Sunday, January 08, 2023

Tom Ripley Goes to Congress


Wow, I can't believe nearly two years has elapsed after my last post.  I finally found inspiration to rouse myself out of my blogging slumber.

Any of you who pays attention to politics likely knows about the controversial election of Republican George Santos to the House of Representatives in the 3rd Congressional district of New York this past November.  It was a district previously represented by now retired Democrat Tom Suozzi, who had made a failed attempt to win the Democratic primary in the New York governor's race.  

Santos had previously run against Suozzi in 2020 and lost.  However, a number of things had changed in the subsequent two years.  As mentioned above, Suozzi gave up his seat for an unsuccessful campaign to be the Democratic candidate for governor.  Numerous candidates competed for the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat, which was ultimately won by an at least to me unknown Robert Zimmerman, whereas Santos's bid to get the Republican nomination for the 2022 election was uncontested.  With New York state losing a congressional seat in the 2020 census, district lines had to be redrawn.  But the biggest change, in my opinion, was the backlash against Democrats on Long Island, where I live, due to fears about crime, illegal immigration and inflation, among other things.  While the much hyped Red Wave largely fizzled out nationwide, New York bucked that trend.

Being an independent voter with no party affiliation, I briefly considered voting for Santos, but thought better of it when reading of his association with Harbor City Capital.  Furthermore, I could not abide a Republican majority in the Congress with the right wing performance trolls like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert having outsized influence.  While I voted for Democrat Robert Zimmerman, sadly Santos handily won the election by 54.1% to 45.9%.

But it was over a month after the election that things got really interesting.  A New York Times investigative report (subscription required) revealed that George Santos had fabricated most of his life story, education and work experience.  In other words, Santos perpetrated a fraud on the voters of the 3rd district.

Interestingly, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) still has its candidate page for Santos up with no acknowledgment of the allegations raised against him.  Among the celebratory and affirming statements made about him are these tidbits:

"George is an experienced businessman, financier and investor, with extensive work in capital introduction, real estate, capital markets, bio-tech and M&A. He has experience delivering results in the world of business and now he will take that same drive to Washington to deliver results for New York’s Third Congressional District."

"George’s mother was in her office in the South Tower on September 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded. She survived the tragic events on September 11th, but she passed away a few years later when she lost her battle to cancer."

The archived web page of his biography from his 2020 campaign boasts a number of accomplishments, including the following:

Graduating from Baruch College in economics and finance.

Working at Citigroup and then being promoted to associate asset manager at its real estate division.

Founded and ran a nonprofit 501(c)(3) called Friends of Pets United (FOPU) from 2013 - 2018, an animal rescue operation, which was able to effectively rescue 2400 dogs and 280 cats, and successfully conducted the TNR (trap neuter and release) of over 3000 cats.  

Then there the statements he made to the Republican Jewish Coalition about being a "proud Jew" and his claim that he had grandparents who fled the Holocaust.  It should be noted that part of the district in which Santos ran has a sizable Jewish constituency in towns such as Great Neck on the north shore of Long Island.

Virtually everything Santos said was an outright lie or fabrication.  When the allegations came to light, Santos's response was to dismiss it as mere embellishments to his record.  But an embellishment is to inflate an actual achievement to make it more impressive.  For example, claiming to have graduated with honors from Baruch College instead of just having gotten a degree.  Or boasting of becoming a manager in a division at Citigroup instead of just being an employee in the division.

There is no record of Santos having ever even attended Baruch College.  Around the time he claimed to have worked at Citigroup, Santos was actually working at a call center in Queens for $15 per hour.  There is no record that his mother was working in the Twin Towers on 9/11, which he alleged in a tweet that the 9/11 attack claimed the life of his mother, even though she died from cancer in 2016.  There is no evidence that Santos has any Jewish ancestry and he responded to the allegations raised against him that he merely said he was "Jew-ish", not "Jewish."  

Truth is, there are so many lies, misrepresentations and controversies surrounding George Santos, that it's too exhausting for me to even attempt to categorize them all here.

The crux of the matter for me is this, if all of his falsehoods and true background had been revealed before Election Day, would it have resulted in Santos losing the election?  Or, in an alternative universe, had Santos run on his actual record of education (or lack thereof) and work experience, would he have even gotten the Republican nomination, let alone won the general election?  There has been a lot of blame being thrown around.  Some at the local Democratic organization and the Zimmerman campaign for not exposing these falsehoods during the campaign.  There's also the failure of the Republican Party to properly vet Santos before supporting him.  There's plenty of embarrassment to go around here.

The important thing though is what can be done?  I attended a couple of rallies calling for Santos to either resign or be investigated, including one yesterday in Douglaston, Queens.  Above is a photo of yours truly holding the admittedly put together at the last minute sign, which made it into an article about the rally by the conservative New York Post.  

As the wording beneath $CAMTO$ RESIGN! reads "You shouldn't get rewarded with a seat in Congress for doing something that would get you FIRED in the private sector!"  The analogy I use is someone who gets hired for a position by a company based on his education and work credentials, but that if the employer subsequently discovered the credentials were completely bogus, that person would be fired.  How many persuadable voters pulled the lever for Santos because they believed the professional experience he touted made him a good candidate to serve in Congress?

Granted, for the MAGA Trump base who supported him, Santos could have run for office relying on his experience as a call center employee and they still would have voted for him because all Democrats are evil and an existential threat to the American way of life.  But enough moderate Republicans and independents might have switched their vote to Zimmerman had Santos run on his actual record.

George Santos has already demonstrated that he lacks any kind of integrity or moral compass to voluntarily resign from Congress now that his lies have been revealed for all to see.  But there is a possibility that he can be pressured to resign by other Republicans if sufficient pressure is brought to bear.  As I tried to explain to the reporter for the Republican biased New York Post, if Santos is allowed to serve a full term while more embarrassing revelations come to light, there is a good chance that the Democrats can flip the seat back in 2024.  But if Santos is forced out now and a special election is held with the Republican candidate being a recognized local name with well established credentials, if that Republican can win the special election, he or she will go into the 2024 election with the advantage of incumbency.  By then George Santos will have disappeared from the public memory.  But if he serves his full term, he will hover like a dark cloud over the election for the Republicans, even if he is not the nominee.  It's better to bear the brunt of the embarrassment and ditch him now than allow it to remain an open sore for the next two years.

It has come to be expected that candidates for political office will tell fibs or make some misrepresentations about themselves.  One example that comes to mind is Hillary Clinton's claim when she was seeking her party's nomination in 2008 about having to dodge sniper fire at an airport in Bosnia when she was First Lady.  Or Elizabeth Warren having made representations of Native American ancestry in her past that came to light when she sought elected office.  However, what Santos did was manufacture an almost entirely fictional identity.  He must be removed from Congress to set a precedent that candidates cannot be allowed to get away with such egregious lies about their qualifications for Congress.  For example, while Elizabeth Warren's alleged Native American ancestry was justifiably embarrassing for her, she did not lie about where she went to college, that she got a law degree from Rutgers University or that she was a tenured professor at Harvard.  These are true and verifiable accomplishments of hers.  These were part of her qualifications to serve in the United States Senate.  When you take away the false claims about his past work history and look at his real record, what is there about George Santos that makes him a viable candidate to serve in the United States House of Representatives?  Just about nothing.

Given how much of a serial liar and fabulist Santos is, how can anyone, either in Congress, or local elected officials and activists in his district, work with him in good faith?  How can Santos be trusted with confidential information?  In addition to his many falsehoods, there is also the question as to where Santos recently acquired so much money to loan to his campaign?  Who is secretly funding him?  This makes him a potential national security risk.

George Santos must either resign or be expelled from Congress as soon as possible for the good of the people of the 3rd Congressional District, as well as for the country in general.  I will do what I can to help make that possible.