Editorial | George Santos – the American example?
Observers might be wondering what’s on the George Santos menu today for the mendacity of the American Congressman is being served on a platter almost daily, with each fabrication bolder than the one before.
Understandably, the representative for New York’s 3rd Congressional district has been capturing headlines around the world since his November 2022 election, as many try to balance the fairytale version of the American system of government and the reality which he presents. Of course, that image was already severely battered during the reign of Donald Trump who was caught in many ethical dilemmas and falsehood even before he stepped into the White House. Santos is an ardent Trump supporter.
We, too, must be forgiven for wading into the political quagmire that has been created around the Congressman. Jamaicans and others like to cite Washington, DC, as the epicentre of good governance and are ever critical about other democracies. And yes, as we yearn to achieve a perfect union, we, as Jamaicans, ought to insist on ethical standards and a level of integrity, which we have so far failed to achieve.
The magnitude of Santos’ lying is beyond the normal exaggeration that is common with politicians. For example, it is not unusual to hear politicians make announcements as they seek to grab headlines, embellishing their accomplishments, or making campaign promises, which are all unreal.
In the case of Santos or Anthony Devolder, a combination of his middle name and his mother’s maiden name, he has lied about his family background, his college education, his religious background, his work experience, source of campaign funding, and on and on. Yet, he has faced no widespread condemnation from the majority of his Republican colleagues, and remarkably, Santos has been named to two House committees. Santos, by virtue of being a son of Brazilian immigrants who grew up in a basement in Queens, has an interesting story to tell.
Now, the ongoing saga of Santos highlights how much rides on personal integrity in public life whether in America, Jamaica and any other country. Santos admits to telling lies, but he declares, “I am not a criminal.” If your resume is largely fictitious and you continue to lie, why should you be trusted? But that’s the thing – it is American to embellish one’s resume. Jobseekers routinely fabricate accomplishments and stretch the truth without consequences. And in seeking a job in Congress, Santos rode a fictitious resume to victory.
In the estimation of some Republicans, lying about one’s life is not enough to keep someone from being a member of the US House of Representatives. Beyond that, the US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had this to say: “I try to stick by the Constitution. The voters elected him to serve. If there is a concern and he has to go through the ethics (committee) we’ll let him move through that.”
Three complaints about Santos have been filed with the ethics committee.
It really boils down to what the tools to preserve integrity in politics and governance are. The first obligation of political parties is to thoroughly vet the people whom they put up for election. And if that fails, there are ethics committees to investigate misconduct.
We wait to see how the ethics committee will decide and whether the US Congress will do the right thing to stave off this danger to democracy.