Kevin Drum has been doing sensible political commentary for decades, as one of the first bloggers and then doing that for the websites of major magazines, and now back on his own again, just for the fun of it. Perhaps he’s seen too much. He wants to stop the nonsense:
There are a few Republican members of Congress who have no particular power and exist solely to say outrageous things that will get them a hit on Fox News. Off the top of my head, they are Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Marsha Blackburn and Madison Cawthorn.
That’s the source of the nonsense:
These are not mere idiots, like Ron Johnson or Louie Gohmert. They are bomb throwers who say idiotic stuff as part of a conscious plan to get themselves attention.
Nor are they influential members of Congress, like Kevin McCarthy or Jim Jordan, that we have to pay attention to because they have institutional power.
So I propose that we all boycott them. Just stop mentioning them. Don’t waste neurons highlighting their latest outrageous utterance. Allow them to fester in the fever swamps of the right.
That’s not a bad idea, but that’s not how things work. Nonsense is fascinating. Nasty nonsense is even more fascinating. That’s because nasty nonsense is rather dangerous. It’s time to waste a few neurons on this. This stuff is too dangerous.
The Washington Post reviews the situation:
House Republican leaders are facing calls to condemn Islamophobic remarks by members of their conference, amid mounting concern that their silence is enabling extremist rhetoric that contributes to bigotry and potential threats of violence toward Muslims.
At a Capitol news conference Tuesday, all three Muslim lawmakers currently serving in the House – Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and André Carson (Ind.) – urged Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to make clear that such attacks will not be tolerated within his party’s ranks.
“We cannot pretend that this hate speech from leading politicians doesn’t have real consequences,” said Omar, who recently introduced a bill to monitor and combat Islamophobia globally.
Ilhan Omar then got specific:
She played a threatening voice mail that she said she received the previous day, after Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) accused her of “anti-American and anti-Semitic” rhetoric in a video posted on social media.
“I myself have reported hundreds of threats on my life, often triggered by Republican attacks on my faith,” Omar said. “And this week, once again, we saw another increase.”
They’re just death threats from angry White Christian Republicans. Expressing anger is protected free speech. Death threats are not. But of course these callers weren’t serious. They were just expressing anger. But one of them might be serious. Which one? No one knows. That is unsettling. But this had to happen:
The embrace of Islamophobic rhetoric on the right is not new. In 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and after winning the White House, Trump quickly acted on that promise by instituting a ban targeting foreign nationals from several Muslim-majority countries.
We don’t want Muslims here. They hate us. That is what Trump said. Had he said No Jews Allowed Ever – a kind of late-thirties German thing – he would have been shunned by everyone but the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters and David Duke. But he said Muslims, not Jews. Perhaps, through carelessness, Hitler had picked the wrong target-religion. But the idea was the same. There is a totally evil religion out there. Keep it out there. And get rid of it in here. Hitler said hate the Jews. He had the right idea, just the wrong religion. Trump was walking down that path.
Now he’s gone, but that hardly matters:
Even after Trump’s departure from the White House, the use of anti-Muslim language among some Republican lawmakers has grown, with recent statements by Boebert and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) among the latest examples.
Both lawmakers have referred to Omar as a member of the “Jihad Squad.” Boebert has repeatedly told a story in which she likened Omar to a suicide bomber, while Greene on Tuesday described the Minnesota Democrat as “bloodthirsty,” “pro-al Qaeda” and “basically an apologist for Islamic terrorists.”
Both are walking down that same path:
Robert McCaw, director of government affairs for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, denounced the attacks on Omar and said that rooting out Islamophobia within their party’s ranks should be an “urgent priority” for Republican leaders.
“The rhetoric in these anti-Muslim sneers being targeted at Congresswoman Omar is not new, and we have heard it for the past several years, since the election of the first Muslim member of Congress, Keith Ellison,” McCaw said. “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy needs to publicly, once and for all, make it clear that the GOP does not welcome anti-Muslim rhetoric, especially before the 2022 midterm elections. Anti-Muslim hatred cannot be a Republican Party talking point.”
It’s far too late for that. This may be the main Republican talking point now, but even some Jews. remembering their history and ours, are worried:
The civil rights group Muslim Advocates and the liberal Jewish group Bend the Arc: Jewish Action on Tuesday urged the House Ethics Committee to investigate Boebert over her “virulent, anti-Muslim” remarks, which they said had created a “dangerous environment,” particularly in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
What? They’re not going to the ovens. But what do you do with someone who won’t say the Israel is perfect in everything it does? That’s one problem here:
Republicans have long been critical of Omar for her criticisms of Israel, and members of both parties have denounced some of her statements as anti-Semitic. In 2019, House Democratic leaders swiftly condemned Omar’s suggestion that Israel’s allies in American politics were motivated by money rather than principle; Omar apologized later that day.
But the attacks on Omar have intensified in recent years, going far beyond criticism of her policy positions and often suggesting that she is a threat because she is Muslim, while also distorting her words and baselessly claiming that she supports terrorists.
At an event in her Colorado district last week, Boebert told supporters that an encounter with Omar was “not my first Jihad Squad Moment.” Boebert also shared a story in which she once rode a Capitol elevator with Omar and remarked to a Capitol Police officer: “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.”
Omar said the story was “made up” and called for Boebert to be disciplined by House leaders.
It was, but Omar had once actually criticized Israel. Boebert simply connected the dots. And then things got weird:
Boebert sent a tweet Friday in which she apologized “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar.” But in a phone call with Omar on Monday, Boebert refused to publicly apologize and instead accused the Minnesota Democrat of “anti-American and anti-Semitic” rhetoric, prompting Omar to end the call.
Omar hung up on her. There was new evidence. Boebert told a similar story at an event in September, according to a video reported by CNN on Tuesday.
And then there’s the useless House minority leader:
Kevin McCarthy has not publicly commented on Boebert’s recent Islamophobic remarks about Omar. In response to questions Tuesday about Republican leaders’ silence on the matter, McCarthy’s spokesman, Matt Sparks, said that Boebert had apologized.
Spokesmen for House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Greene, meanwhile, has already been removed from her House committee assignments over her embrace of extremist beliefs. But that move was led by House Democrats, after McCarthy and other top Republicans refused to do so.
That has given Greene what everyone has to assume is full authority to speak for all Republicans:
During an appearance Tuesday on former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, Greene defended Boebert and said she did not owe Omar an apology.
Greene went on to make further Islamophobic attacks against Omar.
“She hates Israel,” Greene said of the Minnesota Democrat. “She’s pro-Hamas. She’s pro-al-Qaeda. She’s basically an apologist for Islamic terrorists. There is no need to apologize to that woman because she will never stop. She’s bloodthirsty. She wants Republicans completely taken out. She wants Republicans jailed. She does not care about our country. She’s anti-American.”
She added: “It’s never enough for Ilhan Omar. It’s never enough for the Jihad Squad. Nothing is good enough for them. No one could bow deep enough for them to be satisfied because they want all of us gone.”
This is close to what Greene says of the Black Lives Matter movement. Those people have on two aims. First, kills all the cops. Then kill all the White people. So it’s time to fight back:
As a House candidate in 2020, Greene posted on Facebook an image of herself holding a rifle with photos of Omar and two other liberal congresswomen of color and vowed to “go on the offense” against members of the “Squad.”
That a message to one of the unhinged out there. Save the country. Kill these people. Trump will pardon you. Kevin McCarthy approved this message.
Now add another traitor to the mix:
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) condemned Boebert’s anti-Muslim remarks and soon faced a barrage of criticism on social media from Greene, who called her “trash” and accused her of being a “RINO,” or “Republican in name only.”
After a day of tweets sent back and forth, Mace told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday night: “All I can say about Marjorie Taylor Greene is bless her… heart.”
Maybe the Democrats will have to end this:
It remains unclear whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will seek to take action to censure Boebert or further punish Greene.
At their weekly meeting Tuesday night, House Democratic leaders discussed a possible resolution condemning Islamophobia but didn’t make any decisions, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private gathering.
In an exchange with reporters earlier Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said there was yet to be a “significant” discussion on whether to punish Boebert but that there is a possibility, given the congresswoman’s ongoing “toxic” rhetoric.
But that’s not enough:
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on Tuesday afternoon suggested that McCarthy himself should step down over his handling of the issue.
“The GOP is a serial-offending, malicious anti-Muslim party,” Swalwell said in a tweet. “@GOPLeader McCarthy’s silence is a permission slip for his members to keep assaulting the Muslim community. His green-lighting this will lead to violence. He must resign.”
Trump weighed in, as well, issuing a statement in which he falsely accused Omar of “wishing death to Israel” and of “essentially abandoning her former country, which doesn’t even have a government – Exactly what she’d like to see for the United States!”
This will not end well, and then there’s this:
The heightened Islamophobic rhetoric comes at a time when many Republicans are also speaking out against Afghan refugees coming to the United States after President Biden ended the country’s military presence there.
A Quinnipiac poll in September found 60 percent of Americans supportive of accepting Afghan refugees into the United States and 32 percent opposed.
Nearly two-thirds of Republicans – 62 percent – said they were opposed to accepting Afghan refugees into the United States, while 30 percent were in support. That compared with 87 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents who supported accepting Afghan refugees.
But there was one exception to all this:
Overall support for accepting refugees increased to 83 percent if the potential refugee was an Afghan national who assisted the United States during the war. Seventy-one percent of Republicans supported accepting Afghan refugees if they assisted the United States, along with 84 percent of independents and 91 percent of Democrats.
Those folks proved themselves worthy. There rest of those starving homeless (Muslim) people can just go die elsewhere.
Is that the Republican position? Politico’s Olivia Beavers discusses that:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried – without success – Tuesday night to end an ugly battle between two of his GOP freshmen.
The California Republican implored Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), in separate private meetings, to stop attacking one another after their back-and-forth online spat dragged on for hours earlier Tuesday.
They blew him off:
After speaking with the GOP leader, Greene said she told McCarthy that she would quit attacking Mace. But as she was leaving the meeting, Greene suggested to CNN that she was interested in seeing Nancy Mace get a Republican primary challenger, something former President Donald Trump has called for.
Mace, after meeting with McCarthy, also didn’t back down after being asked about Greene’s primary challenger comments.
“All I can say about Marjorie Taylor Greene is bless her fucking heart,” Mace told reporters.
Ah, that was the missing word! Greene will sic her daddy on Mace. Mace laughed in her face
Mace didn’t put down her boxing gloves, either. Mace later called Greene a “a No. 1 grifter,” someone who has “nothing going on in her life,” and someone who “takes advantage of vulnerable Americans and vulnerable conservatives” to a group of reporters on the Capitol steps.
Kevin McCarthy can’t fix this:
Mace and Greene have thrown public punches at one another before, but this latest melee erupted after Mace condemned fellow freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) over her anti-Muslim remarks, including calling Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) a member of the “Jihad squad.”
When asked about Boebert’s comments, Mace told CNN on Sunday that she has previously condemned colleagues on “both sides of the aisle for racist tropes and remarks that I find disgusting – and this is no different than any others.”
Greene then took to Twitter telling Mace to “back up off” Boebert and suggesting that she can go hang with the “Jihad squad.” After that, the two women issued various tweets going after one another.
McCarthy is stuck now. He can do nothing:
McCarthy has already faced a series of controversies with his GOP members, each time distracting from GOP efforts turn up the heat on Democrats and the Biden administration as they seek to reclaim the majority next year.
It also further illustrates McCarthy’s balancing act as he seeks to also win the speaker’s gavel: trying to keep the pro-Trump wing of the party and the faction of Republicans who want to head in a new direction – two incompatible wings of the party – unified.
He can’t do the impossible, and the CNN analysis of the situation illustrates that:
The dust-up is the latest in series of ugly intraparty spats, including a move to punish the 13 House Republicans who voted for the new infrastructure law, such as New York Rep. John Katko, one of the most vulnerable Republicans in his chamber, whom Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz had said “stabbed” Republicans in the back – a comment echoed by a number of other conservatives. Katko was also one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection at the US Capitol last January.
Returning to session Tuesday after the Thanksgiving recess, senior Republicans said the focus of their party must change immediately in order to capitalize on the major advantages they currently enjoy in the fight for the House majority next year. If not, they said, self-inflicted wounds could give Democrats an improbable victory.
“Yeah, I do,” Rep. Fred Upton, a veteran Michigan Republican, said when asked whether he thought the most recent eruption over Boebert and Greene hurts their chances at taking back the majority. “It’s uncalled for.”
Upton added: “It’s tit for tat. Where’s the shovel? This needs to end.”
Stop being happy about generating all the death threats to other party members for voting for roads and bridges, and all the other death threats too. And stop the nasty infighting:
“Have you ever seen a team where they should be winning, and you’ll just look on the sidelines and then coach is yelling at a player, players yell at the coach and it doesn’t show they’re on track to win,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie, a Kentucky Republican. “Anytime we’re not focusing on what they’re doing and what we want to do, I think it’s not a good thing.”
But there no one around to stop any of this:
The aggressive attacks against fellow Republicans have come from Trump’s most loyal supporters, putting McCarthy in an awkward spot as he tries to stay in the good graces of the former President while also trying to focus his party to stay unified against President Joe Biden’s sweeping agenda.
That dynamic was in full display earlier in November when another member of the hard-right faction, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, tweeted an animated video where he acted violently toward Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Biden himself. That earned him a rare censure from the House, which also stripped him of his committee assignments. But McCarthy chose to deal with Gosar privately – and rallied his conference to reject the efforts by Democrats to punish him.
The short stabbing animation was instructive in a way. Someone will be amused, and then inspired. Sooner or later someone will stab Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to death. Trump and the base will cheer. But who else will cheer?
There are some Republicans who are worried about that:
Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the GOP whip, who could be the majority leader next Congress, told CNN that it’s time for House Republicans to refocus on issues – something he said would be a focus of a Wednesday meeting with his full conference.
“Inflation crisis, border crisis, energy crisis, confidence crisis and Joe Biden’s policies – that’s what the focus needs to be on, and how we can solve these problems that they’ve created,” Scalise said. “Everybody’s been away for Thanksgiving. And now that we’re back, we’ve got to get back focused on the things that matter to families back home.”
But who is going to listen to him? The nasty nonsense is far more interesting, and paying attention to it is not wasting neurons. Someone is going to get killed. And then all hell breaks loose.