White House Weighs In On Weinergate: ‘A Distraction,’ Behavior And Dishonesty ‘Inappropriate’


Aboard Air Force One, en route to Morrisville, North Carolina this morning, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney weighed in on the Anthony Weiner scandal for the first time. Those expecting a searing rebuke were, instead, treated to a lightly-poached filet of talking point, as Carney was asked if President Obama thinks Weiner should resign, and and responded by sort of saying yes, without actually saying yes.

Carney was asked about Weiner twice, and if it is possible to double-down on nothing, that’s what he did: (transcript via email from The White House)

Q Jay, does the President have a position on whether Anthony Weiner’s continued service in the U.S. Congress is in the nation’s best interests?

MR. CARNEY: The President feels — we feel at the White House that this is a distraction. Obviously as Congressman Weiner has said himself, this is — the behavior was inappropriate; the dishonesty was inappropriate. But the President is focused on his job, which is getting this economy continuing to grow, creating jobs, and obviously ensuring the safety and security of the American people.

…Q Did any of the President’s top aides have any role in engineering or encouraging Anthony Weiner to resign or to step aside?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think this is an issue that the Congress has been addressing, congressional leaders have been addressing, and that Congressman Weiner has been addressing.

Q But did any of his top aides have conversations —

MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of.

Q Does the President believe that Anthony Weiner should resign?

MR. CARNEY: Again, I think I answered that question. We think this is a distraction obviously from the important business that this President needs to conduct and Congress needs to conduct. Beyond that, I don’t have any more comment.

This deep into the scandal, it’s fair to assume that Carney’s response was thoroughly prepared, and the message is obviously “nothing to see here.” While this leaves the President open to criticism from opponents (can’t you see the headlines now? “White House Refuses To Call For Weiner Resignation”), and frustration from the press, the White House’s line effectively chokes off further questions, while leaving them free to maneuver for Weiner’s exit behind the scenes.

Such a response, though, had to have gone against Carney’s every instinct as a journalist. He probably had to employ George Costanza‘s trusty “do the opposite” strategy, and likely has filled the margins of his briefing book with cathartic Weiner jokes.

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