The irresponsible invective which presumably responsible leaders from across the political spectrum in the USA quite routinely spout is coming home to roost. Ms Vanita Gupta, President Joe Biden’s nominee to a senior post at the Justice Department, is now busy dialling back her not very moderate posts on Twitter and Facebook, becoming the second Indian-origin American official o face trouble over social media outbursts.
Ms Gupta, 46, was nominated to serve as Associate Attorney General. “I regret the harsh rhetoric that I have used at times in the last several years. I can pledge to you today that if I am confirmed, you won’t be hearing that kind of rhetoric from me,” she told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Last week, in a major setback to President Biden, Ms Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget after the Democratic Party and the Biden Administration failed to muster enough votes in the Senate to secure her confirmation.
Ms Tanden, 50, too had faced a tough time in her confirmation hearing over her Twitter rants against several lawmakers, including those from her own party, who disagreed with her stand on various issues. While in these cases the virtues of moderation were lost on those from the American left, rightwing politicians are equally culpable in what appears to be a societal shoot-and-scoot global pandemic wherein all manner of allegations are made against specific individuals on social media under the garb of expressing an opinion.
Each side, of course, claims freedom of speech to defend often libellous and defamatory attacks against those who may hold a different point of view and is quick to label any response to allegations from those targeted as ‘hate speech’ or worse.
The obvious hypocrisy of those who claim freedom of expression as a defence while giving short shrift to moderation, common sense, and erring on the side of responsibility rather than giving vent to pet peeves in provocative language, is one aspect of the whole mess. The other is the self-serving retraction of their own statements when they threaten to imperil career advancement.
The following exchange at the US Senate hearing on Ms Gupta’s confirmation about sums it up. When she was accused of being an “an extreme partisan advocate” who has demonstrated “significant hostility to religious liberty” and whose “record is that of an extreme left ideologue” not an officer of the law, her response was: “If I am confirmed as Associate Attorney General, I will be motivated to enforce our federal laws to protect and enforce our immigration laws.”
When it is her job on the line, Ms Gupta has no qualms about mainlining moderation, it would appear. That her questioner was Senator Ted Cruz, himself not exactly the epitome of responsible public utterances, only underlines the irony of the situation.