Overview:

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave her final press briefing after 15 months in the job. Her competence and integrity will be missed.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

After the four years of Trump’s tenure in the White House, and a series of infamous press secretaries who became the butt of many liberal comedy shows, we finally found stability in the position that is the face of the US government. This stability hasn’t just been borne of a long stint in the position—something of a rarity in recent years—but of consistent competency, honesty and integrity, work ethic, and a desire to serve both the President and the American people to the best of her abilities.

Jen Psaki has just given her final press briefing and fought back tears in an emotional tribute to those with whom she has worked. It was her 224th briefing in 15 months on the job.

All of Trump’s press secretaries (remember Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and Kayleigh McEnany?) gave a combined total of 205 over four years.

“And, you know, people always ask me…whether Washington is rotten; you know, whether everybody is corrupt here and…nothing good happens and we all just argue with each other. And I, having done this job, believe the absolute opposite is true.”

In fact, given how much Kayleigh McEnany and Sean Spicer were lambasted by the press, it is interesting to note that they gave only 40 and 58 briefings respectively.

Stephanie Grisham gave zero.

It is an exhausting job that brings with it an awful lot of stress and responsibility: It’s not something you can do for an extended period (The West Wing aside). And so Psaki’s arduous shift has come to an end. We will, sadly, see no more instances ofin Fox’s Peter Doocy being shut down with a forthright, yet erudite, well-researched and -prepared slam dunk.

In the final briefing, Psaki recounted when she went to see the newly elected President and the First Lady in Delaware shortly after taking on the role. “Really what we talked about for the majority of our conversation,” she said, “was the importance of returning integrity, respect, and civility to the White House. The small sliver of my job here in engaging with all of you…on my best days, I hope I have followed the example of integrity and grace that they have set for all of us and do set for all of us every day.”

We can both hope and have good reason to believe that the responsibility of trading information with the media using the currencies of integrity and truth will remain in good hands.

Transparency has certainly been returned to the White House and, with it, integrity.

There was also a chance to thank the team of people around her and others in the White House with whom she works. “They have integrity, grit, commitment to trying, even on the hardest days and worst days, to make the world better for the American people.  And I am very grateful to them,” she said in her final briefing. “They are incredibly tough, smart, hardworking, and deeply, deeply good human beings, deeply good public servants.”

Now, rabid anti-Democrat, anti-Biden voices will scream an example here, or a tweet there, in criticism of Psaki. But even if such complaints held their own, these would still be a gargantuan false equivalence to the lies and spin that was flowing from the White House in a volcanic eruption of bilious disinformation from 2016 through to 2020.

Here’s a little taste of some of Psaki’s typical moments:

It’s not like she came to the job without any experience in the role, though. In 2008, she was Obama’s campaign traveling press secretary before entering the White House as the Deputy Press Secretary before becoming Deputy Communications Director. In 2011, she left this position and became senior vice president and managing director at the public relations firm Global Strategy Group before returning as press secretary for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. In 2013, Psaki became spokesperson for the United States Department of State. For the final Obama years, she was made communications director at the White House.

In the intervening years, Psaki worked with CNN and she is now looking to return to a position in the media, with her likely to become a host at MSNBC.

Psaki is to be replaced by Karine Jean-Pierre, currently the principal deputy press secretary who has filled in on a number of occasions. This will no doubt rile the conservative right as she will be the first black person and first openly gay person to hold the position.

The incoming Jean-Pierre was praised by the outgoing Psaki on Twitter when she said, “She is passionate. She is smart and she has a moral core that makes her not just a great colleague, but an amazing mom and human. Plus, she has a great sense of humor.”

One element that was interesting to hear in the final briefing was a general observation about what is often see as a rotten Washington. “And, you know, people always ask me — and I’m sure you guys get asked this too — about whether Washington is rotten; you know, whether everybody is corrupt here and, you know, nothing good happens and we all just argue with each other,” Psaki said. “And I, having done this job, believe the absolute opposite is true. Because I have worked with and engaged with all of these incredible people across the administration and this amazing team, many of whom are here, that I get to work with every day.”

She was confident in the quality, going forward. “As I said about Karine last week, these people are already the stars of the team, but they’re going to be shining stars in the future.”

There is no doubt that Psaki has been of huge benefit to the Biden White House, helping to navigate through some tricky periods with an air of proficient confidence. And there is no doubt that she has dragged the reputation of the job and the quality of its output from the gutters and climbed to a much loftier position from where she can look down with professional pride.

She will be missed sorely by those who have watched this reversal over the last 15 months. We can both hope and have good reason to believe that the responsibility of trading information with the media using the currencies of integrity and truth will remain in good hands.

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...