It’s no surprise that the fabulist George Santos—who’s wanted in Brazil for fraud and has claimed he graduated from a college he didn’t attend and worked for two companies that have no record of his employment—decided he should run for Congress as a Republican. Lying is just how Republicans communicate these days.
Yet George Santos’ lying is a problem for Republicans because, well, just because. Maybe it’s because he’s gay, and lying with impunity is for straight, white (and red ocher), cisgender males? Who knows?
There’s a New Testament Bible verse that perfectly sums up Republicans’ current George Santos problem. Matthew 23:24: “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” With respect to the ongoing Santos saga, that’s a particularly relevant verse. For one thing, Santos is little more than a newly minted GOP gnat and, for another, he wrote it.
But even in the face of nominal GOP gnat-straining, it’s worth remembering that Republicans have never ostracized the Donald Trump camel: not when he claimed he’d won a Michigan Man of the Year Award that doesn’t exist, repeatedly took credit for a Veterans Choice bill Barack Obama signed, and—oh, I almost forgot about this one—insisted he won a presidential election he very clearly lost.
And then there’s the small matter of Trump’s recently released tax returns, which are packed with even more lies. So as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board noted Tuesday, Santos may be the Prince of Lies, but Donald Trump remains the undisputed king.
The tax returns show the famously empathy-deficient Trump gave zero to charity in 2020. This despite a 2016 campaign promise to donate his presidential salary to charity. So he lied about that.
Trump also claimed during the 2016 campaign that he couldn’t release his taxes because they were being audited, making him the first major-party presidential nominee in half a century to refuse the voters that crucial bit of transparency. It was a weak excuse (an audit doesn’t preclude a taxpayer from releasing his or her own records). The supposed release restriction was a lie.The House committee revealed last week that, in fact, Trump’s 2015 and 2016 taxes weren’t audited until 2019. So he just plain lied about that, too.
The Post-Dispatch then arrived at this painfully obvious conclusion: “It should be food for thought to Republicans who tsk-tsk at Santos but continue actively or tacitly enabling the Liar-in-Chief of their party.”
Of course, Trump has been lying about his taxes for years and years and years. Take, for instance, this exchange from the first 2020 presidential debate:
CHRIS WALLACE: “I know that you pay a lot of other taxes, but I’m asking you this specific question. Is it true that you paid $750 in federal income taxes each of those two years?”
DONALD TRUMP: “I paid millions of dollars in taxes, millions of dollars of income tax. And let me just tell you, there was a story in one of the papers …
JOE BIDEN: “Show us your tax returns.”
TRUMP: “… I paid $38 million one year, I paid $27 million one year …”
BIDEN: “Show us your tax returns.”
TRUMP: “You’ll see it as soon as it’s finished. You’ll see it. You know, if you want to do, go to the Board of Elections, there’s a 118-page or so report that says everything I have, every bank I have, I’m totally underleveraged because the assets are extremely good, and we have a very …”
WALLACE: “I’m asking you a specific question …”
TRUMP: “Let me tell you …”
WALLACE: “I understand all of that. I understand all that. No, Mr. President. I’m asking you a question. Will you tell us how much you paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017?”
TRUMP: “Millions of dollars.”
WALLACE: “You paid millions of dollars?”
TRUMP: “Millions of dollars.”
WALLACE: “So not $750.”
TRUMP: “Millions of dollars. And you’ll get to see it. And you’ll get to see it.”
As we now know, Trump was lying about this, too. According to Trump’s returns, he paid $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017—though we should listen especially closely to make sure he didn’t say “millions of doll hairs,” because that’s a loophole MAGA will gleefully leap through if given the chance.
There are literally thousands—thousands!—of examples like this, but the GOP—and the media—have lowered the bar for Trump so much, they’re happy to gloss over brazen fabrications that would gut any other politician’s future. For instance, where are the investigators Trump sent to Hawaii to dig up information on President Barack Obama’s birth certificate? Trump said we “wouldn’t believe” what they’re finding. Maybe the legacy media could pull a couple reporters off the Santos beat to get to the bottom of that unequivocally racist—and still-unretracted—dollop of defamation from the GOP’s longtime moral and intellectual standard-bearer.
As the Post-Dispatch notes, Santos’ lies have been treated as a major scandal (which, to be fair, they are), but Trump’s tax returns “are being widely viewed as an Al-Capone’s-vault-level dud because they don’t establish obvious criminality. As always, low expectations about Trump’s honesty work in his favor.”
Indeed, Republicans have been blithely swallowing a camel for the past seven years, and have been straining gnats for at least as long. It’s long past time they let their lying camel loose in the desert and swat those gnats the moment they bite, or they’re bound to be witness to more gruesome scenes like this:
Was it worth it, Kevin? Was it?!
If/when Republicans fail to pick a speaker again on Wednesday night, Democrats should all show up the next day wearing T-shirts with the above picture on them. Because, you know, karma is still a thing—and schadenfreude is still the most underrated of all human emotions.
Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.