, who for the past two years has served as Vice President Joe Biden's communications director, is a former inside the Beltway journalist who served as Time magazine's Washington bureau chief before joining the Obama administration.

"Bill did everything that was asked of him during the 2008 presidential election and throughout the first two years of this administration," says a White House communications staffer. "We were all pulling for him, but in the end, we think the President decided to go outside the team."

According to another White House staffer, Carney's selection was made after sitdowns with both Obama and new White House chief of staff William Daley. In those meetings, according to the source, Carney made the case that his longstanding ties to the Washington and White House press corps would ensure a far smoother transition for the White House than with Burton or other candidates. Carney highlighted the personal relationships he's built over the years with journalists, in part, with his wife, ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman. And he assured the president that with regional press he could accomplish similar friendly coverage through his many journalism ties.

"We heard that he spun a pretty good story about what he would be able to do with the White House media, and he highlighted what he had been able to do for Biden," says the source. Carney is credited with keeping seemingly daily gaffes by Biden out of the major media, creating a national image of Biden as a vice president engaged in domestic and foreign policy.

"The President thinks Carney was a miracle worker for Biden, so he figures he can do a lot for him that his longtime aides could not," says the first White House source. "The president looks at the first two years and sees himself getting toasted and sees Gibbs and Burton out front unable to prevent it. Then he looks at Biden's coverage at the same time and it's pretty good for a guy who shouldn't be able to get his foot out of his mouth. It makes some sense."

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