Old and busted: There was no linkage between American hostages and the $400 million that went to Iran! Day Two of new hotness: We’d have been fools not to link the money to the hostages! State Department spokesman Admiral John Kirby appeared on Morning Joe earlier today to attempt the high-wire act he tried the day before — admitting that the US linked a $400 million payment to Iran with the release of hostages while denying it was paying a ransom. Today’s explanation: Hey, we did what we had to do to get Americans back!

That still leaves us with the same problem, though — making payments for hostages, no matter whether we call that a “ransom” or not:

While acknowledging that the two “tracks” of securing the prisoners’ release and finalizing the nuclear deal came together, Kirby remarked, “we took full advantage of that and we make no apologies for that.”

“We took full advantage of that momentum in what turned out to be about a 24-hour period to try to get it all done together,” Kirby said. “And look, we don’t—there isn’t a lot of trust with Iran. So it would have been foolish and imprudent in our view to go ahead and settle the cash payment of the principal when we didn’t have our Americans back.”

Kirby recalled that Iran was “playing games with us” at the time with respect to the release of the prisoners, particularly with respect to Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.

“And so we were very worried that in the final hours here, they were going to somehow pull a fast one,” Kirby said. “And so, I think we did use it as leverage and we make no apologies about that because now we got our American citizens back safely.”

The “tracks” argument came up yesterday, too, in Kirby’s claim that State was handling the hostages and the Iran deal on two separate tracks. Originally, the State Department claimed that the concurrent resolution of the two tracks was entirely coincidental, and that the national security teams involved reached consensus agreement on the arrangements. We’ve learned over the past week that neither were true; the Department of Justice objected to the payment as a “ransom,” and Kirby admitted yesterday afternoon that the payment was linked to the release.

Now he wants to sell that as a feature rather than a bug, topped off with the observation that the money belonged to Iran anyway. Actually, until Barack Obama and John Kerry signed off on the nuclear deal, it wasn’t, or at least it wasn’t going to be in their control. Even that argument, though, makes it clear that this was extortion — Iran took hostages to get us to give them the money, and we submitted to that extortion. What will Iran extort out of us the next time?

There is no way to square this circle. The Obama administration paid money for hostages. Thirty years ago, the Reagan administration cut a similar deal with Iran, involving a complicated arms deal through Israel to get the release of seven Americans abducted in Lebanon by Hezbollah. The difference between the two is that Ronald Reagan eventually admitted it and apologized for it when it got caught. The Obama administration seems intent on bragging about it.