Politics

Bully Pulpit No More: Jen Psaki’s Turn at the Lectern

“Jen chose to stand and question my qualifications and services to this country. Once she did that, the gloves were off,” Mr. Spicer said. (In 2017, when Mr. Spicer was roundly criticized for referring to Nazi death camps as “Holocaust centers,” Ms. Psaki was more magnanimous. “It’s a really tough job, everybody screws up,” she said on CNN at the time.)

Mr. Biden has urged Ms. Psaki to eschew acronyms and other governmental jargon, once chastising her for using the corporate term “R & D” — research and development — in a response. Unlike Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden does not usually watch briefings in real time, but he is known catch snippets on cable news during the day when he has gaps in his schedule.

She has also conceded some missteps, like an early outing in which she seemed to lightly mock the Space Force, the new military branch created by President Trump. She now keeps a Space Force pin at her desk as a reminder of the impact of her words. (Absent from her office is the traditional flak jacket passed down cheekily among White House press secretaries; it apparently went missing in January.)

Mr. Biden is no one’s idea of a careful public speaker. (As Mr. Axelrod once put it, “He is not a precision instrument.”) Ms. Psaki’s primary task is to interpret and in some cases clean up his comments for the record, a responsibility that has been even tougher in recent weeks.

Rahm Emanuel, who worked with Ms. Psaki on Democratic campaigns and recommended her to the Obama team, said he texted Ronald Klain, Mr. Biden’s chief of staff, on the day her appointment was announced. “I said you’re going to count your blessings, in the days to come, that you made this decision,” he said. “You’re not going to have to worry about what goes on in that room.”

Mr. Emanuel said he played a role in Ms. Psaki’s personal life, too. He likes to take credit for nudging her future husband, Gregory Mecher, another Democratic aide, to ask her out on the campaign trail. (He later referred to himself as Mr. Mecher’s “wing man.”) The couple was married in 2010 under a mulberry tree at a Maryland estate; guests included Mr. Gibbs and the correspondent Jake Tapper.

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