New State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki began conducting the daily press briefings this week, taking over from acting deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
If her name sounds familiar, it’s because Psaki was President Obama’s traveling press secretary during his re-election campaign.
She was then picked by new Secretary of State John Kerry to be his press secretary, replacing Victoria Nuland. Since Psaki’s mid-February selection, she’s been undergoing intensive training within the State Department on global affairs.
Daily briefings at the State Department include reporters from around the world, and the questions usually span a wide range of countries. Psaki comes to the job with no foreign policy experience.
Nuland, on the other hand, was a former U.S. ambassador to NATO in the George W. Bush administration and a former foreign policy adviser to Dick Cheney.
Kerry knows Psaki from her work on his 2004 presidential campaign, but unlike the messaging she shaped for Obama’s and Kerry’s campaigns the State Department is expressly a nonpartisan agency.
Richard Grenell, who was press secretary for four U.S. ambassadors at the United Nations including John Bolton, weeks ago sent Psaki flowers and a note wishing her well in her new role. He hasn’t received a reply.
Suffice to say she’s not being treated with kid gloves by the State Department press corps. Here’s a sampling from today’s briefing, on Benghazi:
QUESTION: And you mentioned the e-mails that were released. Overall, in this building, what is the reaction to that release? Do you think it will quell the debate? Well, let’s start with that.
PSAKI: Well, the White House release yesterday, it allows the American public, including all of you, to see firsthand the conversation that took place over the course of e-mails. It does confirm that these were CIA-drafted and CIA-finalized talking points and that a number of the concerns raised in this building were separately on a different track raised in that building, as well.
I leave that to all of you and to others to determine whether it quells the concern, but I think it certainly does put a lot of facts in clarity for people.
QUESTION: So if it’s such a good thing, why did you wait more than nine months to do this?
PSAKI: Well, they’ve been released now…
PSAKI: I don’t want to look into a rear-view mirror on that.
QUESTION: You don’t want to look forward, you don’t want to look backward.
PSAKI: I do want to look forward. I’m all about looking forward.
QUESTION: You do? And then you don’t want to prejudge…
PSAKI: That’s what the implementation of the ARB is about.
QUESTION: You don’t want to prejudge anything or predetermine…
PSAKI: Well, that’s separate.
It’s been widely speculated around Washington that Psaki is being groomed to eventually replace Jay Carney in the press secretary role at the White House.