What? The debt limit showdown is almost over? How sad. What else will generate so much hyperbolic rhetoric from America’s pundits and politicians? Sure, Washington has a long and proud tradition of overstating the stakes of its political squabbles. But even still, it takes a truly special political debate to generate the volume of high-grade hype the debt deal did—accusations of terrorism, global disaster, wholesale economic meltdowns, and even demonic foodstuffs. And now it's all over.
Oh well. At least we’ll have the memories. Here are a few worth cherishing:
Writing in The New York Times this morning, columnist Joe Nocera complained that “Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people.” At least there’s no urgent need for further hostilities: “For now, the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests.”
Nocera wasn’t the first to use the terror analogy to describe Republican bargaining tactics. In an April op-ed for Politico, former Democratic Rep. Martin Frost wrote that “we now have a group of U.S. politicians seeking political purity, who seem to have much in common with the Taliban. They are tea party members.”
Speaking at a private Democratic Caucus meeting this week, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), echoed the sentiment. “We have negotiated with terrorists,” he said. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”
And who reportedly stepped up to agree with Doyle’s description of the negotiations? None other than Vice President Joe Biden—although he maintains that he “did not use the terrorism word.” He did, however, use the bullet-firing-machine word. Earlier on the same day, Biden told Democrats in the Senate that Republican negotiators had put “guns to their heads.”
According to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrats weren’t the only ones under the GOP gun. Failing to get a debt-limit hike was a global threat. “We're trying to save life on this planet as we know it today,” she said of a July 28 debt deal vote.
Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Bachmann worried about what might happen if there was a deal. Raising the debt limit at all, she said, would be “like saying we embrace being Greece.”
At the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only a Democratic plan would do. Last week, CBPP budget analyst Robert Greenstein warned that the baseline spending reductions called for by House Speaker John Boehner’s debt proposal “could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.”
Still, a deal eventually came together. But even after Republicans and Democrats shook hands on what now looks to be the final agreement, a number of prominent liberals still weren’t happy. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was only slightly less apocalyptic than Nancy Pelosi in her criticism of the debt deal. On Monday, she declared on the House floor that the final compromise bill “may be the single-worst piece of policy to ever come out of this institution.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) didn’t like the taste of it either. He tweeted his opinion that “this deal is a sugar-coated satan sandwich. If you lift the bun, you will not like what you see.”
And a bad move for President Obama, too, according to Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky: “This is the lowest moment of Obama’s presidency. It makes Bill Clinton signing of the welfare reform bill of 1996 look like the founding of the Peace Corps.”
Finally, there’s the always-reliable declinism of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who argued yesterday that because the final deal proves that “raw extortion works and carries no political cost,” it “will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.” I'm nostalgic already.