President Obama's new spokesman Jay Carney held his first press briefing Wednesday, assuring the White House press corps he's there to assist and provide journalists with the "best information" they need to cover 1600 Pennsylvania.
"I work to promote the President and the messages he's trying to convey to the American people," Carney said upon taking the podium. "But I also work with the press to try to help you do your jobs, to help you cover the White House, cover the administration and report on what we're doing here."
But in his first foray into the White House briefing room, the president's new spokesman seemed understandably nervous, and well rehearsed as he took the podium with a visible and audible deep breath."
Of course Carney has experience on both sides of the microphone. He is a former Washington bureau chief for TIME magazine and former communications director for Vice President Biden. The White House confirmed Tuesday that Carney received $270,000 in severance pay after he left TIME and started working in Biden's office.
He replaced Robert Gibbs as spokesman on Monday, but only faced reporters on this, his third day as press secretary, telling them he plans to brief "frequently."
The new spokesman was able to avoid an on camera briefing Monday -- and no doubt an avalanche of budget questions -- when he and President Obama traveled to Baltimore for an event, and then again on Tuesday when the president held a press conference instead. Mr. Obama gave his new spokesman some cover when he took a few jabs at the news media.
"I figured that I'd give Jay one more taste of freedom before we lock him in a room with all of you," Obama joked with reporters, "so I'm here to do a little downfield blocking for him."
But Wednesday, Carney finally faced the inevitable and held a briefing that lasted approximately 53 minutes, just a few minutes longer the Gibbs' first public appearance back in January 2009. On that day, then press secretary Gibbs' first question was on the closing of Guantanamo Bay. President Obama had just signed the Executive Order requiring the facility be closed within a year. That hasn't happened, so now press secretary Carney was asked, in this his first on camera briefing, where the Obama administration stood. "The president remains committed," to the facility's closing Carney said.
There were of course some lighter moments - Carney was asked who he hoped would play him on Saturday Night Live. "No one," he fantasized.
And when it was all over and Carney was asked if he thought the press briefing was bad as expected, Carney countered he actually likes it up there behind the podium, and that it was "better than I ever could have imagined."