George Santos is frustrated. In an hour-long interview with The Spectator, Santos tried to make it clear he came to Washington with the hope to get things done. But he’s been “slapped in the face” with the reality that there is so much red tape.
“Washington, DC is performance art,” he says. “This is a master course on performing arts… everybody here is acting.”
Santos of course knows a thing or two about acting; his exploits have been well publicized since his election. Perhaps the most well-known of his roles took the form of his popular drag performances in Brazil. A fan of drag for many years, it’s surprising to learn that Santos only began watching RuPaul’s Drag Race only once the coronavirus pandemic hit. Impressive for a man who’s made a name for himself clapping back on Twitter with fierce comebacks and an encyclopedic knowledge of the show. Of course, there’s also been a dust-up about some life backstory he may have fudged.
In addition to his well-known acting foibles, Santos wants to be known as a man of action and isn’t just waiting around for things to happen to him. “Moving forward, I want to be judged on my actions in this body,” he told me. “I’ve kept 100 percent to my campaign promises.” The Spectator couldn’t confirm this detail.
He did achieve one of those promises this past week when he helped to engineer the booting of Representative Ilhan Omar off the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Santos voluntarily left his two committee spots as a way to ensure that Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan would be put into effect. Some of Santos’s fellow House Republicans had been grumbling about voting to boot Omar while Santos retained his positions. His “you can’t fire me, I quit” approach to his committee seats apparently helped grease the wheels to get the deal done. Santos hopes to retake his committee seats when the House Ethics committee clears his name.
We’re sitting in Santos’s office. He’s clad in his trademark suit and sweater, while sporting a congressional pin and an AR-15-shaped pin that he said fellow Republican member Andrew Clyde gave him (we couldn’t confirm this detail). Santos is outlining to me his new “unorthodox” approach to Congress, such as an aggressive amount of constituent call-backs. With the extra time he has on his hands from his lack of committee assignments, “I’ll be able to do more hands-on constituent services and spend more time in the district focusing on the needs of the constituency and bring that back here to DC,” he said.
Rather than serving on committees in a traditional manner, he says he plans to give floor speeches to anyone that will listen, bring ideas to other members of Congress and work to navigate the “tumultuous” work of being in elected office. “I will not allow the American people to think that I’m not working here while I am,” he said.
Santos said there’s much more than meets the eye about his plans. In fact, the New York congressman wants to use his time in Congress to “revolutionize the way people view public service, and create a personable relationship between myself and any constituent willing to reach out.” In the days since Santos left his committees, he said that he’s kept himself incredibly busy, talking with constituents and laying out a plan to fulfill the promises he made on the campaign trail (we couldn’t confirm this).
In one example, he described a call with Nick, a constituent from Nassau County, who had questions about Santos’s positions on Social Security, Medicare and taxes, specifically the SALT Tax deduction. While Nick is a registered Democrat, the two had a twenty-minute conversation, and Santos penned him a handwritten letter after. Given his lack of committee-induced time constraints, the congressman says he writes several of these letters to his constituents a day. And Santos lavished praise on his staff, who have “been delivering constituent services since day one,” he said.
As proof he hasn’t made an enemy of everyone on Capitol Hill, Santos brings up an encounter he had recently. Realizing he’s not going anywhere, fellow members of Congress have started approaching Santos with olive branches. He recently had a Democratic member reach around to connect which “restored my faith in humanity.” Afterwards, he handed him a business card with his personal cell phone on it, presumably to call anytime. “This place here, once the cameras are off, it’s a whole different perspective,” Santos said, showing me the member’s card.
While Santos paints a rosy picture of the work he wants to get done for his constituents, he’s aware of his upside-down polling, specifically with his district’s Jewish community, almost all of whom said they want him to resign in a recent survey.
Santos says he has a plan to climb out of his polling deficit, and deploying it involved him voluntarily giving up his committee seats to begin with. One of his campaign promises was to kick Omar off the Foreign Affairs Committee, which was made easier by his decision to step aside. Moving forward, he says that “I will be a fighter for Israel; I will continue to be the most pro-Israel member of Congress.”
While describing his pro-Israel bona fides, Santos gave me a book that he wanted me to flip through, called The Case for Palestine: The Compendium. Its table of contents include chapters like “History of the Palestinian People,” “The Rich Palestinian Culture,” “The Multitude of Palestinian Leaders Interested in Peace,” and more. The book itself is nothing but a series of blank pages.
We get around to discussing pop culture and I find that the millennial member has never seen Tiger King. Ditto Star Wars and Game of Thrones. However, he made sure to note that “I know every single episode of Spongebob Squarepants.” And while he’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie, he said the Hobbit prequels are better as they “give you more depth” and that The Battle of the Five Armies is “my favorite fucking movie.” He is yet to watch the Amazon Prime TV show, because he doesn’t have time, he said. Presumably dialing constituents from his office day in, day out keeps his days tied up.
“I get home and I want to sleep. I want to spend time with my family, my husband, my dogs, and go to sleep,” he said. He did give a run-down of his four favorite actors, telling me that he couldn’t pick a favorite between Morgan Freeman (“anything he does I watch”), Milla Jovovich (“I’m obsessed with the woman”), Angela Bassett (“this woman is a beast”) and Gerard Butler (“the dude’s a machine”).
When his time in Congress ends, Santos says that he wants to be judged on his ability to fulfill his campaign promises, not on the drama that’s consumed most of his few weeks in Washington thus far.
Santos is concerned about his legacy and is working on rewriting his background once again. “I want to achieve and stay true to my campaign message,” he said. There would be “no bigger betrayal” than failing to do so.