White House Press Secretaries are supposed to control the headlines – not be the headlines.
But current Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has earned her fair share of press, the majority of which is unflattering.
Naturally, the right has been especially critical, with conservative outlets declaring Jean-Pierre a World-Historically Bad Press Secretary.
But it’s not just the conservatives bemoaning Jean-Pierre’s performance; relatively moderate outlets like POLITICO and The Hill have also criticized Biden’s press secretary.
Here’s what POLITICO had to say after Jean-Pierre’s first month on the job: “Her answers have baffled reporters, and even made some of her White House colleagues wince. She has increasingly found herself sharing the podium or splitting briefings with John Kirby, who has been taking the lead on foreign policy and at times appears to function as a co-press secretary.”
White House Press Secretary is a notoriously difficult job.
Answering cold calls from some of the world’s most inquisitive, on a vast variety of subject matters, while on television – the job requires a unique skill set.
Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, while often critiqued as a source of modern Democrat’s deal-making centrism, did offer detailed glimpses into the pressures and hardships of the Press Secretary position.
Yet, despite the rigors of the position, only so much slack can be cut for the person appointed to the position.
The White House Press Secretary should be held to the standard of the White House Press Secretary.
The position is essentially the mouthpiece for the Executive Branch of the most powerful government in human history.
So, the position deserves to be filled with someone capable of performing the duties of the position. Is Jean-Pierre that person? So far, it doesn’t seem so. Jean-Pierre has at times appeared underprepared – sometimes not knowing answers, sometimes responding with non-answers.
“At a certain point it wouldn’t surprise me if people started voting with their feet,” one reported told POLITICO, suggesting that reporters might stop attending Jean-Pierre’s briefings.
“She is so focused on not making a mistake that she doesn’t let herself speak freely,” another reporter said. “A lot of her responses end up becoming…it appears that she’s reading from a page.”
The “Woke” Tie-in
Jean-Pierre’s appointment, and underwhelming performance, have been used to criticize “wokeness” in general, and specifically, affirmative action and DEI hiring initiatives.
Jean-Pierre is, as the Biden administration has so well publicized, the first openly gay Black woman Press Secretary ever.
But Jean-Pierre’s performance has led her critics to ask whether she was appointed to the position because of her abilities, or because of her identity.
I can’t answer that question with respect to Jean-Pierre. I will say that one of the quirks of affirmative action and the DEI movement is that the movement calls for people to be hired/admitted/promoted because of their identity to counter historic inequality in hiring practices.
Yet, when someone is hired/admitted/promoted because of their identity, you are not allowed to speak of it.
In fact, it would be called racist to suggest that identity had a role in the hiring – even though identity was explicitly a component of the hiring process.
Instead, the hiring team gaslights, saying: the identity-based hiring had nothing to do with identity, and rather, was based exclusively upon merit.
Well, which one is it?
And if the hiring is exclusively merit-based, why do we need affirmative action/DEI based hiring departments/practices if we’re just going to use merit-based hiring practices.
Anyways, it’s possible that frustration with affirmative action/DEI hiring practices has inspired some of Jean-Pierre’s right-wing criticism. Then again, criticism of Jean-Pierre appears valid, and appears to be coming from all sides.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.