Friday Talking Points -- The GOP's Double Standards

[ Posted Friday, February 26th, 2021 – 18:31 UTC ]

In the past week, two of the biggest political stories have been which way the Senate parliamentarian was going to rule on an arcane rule in the chamber, and how one of President Joe Biden's nominees might be in trouble because in the past she had (gasp!) tweeted such mean things as: "vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz" (a statement that is not provably true only because vampires are mythical creatures while the heartlessness of Ted Cruz is, sadly, all too real).

Not to belabor the obvious, but this is a decided difference from the past four years. To drive the point home: last week there were zero nasty or racist or misogynistic tweets from the president, there were zero instances of the White House press secretary just flat-out lying from the briefing room podium, and zero times when the president was obviously completely and utterly ignorant about either basic facts, reality, how the Constitution works, or federal law in general. None. Zero. Nary a one.

The preceding paragraph was not (to the best of our recollection) true even once during any given week, over the past four years. Each and every week either brought a new low in terms of presidential communication and/or behavior, some insanely and laughably false statements from White House spokesmen and/or spokeswomen, or some jaw-dropping instance (or instances, most weeks) of how radically uninformed the country's leader truly was.

As a direct result, Americans everywhere are sleeping much sounder at night, secure in the knowledge that when they awaken the next morning there won't be some fresh and monumentally-embarrassing scandal that the president had tweeted out in the wee hours of the morning -- just because he was bored and there was nothing on television to amuse him. Or, to put it another way, a sane adult is now running our country once again.

There really should be some sort of term for this. It's like the opposite of schadenfreude, because it is taking pleasure in the absolute absence of pain and misery, across the land.

What was truly amusing about the past week was the Republican Party's selective amnesia and stunning hypocrisy. They are collectively clutching their pearls while suffering from badly-bunched panties, over all sorts of things that they routinely and totally ignored for four long years, when it was Donald Trump doing them all.

Take Neera Tanden, the Biden nominee, who is somehow being deemed unacceptable to lead the Office of Management and Budget because she has previously said some rather sharp things on Twitter. Seriously, even though this was a gigantic story all week long, we have yet to read one single tweet from her which is one-tenth as bad as the worst tweet from just about any random week when Trump was president. Ted Cruz is as heartless as a vampire? Seriously? That's all they've got? The only other tweet from Tanden we saw quoted was directed towards a senator who might wind up being the crucial vote to confirm Tanden, Lisa Murkowski. Tanden tweeted, in response to some Murkowski spin on the gloriousness of cutting taxes for corporations: "No offense but this sounds like you're high on your own supply. You know, we know, and everyone knows this is all garbage. Just stop." That's supposed to somehow be the equivalent of Trump venting his rage on anyone and everyone in sight, which is just flat-out ridiculous.

Those are supposed to be the worst things that should, according to Republicans (and, shamefully, one Democrat -- more on him in a moment), disqualify Tanden from serving in the Biden administration. This was during the same week when one of the Republican senators who will vote on all these confirmations called another Biden nominee (Deb Haaland): "a neo-socialist, left-of-Lenin whack job." He later apologized -- but only for the "whack job" part.

Like most things, as far as Republicans are concerned, Democrats should be held to the strictest moral and ethical standards imaginable, while Republicans are held to no standards whatsoever. Their double standard is simply breathtaking in scope. The Washington Post pointed this out in the snarkiest of fashion this week (which pays particular attention to Joe Manchin, the one Democratic senator who has indicated he'll vote against Tanden for being "too partisan"):

Can you believe that Neera Tanden called Hillary Clinton the "anti-Christ" and the "real enemy"?

Oh, wait. It was Ryan Zinke who said those things. Fifty-one Republican senators (and several Democrats, including Joe Manchin III of West Virginia) confirmed him as secretary of the interior in 2017.

And how about the times Tanden allegedly called the NAACP a "pinko organization" that "hates white people" and used racial epithets?

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.

Democrats must be squeaky-clean, while Republicans can get away with pretty much anything under the sun. That is the double standard at play here. But it's really the same double standard Republicans use against Democrats in all sorts of ways. Take, for instance, Republicans who are castigating Biden for "not being bipartisan enough" and somehow reneging on his promises to seek "unity." Again, as far as Republicans are concerned, the term "bipartisan" should always be defined as: "Democrats agreeing to support the Republican agenda" and never the other way around.

Don't believe this? You should. Joe Biden has called for a COVID-19 relief package of $1.9 trillion. Republicans countered with an offer that was less than one-third this size. The Federal Reserve supports Biden's plan and has specifically warned Congress that the only danger right now is not going big enough, and 150 of the largest corporations in America have also signed onto the Biden proposal. The idea -- whether taken as a whole or broken down into component parts -- polls with the public at astronomically high rates of approval (anywhere from two-thirds of the public up to in some cases 80 percent, proving how wildly popular the idea is even among Republican voters. And yet not a single Republican in Congress is expected to vote for the package. The party is doubling down on an incredibly unpopular position, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Democrats will be pointing this out on the campaign trail next year. Why are Republicans shooting themselves in the foot so spectacularly? Because they are miffed that Biden didn't endlessly negotiate the size of the relief package downwards by two-thirds. After which, the Republicans probably still would not have voted for it, as happened numerous times when Barack Obama was president.

Not a single Republican has stood up and said: "In the spirit of unity and bipartisanship, I will support this bill that an overwhelming number of my constituents want to see enacted and that the business community has fully approved, because I am putting the best interests of the country ahead of my party." Not one. And yet, to them, this is all somehow proof that Biden is the one falling down on the job of "reaching out."

Heck, most Republicans in Congress still won't even agree that Biden legitimately and fairly won the election. That should be the absolute minimum required for any sort of unity -- and yet somehow the media continues to (mostly) give them a gigantic pass on this simple affirmation of the American democratic system -- even after an attempted violent insurrection was launched with the expressed intent of killing members of Congress.

That is the real scandal, folks. Not some fainting spell over some tweet that -- compared to just about any random Trump mean tweet -- is incredibly small potatoes. This will all become even more painfully obvious and acute this Sunday, when Trump emerges from his hibernation to give his first big speech as an ex-president, to the rabid rabble-rousers of the Conservative Political Action Conference. His aides have been promising his speech will be "heavy on policy ideas," but of course, it won't. Instead it will quickly devolve into ad-libbed free-floating rage about conspiracies everywhere and how evil the Democrats truly are (as well as any Republican who has dared to cross him, too). As usual. Trump's speech will be in sharp contrast to all the pearl-clutching and panty-bunching now taking place among Republicans over slightly-snarky tweets from a Democrat, but few will bother to connect these dots (that's our guess, at any rate).

More GOP hypocrisy on display -- Republican senators are complaining that Xavier Becerra is somehow also unqualified to lead the Department of Health and Human Services because he is not a doctor. Even though the previous H.H.S. secretary -- one Trump nominated and the Senate Republicans voted for enthusiastically -- also was not a doctor. And where do they get off demanding cabinet members have to have stellar qualifications when they confirmed Rick "Oops" Perry to the Department of Energy even though he had no clue what the department actually did and Betsy (shudder) DeVos to lead the Department of Education, with her sole impressive qualification of being the owner of many luxury yachts? One has to wonder: who are they really trying to fool?

And, to wrap this theme up, we present the biggest and ugliest example of hypocrisy, which came from Stephen Miller -- the architect of Trump's child separation border policy -- who said in an interview (as the article put it) "without an ounce of irony" the following: "What we are seeing here is the cruelty and inhumanity of Joe Biden's immigration policies." Because I guess Miller is an expert on cruel and inhumane immigration policies? Or something? Republican hypocrisy -- to say nothing of utter shamelessness -- just knows no bounds, these days.

And one final rather amusing note, even though it won't actually bear any fruit for months (there are literally millions of pages to dig through), after the Supreme Court tossed out all the remaining frivolous lawsuits Trump and his minions filed about the election, they also ruled that the district attorney from Manhattan was indeed entitled to subpoena Donald Trump's tax returns for the past eight years. By the end of the day, the paperwork had been delivered and the investigators began sifting through it all to uncover any illegalities. So there's that to look forward to, perhaps as early as this summer!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out this week, one for providing a stark contrast and one for telling the plain truth when it truly needed to be told.

Before we get to them, though, we also need to hand out Honorable Mention awards to both all the Democrats in New Jersey who contributed to making the state the 14th to legalize recreational marijuana this week (legislatively, which is even more impressive than via ballot initiative), and to Nancy Pelosi for passing the landmark Equality Act through the House -- the first time this has happened since such a measure was proposed way back in the 1970s.

Our first MIDOTW award, however, goes to Representative Gerald Connolly, who did not exactly mince words during a hearing where Democrats were grilling the postmaster general for being so woefully bad at his job, for interfering in the past election with such naked partisanship, and for being an all-around schmuck. Republicans, of course, were flinging all sorts of baseless charges about Democrats, and when Connolly got his chance to speak, he let them have it right back:

His fists were pounding. His index fingers were pointing. And his arms, at least at one point, were outstretched as Rep. Gerald E. Connolly yelled, "I'm an admitted Democrat, and I'm damn proud of it!"

It was the start of Connolly's latest impassioned monologue, during a crucial hearing on postal reforms. He accused Republican colleagues of "gaslighting" after they said Democratic outrage at Postmaster General Louis DeJoy -- and attempts to remove him -- were politically motivated.

Connolly's retort: "I didn't vote to overturn an election, and I will not be lectured by people who did, about partisanship!"

Tell it like it is, congressman.

But our second MIDOTW is a more serious one, because it goes to President Joe Biden, for doing what Donald Trump should have started doing almost exactly one year ago -- showing the slightest bit of empathy or sympathy or even just basic humanity to the victims of his own ineptitude.

Biden this week held a somber ceremony to mark the fact that America has now suffered over 500,000 deaths due to the pandemic -- far more than other countries in the world, even countries with four times our population.

Biden was properly solemn and showed the nation what any competent president should have been doing all along -- helping the nation to grieve our tragic losses. Biden also marked the 50-millionth person to get vaccinated (although this may have been fudged slightly, since most data trackers show only just above 45 million, but the event was almost certainly scheduled before the winter storm slowed the distribution down for a week).

In any case, Biden showed the nation what a leader does in a crisis -- the one thing that Donald Trump was both not interested in doing, and totally incapable of doing with any degree of sincerity whatsoever.

It was good to see some humanity from the White House, after the long four-year absence, which is why we're giving Biden a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week -- for the contrast alone. Normally -- even in the midst of a crisis -- this wouldn't be all that notable, since it is really expected of the nation's leader, but it was so good to see once again that we thought it was worth applauding.

[Congratulate Representative Gerald Connolly on his House contact page, and President Joe Biden on his White House contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

There were only two candidates for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, but we chose the most disappointing of the two for the award.

Which leaves a (Dis-)Honorable Mention award for Senator Joe Manchin, who announced this week that he will be voting against Neera Tanden's confirmation to lead the Office of Management and Budget. See above, for details. This puts her confirmation in serious doubt, meaning President Biden might be forced to withdraw her nomination altogether.

But this pales in comparison to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, if the accusation made against him this week proves to be true. Here is the whole sordid story, in case you missed it:

A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made detailed allegations Wednesday that the politician sexually harassed her, describing an unwanted kiss in Cuomo's office and a pattern of behavior that she says left her "nauseous" going to work.

Lindsey Boylan, who eventually resigned from the Democratic governor's team, described deep discomfort with Cuomo starting in 2016, when she says her boss told her the governor had a "crush" on her. Boylan said in an online post that Cuomo "would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs," and she shared images of text messages and emails that she said supported her story, an expansion on public allegations that Cuomo denied last year.

"He is a sexist pig and you should avoid being alone with him!" Boylan's mother texted her at one point about Cuomo, according to photos of the exchange.

. . .

Cuomo "has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected," Boylan wrote in her post on Medium. "His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right. He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences."

. . .

A spokeswoman for the governor, Caitlin Girouard, reiterated Wednesday that Boylan's "claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false." Girouard focused on the former's aide's opening anecdote about the governor allegedly suggesting they "play strip poker" while seated close together on Cuomo's jet in October 2017.

. . .

Boylan also posted a picture of an email in which an aide for the governor told her that Cuomo suggested she look up images of another woman, saying she was that woman's "better looking sister." Cuomo started calling Boylan by that woman's name in the presence of colleagues, Boylan wrote, calling the experience "degrading."

. . .

At one point, Boylan said, while alone with the governor in his office, Cuomo showed her a cigar box that he said was from former president Bill Clinton, which she interpreted as a reference to Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

"I tried to rationalize this incident in my head. At least he didn't touch me," Boylan wrote. But later, she alleged, during a one-on-one briefing in Cuomo's New York City office, the governor stepped in front of her and kissed her as she tried to leave. She said she kept walking, stunned.

There's really little more that needs be said, obviously. This could be the final nail in Cuomo's coffin, after his other recent scandal, involving fudging the data for COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes in his state. Cuomo was looking forward to getting re-elected to a fourth term, but that plan might no longer be operative, to put it politely.

For being exactly what her mom called him, "a sexist pig," Andrew Cuomo is easily our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Contact New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 607 (2/26/21)

We haven't done this in a while, but we're devoting our entire Talking Points section to a single theme this week, because it is the time of year when self-styled "conservatives" slither out from their rocks and holes in the ground and other dank hiding places and gather in the gigantic conspiracy-fuelled hatefest known as the Conservative Political Action Conference, or "CPAC."

This year's convention theme is "America Uncancelled." They're upset about what they call "cancel culture," which (to them) is the biggest threat America now faces. And, like just about everything conservatives and Republicans love to decry, they of course are their own worst enemies, in this regard. So we decided to have some fun with their chosen theme (because it was just so easy to do so).


   Speaker ironically gets cancelled, before it even starts

Do as I say, not as I do (which could really lead in just about any of this week's talking points, now that we think about it...).

"CPAC, which used to be a fringe, extremist gathering right up until mainstream Republicans decided that courting whackadoodle voters was fine with them, opened this week with their stated theme 'America Uncancelled.' The whole conference is supposed to be dedicated to speaking out against anyone ever trying to 'cancel' one of their own. However, at a late date they had to... well... cancel one of their own scheduled speakers, because Media Matters uncovered anti-Semitic tweets by their intended guest speaker. The head of CPAC responded, when this hypocrisy was pointed out to him, by saying, quote, 'Cancel culture is a desire to push somebody out of polite society, destroy their ability to make a living, and take away their voice,' unquote. He also called the speaker's views 'abhorrent' enough to bar from his stage... or platform. 'If that person wants to air those views,' he said, 'I don't think they should be illegal. Just do it on someone else's dime.' Which, when you think about it, is exactly what Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media companies are telling conservatives when they spew hateful and violent rhetoric -- 'go right ahead and say those nasty things, just do it on someone else's platform.' The hypocrisy is just downright stunning."


   All the way back to McCarthy

It's been part of their DNA for quite some time, actually.

"Republicans are now crying crocodile tears over 'getting cancelled,' which kind of ignores their own long and storied history doing exactly the same thing. For decades, they tried their mightiest to cancel gay people and wipe their existence away entirely from American life. They tried to cancel football players for peaceful protest. They tried to cancel artists for creating art they didn't like. They tried to cancel rock and rap bands for singing lyrics they didn't like. They tried to ban books and movies they didn't like. They tried to make flag burning illegal, because they didn't like it. Further back, they blacklisted people in Hollywood and elsewhere for espousing political views they disapproved of. It goes all the way back to Joe McCarthy, in fact, who might be called the Father of Republican Cancel Culture."



And then there's the modern day, as well.

"Donald Trump was certainly the biggest canceller of all, for the past four years. Trump never met an opponent he didn't try his hardest to outright cancel. He made threats to people's careers -- whether in politics, in entertainment, in sports, or just about anywhere else -- and he tried to follow through on these threats whenever he could. He tried to cancel an American presidential election because he was too big a baby to admit he had lost. He tried to cancel coronavirus, without much noticeable effect -- other than half a million dead Americans. He tried to cancel just about anyone who set him off, in fact, and that was a lot of people indeed. Anyone looking for 'cancel culture' at CPAC need only look as far as their keynote speaker, because Donald Trump has been 'canceller-in-chief' since Day One. Just goes to prove, once again, that Republicans are fine when they are dishing it out -- cancelling people left and right -- but when it happens to them they turn into the world's most fragile snowflakes."


   Ted Cruz tries suggests neighbors should be cancelled

No, really.

"Ted Cruz, after getting caught fleeing his home state in the middle of a deadly emergency so he could drink margaritas on a sunny beach with his wife frolicking in a bikini and his daughters warm and happy while back in Texas children were literally freezing to death, had the absolute gall to criticize his neighbors for blowing the whistle on all of his lies and depravity. After admitting that some of his neighbors were actually (gasp!) Democrats, Cruz expressed disappointment that they didn't self-cancel their political views so that his tender eyes wouldn't be affronted by their constitutional right to support the candidate of their choice. Cruz complained about, and I quote, 'folks on our street who put up Beto [O'Rourke] signs, which I thought was a little rude. You know, I didn't, like, hold a victory party on their front yards when we won.' Um, because that would be illegally trespassing, maybe? As opposed to exercising your constitutional right to political free speech on your own property, Ted? And I'm sure, if one of his Democratic neighbors ran for public office, that Cruz would of course refrain from putting up his own yard signs for the Republican in the race, right? Don't make me laugh."


   Not even the worst thing Cruz said this week

Because of course it wasn't.

"Ted Cruz was even more incensed that some of his neighbors actually leaked the messages his wife had sent out graciously inviting all her wealthy neighbors to flee the state of Texas in the midst of the emergency that was killing dozens, and join the Cruz family for a spontaneous vacation in Mexico. Obviously, Cruz believes such heartless behavior from a public official should remain a deep secret. He castigated whomever leaked the messages to the media, saying: 'You know, here's a suggestion: Just don't be assholes. Just treat each other as human beings. Have some degree, some modicum of respect.' Once again, I point out that the messages were leaked in the first place to spotlight the utter assholishness of Ted Cruz fleeing people in dire need, when he could have stayed and done everything in his power to help them instead. You know, treated them as human beings, or with a modicum of respect. As usual, this brief foray onto the moral high road didn't last very long for Cruz, and by week's end he was, once again, proving that he was one of the biggest assholes in Washington, at the CPAC convention -- by turning the entire disaster in his home state and his utter indifference to it into a joke."


   Graven image indeed

Hoo boy. You just cannot make this stuff up, folks.

"So far, the most amusing video from the CPAC conference is two workers wheeling what can only be called a giant golden statue of Donald Trump down a hallway, through the amused convention attendees. Let's see, wasn't there something about this from that book that Republicans hold nearest and dearest? Something about graven images not being allowed? I could have sworn there was some rather wrathful holy vengeance over a golden calf, at some point in that very book...."


   Or maybe there's another way to put it

This one comes from a comment to a Washington Post article that is so perfect we find we cannot improve upon it one whit.

When I think of CPAC, all I can think of is the great saying of Obi Wan Kenobi when describing Mos Eisley spaceport, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy". What is true for Mos Eisley is the same for CPAC.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground