UNDERMINING CONFIDENCE IN THE U.S…. We talked yesterday about Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who claims to have met with officials in China, encouraging them not to believe the U.S. government when it comes to budget issues. It was, to my mind, one of the more striking examples in recent memory of an American lawmaker trying to undermine the United States on the international stage.

Last night, Kirk sat down for an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. For reasons that I’ll never understand, Van Susteren not only failed to ask the Illinois Republican about his efforts to undercut the U.S. with China, but actually encouraged his efforts.

The interview, in a nutshell, was a discussion about Chinese fears. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said China has full confidence in the U.S. Kirk claims a) that Chinese officials are more afraid than Geithner realizes; and b) he warned them that U.S. budget figures are not at all credible. He told Van Susteren:

“[P]rivately, the key concern [among Chinese officials] is, Should we buy any more U.S. debt? And over time, what’s happening is China is beginning to cancel Congress’s credit card, doesn’t want to lend much more money to the United States, and especially is worried about the Fed’s policy of printing money to buy new debt.”

Now, if China were to decide to stop lending us money, the consequences would be severe. Kirk knows this. It’s why it’s remarkable that he went to China to directly encourage them not to trust the United States. If Hugo Chavez were to tell the Chinese that Americans are untrustworthy, I’d understand. If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad encouraged China to question Americans’ word, that would hardly be a surprise.

But Mark Kirk is an American elected official. He told Fox News last night that China is “worried,” but he neglected to mention that he encouraged the Chinese to be more worried about the reliability of the United States government.

Greta Van Susteren added, “”[I]f our credit is so lousy, if this is getting so grim, why in the world would the Chinese want to pick up any more of our debt? I wouldn’t!”

I’m generally reluctant to ask questions like these, but I can’t help but wonder — whose side are these guys on?

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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.