Mitch McConnell condemns QAnon, except when he doesn’t

We have reached the farcical moment when even to criticize a tinfoil-hat conspiracist like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is denounced as “silencing.”

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., walks back to her office after speaking on the floor of the House on Thursday, Feb. 4.

AP Photos

So, now Mitch McConnell tells us that Marjorie Taylor Greene’s views are a “cancer” on the Republican Party and on the country.

Odd that he neglected to make that point when one of his preferred candidates in the Georgia runoff, Kelly Loeffler, campaigned with Greene. 

Sen. Minority Leader McConnell is now leaning heavily on the other body — the House — to clean up its act, denouncing “looney lies and conspiracy theories.” McConnell’s deputy in Senate leadership, John Thune, has chimed in, too, asking his colleagues: “Do they want to be the party of limited government ... free markets, peace through strength and pro-life, or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon?”

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The party’s dilemma, we’re told, is captured by two members of Congress. On the one hand, you have Liz Cheney, three-term, at-large representative from Wyoming and the third-ranking Republican in the House. A former deputy assistant secretary of state, she is known for her interest in national security, child protection and, until the attack on the Capitol, reliable support for Donald Trump. 

Cheney is getting blowback within the party because she voted to impeach Trump after the attack on Congress. The Wyoming GOP last month said Cheney’s vote to hold Trump accountable for the worst sedition in 160 years was a “travesty.” The execrable Matt Gaetz last Thursday flew from his home district in Florida to Cheyenne to hold a rally against her, which featured a phone-in from Donald Trump Jr.

And though Cheney this week easily defeated an effort to oust her from her leadership post, 61 House Republicans still voted in a secret ballot to remove her.

Then, on the other hand, we have Marjorie Taylor Greene, representative of all that is insane in America. Not for nothing did Democrats in the House, with some Republicans joining in, vote Thursday to remove Greene from all committees.

Greene believes that the Parkland school shootings were staged, that QAnon is right about the pedophilic cannibals populating the Democratic Party, that Nancy Pelosi should be murdered, that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and that Jewish space lasers caused the California wildfires last year. (You don’t think fires start themselves, do you?)

Greene’s Republican primary opponent, Dr. John Cowan, described her this way: “I’m a neurosurgeon. I diagnose crazy every day. It took five minutes talking to her to realize there were bats in the attic.” 

Weighing Cheney against Greene, the Republican Party has dithered. In response to demands that the GOP itself strip Greene of her committee assignments, as the party did to Steve King, Andy Biggs of the ironically named “Freedom Caucus” fumed. “The Democrats’ moves to strip Congresswoman Greene of her committee assignments for thoughts and opinions she shared as a private citizen before coming to the U.S. House is unprecedented and unconstitutional,” he said. “Republicans, beware: If this can happen to Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, it can happen to any one of us.”

Well, there you have it — the perfect path to discrediting all Republicans. Biggs, Gaetz, Jim Jordan and others are throwing their arms around Greene and confirming that her crazed rantings are indistinguishable from other Republicans. Fox host Tucker Carlson made a similar case recently when he mocked those who warn of Greene’s vicious, contemptible conspiracy-mongering: 

“This new member of Congress has barely even voted ... But CNN says she has bad opinions. ... Now if you’re skeptical about any of this, our advice is keep it to yourself. Because free inquiry is dead, unauthorized questions are hate speech.”

Welcome to anti-anti-QAnon. “Free inquiry is dead,” proclaims Carlson to an estimated 5 million viewers. We have reached the farcical moment when even to criticize a tinfoil-hat conspiracist is denounced as “silencing.” No one is fining or jailing Greene for her opinions. To deny her a seat on the House Education and Labor Committee is not exactly the Gulag. 

Look, it’s great that a number of Senate Republicans are speaking forcefully about quarantining QAnonism. Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana was refreshingly frank:

“The people of her congressional district, it’s their prerogative if they want to abase themselves by voting to elect someone who indulges in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and all manner of other nonsense. But I’ve got no tolerance for people like that. In terms of the divisions within our party, she’s not even part of the conversation, as far as I’m concerned.” 

But these senators might want to consider the elephant in the room. Who phoned Marjorie Taylor Greene to express support after her “Rothschild space laser” comments became public? Who called her a “rising star” of the GOP? Who said QAnon people “love their country”? And who is it that all of the aforementioned senators seem poised to acquit again?

Greene is the easy target for these newly fastidious Republicans. They opened the tent long ago to the villains, liars and conspiracists when they welcomed the ringmaster. With one side of their mouths, they denounce the looney haters, but with the other, they seize a fig leaf to disguise their fear of convicting Trump.

If they want to cleanse the Republican Party of the poisons that are rapidly killing it, they can vote to hold the man who first infected it with QAnon, “election fraud” and much more, accountable.

That, not restraining Greene, is the lustration the party needs. 

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the “Beg to Differ” podcast.

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