It’s absolutely common for political folk to experience the annoying phenomenon of opponents and media ripping quotes out of context. But when they are depicted in ways that absolutely invert what they were intended to convey, it’s important to set the record straight. That’s the case with a few words taken from a long interview at Glamour with Biden campaign manager and future White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon. Axios wrote up the kvetching about it from unnamed Biden advisers and donors:
Some advisers close to President-elect Joe Biden are frustrated over a Glamour magazine interview in which incoming White House deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon referred to Republicans on Capitol Hill as “f*ckers.”
Why it matters: Biden campaigned for the presidency by promising to “restore the soul of America” and not to question the motives of political opponents, whom he insists aren’t enemies. F….
Some donors want O’Malley Dillon, his campaign manager, to apologize — to Biden and perhaps to congressional Republicans.
Dear Lord, give us a break.
If you read the actual interview, which was mostly about how Dillon personally navigated the perils of a presidential campaign while dealing with three kids and other family issues, it is abundantly clear that she fully endorses Biden’s outreach to Republicans. Indeed, the point she was making is that it’s critical in government to work with people you have no reason to trust or even respect:
The president-elect was able to connect with people over this sense of unity. In the primary, people would mock him, like, “You think you can work with Republicans?” I’m not saying they’re not a bunch of fuckers. Mitch McConnell is terrible. But this sense that you couldn’t wish for that, you couldn’t wish for this bipartisan ideal? He rejected that. From start to finish, he set out with this idea that unity was possible, that together we are stronger, that we, as a country, need healing, and our politics needs that too.
She went on to say she was acknowledging how hard it can be to do what absolutely must be done.
So you wonder: what would Dillon’s critics have her say? Is it healthier to pretend the opposition is made up of wonderful people who wish you well? For God’s sake, major elements of the Republican Party still won’t acknowledge Biden won the election. Even those who have acknowledged it generally waited more than a month after it became clear he had won, squandering a lot of time that could have been devoted to bipartisan policy conversations. Most of them remain in thrall to Donald Trump, who has told every nasty and abusive lie imaginable about Democrats and their leaders (up to and including calling Biden senile and Kamala Harris a “communist” and a “monster”). As for Mitch McConnell: Given his history of highly effective and very open obstruction during the Obama administration, he would probably feel insulted if Democrats didn’t consider him “terrible.”
What ultimately matters, as Dillon clearly said during the Glamour interview, is that people who don’t like each other or even share much in the way of values or goals figure out how their paths might intersect so that everyone can get something done:
It is like a relationship. You can’t do politics alone. If the other person is not willing to do the work, then that becomes really hard. But I think, more than not, people want to see impact. They want to see us moving in a path forward. They want to do their work, get paid a fair share, have time for themselves and their family, and see each other as neighbors. And this overhang of this negative, polarized electorate that politics has created is the thing that I think we can break down.
The reality, of course, is that sometimes you cannot “break down” partisan barricades or find compromises. It’s entirely possible that Republicans will hang onto control of the Senate in January and then focus entirely on thwarting Biden, taking back the House in 2022, and then winning it all in 2024. In that case Biden, Dillon, and Democrats generally will have little choice but to take on the fuckers and try to beat them. But first they have a responsibility to try to work with the opposition, until they can’t.
In that spirit, after probably rolling her eyes at all the faux outrage over her remarks, Dillon duly expressed regret for using “some words I should have chosen better.” Maybe we can all move on to the conversations, and battles, of 2021.