Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 29, 2023
Even as the House was ponying up a vote to expel Rep. George Santos, R-NY, for his enormous pile of public fraud, lies, and apparent violations of federal law, there was a nearly unanimous sigh, as if to say, “What took so long.”
Even Santos had said he was prepared for expulsion now that the House Ethics Committee had compiled a gigantic stack of allegations for which Santos has had as little to say as he has to the federal courts that are hearing 23 criminal counts against him. What took so long, of course, was for Congress to do the job it had practically from Santos’ first day by collecting the evidence that made the outcome inescapable.
At least two vote processes were filed yesterday to force a vote in the next two days that require a two-thirds majority to expel Santos.
With the removal of Santos more than likely whether through last-minute resignation, or this politically un-survivable no-confidence vote, I found myself wrestling with why we accept the idea that some public issues can linger while we demand immediacy for others.
Unlike other issues, including international conflicts like Afghanistan, which we allowed to linger for two decades, Santos’ story ultimately is simple, and whatever might pass as justice looks to be relatively straightforward. According to all the evidence, this guy got elected by fabricating his background, used campaign money for personal (and questionable, at that) expenses, used credit cards not belonging to him and lying repeatedly about all of it.
Still, there are some political sensitivities about the diminished, three-vote margin for legislation with which House Republicans would be left with Santos’ departure, surely a factor in the delay in administering even simple justice by enforcing the House’s own rules of member ethics.
Still, it’s interesting to see the Santos vote as a seesaw over the issue of institutional patience in a world that is increasingly impatient.
According to these same majority House Republicans, for example, Ukraine has used up its time for American involvement and support, and a sizeable number of the GOP caucus wants simply to end money that allows for the international defense in Ukraine against the Russian aggression that has underscored decades of U.S. policy involving Europe’s defense.
These same Republicans show an amazing patience for political lost causes like overturning Obamacare — there was renewed interest this week in forcing replacement of our health systems by a simple, impractical, and likely illegal vote to simply stop Obamacare — or pursuing a national abortion ban despite multiple elections even in red states for the opposite result.
The fiercest Republicans have endless patience for shutting own the U.S. government altogether rather than getting enmeshed in the kind of program-by-program review of federal spending that would be needed to trim governmental budgets intelligently.
By comparison, the leap towards impeaching President Joe Biden over business activities by his son, Hunter, to hype his familial relationships with private business contacts overseas is virtually immediate and never-ending. What makes the effort yet more hypocritical is that the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that would constitute charges against Biden stem from his years as vice president a decade ago and during years in which Biden was not in office at all.
Even yesterday, we saw Republican House Oversight Committee members blanch because Hunter Biden, whose testimony they have had the patience to pursue for 10 months or more, piped up that he would be happy to answer their questions — in public. Republicans claimed that Hunter’s offer was a dodge to avoid tougher questioning he might face out of the public spotlight.
However it works out, it is amusing to see that the potential of adverse testimony in private is worth patience, whereas the counter of public testimony is something to be rejected immediately.
What Breaks Patience?
We accept overtime in football games — look forward to them, in fact — because a close game is almost necessarily more entertaining than a rout. Impatience for a result can give way to patience for an extra quarter if we think it amusing.
But when there is a hitch in the release of hostages or a need to think about what the real problem we’re facing might be, there is only impatience. Too many red lights and we see road rage. Driving on the thruway reflects personal patience meters; how else to explain how many drivers insist on speeding by while weaving between lanes?
We’re impatient for lower gas prices — even when gas prices have been declining for some months after having climbed — just as we are with blaming Biden for the cost of eggs at the supermarket. Politicians count on that impatience as the basis of their campaigns. Post any picture of migrants lining up at the border, and you are assured of social media response for a public response that is expected to kick in overnight.
Asking people to have patience with changes needed to deal with the effects of climate change or even to understand the complexities of immigration policies in a time of global migration and you’re demanding way too much. Understanding alone requires a patient collection and sifting of information and consideration of alternatives.
A year or so since we have communally declared Covid to be less lethal than we once thought, it seems to be asking for a suspension of patience to expect more than about 3 percent of the country to show up for a booster shot.
We expect that going to the doctor’s office will provide a pill or shot that will reduce pain instantly, even if the medical issue has a lot more to do with our chosen lifestyles than with whatever is solvable by an aspirin. Indeed, fewer doctor visits for discomfort seem to result in more than a battery of diagnostic tests followed by confirmation tests and a referral to a growing number of specialists.
George Santos just found out that that there is no pill for impatience.