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Republicans Call Republicans Terrorists and Hostage Takers on the Debt Ceiling

September 27, 2013

With House Republicans once again threatening to take the unprecedented step of blocking a debt ceiling increase and thereby triggering a U.S. default Speaker John Boehner admitted "would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy," frustrated Democrats are ramping up their own rhetoric. While former Vice President Al Gore branded the GOP's latest ransom note "political terrorism," White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer insisted President Obama would not be "negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest."
Predictably, that kind of heated language has sent the usual suspects among the conservative commentariat swooning to the fainting couch. But it shouldn't. After all, when it comes to blackmail over raising the debt limit, Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have been calling Republicans "terrorists" and "hostage takers" for years.
That didn't stop former Nixon presidential library director turned conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt from coming down with a case of the vapors:

"The quaint notion of the GOP as suicide bombers shocked me, and I am not easily shocked."

Of course, Hewitt shouldn't have been shocked. After all, as the new Tea Party-infused Republican House majority first began threatening the previously unthinkable in the spring of 2011, former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill sounded the alarm:

"The people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of al Qaeda terrorists. Really. They're really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50 percent of the members of the Congress, who are loony, who would put our credit at risk."

After Congress passed the August 2011 debt ceiling compromise that included the dreaded $1.2 trillion, 10 year budget sequester, Mitch McConnell confirmed O'Neill's assessment. The only difference among Republican hostage-takers, McConnell seemed to suggest, was that some were more willing than others to kill the hostage. As the Washington Post reported:

"I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting," he said. "Most of us didn't think that. What we did learn is this -- it's a hostage that's worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done."

McConnell, the Post revealed, "said he could imagine doing this again." And as he explained to CNBC's Larry Kudlow, McConnell's future hostage-taking wasn't a threat, but a promise:

"What we have done, Larry, also is set a new template. In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling, it will not be clean anymore. This is just the first step. This, we anticipate, will take us into 2013. Whoever the new president is, is probably going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again. Then we will go through the process again and see what we can continue to achieve in connection with these debt ceiling requests of presidents to get our financial house in order."

As House hardliners and Senate grandstanders like Ted Cruz began warning they would destroy the U.S. economy to "save" Americans from the dreaded Affordable Care Act, the reliably Republican Wall Street Journal had some similarly choice words for its GOP allies just two weeks ago:

These critics portrayed the Boehner plan as a sellout because of a campaign that captured the imagination of some conservatives this summer: Republicans must threaten to crash their Zeros into the aircraft carrier of ObamaCare. Their demand is that the House pair the "must pass" CR or the debt limit with defunding the health-care bill. Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots.

As it turns out, this isn't the first time that delicate sensitivities of Republican water carriers like Hugh Hewitt and the National Review were so easily offended. Two years ago, Sarah Palin called Vice President Biden's alleged use of the T-word "appalling," Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) suggested it was the Obama administration "who's terrorizing the country." New York Times columnist Joe Nocera even apologized for his earlier characterization of the Tea Party as "terrorists" who will have "their suicide vests" on again soon.
Nocera needn't have said he was sorry. Recent events have proven him right. And it comes to calling the GOP's debt ceiling extortionists "terrorists" and "hostage-takers" and "kamikazes," plenty of Republicans agree with him.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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