Since United States Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) has been in the news of late, I thought it would be interesting to share my firsthand experience as a congressional aide in his office. The American public has not yet had a full opportunity to know this man (for the sake of clarity, here, I will identify him as a man and choose the pronoun “he”), and I can attest that, if nothing else, he can be inspirational and persuasive — valuable assets for a public servant. At least I was persuaded to accept his job offer.
Technically, a “career” routinely is regarded as more than one day’s employment. But even after that one day on the job, I found myself inspired and persuaded to adopt the Santos View of Reality. It is ironic, but the two weeks’ deprogramming that my counselor suggests far outweighs only one day on the job as his press secretary.
Another point of order: “Press Secretary” was going to be my title, but Rep. Santos described the actual job as a combination of press secretary, publicity aide, debate stand-in, media spokesman, office manager, stunt double, and “duties to be determined.” It sounded fair to me; I love challenges. After all, I had only just met Rep. Santos for the first time (I actually showed up at his office to deliver the bagels he had ordered from the Capitol Hill Breakfast Deli), and even after calculating half the kickback he demanded, the salary seemed OK.
I don’t want to give the impression that my new career started in a cavalier manner. I had to fill out an application. Santos explained that all senators required this in their offices. “Wait…” I said. “Aren’t you a congressman?” He replied, cryptically, “Whatever.”
I borrowed his pencil and began to fill out the form, “Why I am qualified to work in the office of George…,” and then began to erase what I wrote. “Silly me,” I explained. “I guess I’m watching too much TV news. I mistakenly wrote ‘George Soros’…”
Rep. Santos quickly seized the application. “No, no! Leave that in! I like that! Yeah, I like that. We’ll say that I am the illegitimate son of George Soros, and I changed my name for business reasons. And we’re both Greek! That works!”
Summoning my best CNN cred, I corrected him. “I think Soros is Hungarian, sir.”
After he gave me the job and promised to read the application that evening, he outlined my duties. Referring to “image challenges,” our first task would be to prepare press releases that would establish his gravitas. Silly me, I thought he meant veritas, but he corrected me.
He had a plan of attack, or, as he called it, a strategy. “Loyalty to the GOP, you know.” His first idea was to further identify himself with the political establishment. Burnishing his image. “How better to be seen as one of the boys than to talk about shared experiences?” Good idea. In a way. He wanted me write something to be released a few minutes from then. In fact, I will list here the handouts from that day, the record of my Capitol Hill career.
9 a.m. — Rep. George Santos admits to having a horde of classified government documents. He inadvertently kept them during his employment as a Supreme Court clerk, piled up in the corners of his apartment. Before I issued it, he wanted me to change “apartment” to “Georgetown mansion” and “yacht.”
10 a.m. — Rep. George Santos announces he will attend the upcoming Congressional Prayer Breakfast; he probably will be the only ordained Buddhist monk in attendance. In a bow to Diversity and Inclusion, he plans to wear one of his many saffron robes.
11 a.m. — Rep. George Santos offers his services to the State Department as a peace envoy for the Ukrainian war. As the former lover of North Korean Beloved Leader Kim Jong Un, Santos is convinced of a backdoor opportunity to mediate. I talked him out of speculating that this could lead to his third Nobel Peace Prize.
12 noon–2 p.m. — Lunch at D.C.’s renowned Old Ebbitt Grill, famed gathering place of the “in” crowd. Technically, lunch from Old Ebbitt Grill. When Rep. Santos was turned away at the captain’s station — too crowded, I suppose — I ordered takeout for us.
3 p.m. — Rep. George Santos offers to launch alternative Republican National Committee, reaches out to Mike Lindell, Anthony Fauci, Pete Rose, Greta Thunberg, others. I pointed out some potential speed bumps on his wish list of allies, but he insisted, citing his successes in coalition building after handling JFK’s response to the Bay of Pigs disaster.
4 p.m. — Rep. George Santos vows to resist efforts to unseat him. “I have toyed with the idea of resigning my seat,” the New York congressman defiantly said, “and I have many opportunities to fall back on, for instance, to be Commissioner of the National Football League — the only complication being a possible conflict of interest as I am a member of the sport’s Hall of Fame from my playing days.” I thought this was curious, actually, because among the photos on his office walls, all inscribed to him, were no football players. There were, however, warm personal wishes to him signed by Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and the entire Black Sox team. And I noticed celebrities other than baseball players: Theodore Roosevelt; Mahatma Gandhi; Charles Ponzie (oddly, the man misspelled his own name); Abraham Lincoln. My turn to say, “Whatever.”
5 p.m. — Rep. George Santos, revealing himself to be the Lindbergh baby (ending decades of mystery and speculation), demands a seat on the Armed Services Committee. “Aviation is in my blood,” asserts the freshman lawmaker and much-decorated war hero.
6 p.m. — Actually, there were no more press releases, although I was willing to work far into the night. My boss at the deli texted me and demanded to know where the hell I had been all day and threatened to fire me. Despite Rep. George Santos promising to arrange for me a Pulitzer Prize for Press Releases, I decided to go back to my real career, delivering coffee and bagels on my bicycle, if it had not been stolen outside the Capitol entrance during the day. I mean, you can’t trust a lot of the people in that place.
Retired astronaut Rick Marschall moonlights as an author, cartoonist, blogger, and political commentator.