White House: When Obama said Paul Ryan is 'not on the level,' he meant Ryan is 'absolutely sincere' 

In his caught-by-an-open-microphone remarks to a private fundraiser in Chicago Thursday night, President Obama questioned the sincerity of House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan's effort to reduce the federal deficit.  Ryan's approach, Obama told Democratic donors, is "not on the level."

"When Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure, you know, he's just being America's accountant…," Obama said, "this is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill -- but wasn't paid for. So it's not on the level. And we've got to keep on, you know, keep on shining a light on that."

Given those comments, one might assume that Obama does not believe Ryan is being entirely sincere in his proposals to cut spending and reform entitlements.  Not at all.  During a question-and-answer session with press secretary Jay Carney on board Air Force One returning from Chicago to Washington Friday, a reporter noted that Obama's remarks "impl[ied] that Ryan was not serious about the deficit, he voted for two wars, that kind of thing."  The reporter asked: "Does the president believe Paul Ryan is a sincere person?"

Absolutely, Carney answered.  "He does believe that Chairman Ryan is absolutely sincere and that he believes that this is the right -- that that's the right path, the one he put forward is the right path for America."

Carney claimed that Obama said nothing about Ryan in private that he has not said in public.  "What he said in that session…and the things he's said in more public forums have been entirely consistent," Carney explained.  Noting that some commentators suggested that Obama was openly critical of Ryan during Obama's budget speech on Wednesday, Carney said, "You can't in one breath criticize [Obama] for being pointed in his comments about the House Republican budget plan in public and then say, my gosh, he was pointed and so different in private, because he is making clear that the visions are quite different."

Carney said the open-microphone audio from the supposedly private session was a result of a "miscommunication, nothing more than that."  He added that the president is "not at all" embarrassed about his remarks being made public.

About The Author

Byron York


Byron York is the Examiner’s chief political correspondent. His column appears Tuesdays and Fridays. He blogs throughout the week at Beltway Confidential.

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