SERIOUSNESS OF PURPOSE (OR LACK THEREOF)…. In his speech this morning, President Obama spoke briefly about the letters he received from regular folks across the country, most of whom write about their struggles and hardships. “These folks aren’t looking for a hand out,” the president said. “They’re not looking for a bail out. They’re hoping for a chance to make their own way, to work, to succeed using their talents and skills. All they’re looking for from Washington is a seriousness of purpose that matches the reality of their struggle.”

Listing the faults of congressional Republicans would be an arduous, intensive task, but near the top of the list would have to be the wholesale abandonment of a “seriousness of purpose that matches” the needs of the country. Given that it was GOP officials who failed so spectacularly when they were in power, coupled with the electorate turning so strongly against them, it’s tempting to think Republicans would at least show some … I don’t know … humility.

Alas, officials legislate with the minority they have, not the minority they might want or wish to have at a later time.

Alan Grayson has this story about misbehaving Republicans in the House. He says each House member has an electronic card that he or she sticks in a slot to register a vote. Sometimes members will forget or lose their card, and will go up after votes are taken to register their votes. A few weeks back, he said about 60-70 Republicans began pretending that they forgot their cards.

“They’d all walk to the front of the House and, laughingly and jokingly, put their arms around each other’s shoulder like it was some kind of clownish fun. And they did this over and over to make sure every vote took half an hour. That’s how low things have gotten. I could give you countless examples just like that. They’re simply obstructionists and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Lee Fang reported that House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who spoke at the Center for American Progress Action Fund yesterday, conceded that we’ve seen “a couple of instances of that,” enough to draw the ire of the House parliamentarian who has criticized House Republicans’ tactics, “which are not countenance by the rules.”

I’m reminded of a piece Matt Taibbi wrote in April, when he labeled congressional Republicans “class clowns,” who’ve been “reduced to half-assed buffoonery.”

That was eight months ago. They’re getting worse.

The United States hasn’t faced challenges like the ones Republicans left to clean up in generations. All Americans are looking for from Washington “is a seriousness of purpose that matches the reality of their struggle.” The GOP has picked an inconvenient time to regress towards childhood.

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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.