Due to the content in the remainder of this column, it seems necessary to invest a few sentences to state the obvious about Marjorie Taylor Greene, the representative from Georgia’s 14th Congressional District.

It is surreal to attribute the title of “congresswoman” to someone who has said and done some of the things Mrs. Greene has. She has consistently demonstrated she possesses neither the temperament nor the intellect to be an effective advocate for the people of Georgia. Her transgressions are not slips of the tongue or isolated incidents. Instead, they reveal a pattern of emotional instability and a constant state of irrationality that she seems disturbingly proud of.

She is in no way undeserving of the criticism she is receiving or the backlash she is facing for past comments that hint at the need for violence, and arguably, go beyond merely the suggestion. The fact that she is, and remains, a member of congress is disconcerting. That she had been given committee assignments that impact policy areas in which she has made some of her most ridiculous and hurtful statements is an embarrassment.

Despite all that, it is easy to wonder why Greene seems to be the focus of almost all the attention of the media and many of her Republican colleagues. Matt Gaetz engages in as much lunacy and fallacy as Greene does, yet he is aggressively supported by many members of his party. Ted Cruz is as deliberately obtuse as Greene but has not received nearly as much criticism from GOP officials as she has over the past few days.

Maybe her status as a newcomer makes Greene seem like an easy target, but Lauren Boebert is also a new House member with a proclivity for making reckless statements, yet the negative attention she was getting has mostly been turned in Greene’s direction. That does not preclude the possibility that those factors are at play and Boebert will probably have to endure something like Greene’s experience soon. But why do Gaetz and Cruz, and others like Josh Hawley, appear to be escaping the notice of the two Republican Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy?

One theory is that Republicans need a lightning rod for all the bad press it is getting due to the public connecting some of its members – Greene among them – to the attack on the Capitol and the harsh political environment that produced it. Greene makes a great repository for all those negative feelings. She is brash and combative. She is not politically experienced and, combined with her personality and lack of mental acuity, may relish the chance to play the roles of victim and villain simultaneously.

Republicans in the House did pass up an opportunity to continue piling on Mrs. Greene when they did not remove her from the Budget Committee and the Education and Labor Committee. Democrats took the extraordinary, and appropriate, step of doing the Republicans’ job for them the next day by voting for her removal but that has created yet another opportunity for Greene to make claims of being “canceled” and for Republicans to portray House Democrats as bullies.

What has become clear is that House Republicans are suffering from a critical lack of leadership. Kevin McCarthy has subordinated all other considerations to his single-minded desire to become Speaker of the House. Even his relatively tepid criticism of Greene suddenly stopped because he made the calculation that it was lowering his standing with some of his fellow Republicans. But, ultimately, his indecisiveness and failure to display an ounce of courage will be what ultimately keeps his wish from coming true.

Jason Nichols is District 2 Democratic Party chair, an instructor of political science at Northeastern State University, and former mayor of Tahlequah.

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