Even on his last day—working in a position that is regarded as one of the most grueling jobs in the White House—Jay Carney didn't get a pass from the press corps.
The first question he fielded after giving his thanks moved quickly away from his departure:
"On behalf of my colleagues, congratulations on making it to your last briefing," a White House correspondent said. "If we can get to Iraq, the president is meeting with lawmakers this afternoon. Is he going to be in a position to tell the lawmakers his decisions ... "
Which underscores an obvious point: Jay Carney's job is bigger than Jay Carney. He might leave, but the issues will remain, the press corp will remain. He's just one replaceable cog in a fundamental American institution. But serving in the job for three years—which is longer than any of his predecessors in the past 20 years—has perhaps lent him as good a perspective on the relationship between the press and White House as anybody.
As I think most of you now understand and believe, it's always a pleasure no matter how hard it gets here, how hot it can be, and contentious as it sometimes is. You know the president—to many of us—said of the jobs we have here in the White House, most of us will never be in a position to do more good for more people as we are in now. We should take advantage of it. And that is something that we all take to heart. I don't ever expect to be in a position again to be a part of something that has at least the potential to do more good for more people. That's been a special thing, indeed. I loved my years as a reporter.... Reporting sometimes can be an autonomous exercise. It's your story, your byline. What was so different about the [White House] experience for me is it was all about a team effort and all about a goal that had nothing to do with any individual, not even the president. That's been extraordinarily gratifying to be a part of.