At today's daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tangled with reporters over questions about President Obama's specific debt plan -- or lack thereof. Fox News' Ed Henry asked why the administration won't release a concrete proposal in document form. Carney belittled the question as a repetition of a "Republican talking point." He then suggested that if Henry wanted specifics, he should have stuck around for the president's angry press conference on Friday night instead of "cut[ting] out early" -- a snide remark that drew groans from the press corps. Here's the full video. The audio's a bit faint, but it's all there. Carney's first flare up comes at the very beginning of the clip:
Note Carney's preposterous assertion that the president already has outlined the specifics of his plan. Where, and when, you may ask? At George Washington University in April -- when he presented an unscorable speech filled with imaginary, underpants-gnomes-style "savings" -- and in his subsequent press conferences, during one of which he actually said the words, "I'm not going to get into specifics." Got all that? If you're still a bit bewildered, never fear: NBC's Chuck Todd was, too. So he circled back to this line of questioning a few minutes later, leading to this immortal exchange (scroll ahead to the 5:00 mark):
Chuck Todd: Why not just release it?
Jay Carney: Do you need something printed for you? You can't write it down?
Yes, actually, we do need "something printed." Since his unmitigated failure of a budget was unanimously defeated in the Senate, this president has refused to offer a specific plan of his own on virtually anything at all. Instead, he talks about "visions" and "contours" and "frameworks" -- and tries to blame his opponents when his poor leadership is exposed. Over the last five days, the president has (a) undermined a bargain with John Boehner by introducing an unacceptable eleventh-hour condition, (b) rejected "out of hand" a bipartisan compromise that he found to be politically unpalatable, and (c) delivered a speech that painted his opponents as the intractable extremists. In light of this behavior, it's entirely reasonable for Americans to wonder what, precisely, Barack Obama's proposed solution might be. Today, the White House dismissively waived off that question as a GOP talking point and condescendingly inquired if the journalist who dared to ask it was capable of taking notes.
I'll close with an unsolicited word of advice, and a friendly reminder from the CBO director. The advice: When you're already plumbing new depths of unpopularity, dialing up your arrogance isn't a winning strategy. Even David Brooks finds it unseemly. Finally, Doug Elmendorf's timely reminder (listen and take notes, Mr. Carney):
Editor's Note: This post has been corrected to accurately reflect that Ed Henry asked the first question, and Chuck Todd added a follow-up.
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