TO HAVE BEEN A FLY ON THE WALL…. Sounds like a lively gathering at the White House today.

President Obama told House Republican leaders on Wednesday that he is open to their proposals on job creation. But their meeting at the White House included several testy exchanges, including one in which the president accused Republicans of undermining public confidence in the economy by scaring the American people.

“The president said he would look at some of our proposals,” Representative Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, told reporters after the session. But, he added, “there is a stark contrast between what the president is proposing and our no-cost jobs plan.”

Actually, that’s true, there is a start contrast. On the one hand, we have Cantor’s demonstrably ridiculous “jobs plan,” built on discredited ideas that have already failed.

One person familiar with the meeting said that the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, began the session by pushing back against Mr. Obama’s assertion that Republicans are concerned about jobs because they are worried about their own electoral prospects.

“Mr. President, we do a lot of politics in this town, but we are committed to working together in areas where we agree to get the American people back to work,” this person quoted Mr. Boehner as saying.

I find it hard to imagine that anyone seriously believes this. Republicans spent a fair amount of time this year debating whether it’s acceptable to publicly root for failure. The notion that they prefer national suffering in the hopes of electoral advantages is not exactly far-fetched. (Besides, there’s hardly any point in trying to talk to these clowns — we’re talking about a congressional caucus that, at the height of the economic crisis, demanded a truly insane five-year spending freeze, and still think, nearly a year later, that they were correct. Between reason and insanity, there is no common ground.)

Later in the session, Mr. Obama complained that Republicans, who have cast his health care policies as a “government takeover” and his jobs ideas as tax increases, are using scare tactics and undermining confidence in the economy.

That concern has the added benefit of being true. The president has helped pull the economy back from the abyss caused by the Republicans’ recession, but the public’s confidence is still rattled. It doesn’t help to have an entire political party committed to terrifying as many Americans as possible.

By one account, President Obama also “challenged congressional Republicans to back up their criticism of his economic recovery plans with academic expertise.” In other words, since every credible expert thinks congressional Republicans are hopelessly foolish about every aspect of economic policy, the president would like to see Boehner, Cantor, & Co. back up their inanities with some evidence. Research. Scholarship. Something.

No, GOP leaders, Sarah Palin’s Facebook page and Glenn Beck’s books don’t count as academic expertise.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.