Keller @ Large: Politicians And The ‘Terrorist’ Smear

BOSTON (CBS) – Emotions ran high in the final hours of the debt crisis.

During an 11th-hour meeting with the Vice President, Democrats were reportedly describing their Republican adversaries as “terrorists.”

Some voices in both parties say that’s going too far.

Tuesday afternoon the White House denounced the “terrorist” name-calling, and Republican outrage is all over the airwaves and the Internet. But conservatives can’t claim to be surprised it happened. It’s been a smear of choice for both parties for years.

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller Is At Large

Vice President Joe Biden concedes he didn’t dispute it when other Democrats called Tea Party congressmen “terrorists” in front of him.

It’s a far cry from all the calls last winter for more civility in politics following the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who returned to the house floor last night.

But the truth is, the terrorist smear has become a staple of our politics since 9/11.

Politics is a contact sport, and keep in mind, at least our lawmakers don’t bludgeon each other with canes the way they did in the 1850s. But “terrorist” is a loaded term, to be applied with care.

Those who use it inappropriately tell you more about themselves, than their target.

More from Jon Keller
  • Sarah Forbes

    Jon – why are we so afraid of offending a segment of the population by using the CORRECT word to describe something?

    Terrorism is described in my 1952 Winston dictionary as “any series of deeds which arouse fear.”

    The Tea Party members of Congress have done just that: they have made Americans FEARFUL of their own ECONOMY by conflating the debt ceiling, the deficit, and the budget in the eyes of their uninformed and uneducated following.

    It helped that they were abetted by a press which was unwilling to educate the public or question the false assumptions trotted out and eventually accepted by all.

    I see no reason why Democratic politicians or former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill should be chided for his opinion that the Tea Party Republicans are financial or economic terrorists. THEY ARE!

    I bet the folks at Moody’s and S & P are calling the Tea Partiers terrorists, also.

    • Frank Davis

      But Sarah couldn’t this be said also about the Democrats who were running around saying that if this deal wasn’t passed on time that all checks to people who receive Social Security, SSI, military or any other form of government check WOULD NOT RECEIVE THEM?!?!?!?
      To me, following the definition to listed, the same politicians (including the President) are terrorists. I personally saw panic in the eyes of those that rely on those funds as their only income. I saw fear as they worried about where they would have to get the money to pay bills & get food. I also hear the outrage that they would cut their money FIRST because of politicians’ own over-spending that has gotten us into this area.
      If you’re going to paint a section with the “terrorist” brush you might as well paint the entire city of DC including all those PACs that ran with ads to inflame everyone even more.
      Obama was right in 2008. It is time for change. The change is to get THEM ALL OUT of Washington & replace them with people who WILL DO THE JOB THEY’RE SENT TO DO!!!!!!!

  • Stephen Stein

    It wasn’t only Democrats who were using the “terrorist” description this time around. Bush appointee Paul O’NeilL said “The people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of al Qaeda terrorists. Really…. They’re really putting our whole society at risk.”

  • stanleyramon

    “Those who use it inappropriately tell you more about themselves, than their target” is the best observation one can take away from listening to pols, or anyone for that matter. I get more insight to person’s character when they comment or share an opinion without using words that are blatantly inappropriate, especially under stress. As an example, I don’t know much about Doug Lamborn from Colorado ( ), but I’m sure whenever I see his name from this point forward, I won’t take him seriously. I mean what level of awareness, education and respect is required to know that using the term tar-baby is unacceptable. Words are the most valuable tool a politician has, they should choose them carefully.

    • BostonIrish

      Stan- I agree. A new low!

  • BostonIrish

    Jon, I agree with you. The term is being used to villify someone who does not agree with a person’s view, agenda, principles, ideals, you name it. To say that the word is justified for use in political circles is just poor form. It means that they’ve run out of things to say and they resort to name calling. Pretty childish to me.

  • foamy

    It’s also kind of ironic how some on the liberal Sunday morning “news” shows – and one-time White House Czar Van Jones – when describing the tea party members of Congress used the phrase “holding a gun to the head of the American people” the SAME DAY Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made her return to the House chamber. The President’s call for a different tone at the Tuscson memorial has fallen on deaf ears – especially the ears of those in his own party. Disgusting.

    • Corina Flores Burroughs

      I agree with you, foamy

  • Stephen Stein

    I agree, “terrorist” is the wrong term.
    “Extortionist” fits much better… nice global economy you got here… it would be a shame if something happened to it.

  • Justin

    I am tired of the consistently hypocritical calls for “civility” from both sides of the aisle. We did not elect you to be civil, we elected you to fight and argue passionately for the causes we elected you for. Civility in government means complacency and that, we can ALL agree, is not a good thing. Charles Sumner would be proud…

  • cynic

    At least they aren’t calling us smokers Terrorists……Of course they call us everything else they havn’t run out of invective so maybe they are just saving Terrorist for sometime in the future.

  • cynic

    It would be terrible to waste a perfectly good Buzz Word or Catch Phrase when one is available…..Now if they could find some way to work in “Second Hand Smoke” or “Weapons Of Mass Destruction”.that would be great……How about saying “They Are Addicted To Nicotine”…….That would really put them in their place.

  • Stephen Stein

    “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. 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.” – Mitch McConnell

    If you don’t want to be called a terrorist, stop bragging about taking hostages.

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