Hats off to Jake Tapper for this exchange:
The temperature in the White House briefing jumped up Wednesday afternoon as Jake Tapper and Jay Carney vented some of their frustrations with each other publicly.
At one point, Tapper dissed Carney by saying he could provide a “room full of straw men” for the White House press secretary.
Here’s what went down (video is above):
Tapper, the White House correspondent for ABC News, asked Carney to shed some light on Libya conversations that are happening “behind closed doors.” Carney, not exactly willing to pop open the lid on private talks, noted a “kind of what-problem-haven’t-you-solved-today aspect to this.” After he recited talking points on “the international community” and the U.N. resolution, Tapper said that “the situation on the ground has changed” quickly.
In response, Carney pulled out a familiar dodge, saying he wouldn’t give a “play-by-play” of what White House officials are talking about on Libya.
Tapper tried again: “What is going on behind closed doors?”
And Carney shot back: “Who’s talking about what’s going on behind closed doors?”
At that point, Tapper adopted a tone similar to that of a politician as he berated Carney. “In the name of candor and explaining to the American people what’s going on, what we’re talking about doing,” he began, “you guys have been criticized for a lot of quick action that you had to take —”
On that cue, Carney knew where to hit back. He interrupted Tapper and asked sarcastically, “After being criticized for moving too slowly?”
Tapper sighed. “If you’d like me to get a room full of straw men, we can do that,” he said.
Then he kept going: “If we can have this conversation for a second, and that is, what are the — what’s the debate, what are the issues? I’m not saying one side is right or one side is wrong. I’m just saying, can you explain to the American people what are some of the considerations you guys are weighing?”
It strikes me that every press interaction with the WH Press Secretary should be like that. We’d be a much healthier democracy if every politician and every spokesman was aggressively challenged.