In every White House, the ultimate high-wire act is performed by the press secretary, who has to go before a voracious pack of reporters every day and speak thousands of words without stumbling, giving away secrets, or shading the truth. And perhaps no press secretary in recent decades understands that challenge better than Carney. He spent a long time on the other side. Fluent in Russian, he was Time magazine's Moscow bureau chief, White House reporter, and Washington bureau chief before deciding to become Vice President Joe Biden's communications director in 2009. Then, in February 2011, Carney took over as White House press secretary. The 48-year-old hasn't looked back. But it's clear that he retains a love for his former profession, speaking often of his days as an inquisitor of earlier press secretaries. He particularly revels in his days in Moscow. "The experience I had in the Soviet Union that became Russia while I was there was incomparable," he has said. "Nothing has compared for sheer exhilaration with that experience except for this job." And he has a fuller appreciation for his responsibility. "What I never really understood as a reporter is why there was such a substantial communications presence in the White House. There are a lot of people in the White House Communications Office, press office, media affairs, regional.... I never really understood what they all did." He learned that "it is a lot more than just answering questions on a daily basis from reporters. There is also a lot of strategy that goes behind communications." Now, he appreciates that "communicating policy is a huge part of making policy happen."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.