Suddenly, Republicans have all seen the tweets. Despite their online omnipresence, they somehow always missed insane shit Donald Trump spent his days posting until his account was, mercifully, taken away from him. They have similarly missed out on the toxic trolling of Marjorie Taylor Greene, for the most part, with one GOP senator—Tommy Tuberville—claiming earlier this month that “rough” weather made it impossible for him to familiarize himself with the conspiratorial content his Capitol Hill colleague has been promulgating.
And yet, the inclement weather that has gripped much of the country recently apparently didn’t keep Republicans from taking a critical eye to the online activity of Neera Tanden, whose nomination to serve as Joe Biden’s Office of Management and Budget director appears doomed after conservative Democrat Joe Manchin said he would not support her confirmation, citing her “overtly partisan statements.” Republicans have been railing against the Democratic activist since Biden chose her, outraged not so much about her controversial reign as president of the Center for American Progress, but at her mean tweets about Republicans. The tweets that have bothered them so? Ones in which she likened Ted Cruz, in the news most recently for helping to ignite insurrection and abandoning his constituents in the middle of a crisis for a Cancun vacation, to a “vampire,” called Tom Cotton a “fraud,” dubbed Mitch McConnell “Voldemort,” and said that Susan Collins was “the worst.”
“I believe that the tone, the content, and the aggressive partisanship of some of your public statements have added to the troubling trend of more incivility and division in our public life,” Republican Senator Rob Portman said during a hearing with Tanden earlier this month. A couple moderate Republicans—Collins and Mitt Romney—recently came out in opposition. Collins said Tanden’s “past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend,” while a Romney spokesperson said the Utah senator “believes it’s hard to return to comity and respect with a nominee who has issued a thousand mean tweets.”
While Republicans were most offended by her Twitter attacks on those in their ranks, they have also made clear that they are offended on behalf of progressives like Bernie Sanders, whose camp has been engaged in a long-running feud with the Hillary Clinton ally. “I’m very disturbed about your personal comments about people,” Republican Senator John Kennedy said at the hearing. “I mean, you called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut,” he continued, weirdly referencing the old Dan Ackroyd–Jane Curtin Saturday Night Live bit.
It’s true that Tanden has been a controversial figure, both online and off. She has rightly been criticized for her handling of a sexual harassment scandal at CAP; for shutting down ThinkProgress, the news site it funded; and for either shoving or punching former ThinkProgress editor and Sanders aide Faiz Shakir in the chest. And, as a general rule, becoming known for the feuding common among the hyper-online is…not great.
But it’s beyond hypocritical for Republicans to suddenly care about that kind of thing now, after they spent four years going to bat for a guy who not only made his name on much more grotesque conduct, but who targeted many of them with insults worse than Tanden could dream up. She may have compared Cruz to a vampire, but she didn’t suggest his wife was ugly and that his father had a hand in the JFK assassination, as Trump famously did. Tanden may have battled with political opponents on Twitter, but Trump, in a five-year onslaught of hate and lies and vitriol, pushed his supporters to literally wage battle on the Capitol to stop democracy in its tracks. But the GOP, with a few exceptions, brushed aside his rhetoric and acquitted him. “Everyone makes mistakes,” Republican Senator Mike Lee said on Fox News this month of Trump’s anti-democratic lies and violent rhetoric that led to the January 6 insurrection. “Everyone’s entitled to a mulligan once in a while.”