What, the ying-yang of headline writing? On the Post's front online page we're told, "White House dismisses GOP criticism of spending request due Monday." Inside, however, the story is titled, "Jacob Lew defends Obama’s spending plan."
So which is it? Is the White House dismissive or defensive? Or, honing its skills of horrifying nuance, is it dismissively defensive or defensively dismissive? Or does the White House merely seek harmony in the beatific oneness of opposites, or perhaps the dialectical hum of Hegelian synthesis?
Well, there's always the reader's methodology of last and desperate resort: Read the story. Yes, sometimes it comes to that. And, turns out, it's sort of all the above: Mr. Lew both "dismissed Republican criticism" and "defended Obama’s approach" -- nonetheless while "to defend" suggests a certain cowering, "to dismiss" more than implies a deliberate insouciance; the latter alights rather unambiguously in the rhetorical land of, "We don't much care what those idiots think."
So this, too, has come to that, and with heavy justification. In a sane political world -- that is, one populated by roughly equal proportions of partisan lucidity -- a White House might make a show of dismissing the opposition. Yet the show would be staged, conspicuously, from a defensive position. Not here, not this time, no longer. Sure, a deficits-self-awareness must be demonstrated in pursuit of, and on behalf of, independent voters' delicate sensitivities, but otherwise this White House's attitudinal line can safely be: Those other guys, just plain meshuga; we've ceased brooding about, and defending against, their spasmodic fits and metronomic tantrums.
Because, as Paul Krugman put it with such economy this morning, "something has clearly gone very wrong with modern American conservatism." Or, to be even more economical: It's done gone crazy.