OBAMA, CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS TO GATHER FOR FACE-TO-FACE CHAT…. The original plan was for President Obama to host a longer, friendlier gathering at the White House with congressional leaders two weeks ago. Republicans balked, announced they were too busy, and postponed.

And with that constructive foundation already in place, they’ll try again today, with the president hosting a meeting — scheduled to last between 60 and 90 minutes — with the top two members of both parties from both chambers. There’s no set agenda for the get-together, and under the circumstances, everyone involved seems to agree on one thing: keep expectations low.

Obama has said he hopes to use the discussion to at least make some progress on New START ratification and tax policy, but by all appearances, GOP leaders aren’t interested in cooperating with the White House at all, on anything other than their own agenda.

Indeed, to help set a certain tone going into the discussion, Speaker-to-be John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, presenting their perspective. The piece doesn’t exactly send a seriousness-of-purpose message.

Republicans got the message voters have been delivering for more than a year. That’s why we made a pledge to America to cut spending, rein in government, and permanently extend the current tax rates so small-business owners won’t get hit with a massive tax hike at the end of December. That’s what Americans want. And that’s the message Republicans will bring to the meeting today. In other words, you’ll have a voice at that table.

We can work together and accomplish these things, but the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress first will have to prioritize. It’s time to choose struggling middle-class families and small businesses over the demands of the liberal base. It’s time to get serious.

I’m still not sure if GOP leaders believe their own nonsense, but Boehner and McConnell seriously seem to believe the economy will improve, and middle-class families will benefit, if they take money out of the economy, undercut consumers’ buying power, kill effective jobs programs, eliminate stimulative benefits, and keep Bush’s failed tax policy in place. They also seem to seriously believe repeatedly debunked arguments about small businesses and taxes — suggesting Boehner and McConnell are either illiterate, allergic to facts, or deliberately lying.

Their op-ed is a laundry list of ridiculous partisan garbage culminating in this conclusion:

If President Obama and Democratic leaders put forward a plan during the lame-duck session to cut spending and stop the tax hikes on all Americans, they can count on a positive response from Republicans. If the president and Democratic leaders don’t act before the end of the year, however, House and Senate Republicans will work to get the job done in the new Congress. But we hope it doesn’t come to that.

The voters want us to show that we heard them, and Republicans are ready to work with anyone who is willing to do just that.

Or to translate to English, “Give Republicans everything they want, and they’ll be happy to cooperate.” This is bound to help produce a constructive conversation this morning, right?

These guys really do think the public loves the GOP and embraces a far-right policy agenda, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. They’re convinced they have a mandate, blissfully unaware of their own unpopularity.

The meeting, which should begin at 10:30 a.m., will be private, though participants will reportedly talk to the media afterwards.

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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.