It was Donald Trump who ensured Matt Gaetz could ignore 'puritanical grandstanding or moralistic preening': reporter

Vanity Fair reporter Abigail Tracy recalled the first time she sat with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in his office.

According to her tale, Gaetz reminisced about his first year in office and how, as a virtual nobody, he would stack up against people who have laundry lists of achievements. With a smirk of arrogance, he told her, "But we have managed to get it right since then."

What he meant, Tracy explained, is that he managed to build an identity by playing into the far-right of the GOP and putting interviews on cable news above his actual day job. She recalled the days when Gaetz was supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) and he was following around Sen. Jeff Flake (R-FL), who has now been shunned from the GOP.

He wiggled his way into the Trump world by claiming he was "inspired by [the Trump] movement and informed by it, and I view the Trump presidency not as a condition to be managed, but as an opportunity to be seized."

"My first in-person glimpse of the congressman was him applying concealer in front of a large mirror in his office. Later, in a greenroom at CPAC, he would express glee at a Dyson hairdryer, which he told his chief of staff, Jillian Lane Wyant, 'changed my life,'" Tracy also recalled of the Florida man.

But after a friend and GOP ally Joel Greenberg, the former Seminole County tax collector pleaded guilty to 33 federal counts, including sex trafficking, Gaetz finds himself with few friends.

"A number of threads have spun out since the first Times report: accusations on his character and behavior, including allegations that Gaetz showed other lawmakers nude photos on the House floor of women he said he slept with, and that Gaetz used websites such as Seeking Arrangement to connect with young women, coordinated by Greenberg," Tracy wrote.

Now Gaetz is flocking to cable channels in the hopes he won't be canceled. It's impossible to get canceled if you're on every channel," Gaetz wrote in his book Firebrand. But allegations of sex trafficking a minor is hard to come back from when so much evidence seems to be unearthed.

Oddly, she noted that it was Donald Trump who helped "bachelors" like Gaetz be himself.

"We've got a president now who doesn't care for puritanical grandstanding or moralistic preening. He is a lot more direct, even visceral, open, and realistic about his likes and dislikes, so overall, this is a good time to be a fun-loving politician instead of a stick-in-the-mud," Gaetz wrote in the book. "I have an active social life, and it's probably easier in the era of Trump. We've had 'perfect family man' presidents before, after all, and many of those men sold out our country, even if their wives were happy the whole time. If politicians' family lives aren't what really matter to the voters, maybe that's a good thing. I'm a representative, not a monk."

In the end, she said that she won't count Gaetz out yet, regardless of the charges he could face if allegations prove to be true. It was assumed that Gaetz would bounce from Capitol Hill to a comfortable job on a right-wing network. Instead, Gaetz confessed that he's gotten used to playing offense instead of defense while in office. That has certainly changed in recent weeks.

Read her full column at Vanity Fair.