Matt Miller, public radio host and Washington Post online columnist, delivered an unintentionally damning punch to his friends in the White House.
In a column on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, Miller writes this morning:
Ordinarily, one would say it’s hard to imagine the West Wing’s glee when Ryan got his troops to walk the plank again and pass a fresh version of last year’s extreme, regressive blueprint. But, in fact, I can imagine it perfectly.
I worked with many on the president’s senior team back when they were in the Clinton White House in the ’90s. So I can conjure up the frisson of excitement Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling felt when Ryan’s plan was unveiled, and then once more when the House passed it. The idea that Republicans were sticking their heads in the noose again had to seem like an unbelievable stroke of political luck. Luck that was only compounded by Mitt Romney’s full-throated endorsement of Ryan’s plan on the campaign trail.
So, you see, at a time when we are facing a dire financial future, the White House reaction to a serious plan by Paul Ryan to confront this is a “frisson of excitement” because there might be political hay to be made.
If Miller is right (and I bet it is), this is breathtakingly cynical. The White House is seen as not merely disagreeing with the Ryan plan and wanting to put forward an alternative (fat chance) but as viewing this only in political terms. Instead realizing that Ryan is grappling with a very serious problem, albeit reaching conclusions with which they disagree, they see Republicans putting their necks in nooses or walking planks.
After coming up with what is essentially a parody of the Ryan plan with some phony comparisons based on misleading numbers, Miller has a vision:
I can see the focus group of independent voters reacting with shock and revulsion when they heard these comparisons. The thumbs-ups of David Axelrod and David Plouffe behind the two-way mirror as they texted White House speechwriters, “It’s a go.”
So this is leadership Obama-style.
Mr. Miller applauds the president for “slyly” mocking Mitt Romney’s use of the word “marvelous” to describe the Ryan budget. This is supposed to show how out of touch Romney is.
A word to the wise, Mr. Miller: Folks who go around talking about frissons shouldn’t make fun of marvelous.