“A made-up life”: Congress has never seen anyone like George Santos

Ben Jacobs
is a political reporter at Vox, primarily based in Washington, DC. Ben has coated three presidential campaigns, in addition to Capitol Hill, the White House, and the Supreme Court. His writing has appeared in publications together with New York journal, the Atlantic, and the Washington Examiner.

In historical Jerusalem, an aged King Solomon noticed “there is nothing new under the sun.” Solomon never knew George Santos.

Thanks to revelations a couple of seemingly limitless sequence of lies about his background, the newly elected Republican Congress member from Long Island has been a phenomenon with none precedent in American historical past. Within weeks of taking workplace, he’s develop into a nationwide superstar with out actually doing something. It’s not that he has actively courted the limelight in the way in which that figures like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) after they attracted a media frenzy as first-term members of Congress. It’s merely that his story is so fantastical and absurd that there aren’t any clear precedents for it.

Since the New York Times first reported on Santos’s lies about his faith, his training, and his résumé in late December, issues have spiraled. Almost each facet of Santos’s life has been drawn into query and his makes an attempt to elucidate have grown more and more labored — from his punchline-worthy try and insist that he never mentioned he was Jewish, however that he was “Jew-ish,” to his preliminary agency denial of getting wearing drag as a younger man in Brazil earlier than ultimately conceding to reporters on the baggage declare at LaGuardia Airport that he simply “had fun at a festival.”

Santos’s lies have additionally resulted in investigations from native and federal legislation enforcement companies. The New York Republican is staring down questions over his marketing campaign funds and the way he was abruptly in a position to mortgage his congressional marketing campaign $700,000 after being evicted for failing to pay lease in addition to being taken to courtroom for failing to pay money owed. There are complaints about his conduct filed with the Federal Election Commission and the House Ethics Committee. There is also the excellent query of a decade-old felony cost in Brazil. Santos has denied this, telling the New York Post, “I am not a criminal here — not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world.”

Sean Wilentz, a Bancroft Prize-winning historian at Princeton University, advised Vox that Santos was extra a personality out of American literature than American historical past, citing Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man. “This is nothing that a historian can be much help on,” he mentioned. “There is no example like it.” It’s not that Santos was a wholly overseas object — the huckster is an American archetype, and nothing is extra clichéd than a dishonest politician. As Wilentz put it, he’s “made of materials that one can identify.” But that such a shadowy determine and compulsive liar wound up on Capitol Hill continues to be outstanding. “Embellishing happens a fair amount that a lot of people get away with,” Wilentz mentioned. “This is a different order because this is a made-up life.”

He famous that “it’s one thing to be Marjorie Taylor Greene and making up all of this crazy stuff, and here you just have a cipher.” Using one other literary reference, Wilentz in contrast Santos to the “kind of nothing man that drips all through the novels” of John le Carré.

Santos has been left in an unusually remoted political place. Local Republicans in and round his district have known as on him to resign, and the defenses supplied of him by nationwide Republicans are lukewarm — rooted in process and precedent moderately than any honest try and defend Santos on the deserves.

Santos jokes have develop into one of many few issues that each events can agree on. As one member of Congress advised Vox, “you have Democratic members and Republican members texting memes of Santos to one another. He’s truly a bipartisan joke.”

Yet it’s additionally made him a nationwide determine. In a ballot from early January from Navigator Research, a majority of Americans had an opinion on him, making him better-known than much more established and influential politicians like Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH). Another current ballot from Data for Progress confirmed that over 60 p.c of Americans had an opinion of him, much more than Greene. Of those that had heard of Santos, they invariably had a unfavorable opinion of him — even Republicans had an overwhelmingly unfavorable view of him. In his residence state, polling discovered that Santos was much more well-known than Hakeem Jeffries, the highest Democrat in Congress, and that he’s simply as politically poisonous in New York as he’s nationally.

It’s a degree of superstar that’s breaking by past politics. Santos has already develop into a staple of late-night tv comedy — he’s served one month in Congress and has been a personality in two totally different Saturday Night Live sketches — and an obsession of #resistance Twitter and MSNBC. His workplace on Capitol Hill has develop into the location of a relentless media stakeout and TMZ cameras observe him on the airport. Even Santos is self-aware about his newfound standing and has privately expressed his angst about turning right into a meme.

There isn’t any telling what unusual paths the Santos saga will take subsequent. In current days, he has been tied to the cousin of a Russian oligarch (who accused Santos of scamming him) and accused of defrauding a homeless veteran by pocketing the cash from a fundraising drive for the veteran’s service canine. (Santos has denied this.)

Almost each twist and switch his saga has taken up to now has gone into uncharted territory. While Congress has supplied almost two and a half centuries of scandals, they’ve all had acquainted roots in frequent human traits like ambition, intercourse, or venality. The chair of the House Ways and Means Committee watching a stripper dive into the Tidal Basin after being caught drunk in a automotive along with her is uncommon, however alcoholism and adultery much less so on Capitol Hill. Even the extra archaic crimes — like the 18th-century senator who plotted with the British to overcome then-Spanish-controlled New Orleans — come from impulses like greed or lust for energy which might be demonstrated every day by elected officers in each events.

But Santos is one thing totally different. The degree and frequency of his seemingly compulsive innovations mark new territory in fashionable politics.

In the aftermath of his election, it’s exhausting to assume that there will probably be future members like him — there’ll possible be extra strong efforts to examine that when aspiring politicians declare to be star collegiate volleyball gamers, they haven’t merely made up the very fact they attended school, not to mention performed aggressive sports activities there. But if one does get elected sooner or later, at the least historians can have an analogy.

Sourse: vox.com

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