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Concha: Jay Carney’s CNN Return Brings Network Much-Needed Attitude

As predicted in this space back in March, Jay Carney returns to the Time Warner family and will put back on his media hat starting tonight with the president’s speech on ISIS tonight.

The prediction is hardly a pat on the back, as it’s common practice now for white house press secretaries to jump to and from the cable news business. Outside of the personality-challenged Scott McClellan (Bush 43, 2003-2006), five of the last six WHPS have been signed by the big three in cable news (Ari Fleischer to CNN, the late Tony Snow to CNN, Dana Perino to Fox, Robert Gibbs to MSNBC). Note on Tony Snow: He was also at Fox before taking the WHPS gig and, post-White House, went to CNN for a short period before his passing.

Regarding Carney, here was my perspective after getting word he would be resigning later that spring:

From my March 17th column:

The lazy answer being offered up is to a lucrative gig at MSNBC. But when you think about it, Carney going to that network would truly be a waste of talent. As we’ve seen in the hundreds of daily pressers Carney has held, he clearly enjoys sparring with those who fence him most (particularly ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Fox’s Ed Henry). To listen to him agree with everything Chris Matthews says or hear him finish Rachel Maddow‘s sentences would be an unmitigated bore. And if you’re Carney, do you really want to follow Robert Gibbs as press secretary, only to follow him again to 30 Rock?

Instead, Carney to CNN absolutely makes sense…particularly in an election year and during a time the network is beefing up its political resources and content (Crossfire 2.0 would be a perfect fit, for example). It should also be noted that Carney is familiar with the Time Warner family, having last served as Time magazine’s Washington Bureau Chief in 2003. A move to Fox would make for great TV as well (Hannity & Carney, anyone?), but not something that should remotely be taken seriously…Fox already has one former press secretary on its payroll (Dana Perino). As mentioned, so does MSNBC. CNN currently does not.

Back to present day, CNN President Jeff Zucker fills a void going into an election season with a press secretary who was seen often on CNN before (Carney served as Time’s Washington Bureau Chief from 2005-2008). And let’s face it, 2015 may not be an election year, but it might as well be given how early the process begins these days. That said the timing is right on this move.

The question is, does a Carney return result in a defibrillator being applied to the lifeless body that is Crossfire? The show has been on extended hiatus since July. Outside of Ferguson, there’s been no compelling reason to preempt it. Ratings have been poor…the numbers don’t lie. But the Can’t Kinda Get a Girl Pregnant rule applies again here: Either dump the show altogether or put it back on 100 percent. Building an audience is challenging enough with increased competition in the form of more channels and internet options, and having a show that’s kinda on is a recipe for disaster, as we’re seeing.

Carney is arguably the most polarizing press secretary in the history of the job. Never has someone in his position been mentioned as often in the same sentence as his boss. At almost every daily briefing, he could be arrogant, snarky, condescending, combative…or a combination of all four. He made things personal, particularly with Fox’s Ed Henry and ABC’s Jon Karl. But as we’re seeing from the hopelessly average Josh Earnest, Carney was good at a job that is one of the toughest white collar positions in the world (spinning for a struggling U.S. President on a daily basis).

In other words, given CNN’s heightened focus on attacking Fox lately, he’s perfect for cable news, especially CNN, and particularly Crossfire — where Van Jones and Stephanie Cutter haven’t exactly established themselves as memorable liberal foils to Newt Gingrich (who has been equally as disappointing) and S.E. Cupp (the only bright spot of the four).

Carney goes to CNN.

In related stories: Water is still wet, the sun rose in the east the this morning and the Raiders are still horrible.

Love him or hate him, Carney brings something to CNN the network is sorely lacking:

Attitude.

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>> Follow Joe Concha on Twitter (@JoeConchaTV)

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