Matt Gaetz and the beautiful lie

Spoiler alert: Not rated PG-13
By Sam Patten | Apr 01, 2021

Leave it to Florida Man to screw up the advice of legendary Louisiana ex-governor Eddie Edwards who once counseled: “Never get caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.”

Whether by set-up or design, the Eddie Haskell-faced Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, has managed to capture the nation’s attention with a bizarre spin on the old perverted politician chestnut that, like a bicycle hanging from a tree, is just so weird you have to rubber-neck.

For those who were blissfully unaware of the scandal surrounding Gaetz, one of the House of Representative’s most prominent Trump enthusiasts, news broke earlier this week that he is under investigation for sex trafficking, or more specifically, taking an underage girl across state lines for prurient purposes.

Not one to be easily outdone, Gaetz now claims his family was cooperating with the FBI in a sting targeting the ex-Department of Justice official, who was trying to set him up and extort $25 million.

If he isn’t telling the truth, Matt Gaetz at least deserves credit for the elaborate scale of his counter-claim. But remember, we’re talking about a politician in Florida and a pasty-faced Floridian at that.

This defense strategy isn’t new. New York Congressman Anthony Weiner tried it at first when the scandal about his tweeting photos of his member first surfaced. He claimed his Twitter account was hacked, but even the shameless media pit bull that Weiner was, he couldn’t pull off a so bold a distractive play. Can Gaetz?

First, let’s be honest about our biases. Gaetz has the demeanor of someone you want to punch; he’s a sometimes eloquent and usually amusing jackass. (NB: I’m simply being descriptive here and have no intention of punching anyone, nor do I encourage anyone else to.)

With his smarmy looks and often whiny demeanor, one is predisposed to think he’s precisely the kind of politician to be corrupting the young. But let’s remember, this is all judging a book by its cover.

Next, consider the possibility — usually quickly eliminated by America’s increasingly skeptical regard for the media — that everything that is being reported is true. That is to say Gaetz did what he’s being investigated for, and was also the victim of an attempted extortion scheme.

After all, this is Florida we’re talking about, a source of such jaw-dropping embarrassment to America that even the Coen brothers are afraid to make a movie about it.

Finally, predict the likely endgame. In physics, every action generates an equal and opposite reaction. By alleging a massive plot, Gaetz has neutralized the relatively banal charge relating to the under-age girl. A savvy politician, he knows the media are drawn like moths to the flame.

My friends on the left have already constructed an industry to de-construct Gaetz’s counter-narrative (see Talking Points Memo, Slate, Mother Jones, the New Republic, etc.)  The gyrations emanating from this seedy story will continue for weeks, maybe months.

Of course, none of this matters. Having kicked in the door of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and served as a block and tackle guard for a president who is no longer in office, there’s not much left on the Hill for many of Gaetz’s talents.

Like Joe Scarborough (who also started out as a Florida congressman) the future for Gaetz is under the hot lights of the media set. He is reported to be in talks with Newsmax.

Television, Josef Goebbels once observed, is a “beautiful lie.” If so, its beauty relies on the truth being ugly which, when it comes to Gaetz, is probably the case.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.

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