In 2012, President Obama essentially won reelection with two simple words. His opponent Mitt Romney had just laid a trap for himself with the phony Benghazi scandal during their second debate, and so Obama encouraged Romney to step into it, saying “Please proceed.” Romney took the bait, got exposed as a fool, and he never really had a chance after that.
The irony is that in an era where the typical Republican politician is Matt Gaetz, we miss the days when the worst kind of Republican fool we had to deal with was Mitt Romney. But the “please proceed” moment is newly relevant, because Gaetz – who stands accused of underage sex trafficking – is insisting on aggressively clinging to what’s left of his political career while he can.
Not only is Gaetz refusing to resign from the House, he’s refusing to even temporarily step away from his committee assignments. He’s even refusing to remove himself from the Republican Party fundraising events that he was already scheduled to attend, such as the one set for this Friday, where he’ll appear alongside other Republican politicians.
Because Matt Gaetz has refused to pull the plug on himself, his fellow Republicans are largely trying to just act as if no scandal is happening and nothing is wrong. But he keeps making it harder for them to play the middle, because he keeps forcing the issue. And yet the Republican Party continues to fail to take the common sense step of at least incrementally distancing itself from the guy.
So to Matt Gaetz, we say please proceed. Keep showing up to Republican Party events. Throw your arm around your fellow Republican politicians. Hold press conferences in their driveways, if you like. The longer this goes on, and the longer the Republican Party refuses to distance itself from Gaetz, the more it’ll hurt the Republicans’ chances in the 2022 midterms. Gaetz will meet his legal fate one way or the other. If he wants to harm his own party’s prospects in the mean time, he’s more than welcome to do so.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report