- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2014

Departing White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that some administration insiders were pushing for him to become U.S. ambassador to Russia, but he wasn’t interested in the job.

“The truth is there were some folks who — not the president, I didn’t discuss it with the president — looking at my record and my interest and my background and experience, thought ‘Oh, that would be a great idea,’” Mr. Carney told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

But he said he didn’t lobby for the job.

“To the extent there were any discussions about it that involved me, I was lobbying against it — not that it was ever a real thing,” Mr. Carney said.

Mr. Carney, who covered the fall of the Soviet Union as a reporter for Time magazine but has no training as a diplomat, acknowledged there would have been “a certain romantic circularity to” his becoming U.S. ambassador to Moscow.

“But it was not something I ever expressed any real interest in,” he said. “More importantly, my wife’s not interested.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul resigned in February. President Obama has yet to fill the post.

Mr. Carney is leaving the White House to spend more time with his family, and said he hasn’t decided what his next job will be. He’s being replaced by current White House deputy press secretary Joshua Earnest.

Of his three-plus years as Mr. Obama’s chief spokesman, he said, “You only do this job successfully if you tell the truth.”

He also said he’s discussed with others in the administration the possibility of doing away with White House press briefings because they’ve become “theater performance.” Of the White House’s increasing reliance on social media, he said it would be “malpractice” not to take advantage of the multiple ways to disseminate the administration’s message.

Mr. Carney said his most difficult period at the White House was during the dark days of the administration’s disastrous rollout of the Obamacare web site last year.

“This one was completely of our doing, completely our responsibility,” Mr. Carney said. “We had really not gotten it right. That made everyone feel, from the president on down, a great deal of responsibility. This was on us.”

When the Department of Health and Human Services introduced the Healthcare.gov web site last October, it crashed repeatedly, and consumers were prevented from enrolling for health insurance. It took months of troubleshooting before the public was able to sign up more reliably for the program.

Until it was fixed, Mr. Carney said, the president and his top aides were extremely worried.

The problems “made us worry what would happen if we couldn’t fix it,” Mr. Carney said. “And obviously [it] was a concern politically. This was a sustained bad news story. I remember that as the biggest challenge” of his three-year tenure in the White House.

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