Politics & Policy

Cory Booker’s Rant Exposed the Left’s Gender Hypocrisy

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee against Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination to be attorney general in Washington, January 11, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
If a conservative male senator had lectured a progressive female cabinet secretary so disrespectfully, liberals would be up in arms.

This summer, I learned a new term. I’d heard of “mansplaining” and “manspreading.” But “manterrupting” was new to me. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that in two different hearings, male senators interrupted California Democrat Kamala Harris. Two. Different. Hearings.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the stunning video evidence:

Booker’s face is twisted in fury. He pounds on the table. He insults her character. It’s nothing short of a temper tantrum. If he were a Republican, this exchange would be taken as proof-positive that he doesn’t respect women. It would be video evidence, shared far and wide, of his sexism. It would be compared to Donald Trump’s physical approaches to Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate and used as evidence that Republicans aren’t just misogynistic, they’re menacing.

Instead, Booker proudly tweeted out his rant, quoting himself like he’d just had “a moment.”

It’s incidents like this that convince so many Americans that identity politics are disingenuous and that lamentations about “norms,” “values,” and “civility” are grotesquely insincere. Talk to any conservative woman and she’ll tell you that all too often the Left’s “respect for women” stops the instant a female pundit, politician, or activist slides just to the right of moderate.

The human capacity for rationalization and self-justification is nearly infinite, and it was on display yesterday. It was right for Booker to tear into Nielsen, his apologists said. After all, everyone who doesn’t condemn Trump’s infamous “sh**hole” comment is “complicit” in racism. Nielsen was lying to Congress. That wasn’t misogyny, you see, it was righteous anger. Are you, Mr. Conservative, telling me that Nielsen isn’t tough enough to handle a tongue-lashing? Are you telling me that she needs to be protected, to be coddled by Senator Booker? Oh, and don’t talk to me about “values,” Mr. Conservative. Not when that man is in the White House.

We’re now entering the Iran–Iraq War phase of our conflicts over civility. The only norm left is hypocrisy. Many of the same Democrats who simply can’t believe the words that come out of Trump’s mouth once cheered Joe Biden’s claim to a Virginia crowd that Mitt Romney would “put y’all back in chains.” They spread far and wide claims that Romney had callously let people die just to make a buck. And now, even as they lament the decline in discourse under Trump, they claim that conventional conservative policies are going to kill Americans by the thousands.

There is only one way to restore a measure of civility and dignity and a sense of proportion to public debate, and that’s to actually treat people with respect. Even when you’re angry. Especially when you’re angry. Years ago, a retired federal judge taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten — a lesson I’ve tried to apply ever since. “When you’re troubled,” he said, “even when you’re angry, endeavor to speak with regret, not outrage.” His contention was that a culture of outrage was cheapening our anger. Only thoughtful concern could truly cut through the noise and rebuild our body politic.

Yesterday, Cory Booker went too far, and in so doing he exposed the disingenuousness of so much liberal outrage. Booker can do better. He has done better. It’s a shame that yesterday he and those progressives who cheered him on chose to disguise their hypocrisy as righteous indignation. If the Democrats aim to argue that they can do better than Trump, they’d be wise to offer the country something other than Trumpism dressed up in blue.

— David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.

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