I have real, lingering concerns about the anti-Semitic ring of some of Omar’s tweets and remarks. But I have no memory of her signaling support for the execution of Republican leaders (as Greene has done in regard to Democratic ones), of her publicly harassing the survivor of a horrific crime (à la Greene and one of the Parkland High School students) or of her signing on to a succession of the most out-there conspiracy theories out there (Greene is a platinum-level frequent flier on Crackpot Airlines). These lawmakers are as different as water and kerosene.
Many Republicans immediately accepted Greene’s speech on the House floor on Thursday — during which she disavowed QAnon and the idea that school massacres and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were hoaxes — as a redemptive apology. It was nothing of the kind. She played the victim, deriding “big media companies” and “cancel culture,” and insisting that she “never once said any of the things that I am being accused of today during my campaign” or since being elected. So we’re not supposed to be bothered by the promotion of deeply twisted conspiracies just a few years, not decades, earlier? That would be more foolhardy than forgiving.
“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true,” she said. Allowed to? No, ready to. Eager to. Itching with paranoia and hate, which she then spread.
“I’m a very regular American,” she said. If that’s remotely true, this country is in much bigger trouble than I thought, and I’ve been plenty worried these past four years.
To anyone who didn’t sense the hollowness of her contrition in real time, she proceeded on Friday to tweet that she had woken up “literally laughing thinking about what a bunch of morons” the Democrats were for granting her a stage and a moment that enhanced her celebrity. For good measure, she denounced “this Democrat tyrannical government.” Then she held a news conference and complained that Democrats “only care about pushing their socialist agenda through. They only care about taking away our freedoms.”
It’s the way she waves the flag of freedom, saying that she fights for it while being denied it, that perhaps enrages me most, because it’s such a perversion of that ideal. Michael Tomasky wrote an excellent column in The Times late last year about the way in which Republicans, who have long branded themselves the party of “freedom,” now use the word and its variants in selective, wrongheaded and destructive ways that wind up endorsing recklessness more than liberty. He noted that John Stuart Mill, “one of the key authors of the Western concept of freedom,” rightly recognized that it must stop short of behavior that harms our fellow citizens.
Removing Representative Greene from her House committee assignments — which the House did on Thursday night by a 230-to-199 vote, with 11 Republicans joining 219 Democrats in favor of her ouster — wasn’t the death of free speech. Greene remains free, as an individual, to spout the bunk she once spouted. But Congress has the right — and, I’d argue, the responsibility — to make crystal clear that such bunk is vile, dangerous and antithetical to anything and everything that democratic government should be about, and to hold Greene to account for her actions. What happened to Republicans’ belief in personal responsibility?