This piece highlights how extreme, dangerous and truly deplorable the new face of the GOP has become in such a short time. Here are some lowlights in just the news from yesterday, ranging along a sad spectrum from the morally sick to the dangerously unhinged.
George Santos actually let a sick dog die for greed.
It’s tempting to mock and laugh at the absurd claims and constant stream of lies emanating from the mouth of New York Republican Representative George Santos, but beneath them lie some truly disturbing stories.
The one lighting up Twitter yesterday comes courtesy of excellent investigative reporting by Patch, a local news outlet based in Oyster Bay, New York.
According to the report, Santos had once offered to help a disabled, homeless veteran named Richard Osthoff with his beloved service dog Sapphire. The pit mix had developed a life-threatening stomach cancer, and Osthoff needed $3,000 for her cancer surgery.
A vet tech referred Osthoff to a charity run by Santos called “Friends of Pets United” that raised money to help with such cases. It turns out the purported charity was never registered as a nonprofit.
Santos agreed to help Osthoff by launching a GoFundMe for Sapphire under the charity’s name, in which he often personally used the false name of Anthony Zabrovsky. Santos then took the $3,000 that was raised, closed the fundraising page on social media, and ghosted Osthoff on texts, disappearing with all the funds.
Without the money for the surgery, Sapphire died the following January.
One further despicable detail: Santos’ one time roommate told Anderson Cooper Santos often used the last name “Zabrovsky” in connection with his non-profit fundraising because he believed Jews would be more likely to give charity to other Jews.
Santos not only conned a homeless vet out of his pet’s life-saving funds, he conned donors by falsely claiming to be part of their community.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy nevertheless continues to stand by Santos, because he needs every vote he can get, and so by majority vote of all House Republicans yesterday, Santos was appointed to two Congressional committees: Small Business and Science.
Santos continues, however, to face numerous ethical and criminal investigations into his apparent misrepresentations and frauds.
The patients are now in charge of the asylum.
Beyond George Santos’ committee appointments, there were several other notable ones from amongst far-right Republicans, cementing their hold over the direction of the party for the next two years.
These include Georgia GOP Representative7 Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is a 9/11 conspiracy peddler, to the Homeland Security Committee—a department that ironically was set up to keep the country safer in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Greene publicly questioned whether a plane really flew into the World Trade Center and insisted President Barack Obama was a secret Muslim.
Then there’s the make-up of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, which is charged with conducting investigations.
That will likely be the noisiest committee all year, given that its ranks now include not only Greene but also her new nemesis Republican Representatives Lauren Boebert of Colorado; Paul Gosar of Arizona who was kicked off his committees for threatening violence against other politicians on social media; and Freedom Caucus Chair—and likely key witness and possible January 6 co-conspirator and defendant—Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who once begged Trump for a pardon for his insurrectionist activities.
He did not get one.
The Oversight Committee’s sole job will be to harass the Biden Administration on everything it can lay its hands upon. But the likely upside, to the extent we can find one, is that the committee will also expose GOP extremism like never before.
And it will be backward looking, meaning the GOP will not appear to the moderates who decide our elections to be at all focused on issues of crime, inflation, or kitchen table economics as they had promised during the campaign season.
Extremism at the local level takes a dark turn.
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the danger political extremism poses to all levels of our democracy.
This was evident when former Republican state house candidate Soloman Peña, who lost his bid for the seat in the most recent statewide elections in New Mexico, was arrested by authorities on Monday.
Peña was charged with paying four men cash and texting messages with addresses of Democratic state officials where he “wanted them to shoot at the homes.”
As the New York Timesreported:
"Mr. Peña accompanied the men to the house of State Senator Linda Lopez on Jan. 3 and 'attempted to shoot', but the automatic rifle he was using malfunctioned, the police said. Another man shot more than a dozen rounds from a handgun, the police said, including into the bedroom of Ms. Lopez’s daughter."
It’s important to note Peña lost by a landslide but, like his hero Donald Trump, refused to concede his election loss. Peña alleged, without basis, his election was rigged and there was widespread fraud.
Trump’s brand of election denialism, coupled with the appointment of ultra MAGA sycophants to seats of power in Congress, will likely only fuel further bizarre and dangerous fringe elements who will feel increasingly vindicated in their conspiratorial allegations and justified in their violence.
Law enforcement is going to have to take a strong, proactive role, particularly with respect to those who have swallowed the Big Lie.
As the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol showed us, such individuals are easily weaponized by the far-right because they have all the certitude needed to commit violence in the name of “freedom” and “liberty.”