The Washington Post

Politico source calls a 28-minute conversation curt'

Readers of Politico's Playbook this morning found a gloomy-sounding news flash at the top of their morning fix:

EXCLUSIVE: President Obama and Speaker Boehner had a "curt" telephone conversation about the cliff yesterday. Boehner wants POTUS to move off of his position on rates, and POTUS won't move. POTUS keeps saying he has laid what Republicans call his $1.6 trillion revenue plan on the table. And if Boehner has an alternative, he should say it rather than talking about non-specific revenues and entitlement cuts.

Another Politico morning newsletter the "Huddle" -- attributed the news of this "short, curt" discussion to "one insider."

The tip from "one insider" drove some day for Politico, as other outlets picked up news of this "curt" conversation, including ABC News:

The White House confirms President Obama and Speaker Boehner did have what Politico calls a "curt" conversation Wednesday. Aides to the speaker also confirm the call, adding only "Watch Boehner this morning" at a scheduled news conference on Capitol Hill. Both sides refuse to say when during the day the call occurred.

"One insider," however, came under attack in a press briefing this afternoon at the White House. Here's some of the transcript:

Q: Jay, thanks. Politico has characterized the conversation between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner last night as "curt." How would you characterize the conversation? Is that accurate?

MR. CARNEY: Twenty-eight minutes long is my understanding. It was -- I would actually echo what Speaker Boehner said in his remarks earlier today, which is that it was frank and direct and a good conversation. I think the President would agree with that characterization -- and it was also 28 minutes long.

A nearly half-hour discussion would appear to leave Politico's "one insider" with little credibility. As Merriam-Webster puts it, "curt" means "sparing of words" or "marked by rude or peremptory shortness."

But hey: Perhaps Politico's "one insider" isn't a wordsmith. Perhaps this "one insider" was referring only to the tonal part of description, the rude stuff. Next time Mike Allen & Co. rely on this "one insider," they might want to try this question: "What do you mean by that?"

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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