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Expel Marjorie Taylor Greene
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Expel Marjorie Taylor Greene

Her lies are far more consequential than George Santos’.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene leaves the U.S. Capitol after the last votes of the week on Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

If you have a few minutes, take a moment to read a piece of congressional business quickly slipping away down the memory hole: House Resolution 878, passed by the 118th Congress on December 1, 2023. What, exactly, was House Resolution 878? It’s the one that begins, “Whereas Representative George Santos is a Member of the United States House of Representatives” and ends by making that first sentence no longer the case.

The resolution is pretty funny reading. It talks around the real reasons Santos was expelled from the House—his embarrassing fictions about his biography and career and his risible general personal ickiness—and pretends instead that the main issue was financial wrongdoing:

Whereas, on May 10, 2023, Representative Santos was charged in Federal court in the Eastern District of New York with wire fraud in connection with a fraudulent political contribution scheme, unlawful monetary transactions in connection with the wire fraud allegations, theft of public money in connection with his alleged receipt of unemployment benefits, fraudulent application for and receipt of unemployment benefits, and false statements in connection with his 2020 and 2022 House of Representatives Financial Disclosure Statements;

Whereas Nancy Marks, who served as Treasurer to Representative Santos’ campaign, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, falsifying records, and identity theft in connection with the Santos campaign;

Whereas a superseding indictment was filed on October 10, 2023, charging Representative Santos with additional violations related to his 2022 campaign, including allegations of falsifying Federal Election Commission reports in connection with a $500,000 personal loan that was never made, falsifying the names of contributors to his campaign, engaging in aggravated identity theft and access device fraud, and enriching himself through a fraudulent contribution scheme;

Whereas Sam Miele, who served as a fundraiser to Representative Santos’ campaign, pleaded guilty to a Federal wire fraud charge after impersonating a senior congressional aide for the purposes of soliciting funds …

Etc., etc., et multa c.

No doubt the financial wrongdoing was a real thing. Santos is pretty obviously a small-time grifter who briefly made it to the majors before striking out. Silence of the Lambs author Thomas Harris’ heroine Clarice Starling might well have been talking to George Santos rather than her fictional bureaucratic nemesis: “You aren’t fast enough to steal in Congress. You can’t make up for a second-rate intelligence just by playing dirty.”

Harris, like many writers of pulp fiction, is a first-rate observer of human facts (so clear as to be off-putting; there is a reason he had to invent Hannibal Lecter as his authorial alter ego), but I am not sure that bit of wisdom entirely stands the test of time: Washington in Anno Domini 2024 is full of people successfully making up for a second-rate intelligence just by playing dirty, and some of those people are in Congress. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is one of these. Sen. Bob Menendez is another. George Santos is one who tried and failed. 

(Ted Cruz, in contrast, possesses a first-rate intelligence, and so one wonders what it is he is making up for.) 

We have endured a general lowering of standards in order to accommodate not Rep. Lauren Boebert but the feckless cretins and maniacs—our neighbors, our fellow Americans—who prefer to be represented by such a figure. Boebert may not be much of a capital-R Representative, but she represents her voters perfectly. Santos was an anthropomorphic (more or less) sign of the times. 

I claim that there has been a general lowering of standards, but please do not read me to mean that Congress in the 19th or 20th century was free of the kind of financial shenanigans, self-dealing, petty crime, corruption, venality, and pocket-lining of which Santos and Menendez stand accused. (I am always surprised how cheap it is to buy an American politician: Menendez is a man whose head apparently could be turned by a Rolex and a Mercedes C-Class, a car that can be leased for less than $600 a month. Yes, I know about the bars of gold, but imagine going fishing for senators with a Rolex and actually catching one—it is absurd.) Bribery is eternal—it has been around long enough to have been condemned in the Old Testament, along with murder and idolatry, and anything that has been around that long must be understood to be simply a part of the human condition. That sort of thing is wicked and should be punished severely when wrongdoing is discovered. 

My longstanding view is that criminal offenses touching public trust should be punished much more severely than merely private money-grubbing crimes, in much the same way that a police officer who commits a murder (and I do not mean here merely a questionable shooting in the line of duty but crimes such as acting as mob assassins) should be prosecuted much more rigorously than a regular-schmo murderer. But petty paper-stacking, even when criminal, is far from the worst thing a politician can do. And sometimes, non-criminal actions by holders of the public trust merit even more severe reactions.

By which I mean, of course, to bring up only this: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene should be expelled from Congress. Her offenses are not (so far as I know) criminal, but they are in every way worse than Santos’ offenses, more corrosive to the public trust and to the institution which she (theoretically) serves. Congress has a surfeit of self-importance but only rarely can rouse itself to a display of self-respect, as in the expulsion of Santos. 

Greene is not the most significant of the parties who have worked to spread the wild lie that the Biden administration attempted to assassinate Donald Trump during the search of Mar-a-Lago. Donald Trump is the most important of the liars. Julie Kelly of RealClear (ha!) Investigations is another. But Greene is a member of Congress, not a social media troll. And while she is not the only member of Congress to traffic in this nonsense, she is the worst offender.

If you would like an excellent chronicle of how the Trump-assassination lie made its way from the sewers of the Internet to the halls of Congress, my colleague Mike Warren’s account is unimprovable. The short version: It begins with Kelly et al. claiming that bog-standard boilerplate language regarding the use of force in serving a warrant was some kind of extraordinary plan to have FBI agents “engage” the Secret Service—during a search that intentionally was conducted when the former president was not at Mar-a-Lago. The imbecility worked its way up through figures such as Dan Bongino (whose enduring soreness over having failed to make the cut at the FBI is palpable every time he talks about the agency) and then to Greene, who offered this doozy

The Biden DOJ and FBI were planning to assassinate Pres Trump and gave the green light. Does everyone get it yet???!!!! What are Republicans going to do about it? I tried to oust our Speaker who funded Biden’s DOJ AND FBI, but Democrats stopped it.

Oh, we get it. We do. It is as plain as day: Moscow Madge is still looking for some flimsy post-hoc vindication for her risible, failed attempt to get rid of the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, a coup-backing knee-walking MAGA grotesque and Trump enabler who is somehow not depraved and sycophantic enough for Greene. The speaker’s great sin against the One True Faith was deciding, for whatever reason, that House Republicans’ No. 1 priority was not not having a Department of Justice. Moscow Madge demanded that Johnson defund the police at the federal level, and Johnson, who occasionally does an almost persuasive impersonation of a functional adult human being, demurred.

Taking bribes and stealing from campaign funds and all of the rest of that time-honored stuff is bad and awful and disreputable and should be punished with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch when appropriate, but the sort of thing Greene is engaged in is much, much worse. You can bomb federal buildings—and who doubts that Tim McVeigh would be an unrelenting consumer of Greene’s social-media output, had we not had the good sense to poison him to death and burn what was left over—but what Greene is doing with the effort she is helping to lead will do far more harm to institutions such as the FBI and the DOJ than a mere bomb would. Perhaps you do not much care for the FBI or the DOJ—there is no shortage of legitimate criticism to make of these institutions, where there is much that is in need of reform. But let your little libertarian heart flutter for only the briefest moment before your brain rejoins the conversation to ask: What do you imagine would come to replace the FBI or the DOJ. Something good? Something better? Something more in keeping with our ancestral liberty? 

Please.

(It isn’t that an agency cannot reach a state when replacing or abolishing it is the best option: Some agencies outlive their usefulness, and a few develop such crippling deformities of corporate culture that reforming them would be more effort than it is worth. I would argue that there are three prominent examples: One is the IRS, whose leaders and managers should be dismissed with prejudice, but even with a wide and deep and maybe even radical reform of the U.S. tax code, somebody is going to do most of the work the IRS does today. Another is the Department of Education, the main legitimate purpose of which is the dispersal of federal funds, a job that could be better done by an agency unburdened by broader policy questions best left to the states and to the educational institutions themselves. The third is the ATF, the operations of which have no meaningful effect on the violent criminal use of firearms, which has an extremely dysfunctional institutional culture, and which is tasked with overseeing a portfolio that contains an incoherent mix of retail regulation and organized-crime work.)

We know what Greene’s beef with the FBI and the DOJ is: These organizations are asked to enforce the law at a time when Donald Trump and many Republicans are inclined to break it. While the Trump element goes back and forth between insisting that January 6 never happened (Julie Kelly claims it was staged by federal law-enforcement agents) or that it was an admirable exercise in patriotic protest, because, somehow, the right has gone from Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley Jr. to … 

Jacob Chansley, also known as the "QAnon Shaman," screams "Freedom" inside the U.S. Senate chamber after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Jacob Chansley, also known as the "QAnon Shaman," screams "Freedom" inside the U.S. Senate chamber after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

… well, you know. 

(If that jabroni were a fed, he’d be wearing shiny black FBI shoes. Everybody knows. Ask Tom Wolfe.)

A free society can weather many kinds of abuse and trauma: violence, wars, economic convulsions, natural disasters, the wax and wane of the Mandate of Heaven as it is filtered through the dirty laundry of democracy. But a free society cannot endure government by lie. Government by lie is not the same thing as a government that includes the usual share of lying politicians. Government by lie is what you get when lying becomes, in effect, a political creed of its own, a party and a movement unto itself. 

Lying is unpatriotic. It is dangerous. It is corrosive. There isn’t much that can be done about the lies of Donald Trump other than what’s already being done, and there isn’t much that can be done about the lies of such figures as Julie Kelly, because the people who read her and the people who employ her do not have the necessary self-respect to act. There is not much that can be done about social media at large or even about big, lying institutions such as Fox News, which, even though it has been chastened a bit by recent defamation judgments, is essentially only Julie Kelly writ large. (Indeed, Kelly has long been a Fox News regular.) 

But Marjorie Taylor Greene is not only a social-media troll—she was that, but, thanks to the miracle of democracy, she is something more than that today: the honorable representative for the good people of Dalton, Georgia, and the surrounding area. But the House can expel her. It expelled George Santos for much less serious offenses. And, really, that’s Republicans in 2024: When they can be bothered to act, it is almost exclusively in the service of the insignificant and the symbolic. But Greene is undermining the government she supposedly serves, and she is setting the stage for political violence in the wake of a Trump loss in November, if such a thing should come to pass. As somebody once demanded to know:

“What are Republicans going to do about it?”

And: What are Democrats going to do about it? 

Anybody?

Words About Words

Adults who use the word “scary” to describe anything in American politics should be … I don’t know, but made to suffer something unpleasant. We should take all their pencils away until they learn how to write like grown-ups. E.g., this Slate headline, changed since the original: 

I read in vain to try to discover the part that should be scary, or even scarier. But the article offers little fortification for fear. Indeed, Molly Olmstead notes:

House Speaker Mike Johnson, too, displays an Appeal to Heaven flag outside his office door. Johnson, though, is Southern Baptist—not a background that aligns with [Dutch] Sheets’ particular Christian tradition. Alito is also not affiliated with charismatic Christianity. He comes from a Roman Catholic faith tradition. Nor is Leonard Leo, who also flew the flag. Leo, the Federalist Society figure often credited for the current makeup of the Supreme Court, is a traditionalist Catholic.

Radical posturing is a real temptation for men and women in public life. God knows I’ve been guilty of it myself at times. There is a long tradition on the right (and a lesser one on the left) of associating Revolution-era symbols with current political contests. (Such imagery also finds many uses in non-political contexts.) The notion that Samuel Alito is some kind of closet Talibanist who fancies the idea of imposing … what, papal sharia? … on the United States is implausible. Might he feel that he, and the Supreme Court, and the country at large are set upon by dangerous and irresponsible partisans? He might. He should.

Would that be scary? I don’t see why it should. 

Additional Wordiness

Consider the “evergreen pine.” 

Here is an interesting (I think so, anyway) thing that’s been on my mind because of that book I keep threatening to finish but haven’t quite yet. The “Appeal to Heaven” or “Pine Tree” flag, currently in the news because it flew over Justice Samuel Alito’s beach house, had of course been around for a long time before it was taken up as a symbol by Trump cultists. The pine tree is a symbol of New England, and the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, which first was displayed during the American Revolution, still is used as the naval ensign of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (without the text). The words “Appeal to Heaven” are from John Locke and refer to the moral legitimacy of revolution. 

The flag does not belong to the Trump cultists, but it is a perfect symbol for them. Pine trees (and other evergreens) are, for obvious reasons, ancient symbols of fertility and prosperity, and they are used by all sorts of tribal chieftains as symbols for the fatherly and wealth-sharing capacity of their office. As the Trump cult grows increasingly and obviously cultlike, its character religious rather than political, such symbols take on additional urgency. 

The tribal-father aspect of the evergreen was reflected in a famous Walter Scott poem that, after a few twists and turns, became our familiar “Hail to the Chief.”  Because, of course it did. We have been building a cult of the presidency since before they hired away an artist from the Vatican to paint The Apotheosis of George Washington on the underside of the Capitol dome. 

I slightly prefer the lyrics Jack Lemmon made up for the song in My Fellow Americans, but here’s Scott in the pagan-chieftain mode increasingly fitting to our conception of the president:

Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances!
Honoured and blessed be the evergreen Pine!
Long may the tree, in his banner that glances,
Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line!
Heaven send it happy dew,
Earth lend it sap anew,
Gaily to bourgeon and broadly to grow,
While every Highland glen
Sends our shout back agen,
Roderich Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!

Other than being competently written verse and generally literate, there is no real reason this couldn’t have been produced by a modern American president-worshiper.

Economics for English Majors

The Wall Street Journal has published a very interesting article arguing that Republicans may think inflation is worse than Democrats do not only out of partisan prejudice but because inflation has been higher in Republican-leaning areas than in Democratic ones. 

Republicans right now think inflation is a much bigger problem than Democrats do, and a lot of that is just politics. But here’s another possibility: Many of the places Republicans live indeed have had significantly higher inflation than Democratic enclaves.

In new research, economists Carola Binder, Rupal Kamdar and Jane Ryngaert examined Labor Department inflation figures for U.S. metropolitan areas, and compared them with voting data. Their finding: Metro areas with more Republicans and independent voters tended to have higher inflation in 2022 than places where Democrats live.

A Wall Street Journal analysis found a similar pattern at the state level. Inflation estimates provided by Moody’s Analytics, combined with voting data, show that states where Donald Trump garnered the most votes in 2020 have on balance experienced higher inflation.

For example, South Carolina has had the highest recent inflation, New Hampshire the lowest. South Carolina was a Trump state, New Hampshire a Biden state.

The kooks will of course say that the Biden administration is somehow engineering relatively high inflation in Trump-voting areas, but that is nonsense. What might actually account for the difference? 

At the county level, Democratic areas tend to be wealthier and more economically productive than Republican ones do. That is because these are cities, which are, have been, and almost certainly will continue to be the great centers of innovation. Republicans would do well to think about what their terrible political position in the cities bodes for their party. 

That being said, economic growth at the state level has recently been much stronger in Republican-leaning states: South Carolina had the third-fastest-growing state economy in 2023, behind No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Washington. Washington is generally Democratic-leaning, but most of the rest of the states leading the list are Republican-leaning: Florida and South Carolina, Nebraska, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Idaho, etc. 

New Hampshire, which is where upper-class white people go to die when they cannot afford Vermont, is not exactly an engine of dynamism. It has no major city (its largest, Manchester, would be the 15th-largest municipality in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro if it were transplanted to north Texas), its people are old, and it is less attractive to immigrants than Iowa, South Dakota, or the United States at large. With the (arguable) exception of Allegro MicroSystems, there is no company of national or international importance headquartered there. (Sorry, Planet Fitness!) But it has a higher average household income than any state save Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, all of which are behind the District of Columbia. 

The general economic inertia of rich but stagnant places such as New Hampshire may act as a brake on inflation, whereas the flux and turnover of states like South Carolina—less affluent but more dynamic—may make such places more sensitive to short-term economic trends. 

That’s my guess, anyway. I’d love to hear yours.

In Other News …

I am disappointed by Nikki Haley’s halfhearted endorsement of Donald Trump, but I am not surprised by it. She ran a halfhearted, lily-livered campaign during which she plainly was terrified of offending the Trump element, or even being seen as insufficiently energetic in pandering to that element. Of course she was going to come around to Trump. She’s a young woman by Washington standards, ambitious and gifted, and, as she sees it, she’s stuck in the desert with only one horse available to ride out on. I think she has made a miscalculation—and I think well enough of Haley to reject out of hand any suggestion that she is acting out of principle here—and I suspect that miscalculation may well be the end of her political career. But, again, she is a young woman by Washington standards, ambitious and gifted. Life is long, and memory is short. 

When the time comes, I’ll try to help everybody remember. 

Elsewhere … 

You can buy my most recent book, Big White Ghettohere

You can buy my other books here

You can see my New York Post columns here

Please subscribe to The Dispatch if you haven’t. 

You can check out “How the World Works,” a series of interviews on work I’m doing for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, here

In Conclusion

Many thanks to those of you who keep sending me those YouTube videos of the guy who has triplets and figures out clever ways to move them around. Very amusing. 

But, recall: I have four baby boys under the age of two. Triplets plus.

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.