Senator Says Politics Have Reached Civil War Levels

.photo.left{display:none;}Sen. Tom Harkin to Congress: “We are at one of the most dangerous points in our history.”

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. talks about the fiscal cliff with reporters, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.
National Journal
Matt Berman
See more stories about...
Matt Berman
Sept. 27, 2013, 6:43 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4472) }}

As the clock ticks down to­ward a pos­sible gov­ern­ment shut­down, Sen. Tom Har­kin, D-Iowa, isn’t hold­ing back.

On the Sen­ate floor be­fore 10 a.m. Fri­day, the sen­at­or gave a speech de­scrib­ing how Amer­ic­an polit­ics have reached the level at which “a small group of will­ful men and wo­men who have a cer­tain ideo­logy” — read: the tea party and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — have been able to take over the con­gres­sion­al budget de­bate in the last week. “Since they can’t get their way,” Har­kin said, “they’re go­ing to cre­ate this con­fu­sion and dis­course and hope that the pub­lic will be so mixed up in who is to blame for this, that they’ll blame both sides.”

This isn’t just con­gres­sion­al busi­ness as usu­al, Har­kin said. It’s much, much more dire:

It’s dan­ger­ous. It’s very dan­ger­ous. I be­lieve, Mr. Pres­id­ent, we are at one of the most dan­ger­ous points in our his­tory right now. Every bit as dan­ger­ous as the break-up of the Uni­on be­fore the Civil War.

This isn’t the first time the sen­at­or has spoken out about the spiral­ing budget and the fight over Obama­care. Har­kin sug­ges­ted Thursday that Cruz looked “fool­ish” for his “little tirade” that las­ted from Tues­day af­ter­noon un­til Wed­nes­day morn­ing. Har­kin called out Cruz as be­ing part of “the most ex­treme tea-party wing” of his party, and for his “ideo­logy-driv­en ob­struc­tion­ism.”

Of course, it’d be a stretch to think that the United States is on the cusp of any­thing as vi­ol­ent as the Civil War. But the con­sequences of a gov­ern­ment shut­down or top­ping over the debt ceil­ing could be massively harm­ful for the U.S. eco­nomy, wheth­er you’re look­ing at the pos­sib­il­ity of a down­grade in U.S. cred­it or just the shut­down in pay­ments and ser­vices with thou­sands of gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees out of work.

Har­kin isn’t the first to pull out a dra­mat­ic his­tor­ic­al ana­logy on the Sen­ate floor this week, either. Dur­ing his 21-plus hour speech, Cruz hearkened back to Nazi Ger­many for a com­par­is­on to “pun­dits” who think Obama­care can­not be de­feated:

If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Ger­many — look, we saw it in Bri­tain. Neville Cham­ber­lain told the Brit­ish people: Ac­cept the Nazis. Yes, they will dom­in­ate the con­tin­ent of Europe, but that is not our prob­lem. Let’s ap­pease them. Why? Be­cause it can’t be done. We can­not pos­sibly stand against them.

In Amer­ica there were voices who listened to that; I sus­pect the same pun­dits who said it couldn’t be done. If this had happened in the 1940s, we would have been listen­ing to them. Even then they would have made tele­vi­sion. They would have got­ten bey­ond the car­ri­er pi­geons and let­ters and they would have been on TV say­ing: You can­not de­feat the Ger­mans.

Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., later pil­lor­ied Cruz on the floor for the com­par­is­on.

So, for those of you keep­ing track at home: With just three days to go un­til a pos­sible gov­ern­ment shut­down, we’ve already had com­par­is­ons to Nazi Ger­many and the Civil War. And we’re surely not done yet.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×