Way down in an interview with Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, the Joe Biden campaign manager who has been tapped to be White House deputy chief of staff, there is a quote in which she refers to Republicans as “f----rs” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as “terrible.”
Rubio tweeted his umbrage:
Rubio was joined in his outrage by many other Republicans, who apparently are unaware that among the things that President Trump has achieved in his single term is bringing swearing into the mainstream. On just one day in 2019, this newspaper used the word “bullshit” five times in quoting Trump’s rants about his impeachment. Trump cusses liberally at his rallies, knowing it brings cheers from his devoted supporters. They see it as evidence of his toughness and willingness to call things the way he sees them.
O’Malley Dillon is among the most gifted political operatives in either party. But she doesn’t often give interviews. When she speaks in public, as I wrote in August, she rarely says anything particularly quotable: “She speaks not in sound bites but in the jargon of a veteran operative — ‘high contact rates,’ ‘new organizing model’ — punctuated by the occasional profanity.”
The Glamour interview focused largely on the challenges of combining motherhood and a high-stakes career. Forced to reinvent campaigning during the covid-19 pandemic, O’Malley Dillon ran Biden’s general-election effort from the attic of her suburban Maryland home, with twin second-graders and a toddler underfoot.
The quote that perturbed Rubio and a chorus of others came near the end of the article, and read in context it makes pretty much the opposite point that you’d expect if you saw only the reaction to it. What O’Malley Dillon suggests is that skeptical Democrats should put aside their belief that Biden is on a fool’s errand as he attempts to work with Republicans on Capitol Hill, where many continue to deny that his election was legitimate. Here are her words in context:
"The president-elect was able to connect with people over this sense of unity. In the primary, people would mock him, like, ‘You think you can work with Republicans?’ I’m not saying they’re not a bunch of f----rs. Mitch McConnell is terrible. But this sense that you couldn’t wish for that, you couldn’t wish for this bipartisan ideal? He rejected that. From start to finish, he set out with this idea that unity was possible, that together we are stronger, that we, as a country, need healing, and our politics needs that too.”
She added: “Which is not to say it is easy. It is like a relationship. You can’t do politics alone. If the other person is not willing to do the work, then that becomes really hard. But I think, more than not, people want to see impact. They want to see us moving in a path forward. They want to do their work, get paid a fair share, have time for themselves and their family, and see each other as neighbors. And this overhang of this negative, polarized electorate that politics has created is the thing that I think we can break down.”
Oh, the horror! At a moment when the country faces a set of crises unlike any we have seen in many generations, Biden and his team want to get things done. They also recognize that doing so will require some give-and-take, given today’s political environment.
Axios, which labeled its report about the stir surrounding O’Malley Dillon’s comments a “scoop,” quoted unnamed Democratic donors who demanded that she apologize to Biden and perhaps to congressional Republicans.
What I’m wondering is whether it would have drawn any attention at all if those same words had been said by a male political operative. (It might also be worth noting that this comment was the third time that O’Malley Dillon used the F-word in various contexts during that interview. And if you care to count, she also used “s--t” four times.)
Or whether Neera Tanden’s history of combative tweets suggests she is too partisan to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, a job formerly held by Mick Mulvaney, a founder of the House’s hard-right Freedom Caucus.
I can think of a few salty words that might apply here, but the most apt description is “hypocrisy.”