You know what they say; one man's terrorist is another man's democratically elected congressman.
That's just one of the many lessons of the debt ceiling compromise, a deal that heralds a new era of electrifying political rhetoric. Nazis are out. Jihadists are in.
The tea party "acted like terrorists," Joe Biden reportedly said of negotiations. One reasonable New York Times columnist called the tea party the "Hezbollah faction" of the GOP, and the other advised the radicals to "put aside their suicide vests" -- for now. And in a sweeping assault on the tea party, metaphors, syntax and clarity, MSNBC's Chris Matthews packed everything he'd read on the blogs into a glorious globule of rhetorical confusion.
But fret not. Terrorist analogies are welcome when democracy fails to break to the left. Republicans should never refer to the Congressional Progressive Caucus as a bunch of wealth-destroying jihadists who wear suicide vests packed with prosperity-killing stimulus plans. That kind of overheated hyperbole would be catastrophic, leading to violence and/or another alarmist Diane Sawyer television special. But Bob Beckel is just being cute when he discusses the "tea terrorist party" on Fox News. (He later apologized.)
And it turns out that the extremist freshman wing of the Republican Party (which wing isn't extreme, though -- am I right?) voted 59-28 in favor of the bipartisan "sugar-coated Satan sandwich" debt deal. What kind of namby-pamby hostage takers are these people? (Did you know that 95 House Democrats also voted against raising the ceiling? From what we've learned about staggering dangers of fooling around with this policy, we apparently have another 95 nihilists running around D.C.)
If you're wondering why these elected officials, representing their constituents within the system, are the equivalent of terrorists, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania bores to the heart of the matter: "This small group of terrorists," Mike Doyle explained, "have made it impossible to spend any money."
Well, damn near impossible. Washington will have to squeeze by on $43,900,000,000,000 over the next decade while wrestling with real cuts that are likely to rise to zero -- or maybe less. If we can't spend money, who are we as a people?
Perhaps it's because of some psychological ailment such as Stockholm syndrome -- and why else would a person believe in libertarian fiscal policy? -- that I hope the tea party does a better job next time around. It is, after all, silly watching the establishment celebrate a compromise on debt that adds $7 trillion to the nation's liability and uses a base line that assumes some pretty significant tax hikes.
But you needn't sympathize with the American Taliban to understand the significance of the day. No amount of hysterics changes the fact that there has been realignment to the national conversation. The country has been radicalized by reality. A new CNN poll finds that though they rightly disapprove with everyone involved, 65 percent of those polled think that cuts in the debt deal were appropriate. Most polls find that voters believe government is too large and favor spending cuts. Remember that polls showed that most voters were against raising the debt limit at all.
It's not the terrorists who drive this change. It's the evidence. It's the economic suffering that "spreading it around" policy has created. It's institutionalization of a recession. For a while, at least, those who claim that bankruptcy spending and bullet trains create jobs -- no matter how regularly the media offer these myths as fact -- can't be taken seriously.
Fleeting as this shift may be, we were brought a sliver of good news this week. During one glorious day, the United States passed legislation with the sole intention of cutting government rather than "creating" so-called jobs or "investing" in some cockamamie energy boondoggle or "helping" "working families" -- which is, of course, the biggest help Washington can offer us. For that, we can thank the "terrorists."