The election of congenital liar Rep. George Santos, the elevation of serial reinventor Rep. Elise Stefanik and the craven quest by Rep. Kevin McCarthy to become House Speaker completes the moral decimation of the Republican Party. All three protean politicians are essentially the same soulless, plastic cartoon character amenable to morphing into whatever mold fits the moment to advance their careers.
What does the Republican Party stand for today? Like the Republican National Convention in 2020, today’s GOP has no coherent platform or discernible policy goals. It has degenerated into a bizarre amalgamation of mood swings, slogans, enemies’ lists, contrarian attitudes and a ravenous lust for raw power. To the extent there is an agenda, it’s tax cuts for the wealthy, “owning the libs”, humiliating immigrants and kowtowing to the demands of right-wing donors and lobbyists.
An ethical vacuum of this magnitude can only be filled by unprincipled men and women devoid of moral cores. In the cases of Santos and Stefanik, they both desperately sought power and were willing to create fake personas to achieve it.
The only observable difference between these two chameleons is that Santos lied prior to being elected, while Stefanik lied after she joined the House of Representatives. In both instances, elaborate façades were meticulously crafted that bore no resemblance to the actual human beings behind the masks.
In the case of Santos, the newly elected Congressman from Queens and Long Island claimed to have graduated from Baruch College in 2010. After being cornered by the media, last week he admitted:
“I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my résumé. We do stupid things in life.”
Santos claimed to have high powered jobs with Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. These companies had no record of Santos working there.
He finally admitted to ABC Radio that he instead worked at a call center in Queens. So, the boiler room where he made spam calls had walls and was located on a street. So, I can see how he confused it with Wall Street.
Santos then denied committing a crime anywhere in the world. However, The New York Times discovered Brazilian court records showing that Santos had been charged with fraud as a young man after he was busted for writing bogus checks with a stolen checkbook. Santos responded by saying, “I am not a criminal here.”
Apparently, Brazilian law enforcement authorities beg to differ. They announced their intention to revive fraud charges, now that they know Santos’ whereabouts.
Finally, Santos fibbed about being Jewish. When The Washington Post questioned him, he wrote, “I never claimed to be Jewish…I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’” I suppose the dash makes all the difference. So, he’s not a “liar”. He’s a “lie-er”. I see how that works.
Finally, during his campaign Santos pretended to be a major real estate investor who owned 13 properties. He was forced to admit to The Washington Post: “George Santos does not own any properties.
While Santos’ lies are sensationalistic, he’s hardly more dishonest about his identity than Stefanik, a flip side of the same tarnished Republican coin. New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore published a devastating profile on the current chair of the House Republican Conference, aptly titled, “The Invention of Elise Stefanik.” It detailed her extraordinary transformation, during Trump’s presidency, from thoughtful, GOP moderate, to fire breathing MAGA star.
The article made clear that Stefanik is every bit the conscience-free huckster that Santos is. Her moderate mentor, former House Speaker Paul Ryan, once described her in Time magazine as “the future of hopeful, aspirational politics in America.” Stefanik once described Donald Trump as a “whack job,” in a message obtained by The New York Times, but, as the newspaper points out, she became utterly unrecognizable to those who knew her:
With breathtaking speed and alacrity, Ms. Stefanik remade herself into a fervent Trump apologist, adopted his over-torqued style on Twitter and embraced the conspiracy theories that animate his base, amplifying debunked allegations of dead voters casting ballots in Atlanta and unspecified “irregularities” involving voting-machine software in 2020 swing states.
The future of hopeful, aspirational politics in America now assails Democrats as “the party of Socialists, illegals, criminals, Communist Truth Ministers & media stenographers.” In the process, she has rocketed from the backbench to the party’s No. 3 House leadership job, presiding over the conference’s overall messaging.
Such depraved shamelessness is echoed by Representative Kevin McCarthy. The New York Times reports: “Top House Republican leaders, including Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, have largely remained silent. [On Santos’ lies]”
Of course, because to call out Santos’ lies only draws attention to their own dishonesty. McCarthy, for example, slammed President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection. When he wrongly predicted the failed coup attempt would loosen Trump’s grip on the GOP, McCarthy said from the House floor:
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump…Some say the riots were caused by antifa. There is absolutely no evidence of that.”
After McCarthy realized that the coup attempt had not diminished Trump in the eyes of most Republicans, he slithered down to Mar-a-Lago to grovel at the former president’s feet. At the time, the grotesque pandering was condemned by then Rep. Liz Cheney who said:
“Leader McCarthy’s visit to the former president at Mar-a-Lago was really stunning, given what the former president did. I think that he is not leading with principle right now. And I think that it is sad, and I think it’s dangerous.”
McCarthy’s epic cynicism has extended to his unctuous run this week for House Speaker. To appease the ever-growing “Whacko Wing” of the GOP, McCarthy has caved to their unwieldy and bizarre demands. The New York Times reports:
McCarthy had made a series of concessions to win over the defectors, including encouraging his members to vote against the lame-duck spending bill to fund the government and calling on Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, to resign or face potential impeachment proceedings.
Over the weekend, in a last-ditch effort to sew up the votes…He unveiled a package of rules governing how the House operates, including the so-called Holman rule, which allows lawmakers to use spending bills to defund specific programs and fire federal officials or reduce their pay. [He also agreed to investigate Hunter Biden]
However, what’s really striking is how McCarthy, in the effort to land his dream job, agreed to sabotage his own potency. He green-lighted a chaotic rule that would empower any five lawmakers to call a flash vote to potentially fire him. This would essentially make him a toothless Speaker and a hostage to the demands of the wackiest and most cantankerous members of his party. In his thirst for power, McCarthy prematurely stripped himself of any.
Having sabotaged his reputation and respectability it should come as no surprise that McCarthy failed in his first three votes to become Speaker. Adding insult, Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries received more votes than McCarthy in each failed attempt. This is the first time a Speaker’s election has gone to multiple ballots since 1923, which lasted nine ballots until a Speaker was finally chosen.
A humiliated McCarthy seems determined to soldier on, saying, “I’m staying until we win. I know the path.” However, the twenty obstinate, radicalized lawmakers who oppose him seem unmoved by his unfounded optimism.
The Times reports, Fourteen of the 15 incumbents who voted against McCarthy were among the 139 House Republicans who, on Jan. 6, 2021, voted to overturn the 2020 Electoral College results, 19 are members of the right wing Freedom Caucus and 17 were endorsed by Donald Trump. In other words, McCarthy’s fate will be determined by persuading 20 of the most hardcore, crazy lawmakers to say “yes”, even though their careers are defined by saying “no”. Good luck with that.
Former President Donald Trump’s support for McCarthy is the only remaining life raft. Trump posted on Truth Social today, “Some really good conversations took place last night, and it’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN.”
Trump has referred to the sycophantic McCarthy as “My Kevin.” But if Trump wavers it will be “Bye Kevin.”
The embarrassing spectacle in the House has highlighted that the Republican Party has become an empty vessel filled by the likes of George Santos, Elaine Stefanik and Kevin McCarthy. When a Party stands for nothing, it can only be led by unremarkable nobodies.
Republicans have chosen to live in a make-believe fantasy world of conspiracies and Big Lies. So, being led by malleable, fictional characters isn’t only desirable, it seems to be a requirement of leadership in the modern GOP.
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