White House Press Welcomes Earnest as Carney's Successor

Saturday, 31 May 2014 01:07 PM

By John Gizzi

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Although White House correspondents offered warm wishes to Jay Carney Friday after the surprise announcement that the president's press secretary was leaving, the consensus at the Brady Briefing Room was that Josh Earnest would be welcomed with open arms as Barack Obama's new top spokesman.

Earnest, 39, is what those who cover the White House refer to as a "campaign-type" press secretary rather than a professional journalist.

Like Bill Clinton's Mike McCurry and George W. Bush's Ari Fleischer, Earnest has spent his adult life as a "gun-for-hire" in political campaigns, in contrast to Carney's previous stint as a reporter.

Earnest worked for Mayors Lee Brown of Houston and Michael Bloomberg of New York in their first winning races for City Hall and was on the staff of former Democratic Rep. Robert Marion Berry of Arkansas.

An early recruit for Obama's 2008 presidential bid, Earnest was communications director for the winning effort in the Iowa caucuses and later served as the campaign's spokesman in the Texas primary.

A rabid Kansas City Royals fan, Earnest becomes the first Missourian to be White House press secretary since Charlie Ross held the job under Independence (Mo.) High School classmate Harry Truman from 1945-50.

Since 2012, with the first of what became dozens of occasions substituting for Carney at the White House briefings, Earnest has made friends with his matter-of-fact way of replying to questions.

In addition, he has won hearts of many correspondents with his openness to taking questions from reporters beyond those from television networks and wire services in front row of the White House briefing room.

At his first "fill-in" for Carney on Feb. 24, 2012, Earnest took a question from this reporter on the administration's position on Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' legislation to rescind the $100 billion in additional funding for the International Monetary Fund that Congress approved in 2009 and to apply the unused funds to the deficit.

"I'm not able to comment," Earnest replied, adding that he was unfamiliar with the measure. But rather than just leaving it at that, he went on to say that "additional American resources into the IMF… that is not something that is being considered right now."

Pressed further as to whether additional tax dollars for the IMF were truly "off the table," Earnest replied without qualification: "That's correct."

Earnest went a step further than he had to by saying that the same administration that had once said U.S. support for the IMF was "woefully inadequate," now was saying more tax dollars for the fund was "off the table."

How well-liked the press secretary-to-be is among the press corps who will soon be questioning him daily was evinced Friday in the spontaneous applause in the Brady Room that followed the president's tapping of Earnest and the lines of reporters who went up to congratulate him after the briefing.

Earnest's move from deputy press secretary to the top job is the latest example of the Obama administration in the second term promoting from within rather than recruiting new faces out the outside, leading to speculation that the lame-duck administration cannot get any fresh talent to join it.

When National Security Adviser Tom Donilon resigned last year, Obama moved United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice to the White House to replace him. After Jack Lew left as White House chief of staff to become secretary of the Treasury last year, Denis McDonough left the National Security Council staff to replace him.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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