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“It was clear to most folks who observe this and understand what is at issue here,” Mr. Carney said.

“But …” another reporter said.

“Well, it may not be evident to you. It is clear that the president was talking about …”

The boys and girls had a field day Wednesday, then came back again Thursday ready to play. Ed Henry of Fox News struck first.

“The premise of your question,” a miffed Mr. Carney said, “suggests that the president of the United States, in the comments he made Monday, did not believe that the Supreme Court could rule on the constitutionality of legislation, which is a preposterous premise, and I know you don’t believe that.”

“Well,” etc Mr. Henry said.

“In speaking on Monday,” Mr. Carney said, “the president was not clearly understood by some people. Because he is a law professor, he spoke in shorthand,” the coal company spokesman said.

Then, finally, CBS News’ Bill Plante, aging like a fine wine, had had quite enough. “He made a mistake, and you can’t admit it,” the 74-year-old reporter said, point-blank.

“I grant to you,” Mr. Carney said, “I totally grant to you that he did not refer to the Commerce Clause; he did not refer to the full context. I think he believed that that was understood. Clearly, some folks, notably people sitting in that chair and others, missed that and …”

“It’s our fault,” Mr. Henry said.

“It surely is,” another reporter said.

“No, no, look, others — look, others …” Mr. Carney stammered. “I’m just saying that there’s a lot of — I mean, it’s kind of ridiculous to believe that the president wasn’t talking about the context of the case. But I completely concede that he did not describe the context when he took the question and answered it on Monday. He then, asked again on Tuesday, provided the full context. And so, did he clarify his comments? Absolutely. Did he expand on them? Absolutely.”

Mr. Plante got in one last zinger. “You’re standing up there twisting yourself in knots.”

And not too long from now, Mr. Carney will be telling us how convenient the “convenience fee” is. Perhaps he’ll be better suited for that job.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at