March 2, 2019

So much dialogue has grown out of this heated exchange between Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), it's hard to imagine there is more to say. HAHAHAHAHAH have you met me???

Okay, first of all, there is this clip above, wherein Eddie Glaude and Rick Tyler visit Chris Jansing for an absolutely OUTSTANDING discussion about how awful what Meadows did was; how Cummings handled it; what resulted in the form of an oratory for the ages. It is an illuminating and on point piece of television analysis on its own, so I am simply attaching the transcript below, with my favorite parts highlighted in bold.

I do, however, have some threads to weave in and out of this discussion.

Meadows may have apologized more than once about his birther remarks, as he claims, but an apology only has value if it results in changed behavior. His insulting display with Lynn Patton came just two days ago — YEARS after he has had the chance to learn and grow from the racist birtherism damage he inflicted — and it renders those apologies meaningless. Null and void.

In addition to being disgusted by Meadows, some have been dismayed by Cummings' willingness to indulge his use of their friendship (alone, puzzling and upsetting to many) as cover for his white fragility, using his proximity to Blackness as a way to indemnify himself against accusations of racism and racist behavior. Completely valid points of contention, not that anyone needs my validation. I'm also considering, though, ways Cummings was protective of and looking out for all three young freshmen Congresspeople just moments before: the same Republican white men were trying to take over the hearings with their bogus motions and complaints, and Cummings very forcefully fought them back, saying, "YOU have all had your turns to speak. THEY have been waiting ALL DAY." That shut them up, but good, and Cummings then proceeded to give the floor to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On which she proceeded to slay, as if the entire episode hadn't happened.

Furthermore, there are arcane rules still in effect. You may argue that the rule needs changing, but you can also argue that the Republicans while never following the rules themselves, are absolutely fastidious about making sure the Dems follow them to the letter. Here is the rule regarding discussing race/racism of a fellow member of the House of Representatives:

§ 42. — References to Race, Creed, or Racial Prejudice

Gratuitous references in debate to the race or religion of another Member are not in order. A reference to ‘‘the Jewish gentleman from New York,’’ for example, has been ruled out by the Speaker. Deschler-Brown Ch 29 § 65.4.

It is not in order in debate to accuse a Member of bigotry or racism. Remarks characterizing the motives behind certain legislation as ‘‘demagogic and racist’’ have been ruled out of order, as has a reference to another Member as having reached ‘‘bigoted’’ conclusions. Deschler-Brown Ch 29 §§ 65.5, 65.6.

Now, my money is always on Rep. Cummings, but I am not always right about things. In this case, in this moment, he may have truly wanted clarity, knowing the trouble Rep. Tlaib might be in regarding the rules should she have broken them, regardless of how right she was. In this way, he could very well have been protecting her, despite how much it felt like he was throwing her under the bus by allowing Meadows his hissy fit. Evidence of that appeared the next day.

According to The Washington Post,

By Thursday morning, as House votes ended for the week, Meadows left his usual seat near the center aisle to approach Tlaib.

“I went over to her and said, ‘Listen, thank you for the gracious way that you handled it.’ And I just wanted her to know that there is no animosity or hard feelings at all, she said the same, and it was just a very good moment,” Meadows told reporters afterward.

The two lawmakers hugged and spoke for a few minutes, their first real conversation ever.

The detente might never have happened if not for Cummings and his unique friendship with Meadows.

No one is pretending everything is okay. I'm guessing Rep. Tlaib doesn't believe Meadows isn't racist. Meadows doesn't believe he (or Trump) is. But if it weren't for Cummings standing, the respect he commanded in how he handled that moment, I seriously doubt a senior, white, male lawmaker would have left his seat to approach a freshman lawmaker, who is also woman of color, to thank her —THANK her — for her graciousness. (Sidenote: Don't underestimate the role decorum and seniority plays in who approaches whom on the floor of Congress. It is not like your middle school cafeteria. For a member with seniority to leave his desk, and approach a freshman where she was is a big deal, symbolically.)

Finally — and this is a point I see hardly ANYONE make, except Jansing, who alluded to it briefly — what about Tlaib's tears? What about the emotions she felt as she finally got to express her pain at having to witness such blatant and insulting racist behavior? I have seen countless references to how sincere Meadows' emotions were in that moment - look! He was crying! He was so upset! What. about. Rashida. Tlaib? Did no one else see the pain in her face? Did no one else besides me hear her voice breaking as she tried to keep it together to say what she needed to say, so that she would not have to swallow that nasty pill? Did no one else recognize the veil of "back-to-this BS-business-as-usual" that fell across her face once she had to clarify her remarks, realize she couldn't make her point, and move on? I'd like to think Rep. Cummings did.

Oh, and I'd like to make a motion for a rules change.

Video Transcript below:

JANSING: There's pretty controversial viral moment that is continuing to make news this morning, but it's really only peripherally related to Cohen. It happened when Republican Mark Meadows brought out a Black Trump administration official to the hearing as evidence that president Donald Trump is not a racist. Here's what followed later in the hearing.

REP. TLAIB: The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a Black woman in this chamber, in this committee is alone racist in itself. Donald Trump is setting --

REP. MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman, I ask that her words be taken down.

TLAIB: I reclaim my time.

REP. CUMMINGS: Miss Tlaib, is it -- I want to make sure I understand. You did not -- you are not intending to call Mr. Meadows a racist, is that right?

TLAIB: No, Mr. Chairman I do not call Mr. Meadows a racist.

MEADOWS: Mr. Chairman, there's nothing more personal to me than my relationship - my nieces and nephews are people of color. Not many people know that. You know that, Mr. Chairman.

JANSING: It was even longer, that exchange. It was tense, it was uncomfortable. It put the chairman in the middle of a highly charged conversation about race. Now this morning, Congresswoman Tlaib repeat her apology to Mark Meadows, even as questions are being raised about whether the hearing was the right place to have this conversation. And as Washington Post Peter Marks put it, "The Michael Cohen hearing wasn't a hearing at all. It was cheap theatrics." Here to weigh in, Eddie Glaude, Jr. professor at Princeton University and MSNBC contributor, and Rick Tyler is a Republican strategist and MSNBC political analyst. I'm told and it's been reported there were some people gasped when Mark Meadows brought out this Trump staffer, Eddie. What was your reaction then to that and then seeing the exchange?

GLAUDE: Well, I was horrified. I found it insulting. Congressman Meadows used Lynn Patton as if she was a Black Venus and put her on display. There's no necessarily relationship between having a Black friend or having a Black person work for you and being susceptible to racist behavior. I found Representative Tlaib's effort to call that out in real time courageous. Because in some ways, the effort was to undermine what Cohen was trying to put forward. That Donald Trump wasn't -- that Donald Trump was a racist. And Congressman Meadows was trying to make the claim he wasn't, simply by pointing to Black people. That's just -- we're at a point in 2019 that can't be -- that just can't stand any longer.

JANSING: Then Chairman Cummings is put in the middle of it. He's trying to tamp down the tension. Surprised a lot of people, frankly, who don't work on Capitol Hill, talking about his friendship with Mark Meadows. They spent a little time back and forth talking about that yesterday, I wonder what your take is on what happened yesterday?

TYLER: Well, look, Eddie's right. Pointing out that you have a Black friend or Black relatives does not prove you're not a racist or have racial bias. But I thought Elijah Cummings did himself a big favor yesterday. He came between the two members. He de-escalated the situation very skillfully. He didn't seem to take a side. Remember, Casting aspersions on another member in the committee is against the rules. That could have been the fight. He managed today get her to say no, i'm not directly calling him a racist so that we wouldn't have the rules fight. She did apologize and has since apologized. But it's curious to me why Meadows would have gone down this road. I mean, you'd think he would know better than to pull this stunt.

JANSING: Well, given that, you know, 2012 campaign incident and that resurfaced as a result of this, I want to remind people what Meadows had to say about Barack Obama.

MEADOWS: (on video) I see it as if we do our job from a grassroots standpoint, we won't have to worry about it. You know what? We'll send him back home to Kenya or whenever it is. We'll send him back home.

JANSING: Yeah, I mean, I think Eddie, obviously, part of the problem is that this is someone who in the past has found himself in the middle of questions.

GLAUDE: Let's be clear. Birtherism was a particular racist effort on the part of folks who were associated with the tea party.

JANSING: And put forward by the president of the United States.

GLAUDE: And put forward by Donald Trump.

JANSING: Who Mark Meadows was defending yesterday.

GLAUDE: Exactly. Profoundly racist. Let's be very clear, too. That Mark Meadows fragility, the fact that he teared up doesn't make him innocent. White fragility doesn't equal white innocence. And one wonders, these are the same people who are so quick to call people "snowflakes." One wonders who's actually the snowflake here. When he got called out in real time, We're not going to get beyond this if we hide behind civility. Civility is often the mask of cruelty. What Representative Tlaib did yesterday was to call it out in real time and now we can actually have a dialogue. I don't think she needed to apologize. She called it a racist act. She didn't call him a racist. So She gave him space to grow. Instead, you know, he cried crocodile tears. Instead of listening to what she had to say.

JANSING: It was a very real emotional reaction she had, as you say, in real time. And that -- I thought the whole end -- I don't know how long it was, 15, 20 minutes of the hearing was very emotional. Raised so many questions. I think that was part of a larger conversation, and Congressman Cummings had this strong closing statement. I want to play just a little bit of that.

CUMMINGS: And so the president called you a rat. We're better than that. We really are. And I'm hoping that all of us can get back to this democracy we want and that we should be passing on to our children. So that they can do better than what we did. When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked in 2019 what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?

JANSING: What did we do, Eddie? I mean, that's the question, isn't it?

GLAUDE: Absolutely. And just really quickly. What I was so moved by what Representative Cummings said, it reminded me of the grandness and greatness of the tradition out of which I come. I'm a descendant of folks who were slaves. For us, for that to come out of his mouth, the son of a sharecropper was a defense of democracy, a demand we step up to the plate and defend this democracy. Oh, my god, that was an echo from the past alive and well in the present. It was the grandest of the tradition out of which I come.

JANSING: The grandest of the tradition of what I think Congress used to be when those kinds of big important statements were made on the public stage. Thanks to both of you, much appreciated.

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