AOC turns Ted Yoho's apology into a teachable moment, of course

AOC turns Ted Yoho's apology into a teachable moment, of course

This couldn’t have ended any other way. I’m sure House Dem leaders were shocked when, after demanding an apology on the House floor from Yoho for how he spoke to AOC outside the Capitol on Monday, he actually offered one. It must have been unimaginable to them that a populist Republican would yield so quickly in admitting fault in how he’d behaved towards Republicans’ least favorite Democrat. Yoho would inevitably tell them to screw off, they assumed, and then they could have a passion play about misogyny, the war on women, and so forth, and get whatever benefit from voters that they might get from that. “He wouldn’t even apologize!”

But Yoho, no doubt under pressure from his own leadership to avert that scenario, decided to eat sh*t instead. Which left Dems with a choice: Either accept the apology and miss that opportunity or conclude that the apology was insufficient and have the passion play anyway. Guess what happened. Needless to say, the takeaway from this episode for many will be, “This is why only a fool apologizes.” That’s not true — you should make an apology if you owe one regardless of how it’s received — but that’s the lesson that’ll be distilled in an age of negative hyperpartisanship. You’ll be given no credit for expressing remorse, so why do it?

Remember that the most sensational element of what allegedly happened between them, Yoho calling her a “f***ing b*tch” as he walked away, is uncorroborated by either him or her. Yoho flatly denies saying it; AOC says she thought she heard him muttering something but couldn’t make out what it was. It’s a reporter from The Hill who overheard it, although as far as I’m aware we still don’t know who that was, specifically. And as we learned elsewhere this week, it’s easy to mishear something someone’s said if you have a motive to mishear it. So no, Yoho didn’t apologize for any name-calling, but he did apologize for the “abrupt manner” in which he spoke to her and said their policy disputes don’t justify being disrespectful.

Rather than just say “you hurt my feelings” like a normal human, Ocasio-Cortez spends 10 minutes doing a tiresome populist song-and-dance about how she’s standing up not for herself but for Womanhood. I’m certainly not mad or unused to being treated this way, she says towards the start, a point she’ll also make on Twitter occasionally when she’s responding to criticism. She’s keen for detractors to know that their slings and arrows cannot wound her, never mind that she’s on the brink of tears halfway through the clip imagining her mom watching Yoho’s floor speech. Whether she’s forced to do that “nothing fazes me” shtick because populist champions are expected to be indomitable or because their political personas are less as people than as tribunes for the masses they represent, I don’t know. (It’s another way she’s like Trump, who prides himself on his toughness yet whines about his grievances endlessly.) But it’s disingenuous, as is this part about Yoho’s apology:

“I could not allow my nieces, I could not allow the little girls I go home, I could not allow the victims of verbal abuse and worse to see that, to see that excuse, and to see our Congress accept it as legitimate and accept it as an apology,” she said.

Reading that, you would think he had come to the House floor and called her a “f***ing b*tch” again, assuming he did in the first place. He made a vague apology about being disrespectful, spoke briefly about how he and his wife experienced poverty when they were first married (as that was the subject he had confronted AOC about), then gave himself a little back-pat by saying he won’t apologize for being passionate about his views. I didn’t begrudge her tweeting yesterday about how underwhelmed she was by it, but the idea that it was so offensive that it required a full hour of floor time today for her and other Democratic women like Ilhan Omar to rebuke it is farcical. At one point Ocasio-Cortez even insists that she was prepared to let it drop until Yoho’s veddy, veddy bad apology left her no choice but to speak up. Very clearly they intended to have this “teachable moment” no matter what he said short of tearily begging for her forgiveness and very clearly they were going to find a pretext to have it that blamed Yoho himself for forcing them to do it rather than admit that they intended to do it for political gain. The two of them deserve each other.

The paradox of AOC is that on the one hand she’s one of the most “real” people in Congress — she’s young! she’s got personality! she looks like America! — and on the other she’s one of the most remorseless talking-points robots in a body that consists of hardly anything but professional talking-points robots anymore. Everything inevitably becomes a teachable moment with her, including the comments that Yoho took objection to initially. Asked about rising crime in New York City, which includes a surge in murders, naturally she started riffing about desperate people going hungry and maybe needing to steal bread. Her impulse always and everywhere is towards didacticism. Of course this episode with Yoho would end with a lecture.

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