"Is this a wakeup call to Washington?" NBC's David Gregory asked Sen. John Kerry on "Meet the Press," referring to the S&P downgrade.
"Well, it's a partial wakeup call. I believe this is, without question, the tea party downgrade."
Shortly after pointing fingers and assigning blame, Kerry went on to lament how Republicans insist on pointing fingers and assigning blame in this national crisis.
Over on the other channel, at least Obama political consigliere David Axelrod waited a while before getting to the same talking point: "The fact of the matter is that this is essentially a tea party downgrade. The tea party brought us to the brink of a default," he explained on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Many on the right bristle at this, and they have many of the facts on their side. After all, the tea party's only been protesting excessive spending and borrowing for two years. Some liberals want us to think that it was Washington's failure to raise taxes to pay for the massive increase in federal spending under Obama that caused the downgrade.
But that's not what S&P says. "Standard & Poor's takes no position on the mix of spending and revenue measures that Congress and the administration might conclude is appropriate for putting the U.S.'s finances on a sustainable footing."
Rather, what offended the fiscal pundits of S&P was the "brinksmanship" in Washington that failed to deliver a $4 trillion budget cut. That's why we had the "tea party downgrade." What's odd is that if the tea party didn't exist, there would have been no deficit reduction -- and little demand for it. Democrats fought spending cuts during the budget showdown last year (remember Harry Reid's cowboy poet subsidy?), and wanted a "clean" debt-ceiling hike.
And one could go on defending the tea party and the GOP in typical Beltway scoring fashion. The president's first 2012 budget was a train wreck that would have exploded the deficit more. We're well past 800 days without a Democratic budget from the Senate, while the House Republicans passed a serious budget -- the Ryan plan -- that would have avoided all of this months ago. Obama's second "plan" was a frivolous speech. And so on.
But the usual Beltway scorecard is inadequate. First of all, we all deserve blame. This is a national foul-up of historic proportions and no party or constituency can completely avoid culpability.