Last summer, just a few days after the debt-ceiling crisis had been resolved, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of the debt limit, "What we did learn is this: it's a hostage that's worth ransoming."
I thought of this yesterday when McConnell told CBS's Bob Schieffer, referencing House Speaker John Boehner, "The Speaker and I have been the adults in the room."
Ah yes, thank goodness for the adults. McConnell and Boehner (1) backed the Bush/Cheney agenda that added $5 trillion to the debt; (2) decided they no longer liked raising the debt ceiling; (3) held the nation hostage, threatening to hurt the country on purpose unless they got their way; and (4) rejected a White House offer to reduce the debt by $4 trillion.
Nothing says "grown-up behavior" like the antics of an elementary schoolyard bully.
The larger significance of McConnell's quote, though, is the way in which in reinforces an odd truth: Republican leaders simply don't see a problem with their dangerous and unprecedented debt-ceiling strategy. Boehner said last week that he may be threatening to trash the full faith and credit of the United States for the first time in history, but we shouldn't consider this a "threat."
As Dana Milbank put it over the weekend:
John Boehner thinks it's kind of funny. "It struck me as somewhat comical," he told reporters Thursday morning, "that, you know, people are looking to me like I'm the guy carrying a sword around town, I'm going to bludgeon someone."
Well, Mr. Speaker, maybe that's because your rapier keeps setting off the metal detectors.
GOP leaders aren't just comfortable deliberately holding the country hostage, they're lacking in self-awareness, seeing themselves as responsible "adults" who aren't doing anything wrong.
This somehow makes the problem worse. It's one thing for a villain to hold a gun to the head of a hostage; it's something else when he feels a degree self-righteousness while he's doing it.