Time‘s Mark Halperin raised an interesting observation on MSNBC’s “Hardball” yesterday.

For those who can’t watch clips online, Halperin told viewers, “I think, look, the president needs to say what he believes. The problem is, it’s increasingly clear that Republicans — at some level, they want the economy to get better — but as a political matter, it’s not in their interests to help the president make the economy better. And putting together a bipartisan package is not in their interests.”

This strikes me as a rather important realization. While there’s some debate as to whether Republicans are really capable of this level of “cynicism,” here’s Mark Halperin, about as establishment-ish as the media establishment can get, telling a national television audience that the congressional GOP may very well prefer hurting the country to helping the president.

Such a notion should not simply be accepted as routine. When American policymakers care more about destroying a presidency than protecting the nation’s interests, we’ve reached a pathological level of partisanship. It’s not healthy; voters shouldn’t tolerate it; and the media shouldn’t treat it as business as usual.

But let’s also note what else Halperin said in the same MSNBC appearance.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Mark, I guess the simple question is, should the president go down the middle and offer up something that the Republicans will at least nibble at, or should he offer something so broad and New Deal that they’ll obviously reject it, but the American people on the Democrats’ side will love it? What should he do?

MARK HALPERIN: Chris, I think he should do whatever he thinks is most likely to create jobs. And my sense is, which it’s been through all year, is the thing that’s most likely to create jobs is finding common ground between John Boehner and Barack Obama.

Oh my.

I found digby’s response pretty compelling: “Just what does Mark Halperin think that John Boehner wants to do to create jobs? I know! Let’s eliminate all corporate income taxes. Would that do it? No, probably not. We’ll need something more than that. How about completely disbanding the EPA and firing all public employees? No? Right, Republicans are going to need a little bit more than that. The president literally falling on Ulysses S Grant’s sword in the Oval Office in a prime time speech would certainly be a dramatic capitulation. Would that help? I didn’t think so. Have you ever heard anything more vacuous? Did he take a trip to mars during his MSNBC suspension and miss the whole debt ceiling debacle? Good lord.”

President Obama has done everything imaginable to try to work constructively with Republicans. Nothing has worked — no compromise is good enough, no concession is big enough, no Democratic acceptance of GOP ideas is complete enough.

Indeed, Halperin himself said during the same TV appearance that Republicans don’t see it in their interest to help improve the economy.

If that’s true — and I believe it is — how exactly is the White House supposed to “find common ground between John Boehner and Barack Obama”?

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.