White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was clearly in an upbeat mood during today’s press briefing. Many of the reporters in the room, however, were not feeling the love.
Specifically, CBS’s Norah O’Donnell peppered Carney with terse, accusatory questions about the lack of tax revenue (read: tax increases) in the debt ceiling deal. O’Donnell complained about how many GOP demands were met by the deal, and then said to Carney: “You have Democrats saying you gave them everything they wanted and we got nothing.” [Second update: I've added the words "you have Democrats saying..." from the transcript since this item was first published.] That “we” is very telling. It was a tense moment in the room, and O’Donnell seemed to give voice to frustrated liberals who feel the deal gave significantly more to Republicans than Democrats, and included no tax increases–something President Obama had demanded be included for most of the negotiations.
[Update: Some readers are objecting that O'Donnell was relaying to Carney what liberals are saying about the deal. If you watch the whole clip, she asks a question before this statement that is clearly in her voice, not that of agitated liberals: “Two weeks ago the president talked about shared sacrifice, and he talked about ending subsidies for oil companies and he talked about ending tax breaks for corporate jet owners. He talked about that this was a very fair deal where he was offering three-to-one, spending cuts for one in tax revenues. Where are the tax revenues?” She then asks the question where her defenders insist she is quoting others. Watch the delivery of her question--it's both hostile and dramatic, and was made only after questioning Carney along the same lines in which there is no contention that she is speaking for anyone other than herself. Viewers can decide.]
O’Donnell asked Carney about this a couple times, in a confrontational tone. Fox’s Ed Henry broke the tension by jokingly asking, “But Jay, where is the tax revenue?” to laughter from the room (and especially from a relieved Carney, suddenly more comfortable with Fox than usual). The moment encapsulated the left’s reaction to the deal. The New Republic’s John Judis wrote this morning: “Democrats in Congress, and any Republicans who have not lost their senses, should turn this deal down.”
It’s possible O’Donnell’s outburst will make Republicans more at ease with supporting the bill, but it certainly won’t help the president. Even if enough Democrats vote for the bill in the end (and they are signaling that will be the case) the left, led by the liberal press, do not seem to be through communicating their hostility to a president who would otherwise find in them a bit more sympathy. O’Donnell, meanwhile, may have to answer to her bosses at CBS for peeling back the veneer of impartiality to reveal the liberal advocacy just beneath the surface of the mainstream networks.