The Washington Post is reporting that the Obama administration “privately urged” Standard & Poor not to lower its outlook on the United States. Can you imagine the outcry if any other administration had been caught trying to do this? (There may still be an outcry-the story just appeared today.)

The story is attributed to “two people familiar with the matter.” It contains some pretty shocking information (shocking-I seem to be using that word a lot with regard to the country’s finances):

Treasury Department officials had been discussing with S&P whether the ratings agency should change its outlook on the United States to “negative” from “stable,” an indication that the country could lose its crucial AAA rating in coming years over its soaring debt levels.

Treasury officials told S&P analysts that they were underestimating the ability of politicians in Washington to fashion a compromise to curb deficits, a Treasury official said. They argued a change in ratings was not needed at this time because the debt was manageable and the administration had a viable plan in the works, the official said.

Okay, think about that: the government of the United States tried to influence S & P to alter its rating of the U.S.’s credit. Then, when the rating agency made the announcement anyway, the administration denounced it as a political move. S & P’s assessment of our national credit is enormously important-though it’s safe to assume that most of us knew we’re in bad shape before it was made public-and the White House tries to influence it. They don’t want you to know the truth.

Mark Hemingway, the new blogging czar at the Weekly Standard, sums up the ironies of the situation:

So the president gives partisan barnburner of a speech attacking the Republican debt plan, while the Treasury is hard at work trying to change the S&P’s mind. The S&P remains unmoved, precisely because they fear compromise between the two parties is unlikely to occur — a problem greatly exacerbated by the president’s speech. …

What’s fascinating is the left’s collective freakout over the S&P. Given a $14 trillion debt and a divided government, concern that the problem won’t be addressed soon enough seems understandable. But to hear the left tell it, the S&P is “Running Interference for the Right to Help Crush Social Security and Medicare.” Yet, any rational person will tell you it’s the debt itself that threatens to crush Social Security and Medicare.

The left’s refusal to face reality–we’re in bad shape–means that the 2012 campaign is especially important.