After a lengthy stint of three years in service to the White House, first as spokesman for Vice President Joe Biden and then as press secretary for President Obama, Jay Carney announced today that he is resigning from his post. Carney’s announcement came on the heels of this morning’s press conference in which Obama announced that Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki was resigning over the Veterans medical care scheduling scandal, which has resulted in at least 40 deaths. Some in the media have suggested that the timing of Jay Carney’s announcement was a deliberate attempt to deflect news coverage of Shinseki’s resignation. However, the impact of Carney’s resignation is minor in comparison and if indeed this was a calculated maneuver by the Obama administration, it will likely be unsuccessful.
Carney was busy doing his job in the briefing room and in the middle of his answer on a question about the Ukraine Obama entered the room, interrupted him and made the seemingly surprise announcement that Carney was resigning. Leading with an attempt at lightheartedness Obama said that one of Carney’s favorite lines is “I have no personnel announcements at this time” and then let the press know that in fact, Obama did have what he termed as a bittersweet personnel announcement.
Obama informed the press that Carney had come to him in April to let him know that he was thinking about “moving on.” Obama admitted that he was “not thrilled to say the least” about the news. He went on to praise Carney for his skills as Press Secretary, indicated that Carney was one of his closest friends and that he would miss him. He further praised Carney for his “good heart” and “good temperament.” He also acknowledged the “strain” that the job had put on Carney and his family and wished him time with them during the summer before Carney tackles whatever the future has in store for him. Obama asked the press “to please be kind” to Carney on his “farewell tour.”
Carney will continue in his role as White House Press Secretary until June. Upon his departure, he will be replaced by White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Ernest who first worked with Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign. Obama described Ernest as living up to his name, that he is a man of integrity, honesty and a “straight shooter.” He also jokingly said that today the “flak jacket” was officially passed from Carney to Ernest.
Although there has been speculation about Carney taking the currently available post of Ambassador to Russia, Carney shrugged the suggestion off. He made it clear that his family will be grateful to “have him back” and that were he to take that post his family would not “be happy with the outcome.” As for Carney’s sentiments about being the White House Press Secretary, he spoke of the fact that it had not all been “pretty” but that it had been an “honor” and “joy” for him.
The timing of Carny’s resignation announcement may have been a surprise but clearly he had already discussed his decision with President Obama. Carney’s professional or political future is as of yet unknown but upon reflection Carney spoke warmly of his time as Press Secretary and let the media in attendance know that no matter how tough the briefings were he had always walked out of the room glad to have been a part of them.
By Alana Marie Burke