August 3, 2011 9:53AM

Stop the Hate

People in Washington are hurling harsh words at other Americans: words like terrorists, Satan, suicide bombers, Hezbollah, gone off the deep end, “recklessly diminished the power and reach of the United States.” No doubt the president and the mainstream media have denounced this sort of divisive, extremist language, right?

Yes, they have, many times. Except this week the divisive, extremist language has been directed at Tea Party members, the House Republican freshmen, libertarians, and other people determined to rein in federal spending, after deficits of $4 trillion in three years. The political and media establishments just can’t believe that anybody would actually try to use a debt ceiling increase to get a commitment to fiscal responsibility in the future.

Columnist Bart Hinkle has some thoughtful words on the subject:

If there is anything The New York Times hates, it is hate.…

But as it turns out, there is one thing The New York Times hates more than hate itself: the tea‐​party wing of the GOP.

“Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people,” fumes columnist Joe Nocera in his Tuesday column, “Tea Party’s War on America.” Has the GOP “gone insane? … Why yes, it has,” writes Krugman several days before, going on to denounce the party’s “fanaticism” and lack of rationality: “It has gone off the deep end,” he concludes. The editorial board agrees, terming the tea‐​partiers an “ultraorthodox” and “extremist” group who “are not paying close attention to reality,” who are “willing to endanger the national interest” and who show no “signs of intelligent life.”

To Thomas Friedman, the tea‐​partiers are the “Hezbollah faction” of the GOP. According to Maureen Dowd, “The maniacal Tea Party freshmen are trying to burn down the House.” They are “adamantine nihilists,” and “political suicide bombers.”…

What could possibly explain all of this “vitriolic rhetoric” — this “widespread squall of fear, anger, and intolerance” — this “gale of anger”? Not the budget deal alone. While it’s true that progressives did not get the tax hikes they wanted, it’s also true that the federal budget will continue to grow, year over year. The deal gives President Obama an immediate hike in the debt ceiling, in return for mere promises of a reduction in the rate of spending growth later.

Hmmmm. Perhaps Paul Krugman can explain what has elicited this drumbeat of hate and vituperation.

[Shuffle of papers.…]

Ah, yes — here’s what Krugman wrote seven years ago, in “Feel the Hate”:

Why are [they] so angry? One reason is that they have nothing positive to run on.… But the vitriol also reflects the fact that many of [those] people … for all their flag‐​waving, hate America. They want a controlled, monolithic society; they fear and loathe our nation’s freedom, diversity and complexity.”

Krugman was writing about the 2004 GOP convention. Funny how resonant those words sound today.

When the vice president of the United States calls his political opponents “terrorists,” when the president of the United States calls them “hostage takers,” when prominent media pundits call those same people extortionists and suicide bombers who are willing to destroy the country — isn’t that the sort of hateful language that we’ve often been told could lead to violence? As Hinkle notes, when one disturbed young man in Arizona went on a killing spree, the New York Times knew whom to blame:

“It is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger” that set the nation “on edge,” the anti‐​hate paper said.

Isn’t it time for a return to civility by those who so often lecture their opponents on civility?