House Republicans have backed themselves into an awkward place on the debt-ceiling: unwilling to vote to lift it, but equally unwilling to take the blame for not lifting it. They’ve been looking for an escape from the dilemma. In 2011, Obama cut them a face-saving deal. This time, he’s insisted: no deal. His White House has rejected every brain-wave that might de-escalate the confrontation, including the notorious “trillion-dollar coin” concept. His strategy—as he said at his January 14 press conference—has been to reduce the Republicans’ options to a stark binary pair: “They can act responsibly and pay America’s bills or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis.” Or, in other words: They can blow up the credit of the United States—or they can yield. That’s the choice, there’s nothing else on the menu…

A government shutdown would end disastrously for the congressional GOP. Which is precisely why Obama is goading the Republicans to do it. In the words of Club for Growth president Chris Chocola: “They [Republican House members] think this is the only way to get Obama’s attention.” That, of course, is just what President Obama wants them to think—so they’ll do just what President Obama wants them to do. What he wants is not a deal—not anymore, or anyway, not now. What he wants is a reckless Republican over-reach, leading to public outrage, leading to a Republican rout. The President has been often quoted as saying he wants to “break the fever.” Translated into plainer English: He wants to break his opponents.