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  • “This President’s” Spokesman


    The new White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, has been in the job for a couple weeks. How’s he doing?


    Earnest and Potus

    Not bad, so far. Of course he is enjoying the inevitable honeymoon period where most new press secretaries look good after replacing a predecessor who typically has burned a few bridges during their time behind the lectern.

    Earnest’s predecessor, Jay Carney, seemed to be having increasingly testy exchanges with the press corp and it was pretty clear that both he and they were ready for a change.

    Stylistically, Earnest is considerably smoother than Carney (so far, at least) less prone to barbed exchanges and seems to stick to carefully scripted talking points more than his old boss did.

    We have noticed one verbal tic that could get annoying. It is Earnest’s love affair with the phrase “this President.” He tosses it in with great regularity. Five and a half years into Obama’s time in office — it seems unnecessary to remind people what president you are talking about.

    In the ten formal press briefings Earnest has conducted since taking temporary ownership of the ceremonial flak jacket that goes with the spokesman job, he has used the phrase “this President” something like 35 times. In two of his briefings he trotted out the phrase 7 times each.

    In the CSPAN clip below Earnest manages to squeeze in three “this President”‘s in about thirty five seconds. In fairness to him, the reporter asking the question got one in as well.

    Every press secretary has his or her quirks. Carney had a penchant for saying “I appreciate the question” whenoften you knew for a fact he didn’t.

    The importance of Earnest’s “this President” tic is not great — but as someone regularly in the public eye — you want to avoid over reliance on any phrase and break yourself of the habit of relying on it before you find yourself featured saying it on Saturday Night Live.

  • Only the Best Should Attempt Full Ginsburgs

    In Washington-speak, a “full Ginsburg” is when one person appears on all five major Sunday news programs in a single day.  The feat was first performed in 1998 by William Ginsburg , the attorney for Monica Lewinsky.  Since then, the trick has been performed about 18 times — often by Presidential candidates.

    If you are not running for office –and you are doing a Ginsburg, chances are you are running for your life. Even if one or two of the interviews is pre-taped, it is hard on a person to keep their energy up and their talking points down.

    White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer logged a full Ginsburg this morning.  We’ll leave to others to rate the substance of his answers — but the way they were delivered was not impressive.

    By far his worst performance was the single show on which he did “a remote” – rather than being on set looking into the eyes of his questioner. His appearance on ABC’s This Week, which at times gives the appearance of a hostage video, is below:


     Media Training 101 is to have the interviewee know where to look into the camera. Pfeiffer’s shifting eyes match the demeanor of his answers.  And he had a habit of talking way too fast (trying to get it over with?) stepping on his words and phrases and THEN looking off camera to the monitor. He also stumbled badly with one of his answers to George Stephanopoulos where he said “the law is irrelevant” in the IRS matter.  Bet he wishes he had that sound bite back.

    His in-studio performances were not so hot either. His answers earned him the worse dressing down we have seen in many years from veteran Bob Schieffer.  The CBS Face the Nation stalwart’s asked:  “why are you here?” Not exactly what an interviewee is hoping to hear.

    Pfeiffer needs a lot more practice doing remote interviews — and more importantly — the White House ought to re-consider the wisdom of sending out a single spokesperson and asking him or her to perform in the five-ring circus that the full Ginsburg creates.  It didn’t work out too well for UN Ambassador Susan Rice either.

    h/t Joe Quimby