No contest

It’s probably only natural that, in the wake of Friday night’s downgrade announcement, the relevant political players would start holding their rivals accountable. But in this case, if reality has any meaning at all, the debate on this would be brief.

Putting aside, at least for now, whether Standard & Poor’s has the credibility to make such assessments, it’s worth emphasizing the extent to which the agency pointed the finger at congressional Republicans. It not only directly attributed blame to the GOP hostage strategy of the past few months, it lamented the very idea of allowing “the statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default” to “become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy,” before complaining that “the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues.”

The chairman of S&P’s sovereign ratings committee freely admitted that the downgrade decision was “motivated” by the Republicans’ debt-ceiling hostage strategy. A National Journal analysis concluded, “[I]t’s hard to read the S&P analysis as anything other than a blast at Republicans.”

And here’s how Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann interpreted all of this.

“The president’s refusal to remove Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner shows the president has no plan to restore the AAA credit rating to the United States of America,” Bachmann said. “The president is not listening to the people of this country, nor is he providing the leadership that is necessary to bring about economic recovery.”

Just let that sink in for a moment. Bachmann’s tactics contributed to the downgrade decision, and Bachmann blames … Tim Geithner. It’s tempting to note how much choots-pah it takes to be this shameless.

But before anyone assumes that Bachmann is just a bizarre caricature, keep in mind that the larger phenomenon is widespread: the downgrade right-wing Republicans caused is leading right-wing Republicans to blame the White House.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the surprisingly unintelligent freshman senator, said the developments “provide further evidence that President Obama’s agenda has been a disaster for our economy.” Among right-wing activists, the argument is the downgrade happened during the Obama presidency, which necessarily means it’s Obama’s fault.

This is obviously an Alice-in-Wonderland-style farce, though I assume many Americans will believe it, and the media will parrot it as part of the “both sides are always to blame for everything” coverage.

But for those who take reality at all seriously, it’s rare to be able to draw such a clear line, linking one party’s recklessness to an awful result. That Republicans are denying responsibility for their mess should exacerbate the severity of this scandal, at least if there were any justice.