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Yes, they actually said that: top 10 quotes from the debt debate

August 1, 2011 by Rachel Bradshaw


It’s almost unfathomable that less than two months ago, The Washington Post ran a story describing the debt-ceiling debate as “high on civility, low on anger.” As most Americans know, the conversation took a 180-degree turn. With a deal apparently at hand, about the only thing everyone seems to agree on is that the path to agreement was a disheartening partisan spectacle, with politicians walking out on meetings amid tumultuous debate.

Flickr image by bilderheld

President Obama described the state of affairs as a “partisan three ring circus.” Was he right? Here’s a roundup of rhetorical highlights that, if not as dramatic as a circus, certainly read like a political soap opera.

1. Washington and Amy Winehouse Both Addicted

Missouri Congressman Billy Long tweeted, "No one could reach #AmyWinehouse before it was too late. Can anyone reach Washington before it's too late? Both addicted-- same fate???"  Long was criticized for tweeting in such poor taste.

2. Obama Jilted

While discussing House Speaker John Boehner's departure from the negotiating table, Obama said, "I've been left at the altar a couple of times."

3. White House Playing by Their Own Rules

House Speaker Boehner accused the White House of having "moved the goal post" in reference to  changes in the debt deal.

4. Temper Tantrums

Representative Eric Cantor's spokesman, Brad Dayspring, tweeted, "As if there's really a question whether President Obama threw a tantrum at the White House last week-- same guy just appeared."

5. Who's Childish Now?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave a speech criticizing Rep. Eric Cantor for walking away from the negotiating table. "[Cantor] has walked out on the meetings with the Vice President of the United States. It was childish. Another Republican said Cantor is putting himself first. He said this - quote - 'he is all about Eric.'"

6. Obama as the Adult

President Obama seemed fed up with the childish behavior in Washington earlier this year as the government faced a potential shutdown. He said that voters want politicians to "act like adults, quit playing games, realize it's not just 'My way or the highway.'"

7. Get Your Homework Finished

President Obama praised his daughters for completing their homework ahead of time, unlike Congress. "They don't wait until the night before. They're not pulling all-nighters. They're 13 and 10. Congress can do the same thing."

8. Movies Motivate

The DNC criticized the GOP for using a clip from the film The Town, in which Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner's characters hold a short pep talk and one tells the other that he needs help to go "hurt some people." DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz called this a "sad metaphor." She said, "Now is the time for compromise, not for pain."

9. Movies Not the Issue

Press Secretary for the RNC, Kirsten Kukowski, retorted: "With our country in the midst of a debt crisis, Debbie Wasserman Schultz should spend more time pushing her president to put forth a debt ceiling plan and less time holding press conferences about movies." 

10. JELL-O, It's Alive!

House Speaker Boehner was quoted as saying, "Dealing with the White House is like dealing with a bowl of JELL-O." 

What do you think? Is the debt debate getting out of control? Although these quotes are entertaining, one must wonder if the incivility and illogical metaphors are distracting from the real issue at stake—the state of our economy.

Rachel Bradshaw is a summer intern at the National Constitution Center. In the fall, she will be a community fellow in the masters of political science program at Lehigh University. Karen Gross, the Center's Communications Writer/Editor, contributed to this story. Her last post for Constitution Daily  described Martha Washington's bling.

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