I have already discussed the awful record of Neera Tanden who has been nominated by Joe Biden to the powerful position of the head of the Office of Management and Budget. There are signs that her nomination is in trouble. But instead of focusing on that record, criticisms of her have centered on her late-night rage tweeting, resulting in her now trying to walk away from them saying, “My language and my expressions on social media caused hurt to people, and I feel badly about that. And I really regret it and I recognize that it’s really important for me to demonstrate that I can work with others… I would say social media does lead to too many personal comments and my approach will be radically different.”
Really? She only now realized the toxic effects of social media? Tanden did not say these things as an impulsive adolescent who has since matured and learned better. She made those vicious attacks on people as part of advancing her reactionary agenda and fully conscious of what she was doing, and is only sorry for them because they might jeopardize her nomination to an important post. Her apology is utterly disingenuous. Norman Solomon writes how the media and some left-leaning Democratic-supporting groups such as MoveOn are turning a blind eye to her faults and urging support for her.
David Sirota writes that this episode reveals a lot about the corrupt bipartisan culture.
[H]er particular record would raise significant red flags as a job applicant for even a mid-level management position in any organization, much less the White House: during her tenure running the Center for American Progress, she reportedly outed a sexual harassment victim and physically assaulted an employee. While she was running the organization, CAP raked in corporate and foreign government cash and a report was revised in a way that helped a billionaire donor avoid scrutiny of his bigoted policing policy. Critics allege that Tanden busted a union of journalists. And she floated social security cuts when Democrats in Congress were trying to stop them.
Even if you discount Tanden’s infamous statement about Libya and oil, as well as her vicious crusade against Senator Bernie Sanders and the progressive base of the Democratic party, all of these other items would seem to disqualify Tanden for a job atop a Democratic administration that claims to respect expertise and want to protect women, workers’ rights, social programs and government ethics.
The motives here are unstated but obvious: nobody in either party or in the Washington media wants to center Tanden’s nomination on her actual record, because if that record becomes disqualifying for career advancement in Washington, it could set a precedent jeopardizing the personal career prospects of every creature slithering through the Washington swamp.
Indeed, if corruption, mismanagement, bullying, union busting and let-them-eat-cake-style austerity ideology are suddenly perceived negatively, then all the real-life Veep characters in Washington – the politicians, operatives and media elites who’ve spent their whole lives angling for fancy White House titles – could be out of luck.
Appreciating the power of this tribal motivation is crucial, because it accounts for why Democrats seem to be spending as much or more political capital on trying to rescue Tanden’s nomination than on enacting policies to rescue Americans from an economic disaster. That’s no overstatement: the White House has signaled it is working the phones and pulling out all the stops for the OMB nominee at the very same time the administration is signaling a potential pre-emptive retreat on the minimum wage and a willingness to limit promised survival checks.
Such skewed priorities and misguided decisions might seem inexplicable to those future anthropologists looking back at this moment. However, it will all make perfect sense to them if they understand that the Tanden affair exemplifies how in this era of end-stage democracy, the first and foremost priority of the effete political elite wasn’t helping millions of people, it wasn’t defending the progressive agenda, and it wasn’t even ensuring electoral success.
It was something deeper, more tribal, and more corrupt: swamp self-preservation.
I think Sirota has got it exactly right.