White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, not surprisingly, has few fans among the conservative media, but for most of his tenure, has managed to avoid the sort of unhinged reactions that his predecessor, Robert Gibbs, provoked. This week, though, a charming little style-section profile in Washingtonian Mom set the conservative blogs frothing over everything from Carney's apparently overflowing pantry, to his magical book collection, to his home podium setup, but most of all, his... anti-Nazi decorations? Why do conservatives love Nazis?
When I first saw this idiotic kerfuffle, I mainly disregarded it, except to try and get Noah Rothman at Mediaite to throw in what seemed like a pertinent fact (he refused). But, since Carney brought it up at the end of Friday's White House daily briefing, and he's been taking extra fire from the wingnuts this week, it's worth noting.
As he concluded Friday's daily briefing, Carney said, with a smile, "For some reason, some of you might expect that I have bounteous brunches at my house sometimes on the weekends," Carney said with a smile, "but I assure you if I were to invite you this weekend, you'd find some cereal boxes and maybe a couple of eggs."
He was referring to the deranged right-wing reaction to a Washingtonian Mom spread that was actually not even about Carney, but his wife, ABC News' Claire Shipman (War on Women!), and included some charmingly staged shots of Shipman and the kids (War on Children!), along with a few shots that Carney gamely posed for. It was cheesy/funny because it was supposed to be, but conservatives went full Zapruder on the thing.
First, there were the "Soviet propaganda posters" that appeared in the background of one shot, which blogs like Breitbart.com, Redstate, and yes, Mediaite, blew up and freaked out over, while studiously omitting the fact that Carney and Shipman met in Moscow, and each worked there for years. To his credit, TheBlaze's Jason Howerton later added an update with that detail.
While some conservative bloggers took a tongue-in-cheek approach to the photo, The Heritage Foundation actually released a deadly-serious statement condemning Carney. What none of these folks have explained is that the posters in question are World War II recruitment posters, recruiting soldiers to fight the Nazis, and women to work in factories while men fought the Nazis. Why all of these patriots love Nazis so much is anyone's guess.
Then, there was the shot of Jay behind a prop podium, taking questions from his kids with Clare by his side. Who doesn't see a picture of proud children interacting with their dad and think "HA-ha! Whattajerk!"
But the real indictment of Carney in that photo is, as conservative sleuths with sharp eyes and dull lives discovered, the fact that the photographer altered the background of the shot, obviously to "make it look like they have a lot of books," because displaying books is how the elites rub their book-larnin' in flyover country's face. Or because the photo editor thought it would improve the composition of the shot. Tomato, tomahto. Somehow, that photo editor's sloppy Photoshop skills transfer to Carney.
What's really amusing is the sheer deranged pettiness of this, best exemplified by the conservative critique of the brunch spread that Carney referenced at today's briefing. "And you thought Washington cared about the crisis of starvation in East Africa," opinedMediaite's Noah Rothman. "Sure, they will tell you they care, but $750 in produce, mounds of breakfast meats, at least 60 pancakes, an entire loaf of bread, what appears to be a plate of just butter, and an overflowing platter of pastries say something quite different."
Funny how the go-to here was East Africa, and not, say, the United States of America, where conservatives are relentlessly butchering SNAP benefits. Actually, it's not funny, but it is funny that the conservative blogosphere thinks professional photographers raid their subject's fridge for whatever props they might need. News flash to conservatives: Carney also doesn't actually have a giant Jenga set or a home podium, although I, personally, enjoy practicing up on my own set of uncomfortable blue vinyl airline seats.
Conservatives hated Robert Gibbs with a deranged venom that had a lot to do with his status as a longtime Obama insider, but Carney now seems to have arrived, as well. Like Gibbs, Carney now also enjoys attacks from the left, and his habit of cuttingly leveraging his journalistic experience has begun to receive some notice (I love you, Greta, but Fox News does, in fact, traffic in made-up stories about the White House visitor's log). I don't remember anyone ever going on tilt over a photo shoot of Gibbs' family, though. Either Carney is really getting under their skin, or they're just getting more deranged. Maybe it's a bit of both.