GOP develops high tolerance for politicians of the lowest integrity

St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS)

On top of everything that has spilled out — actually, gushed out — regarding New York Republican Rep. George Santos, there’s this little tidbit: Republican officials were aware as far back as fall 2021 that he was a serial liar and fraudster. But Santos, 34, resisted warnings that he would embarrass himself and the party if he didn’t withdraw. Miscalculations abounded by both parties amid assumptions that the Santos problem would die as the scandals surfaced. But they didn’t. Then, to the shock and surprise of all involved, he won on Nov. 8.

The New York Times this week explained the long series of investigative failures that allowed Santos to slip through the cracks. Those failures included lapses by journalists whose job is to check the backgrounds of the candidates they cover. There were even warnings that someone in Santos’ campaign had impersonated now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's chief of staff while soliciting campaign donations. McCarthy told CNN on Tuesday that he had “always had a few questions” about Santos’ suspicious background.

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., leaves the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 12, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

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Yet now that it’s time for McCarthy to punish Santos, the speaker has opted to look the other way. In 2021, 11 Republicans joined Democrats in revoking the committee assignments of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., to hold her accountable for antisemitic and other offensive remarks. But Santos so far has escaped so much as a wrist slap. He fraudulently claimed academic degrees and employment by blue-chip Wall Street firms. He is wanted in his native Brazil for check fraud and theft. He misrepresented his religion and falsely claimed to be a descendant of Holocaust survivors. Campaign finance irregularities abound.

Voters of his Long Island district have spoken, McCarthy says, and if they don’t want Santos, they can vote him out in 2024. At least with Greene, voters knew what they were getting — Jewish space lasers and all. With Santos, voters were defrauded from Day One. A Long Island newspaper, the North Shore Leader, actually raised big questions about Santos’ integrity back in September, but its reporting garnered little or no attention, nor did its limited circulation reach enough local voters to impact the election.

A report surfaced this week that Santos set up a GoFundMe account to benefit a homeless Navy veteran whose service dog was ill. Santos took in $3,000, of which the veteran says he didn’t receive a dime. The dog died.

Although multiple New York Republican House members have urged Santos to resign, there are signs the party’s far-right House membership is pulling him into their fold. Should Americans be surprised anymore? A party that would stand behind a president who lied thousands of times — and used the lie of a stolen election to attempt a coup — seems perfectly comfortable welcoming Santos with open arms. In the quest for power at any price, concepts like truth and honor no longer hold sway in the GOP.

— From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS).