Lies for Me But Not for Thee

“Do as I say, not as I do.”

That obnoxious diktat uttered by obtuse authority figures everywhere is working overtime in the case of George Santos, the Republican Representative-elect from New York. 

Santos is scheduled to take his seat next week. As of this writing, however, his political future is mostly cloudy, with a distinct chance of stormy weather—not to mention the boot. 

Why? Because Santos was exposed as a liar, someone who (I am looking for the right word)—how about “embroidered”? Yes, let’s go with “embroidered”—his history. 

Actually, the emollient word Santos used when caught out was “embellished.” “My sins here are embellishing my résumé,” he said in an interview with the New York Post. “I’m sorry.” 

Among his “embellishments” was the claim that he held a degree from Baruch College. In fact, as he admitted, “I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning.” You might think, as I do, that that is a plus since most so-called “institutions of higher learning” are moral sewers and left-wing indoctrination camps whose chief achievement is corrupting the young. Still, Santos should not have lied about this, just as he should not have said that he worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs when, in fact, he did not. (Though, once again, asked to choose between two candidates, I’d be inclined to go with the one who never set foot in Goldman Sachs rather than the one who had worked there.) 

In an effort to display a little moral street cred, Santos claimed his grandparents had “fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII.” Reading that, most readers would assume that Santos was Jewish. But no. “I never claimed to be Jewish,” he objected. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background, I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’” Not hungry, merely “peckish.” Not short, merely “short-ish.” And not really nice, merely “nice-ish.” 

But “Jew-ish”? 

Let us draw a veil. A year and a half ago, Santos tweeted that “9/11 claimed my mother’s life.” It must have taken a while, though, since, in fact, she did not die until 2016. I don’t advise trying to visit Santos at his Nantucket home, either. It seems he doesn’t own one, though he claims he did. 

That song from “HMS Pinafore” comes to mind: “Things are seldom what they seem/Skim milk masquerades as cream.” 

Naturally, there is general outrage directed at Santos, especially, but not exclusively, from the Democratic side of the aisle. Tulsi Gabbard, sitting in for Tucker Carlson, roundly condemned him. There is, she said, “no greater form of disrespect of democracy” than lying.

I don’t disagree. But if that is so, note how much of such disrespect there is to go around. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) once upon a time claimed to be part Injun—Cherokee, in fact—and even wrote that on a registration card she filled out for the state bar association in Texas. 

Now I have a certain sympathy for ordinary nonvictim folks who were born in the U.S. of A. and who put down “native American” on those ridiculous pigeon-holing forms. Having been born in Shaker Heights, outside of Cleveland, Ohio, I am tempted to indite “Native American” on all such documents myself, just as I glory in advertising that I am a “person of color,” pointing out to the skeptical that a pleasing pink is just as good a color as those darker, more fashionable hues. 

But I digress. Elizabeth Warren lied about her background, just as George Santos did. When she is hounded out of office, then I will line up and call for Santos’ ouster. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) used to claim that he had served in Vietnam for the same sort of reason that Santos said he had a college degree and worked at Goldman Sachs. He thought the voters would like it. Back in 2008, Blumenthal told a crowd of voters, “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.” The New York Times really outdid itself in the euphemism department when it reported on this. “His words . . . differ from history.” How delicately put! He “never served in Vietnam,” the paper acknowledged. In fact, “he obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war.” In other words, he lied. 

And what about Joe Biden? Here we enter the realm of target-rich environments. Biden claimed that he graduated “in the top half” of his law school class at Syracuse Law School. In fact, he graduated near the bottom, 76 in a class of 85. He lied about his house nearly burning down with his wife inside, about driving an 18-wheeler, about confronting that made-up “bad dude” “Corn Pop.” Biden said he was arrested in South Africa while trying to visit Nelson Mandela during apartheid. No he wasn’t. He gave “his word as a Biden” that he awarded a navy hero a silver star in Afghanistan, but that turned out to be “an invented story.” And on and on. And on. We now all know what one’s “word as a Biden” is worth. 

It is worth remembering what a past master at this game once said: that people will sooner believe big lies than small ones.  Santos and others have told small lies.  But what about the big lies:  Biden says that the border is closed, even though thousands cross illegally every day.  A big lie.  Democrats, aided by The New York Times and The Washington Post, concocted a story that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. In fact, that claim was based entirely upon Hillary Clinton’s opposition research.  Another big lie.  Democrats passed a bill called The Inflation Reduction Act. But it had nothing to do with reducing inflation, and was itself inflationary. Yet another big lie.

Gabbard might be right that lying is a form of “disrespect” for democracy. But I can’t help but note that the lies attract more obloquy when they are perpetrated by Republicans than when they are perpetrated by Democrats. George Santos sounds like a silly, insecure fellow. It would be reassuring to think that he falls short of his colleagues in the U.S. government. Alas, there are many Santoses in that corrupt and irresponsible body. Making up things about your mother or your educational or professional background is merely beginner’s mendacity. If Santos manages to serve his term, he’ll find himself among real—and really disreputable—pros.

 

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