Can you believe that Neera Tanden called Hillary Clinton the “anti-Christ” and the “real enemy”?
My bad. That was Jeff Sessions. Again, 51 Republican senators (and one Democrat, Manchin) voted to confirm him as attorney general in 2017.
Surely Tanden went beyond the pale when she “liked” a tweet calling then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry a “traitor” and “Vietnam’s worst export,” and when she suggested Clinton supporters leave the country.
Except Mike Pompeo was the one who did those things. He won confirmation as secretary of state in 2018 with the votes of 50 Republicans and six Democrats, including Manchin.
But, really, the most appalling thing Tanden said was that Muslims have a “deficient theology” and they “stand condemned.”
Whoops. That wasn’t Tanden but Russell Vought. Just last year, 51 Republicans voted to confirm him as director of the Office of Management and Budget — the same position Tanden is up for now.
Now, all 50 Senate Republicans, assisted by Manchin, are on the cusp of sinking Tanden’s nomination because they object to her harsh tweets. Many have noted the hypocrisy, particularly when compared with the treatment of Richard Grenell, an online troll who won confirmation as ambassador to Germany with 50 Republican votes — and Manchin, natch — despite routinely disparaging women’s appearances.
But this isn’t just about double standards. What really must sting about Tanden’s tweets is not that they were mean, but that, for the most part, they were true.
In June 2019, she lashed out at then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for blocking bipartisan attempts to protect U.S. elections from foreign attack. “Can people on here please focus their ire on McConnell and the GOP senators who are Up This Cycle who enable him?” she asked in one deleted tweet.
Such pressure eventually forced McConnell to allow for more funds for election security.
Another deleted tweet charged: “Apparently a lot of people think #MoscowMitch is a threat.”
A lot of people did. I wrote that his determination to thwart bipartisan election protections made him a “Russian asset.”
After then-President Donald Trump called former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman a “crazed, lying lowlife” and a “dog,” Tanden’s now-deleted tweet said: “Trump just called a black woman a dog and about 80% of the GOP don’t think he’s racist. The whole party needs to be defeated in November.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
After Trump endorsed Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama and the Republican National Committee poured money into supporting Moore, accused by several women of sexually assaulting them as teenagers, Tanden’s now-deleted tweet responded: “The Republican party is gleefully supporting an alleged child molester. And everyone who gives money to the RNC is doing the same.”
Tough but fair.
She made a tactical mistake calling Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) “the worst” for taking Brett M. Kavanaugh’s word over his sexual-assault accuser’s, calling the theatrically dour Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) a “fraud” and saying Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Cancún) is as heartless as a “vampire.” (But if the shoe fits . . .)
Tanden, unlike most of the Trump nominees, apologized for her tone and promised that her words as a public official would be different. She explained that “the last several years have been very polarizing.”
I feel the same way. I wince at some of the caustic and ad hominem things I wrote during the Trump era. Trump made almost all of us angrier.
Trump abandoned norms of democracy and decency and stoked racial hatred and violence. But equally infuriating was that elected Republican officials did almost nothing to stop him. In the end, 147 Republicans voted to overturn the election results, even after the bloody insurrection in the Capitol, and 43 Senate Republicans just voted to acquit Trump.
We all want healing. We all want unity. But it won’t happen as long as the Party of Trump assigns Democrats sole responsibility for civility, while using President Biden’s admirable talk of unity as a cudgel. Collins moralized about Tanden representing “the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend.” In other words, apology not accepted.
And it’s not just Tanden. Senate Republicans this week teed off on Biden’s interior secretary nominee, Deb Haaland, another woman of color, over her 2020 tweet saying that “Republicans don’t believe in science.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who has cast doubt on the human role in climate change, called the tweet “concerning.”
No, senator. What’s “concerning” is that, after four years of excusing lies, racism, vulgarity, lawbreaking and self-dealing by the Trump administration, your idea of healing is to defeat Biden nominees for speaking the truth.