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Meet Jay Carney, the Veep's Chief Spokesman

Jay Carney describes his not-so-long-ago former self as an "old school" journalist who took his vows of objectivity very seriously. Today, just three months after leaving Time magazine, he's already an entrenched partisan trumpeting the message of Vice President Joe Biden.

He owes it all to Tony Blinken, Biden's longtime trusted national security aide, who is a close friend of Carney. They play in a loosely formed -- and admittedly terrible -- rock 'n roll band. Bringing Carney over to the administration apparently is what it took to keep the band together.

Carney, 43, discussed his radical mid-life career transformation during an interview in his new office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. He talked about everything from the challenge of keeping work secrets under wraps from his wife, ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman, to the more pressing challenge of keeping his gaffe-prone boss's foot out of his mouth.

Here are the highlights:

Q: You left journalism after 20 years with Time magazine. How is life on the other side?

Carney: It's great. I have had very little trouble adapting to this new role, which is completely different from what I was doing before.

Q: During the campaign were you ever swept up in Obamamania? Were you yearning to be part of the movement?

Carney: I wasn't...Personally, I was impressed by and believed in what then Senator Obama was saying during the campaign and what his program was, and also have long admired Joe Biden. It was something I never expected to happen but it kind of happened very quickly after the election. And here I am.

Q: I wanted to ask you about your boss, Joe Biden. He's long been known for having a little bit of foot-in-mouth syndrome. And part of your job obviously is to keep his foot out of his mouth. How's that going?

Carney: I think that in politics, people get stereotyped or they have reputations that they have to contend with. And the thing about the vice president...most of what people attribute to him as being gaffes are really examples of his candor... Vice President Biden is not capable of not telling you how he feels... But I believe the feeling among the president's staff is that the value that the vice president brings in terms of experience and candor - you know, his truth telling capacity - far outweighs the occasional verbal miscue, which I think are wildly exaggerated. But politicians get reputations, especially ones who have been around as long as Joe Biden, and you have to live with it.

Q: You had at one point a close professional relationship with Senator McCain and then it turned testy. Do you ever talk to him anymore?

Carney: I haven't talked to him much since the campaign, or at all. And I haven't seen him but I look forward to it. That's the nature of the profession. And campaigns are hard. I don't think there are any hard feelings.

Q: What has most surprised you about being in this new role?

Carney: Well, I have to say I've yelled at a few reporters. No, I'm not going to say who. But look, people get it wrong sometimes...That was a little bit of a weird experience getting on the phone and chewing out a reporter or an editor for something I thought was totally wrong.

Q: Do you feel like the veteran Democratic loyalists in this administration fully accept you - Ron Klain, for example - who've been die-hard politicos all their life?

Carney: I've had some funny experiences, not in the White House, because everybody was aware from the beginning when I was brought on...When the president was going to give his joint address to Congress, I accompanied the vice president. And before the president came, the vice president went onto the floor of the House. And I was behind him. And when I got to the well there John Boehner, the minority leader, looked at me like "what in the heck are you doing here?" He actually said that - "Carney, what are you doing here?" '

Q: One of the most notable members of the press corps is your wife, Claire Shipman, correspondent for ABC News. How do you avoid blurting out scoops over the dinner table?

Carney: I just don't, partly because we don't get to see each other that much thanks to my new job...We're figuring it out as I go. She's not a beat reporter at the White House. That's something she did before. She does some political stories. I tell her, 'Call Gibbs, call Rahm' or something like that when she's working on something. Because I can't be a source. But she's cool with that.

Q: How many reporters have asked you for jobs?

Carney: People are interested. There are two things at work: Obviously the media business is in distress, much like the whole economy, but maybe in a little more distress. But it's not like I have an inbox full of resumes from reporters.

Q: Usually the revolving door involves politicos going into journalism - George Stephanopoulos being a prime example How was going through that door in reverse?

Carney: I think I bring the perspective of knowing a little bit more maybe about what motivates journalists. I think I probably see pretty clearly that often when a negative story seems to be breaking that there's not an ax to grind or an agenda or anything like that, but just a reporter chasing a story.

Q: I understand this somewhat radical transformation really has its roots in rock 'n roll?

Carney: Very bad rock 'n roll.

Q: Because you and Biden's longtime trusted national security aide, Tony Blinken, were or are in a band together. Is this what it took to keep the band together?

Carney: We get together about once a year with some other friends and travel somewhere and rent a recording studio and write and record as many songs as we can in one day. You wouldn't want to abuse any listeners by forcing them to listen to the music we make. But it's a lot of fun.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  March 11, 2009; 7:35 PM ET
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Next: Will Sen. Vitter's Alleged Airport Rage Hurt Him in 2010?


Couldn't there have been at least one nonpuff question, such as
How can anyone believe you were an objective observer as a journalist when you have taken a completely partisan job from day 1 of the administration?

Posted by: dubuqueman | March 12, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Some journalists like to pretend to deplore the way 'business' ends up writing the rules and regulations to which the Beltway is addicted. But in a way Carney illustrates the syndrome. Biden had do call in a (sympathetic) member of the press - to deal with the press, because he knows how the business works. In any industry - pharmaceuticals, banking, automobiles - the people who know the most about how it works are the people who actually do banking, drug research, and automotive design and marketing. It's not some green go-getter lawyer or crusading writer.

Journalists (to judge from Mary Ann's softballs above) have little problem with the revolving door between Beltway journalism and (mostly Democratic Party) government, but get their knickers in a twist when people go back and forth between regulatory agencies and the industries they were regulating. Poor babies - it's inevitable. The growth of federal regulation has been the best friend the lobbying profession and the machine of fund-raising and campaign contribution administration has.

Carney illustrates in a small way the growth of the same 'they're all the same people' relationship of journalism and politics, too. Maybe the (mostly conservative) critics of partisan bias in the framing and vocabulary of political journalism need to refer their huffy and defensive media opponents to the latter's own denunciations of the cozy relationships among private companies, elected officials, and regulatory agencies. The light-bulb might pop for some of them.

Posted by: MarkR1 | March 12, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse



Seattle Police Chief Kerlikowske, the drug czar designate, knows from the inside how community policing programs funded by FEMA, DOJ and other agencies were transmogrified by secretive Bush administration ideologues in security, law enforcement and intel agencies into a constitutionally-exempt citizen vigilante army... "American Gestapo" that has usurped local law enforcement and has violated civil and human rights of U.S. citizens "targeted" by federal security and intelligence agencies as "undesirables," "dissidents," or "mental defectives."

Obama officials and Congress should quiz Kerlikowske on what he knows about the following human and civil rights abuses that have been reported by victims of this officially-sanctioned vigilantism -- deemed legal by the now-discredited Bush DOJ "torture memos":

* Silent, covert microwave radiation weapons assaults on innocent but "targeted" U.S. citizens;

* Terroristic vigilante community gang stalking, surreptitious home entry, police-tolerated vandalism;

* Secret federal "programs of personal financial destruction" that have politicized the IRS, which victims say has been used as a tool of "social cleansing."



Now you have on your team an official who can tell you the WHOLE truth -- so you can compare his account with what you have been told by your Bush holdovers.


FOR MORE on the ongoing extrajudicial punishment network:

OR (if links are corrupted / disabled):

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 12, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Let me see a hack news writer is now working for a hack Politician. OH Joy!

Posted by: NeoConVeteran | March 12, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Joe Biden needs someone to filter what he says, to avoid putting his foot in his mouth as he always does if left to speak for himself.

Posted by: tncdel | March 12, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Jay Carney should be cited for the excessive use of the phrase ‘you know’, some spokesman?

Posted by: edmundsingleton1 | March 14, 2009 3:55 AM | Report abuse

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