In moments of extreme tension, strange things sometimes happen.
That was apparently the case Wednesday for White House press secretary Jay Carney.
At an hour-long grilling at the White House, President Obama's spokesman faced a series of difficult questions about what his boss was doing to help end the crisis over the U.S. debt ceiling.
Here's how the New York Times described the scene:
(Carney) spoke repeatedly but without specifics of private conversations and nonstop meetings involving administration officials “up to the highest levels” — White House shorthand for the president. Finally, exasperated, he asked whether reporters expected “a President Bartlet moment” — say, a march up Capitol Hill to whip Congress in line, à la fictional president in “The West Wing” television series.
“Yes,” one reporter replied.
Carney isn't the only one feeling frazzled at the moment as a fractured Washington, D.C. faces a looming Aug. 2 deadline before the Treasury says America will default on its debts.
House speaker John Boehner is now also feeling the heat, using a mix of profanity and pleading to cajole recalcitrant Republicans to back his plan to end the crisis.
Of course, the outcome of this ongoing debt drama has a decidedly political flavor. President Obama is likely to be reelected next year — or tossed out of office — based on what the U.S. economy does between now and then.
A U.S. default and the cascade of potential economic nightmares that event could trigger — higher interest rates, a U.S. and global markets collapse, a downgrading of U.S. credit worthiness, fiscal handcuffs to assist the 14.1 million Americans now out of work, to name just a few — raises the stakes for a president who was elected three years ago to fix a very troubled economy.
And right now, those economic signs are not good.
Dramatically read the lines of whatever script writer Aaron Sorkin handed him, of course.
President Obama has a much more difficult task: dealing with reality.
Three days and counting, folks.