For four years, Capitol Hill reporters and congressional Republicans played an unfortunate game, which occurred with unnerving frequency. It was a drama in three parts: Donald Trump would publish a ridiculous tweet, reporters would ask GOP lawmakers for their reactions, and they would pretend to have no idea what the media was referring to.
"Tweets? What tweets?" Republicans would effectively say, feigning confusion. "Is there even such a thing as Twitter? I don't pay attention to such trivialities."
As we recently discussed, the charade came to an end in January, in part because Twitter banned Trump in the interest of public safety, and in part because the former president shuffled off to Mar-a-Lago. But it was around the same time that many of these same GOP lawmakers discovered that they actually care deeply about intemperate social-media missives -- but only those published by President Joe Biden's nominees.
The first faux outrage, of course, was directed at Neera Tanden, the president's choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, whose nomination was derailed because of mean things she'd said on Twitter. This week, as the Washington Post reported, Senate Republicans appear eager to run the same play again.
President Biden's pick to serve as undersecretary of defense for policy at the Pentagon may be in jeopardy after controversial tweets targeting Republicans emerged, after a similar scenario helped sink another Cabinet nominee earlier this week. Several Republican senators forced Colin Kahl to answer for his past tweets during his confirmation hearing before the Armed Services Committee on Thursday, including one in which he said Republicans who supported former president Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria "debase themselves at the alter of Trump" and are "the party of ethnic cleansing."
Kahl's qualifications are not in doubt: he was a respected and successful national security adviser to then-Vice President Biden during the Obama administration.
But he was unkind toward Trump and his party online, which has Republicans reaching for the fainting couch.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said she couldn't possibly support Kahl's nomination, insisting that her enlisting daughter and other U.S. troops "deserve someone who will take a serious outlook to policy and not put this type of garbage out in front of the American public."
Look, I realize politicians are going to play political games. It's practically in their job description. But Donald Trump compiled a breathtaking record of publishing deranged tweets. During his failed term, U.S. troops deserved a Commander in Chief who had a serious outlook on security policy and wouldn't put out garbage online, but Trump couldn't seem to help himself, and Ernst and her colleagues remained wholly indifferent to the then-president's antics.
Is anyone seriously prepared to believe that Republicans are genuinely outraged that Colin Kahl was occasionally intemperate on social media? Publishing content for which he's already apologized -- unlike the former president, who refused to back down from his deranged commentary?
GOP senators no doubt feel emboldened, taking down Tanden over faux disappointment with rude tweets, and hoping to do the same thing to Kahl. Democrats would be wise not to play along.