While Republicans are just days away from blocking the once-routine debt ceiling increase their own leaders acknowledge would trigger a global economic catastrophe, the whole manufactured crisis has nevertheless spawned a cottage industry in “false equivalence.” Of course, “both sides” don’t do it. In the modern era, only the GOP has shattered the mark for filibusters, blocked President Obama’s judicial nominations at record rates and refused to confirm any appointees for agencies Congress itself voted to create. And when it comes to their government shutdown and extortion over the debt ceiling, only Republicans have had both the intent and the votes to become what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and the conservative Wall Street Journal respectively branded “hostage-takers” and “terrorists” and “kamikazes.”
To illustrate the point, John Hudak and Thomas Mann asked Washington Post readers to consider a hypothetical:
It's 2007. Democrats have just taken control of Congress, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House. President George W. Bush requests a debt ceiling increase from Capitol Hill. Seeing an opening, Pelosi makes a specific demand: "Under no circumstances will the debt ceiling be lifted unless Congress passes and the president signs a bill providing universal health coverage to Americans, a ban on preexisting conditions and an individual mandate to purchase insurance to avoid the adverse selection problem." She draws a line in the sand and argues that the number of uninsured people presents an economic, political, social and public health threat to the nation that is far greater than the government defaulting on its debt. She even questions whether a default is real.The criticism would indeed be deserved, if Democrats ever resorted to such blackmail. But they didn’t. And they don't. Not to force universal health care. Not after President Bush vetoed SCHIP in 2007. Not to defund the Iraq war or to force a withdrawal of U.S. troops. And certainly not to fix Medicare Part D, President Bush’s unfunded $400 billion prescription drug program that almost every House Democrat opposed.
If you are a Republican, ask yourself how you would react to Pelosi's threat. Would you think, "Good for her, she's a tough negotiator"? Would you concede, "That's part of bargaining, and the president needs to relent"? No. Her behavior would be slammed. She would be accused of hostage-taking or political terrorism. And that criticism would be deserved.
As you may recall, the launch of Bush’s Medicare Rx program was bungled so badly that John Boehner called it “horrendous” in early 2006. Still, Democrats in Congress and in the states did everything they could to make the program work. In a moment of actual journalism in July, NBC’s Chuck Todd made that exact contrast with the GOP’s scorched-earth campaign to undo the Affordable Care Act:
Here's a thought exercise on this summer morning: Imagine that after the controversial Medicare prescription-drug legislation was passed into law in 2003, Democrats did everything they could to thwart one of George W. Bush's top domestic achievements. They launched Senate filibusters to block essential HHS appointees from administering the law; they warned the sports and entertainment industries from participating in any public service announcements to help seniors understand how the law works; and, after taking control of the House of Representatives in 2007, they used the power of the purse to prohibit any more federal funds from being used to implement the law. As it turns out, none of that happened.Of course none of that happened. Because America has only one party of hostage-takers. One hundred forty eight years after the end of the Civil War, it is the Party of Lincoln. As the 16th President put it:
“Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.”