Republican Sen. John Cornyn is very upset about Neera Tanden, the well-qualified woman tapped by President Biden to run the Office of Management and Budget. He is shocked, shocked! that tweeting is going on in American politics, and that Tanden has done some of it.
Cornyn, speaking for virtually all Senate Republicans, says that Tanden shouldn’t be confirmed to run OMB because she has frequently tweeted harsh criticism of GOP bigwigs. He says that, “in light of her combative and insulting comments,” the president should “select someone who at the very least has not promoted wild conspiracy theories and openly bashed people.”
Wait a sec...Cornyn reads means tweets and considers them to be serious disqualifiers for high office?! As Johnny Carson liked to say on the old Tonight Show, “This I did not know.”
I was under the distinct impression that Cornyn, and his Republican pals, didn’t pay attention to mean tweets. That they were too busy to read them. That they basically shrugged them off. Like, for instance, whenever their Dear Leader thumbed his phone to make combative and insulting comments, to promote wild conspiracy theories and openly bash people.
Like, for instance, what happened last June, when an elderly Buffalo man, a peaceful protestor, was hospitalized with a head injury after cops shoved him to the ground. Trump responded by lying on Twitter that the old guy was probably an Antifa plant. The press asked Cornyn what he thought about his president’s tweet.
His reaction: “I’m not familiar with it. Not particularly...A lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”
The rest of the Senate Republican ostriches chimed in. Mike Braun said, “No real response to it.” Rick Scott said, “I didn’t see it.” Marco Rubio said, “I didn’t see it. I don’t read Twitter.” Kevin Cramer said, “I know nothing of the episode, so I don’t know.” Pat Roberts said, “I don’t want to hear it...I’d just as soon not.”
But Tom Cotton best summed up their attitude on a different occasion, when Trump tweeted that four female House members of color should go back where they came from (three were born in America, one was a naturalized citizen). When Cotton was asked what he thought of Trump’s tweet, he said: “The president is gonna tweet what he’s gonna tweet.”
So no big deal, right? The bankrupt casino owner who vaulted into politics by relentlessly tweeting the lie that Barack Obama was a fake American - who reigned by sliming anyone who criticized him and retweeting crackpot calls to violence - got a pass every time because his soulless enablers covered their eyes.
Back in our brief dystopia, Kevin Cramer spoke for his fellow wimps when he said “I don’t know whether the president should be careful or not about what he tweets.” But now, all of a sudden, they’re clutching their pearls about Neera Tanden, declaring that she shouldn’t be the OMB director because she wasn’t “careful” about what she tweeted.
She did tweet tough stuff about Republicans during the MAGA era. Tanden said (among other things) that Susan Collins was “pathetic” (which happens to be true),” that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz” (which happens to be true), and that Mitch McConnell was “Voldemort.” It would have been more politic of Tanden to be less outspoken, and it’s puzzling that the Biden team didn’t anticipate that Senate Republicans would try to knock out her nomination by citing her tweets.
Alas, their hypocrisy prevents them from putting things in perspective. Tanden has never tweeted threats to wage nuclear war, or retweeted cartoons showing a journalist getting beaten up. She hasn’t tweeted fascist lies about a “stolen election” or white nationalist agitprop that sows Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism.
Perhaps I’m just imagining it, but the mostly white male Senate Republicans seem extra sensitive about mean tweets thumbed by a woman of color. Indeed, a number of Biden’s women of color nominees seem to be meeting Republican resistance. The party that’s been thrown into the minority, thanks to Trump and their fealty unto him, seems to have a problem saying yes to a new administration that looks like America.
If Tanden’s nomination goes down, it’s likely that another qualified woman of color will get the OMB job. There’s only so much Republicans can do to turn back the clock. And huffing about tweets is transparently weak, after five execrable years of playing deaf and dumb.
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org