Administration

Mean tweets may take down Biden nominee

Neera Tanden’s confirmation struggles are raising the question: Do mean tweets matter in the post-Trump world?

They certainly are making a difference for Tanden.

Her nomination as President Biden’s budget chief appears to be hanging by a thread, mostly because of GOP senators angered by her sharp tone on Twitter as head of the Center for American Progress. 

The White House is sticking with Tanden so far, but it does not appear she has 50 votes of support in the Senate. 

And while it is mostly Republicans complaining about her tweets, they’ve been joined by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), who says he’ll oppose her nomination because of her Twitter voice. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also felt her barbs on Twitter and has been notable in not offering his public backing. 

There’s little doubt Tanden, a longtime adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was an impressive voice both on cable news and social media in recent years. She’s a figure well versed in public policy who also was equally skilled at playing the role of activist, riling up people with her words on Twitter.

“For a long time, what was rewarded on Twitter was snark and Neera was a gladiator in the sport,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. 

In the 50-50 Senate, however, those tweets have come back to haunt her.

Tanden’s best hope of winning confirmation might be support from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who voted to convict former President Trump and has been willing to cross party lines.

On Wednesday, a Washington Post reporter showed Murkowski a tweet Tanden had written about the Alaska senator in 2017 when she accused her of being “high on your own supply.” 

“You know, we know, and everyone knows this is all garbage,” Tanden wrote in the tweet. “Just stop.” 

After reading the tweet on the reporter’s phone, Murkowski replied: “High on my own supply, that’s interesting. Should I ask her? My own supply of what? See that goes to show how much homework I still have to do on her if I didn’t even know that she had sent out a tweet about me.” 

In another sign of the nation’s noxious political atmosphere, particularly on social media and in emails sent to the media, the Washington Post reporter who showed Murkowski the tweet was hit with racist, sexist and hateful attacks after a photo of the exchange circulated on social media.

Is Tanden a sign of things to come for nominees or an outlier?

During the Trump era, “mean tweets” seemed commonplace, as Twitter became a cesspool of traded barbs and insults in 280 characters, with the former president leading the charge. 

“It took a lot of discipline to not participate when the president of the United States was a purveyor,” Simmons said, adding that basic social norms under Trump “fell to the floor.” 

Democrats have ripped the criticism of Tanden from Republicans who remained mum for years about Trump’s insulting tweets.

Republicans say Tanden’s nomination may fail because Democrats are not sufficiently rallying around her.

“Frankly, it is because of the lack of Democratic support that her nomination is likely to fail,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said outside the White House on Wednesday, after a bipartisan meeting with Biden. “But I will just say that we could learn a lesson here about increasing the civility and how we treat each other in a polarized country.” 

In the 50-50 Senate, a Biden nominee cannot afford to lose the vote of a single Democratic senator if Republicans unify against them.

Democrats, political observers and pundits scoffed at the Cornyn comments, saying they reeked of hypocrisy. 

“If Neera had tweeted inciting insurrection of the Capitol on January 6, Republicans would be jumping on top of each other to vote to confirm her,” said Adam Parkhomenko, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Clinton.

Mike Nellis, a Democratic consultant who served as a senior adviser on Vice President Harris’s presidential campaign, added: “How many times did Republicans pretend like they didn’t even know what Twitter was when reporters asked about Trump’s tweets. Come on.” 

Whether Tanden’s difficulties say anything about the future is a matter of debate.

“In a Democratic-controlled Washington, this is an easy way for Republicans to show they can still block Biden’s agenda when they want to, and for Joe Manchin to show his vote matters,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer. “For that reason, Neera may be a sacrificial lamb — she didn’t say anything that wasn’t true — but she won’t be the only one. 

Democratic strategist Joel Payne said it’s not so much an issue of Twitter.

“Unfortunately, there are always going to be certain nominees that are going to be targets and made examples of — and that happens every four years whether it’s on Twitter or another platform,” Payne said. “This will probably govern the language by some on Twitter going forward a little differently but this is more about the politics of nominations fights more than the politics of social media platforms.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Budget office Confirmation battles Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Manchin John Cornyn Lisa Murkowski Neera Tanden OMB Twitter

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