Desperate McConnell, Boehner forced to lash out

These are the efforts of politicians worried about being blamed.

The top two Republicans in Congress sought Tuesday to put the onus on President Barack Obama for failure to resolve a fight over how to increase the government’s borrowing authority. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said a deal with Obama is “probably unattainable” and House Speaker John Boehner said the specter of default is “his problem.”

The unusually blunt and combative language came just hours ahead of another White House meeting aimed at finding an accommodation on a package of spending cuts to accompany an increase the debt limit.

At the surface, the increasingly-foolish rhetoric is impossible to take seriously. But just below the surface, it seems pretty obvious that the rhetorical escalation is the result of a deliberate GOP strategy. It’s not complicated — these guys are scrambling because fear they’re losing the public relations fight.

And they’re almost certainly correct.

Adam Serwer wasn’t commenting specifically on the GOP leaders’ comments, but his piece this morning about the bigger picture rings true.

Republicans are furious because President Obama’s gambit — to make himself look like the “adult in the room” by offering Republicans a disastrous but sweeping debt reduction deal that would combine tax increases with cuts to the social safety net — appears to be working. It’s working in the sense that it has revealed for all to see that Republicans aren’t really interested in cutting the debt.

It’s really not even close. On the one hand we have President Obama, who has proven himself eager (perhaps too much so) to compromise, ready to make concessions that anger his base, prepared to pursue $4 trillion in debt reduction, and even willing to make risky changes to entitlement programs. When the president told reporters yesterday he’s “bent over backwards to work with the Republicans,” no one anywhere suggested he was wrong.

On the other hand, we have congressional Republicans, who’ve taken the debt limit hostage for the first time in American history, are threatening to crash the economy on purpose, want less debt reduction than the White House, and refuse to compromise on anything.

It’s precisely why David Brooks wrote last week, “If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right.”

Today’s hysterical cries from Boehner and McConnell, then, were about desperation — they fear this entire fiasco is falling on their shoulders, probably because it is.