QUOTE OF THE DAY…. As a rule, prominent voices in American politics who compare rivals to terrorists are asking for trouble.

But it’s all the more striking when the person floating the comparison is a former Bush cabinet secretary — and he’s talking about congressional Republicans.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill compared lawmakers trying to block a debt-ceiling increase to terrorists.

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill compared lawmakers trying to block raising the debt ceiling to “al Qaeda terrorists.”

“The people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of al Qaeda terrorists. Really,” O’Neill, Treasury secretary in the Republican administration of George W. Bush, said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s InBusiness with Margaret Brennan.

“They’re really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50 percent of the members of the Congress, who are loony, who would put our credit at risk,” O’Neill said.

OK, Mr. Secretary, now tell us how you really feel.

For the record, I’m generally inclined to avoid comparing major American political parties to al Qaeda, and as disgusted as I am with GOP recklessness, it amazes me that a former Bush cabinet secretary would use much stronger language on this than I would.

That said, when we’re talking about Republicans who would create an economic crisis on purpose, despite pleas to be responsible, the GOP has to expect some questions about why the party is so reluctant to put the nation’s interests first.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.