Food For Thought, NY3. Don’t Choke Again.

You’ve probably gotten more than a few chuckles in the last year from those who have mined comedy gold from George Santos, the now former New York congressman.  Days after he somehow was elected, reports surfaced that he had fabricated quite a bit of his CV and background,  VOX’s Li Zhou recapped it tersely but, unlike Santos, accurately:

Santos (was) scrutinized for lying extensively about his past, including claiming that he had attended Baruch College, that he had worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and that he had Jewish ancestry, all of which have been debunked. 

The biggest game changer in Santos’s case was the ethics investigation, which concluded that Santos “blatantly stole from his campaign” and that he used campaign funds for personal gain and services including Botox, OnlyFans, and luxury trips.

Additionally, they found he misrepresented the use of these funds to donors and didn’t properly file reports to the Federal Election Commission.

He provided Saturday Night Live regular Bowen Yang with as opportunistic and as fertile ground for a spot-on doppelganger impersonation as Sarah Palin provided Tina Fey with, and it was somewhat apropos that she made in an in-studio cameo after the cold open where Yang paid one final tribute, throwing in an Elton John channeling for good measure.  I really tried to laugh, and I’ll cop to smiling a little.  I’ve provided it here in case you missed it, and perhaps if I can somehow have a better string of luck than I’ve had of late, I might be a bit less Danny Downer about it.

But all I could think was–how the flying you-know-what did this lying sack of sh-t get elected in my old neighborhood in the first place?

Steve Israel, a columnist for the ATLANTIC who once held the same job that Santos did, penned a thoughtful piece last year where he attempted to explain how such a historically blue and Democratic bastion was somehow convinced to elect someone as diametrically opposed to the mindsets of the families I once tried to co-exist with:

How did George Santos, a Republican newly elected to New York’s Third Congressional District, on Long Island, get away with running for office with an almost completely fictitious résumé? The answer is a combination of Democratic complacency, Republican extremism, and media decline in a House district that I know intimately.

I’ll throw in this additional insight.  There’s no more Scobee’s.

I briefly lived in the Western fringes of New York’s Third Congressional District during the early 1980s, which admittedly was a long time ago, likely before Santos was born (You’ll note given his track record, virtually everything he has claimed is something I’m dubious about).  It was not a pleasant experience.  I wound up there by default, unable to afford the decent and safe condo my recently deceased grandmother left behind when my family learned there was a huge balloon payment due on the loan she and my also recently deceased grandfather had taken out when they purchased it a couple of years before.  I lived in a dank, basement studio apartment with the promise of heat, hot water, and privacy.  I never had all three at any one time.  The exposed wires nearly caught fire twice when I’d try to cook.

So I ate a lot of meals and spent a lot of time at a nearby diner on the Queens-Nassau border called Scobee’s, one of many such gathering places featuring decent Spanikopita, really good LEOs (lox, eggs and onions) and, contrary to popular belief, some truly horridly prepared entrees.  To this day, I remember a particularly pathetic attempt at fish and chips which would have been more appropriately called batter and chips.  And I’m honestly not sure what species of fish was actually in the few pieces that contained any.

But I also remember it was an exceptionally popular place for conversation and banter, and a favorite of a few friends and family members, especially on weekends.  Like many diners, they’d stock both the early and late editions of the Sunday New York Times, Daily News and Newsday.  People would openly look through the copies at counters and the many large, octagon-shaped tables that those of us who weren’t the less well-heeled regulars who seemed to never leave their booths would wind up.  People would debate every issue from how bad the Mets were (they were putrid) to the politics and shenanigans of the Koch administration and the locals who were running even in off-year elections.  You couldn’t help but learn something about Queens and Long Island politics while you were waiting for your order.

Scobee’s, sorry to say, closed in 2010.  When it did, the NEW YORK TIMES’ Joseph Berger eulogized it in a manner that was typically reserved for the passings of celebrities and the demolition of baseball stadiums:

Its purpose on this planet is bluntly advertised on the outdoor sign: “Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner.”

But Scobee, a venerable diner in Little Neck, Queens, that closed last Sunday, was always much more than a place to have three squares, its mourners say. Like many a diner, it was its neighborhood’s social hub, the place where parents brought their uniformed children after Little League games, where teenagers took their first dates and where the end of another school year was celebrated, whatever the report card said.

And yes, as elections approached, candidates would often hold impromptu town halls and meet-and-greets there.  Much like voters in Iowa are doing these days, I got to rub shoulders with congressional and mayoral candidates.  Mario Cuomo even showed up once during one of his gubernatorial campaigns,

George Santos never did any of that.  He didn’t have to.  He took full advantage of not only the timing and intersection of ignorance and frustration, but all of the trappings of technology, lockdown and the lack of a place like Scobee’s to vet truth from perception.    Not to mention the fact that the local sections of the Daily News, Times and Newsday had disappeared long before even Scobee’s did.

So now, only after this embarassment of an aborted term, are the local politicians and newsmakers emerging, even on digital reimaginings of some of the newspapers that places like Scobee’s also once carried for sale and browsing–often never even minding if patrons never bought the paper, so long as no grease got on the pages.  Witness what

George Santos was expelled from the House of Representatives on Friday morning. Long Island leaders were quick to react.  With today’s House vote to finally expel George Santos from its body, this ends a sorry chapter in the history of our county and our country,” Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Party, said. “His loss is a huge win for decency, honesty, and the rule of law.  In close consultation with Governor Kathy Hochul and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Queens Democratic Chair, Gregory Meeks, and myself will be working expeditiously to nominate the most qualified candidate with the best chance of success in the upcoming Special Election to fill the Third Congressional seat.”

Great.  Speak loudly, often, and passionately, please–all of you.  Because the sad truth is that George Santos is not going quietly into the night.  The INDEPENDENT’s Gustaf Kilander reminded us of that this morning:

Despite saying in an interview he would go “graciously”, Mr. Santos took to X on Friday night and began laying out his revenge on New York area members of the House that voted to expel him. 

And as VOX’s Li added, he’s already naming other names:

Santos lobbed other critiques — and threats — at his colleagues ahead of his expulsion, saying, “I will have fun on my way out. Don’t worry about it. And I have plenty of receipts.”

In remarks earlier this week, Santos referred to allegations of domestic violence that Rep. Max Miller (R-OH) has faced, and accused the lawmaker of “hypocrisy.” Previously, Santos has also suggested that some Republicans are engaging in infidelity and excessive drinking rather than properly doing their work. “I have colleagues who are more worried about getting drunk with the next lobbyist that they’re gonna screw and pretend like none of us know what’s going on and sell out the American people,” he said in the X Space.

Following Friday’s vote, Santos kept up his comments, arguing that, “they just set new dangerous precedent for themselves,” adding, “To hell with this place.”

And as if to pour oil on the fire, DEADLINE’s intrepid Nellie Andreeva added this little nugget:

The meteoric political rise of George Santos and the web of fabulist tales it was built on are getting a movie treatment. HBO Films has optioned the rights to Mark Chiusano’s new book The Fabulist: The Lying, Hustling, Grifting, Stealing, and Very American Legend of George Santos, which was published on November 28, 2023.  The film, now in development, is described as a forensic and darkly comic look at the crazy, unprecedented congressional race on Long Island that led to Santos being elected to Congress. It comes from Frank Rich, who executive produced HBO’s Emmy-winning Washington DC satire Veep as well as the network’s Emmy-winning drama Succession.

Wow.  From the mind of the man who helped create Selina Meyer, we get the inevitable leap to merely telling the story of someone far more unbelievable.

But a grim reminder of how dangerous that can be.

A Republican with a history in the borough of Queens, disgraced and vowing revenge, all the while stoking divisiveness and sneering in the face of any semblance of complacency.

Hmmmm…anyone else fit that description?

So, please, all those in NY3 who intend to vote next year–not only for Santos’ replacement, but for the person who will be running the whole shebang.  This time, pay closer attention to whatever and however you can get information–REAL information–on the candidates.  The issues.  Their backgrounds.  Their values.  Their ethics.  Contrary to the short-sightenedness of Frank Rich, this isn’t a laughing matter.

And if you need some help getting so focused, if it’s possible to bring back the LONG ISLAND PRESS, maybe someone with fond memories and a few dollars (in the eastern part of the district, there’s a LOT of it), maybe you could bring back a diner like Scobee’s for that discourse and education to be shared in?

Only this time, use slightly more and better quality fish.

Until next time…

 

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