Conservatives never tire of calling liberals “snowflakes,” but this Kellyanne Conway-Dana Bash kerfuffle proves once again that America’s most fragile snowflakes are conservatives.
Sunday morning on CNN, Bash asked Conway about the anti-Trump tweets issued by her husband, George, and Conway went ballistic. “It’s fascinating to me that CNN would go there,” Conway said. “But it’s very good for the whole world to just witness that it’s now fair game how people’s spouses and significant others may differ with them.” On and on she went. She made it a gender issue when Bash said she’d have asked the same thing of a man and Conway countered that Bash would not have.
Great TV, and in some ways a good answer. Conway has a point that people in public life shouldn’t be held responsible for things their spouses say. And it sure looked prepared, as if she’d just been waiting for someone in the fake-news game to ask it so she could unload and sent the Twitter needles into the red.
But come on. It was a totally reasonable and legitimate question, as Bash told my colleague Matt Wilstein Monday . Kellyanne Conway was relying on your average CNN viewer having no idea who her husband is. And indeed, if George Conway were some legal services attorney trying to save poor people from their eviction notices who had nothing to do with politics, then Bash’s question would have been out of line.
But George Conway is an intensely political figure. He’s been a conservative power-lawyer in Washington for more than two decades. He was reportedly considered for more than one top spot in the Trump administration. Most interestingly, he was a key player in the late 1990s in the laying of the famous perjury trap for Bill Clinton. He was one of the right-wing so-called “elves,” a group that also included Ann Coulter, trying to find ways to lay Clinton low.
In early 1998, Conway found one. He was present at a fateful dinner in Philadelphia where he was one of three outside lawyers who met with a deputy of independent counsel Ken Starr and told him the whole tale of Clinton’s involvement with Monica Lewinsky. In other words, were it not for George Conway and the two other lawyers at that dinner, Ken Starr might never have known the name Lewinsky, and the whole impeachment saga never would have happened. (Kellyanne and George knew each other in those days and married in 2001.)
If a guy like that is sending out anti-Trump tweets while his wife is going on TV serially offering alternative facts in defense of the President, it’s bound to pique the interest of people around Washington. I don’t know if you’d call it Capital-N News, but it’s certainly fair game for an end-of-segment question on a Sunday show.
Let’s reverse the situation. Hillary Clinton is president. Brian Fallon is her regular defender on the Sunday shows. I don’t know Fallon’s wife. I don’t even know if he has one. But let’s say hypothetically his wife a) exists and b) is a big shot liberal lawyer who was trying to help get George W. Bush impeached in 2007. And let’s say she had tweeted out a number of anti-Clinton statements suggesting (as Conway has) that she suspected President Hillary may be guilty of certain crimes.
Would conservatives really not have drawn attention to that? They’d have gone nuts over it! Brian Fallon’s wife would be some minor (or perhaps major) Fox villainess. And surely during some Fox News appearance, Chris Wallace would have asked Fallon about it. And I think I know what Fallon would have said. She’s her own person, he would have said calmly, and being married doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. Next question.
That is exactly what Conway should have done. But instead she turned it into a thing. Why?
If there’s one thing conservatives hate about liberal America, it’s what they might call the grievance industry. The way everybody’s so sensitive these days. No one can take a joke. Everything’s an -ism. Sexism, racism, genderism, sizeism, you name it. Everybody’s feelings are so damn sensitive. People just need to get over it.
Conservatives walk around in a state of perpetual rage about this. But the second they have a chance to use the grievance industry for their own purposes, they pounce. It’s an old trick they pull out of the hat when they’re desperate. Remember in 2004 when John Kerry supposedly “attacked” Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary for being a lesbian during the last presidential debate that year? Moderator Bob Schieffer had asked President Bush if homosexuality was a matter of choice. He waffled so as not to offend the medievalist caucus.
Kerry, when his turn came, said of course it’s not a choice, and I think the vice president’s daughter would agree. If he meant anything charged by it, he was pointing out the hypocrisy that existed in the Cheneys embracing their gay daughter on a personal level even as their ticket sought reelection while using bigotry against gay people as a wedge issue in state after state, which the GOP was doing that year. The Cheneys and the RNC must have sensed that this stood a chance of gaining traction, because they immediately mounted the “how dare he?” horse.
That’s all this is. The walls are closing in on the White House, and Conway needed a change of subject. So she takes massive umbrage at a totally fair question to paint herself as the victim of a sexism that doesn’t exist.
That’s worse than liberal snowflakeism. At least liberal snowflakeism is felt to be real. Conservative snowflakeism is manufactured to rally the base. As the base is about to need a lot more rallying in the coming months, I think we can expect to see plenty more snowfall on the right between now and November.