“You called Sen. Sanders everything but an ignorant slut.”
So Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, using a favorite early-SNL reference that is often lost on those under Kennedy’s age of 69, said to Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, near the end of a Wednesday confirmation hearing in the Senate Budget Committee. Kennedy was the last of numerous senators over the course of two days of confirmation hearings to use their limited time available for questioning one of the would-be most powerful executive branch officials to air grievances about Tanden’s history of insulting online posts.
And while a true poster never regrets, Tanden had to do what she had to do.
Tanden, who had deleted more than 1,000 of her name-calling tweets upon getting the call to service in the new Democratic administration, offered the first of her numerous apologies for “my past language and social media” activity in her opening statement Tuesday in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
But Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the very first Republican to question her, had come prepared with a list of old tweets to read back at her.
“You wrote that Susan Collins is ‘the worst,’ ” Portman said. “That Tom Cotton is a ‘fraud.’ That ‘vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz.’ You called Leader McConnell ‘Moscow Mitch’ and ‘Voldemort.’ And on and on.”
We’ve(?) waited months to see Republican senators read Tanden’s tweets back at her, so do watch the video of Portman reciting these in his most practiced tone of lifelessness.
Even after the ones she deleted, Portman said, he “found, through my staff, that there are still nine pages of tweets about Sen. Ted Cruz, for example.”
“Senator, I appreciate people’s concerns about my tweets,” Tanden said.
She would endure similar roasting in the hearing from Sen. James Lankford, who observed that “you have actually tweeted more in the past four years than President Trump tweeted, as far as just numbers”—a sentence that should’ve been a prelude to presenting her with a medal—and that her “hostile” tone didn’t align with Biden’s calls for civility.
Tanden returned for more Wednesday in the Budget Committee, where Republicans again raised her posting habits. Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey brought up tweets in which Tanden had insinuated that the Russian hackers changed election results in 2016 to put Trump over the top, and asked her if she believed Trump had been legitimately elected.
“Absolutely,” Tanden said.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee’s ranking member, read not just Tanden’s old posts but anonymous negative Glassdoor reviews of her management skills as president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
With Democrats now in charge of the Senate, the Budget Committee is now the fiefdom of Chairman Bernie Sanders. Sanders and Tanden have had a poor relationship, with Sanders having accused her and CAP during the 2020 presidential race of smearing him, his campaign, and his supporters. (The invective between very online Sanders supporters and Tanden did go both ways.)
Sanders, who also said during the hearing that he had concerns about Tanden’s solicitation of corporate donations at CAP, took a grandfatherly approach to their feud in the hearing.
“Of course, your attacks were not just made against Republicans,” Sanders said. “There were vicious attacks made against progressives, people who I have worked with, me personally.
“So as you come before this committee to assume a very important role in the United States government,” he continued, “at a time when we need serious work on serious issues and not personal attacks on anybody, whether they’re on the left or the right, can you reflect a little bit about some of your decisions and the personal statements you have made in recent years?”
She reiterated her regret.
Kennedy was the final, and typically showiest, Republican to question her. He suggested that there may be a perception that “if you took Wall Street, turned them upside down, and shook ’em, you’d fall out of their pockets.” When he said that “you called Sen. Sanders everything but an ignorant slut”—Graham, in the background, followed up with “I wouldn’t’ve said ‘ignorant’ ”—Tanden showed her anger for the first time, saying, “That is not true, Senator.”
Kennedy then asked her repeatedly whether she meant the insults she tweeted when she tweeted them.
She tried a few different dodges between reiterations of the question. “I really feel badly about them, Senator.” “Social media is a terrible discourse.” “I feel terribly about them.” “I look back at them, I said them, I feel badly about them, I deleted tweets.”
She finally relented.
“Senator, I must have meant them,” she said. “But I really regret them.”