Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Will The Real Matt Gaetz Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up


Which Republican said this last week in a debate about prohibiting Trump to invade Iran without prior approval from Congress? "If my war-hungry colleagues, some of whom have already suggested we invade Venezuela and North Korea and probably a few other countries before lunchtime tomorrow; if they’re so certain of their case against Iran, let them bring their authorization to use military force against Iran to this very floor. Let them make the case to Congress and the American people."

Justin Amash would be a good guess, but he had already quit to GOP and was already an independent. Amash voted for the amendment, as did 27 Republicans and the amendment carried, 251 to 170. (7 Trump-Democrats--Henry Cuellar, Josh Gottheimer, Stephen Lynch, Stephanie Murphy, Tom O'Halleran, Kathleen Rice and Jefferson Van Drew-- crossed the aisle in the other direction and voted to make sure Trump could start bombing whenever he wanted to. These 7 Democrats should be kicked out of the party and defeated at the ballot box, although it's worth noting that Cheri Bustos and Nancy Pelosi are working furiously to undercut the 3 women who are primarying Cuellar, Lynch and O'Halleran.)

The Republican co-sponsor of the amendment-- and the one chastising "my war-hungry colleagues"-- was none other than Matt Gaetz, the Florida Panhandle congressman who Mother Jones referred to as Trump's favorite congressman and his most sycophantic fanboy yesterday. And I admit it, we've called him worse. The Mother Jones piece wasn't about Gaetz infuriating Trump; it was about how similar their paths to government were. Stephanie Mencimer reported that Trump has lavished praise on Gaetz:
"President Trump says Rep. Gaetz is 'handsome, going places... fantastic' in Fort Meyers, Florida rally."
"President Trump holds rally in Pensacola, FL with Matt Gaetz."
 President Trump calls Rep. Gaetz 'an absolute warrior' in live Fox News interview."
"President Trump endorses Gaetz in the Republican primary, calling him 'one of the finest and most talented people in Congress'."
Trump isn't very popular in south Florida, but up in the Panhandle... he's huge. In 2016 he won Gaetz's district 67.5% to 28.2%, Trump's best performance anywhere in Florida. Last year Gaetz was reelected with virtually the same margin-- 216,189 (67.1%) to 106,199 (32.9%) for Democrat Jennifer Zimmerman.

Mencimer wrote that the 37 year old Gaetz "has earned a reputation for becoming one of the party’s highest-profile members by cheerleading for the president and emulating his public bullying and trolling. Gaetz seems to spend more time on Fox News than in congressional committee rooms, and when he does legislate, it’s sometimes for show. After Trump mocked the House Intelligence Committee chair, one of his chief antagonists, as “little pencil-­neck Adam Schiff,” Gaetz went on Tucker Carlson’s show to announce a resolution to boot the California Democrat off the committee. Gaetz called it the Preventing Extreme Negli­gence with Classified Information Licenses Act, or PENCIL Act."
"Matt Gaetz is living proof that Veep was less parody and more prophecy," says Steve Schmidt, a veteran Republican political strategist and Trump critic. "To some degree, he's a character in the grandest reality show of all. He exists at the hinge of reality and alternative reality."

Gaetz is often described as Trump's protégé, someone who’s become a Fox News staple not just by sucking up to the president but by trying to out-Trump Trump with insults hurled at Democrats and anyone else with the temerity to challenge the president. But Gaetz hasn't simply been copying the president; he was cultivating a Trumplike persona long before anyone considered the possibility of a President Trump. And the two men share more than just a love of playground taunts. Gaetz's political ascent was also fueled by a rich father who paved his way, and a series uf unorthodox financial maneuvers.

The meanest member of Congress hails from a town called Niceville, a sleepy enclave of about 15,000 nestled on Choctawhatchee Bay, just off the Gulf of Mexico. When Gaetz was growing up, it was 90 percent white, solidly middle class and best known for hosting the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival-- in honor of the plentiful local fish, not the hairdo. The Gaetzes owned a second home in the nearby town of Seaside, where The Truman Show was filmed. Gaetz, who devoted his career to getting on television, spent much of his childhood in a house made famous by a character trying to get off TV.

The Gaetzes were conservative and religious, as was the surrounding community. (Two abortion doctors were murdered in the area during Gaetz's childhood.) Matt's mom suffered life-threatening complications while pregnant with his younger sister but opted not to have an abortion and was partially paralyzed as a result. Matt Gaetz has said her decision influenced his anti-abortion positions.

But if anyone is responsible for Gaetz's rise to political fame, it's his dad, whose deep pockets and even deeper connections in Florida politics are one reason Matt is known in his district as Baby Gaetz. "Matt would be an assistant manager at Walmart if it weren't for his father," says Steven Specht, a Democrat who ran against Gaetz for Congress in 2016.
Mencimer explained how he is a 3rd generation politician and how he honed his trolling skills early to help his father's career. His father was apparently popular and served briefly as state Senate president. Although Gaetz campaigned as an anti-healthcare fanatic, it was his father's hospice company (infamous for defrauding Medicare)-- and it's sale for $400 million-- that paid the bills.

Matt graduated from William and Mary Law School in 2007 and embarked on a small-town law career and in a race to collect drunk driving citations, during which time he earned a reputation as an entitled ne'er-do-well. Republicans are attracted to that kind of entitlement and when state House Speaker Ray Sansom was forced out of office for corruption, Matt was elected to his seat. All his dad's political cronies and donors contributed to Matt's campaign and he raised $480,000, five times more than any of his rivals. Although he only made $29,000 in 2010 as a lawyer, he managed to self-fund $100,000 in last minute (2 weeks) campaign expenses, more than any of his rivals spent in total.

He was an aggressive far right extremist in the legislature-- and made a name for himself as a nasty troll, He also learned how to use the military to advance his political career without actually having to enlist.

In 2016, when Jeff Miller, the local congressman decided to retire, Gaetz, self-funding with mysterious money again, ran and won. And it didn't hurt to have a superPAC funded by his father and his father's connections, throw half a million dollars into the race. He won and he continued drooling away, nearly winding upon real trouble for threatening Michael Cohen on Twitter. As Mencimer pointed out, "virtually everything Gaetz has done in Congress has been designed for maximum publicity. The first bill he ever introduced was a one-sentence measure disbanding the Environmental Protection Agency."

I reached out to Gaetz, who has never responded to any e-mails. I asked him one question (albeit with a few parts: "Mother Jones seems to have set out to paint a very negative picture of you as a Trump lackey-- just one week after you and Ro Khanna passed an historic war powers amendment that the White House probably isn't thrilled with. It appears that you brought over two dozen Republicans along with you-- not counting Justin Amash. Mother Jones asserts that you've been an unserious troll and points to your first bill-- to abolish the EPA in one sentence-- as a way of summing you up legislatively. And yet this amendment you and Ro passed is, arguably, the most important bipartisan legislation passed this year. Was there a change in attitude on your part? What made someone sometimes called 'the most right-wing member of Congress' work on an amendment with someone who is sometimes called 'the most left-wing member of Congress?' Has the White House communicated with you about the amendment? And... no luck. He didn't respond.

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At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be patient. Gaetz is probably too busy stalking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Maybe you will luck out and get a blast from him soon.


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