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For each of the last 38 years, Lake Superior State University has published its "List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness." But missing from the dozen terms and phrases including "double down" and "spoiler alert" sentenced to the school's rhetorical death row for 2013 is one that must be put to the sword. "Both sides do it," that ubiquitous verbal crutch of the lazy American journalist, should be forever struck from our political lexicon. After all, only one party—the Republican Party—doubled the previous record for use of the filibuster, routinely withheld almost all of its votes on major legislation, blocked President Obama's judicial nominees at unheard of rates and is once again threatening to destroy the U.S. economy if its debt ceiling demands are not met.

John Cornyn, the second ranking Senate Republican, published the GOP's latest ransom note in the op-ed pages of the Houston Chronicle. Cornyn, whose previous claims to fame include threatening judges and his declaration that "none of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead," joined Sens. McConnell, Toomey, McCain and Graham in promising a default on the full faith and credit of the United States if President Obama doesn't acquiesce to draconian spending cuts:

The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well-being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.
As Steve Benen and Greg Sargent among others have warned, these kamikaze conservatives aren't engaged in "politics as usual" or "the new normal" with their admitted debt ceiling hostage-taking. They are threatening to sink the U.S. ship of state.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

Republican leaders readily acknowledge as much. Failure to raise the debt limit, Speaker John Boehner cautioned in January 2011, "would be a financial disaster, not only for our country but for the worldwide economy." Paul Ryan, whose 2012 House GOP budget would add $6 trillion in new red ink over the next decade, agreed that "you can't not raise the debt ceiling." Lindsey Graham, who has repeatedly demanded Obama "man up" on spending cuts, explained why:

"Let me tell you what's involved if we don't lift the debt ceiling: financial collapse and calamity throughout the world. That's not lost upon me. But we've done this 93 times. And if we keep doing the same old thing, then that is insanity to the nth degree."
Apparently, that "same old thing" only applies when a Republican is sitting in the Oval Office. It's not just that Ronald Reagan presided over 17 debt limit hikes and a tripling of the national debt during his eight years in the White House or that President George W. Bush nearly doubled it again. The end-of-decade $5.6 trillion surplus forecast by the Congressional Budget Office in 2000 was more than eviscerated by two unfunded wars, two rounds of Bush tax cuts, the unpaid-for Medicare prescription drug benefit and the TARP bank bailout. To accommodate those "spend and not tax" policies, Bush and his GOP allies in Congress voted seven times to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. (That vote tally included a "clean" debt ceiling increase in 2004, backed by 98 current House Republicans and 31 sitting GOP Senators.) And as it turns out, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) voted for all of it.

During the GOP's first debt ceiling hostage-taking in the summer of 2011, U.S. consumer confidence plunged and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost while Uncle Sam racked up almost $2 billion in unnecessary interest payments. As for the uncertainty and credit rating downgrade the debt ceiling debacle produced, S&P pointed the finger at the GOP, the only party willing to countenance a default by the United States:

A Standard & Poor's director said for the first time Thursday that one reason the United States lost its triple-A credit rating was that several lawmakers expressed skepticism about the serious consequences of a credit default -- a position put forth by some Republicans. Without specifically mentioning Republicans, S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji said the stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that "people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default," Mukherji said. "That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable," he added. "This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns."

That's exactly right. That kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns and unheard of among Democrats. But among Republican leaders, holding the American economy hostage is just another day at the office. After his first round of debt limit extortion, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell boasted in August 2011:

"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."
And as he later explained to CNBC's Larry Kudlow, McConnell's future hostage-taking isn'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."
A new template, indeed. Because while the minority party in Congress has often voted against debt ceiling increases, it never had the either the numbers or the intent to blackmail the President. Until, that is, Democrat Barack Obama entered the Oval Office.

Threatening to sabotage the U.S. economy isn't just another talking point to be brushed off as today's Washington politics as usual. Neither is a mandatory 60 vote supermajority in the Senate, confirming President Obama's judicial nominees at half the rate of his predecessor, erecting draconian restrictions on voting or trying to rig the Electoral College. As Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein put it in summing up their book, It's Even Worse Than It Looks:

"Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem."
To put it another way, both sides don't do it. And in 2013, it's long past time to stop saying that they do.
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Comment Preferences

  •  This is excellent work, Jon. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nomandates, vcmvo2, whaddaya, KenBee

    What a wonderful resource for those of us who want to push back hard against MSM's refusal to call Republicans out for their sabotage, while hiding behind the inept "both sides do it" meme.

    Thank you so much!  

    "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

    by Onomastic on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:52:35 PM PST

  •  the hypocrisy and duplicity (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whaddaya, KenBee

    of the statement from McConnell on the new template is just infuriating.    A new template that when the President asks for an increase in the debt ceiling it won't be clean.   The Congress has to pass the spending bills before a President can sign them.  The debt ceiling is money Congress already voted to spend.   Where is their responsibility, where is their exercise of control.   If they don't vote to spend, no one needs to ask for an increase in the debt ceiling.  And they created the stupid law in the first place.  

    There is no virtue in being an hypocritical asshole.  I simply cannot express just how much I want these Congressional Republicans to be pilloried in the history books for their behavior.  And they better be careful what they wish for,  if they succeed in recreating a feudal society, they may find themselves pilloried literally.

  •  Ok, time to diverge from topic slightly... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lina, whaddaya

    The one phrase I want banned from all entertainment:

    "Let's Just say..."  

    What really bothers me is that the phrase isn't even followed by a witty allusion or subterfuge.  Usually it's exactly the point that should be made without the header.

    Seems to be one of those ones that is used to try to say "THIS CHARACTER ISN'T BEING FORTHRIGHT" when they are in fact just being annoying.

    sorry, back to the fray.

    Yes, Both Sides Do It needs to die.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 01:05:36 PM PST

  •  Economic Sabotage For Political Gain (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gulfgal98, whaddaya

    That is what the Republican strategy is, and has been since Obama was sworn in.  

    They put their party before the country, and continue to do so.  

    The tent got so big it now stands for nothing.

    by Beelzebud on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 01:06:18 PM PST

  •  Well, both sides have (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, whaddaya

    voted against increasing the debt ceiling -- including President Obama, who voted against increasing the debt ceiling in 2006.  Sen. Reid also voted against raising the debt ceiling in what he later called a "political maneuver by we Democrats."  

    That's why the President will have a hard time making the argument that Republicans are acting an unprecedented way.  The facts are that Democrats, including President Obama and Sen. Reid, voted against increasing the debt ceiling when there was Republican control of the government.  

    What is different this time is that there are more votes against raising the debt ceiling than there were before, so the votes against it might mean something.

    You really can't dispute that both sides DO do it (vote against raising the debt ceiling).  The best you can do is explain it way by saying, yes,  Democrats used it as a political maneuver when they were out of power, but now that THEY are the ones in power, they are really sorry.

    Yes, the circumstances are different now than they were in 2006 when then-Senator Obama voted in favor of letting the country default on its debt by voting against raising the debt ceiling.  But those are nuances.  The media doesn't do well with nuances.  What they will see is that the President now is railing against Republicans who say they will vote against raising the debt ceiling when he and Senator Reid cast that same vote in 2006.  

    At any rate, the whole "whether to negotiate over the debt ceiling" issue is kind of overblown, since the continuing resolution funding the government will run out about the same time, and I think it's extremely likely that they will be addressed together, and the President can't say he won't negotiate over spending levels for the government for next year.

    •  As Noted in the Diary (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whaddaya, KenBee
      ...while the minority party in Congress has often voted against debt ceiling increases, it never had the either the numbers or the intent to blackmail the President. Until, that is, Democrat Barack Obama entered the Oval Office.
      You're absolutely right, as the charts above show, that members of both parties have voted against debt ceiling increases in the past, especially when the hike was attached to other legislation they opposed.  They didn't have the votes to stop it.

      But never in modern political history has one of the parties made refusing to raise the debt ceiling the price of its extortion.  And Republicans in the House have the votes to do it.  The Senate GOP has the votes to filibuster it.

      •  Well, it depends. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bill W, VClib, whaddaya
        But never in modern political history has one of the parties made refusing to raise the debt ceiling the price of its extortion.
        The Democrats did exactly this, in 2006 -- they just didn't have the numbers to actually make good on the threat.  

        What happened is that both sides made EXACTLY  the same threat and cast EXACTLY the same vote for EXACTLY the same reason -- as Senator Reid put it in that link, a "political maneuver" or a "political issue."   The difference is that this time, the threat actually has some  credibility because the Republicans have more votes in support.  

        What you are implying is that if two groups take hostages and threaten to blow everyone up, and both groups clearly say they would blow up the hostages if they could, the one that doesn't have enough explosives to actually do it is not as bad as the one that does have enough explosives to do it.   In other words, both sides are bad, but the one who has the ability to make good on the threat is worse.  

        •  You're correct. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          coffeetalk, VClib, whaddaya

          Making blanket statements that "our side doesn't do that" is silly if all it leads to is the citing of counter-examples, followed by adding a bunch of qualifiers along the lines of, "well, we don't do it as much as they do".  

          I'll add my nomination for the list of words and phrases to be banished:  "false equivalency".  Now, there are occasional instances where the term legitimately applies, but most of the time I see it used here, it's shorthand for "you have pointed out a double standard which I am applying, but rather than discussing it or even acknowledging its existence, I will insult you."

        •  Democrats Did Not "Do This" in 2006 (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          arlandbaee, whaddaya, KenBee

          Senators and Representatives of both parties have cast symbolic votes against raising the debt ceiling.  They have also voted against raising it when it part of legislation they opposed.

          But Democrats did not make the threat of default a strategy in 2006.  And as Harry Reid pointed out (in the article you helpfully linked to):

          "The Republicans were in power – there were more of them."
          That is, House Democrats didn't have the votes to stop it.  Senate Democrats chose not to filibuster.

          Put another way, Democrats not only didn't have the votes to take hostages, they refused to do so.  Only Republicans have taken the economy hostage over the debt ceiling have the power to execute their captive,

          Again, this isn't just about the debt ceiling hostage taking.  For more, visit here.

  •  Sell your XBox (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    or I'll default on the mortgage.

    "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

    by nosleep4u on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 01:31:51 PM PST

  •  Big round of applause for Chris Christie (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mayfly, whaddaya

    Mann and Orenstein said it, there was an essay in Esquire saying it, Vanity Fair has said it numerous times...but Christie has now, (I believe) crystallized it in the brains of people everywhere.

    "There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims: the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner"

    Wow. I mean, just, WOW. I mean, really just listen to that. This is coming from the man who was literally begged to run for president last year.   This is the man who was the Keynote Speaker at their convention.  For this to come from him is going to be that watershed moment for the definitive time when False Equivalency fell flat on its face.

    Message to Dems: We HAVE to start showing up for Midterms.

    by Jank2112 on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 02:27:57 PM PST

    •  Don't remember exact wording of Biblical phrase (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "whose ox is being gored" but that pertains here.  Good for Christie for standing up for his state--it is the least he can do.  

      But what if the disaster had happened elsewhere in the US--would Christie still challenge the Republican House for dragging their feet on providing relief?

      Fiscal conservative: a Republican ready to spend $5 to save a dime--especially if that dime is helping a non-donor.

      by Mayfly on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 03:10:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well it wouldn't really be his place to do so (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        whaddaya, Mayfly

        You know, jurisdiction and all that...

        But remember, this happened twice in 2011, after hurricanes in Joplin, MO and Hurricane Irene.

        I thought for certain that MO was going to turn blue after that, but no such luck. Gov. Jay Nixon didn't raise nearly the holy hell that Christie did, I would think, partially out of civility, and out of fears of offending Republicans in MO.

        But now that Christie has taken the gloves off, it has been shown once again that rhetorical bullies shrink back when you stand up to them.  

        Message to Dems: We HAVE to start showing up for Midterms.

        by Jank2112 on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 06:24:37 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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