Danger Ahead: Angry Republicans
BY RICHARD C. GROSS
“If you want to get along, go along”
— Sam Rayburn, 1882–1961, three-time Democratic House speaker
If there’s a symbol of the Republican Party today, it’s heralded replicant Rep. George Santos of New York, known resume creator. If that, indeed, is his real name.
He’s right out of the 1982 cult dystopian movie “Blade Runner,” starring Harrison Ford. You can’t tell by Santos’ eyes because he wears black horn-rimmed glasses. It’s the eyes that have it for identifying replicants.
Santos makes serial liar Trump look like JFK. And we were foolish enough to believe the Republican Party had reached its limit of being a caricature of a serious political institution when Trump became president. His final act in that office allegedly was to try to overthrow the government of his elected successor.
But all of this stupidity, plus a Republican-led House that unforgivably ignores the needs of its constituents so it can focus on its №1 job of investigating Democrats, including President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, is front and center on the American political stage.
Yet the never-ending nonsensical culture war, a substitute for creating policies to help the people, is based on nothing but conspiracy theories and lies. It’s being played out against a backdrop of a real war, ostensibly between Russia and Ukraine.
In reality, it’s an East-West conflict between democracy and autocracy on a field of battle that is becoming more dangerous every month with the looming threat of a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to go nuclear if he thinks he’s losing the war.
The decision by NATO nations, spurred by America and repeated demands by Ukraine, to supply modern tanks to a country literally torn apart by Russian bombardments, will only escalate the war to new heights.
NATO has been Ukraine’s weapons warehouse as Kyiv stubbornly defends its territory, sacrificing perhaps thousands of soldiers and civilians and its infrastructure in the face of unremitting artillery, drone and missile attacks.
Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine, once a part of the Soviet Union, by lying to his people that he merely was conducting a “special operation,” not launching a major military siege of a country whose people consider the Russians to be their brothers. Not anymore.
But the war is far away — 5,000 miles from Washington, D.C. to Ukraine — and hasn’t had much of an impact on the U.S. economy. Yet.
Nevertheless, some rightwing Republicans, of course, have started complaining about the estimated $50 billion America has sent to Ukraine in military, financial and humanitarian aid. The estimate is from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a think tank based in Kiel, Germany.
The right will say or do anything to bash a Democratic administration. The lead critic is Trump, who started campaigning Saturday in New Hampshire and South Carolina in his third run for president.
Trump already began lying, insisting for the thousandth time that he won reelection in 2020 and said falsely that his administration was on the way toward wiping out the national debt. But it increased by about $7.8 trillion during his four years in office, according to The New York Times. It’s now $31 trillion.
Then there’s Santos, who created from dust an entire individual with a degree from Baruch College in economics and finance; claimed he is Jewish and the grandson of Holocaust survivors; that he worked for big time Wall Street firms Citigroup and Goldman Sachs; that he loaned his campaign $700,000; and perhaps the kicker: that his mother was in one of World Trade Center towers on 9/11.
Santos has admitted to much of the lying about his manufactured life, apologizing in an interview with the New York Post.
“I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning,” he said. “I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume. We do stupid things in life.” Now that last part is the truth.
His act wasn’t an assignment in a high school writing class or a play on Broadway but tales spun to promote himself to voters in a run for Congress, a serious national institution at the heart of our democracy. Or it once was.
Despite Santos’ pretense to be someone who never existed, newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California legitimized this copycat, who dresses like a private high school prep, by not only accepting him as a seated congressman from the New York City borough of Queens and adjacent Long Island but anointed him with two committee assignments — Small Business and Science and Technology.
The way things are going politically in this country, Santos gives new meaning to the Army’s onetime advertising slogan, “Be all you can be.” He outdid the slogan.
“Santos is the man in the crewneck sweater and the sport jacket: entitled, privileged,” wrote The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan. “He’s a man for this age, one in which facts are fungible, the truth is opaque and mediocrity can take a person far. Santos is everything. And he is nothing at all.”
Santos took good first steps in apologizing for fraudulent behavior and quitting his two committee assignments. Now he needs to obey the demands of some of his colleagues in Nassau County, L.I. and resign. If not, he should be expelled from the House.
But things could be worse. Rightist Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the book banner — Mr. Fahrenheit 451 — may run for president in 2024.
(Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper burns. It is the title of a prescient sci-fi novel by Ray Bradbury, published in 1953 and made into films in 1966 and 2018.)
Florida has a history of banning books. The Bay County School Board in Panama City barred “Fahrenheit 451” from schools in 1987 for “a lot of vulgarity.” The dystopian novel is about outlawing books and firemen burning any that are found.
Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East, the Pentagon and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.