Menendez isn’t the first to make the comparison

MENENDEZ ISN’T THE FIRST TO MAKE THE COMPARISON…. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) raised a few eyebrows yesterday when he compared negotiating with Senate Republicans to negotiating with terrorists.

At a press conference with fellow Democrats, Menendez lashed out at Republicans for opposing Democratic efforts to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class while allowing the tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.

He accused the Republicans of holding middle class tax cuts “hostage” to tax cuts for the wealthy. That’s a common Democratic line, but Menendez took the analogy a step further.

Asked if Democrats have a responsibility to move forward with a bill that can become law – in other words, a bill Republicans will support and not block– here’s what Menendez said:

“Do you allow yourself to be held hostage and get something done for the sake of getting something done, when in fact it might be perverse in its ultimate results? It’s almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists.”

John Cole went a little further, suggesting negotiating with the GOP is actually slightly worse: “Usually, terrorists are more straight-forward with their demands. Republican demands shift with every day.”

Not surprisingly, Menendez’s unscripted comments aren’t going over well among Republicans, and I’ll gladly concede that the comparison pushes the rhetorical envelope. The congressional GOP is clearly comfortable with hostage-taking tactics, but the “t” word should generally be avoided in situations like these.

I should note for context, though, that Menendez is hardly the first lawmaker to broach the subject. Earlier this year, for example, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he could “empathize” with a terrorist who flew an airplane into a building on American soil.

Last year, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said if the Democratic majority didn’t allow Republicans to influence policy debates, the GOP would have to emulate the “insurgency” tactics of “the Taliban.” Sessions, a member of the Republican leadership, added, “[W]e need to understand that insurgency may be required,” and that if Democrats resist, Republicans “will then become an insurgency.” The Taliban, he went on to say, offer the GOP a tactical “model.”

Were Menendez’s remarks that much more outrageous than what Sessions said? I agree that it’s intemperate to compare one’s rivals to terrorists, but what about when Republicans compare themselves to terrorists?