Have you heard? The guy at the center of the political controversy du jour is from the Philadelphia region. Of course he is!
This time it’s Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, lately of Montana, but originally of Upper Merion, who was just charged with body-slamming a reporter at a campaign event.
Long-suffering local reporters have been assigned “hometown boy or girl makes national news” stories since time immemorial, of course, but I have a working theory based entirely on conjecture and a few hasty Googling sessions that any given political firestorm these days tends to sweep up at least one Philadelphian. (I floated an earlier version of this in my newsletter on the Trump administration’s effect on Philadelphia, which I promise does not focus solely on locals who make it onto cable news.)
Consider, if you will, the case of former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn. During the campaign, Flynn was paid to lobby for Turkey’s interests, which included digging up dirt on a Muslim cleric that the Turkish government wants extradited from the U.S. That cleric, Fetullah Gulen, currently lives in relative isolation in the Poconos.
Two weeks into his tenure as national security adviser, Flynn resigned over another foreign connection — the conversations he’d had with Russian officials after the election, about sanctions then-President Obama had imposed on Russia over its meddling in the presidential election. Flynn’s replacement? Gen. H.R. McMaster, a son of Roxborough who went to Valley Forge Military Academy.
Meanwhile, FBI director James Comey was leading an investigation into said meddling — until President Trump fired him earlier this month. Comey’s dad is — you guessed it — from New Jersey, and promptly went after Trump in the Bergen County Record. And while Trump would later admit he fired Comey over the Russian investigation, the White House first justified the firing with a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommending Comey’s dismissal.
Rosenstein is from Lower Moreland. You see where we’re going with this?
Under increasing pressure to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the Russia investigation, Rosenstein did so a week after Comey’s firing. Enter former FBI director Robert Mueller, a high-society scion of Villanova. Layers upon layers, folks.
Outside the Russian investigation, there’s Mark Levin, the Philly-born talk show host whose conspiracy theory that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the election made it into Trump’s tweets in March. There’s South Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur, whose controversial amendment to the GOP healthcare bill got the bill through the House, catapulted him into the national spotlight, and garnered him a town hall full of enraged constituents when he came home. And we can’t forget Hammonton’s own Blueberry Princess, Kellyanne Conway.
So. Is there something in the wooder in the greater (emphasis greater — who says the Poconos aren’t local?) Philadelphia region that is thrusting our sons and daughters onto the national stage? Are we all just grasping at any handle in these heady, news-glutted times? Am I writing this to tell you to subscribe to my aforementioned newsletter?
It’s anyone’s guess, really. Call me when we learn Paul Manafort’s aunt’s cousin’s best friend’s hairdresser turns out to be from Mayfair.