Recent reports from Axios have shed light on a power struggle inside the Biden administration’s press office. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and John Kirby are not getting along.
Karine Jean-Pierre and John Kirby, despite sharing the podium, reportedly have a somewhat tense relationship. This is causing strife inside the administration. What’s unique here is the dual role they play – one primarily handling domestic policy while the other focuses on foreign policy.
The root of this tension? Well, it appears to be the time each spends at the podium. Kirby, a Biden favorite, is the face of the administration’s response to international crises, like the Israel-Hamas war. He’s hinted at aspirations to one day become the White House press secretary himself. Jean-Pierre, on the other hand, plans to stay on through the election and beyond, with Biden’s encouragement.
Now, let’s go behind the scenes. This setup, which began after Jen Psaki’s departure, seems to have intensified the strain. However, it’s important to note that President Biden himself prefers this arrangement.
According to Axios KJP was upset about this from the start:
When Biden offered Jean-Pierre the press secretary job in 2022, he awkwardly added that Kirby also would be joining and that they’d be a team, Jean-Pierre told people afterward. Jean-Pierre left the meeting with Biden upset and confused about whether she actually had the job and what Kirby’s role would be, according to three people familiar with her comments at the time.
Kirby’s influence has grown, both publicly and in private circles, as he’s developed a close bond with the president. He’s even begun accompanying Biden on Air Force One for domestic trips. Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre, though officially running the press briefings, has only briefed reporters solo once since the conflict began, suggesting a shift in the briefing dynamics.
Another thing to mention is that Kirby has been in Washington a long time working. He is well liked by people on both sides of the political spectrum.
While Jean-Pierre maintains control over who Kirby addresses in the briefings, some aides perceive this as a sign of insecurity. In contrast, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who occasionally joins the briefings, calls on reporters himself, a practice initiated during Psaki’s tenure.
Despite these reports, a White House official closely associated with Jean-Pierre and Kirby disputes the notion of any tension, describing their relationship as collegial and collaborative. But, several other sources indicate that Jean-Pierre was initially wary of Kirby’s involvement.
Many have argued that the architects of this arrangement, Ron Klain and Anita Dunn, might be responsible for the current situation. Jean-Pierre, being relatively new to such high-profile press handling, faced a challenging transition, further complicated by the dual role setup.
This just highlights the lack of good leadership and the circus that is the Biden administration. It’s no wonder things are a mess the administration can’t even handle interpersonal relationships inside the White House.