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GOP senators discover their discomfort with intemperate tweets

It was amazing to see a group of Senate Republicans spend so much time pretending to care about those who've written rude tweets.
Neera Tanden testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee on her nomination to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), during a hearing on Feb. 9, 2021 on Capitol Hill.Ting Shen / Pool via AP

For four years, Capitol Hill reporters and Senate Republicans played an unfortunate game, which occurred with unnerving frequency. Donald Trump would publish a ridiculous tweet, reporters would ask GOP senators for their reactions, and the lawmakers would pretend to have no idea what the media was referring to.

"Tweets? What tweets?" Senate Republicans would effectively say, feigning confusion. "Is there even such a thing as Twitter? I don't pay attention to such trivialities."

The charade came to an end last month, 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 senators discovered that they actually care deeply about intemperate social-media missives -- but only those published by President Joe Biden's nominee for the Office of Management and Budget. As Politico reported:

Neera Tanden apologized during her first confirmation hearing for a history of publicly vilifying Republicans, including several of the GOP senators who will vote on her confirmation to head the Office of Management and Budget. President Joe Biden's nominee for White House budget director told senators Tuesday that she deleted more than 1,000 tweets in November because "I regretted my tone" and that "nobody advised me at all" to scrub the social media account of harsh comments ahead of her nomination.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), in particular, seemed preoccupied with Tanden's social-media presence during yesterday's Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing. The Ohio Republican spent a fair amount of time highlighting some of the nominee's more impolite tweets, including one in which Tanden compared Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) unfavorably to a vampire.

"I'm concerned that your personal attacks about specific senators will make it more difficult for you to work with them," Portman said, adding that Tanden's missives contribute to "incivility and division in our public life."

For her part, the OMB nominee was unreservedly contrite, telling the committee, "I deeply regret and apologize for my language and some of my past language. I know I have to earn the trust of senators across the board."

Time will tell whether Tanden's intemperate social-media presence derails her nomination -- given her unquestioned qualifications and the fact that the Senate has a Democratic majority, the odds are in her favor -- but it was nevertheless amazing to see a group of Republicans spend so much time pretending to care about those who've written rude tweets.

As a factual matter, it's easy to concede that Tanden has, at times, published some impolite tweets, many of which were directed at Republicans. But for four years, there was a Republican president in the White House publishing deranged tweets with nary a word from his GOP allies on Capitol Hill.

If these missives are disqualifying for those seeking positions of influence in government, when exactly did Republicans settle on this position? Was it at 12:01 p.m. on Jan. 20?

What's more, let's not brush past the fact that Tanden felt compelled to apologize -- a step Trump never took. Indeed, Trump was never even pressured to express regret by the GOP lawmakers who pressed Tanden yesterday.