Originally, the Democratic position was that we should simply raise the debt ceiling. Republicans said "no." There would have to be a deal that reduced the deficit by at least $2.4 trillion -- which is the size of the debt ceiling increase needed to get us into 2013.
Then the Democratic position was that we should raise the debt ceiling through a deal that reduced the deficit by about $2.4 trillion, with $2 trillion of that coming from spending cuts and $400 billion coming from taxes. Republicans said "no." There would have to be a deal that disavowed taxes.
Then the Democratic position was that we should raise the debt ceiling through a deal brokered by Barack Obama that reduced the deficit by $4 trillion, with about $3 trillion of that coming from spending cuts and about $1 trillion coming from tax increases. Republicans said "no." There would have to be a deal that disavowed taxes, and it would have to be cut between the congressional leadership of the two parties. Obama couldn't have this as a win.
Of course, he left out President Obama's final offer to cut $3 trillion in spending and address tax reform afterwards. President Obama wanted a trigger if the later wasn't done that included an expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and Boehner wanted the trigger to be a repeal of the health care mandate. As Eclectablog pointed out, that's when any doubts about the Republican's interest in negotiating a deal should have been finally put to rest. And its precisely when President Obama gave them a good smackdown for it.
A few weeks ago I postulated that President Obama had the upper hand because ultimately, the Republicans would have to agree to a deal that raised the debt ceiling. I'm afraid I might have been terribly wrong in my assumptions about the Republicans. It seems to me that Boehner was engaging in a bit of projection when he accused President Obama of moving the goalposts. Its hard to see, in hindsight, how they were ever negotiating in good faith. At best, their strategy has been to bring us to this moment of the brink, when markets would begin reacting to the failure to reach a deal. At worst, they're willing to let us go off the cliff.
Who knows what comes next? But if the voters don't ultimately hold Republicans accountable for this - in a big way - I fear for our future. President Obama has done all he can to avert this crisis - sometimes at great cost. He's done his best to play the card the voters gave him in 2010. And anyone who doesn't see that is simply blind or completely ignorant about the realities of divided government. Now its time for us to have our say!