As we've already covered, a freshman House Democrat thrilled a room full of left-wing activists last week when she relayed a story about telling her young son -- classy! -- that her party was going to "impeach the motherf***er," in a reference to President Trump. She ended her speech with that pungent line, and the assembled crowd went wild. In case you somehow missed it, watch:
My reaction to profanity like this is not overly puritanical, if I'm honest. Indeed, my favorite all-time Charles Krauthammer column was, "in defense of the F-word." I find much of the performative Republican pearl-clutching about the use of a bad word in this context to be inauthentic and contrived. After all, the current Republican president famously revels in vulgarity, so nobody is in much of a position to lecture anyone else on dignified comportment these days. I do, however, want to make three points: First, in spite of what I've already written, I hope we can reach a nonpartisan consensus that publicly calling any President of the United States that word is manifestly inappropriate is disrespectful to the office. And no, this was not a 'private' remark, as some apologists have tried to spin it:
Hello! I was one of several reporters at the party. It was not off the record, and multiple people were recording or streaming when Tlaib spoke. https://t.co/CUCxyrafDo— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) January 5, 2019
She was addressing a large crowd, with phones out and reporters present. She knew damn well that what she said would become public. On Twitter, she's flexing about speaking "truth to power" or whatever, but she's literally running away from journalists' questions about what she said. My view is that if you're going to refer to the president as a "motherf***er," you should either apologize, or fully and shamelessly own it. The original outburst was unseemly, and the aftermath has been weak. President Trump has not "met his match," it appears. Second, quite a few liberals have been whining about the press over-covering this incident. They're upset that other Democrats are being asked about a fellow elected official's comment, squealing with frustration that their party is sometimes treated even somewhat similarly to Republicans. Here's a former journalist turned lefty activist leading the chorus:
If you think the @nytimes has done any soul-searching about their oft-flawed coverage of 2016.... nope! Gear up for more craziness in 2020 people. There are audiences to stir up! https://t.co/X8Xu5cBg0V— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) January 5, 2019
Oh for God’s sake. Please tell me the media in 2019 is not going to be as sucky in its coverage as in 2016? https://t.co/BYbgYc7q8J— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) January 6, 2019
Another similar, stupid complaint:
There are 282 Democrats and 243 Republicans in Congress + POTUS + VPOTUS. Mainstream media acts as if Democrats should all be held accountable for everything every Democrat says, and Republicans should be held accountable for nothing any Republican says. Bullshit.— David Rothschild (@DavMicRot) January 5, 2019
The notion that the media is too supine and accommodating to Republicans -- and President Trump in particular -- is absolutely ludicrous. And very few people believe it, including people who've witnessed the bias from the inside. It's revealing, however, that a former CNN anchor believes that reporting on this story is a media failure (coinciding with the bogus premise that the press was too tough on Hillary in 2016), and that running an op/ed criticizing a member of Congress for dropping the MF-bomb about Trump is "sucky" coverage. She would apparently prefer undisguised activism to journalism, which may help explain her career trajectory. Also, it's bonkers to suggest that Republican politicians aren't subject to "will you denounce?" questions and challenges. They are. Endlessly. That's especially true in the Trump era (coverage and questions about reactions to tweets are ubiquitous), but the phenomenon long pre-dates the current president. Republican politicians are constantly asked to condemn comments that have been made not only by fellow officials, but also pundits and right-wing celebrities. It is difficult for me to comprehend how thick the walls of one's bubble must be if one genuinely believes that a grave fault of the mainstream media is its unfair treatment of Democrats.
Finally, Nancy Pelosi was asked about this, much to the chagrin of the Soledad O'Briens of the world, and her response was interesting. She chalked up her very tepid disapproval to a "generational" and stylistic difference, but hastened to add that she's not interested in "censoring" what people say. This is not a condemnation:
Pelosi on Rep. Tlaib 'impeach the motherfucker' comment: 'I don't think we should make a big deal of it. I really don't. I really don't.' https://t.co/iK5LTeob1G— Byron York (@ByronYork) January 4, 2019
Some Democrats aren't happy, it seems, because they view the Tlaib screed as a counter-productive distraction. Anyway, for a sense of the actual media double standards at play here, please imagine the following scenario: Hours after being sworn in in 2011, a young Tea Party freshman told a room full of cheering conservative activists that he couldn't wait to "impeach the motherf***er" in the Oval Office. The backlash and media focus would've dwarf last week's incident. We'd be treated to a five-alarm panic about civility, with a heavy dash of racial commentary thrown in. Speaker Boehner would not have gotten away with a shrug and a one-liner about censorship. Republicans from Washington to Kalamazoo would have been browbeaten into releasing public disavowals. And Nancy Pelosi never, ever would have adopted such a cavalier attitude toward the offending slur. How can I make this assertion so confidently? Because I'm old enough to remember when Pelosi became visibly furious at Rep. Joe Wilson's "you lie!" outburst during President Obama's healthcare speech to a joint session of Congress. She and other House Democrats voted to formally reprimand Wilson, who had already apologized to Obama. Yes, Wilson violated House rules, but his inappropriate, spontaneous heckle was at least technically accurate and did not cross a line into obscenity.
In sum, I don't much care about what Rep. Tlaib said, and I'm well aware that umbrage-taking in our politics is increasingly tribal, situational, and hypocritical. But it's ridiculous to claim that the media is devoting outsized attention to this controversy, or to pretend that Democrats would have simply rolled their eyes at similar invective being shouted about President Obama. Also, if you're someone who wrings your hands about President Trump's contributions to the erosion of our discourse and comity, perhaps you should at least pretend to be concerned about Trumpian excesses from the opposition. I addressed this kerfuffle on Media Buzz yesterday morning:
I'll leave you with this thought: Of all the reasons to object to Ms. Tlaib's election to Congress, a foul-mouthed rant isn't anywhere near the top of the list.