Tuesday Talk*: Tanden’s Immunity

I vaguely remember Neera Tanden on twitter. She wasn’t someone whose twits mattered much to me, largely because they ranged from nasty to bizarrely idiotic. That may be because the only time I saw them was when they were retwitted into my timeline. I didn’t follow her. She didn’t interest me beyond being a parody. I recall retwitting them on a few occasions because I thought they were that awful.

But I do recall being unhappily surprised to learn that Joe Biden nominated her for head of the Office of Management and Budget. Had he run out of names of people who weren’t flaming nutjobs and was left with Tanden? Then again, he also named Catherine Lhamon to be a White House aide and Vanita Gupta to the number 3 post at DoJ, so maybe this wasn’t just a terrible mistake resulting from having no one else to pick. But Neera Tandem doesn’t belong in any position in government, and the Senate is set to ding her nomination.

Not so fast.

“There’s a double standard going on,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “Her nomination is very significant for us Asian American and Pacific Islanders. I do believe that this double standard has to do with the fact that she would be a pioneer in that position.”

Did you know there was a “Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus”? Did you know that it’s “very significant for [them] Asian American and Pacific Islanders” that anyone with their shared identity (Clarence Thomas Exception noted) be above challenge?

“We can disagree with her tweets, but in the past, Trump nominees that they’ve confirmed and supported had much more serious issues and conflicts than just something that was written on Twitter,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) said in an interview after tweeting in frustration about Manchin’s reported hesitancy around some nominations. “This is not just about any one nominee like Neera, or whoever else — it’s just about this pattern that is happening and increasingly hard to ignore.”

While there is a point here, that the then-Republican controlled Senate confirmed the prior administrations nominees of highly dubious worth and significant offensive history, there is a difference in how the battle for the nomination of Tanden is being fought.

Her supporters now say that her social media presence is being used as a cover by her opponents, noting that she has apologized, deleted and taken ownership for her tweets. And Democrats argue that after the Trump years, there is little justification for having someone’s online behavior serve as a disqualifier.

On the one hand, Tanden apologies and deleted her most offensive twits. Isn’t it progressive to forgive and forget? On the other hand, she’s not nearly as offensive as Trump nominees, at least to most of the Democrats. But mostly, she’s an Asian American woman, so how dare a white man like Joe Manchin not approve? It can only be sexism and racism, which makes complete sense if everything is sexism and racism.

Is identity the new immunity?

Derrick Johnson, president of the civil rights group NAACP, said that as nominees neared their confirmation votes, it would “become apparent whether or not those individuals who are women or people of color are receiving a different level of scrutiny.”

How would it become apparent? If the Senate fails to consent to “women or people of color,” does that prove they are “receiving a different level of scrutiny”? Has the new paradigm become that one can ding a nominee as long as they’re a white male, but otherwise it’s racist, sexist or whatever other -ist their identity permits?

The argument is that if the Senate approved nominees that the left found reprehensible, there can be no excuse not to approve nominees that the right and middle and moderate left find reprehensible, therefore leaving only the evils of racism and sexism to explain. Is identity the trump card to be played whenever four years of outrageously bizarre conduct might stand in the way of confirmation?

Then again, it’s not that they’re entirely wrong about the Republicans rationalizing away their own tribe’s offenses when they had the votes, without losing sleep over it. Whether it’s comparable is a fair question. Then again, the Dems weren’t too identity prone when it came to Judge Neomi Rao, when the Clarence Thomas Exception kicked in.

*Tuesday Talk rules apply.

21 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: Tanden’s Immunity

  1. B. McLeod

    Biden owes the AAPI folks, because he already passed over their candidate for Labor Secretary. At some point, he’s going to be hearing from the [Ed. Note] and furry communities too.

  2. Miles

    How many academics have been cowed into submission for fear of being called racist or sexist on twitter? Is it a leap to think it will work in the Senate, at least for a dem?

  3. Jake

    In other words, for the right, it’s only ‘cancel culture’ when the person being canceled for what they said online is on the right.

  4. Rengit

    Wasn’t Ryan Bounds’ nomination to the 9th Circuit nuked over particularly harsh criticisms he had written of multiculturalism and identity-based student groups as a college student in the early-mid 90s? Back when such groups were a much more controversial proposition than they are today? There were a number of Trump nominees that ended up never getting a floor vote, or saw their nominations withdrawn, because of offensive/controversial things they’d written or said.

    For what it’s worth, I doubt the “they’re doing this because she’s Asian” will work with Joe Manchin or whatever other moderate Democrat they need to confirm Neera Tanden.

    1. SHG Post author

      The “whataboutism” argument is no less a logical fallacy now as before, but as long as they have someone to point to (here, Kavanaugh, oddly enough), it plays to those disinclined to dig deeper. But then, even if it was untrue, it would still be as much “tu quoque” regardless.

  5. David Meyer-Lindenberg

    She’s Elect, and therefore above such plebeian standards as integrity and decency – at least as far as other Elect are concerned. It’s a familiar thing we’re about to see play out in the Senate, and really, what more is there to say? If only those about to sit in judgment of her were less full of shit themselves, there might be an opportunity for some of that “unity” (righties) or “healing” (lefties) supposedly so badly needed right now.

  6. KeyserSoze

    Since when does race or heritage become a qualifying attribute for a job? I thought that “equal opportunity” meant that we were all treated just as badly as every other tube steak out here.

    How shockingly naïve I have been.

  7. Nigel Declan

    This seems more like the death rattle of a failed nomination than a sincere grievance. An attempt to placate one’s base and smear the opposition for what appears to be a rather poor choice for a rather important post. If the best argument that can be mustered in favour of a candidate is that they tick certain identitarian boxes or that their appointment will be “historic” as the “first something in American history”, the candidate may not be the best person for the job.

    As for the comparison between Trump’s nominations and Miss Tanden’s, the only difference worth a darn is that the Republicans had an outright Senate majority, while the Democrats do not, meaning that they have no margin for error. Even Presidents whose party is in the minority in the Senate manage to get major cabinet posts appointed–they just have to work a little harder. Besides, every president should have at least one nominee bounced–it is a reminder that their power is not unlimited.


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