White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri plans to leave the administration in the coming months, likely to take a top job on Hillary Clinton’s emerging presidential campaign-in-waiting.
The White House confirmed Palmieri’s departure to msnbc, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal Wednesday evening. Palmieri is expected to join a Clinton campaign led by fellow White House official John Podesta, who is close with Palmieri and will step down soon as well.
The move is perhaps the strongest evidence yet that Clinton is moving ahead with a 2016 candidacy, and signals that she intends to seek warmer relations with the press than during her last presidential bid.
“There’s been a collective sigh of relief from flacks and reporters alike,” said one Democratic communications operative, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “It is clear they’re ready to turn the page.”
The sentiment was reflected by several Democratic press operatives who spoke with msnbc Wednesday night, many of whom had worried about a repeat of Clinton’s hostile posture towards the press from 2008.
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Mike McCurry, who served as Bill Clinton’s White House Press Secretary, called the hire a “smart move,” while other operatives praised Palmieri as smart and lacking in ego.
“Her campaign can’t double down on a decade-old failed strategy with the press. That approach just made the coverage worse and made life miserable for everyone. Today’s news seems like a first step in the right direction,” said another Democratic communications operative.Last year, Politico surveyed 61 White House reporters and asked them to name the most helpful official in the building. Their clear top choice was Palmieri.
McClatchy White House reporter Steve Thomma, who until recently served as president of the White House Correspondent’s Association, said Palmieri is respected by White House reporters. ”I’ve known Jen since the Clinton White House,” he said in an email. “She won’t always tell us what we want to know. But she’s accessible, and likes talking with reporters.”
Clinton’s 2008 campaign was beset by many problems, but one of it’s major woes was perpetually difficult relations with the press. Her communications director, Phil Singer, was infamous for berating journalists and staffers alike in an especially harsh manner, even for the sharp-elbowed world presidential campaigns.
Clinton offered little access to reporters traveling with her during her first run, at least while she was a top the polls, and her team had what former aides and staffers alike described as an almost paranoid and hostile view of the Fourth Estate.
As Clinton has prepared for a run over the past year, Democrats hoping she would change her posture have been watching warily from the sidelines as some unflattering stories emerged.
Advisors to Clinton insist a 2016 campaign will be different from 2008, and she so far delivered with hires from outside her orbit of longtime loyalists Palmieri worked for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’s presidential campaign that year, not Clinton, before joining Podesta at the Center for American Progress after the election.
But operatives also say that Clinton herself will set the tone for her campaigns interactions with the press. Clinton has been wary of the press in the past, but reportedly got along well the press corps that covered her as secretary of state. In one sign of goodwill, Clinton recently agreed to present an award next month for journalism, named in honor of the late New York Times reporter Robin Toner.
Whether the moves ultimately signal meaningful change remain to be seen.