It seems like only yesterday that Politico was celebrating the bland passive-aggression of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney by cataloging 131 instances in which he prefaced a response with “I appreciate the question.”
The past several months, however, have seen the rise of a smashmouth spokesman who is perfectly happy to let reporters know that he does not, in fact, appreciate the question (in the six months since Politico’s rundown, Carney has “appreciated” exactly eleven questions). While the newly-evolved Carneyvore™ hasn’t endeared himself to people who already didn’t like him, his more confrontational style is drawing attention to how mainstream media theatricality affects journalism’s mission to inform the public, in the public’s interest.
It’s not that Carney has never bared his teeth before, but over the past several months, those occurrences have become less exceptions, and more a regular feature of his briefings. Media criticism from behind the podium isn’t new, but while Carney’s predecessor could be cutting, Carney’s status as a former White House correspondent adds extra weight and insight to his jabs. It’s tempting to view Carney’s critiques as merely partisan, but an overarching theme in them is the set of deleterious incentives that televised briefings, and televised news, bring to the Brady Briefing Room. That’s a theme that other White House reporters have long complained about, and copped to.
Prior to becoming an Obama administration spokesman, first for Vice President Joe Biden and then for the President, Jay Carney put in 23 years as a journalist, and whatever you think of the merits of his work, neither political side was ever able to make anything like a “bias”charge stick. Carney was the consummate down-the-middle reporter, and so it’s silly to think that those years spent on the other side of the podium don’t inform his current actions. Despite the recent fireworks, Carney operates from a sincere desire not to become the story, so when he goes after a reporter, it’s because that’s really all he can stands. The carefully crafted patter contained in most of his responses fulfill the need to protect his boss, but the other stuff? That’s pure Carney.
The extent to which this helps or hurts the President is a matter of personal taste, but it says something that the only people complaining are ones who already hate this president. However you look at it, the Carneyvore™ is good for business, generating consistently great traffic. His intended audience, however, is much smaller, and will either result in reporters doing a better job, or more moments like these.
Here, in chronological order, are some of the Carneyvore™’s greatest hits:
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