By Colbert I. King

“So for Colbert King to say, ‘Rush Limbaugh, his biggest concern was Republicans should do nothing to help Obama.’ Damn right. Damn right. Helping Obama hurts the country.”

— Rush Limbaugh, radio talk show host, July 25

Rush Limbaugh was responding to my observation during Gordon Peterson’s “Inside Washington” show on ABC last weekend that an anti-Obama mood was fueling some of the opposition to getting anything done in Washington. Referring to Limbaugh’s commentary earlier in the week, I said that he made “no reference to saving the country, no such reference to averting disaster with the debt ceiling. It was a question of helping or hurting Obama.”

I wasn’t wrong. Limbaugh continued his anti-Obama rant during last Monday’s show: “Mr. King is, in a way, exactly right. … The point is you can’t save the country if you don’t defeat Obama.”

Which helps explain the virtual knee-jerk opposition of right-wing Republicans to anything that comes out of the Obama administration. It also explains their willingness to put the country on the path to economic suicide if the downgrading of U.S. debt will help bring down President Obama. For wingers, there is no price too high to pay to break Obama. Sabotaging the president of the United States is, in their view, good for the country.

It seems to have been ever thus. Limbaugh was pulling for the Obama administration’s downfall even before the president took the oath of office. Four days prior to Obama’s inauguration as the nation’s 44th chief executive, Limbaugh famously declared, “I hope he fails.”

Barack Obama, contends Limbaugh, is the danger from which America must be saved.

As the Limbaugh camp sees it, Obama is a threat to the American way of life. They hold that he is the cause of 9 percent unemployment and the reason homeowners are underwater. Three years of Barack Obama — not eight years of George W. Bush — are why prosperity is beyond the reach of many Americans. And it is the prospect of, in Limbaugh’s words, “Obama having control over all the money and choosing to whom to send it, to distribute it, or redistribute it,” that threatens America.

That Obama hasn’t collapsed keeps conservatives like Limbaugh up nights. They won’t acknowledge it, but under Obama’s leadership — and within three years after inheriting one of America’s worst enemies — a bleeding al-Qaida is on the run, and Osama bin Laden is swimming with the fishes.

Troops are finally coming home from a costly, Bush-inspired Iraq war that is leaving our arch regional foe, Iran, strategically better off than it was before the U.S. invasion.

The automobile and financial services industries — on the ropes when Bush left office — are back on their feet. For the first time, 30 million uninsured Americans will face the future with health insurance.

Not to mention the mess Bush left behind: a projected $1.2 trillion deficit, two wars and huge tax cuts for the wealthy — all financed by borrowing.

Obama, to be sure, has spent trillions, in part because he was trying to extend health care coverage and stave off another depression. But prior presidents incurred most of the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt.

The country is going downhill, Limbaugh asserts, “because of policies implemented by Obama who, I don’t care, is either clueless or is himself a saboteur.” Note the allusions to stupidity and subversion — staple slurs in the conservative book of slime.

Make no mistake that is the mindset that stands in the way of saving the country.

Produce a package that staves off default, lifts the debt ceiling high enough to cover federal obligations into 2013, reins in the budget by cutting $4.5 trillion over the next decade through spending reductions and the elimination of tax loopholes and tax breaks benefiting the rich, and guess what? A solid phalanx of congressional right-wingers, egged on by Limbaugh, says no. And, hell no, if it means Barack Obama might share the credit.

Getting Obama isn’t just an important conservative Republican goal; it seems to be their only goal.

And Limbaugh has the unmitigated gall to go on and on about how much he cares about saving the country, telling his listeners: “Every waking moment … even when I am on the golf course, I care.”

Now that’s what you call sacrifice.

Colbert I. King writes a weekly column for The Washington Post.