The gang at NBC News’ First Read newsletter reminds us of a fundamental point regarding the debt-ceiling showdown: the Republicans are to blame for this ugly and perhaps dangerous face-off:
*** But remember: Republicans started this fight: All of this finger-pointing, posturing, and politics — with the U.S.’s credit rating at stake — have generated a considerable disgust at Washington, at both Democrats and Republicans. But it is important to note that Republicans started this fight by tying deficit reduction to the debt ceiling (when many of these same Republicans have voted for clean debt-ceiling hikes in the past). The president and his party have indicated their willingness to pay the ransom — with some concessions — but Republicans won’t accept it. The irony to all this is that Republicans have won the larger argument they started; they just haven’t figured out how to declare victory. What seems to upset many Republicans is how the president (using the bully pulpit) got to the right of them on deficit reduction. Of course, now both parties have a lot on the line, the president doesn’t want to look like he can’t lead, even a broken Washington, and the Republicans want to prove they can govern.
This is no small matter—and means more than the usual blame-gaming of Washington. The debt ceiling could have been raised routinely, as it always has been done by both parties in Congress, and the titanic fight over spending and taxes could have been waged in other quarters, such as the annual appropriations and budget-drafting squabbles of Capitol Hill. But, noooooooooo. The Republicans had to tie—or handcuff—the two together, and then start running toward the edge of the cliff. It’s not clear that the GOP has paid a full political price for this move. President Barack Obama has fared better than congressional GOPers in recent polls. But there’s probably plenty of room for him to press this point: reckless GOPers created this mess. It wouldn’t be spin. It would be the truth.