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House of Horrors
It looks like Friday is “Fani Willis Watch Day.” I don’t want to second-guess her—I recognize how serious this matter is and just how high the stakes are. But when Fulton County District Attorney Willis used the word “imminent” to describe the timeframe in which she would release her decision re indictments related to alleged election interference in Georgia after the 2020 presidential election, I thought I knew what that meant. Willis made that statement eleven days ago. I know, in the grand scheme of things, that is not a lot of time but as somebody who exists outside of the legal world, it feels like imminence has been left in the rearview mirror. And, by the way, there is seriously nothing alleged about what happened: We have Donald on a recorded phone call telling Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, "I just want to find 11,780 votes,” an oddly specific number that would, just by coincidence, I suppose, put Donald one vote ahead of Joe Biden in the state which would have secured him the election. This isn’t a smoking gun—it’s comparable to watching the guy load the gun, point the trigger, and shoot the person, on Fifth Avenue or in Georgia, as the case may be.
I was joined today in the House of Horrors by fellow Nerd Avengers Dahlia Lithwick and Waj Ali. Despite the disturbing deep dives into the appearance of AR-15 lapel pins and tie pins on Republican members of Congress and the benefits of pathological lying on the Right, these two always make me feel better.
[Below the video, I’ve provided the transcript, edited for clarity and flow, if you prefer reading.]
Hello, and welcome to this Friday's edition of The House of Horrors. I'm coming to you from the North Pole. It's really cold in the Northeast, so hopefully, wherever you are, you're warm and inside.
Anyway, Dahlia, Waj, thank you both so much for being here today.
Who makes it to the end of a horror movie? If it's you, me, and Dahlia, which one of us survives? Who's the final girl?
My parrot survives because he's got the beak. He'd take us all out in a second if he needed to.
As usual, there's a thing or two going on. The incredibly shrinking George Santos is still hanging in there. But let's start with our top three horrors of the week. It doesn't have to be three. Whatever your biggest horrors are. Please don't make it more than three, even though it could be. The list is infinite at this point.
Waj, let's start with you.
Mine seem to coincide with yours, Mary, and I'll list them real quick.
All right. Here we go. What should be getting more attention but isn't is that a few MAGA Republicans have decided to replace their American flag lapel pins with AR-15 pins in a country which has more guns than people, and the fact that we have over 50 mass shootings in year 2023, and it's only February. In fact, I think it's only the third day of February.
There have been 34 days of the year so far. We're number one.
Yep. We're number one in that.
Second one, I would say Jorgé Santos II, the first man on the moon in drag. The fact that he is not taking committee assignments, that is—let's see. I'm very curious to what that signals. Does that mean that Republicans are going to move away from him? They're not going to move away from him? Is he going to be litigated? I have to mention Jorgé Santos.
Ilhan Omar being kicked off the Foreign Affairs Committee. We knew it was going to happen but what I think is exquisite is the reasoning behind it. "Oh, she is anti-Semitic and this is terrible against Israel," and yet the person who celebrates this is Santos, who just came out with apparently saying horrible anti-Semitic comments in the past; Marjorie Taylor Greene; and oh yes, the entire GOP that promotes the white supremacist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory of the deep state. The fact that they could do this without any shame.
These are just three quick examples, and the debt ceiling for me is an evergreen, so I cheated and I gave you four.
Yeah, that's okay. Because Santos and McCarthy are evergreen topics as well. So, they can always be on anybody's list at any given time.
Dahlia, I know that you're going to take a slightly different approach today, which is great because you are our resident Supreme Court expert, and quite honestly, what happens at the Supreme Court determines everything else. And I think it's the most important, one of the most important things we need to keep an eye on in perpetuity, or until the Democrats decide they can figure out how to fix this.
So, a couple things. I do think all of my horrors at the court connect beautifully to the list of horrors that you and Waj are going to cough up.
So, my things are actually orthogonal to what you just said. I know-
I love that word, by the way. It's one of my favorites.
It's a good word. I'm just throwing it out. It's a Friday. I can say we're orthogonal.
Connected to the guns, which I know both of you are exercised about, and just the numbers of shootings to which we shrug our shoulders and clock no response. And by the way, the claim that the gun [lapel] pins were connected to some legislation that's going to be introduced in the House that apparently has not been introduced and never will be.
But my gun connection is the Fifth Circuit decision yesterday, an appeals court decision that essentially said that somebody with a restraining order against them for domestic violence who loses access to his gun, has his Second Amendment rights violated, and that laws and statutes that are passed—right now, this will only affect obviously the three states that the Fifth Circuit represents, but it means, I think it's a harbinger of what's coming, which is the domestic violence laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who have a history of abusing their partners.
And by the way, those people are highly over-determined to commit mass shootings. A huge correlation between domestic violence and gun tragedies.
But those folks have a right under the Second Amendment and the [New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v.] Bruen decision that came down last spring to have their guns reinstated. And that's just beyond horrifying. And I also think what's horrifying is it's a very plausible read of the Bruen decision that the Court handed down in June. We've got people celebrating gun violence at the same time that sensible laws that were supposed to keep domestic partners safe are being struck down.
And just one tiny, tiny beat on this, the reasoning that the Court deployed is that since there were no domestic violence laws at the founding or when the Second Amendment was incorporated as against the states, there can't possibly be a long history of regulating gun violence since women were property.
Okay, that's one.
Two. George Santos, this is more just a question. It's been bothering me and I wanted to bring it to the two of you. Why does he have to lie? Given that you can say anything and get away with it, why lie?
So, this is an existential question that I don't understand, but it's been bothering me all week. The enormity of the fabrication seems entirely unnecessary given that he could tell the truth about all his grifting and all his lying and all his abuses over the years, and he would still have gotten elected. I'm confused, and I'm hoping one of you can answer.
Very last thing, sorry I'm going on so long, that is really horrifying, is that there is a district court in Texas who may as soon as next week say that abortion medication is illegal around the country and nobody seems to know that's coming.
I know that's coming.
Yes. Well, as Waj mentioned, my list is almost exactly the same as his, but since I think it's top of everybody's mind, Waj just wrote a piece about it this morning, let's stick with the gun issue.
It kind of connects with the lying question too because Representative Luna, who's one of the, I think she's a freshman congressperson from Florida?
Yeah. And she was one of the 20 holdouts voting consistently against what's his name, our evergreen topic, Kevin McCarthy.
She lied about why they were wearing the pins, not just that it was in honor of legislation. I mean, what does that even mean? Do they wear jazz hands for when they're voting against women's rights? I mean, this has never happened before. And as Dahlia pointed out, the legislation is nowhere to be seen. But she also lied about the fact that it's a "Blueanon," that's their neologism, Blueanon conspiracy to make . . .What? You're wearing an AR-15 pin. What's the conspiracy there?
So yeah, just be proud and in place of an American flag pin, which I never understood anyway. I mean, I'm not a big fan of those kinds of displays and flag-waving and stuff like that because, especially on the Right, it always borders on or crosses the line into jingoism. I don't want to credit them with ignorance. I mean, they understand the symbolism, but what is the symbolism here?
We just need to remind everybody on occasion that this is literally a party that favors death over peace. And in the ruling, Dahlia, that you pointed to. Oh, uh-oh. [Dahlia’s video disconnects.] Hmm. All right. We'll get her back. In the ruling, Waj, that Dahlia just pointed to, there's this commonality in these kinds of decisions. We never talk about the transgressions. [Dahlia’s video back.] Hi, Dahlia.
I was just saying that in the ruling you pointed to what we never talk about are the people whose rights are being transgressed. I mean, I don't have a right to be safe from a domestic partner who committed violence against me? His right to carry a gun is more important than my right to be safe and live. And it's the same thing with our inability to enact gun safety, to keep AR-15s out of people's hands so there aren't school shootings and mass shootings. And, as Waj mentioned, there have been more mass shootings in 2023 than there are days in the year.
So, Dahlia, how does our right to be safe always get elided from the conversation and from the decision-making process?
I mean, I think the simple answer is, and it goes back to something we talk about so often, particularly I think with Danielle on your show, is because the rights of white privileged male landowners was always structurally the thing that was paramount. And we are seeing that reinstated.
I mean, if at the time of the founding, you could rape and kill your partner, then why would that change now? Particularly if you're triangulating against, right? This is how you get Dobbs. If you go back and say, "The word abortion appears nowhere in the Constitution, so I guess you don't have a right to one," that's analogous to the word domestic violence didn't exist because the notion of harming your partner as a crime didn't exist until fairly recently.
And so I think it's just of a piece with a country that's in love with a founding mythology that says—and by the way, just a note about that Fifth Circuit opinion, one of the things they say is that at the founding, there were classes of people who couldn't have guns. We call them Indians and slaves. That was plausible, I guess. We didn't want those people to be armed for reasons that I think we don't need to really belabor now. But the idea of singling out a certain criminal class wasn't in existence at the founding.
So just look at the ways that our ideas about who gets guns are baked in into founding notions about who has power.
And yet, Dahlia, AR-15s weren't mentioned by the founders either.
So, as white supremacy always is, it's very wily. And, Waj, one thing I've never quite understood is why “originalism” isn't an insult, like why people who call themselves originalists aren't hounded out of polite society because in this decision alone, we see what it means. It means misogyny, it means protecting the rights of the white male class. It means protecting that at the exclusion of everything else. And yet, it's a label these people wear proudly.
Yeah. I mean, connecting the dots, it's always interesting that originalists like the right-wing extremists in black robes on the Supreme Court are very selective about what they want to be originalist about. So qualified immunity for police, eh, that's okay. Justice Thomas is like, "You know what was not enumerated in the Constitution? Marriage equality and a woman's right to abortion." But he conveniently forgets Loving v. Virginia. Oh yeah, he's married to Ginni Thomas. Right?
Yeah, hm. And so this gun fetish, I mean, there's another quote that people just seem to have forgotten and I mentioned it in the piece today, it came out last month from Jim Jordan, who by the way now is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He actually tweeted this. "God, guns, gas stoves." That was his tweet.
And that, we laugh as we should, but that is the platform of the GOP. God, Christian nationalism that this land has been given to you, oh, white man, to plunder and to create the kingdom of heaven on earth and you can use any violent means necessary to pacify and purify the land. And also, our Jesus is not the passive Jesus. He is the militant warrior Jesus. And as William Boykin said, who is a Christian nationalist, used to be a general in the US Army, that "Jesus will return with an AR-15."
Guns, as Dahlia said, it's proactive, right? Stand your ground. Everyone better know their place, specifically women, Black people, poor workers, Indigenous Americans. So, it's tied to our history that, "These are our rights. We are going to stand our ground."
But also, I want to add this other wrinkle to it, when it comes to gas stoves, the culture war, "They're coming after your gas stoves. They're coming after Dr. Seuss. They're coming after pronouns." And specifically, it's a defensive posturing as well because what they're saying now is there's a deep state run by you, Mary and Dahlia, and that they're coming after their guns, they're coming after their liberties, they're coming after rights, so we need these guns to protect ourselves against a corrupt United States government that is trying to replace and weaken white men.
That is a psychology. And I call it a radicalized, weaponized pro-death movement. And radicalized, based on the conspiracy theory, weaponized because they all are armed. We have more than 400 million firearms in a country of 330 million. But the reason why I call it a pro-death movement is tying into what Dahlia was saying, on Monday, there was a mass shooting in Florida. You know what Florida lawmakers did this week? Introducing the concealed carry law. They'll be the 26th state to introduce concealed carry.
Now, I can maybe get on board with concealed carry if you convince me that it makes you more safe and secure. And all the data show that wherever they've introduced concealed carry, Mary, homicides have gone up, workplace shootings have gone up, domestic violence has gone up and suicide by guns that is mostly affecting white Republican men. As we've said before on your show, white supremacy is ultimately a self-destructive force, but it takes the rest of us down with it. And now they're literally wearing lapels.
I remember when I was just happy like, "Okay, you're not using the American flag as a spear, the January 6th Capitol, just put it on your lapel." But now, I mean, the fact that we're not even talking about that Luna, who's very smart, by the way, don't discount her, and Santos and others are wearing AR-15 pins in Congress. This is where we are.
Yeah. And just a quick point about concealed carry. It's one thing because I think all states have it, but you need to prove the need for it. You can conceal carry in New York, you need to get a license, and you need to prove that your circumstances justify it, like your job requires you to carry around large amounts of valuables or what have you.
Oh Mary, I forgot. These 26 states are permit-less carry. Forgive me, that's the huge wrinkle.
Yeah, that's what I'm saying. Right. That's the difference. It's like I literally could go to Texas or Florida now, buy a gun and ammunition, load the gun and put it in my pocket and just walk around. Like that makes me tough. I think it makes you much tougher if you can walk around New York City without a gun or a weapon of any kind.
Anyway, Dahlia, you wanted to add something?
Just to marry something that Waj said about culture wars, which is there's a reason that the books that are being banned in Florida and the authors who are being banned in Florida are being banned. And that is exactly what both you and Waj just said, which is if you do a detailed deep dive on the actual history and framing of the Second Amendment, and folks should read Carol Anderson's amazing, amazing book [The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America] on this, it is so entrenched in ideas about violence towards Native Americans, towards slaves and former slaves. There is no way you can unbraid the history of the founding ideas about so many of these sacred rights from white supremacy.
And so just to get the culture, like the cherry-on-top-of-the-culture-wars point, the reason they don't want this taught in schools is because it highlights the degrees to which these are not just like God-given Second Amendment rights that came from Moses to Aaron, to the elders of the tribes and directly to the founders. These were absolutely white supremacist values that were baked into the founding ideas, and to not be able to teach that and think about that is a way to make it seem as though it's not bound up with violence, deep violence, and white supremacy.
The only other thing is, it's interesting, Mary, because you mentioned the idea of having to show cause before you can get your gun permit. And of course, those are the laws that the Supreme Court set aside in the Bruen, in the June case about guns, because the court thinks that so fundamental is your right to bear arms, that there shouldn't be some licensing entity with discretion who gets to decide.
And I just put that up against where we are now with reproductive rights, right? Where there's nobody who isn't involved in using their discretion to decide if and when you can terminate a pregnancy up and to and including not just your physician, the hospital board, the lawyers for the hospital, every one of those people gets to determine whether you have just cause to terminate a pregnancy, which is by the way, an emergency situation, but the idea that it's anathema for the majority of the Supreme Court that somebody gets to determine if you have just cause to purchase and carry a gun.
So just by way of answering your initial question about originalism and where these rights come from, they're entirely freighted up with really archaic ideas about who has power and who doesn't.
Yeah. And what's interesting about the fact that these two issues are mirror images of each other is one thing they both have in common is that they are absolutely prejudiced against the lives that already exist.
That's right. It's legalized terrorism and it's always been the case in America.
Absolutely. So that was fun.
Let's move on to a serious but not quite as grim topic because it is fascinating, Dahlia, the question of the pathological lying. What purpose does it serve and why? Again, as you say, these people could get away with saying anything. Waj just alluded to Jim Jordan's—the fact that he's the Chair of the Judiciary Committee makes my head explode on a daily basis. His tweet, "God's, guns, and gays." Gays? Gas stoves.
The “gays” is next.
“Gays” is during Pride month. It's gas stoves right now.
But “gays” has been replaced by a “gas stove.” We should have gay stoves. That would be much more fun.
But, "God, guns, and gas stoves." It just shows you that they can get away with anything. Keep them ignorant. Yale-Harvard historian, Ron DeSantis, keep them ignorant and you could get them angry about anything. So why lie?
So actually, Dahlia, you asked the question, so I'm assuming you want us to give our take. Waj, what's your theory?
So, I've said before on your show that George Santos is exactly where he belongs. He should not resign because the modern GOP, I mean, he mimics it. He represents your uncle. Donald Trump has made more than 30,000 misleading claims in the four years that he was president, and he's still the leader and presumptive 2024 GOP candidate for president.
So, if I'm George Santos, first of all, I'm not going to resign. Second of all, Dahlia's, right. I'm going to take it another way. If I'm George Santos, I'm going put my lies on steroids. I'll just lie about everything. Nothing affects anything. Kevin McCarthy's like, "Hey, he's innocent until proven guilty. Nobody's perfect."
I think with Santos, in particular though, to answer your question seriously, the sheer enormity of his lies, the fact that he lied about his mom dying in 9/11, the fact that he lied about his family surviving the Holocaust, just those two in particular are so beyond the pale of what any normal liar would lie about, that you kind of realize this is pathological.
The last time I was on Mary's show and the House of Horrors, we were talking about his latest lie because there's so many we just run out of time and we forget. I always laugh when I say this. "I was robbed in broad daylight in a busy New York intersection and they took my shoes and suitcase. I can't help but lie." He lied about that. He apparently lied about having a brain tumor, but he hasn't provided any information. On and on and on.
So, I think with George Santos, what they're dealing with is a monster of their own creation who is unfortunately not a skilled liar, but a deeply pathological, almost sociopathic liar who allegedly did a grift where he said he would raise money for a dog and stole the $3,000. Who does that? You have to be a sociopath to do that.
Unfortunately, he's the GOP sociopath. And the sad part is he's not that far removed from some of the leaders of the modern GOP. So, I just feel like with Kevin McCarthy in the House now, they're like, "We'll be okay with your lies. Can he just not lie about the 9/11 and the Holocaust?"
And I know what you're saying, Dahlia, is strategically, he really doesn't have to do that many lies. He could save himself, but I don't think, I mean, I'm not a psychiatrist, but just looking at this, I think he can't help it. I think this is a pathological need in him to lie. And if someone was to diagnose him, I think he would be straight up DSM Manual, textbook stuff.
Yeah. I just want to amend one thing you said because I think it's important. Yes, the Washington Post documented over 30,000 lies Donald told. But I always feel the need to point out that those are lies he told publicly. So, think about the exponential increase in lying, if you look into how he lied privately. Let's not even get into lying to himself because that gets complicated.
So, I think Donald, I said this recently that just as Donald was and is or did and does, Santos is drawing a roadmap. Santos is not possible without Donald, I don't think.
And it is absolutely true that for both of them, the pathological lying is pathological, which means that it's a compulsion to some degree. Although with Santos, it seems to have been a fairly recent... I mean, I don't know, but it seems—obviously he wasn't a public figure, so who knows what he was doing, but his bizarre change in financial fortune seems to have been the catalyst for this whole other level of lying.
But I think it's also important to point out that the lies are self-aggrandizing. They are to protect the liar from his or her own weak ego, their malignant narcissism, what have you. But they're also self-perpetuating. It's kind of like once you're in it, you have to keep going, right? Because what is the truth? What is the truth?
The last thing I guess I would say is that lying to that degree and getting away with it is power. So yeah, that's my brief take. Dahlia, does any of that track?
The very last thing you said is, I think, the thing I start with, which is I just remember at the beginning of the Donald Trump era, everyone we knew who talked about tyranny and fascism and authoritarianism warned us that the reason the tyrannical authoritarian lies is to get other people to buy into the lies. It's a way of thinning the herd of who is willing to say something outrageous to garner support. And it's a way of finding out who is perfectly transactional. In other words, the bigger the whopper, the crazier it is, like my mother died, things that are checkable, the more you're going to be able to winnow out who will say absolutely anything and parrot it back in order to have proximity to you and your power.
And I think that in a way, and I agree Waj, I'm not sure George Santos is the poster boy for that kind of high-level analytical, fascist theory. It may just be that he can't tell the truth, and I don't want to ascribe to him agency where he just may be fundamentally incapable of knowing what's true and what's false.
But I do think that your larger point is so important, which is that Donald Trump opens the door for this by saying, "I'm going to just tell this crazy whopper, and then I'm going to see if I can get people to pull out a Sharpie and amend the weather map because if they are willing to do that, they will do anything for me." So, it's just a way of consolidating power, and I think once people have lied to defend you, they're beholden to you further. In other words, you've also not just sort of exercised power, Mary, but I think you've now got them in a position. This is the sort of classic blackmail situation where you now have them in a position where they must continue to lie for you.
And so I think from the viewpoint of kind of self-aggrandizing and power, this makes perfect sense. I just continue to be mystified because it is not hard to construct a good lie. And it is really, really a lot of work to put together the kinds of whoppers that Santos seems incapable of going a day without. So, I think it just seems to me like he would have a much easier life if he just told the truth. But I think that he has made this decision to just go all in, go all in, go all in, and we just watch and see who takes that seriously and who doesn't.
But without accountability, Mary and Dahlia, you don't have to be a sophisticated liar. You can be vulgar; you can be a blunt instrument. You know that the party that you belong to has lowered the bar, as you eloquently said, for Donald to the point where yeah, you could just take a marker and add to the map and no one's going to check you. You can lie about where your father was born just because you can, even though it's verifiable facts, you'll simply say, "Oh yeah, I saw Muslims celebrating after 9/11." "Well, where's the video, Donald?" "It's there somewhere."
And so you don't even have to be a—that's why when people call Santos "Talented Mr. Ripley," I get offended. I'm like, "No, Mr. Ripley was talented.” He's like the untalented Mr. Ripley.
And there's just one other P I'll add to power. Lying also helps profit. It's very profitable. And I think people sometimes forget that, yes, we mock and ridicule Santos's lies, but there's also financial lies that have made him susceptible to potential criminal indictments. He has profited off these lies just like Donald has profited off these lies. And then once you create that blueprint, you're like, "Oh, I could get power. I could be authoritarian. I could be gullible with my base and promote 'gas stove conspiracies' and I can make a little money on the side."
Yeah. And to your point of accountability, the Republican Party's not going to hold him accountable. And I think, as usual, there's a combination of things going on here, but he did get a seat in Congress. I mean, whether it's compulsion or it's a choice or a combination of those two things, he's quite savvy and he knows where to find his allies. It is not an accident that George Santos, who comes from a district, the seat of which was held by a Democrat last time around . . .
. . . is making common cause with Luna and Greene and Boebert and Gaetz. They have the power and he knows that. And this, I think, is pretty much everything we need to know about today's Republican Party. Not surprising that they don't care if he lied about his mother's dying or if he's corrupt, if his finances are corrupt or whatever, but the dog thing? I mean, come on. So, there is no line. There is no line for these people.
So that went really fast. Thanks, guys.
Oh, we didn't even talk about Ilhan Omar.
I know. We didn't even. I have a feeling that also will be an evergreen topic. So, we will definitely get to that next time because it's important, very important to, I think, keep that centered, that kind of racism and misogyny and anti-Muslim sentiment that the Right traffics in constantly.
This was great. I so appreciate your being here. Dahlia Lithwick, Slate columnist, host of the excellent podcast, Amicus, and author of the phenomenal book, Lady Justice. Waj Ali, Daily Beast columnist, co-host, along with fellow Nerd, Danielle Moody, of the also excellent podcast, democracy-ish, and author of the just out in paperback, Go Back to Where You Came From. Fabulous book. Read both of them. They're essential reading.
And as always, it's such a pleasure to hang out with you guys. Thank you so much for joining me in the House of Horrors. I hope it wasn't too horrible.
We all survived. All of us.
We did. Hooray! All right, thanks guys. I'll see you soon.
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