Observations On Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s House Speech In Her Own Defense

Watch the whole speech. It’s only ten minutes long. Do not rely on media characterizations of it. For example, here is the despicable CNBC web headline: “Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene expresses some regret about conspiracy claims ahead of vote to punish her.” Tell me if you think that’s a fair characterization of what she said.

1. It is a well-delivered, seemingly sincere, sympathetic and appealing and effective speech for anyone with any objectivity at all, designed to appeal to strong conservatives, and to send a message to progressives that she is not ashamed of her values and will not be intimidated into backing down from them

Good for her in that respect.

2. Her practical and ethical problem, however, is that she did not make this speech before the prospect of losing her committee assignments began looming. Why didn’t she say than that she was not a believer in the QAnon garbage? Why did she attack the messengers that revealed her other conspiratorial social media posts, rather than admitting what she had advocated and retracting it, with an explanation? This calls into question her honesty now. Yes, we now know she possesses at least one major asset for a politician: the ability to defend herself in a political crisis—like Bill Clinton. The ability to lie under pressure is another talent she might have.

3. I am troubled by the shadow of possible deceit in her choices of words. She never claimed the 9-11 attacks didn’t happen; she seemed to agree that it was “an inside job.” Saying now that the disaster happened is a non-sequitur..or just rhetorical carelessness. Her comments about school shootings are similarly ambiguous.

4. The fact, if true, that she has not met any of her Democratic colleagues is a terrible reflection on House leadership, and Nancy Pelosi in particular. How can that be defended? Not even a meet and greet for the entire freshman class? That’s rank incompetence.If you want a divided and dysfunctional body, that’s how you get one.

5. Greene sounds like a victim of our untrustworthy news media, as are all of us. She is right that it is impossible for normal Americans to know who to believe. She is a case study on what happens when someone naive and ignorant resorts to Google and the web for news and education.

6. She is absolutely correct that the Russian Collusion claim that shadowed most of President Trump’s administration was a conspiracy theory.

7. She is also correct that many of her colleagues have engaged in conduct that is objectively worse and a greater blight on the House than her support for paranoid right-wing theories. But that is a rationalization (#2.Whataboutism, or “They’re Just as Bad), not a defense.

8. Yes, she played the Mom, God and “I’m a good person” cards, but not to excess. She played them well, and fairly.

9. She comes off in her speech as a normal American, with everything that implies. There are strong arguments that Congress should include ordinary Americans. I believe that those charged with governing should be better than ordinary in knowledge, experience and ability, but I see the other side, though it still feels to me like Senator Roman Hruska’s argument that Judge Harold Carswell, an ultimately rejected Nixon pick for the Supreme Court, might be a mediocre judge, but didn’t mediocre Americans deserve representation too?

10. However, if one is inexperienced and maybe a bit over one’s head, the way to proceed is to keep one’s head down, watch, listen, find a mentor, and learn. I blame GOP and House leadership for not guiding a political naif like Greene so she didn’t immediately get in trouble. But I also blame Greene for not figuring out that she needed to learn her job before making headlines.

11. Ann Althouse had a fascinating post about Greene’s reported arguments in defense of her conduct in a private part meeting. The Hill reported that Greene had apologized and said she had been “curious” about the QAnon theories. This was hearsay, of course, which Althouse, as a lawyer, immediately recognized. She wrote,

I wish I had a verbatim quote, because I’m interested in whether she used the word “curious” and whether she apologized for being curious. I think we are in a very dangerous phase of cultural development if people are learning that it is wrong to become interested in things and to read and talk about notions that are not the entirely mainstream, agreed-upon stories. Are doors closing, with self-interested, cowardly people taking a stark lesson not even to consider looking at what’s in there? Freedom of thought entails a freedom to explore what is out there and to get things wrong and continue in a process of learning and thinking. The message should not be don’t take any side roads because, later on, people may see that you journeyed that way, and they’ll regard you as tainted and shun you. 

Excellent, and spot on. Next, Althouse tries to diagnose where Greene went wrong:

Greene seems to have gone wrong not by being curious, but by passing undigested material along without processing it through her own critical thinking. I haven’t read much of the stuff she posted, but I did see the one Facebook post with something about the Rothschilds and California wildfires. It looks like the kind of text that naive people copy and paste because the text itself demands that it be copied and pasted. Quick! It’s important! That is so dumb. But the nitwits who do it are probably not malicious. They may think they are helping and not even recognize the signs of, say, anti-Semitism… the solution is not to punish and control people even more and to shut down their curiosity and path of intellectual exploration. It is to encourage people to go deeper and to generate their own questions about everything they read and to keep going. Don’t vouch for anything you don’t know! Maintain sharp awareness of what you actually know, which often is just that you have only read something, and not that it’s true. 

This is also true, but is a comment that would be appropriate if discussing a high school junior, not a member of Congress. It terrifies me that the elected officials who make out laws may contain individuals who lack the ability to think and analyze. Yes, passion , patriotism, curiosity and civic responsibility are all admirable, but the things Rep. Greene was willing to believe just “a few years ago” are signature significance.

She’s not trustworthy.

25 thoughts on “Observations On Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s House Speech In Her Own Defense

  1. This is just as wrong:

    “The House of Representatives voted 230-199 on Thursday to remove GOP lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments over her embrace of the QAnon conspiracy theory and other violent political rhetoric.”

    The House now should move to remove Waters, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Omar, and a whole host of other members who demonstrate they are untrustworthy. Tit for tat? Maybe but they drew blood and should be careful their own won’t metaphorically spill out on the House floor.

    jvb

    • This will be another traditional norm that the Democrats have broken.

      But when the Republicans do it if they ever regain a majority, all we’ll hear is how the GOP is breaking the system and defying norms.

  2. What stood out for me was her statement that she “was allowed to believe things that weren’t true.” Though likely a rhetorical stumble, I think it speaks to the cultural moment the Republican party is in, most clearly since the election and even more clearly since January 6th. Encouraged by the President’s reckless statements and those of his legal team, fed further by some corners of media, a substantial portion of Republicans believe things that are not only false, not only bonkers, but harmful. If you believe that the Presidential election was stolen, storming the Capitol is not an inappropriate action. Following January 6th, the vast majority of Republican officials are trying to thread the needle of accepting Biden’s win and calming their constituents while also not losing the support of people who believe toxic and false ideas.

    You see it today, when virtually no Republican officials have spoken out against Greene in plain terms. Too many Republicans believe her conspiratorial ideas for their elected represented to say that they are lies–they are allowing people to believe things that aren’t true. Inevitably in a democracy, political leaders are going to espouse things they don’t quite believe, in order to gain a following–indeed, it can be argued that it’s the ethical way to represent a large group of people with diverse opinions. But this isn’t that. Russian collusion and false flag school shootings are both wrong ideas, but they are not equidistant from the truth. In my mind, Althouse puts it too lightly when she says that Greene hasn’t done enough fact checking. That’s a large easily leveled at a Democrat who might announce, in an environmental argument, that in ten years there will be no polar bears. Arguing that wildfire are caused by secret lasers is not a matter of poor fact-checking. It is crazy wrong, and, in Greene’s case, antiSemitic to boot. That so few elected Republican officials are unwilling to name them as such is much, much more troubling than Greene being in power.

    • A strong contributing factor to the belief that election fraud was key to the election is the media and democrats refusal to accept that there is any evidence whatsoever of any irregularities. Covering up windows so people can’t watch you count is irregular. Sending two ballots to the same person is irregular. Having 40 thousand people out of the roughly 1 million people in PA who are over 60 with the same name and birth year as people with obituaries is probably irregular, but the odds of name matching go up as the number sampled go up, so I’m not confident of the math. Some of the evidence and claims were bonkers, and those were overwhelmingly the ones which courts actually examined instead of dismissing for being late, lack of standing, etc. I never did see an explanation for the weird secretive handoff which occurred on camera in GA.

      Some of the ones they did actually discuss have some awful reasoning. For instance “There were a non-zero number of republican observers”. You know, that does NOT mean they weren’t keeping some out when they shouldn’t, and having one observer for a hundred counters is NOT sufficient. Also inept was the argument that the law didn’t specify how close observers had to be allowed so a 50 foot gap was perfectly legal. Most of this is evidence of blocking meaningful oversight… which much like statistical oddities indicates that fraud probably happened without providing any way to identify which ballots are fraudulent or the actual scope.

      If the media had gone acknowledged that there WAS some evidence, and pointed out that it was weak/indirect/inconclusive/etc instead of resorting to the big lie “without any evidence” maybe the people who had actually noticed the oddities evidence would have listened to them. As it is, they know the media lied over and over, and there is a reason that about 30% of democrats think fraud influenced the election.

  3. The Democrats are quick to blame Donald Trump for the conspiracy theories circulating among Republicans these days. I’m more inclined to blame the mainstream media, who have repeatedly proven themselves to be untrustworthy. Sensing that they have been lied to by the partisan mainstream and hungry for information, people on the political Right stumble through a maze of questionable sites in their search for truth. In the months since the election, I know that I’ve wasted hours of my time trying to sift for grains of truth hidden among piles of lies. Frankly, the mainstream hasn’t proven itself to be any more reliable than the conspiracy nuts have been.

    • I agree. Most of what people call the news these days is nothing but clickbait, pandering, propaganda and/or opinion. That is true of media outlets across the political spectrum. In an information vacuum, conspiracy theories are going to flourish.

  4. 3: Not careless. calculated. She pretends she was being accused of someone else, denies that, and then winks at her supporters who believe wackadoodle things like 9/11 being an inside job. It’s a number 9 apology. Don’t fall for it.

    4: Covid Jack, there are no congressional cocktail parties. You may not take it seriously, Republicans may no take it seriously, Republicans may love to go unmasked and attempt to infect people with malice aforethought, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t.

    Nothing prevented her from introducing herself to any of her colleagues she happened across. You can understand why a woman who called for the death of some of her now-colleagues and announced she’d be going armed on the House floor wouldn’t be considered approachable.

    • 4. Utter nonsense. You can still introduce someone new to an organization with masks and other precautions. Hell, you can hold Zoom meetings. Just one more of a million ways the Wuhan hysteria provided an excuse to made things fail.

      And don’t tell me that Nancy Pelosi, who could get her hair done maskless and w/o social distancing when it suited her needs, is concerned about the virus except as a way to gain power and give away money.

      • Update, it was a 9/10 apology.

    • Covid Jack, there are no congressional cocktail parties. You may not take it seriously, Republicans may no take it seriously, Republicans may love to go unmasked and attempt to infect people with malice aforethought, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t.

      This is a disgustingly unfair statement. But then, it’s you, so…

  5. The Dems set a bad precedent once in 2013 and it came back to bite them a year later. They just set another one, and it may well come back to bite them in 2 years. The party has a learning curve flatter than my nine-year-old cousin. Of course they aren’t planning to lose in 2 years, but there’s another precedent that’s not on their side…

  6. The fact, if true, that she has not met any of her Democratic colleagues is a terrible reflection on House leadership, and Nancy Pelosi in particular. How can that be defended? Not even a meet and greet for the entire freshman class? That’s rank incompetence.If you want a divided and dysfunctional body, that’s how you get one.

    Indeed. This entire episode has produced the rebuttable presumption that the Democrats in general and Pelosi in particular want exactly this dysfunction. In fact, I will posit that what you and I refer to as dysfunction Pelosi would describe as a useful environment for her objectives, and those of most of her colleagues. They want to be seen as unfair and dismissive of any civil norm when it comes not just to Greene, but also to any Republican member that isn’t useful to them. This is exactly what her and many (if not most) Democrat representatives’ constituents demand of them, and they are determined to deliver.

    I have nothing significant to add to what happened to Greene except to suggest that she has no right to complain, and her apology is far too late even assuming none of the apparent shortcomings you noticed were intentional or sinister, which I don’t think we can reasonably take for granted.

    Having said that, we see Democrat reps like Maxine Waters and She Who Shall Not Be Named (because her name is far, far, too prevalent in proportion to either her intellect or value to Congress or anyone else) go merrily on their way doing the same things that the House voted to punish Greene for. The more this double-standard continues, the more entrenched and intractable the divisions in this country will get. A breaking point will come, to the woe of all.

    She is absolutely correct that the Russian Collusion claim that shadowed most of President Trump’s administration was a conspiracy theory.

    Yes. Well, see above.

    Quoth Althouse:

    I think we are in a very dangerous phase of cultural development if people are learning that it is wrong to become interested in things and to read and talk about notions that are not the entirely mainstream, agreed-upon stories.

    We are already there, Ann, and the fact that she doesn’t appear to understand that reality simply illustrates the blindness of her bias, which is an attempt to be rigidly neutral. When people work too hard at trying to see the forest, sometimes the really important trees blend into the background.

    We have already seen the Senate vote down an amendment to the Patriot Act that would allow the FBI access to your browser history without obtaining a warrant . Do you really think this was aimed at foreign terrorists? I don’t.

    Yes, passion , patriotism, curiosity and civic responsibility are all admirable, but the things Rep. Greene was willing to believe just “a few years ago” are signature significance.

    Perhaps, but I wonder. I’m not quite ready to declare her dead to me given the quality of her speech, although she will have to spend a lot of time in the wilderness proving that she is worthy of trust. Redemption is always possible, and I’m always willing to give someone a chance to overcome a mistake. Only time will tell if she’ll see this as an opportunity to become better, or just mope until her inevitable consignment to the political garbage heap.

    Either way, she deserved her rebuke. Unfortunately, there are very many others who deserve the same treatment, but will be applauded and feted for their misbehavior.

    Equity!

    • Great comment, Glenn.

      I would add two things:

      1. The Democrats want the dysfunction because it keeps the focus away from the truly awful things they are proposing, like federalizing elections and making transsexual rights the primacy of the O’Biden Administration.

      2. As for Greene, I would not write her off, either. She has already raised over $125,000 in campaign donations.

      jvb

      • Thank you.

        1. Maybe, but I don’t think that’s quite right, myself. I think the dysfunction is an attempt to marginalize anyone who disagrees with them. It’s a form of bullying, trying to force everyone to agree with them or shut up for fear of being cast as some kind of insurrectionist. That, by the way, is their new word-weapon of choice, currently outpacing the various -isms.

        2. Money is usually pretty easy for firebrands or people hated by the current “in group” to raise. One need look no further than Donald J. Trump for evidence. It doesn’t say anything about her ethics or her sincerity, which I’m sure you didn’t mean to suggest. I take nothing significant from it, though.

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