Jeff Jacoby

DID VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN slander Tea Party Republicans by saying they "acted like terrorists" in the protracted debate over raising the federal debt ceiling? To use such language would be contemptible, especially in the wake of Anders Breivik's twin massacres in Norway and just weeks before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities. Biden claims he never said it, and out of respect for his office I'd like to say I believe him.

But I don't.

Politico reported Monday afternoon that at a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic caucus the vice president joined in the "hot rhetoric" against GOP conservatives, specifically agreeing with one Democrat who described them as a "group of terrorists [who] have made it impossible to spend any money." Biden's office initially refused to confirm or deny the comment, but after it became public, he went on TV to disavow it: "I did not use the 'terrorism' word," he told CBS.

What makes Biden's denial so implausible is that liberals and Democrats have been flinging the "terrorist" slur across the aisle for weeks. Do you remember President Obama's call, after the deadly shooting in Tucson last January, for "more civility in our public discourse?" Remember how he deplored the urge "to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do?" Many on the left have apparently forgotten, to judge by their zeal for linking the Tea Party's views on the debt ceiling to the extremism that leads fanatics to kill.

Listen, for example, to former Obama administration official Steven Rattner, speaking on MSNBC last week: "These Tea Party guys are, like, strapped with dynamite, standing in the middle of Times Square at rush hour and saying, 'Either you do it my way, or we're going to blow you up, ourselves up, and the whole country up with us.'"

Or to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, warning that "if sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the GOP on a suicide mission."

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for