I’m not gonna lie. It was another bad week for the Great Prevaricator, Rep. George Santos.
OpinionGeorge Santos speaks the truth!
Worse, Santos complained about Jews and others offended by his bogus Judaism claims and his false story about his family fleeing the Holocaust. “Now that everybody’s canceling me, everybody’s pounding down for a pound of flesh,” he protested.
Yes, “pound of flesh” comes from Shylock, the greedy Jew in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”
But the interview offered some insight into the fabulist’s strategy for political survival — and why it may resonate with some in the MAGA crowd. True story: Santos claims he is the victim. His lies are everybody else’s fault — honest!
This politics of victimhood, of course, is the essence of Donald Trump (who could, and did, claim it was sunny when it was raining). Trump loved to complain about how unfairly he was treated by the fake news media, about the witch hunts and the hoaxes — and many Republicans believed it. Naturally, the technique has filtered down to the rank and file. Where once there was shame, there is now only grievance directed at imagined conspiracies of dark forces.
Like Trump, Santos claimed to be the victim of a “witch hunt” by “desperate journalists” who are “not interested in covering the facts.” He complained of victimization by politicians and party leaders — including Republican officials who he suggested doctored his résumé without his knowledge to include fake test scores and a fake MBA from New York University.
The Long Island liar blamed unnamed others for financial irregularities at his bogus pet-rescue charity. He blamed Portuguese translators for his nonsensical claim that he survived an assassination attempt. He suggested that unknown others framed him 12 years ago by setting up a Wikipedia page attributing to him a successful drag and acting career. “I have to sit down and endure people say(ing) things about me that are absolutely not true,” Santos protested.
People saying untrue things? The nerve!
He complained about his “uncomfortable” fame. “I can’t stand it,” said the guy who came early to snag a center-aisle seat at the State of the Union.
“I don’t get that same courtesy like everyone else does,” lamented Santos, identifying himself as one of those poor slobs “who are thrown into the fire pit and the media and everyone else around them are hell-bound on making sure that that person’s life is hell.”
Sad! Particularly because all Santos wanted was to be “a good servant to the American people … giving back what I’ve been able to reap.” (From that Ponzi scheme where he worked, perchance?)
Yet there was one thing Santos said that rang true to me. “If the media put the equal amount of efforts and resources,” he said, “on all 435 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate, I think the American people would have more clarity of who represents them in Congress.”
I agree. The vast majority of House members come from safe districts where they are chosen by a tiny fraction of the electorate working from scant information. They never get a proper vetting because the parties can’t be bothered and local media has been decimated. Since the Santos revelations, The Post’s Jacqueline Alemany and Alice Crites identified several holes in biographical claims by freshman Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), and Tennessee’s NewsChannel 5 found discrepancies in the résumé of freshman Rep. Andrew Ogles (R-Tenn.). Like Santos, both lawmakers played the victim, claiming persecution by leftists.
How many others faked their way to high office with bogus claims or have backgrounds and associations that wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny in the light of day? Maybe that’s why so many of Santos’s Republican colleagues refuse to expel this fraud.
Smuggling white supremacy into another border hearing
House Republicans just can’t quit these white nationalists.
On Feb. 15, the gunman who killed 10 Black people in a racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket last May was sentenced to life in prison. The killer had subscribed to the racist “great replacement theory” that White people are being deliberately sidelined and endangered.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee marked this solemn occasion in a most unusual way. On the same day the killer was sentenced, the panel held a border field hearing in Texas and hosted as one of its witnesses a proponent of the very same great replacement theory.
The witness, National Border Patrol Council union President Brandon Judd, alleged on Fox News last year that the Biden administration had opened the southern border (itself a falsehood) because “they’re trying to change the demographics of the electorate” to “stay in power.” That’s the great replacement theory in a nutshell. Judd has a history with far-right anti-immigration groups, and he argued that governors should be “declaring an invasion” at the border. On Newsmax this month, Judd falsely said that Biden wants “amnesty for all of the adults who knowingly violated our laws.” Judd also participated in the filming of a Western-themed ad last year in which a Republican Senate candidate fired a gun at actors portraying President Biden and others.
Judd’s appearance as a Republican witness at the Commerce Committee hearing was the second time in as many weeks that a House panel gave a forum to a proponent of great-replacement beliefs. The previous week, the House Oversight Committee held another border hearing at which Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who has white-nationalist ties, recited a version of great replacement, suggesting that the goal of Biden’s border policy is “changing our culture.”
Republicans on the Commerce Committee apparently aren’t troubled by such talk. At the field hearing in Texas, Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) announced that “our nation is being invaded” and “we are at war.”
Judd did not disappoint, alleging that “Biden’s open-border policies” have “made the securing of our border impossible.” And he testified that “we are constantly seizing backpacks filled with fentanyl” from migrants illegally crossing the border.
In reality, the vast majority of fentanyl is imported at legal ports of entry, often by U.S. citizens, and smugglers’ chances of getting caught are much higher if they cross illegally. But it’s so much scarier to conjure images of Brown people smuggling opioid-laden backpacks.
“You look at 1.2 million gotaways,” Judd said, referring to migrants not apprehended. “If every single one of them was carrying a backpack of 90 pounds of drugs, that’s an awful lot of drugs.” (He acknowledged that not all migrants carry 90 pounds of fentanyl, implying that most do.)
But that’s not remotely what’s happening at the border. It’s time for House Republicans to stop smuggling backpacks full of white-nationalist propaganda into their hearings.
Nothing succeeds like secession
Any attention is good attention to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. At the State of the Union address, the Georgia Republican distinguished herself by shouting “liar” — and apparently a barnyard obscenity — at the president of the United States. To highlight the Chinese surveillance episode, she posed for photos holding a large white helium balloon.
Now, she’s calling for secession. Ho-hum.
She tweeted a call for a “national divorce” because “we need to separate by red states and blue states.” This cry for civil war was necessitated by “disgusting woke culture issues” and “the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies.”
There are a couple of problems with Greene’s casus belli. Greene herself comes from a blue-leaning state (it went for Biden and two Democratic U.S. senators), and red states actually take a lot more money from the federal government than they contribute. Also, her idea is not terribly creative.
Just last June, the Texas Republican Party approved a platform calling for a secession referendum. During the tea party’s heyday, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry and then-Reps. Zach Wamp (Tenn.), Ron Paul (Texas) and Steve King (Iowa) all floated secession. Among those defending states’ right to secede back then was Nikki Haley, now a GOP presidential candidate, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reports.
Although secession talk is unoriginal, there is something different about Greene’s gambit. That’s because House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has elevated her to influence in the House. He has restored her committee assignments and forgiven her talk of violence and of Jewish space lasers, and he now reportedly says “I will never leave that woman.” So, if Greene secedes, McCarthy apparently will have to leave the Union with her.
McCarthy, thinking ahead, has made it easier for seceding states to prevail in this second civil war. Without consulting the Capitol Police chief, the House sergeant-at-arms or even fellow GOP leaders, he just handed over 44,000 hours of Capitol security-camera footage from Jan. 6, 2021, to Fox News host Tucker Carlson. (It was apparently a surrender McCarthy made to extremists to win the speakership.) That could give would-be secessionists the benefit of insider knowledge of the vulnerabilities in the Capitol’s defenses and show them how future attacks on the U.S. seat of government could succeed. It’s an advantage Robert E. Lee never had.
A few honorable Republicans spoke out against Greene’s secession talk; Utah’s governor, Spencer Cox, called it “destructive and wrong and — honestly — evil.” Good for him.
But there have always been cranks in American politics who say reckless things. What’s destructive, wrong and honestly evil about this moment is that McCarthy has promoted the secessionist Greene and other extremists (such as those who demanded he release the security footage) to positions of power.
Close readers of my column may have noticed that I’ve been writing less frequently, instead publishing longer weekly pieces that appear online Friday and in the Sunday print edition. I’ll be doing this throughout 2023, chronicling the exploits of the new House Republican majority. During congressional recesses, I’ll also be writing occasional dispatches from rural Virginia about my (mis)adventures in nature. I hope you enjoy the new format.