Will the GOP ever learn that decency triumphs?
By Jan Warrington
A hot and humid Sunday, and I’m stewing over the definition of the word “accost,” over non-apologies, over the notion of cheap forgiveness, and — after the incident at the Capitol last Monday between Rep. Ted Yoho and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — the GOP’s willingness to enable these kinds of behaviors.
It seems fortunate for Mr. Yoho that the verb “accost” has not gotten more attention; he’s lucky that he’s primarily come under fire for calling AOC a “fucking bitch.” Think about this: The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the word accost is “to approach and speak to (someone) in an often challenging or aggressive way.”
Challenging or aggressive: A male member of the U.S. House of Representatives catches a female member of the U.S. House of Representatives totally off guard, points and wags his finger in her face, then calls her “disgusting.” If this behavior was not physically violent, it was clearly an aggressive form of intimidation — an older male wielding his power over a younger female.
Let’s be clear about this: Accosting another person, being aggressive or challenging, is way more threatening and anxiety provoking than being called a “fucking bitch.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has repeatedly said that she was accosted by the Florida Republican, and her use of the verb “accost” in this situation seems to be an accurate one. But Mr. Yoho, through his spokesman Brian Kaveney, continued to try to discredit Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s version of events. In statements to the media, Mr. Kaveney stated that Rep. Yoho and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez “had a brief member to member conversation,” “a brief policy discussion,” and no one was “accosted, bullied, or attacked.”
But — and here’s the clincher — there was an eyewitness from The Hill, a reporter who watched the incident. And let’s not forget that The Hill is not known for its leftist leanings. That reporter corroborated AOC’s version of events in his reporting. He did not describe the event as anything like a policy discussion.
A brief conversation about policy is vastly different from being approached and spoken to in an aggressive manner. Name calling is rarely more threatening than physical behavior such as having a finger waved in your face. A hideously vulgar comment has overshadowed the real aggression that Rep. Yoho displayed in his confrontation with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. Some news accounts, however unintentionally and troubling, have used words that seem to minimize what happened. The incident has been called a “spat” — too mutual — and an “encounter” — a clear understatement.
One troubling aspect of this AOC-Yoho saga is the complicit cowardice shown by a Texas Republican, Rep. Roger Williams, who was with Mr. Yoho. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez says that he also began to yell at her, including making a comment about “throwing urine.” Afterward, Rep. Williams denied taking part, saying that he wasn’t paying attention to the exchange. But the eyewitness describes Rep. Williams as walking shoulder to shoulder with Rep. Yoho.
And for “real” GOP leadership (sarcasm intended), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy offered this comment after Rep. Yoho’s non-apology apology on the House floor: “When someone apologizes, they should be forgiven.” In other words, be a good girl, AOC, and help us sweep this whole unsavory mess off the Capitol steps; forget about being genuine or truthful.
Fortunately, so far no one has started a conspiracy theory about the reporter who witnessed the event — something along the lines of “Hillary Rodham Clinton implanted an electrode in his brain and made him lie.” Stay tuned for QAnon. And, gosh, remember that Trump tweet a few days back? — “We must protect Federal property, AND OUR PEOPLE.” If Trump had had troops stationed at the Capitol, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez might not have been accosted! (Wink, wink.)
Much has been written about AOC’s virtuoso speech on the House floor Thursday. The speech has been described as epic — “one for the ages,” read a headline in the Washington Post. David Remnick, writing for The New Yorker, said the speech should be “studied for its measured cadence, its artful construction, and its refusal of ugliness.”
Remember that, please: A woman who had been accosted refused to resort to ugliness. Thank you, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, for showing decency and humanity in a nation where it is in short supply from so many Republican leaders.