John Kerry went on Meet the Press this morning and called S&P’s action on American credit a “Tea Party downgrade.” The longtime Senator from Massachusetts insisted that the dysfunction in the government was the fault of small-government conservatives who refused to add revenue increases to a package of spending cuts that would have achieved a “grand bargain” satisfactory to S&P, Moody’s, and other bond-rating agencies. David Gregory’s next guest was Kerry’s Senate colleague John McCain, last heard castigating Tea Party activists as “Hobbits” who should “return to Middle Earth.” McCain’s tune has changed in the interim, however, as he rejected Kerry’s characterization of the downgrade and instead put it on the man who never had a plan (via The Corner):

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“We could have reached an agreement a lot earlier, but the members of the House of Representatives had a mandate last November, and it was jobs and the economy and it was spending. And for them to then agree to tax increases and spending increases was obviously a repudiation of the mandate they felt they had from last November,” McCain said.

He said that much of the “dysfunction” in the current political system could be attributed to “the failure of the president of the United States to lead.”

“The fact is that the President never came forward with a plan,” McCain pointed out. “There was never a specific plan. There was always the so-called ‘leading from behind.’”

McCain defended the S & P downgrade, saying it would be a mistake to “shoot the messenger.” He said he hoped the downgrade would lead to the congressional super committee looking seriously at entitlement reform.

At one point, John Boehner did have $800 billion in new revenues, achieved through tax reform that broadened the tax base, as a trade for bigger cuts in spending.  However, even that $4 trillion deal would have only dented the upward trajectory of debt, because it focused mainly on discretionary spending instead of serious entitlement reform.  Prior to the deal, we were on track to add $12 trillion in debt over the next ten years, and even a $4 trillion reduction would only mean bringing annual deficits down to $800 billion a year on average.  Take a look at this chart to guess what kind of impact this nibbling at the edges would have produced.

The White House is pushing the “Tea Party downgrade” message pretty heavily today.  Kerry carried Obama’s water on MTP with David Gregory, and David Axelrod did the same on CBS’ Face the Nation.  They even dragged Howard Dean out for CBS to claim that conservatives are “smoking tea” for wanting real reductions in spending and future entitlement liabilities rather than higher taxes.

McCain, however, gets this one right.  Voters sent a clear message in last year’s midterms, and it wasn’t “spend more and increase taxes.”  Democrats refused to listen in 2009 when voters revolted over the addition of another massive entitlement program; voters spent all of 2010 revolting over Obamanomics; and they punished Democrats in November for not listening to them.  Democrats still aren’t listening, and the way they are reacting now, 2012 may make 2010 look like a good year for the Democratic Party.