Should I be shocked about the Matt Gaetz scandal? Maybe. But he was such a transparent sleaze that I kind of felt like his behavior was going to be exposed sooner or later.
What really surprises me, though, is how flagrant he was. He was waving around photos of nude women and bragging about his sexual conquests to his peers in congress, and they said nothing. They built a wall of support for one of their own, instead.
The most surprising thing about Gaetz’s current position is just how unsurprising every Republican in D.C. seems to find it. But there’s a good reason: Not only did Gaetz show off naked pictures and videos of his supposed conquests to other Republican members of Congress, his staff apparently sent around videos of his most outrageous exploits to their counterparts with other Republican officials.
When it comes to Matt Gaetz, Republicans weren’t facing vague rumors about his conduct, they were getting bragging self-confessions from the man himself. And they were getting both photos and video, some of it delivered by Gaetz right from the floor of the House.
Part of what made Gaetz feel as if sending his sex tapes to fellow Republicans acceptable can be seen in a new Orlando Sentinel article that describes Gaetz’s feelings about such images. Gaetz believes that once he has an “intimate” picture of someone, that image is his to use however he wants. That includes feeding his ego, or using the image as revenge porn. Which is why Gaetz as the primary source of opposition to a bill against revenge porn when he served in the Florida house.
I keep coming back to the detail in CNN’s report that this wasn’t something Matt Gaetz did a single time, but repeatedly. Because if it happened more than once — if it happened twice, even — that is because the first time went better than it should have.
To me, this is something you do, ideally, zero times. You never experience the impulse to do it, and you lead a pleasant life. You travel. You eat lunchmeat sandwiches. Maybe you do a marathon, or climb something. You lead a blithe existence for many decades, you die in your bed in your mid-nineties surrounded by your cherished relatives, and in all that time, you never walk up to a colleague on the floor of the House of Representatives and out of nowhere present him with a nude photograph of someone you claim to have had sex with.
But if you can’t do it zero times, then ideally it happens only once. It happens only once, because the moment you do it, the person you show it to responds the way a person should respond. You produce your photograph to your colleague, and your colleague looks at you and says, “Never show that to anyone, ever again. Go home and rethink your life. I do not feel closer to you. If anything, I want to have you removed forcibly from my presence by strong gentlemen whose biceps are tattooed with ‘MOM.’ The fact that you thought this would make us closer makes me question every decision in my life that has led me to this point. Leave now and never come back.”
That’s exactly right. I’ve never been in Congress, but in the communities I have been part of, I’ve always been the rat who, if told of something unethical you or someone else did, I’d not only say “no, that’s not acceptable” to you, but I’d also tell everyone else. That’s another part of the problem, though: once you do that to your sleazy colleague, no one ever confides in you again.
I can understand the wall of silence his fellow Republicans put up around Gaetz’s disgusting behavior, but it doesn’t excuse it. A conspiracy to hide Gaetz’s behavior required the involvement of more than just Matt Gaetz. Maybe none of his colleagues participated directly in the abuse of women, but they enabled it.
While we’re pointing out cowards who tolerated revolting behavior, why is Jim Jordan still in congress?