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POLITICS: PennAve

How former press secretaries could influence Jay Carney's next move

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,Press Secretary,PennAve,George W. Bush,Ronald Reagan,Listicles,Media,Jay Carney

Outgoing White House press secretary Jay Carney endured one of the toughest jobs in Washington during the roughest stretch of President Obama's time in office. And he has seemingly built some currency for a variety of jobs that could offer the president's top spokesman influence and yes, money -- lots of it.

But just who is the model for how to handle such a departure from the White House?

Carney, the former Moscow bureau chief for Time magazine, on Monday ruled out the prospect of becoming the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Most of his recent predecessors left 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for a role in the public affairs sector, with varying degrees of success. Others have written tell-all — or more typically, tell-little — memoirs.

Robert Gibbs, Obama's first press secretary, launched a communications firm and is a political analyst on MSNBC. Carney could likely follow suit if he so desired.

Let’s take a look at the best and worst transitions to the private sector by White House press secretaries over the last four decades — and how their choices might influence Carney’s decision.

The Best

James Brady


James Brady in 2011 (AP)
Brady, President Reagan's first press secretary, was shot and paralyzed during an assassination attempt against the former California governor. Brady went on to have an enormous influence on politics despite retaining the press secretary title in name only. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for decades has pushed for stricter firearms laws. President Clinton ultimately signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, and the White House briefing room is now named in Brady's honor.

George Stephanopoulos


Stephanopoulos (ABC)
Stephanopoulos had a brief, unspectacular stint as Clinton’s press secretary. But after leaving the White House, he wrote a memoir that topped the New York Times Best Sellers list. Then the former Clinton aide worked his way up at ABC News, ultimately hosting the network’s Sunday news show and serving as a co-anchor on “Good Morning America.” His new deal with ABC reportedly pays him somewhere around $10 million annually, dwarfing his White House salary.

Dana Perino


Perino (Photo: Chris Greenberg/White House)
Perino had no enviable task, taking over as press secretary just a
McClellan (White House photo)
S George W. Bush became an unpopular lame duck. Still, she parlayed her gig into a slot on Fox News’ “The Five.” Perino spent three years on the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, appointed by Obama. And she was also a book-publishing executive at Random House.

Dee Dee Myers


Myers (deedeemyers.org)
Her biggest claim to fame — at least in this reporter’s opinion — is that she was the inspiration for C.J. Cregg on the television show “The West Wing.” In addition to serving as a consultant on that show, she co-hosted a news program on CNBC, wrote a book and became managing director of public affairs at the Glover Park Group. In April, she was hired as head of corporate communications for Warner Bros.

Jerald terHorst


terHorst, who died in 2010 (C-SPAN.org)
Really, terHorst had no chance to use the press secretary position as a springboard for a lucrative job. He resigned after one month as press secretary, furious over President Ford's decision to pardon Nixon. Still, the public applauded the longtime newsman's decision, and he has since been regarded as arguably the most principled White House press secretary. He later took a job as director of public affairs for Ford Motor Co.

The Worst

Larry Speakes


Larry Speakes, right, seen here with Reagan, died earlier this year. (National Archives)
The Reagan press secretary is the case study for what not to do after leaving the White House media shop. Speakes admitted in his memoir that he gave reporters phony quotes attributed to Reagan. The uproar over the book cost him a job as senior vice president for communications at Merrill Lynch & Co.

Scott McClellan

George W. Bush’s second press secretary also encountered problems in the wake of penning a memoir. After giving a surprisingly critical portrait of the president and senior Bush officials in his book, McClellan effectively alienated many of his former colleagues — as well as potential employers in Washington. Even some Democrats dismissed McClellan as an opportunist trying to sell books. He later landed a job as the vice president of communications at Seattle University.

Ron Ziegler


Ziegler died in 2003. (White House photo)
The plus side of serving as Richard Nixon’s press secretary during the height of Watergate? Clients know you can handle problems. Your mug also ends up in a movie (see "All the President's Men"). The negative? People might not want your name associated with their brand. Ziegler later worked at Washington consulting firm Syska and Hennessy and became president of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
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