The remarkably consistent response from any Republican caught red-handed in whatever nefarious activity they’ve been captured engaging in is to immediately display their persecution complexes and search for an appropriate target to blame.
For the violent and fanatical Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol, Antifa and BLM fit the bill as the scapegoats for their own destructive actions.
For right-wing xenophobes, it’s the constantly-arriving caravans of criminal asylum seekers who play the bogeyman role.
For Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), beleaguered by a growing scandal over the allegations of sex trafficking by transporting a 17-year-old girl over state lines for unlawful carnal knowledge, a tried and true shibboleth from GOP campaigns past is being dusted off as the conspiratorial force behind the accusations he is now facing.
Rep. Gaetz tested the waters of his defense by penning an op-ed in the right-wing-friendly pages of The Washington Examiner which gives away the new villains in his persecution complex right in its title: “The swamp is out to drown me with false charges, but I’m not giving up.”
One can sense the desperation in Gaetz’s words as he tries to redirect the public anger away from the allegation of his alleged repugnant sex crimes and towards the ineffable, amorphous “swamp” that in the eyes of right-wing conspiracy mongers is the source of all corruption and evil in Washington DC.
He begins with an assertion that he is a congressman, not a prelate with a vow of chastity, somewhat of a self-owning indictment in and of itself.
“Washington scandal cycles are predictable, and sex is especially potent in politics. Let me first remind everyone that I am a representative in Congress, not a monk, and certainly not a criminal,” Gaetz begins his op-ed.
He then goes on to contrast his own situation with the harassment scandals besotting the career of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and to blame his unjust persecution on the same swamp creatures who tormented Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and every other supposed political martyr he’d like to compare himself to.
“I want to be clear about something as we process the leaks and lies from the past week. To this point, there are exactly zero credible (or even non-credible) accusers willing to come forward by name and state on the public record that I behaved improperly toward them, in the manner by which Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ten accusers,” Gaetz continues.
“Instead, CNN, the New York Times, Politico, and others are just repeating false allegations about a congressman who loathes the swamp and fights both sides of it on a daily basis,” Gatez says, conjuring visions of the embattled legislator wrestling alligators in the Everglades.
The Florida congressman — an especially rare subspecies of the proverbial “Florida man” who exhibits all of the idiocy of the headline-grabbing population group in a concentrated fashion — goes on to blame the media and “the establishment” for his troubles while denying all of the sordid allegations against him and vowing to never give up his congressional position.
“Yes, just like the mafia, the D.C. swamp protects its “made men.” Since I’m taking my turn under the gun, let me address the allegations against me directly. First, I have never, ever paid for sex. And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old,” he said, notably retricting his denial to a limited age range.
“Predictably, the anti-Trump cheerleaders such as Meghan McCain, Bill Kristol, and sadly, some of my feckless colleagues in Congress are going to call for me to resign,” Gaetz writes.
“This is how D.C. works. The guilty and wrong point fingers at the innocent and right. Remember President Joe Biden’s Ukraine scandal? Or the Lincoln Project’s professions of moral superiority? Their scorn and moral posturing is all merely projection,” he claims, reversing the moral attributions applicable to the instances he cites.
“And no, I am absolutely not resigning,” he emphatically states, in words that will likely come back to haunt him shortly.
Rep. Gaetz then embarks on a curious defense of what he characterizes as a “prior” lifestyle by claiming weakly that nothing he has done is “illegal,” apparently referring to reports that he liked to show pornographic nudes of his sexual conquests to his congressional colleagues.
“My lifestyle of yesteryear may be different from how I live now, but it was not and is not illegal. I defended Rep. Katie Hill’s “throuple” when her own Democratic colleagues wouldn’t. I just didn’t think it was anyone’s business,” Gatez now claims.
“It comes as no surprise that my political opponents want to sensationalize and criminalize my prior sex life just as I am getting engaged to the best person I’ve ever known. It is regrettable that the battle of ideas should thus become so personal. But then again, when your ideas suck, you need to stoop this low,” he said, again reversing a truthful statement about himself and other Republicans to use against his opponents.
“My personal life is and always has been conducted on my own time and my own dime. Consensual adult relationships are not illegal. Although I’m sure some partisan crooks in Merrick Garland’s Justice Department want to pervert the truth and the law to go after me, I will not be intimidated or extorted. The battle for America’s future demands gladiators, and I am going to keep getting back up and fighting, every single day,” Gaetz vowed.
“You’ll see more “drip, drip, drip” of leaks into the media from the corrupt Justice Department and others. When you do, ask yourself why. They aren’t coming for me — they are coming for you. I’m just in the way,” Gaetz predicted trying to undercut any as-yet-undisclosed details likely to emerge from the DOJ investigation.
Congressman Gaetz may promise to never stop fighting, but his future lays largely outside of his own control.
As the other Republicans in Congress — with the notable exceptions of the likes of the equally deplorable Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — begin inching away from the stench accompanying Gaetz’s scandal, his options may soon become more limited than he realizes.
If an indictment on the alleged charges is forthcoming, Republicans may finally adopt the posture that Democrats have taken with offending politicians like the aforementioned Katie Hill and former Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and pressure Gatez to resign.
It would be only the beginning of a necessary housecleaning of the GOP’s most offensive members, but at least it would be a start.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.