Free Speech and Congressional Delusions

The argument was that she was saying all this crazy, false, ridiculous, violent stuff before she was elected to Congress, so what right does anyone have to deprive her constituents in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District of their duly elected representative? They elected her despite the crazy. My thought was that they elected her because of the crazy. It’s a sign of the times. “Interesting” times, as the curse goes.

After the Republican caucus decided not only to take no action in regard to Marjorie Taylor Greene, the best thing to happen to the Democrats since Trump, but for a not insignificant portion to give a standing O to this rep whose view well-known lefty Mitch McConnell called “loony lies and conspiracy theories,” a “cancer” on the Republican party, the full House voted to strip her of committee assignments.

The vote effectively stripped Ms. Greene of her influence in Congress by banishing her from committees critical to advancing legislation and conducting oversight. Party leaders traditionally control the membership of the panels. While Democrats and Republicans have occasionally moved to punish their own members by stripping them of assignments, the majority has never in modern times moved to do so to a lawmaker in the other party.

Was it her views that QAnon was right, that school shootings were staged, that Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be murdered, or was it that she was given the opportunity to demonstrate that wasn’t completely nuts and was just putting on a performance to win the support of the crazies and get elected, but refused to do so, to come clean, to apologize for pretending to be batshit crazy?

But wearing a mask emblazoned with the phrase “Free Speech,” Ms. Greene did not apologize over the course of her roughly eight-minute speech. Instead, she portrayed her comments as “words of the past” that “do not represent me,” and she warned that if lawmakers wanted to “crucify” her, it would create a “big problem.”

She didn’t exactly take ownership of reality.

“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true,” she said, “and I would ask questions about them and talk about them, and that is absolutely what I regret.”

There is no test to be seated as a member of Congress beyond the one held on election day. You aren’t required to know anything about law, the Constitution, economics or governance. There is no IQ test to see how smart you are or Rorschach test of sanity. The expectation is that the voters will make that choice, and, indeed, they do. Sometimes, they choose poorly.

Comparisons are drawn with the last member of Congress to be excised from the flock, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who failed to see any problem with white supremacy. The Republicans decided that they didn’t want him in their club. But when pushed to decide what to do about Greene, they applauded, knowing that it would force the issue to the floor.

Eleven Republicans voted to banish Greene from committees. It’s good that they did so. It’s bad that it was only eleven. It’s worse that it wasn’t done within their caucus. It’s worse still that the caucus stood up and applauded for a person who was elected on a platform of delusions.

The Democrats are not without their soft spots. They have the Squad, a group of representatives with radical views, racist but in what progressives deem acceptable ways, promoting childish and often ignorant solutions based on their grievous lack of understanding of law, economics and people. They are occasionally foul-mouthed, disingenuous, dumb and whiny, but within the Overton Window of the moment’s politics.

So why, Republicans ask, should Congress tolerate someone like Ilhan Omar but not Greene? By what right do the Democrats get to banish a Republican from influence?

“I truly believe that the majority claiming a new right to be able to exercise a veto over minority committee assignments will ultimately be dangerous for this institution,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the House Rules Committee. “A change in norms away from an institution built on mutual consent and toward an institution where the majority holds a veto power over everything, including committee assignments, is ultimately an institution that cannot function.”

It’s a fair question, and one that raised the potential that the party in the majority can effectively take out a rep from the minority party. Today, Greene is ousted. Should the majority switch in two years, why wouldn’t the Republicans pay the Dems back with the same?

In an effort to warn Democrats about the move, House Republicans introduced their own proposal to remove Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, from the Foreign Affairs Committee, citing comments she made, including that Israel had “hypnotized the world” from ignoring their “evil doings.” Ms. Omar has publicly apologized for those comments, which drew charges of anti-Semitism.

“If this is the new standard, I look forward to continuing out the standard,” Mr. McCarthy said, adding that Republicans had a “long list” of Democrats they would want to remove from their committees.

Was this, as Greene’s reluctantly-worn mask contended, a matter of silencing free speech? Was this the deprivation of her constituents’ choice of representative in Congress? Was there any principled distinction between Marjorie Taylor Greene and, say, Ilhan Omar, or did the Democrats just start the next nuclear war with the Republicans in the House?

There is a principled difference here. Greene’s views were not merely disagreeable to many. Greene denied objective fact. Greene supported threats of violence against her “colleagues.” Greene believed as true things that were unquestionably false. Greene is, for lack of a more official diagnosis, nuts.

Greene’s constituents aren’t denied their congressional representative. She’s still a member of the House, entitled to vote in the big room like anybody else. Committee assignments are never guaranteed, so there was no right to expect her to be seated on any particular committee. And she is free to say whatever she pleases, and no doubt the media will be more than happy to publish her utterances, the angrier and crazier the better. But entrusting the public weal to someone who has a tenuous connection to reality is different than someone holding dumb and offensive political views.

This isn’t to say that the line is so clear that Ilhan Omar, inter alia, hasn’t crossed it, but that wherever that fuzzy line in the sand may be, Marjorie Taylor Greene is far enough on the other side of sanity that she could not be entrusted with public power. That eleven Republicans, not to mention that well-known lefty McConnell, agree is good. That the Republicans didn’t have the guts or integrity to clean up their own house before letting it get to a floor vote was a shame.

32 thoughts on “Free Speech and Congressional Delusions

  1. AKM

    I’m glad Rep. Greene has been removed from her committee assignments. I’m also glad Rep. Omar is cited here as someone who needs to be disciplined as well. She needs to be.

    Far worse is Rep. Swallwell maintaining his seat on the House Intel Committee after what he did. But as we used to say in the military, different spanks for different ranks.

      1. Ahaz01

        Indeed! While I personally agree that Greene should be removed from Committee, the majority opened Pandora’s box on this matter. They should have let the House GOP continue to define themselves as the party of crazies. In this age of political warfare, we will see this happen again, restraint is sadly missing from our political discourse.

  2. Paleo

    Greene is a nasty moron, a model of what our politics has become, so if they want to apply some type of sanction to her, that’s fine. I’m sure there are other nutty, awful Republicans as well.

    But the squad is crazy and nasty too. Different than Greene but the same. Swalwell was targeted (apparently successfully) by a Chinese spy effort. He also threatened – almost certainly jokingly – to take out with nukes American citizens who supported the 2nd amendment. As long as we’re gonna do this, any or all of those five would be justifiable next stops down the slope.

    1. SHG Post author

      Some people focus on the issue at hand. Others digress to the logical fallacy, tu quoque. Who do you want to be?

  3. Pedantic Grammar Police

    Omar is a looney tune, but she’s right about Israel. It’s funny to see her being subjected to a “struggle session” for the one sensible thing that she has ever said. It’s obvious to any disinterested observer that the Israel lobby has way too much influence over US policy, and it is troubling that mentioning this reality is forbidden even for this extremist nut who routinely spouts (anti)racist rhetoric without a peep of disapproval from her colleagues or the media.

    1. SHG Post author

      This is a post about Greene. Is your comment about Greene? No. No it is not.

      And no, this is not an invitation for you to discuss why your chaos theory is better than anyone else’s chaos theory.

  4. Pedantic Grammar Police

    I was disappointed to see Greene recant her questioning of the mainstream narrative. Not because she is right, but because that is why she was elected. If she isn’t going to represent the people who voted for her, why is she there? I suspect that, like many politicians, she started out with high (if misguided) ideals and now wants to join the club (as opposed to those who only ever wanted to join the club). There are no politicians who, after being elected, continue to maintain their high ideals. Those are called former politicians.

    The Overton Window that you refer to no longer exists. Right-wing orthodoxy is batshit crazy to the left, and vice versa. Politicians who reside in the middle with the vast majority of Americans cannot get elected. Why? Because that’s not what our rulers want. Sensible people in politics are rare for a reason. For an illustration of this principle, look at how they treated Tulsi Gabbard. Divide and conquer.

    1. SHG Post author

      Since you’ve decided to try again, this time about Greene, you get a Mulligan. I suspect she had no high ideals. I suspect she’s that unfortunate combination of stupid and insane that validates others of similar ilk. Then again, some people believe the earth is flat, and consider anyone agreeing with them a person of high ideals. The problem is that the earth isn’t flat and anyone who believes that isn’t espousing high ideals. They’re just nuts.

      1. Pedantic Grammar Police

        There was a time when the idea that the earth is not flat was considered stupid and insane, and its adherents were severely punished. And why shouldn’t they have been? They were not only “just nuts;” they were blasphemers and heretics.

        1. SHG Post author

          There came a time when people learned conclusively that the earth was round. At that point, persisting in the belief that the earth was flat was not justifiable.

          1. Pedantic Grammar Police

            Likewise, there may come a time when some components of our unquestionable mainstream narrative may be proven wrong, and the heretics vindicated.

            1. SHG Post author

              I hear the MyPillow guy has a 12 hour documentary that “conclusively” proves something. Let me know if he convinces you.

            2. Pedantic Grammar Police

              What if Time Magazine reported that a “well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information” conspired to ensure the “proper outcome of the election.” Would you still think it was crazy nonsense?

            3. Pedantic Grammar Police

              Now I’m confused. The idea that voting is a meaningless exercise because rich powerful interests will always select not only the choices but also the outcome of the election to ensure the “proper outcome;” is that a crazy conspiracy theory, or is it “normal?” Or is this one of those cases where we need to exercise the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them?

            4. SHG Post author

              Both parties, all candidates, do whatever they can to win within the parameters of the law. When you go outside the parameters of the law, that’s a different matter.

    2. Miles

      You know how certain commenters whose names begin with the letter “J” can always be relied upon to take a certain position and never have anything illuminating to say except that they take the position everyone already knows they’re going to take?

      Do you see any reflection of yourself here?

  5. B. McLeod

    The whole thing misses the entire point of the House. It is supposed to function like Commons, as the deliberative body where the unwashed masses can be represented. Everybody. Back bayou bushwackers, pirates, sodbusters, Missouri border ruffians, furries, incels, antifa, even Methodists. All of them. When some number of House members decide they just can’t tolerate the views of some particular representative, it undermines the central purpose for which the constitution created the chamber to begin with.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s the distinction between disagreeable ideas and insanity. The House may reflect the unwashed masses, but detachment from reality isn’t the same thing as dumb and simplistic.

    2. Charles

      Article I, Section 5: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.”

      If they can expel a member with two-thirds vote, it seems like mere removal from committees can be done with fewer. And there is no mention of committees at all, much less a right to committee assignments.

      So how is this violating a “central purpose” of the Constitution?

  6. KeyserSoze

    Free speech is not “no cost speech.” Ms. Green was beyond the pale and the Republicans failed to do their duty, as Congress mostly does anyway.

    1. SHG Post author

      The issue isn’t free speech. The issue is a congresswoman who lacks a firm grasp of reality. Speech was merely how it was revealed.

  7. KeyserSoze

    “We must all face the fact that our leaders are certifiably insane or worse” ~ William S. Burroughs

  8. Hunting Guy

    Mark Twain.

    “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

    H. L. Mencken.

    “Congress consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons.”

  9. Brian Cowles

    Douglas Adams:
    “It is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.”

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