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Ruben Navarrette: AOC 'tattles' on a colleague, and we should all be grateful

Summary: Isn't this great? We pay for the salaries and pensions for these folks, and now we finally get to see how they behave when no one is watching. All thanks to a young troublemaker who doesn't play by the rules.

Ruben Navarrette column
Ruben Navarrette commentary
Tribune graphic

SAN DIEGO — As she nears the end of her first term, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., still doesn't understand how Congress works.

Thank goodness.

Her refusal to play by the rules of Washington makes her a target of the establishments of both political parties.

It also makes her a good role model for my daughters, ages 15 and 11.

On the proper care and feeding of children, my wife and I often disagree. Take tattling. As a teacher and language therapist who is trained to help children get along, my wife tries to discourage our kids from spilling the beans on one another. As a journalist who makes his living by getting people to spill beans, I want my kids to turn state's evidence, wear a wire, and drop a dime.

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As they say, sunlight is a disinfectant. Change comes only through accountability. Accountability is only possible through transparency.

If someone is mistreated, we can't make things right unless we know it's happening. Someone needs to break ranks and blow the whistle, while knowing full well that he or she will be attacked as a whiner or complainer.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was spot on. In March, as she spoke to reporters outside her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the day she exited the race for the Democratic nomination, she talked about the sexism trap and how — regardless of how they conduct themselves — women can't win for losing.

"Gender in this race, you know, that is the trap question for every woman," Warren said. "If you say, 'Yeah, there was sexism in this race,' everyone says 'Whiner.' And if you say, 'No, there was no sexism,' about a bazillion women think, 'What planet do you live on?'"

True. Bullies keep themselves in business by keeping their victims quiet.

Imagine this is happening in the workplace, and the person dishing out the abuse is a colleague. The pressure can be enormous to stay quiet. Go along to get along.

I don't have to tell you this. You have stories. I have stories. We all have, in our past, plenty of whistles we could have blown. And looking back, maybe we should have spoken up. No matter the consequences.

All of which brings me back to Ocasio-Cortez. When she is insulted or mistreated, whether it's by a Democrat or a Republican, she refuses to stay quiet. The former waitress and bartender puts her foot down and puts the alleged abuser on trial. That scares her detractors in both parties.

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Witness her recent altercation on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., which was witnessed by staff and reporters.

We have a pretty good idea what happened there, because AOC laid it all out on the House floor. It was lovely to watch.

When giving his side, Yoho hedged, parsed words, and strayed into a diatribe about how he loved his family, country and God.

Here's the scoop. Upset over comments that Ocasio-Cortez made connecting crime to poverty, the Republican approached his Democratic colleague —with another GOP lawmaker in tow — to give her a scolding. The 30-year-old congresswoman said that Yoho called her "disgusting" and told her she was "out of [her] freaking mind." Ocasio-Cortez said that she told him that he was being "rude" and they parted ways. As she walked away, Yoho allegedly told his Republican colleague that AOC was a "f------ b----."

Mike Lillis, a reporter for The Hill, was standing within earshot of Yoho and wrote about the incident.

Yoho responded: "The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues, and if they were construed that way, I apologize for their misunderstanding."

Study those words, because the congressman obviously put a lot of effort into them. He denies that he directed that slur "to" Ocasio-Cortez. Not that he never said it "about" her. Isn't playing with language fun?

Yoho added: "Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I'm very cognizant of my language."

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Ocasio-Cortez didn't buy the Ward Cleaver act.

"I believe having a daughter does not make a man decent," she said on the House floor. "Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man."

Isn't this great? We pay for the salaries and pensions for these folks, and now we finally get to see how they behave when no one is watching. All thanks to a young troublemaker who doesn't play by the rules.

Ruben Navarrette can be reached at ruben@wctrib.com.

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