Carney's Fault? Bin Laden Story a Mess

There's talk, heating up this week with the bin Laden story, that the new White House press secretary, Jay Carney, isn't up to the job.

He gathers himself, embarks on a stuttering reply, pauses for what seems like an eternity, then starts gabbling, tripping over his words, rephrasing what he’s just said, then looking plaintively back at the questioner as if to say, “How did I do? Was that okay? Or would you like me to try again?

This is a pivotal moment in Barack Obama’s presidency, a moment when the eyes of the world are locked on Washington. In the global battle for hearts and minds, it is essential that the leader of the free world exudes an air of calm authority at this time.

Yet the White House’s handling of the media in the aftermath of Sunday’s events has been breathtakingly amateurish, planting seeds of doubt about the legality of the operation and about Osama bin Laden’s death that would not otherwise be there.

Jay's predecessor, Robert Gibbs, had the advantage of being a high level Obama adviser, so he came to the issues with confidence. Watch him here treating an aggressive journalist, Jake Tapper from ABC News, with a swat of the hand.

The constantly changing narrative – or “fact pattern”, as one White House official described it – suggests that the president and his advisers have been caught on the hop and have no clear strategy for dealing with the fallout from bin Laden’s death. This is epitomised by the halting, timid delivery of Jay – “How’m I doin’?” – Carney, who must bear some of the responsibility for this communications failure.

Is the bumbling storyline on the bin Laden killing a result of bad managment on the part of the White House, or is it being fueled by an unskilled press guy who doesn't know how to smooth the sharp edges? It looks like both.

Unless Carney is capable of raising his game, he needs to be thrown under a bus. President Obama is coming dangerously close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Somehow, he and his Press Secretary have created the impression that Operation Geronimo was carried out by the Keystone Kops rather than an elite unit of Navy SEALs. In fact, the only amateurs in this unfolding story are in the White House.