Tommy Tuberville tears down the last pillar of the GOP's claim to patriotism

Republicans are simply too impotent to stop Tuberville's attacks on the military. MAGA is their only loyalty now

By Heather Digby Parton


Published September 8, 2023 9:09AM (EDT)

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

There are a number of crazy political events taking place right now, from the impeachment trial of embattled Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton in the Texas Senate to the GOP threat to remove a Democratic Supreme Court Justice in Wisconsin and the impending impeachment of Joe Biden. (Oddly, the only one that's justified is the one in Texas, brought by Republicans against a Republican so corrupt even they couldn't ignore it.) We also have trials against former president Donald Trump in civil and criminal court pending in five different jurisdictions. Oh, and we're also looking at a possible government shutdown. It's a lot. 

The one place that seemed relatively sane, at least by comparison, was the U.S. Senate. Sure they had some big dramatic fights last year over President Biden's legislative agenda but they were pretty standard policy battles that mostly took place within the Democratic caucus. The Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson were as ugly as usual but they didn't feature a lot of fireworks. All in all it's been a fairly functional institution lately. 

That's not to say that the Republicans haven't been playing any games at all.

Rand Paul, R-Ky., has abused the power given to any senator to block nominations to the executive branch by putting holds on all State Department nominees in order to force the foreign relations committee to "access COVID-19 documents being held by various government agencies." His complaint is that he's only allowed to read the documents in private and isn't allowed to take them out. As a result, no ambassadors are being confirmed. 

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Texas Senator Ted Cruz likewise held up State Department nominees for months because he wanted the president to reimpose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. He generously released them when Biden did what he wanted. 

In case you were wondering, there is nothing in the Constitution that grants an individual senator this power. It's simply one of the Standing Rules of the United States Senate which has been around forever but never was used to block entire categories of nominees until fairly recently. This could be changed, but like so many of the undemocratic rules of the Senate which have no place in a modern democracy, there is no will to do it. 

The holds by those GOP senators are not all that surprising. Republicans have traditionally been hostile to the State Department going all the way back to the McCarthy era when old Tailgunner Joe claimed that it was crawling with commies. (With that epithet gaining new currency on the right lately, I expect we'll see it rolled out again.) They tended to think of diplomats as being pretty useless, preferring the big stick to the soft talk, which translated to reflexive support for military solutions to all foreign policy questions.

That's why the actions of freshman Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Al., are so astonishing. I never thought I'd see the day that any Alabama politician would even dream of holding up the promotions and assignments of military officers but that's what's happening. The worship of the uniformed services in the Deep South has always, well, run deep. Anyone who questioned it would be called to task for their lack of patriotism. Yet here we have this former college football coach telling the officer corps of the U.S. military that he could not care less if they get their promotions and assignments because he basically thinks they're all a bunch of "woke" pansies who don't know how to fight.

Tuberville, it must be noted, has never served in the military. Neither does he have any political experience. He was elected because he used to coach football in Alabama until he moved to Florida and decided to run for the Senate in 2020. He's been there for two whole years and has made a name for himself as the densest member of the body. That's saying something considering that Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson was just re-elected last fall.

The alleged "issue" that has caused Tuberville to take on the Pentagon is about the military policy that allows time off and pay for service members to travel to another state if they are stationed someplace that has banned abortion. The military won't provide abortions nor does it pay for them. All it will do is give a soldier or sailor the ability to end a pregnancy without having to go AWOL and lose their pay. Tuberville says this is unacceptable and has now held up hundreds of promotions including the upcoming changing of the guard at the Joint Chiefs. 

That is the stated reason for his hold but it's clear that he also has another agenda. Tuberville, the military expert, believes that the military isn't macho enough. The navy is so woke they're doing all kinds of gay and girly stuff on board ships:

Nobody tell the senator that George "Blood and Guts" Patton was so woke that he wrote this and many other poems:

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Coach Tuberville (he prefers to be called that instead of senator) doesn't know or care about any of that. The secretaries of the three branches of the service made a rare public plea to end this madness and he smugly retorted that he was going to hold out until he gets what he wants. And you can be sure he'll keep insulting the military until they stop being so woke, which I assume means getting back to some serious sexual harassment and gay bashing, the way he no doubt taught his boys during locker room pep talks. 

The Democrats are not going to give in to this dullard by agreeing to take on the tedious task of confirming each officer individually in a floor vote because that would be giving into Tuberville's bullying nonsense and rewarding more of this adolescent transgressive Republican behavior. It's up to the Republicans to police their own and while some have tepidly objected to what he's doing, they just don't seem to have the energy to deal with him, not even when he's attacking the military, the last institution in American government that Republicans had still held in some esteem. Now that it's "woke" too, all bets are off.

Tuberville is an imbecile who has no idea what he's doing but clearly loves the attention. He's listening to the far-right fringe that has decided the U.S. military is "woke" because it includes women and LGBTQ members and has made the correct decision to ensure that service members don't behave like stupid brutes. He's too ignorant to understand that he's tearing down the last pillar of the Republican Party's claim to patriotism. The only flag they're allowed to salute these days are those giant blue Trump flags. Old Glory is just another symbol of America's descent into wokeness.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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