Mike Gwin, the White House director of rapid response, is leaving. He’s the latest to announce his departure, joining a list of those heading for the exit from the White House press office. Who can blame him? Gwin must be exhausted.
Joe Biden is a gaffe machine. His long history of making off the cuff remarks and usually saying something that a more measured politician would not is legendary. When Joe Biden was a senator, his craziness or inappropriate remarks weren’t so important. Democrats just laughed it off and said it’s just Joe being Joe. When he became vice-president it became a little more serious. Now he’s the president and his words are deadly serious. Imagine the stress felt by someone tasked with the responsibility of cleaning up after Biden’s gaffes (putting it politely). It’s a 24-7 job, though the team does get a break because Biden is on vacation so much, either the long weekends in Delaware or at Camp David with family and friends. Joe’s not exactly a workaholic.
Nonetheless, Biden is followed around by the press and often makes a passing remark or answers a question on the fly. At least Gwin is one person in this administration that actually has some experience in what he’s been doing. He wasn’t a diversity hire or someone who they could point to as an “historical” hire. His experience includes working on Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign and spokesman for the primary and general elections. He’s worked on the economic communications team, too. Gwin has been in Biden’s White House since Biden took office. He’s moving to the Treasury Department where he will be a deputy assistant secretary for public affairs. Kinda sounds like a lesser job, doesn’t it? Maybe not. Government titles often don’t match up to those in the private sector.
The current perception is that the rats are fleeing a sinking ship. Biden has held on to most of his White House staff longer than some administrations after the first year in office, mostly due to the fact that he surrounded himself with those who have been around him for almost fifty years. In contrast, Kamala Harris loses staff regularly. Stories of discord and problems in her office are frequently reported. Now, however, as Biden’s term moves along, it’s noticeable that people are beginning to leave.
Most notable of recent departures was Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She’s one of many Obama alums who came back to the White House. She lasted more than a year and seemed to enjoy deploying snark and quick retorts to inquiring media. Now she’ll do it with a multi-million dollar contract on MSNBC. However, two more departures from the White House press office were announced on Wednesday. Gwin is number three just this week. All are leaving for other departments.
Vedant Patel, who had served as an assistant press secretary since January 2021, will move to the State Department, where he will serve as principal deputy spokesperson under press secretary Ned Price. Patel’s portfolio at the White House included immigration and climate change issues.
Amanda Finney, the chief of staff in the White House press office, will shift to the Department of Energy to serve in a senior communications role. Finney was frequently spotted around the White House press workspace and worked closely with former press secretary Jen Psaki.
Abdullah Hasan, the deputy communications director at the Office of Management and Budget, will join the White House press staff and take over some of Patel’s responsibilities.
I wonder if any of these departures are because of the new press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre. So far she has proven to be less than stellar in her job performance. She’s just not up to the role. She isn’t well-rounded enough to answer questions on a wide range of subjects, if the White House press corps decides to ask real questions of her, and often reverts to reading from her briefing book. The people leaving have all worked with her when Psaki had the job, though, so they know her and what she’s capable of, right? Seems like it’s a vote of non-confidence. John Kirby already moved from the Defense Department to the White House to help with briefings for the press.
When asked about the string of departures, Karine Jean-Pierre tried to reassure the reporters that not everyone was leaving. Oof.
“Michael Gwin has been an indispensable member of our team. His quiet talent, laser-focused approach, and eagerness to take on whatever challenge comes his way has made him a tremendous asset. I know he’s moving on to bigger and better things, and only wish him the best at Treasury,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
Jean-Pierre on Thursday joked about the multiple departures while bidding farewell to Finney at the top of the press briefing.
“I know every day, every day I’m going to be doing these little goodbyes but I promise we will have a press shot. But not everyone is leaving,” she quipped.
Like I said, Gwin must be exhausted. Jean-Pierre isn’t helping things with her inane talking points, either. Biden has recently been reported to be angry that his staff runs out to clean up his remarks but what’s the alternative? Just leave the crazy things he says out there? If he’s worried about looking weak and not in charge, well, too late. That ship has already sailed. He’s not proven to be a strong president and often looks like he’s not in charge of his own White House. Everyone sees it. Biden frequently says “they” won’t let him do something or the other. Does he not hear what he says?
If Biden is really worried about his communications team and how they deal with his gaffes and mistakes, he should fire them and bring in new people. Henry Olsen has a good op-ed in the Washington Post about this topic.
If Biden really doesn’t want his staff to do that, he should do what any competent chief executive does when undermined: fire the offending personnel. He doesn’t do that, of course, which means he either knows he needs walking back, or he doesn’t have the guts to fire people. Neither trait is commendable in a chief executive.
Yep. That sums it up nicely.