But in the midst of bitter partisan debate this year, Capitol Hill seems to have missed the memo.
Furious liberals lashed out in recent weeks as Republican negotiators appeared more willing to threaten a disastrous US government default unless a debt-ceiling deal included substantial spending cuts.
Democratic Representative Mike Doyle put his foot in it recently in a closed-door caucus meeting about the debt deal, when he said "the Tea Party acted like terrorists in threatening to blow up the economy," according to ABC News.
The Politico news website said Vice President Joe Biden, who attended the meeting, used the term, although he and the White House denied it.
Doyle expressed regret, saying he "wasn't talking about the Tea Party," but their hardball tactics.
"Had I simply said 'hostage-taker,' there wouldn't be this reaction."
Perhaps. But bluntly tarring a US politician as a terrorist after the September 11 attacks will incur wrath.
Several other lawmakers have used alarming language in recent weeks, on both sides of the aisle.
Last month, US congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate, accused Obama of "holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so he can continue his spending spree."
Even the commander in chief has engaged in the violent metaphors, accusing congressional Republicans last year of holding the extension of unemployment benefits "hostage."
But the true lord of the zings may have been Senator John McCain, who ranted on the Senate floor against "Tea-Party hobbits," referring to fictional creatures in fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy.
Reading from a Wall Street Journal editorial, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee mocked the idea that a Republican refusal to raise the debt ceiling would trigger a default crisis blamed solely on Obama.
"Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the Tea Party hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor," McCain said.
Freshman Senator Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, shot back: "I'd rather be a hobbit than a troll."
The White House recognized Tuesday that tempers flare along with the political heat, but said the rhetoric had gone over the top.
"I think it was a product of an emotional discussion, very passionately held positions in this debate," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
"But that does not mean that it's appropriate, and it's not... Any kind of comments like that are simply not conducive to the kind of political discourse that we hope to have."