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Congressional Republicans Embarrass Themselves, Part II: Tommy Tuberville May Need a Hood

There are many political figures that we'd be happy to never have to write about again. Donald Trump is certainly one of those, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is another. It's going to be a long time before we can shake Trump, obviously, while today marks the second day in a row that we're going to have to talk about Tuberville (sigh), who is making himself toxic even for his fellow Republicans.

Yesterday's item, of course, was about Tuberville's blocking of all military promotions, such that the Marine Corps is now left without a proper commandant. Since we wrote that item, we learned a bit about how this is specifically affecting the military. First, without the ability to appoint and promote new people, high-ranking officers are now left to cover parts or all of multiple jobs. To take an example, Gen. Eric Smith is now acting as both commandant and assistant commandant of the Corps. Second, high-ranking military officers are in high demand in the private sector, where they can command salaries a fair bit higher than what the U.S. government pays. If promotions appear to be held up for the foreseeable future, that's going to push some key officers to head for the exit early, leading to a brain drain.

Moving on to the new news that's not actually so new, Tuberville spent the early part of this week continuing his dalliance with white supremacists. He was on CNN with Kaitlan Collins, and she asked him about his remarks back in May, that some people call them "white supremacists" but Tuberville just calls them "Americans." This should have been an easy question the first time out, 6 weeks ago. And even if it wasn't, Tuberville has had plenty of time to figure out the correct answer. Here's a hint: "I condemn white supremacism and all other forms of racism, which have no place in our military." Note that it took us a grand total of 5 seconds to come up with that, and that's despite the fact that we have never coached a single football game.

Tuberville, however, is absolutely determined to have his cake and to eat it, too. That is to say, he wants the votes of racists, but he also wants the votes of people who oppose racism (or who, at very least, flatter themselves that they oppose racism). So, he returned to his strategy of trying to turn "white supremacist" into a meaningless phrase deployed by woke Democrats. You can read his whole exchange with Collins here, but this remark gives you the gist of it:

My opinion of a white nationalist, if somebody wants to call them a white nationalist, to me, is an American. It's an American. Now, if that white nationalist is a racist, I'm totally against anything that they want to do, because I am 110% against racism. But I want somebody that's in our military, that's strong, that believes in this country, that's an American that will fight along anybody, whether it's a man, or woman, Black or white, red. It doesn't make any difference. And so, I'm totally against identity politics. I think it's ruining this country. And I think that Democrats ought to be ashamed for how they're doing this, because it's dividing this country, and it's making this country weaker every day.

Note, incidentally, that while it's still OK to refer to people who are white, Black or brown, it's considered quasi-racist these days to refer to people as red or yellow. In any case, after this declaration, Collins tried to explain that white supremacists are, by definition, racists. The Senator repeated, several times, "That's your opinion." And he stuck to those guns for at least 6 hours.

That the Senator stated this opinion in the first place, back in May, and that he's back on TV stating it again is not something that pleases Republicans. Undoubtedly, some of them are legitimately anti-racist. We suspect that more of them are concerned that, in effect, Tuberville is saying the quiet part out loud. That is to say, it's not a secret that some segment of the Republican base is white supremacist or white supremacist adjacent. But because white supremacism is socially unacceptable, the racist voters have to accept that they'll get some wins on policy, but that the politicians can't embrace them openly (well, unless the politician is Donald Trump). Tuberville, coming from the state that brought you Bull Connor, George Wallace, the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Bloody Sunday, was trying to thread a needle that is un-threadable.

Whatever their motivation, a great many of Tuberville's Republican colleagues blasted him for his remarks. There was also a fair bit of arm twisting behind the scenes, with the result that late yesterday, Tuberville told reporters that he's thought about it some more, and concluded that white supremacists are indeed racists. Thank goodness that's settled!

What prompted the Senator's change of heart? Only he knows for sure. However, our best guess is that the Republicans know full well that the most odious member of each party gets to be the "face" of the party during elections, and that Tuberville was giving the Democrats some excellent ammunition for 2024 ("These Republicans, they don't actually care about the military, but they do care about hurting the fee-fees of David Duke"). Alternatively, as Roy Moore demonstrated, Alabamians do have a limit to the obnoxiousness they will tolerate. Perhaps someone convinced Tuberville that he'd veered so far right that he was opening himself up to a primary challenge. We don't think this is very likely, but you never know. (Z)

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