Biden: Tea Party ‘Terrorists’
Vice President Biden has called Congressional Republicans and their Tea Party backers “terrorists.”
Politico (“Biden: Tea partiers like ‘terrorists’“):
Vice President Joe Biden joined House Democrats in lashing tea party Republicans Monday, accusing them of having “acted like terrorists” in the fight over raising the nation’s debt limit.
Biden was agreeing with a line of argument made by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) at a two-hour, closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting.
“We have negotiated with terrorists,” an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”
Biden, driven by his Democratic allies’ misgivings about the debt-limit deal, responded: “They have acted like terrorists,” according to several sources in the room.
Biden’s office declined to comment about what the vice president said inside the closed-door session.
Earlier in the day, Biden told Senate Democrats that Republican leaders have “guns to their heads” in trying to negotiate deals.
The vice president’s hot rhetoric about tea party Republicans underscored the tense moment on Capitol Hill as four party leaders in both chambers work to round up the needed votes in an abbreviated time frame. The bill would raise the debt limit by as much as $2.4 trillion through the end of next year and reduce the deficit by an equal amount over the next decade.
Democrats had no shortage of colorful phrases in wake of the deal.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) called it a “Satan sandwich,” and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) called seemed to enjoy the heat analogy, saying: “the Tea Partiers and the GOP have made their slash and burn lunacy clear, and while I do not love this compromise, my vote is a hose to stop the burning. The arsonists must be stopped.
While Biden is substantially to my left on a host of issues, I generally like his cantankerous, shoot-from-the-hip style. I’d rather my leaders say what they mean than constantly use mealy-mouthed, focus-grouped language.
Further, while I more-or-less like the results of the Republican hard line on the debt ceiling, I share Biden’s frustration with the illegitimacy of the tactic.
But this language is as outrageous as it is absurd. The Tea Party isn’t murdering innocent civilians; they’re using the tools available to them in our system of government. They’re not terrorists. Nor are they arsonists or kidnappers. They’re elected representatives of the people of their states and districts.
While Obama and Biden were elected in 2008 and have a right to wield the enormous powers of the Executive Branch, Boehner and the Republicans won a landslide victory in 2010 with a mandate to cut spending, reduce the deficit, and oppose the Obama agenda. Similarly, the Senate Republicans closed the margin considerably in that cycle and are using the powers afforded the minority to obstruct to great advantage.
We at OTB have bitterly opposed the tactic of holding up a vote on the debt ceiling, which we agree has historically been a housekeeping matter, in order to get a second bite at the budget apple. It’s unprecedented and economically dangerous. But it’s not criminal. And we have another election cycle in a few short months to let the people decide whether the Republicans’ tactics will be rewarded or punished.
UPDATE: Biden has denied that he used the word “terrorists” and the White House has issued a condemnation of the use of that word.
Jake Tapper (“White House Calls Use of the Word ‘Terrorists’ to Describe Tea Partyers ‘Inappropriate’ and ‘the Product of An Emotional Discussion’“):
Given the presence of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., at Congress last night – and President Obama’s January 12 speech to the nation about the need for “more civility in our public discourse” – the White House has faced questions in the last day about Vice President Biden’s possible behind-closed-doors use of the word “terrorists” to describe Tea Partyers.
As we covered yesterday, meeting with anxious House Democrats yesterday, the Vice President heard from Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., who said “the Tea Party acted like terrorists in threatening to blow up the economy.” Doyle used the term several times. What happened next is in dispute. Several sources told Politico that the Vice President responded by saying, “they have acted like terrorists.” Other sources told ABC News that the vice president said something along the lines of “if they have acted like terrorists, we’re taking the nuclear weapon away from them.”
The Vice President told CBS News’ Scott Pelley, “I did not use the terrorism word…What happened was there were some people who said they felt like they were being held hostage by terrorists. I never said that they were terrorists or weren’t terrorists, I just let them vent. I said, ‘Even if that were the case, what’s been happening when you now have taken and paid the debt and move that down so we can now discuss, the nuclear weapon’s been taken out of anyone’s hands.’”
One reporter today asked White House press secretary Jay Carney about reports that the Veep had used the term, wondering if “the president thinks that’s appropriate discourse?” “No, he doesn’t, and neither does the vice president,” Carney said. “And I think the vice president spoke to this and made clear that he didn’t say those words, and I think the congressman in question has said that he regrets using them.” Carney said the use of the word “was a product of an emotional discussion, very passionately held positions in this debate, but that does not mean that it’s appropriate. And it’s not. The vice president doesn’t think so; the president doesn’t think so. Any kind of comments like that are simply not conducive to the kind of political discourse that we hope to have.”
Whether Biden got caught up in the spirit of the venting and used the word “terrorist” or not, the administration’s considered position is correct. People say stupid things when they are angry, especially when in like company. But the top leadership needs to push back against dangerous rhetoric that marginalizes and delegitimizes the opposition party.