With two months to the election, Democrats are attempting to create a devastatingly negative narrative to throw at Republicans in order to bury GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
One of the more pungent accusations in this indictment is the charge that the GOP induced a crisis surrounding the debt ceiling, and then refused to negotiate with President Obama in good faith. It's a serious charge, and until recently, much of the evidence made it look plausible.
However, as veteran journalist Bob Woodward recounts in his forthcoming book, "The Price of Politics," the story is far, far more complicated. Indeed, the precise moment when negotiations over a supposed "grand bargain" between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner broke down appears to have been precipitated by a call for more tax increases on the part of the president, as well as some needlessly confrontational behavior toward current Republican vice presidential nominee and then-House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan - for instance, the incident in which President Obama gave Ryan a front row seat at one of his (Obama's) speech on the budget, which turned out to be a kitchen sink-style assault on Ryan's plan.
Now, looking back on the affair, Obama apparently regrets it. However, as Woodward recounts it, he did so with a revealing slip-up regarding Paul Ryan's name:
"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," Obama told Woodward. "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's disavowal is likely to strike many people as more than a little difficult to believe. After all, the invite for Ryan did come directly from the White House itself. Especially given Rep. Ryan's recent prominence, one has to wonder why Obama would fumble his name like this. The answer may lie in nugget from Obama's past run for Senate in 2004.
As the history books now faithfully record, Obama trounced his opponent, political commentator Alan Keyes, by the unfathomably wide margin of 70 percent to 27 percent. However, before Keyes, Obama's opponent was originally slated to be the relatively popular Illinois politician Jack Ryan, former husband of actress Jeri Ryan.
So why didn't Jack Ryan run against Obama? Simple - because the Obama campaign forced his divorce records with his wife to go public. And boy, were they damaging:
JUNE 22--In what may prove a crippling blow to his U.S. Senate campaign, divorce records reveal that Illinois Republican Jack Ryan was accused by his former wife, actress Jeri Ryan, of pressuring her to have sex at swinger's clubs in New York, Paris, and New Orleans while other patrons watched.
The bombshell allegation is contained amidst nearly 400 pages of records ordered released yesterday by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge who ruled on media requests to unseal documents from the Ryan case. The salacious charge leveled at the politician was made by Jeri Ryan, who has starred in TV's "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Boston Public," in a court filing in connection with child custody proceedings.[...]
The performer alleged that she refused Ryan's requests for public sex during the excursions, which included a trip to a New York club "with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling." While Ryan, a former Goldman Sachs executive, confirmed the trips with the actress, he described them simply as "romantic getaways," denying her claims that he sought public sex.
In short, like Paul Ryan, Jack Ryan was a promising politician with details about his record that Obama either knew or suspected were nuclear. In the case of Paul Ryan, those details (specifically, about his budget) have turned out to not be so nuclear after all. In the case of Jack Ryan, however, they obviously were.
So while more sinister explanations could be found, it would seem that Obama simply confused one of his more controversial current opponents with one of his more controversial past opponents. It's a strange mistake to make, but given the prevalence of high-profile people with the last name "Ryan" in Obama's life, it's not an unbelievable one.