From what I hear from people who read it a lot more often than I do, The Washington Post, did a less-than-excellent job reporting on the debt ceiling mess when it was still an issue. But a week and a half ago it published an analysis that belatedly explains just how the crisis was engineered. In brief:
The frantic showdown that followed, bringing the nation to the brink of default, looked like the haphazard escalation of a typical partisan standoff.
It's said that in practice a lunatic driving a junk car has right-of-way. That was the position of newly elected Tea Party Republicans toward the country's obligations to creditors, Social Security recipients, and others to whom we owe money. The Republicans in question assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that Obama and the Democrats would yield to avoid the risk that the extremists woud follow through on their threat to harm the country. So those Republicans, by simply making it clear that they didn't particularly give a damn default, eventually got most of what they wanted, damaging as it is. (To be charitable, it's apparent that a lot of them actually think they did the right thing, because they simply don't know any better.)