The George Santos Gambit
It's been 12 months since New Yorkers elected George Santos to the House of Representatives.
In other words, the mainstream press has had a year to tell America the full story of how a pathological liar with an unbelievably checkered past became a congressperson. Yet, they refuse to do it. So I will.
Make no mistake. This won't be another rehash of Santos' deceitful tales. No, my editorial is about the invasive rot within modern politics and the media's complicit culpability for letting it fester.
It is my contention that the people who could have stopped this man from making a mockery of our government not only did nothing but continue to derive a twisted benefit from allowing him to waltz his way around Washington.
It Walks Like A Duck
If you take the accepted narrative at face value, George Santos was able to dupe the world until a few crack reporters at the New York Times shattered his glass house of fakery on December 19, 2022. From that point on, we've been fed an unending diet of Santos revelations paired with a steady stream of excuses explaining why journalistic titans dropped the ball on vetting this guy.
Sounds believable on its face. There were 434 other House contests going on simultaneously, not to mention thousands of other local races. How could anyone expect overworked and underpaid correspondents to scour every politician... especially during an era where the "destruction of news economies" is such a common blame refrain? We should be thanking our lucky stars that these heroic newshounds eventually found the scent, thereby alerting the pack to unearth this scandal.
Right?! Of course not. It's all an illusion.
The flags surrounding Santos weren't just red, they were radioactive. Republicans knew it. Democrats knew it. His opponent knew it. His own staff knew it. Still, the media stood down.
There is no way this was an accident. Let's recap who was aware of what and when.
And Quacks Like A Duck
For starters, it's important to note that George Santos didn't swoop in out of nowhere. He began swimming around the NY-03 political pond in 2019 and indeed finished second in the general the following year. According to Grant Lally, publisher of the North Shore Leader and a former candidate himself, the Republican party wanted to "see what (George) could do." As it turned out, Santos had done enough shady stuff by the autumn of 2020 that Lally's right-leaning NSL felt obligated to endorse the Democratic incumbent and eventual winner, Rep. Tom Suozzi.
Here's where things take a turn into the memorably bizarre. For supposed strategic reasons, Suozzi's team didn't try too hard to make a fuss about Santos potentially living outside of the district. Yet, they still "shopped" it to reporters. And those reporters allegedly asked Santos about it... but didn't feel compelled to concretely confirm (or stress) this potentially disqualifying angle.
Mind you, George was in the midst of making a spectacle of himself by crashing the 2020 Congressional orientation and, soon after, citing election fraud. Are we meant to believe that nobody wanted to dig into such a character nor had tabs on him prior to 12/19/22? Nonsense.
[Relatedly, anyone else find it exceedingly curious that this reporter has been covering George since 2020 for the Long Island paper of record, but if you search for the word "Santos" in his post history, nothing appears before August of last year? Had you performed this same action a month ago, you would have found his 12/11/20 Santos tweet about fundraising. I can claim this because I have the screenshot. What practicable explanation would there be for it to disappear? By the way, did you know this writer has a book coming out this month? You'll never guess what it's about!]
Then It's Probably A Duck
Oh, there's more. George's 2020 shenanigans were bush league compared to his jaw dropping violations of 2022. Again, the North Shore Leader tried to warn the public. They rattled off a list of surefire pocks on his record, ranging from widespread financial improprieties to an inexplicably invisible campaign. And, for the second time, they rejected endorsing the "fabulist" Santos.
Instead, they recommended a Democrat. Not just any Democrat either. Robert Zimmerman, a longtime DNC figure who was making history in the first election showdown featuring two gay men. You'd think the television and publishing spheres would listen to the daily alarms he sounded about his opponent... moreso since the pair were engaged in such a conspicuous race that was already getting splashy coverage. Somehow this didn't happen.
And it wasn't only the press ignoring him. Zimmerman's own party brushed aside the opportunity to eviscerate George. Heck, the DCCC produced an 87-page oppo research report on Santos teeming with avenues worth pursuing... but then let them evaporate into the ether. Why?
[Interestingly, George's own team hired a firm to do a vulnerability study, then fired that company when the highly unfavorable results were revealed. Are you telling me that no one -- not one of the former staffers that subsequently quit because of it -- tried to come forward?]
I'm sorry, but the pretexts linked to these collective miscues are rubbish. So much fingerpointing. No accountability. It feels like an elaborate charade. How else can one reconcile the disconnect between them saying they were "focused on other races" during a Red Wave scare? Furthermore, doesn't that lame sidestep get blown to smithereens by the fact that Jill Biden was sent to NY-03 in November? It defies logic that national news outlets, armed with mounds of evidence to neutralize Santos, didn't mount a last-minute defense against him when they saw the First Lady in the backyard of their own epicenter. Something weird was afoot. I have a theory on what that was.
Inside Job Hypothesis
If I was a Blue tribe leader bent on permanently destroying the reputation of my mortal enemies, I imagine nothing would be more effective than causing our opponents to suffer through an endless barrage of self-inflicted wounds. If executed properly, we could literally sit back and watch as their national apparatus imploded.
But, in order to guarantee it, I'd need to send in a few actors to infiltrate their ranks. To maximize effectiveness, I'd tell these covert agents to be as politically extreme as possible when hitting their talking points. Realistically, the more rabid they appeared to get, the harder it would be for our rivals to impugn their loyalties. And the easier it'd be to fan the flames of their demise later...
Until Election Day, I'd ask our messengers to avoid drawing attention to the operation. After that, those dogs could run wild. I'd have them magnify every embarrassment, then repeat every gaffe ad nauseum. In essence, we'd weaponize the patsies' sins to crush the credibility of our foes. With a little luck, we'd be so successful that our tribe would never face another challenger. Total control.
Inside Job Observations
Before you dismiss this idea as far-fetched, humor me and pretend George was a 'plant.'
The first thing his handlers would have needed to do was make sure the campaign was sufficiently capitalized. Unfortunately for Team Santos, the Republican machine was in no mood to roll out the red carpet, so to speak. Based on the numbers, his own party chipped in chump change -- especially when compared to the millions doled out to bordering districts. [As a matter of fact, the House GOP super PAC offered him zilch -- indicating their undeniable disdain for his campaign.]
Thus, the Santos string-pullers would have to find alternate channels to steer money into his accounts. But how would they do it? And, in hindsight, how in the world did he accumulate close to $3 million when faction bosses saw him as a pariah? It wasn't like he had the door-knocking boots on the ground to gather seven-figure grassroots donations. What he did have was a paper trail of alleged "straw donors," $199.99 charges, and amended FEC filings with unchecked boxes.
Knowing all this, who would be the most likely funding source of such a peculiar jackpot?
It might seem like a major leap to suggest the Blue tribe would secretly bankroll this oxymoronic caricature of a politician... until I remind you that the same coalition made a concerted financial effort to push the furthest right opponent in roughly a dozen 2022 primaries. For example, the Democratic Governors Association dropped a cool mil on Maryland TV ads for the guy they wanted to face in November. In Illinois, that same playbook was used to the tune of a whopping $34.5 million!
Makes you wonder how they might have tweaked these tactics to achieve victory in the fall, huh?
Inside Job Aftermath
As I opined earlier, the press muzzles could only come off once Santos emerged the winner. To that end, and in true 'gift that keeps on giving' fashion, the media avalanche arrived just in time for the holidays. More importantly, it granted talking heads two weeks to set the tone for the 118th Congress... which, with its razor-thin partisan margins, was already primed to be tenuous.
And pounce they did. Journalistic factories across the continent have churned out a seemingly endless supply of material related to this case. With each passing week, the George Santos reality show has grown more outlandish. Between every new sordid detail and his continual unwillingness to bow out gracefully, the Representative from New York has brought virtually unparalleled shame to the GOP.
That's precisely the point. He is the duck that lays infinite golden eggs.
Liberals become downright giddy when the Santos subject comes up. Whether it's random progressive podcasts that sell "choose chaos" t-shirts or the Wall Street Journal's less-than-conservative audio show, the snark is strong. They particularly love to condemn Republicans for enabling him while minimizing their own party's role moments later. At the NYT, the order is inverted, but the dynamic remains the same. As always, they make sure to assign minimal responsibility to their industry peers for 'missing' the boat.
[Hop to 6/20/23~55:50 and 5/11/23~15:00 and 1/5/23~23:12 marks, respectively, to verify.]
Is it beginning to make sense? Can you see the writing on the wall?
On and on it goes. At this juncture, a new chapter in his saga surfaces each month or so:
March: a House Ethics subcommittee was established to -no joke- see if he acted illegally
April: filed for reelection in spite of everything swirling around him
June: House Ethics "expand(ed) inquiry" to include random minor charge
August: all sorts of damning financial headlines released during summer recess
October: more financial news and more federal charges levied against him
November: an evening expulsion resolution attempt failed to garner enough votes
Why can't they kick him to the curb? I recognize Congress is dysfunctional, but this is ridiculous. It only took them a few weeks to navigate two bitter Speaker battles, but, on an issue where they already have all the public support they need, expelling Santos in under a year is too thorny?
So Was This An Enormous Staged Duck Hunt?
While I can never 100% prove my "they knew and they made it happen" hunch, it sure feels like Occam's razor is in my corner. [Don't think I didn't relish the opportunity to flip the script on the famous Mark Ruffalo line from a movie that portrays journalists as heroes.] How else could the Santos affair have played out in this manner? For goodness' sake, it took until Labor Day for one of the major networks to break their version of the vulnerability report writeup. I was listening to iTunes pundits laugh about that same anecdote in the spring!
[A little bit more food for thought... when the NYT opened the floodgates by publishing their 12/19/22 story, why do you think they failed to credit the North Shore Leader? My best guess: a combination of the Gray Lady wanting to establish the facade that Santos' transgressions were obscured and not wanting to admit they got scooped by a little fish with a four-digit circulation.]
There's no chance one mystery man did this much damage to our system all alone. He had to have help. Except we know that assistance hasn't really come from his purported side of the aisle. Don't get me wrong. The GOP most certainly deserve blame for failing to oust him. It doesn't matter whether they kept George around to maintain a slim majority or to avoid slippery slopes that result from eroding established processes. They're partially responsible for letting him stay.
But, given everything we've learned, I can't in good faith say they should shoulder the preponderance of fault. It seems far more likely that George Santos is, and always has been, a force wielded by others -- a camouflaged wrecking ball sent to demolish the Republican Party.
Whether you accept that premise is up to you. Either way, let me close with three questions...
Did you realize that the old idiom about lightning never striking twice isn't actually true? With this in mind, can you close your eyes and try to visualize another sketchy politician with connections to New York City and Florida that tons of folks hate with a passion? If so, has that unmistakably divisive individual, by chance, behaved in a way that has ripped apart the GOP in recent years?
Note: the post above may contain commentary reflecting the author's opinion.
Image credit: @dslr_newb (free use)