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Neera Tanden Had to Go Down, but Not for the Reason You Think

Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP, Pool

On Tuesday, Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination to be OMB director after it was clear her nomination was doomed to fail. Tanden’s nomination was so controversial from the get-go that opposition was actually bipartisan. To the left, she wasn’t extreme enough. To the right, her past outspokenness on Twitter as the head of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, made them uncomfortable. Some of the senators who would be voting on her confirmation were even attacked by name on social media by Tanden.

But even conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt thought she deserved to be confirmed.

“All political people, especially senators, should live with the same rules of political debate as the rest of us,” explained Hewitt. “They should not use their confirmation power to protect themselves from online criticism, however hurtful. Everyone draws the line at threats. But Tanden has just clobbered people the good old-fashioned way: with words.”

Hewitt noted that “Tanden has apologized for her tart language.” Okay? And?

It’s funny how Democrats are so often let off the hook with a simple apology. For example, the fact that Joe Biden eulogized the late Senator Robert Byrd, who was an Exalted Cyclops in the KKK, didn’t phase the cancel-culture-embracing left because, as they would note, “Byrd apologized for his past!”

Meanwhile, Republicans are constantly labeled racists, Nazis, white supremacists, etc., etc., without any justification whatsoever. Donald Trump was repeatedly asked to condemn white supremacy when he had done so many times prior. Somehow the facts weren’t as relevant as the false narrative that Trump himself was a white supremacist who called neo-Nazis very fine people when he did no such thing.  but an actual former KKK member (and leader) is forgiven with an apology.

Republicans are used to being targets of harsh rhetoric. But still, Hewitt is right, Tanden’s tweets are trivial. President Trump’s “mean tweets” weren’t nearly as important as his actions as president. And his tweets calling Rosie O’Donnell a slob, and calling almost anyone he has a spat with a loser or some other name, somehow disqualified him from serving as president, yet his predecessor sitting in the congregation of a racist, anti-Semitic and anti-American pastor was not.

Ask everyone whose job is likely going away because of Joe Biden’s policies how much they care about Trump’s tweets now. The same goes for Tanden: who cares? But this isn’t about tweets. It never was. This is about holding the left to the same standards as they hold the right.

Consider this. Hillary Clinton was confirmed as secretary of state 94-2. Eric Holder, a hardcore radical, was confirmed 75-21. Hilda Solis was confirmed 80-17 despite having been a keynote speaker at the 2005 Democratic Socialists of America national conference, called “Twenty-First Century Socialism.” John Kerry was confirmed as secretary of state in a 94-3 vote. Even Loretta Lynch, Obama’s second attorney general, managed to get confirmed in a Republican-controlled Senate, 56-43, with ten Republicans siding with Democrats to confirm her. There are plenty of other examples of overwhelming bipartisan votes for cabinet-level positions. Even Supreme Court nominations by Obama got more support from the GOP than any of Trump’s nominees. Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed 68-31 and Elena Kagan 63-47. Neil Gorsuch, however, was confirmed 54-45; Brett Kavanaugh, 50-48; and Amy Coney Barrett, 52-48. Democrats actually attempted a filibuster of Gorsuch, which prompted Mitch McConnell to invoke the nuclear option and end filibusters of Supreme Court nominees.

How many of Trump’s well-qualified nominees were only confirmed on party-line votes? Time and time again, Democrats have been unified in their “resistance” to Republican power, while Republican “resistance” to Democrats seems more fleeting and symbolic. And Hewitt’s justification for confirming Tanden seemed to ignore this fact.

“It’s in the interests of both parties to forgive the small stuff and encourage the recruitment of talent,” Hewitt argued. “Confirm Tanden — and start a new page for executive branch nominees.”

A new page? Would confirming Tandem have sent a message to Democrats to “forgive the small stuff and encourage the recruitment of talent”? Give me a break. Was the GOP’s general willingness to confirm Obama’s executive branch nominees responded to in-kind? Have we forgotten, for example, how Democrats tried to block the confirmations of Tom Price as HHS secretary and Steve Mnuchin as Treasury secretary in Trump’s first weeks in office? By the end of his first year, roughly 100 administration nominees were blocked by Democrats over bogus concerns they weren’t qualified. Opposing Trump nominees was the default position of the Democrats, make no mistake about that.

If Biden’s controversial picks are allowed to serve without a fight, then Republicans merely contribute to the idea that Democrat nominees are more mainstream than Republican nominees. Look at Merrick Garland. On Monday, four Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee joined with Democrats to advance his nomination to the Senate floor. Garland will likely be confirmed with bipartisan support, even though his troubling answers to some questions and his evasion of others were a huge red flag proving that not a single Republican should support him.

Tanden’s tweets have never been the point. I don’t particularly care about impassioned tweets from yesteryear. I fully expect Biden to nominate partisans to serve in his administration. But Republicans have to stop acting like it’s okay for Democrat presidents to do this without any pushback. It’s time for Republicans to play by the rules Democrats play by themselves. And while one might say the GOP shouldn’t escalate partisan divisiveness, I think it’s clear that Democrats have and will continue to escalate it regardless of whether the GOP does.

Tanden was low-hanging fruit. Her nomination was doomed regardless of unified GOP opposition. The GOP needs to ramp up its efforts to fight consequential nominees, like Merrick Garland, who will be a disaster if confirmed. I understand Hugh Hewitt’s position that the GOP should rise above the #Resist mentality of the Democrats, but after all these years of doing that, where has it gotten us? It’s often said the best way to win the respect of the bully is to fight back. It’s time for the GOP to start fighting back.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump, and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter, Gab, Facebook, MeWe, Heroes, Rumble, and CloutHub.