Discover more from The Bulwark
Lordy, There Were Hula Hoops
Plus: Boehner on how the GOP lost its mind
WASHINGTON — A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.
Investigators believe Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.
Sources said Gaetz was part of a group of young male lawmakers who created a "game" to score their female sexual conquests, which granted "points" for various targets such as interns, staffers or other female colleagues in the state House.
Happy Friday, to all the Republicans who bought the ticket. Now you get to take the ride.
One reason Gaetz is unravelling so fast is that he has an Andrew Cuomo problem. Everybody hates him.
One former senior Trump White House aide described Gaetz as “the meanest person in politics,” and said other ex-Trump aides “feel a little vindicated” by the news. A former congressional aide said Republican leaders will enjoy sitting back and watching Gaetz “completely implode in a matter of days,” while another another ex-Trump White House aide wrote: “Good riddance... It sounds like he let whatever BS power he thought he had go to his head.”
Expect this to get even more lurid, because, ICYMI, lordy, there were hula hoops. CNN reporting:
Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.
The anecdotes keep coming. Here’s a tidbit from the Daily Beast:
The cartoonishly scandalous perception of Gaetz is so commonplace that sometimes it’s visible, literally, in the halls of Congress. A Hill source sent The Daily Beast a photo of a trash bin outside Gaetz's office as lawmakers cleared out their offices at the end of a recent session. At the top of the heap was an empty Costco-size box of “Bareskin” Trojan condoms.
So, once again we have a story that is shocking, but not at all surprising, especially since Matt Gaetz told us who he was, over and over again.
In particular, this Vanity Fair profile is definitely worth revisiting. In it (and in his own book), Gaetz describes himself as the prototype of the new celebrity politician, who is more interested in being on television than actually legislating. “If you aren’t making news,” he says, “you aren’t governing.”
But this is the part that may be the most revealing, as he describes the moral atmosphere of a Trumpified right-wing:
Gaetz also credits Trump with making life a little bit easier in Washington for a guy like him who, as he put it, “arrived in D.C. as a single man after a couple of long-term relationships that didn’t work out.” A thrice-married serial adulterer as the face of the Republican Party certainly provides some cover for members who might step outside the lines. “We’ve got a president now who doesn’t care for puritanical grandstanding or moralistic preening. He is a lot more direct, even visceral, open, and realistic about his likes and dislikes, so overall, this is a good time to be a fun-loving politician instead of a stick-in-the-mud,” Gaetz writes. “I have an active social life, and it’s probably easier in the era of Trump. We’ve had ‘perfect family man’ presidents before, after all, and many of those men sold out our country, even if their wives were happy the whole time. If politicians’ family lives aren’t what really matter to the voters, maybe that’s a good thing. I’m a representative, not a monk.”
Exit question: Will Trump throw Gaetz a political life-preserver? Or will he let his protégé sink?
Popcorn and cabernet. Former Speaker John Boehner is out with a new book and, apparently, it does not disappoint. Politico has an excerpt:
Boehner describes a meeting with Fox New boss Roger Ailes.
And it was clear that he believed all of this crazy stuff. I walked out of that meeting in a daze. I just didn’t believe the entire federal government was so terrified of Roger Ailes that they’d break about a dozen laws to bring him down. I thought I could get him to control the crazies, and instead I found myself talking to the president of the club. One of us was crazy. Maybe it was me….
Under the new rules of Crazytown, I may have been Speaker, but I didn’t hold all the power. By 2013 the chaos caucus in the House had built up their own power base thanks to fawning right-wing media and outrage-driven fundraising cash. And now they had a new head lunatic leading the way, who wasn’t even a House member. There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless asshole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz. He enlisted the crazy caucus of the GOP in what was a truly dumbass idea. Not that anybody asked me.
But maybe there is some hope. More of this would help.
But before we rush to normalize Miller — or allow him to slip back in among the cable news punditry — we ought to remember who he is.
Miller is not simply one of the many misfit toys left over from the moral squalor of the Trump years. He is one of the nation’s most notorious and well-documented bigots, and the architect of some of the darkest moments in our recent national nightmare.
In a rational and healthy polity, Stephen Miller would be regarded as a pariah, not a source.
Fact-checking Biden. C’mon, man.
However, the law did make some changes to early voting. But experts say the net effect was to expand the opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them.
“You can criticize the bill for many things, but I don’t think you can criticize it for reducing the hours you can vote,” said University of Georgia political scientist Charles S. Bullock III. He speculated that Biden may have been briefed on an early version of the bill — “there were 25 versions floating around” — and he did not get an update on the final version.
For instance, at one point lawmakers considered nixing all early voting on Sundays, thus eliminating “souls to the polls,” a get-out-the-vote initiative popular with predominantly Black churches. But that idea was scrapped in the end.
“One of the biggest changes in the bill would expand early voting access for most counties, adding an additional mandatory Saturday and formally codifying Sunday voting hours as optional,” Stephen Fowler of Georgia Public Broadcasting said in an excellent and comprehensive report on the impact of the new law.
But, despite that, the Georgia law remains problematic. Here is a deep-dive by the NYT into the bill’s more draconian provisions. “The New York Times analyzed the state’s new 98-page voting law and identified 16 key provisions that will limit ballot access, potentially confuse voters and give more power to Republican lawmakers. “
Meanwhile, Republicans sour on making it easy to vote.Via Pew:
In 2018, Republicans were divided in views about making it easy to vote – but today, that balance has shifted dramatically: Three years ago, about half of Republicans (51%) said that citizens should have to prove they really want to vote by registering ahead of time while nearly as many (48%) said that everything possible should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote. Currently, more than twice as many Republicans say citizens should have to prove they really want to vote by registering ahead of time (71%) than say all possible efforts should be taken to make it easy to vote (28%). Democrats continue to overwhelmingly say everything possible should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote (85%).
A note about crankery.
ICYMI, MTG introduced two bills Thursday “that would eliminate Anthony Fauci’s salary and ban vaccine passports.”
And she posted this bit of performative crackpottery:
The obvious (and quite legitimate question) question here is, why should we pay any attention to her at all? She’s a freshman with no committee assignments; a fringe character who makes America dumber every time she speaks. So why not ignore her?
The answer: because of stuff like this. Republicans might like to think that Greene is an outlier, but the reality is that she is the new face of Trumpism:
The Long History of Fighting Over the Term ‘Conservative’
This is a fabulous piece. In today’s Bulwark, Joshua Tait, has a fascinating history of the New Conservatives who tried to claim the word—but lost, and were largely forgotten.
One of the obstacles of the New Conservatism was a pre-existing American right represented by Liberty League veterans, anti-New Dealers, and Republican stalwarts committed to “rugged individualism.” Although the press sometimes dubbed the Republican right “conservative,” the term was generally used pejoratively. The people associated with this pre-existing, diffuse right preferred to think of themselves as “true liberals” or simply advocates for the American system. By contrast, the New Conservatives tried to foster a conscious mindset and philosophy of conservatism.
But by the early 1960s, the New Conservative project was dead. In response to Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, the painfully moderate [Clinton] Rossiter had chosen sides. He rebuked his association with conservatism—now identified with Goldwater—in Time magazine. “I am not now and never have been a conservative,” Rossiter announced. Likewise Peter Viereck looked back in the 1960s on the political language he helped popularize and wondered “what went wrong.” Conservatism belonged to the right, not the center.
Today, as various factions clash over what it means to be a conservative—Are Trumpist populists conservative? Are the Never Trumpers? What about Republican standard-bearers from ten or twenty or forty years ago?—it is worth revisiting the forgotten story of the first time Americans contended for the mantle of “conservatism.” It’s instructive to consider what happened to the losing side in that contest, and just why the episode came to be forgotten.
BONUS: After you read this piece, check out this 1956 television discussion of the future of conservativism.
He told us who he was.