Just in time to miss a months-long bout of escalating panic as the Biden White House stares down what is shaping up to be an electoral bloodbath for the Democratic Party, Press Secretary Jen Psaki will soon be circling back for the last time. By all accounts, Psaki is already in negotiations for a position with a well-known though little-watched cable news network, where she will no longer have to circle back when she can’t answer a question because she will be able to just make something up – and no one will challenge her.
Has Psaki been a good or bad press secretary? It’s almost an impossible question to answer. After all, everyone who served as White House press secretary to a Democrat president has been terrible and every Republican president’s press secretary has been fantastic – from most conservatives’ point of view. From a Democrat’s perspective, of course, the exact opposite is true.
Whether she was good or bad at her job, however, is irrelevant because Psaki has one foot out the door of the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, on her way to that bastion of mediocrity, the establishment media. In fact, since she will reportedly land at MSNBC, perhaps mediocrity is too charitable a word.
An Incestuous Alliance
One could spend hours reflecting on the revolving door between the federal government and the studios of TV news or the editorial offices of national newspapers, but for what? It has been, in several cases, a natural progression to go from political advisor or spokesperson to columnist or pundit. Three of former President Donald Trump’s four press secretaries went on to work at Fox News. The first of them, Sean Spicer, now hosts his own show for Newsmax. George Stephanopoulos has enjoyed a long career in television news since his time as former President Bill Clinton’s communications director. Jay Carney, who served as press secretary under Barack Obama, was a former journalist – and is certainly not the only person to go from news reporting to political communications.
The back and forth between the two institutions – government and media – is almost as common as the marriage ties between them. And perhaps that is a problem in itself; that the establishment media is bound to the federal government by too many close personal connections.
Psaki is currently tiptoeing through a minefield of professional ethics questions as she prepares to sit in front of an MSNBC camera, where her audience may not be too much larger than the White House Press Corps. During an April 1 press briefing, Psaki was confronted with the ethics question. “I have always gone over and above the stringent ethical and legal requirements of the Biden administration,” she said in answer to the question. That doesn’t appear to be a very impressive feat, though, given the extraordinarily low bar. “And as is standard for every employee at the White House, I’ve received rigorous ethics counseling, including as it relates to any future employment.” Rigorous ethics counseling? For every employee of the Biden White House? Surely not, it would appear.
Psaki lasted about as long as many press secretaries do. She perhaps had a much easier ride than she might have had if current White House reporters weren’t so sympathetic toward her constantly bumbling boss. Still, it is a grueling job – and doing it with no sense of humor, as Psaki has done, must be particularly taxing. She will fit right in, no doubt, at MSNBC, where outrage is their only pleasure.