We've seen the audaciousness of the radical right in many guises during the last three or four years, but the willingness of its few dozen House members to risk the nation's financial health makes the current crisis especially insidious. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein offer the White House perspective of what's going on:
As the White House sees it, Speaker John Boehner has begun playing politics as game of Calvinball, in which Republicans invent new rules on the fly and then demand the media and the Democrats accept them as reality and find a way to work around them. First there was the Hastert rule, which is not an actual rule, but which Boehner uses to say he simply can't bring anything to the floor that doesn't have the support of a majority of his members. The shutdown, the White House argues, is now operating under a kind of super-Hastert rule in which a clean CR is supported by a majority of House Republicans but Boehner has given the tea partiers in his conference an effective veto over what he brings to the floor. Then there's Boehner's demand for further concessions on the debt limit, which he now says he can't back down on, but which he made knowing that it would make it harder for him to back down.
The White House has decided that they can't govern effectively if the House Republicans can keep playing Calvinball. The rules and promises Boehner makes are not their problem, they've decided. They're not going to save him. And that also rules out unusual solutions like minting a platinum coin or declaring the debt limit unconstitutional. The White House doesn't want to break the law (and possibly spark a financial crisis) in order to save Boehner from breaking a promise he never should have made. Top administration officials say that President Obama feels as strongly about this fight as he has about anything in his presidency. He believes that he will be handing his successor a fatally weakened office, and handing the American people an unacceptable risk of future financial crises, if he breaks, or even bends, in the face of Republican demands. And so the White House says that their position is simple, and it will not change: They will not negotiate over substantive policy issues until Republicans end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.