Did Joe Biden liken the tea party to terrorists, or didn’t he? And even if he did, is it any worse than the other insults that fly around Washington?
The vice president insists he didn’t. Nobody else in the room at the time has accused him publicly of saying so, yet those in the conservative party-within-a-party are acting like it’s the most outrageous thing since — well, since Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling.
Sarah Palin took immediate umbrage at the man who kept her from the country’s No. 2 spot. “It’s quite appalling. It proves how out of touch this White House is,” the former Alaska governor told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.
“We’re getting kind of used to being called names — racists, inciters of violence, being accused of things that we have nothing to do with.
“To be called a terrorist because of our beliefs from the vice president, it’s quite appalling, it’s quite vile,” added Palin, who accused candidate Barack Obama during the presidential campaign of “palling around with terrorists.”
Michele Bachmann, who supplanted Palin as Most-Likely-to-Become-the-First-Woman-President, was equally outraged. "Only in the bizarro world of Washington is fiscal responsibility sometimes defined as terrorism," the Minnesota Republican said.
Bachmann, founder and head of the House Tea Party Caucus, interpreted the attack as a personal one, according to the Los Angeles Times, saying she's the "top target for defeat by the Obama Democrats."
"I have faced the liberal attack machine before, but their words today took their egregiousness to a new level. I am offended by Vice President Biden’s irresponsible words and need your immediate support to defend myself and fellow Tea Party members right away."
Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, jumped in the fray, too. “It is offensive, false and shocking that the person one step away from the presidency calls members of Congress, who were elected on tea party principles, a term used for the attackers on 9/11,” she said as she demanded an apology.
The official version is that it another Democrat, Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle first used the terrorist term to describe the tea party during a closed-door meeting of Democrats. Biden just didn’t call him on it, he insists.
"There were some people who said they felt like they were being held hostage by terrorists,” Biden told CBS News’ Scott Pelley. “I never said that they were terrorists or weren't terrorists, I just let them vent."
His spokeswoman says, “The vice president does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse,”
For many, the use of the word is just another insult that will be forgotten soon, similar to Florida Rep. Allen West’s calling Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz “vile” and “not a lady.”
Meanwhile, Michael Gerson, former President George W. Bush’s head speech writer, wrote in The Washington Post. “Biden’s obvious flaw is foolishness, not viciousness.”
The tea party reaction risks making a mountain out of a molehill, Gerson wrote.
“Tossing around a word like ‘terrorist’ slips a little more poison into our political discourse,” Gerson said. “But so does the taking of exaggerated offense — the political equivalent of flailing in dramatic reaction to a basketball foul.”
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