Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Opinion

Ruth: What Gaetz tweet says about Gaetz

You might say this is an overly ripe apple that has fallen very far from the tree, rolled down a slippery slope and plopped into a toxic waste dump of demagoguery.

Rep. Matt Gaetz has gone to Washington and sold his soul and what was left of his dignity, not to mention his family's good name.

It always has been something of a mystery of the lengths, or perhaps more pointedly the depths, a politician on the make will go for face time on Fox News, or the chance to be the admiring subject of a presidential tweet, or the focus of media attention -- even if it involves making a complete horse's patootie of themselves.

Almost from the moment he arrived in Washington, Gaetz has been working hard to carve out a unique niche. The Panhandle Republican made a bold move to capture the brass ring of completely bonkers when he issued a tweet directed to Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and now a felon, on the eve of Cohen's public testimony before Congress.

The tweet had a certain redneck Don Corleone feel to it, as Gaetz wrote: "Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot …"

Before you could say "disbarment," Gaetz found himself the object of a Florida Bar investigation for what appears to be an effort by the Eddie Haskell of the Potomac to intimidate a witness. And yes, you might be stunned to know Gaetz is actually an attorney.

At first Gaetz shrugged off the Florida Bar probe. But then perhaps he had a momentary moment of lucidity, realizing the Bar does not investigate cheesy lawyers for the fun of it. And thus a semi-apology ensued in which Goetz conceded he should have chosen his words more carefully. Do you think?

And it is right about here Gaetz's father, Don, would have been forgiven for engaging in a well-administered forehead slap over the unprofessional conduct of his declassee son. Don Gaetz served in the Florida Senate for 10 years, including a two-year stint as the chamber's president. Conservative? Sure. Tough political operative? Yes. Dolt? Absolutely not. Indeed, Don Gaetz managed to serve a decade in Tallahassee reaching the pinnacle of power with a reputation for decency largely intact.

In just two years in Washington, Matt Gaetz has solidified his legacy as a tea party factotum and unflagging Trump sycophant who would throw his father under a bus for a ride on Air Force One and an air kiss from Sean Hannity.

Imagine if you had the opportunity to serve in the U.S. House. Despite all the tawdriness of it there is still a sense of history and a greater sense of opportunity to represent your constituents and maybe do some good for the country.

Young Master Gaetz arrived in Washington with a choice to make.

He could throw his lot in with a truth-challenged president and the grovel before the altar of "Fox & Friends." He could be the compliant, all too willing shill for the paranoid fringe elements of his party, going so far as to invite a Holocaust denier with ties a Nazi website to the be his guest at the State of the Union address.

He could be the chap to send a threatening tweet to a witness about to testify before a congressional committee, even though he has zero connection to the committee, or the witness.

He could be all of those things.

Or he could be a young man who owes his entire political career to the family name and a father who made his success possible. He could honor his father's legacy.

Matt Gaetz had a choice to make: shameless huckster or duty?

He made his choice. As someone once said, "Sad."