Meet Obama's New Mouthpiece: Jay Carney

Could 20 years at Time complicate life for Obama's new press secretary?

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After two years as Vice President Joe Biden's director of communications, former Time magazine reporter Jay Carney marked his first day as White House press secretary Monday. There was some  discussion about how smoothly he could transition from journalist to flack when Carney first signed up with Biden, but as he prepares to stand behind the world's most visible podium (although it's not clear when he'll give his first official press briefing), the question remains as to whether 20 years worth of Time clips could hinder his efforts to convey the administration's position.

Scouring Carney's Time archives, the four most obvious areas are:

The role of the press secretary Carney's cutting 2003 assessment of Ari Fleischer's 28 months as White House press secretary (coauthored by John Dickerson, now of Slate) hints at a lack of patience for the stonewalling that is such a big part of his new job. While acknowledging that "it is a press secretary's job to 'spin'— to take a set of facts, however unpleasant, and give them enough English to make the president look good," Carney criticizes Fleischer for not being open enough. Rather than engage in the "tacit commerce" of sharing information with the White House press corps, he faults Fleischer for "rewriting the rules of the exchange" by "shriveling the practice of imparting useful information...strolling right by uncomfortable facts, always with a smile."

President Obama's strengths What has been President Obama's strongest moment on the national stage? According to Carney it was his "breathtakingly unconventional" March 2008 address on race in the wake of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy. Carney deemed the speech "profound, one of the most remarkable by a major public figure in decades," which might be true, but seems at odds with the White House's efforts to move to the political and ideological center for the 2012 re-election.

Leon Panetta  A 1994 profile of Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta is largely positive, but contains enough red meat to potentially complicate Carney's relationship with the current CIA director. Carney credits Panetta with bringing order to a "White House famous for its preternatural state of disarray" in his first two months on the job, but also cites "mixed results in an area where [Panetta] should be strongest: dealing with Congress," noting that "the original defeat of [President Clinton's 1994] crime bill occurred despite Panetta's intense lobbying." On health care reform, Carney attributes "confusing signals from the White House about what the President would settle for" to Panetta.

Carney earned his degree in Russian and Eastern European Studies from Yale and served as Time's Moscow correspondent from 1990 to 1993. But could Carney's familiarity with Russia's national character be a liability. He'll have to avoid repeating his 1992 remarks about the Russian people's "predilection for the rhetoric of impending apocalypse and unfamiliarity with the concept of loyal opposition or healthy difference of opinion [that] tend to exaggerate the risk of a putsch" the next time Dmitry Medvedev comes to town.

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