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But it was "ransom" -- a word Obama has used repeatedly to describe Republican negotiating tactics -- that struck the last press corps nerve. The usual briefing room decorum, such as it is, broke down entirely when Carney said finally that Obama would sign a debt-ceiling extension but not if it meant "paying a ransom" to Republicans.
"The president will not pay ransom for ... " Carney began.
"You see it as a ransom, but it's a metaphor that doesn't serve our purposes ... " NPR correspondent Ari Shapiro shouted back with broad support from other confused reporters.
"You guys are just too literal then, right? Carney said.
"We just want to accurately report," Shapiro began before Carney interjected. "We're trying to be accurate in our description of what's going on."
The hot rhetoric from a consciously cool administration has not been the domain only of senior advisers. An exasperated Obama helped set the tone during his news conference last week when he used a torrent of metaphors and angry characterizations to describe the budget standoff and debt ceiling threat.
In this case it would seem resistance to 'metaphor' is part and parcel of normalizing totally unprecedented behavior in the interests of false equivalence. Sic transit.