But the “centrists” who weigh in on policy debates are playing a different game. Their self-image, and to a large extent their professional selling point, depends on posing as high-minded types standing between the partisan extremes, bringing together reasonable people from both parties—even if these reasonable people don’t actually exist. …
So you can see the problem these commentators face. To admit that the president’s critique is right would be to admit that they were snookered by Mr. Ryan, who is the same as he ever was. More than that, it would call into question their whole centrist shtick—for the moral of my story is that Mr. Ryan isn’t the only emperor who turns out, on closer examination, to be naked.
Hence the howls of outrage, and the attacks on the president for being “partisan.” For that is what people in Washington say when they want to shout down someone who is telling the truth.