On the one hand, what he said last night about Ryan was a light jab compared to the roundhouses Ryan was throwing at him after Wednesday’s speech. On the other hand, Ryan started swinging in the first place only because he showed up to that speech thinking it’d be a call for common ground on deficit reduction and found that it was a campaign stemwinder aimed at ambushing him and the GOP. Imagine his surprise to find that Bambi, elected as a healing force of post-partisan pragmatism, is willing to turn into Godzilla when there’s an electoral opportunity in front of him.

So now that we have open warfare between the two sides, mourned by a teary David Brooks, why retreat? No apologies:

Aboard Air Force One today White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the president was “not at all” embarrassed by his comments caught on the open microphone last night and that any comments picked up in private last night were consistent with his public message.

“There’s nothing he said that contradicts anything he said in public,” Carney said, “I think what he said in that session you’re talking about and the things that he’s said in more public forums have been entirely consistent.”

President Obama had harsh words last night in a seeming private moment for the Chairman Paul Ryan whom president has praised in public for offering serious attempts to address the deficit…

When asked today, Carney said that the president “does believe that Chairman Ryan is absolutely sincere,” adding though that the president believes his own budget is the right path for America.

Ryan marveled yesterday that Obama’s sandbagging actually helped insofar as it united the GOP caucus behind him. No doubt it did, but if you’re looking for deep strategy behind The One’s jackassery, look no further than that. Democrats are convinced, not without reason, that aggressive Medicare reform is a political death wish, so Obama may have calculated that by beating up on Ryan he could maximize the number of Republicans who sign the suicide note with him. In fact, if you’re looking for deep deep strategy, you might conclude that picking a nasty fight with Ryan was Obama’s way of trying to sabotage any movement on a “grand bargain” involving entitlement reform before it could gather momentum. The more embittered the two sides are, the harder it is to make a deal. After all, if a deal was in the offing, he’d be in an excruciating political position: Does he champion the grand bargain and risk the ire of seniors at the polls or does he turn his back on the process and embrace the looming debt catastrophe in earnest? By alienating Ryan and tossing out his own check-the-box plan, he simultaneously gets to say, “hey, I tried,” while increasing the chances that nothing significant will happen. At least until after the election.

Believe it or not, some people “close to the Gang of Six” think Obama’s speech was actually a ploy to encourage them to come up with a bipartisan plan. You think? You think The One has his fingers crossed that a big package involving Medicare and Social Security reform might land on his desk, oh, let’s say, in October 2012? Wouldn’t the better, i.e. remotely sane, strategy instead be to do nothing, demagogue the GOP until after the elections, and then use the newly expanded Democratic caucus either to block further attempts at entitlement reform or to pass a plan that’s more favorable to liberal goals? Why on earth would Obama want to see the Gang of Six succeed? Exit quotation from Jay Cost:

And here we find the Rosetta Stone that helps us decipher the Obama enigma: While representing himself as totally unconcerned about politics, he is in reality totally absorbed by politics. A huge budget deficit staring us down? Time is of the essence? A Republican leader in Paul Ryan who seems genuinely interested in figuring out a solution? Who cares! There’s an election in 18 months. An election, for goodness sake! Is anything more important?