The debate in Washington over a looming government shutdown is becoming one of the nastiest political battles in years, with name calling, finger pointing and vitriol on the rise.
What all this is likely to do is intensify public disgust with the capital's political establishment. Already, polls indicate that trust in government is dropping along with optimism about the future.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer compared the GOP to terrorists when he said President Obama won't negotiate "with people with a bomb strapped to their chest." Pfeiffer also told CNN that the GOP was making "ransom demands" that Obama will not accept.
Obama, who earlier said the Republicans were trying to "extort" concessions from him, now accuses the GOP of attempted "blackmail' because some conservatives in Congress are threatening to shut down the government and refuse to increase the debt ceiling unless Obama's signature health-care law is defunded. "All this would be funny if it wasn't so crazy," the president declared at Prince George's Community College in Maryland Thursday.
"A lot of it is just hot air; a lot of it is just politics, I understand that. But now the tea party Republicans have taken it to a whole new level because they're threatening either to shut down the government or shut down the entire economy by refusing to let America pay its bills for the first time in history unless I agree to gut a law that will help millions of people."
Americans are deeply divided. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds that only 39 percent of Americans support Obama's health care law but at the same time only 38 percent want Congress to cut off funding for the law.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the Senate, "The law is a mess. It needs to go. It's way past time to start over. ... I hope some of my Democrat friends who voted for this law will look themselves in the mirror and think – truly think – about whether protecting the president's pride is really more important than helping the American people."
And friction is increasing within the GOP. Some conservative legislators say that senators associated with the conservative tea party are going too far by threatening to shut down the government. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is the focus of much criticism for his strenuous efforts to void the health care law. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., accused Cruz of delaying a Thursday vote to avoid a government shutdown in an effort to create a "show" for the Texan's conservative supporters.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said Cruz supporters have been making obscene phone calls to King's office because of the congressman's criticisms of Cruz. "The vehemence of the phone calls coming into the office!" King told MSNBC. "I don't care, people can call me whatever they want," but he also said, "I haven't heard such vile, profane, obscene language."
King also noted, "I'm not saying Ted Cruz is responsible for all his supporters, but he has tapped into a dark strain here in the American political psyche here, and again, the most obscene, profane stuff you can imagine, all from people who say they support the Constitution. I think what we have to do is reach out to his people and let them know that they're following a false leader."