We won’t let you forget, Congressman

Although Congressman Cline issued a strong statement denouncing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and supporting diplomatic and economic pressure against the Russian regime, there are some things he should never be allowed to forget.

As NATO rallies to provide weapons and other support to Ukraine to resist the Russian invasion, Cline shouldn’t be allowed to forget that in 2019 he was one of only 22 Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote NO on legislation that blocked President Trump from withdrawing the US from NATO, as Trump said he wanted to do.

And he should be reminded repeatedly of his steadfast support for Trump in 2019 after it was revealed that Trump tried to extort Ukrainian President Zelensky by pressuring him for a political “favor” (providing “dirt” on Joe Biden’s son) in exchange for sending Javelin anti-tank missiles for Ukraine’s defense against a possible Russian invasion. Of course Cline opposed impeaching Trump for this, but he never addressed the fact itself.

Does Cline agree with former secretary of state Mike Pompeo that Trump showed “resolve” in defense of Ukraine?

Finally, Cline needs to be asked constantly why he has never said a critical word about Trump’s long-time and outspoken admiration for the murderous aggressor Vladimir Putin. Most recently:

“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” Trump told a conservative podcaster in an interview published Tuesday.

“I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. … We could use that on our southern border,” the former president said, describing Putin as “a guy who’s very savvy” and whom he knows “very, very well.”

This from the man Cline praised last July as “our great president.”

I don’t think Cline shares Trump’s disgusting affection for Putin. But I do believe he’s a cringing coward for not saying so.

Strengthen the Postal Service? Cline voted NO.

For rural and isolated parts of the country– of which there are many in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District– a strong, stable and reliable Postal Service is a critical connection to the outside world.

So why was Ben Cline among the minority of Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote NO on the bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act?

“We need to take steps to make our post office stronger,” Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the bill’s sponsor and chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told The Washington Post. “This bill helps and it will help in every way. It’s a reform bill that will save taxpayers’ dollars while at the same time making the operations of the post office more financially stable and sustainable, and making postal jobs and employee health benefits more secure.”

The Postal Service is required to prepay its retirees’ health-care costs, a mandate instituted in 2006 when mail volume was steady and the agency was profitable. But decades of falling mail use have turned it into a perpetual financial loser, and the pre-funding requirement has accounted for $152.8 billion of its $206.4 billion in liabilities.

Tuesday’s legislation, advanced by leaders of both parties, wipes clean $57 billion of that amount, and will save the agency another $50 billion over the next decade. The bill installs new timely delivery transparency requirements for the Postal Service, which has struggled with on-time service since [Postmaster General Louis] DeJoy took office, and allows the agency to contract with local, state and Indigenous governments to offer basic nonpostal services, such as hunting and fishing licenses.

According to a Washington Post editorial:

The overhaul bill would… require retirees to enroll in Medicare when eligible. The Congressional Budget Office projects this would save taxpayers $1.5 billion over 10 years.

I thought Cline was in favor of saving taxpayers money.

The vote to pass the bill was 342 to 92. All 222 Democrats and 120 Republicans voted YES. Cline was among the 92 Republicans who voted NO.

Cline versus animal welfare

When it comes to protecting animals from cruelty, Congressman Cline has been a reliable NO vote.

In 2019, Cline was the only member of Congress from Virginia– Democrat or Republican– to vote against a bill banning the abusive practice of soring horses for competition.

Later that year he voted against the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act to ban the sale, purchase, and possession of shark fins in the United States.

As the Animal Welfare Institute reported:

Shark finning is a cruel practice that entails cutting off a shark’s fins—often while the shark is still alive—and throwing the mutilated body in the ocean, where the helplessly immobile shark will suffocate, bleed to death, or succumb to an attack by a predator.

Now we learn that Cline earned a not-so-coveted 0% score from the Humane Society’s Legislative Fund for his record in 2021– one of just 26 out of 535 members of Congress to do so.

Cline achieved that rating by voting:

Against the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act (H.R. 1448) to improve the health and well-being of veterans through the healing effects of the human-animal bond.

For an amendment to continue allowing imports of African lion and elephant trophies taken in Tanzania, Zambia or Zimbabwe.

Against amendments to protect West Indian manatees in Florida and to direct the VA to use $5 million for equine-assisted therapy for veterans suffering from PTSD.

Against amendments to help prevent future pandemics by establishing U.S. foreign policy on wildlife trade issues and providing resources to address live wildlife markets and the trade in terrestrial live wildlife for human consumption, and to provide funding and authorizations to expand operations to combat illegal wildlife trafficking in the U.S. and around the world.

In other words, Cline’s attitude toward protecting and helping animals (and people who could benefit from them) doesn’t vary greatly from his attitude toward protecting and helping humans.

Ben Cline’s memory hole

You may recall, from George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the memory hole, where inconvenient and embarrassing documents and records were disposed of, thus eliminating them from the historical record.

Congressman Ben Cline has tried to make use of a modern memory hole by deleting without explanation at least two posts from his campaign Facebook page. Thanks to the magic of Screen Capture, he hasn’t entirely succeeded.

Cline posted in November 2020 that he was proud to support his friend, the crazed election conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell.

Powell has since argued that “no reasonable person” would believe her claims of massive election fraud.

At some point, that post was removed from Cline’s Facebook page. To borrow another term from Orwell, Powell has become an unperson.

Now I’ve noticed that Cline also “disappeared” a post from July 2020, in which he claimed that the story of the slave-owning Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson involved “bridging racial divisions.” He also mocked the City of Lexington for renaming the cemetery named for Jackson.

As I noted at the time:

Congressman, you can’t simultaneously enslave Black people, as Jackson did, and “bridge racial divisions.” It doesn’t work that way.

After revealing his contempt for Lexington (which voted heavily against him in the 2018 Congressional election), Cline speculates sarcastically about the cemetery’s new name.

“Future Democrat Voter Quarry?” What are you saying here, Congressman? That Stonewall Jackson and others interred at the cemetery will rise from their graves and vote Democratic? That local Democrats will cheat in future elections by voting on behalf of the people buried there?

Apparently Cline realized he had gone too far. But instead of publicly acknowledging that fact and apologizing, he behaved like an employee of Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s Ministry of Truth. He decided that the Facebook post “did not exist; [it] had never existed.”

Cline versus common-sense organ transplant rules

I had hoped Congressman Cline’s recent experience with COVID might give him a new perspective on the need for prudent actions to combat the spread of the still-dangerous and sometimes deadly pandemic.

Instead, as before, he stands with those whose supposed right to be unvaccinated trumps any concern for public health or any consideration of medical science. While vaccinated himself, he lacks the simple courage, decency and respect for life to tell people to get vaccinated. Instead he simply tells them to “make the decision that’s right for them.”

Cline, along with other Congressional Republicans, has introduced a bill to prohibit organ transplant centers from denying transplants based on whether the donor or recipient is vaccinated against COVID.

In a press release, Cline quotes the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons supporting this legislation.

According to Wikipedia, the AAPS is a “politically conservative non-profit association that promotes medical misinformation, such as HIV/AIDS denialism, the abortion-breast cancer hypothesis, vaccine and autism connections, and homosexuality reducing life expectancy. The association was founded in 1943 to oppose a government attempt to nationalize health care.” This is an organization that routinely rejects evidence-based medical science. Its support for any legislation should raise doubts about that legislation. Cline’s willingness to cite the AAPS should raise doubts about him.

The American Independent Foundation reports:

The medical website Stat reported in January that both physicians and medical ethicists have long favored deciding who gets transplants in part based on who is most likely to survive and thrive. Unvaccinated transplant recipients are at an especially high risk of dying if they get COVID-19.

“The entire transplant evaluation process, which can be very long and very demanding, is about making sure patients are in the best physical, mental, and social condition to endure a transplant, and then all the downstream effects of transplantation,” transplant specialist Olivia Kates of Johns Hopkins Medicine told the outlet.

The report also noted that such requirements are common for potential transplant recipients, who are often prohibited from smoking cigarettes and required to be inoculated against hepatitis B and other illnesses in order to be eligible for consideration.

In an essay published by NBC News on Jan. 31, medical ethics experts J. Russell Teagarden of the Working Group on Compassionate Use and Preapproval Access and Arthur L. Caplan of the NYU School of Medicine argue that COVID-19 vaccination status is and should be an important consideration in deciding who gets organ transplants because it is a factor in likelihood of success.

“The likelihood of transplant success is based, in part, on transplant candidates’ susceptibility to infections — an important cause of death after heart transplants. … Accordingly, in picking who gets a heart, hospitals have made vaccination one of a variety of considerations. That is not bias against the unvaccinated. It is trying to save the most lives with a scarce organ supply,” they write.

In his statement on Tuesday, Cline wrote, “Getting vaccinated is a personal choice and should not be mandated.”

Noting this frequent argument, Teagarden and Caplan observe, “Choices have consequences, sometimes very tragic consequences.”