"Wasting this life again. Standing all the time."
The curious case of George Santos.
This week’s soundtrack: Brutus - “Horde II”
I don’t have any particular interest in Long Island politics and I certainly don’t get worked up about individual members of the House of Representatives. I live in D.C., where Eleanor Holmes Norton is basically an unstoppable institution, whether I like it or not. While prolific liar and disgraced weirdo Rep. George Santos is a fun distraction, I’ve only been paying minor attention because he’s one of 435 and I certainly can’t vote for him. Mostly, I find it funny.
I don’t have any passionate feelings about it, other than to say this: we’d better get used to having him around. This is a bit of a chalk take for most of the people who read this, but I’ll lay it out anyway.
The speed by which our House elections happen are somewhat quick, to the point that I’d argue that legislators spend too much time campaigning and no time actually governing. But, our system is such that we don’t have the ability to call snap elections like many parliamentary systems have (The U.K. comes to mind immediately and Israel also has had about a million election cycles in the last four years). So, assuming Santos actually broke the law, the main electoral way to get rid of him won’t come until 2024. That’s a long time for him to stick around in a job that he absolutely lied about… and got.
“What if he broke the law, as the complaint to the FEC alleges? Didn’t that prompt an investigation?” Yes and yes. The speed of law enforcement, especially in the cases of election law, is exceptionally slow, however, and our justice system provides a lot of opportunities for stalling. I don’t know much about FEC procedure, but I do know that the commission is pretty well underfunded and ignored, so I am not expecting a quick investigation. I genuinely don’t think it can be adjudicated before Santos is up for another election (a year or so?) and our man can just say he’s not running for reelection. That would mean he got away with it!
So, that leaves his colleagues in the GOP caucus to reprimand him or kick him out. While (GovExec Daily guest) Rep. James Comer has said that Santos will be kicked out if he broke election laws, the fine print – I assume, so I am putting words in Comer’s mouth – is that it gotta be absolutely proven that Santos broke the law. As in: An investigation’s gotta be complete (whenever that is). Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that the Ethics Committee or law enforcement are in charge of Santos’ fate and… then seated him on multiple committees. And the Ethics Committee isn’t exactly empowered in this Congress, so I think assuming the committee will kick Santos out of Congress is probably a long shot. A reprimand may be coming, sure, but not much more than that.
Think about it: McCarthy has no reason to push for Santos’ ouster, of course (not that he’s particularly powerful, considering how much of his caucus doesn’t trust him). The GOP has a very slim 10-vote majority in the House. Losing even one party line vote further weakens the party and, thus, McCarthy himself. Why on earth would McCarthy do that and force a special election? His party might lose!
(I do kinda wonder how much of a Reservoir Dogs everyone-pointing-guns-at-one-another scene this is shaking out to be. I imagine it to be that McCarthy tells Santos “hey, you need to do everything I ask or you’re out of here,” with Santos replying “you need me more than I need you, pal. You’ve only got a slim majority and if I side with the anti-McCarthy people, you’re even weaker.” It’s a real mutually assured destruction scenario with two pretty unlikable guys, which is fun in and of itself.)
Finally, I love this whole thing. It’s hilarious to me. Marisa Kabas has turned her Substack into the Daily Santos, due to the seemingly new revelation each day. The denial by which he stands regarding the drag queen stuff is the silliest hill on which to die (someone in the LGBTQ+ community smarter than I has probably written a deep dive into the politics of the Republican Party and the drag stuff – especially in the “groomer” era or whatever – being the cardinal sin instead of everything else Santos has done). I love the easily disprovable lies, the memes about him and the sad, unpopular kid thing he was doing during the McCarthy saga. It’s all very funny to me because the stakes are pretty low. Yes, the amount of lies on which he relied might degrade our political system, but I would argue that we’re already there (Elizabeth Warren barely got knocked for the “hey, our family lore is that we’re Cherokee!” nonsense. It’s rote to say that politicians lie a lot, but, well. They do). And I’m not alone! Congressional reporters will certainly come to Santos for his opinion on just about everything, as he is automatically interesting. D.C.
Which is to say: Get used to seeing a lot of Rep. George Santos in the next couple of years. He’s going to be in our lives a lot.
My dog is obsessed with balls. If she sees a ball, she wants it. Normally, this is fine, as I buy her squeaky spiky balls to throw, tug, etc. when we play. Unfortunately, I also play softball and have a few usable softballs. I happened to leave one in my car on Friday when we went to pick up my driveup grocery order and, voilà: Look what Lulu found.
She would not let me take the ball away from her when we left the car. Never doubt Lulu’s love of a ball.
Another short week gave us four shows, but I mostly want to highlight former IRS commissioner John Koskinen appearing on our show. He and I talked about the perpetual motion machine that is defunding agencies that interact with the public. The formula for members of Congress – IRS is the easy example, but USPS has been part of this, as well – is to say a government service sucks, then defund it as a punishment for sucking, which makes it suck more. In the case of USPS, it’s ironic because USPS sucks far less than the alternatives (anyone who has dealt with FedEx knows this too well), but IRS is more complicated because it is a necessary evil. No one likes paying taxes, but government services need to be funded. So, that perpetual motion machine is the easiest to keep going, however dangerous it is.
A Recommendation: Reading a Book Written by a Complete Kook
As I move intellectually in my middle age period, I find myself falling into the stereotype of my demographic identity. Among said demographic is my adoration for reading nonfiction, albeit not of the stereotypical WWII variety. I am particularly attracted to history and ancient history, in particular, so a recent minor obsession with the Phoenecians brought me to a book called Phoenician Secrets: Exploring the Ancient Mediterranean. It is not, let’s say, a scholarly work. The guy who wrote it is definitely a kook.
This, on its face, isn’t the worst thing in the world and it was definitely a breath of fresh air. Sanford Holst (I cannot recommend his site enough. It screams “I am a kook,” right down to references and photo of Indiana Jones.) has the writing style of a fabulist and the imagination of a novelist, a stark departure from the much more staid books I generally read, as they’re almost always written by academics. Holst… is not that. There are several instances of Holst recreating a scene from ancient Byblos or Tyre or such with the pen of an HBO writer, molding the action through scant archaeological evidence.
Needless to say, I have doubts about the book’s accuracy and I read it with a grain of salt the size of a Cothon. A book with the word “secrets” probably isn’t going to be 100% accurate, but it was nonetheless a fun read. Holst – at least as compared to more scholarly work – gets a lot of broad strokes right and the book isn’t inaccurate, per se. After all, archeology is not the most exacting science; there is a lot of reliance on assumptions or historic documents with holes in them. But, Holst really makes some leaps, including imagining the Phoenicians as constructing a utopian society (which is highly unlikely).
As my penance for indulging a kook/a better look at the Phoenicians, I’m now reading Carolina López-Ruíz’s book Phoenicians and the Making of the Mediterranean. She – and thus, the book – is much more trustworthy and it’s written in a way that I don’t find it boring or rote. Sometimes, you have to balance a guilty silly pleasure with something of more substance.