You can, that is, if you're a certain kind of president. Let's say, theoretically, you're a president like Barack Obama, who, standing before the media on Monday, declared up to be down, red to be green and wolves to resemble sweet little lamb-y pies.
With four more years to run in his engagement with the American people, Obama may yet startle us by representing up to be up, red to be red and wolves to have large teeth. We should not hold our breath. The likelier strategy would be to assume our present president incapable of anything resembling straight talk about his varied strategies, or, where capable of it, unwilling to indulge his hearers.
Where to begin? Raising the debt ceiling, Obama told the media, would "simply allow the country to pay for spending that Congress has already agreed to. These are bills we've already racked up, and we need to pay for them."
This is rich. Congress "racked up" the debt all by itself? Just wrote a bunch of checks and passed them out? The way orange juice turns magically to scotch whiskey, it did. The last time anyone heard, the procedure for voting money is capped by presidential approval -- or veto. Our chief magistrate tried to rein in congressional spending -- how many times? Didn't he indeed demand the money, as in the case of Obamacare?
Then there's the chief's gracious promise "to have a conversation about how we reduce our deficit in a sensible way."
Once more: Where to begin? With the word "conversation"? We can envision a conversation all right. "Why, sit down, Mr. Boehner. Right over there. Now, let's talk about the taxes we're going to raise." The reason we can envision this pleasant chat is that it's already taken place -- quite recently. In one 50-minute session with Speaker Boehner, the president talked 45 minutes. Which, of course, is how he got himself elected -- by talking incessantly about himself. Anyway, the nature of "conversation" in the Obama White House is, basically, let me tell me why you're wrong, whereas I myself am so superlatively (as usual) right.
Indeed, we're at the present pass on debt due to the president's unassailable love of his own ideas, which at the most fundamental level may be described, Robin Hood-fashion, as taking from the "millionaires and billionaires" and giving to friends and retainers of the Democratic Party.
It helps to enjoy absolute control of the microphone when you're spinning incredible -- literally incredible -- narratives concerning your profound grasp of a Vast Challenge. Now and then a mean-spirited reporter, such as CBS's Major Garrett, throws you a curve ball. Garrett, at the Monday press conference, noted Obama's opposition, during his senatorial days, to going along with a request by President George W. Bush to raise the debt ceiling. How about that, sir? Always a quick mover on the political dance floor, our chief magistrate ignored Garrett's attempt to introduce candor into the discussion. Instead he sprayed the Republicans with his special brand of presidential indignation for their willingness to "blow up the economy."
Four years into the Obama Era -- during which federal debt has increased by $5 trillion -- we see presidential innocence as a pose, a pretext, a thespian device. I'm reminded of a wonderful scene in the 1962 movie "Jumbo": Jimmy Durante, accosted while stealing away with an enormous circus elephant.
The inimitable Jimmy flings his arms in front of the beast, rasping out righteously, "What elephant?!"
For unmitigated gall and chutzpah, our present chief magistrate takes various prizes: so far with minimal murmuring from the electorate and next to none from the media. How much longer before the spotlight starts to pick out the contradictions and evasions he has made his political specialty? One can almost hear him: "What evasions?"