The Normalization of Marjorie Taylor Greene
During one of Kevin McCarthy's gauntlet of punishing votes, it was striking to see with whom he passed the time. There she was, dressed in sophisticated black, the member hailed as a "key ally" to the new speaker of the House: Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Her choice of color (in the past she has donned stark reds, whites or blues -- get it?) is perhaps a signal of the new Greene -- a mainstream figure, a serious politician. Her status was signaled by a respectful, not to say softball interview with Howard Kurtz on Fox News.
Doubtless Fox would like to sanitize her since she played a significant role in elevating McCarthy to the speakership. She must be a changed person or the GOP will have to ask itself some uncomfortable questions.
Things move fast, so cast your minds back only to 2021 when Mitch McConnell described Greene as a "cancer" on the Republican party and John Thune warned that the party had to draw some lines: "They have to decide who they want to be. Do they want to be the party of limited government and fiscal responsibility, free markets, peace through strength and pro life, or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon?"
On his Sunday show, Kurtz teed up opportunities for Greene to cleanse herself in the healing Fox font, inviting her to express her frustration with fellow members of the Freedom Caucus, and marveling that a Republican would decline to take a call Greene had placed to Donald Trump on her cellphone. Kurtz next advanced to the touchy topic of Greene's bat-guano views, but introduced it this way: "Just to deal with one bit of history, the Democrats stripped you of committee assignments -- which was raw politics."
No, actually, it was civic hygiene. It was what the GOP would have done itself if it retained a shred of integrity.
Kurtz continued: "But in fairness, didn't you say around that time that you'd been a follower of QAnon conspiracy theory and you had rethought this and you were no longer influenced by the group?" Greene seized the opportunity to refashion herself:
"Like a lot of people today, I had easily gotten sucked into some things I had seen on the internet. But that was dealt with quickly early on. I never campaigned on those things. That was not something I believed in. That's not what I ran for Congress on. So those are so far in the past."
The bad internet sucked her in and forced her to believe that the Parkland shooting and the Sandy Hook murders and the Las Vegas massacre were all false flag operations; that 9/11 was an inside job; that a California wildfire was caused by Jewish space lasers; and that Hillary Clinton had murdered a child in order to use her blood for a satanic ritual.
"So far in the past." She hasn't said those things since 2018! Except, wait, wasn't it just in February 2022 that Greene spoke at a conference sponsored by the white nationalist/fascist Nick Fuentes? That was also the month that she described the Jan. 6 defendants as political prisoners and denounced "Nancy Pelosi's gazpacho police." (Though, candidly, we owe her a debt of gratitude for that.) And if memory serves, in October 2022, she told a crowd that "Democrats want Republicans dead and they have already started the killings." And wasn't it in December 2022 -- last month -- that she told the New York Young Republican Club that if she and Steve Bannon had organized the Jan. 6 insurrection, "We would have won. Not to mention, it would have been armed."
Greene's makeover didn't start this week. She's made stabs at resets before, even traveling to the Holocaust museum to introduce a few facts into the roiling stew of garbage between her ears. She denounced Nick Fuentes after Trump dined with him (but not Trump), and acknowledged that a plane really did hit the Pentagon on 9/11. She has sparred with Lauren Boebert, the pillow guy and Alex Jones' fans. But this is not a case of a politician who misspeaks or commits a gaffe and must make amends. She has a disordered personality. As a grown adult, she chased a teenager who had survived the Parkland school shooting down the street, harassing and berating him. She is drawn to hatred as a moth to a flame. She is the poison that courses through the veins of parts of the right -- the vicious, reality-challenged right. If she is to be normalized by the GOP, it is the party, not she, that is changed.
No sooner did McCarthy achieve election on Friday night than Greene rushed to his side. They posed for a grinning photo. It was his first act as speaker.
Mona Charen is Policy Editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast.
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