Former Obama spokesperson moving to State
Marie Harf, a former spokeswoman for the CIA and the Obama presidential campaign, is expected to be named the new deputy spokeswoman for the State Department, The Cable has learned. President Barack Obama is likely to appoint Harf to be the No. 2 spokesperson at State in the coming days, department sources say. She will ...
Marie Harf, a former spokeswoman for the CIA and the Obama presidential campaign, is expected to be named the new deputy spokeswoman for the State Department, The Cable has learned.
President Barack Obama is likely to appoint Harf to be the No. 2 spokesperson at State in the coming days, department sources say. She will be the deputy to former White House staffer and campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who joined State earlier this year. The appointment is one piece of a series of changes in how the State Department public affairs shop will be managed during the tenure of Secretary of State John Kerry.
Harf, who declined to comment for this article, most recently handled outreach for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during his extremely contentious confirmation process. She spoke on behalf of the Hagel confirmation effort and worked behind the scenes to liaise with outside groups and former officials to build support for Hagel’s nomination and respond to critics.
On the 2012 campaign, Harf was the official spokesperson for all things related to foreign policy and national security and she worked closely with the co-chairs of Obama’s national security advisory team, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl. She was also a member of Obama’s debate prep team.
Harf began her career as an intelligence analyst for the CIA focusing on leadership analysis in the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia. She spent several years as an analyst before moving to the CIA’s media shop. Hailing from Ohio, Harf graduated from Indiana University.
When Harf does come aboard at State as deputy spokeswoman, she will be Psaki’s stand-in at the podium when Psaki is traveling. Currently, that job is filled by Patrick Ventrell, who is expected to remain in the public affairs shop as a third briefer, with expanded responsibilities and as director of the press office. Ventrell filled in ably for deputy spokesman Mark Toner during Toner’s health troubles last year.
Psaki replaced Victoria Nuland, who is expected to be nominated to be assistant secretary of state for Europe in the near future. Nuland and Vetrell were both career Foreign Service officers, but Psaki and Harf are both outsiders coming into Foggy Bottom from the Obama team, albeit with some foreign-policy credentials of their own.
It’s still unclear who will take on the role of assistant secretary of state for public affairs, currently filled by Mike Hammer, who is expected to be given an ambassadorship soon. The assistant secretary job is meant to manage State’s huge public affairs bureaucracy while the spokesperson’s job is specifically designed to focus on dealing with the media. The jobs were split up following the 2011 departure of P.J. Crowley, but may or may not stay split up when Hammer leaves the bureau. Our sources say that Kerry will keep the jobs separate due to the sheer volume of work associated with each.
Meanwhile, former Boston Globe editor Glen Johnson remains the personal communications advisor to Kerry, although his role is narrower than his predecessor Philippe Reines, who managed an entire strategic communications shop for Hillary Clinton. That shop has now been folded back into the regular public affairs infrastructure.