Take heart: There is more going on than meets the naked ear. Yes, the mud-slinging contest that has replaced serious policymaking in Washington continues, with President Obama the clear winner last week when he told a nationally televised press conference that House Republicans “have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat…” This assessment of the motives of those who want to cut spending came while the capital was preparing for tomorrow’s second inauguration of Barack Obama. No search for comity just yet.

The Republicans continue to say they will not raise the debt ceiling, or fund the government, unless the president agrees to cut spending as part of a program to bring the $1 trillion annual deficit under control. “It is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious” about cutting spending, said Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Washington state Republican who chairs the party’s House conference.