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Carney sounds like Gibbs on first day as White House spokesman

By Tom Cohen, CNN
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White House welcomes new spokesman
  • The former Time magazine correspondent answers reporters' questions
  • Carney says he both promotes the president's agenda and helps journalists
  • "I appreciate the turnout," Carney tells the crowded briefing room

Washington (CNN) -- With a wish of good luck from his boss, new White House Press Secretary Jay Carney held his first briefing Wednesday and came off very much like the man he replaced.

"Thank you very much," Carney said to greetings of welcome from former journalist colleagues in the White House press corps. "I'm glad to be here."

A former White House correspondent for Time magazine, Carney noted the briefing room was unusually crowded for his first day, with some reporters and photographers standing on the sides and in back.

"I appreciate the turnout," he joked.

For the next hour, Carney generally stayed on message and displayed the same ability to avoid a direct answer as his predecessor, Robert Gibbs.

He dodged his first tough query about six minutes into the briefing, when he was asked about Israel's objection to what it says are plans for two Iranian warships to transit the Suez Canal.

Noting that the administration's policy on Iran is clear, Carney said: "I don't have anything for you on the ships in the Suez."

Asked if his main responsibility was to promote President Barack Obama's agenda or help the media cover the White House, Carney basically answered both.

Nodding to his communications team, Carney said that "we obviously all here serve the president. I work for him."

At the same time, he said, "I work with the press to help you do your job."

He smoothly handled questions on the major issues of the day, defending Obama's budget proposal this week as a necessary step to balance government spending and income, and reiterating the administration's call for Middle East governments and protesters to avoid violence.

When asked about the shootings of two U.S. immigration agents in Mexico, Carney was ready with news that Obama had called the parents of slain Special Agent Jaime J. Zapata to express condolences.

Carney said he spoke to Obama a few times on Wednesday morning and that the president "wished me luck."

As he walked off at the end, some reporters asked if he enjoyed his first day.

"It was better than I ever could have imagined," Carney deadpanned, then added: "I like it up here."