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It Is Time for Radical Candor
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It Is Time for Radical Candor

We are governed by imbeciles and thieves and miscreants and degenerates.

Aaron Dimmock (Photo Courtesy Aaron Dimmock for Congress)

From the Associated Press earlier this week: “The House Ethics Committee on Tuesday gave an unusual public update into its long-running investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., saying its review now includes whether Gaetz engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use, accepted improper gifts and sought to obstruct government investigations of his conduct.”

Well.

His opponent in the upcoming Florida Republican primary, however, has an even bigger scandal on his résumé: He recently accepted an invitation to give a talk at the annual meeting of the Society of Human Resource Managers of Greater St. Louis. 

Angels and ministers of grace, defend us. 

Gaetz’s opponent in the August 20 contest, Aaron Dimmock, is one of the apparently endless supply of former naval aviators active in Republican politics. Politically, he looks more than a little like Gaetz, describing himself as a “pro-Trump conservative,” “pro-Trump” being the first political qualifier in his social-media bio. Personally, he seems to be … not very much like Gaetz. He’s been married for 28 years, has four children, has held a number of responsible executive positions, had a long career in the military, holds graduate degrees from Georgetown and the Naval War College, and, as far as the public record shows, has … never been investigated on “allegations that he was part of a scheme that led to the sex trafficking of a 17-year-old girl,” part of a series of crimes for which Gaetz’s buddy and former Florida tax collector Joel Greenberg has been sentenced to 11 years in prison. Gaetz himself has not been charged with a crime.

Gaetz’s campaign against Dimmock has been fairly dirty: His gang (“Friends of Matt Gaetz”) has registered a bunch of dummy websites such as “aarondimmockforcongress.com,” which blares: “DEI Instructor & BLM Activist Aaron Dimmock is a staunch supporter of making America woke!” So, it’s going to be that kind of a campaign: Dimmock is going to be painted as one of those “woke” 20-year military veterans and longtime Republican family men in northwestern Florida. Sure. Various disreputable right-wing media outlets have reported very selectively on Dimmock’s talk to the ladies and gentlemen in St. Louis, the main claim being that he promised to introduce them to several “radical concepts.” The Gaetz element even sent someone to the event to harass Dimmock: Valentina Gomez, a book-burning weirdo who videotaped herself as she shouted that Dimmock was Kevin McCarthy’s “bitch.” A fervent Christian, no doubt—and a candidate for secretary of state in Missouri. The Gaetz element insists Dimmock is a cat’s-paw for the ousted speaker, as though the fading memory of that leadership fight were the only conceivable reason to oppose Gaetz. 

The topic of Dimmock’s speech was “radical candor,” which refers to one of those dumb business theory books that give an important-sounding name to something banal and obvious, in this case the usefulness of “feedback that’s kind, clear, specific, and sincere.” Clear, specific, and sincere—the irony of that kind of thing being willfully misrepresented by the likes of Gaetz and his supporters is one more example of the unsatirizeablility of contemporary Republican politics. And the kicker: Dimmock’s other subject that day was Missouri’s GOP Gov. Mike Parsons’ “Leadership Academy,” a project to develop better political leaders, of which Dimmock was the director. 

Gaetz is basically a cartoon villain, but Dimmock says this race is really all about military policy and constituent services. He says that Florida’s 1st Congressional District has the largest concentration of military (active duty, retired, and veterans) of any House district in the country, and he faults Gaetz for failing to look after their interests, voting against legislation that included a military pay increase and pushing the federal government into a shutdown that caused hardships for military families. Local voters, he says, “deserve a representative who understands the struggles they’ve faced. Matt was willing to shut down the government and make thousands go without pay for weeks or months on end just so that he could score cheap political points. He voted against the largest pay raise for troops in 22 years.” And then there’s the fact that Gaetz is … Gaetz. “The district wants a Trump Republican,” Dimmock says, “but one without scandal.”

There’s no publicly available polling, and Dimmock doesn’t have any big endorsements to talk about, though he promises there’s news coming on that front. Does he have a chance? Probably not.

And there you have it: That’s 700 words. Cut my check.


And that’s how you write your basic congressional candidate profile. I can do this all day. Give me 20 minutes on the phone with some dentist in Scarsdale who thinks he’s going to be the next Donald Trump (I’d have written something like “the next Sam Rayburn,” but, come on, none of these Navigator-driving suburban Republican jackwagons knows who Sam Rayburn was, and would be terrified to say an admiring word about a Democrat even if they did) and I will give you a column.

I’m not turning my nose up at that: There is—can be—real value in such work, and there are people who do it really well here at The Dispatch, at the Washington Post, at the New York Times, at the Wall Street Journal.

But like our politics and political campaigns per se, our political journalism has rules and parameters, conventions, lines within which you are expected to stay. I suppose that if I were better at that—if I could take the boredom—I’d probably have had a different kind of career than the one I have had. But I get hung up on stuff, e.g., the idiotic words “radical candor” coming out of the mouth of a sniveling little weasel who is going to get stomped into goo by a beady-eyed, cosmically worthless, evolution-missed-a-generation smegma smear of a subhuman being such as Matt Gaetz and deserve it. It’s another little Battle of Stalingrad: It’s a pity somebody has to win; all a decent person can do is pray for casualties. 

It is not lost on me that, if what Florida’s 1st Congressional District wants is a “Trump Republican,” then Matt Gaetz is exactly what the witch-doctor ordered. And so I asked Dimmock: “From a certain point of view—and it is my point of view—what you’re doing is trying to beat one dishonest, disreputable, dishonorable man so that you can go and do the bidding of a different dishonest, disreputable, dishonorable man.” Yeah: Gaetz is Gaetz—but Trump is Trump, too, and Dimmock insists he is a “Trump Republican.” And how in the hell does a self-styled “Trump Republican” have it in him to complain about anybody’s character: Matt Gaetz, Joe Biden, Pol Pot, etc. 

Oh, but Mr. Radical Candor has an answer for that!

“I think Donald Trump is being targeted by a politically motivated prosecutor. And that’s the only comment I have on that.” 

Well, all right, sure. No doubt Alvin Bragg is politically motivated. That’s one reason why they elect prosecutors in lots of places: to keep them politically motivated, which is another way of saying democratically accountable. Democratic accountability is a virtue with very narrow limits, to be sure, but it is a virtue.

But, come on. Trump did the things, right? I pressed Dimmock on it: It’s not like Bragg was making up the stuff about Trump’s turning the possible promise of a spot on The Apprentice into an opportunity to give a particularly gamey pornographic actress a sad little poke in the whiskers in a Tahoe hotel room or paying the hush money or lying about it in business records. 

Maybe you don’t think that should be a crime, and maybe you think nobody would get charged in those circumstances if he weren’t Donald Trump. Fair enough. But Trump did all the stuff. It’s not like Alvin Bragg was there holding Trump’s dick with a pair of tweezers and a big brilliant entrapment scheme. Trump has betrayed every wife he’s ever had and just about everybody who’s ever been stupid enough to lend him money or front him services on credit. I asked Dimmock if he thought the Stormy Daniels stuff was made up, if he’d be proud of himself if he had treated his wife the way Trump treated any of his.

“I think Donald Trump is being targeted by a politically motivated prosecutor. And that’s the only comment I have on that.” 

Radical candor. Sure, yeah.

I don’t suppose you meet a lot of naval aviators who are cowards, but, if you’re looking for a specimen, Aaron Dimmock is your guy. He’ll strut around calling himself a patriot and talking up his military credentials—and he must have called himself “an operator” at least three times in our short conversation—but what’s he really doing? He’s a retired military guy looking to pump up his HR-consulting gig. I’m sure he’d love to be in the House. I’m sure he detests Matt Gaetz almost as much as Matt Gaetz deserves to be detested. But let’s have some radical candor about what’s really going on, here: Dimmock is a bored military retiree looking for his next job. And while he apparently has guts enough to fly on military missions of various descriptions, he isn’t packing the testicular gear to say whether banging a porn star while your wife is at home nursing the newborn is an admirable quality in a guy who wants to be the so-called Leader of the so-called Free World.

Radical candor. All right. Let’s have some. 

It is going to be impossible for me to feel very sorry for a guy who describes himself—first thing!—as “pro-Trump” when he gets done in by Trump-style lying, bulls–t, and low-lifery. You buy the ticket, you take the ride. At least Matt Gaetz knows what he is: He’s a parasite, and happy to be one. He’s thrilled to be a leech on the body politic—a round little tick on the big American national scrotum that is the Florida panhandle—until the host organism either dies or somehow works up the self-respect to flick him off. Absent that, he’ll remain a bloodsucker pumping the political equivalent of Lyme disease into the political bloodstream.

And here’s Aaron Dimmock, taking a bold stand against the black-legged deer tick injecting the political version of Lyme Disease into the national bloodstream while proudly flying the banner of Haementeria ghilianii, declaring for Team Amazon Giant Leech. This is what being an anti-Gaetz, pro-Trump guy is: One more crudely imagined freak in the Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina that is the God-forsaken Republican Party in Anno Domini 2024.

But I’m a Professional Journalist™ who isn’t supposed to have these thoughts—or who at least isn’t supposed to put them into digital print. I’m supposed to write about polls and endorsements and how Florida’s 1st Congressional District is R+19. You know: the stuff you expect from a media sophisticate, a genuine man of the press. This is one of those things you write and maybe show to your wife or a buddy and then delete. I’m picturing my poor editors clutching their heads right now and saying things that even I might hesitate to put into digital print.

But we could really use some damn radical candor. Because we are governed by imbeciles and thieves and miscreants and degenerates and people who are willing to put up with all that imbecility and thievery and miscreance and degeneracy if it gets them even such a pathetic prize as a temporary seat in the U.S. House of Representatives serving on behalf of the lovely folks who have freely chosen Matt Gaetz, of all bipedal things, as their man in Washington. I don’t know that my own personal soul is worth all that much, but I’d expect more than that in trade. 

And so here endeth the candidate profile. Good luck, Aaron Dimmock, “radical candor coach”—coach!—and gormless Trump sycophant. You’re going to lose—for nothing. I may not have a gigantic readership, but this probably will be the most-read thing ever written about you, and it would have been better if you could have worked up the manhood to say what you and I both know to be obviously—and I mean illuminated-by-Klieg-lights obviously—true. It isn’t easy ending up the weasel in a story in which Matt Gaetz figures prominently.

Over at the Washington Post—where a few reporters are trying to sandbag the new publisher for having the audacity to point out that their work sucks and has sucked pretty hard since 50 years ago when Americans started confusing Bob Woodward with Bob Redford—they’ll tell you: “Democracy dies in darkness.” But that isn’t it, at all. There isn’t any darkness. There are no shadows in which to hide our deeds. There aren’t any secrets. There are just the animal facts, naked and undisguised, right out there in public view for all to see. Even political journalists can see it, in their few sober moments, though they may be constrained at most times by professional norms to pretend that they don’t.

Kevin D. Williamson is national correspondent at The Dispatch and is based in Virginia. Prior to joining the company in 2022, he spent 15 years as a writer and editor at National Review, worked as the theater critic at the New Criterion, and had a long career in local newspapers. He is also a writer in residence at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. When Kevin is not reporting on the world outside Washington for his Wanderland newsletter, you can find him at the rifle range or reading a book about literally almost anything other than politics.