Joe Biden has a thing for reporters. Back in December 2008, the vice-president hired former Time Washington bureau chief Jay Carney to be his communications director. When Carney was promoted earlier this year to be White House press secretary, Biden went back to the well and hired Washington Post reporter Shailagh Murray to take Carney’s old job.
Murray was not the first journalist considered to handle Biden’s press. Both CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid and Slate’s chief political correspondent John Dickerson were possible candidates before Murray was tapped. (Before he got into journalism, Reid served as an adviser to Biden on the Senate Judiciary Committee; before Slate, Dickerson worked alongside Carney at Time.) Both now say they turned the invitations down.
“They asked me if I was interested and I said ‘no,’” Reid told me. After that, Biden himself called Reid personally to see if he’d reconsider, to no avail. Other sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the courtship of Reid was more substantial, and that Reid entertained the idea for a while.
There is a long history of journalists crossing over to work for political figures, and Obama counts several former hacks as advisers. David Axelrod cut his teeth as a Chicago Tribune reporter, and during the campaign Obama hired veteran political writer Linda Douglass.
Dickerson also told me that he wasn’t interested in the position. “There was no formal process, no formal interviews,” he said. “I’m constitutionally incapable of doing most of the requirements of those jobs. My job is to find stuff out.”
It makes sense, though, that Biden would have been interested in Dickerson. In April 2006, Dickerson wrote a Slate column titled “Building a Better Press Secretary.” His No. 1 tip? Pick a journalist. “White House officials would be able to stop guessing at what motivates the press and ask someone who might actually know,” Dickerson wrote.