As Kyle Rittenhouse's trial unfolded, a variety of Republican officials and candidates saw a political opportunity to exploit. The defendant, charged in the fatal shooting of two men during protests in Wisconsin last year, took on totemic value for the far-right.
With this in mind, in the wake of Rittenhouse's acquittal late last week, many Republicans quickly embraced and celebrated the verdict as a victory in some kind of culture war. This, in and of itself, said a great deal about the state of the GOP and its unhealthy approach to our civic life.
But then it got a little weird.
Some congressional Republicans not only saw Rittenhouse's acquittal as validation of a conservative worldview, they wanted to be personally and directly associated with the defendant. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, for example, invited the Wisconsinite to become one of his interns. (In the same video, the GOP lawmaker urged his allies to be "armed" and "dangerous.")
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida also offered Rittenhouse an internship, at which point Rep. Paul Gosar published a tweet that read, "I will arm wrestle [Gaetz] to get dibs for Kyle as an intern."
It's possible the Arizonan was kidding. It's also possible he wasn't. The fact that it's become difficult to tell the difference is itself disconcerting.
But as the HuffPost noted, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado took this to a new level yesterday during an interview on Newsmax.
"Now I do have some colleagues on the Hill who have, just like me, offered Kyle Rittenhouse an internship in their office," she told host Sebastian Gorka, a former aide to Donald Trump. "And Madison Cawthorn, he said that he would arm wrestle me for this Kyle Rittenhouse internship. But Madison Cawthorn has some pretty big guns, and so I would like to challenge him to a sprint instead."
Boebert, laughing, added, "Let's make this fair."
In case this isn't obvious, Cawthorn uses a wheelchair. Competing in a sprint isn't much of an option.
Given his attorney's recent comments, it seems unlikely that Rittenhouse will intern for any of these GOP officials. But that doesn't change the fact that it's unsettling to see them compete for his affection in increasingly bizarre ways.