The First Foretaste of a Bitter Cup
Much can be distilled from how the Greatest Generation overcame hard things not so very long ago.
One was the ubiquitous absence of political leadership, which Winston Churchill described (in the run up to World War II) in Britain as “only the beginning of the reckoning . . . the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health . . . we arise again . . . as in the olden time.”
That was then. The particular cup we face today is being served up in real time by Kevin McCarthy, Tom Kean, Jr., and George Santos (R – NY), who is a national figure for all the wrong reasons. Between his November win and now, we have learned that Santos lied about:
Being a Baruch College and NYU graduate (neither of which Santos ever attended);
Being a former Goldman Sachs and Citigroup employee (having never worked for either);
Owning 13 properties (he actually owns none, lives with his sister, faced two eviction proceedings, and currently owes some $12,000 in unpaid rent);
Earning $750,000 a year from the Devolder Organization (which was registered last year, had about $43,000 in annual revenue, and is currently “inactive”);
Running an animal rescue foundation (that apparently never existed);
Being a “proud American Jew” (when he is, in fact, a practicing Catholic);
Losing four employees in the Pulse nightclub shooting (none of whom worked for or with Santos or – by all indications – any person or entity associated with him); and, quite possibly,
Being Gay (which he may actually be, though Santos was married from 2012 to 2019 to a woman).
If nothing else, Santos – who has also denied that pending criminal check fraud charges in Brazil are, in fact, pending – is bold. He characterizes these disconnects as embellishing his resume. If that characterization is accurate, then so is describing cannibalism as a lifestyle choice.
All of which poses a real dilemma for Kevin McCarthy. Because Santos is part of a razor thin Republican majority in the House, each one of whom Kevin McCarthy needs to become Speaker. And Santos supports McCarthy.
How low will McCarthy go to earn this exalted position? Having bent the knee to Trump, McCarthy is already all in on parroting the Big Steal. He has already done all that he could to undermine the January 6th Committee. He has already actively enlisted Marjorie Taylor Greene (she of the Jewish lasers causing wildfires) as a key ally in his “leadership” bid. A person who aspires to lead would, one assumes, be eager to do so. Will McCarthy? So far, crickets. Which, by extension, also poses a dilemma for Tom Kean, Jr.
On the one hand, Kean, Jr. is a McCarthy acolyte. Besides handpicking Kean, Jr. for the elite “Young Gun” Republican” designation, McCarthy headlined Kean, Jr.’s campaign kick-off.
On the other hand, Kean, Jr. promised voters a relentless commitment to ethics. Indeed, in the last weeks of the 2022 campaign Kean, Jr. ran almost solely on the supposed ethical failings of his opponent, Tom Malinowski. Whose “offense”– though you would never have discerned it from Kean, Jr.’s many, many attack ads – was Malinowski’s late reporting of stock transactions conducted by a broker on his behalf. Compare this to Santos. Small beer, anyone?
Let’s be clear about what this isn’t. Santos did not embellish his resume. He affirmatively deceived the voters by purposefully lying about virtually every aspect of who he is. McCarthy is not leading anyone anywhere. He is (once again) cowering. And Kean, Jr.? Like Santos, Kean, Jr. was all in on McCarthy as Speaker. He still is.
A letter Boone Pickens shared after his death recounts a lesson learned from his grandmother; “[s]onny, I don’t care who you are. Some day you are going to have to sit on your own bottom.” For Kean, Jr. – elected on his famous father’s esteemed coattails – that day has arrived.
Will Tom Kean, Jr. act on his avowed commitment to ethics by denouncing Santos and calling for his removal from the House? Will Kean, Jr. do the thing any Congressional ethical code worth having so obviously requires from its members? Will he keep the core promise that he made to voters just months ago?
Churchill knew what and whom he was dealing with, in his time. So do we in ours.
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WILL TOM KEAN, JR. STEP FORWARD OR BACKWARD?
Abraham Maslow: You will either step forward into growth or you will step backward into safety.
Bland, polite, and tethered to Kevin McCarthy, it will be an extremely difficult decision for Kean, Jr..
Courage, as in most cases, will be required to step forward and denounce George Santos.
Personally, I think he will choose safety.
Let us hope that I am wrong.
Great Column, Andrew Levin