Donald Trump has departed Washington, but he has left behind a new set of rules for Republicans. One of them is that words and deeds, no matter how reckless or disconnected from the truth, carry no consequences.
Before she was elected last year, QAnon devotee Greene made a name for herself by spreading bonkers conspiracy theories, including that the school shooting tragedies in Newtown, Conn., and Parkland, Fla., were staged.
She has also embraced another one claiming that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton murdered a child during a satanic ritual and drank her blood.
And they just keep coming. Newly unearthed are social media postings in which Greene appeared to endorse, through likes and shares and comments, the idea of executing Democratic leaders. One of the posts she “liked” suggested getting rid of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with “a bullet to the head.” CNN’s KFile also found a 2019 video in which Greene harassed David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland shooting who was making the rounds on Capitol Hill to advocate for gun control. The congresswoman-to-be shouted lies at the teen and called him “a coward” for not responding to her.
All of this has provoked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to let it be known through a spokesman that he finds her comments “deeply disturbing" and that he “plans to have a conversation with the congresswoman about them.”
In the meantime, McCarthy scheduled a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with Trump. He apparently hopes to smooth over any hard feelings the former president may have about McCarthy’s mild blandishment that Trump “bears responsibility” for the mob that he fed with false claims about a stolen election and then incited to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6.
So it looks like a stern talking-to, followed by a make-up session, is the worst that can happen within the Republican family these days. And should anyone else try to exact a punishment, the party will protect its own, as all but five Senate Republicans proved this week, when they voted against even holding an impeachment trial of Trump.
The Republicans’ unwillingness to confront the dark forces within their party is not only unseemly but dangerous. On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin warning of a “heightened threat environment” in which “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” are likely to act upon “perceived grievances fueled by false narratives.”
Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) has announced that he will introduce a resolution to expel Greene from the House, which is something you would think the institution would want to do for its own sake.
At a minimum, Greene should be censured, with the idea that she is on some sort of probation that could lead to being kicked out if she doesn’t clean up her act.
But the predictable outcome, given the general mind-set of Republicans these days, is that such a drive would only elevate her as a martyr and bring wails of “cancel culture” from the prime-time pundits on Fox News.
She already is styling herself as a fever-swamp version of Joan of Arc. During the House debate on Trump’s impeachment — a proceeding that was nationally televised — Greene delivered her remarks while wearing a mask emblazoned with the word “CENSORED,” in protest of Twitter’s decision to suspend her for 12 hours for posting incendiary and false material about the election.
The real blame here, however, should rest with Republican leaders.
A big part of their job is selecting and recruiting candidates for open and competitive seats. Greene’s history of racist, anti-Semitic and incendiary comments was well known when she decided to run. But senior GOP officials — afraid of alienating the most extreme elements of the Trump base — did nothing to block her path when she entered a nine-candidate primary that was so fragmented she made it into a runoff with 40 percent of the vote.
In 2019, McCarthy and his fellow Republicans did strip Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee assignments, after King made indulgent comments about white nationalism and white supremacy. But that came as King was serving his ninth term and had compiled a long history of using racist language.
But barely three weeks after being sworn in for her first term, Greene was rewarded by McCarthy with a seat on the House Education and Labor Committee. Her assignment to a panel that gives her a role in shaping federal policy with regard to schools is “appalling, really beyond the pale,” Pelosi said Thursday.
Except the sad thing is, the Republican embrace of people like Greene and its tolerance of what she represents show the party no longer recognizes a line between what is and isn’t acceptable. They have made their bargain, and now they are stuck with it.