"I'll go ahead and say it – I think that I was not aware when I gave that speech that Jack Ryan was going to be sitting right there," the president told Woodward according to audio transcripts of their conversations, provided to ABC News.I wonder. It seems surprising to think that if Obama had known Ryan was going to be in the audience, he would have toned down his opinions for the sake of comity or generally not making young
"And so I did feel, in retrospect, had I known – we literally didn't know he was going to be there until – or I didn't know, until I arrived. I might have modified some of it so that we would leave more negotiations open, because I do think that they felt like we were trying to embarrass him," Obama continued. "We made a mistake."
Ryan was apparently invited to the speech as a "polite" gesture, as were all members of the Simpson-Bowles commission (Ryan was on that, remember, and helped block any possibility for the commission deciding anything), but the White House didn't really expect he or other Republican members to show up. But what they didn't take into account is that for Paul Ryan, everything is about Paul Ryan:
When Ryan got his invite, Woodward reports, he thought it was an effort by Obama to extend an olive branch to leaders of the new Republican House majority and "triangulate" a deficit solution, Bill Clinton-style.So to Ryan it wasn't just a polite gesture by the president, it was a sign from the president that Paul Ryan was great and the president now wanted to work with Paul Ryan. Yeah, that sounds about right. So he shows up, the president gives his prepared speech lighting into the Ryan plan specifically, and Paul Ryan has an epic sad from which he may never fully recover.
At first I thought this was just a bit of a ruse by the White House to remind us all yet again about that truly wonderful speech, but if the interview was recorded before Ryan was picked for the VP slot that puts a damper on that theory. So now the only thing left is to discuss to what extent the speech was really accidental and/or a "mistake." I'm not buying it, personally: If you're giving a televised speech to the nation hammering the Paul Ryan budget, it seems improbable that you'd think that Paul Ryan wouldn't eventually hear about that. Perhaps the rhetorical nuking of that budget while its author was sitting in the same room with you was an accident, but if so, it counts as one of the happier accidents in recent political memory. Lightening an important speech in order to spare the supposed feelings of a guy who wants to replace a large chunk of the nation's social safety net with vouchers would probably have been the bigger mistake.