Neera Tanden has been the bane of the left for years. Monotonous centrism aside, she’s regularly used Twitter to mock and ridicule leftists, slander then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and advocate against progressive policies like universal healthcare. She served as president of Center for American Progress, a think tank funded by foreign governments, and even took insidious American imperialism too far. When she was announced as Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, left Twitter threw up their collective arms in resigned frustration.
A funny thing happened on the way to confirmation, though—Republicans got angry about her tweets too. And during Tanden’s confirmation hearing today, Senate Republicans threw them back in her face. But not the bad tweets leftists were mad about.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) says Neera Tanden has called Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) "the worst" said that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) "is a fraud" and that "vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz" (R-Tex.)
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) February 9, 2021
Throwing hissy fits about Tanden’s tweets was always part of the plan here. Late last year, she deleted more than a thousand tweets about Republican lawmakers in preparation for her hearings. That fueled a theory that Tanden was nominated as a sort of sacrificial lamb for the Biden administration, someone Senate Republicans could tear apart and reject that would clear the path and make life either for other nominees. It’s possible that’s what’s happening here, even though Tanden herself has repeated the Biden line and vowed to commit to a “bipartisan approach” in governance.
In order to make that play, though, Senate Republicans have to feign offense at extremely benign online rhetoric. Who on the left hasn’t referred to Susan Collins as the worst? Tom Cotton is an absolute fraud, advocating for military occupation of cities as recently as last summer before decrying Democrats’ response and the subsequent militarization of Washington, D.C. after the Capitol Riots. And does anyone really think Ted Cruz has any heart? Even his own Senate colleagues don’t like him. Lindsey Graham once joked about killing him. The only offensive thing about Tanden saying Cruz has less heart than a vampire is that it’s extremely corny. She would’ve been better off calling him a bloodsucker straight up.
This provokes a complex set of emotions, as Neera very much deserves to be publicly grilled for her bad posts, but instead she's being publicly grilled for her good posts
— David Klion (@DavidKlion) February 9, 2021
None of this is to defend Tanden, who before her nomination was consistently one of the worst posters on Twitter. She habitually used right wing talking points to attack Sanders and his supporters and was basically the online embodiment of the phrase “better things aren’t possible.” She’s one of the worst kinds of Democrat, the type that rests on the laurels of Barack Obama’s do-nothing neoliberalism and lords it over “radical” leftists because she wields actual influence and they have none.
Still, it’s awfully rich to see Senate Republicans up in arms about dumb tweets saying they stink. There’s nothing inflammatory or untrue about these statements. Portman et. al. are the same lawmakers that habitually defended Donald Trump’s ridiculous online behavior up to and beyond inciting the Capitol Hill riot. The idea that incendiary tweets disqualify someone from working in the federal government directly contradicts the last four years of American politics. Garbage aren’t just familiar to people like Cruz—they’re a way of life, and the way of the political future. The saying goes that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But sometimes the enemy of my enemy is just completely full of shit.