Obama spokespeople Marie Harf and Jen Psaki have come in for a certain amount of ridicule lately, as well as Josh Earnest and Jay Carney before him. But I admit to a sneaking sort of awe of what they do, although it’s not a good sort of awe.
People are fond of saying that Harf or Psaki are airheads, for example. I beg to differ. What they are—and what all on that list are—is loyal party apparatchiks with a fair amount of facility (some more than others) at keeping their stories and talking points straight, firing off a flurry of glib words to get those points across, and sticking relentlessly to message in the face of some difficult questions and no small amount of mockery and potential embarrassment.
They are buoyed and driven not only by personal ambition, but also by their dedication to whatever they think their party and their boss stand for, so much so that they believe that manufacturing spin and telling some lies in the service of that spin are noble callings. This accounts for their triumph over any lingering shame they might feel. As with Winston Smith’s interlocutor O’Brien, they not only say that 2 + 2 = 5, but they come to actually believe that on a certain level it’s true as soon as they decide to say it.
It also takes a certain amount of skill to learn so much information each day in order to get the administration’s stories straight and to rattle off the responses without getting rattled. And if the responses are lies, coverup, and/or spin, so much the more difficult, because it’s harder to keep a pack of lies straight than it is to tell the truth. Yes, they get better at it over time, and some people have a special facility for it. But I still believe it isn’t easy just to keep up with the sheer pace of information overload.
Does this mean I have sympathy for their plight? Not really. I don’t even think they see it as a plight; I think they consider they’ve got a fabulous job in the service of a wonderful president, doing wonderful things. A little ridicule rolls off their backs. Although I did always see something in Jay Carney’s eyes—or did I imagine it?—some mild sense of shame that I haven’t spied in the physiognomy of any of the others. Perhaps it’s just that I remember this:
[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]DONATE
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