WASHINGTON — New White House spokesman Jay Carney emerged unscathed from his first tangle with the press Wednesday, at times resorting to the artful dodging of the man he replaced, Robert Gibbs.
Carney, a former Time magazine reporter, once lobbed questions at the lectern in the press briefing room himself. As a poacher turned gamekeeper, it was his turn to field queries on issues as diverse as Iran to Obama’s budget.
President Barack Obama’s new mouthpiece left no doubt as to where his prime loyalty now lay, despite his journalistic past, but said he would nurture the media’s ties with his boss, denying they had become frayed.
“The office that the press secretary has is somewhat symbolically located about halfway between the briefing room and the Oval Office,” Carney said.
“I think that says something about what the nature of the job is. I do work for the president, but I’m also here to help the press understand what we’re doing, to give the best information I can give.”
Carney largely avoided questions on reports that Iran is sending two warships through the Suez Canal and fenced with reporters over criticisms of Obama’s budget unveiled earlier this week.
At one point he resorted to one of Gibbs’s favored phrases : “I am not an economist…” to navigate out of a thicket of questions about the bulging US deficit.
Carney, who used to be Vice President Joe Biden’s spokesman, said tongue-in-cheek after the briefing that the experience had been “better than I ever could have imagined.”
Gibbs, a close aide who has been with Obama since the early stages of his 2004 run for an Illinois Senate seat, officially left the White House on Sunday, and is expected to play a role in the president’s 2012 reelection bid.
Also on Wednesday, Bill Burton, who serves as deputy spokesman for Obama and who had also been a candidate for the job of press secretary, announced he was leaving the White House to set up an independent political consultancy.