President Obama named Jay Carney as his new press secretary, and promoted a half dozen aides today, capping a three-stage reorganization of his inner circle that began last November with an overhaul of his economic team.
Newly installed Chief of Staff William Daley announced more than a dozen promotions in an e-mail to White House staff members this afternoon.
"I believe these decisions will bring greater clarity to our structure and roles and will enhance coordination and collaboration among us," Daley wrote in the e-mail.
Carney, an affable former journalist for Time magazine, has had the sometimes unenviable job of keeping his boss, the free-wheeling vice president, Joe Biden, on message and explaining away the times when Biden steps out of line. He is married to author and television correspondent Claire Shipman. He has no formal podium experience.
Although Carney was primarily a print journalist, he made frequent television appearances during his career at Time, which included stints as the magazine's Moscow correspondent, White House correspondent, and Washington Bureau chief.
Carney has played a key role in developing the administration’s post-stimulus messaging. Biden's long-time foreign policy aide Anthony Blinken is a close friend of Carney's and convinced Biden to recruit the Yale graduate.
The extent of Carney's relationship with Obama is unclear, as even in the most loyal White Houses, vice presidential staffs tend to develop dual loyalties and identities despite all working for the president. Carney impressed Obama in their first formal interview, and "wowed" Daley, a White House official said. But several senior administration officials pushed Obama to look at other candidates inside and outside of the executive branch, and one of them was interviewed as late as last Saturday.
Carney will have the advantage of having been colleagues—competitively or as part of the same organization—with many journalists across the podium. But Carney might face an unusual degree of skepticism. Despite the well-spun revolving door between government and journalism which includes MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Lawrence O'Donnell, ABC News's George Stephanopoulos, and U.S. News & World Report writer-turned George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, in an age where the mainstream media is fighting accusations of liberal bias, Carney's decision to cross the line and become a political appointee still rubs many reporters the wrong way.
Daley's two deputies will be health care expert Nancy-Ann DeParle and White House scheduler Alyssa Mastromonaco. Their appointments were previously reported by National Journal.
Mastromonaco will become deputy chief of staff for operations, a position with a portfolio that includes liaisons with all the systems and people who get Obama where he needs to go.
It was Mastromonaco who orchestrated presidential trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, and who skillfully and secretly set up meetings between Obama and his potential vice presidential picks even as the press watched the campaign’s every move. She’s been with Obama since his days in the Senate.
DeParle, Obama’s senior adviser on health care, will become deputy chief of staff for policy, succeeding the departing Mona Sutphen. She became indispensable to the president during the long months of negotiations over health care reform, and she will now tend to Obama’s efforts to implement the health care law in the face of Republican efforts to defund it. She is married to longtime New York Times correspondent Jason DeParle.
The DeParle and Mastromonaco decisions were made before Daley arrived. Daley joined presidential counselor David Plouffe in advising Obama on the press secretary search, which began more than six weeks ago and involved a series of face-to-face interviews. Daley is said to have advocated for a press secretary with the requisite seasoning for the job—an “adult,” in the lexicon of Washington.
Of the five names most frequently mentioned as candidates, Obama has spent less time with Carney than all but one, former DNC communications director Karen Finney. Several, like deputy press secretary Bill Burton and deputy communications director Jen Psaki, are relatively young; Gibbs is 39. But only Burton has actual experience on the podium, substituting for Gibbs at least a half-dozen times in televised briefings.
Obama asked Ron Bloom, his manufacturing policy adviser, to take a higher profile role inside the White House. He will now report directly to National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling.
Stephanie Cutter will be assistant to the president and deputy senior adviser, working with David Plouffe.
David Lane, former CEO of the One Foundation, which fights poverty worldwide and is perhaps best known for its affiliation with rock star Bono, will be assistant to the president and counselor to the chief of staff
Rob Nabors, an adviser to the chief of staff, will be assistant to the president and director of legislative affairs, replacing Phil Schiliro, who will be departing the White House.
Emmett Beliveau has the interesting title of deputy assistant to the President and chief of staff to the chief of staff.
Jon Carson, who was field director on Obama's campaign, will be deputy assistant to the president and director of the office of public engagement.
Danielle Crutchfield will be deputy assistant to the president and director of scheduling and advance.
David Cusack will be deputy assistant to the president and director of advance.
Mike Strautmanis, currently Valerie Jarrett's chief of staff, will be deputy assistant to the president and counselor for strategic engagement to the senior adviser.
Jessica Wright will be deputy assistant to the president and director of scheduling. And Brian Deese has been formally named special assistant to the president and deputy director of the National Economic Council.
Daley's e-mail concluded with a call for teamwork.
"Effective collaboration requires a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, so that we can hold each other accountable for the duties we’ve each undertaken," he said. "In coming days, I hope to clarify further the roles each of our offices needs to play, so we can continue to work together in the highly productive way the that we must."
This story was updated at 4:00 p.m., 4:11 p.m., and 5:40 p.m. on January 27.
This article appears in the January 28, 2011, edition of NJ Daily.