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Photo illustration by JUXTA. Gaetz: Gage Skidmore.

Gaetz’s fate doesn’t matter: an entire clown caucus diminishes the Republic

The focus on Florida Man obscures serious American decay

Two news items simultaneosly coursed above Washington, DC like giant electric arcs: the scandal surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Giggity), and former Speaker John Boehner spitting mouthfuls of honesty about Congress.

But these arcs aren’t connecting in a way that might provide greater illumination.

Tabloid addiction

Politics has never failed to provide the occasional tabloid titilation, and both the Gaetz scandal and the Boehner book are near-perfect examples. He-did-what-now meets he-said-what-now.

The dilemma, of course, is that American politics has become a steady drip feed of the stuff. And when that becomes the new normal, the audience careens from one hit to the next.

Just recently, we were focused on the congressional cray-cray radiating off Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA14), and before that Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO3). Then, there was Sen. Ted Cruz’ infamous jaunt to Cancun.

Our political news has gotten the TMZ treatment. We’ve all become inured to a tabloid addiction.

GOP “social distances” Gaetz?

Unlike Boebert or Greene, some elements of the Washington GOP machine reportedly attempted to distance themselves from Gaetz. Gaetz’s people strenuously deny this. And any really serious distancing would be somewhat curious, when you step back and think about it for a moment:

  1. Gaetz doesn’t clock any higher on the crazy meter than colleagues in his colorful cohort.
  2. He’s a conservative rock star with a cadre of defenders arguably much larger than those of his colleagues.

Is the critical distinction that Gaetz went against a figure in his own leadership, in the person of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)? Not when you consider that sharpening knives for vertebral deployment on your leadership is a GOP hobby at this point.

Which brings us to Boehner’s book.

Send in the clowns

In the run-up to publication, we had all been teased with delicious excerpts and leaked peeks. And Boehner’s audio version delivered some ad-libbed “Go F — — Yourself!” delights, aimed Cruz’s way:

What comes across from Boehner’s book is his alleged bafflement at the arrival of an increasing number of Republican Members of Congress who did not exactly put a shine on the place.

Invite the tea party into your house. Sell the house and move away. Spill your own hot tea about it all, at approximately $18 for the hardcover. Beats workin’.

Our giddy attention to Boehner’s merlot-sauced insights and insults is understandable. But where’s the threat-to-the-Republic coverage? It’s what countless Americans are thinking: “How in the hell did they get elected in the first place? How did we get to this place?”

While we’ve always had some characters, I have never in all my years observing Congress seen a complete clown caucus as we now have, nor with such outsized impact upon our national reputation.

When the late Rep. James Traficant (D-OH) would holler “Beam me up!” at the conclusion of his floor remarks, with his Sasquatch coiffure and denim-patch suits, he was a solitary specimen, not a symptom.

Post-Trump, and especially in the wake of the capitol siege, the clown caucus says something about the legislative body. And it says something about us as a nation.

Requiem Pour Un Con?

We all know where this Gaetz thing is headed. I don’t mean in the sense of a prosecutorial forecast, but rather in a political script sense:

Whether he eludes investigators, or is charged with any mixture of financial or sexual wrongdoings, Gaetz is not likely to end up having his threads pulled out from America’s crazy political quilt. This we know from the ongoing “endeavors” of figures like Mike Flynn, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, and too many more.

The Three-Million-Dollar Woman: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)

A party that sees Trump as having been delivered by God is sure to see Gaetz as Saint Sebasitan. He’s already been fundraising off his latest notoriety. Meanwhile, Greene’s robust powers of imagination have been rewarded with a massive $3M haul in Q1.

Whatever becomes of Gaetz, the clown caucus shall endure, even further grow. The congressional standard has been recalibrated.

You and I may not be his type, but know this: we have all been screwed by Matt Gaetz.



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Joel Lawson

Joel Lawson

DC-based public affairs consultant. Fmr: Capitol Hill, Ctr for Partnership Studies; Caring Economy Campaign; Fmr Chair, GenderAction. about.me/joellawson