Why Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney Needs To Go
President Obama’s poll numbers are now languishing at the 40 percent mark – the lowest of his presidency. Given his low approval ratings and the tumultuous U.S. economy, he desperately needs a press secretary who can help advance his message as he enters what will surely be a bruising campaign.
Jay Carney, who has been on the job since February, is not that person.
Mr. Carney seems incapable of parrying successfully with the press. He regularly appears outmatched by reporters and fails to take control of the interaction when presented an easy opportunity to do so. He takes questions too literally, gets bogged down in the details, and fumbles to find his way to a higher-level response. He stammers, shifts his eyes uncomfortably, licks his lips, and loads his delivery with “uhhs,” “umms” “I thinks,” and “you knows.”
He sounds timid, looks uncomfortable, and comes across more like an eager student than an experienced spokesperson capable of advancing President Obama’s agenda.
As an example, here’s a video of his press briefing from last Wednesday:
Several times throughout the briefing, Mr. Carney actually read his answers to reporters directly from a briefing book. While reading, he didn’t make eye contact with the press, nor did he forge any connection with the viewers at home. His role was completely superfluous – if he’s just going to read documents to the press, he may as well hand them out and let the reporters read the material for themselves.
Even when delivering a solid television-friendly sound bite, he undercuts his effectiveness with his own verbal filler (at 9:29):
“This President will not rest until he is uhhh confident that every American who uhhh wants a job can find a job. And uhhh there is no greater focus of his work uhhh of this Administration’s work uhhh than the economy.”
In a February article in Politico, former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer said:
“It’s become a TV show. It’s really not the real substance of the relationship between the press corps and the spokesman. The real work is done 20 times a day when reporters walk into your office, close the door and talk one on one with you.”
That may be true on the substance, but millions of viewers watch the live briefing or catch excerpts on television, online, and on the radio. Mr. Fleischer underestimates the importance of Mr. Carney’s public role, given that he is arguably second only to the President in visibility. If Carney is truly terrific behind closed doors, the White House should keep him in the background and appoint a separate person to handle on-camera briefings.
Mr. Carney seems like a genuinely nice man who is trying hard to get this right. But he’s the wrong person for the job. If you believe as I do that presidents deserve to be served by spokespersons that represent them well, Mr. Carney has got to go.
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Related: Ten Years After 9/11, President George W. Bush Is Still Wrong
[…] Brad Phillips says White House press secretary Jay Carney is not up to the job. […]
He also looks like a weasel and it is evident that the press corps simply doesn’t trust him.
I disagree with you on “he seems like a genuinely nice man who is trying to get this right”. He seems small and petty, and doing the same thing over and over is hardly the definition of “trying hard to get this right”.
Defending O’s presidency in front of a camera would have to be one of Americas worst jobs…
Paul Krugman is a brilliant Nobel Prize winning economist. Perhaps he could fill in for Mr. Carney.
It’s pretty hard to ‘deliver a message’ when there’s no coherent message to deliver. Unless of course you’re talking about the same pap Barry has been regurgitating for the last 2 1/2 years.
From the editor: Let’s keep comments on the message board respectful. Like him or hate him, his earned title is “President Obama,” not “Barry.”
How about Dear Leader?
Jim – Cute. But I’m glad to see you’re visiting the blog. I worked with Tucker at CNN 10 years ago or so — please say hello for me.
Regarding calling President Obama by his proper name: there is no shortage of blogs that degenerate into idiocy in the comment section. I’d rather maintain some level of smart debate here, and often refuse to post ad hominem attacks. Call me old school, but I believe in calling politicians, even those I vehemently disagree with, by their earned titles.
Thanks for reading!
To the editor….are you serious…respectful ?
Barry ? ……you are censoring… the problem is not that GarandFan hates…its that you are biased to the point of….blindness…you can’t agree and want to shut it down…sad….no journalist….but a propagandist…. remember you are NOT “President Obama’s” Press Secretary….are you ? I would bet a lot of coin that you do not apply yhe same standard across the political spectrum….ever write any thing about “W”..
You obviously haven’t spent a lot of time on this site. I wrote about President George W. Bush last week, and yes, I referred to him as “President Bush.” The article is here: https://www.throughlinegroup.com/index.php/2011/08/10/ten-years-after-911-george-w-bush-is-still-wrong/.
So, since you said you were willing to “bet a lot of coin,” can I expect money to be wired into my accounts?
i think ceynk eugar (sp?) is available. seems appropriate choice for this bunch. maybe olberman….sorry. this was totally in appropriate. brad, punish me.
First time ever to your site …. You cite me one article as proof ? from last week ? Did you ever make the same request to the leftists re:”Dubya” ? To call him “President Bush ? In your comments section…losiing credibility fast….
Please look around. I believe you’ll find the standard applied equally. I’m not perfect, but I make a deliberate effort to be consistent and fair.
And welcome to the site. I hope you enjoy the content and see fit to visit again.
He reminds me of my 7th grade Student Council President!! And he DOES NOT DO HIS HOMEWORK on what he’s going to be speaking about. He’s a poster boy for our failed education systems in this country. Consider the past Press Secretaries….from either party – Gibbs and now Carney are like two imposters playing the role.
Please keep Carney on as press Secretary, Please. It is delightful to watch someone less competent than Dear Leader trying to explain Dear Leaders’s mistakes, flubs, blunders and blamestorming. Chaos on parade. Keep up the good work Jay!
Brad says: “…he desperately needs a press secretary who can help advance his message…”
Advance his message? Good luck trying to polish that turd.
If anything, Carney is coming across as a man who, down deep, isn’t really happy about finding out how sausage is made when it comes to having to spin in public and be the guy who takes the slings and arrows, as opposed to being part of the pundit class (especially during a Republican administration) when you’re the one firing off the bon mots.
I doubt when he leaves the job we’re going to see a Scott McClellan-like book out of Jay, but he does convey the same sort of “I’m not having fun here” words and imagery as Bush 43’s in-over-his-head press secretary conveyed before he was eased out of the job.
Mr. Phillips, please give us the rules regarding what is appropriate and what is not. My deleted post was not any more offensive than others which were allowed.
I thought the Baghdad Bob reference was spot on. The truth is President Obama needs a Baghdad Bob to passionately and persuasively explain his agenda.
I don’t believe Mr. Carney appears any more unqualified for his job then the President does himself.
What’s the difference. His boss reads from the teleprompter, he reads from the briefing book. It’s really hard, when you can’t let the public in on your core beliefs, to keep the stories straight. It take teleprompters, briefing books, avoidance, and bus tours, with scripted townhall meetings. Just because you can’t understand that is no reason to go after Jay Carney.
Vote Republican and only be called a racist one more time.
Every president since Truman (with the exception of Eisenhower) has used a TelePrompTer. I don’t begrudge him using one, any more than I hold it against Truman, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, or Bush. What I do agree with is that President Obama relies on it too much, and loses his connection with the audience as a result.
Interesting blog you have here – the kind of thing I didn’t realize I wanted to be reading. Good thing it came up on memeorandum. Not that I have any training, but Carney has always seemed to be in way over his head. It’s interesting to see a professional media guy’s take on his abilities as a Press Sec.
(Which is what this post is still about regardless of the degree to which folks want to turn it into a referendum on Pres. Obama or Mr. Phillips himself.)
Thank you for your nice words. I particularly appreciate that you saw this post as I intended it – not as a partisan hit job, but as an honest attempt to assess his capabilities as Press Secretary. I try hard to keep this blog nonpartisan, and have made an effort to both praise and criticize Democrats and Republicans when they deserve it.
Proverbially shooting the messenger isn’t going to help much.
The President proposed a budget with $1.5 Trillion in deficit spending for this year alone, which lost 97-0 in the Dem controlled senate… and then he has the nerve to blame others for running up the debt.
No one has ever proposed a budget over $3 Trillion until he came along. The debt has gone up at record pace in the last 2+ years… but some how its always someone else’s fault.
Last year the Dems controlled the White House, and both houses of congress with a filibuster proof super majority in the Senate, and the President could not aheppard through a budget…
I could make this list about 8 pages, but I digress…
Time for new elected officials.
Carney isn’t in over his head any more than Obama is. And Mr. Phillips, you seem pretty thin-skinned about the “President Obama” thing given the epithets that the MSM routinely hurled President Bush’s way. I don’t recall any concern from you about it.
Fact is, Obama’s presidency is imploding pretty fast, and Carney simply cannot handle it any better than Obama himself can. Obama was never qualified for the job and neither he, nor his press secretary, are cutting the mustard.
Thank you for your comment. You’re right to be disgusted by the name-calling hurled at President Bush. If you spend some time on this site (and I hope you do), you’ll notice that I call every elected official by his or her rightful name, regardless of party. I refer to our current President as “President Obama,” not “Barry” or “Barack,” and I refer to our last President as “President Bush,” not “Dubya” or “Shrub.” My hope is that readers make their points – even sharp, critical ones – without resorting to ad hominem attacks. That seems to me like a reasonable request.
I see the points made about Carney. But he was an improvement over Gibbs. So how about a new face that will help keep President Obama from making a fool of himself. I refer to the statements about ‘Recovery Summer.’ Shovel ready jobs. I have a plan (when there was none). Maybe that is a Bridge Too Far?
Bob – I agree with you that President Obama’s “joke” about shovel-ready jobs was cringe inducing.
In general I agree with your assessment of Jay Carney’s performance but I disagree that at this stage of President Obama’s tenure that he should go. We are fast approaching election 2012 and I think it would appear as yet another sign of weakness or indecision on the President’s part to lose yet another cabinet member.
I would also cut Mr. Carney some slack. I wonder how much President Obama’s lack of leadership or contradictory messages negatively impact Mr. Carney’s performance? Shovel-ready indeed.
Thank you for a straight shooting OP, Mr. Phillips. It is always nice to see the work of those who still have the ability to tell it like it is, instead of how it is supposed to be. Well done, Mr. Phillips, pity Mr. Carney’s job isn’t.
You can well imagine the chagrin of those of us who look to America for solid leadership. It is a quality that has been sadly lacking of late. From my side of the 49th, it appears that “Smart Power” is more akin to the inept fumbling of a teenager, trying to get lucky, in the back seat of a Buick.
Keep up the good work.
I just saw this, and I think it bolsters your opinion even more:
Washington (CNSNews.com) – In a 2001 column for Time magazine, journalist Jay Carney ridiculed President George W. Bush about his vacation plans during his first summer in office. Fast forward 10 years and Jay Carney, now White House Press Secretary, was this week strongly defending President Obama’s upcoming vacation at Martha’s Vineyard.
Carney’s Aug. 16, 2001 column scoffed that Bush’s “image makers” were trying to “persuade the public that he wasn’t actually on vacation.” But during a White House press briefing on Wednesday, Carney asserted that “there’s no such thing as a presidential vacation. The presidency travels with you.”
The worst thing about this is that it appears ‘friends’ at the Washington Post have tried to deep six the article. Naughty, naughty.
“I am much too much of a gentleman to call the member for Rochdale an idiot, a nincompoop, a liar and a trig…” Benjamin Disraeli…
“I refer to our last President as “President Bush,” not “Dubya” or “Shrub.” Brad Phillips…
Brad, I see that you are much too much of an obfuscator to say that you will call your opponents by the disrespectful names that you actually call them.
Isn’t saying you WON’T call him “schmeck or schmuck” actually CALLING him that, a la Disraeli, above?
Am I permitted to refer to him as “Stinky” as Michelle does?
As “Hussein” as he himself does?
As “The Messiah” as you seem to?
BTW, BARRY has made the term “President of the US” into a laughing-stock, a term of abuse, risible! Surely you thought and wrote at least some of that when Bushitler was POTUS?
Tangled web, weave, practice, deceive!
I don’t expect this will be published, Brad, but I do hope that YOU see it, YOU take it to heart, YOU live up to your own, self-imposed standards in future!
elixelx – I published your comment. Context matters, and I believe readers of this blog are smart enough to take my comment in the spirit in which it was offered. Plus, I find your selective editing awfully convenient; you left in the Bush part of my example but omitted the Obama part.
While you are correct, it isn’t going to happen because PRESIDENT Obama is infallible. Has he ever fired anyone? (Oh yes, the General M. I knew there was one)
That’s not because he’s incredibly loyal. It’s because he can’t admit to mistakes. It’s his achilles heel and will be his eventual downfall.
There is a ground swell out there that will most likely result in a Republican landslide in 2012.
PRESIDENT Obama will be a footnote in history.
It shows contempt for the public (via the press) to have someone so intellectually dishonest AND inept in the job (Gibbs was merely intellectually dishonest). Seriously. When you care about someone, you send someone of value to interact with them.
This comes back to one of the earliest questions the Obama administration faced: Who the heck is vetting your staff picks?
I suspect the Carney pick was decided with the locution, “He’ll do.”
I’m not American, but I follow US politics fairly closely (and have done so for many – too many – years). It is almost a hobby (and US politics are far, far more interesting than anywhere else) although work-wise I also find it useful to have a feel for the direction of the economy, and following the US decision making process is a good way to got a handle on developments. What happens in the USA affects the whole world.
As a result, I’ve had occasion to watch Carney more than most Americans would, and to call him underwhelming is a total understatement. I used to think his predecessor was terrible, but after seeing Carney in action, Gibbs looks like an absolute champion.
I’m of the clear view that President Obama (hehe, yes, I saw the editorial admonition!) has little substance, and therefore is almost fully reliant on his ability to control the narrative and the messaging. Yet the messaging has fallen strikingly flat lately.
Obama gives too many speeches while having so little to say, and frankly his speechwriters aren’t as good as he (and probably they) think they are. In addition, his delivery is becoming boring. In 2008 the style was new and engaging. Now it is a one-trick pony style (I can just see Obama trying to change his speaking style just as Carter changed his hair).
But when he is not speaking, it is Carney who is the message man. And I continue to be stunned at just how poor he is at the job. When messaging is all that you have going for you, you should be doing it well. The President appears to have hit a flat point, and perhaps he can’t do anything about that (probably because he lacks the introspective ability to see it), but he needs to make sure his spokesman is firing on all cylinders, and Carney clearly is not.
If the President wants to get re-elected, one of the few things he is capable of doing to further that outcome would be to replace Carney asap.
Mr. Carney is lousy at his job because he’s out of his element. He’s only comfortable when he’s the “journalist” going after a conservative. It irritates the heck out of him to have Jake Tapper occasionally turn up the heat. After this gig he can walk back through the Obama administration/journalist revolving door taken by so many now and get back to what he’s good at…slamming Republicans that take bus tours.
I might visit this site again if Hotair.com links to it again.
The opinion that Jay Carney needs to be replaced due to a perceived failure to properly represent the President to the press seems odd to me. In the DC atmosphere of ‘spin’ it seems to an outsider like me that the Press Sec job is to be a minister of propaganda. Rarely do they seem to be open or honest (for the last 3 presidents I remember).
I especially remember an exchange during the recent debt increase when a member of the media tried to get answers re: Mr.Obama’s ‘plan’ and only got evasions.
Everyone knew the answer was the there was NO WH plan. Mr. Carney tried to get cute by saying ‘we’re showing a lot of leg here.’
I don’t know how that sort of thing plays in DC, but out here in America, where it is my country, my money, my and my children’s future at stake that kind of evasive, dishonest answer is highly discouraging.
Where/what is the President’s plan sounded like a straighforward, legit question to me. I wanted to know the answer, and not be lied to.
I wish you pros would try to remember that there are people out here that rely on you to get US some answers, to tell us what is true.
You seem to see Mr. Carney’s job as making the president look good, no matter what. In that case, you are right, he is failing.
Try to realize that we can see through a LOT of the lies and evasions, we’re not all getting fooled.
A new approach is needed – one that remembers America is out here watching this.
Thanks for letting me vent a bit.
This article is as poorly written as the author claims Carney is performing. Does Carney actually say, “you knows”? A little editing would go a long way.
Brad, first time to your site. I am an independent conservative and I appreciate your efforts to keep all discussions, especially about the President respectful. I believe Obama has been a disaster, however defamation only detracts from an argument. A lesson I hope someday the left will learn. I will save your site to my favorites and visit again.
Is he any worse than the profession he crawled out of?
Brad, I applaud your efforts to keep your comment section respectful. I agree with you that Jay Carney makes a poor presidential spokesman. He and president Obama both seem like 12 year old boys standing their with their father’s suits on.
[…] From Brad Phillips: “President Obama’s poll numbers are now languishing at the 40 percent mark – the lowest […]
Wha’ happin’, Brad?
My second comment, the one which gave context and nuance to my first comment, that second comment–too much for you?
It was so much more subtle, polite, reasoned than my first–and yet you scrubbed it.
I must presume therefore, Brad, that the REASON you scrubbed it was because it contained a quote which formed the basis of a cogent argument. It was apropos, and yet you scrubbed it.
Could the fact that the quote came from the Talmud, Brad, have had anything to do with the scrubbing, Brad?
Why not publish and let your readers decide whether it is your argument or mine that should be damned?
Ideological differences shouldn’t prevent you from being able to learn from someone who can teach you to do your job better.
I’d rather learn my craft from the best in the business than limit myself to only someone I have some ideological alignment with. Brad knows his stuff- you might try listening to it sometime.
Carney is a carbon copy of his boss. They both search for the best words to distort the truth, instead of just letting the truth be known. In my 69 years, I have never seen anything that approaches the evil of this administration. Evil always paints itself as good.
Bob – Thank you for your comment, but I disagree with your premise that Mr. Carney is “distorting the truth” any more or less than any other recent press secrataries, be they Democratic or Republican. Robert Gibbs, Ari Fleischer, Dana Perino, Tony Snow, Scott McClellan, Jake Siewert, Joe Lockhart, Mike McCurry, George Stephanopoulos, and others who have held the position have all put the spotlight on areas they wanted to highlight and obscured the truth from areas they didn’t. It’s part of the job, for better or worse.
I agree that you have the right to dislike the policies Mr. Carney is advocating on behalf of his boss, and you have the right to regard them as evil. But it’s inaccurate, in my view, to argue that Mr. Carney is doing anything especially unusual in his role as a spokesperson for the President.
I enjoyed the analysis of Carney, he really isn’t as effective as Gibbs.
Your “don’t call him Barry” remarks were silly. Obama called himself Barry. It was Ike, Dick, Jack, Ronnie, Jimmy, Jerry and Bill for a slew of presidents. Your comments border on being cranky and distract from the discourse, which otherwise is great. Knock off lecturing your audience. Americans have a great tradition of telling off presidents and it sure won’t change because of this blog. The nickname of “Barry” is awful mild compared to lots of names he is called.
Just reading the blogs on this site was maddening. I have never met so many rude, ignorant bloggers. Make your point and go on instead of going on and on with your criticisms. I do agree with Brad, the President should not be “Barry” or “dubya”. Give the office its due even if you don’t agree. He is still the President and your leader whether you like it or not. Take a breath and think of ways to make things better instead of sitting behind your computer and “venting”.
Thanks for “venting” . We are all better now.
I’m a liberal and on many partisan sites during the terms of our last President I referred to him by a number of different derogatory diminutives. However, on this site, I appreciate Brad’s moderation of such juvenile partisanship– not because I’m an Obama supporter (although, I am) but because it helps to maintain professional atmosphere.
Had I discovered this site during President Bush’s terms, I would have felt the same way.
Obviously, part of the disrespect is designed to rile supporters of the particular President. This adds nothing to the purpose of this blog and certainly takes the comments to the level of a middle school food fight.
Supporters of President Bush sometimes referred to the unbridled disrespect bordering on hatred of the President as “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” Some of the above posters seem to suffer from Obama Derangement Syndrome. Liberals survived the last eight years. I’m sure that you folks will survive the next Obama Administration, also.
Thank you for your thoughtful email. We’re in complete agreement. No matter how much public debate becomes an angry screamfest of accusations and counter accusations, I refuse to let this blog become ugly in tone. There are far too many outlets that encourage that, so people who want to rant with profanities have plenty of homes for their vulgarities.
Thanks for reading. Please don’t be a stranger.