White House spokesman Jay Carney was made uncomfortable this week trying to explain to the White House press corps why President Obama hasn't released his own detailed debt plan. The best interpretation of Carney’s vague response is that elements of the White House “plan” have indeed trickled out during the President’s discourse with Congressional leaders. As to a formal written plan getting passed around, Carney agreed with one questioner’s angle that it’s well that the plan has stayed under wraps, as liberal activists on both sides of the isle would have criticized the bedeviling details without mercy.
Read between the lines, starting with the opening shot by the press corps:
Jay, why not release the last offer that Boehner made? I mean, instead of -- if you don’t want to release your own plan, release that plan. If that’s the deal -- if that’s the last offer he made and you guys are willing to go back with a few minor tweaks, release it. It’s the last week -- release it.
CARNEY: I’m not going to -- look, we have shown a lot of leg on what we were proposing --
CARNEY: From the podium, right here, and from the Roosevelt Room. Certainly the Speaker of the House can address, or his people can address what they were -- what their last offer was. They claim that they walked away from the table because of the $400 billion --
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Why not do it? If they throw it out there and then you’re --
CARNEY: The President stood here -- Chuck, again, I can’t remember if you were here -- it might have been Kristen -- but the President stood here on Friday night and went into great detail. You should look at the transcript. The President’s people met --
I understand, I’ve seen the transcript -- there’s still nothing out there. Why not just release that plan?
CARNEY: Is it because you -- I mean, look, you need something printed for you, you can’t write it down? There is ample detail --
It’s not a plan. No, it’s not a plan. It was details of the plan, but it wasn’t a plan the same way that we’re getting a plan on the House side or that we’re getting a plan on the Senate side. It’s not. We don’t know what the Medicare thing is. We don’t know what the Social Security part of this is. There wasn’t -- I mean, there was a lot of missing detail.
CARNEY: We talked in great detail about what’s in Medicare, and you know it.
Why not put it out there, though? You guys went before the American people last night -- and I know that you’re probably getting frustrated because we’re all asking a version of the same question -- but you went before the American people last night and said come -- call your members of Congress and tell them we want a compromise. Well, you had a plan that you were making the case for which sounded like a version of the compromise. Release it to the public. I mean, that’s --
CARNEY: $1.5 to $1.7 trillion in agreed-upon domestic discretionary non-defense savings -- cuts; other savings -- and on the most important stuff, the tough stuff, the stuff that makes it very hard for Democrats to do it but they’d be willing to do it -- important savings on entitlement reform. You know the issues; the President talked about it, other people talked about it, in terms of the kinds of reform that would produce significant savings. Okay? Significant savings in defense -- $400 billion -- significant savings in defense spending -- all right? Significant savings in revenue through closing loopholes and tax reform that would produce -- by lowering rates and broadening the base, it would produce significant savings. There are details -- we can go through details. And what we put forward -- again, this is a fluid situation. The point is, as both parties have said, they were engaged in serious negotiations; we were close to an agreement. One party said they walked away because of an insistence on an extra $400 billion in revenue. We said we could easily talk about that and resolve that issue. And that’s the kind of compromise --
$800 billion in new revenue into the Treasury?
CARNEY: That’s correct.
Coming out of tax reform?
And which parts of -- and was entitlement reform going to be cuts upfront and then a condition?
CARNEY: Well, you know how things that had been talked about in terms of the reforms that would obviously be in the entitlements be phased over a certain period of time -- nobody has talked about upfront tax revenues. For example, the President himself said nothing before 2013 -- and how these things would play out. But these were significant savings, real savings -- the kinds of things in terms of entitlement reform that people have talked about for a long time, and Republicans in particular -- the President was willing to do. And he was looking for a partner, and he felt he had one, and he hopes he still has one going forward.
If he comes back with that $800 billion, why don’t you guys just accept the deal, ask a senator to introduce it in the Senate?
CARNEY: We’ll see. Carol?
Just quickly to follow on Chuck, I mean, the President did say to us on Friday that you guys would open the books and show us the paper. And then when we were in the Roosevelt Room, there was paper that we asked for that we weren’t actually physically handed. So was that -- are you going to give that to us?
CARNEY: The senior people in that room walked you through the numbers, okay? You know -- I mean, we can engage in this, but you know that the reason why we’ve approached it this way is precisely to make it -- to create the optimum circumstances for a compromise. It is -- most of you are veteran Washington reporters. You know how this process works; that if you -- that when you put forward a position, it becomes highly -- on difficult issues, before a compromise is reached -- it becomes charged politically and your chances of actually getting an agreement diminish significantly. That’s how it works. You know that’s how it works. And it’s for that -- if you don’t, well, you should. Others do. It is precisely because we wanted and believed and hoped that we could reach a compromise that the negotiations were conducted the way they were -- by both sides, by the way. It is one thing to say that, yes, Republicans put forward plans that everybody knows can’t become law. Republicans were also engaged in quiet, detailed, concrete negotiations to reach a compromise.
Are you worried about activists tearing this -- activists on your side of the aisle tearing it apart?
CARNEY: And theirs. And theirs.
But that’s why you didn’t -- that’s why this hasn’t gone public?
CARNEY: You know how it works.
I understand that, but that is the reason you --
CARNEY: Because we wanted an outcome that if -- as we’ve talked about -- we’ve cited Bob Dole and others, you got to hold hands, get in the boat together, okay? That’s why.
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