When Did Republicans Turn Into a Bunch of Snowflakes?

“I am an equal opportunity foe of antisemitism.” This was the assurance that Deborah Lipstadt, the renowned Holocaust scholar, offered members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday in her confirmation hearing to become President Biden’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. Whatever your place on the political spectrum, she warned, if you say something that smacks of bigotry, she will call you on it.

“Jew hatred,” as Ms. Lipstadt repeatedly called it, is on the rise across the globe. This past weekend, three incidents of assault or vandalism that are being investigated as possibly antisemitic took place in Brooklyn. One might reasonably assume that lawmakers would have grasped the urgent need for an antisemitism warrior — a post that, having been elevated to the level of ambassador by this president, now requires Senate approval.

But for months, Ms. Lipstadt’s nomination has been held up because she once tweeted something mean about Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee. As a result, he is opposing her nomination and has urged colleagues to do the same.

No one seriously questions Ms. Lipstadt’s qualifications. In a career spanning four decades, she has written at least a half dozen books on antisemitism and the Holocaust and lectured globally on the topic. Her successful legal fight against a British Holocaust revisionist was turned into a movie, “Denial,” with Ms. Lipstadt played by Rachel Weisz. Her nomination in July drew applause from Jewish groups across the ideological spectrum.

Ms. Lipstadt during her Senate testimony on Tuesday. Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

The ranking Republican on the committee, Jim Risch of Idaho, didn’t bother pretending that the delay had been about anything other than Mr. Johnson. Let this be “a learning moment” for anyone who expects to be confirmed, he said. If you say something publicly about a member, you do so at your peril.

So how did Ms. Lipstadt hurt Mr. Johnson’s wee feelings? After the horrors of Jan. 6, the senator was among the apologists scrambling to absolve Donald Trump and his followers for the mayhem. Among his strategies: pooh-poohing the episode as much ado about nothing. “I knew those were people who love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn’t concerned,” Mr. Johnson said in a radio interview last March. If the rioters had been “Black Lives Matter and antifa” folks, he clarified, “I might have been a little concerned.”

RonJon caught blowback for his musings — including from Ms. Lipstadt, who tweeted a link to an article about the controversy and asserted, “This is white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple.”

It is true that Ms. Lipstadt does not limit her criticism to Republicans. She has called out liberal politicians for their offensive comments as well. (Looking at you, Representative Ilhan Omar.) But it always sounds so much better to claim that you are a victim of partisan bias than to admit that you said something stupid. And so Ms. Lipstadt has had to answer multiple questions from multiple lawmakers about her commitment to a nonpartisan approach.

This week’s hearing suggests the partisan games are wrapping up. Most of the committee members, on both sides, asked substantive questions.

Then there was Mr. Johnson, who just could not let go. Making everything about him and his bruised petals, he whined that Ms. Lipstadt had attacked him personally, without knowing anything about what a good guy he is and how, back in Milwaukee, he worked with the minister of a Black church to help struggling congregants turn their lives around. He demanded to know if she “feels bad” about having said mean things. “You don’t know what’s in my heart,” he bleated. Ultimately, he accepted her apology, but then declared her unqualified and said he wouldn’t support her anyway.

It was a bravura display from a guy who has not exactly been a beacon of truth, justice or decency.

By now, there is hardly any point in expressing dismay that Republicans have turned into a bunch of snowflakes. Mr. Trump is famous for an ego as delicate as it is oversized. Devin Nunes, the former congressman and Trump stooge, has spent the past few years suing people who said unkind things about him, including a satirical Twitter account by a fictional cow. One of the party’s hot new crusades is getting public schools to ban books that might make white kids feel icky about this nation’s long history of racism.

That said, as a senator, Mr. Johnson is supposed to put the public interest ahead of his own personal grievance.

Of course, he is far from the only Republican playing politics with confirmations. And at least his objections, no matter how petty, involved the nominee in question — unlike, say, the blanket holds that Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley issued last year to protest unrelated policy moves by the Biden administration. Dozens of nominees to the State Department languished so that the two presumed presidential wannabes could posture for their base.

This is no way to run a government. As The Times reported last month, hundreds of Biden nominees remain stuck in the Senate “because of partisan dysfunction or personal pique.” During his first year in office, only 41 percent of Mr. Biden’s nominees cleared the Senate, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. This compares with 57 percent of Mr. Trump’s first-year nominees, 69 percent of President Barack Obama’s and 75 percent of George W. Bush’s. The average time for confirmation of Mr. Biden’s picks was 103 days — longer than any of the previous six administrations.

“You’re seeing a broken system breaking down even further,” the partnership’s chief executive, Max Stier, told The Times. “We need a political Geneva Convention, to distinguish between legitimate partisan differences and the destruction of our core government infrastructure.”

Barring some unforeseen calamity, Ms. Lipstadt will wind up with the post she deserves. But her experience is simply the latest example of a process that has become hopelessly broken. Too often, senators are interpreting advise and consent to mean grandstand and foot drag. The fault extends far beyond any single snowflake.

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