Opinion

What should happen to George Santos?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) joined other newly elected lawmakers to take his seat in the new Congress this week, despite revelations that he made up parts of the work history on his resume and allegedly fudged campaign finance forms, too. Authorities in Santos' native Brazil also said this week that they were reviving a 14-year-old check fraud case against Santos, now that they know where he is. He even messed up again this week, releasing a statement saying he had been sworn in as a member of Congress — but that hadn't happened yet due to the GOP stalemate over Republican leader Kevin McCarthy's bid to become speaker.

After losing a bid for Congress in 2020 to then-incumbent Democrat Tom Suozzi by 12.4 percentage points, Santos jumped on then-outgoing President Donald Trump's bandwagon and said Democrats stole the election from him by fraud. Running again in a friendlier, redrawn district in 2022, he "recalibrated his far-right pitch, weaving themes into his campaign biography that might make him more acceptable to swing voters," says Charles Lane in The Washington Post. Santos, playing "against type as a gay Republican," also claimed to be a grandson of Ukrainian Jewish Holocaust survivors and the son of 9/11 victims — "baloney," in both cases. Now that he's made it to Washington, what consequences should Santos face for his lies?

Santos should resign, but won't

"There's almost no chance" Santos will go willingly and simply resign, says the Schenectady, New York, Daily Gazette in an editorial, "even though he clearly should." Despite his obvious fabrications about his past jobs, "education, and Jewish heritage; despite questions about the source of his wealth, his campaign finances, his former marriage, and some strange issue with Brazil, he's not suddenly going to become repentant and give up his lucrative and powerful new gig."

The smart move for Republican House leaders would be to take charge. They could "pressure him to resign, bring him up on ethics charges, threaten not to put him on committees or sanction him any way." But, so far, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is "staying out of it," because he needs all the support he can get in his quest to win, and keep, the speaker's job. 

Republicans should do the next best thing and boot him from their conference

It's safe to assume Santos won't come to his senses and step down, cooperate with investigators, and "come clean about his past," says Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. In that case, it's up to his local party to "disavow him and call for a special election." Also, "Republicans in the House should end their silence, formally oppose his entry, and close their conference to him."

With a narrow 222-212 majority over Democrats (and one Virginia seat headed for a special election), Republicans "believe they can't afford to lose even one" vote. But holding onto Santos' seat isn't worth it. He "will be the focus of investigations from day one and will be used to pummel the GOP each day for looking past his fraud. They can't afford to keep him. He is a bridge too far. He is an embarrassment."

Santos isn't the only liar in Washington

Republicans might be responding differently about Santos "if we had an honest president," says Jim Geraghty at the National Review. "It has become de rigueur among conservatives to point out that the Democrats are gargantuan hypocrites" when it comes to lying politicians, and this time is no different, with reminders about Biden's "sketchy claims," including that he was arrested in a civil rights march and graduated at the top of his college class ("he in fact graduated 'near the bottom'").

"Liberals are tying themselves in knots to explain how Biden's false stories are mere exaggerations, or instances of Grandpa's getting confused, while Santos' lies require an automatic expulsion from Congress." If Biden had a sterling record on telling the truth, who knows whether Republicans would want Santos to take his place in Congress, "or would they tell the voters of New York's third congressional district, 'Nope, this guy is no good, go find somebody else'?"

Prosecutors will bring Santos down

Not all lies are the same, say U.S. News Syndication commentators Eleanor Clift and Douglas Cohn. The "tall tales" Santos has told "that have gotten the most attention, like his false claim that he is descended from Holocaust survivors, and worked at high levels in investment firms, and graduated from elite colleges, are irrelevant in the eyes of the law."

But federal investigators aren't investigating Santos for falsely claiming he worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and graduated from college. "They want to know where he got the $700,000 he loaned his campaign after compiling a spotty work history and drifting between cheap rentals." It doesn't matter where Santos worked, what his religion is, or where he went to college. "It does not matter whether he went to this college or that college, or any college at all for that matter, lying on financial forms related to serving in Congress is like lying to the FBI. It is a felony."

Santos is a sign of the times

Seeing a fabulist heading to Congress "is shocking but not surprising," says Molly Roberts in The Washington Post. After all, Americans believed Elizabeth Holmes when she told us Theranos would revolutionize blood testing. We trusted Sam Bankman-Fried and his cryptocurrency exchange FTX, failing to see "that you can't create money out of nothing more than hype." The reason: "We're living in the age of the scam."

Santos followed Donald Trump's playbook. "The former president, too, got elected by lying — conjuring up facts and figures" to look richer to the public and poorer to the IRS. We know everybody embellishes their story a little bit, but "part of us wants to believe that some too-good-to-be-true things are true after all — that gay Republican deep-pocketed biracial grandsons of Holocaust survivors do exist. Santos described himself in interviews during his campaign as 'the American Dream.' Maybe he's right."

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