Political and religious/political items today.
- The Newsom/DeSantis debate;
- The expulsion of George Santos;
- How ‘moderates’ like Nikki Haley would also eviscerate the government (i.e. what “draining the swamp” means to Republicans);
- Short items about DeSantis’ Bible; how inflation is fault of people who complain about it buying so much stuff; Christian Nationalism falsehoods; two about the impending Trump dictatorship; Michael Johnson and Kirk Cameron and Scholastic Book Fairs; and Dr. Fauci’s concern about the extreme anti-LGBTQ+ movement.
Salon, Heather Digby Parton, 1 Dec 2023: Newsom humiliates DeSantis on Fox News, subtitled “California Gov. Gavin Newsom not only stood up for his state but made a great case for Joe Biden on Fox News”
I didn’t watch it. Nothing was at stake; it seemed more a symbolic, red vs. blue, debate. But I did skim articles like these. No doubt right-wing sites had a different take.
Slate, Alexander Sammon, 1 Dec 2023: Fox News Helped Ron DeSantis As Much As It Could in His Debate With Gavin Newsom. It Wasn’t Enough.
San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Nov 2023: DeSantis holds up S.F. ‘poop map’ during debate with Newsom
Politifact, 1 Dec 2023: Fact-checking Newsom-DeSantis debate: Immigration, abortion, book bans and a poop map
The other big topic today.
NY Times, Opinion, Michelle Goldberg, 1 Dec 2023: Farewell to George Santos, the Perfect MAGA Republican
A clout-chasing con man obsessed with celebrity, driven into politics not by ideology but by vanity and the promise of proximity to rich marks, Santos is a pure product of Trump’s Republican Party. “At nearly every opportunity, he placed his desire for private gain above his duty to uphold the Constitution, federal law and ethical principles,” said a House Ethics Committee report about Santos released last month. He’s a true child of the MAGA movement.
That movement is multifaceted, and different politicians represent different strains: There’s the dour, conspiracy-poisoned suburban grievance of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the gun-loving rural evangelicalism of Lauren Boebert, the overt white nationalism of Paul Gosar and the frat boy sleaze of Matt Gaetz. But no one embodies Trump’s fame-obsessed sociopathic emptiness like Santos. He’s heir to Trump’s sybaritic nihilism, high-kitsch absurdity and impregnable brazenness.
Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 1 Dec 2023: George Santos gets one thing right about Republicans: Their expulsion vote is “theater”, subtitled “Whatever happens to the New York congressman, Republicans are still a party of grifters and con artists”
(It’s all theater because… actual behavior, and breaking laws, don’t matter? It seems not to most of the GOP.)
Santos is almost certainly faking his umbrage. He’s well aware that, in addition to the federal charges against him, the House investigation found “substantial evidence” that he stole campaign donations and spent them on designer clothes, Botox injections, and OnlyFans. Plus, he has a history of using the tactic of wildly exaggerated rage to intimidate people out of asking questions about his alleged fraud. In the case where Santos is accused of using a sick dog to raise money, only to abscond with the cash, the dog’s owner claims Santos blew up at him when asked about the promised veterinary care. Basically, Santos screamed at the guy until his alleged victim gave up. Wielding fake anger like a weapon is unlikely to work in this case, though what do I know? Donald Trump uses the same move to keep Republicans in line quite effectively.
But as silly as this display was, in one small sense, Santos is right: If Republicans do move to expel him, it’s nothing more than theater. Republicans don’t care if one of their own is a fraud or a criminal. The most obvious example is Trump, whose indictment count sits at 91 charges across four jurisdictions, making Santos look like a piker.
And so on.
The entire GOP is flush with charlatans all working variations of the same grift as Santos, though most of them are smart enough to structure their schemes in a way that is technically legal. As I’ve written about before, there’s an endless number of Republican politicians, pundits, and influencers who bombard their followers with emails hawking snake oil “cures” and shady “investment opportunities.” Republican voters tend to have more money and less sense than other Americans, making them the perfect target for an endless stream of pitches selling them garbage, from multi-level marketing schemes to useless products like “survivalist” kits.
For me, what this all does is inform further about human nature. There are so many contradictions within it; and yet humanity has created this enormous, complex, great culture.
Washington Post, Catherine Rampell, 1 Dec 2023: Opinion | Supposed ‘moderates’ like Nikki Haley would blow up government, too
About what “draining the swamp” really means.
Trump often speaks of “draining the swamp.” When Trump was president, this mostly meant draining the government of experts whose work he found inconvenient — such as those tasked with measuring the impact of his tax cuts or safeguarding the integrity of the 2020 election. He blew up a prestigious statistical agency, for instance, after it produced research he didn’t like, and on his way out the door, he laid the groundwork for a broader purge of civil servants.
Other GOP presidential hopefuls have now echoed Trump’s attacks on the “deep state” and promised purges of their own.
Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, for instance, has promised to arbitrarily fire every civil servant whose Social Security number ends in an odd digit. More disturbingly, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s approach to domesticating “these deep state people” includes a pledge to “start slitting throats on Day One” — never mind that public workers at all levels of government are already at heightened risk of violent attacks.
Not just elected officials in Congress or the Senate. Everyone in federal government.
This sounds like a clever idea until you think about it for, oh, two seconds. It means we’d have to purge and replace every single air traffic controller every five years. Also all the nuclear physicists working for the Energy Department and rocket scientists at NASA, whose depth of expertise can’t easily be recreated on a five-year deadline.
These politicians are either pandering to anti-government simpletons, or just aren’t too smart themselves. Have they thought this through as much as this columnist has, in two seconds? She goes on with many examples. And she ends:
But maybe it’s easier for presidential contenders to run on a platform that government doesn’t work — and then, once in office, ensure that it never will again.
This has been my observation ever since Ronald Reagan, who insisted the government was the problem, and then ran to head that very government. For what purpose? To fix it, or to prove his point by wrecking it? Certainly his economic policies did not help, beginning the trend toward extreme inequality that exists today.
NBC News, 1 Dec 2023: How religion plays into Ron DeSantis’ public image — from ‘armor of God’ to a Bible ordered on Amazon, subtitled “The Florida governor has never made his faith a major part of his public image, but he’s having to talk about it more as he reaches out to conservative religious voters.”
Apparently he had to order a Bible — from Amazon! — a week before his inauguration, because he didn’t have one in the house.
The Atlantic, Annie Lawrey, 1 Dec 2023: Inflation Is Your Fault, subtitled “If people are so mad about high prices, why do they keep buying so many expensive things?”
Right Wing Watch, 29 Nov 2023: North Dakota State Rep. Brandon Prichard Spreads Multiple Falsehoods in Defense of His Christian Nationalism
Washington Post, Robert Kagan, 30 Nov 2023: Opinion | A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.
Media Matters, Matt Gertz, 30 Nov 2023: Trump is threatening to use the government to “come down hard” on the free press. Believe him.
(Media Matters, a site I stumbled upon by myself several years ago, now given new legitimacy by the ravings of Elon Musk! (AP News))
LGBTQNation, 1 Dec 2023: Mike Johnson endorsed & promoted a book that called Pete Buttigieg “obnoxiously gay”, subtitled “Johnson said the book speaks for ‘millions of conscientious, freedom-loving Americans.’ The book promotes Pizzagate.”
Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist, 1 Dec 2023: Kirk Cameron wants schools to ditch Scholastic book fairs for a right-wing alternative, subtitled “SkyTree Book Fairs offer children’s books to MAGA-loving parents”
(*I* grew up with Scholastic Book Fairs. See item #1 in my essay 15 Ways of Buying a Book, Part 1. But of course religious zealots, even the rather dim banana-fan Kirk Cameron, want to impose their own ideology on everyone, especially in this case if this alternative book service sells Cameron’s books.)
Salon, Kelly McClure, 1 Dec 2023: Dr. Fauci expresses concern about the extreme right’s anti-LGBTQ+ movement, subtitled “‘It’s reverting back to the way it was 40 years ago,’ Fauci said in a recent interview”
Make America Great Again.