Republican Paul Gosar gets censured.

Punishment was swift for a Twitter video he posted online.
Isaac Saul Nov 18, 2021
I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 12 minutes.

We're breaking down the censure and committee removals for Rep. Paul Gosar, the divided House vote, and a question about "paying your fair share in taxes."

Rep. Paul Gosar speaking at a TPUSA event.
U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar. Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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In tomorrow's subscribers-only edition, we are going to be examining the arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana. While this debate is one that has been around for some time, I'm hoping you might learn something new and hear some positions you haven't heard before. But it's for subscribers only, so you'll need to become a member to receive it:


The results.

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Quick hits.

  1. The "QAnon Shaman" was sentenced to over three years in prison for his role in Jan. 6th attacks at the U.S. Capitol. (The sentence)
  2. President Biden called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether oil and gas firms are participating in illegal conduct that increases the price of gas. (The allegations)
  3. U.S. jobless claims remained steady at about 268,000 for the week ending in Nov. 13th. (The numbers)
  4. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon said he will plead not guilty to charges of obstructing the Jan. 6th Congressional probe. (The charges)
  5. The two men convicted of murdering Malcolm X will be exonerated 55 years after they were charged. (The reversal)

Our 'Quick Hits' section is created in partnership with Ground News, a website and app that rates the bias of news coverage and news outlets.


Today's topic.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to censure Gosar by a 223-207, mostly party line vote. Just two Republicans, Liz Cheney (WY), and Adam Kinzinger (IL), voted for the censure. Gosar was also stripped of his committee seats.

The controversy started when Gosar posted a video on Twitter asking if he had any "anime fans" out there. In the video, Gosar's head is photoshopped into an animated scene where a cartoon character attacks an animated giant, this one with Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's head photoshopped on. Gosar's character flies through the air with two swords and strikes her in the back as blood spurts out. Interspersed in the anime scene is real-life footage from the southern border, photos of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and videos of soldiers parachuting from helicopters.

Toward the end of the video, the character with Gosar's face photoshopped onto it flies through the air toward an image of Joe Biden, with sword raised, before a freeze frame concludes the video. The entire thing is a little more than a minute long.

The video caused an immediate stir. Ocasio-Cortez and many House Democrats condemned it, saying Gosar was inciting violence. At first, Gosar refused to take it down, and his team insisted the animated video was just a joke. As outrage grew, though, they removed the video from Twitter without apologizing. Gosar said he does not "espouse violence or harm towards any member of Congress or Mr. Biden" and said the video was "truly a symbolic portrayal of a fight over immigration policy."

Yesterday, the House voted to censure Gosar, a formal slap on the wrist but one that carries significant consequences. It was the first such vote in over a decade, and cost Gosar two committee assignments, including the Committee on Oversight and Reform, which he sits on with Ocasio-Cortez. Shortly after the vote on Wednesday, Gosar retweeted a tweet that included praise of him and the video clip again.

With nearly every House Republican voting against the censure and every House Democrat voting for it, I thought we'd take a look at some of the commentary about this divisive issue. We'll share some takes from the left, the right and then my take.


What the left is saying.

The left has condemned the video, saying it is an incitement of violence and Gosar should be censured.

In CNN, Kara Alaimo said Congress had to take a stand on the video.

"It is especially chilling that Gosar would tweet such a video in a year in which we have already seen online extremism spill over into deadly violence at the Capitol," Alaimo said. "On the heels of these events, Gosar's video will serve as a Trump-like nod to his supporters to take matters into their own hands when they disagree with the politics of certain politicians.

"Gosar's singling out of Ocasio-Cortez in the video is especially alarming," she said. "Congresswomen are already the targets of a disproportionate amount of online abuse. A 2020 study of congressional candidates found that women received two to three times more abusive online messages than their male counterparts. Women from ethnic minority backgrounds, like Ocasio-Cortez, contended with the most abuse on social media… Jeopardizing the safety of our lawmakers threatens the democratic system created by America's founders more than two centuries ago. If members of Congress and the president of the United States cannot safely do their jobs, they cannot represent their constituents -- and the structure of our government becomes unstable. That's why every American should be outraged that anyone -- let alone a sitting member of Congress, from whom we expect respect for his own office -- would share a video like this."

In Arizona Central, Laurie Roberts wrote that "Republicans don't care."

"On Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., finally managed to muster up a response of sorts to Gosar’s shameful video targeting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Biden. He says he called Gosar after the video was posted. 'He took the video down and he made a statement that he doesn’t support violence to anybody,' McCarthy told CNN. 'Nobody should have violence (against them). I called him when I heard about the video, and he made a statement that he doesn’t support violence, and he took the video down.' Note that McCarthy didn’t say that he asked Gosar to take down the video," Roberts said. "Nor did he condemn Gosar for posting the video. Nor could he even bring himself to say that he found the video depicting the murder of a congresswoman appalling or even inappropriate. But he did say on Tuesday that Gosar explained his actions during a private Republican conference meeting earlier in the morning. CNN reports that attendees said his explanation was well received.

"But he didn’t have to worry," Roberts added. "Not about Republican criticism for his sick video and not about an actual mainstream Republican candidate challenging him next year in the overwhelmingly Republican district he represents. Apparently, it is now acceptable to produce a video in which you kill a member of Congress – presumably as long as said member is a hated Democrat. Such is the state these days of the party that claims to have the franchise on 'family values.' Four years ago, both Republicans and Democrats rightly condemned comedian Kathy Griffin for her photo holding up the bloody severed head of then-President Donald Trump. Now a member of Congress does something equally appalling and it’s apparently up to Democrats to take the moral high ground and hold him accountable."

In Slate, Jim Newell said the censure of Gosar matters.

"The decision to punish Gosar—a decision that one can only assume Democrats did not make on a whim, given that it is the first censure of a member since 2010—is inseparable from Jan. 6, Gosar’s so-far overshadowed role in the planning and hyping of the events of the day, and Democrats’ heightened alert of violent rhetoric at the top of the Republican Party inspiring violent actions from elements of their base," Newell wrote. "At the censure proceedings, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer observed that 'piercing tweets become sharp knives, words bring out firearms, and cartoon killing begets real-life bloodshed.' Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, the Ethics Committee chair, noted that 'just 10 months ago this chamber was attacked in an act of brutal bloody savagery.'

"Censures are essentially symbolic," Newell added. "It’s a recorded reprimand from your colleagues for ethical transgressions.  But members still treat a censure as grave punishment, a stain they can’t rinse out. Perhaps that’s because while a member who’s censured is free, following the censure, to proceed with their normal job duties, they first have to undergo a medieval public shaming. The censured member must walk to the well of the House, before all of his colleagues, and have the resolution of censure read before them. For Gosar, this meant hearing about his 'threats of violence against the President of the United States and a fellow Member of Congress.'... As the vote was about to be gaveled shut, Ocasio-Cortez moved to the front row of the chamber, taking a prime seat to watch as Gosar, at long last, got the close-up he deserved."


What the right is saying.

The right has condemned the video, but also worries about the tit-for-tat of removing members from their committees.

On his blog Hot Air, Allahpundit expressed concern about what this will do to future Congresses.

"This makes two instances so far this year of the majority booting a member of the minority from a committee, Marjorie Taylor Greene being the other," he wrote. "As repulsive as Gosar is, the precedent Dems are setting by not deferring to his own party on disciplining him will mainstream the practice of sidelining members of the House minority. That may have already been baked in the cake after Greene’s assignments were taken away but it’s a cinch after this that the GOP will retaliate against Ilhan Omar or whoever in 2023. Disempowering the minority’s fringier cohort as a matter of common majoritarian practice is an ominous new turn in America’s cycle of bitter partisan oneupsmanship.

"[The video] was reminiscent of the video Trump once tweeted of one of his WWE cameos showing him attacking a wrestler, except in Trump’s clip the wrestler had the CNN logo superimposed on his face. Gosar’s vid showed a character with his face leaping into the air and slashing a character with AOC’s face, killing her. In isolation, it’s a tacky joke," Allahpundit wrote. "But there’s baggage on both sides here that made Gosar’s tweet seem more menacing to Dems than 'meme culture.' He helped organize the January 6 rally, has been friendly with alt-righters, and is as prone to conspiracy theorizing as Greene is. He’s one of the biggest cranks in the House. Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez has talked about fearing for her life on January 6, was accosted by Greene on the House floor, and has had other unpleasant run-ins with the House GOP’s populists. After Gosar’s tweet, she complained that harassment by Republicans is nothing new."

The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote about the "decline of Congress."

"The episode reveals that many Members of Congress now behave as if their job is to become social-media influencers or cable-TV stars, as opposed to accomplishing something," the board said. "Healthcare and tax policy are so 'establishment.' Tweeting a cartoon is a perfect metaphor for today’s House of Representatives. Democrats are naturally trying to exploit the episode for their own social-media and cable-TV gain, and on Wednesday they voted to censure Mr. Gosar and strip him of his two committee assignments. Their political purpose is to use Mr. Gosar’s tweet to assist their 2022 campaign narrative that the GOP is the party of inciting violence.

"This is overkill, if we may use that word in this context, since it was a stupid cartoon, not an actual incitement to violence," they wrote. "The most recent case of actual violence against Members was the 2017 shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise by a deranged supporter of Bernie Sanders at a practice for the annual Congressional charity baseball game. Mr. Scalise nearly died, and without Capitol police on hand with guns, many others would have been shot. Mr. Gosar, who is 63 years old but acts like a teenager on TikTok, deserves ridicule more than censure, which should be reserved for serious offenses. Stripping Mr. Gosar of his committee assignments is also over the top and will boomerang against Democrats when the GOP next takes power. Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Twitter feed will be monitored 24/7 for anti-Semitic outbursts."

In PJ Media, Stephen Kruiser said it's another display of Democratic hypocrisy.

"On Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives was busying itself with censuring and punishing Rep. Paul Gosar because his office posted an anime video of him 'decapitating' Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword. You know, the kind of thing that everyone in 21st century America has to worry about," Kruiser wrote. "Democrats have been acting as if Gosar literally physically accosted AOC in the Capitol.

"Might there have been a better use of the congressman’s time? Yeah. Did the video in any way constitute a real threat of violence? Make the stupid go away," Kruiser said. "I can’t even pretend to care about the Democrats’ feelings after they spent four years exhorting their supporters to publicly and physically harass Trump supporters. These are the same people who’ve spent the last month or so condoning the harassment of one of their own in a public toilet because she wouldn’t vote the way they wanted her to. Watching them get their knickers in a twist over a stupid cartoon isn’t really moving me."


My take.

I'm tempted to just list all the horrible things that are broken about America which Congress could be spending its time working on, but I suppose that wouldn't be very original. Or productive.

There were very few direct defenses of Gosar from Republicans, and for good reason. There really aren't any to be made. Gosar's tweet is just another bullet point on a laundry list of absurdities that have made up his career in Congress. The ones I take particular personal offense to are his hodge-podging with the teenage Twitter Nazis who want to evaporate me and my fellow Jews, but most Americans would probably take just a few minutes on Gosar's Wikipedia page to find something he's done they find reprehensible. When people say Gosar spoke at "white nationalist" conferences, heralded by the same crowd who chants "the Jews will not replace us," it's not leftist hyperbole, as one sometimes sees in other places. He actually, literally did that. That's probably why his entire family has spent years trying to warn America about him.

Of course, this was compounded by those of his ilk in the fringe sectors of the Republican House world. Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert (R) delivered a dazzling speech on the floor where she referred to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who is Muslim, as a member of the "Jihad Squad." Without diving into all of her flaws, it should be noted that Omar — a Somali refugee — was raised in a moderate Sunni Muslim family that was actively opposed to rigid interpretations of Islam. Not that I’d expect Boebert, whose Congressional career so far has basically been one giant Facebook screed of childish nonsense, to know the difference.

Thankfully for all of us, Omar and her friends in Congress are also fond of shilling for retweets and social media celebrity, so she quickly responded to Boebert's "Jihad Squad" jab by tweeting, "Luckily my dad raised me right, otherwise I might have gone to the floor to talk about this insurrectionist who sleeps with a pervert," a not-so-subtle reference to Boebert's husband who was once arrested for exposing himself to two women in a bowling alley.

Congress! Debasing itself daily since the turn of the century!

As for Gosar, the censure seems to have only further clouded what was already his insufferably bad judgment. Over the weekend, he had the gall to compare himself to the journalists killed in the Charlie Hebdo massacre, in which 12 members of a French satirical magazine were murdered by Islamic extremists for publishing a degrading image of the prophet Mohammad. I wish I could say I was shocked by Gosar comparing his own plight to their literal murders, but it's really just another chapter in the perpetual victimhood game I've been writing about recently.

Gosar earned the censure. Not just for the tweet, but for his entire body of work. That only two Republicans could muster the decency to join the majority is truly disappointing, and certainly points to tit-for-tat committee removals coming if Republicans take over the House in 2022 (which they almost assuredly will). But fear of potential reprisals is a bad reason not to do the right thing, and in this case it was the right thing. Gosar has crossed the line far too many times, and he finally got the response he deserved. Whatever happens in retaliation for that should be judged on its own merits.


Your questions, answered.

Q: I continually hear (mostly Democrat) politicians rant about other folks not paying their fair share of taxes. I have yet to hear a cogent definition of what they define as someone else's fair share, unless of course it is simply the one word definition "more.”

— Pat, Cheney, Washington

Tangle: It's a great question and I don't think there is a good answer. One of the issues with "pay your fair share" is that it is an incredibly malleable statement that can basically mean whatever someone wants it to mean in any given situation. According to the Tax Foundation, the top 1% earn 20.9% of all adjusted income and pay 40.1% of all federal individual income tax, which one could easily argue is "twice" their fair share. As one reader put it to the Wall Street Journal, "The bottom 50% make 11.6% of the money and pay 2.9% of the taxes. Looks like a pretty good deal for them."

All of this really depends on what society you are trying to build. If you want a society that prizes equity, one where the goal is to maximize everyone's well-being across many socioeconomic statuses, then you could easily make the case for having the top 1% pay 90% of their income in taxes. Why? Because they'd still have millions upon millions of dollars left over, but even $1,000 a month would make a massive difference for about 50% of working Americans.

The other side of the argument is that you want to balance a trade-off between helping those in need and also try to distort incentives as little as possible. All of this, obviously, comes in the larger context of wealth inequality — which one might want to take into account when considering fair shares of taxes. This is an interesting look at the philosophical debate and these are some interesting numbers to ponder, but the short answer is I don't think "fair share" has really been defined very clearly.

Want to ask a question? You can reply to this email and write in (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.


A story that matters

Overdose deaths in the United States topped 100,000 over a one-year period for the first time ever. The record high was reported by federal researchers yesterday, who said lost access to treatment, rising mental health issues and the wider availability of street drugs like Fentanyl all played a role. The number of deaths in the 12-month period that ended in April was a nearly 30 percent increase from the 78,000 in the prior year, and overdose deaths have now doubled since 2015. Overdose deaths related to use of stimulants like methamphetamine, cocaine, and natural and semi-synthetic opioids, such as prescription pain medication, also increased during the 12-month period, according to The New York Times.


Numbers.

  • 23. The number of censures of members of the House of Representative before Paul Gosar was censured yesterday.
  • 69.8%. The percentage of the vote Paul Gosar won in his 2020 race in Arizona's 4th District.
  • 59%. The percentage of Americans who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the CDC.
  • 60%. The percentage of office firms that are planning to redesign their office spaces for the Covid-19 era.
  • $700 million. The amount of money Crypto.com paid to rename the Staples Centers to Crypto.com Arena for the next 20 years.


Have a nice day.

Tonight, all you skywatchers out there will be treated to the longest near-total lunar eclipse, in over 500 years. The full moon will be "plunged into the blood-red light cast by Earth’s shadow," as The Washington Post put it, and will be visible to the entire Lower 48, Alaska and Hawaii. At its peak, 97% of the so-called Beaver Moon will be covered by the Earth's shadow, and the eclipse will last for 3 hours, 28 minutes and 24 seconds. That's the longest lunar eclipse in 580 years, which last happened Thursday, November 18, 1441, or about the same time the Mayans and Moctezuma were fighting civil wars and Alfonso V of Aragon was laying siege to Naples. The eclipse will begin at 1:02 a.m. Eastern time on Friday morning, and 10:02 p.m. Thursday night Pacific time. Space.com has more.


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Isaac Saul

I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.

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