Here’s what the Party of Ideas™ was up to while Chris Christie was over at AEI talking about Social Security and Medicare. I spent a half-hour looking for video, but no dice so far. Which seems strange: Why wouldn’t the Democratic leadership want to highlight a photo op with a fictional aardvark during our very serious national debate about the deficit? Is the clip embargoed? Free Arthur! Free the aardvark!

On the upside, this really isn’t any sillier than having Colbert testify on immigration.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) rarely holds press conferences with animated aardvarks, but he went for it on Wednesday, coaxing the shy Arthur the Aardvark up to the podium.

“Come over here Arthur,” Markey beckoned to the human-sized title character in the PBS series, “Arthur: The World’s Most Famous Aardvark,” motioning for him to come up to the podium, as a small crowd of curious tourists began forming. Nearby, Rep. Betty McCollum clutched an Elmo doll and a stuffed Big Bird sat on the podium – both ready to fight in defense of funding for public broadcasting…

“The GOP should be less preoccupied with silencing cookie monster and more focused on reviving the economy,” said Lowey, who in 1995 invited Bert and Ernie to testify on Capitol Hill when Republicans tried to eliminate public media funding under then-Speaker Newt Gingrich. “How long will it take for some people to learn that people want Congress to focus on creating jobs, not laying off Bert and Ernie.”

She’s not joking about the GOP laying off Bert and Ernie: If you think this presser couldn’t have been any stupider, check out the photo at the Daily Caller. As Lee Doren said on Twitter, a more honest use of puppets and cartoons would be to have them rifling through the pockets of five-year-olds since, after all, they’re the ones who’ll end up paying for this down the road. And yet, the thing about this tactic is … it works, or at least it has in the past. Even Republican-controlled Congresses have caved at the thought of leaving Big Bird momentarily without a nest, despite the fact that Sesame Street and its endless merchandising possibilities would surely be picked up by some other network if PBS went poof. I think it’s going to backfire this time because the fiscal stakes are so much higher than they were even five years ago, but then I also used to think rank-and-file tea partiers were committed to cutting Social Security. Either way, alongside Obama’s gutless budget proposal, consider this another reminder that not only aren’t Democrats serious about balancing the budget, they’re practically contemptuous of those who are. When asked what he thought of the GOP’s willingness to tackle entitlements in its own budget, a senior Democratic congressional aide told Politico, perfectly pithily, “They are suckers.” That’s the real message of the week, aardvark or not. Want to deal with America’s catastrophic debt problem before it gets even worse? You sucker.

To make this extra surreal for you, here’s Jake Tapper asking new White House mouthpiece Jay Carney whether Obama understands that borrowing money to pay interest on old debt constitutes new debt. To which I say, why does Jake Tapper hate aardvarks?

Update: Either it wasn’t there earlier or I completely missed it the first time around, but the Daily Caller post linked above has video of the presser. Click the image to watch.