“Throw out what you know is right and give in to your paranoia.” That is the tortured defense/PR strategy third-term congressman, Matt Gaetz, (R-Fl) is employing in response to allegations of sex trafficking and having sex with a minor. The fact that his buddy, former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, is facing 33 federal indictments for the same charges and others has agreed to a plea deal, has Gaetz wiggling on the hook. Gaetz knows that the Justice Department playbook is to squeeze lesser players to give up the goods on bigger fish. Leaked reports say Greenberg’s testimony is “explosive.”
“They are coming to get you and I just am in the way,” Gaetz said recently during a rally at Trump’s Doral Hotel in Miami. Blaming the “lying media” and the “deep state” is his “Trump” card as he and other politicians, mainly Republicans, have learned from the “disrupter-in-chief” when confronted with criticism or a criminal investigation. “They” is growing more inclusive as the the House Ethics Committee has opened an investigation as well. Gaetz, like Trump, is allergic to responsibility as my toddler is to picking up his clothes.
Of course, reviewing the political career of Gaetz, who has an uncanny resemblance to Beavis of “Beavis and Butthead, indicates that his alleged sexual escapades involving prostitutes and minors reveal a narcissistic personality similar to his political hero. (Exhibit 1: A self-styled lady’s man, he caused a stir at a 2018 Republican Party of Florida Lincoln Day dinner in Orlando, by appearing with two dates). Such personality disorders are usually a result of stunted character development in which blaming others is paramount. Anyone who doubts his narcissistic bent has not been watching “The Gaetz Show” unfolding in Congress for the past four years, where the 37-year old has redefined “grandstanding” in a town that gave birth to it. Gaetz chose to shortcut the long and arduous road to political power earned through seniority by blowing enough smoke up Trump’s ass to set off all the fire alarms in neighboring Virginia and Maryland. In line with Political Grifting 101, he has been fundraising off the controversy, in a similar style to Trump and the other purveyor of paranoia, Marjorie Taylor Greene have done when besieged with criticism. People like Trump, Greene, and Gaetz are turning politics into the theater of the absurd.
As an instiitution, Congress has always had its outliers — racists, sexual predators, and larcenist, but always when these perpetrators were exposed they apologized and often resigned. But Gaetz and Trump are a new breed of unrepentants, trading in conspiracy and paranoia to turn reality upside down in order to project liberals as incarnate evil and profit from it politically and financially. The dystopian politics will continue to spread unless the character of more respectable politicians like Senator Mitt Romney and his values are able to triumph. After the January 6 insurrection, Romney denounced on the Senate floor false claims of election fraud and said it was time to tell voters the truth, instead of echoing their innuendo and misinformation, being fed to them by Trump, Gaetz, and the conspiracy contingent. That takes courage and character, qualities Congress needs more than ever.
During the Cold War, Russia was the boogeyman, and in the 1950’s paranoia raced through the U.S. body politic leading to the persecution of anyone even thought to be communist — lives were ruined and careers lost. The same ginned up fear and paranoia manifested itself in the Salem Witch Trials, which led to the burning at the stake of women.
What we fear the most, we project onto others. There will always be those who fear looking underneath their beds and those who are happy to tell them what is there.