Advice For Next White House Spokesman
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The next press secretary will face a lonely and stressful job and may appreciate a little advice from some experts.
Ms. DEE DEE MYERS (White House Press Secretary, Clinton Administration): This is Dee Dee Myers, I served as White House press secretary in the first two years of the Clinton administration. My advice to the new press secretary would be first, never take it personally. The White House briefing room culture can be extremely confrontational and on a lot of days it feels like it's all about you, most days it's not. Second, I'd say never lose your sense of humor. Not only will it help keep you sane, but a funny line can often change the tempo of a really difficult briefing. Third, I'd say listen to reporters at least as much as you talk to them. They actually know a lot. And finally, I'd say have fun. The days can be really long but the years go by quickly.
Mr. ARI FLEISCHER (Former White House Press Secretary) This is Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary from 2001 to 2003. My advice to the next White House press secretary is to remember you serve two bosses, the press and the president, but only one of them pays your salary. So your job is to be in the middle between the two of them, but you really are the advocate for the president. Your job is to help the press, to be respectful for the press, but you've got a point of view to say and that's the difficulty and the joy of the job.
Mr. JOE LOCKHART (Former White House Press Secretary): I am Joe Lockhart and I was President Clinton's press secretary between 1998 and 2000. It's unique to know that not meeting someone's expectations is your career goal, but that's what you have to do in that job. Probably the second and really important thing is the briefing is what everybody sees. It's all the work that goes into it that actually makes the briefing valuable and successful for both the president and the press. Inevitably, the one day you're not prepared is when you make a big mistake.
Mr. JERRY TERHORST (Former White House Press Secretary): Hello. This is Jerry terHorst, first White House press secretary for Gerald Ford. I served for 30 days. I would have loved to have served longer but my problem was the pardon of Richard Nixon. You support the Constitution, the Constitution requires equal justice for all under the law. Equal justice under the law did not apply when Gerry Ford pardoned Nixon, and I think if you remember the Constitution you could do nothing else if faced with a similar dilemma and God knows, I hope you don't. Thank you.
Mr. JAKE SIEWERT (Former White House Press Secretary): This is Jake Siewert, I was White House press secretary in 2000 to 2001. My advice for Robert Gibbs is pretty simple. Keep your door open to the press, save the good news for the president. Your job is to play defense, and try to make the briefings boring enough that MSNBC isn't tempted to carry them live.
SIEGEL: Advice to the future White House press secretary from five people who have stood on that lonely podium and faced the press. Jake Siewert, Jerald terHorst, Joe Lockhart, Ari Fleischer and Dee Dee Myers.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.