Cline owes these letter writers an answer

Two letters to the editor appeared in the July 24 Lynchburg News & Advance which I can only hope caught the attention of Congressman Cline, who last week voted against a resolution condemning President Trump’s racist remarks aimed at four congresswomen of color.

One letter was from Brian Jablonski of Lynchburg:

On the nights of Nov. 10 and 11 of 1938, my father and uncle, living in Frankfort Germany, experienced the fright of mobs breaking windows and burning buildings. As news of the incident reached the non-Jewish friends of the family, one woman remarked to my grandmother, “I heard it wasn’t that bad.” The reality is that it was worse than just the destruction of property; it was the fear it created in the Jewish residents of Frankfort and throughout Germany. This was the intent of the Nazi Party; property destruction was not important, creating fear was the goal.

The Nazis did not start out by killing Jews and other so-called undesirables. They started out by blaming them for economic ills, for spreading disease and later for criminal activity. During the rise of the Nazi Party, people who were in position to confront the blatant racism were either minimizing the problem, too afraid to confront the Nazis for fear of retribution or just turning a blind eye to what was happening as they enjoyed a resurgent economy.

I hope that my Republican friends take note that many of us fear a repeat of a dark chapter in human history. Democrats and Republicans share many common values: safe communities, good schools, good jobs and the freedom to speak openly about our government. I am not ready to equate our current president with the Nazi Party, but please remember, the Nazi Party did not start out by committing atrocities. The Nazi Party would never have gone as far as it did in the later years if people in power had stood up and said “No!” in the earlier years. Reps. Ben Cline and Denver Riggleman, please tell the president that his words do count and he cannot continue to have your support if he is going to use his words to incite anger on one side and fear on the other.

My father and uncle left Germany forever in 1938. They eventually found homes in the United States and Great Britain. I hope that this country never gets to the point where citizens have to flee to other countries for their own safety.

The other letter was from John Guzlowski of Lynchburg:

A couple of days ago, President Trump tweeted that some congresswomen should go back where they came from. He didn’t use those words exactly, but he came close enough. He said these four Democratic congresswomen who are hyphenated Americans should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

I’m a hyphenated American too, and although I’m not in Congress, I’ve heard this kind of talk before.

Growing up in what was then considered Chicago’s Polish Triangle, I heard people calling Poles and Polish-Americans dirty, drunk and dumb Polacks. I heard them calling us that, and I heard these same people telling me and my Polish friends and neighbors that we should go back to where we came from. This didn’t happen all the time, but it happened often enough so that I remember it, and I bet that a lot of people reading my column today remember hearing it also.

I heard this said to Poles and Polish Americans, and I heard it said to the Italians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Irish and Chinese people living in my neighborhood.

It was a way of dismissing us. It was a way of telling us all that we were basically inconsequential, unimportant, a waste of time and effort.

My parents, of course, had heard all of this kind of talk before. They were born in Poland and experienced World War II. They were both captured by the Germans and taken to Germany as slave laborers, and there they discovered that the Germans considered my parents and all the other Poles inconsequential and unimportant. Poles were considered subhuman by the Germans. My father used to tell me that the Germans thought that Poles spoke the language of mules and that my dad and the other Poles were just about as human as mules were.

When my parents came to America as “Displaced Persons” in 1951, they thought they would finally be treated as real people, not mules, but real people, and a lot of times my parents were treated like real people by Americans, but there were also times when they weren’t treated as people.

If there was some kind of disagreement or some kind of tension in the air or some kind of conflict, we would be told by people to “go back where we came from.” I hated the people who said this to us. They were trying to see me as less than human, just another mule that doesn’t belong where people are talking or walking or enjoying the day.

When I hear Trump suggesting to these women they should go back to where they came from, I hear the voice of every single unthinking stupid person who ever told my mom and my dad and my sister and me to go back to where we came from, the refugee camps and the concentration camps and the chaos of a [country] broken by war and communism.

Congressman Cline should be alarmed that the words of the President he supports prompted memories of these horrific events. I hope he has the decency to respond to the anguish of the authors.

Cline’s shameful silence continues

Finally Congressman Cline has referred (however obliquely) to President Trump’s racist remarks urging four congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from.

In the course of paying tribute to the Apollo 11 astronauts and those who helped them on their mission 50 years ago, he wrote:

[P]artisan politics involving the President boiled over this week in the form of resolutions attempting to impeach him and condemning his “Tweets” on social media. I voted against both resolutions because these types of political attacks distract from the serious policy issues that are facing our country.

That’s all.

Most Democrats in the House joined Republicans in opposing the impeachment resolution. But only four brave Republicans (not including Cline) joined Democrats in condemning Trump’s comments.

As for “political attacks”: Cline seems to think they are all coming from the Democratic side. In fact it is Trump’s constant incendiary and divisive attacks on his political opponents (or even those who simply disagree with him on one issue or another) which do more than anything else to “distract.”

On Friday The Roanoke Times published an editorial with 12 questions for Cline and two other Republican congressmen from our part of Virginia who opposed the resolution condemning Trump’s racist remarks.

It would be most enlightening to his constituents if he broke his shameful silence and took the time to provide serious answers to those questions.


Cline’s Q2 campaign finance report (featuring Nike)

During the first three months of 2019, Congressman Cline’s campaign committee reported raising $64,160.50.

Now the reporting is in for the first half of the year. Cline’s receipts for that period total $215,352.50, which means he took in another $151,192 between April and June.

Perhaps the most interesting contribution came from the political action committee of Nike Inc., which gave $1,000 to Cline’s campaign on June 20.

Yes, that Nike. The company whose marketing strategy is based on “selling rebellion.” The company that featured Colin Kaepernick– the former NFL player detested by the political Right for kneeling during the National Anthem– in an advertisement last year.

Nike’s decision to create explicitly politically charged ads featuring Kaepernick for the 30th anniversary of the brand’s iconic slogan, “Just Do It,” caused shock waves — and conveniently for Nike, those shock waves were among the very authority figures its customers like to reject. There were immediate threats of boycotts, including from President Trump.

Open Secrets reports:

Although Nike appears to send a specific socially conscious message in the cultural realm, in the political world Nike employees and its PAC contributed $424,000 to the Republican party and its candidates in the 2018 election cycle, compared to only $122,000 to the Democrats — the party typically associated with ‘progressive’ values today.

Nike gave 78 percent of political contributions to Republicans this cycle. With a couple notable exceptions like the 2008 and 2016 election cycles, Nike has a track record of giving much more to Republicans than Democrats in the past decade. During the 2010, 2012 and 2014 election cycles, Nike gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans, with 76 percent, 69 percent and 59 percent of their contributions going to the GOP in each of those cycles respectively. Nearly half of Nike’s political spending has come from individual contributions made by co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny.

So in the end, Nike (like most giant corporations) sees its interests as more aligned with Republicans like Cline. And Cline has no problem taking campaign cash from giant corporations like Nike.

Other noteworthy donations to the Cline campaign in the second quarter of 2019:

• Microsoft Corporation: $1,000

• Goldman Sachs: $2,500

• Toyota of North America: $2,000

• Gentworth Financial: $1,000

• Northrop Grumman:  $1,000

• AT&T: $2,000

• Verizon: $1,000

• Google: $1,000

• Target Corporation: $1,000

• Cox Enterprises: $1,500

During the same period, Cline paid $35,937.32 to Republican fundraising consultant Laura Kilgore McMenamin of Alexandria.

Cline opposes increase in poverty-level minimum wage

Taking a break from being silent about President Trump’s racism, Congressman Cline joined virtually every other Republican in the House of Representatives to oppose an increase in the federal minimum wage from the current poverty-level $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour by 2024.

The bill, passed by the Democratic majority, now goes to the Senate, where the Republican majority will make sure it dies.

Of course Cline would have voted against any increase in the minimum wage.

Cline has a long record of opposing laws designed to protect and enhance the rights of working people. As a member of the House of Delegates he voted against a bill to increase Virginia’s minimum wage (pegged to the federal level) to $10 an hour. He opposed legislation to require employers to allow full-time workers to accrue paid sick days. He voted to prohibit state agencies from requiring contractors to pay the prevailing wage to construction workers, undercutting wages and putting the interests of out-of state contractors ahead of local businesses. He unsuccessfully opposed expansion of Medicaid to insure up to 400,000 low-income working Virginians, create up to 30,000 jobs and save rural hospitals.

He supported an effort (rejected by voters) to enshrine Virginia’s anti-union “right to work” law in the Constitution.

Cline is an advocate of “deregulation” of private business on the dubious theory that this will create jobs and boost wages. That those regulations may actually protect the workers he professes to care about is apparently of little concern to him.

Cline will hold town hall July 22 in Highland County

Congressman Cline has announced plans to hold a town hall meeting (register here) on Monday July 22 from 1-2:30 p.m. (an inconvenient time for most working people) at the Highland County Courthouse, 165 West Main Street, Monterey, VA.

According to the announcement:

Citizens of Highland County will be given priority regarding comments during the town hall. Signs and noisemakers are prohibited.

Perhaps some of our Highland County readers can take the opportunity to ask Cline about some of the things he has said and done, as chronicled here and elsewhere, since he was sworn in as our representative in Washington.


Last year, during the Red Hen restaurant controversy, Congressman Cline posted the following on his Twitter account:

Congressman Cummings was not the only Democrat who said that regardless of deep political differences, the Red Hen should have served Sarah Sanders.

In this case Cline was pleased to praise civility. But like virtually every other Republican in Congress, he is willing to remain silent in the face of behavior that goes far beyond incivility.

No political disagreements, no matter how profound, justify such racist and xenophobic language.

It’s easy for Cline to denounce what he considers bad behavior by Democrats. He does it all the time. The real test of courage is a willingness to denounce, when necessary, his fellow Republicans– up to and including the President of the United States.

I can find no evidence that Cline has ever dared to say a critical word about the hateful, divisive abuse that President Trump spews on a daily basis.

Please, Congressman: Until you are prepared to call out your own side, no more pious talk about “civility.”


“We can’t afford it” watch

“In one of my first speeches after being sworn in, I reintroduced four words to Congress that Washington needs to hear again and again: we can’t afford it.”
–Congressman Ben Cline, The Roanoke Times

“I will continue to vote against wasteful spending and demand fiscal responsibility in Washington in all areas. If we can find ways to balance our state budgets and our family budgets, I believe it is time for the federal government to follow suit.”
–Congressman Ben Cline, Sixth District Perspectives

So the entrance fees that National Parks visitors pay in the expectation that their money will be used to maintain and improve the parks will instead be used to feed Donald Trump’s gargantuan ego.

And no one should be surprised if the final price tag for this boondoggle is far more than $2.5 million.

Congressman Cline: I know your outrage about fiscal irresponsibility is extremely selective. But is this the kind of spending we can afford?

Cline will hold town hall July 9 in Augusta County

Congressman Cline has announced plans to hold a town hall meeting (register here) on Tuesday July 9 from 12-1:30 p.m. (an inconvenient time for most working people) at Stuarts Draft Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9339, 3251 Stuarts Draft Highway, Stuarts Draft, VA.

According to the announcement:

Citizens of Augusta County will be given priority regarding comments during the town hall. Signs and noisemakers are prohibited.

Perhaps some of our Augusta County readers can take the opportunity to ask Cline about some of the things he has said and done, as chronicled here and elsewhere, since he was sworn in as our representative in Washington.