Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 14, 2021

The fight against Neera Tanden's nomination was fueled by hypocrisy

By ANJU FELIX | March 8, 2021

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GAGE SKIDMORE/CC BY-SA 2.0

Felix argues that Tanden’s Twitter posts should not have disqualified her from becoming director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Neera Tanden has been caught up in a storm of Twitter receipts, with deleted tweets returning to haunt her in the present. 

As the current president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress, Tanden was nominated for the director of the Office of Management and Budget cabinet position by the Biden administration. It was a historic event considering she would be the first Indian American and woman of color in the position if her nomination had passed through. Unfortunately, on March 2, President Joe Biden approved Tanden’s withdrawal from the nomination. She herself had submitted “that there is no path forward to gain confirmation.” 

The main qualm with Tanden was the prior use of her personal Twitter account. With the popularization of Twitter during the Trump administration, the use of this social media platform among political figures was normalized. In prior years, it was rare for such figures, especially presidents, to openly speak in such an unfiltered manner directly to the public — most would instead prefer a press briefing.

Following the 2020 election, Tanden deleted 1,051 tweets from her account, as reported by The Daily Beast. Many of these tweets were deemed inflammatory and divisive, especially following such a charged presidential election.

Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham has taken strong standings on Tanden’s Twitter use during hearings. 

“Her scorn was not limited to Republicans,“ he said. “The point I’m trying to make here is that in a time of unity, we’re picking somebody who throws sharp elbows.”

Republican Senator from Ohio Rob Portman also disapproved of the nomination. During Tanden’s hearing, he stated, “I believe that the tone, the content and the aggressive partisanship of some of your public statements have added to the troubling trend of more incivility and division in our public life.”

Needless to say, both Graham and Portman supported former President Donald Trump in office despite the countless inflammatory statements he made. They even spearheaded division following the election by perpetuating claims that election fraud led to Biden’s win.

Despite this prior silence on tweets, they hold Tanden to a higher moral standard. Hypocrisy at its finest. Although Tanden has apologized, let’s look and see if these tweets are worth getting upset over and compare the degree of absurdity to the levels of Trump. 

On August 14, 2018, Tanden drew a connection between statements made by Trump to him being racist: “Trump just called a black woman a dog and about 80% of the GOP don’t think he’s a racist. The whole party needs to be defeated in November. Vote today in primaries if you have them. Vote in November like our country depends on it. It does.” 

She made a criticism of the Republican National Committee (RNC) on Dec. 4, 2017: “The Republican Party is gleefully supporting an alleged child molester. And everyone who gives money to the RNC is doing the same.” 

There was another tweet against Republican Senator from Kentucky Mitch McConnell and various other senators on June 14, 2019: “Can people on here please focus their ire on McConnell and the GOP senators who are Up This Cycle who enable him: Cory Gardner, Collins, Ernst, Cornyn, Perdue, Tillis And many more.” 

And here’s one more for comedic relief: “I think you mean McConnell is the Voldemort.” 

Despite Tanden’s expressive word choice, her statements are based in reality. Only 21% of the Republican Party thought Trump was racist in 2018, the RNC did support an alleged child molester in 2017 and she brings a valid criticism of then-Majority Leader McConnell for acting in such a partisan manner throughout 2019. The final comment towards McConnell is humorous. 

These seem incomparable to the blasphemous, baseless statements tweeted by Trump (a comprehensive list can be found here). In fact, during the Senate trials of Trump’s second impeachment, the administration's representation, Michael van der Veen, argued that Trump’s statements were all protected under the First Amendment. He explained that freedom “shouldn’t be squelched by any political party on either side of the aisle, no matter who’s the majority party at the time.” Van der Veen even warned that this precedent “would allow Congress to use the awesome impeachment power as a weapon to impeach their colleagues in the opposing party.”

But Republicans in Congress are not the only ones participating. Even a member of the majority, Democratic Senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin, revoked approval of Tanden, citing her tweets as “toxic.”

This labeling seems to be a pattern for Manchin. In November of 2020, he launched a similar attack on Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, stating, “I’m understanding she’s not that active with her bills or in committee. She’s more active on Twitter than anything else.” 

The comment had followed Ocasio-Cortez’s response to Manchin, who would rather “defund, [his] butt” than defund the police (a “crazy socialist agenda” to him). In response, Ocasio-Cortez had replied comically, tweeting a photo of her giving Manchin the death stare. It seems that simply responding to Manchin’s criticism has warranted this claim that she over-tweets. That’s pretty toxic.

It seems Congress has wielded this power to strike Tanden out, not for blasphemous statements but for truthfully calling out members in Congress. I must say, although I don’t necessarily agree with Tanden’s politics or rhetoric, it is an eerie scene to observe a woman of color being reprimanded for participating in social media practices, especially when the same people reprimanding her maintained solidarity with the more extreme user, Trump.

This, perhaps, speaks to a clear double standard and the phenomenon that women in politics must maintain a less aggressive persona out of fear of alienating potential voters or colleagues. Tanden was not barred from office for a handful of “mean tweets.” She was dismissed for being an outspoken woman in politics.

Anju Felix is a dual-degree sophomore from Port Murray, N.J. studying Neuroscience, Political Science and Harp Performance.

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