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Senate Republicans change their minds, decide mean tweets matter

Pretending to be outraged, Republicans are rejecting White House nominees over mean tweets. Where were these concerns during the Trump era?

By any sensible measure, Emory professor Deborah Lipstadt, President Joe Biden's nominee to serve as the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, is an excellent choice.

As Yair Rosenberg recently explained, Lipstadt's record leaves little doubt about her qualifications: The scholar has, among other things, published several books on anti-Semitism and advised the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Her nomination has also been endorsed by a great many Jewish organizations, leading Rosenberg to joke, "These diverse Jewish groups can barely agree on where to set the thermostat, yet they agree on Lipstadt."

And yet, Senate Republicans have refused to let her nomination advance — not because of her qualifications, but because Lipstadt published tweets criticizing Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tasked with evaluating her nomination.

As Politico noted, there's a lot of this going around.

Republicans angling to stymie President Joe Biden's tech and telecom agenda are turning to an increasingly familiar tactic — dredging up his nominees' mean tweets.

Gigi Sohn, the White House's choice to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, has published tweets critical of media outlets aligned with Republican politics, describing Fox News, for example, as being "dangerous to our democracy." Alvaro Bedoya, whom Biden tapped to serve on the Federal Trade Commission, once described Immigration and Customs Enforcement as an "out-of-control domestic surveillance agency" via tweet.

And because of inconsequential missives like these, GOP senators, doing their best to pretend to be outraged, have said the nominees simply lack the judgment and temperament needed for service in the executive branch.

It's part of larger pattern. Neera Tanden's OMB nomination was derailed because she'd published unkind tweets. Soon after, Colin Kahl, the nominee to be the top policy official at the Pentagon, saw his nomination delayed over GOP concerns about his tweets. Vanita Gupta's tweets were fairly mild, but Senate Republicans used them to go after her Justice Department nomination anyway.

I suppose the obvious joke here is to point to Donald Trump's record of toxic tweets, which many of these same Republicans chose not to care about. But the more the GOP pretends to be furious about intemperate online missives, the more I'm reminded of Ric Grenell.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, Robert Mackey ran a report a few years ago, noting that Grenell "was forced to delete hundreds of sexist, rude comments from his Twitter feed in 2012." The report added, "In addition to mocking the physical appearance of female political figures, Grenell has frequently used his Twitter account to harass journalists."

Despite (or perhaps because of?) his obnoxious behavior on Twitter, Trump nominated Ric Grenell for a diplomatic post. Care to guess how many GOP senators opposed his nomination? If you said none, you're correct.

Perhaps Republicans would have us believe they only recently discovered their deeply held concerns about online criticisms?