Tuesday marks the first convening of the new Congress in Washington, which means Kevin McCarthy will be spending morning, afternoon, and possibly all night being repeatedly embarrassed by the many Republicans who detest him.
But no one is having a worse day than incoming Rep. George Santos, the millennial Republican who flipped a seat on Long Island in November despite (or, actually, because of) lying about nearly every aspect of his biography, including working at Citigroup, graduating from Baruch College, having grandparents who fled the Nazis, and being Jewish.
No one wanted to sit near him.
Santos has a lot on his plate right now: His hella suspicious finances are under investigation, and Brazil is reopening a fraud case related to his alleged use of a stolen checkbook in 2008. And yet, he had to show up at the office this morning to participate in the day-to-day business of Congress anyway. Under such a dense cloud of suspicion, no one—not Democrats, not establishment Republicans, not a single fringe weirdo—wanted anything to do with him.
Throughout the day, as his fellow freshmen shook hands and received warm welcomes from their party compatriots, Santos remained isolated in the House chamber. Sometimes, he sheepishly stood up to vote (for McCarthy).
Jim Newell, a Slate senior politics writer who is working from the Capitol today, witnessed firsthand “a substantial radius of emptiness” around Santos, and an ABC reporter tweeted that Santos was the “the only person sitting in silence/not talking to someone else.” One Congressman came over to say hello, but “bolted away” after Santos identified himself.
The GOP is not by any means clamoring for Santos’ ouster, but Republicans are smart enough to want to avoid being captured in a photograph with a sloppy swindler whose political career could implode at any moment. Today’s wire photos of Santos, therefore, are riveting.
They are portraits of quietude amid the chaos of the new Congress, depicting a man alone with his thoughts because his thoughts are the only company that will have him. They evoke the spirit of a person who has arrived at a party uninvited, having underestimated how conspicuous and unwelcome he will be, who must now occupy himself in a corner until his mom can come to retrieve him. They capture the essence of what might well be understood as “the pain of middle school.”
In some of these images, Santos looks wistful, even vaguely contrite. Perhaps he was pondering the choices that produced his regrettable condition: physically present in this nucleus of political power, yet shunned by literally everybody, including the “Jewish space laser” lady and the Arizona insurrection duo.
In others, he seems to be feigning boredom, as if the proceedings are simply too tedious—and his fellow members of Congress too uninteresting—for him to engage. It’s his choice to be sitting alone! He loves it!
He has mastered the social art of laboriously avoiding eye contact with those around him, so as not to seem too eager for their attention. He was desperate to be included, it seems, but when the birthday party invites got handed out to everyone but him, he loudly proclaimed that he was busy that day anyway, with really cool plans.
Honestly, the sight is so pathetic it could break your heart, if this were not a guy who had recently lied, for political gain, about his grandparents’ relationship to the Holocaust and his connections to people who died at the Pulse nightclub shooting.
At least he got to sit near some cute kids—and had his phone, a treasured possession of the person who shows up early and alone to an event and wants to seem unbothered by the fact that everyone is socializing around him, without him. He has plenty of thoughts and, uh, work stuff with which to occupy himself, thank you very much!
This is exactly what he hoped and expected his life in Congress would be.