December 6, 2023

who followed Trump’s playbook

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
He who followed Trump’s playbook
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON — Where did George Santos come from? The 34-year-old won a congressional seat in New York as a Republican based on a stack of lies, and now he is under investigation by federal prosecutors. They want to know where he got the $700,000 he loaned his campaign after compiling a spotty work history and drifting between cheap rentals.
          He came from Trump, which is his true origin story. He is the political progeny of the former president. Like Trump who lied his way to the presidency and insists he won the 2020 election, Santos figured he could do the same. If it were not for some diligent investigative reporting, he would have gotten away with it.
          But the Trump playbook is not working anymore. The former president is facing a barrage of legal issues, and his third try for the presidency is faltering. His allies say his heart is not in it, and even he can see that things are not going well for him.
          His favorite candidates did not win, and Kari Lake in Arizona is on the hook for $33,000 in witness fees in her failed case to overturn the results of the gubernatorial election.
          Santos is likely to get his comeuppance too as prosecutors drill down on his lies. The ones that have gotten the most attention, like his false claim that he is descended from Holocaust survivors, and worked at high levels in investment firms, and graduated from elite colleges, are irrelevant in the eyes of the law.
          What tripped him up are the lies he told on federal campaign finance forms. It does not matter whether he went to this college or that college, or any college at all for that matter, lying on financial forms related to serving in Congress is like lying to the FBI. It is a felony.
          A newly elected member of Congress who falsified his life to the extent Santos has should resign or face expulsion. Those options remain open, but Republican leaders have so far stayed silent, reluctant to lose even a single vote.
          GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is disgracing himself by refusing to act on Santos. Then again, we should not be surprised. McCarthy, who had denounced Trump, was at Mar-a-Lago cozying up to Trump just weeks after the January 6 insurrection.
          Now that Trump’s superpowers are waning, McCarthy cannot count on the former president to deliver the hardest of the hardliners in the GOP caucus. What Trump has created is a brand of politics that defies democracy. “It’s the rule or ruin party,” says Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the 1/6 committee.
          The Washington Post counted Trump’s false or misleading statements in his four years as president. The total came to 30,573, an eye-popping number though they were not of equal caliber. Some were political hyperbole, which almost all politicians do on occasion, and which are mostly harmless.
          Others took direct aim at the democratic pillars of our constitutional republic and were centerstage on January 6 when Trump refused to call in the national guard to defend the Capitol.
          Follow the money was the roadmap to unraveling the Watergate scandal. Trump defied tradition and refused to release his tax returns. Now that he is out of office and his tax returns have been turned over to Congress, we may learn more about where Trump got his money.
          With Santos, the answers will come quicker. He says the $700,000 loan came from his company, which he says is a consulting firm that works with cities and states. But no one can identify any actual work that has been done.
          Based on what we know now, Santos is likely to be indicted and face prosecution. Can we say the same of the politician Santos modeled himself after?
          See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2022 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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