For the past two years, Mr. Carney has served as Vice President Biden’s communications director. But before that, he had a 20-year career as a reporter for Time magazine, serving in Miami, Moscow, and Washington – including a stint as White House correspondent, then Washington bureau chief.
The choice of a journalist to serve as press secretary may seem an obvious move. Journalists, after all, know the news business. But in fact, very few White House press secretaries have come out of the Fourth Estate. Most are professional flacks. President Bush’s third press secretary, the late Tony Snow, came out of the media world, though more as a commentator, and later broadcaster.
George Stephanopoulos, now host of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” did some podium work for President Clinton, and while he came to the White House with a wealth of political experience, he had been a reporter early in his career.
President Obama’s choice of Carney to replace Robert Gibbs came as little surprise. Since Mr. Gibbs announced that he was leaving to set up a consulting firm and advise Mr. Obama’s reelection campaign, Carney’s name has appeared on every short list of names floated. Carney’s appointment also continues the trend of outsiders joining the senior ranks of the Obama White House, as some of the insiders depart to work on the reelection campaign or pursue other goals (such as becoming mayor of Chicago). Carney isn’t a total outsider; he had worked for Biden. But he doesn’t have the long (more than six years) history with Obama that Gibbs has.
Obama’s new chief of staff, William Daley, himself an outside recruit, reportedly wanted someone from outside the president’s press shop to take over for Gibbs. Carney came highly recommended by Biden, and is expected to make an effort to improve relations between the White House and its press corps.
As a reporter, the affable Carney was known for being hard-working and, as a regular on TV news shows, comfortable in front of the camera. Carney is a 1987 graduate of Yale University with a degree in Russian Studies.
The White House was expected to name other staff changes Thursday. Health policy adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle and Alyssa Mastromonaco, director of scheduling and advance, are reportedly set to become deputy chiefs of staff. Stephanie Cutter will reportedly become a deputy to senior adviser David Plouffe, and Rob Nabors, an adviser to the chief of staff, will become director of legislative affairs. Mr. Nabors would replace Phil Schiliro, who is leaving the White House.