On Nominees, a Neera Miss for Biden

March 3, 2021

Here's the thing with demanding civility -- you actually have to practice it. The Biden administration just learned that lesson the hard way. After two years of insisting on a kinder, gentler Washington, the president has raised plenty of eyebrows with his abrasive nominees. Neera Tanden was the surliest of the bunch, firing off years of social media insults as head of the radical Center for American Progress. She was everything Democrats said they hated in Trump: a brash, blunt, Twitter attack dog. Because she was one of them, the White House thought she'd be safe. They were wrong.

Twitter never deleted Tanden's account, but it's not like they didn't have cause. The social media bully tried apologizing for her years of online insults in her confirmation hearing. "I deeply regret and apologize for my language and some of my past language," she told a roomful of senators, which included several of her favorite targets. Although the senators might forgive, they didn't forget. Republicans spent a good chunk of her confirmation hearing reading her words back to her, deepening the embarrassment for the Biden administration and highlighting just how much hypocrisy there is on the Left.

"You wrote that Susan Collins is 'the worst', that Tom Cotton is a fraud, that vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz," Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) argued. "You called Leader McConnell 'Moscow Mitch' and Voldemort." Look, Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) said, "I don't mind disagreements in policy. I think that's great. I love the dialect, but the comments were personal... [And] it's not just one or two. I think you deleted about 1,000 tweets -- and it wasn't just about Republicans."

Despite meeting with more than 46 senators one-on-one, Tanden's baggage was just too much. "Her past actions have demonstrated exactly the kind of animosity that President Biden has pledged to transcend," Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) pointed out. Eventually, Tanden's nomination became such a distraction that Biden's own party did the White House the favor of killing it. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) made it clear that he wouldn't toe the president's radical line, insisting that Tanden's "overtly partisan statements" would have a "toxic and detrimental impact" on the relationship between Congress and OMB. Moderate Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) seemed to agree, refusing to say she would rubber-stamp Biden's controversial pick.

By Tuesday, Tanden had withdrawn her name, writing to Biden, "Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities." For the Biden team, the whole debacle was embarrassing and revealing. Even CNN couldn't believe the White House so seriously underestimated Tanden's unpopularity. Her "aggressive and attacking style" was always going to "doom" her nomination, they argued. This defeat was "a real stumble for the new team," who's whole campaign schtick was that they'd act like grown-ups.

Even more incredibly, Biden doesn't seem to grasp that he's operating under a razor-thin majority -- and much as he may want them to, the party's moderates aren't just going to fall in line with his extremism. And that includes Xavier Becerra, the president's wildly controversial pick for HHS secretary. Not only is he shockingly unqualified (Senator James Lankford, R-Okla., said the administration could have found a better candidate on LinkedIn), but the former attorney general of California is a rabid pro-abortion militant -- a combination that Republicans are hoping will help shut the nomination down.

It's "a puzzling selection for this critical post," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shook his head. "I would've been willing to vote for somebody [Biden chose]," Sen. Cassidy, one of the chambers more "moderate" Republicans, told reporters, "but you've got to at least know something about the subject matter. If I, as a doctor, was appointed to be the attorney general of the United States of America, what would you think? That's kind of odd."

Meanwhile, the media -- Biden's greatest cheerleader -- has been relatively mum on his missteps. And the American people have noticed. In a new Harvard-Harris poll, most people say the press is "too easy on Biden." Maureen Dowd, in a surprisingly candid column for the New York Times, agreed. After Donald Trump, when "many reporters offered sharp opinions, the kind not seen before in covering a president... lines were blurred." Those lines were supposed to "snap back when normality was restored," she said. They haven't.

"Some Washington reporters have been worried about this for some time," Dowd pointed out, "that the Left would 'work the refs,' as one put it, and turn on the media and attack if they dared to report something that could endanger the Republic (a.k.a. hurt a Democrat). But the role of the press in a functioning democracy is as watchdog, not partisan attack dog. Politicians have plenty of people spinning for them. They don't need the press doing that, too. Believe me, you want us on that wall."