As of tonight, Greece has defaulted on its debt. (Or, to use the International Monetary Fund’s preferred vocabulary, the country has fallen into arrears.)

The dispute between Greece and the so-called ‘troika’ (the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission) boils down to the terms of Greece’s loan repayments: Europe wants further cuts and structural reforms, and Greece wants its debt restructured. For all the apocalyptic rhetoric associated with a potential ‘Grexit,’ the underlying disagreement is quite straightforward.

And yet I can’t help but notice repeated media characterizations of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (as well as the Syriza party generally) as amateurish or reckless, even by authors who acknowledge the fundamental rationality of their position given the Greek predicament.

For example, here are Deepa Babington and Renee Maltezou on June 10th:

The colourful characters and equally colourful rhetoric of the faction on the far left of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party have added to the drama of his showdown with international creditors.

With just days left for an accord to avert default, it remains to be seen whether the cadre of university professors, trades unionists and veteran Communists that call themselves the “Left Platform” will mount a challenge that wrecks a deal.

Here’s the Financial Times on June 18th:

But in January, a series of political mishaps swept the previous administration from power and ushered in Syriza. The radical left party, led by Alexis Tsipras, set about unravelling much of what had been agreed — postponing or cancelling reforms, and provoking their European partners by insisting on the need for an entirely new settlement.

And Hugo Dixon on June 21st:

This, though, was nothing compared with Mr. Tsipras’s wild election promises. Since taking power in January, he and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, then exacerbated the problem by wasting time and making inflammatory comments about the country’s creditors.

These strike me as especially superficial critiques, a fact even the journalists making them seem to realize. Here’s an excerpt from the very next paragraph in that FT article, for example:

In technical terms, Syriza’s condemnation of the current arrangement deserves a hearing. Their north European antagonists are wrong to resist debt relief; such stubbornness renders more likely a dismal repeat of this stand-off. Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is right to insist that any solution prioritises growth, a factor inexplicably absent from previous negotiations.

And Hugo Dixon acknowledges much the same reality:

The eurozone has a lot to answer for, too. Its cardinal sin was its refusal, at the insistence of the European Central Bank, to let Greece default on its debt at the start of the crisis back in 2010.

At the time, Athens owed money to private creditors, who should have faced a so-called haircut, or reduction in the value of their investments. Instead, the eurozone countries and the I.M.F. lent Greece a huge amount of money, the bulk of which was used to pay off the private creditors.

The result has been to turn what would have been a dispute between Athens and a group of banks and pension funds into a poisonous battle between Europe’s nations. The I.M.F. went along with this, against its better judgment.

The creditors’ second error was to focus too much on fiscal austerity and too little on deep-seated reforms. After its precrisis binge, the Greek economy was bound to shrink, but it didn’t need to lose a quarter of its output.

There is certainly room for debate on how reasonable Tsipras, Varoufakis, and co. have been, especially on pension and retirement reform and tax collection. But disapproving of ‘provoking’ Europe by ‘insisting on the need for an entirely new settlement’ is a truly bizarre way to characterize one side of the principal debate at stake. One could just as easily accuse Europe of ‘insisting on the need to continue crushing the Greek economy.’

Similarly, ‘making inflammatory comments about the country’s creditors’ seems an especially trivial complaint to levy against the Greeks, particularly given the steady stream of condescension directed at them by their creditors: to take one prominent recent example, IMF head Christine Lagarde’s observation that ‘the key emergency, in my view, is to restore the dialogue with adults in the room.’

Again, not only is the fundamental disagreement between Greece and its European interlocutors well understood, but the Greek position itself is also eminently understandable. What’s at stake is decidedly not off-the-cuff comments by frustrated Greek politicians under increasing domestic and international pressure, no matter how much personality-driven journalism appears intent on making it so.

The parallel that keeps coming to mind is the near-constant flood of ‘hot takes’ over the past six years berating President Obama for not ‘schmoozing’ more with senators and representatives, as if being invited to a White House dinner party overrides an elected Republican’s fear of losing to a Tea Partier in the next primary election. (What have all the shared rounds of golf with John Boehner done for Obama?)

Scarier still is the fact that this misguided attention to the optics of political discourse, rather than its substance, occasionally rubs off on the participants themselves. Indeed, a former senator, watching Obama’s eulogy of Vice President Biden’s son, seems to have fallen for this line of thinking:

“I turned to my wife and said, ‘My God, if he’d shown those kinds of feelings, and that kind of connection to others, I think he would have had a different experience as president,’ ” Mr. Conrad said. “If he could let himself show that, he would do much better with the American people, and much better with Congress.”

And recapping Obama’s failure to gain Democrats’ backing for his Trans-Pacific Partnership, Jonathan Weisman noted:

The president has frequently been criticized for not developing personal relationships with lawmakers, and some in his party think he paid a price on Friday. Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas, said fellow Democrats loudly applauded Mr. Obama as he went through the battles he had fought on labor organizing, health care access and environmental protection. But he could not change minds.

“I wish there had been much better outreach,” Mr. Cuellar said.

The analogy with the Greek situation is clear. There is plenty to debate on policy alone. No need to manufacture a soap opera.