Washington is a very different world from the real world.
I realize that, um, many of you have already noticed this, and expressed your view of Washington’s character in far more colorful terms.
One of the unreal aspects of the city, which this blog is designed to rebut, is the willingness of the members of Washington’s political class to pretend that self-evidently untrue things are true, or vice versa.
There is a collegial sense that develops in town between people who are supposed to be natural antagonists but who, operating in the same environment, become collaborators in a kind of mutual deference and that leads to an acceptance of falsehood.
It is thus that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s claim today that President Obama doesn’t care if he gets blamed for the rise in gasoline prices was met without a single challenge by either his questioner or any of those he subsequently called on.
It is part of the unwritten rule in the briefing room that the press secretary is allowed to say things that are patently absurd, and reporters who are supposed to be the watchdogs of truth and democracy obediently go along.
Here’s the exchange:
Question: In this election year the President is not concerned that he’s getting the blame for the $4.00-plus per gallon?
Carney: If you want to — I mean, election questions and campaign questions you should direct to the campaign.
Question: Okay, let’s take out “election.” Is he concerned — is he not concerned that he’s getting the blame from the public or from —
Carney: The President is not concerned about who gets the blame. The President is concerned about making sure we have the right policies to deal with this challenge for the long term.
I assure you, there was not a single person in the briefing room, including Carney, who believes the president is not concerned about whether he is being blamed for high gas prices. Obama, in fact, has scheduled a trip this week to an oil field in New Mexico and a portion of the Keystone pipeline in Oklahoma EXACTLY BECAUSE he is concerned that he is being blamed for the price at the pump.
Carney is guilty of nothing unusual. Press secretaries pull this kind of thing all the time. Ari Fleischer used to tell us George W. Bush didn’t care about polls, even as the White House was regularly commissioning its own polls and going over others with a fine tooth comb.
It’s just that the press was more willing to break the rules get in Fleischer’s face about such nonsense. But not today. Not for Mr. Obama’s spokesman.