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Carney says goodbye to the White House

  • McClatchy Washington Bureau
  • Published Friday, June 20, 2014, at 5 a.m.

Friday marks White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s last day on the job.

After more than three years behind the podium, Carney announced last month that he was leaving. But he told reporters this week that he has no job lined up yet and just wants to spend time with his family, television journalist Claire Shipman, and their two children -- and “relax.”

Carney, who once worked as a journalist in Russia, said he had been approached by some administration officials about becoming U.S. ambassador to Russia, but that he quickly put an end to the idea in part because his wife did not want to go.

“The truth is some folks — not the president, I didn’t discuss it with the president — looking at my record and my educational background and my experience thought, Oh that would be a great idea,” Carney said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor Thursday. “To the extent that there was any lobbying by me I was lobbying against it. Not that it was ever a real thing.”

Carney, 49, a former Time Magazine White House correspondent, joined the Obama team in 2008 as spokesman for incoming Vice President Joe Biden. He was promoted to White House press secretary in 2011, replacing Robert Gibbs.

Before Carney took the job, he said he held mock briefings to prepare for what would the daily one-hour back-and-forth between he and reporters.

“When I got in there...I was shocked to find out how the expertise I felt I had developed as a political reporter about communications strategies and White House communications was not really expertise, and there was a lot to learn,” Carney said.

“There’s a tendency to assume that politics and political considerations drive every decision,” Carney said. “And I’m here to tell you that’s definitely not the case. I’m here to tell you, as somebody on the communications political side, it would have been a lot more convenient had it been the case, in some ways. But it’s just not. And that’s I think for the country a good thing.”

He told reporters Thursday that the botched rollout of healthcare.gov was his most difficult period because “this one was completely of our doing, completely our responsibility.”

“It made a lot of us worried about what would happen if we couldn’t fix it, in terms of the goal of expanding the availability of health insurance to millions of Americans,” he said. “And obviously it was a concern politically if it didn’t work out. And in contrast to a lot of the sort of issues that burned brightly but burned out, this was a sustained bad-news story for some time. So I remember that as being the biggest challenge.”

Carney gave his last briefing Wednesday, though his last official day is Friday. He said that he never lied to the media.

“Honestly, it is not because I’m a paragon of virtue, it is because that would be a terrible way to do the job,” he said .

Obama announced that deputy press secretary Josh Earnest would replace Carney.

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